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CHAPTER VIII THE SUGARLOAF
“It’s a long way to shore now,
It’s a long way to go!”

So sang a laughing voice to the blossoming wave that was barely two inches below the singer’s lips!

So full of frolic was that voice chanting amid the foam, as the white-flowering waves broke about a girl-swimmer, that it would be hard for an onlooker to believe that those tidal waves, themselves, were not sentient sharers of her joy.
“It’s a long way to shore now,
It’s a long way to go,
It’s a long way to shore now,
To the dearest girls I know!
Good-by, Morning-Glory!
Farewell, Betty, fair!
It’s a long—long—way to yonder shore now,
But my heart’s right there!”

improvised Sally again, breasting a foam-hill through the watery transparency of which her bare arms laughed—no other word could so well express their exuberant motions—while her shoulders in the blue bathing-suit, with a flame-colored emblem on the breast, held a mimic boxing-match with the waves and her head in its red silk turban nodded saucily to her “heart”—or its reflection—upon “yonder shore,” some sixty yards away.

“She swims like a fish, that Sesooā one—that’s her Camp Fire name,” commented Captain Andy as he wended his way along a white beach, bordered on one side by the incoming surge of a tidal river, on the other by a snowy rampart of sand-hills plumed with vegetation.

His remark was directed to a shrinking little figure by his side in a “lengthened” muslin dress, brown-dotted, now, and a wide leghorn hat, too childish for her years, with broad streamers of laundered white ribbon hanging down her back.

“They’re strong on names, those Camp Fire Girls,” remarked the florid seaman, encouragingly making conversation, as the small footsteps beside him flagged. “I’m blessed if they didn’t go to work an’ hunt up one—an Indian name with a meaning—for me. It had only twenty-two letters to it.”

“What did it mean?” questioned Kitty, shyly, as her granduncle paused to watch the frolicking figure amid the foam-hills with the flaming symbol of crossed logs upon her breast—signifying that among the Camp Fire Girls she held the rank of Wood Gatherer—and other girlish figures bathing, diving or swimming near her.

“Mean! It was taken from the Ojibway language and it meant something like ‘Wind-in-the-trees-Man!’ They said my voice, or my roar, was like that. But I up an’ said that the name was too long—a comber—knocked me over like a big wave—d’ye understand? And that I objected to being called a ‘Big Wind,’ anyhow! Then they handed me out another just for fun, to keep up the atmosphere of the camp, as they said.”

“And what’s that one?” asked Kitty Sill, her brown eyes feasting themselves upon the water-pommeled figures of girls about her own age.

“Let’s see now! Can I remember it? Something like Men-o-ki-gá-bo; yes, I guess that’s it!”

“An’ what on earth does that mean?”

“‘Standing Tall!’ Ain’t that a bully name?” The mariner reared his massive bulk with a highly amused twinkle in his eye which surveyed the bathers, too. “Fancy me play-acting with Indian names at my age, when I’m cruising toward seventy! But it pleases them an’ don’t hurt me. The Morning-Glory chose the latter name, the girl I was speaking to you about yesterday. There she goes, diving nigh on fifteen feet off that high rock; she dives as well as dances like a foam-chicken! You stick to her like a limpet, little Kitty, if you’re shy-like among the strange girls, and I’ll warrant you’ll soon feel at home! But I guess you will with any of them; they’re a kind-hearted tribe.”

“Tell me some more of their dressing-up names!” Kitty shook her laundered ribbons. The little brown troutlet leaped in the sunlight in her blinking eyes, but it was an eager, not a perverse, minnow now; greedy for the bait of a new interest.

“Oh, tooraloo! Ask me an easy one. Well, I guess I can make a hit at the name of that tall girl that’s toeing the water there on the edge of the beach, making up her mind to go in; I wrote her Camp Fire name down because I considered it the best of the bunch.” Captain Andy took a penciled slip from his vest pocket. “U-l-i-d-a-h-á-s-u!” he spelled out slowly. “That’s a Penobscot Indian word cut down from one of fifteen letters and it means ‘Peace’; she wants to be a peacemaker, that girl, to do her bit now an’ when she grows up toward bringing peace everywhere. She has a dove in her head-band.”

“Who’s the girl with the red cheeks—an’——?”

“And the scream like a curlew! Can’t tell you her dressing-up name, Kitty. But her ordinary one is Penelope, with a kind of extraordinary surname: Tingle, an’ gee! she is one big tingle, was about as mild-mannered as a hurricane when she came here first, but she’s simmering down a little, by degrees. See that dark-haired girl who’s sitting on the steps of the biggest camp building—Camp Morning-Glory they call it?” The captain wheeled shoreward and looked toward a scattered trio of new camps, lightly built frame houses, in a curve of the white crescent beach.

“The one who has just come out of the water and taken the handkerchief off her head?” Kitty inquired.

“Yes, she’s one of the rich girls I spoke of. The first time I saw her she talked some frilly stuff about going to an hotel, she and her sister, an’ dancing all summer—something like that—now she foots it an’ sings with the rest of the girls and cooks an’ launders, and learns how to run a motor-boat and pull a good oar, too, an’ thinks it all a lark. Her father has millions, I guess, and wears a mite o’ pink ribbon on his coat that makes him look like a foreign di-plo-mat—I heard him speechify after a public dinner when I was in the city of Clevedon about three weeks ago.”

“What’s that for?” inquired Kitty’s laundered ribbons waving in the sea-breeze and taking the words from her lips.

“The scrap o’ ribbon! Why! to show that his ancestors did truly come over here on the Mayflower—as yours an’ mine did, Kitty, for the matter o’ that, on a bunchy old hooker called the Angel Gabriel. That girl’s name is Olive Deering; her mother was a beautiful Southerner, so I understand, an’ the girl herself is, as a seaman would say, A. I. in p’int of looks from her keel to her truck-head!” Captain Andy chuckled.

A slow swish of wings in the air! A great bird rising majestically from the water’s edge where it had been feeding on fish at a point where the tidal ripples broke gently upon the white sands that gleamed through them like milk in a crystal vase.

Kitty turned eagerly to watch its flight toward the dunes, the white expanse of sand-hills, some of which were sand-snows right to the top that rose to two hundred feet, or thereabouts, above sea level; others shone with the faint pink of delicate flesh owing to the shadow cast by the vegetation, the sparse grass that stood up like the scanty hair on a baby’s head.

The deep hollows between the peaks were pink and purple with the riotous, blossoming beach-pea or emerald with low trees and shrubs, basswood, bitter-sweet, bayberry and barberry.

One sand-valley held a crystal basin left by the tide where a score of sandpipers were bathing.

Over all sailed the magnificent bird—great wings heavily flapping—like a grey slate against the sky, in length measuring about four feet from the tip of its six-inch beak to the end-feather of its insignificant tail, its little yellow eye slanting down sidelong on Kitty, which, of course, she could not see, its long neck gracefully stretched.

“Know what bird that is?” asked her granduncle.

“Some sort of crane.” So the fluttering ribbon again made answer, playing with her reply.

“‘Crane!’ Balderdash! It’s a great Blue Heron. See ’em pretty often round here! There were three of ’em standing in a row upon this beach at the very time that I landed my first boat-load of Camp Fire Girls here—looked just as if the birds were lined up on deck for a welcome.”

“How funny!” cried Kitty, showing her dimples.

“Say! but it tickled the girls. The birds flew off, but slowly; they seem to know the law protects ’em now. One of the girls, the very one we were talking about, got so excited that she came near upsetting the rowboat I was landing them in. She cried out that, when she was initiated, she was going to take the Blue Heron for her Camp Fire name because it had such a splendid spread o’ wings. I shouldn’t wonder if she first thought of becoming a Camp Fire Girl through seeing an old owl, with a goose’s head on his shoulders, that could neither fly nor hoot, had lost his natural powers through not using them.”

“Do the other girls call her the Blue Heron?”

“They call her by the Indian word for it. You come along over now and we’ll ask her what that is!” Captain Andy began a strategic move forward in the direction of Camp Morning-Glory.

Kitty began a crab-like backward one.

“No-o! I don’t know any girls like her and her sister (isn’t that the sister sitting near her on the sands?)—they’re too grand for me, eh?” Her dimples fluctuated tentatively.

“Grand! Fiddlestick! Is it of the money or the Mayflower emblem you’re thinking, child? Pshaw, Kittykins”—the captain let out his deep, droll laugh—“I guess you can come near matching that last any day, with your old chimney built for five smokes! I’ve read the builder’s contract myself, dated 1718, for that big T-shaped chimney, to be ‘built of brick, for five smokes!’ And by the red, brick breast of that old chimney your fathers an’ your fathers’ fathers, ever since, have tended the fire o’ love to God and man, that the Camp Fire Girls aim to tend. They’re patriotic, those girls; they get honor-beads, so they tell me, for looking up their gran’parents an’ great-gran’parents—and their occupations; all that went to the building up of this great country; they’ll welcome you and your five smokes with open arms.”

It was a very smoky background for a pathetically shy little figure as Kitty advanced over the white sands toward the triple steps of the largest of the wooden camps, open at one side to the airs of heaven. But it needed no backing of ancestral smokes, that shrinking figure in the childish, flapping hat and dotted muslin.

For Olive, still in her wet bathing-suit, with her dark hair hanging, loose and long, about her, saw the little stranger coming.

The childish dress, rustic and old-fashioned, but dainty and demure, the pretty dimples, each nesting a freckle, the liquid, amber-brown eyes in which that tiny flashing minnow seemed to come and go with shy feeling—not sure of its owner’s reception—all these simply reached out and took Olive by the heart, bringing her to her feet in a jump, the water swishing in her bathing shoes.

“Why! it’s Kitty,” she cried. “Captain Andy’s Kitty! Oh, Kitty, we’re just so glad to see you! We were dying for you to come!”

No distant or smoky welcome this! Kitty flirted her wide, starched skirts as might a pleased bird its tail. The happy water rose to her eyes. She cast one far-away mental glance to Mary-Jane Peg and the orchard with its bandaged trees as she felt Olive’s wet arm about her shoulders.

“Oh! I must kiss you,” said Olive Deering, “although it’s too bad to wet you all up, Kitty. We’ve been watching for you all day, ever since Captain Andy told us he was going to fetch you here in his motor-boat. Captain Andy’s so good to us,” breathing briny gratitude; “he’s always on watch to see that we don’t go too far out when bathing, those of us who can’t swim very well yet.”

“Oh! you’re coming on—you’re coming on!” encouraged the mariner, whose camp name was Menokigábo.

“And he has taught us a lot about rowing and steering, a little about sailing, too!”

“Can’t do much with a sailboat here; it’s too near the mouth of the river. Tide’s too tricky,” remarked the captain. “That’s the bar where those curly breakers are, Kitty,” dropping his hand on his niece’s arm and whirling her round to face a white line of breakers about a mile down-river; beyond which flared the blue breadth of the comparatively open sea. “That’s the sand-bar where river an’ bay meet. Pretty rough water there, breaking on the Neck—the sandy neck of those other sand-dunes on the opposite side of the river! Mustn’t get carried down there in a boat, any of you girls! Quicksands, too! The Neck is studdled with ’em.”

“What does ‘studdled’ mean?” Olive’s briny lips blew the words like a pickled kiss into Kitty’s ear.

“I don’t know. Search—me!” quiveringly.

“I wonder the Boy Scouts don’t get caught among the wicked quicksands, seeing that they’re camping somewhere among those other dunes.” It was Sybil Deering who spoke. Sybil was not yet a Camp Fire Girl, although her elder sister who was to spend two months in camp had already been initiated as a Wood Gatherer; Sybil felt that the occasional presence of boys would add sauce to this crystalline Sugarloaf on which she found herself.

She had not been in bathing and she yawned in the hot sun as she sent her gaze sweeping over as much of that white Sugarloaf Peninsula as she could see, a hundred acres of sand-dunes taking their name from the highest peak, a pillar-like loaf of sand that sparkled like sugar-frosting in the hot sun.

“Oh, they know how to steer clear o’ the quicksands, I guess,” answered Captain Andy, answering on behalf of the Boy Scouts whose invisible camp was somewhere among the lesser sand-hills on the other side of the tidal river, here, nearly two miles across. “But quicksands’ll fool you,” he went on meditatively. “That’s why they’re so turrible dangerous; they look just like the firm sand, seem like it, too, when you plant one foot on them, but bring up the other, bend your weight on it an’ immediately you’ll hear the water rushing in under you and you’ll begin to sink—an’ it’s the one thing next to impossible under Heaven to drag you out!”

“How long does it take to—to sink out of sight?” asked Arline Champion—who had just come up out of the water rainbowed with brine—feeling awfully creepy.

“’Bout five minutes. Get caught in one o’ those sand-traps, nobody ever knows what becomes of you!”

There was a pervading, unanimous shudder, gathering up into it all the little minor shivers of the wet bathers.

“You’d better tell Jessica that,” volunteered little Betty Ayres from the edge of the dripping group. “She goes out in the rowboat, alone, the most; she might get swept down there—an’ stranded.”

“That reminds me, I saw the Morning-Glory, early to-day, doing a strange stunt; she was sitting under a rock with a sheet o’ something—dull glass it seemed like—on her knee, bending over it. I thought she was looking at herself in it an’ called to her, chaffing-like! She jumped up and ran away. She seemed kind o’ vexed at being caught.”

There was a general, wondering laugh, ousting the shudder, as one and another pair of girlish eyes sought the turbaned head of Morning-Glory, the foam-chicken, amid the waves.

Olive spoke first when the puzzled mirth subsided.

“Come up here, little Kitty,” she said. “Sit on the steps—I’m going to dress in a minute; I’m just sunning myself—and tell us what you used to do on the farm where you live and in the orchard. How did you amuse yourself?”

“Mostly I played with the ducks an’ hens—an’ with Mary-Jane Peg,” replied Kitty’s lips and fluttering ribbons gravely.

“Who is Mary-Jane Peg?”

“She’s a pig—a very nice pig.”

“He! He! He! Hi!... Ha! Isn’t she too green for anything—the greenest little hayseed, greenest little guy—naming a pig like that?”

No need to ask whence came the tingling titter! Penelope had come up out of the water, too, Penelope of the swinging gate who, in view of her home handicaps and her sisterly service to younger brothers, had been invited by the Guardian of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire to join its circle and camp out, here, with its members.

“He! He! Ha-a-a!” rattled on Penny and, suddenly, in the midst of her stampeding laughter became conscious of a chill, that her mirth and her remark, both, shot wild, skated like pebbles over a frozen surface, grated upon an icy silence.

The chill suddenly started a fever. Desperately she ran down the white beach to hide her burning cheeks in the water.

“I said she had the mild manners of a hurricane—a Caribbean Sea hurricane!” mumbled Captain Andy between puffs of laughter. “Her core is gusty, but it’s good. Well! I must be off to hunt up a chunk o’ birch wood or some other hard wood to whittle it into a big top—otherwise you can’t play that Kullibígan guessing-game to-night. An’ Kitty wants to ask a question of that fortune-telling top, eh, Kitty?” He dropped a wink upon the Doomed One, whose conviction of early death was melting away, like snow in May, into the filmy, sunlight haze that hung over the sand-peaks of the Sugarloaf. “No! you stay here along with the other girls an’ get acquainted. I’ll be back soon.”

But he was not thinking of his grandniece as he walked off to prowl among the dunes; he was philosophizing about girlhood in general. “Girls, even the best of ’em, are freakish. You can’t understand ’em,” he told his masculine old heart. “They cut queer capers, sometimes, just like a vessel! Now, what was the Morning-Glory one doing to-day, sitting an’ looking at herself in that pane o’ glass on her lap—an’ running off without a word as if I caught her, or came near catching her, in a crime? Her eyes looked red, too, when next I met her. And there’s nothing to cry over in her looks; she’s pretty as her name-flower. But”—soliloquizing further to a silvery birch-log, part of the driftwood scattered everywhere among the dunes, as he notched it with his pocket-knife, to test its suitability for a spinner or guessing-top—“but it’s hard for a girl like her to lose both parents before she’s seventeen, to have no regular home an’ no money, be dependent for a while on those who are no kin, as I believe’s the case!”

Meditating thus upon the invisible storm and stress that might beset even a girl’s life set Captain Andy crooning about the actual storms amid which his life had been spent as he bore the birch-log to his watchman’s tent upon the beach, to saw off a foot of it for a revolving top.
“If howling winds and roaring seas
Give proof of coming danger ...”

he sang, broke off and took up the song again on the farther side of a mumbled gap as he commenced his whittling:
“When perils gather round
All sense of danger’s drowned,
We despise it to a man!
We sing a little and laugh a little
And work a little an’ play a little
And fiddle a little an’ foot it a little
As bravely as we can!
As bravely as we can! Yaho-o!”


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