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By the first of September Migwan had made enough money from the sale of canned tomatoes to more than pay her way through college the first year. “It’s Mother Nature who has been my fairy godmother,” she said to the girls. “I asked her for the money to go to college and she put her hand deep into her earth pocket and brought it out for me. It’s like the magic gardens in the fairy tales where the money grew on the bushes.”
“What a summer this has been, to be sure,” said Hinpoha, who was in a reflective mood. They were all sitting in the orchard, busy with various sorts of handwork. The day was hot and drowsy and the shade of the trees most inviting. “Migwan and I thought we would have such a quiet time together, just we two. She was going to write a book and I was going to illustrate it, when we weren’t working in the garden. And how differently it all turned out! One by one you other girls came—I’ll never forget how funny Gladys and Nyoda looked when they came out that night, and how surprised Sahwah was to find you here when she arrived. Then Gladys brought Ophelia, I mean Beatrice, and after that we never had a quiet moment. Then the mystery began and kept up all summer. Instead of these three months being a quiet rest they’ve been the most thrilling time of my life.”
“It seems to have agreed with you, though,” said Sahwah, mischievously, whereupon there was a general laugh, for Hinpoha, instead of growing thin with all the worry and excitement, had actually gained five pounds.
“As much worry as it caused me,” said Migwan, “I’m glad everything happened as it did. The summer I had looked forward to would have been horribly dull and uninteresting, but now I feel that I’ve had some real experiences. I’ve got enough ideas for stories to last for years to come.”
“And for moving picture plays,” said Hinpoha. “But,” she added, “if you go in for that sort of thing seriously, where am I coming in? You know we made a compact; I was to illustrate everything you wrote, and how am I going to illustrate moving picture plays?”
There was a ripple of amusement at her perplexity. “You’ll have to illustrate them by acting them out,” said Gladys. They all agreed Hinpoha would make a hit as a motion picture actress, all but Sahwah, who dropped her eyes to her lap when Migwan began to talk about moving pictures, and presently went into the house to fetch something she needed for her work. When she came out again the subject had been changed and was no longer embarrassing to her.
“What will the Bartletts say when they hear the peach crop was ruined by the wind storm?” asked Hinpoha.
“That’s the only thing about our summer experience that I really regret,” answered Migwan. “I wrote and told them about it, of course, when I told them about the gas well, and Mrs. Bartlett said we shouldn’t worry about it and that we ourselves were a crop of peaches.”
“The dear thing!” said Gladys. “I should love to see the Bartletts again some time; they were so friendly to us last summer, and it is all due to them that we have had such a glorious time this summer.”
Scarcely had she spoken when an automobile entered the drive and stopped beside the house. Migwan ran out to see who it was. The next moment she had her arms around the neck of a pretty little woman. “Oh, Mrs. Bartlett!” she cried. “Did the fairies bring you? We just made a wish to see you.”
Soon the girls were all flocking around the car, shaking hands with Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett, and making a fuss over little Raymond. How the Bartletts did sit up in astonishment when all the events of the summer were told in detail! “Well, you certainly are trumps for sticking it out,” said Mr. Bartlett, admiringly. “Nobody but a bunch of Camp Fire Girls would have done it.” At which the Winnebagos glowed with pride.
Now that the Bartletts had come to stay at Onoway House, Migwan decided she would go home a week earlier than she had planned, as there was not enough room for so many people there. Aunt Phœbe and the Doctor were in town again, so Hinpoha could go home if she wished; and Sahwah’s mother had also returned. They were a little sorry to break up so abruptly when they had planned quite a few things for that last week to celebrate the finishing of the canning, but all agreed that under the circumstances it was the best thing they could do.
“I really need a week at home,” said Migwan with a twinkle in her eye, “to rest up from my vacation. There I’ll get the peace and quiet that I came here to seek.” Take care, O Migwan, how you talk! Once before you predicted peace and quiet, and see what happened!
Before they went, however, they must have one more big time altogether, Mrs. Bartlett insisted, and she went into town on purpose to bring out Nakwisi and Chapa and Medmangi. Close behind them came another car which also stopped at Onoway House, and out of it stepped Mr. and Mrs. Evans and Aunt Beatrice and Uncle Lynn and little Beatrice, the latter dressed up in wonderful new clothes and already subtly changed, but still eager to romp with the girls and tag after Sahwah.
“See here,” said Mr. Evans, when they were all talking about going home the next day, “you girls have been working pretty hard this summer, and haven’t had a real vacation yet, why don’t you go for an automobile trip the last week? Gladys has her car; that is, if it came through all the excitement alive, and mother and I would be willing to let you take the other one. Go on a run of say a thousand miles or so, and see a few cities. The change will do you good.”
“Oh, papa!” cried Gladys, clapping her hands in rapture. “That will be wonderful!” And the other girls fell in love with the idea on the spot.
As this was to be their last night at Onoway House nothing was left undone that would make the occasion a happy one. The evening was fine and warm and the stars hung in the sky like great jeweled lamps. With one accord they all sought the garden and the orchard, where Gladys danced on the grass in the moonlight like a real fairy. Then all the girls danced together, until Mrs. Evans declared that they looked like the dancing nymphs in the Corot picture. And Beatrice, who had been taught those same things during the summer, broke away from her mother and joined in the dance, as light and graceful as Gladys herself. It was plain to see that she had the gift which ran in the family, and as her mother watched her with a thrill of pride her heart overflowed anew in thankfulness to the girls who had restored her daughter to her.
“On such a night,” quoted Migwan, looking up at the moon, “Leander swam the Hellespont——”
“The river!” cried Sahwah, immediately, “we must go out on the river once more. Oh, how can I say good-bye to the Tortoise-Crab?” And she shed imaginary tears into her handkerchief.
“Let’s go for one more float,” cried all the girls.
The grown-ups strolled down to the river bank and sat on the grassy slope, watching with indulgent interest what the girls were going to do next. They saw them coming far up the river and heard their song as it was wafted down on the scented breeze. Slowly and majestically the raft approached, with Sahwah standing up and guiding it with the pole. When it had come nearer the onlookers saw a romantic spectacle indeed. Gladys reposed on a bed of flowers and leaves, under a canopy of branches and vines, a ravishingly lovely Cleopatra. Beside her knelt Antony, otherwise Migwan, holding out to her a big white water lily. The other Winnebagos, as slave maidens, sat on the raft and wove flower wreaths or fanned their lovely mistress with leaf fans. It was the slaves who were doing the singing and their clear voices rang out with wonderful harmony on the enchanted air. On they came, past the spot where Sahwah had been hidden on the afternoon of the moving pictures; past the Lorelei Rock, where they had held that other pageant which had frightened Calvin so; past the spot where they lay concealed and watched the strange manœuvers of the supposed Venoti gang. Each rock and tree along the stream was pregnant with memories of that eventful summer, and they could hardly believe that they were saying good-bye to it all.
Now they were opposite the watchers on the bank and the murmurs of admiration reached their ears as they floated past. “What lovely voices——”
“What wonderful imaginations those girls have——”
“How beautifully they work together——”
Calvin looked on in speechless admiration, his eyes for the most part on Migwan. Never in his life had he regretted anything so much as he did the fact that these jolly friends of his were going away. He was to stay on his farm after all and now the prospect suddenly seemed empty.
The voices of the onlookers blended in the ears of the boaters with the murmur of the river as it flowed over the stones, and with the sighing of the wind in the willows as the raft passed on.
And here let us leave the Winnebagos for a time as we love best to see them, all together on the water, their voices raised in the wonder song of youth as they float down the river under the spell of the magic moonlight.
The next volume in this series is entitled: The Camp Fire Girls Go Motoring; or, Along the Road that Leads the Way.
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