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CHAPTER IV A LAKESIDE COUNCIL FIRE
“Wo-he-lo for aye,
Wo-he-lo for aye, Wo-he-lo,
Wo-he-lo, Wo-he-lo for aye!
Wo-he-lo for work,
Wo-he-lo for health,
Wo-he-lo, Wo-he-lo,
Wo-he-lo for Love!”

On Wigwam Hill the pine-tree—the noble standing pine, emblem of “simplicity and strength,” symbol of membership in the Camp Fire Sisterhood—bent its head, listening with every needle, as if it knew itself the special patron of this winding chant. Maple and elm-tree, amid whose rich foliage reposed like flaming birds of paradise the last rays of the setting sun, fluttered their approval as the chanting procession wound beneath them. The white-birch-tree rocked with applause. The evening breeze curled the ears of the lake and bade it listen to “Wohelo!”

Only the great-horned, straw-eyed owl, a life prisoner on the lake shore—imprisoned years ago by some naturalist who led a hermit’s existence within a stone’s throw of the water—ruffled his dappled plumage until he looked as big as an eagle upon the dim perch of his cage-house, and pessimistically hissed the chant.

He might have hooted, but in captivity he had lost his voice, was as dumb, so far as natural expression went, as the little deaf-mute of the city playground, reduced to declaring his feelings,—highly embittered ones,—by a goose-like hiss.

“Poor old owl, I do feel so sorry for you—you poor, soured old prisoner!” murmured the fringed and beaded leader of the chanting Wohelo procession, winding out from the leafy foot of Wigwam Hill past the captive’s cage, as she met the painted eye, golden as a wheaten straw and as lifeless, with a little black dot of a pupil within the yellow ring.

Whereupon the captive opened his beak until she could almost see past the roots of the pink, kitten-like tongue down into his stomach, and hissed her, turning his head upon its swivel neck, without moving another muscle or feather of his body, until he faced, now, sideways, now, directly backward, taking stock of the girl-leader’s brown-robed followers. At intervals he lowered over the painted-looking straw-eye the tiny, mysterious curtain, grey as asbestos, which he kept tucked up under his eyelid, as if the stately procession of fourteen brown figures gliding, single file, in and out among the outstanding tree-trunks, with pearly glitter of head-band and flash of many-colored honor-beads upon girlish necks, dazzled him.

“Good land! is it old Wigwam Hill—or the maidens who sleep in that Indian graveyard on the top of it—come to life?” gasped Captain Andy to his “artist” who had kept him in the city in order to paint his ground colors, the hardy flame of the skin, the indomitable blue of the eye, for her picture of “The Breaker King.” “Only I’ll wager those dead-an’-gone maidens couldn’t touch these in looks or in the bravery of their beads an’ fixings; I’ve seen all sorts of fashions an’ rigs, but this is a style of its own—eh?” He gave a breezy puff of admiration as his mariner’s eye followed the procession of maidens in leather-fringed khaki, lit by embroidery and bead, the filleted figures whose hair fell in long braids to their waists, Morning-Glory (to-night to be initiated into higher rank) leading, as they crossed an open space upon the lake shore and glided past a stationary figure of mature grace, with a yellow sun embroidered upon the left breast of her ceremonial dress, which matched theirs.

“It is Gheezies, our Guardian—Guardian of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire,” was the joyous recognition in each girlish breast, as the members of the procession, in turn, saluted her with a hand-sign, their right arms gracefully upraised, following the curves of an imaginary flame, the hand-sign of fire; fire of the heart and fire of the hearth, fire of the sun and fire beneath the shingled or slated roof-tree that shelters a home, being the glowing symbol of the Camp Fire Girl.

One of the saluting figures, third in the procession, which even in ceremonial beads and fringes had something familiar about it to Captain Andy, had a small bow of polished wood slung upon her right arm upraised in the hand-sign.

“Well! I wondered, bein’ Indian maidens, that they had no bows an’ arrows among ’em; that redeems it,” muttered the highly diverted captain.

“Oh, but she isn’t going to shoot an arrow from that bow, else you and I might look out for punctures!” laughed the artist. “She’s going to coax the arrow of fire out of dull wood with it—see the notched fireboard and drill in her left hand—going to kindle the Council Fire without matches!”

“Well, if she does that, she’ll make me sit up an’ take notice! My word! how often I’ve tried that trick, raked over heaven an’ earth, as you might say, for the means o’ making a fire—an’ that more’n once, too—when I’ve been shipwrecked and freezing all night on a lonesome shore.”

“Hadn’t you any matches?” questioned Olive Deering who sat upon a fallen pine-log near the captain’s boulder, also a guest at this open-air Council Fire, not yet kindled.

“The sea took ’em when it ripped off my sou’wester, the matches being in a flannel pocket of its lining. I tell you, little lady, I had hard work to hold on to my scalp, an’ so had every member o’ my crew, too, swimming forty or fifty yards to fight for a foothold on naked rocks, in an icy sea that pounded a man as if bent on breaking every bone in his body—that was the worst time when we were wrecked off the island o’ Grand Manan in a November breeze, when some of us spent the night clinging to icy ledges, t’others crawled up, bleeding an’ frost-bitten, to where there was wood—Lord! what we wouldn’t ha’ given to know the secret o’ getting fire without matches then. You don’t tell me a girl can do it? I guess she may, perhaps—when sprats swallow sharks, as we sailors say!” he added, with a sceptical chuckle.

“Well! wait and see the shark eaten up—the impossible done!” laughed the artist trustfully.

In the gathering dusk Olive’s dark eyebrows were drawn together; from her windfall log, where she sat side by side with Sybil, she looked sidewise scrutinizingly at the grey-haired master mariner; she was beginning to see the gulf which yawned between him and her filled not with shapes of slimy decks, gurry-pens and fish-scaled oilskins, but with the towering masts of human courage and heroism that reached unto the sky, piercing Death’s very shadow, outsailing and outwitting that pale spectre a hundred times to save human life.

“I wonder—I wonder whether ‘the sprat will swallow the shark’: whether Sally will really succeed in getting fire without matches?” she quivered, leaning forward with a new interest in the performance which had, before, seemed merely spectacular, what the boys would call a “showing-off stunt.”

And, now, the fringed and beaded Camp Fire Girl was kneeling on her right knee upon the burnished sod of the lake shore, her left foot pressing down hard upon the flat fireboard in which there was a little scooped pit or hollow merging into a notch in the edge of the board, resting upon a thin little wooden tray placed beneath it.

Her left hand—its wide-sleeved arm braced against the knee of that firmly planted left leg—grasped the handle or socket of her upright drill, about a dozen inches in length, her right steadily worked back and forth the bow, drawn taut by its leather thong, which rested upon that socket at the top of the drill, whose sharpened lower point, thus worked, turned boringly in the scooped hollow of the fireboard—grinding its soft punky wood into a brown sawdust which in a few seconds turned black as it fell upon the tray beneath.

It was a wonderful picture—so the artist thought—this linking of the far past with the present, primitive woman with civilization, while old Wigwam Hill looked darkly on.

Captain Andy was, indeed, sitting up and taking notice, his massive figure leaning slightly forward, hands outspread upon his knees, in breathless interest: was “the sprat,” actually, going to “eat up the shark,” a girl achieve the feat—perform the igniting wonder—which bearded men in the grip of deadly cold and desolation had attempted in vain?

True, in these strange days, he had seen a Boy Scout work that fire trick and get a spark in about thirty seconds. But a girl!

“Seems to me I know that little fire-witch, too,” he murmured to the artist. “Ain’t she the one that was fluttering round like an oriole in orange and black on the playground t’other day an’ that made friends?... My living sakes! she’s got it. See—see her smoke!” meaning the black powdered wood running out of the notch in the edge of the fireboard onto the tray, under the steady grinding of the drill—not the fire-witch, Sesooā.

Yes, grey and hopeful, it rose, that tiny cloud of smoke upon the golden air. Sally’s Camp Fire Sisters held their breath, poised on tiptoe. Wood Gatherers they, according to rank and in deed, who had been gathering inflammable birch-bark and fat pine-splinters, piling them together, in hope and faith, as the nucleus of their coming Council Fire.

“Oh! I shall die if she doesn’t get the flame, now she’s got the smoke!” quavered little fair-haired Betty Ayres, whose Camp Fire name was Psuti, the Holly, fluttering, with arms outspread, like a brown moth with a touch of gold upon its wings. “Sesooā will be so mortified if she fails, with visitors present.”

“She won’t fail. She can’t! I see the red! Don’t you—don’t you see it, the red spark?” The quivering cry came from M?nkw?n, Arline.

Yes, the airy smoke was increasing, wheeling upward in a tiny spiral and at its heart appeared the miracle—a dull red spark, like a fire-seed sown by the vanished sun.

“Hurrah! she’s got it. Hush, don’t speak! Don’t startle her. She has yet to make it burn.”

But, now, Sesooā—one breathing, quivering foster-flame herself, with cheeks on fire—was holding some tinder, shredded cedar-wood, down upon the spark, shielded by a fragment of birch-bark. It was the crucial moment of all. Rising upon one knee, gently she blew upon it, the fire-witch, fanning it with the quivering breath of her own life.

“She won’t fail. She can’t! I see the RED!”

It blazed. The day was won.

“Good life alive! that stumps me; I never thought of a girl doing that.” The cry came in a tempestuous gust from Captain Andy.

“She got the fire in exactly fifty-one seconds from the time she started drilling; I timed her.” The artist was peering through the dusk at the watch upon her knee.

“Well, they’ll light their Council Fire now; it ought to be a booming one. Here’s for gathering some good chunks from the edge of the woods to swell it!” The captain, who had already found his feet in excitement, limped toward the tree-clad foot of Wigwam Hill—whistling and chanting boisterously, boyishly, in amazed elation over the feat which he had witnessed:
“Singing whack fol de ri-do!
’Twill comfort their souls,
To get such fine fagots,
When they’ve got no coals!
“Young Maidee, young Maidee,
If I tell you true,
I’m keeping some fagots
And sticks, too, for you!”

“We’ll accept the fagots, although we generally don’t take any help in the building of our Council Fire!” cried one of the girlish Wood Gatherers running toward him in the gloaming, holding up her left hand on which the silver fagot ring gleamed. “But don’t you dare—dare sing the rest of that song on peril of your life! I can sing it, too:
“A woman, a dog,
And an old walnut-tree,
The more that you whacks ’em
The better they’ll be!

We’re Camp Fire Girls; we grow by working, not by whacking.”

“Whoo! Whoo! Hulla-baloo! Peppercorns and fire-sticks! Have I put my foot in it again, as I did on the playground, mixing up medicine and dancing?” roared the rueful mariner. “There! even that old caged bird is hissing me, as if he had a goose-head, not an owl’s, upon his swivel shoulders.”

So, fanned by laughter, fostered with song, the Council Fire grew until it threw a far reflection on the lake waters and lit up many a nook known to Indian maidens of yore, at the foot of the historic hill.

“Now comes the most important part of the Council Fire program, the initiation of one girl into the rank of Fire Maker, higher than that of Wood Gatherer, which she has borne since her first initiation!”

So spoke the artist after certain preliminary ceremonies had taken place, such as the awarding of new honor-beads, two red honors to Sesooā for feats of horseback riding and for feeding, petting, and combing a horse from mane to tail during a period of thirty days—a prancing routine dignified as Health Craft!

Other honors, flame-colored mostly, were chiefly for homely duties such as girls had always performed, often with a shrug that labeled them humdrum, seeing no glamor about them until they were painted rose-color forever by an honor-bead strung upon a leather thong, by the light of the magically kindled Council Fire.

“Who’s the lucky girl that gains higher rank?” yawned Captain Andy whose masculine interest flagged a little. “If you don’t stop hissing, I’ll wring your swivel neck!” this to the owl. “I tried freeing that bird this evening when the old naturalist’s back was turned—couldn’t warm to the idea of his enduring a prison life-sentence—and, will you believe it, he couldn’t fly two yards, had lost his wing-power, as well as his hoot, through not using it. I had to hustle him back into his cage, with a bitten finger, to prevent the camp dogs from getting him. Ha! so that’s the candidate for rank, eh”—looking toward the Council Fire again—“the Morning-Glory girl that dances like a leaf in a gust, or a foam-chicken—or anything else that’s lighter’n a puff?”

Welatáwesit was giving a demonstration of another kind now, vaunting her skill at first aid by bandaging Betty. Then something white, larger than a bandage, fluttered in the flame-stabled twilight; it might have been a child’s frock.

Softly through the dusk came the voice of the deaf-and-dumb child’s partner, consecrating her girlish powers to the fire of humankind:
“For I will tend,
As my fathers have tended,
And my fathers’ fathers,
Since time began,
The fire that is called,
The love of man for man,
The love of man for God.”

“An’ without those two fires this old world would be about as warm an’ cheerful as an ice-jammed hull, eh?” commented Captain Andy, intent upon the mature figure of the Guardian who, ruddily outlined in the flame-light, was placing upon the arm of the new Fire Maker the silver insignia of her rank, the Fire Maker’s bracelet.

“I think Jessica is the sort of girl who naturally tends that heart-fire without which the world would be out in the cold!” remarked Cousin Anne at this point, leaning forward from her seat upon a fallen tree-trunk. “One of her Camp Fire Sisters, M?nkw?n—who is at the head of her high school class in composition—has blossomed forth into blank verse to celebrate the little incident of her dancing with the deaf-mute on the playground—and some other things which she has been trying to do for the child.”

“Yes, there’s Arline fluttering her poetic wing-feathers now!” smiled the artist.

“She does well to flutter ’em.” Captain Andy looked from under his heavy eyelids, massive like all else about him, at the girlish figure sitting nearest to the Council Fire, holding a paper near to the blaze which picked out the sportive rainbows of embroidery on her dress and in her pearly head-band. “Thunder! if she didn’t preen ’em at all, even if they’re only pin-feathers, she might lose the use of some valu’ble ones, like the poor old owl, there, that gave me a sore finger for trying to coax him to fly,” breezily.

“Hush! listen; she’s beginning,” adjured Olive, as a rainbowed voice, arching a little cloud of girlish embarrassment, fell upon the firelight:
“When the Moon of Thunder causeth
School to cease and fields to blossom,
Sendeth forth its quivering light-bolt,
Heats the earth with dazzling sun-ray,
Come the children to the Playground,
Come the merry-hearted children,
Group round swing and teeter-ladder,
Dance their strange and quaint folk-dances
Underneath the flowering shade-tree,
Frolic in the sparkling water,
Shallow pool of rainbowed water,
But there cometh one among them,
Maiden of eight summers only,
Heareth not a note of music,
Hath no voice for song or laughter,
Slow of foot and dull of eye she,
And the pitying children shun her.
Then the flower of the Camp Fire,
‘Pretty Flower,’ Morning-Glory,
With a foot as light as foam-clot
And a tender heart within her,
Takes that sad-eyed maiden gently
By the hand and gaily leads her,
Wins her to pick grapes in fancy,
Grapes of sunshine from the greensward,
Calls the Bluebird through her window
To sing its song within that dumb heart,
Fashions her a robe of linen,
Brings her moccasin of leather....”

(“’Twas I who bought the ‘moccasins,’—such a pretty little pair of shoes with buckles!” put in Olive sotto voce.)
“And where’er her Camp Fire Sisters
Pitch their tents by lake or river,
This the deed shall be remembered
Of Welatáwesit—Morning-Glory!”

wound up Arline triumphantly, much to the embarrassment of the subject of the poem who sat midway of the circle round the Council Fire, shielding her scorched cheeks from the flame-light.

“Good! I call that pretty good!” Captain Andy clapped heartily. “’Tain’t poetry, but it goes—like a vessel under a ‘jury rig,’” with a discounting wink.

“Pshaw! I could write rafts of that stuff,” came softly from Olive Deering. “I do try my hand at it sometimes, but Sybil laughs at me.”

“Yes, no sooner did she get here this evening than she fell to composing a poem about that old caged owl:
“An owl he longed for his greenwood tree,
Was pining to be free,
And never a goose in the farmyard wide
Hissed half so sore as he!

That’s how it went!” laughed airy Sybil.

“Come now! to my mind that goes better than the other,” chuckled the mariner, whose one idea of verse was a lyric or a limerick. “Poetry that has no rhyme to it is a lame makeshift, like a ‘jury rig’ replacing real spars. So your little sister laughs at your—um-m—poetic wing-feathers, does she?” looking directly at Olive. “Well, I wouldn’t stunt ’em for all that! Seems to me, now, that Council Fire is a pretty good incubator for the hatching out of new wing-feathers—or pin-feathers, eh?” chuckling again.

“Jolly Neptune! which wing are they waving now, the right or the left—or have they grown a third, a new-fangled one, all in a hurry?” he inquired of his invisible sea-god, after an interval, as strange, crooning syllables, weirdly repeated, fell upon his ear:
“Gā’ hyo nē’ he
Hé ga’ hyo nē he ya
Gā hyo nē’ hé
Hé ga hyo nē he ya
Hó dji ge hyá!”

The fringed and beaded maidens were on their feet now, circling, shuffling, Indian fashion, round the fire, the leader shaking a child’s hand-rattle aloft between the fingers of her right hand whose arm waved mystically toward the fire.

“I do believe she’s the one that dared me to sing the last verse of that old fagot-song about a woman, a dog and an old walnut-tree bein’ improved by whacking!” rumbled the captain, rubbing his hands. “Gee whiz! it’s a good entertainment. And it ought to be, to keep a man o’ my age sitting for an hour an’ a half on a cold stone!” ruefully feeling his boulder-bench.

“Yes, she’s the very one: her Camp Fire name is W?ltaak, meaning music, and she has the G clef, together with a bar of music, woven as a symbol into her head-band,” said Sybil.

“She’s ‘some singer,’ too. I wonder if the ghosts on old Wigwam Hill are waking up to listen to this?”

Captain Andy glanced behind him, swaying with a half-superstitious shudder as the sweet, eerie notes of the dance-music fell upon his ear:
Musical Score

Old Wigwam Hill did, indeed, seem, in an interlude of the dance, to ruffle every leaf upon its sides as if, Rip-Van-Winkle-like, it had fallen asleep a couple of hundred years ago, was now rubbing its eyes and waking up to be saluted by sounds much like those which had set it dozing, when braves in bonnets of feathers danced with their painted squaws upon the lake shore.

“That’s an Indian dance, the Leaf Dance, in honor of the leaves—idiwissi, or ‘tree hair’—thanking them for their grateful shade,” explained Olive, watching the winding, gesturing figures of the Camp Fire Girls, whose ceremonial dresses the Council Fire lit up with wonderfully dramatic effect as they circled round and round it.

“Morning-Glory taught it to them; she learned it from a friend who picked it up in the camps of the Creek Indians,” supplemented the artist.

“But those queer little Indian words that they’re chanting have no meaning; they’re just nonsense syllables such as ‘Tara-ra boom de ay!’ or something like that,” laughed Sybil.

“Goodness! how I wish a little niece o’ mine, named Kitty Sill, who spends half her time mooning under orchard leaves, could watch that dance,” suddenly interjected the captain in tones that seemed to come up from his boots they were so deep and yearning. “She’s a queer little thing, fourteen last month an’ as shy—just as shy as a sickle-bill curlew!” searching for a simile.

“What makes her like that?” asked Olive; she was beginning to feel an unaccountable interest in everything connected with Captain Andy; his nautical humor set against the harrowing experiences of his life, combined with his rescue of her Cousin Marvin, had, by this time, set every pulse of hero-worship in her throbbing.

“Search me! I don’t know what makes Kitty like that,” came the answer in a sort of deep, protesting shout. “Maybe, now, the well-bred pig that she confides in more’n she does in her family knows, but if she does, confound it! she ain’t telling.”

“A pet pig-g! Ugh!” Sybil shuddered.

“Her mother thinks that little Kitty has taken a troublesome notion o’ some sort into her head that makes her so faint-hearted an’ foolish. Who knows but that if she were to join these new-fangled—or old-fangled—Camp Fire Girls an’ grow a few extry wing-feathers—high-colored ones, so to speak, such as learning how to start a fire without matches, an’ dance like a leaf on a tree—she’d forget all about it?” speculatively.

“Oh! I’m sure she would,” came from Olive with a fervor that surprised herself. “That old owl is a horrible example against clipping one’s wings, not using any little powers one has!” laughingly. “You listen to that, Sybil, and don’t laugh at my flights any more!”

Yet that night when in the sanctum of her own room Olive seated herself upon a corner of her bed—a rare breach of orderliness for her—and thence, as from a white throne, reviewed the evening’s proceedings which she marshaled before her, her thoughts did not long dwell upon poetic flights or matchless fires—or even upon the dramatic Leaf Dance.

They rested chiefly upon the initiation of the new Fire Maker, of a girl standing before the Council Fire, promising to tend, as her fathers had tended, those twin-fires which are the very heart-flame of humanity, without which, as Captain Andy said, the world would be cold as an ice-jammed hull.

Feeling is life. And there is nothing like a romantic ritual for stirring emotion. Olive felt it tingle all over her.

Her chin quivered as she looked up at the picture of a beautiful woman upon the delicately tinted wall of the pretty bedroom—that of the mother who had died when she was twelve.

The dark Southern eyes, which her own reflected, called to her.

She rose and stood before the picture.

“Mother!” she whispered, palpitating. “Mother!” above a breath. “I am scarce sixteen and a half now: I—might—begin to take your place more with Father—and with Sybil, too!”

When, in that holy of holies, a girl’s prayer-nook, Olive knelt a little later, the growing wing-feather for which she prayed was not a rhyming-power—nor power to match any one of the feats which she had to-night seen performed—but that she might soar to be like her mother.


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