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CHAPTER XII FLOURED GLASS
Sesooā heard a sob. A frank sob that published the trouble of some girl’s heart to the dunes and to the sea! And Sally did not know what to do about it.

It was the first sob she had heard during the six weeks that the girls of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire had been camping on the white Sugarloaf.

“Somebody is thinking that it’s nearly the end of August and that we’ll be going back to the city pretty soon!” she surmised. “Oh-h, to be a seal!” The golden spark in her eyes, the dancing firefly, lit out over the waves and hovered above a sleek dog-like head, but larger than a dog’s, appearing above the water some fifty yards from the white beach on which she stood. “Oh, to be a harbor seal and stay here always to sun oneself on a sands-pit in summer and in winter ride an ice-cake, as the seals do! I was made to be a wild thing!” Her laughter rippled, clear and low, like the ebbing tide, but she dammed it up lest it should intrude upon the feeling betrayed by that other unaccountable sound which she had just heard, coming from the farther side of a barrier of rock that intersected the beach.

“I wonder, now, which of the girls it is?” she silently speculated. “Is Kitty yearning for her orchard and the grunting society of Mary-Jane Peg? But she seems so happy here among us! Yet, perhaps, the scare we got three days ago upset her, when that big seal dived under our rowboat and upset it, half-way up ’Loaf Creek! Oh, bubbles! that was a bad spill.” Here another low splash of laughter dropped its liquid notes to mingle with the distant mirth of the tide, breaking far out, as Sesooā, in thought, glanced past the rock-barrier, past some acres of intervening dunes freshly swept by a southwesterly wind, at the winding blue creek, Sugarloaf Creek, that crept in round the back of the Sugarloaf Peninsula until it lost itself in the woods where the fat Astronomer came to grief.

“Captain Andy says we were lucky to see a seal out of the water even at the cost of a ducking,” she ruminated further, “and that we, probably, wouldn’t have done so at all if that great big fellow, weighing a couple of hundred pounds or so, hadn’t gone far up the creek after the ‘feed,’ meaning the huge eel that he was devouring, half out of water, when we rowed round a marshy bend right on to him.... Goodness! of all the ‘mix-ups’ then! I’ll never forget it!” The last words formed themselves aloud in her laughter-filled throat. “Six of us girls struggling in the water! Sybil and Kitty an’ Betty up to their necks although ’Loaf Creek is shallow! And that big, spotted harbor seal which bumped into us and capsized us, just making for the creek’s mouth as hard as he could swim! I guess he knew where the deep water was, all right!”

She stood gazing out at the receding tide, seeing again the sleek head of the capsizing mammal as he put for the open water, the tidal channel, doubtless, vowing by the shades of his ancestors, the tidal tadpoles, that he would never be caught up a narrow creek again by a boat-load of shrieking girls.

“I hardly think it’s Kitty who is sorrowful or ‘peeved’ over something.” Sally was conscious of the thought which crowded out the seal as another low, gulping noise, mysteriously like a sob, came from the other side of the crusted barrier of rock. “That doesn’t sound like Kitty, either!” She put her ear to the crusty rock-heart. “Kitty Sill behaved as well as any of us all through the ducking in the creek—our wildest adventure as yet—all she said when it was over and we were safe in the boat again was: ‘Will you tell Mary-Jane Peg that I was brave?’ She’s simply killing with her talk about that pedigreed pig! She’s the funniest little thing! And Jessica vowed she’d make a special call on Mary-Jane.... Oh, gracious!” Sally’s hands came softly together upon a flame of dismay that scorched their palms. “Good gracious, I do believe it’s Jessica, herself—Morning-Glory, if you please—who’s having a quiet cry ‘all by her lonely’! And she’s the most popular girl in camp.”

The camp favorite, the most popular girl, had, nevertheless, if sounds could be trusted, a pent-up trouble of some kind which she wasn’t withholding from the sea; there was a restless movement on the other side of the rock as if somebody rolled over on the sands, followed by a lonely, grieved sobbing that appealed to the ebbing tide for comfort.

Now, all at once, impulsive Sally was filled with a jealousy of that low-ebb tide for being chosen as a confidant; she would have liked to thrust it farther out still. Before she knew what she was doing this feeling and another, overwhelming curiosity, spread wide their wings and wafted her lightly over the rock-barrier.

She descended with a pounce upon the other side and immediately began to flutter and cackle inarticulately, like a hen in a flowerbed.

The patch of white beach beyond the rock-fence was fairly abloom with colored articles which attracted the scanty sunshine that, to-day, was having a tilt with the ruffling southwesterly wind as to which should rule the weather.

One sunbeam poked his finger inquisitively among the small blocks of paint in a box of water-colors lying open upon the sands. Another slanted his eye like an amused connoisseur at a sheet of cardboard pinned down by a chunk of pale driftwood and bearing a crude, very highly colored painting of blue water between dauby green marsh-banks and of a boat being upset by some fabulous sea-monster that was apparently trying to climb into it.

Sally jumped to the conclusion that this was meant for a kind of “colored supplement” comic illustration of the accident which had happened in ’Loaf Creek, on which her thoughts had lately been dwelling, for the seal had the ears of a jackass and claws an inch long upon his fore-flippers which grappled the side of the boat.

She cackled exceedingly at sight of it and shuffled in the sand, like the hen who has found not colors only, but something fruitful, also, in the bed of bloom.

Then she caught her breath with an amazed start, like Captain Andy’s when he saw the same sort of thing; a third sunbeam was surveying himself under difficulties in a sheet of glass about the size of a small window-pane, which looked as if it had been floured over, dulled and whitened by a very watery paste of some kind.

“Gee whiz!” exclaimed Sally who thought that she had eschewed slang with Penelope before her eyes as a horrible example. “What are you doing with the pane of glass, Jessica dearie, mixing biscuits on it?” with a low explosion of laughter.

“No-o,” mumbled the owner of the flowerbed who, with face averted from the intruder, looked rather like a glossy, green shrub trained and clipped into fantastic shape, of the style which, once upon a time, presided over old-fashioned gardens; for her sweater of dark green wool and her Camp Fire Girl’s Tam O’Shanter finished with an emerald pompon matched in hue her olive-green khaki skirt—all of which apparently failed to create a verdant atmosphere of spring in her young heart at present.

“Are you trying cookery experiments on the glass?” laughed Sesooā, much mystified and excitingly tickled by curiosity, for her roving gaze now took in among the litter of articles on the sands a little earthenware crock with a paste that looked like very thin, dyspeptic dough in it. “Olive—Blue Heron—says that her father used to declare that her cookery ought to be tried upon the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals before human beings were allowed to partake of it—that was before she became a Camp Fire Girl—but you’re testing it on the pane of glass. Why! Jess—Jessica—Morning-Glory—I didn’t mean to tease you, honey; you’re not peeved with me for finding you here all alone and feeling blue, are you?” Sesooā flung herself upon her knees on the wind-ruffled sand and slipped an arm around the green shoulders of her Camp Fire Sister whose breast was again ploughed by random sobs.

Sally—the little oriole of the city playground—was gay in throat and inquisitive as that orange-and-black songster, but she was wonderfully soft of heart, too; she bit her lip and puckered up her eye-corners, determined that, if she could help it, a Camp Fire Sister should not weep alone any more than she should stand alone.

Then in the space of one long breath her working face was smoothed out as if an electric iron passed over it. Her glance had fallen again upon the dauby comic picture of the blue creek and the boat with half-formed human figures, some of which were being wildly shot into the air by a dragon-like seal.

“Ha! you were painting that—our ducking in ’Loaf Creek—for little Rebecca, weren’t you?” Caressingly she dropped her chin upon the green heave of Morning-Glory’s shoulders. “You’re going to send it to her, eh? But surely you’re not crying about her? She probably doesn’t realize that she’s deaf-and-dumb, different from other children. And you’ve done so much for her, dearie, saving her life and all—the Eagle Scout only came in on the tail-end of the rescue. And you can do more when we go back to the city.”

“Oh! what d’you take me for? F-Fudge! I’m not crying about her—I’m not so—so soft—what earthly g-good would it do her?”

The Morning-Glory’s broken accents were snappish, scraping against a rasp within.

“Well! you needn’t eat me up for suggesting it.” Sally withdrew her chin and made a face at the green shoulders whose back was still toward her. “I’m going away if you’re as cross as a thorn!”

“I wish to goodness you would! No, I don’t! Come here, Sally!” Jessica stretched out a hand as the other girl rose to her feet. “I don’t mean to be raspy and snappy; I have tried to live up to the Camp Fire law all the time we’ve been here, to ‘Be happy!’ I oughtn’t to say that, for it didn’t really take any ‘trying’—I have been! But every one of the rest of you girls have a home to go back to—when this—this jolly camping-time is over. I haven’t!”

“Haven’t you a home with the Deerings, with Olive and Sybil and their awfully rich father—and your Cousin Anne?”

“Olive heard, to-day, from her father that he’s going to be married again in the fall; Sybil doesn’t know it yet; she only told me. Olive is away off on a sand-hill, now, making up her mind to be lovely to the new stepmother because she thinks that’s what her own mother would have her do. But”—a long-drawn gasp—“perhaps the new wife won’t want Cousin Anne or me in the house—me, anyway, as I’m no relation at all to the Deerings.”

“Pshaw, I’ll bet she’ll be delighted to have you! If not, Cousin Anne and you can live together.”

“Cousin Anne hasn’t enough money to support herself, much less me! She had, but she lost most of it a few years ago by the failure of a mining company in which she had invested largely. She had just enough left for ‘pin money’, as Mr. Deering, who’s her cousin, told her; so he offered her a home in his house to be a kind of mother to his daughters and superintend their education. Then”—another long gasp shaking the moss-green shoulders—“then when the friend of Mother’s who took me in after my mother died nearly two years and a half ago—(I used to help her with her housework, this friend, and call her ‘Auntie’ though she wasn’t any relation, either), when she had to go to China with her husband, Cousin Anne was so worried, not knowing what was to become of me, that Mr. Deering, to please her, I suppose, invited me on a visit to his home for a year, or a year and a half, until I get through high school.... But oh!—oh! it’s hard for a girl like me to lose both father and mother—not to belong to anybody—really.”

Yet, even as her lips quivered upon this climax of her sorrow, Morning-Glory sat deliberately up, exposing her face to Sally’s voice, and gazed off at the far-out tide which the ever-quickening southwesterly wind was ruffling with a prophecy of squalls and rain, determined not to make a scene here on the cloudy sands as she did in the Deerings’ library under the glamor of that painted window where the young monk pored over a parchment book.

But the association of then and now presently made her chin tremble again; blindly she caught at Sally’s hand.

“You—you were laughing at my pasty sheet of glass,” she gasped. “But this morning, when I got thinking how, in ten days, now, we’ll leave these lovely Sugarloaf dunes, go back to the city and to school, to hard work, studying, I felt that if—if I could only study along the lines Father had picked out for me, I wouldn’t mind quite so much—that it would seem to bring me nearer to him and to my mother, too.”

“What did he want you to do?”

“He had it all planned before he died three years ago that I was to take up his work—study art and design—become an artist. He thought I could by an’ by earn my living, as he did, by getting into the designing-room connected with some big stained-glass works where they turn out beautiful painted windows.... He”—breathlessly—“he said I had just the same love of color that he had. And I have! I have!” passionately. “When I wake early and watch a dawn here over the river and those opposite white dunes, I feel it—feel it in my very toes!” curling up those tingling members.

“Ha-a!” Sesooā laughed shortly, but it wasn’t a mirthful chuckle; the firefly was snuffed out in her eyes, the golden sparkle that lent such life to them.

“And why can’t you become an artist—or a designer—look forward to earning your living in that way?” she gravely asked.

“Oh, because I’ve no money, not a dollar, not a cent!” shiveringly. “And I should have some in order to educate me properly; I’d have to take a long art course in some School of Design—or Institute——”

“But if you were to tell Olive—her father is so rich!”

“Sally! Do you think I want to ‘sponge’ on them? No, I’ll just have to work ever so hard when we go back to the city, finishing out my course in the Commercial High School, learning to be an expert typist, so that I can earn my living as a stenographer. Other girls like that—the noisy room with fifty typewriters going together—I don’t!”

“Every one to his taste! I’d prefer it to painting on glass. Were you trying to do that this morning?” glancing at the befloured pane.

“Yes, father used to prepare the glass first by rubbing it with lime (I hadn’t any lime) and then spreading the thinnest layer of common paste over it; when that dried he’d lay the sheet of glass over the paper design which he had already painted and outline the design in pencil—make a cartoon, as he said—on the glass. I was just trying my hand on common glass”—whimsically—“thinking how it would be if some day I could paint a design for a beautiful Camp Fire Girls’ colored window.”

Slowly Morning-Glory raised the dulled glass and gave a glimpse of a crudely painted design underneath, which yet showed original talent; the figure of a Camp Fire Girl in a ceremonial dress and pearly head-band, her feet poised upon cloud-billows that looked very like ethereal footballs at the present stage of the crude design; over her glowed what was meant to be a sunburst, in one hand was a variegated flower, a morning-glory, in the other an unrolling scroll intended to bear the magic watchword, “Wohelo!”

“Oh! I think it’s lovely. Oh! aren’t you clever? You ought to get a National Honor from Headquarters for even thinking out such a thing,” effervesced Sally. “Oh! I wish you could ‘cut’ the typewriters and do what you want to do. Haven’t you any relatives on your father’s side who’d help you out?”

“No; his only sister died when she was young; there are just some cousins who have large families of their own.” Jessica laid down the pasty pane of glass, too cloudily dulled to be ever painted on successfully.

Suddenly Sesooā skipped to her feet and began kicking at the pale sands like an explorer.

“O dear!” she gasped, trying to be funny, and failing, “why can’t what the Kullibígan guessing-top promised come true and some of us dig up a fortune from the sands?”

“Not much likelihood of that! Besides the fortune-telling top was so divided in its spinning mind about who was to find it!” Morning-Glory laughed chokingly.

“And aren’t there any other living relatives of your mother’s?”

“Yes, one—my dear, handsome great-gran’father in the old miniature!” The speaker dimpled through the tear-stains on her cheeks, her voice rocked between a sob and a song, her white teeth flashed at the dead-low tide which was just on the turn and thinking of flowing back again. “He’s alive to me! I wish I had brought the ivory miniature down here with me; then you girls would have fallen in love with him in his blue coat and brass buttons—he has the livingest, merriest smile—the miniature was painted when he was a very young man; he was over forty when he was drowned, sticking to his ship and one helpless passenger to the last, while most of the crew tried to escape in boats.”

“I should think you’d like to go over to the old town of Newburyport where you told me he once lived and see it—it’s not so awfully far from here by motor-boat and train.”

At this Jessica winced again; such a longing had been in her breast all summer, but she was a loyal, loving girl who hated to draw more than was necessary on Cousin Anne’s resources while in camp and even a forty-mile, roundabout journey would cost something.

“My great-grandfather, Captain Josiah Dee, only sailed out of Newburyport and down the Merrimac River, over the sand-bar at its mouth, when his ship, The Wave Queen, was simply ‘ballasted,’ so Mother told me; then he’d make a long trip to the West Indies and when he came back heavily loaded—or the ship was—he’d put into Baltimore or New York,—some big seaport! He made a good deal of money, but spent nearly all of it; his wife died in 1839 and the next year he went away on his last voyage; before he came back his only son, my grandfather, heard a rumor of gold in California and started off there to make a fortune, taking only the miniature in a wooden case that he made for it and a little old Bible with him.”

“Did he make a fortune?”

“No, he never got farther than the Isthmus of Panama; it was so hard to reach the Pacific Coast in those days. He was sick after landing on the Isthmus and stayed there a long time. Any letters that may have been sent never reached him. At last he got back to America, to New York, and there heard that The Wave Queen had been wrecked on her last voyage and every one aboard her, captain and crew, lost.”

“Ugh-h! he must have felt bad then,” came softly from Sesooā.

“He did. He drew out a little money that my great-grandfather had deposited in a New York bank in his son’s name and his own, and took ship right away for England where his grandparents had come from. But he must have been restless,” meditatively; “he came back to America again, just after the Civil War, settled in the South and married quite late in life; my mother was his only child.... Always he kept the old miniature for which he had a leather case made and, oh! I’m so glad he did.” The Morning-Glory’s lip quivered again, but the moisture in her eyes sparkled. “Whenever I look at it, I feel that, whatever happens, I just must be as ‘game’ as my great-gran’daddy who was a hero, by all accounts, and saved as many lives as Captain Andy did. Perhaps he, too, sang Captain Andy’s old sea-song about ‘when perils gather round’:
“‘We sing a little and laugh a little
And work a little and play a little
And fiddle a little and foot it a little,
As bravely as we can!
As bravely as we can!’

And that’s what I’m going to do even among a storm of typewriters!”

“Yes, and you have ten whole days yet before you need think about facing that storm! And picture the fun we’re going to have in the meantime!” Sally crowed over the cheering prospect. “Think of the Grand Council Fire meeting which our Guardian is arranging, when we’re to meet and have a picnic with two other Camp Fire tribes of this region, the Granite Shore Tribe and the Twin-Light Tribe.”

“It’s the Twin-Light Tribe, who take their name from the twin lighthouses on Thatcher’s Island, who want to give a party in our honor, next week, at an hotel on the mainland and invite some of the Boy Scouts, too, from their camp on the dunes, across the river.” Jessica’s eyes shone now between her red eyelids like twin-lights waking up. “Then, indeed, we’ll all ‘foot it a little’ in the old-fashioned dances—as bravely as we can!”

“Yes—and, Jessica honey!” Sesooā crept close to her Camp Fire Sister, her voice a loving croon. “If the new Mrs. Deering shouldn’t really want you to stay on in the Deering Mansion, as it’s called, why! you can come to us—Father an’ Mother would love to have you—for a long visit. They’re so dear!” with a yearning quaver in the voice. “Our home isn’t grand like the Deerings’—but——”

“But ‘your heart’s right there,’ isn’t it?”

The two girls clung together upon the cloudy beach while the rising southwester footed it round them.


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