THE LONG TRAIL

As Ruth was fond of quoting, “The quicker ’tis done, the better ’tis
done.” Polly watched for a good opportunity when Jean was alone, and
broached the subject without waiting.

“Peggie go to Calvert?” exclaimed Jean, in surprise. “Why, Polly, what
made you think of such a thing?”

“I wanted her. We all want her to be one of us this year. It would do
her good, and she would be with you, Miss Murray dear.”

“But the cost—”

“Let the dinosaur pay for it,” said Polly, hastily. “Of course I know
she couldn’t go unless something did happen to open the way for her, but
this will, won’t it? The Chief told her to-day she was to have a third
of whatever he received, because she is the true discoverer.”

“But you and the other girls are the promoters.”

Polly flushed quickly.

“Oh, we don’t want anything. All we did was to encourage Peggie.”

“I think you were what you are so fond of, the gift-bringers of
opportunity. It is very dear and thoughtful of you, anyway, and I will
promise to talk it over with father and mother soon. That is what you
want me to do, isn’t it?”

Polly reached up, and gave her a quick, forcible hug, and kissed her
cheek, for answer. Jean watched her as she went down the creek path to
join the other girls at the swimming pool. Someway the thought would not
be banished, and she found herself considering it seriously. Peggie a
Calvert girl? Peggie, her little, wild ranch girl, to turn into one of
Miss Calvert’s pupils, at a “select academy for young ladies,” as the
fall circulars always said. Jean caught herself laughing softly at the
picture. Still, after all, she decided, it depended on Peggie.

Every day found the Chief and the Doctor over in the gulch, planning and
exploring. The girls did not accompany them. They felt that their share
in the labor was accomplished. It only remained to see results. So they
spent the last of the week having a good time on the ranch, and riding
around, bareheaded, merry, and just “full of fun,” as Mrs. Murray said,
comfortably.

“Land o’ rest, let them enjoy themselves while they can,” she would say,
standing at the low doorway, to watch them at play down in the lower
field below the corral. Don and Peggie were giving an exhibition of
trick-riding and Ted and Polly were trying to imitate them. “I wish
sometimes that I could turn loose hosts of young ones like these out
here in our beautiful land, and let them find the world as young as they
are. Yes, I know what Doctor Smith said, that that lot of bones yonder
had been there maybe ten million years. I don’t pretend to know those
things. Maybe the world was made in six days, and maybe it was made in
sixty million. The Lord knows, and that suffices. I never did hold with
this promiscuous poking after what doesn’t concern us. First thing we
know, an airship will bump an angel down, and then there’ll be more
excitement. The world is young still, bless it, and it’s fresh and green
and very beautiful, and I do love to see young things playing on it,
whether it’s lambs, or children, or rabbits. They’re a wonderful lot
alike.”

Jean listened, sitting on the lower step of the little porch, sewing on
a new dress for Peggie, that she needed for camping. It was a strong,
tan khaki, like the other girls wore, with a divided skirt, and middy
blouse. Someway, as she heard what her mother said, it seemed like the
propitious moment for Peggie, and she unfolded Polly’s plan.

Mrs. Murray listened in silence, her plain, motherly face a little bit
sad, though the smile did not leave her lips. Jean waited a minute when
she had finished, before she asked:

“Could you let her go, mother dear?”

“She’s but a bairn yet, Jeanie, lass.”

“She’s twelve, mother. I could take care of her.”

“She’s needing good schooling since they closed ours over at the Forks.
I’d have to let her go to town anyway this fall, and then she’d be with
strangers. You’d write often, wouldn’t you, Jeanie, and let me know just
how she took to it all?”

“Twice a week regularly, mother,” Jean promised.

“And you don’t think it would be harming her any, being with girls of
her own age that have all they want. We’re only plain people, Jean,
lass.”

“Oh, mother, the girls at Calvert are not what the world calls wealthy.
They seem so to us because we have so little in a way. We are rich in
land and stock, and love, but very little real cash. It’s only a
different scale of values, dear. What difference does it make whether
father gives one of us a yearling or a new pony for a birthday gift, and
down yonder, the Admiral gives Polly a new camera, or a necklace. It all
comes to the same thing. Peggie will hold her own among them all, dear,
and they will love her too. She is old enough to start in the first
year. If she does realize her hopes from the discovery in old Zed’s
gulch, I should let her go.”

Mrs. Murray sighed thoughtfully.

“I’ll ask father about it, Jeanie, to-night,” she said, finally, and
Jean knew the fight was won already, for whatever her mother advocated,
Mr. Murray unhesitatingly accepted.

Monday morning, even before the first long amber rays of sunlight
pierced the clouds over towards Bear Lodge, the girls were up and
dressed. The sheep wagon was ready, well-provisioned, and made
comfortable as could be for the trip. Behind it was the grub wagon,
loaded with the tents, stove, bedding, and heavier camp supplies. Mr.
Murray drove this wagon, and Jean or her mother took turns at the sheep
cart. It was quite a formidable pack-train that went slowly out by the
valley trail at sunrise. Sally Lost Moon stood in the doorway, with the
sheepdogs around her, waving good-bye with her apron till they passed
out of sight, and Don, too, waved a last salute. Archie and Neil were at
work up beyond the buttes, and they could not see them.

First came the sheep wagon, then a line of ponies and girl scouts, as
the Chief would have dubbed them. They looked it too, in their trim
khaki suits, and lightweight felt hats with turned-back brims. Every
brim bore the class pin of Calvert, the big C on a shield of deep
maroon, with silver quarterings.

They took the straight road west from the ranch, instead of turning off
over the bridge, or north towards the gulch.

“Isn’t this the way we go to the Alameda?” asked Sue.

“We pass the MacDowells’ place on our way to the mountains,” said
Peggie. “Father said we would let out a hail at them but we’d best not
stop, for it delays us. We want to reach a good place to camp to-night.”

“Does he know where he’s going?” asked Ted, interestedly. “I mean, does
he know all the roads and trails ahead?”

“I guess he does,” laughed Peggie. “He’s traveled them often enough.
Every year some of us go camping, you see, and we like to go over the
same trail.”

“Shall we meet bears?” asked Isabel, thoughtfully, but without any sign
of pleasurable anticipation.

“I hope so,” Peggie said, very cheerfully. “I like bear meat. I never
had a chance to shoot any, but Don did last year. He’s got the pelt now,
up in his room. You didn’t see his room, did you, girls? It’s the garret
over the main cabin. You have to climb up a ladder to get to it, and
even Don can’t stand upright, but he’s got all his pet things up there.”

“I’m finding out the queerest thing about life,” Isabel said, in a low
voice to Ruth. “The less you have, the more you love it.”

Ruth laughed, and nodded her head.

“I found that out long ago. I just had to.”

Isabel said no more. She was too busy thinking. The idea of a big boy
like Don being satisfied with an attic room, and of a girl like Peggie
being perfectly happy away out here in the hill country, puzzled her.
She felt that these two had found the secret of contentment someway.
Riding slowly along the up grade behind Peggie now, she caught herself
remembering an old fairy tale that had perplexed her when she was a
little girl, one about a king who sought the Land of Heart’s Content. He
had traveled to the kingdom of Yesterday first, and had found it to be
the Land of Heart’s Regret. Then he had gone to the far country of
To-morrow, and had found that it was the Land of Heart’s Desire. So,
finally, weary and travel-worn, he returned home, and found there in his
own land of To-day, the Heart’s Content he longed for. Isabel wondered
if perhaps the secret of happiness at the little Crossbar ranch was that
the Murrays had all found the land of Heart’s Content.

Up and up they rode, after passing Sandy’s ranch, a little speck far
below in the broad valley, then along a great tableland, covered with
scattered spruce, like little watch-towers. Once they saw an eagle
winging its course southward. It looked like a hawk at that distance.
Mr. Murray pointed out to them its nest in the top of a great old pine,
nearly dead, with only a few scattered branches towards the top that
showed green.

Every once in a while a gray squirrel or young rabbit would stand still
to watch their approach, then scud away into the underbrush in sudden
alarm. Sometimes they caught sight of deer, and the girls wondered at
their tameness.

“They’ve not been hunted much up this way,” Jean told them. “And you’re
not allowed to kill any that have no horns, so that protects the does
and the young. The open season lasts only from September fifteenth to
November fifteenth.”

When the shadows pointed north, a stop was made at the first brook they
came to, and lunch was spread.

“Oh, how good everything does taste!” exclaimed Polly.

“Wait till you’ve had bacon and corn cakes every morning for nearly a
week,” laughed Jean. “Father used to have an old herder working for him,
and he would say, ‘Bacon and corn cakes is the staff of existence for
any man in the open.’”

“I know what I’d love to do,” Polly exclaimed. “I’d like to start off
with a wagon like this, one that you could live in like gypsies, and
just go and go, and take any road you liked best, until you were tired
out.”

“But, goose, don’t you know that you’d never be tired?” said Jean. “We
are all gypsies at heart when it comes to the love of the open.”

“But I should like to chase summer,” went on Polly. “Just keep following
the trail of summer in a gypsy wagon. Yes, and I think one could, too.
Girls, let’s take a gypsy-wagon cruise next year.”

“Over the world, and under the world,
And back at the last to you,”

quoted Ruth.

“Now, girls, girls, fill up good, for we’ve a long stretch ahead, and no
lagging behind,” called out Mr. Murray, going over to look after the
ponies. “We want to make the Soup Bowl to-night.”

“What is the Soup Bowl?” asked Ted, as they all helped to pack up the
dishes after they had washed them in the brook.

“A place up in the hills that is sheltered, and has good feeding ground
for the horses,” Jean told her. “We’re to camp there to-night.”

Steadily ahead they went, with the wall of the mountains fronting them.
Not a break could they see in it, but Mr. Murray held as steadily to his
trail as a sailor does to his course, and the wall grew ever nearer.

“I can’t get used to the trees here,” said Ruth once. “There doesn’t
seem to be anything worth speaking of as you go higher excepting these
funny, straight, skinny-looking pines.”

“The trees grow smaller as you go higher,” Jean answered. “Even these
slender lodge-pole pines are shorter towards the heights. You can tell
the spruce, girls, because it looks blue at a distance. And both the
hemlock and Alpine fir love the banks of the trout brooks up here in the
hills. Oh, to-morrow we’ll get splendid trout.”

Once, as they rode, they came to a hilltop that overlooked the country
for miles and miles. Far away to the south, Peggie pointed out
Deercroft, just a little clump of match boxes, it looked, at that
distance. They could see homesteads too, here and there far below them,
and now and then a ranch.

“You can tell the difference if you look carefully,” Jean told them.
“Wait a minute. I have my field glasses.” She stopped the team, and
reached back into the locker for them, and the girls enjoyed looking
through them in turn. “The ranches all have corrals. And the homesteads
always have gardens. Do you see the difference?”

Once, as they passed along the road, they came to a river crossing, the
water cold and swift. Fording it was an old man with a thin, sunburnt
face, and long, sandy moustache. He was mounted on a calico broncho,
with a high Mexican saddle, and dressed in dingy yellow, with an old
felt hat tilted over his eyes. He turned in midstream to shade his eyes,
and look back at the camping-out cavalcade, and Mr. Murray let out a
long hail at him. He answered with a wave of his hand, and rode on.

“That’s Dave Penfield,” he told the girls, “best scout in Wyoming, not
barring out Sandy himself. He’s over seventy now, and when the President
himself came to the Big Horn country to hunt, if they didn’t look up old
Dave to steer him to the right spots. Dave said he didn’t mind a bit.
Always had heard the President was a very respectable and sociable sort
of man. That’s Dave all over.”

Sometimes wonderful black ravens swung lazily and majestically out of
the woods, or a brilliant orange tanager would flash out of the green
gloom across their path like a vivid bit of flame. The girls cried out
at the beauty of the mountain flowers, too. It seemed as though the
rougher the rocks became and the wilder the scenery, the more delicately
beautiful the flowers were.

“It is that way as far as you can go up the mountains,” Jean told them.
“Even at the highest altitudes they find tiny flowers growing. Eleven
thousand feet is what we call timber line, and after you pass that, you
will find these tiny flowers.”

“What is the tree that trembles all the time?” asked Ruth. “I read some
place that it grows out here.”

“Not as far north as we are. It is in Colorado. The aspen, you mean. It
is a very beautiful tree. They say it trembles because it is the wood
the Cross was made of. Oh, girls, look—there goes a goat.”

Just for a moment they caught a glimpse of him, a fleeing shadow along
the line of rocks far above their heads.

“By jiminetty, mother,” exclaimed Mr. Murray, drawing rein, regretfully,
“I wish I’d had my rifle ready for those horns.”

“I wouldn’t shoot like that, if I were you, Rob,” said his wife,
placidly. “Don’t it say in the Book that the hills are a refuge for the
wild goat? Do you suppose it was intended for that refuge to be
invaded?”

“But, mother,” protested Mr. Murray, boyishly, “did you get a good sight
at his horns? I’d have made old Sandy’s eyes shine if I’d taken those
back to him.”

Just a little before sunset, they reached the camping place. High up in
the hills it was, with a little lake, shut in by masses of fir and
spruce. They came to an open space overlooking it from the easterly
side, and were glad enough to slip from the saddles, and unpack for the
night. All about them, blending into the sky itself it seemed, were
distant ranges. A flock of frightened water birds flew up from the tall
reeds near the water edge, and off to the south Peggie pointed out some
wild ducks flying to the pond.

“I’ll build the fire for you, mother,” Mr. Murray said, “and leave you
to get supper, while the girls help me put up the tents and gather
spruce boughs for the beds.”

“Ruth, Isabel,” Polly called, as she stood up on a rock overlooking the
camping place. “Just come up here and see how glorious it all is. There
are some rocks over there that look like a great castle piled up against
the sunset.

“The splendour falls on castle walls,
And snowy summits old in story,
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.”

Ruth stopped short, breathless from her climb up to the rock.

“I forget the rest, something about the horns of Elfland and the purple
glens replying,” she said. “Isn’t it beautiful, Polly?”

[Illustration: “Isn’t it Beautiful, Polly?”]

Ted and Sue were busily unpacking bedding and tents, and refused to
notice the sunset until the practical things were attended to. Peggie
and her father looked after the horses. There was not much to do.
Saddles and bridles slipped off, they were led down to drink, then
hobbled, and left to munch the sweet, rich grass. The team horses had an
extra feed of oats besides. By the time the girls had watched the sun
tinge the last rim of the mountains with gold, smoke was curling up from
the camp stove, and there was fresh water on to boil. It was a study in
camp economy to watch Mrs. Murray make everything comfortable.

“Well, you see, child,” she said, when Isabel spoke of the ease with
which it was all done, “we’ve camped out every summer since the children
were old enough to enjoy it, and it’s second nature now. Don’t you want
to cut the ham?”

“I want to do anything to help,” Isabel said, heartily, so when the
others came down they found Lady Vanitas with a big apron tied around
her armpits, slicing ham deftly for the crowd.

There were two tents, and in front of each was a wide projecting canvas
roof besides, so that it seemed almost like an extra room. Mr. Murray
said he would take a blanket, and sleep in the sheep wagon, as he would
be more likely to hear the horses if they got into trouble. Mrs. Murray
took the younger ones under her wing, Peggie, Sue and Ted; and Jean
shared the other tent with Polly, Ruth and Isabel. There were no cots,
but each one had a fine bed of fresh cut spruce boughs and blankets
thrown over them.

After supper, some helped clean up the remains, and the rest gathered
firewood with Mr. Murray for a good blaze to keep off any inquisitive
wanderers of the night. When it finally started up, on the shore of the
lake, it was a brilliant spectacle. The flames sent out great flickering
banners that were reflected in the dark waters, the sparks flew up and
crackled, and the spruce sent out a rich, pungent fragrance.

“I never saw any one swing an axe as fast as Mr. Murray,” said Ted,
admiringly. “It just seems to throw itself at the tree, and every time
it lands in the same place.”

“They say up home he’s the best wood-cutter around,” Peggie replied,
proudly. Dearly did she love her tall, strong-limbed father. “We’d
better get a good pile for the night, to keep the fire going.”

So they worked, bearing wood and getting ready for the night, and when
all was done, there was no protest to an early turning in.

“What’s that queer smell?” asked Isabel, as she lay down on her couch of
spruce.

“That’s just the piney smell,” answered Polly, sleepily. “It’s very,
very healthful, Aunty Welcome says. We ought to get a lot of pine
needles and make pillows of them to take back home.”

“It doesn’t smell like pine,” Isabel insisted.

“Now, Isabel,” protested Ruth, already half asleep. “Don’t be fussy.”

“I’m not,” said poor Isabel, catching her breath, then she began to
sneeze. “I’m not fus-u-s-u-s-u-s-y-choo! choo! choo!”

“The train’s starting,” called Sue from the next tent. “All aboard!”

“I think you’re all horrid,” said Isabel, sitting up. “And I don’t
believe it is the piney smell at all. Oh, ker-choo!”

“Well, for the land o’ rest, what does ail the child,” exclaimed Mrs.
Murray, coming to the tent entrance in her nightgown.

“She can’t stand the piney smell,” began Ruth.

“Piney smell? That’s snuff,” laughed Mrs. Murray, sniffing suspiciously
around Isabel’s bed. “I did have a box of it in case we met a bear. Ever
since a brown bear waddled up to my back door one morning and stole some
fresh pies, I’ve had snuff by me in case of emergency. You can always
make a bear run with a good dash of snuff in his face. And somehow, the
box must have got mixed up in the blankets, and come uncovered. You poor
child. I’ll give you a fresh pair.”

Everybody laughed except Isabel; all she could do was sneeze. But
finally they got settled down for the night. Only once Polly started to
giggle.

“Now what?” demanded Isabel.

“It rhymes with Isabel.”

“What does?”

“Piney smell.”

“If I didn’t need my pillow, I’d throw it at you, Polly,” Isabel said,
drowsily. “Go to sleep.”

So at last peace settled down over the little camp, and only the
flickering firelight moved, except when Mr. Murray would rouse to put on
fresh wood, and take a look around to see that all was well.

“Let’s call this Camp Expectancy,” said Polly, the next morning, when
they were ready to move on. “It is our first base of action in a way,
and we ought to name every camp so as to remember it.”

So Camp Expectancy it was, and the next one they found was so delightful
that they decided it must be called Camp Delight. And the last camp was
Camp Regret. Three nights they spent here, in the great, silent
mountains. And three days of fishing in the clear mountain streams, and
enjoying the freshly-cooked trout afterwards. Every day they had game of
some sort, but no bear showed up, and the girls were secretly just as
well pleased. These were happy, restful days. At first the constant
riding in the saddle tired them in spite of their long practice, but the
three days rest at Camp Regret fitted them for the home trip.

“Oh, dear,” sighed Ted. “It’s just an aggravation staying such a little
while. I wish I were grown up. I think I’d take up a government claim,
and settle out here.”

“We’d welcome you,” Mr. Murray said heartily. “If ever a beautiful,
healthy State needed good settlers it’s our Wyoming.”

“And we’d come and visit you every summer, Ted,” promised Sue, happily.
“Wouldn’t it be fun?”

“It sounds like fun, but you’d find out there was work to be done before
you got through,” laughed Mr. Murray. “There’s a lot of Easterners come
out and take up claims, and think that’s the end of it. Free land, and
plenty of game. Then they find out the difference when they have to
prove up their land, and work it, and pay for irrigation. But it’s a
great hopper. It sure sifts the grain from the chaff. Only the people
with hope and grit and good intentions stick to their claims, and win
out.”

Once, away up in the timber belt, they came on a nester and his family,
building their first house. All the family were helping. There was the
wife up on a ladder, helping fit cross beams, and two boys were sawing
planks. Even a little three-year-old girl had her apron full of nails,
holding them up for her father to take what he needed.

“Coming along, eh, neighbor?” said Mr. Murray, and the stalwart young
homesteader smiled cheerfully.

“We’ll raise the pine tree on the chimney the first of September, God
willing!”

“That’s the spirit that’s making our western states grow like their own
pines,” said the old rancher, as they drove on, after a good drink of
fresh water at the spring near the new home. “The pioneer days are still
with us, mother, and for those who love the land of promise, the pillar
of fire and the cloud wait on the border to lead them forward. By
jiminetty, it makes the blood stir, even in my old veins, to hear that
hammer and saw in the woods.”

Another time they met a sheepman from Idaho, driving his flocks eastward
towards the fall markets. It was a strange sight. Hundreds of sheep
grazing as they went, with the dogs skirting the bunch, and the
grave-eyed, unsmiling herders staring at the campers.

“When did you start, friend?” called out Mr. Murray.

“Last of May,” came back the answer. “We’re going easy. They’ll be good
and fat by fall.”

“Isn’t that funny,” exclaimed Polly, when they drove on. “Four months to
go a few hundred miles.”

“They camp out when they come to a good feeding ground, and let the
flocks get all they want. Then by fall when they reach the market, or
where they weigh up, they are in fine condition and the sheepman has
saved his freightage on them. That’s the way they used to bring up
cattle over the Long Trail from Texas.”

At one homestead, with evenly irrigated fields all around it in a pretty
valley, there were two young girls out with a yoke of oxen, working over
their alfalfa crop. They turned and waved to the Murrays and the girls.

“That is Nell Wilson and her sister,” said Mrs. Murray. “They came from
Illinois last year, and took up a claim. The sister was real poorly, I
heard, but she’s picked up all right, and they’re doing well. Sandy went
over in the spring to see that they got along all right.”

“Are they all alone?” asked Ruth, wonderingly. “They look so young.”

“Oh, they’re both in the twenties. Yes, they’re alone. Nell was a
stenographer, I believe, and Grace, the sister, tried one thing after
another. Then they took what money they had, and came out here. A family
called Jimpson had taken that section, and couldn’t seem to make it pay.
They put in a lot of good farm implements too, and had the oxen, and a
horse, but they didn’t have any luck, they said. Well, I always contend
there’s no luck like pluck, and the Wilson girls came along, and bought
them out for a song, and they’ve had luck, but not without steady,
faithful work. Archie’s been over helping them now and then, and he says
Nell’s a dear girl.”

Polly looked up quickly at Jean, and saw that she was smiling, and she
wondered, for Polly sensed a story or a romance miles off, as the
Admiral said. Jean saw the eager inquiry in her glance, and nodded her
head.

“They are to be married when Archie finishes college,” she said.

“Oh, I’m glad,” cried Polly, and all the girls turned in their saddles,
and sent out a cheer back to the two in the field. “They’ll wonder what
that’s for, but we know,” she added, merrily.

Sunday they did not break camp at all, but stayed at their first
stopping place, Camp Expectancy, on the banks of the big lake. Mr.
Murray read service for them, and the girls enjoyed singing the old
familiar canticles out there in the green world. Monday night, just at
moonrise, the tired travelers turned down the road that led past old
Topnotch, and were glad enough to see the light in the cabin window, and
hear the dogs barking.

Sally Lost Moon stood in the doorway holding up a lamp, and smiling
broadly at them, and Archie and Neil took the ponies, while Don helped
unload.

“They’ve started digging over in the gulch,” Don found a chance to tell
Peggie. “Dr. Smith lives in Zed’s old shack now, and they say more
workmen are coming, and they’ll be there all summer.”

“Oh, Don, just after our old skeleton,” exclaimed Peggie. “Do you
remember how we laughed when we found it, and wondered what sort of a
bear had bones like that?”

“It would be there yet if Polly hadn’t known better.”

“I know it,” Peggie agreed. “The other girls say she’s the best starter
of things they ever saw. They say if I do go back east with them, I am
to belong to their outing club too. Polly’s the president. Won’t that be
fun?”

Don was very busy with the girth strap on Jinks, and she could not see
his face, but his voice sounded muffled and unwilling.

“It won’t be fun for us. Won’t you miss us, Peg?”

“Of course I will, goosie,” cried Peggie, “but it will help mother to
have me away, and I can get through school faster, Jean says, this way.”

“But you’ll stay down East there and teach, if you do.”

“No, I won’t, Don,” Peggie said, lovingly. “I’ll come home, sure. I love
Wyoming.”

The following day they all rode over to the gulch for the last time. The
Doctor was in his element, bossing a gang of workmen, and they met two
other famous men.

“What on earth did the Doctor call them, girls?” said Sue, on their way
back. “Paleo—paleo—”

“Paleontologists,” corrected Ruth, firmly. “Swallow first, and take a
deep breath, and you can say it, Sue.”

“Bone diggers,” added Ted, irreverently.

“More than that, Ted,” Jean interposed. “The other word is long, and
difficult to remember, but it means a lot. It comes from three Greek
words, and means a discourse on ancient life or beings on the earth.
That is more than bone digging, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry,” Ted said, penitently. “But I know I’ll never remember the
other word.”

“Yes, you will, young lady,” cried Jean, laughingly, “because the very
first time you need discipline this term, I shall have you write it
fifty times.”

“Help, help!” called Ted, woefully, but the girls only laughed too.

Their vacation was up on Friday. Wednesday Mrs. Sandy had invited them
all over to the Alameda to dinner, and for a visit. They went in the
surrey, for horseback riding was beginning to feel pretty tiresome.

“Such a tanned lot of young savages,” exclaimed Miss Honoria, when she
saw them. “I declare, Polly, what will Welcome say when she sees your
freckles?”

“Just look at Lady Vanitas, and her tanned face and arms. That comes
from trouting without a hat. But we’re all glad to be tanned. Nobody
will believe we have had a wonderful vacation in the sunshine and open
air unless we can show tan.”

It was all fully arranged that day about the return trip. Jean was to
accompany the girls back, and Peggie would go when Miss Honoria
returned. Nothing was said definitely about what the precious skeleton
represented in a monetary way, but from the smile on Mrs. Sandy’s face
when it was spoken of, and Peggie’s bubbling happiness, the girls knew
that all trouble in that line had been wiped away. The greatest surprise
of all was when the Doctor came down to the home ranch, Thursday
afternoon. He looked in the best of health, and was fairly radiant over
the dinosaurus.

“I have maintained for years that the Jurassic drift took in this
section,” he said, happy as a boy with a new toy. “And this confirms me
positively. Polly, as a relief to my conscience, I wish to hand over
some of the spoils to the club that had sense enough to know prehistoric
bones when it saw them. Here is one hundred, and I knew you’d like it in
gold. Girls always do. Five twenty-dollar gold pieces, one for each of
you, and you shall be honorary members anyway of my own private
geological society when I start it.”

“Oh, Doctor Smith,” cried Polly, flushing warmly at the unexpectedness
of the gift. “We don’t deserve this.”

“Don’t you? Wouldn’t the dinosaurus be lying right in its rocky tomb
this minute if it hadn’t been for your discernment? You take it, child,
and add it with my best thanks and good wishes to the general fund of
the Polly Page Club.”

“Girls,” said Polly, later, when she broke the glad news to the rest.
“Let’s take a stateroom on the train from Chicago to Washington. We
deserve that much, anyway, and it was hard sleeping all the way on the
seats.”

“Hear, hear!” cried the girls, gaily.

The start was to be an early one, but even before breakfast, Friday
morning, a solemn and regretful procession wended its way from the guest
cabin down to the corral, and each girl took mournful leave of her pony.

“Jinks is crying, I know he is,” said Polly. “See him droop his precious
head. I wish I could take him back with me.”

“Don’t we all wish the same about our ponies?” Ted exclaimed. “Where can
I ever find another horse like Calico Bill. He’s salmon-pink and brown
and white, and his eyes are so expressive.”

The ponies did seem to know that something wrong was going on, for they
lifted their heads, and whinnied wistfully as the two teams drove away
over the road southward. The two older boys stood with Mrs. Murray,
waving, and beside them was Sally too, stolid, and bright-eyed, watching
them out of sight.

“Four weeks of solid fun,” said Ruth, as she leaned back. “Hasn’t it
been just splendid, girls?”

“You’ve blazed a good trail for others to follow, too,” Jean replied.
“Better a suit-case and a khaki dress than white ruffles and a parasol,
girls, on a board walk, if you’re out for health and a good time.”

“And a dinosaurus,” added Polly.

At the railroad station in Deercroft, they saw Jimmy.

“Thought I’d ride down to say good-bye,” he said, shaking hands with
each. “Don’t forget what you promised about our mission, will you? They
say we can have the old Fork schoolhouse to use if we want it, and we’re
going to try to buy it in, and make a chapel out of it. I hope you’ll
help out.”

“We will, truly, we will,” the girls promised.

“Here she comes through the cut,” called out Don, holding the ponies.
“Good-bye all!”

Mr. Murray held Jean close in his arms.

“God bless you, my lass,” he said, gently. “Take good care of Peggie for
us this winter. Good-bye, girls. Come again when you’re up this way.”

Jimmie had sprung to his own saddle, and his black pony was doing a
waltz step all its own when the train pulled in. He swung his hat off in
one last salute, and let the bridle slacken, and the last the girls saw
of him, he was going like a rocket down the road towards the town,
singing at the top of his lungs, his old favorite,

“Guide me, Oh, Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land!”

Polly leaned back from the window, her eyes wet with tears.

“Isn’t it a darling land?” she said, warmly.

“It’s Heart’s Content to us who love it,” Jean replied, and the girls
knew well what she meant.

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