THE SEARCH

The morning passed uneventfully for those at camp. With seven of the
party gone, the place seemed almost deserted. Alice and Ethel insisted
upon working off their energy by taking a walk; but the rest were
content to remain inactive, except for the slight assistance they
rendered to the men in taking down their own tents.

“We ought to be able to start by one o’clock,” remarked Mr. Hilton,
consulting his watch. “At least, if we get lunch over at twelve, and
Tom and Mike are back again.”

Mrs. Hilton, too, looked at her watch, and a worried look came into her
face as she did so.

“Do you realize that it’s a quarter of twelve now, and Marjorie and
Daisy aren’t back yet?” she asked.

Her husband dispelled her fears with a reassuring suggestion.

“They’ve probably decided to go all the way, and share the boys’ meal.
There would be enough. We had better go right on with our own lunch.”

“Yes, for we want to get started early,” said Bob. “It’s going to rain
before night, I think, and it would be nice if we could reach the top
of the mountain and get our tents up before it starts in.”

“I’m afraid you’re right,” agreed his father, glancing at the sky.

They were counting on a long climb with a rather late supper that
night, and for this reason, the cook had prepared an especially large
meal for the middle of the day. Ethel, Alice and Florence sat down to
it rather reluctantly, for they hated to think of Marjorie and Daisy
missing it, and sharing only a frugal repast with the Melville boys.

They were just finishing their usual dessert of stewed fruit, when they
heard welcome pistol shots in the distance. The wanderers were coming
back, and there was plenty of good, substantial dinner left for them to
make up for their slim rations. Alice jumped up joyfully, letting out a
wild war whoop, and Arthur fired off a couple of blanks.

But as they rode into view, everyone’s heart sank at the sight of them.
The boys were alone!

“Where are the girls?” demanded Alice, frantically, as soon as they
were within earshot.

“In the flivver,” replied Tom, smiling. “And you never saw anybody so
happy as they all were!”

“Did they all go back?” asked Mrs. Hilton, grasping at this
possibility, “Even Marjorie and Daisy?”

“Marj and Daisy!” repeated Tom, in consternation. “Why, they left us
hours ago!”

“You’re teasing us!” cried Alice, with the vain hope that he might be.
“Oh, please don’t be mean. We’re so worried!”

But the alarm in both boys’ faces immediately assured her that she was
wrong. Something had happened.

Kirk Smith was the first to propose action. Jumping to his feet, he
announced that he was going immediately in search of the missing girls.

“There can be no thought of leaving this spot today,” he said.

“So the rest of you might just as well unpack and put up your tents
again. Mr. Hilton, have we provisions for an extra day?”

“Yes, plenty,” replied the older man; “especially since three of the
party have gone home.”

“Well, then I’d like to take some food with me for the girls when I
find them,” continued Kirk. “And I want a companion. Who volunteers?”

“I do!” cried Bob, promptly. “If somebody will look after the horses
for me while I’m gone.”

“I will!” offered Arthur, who preferred staying with Ethel to going off
on such a chase.

The young men lost no time in their preparations, and by two o’clock
they were on their horses, following the trail which the party had
taken in the morning. They kept their eyes intently fixed on the
ground, watching for horses’ tracks. Luckily they both knew the
mountains well; it was unlikely that they too might get lost.

Whenever they came to a precipice or a dangerous cliff, they forced
themselves to look over, dreading lest they might see the lifeless
forms of the girls–or the horses–below. Every fifteen minutes or so
they fired off blanks, in the hope of getting some response. But none
came, and at five o’clock they were still hopelessly riding on.

Both men had been so intent upon their search, that they had scarcely
noticed the gradual darkening of the sky, warning them of an
approaching storm. It was not until they actually felt the drops upon
their faces that they were aware that it was raining.

“There isn’t a chance of any shelter, I’m afraid,” said Bob, gloomily.
“And it will soon be too dark to see anything. Hadn’t we better turn
back? The girls may be safe at camp now.”

“No, I don’t mean to give up till our food’s all gone,” replied Kirk,
firmly. “Think if they should be out here alone all night–without a
bite to eat! No, you can turn back if you want to, but I’m going on.”

Unwilling to desert his companion, Bob too pressed steadily onward,
but with little hope of success in his heart. It was only when they
suddenly spied a little cabin through the increasing grayness, that he
began to feel more cheerful.

“Perhaps they have found shelter there!” he cried. “At any rate we can
stay there till the worst of the storm is over.”

Upon examination, the small, wooden building proved to be as deserted
as those near the mine shafts which they had passed on the first day of
their trip. A rough fire-place, a wooden bench, and a shelf on one side
were its only furnishings.

Both boys sat down wearily upon the bench, for they were worn out with
worry and with the severity of the climb. Both were hungry, too; but it
seemed awful to them to think of eating when Marjorie and Daisy were
probably almost starving.

“One thing good,” remarked Bob, as he looked about the cabin, “both
these girls are good sports. They’re not the kind to wring their hands
and go into hysterics. And they’re both good horsewomen.”

“Yes, that’s certainly true,” said Kirk.

“You like them both pretty well, don’t you Kirk?” asked Bob, in a
lighter tone. “Especially Marj?”

“Yes, I like them both, as well as any girls,” answered his companion,
wearily. “But I can’t say I like either better than the other.”

The conversation was abruptly interrupted by a continued knocking at
the heavy wooden door of the cabin. The sound was not loud, but regular.

“What’s that?” demanded Bob. “Funny, if, it’s a person, that he doesn’t
walk in!”

“He probably expects to find the cabin inhabited,” remarked Kirk.

“Well, I’ll open the door, anyhow, and see!”

Bob jumped up and started for the door.

“Wait!” commanded Kirk, quietly. “Let’s be prepared! This intruder
might be an unpleasant sort of person–might even be Indians.” He drew
his revolver from the holster on his hip. “Now I’m ready! Go ahead, but
get back of the door when you open it.”

Bob touched the bolt cautiously, half hoping that some thrilling
adventure might ensue. It would at least take their minds temporarily
away from the worry which they felt for the lost girls.

With a sudden, sharp, jerk, he pulled the door wide open, casting a
swift glance at the visitors before he followed the precaution of
stepping behind it. To his amazement, however, no rough, masculine
characters confronted him; but two very forlorn wet girls. Daisy and
Marjorie were standing at the door, holding on to their horses’ bridles!

The girls’ expressions changed quickly from apprehension and hostility
to joy and thankfulness. Dropping the horses’ bridles, they both rushed
into the cabin, almost embracing Kirk and Bob at the pleasure of
seeing their familiar faces.

“But how did you ever get here?” demanded Marjorie, as soon as she
could get her breath. “Are we anywhere near camp?”

“No–miles away!” laughed Kirk. “But how did you girls ever get here?
We’ve been out hunting for you!”

“I think I had better go out and put your horses with ours,”
interrupted Bob. “It’s a sort of shelter, behind the cabin. I’ll be
right back.”

While he was gone, the girls took off their hats, whose brims were
still dripping pools of water, and made an attempt to get dry. Kirk
went to his bag and drew out some bread for them, which he told them
to eat at once. When Bob returned, their first pangs of hunger were
somewhat satisfied, and Marjorie started to explain their plight as
well as she could.

“We didn’t even know we were off the trail,” she said, “until we
suddenly began to get hungry. I looked at my watch, and was surprised
to find that it was almost noon. So we turned about, and went back
until we found another trail.

“We kept on that for a long time without success, and then we knew we
were hopelessly lost. We hadn’t an idea what to do.

“And just as we were trying to map out some sort of scheme, it began
to rain. Of course you know how hard it rained, too, and we naturally
looked for shelter.

“Suddenly we spied a big rock, hanging over a hollow in the ground. At
least, we decided, this would protect us on one side, and we know there
was no use of wandering about wildly in the rain. So we got off our
horses and tied them to the only tree in sight. Then we went under our
rock.”

“And it was a real good shelter, too,” put in Daisy. “The rain seemed
to be coming the other direction, and we were quite dry.”

“We must have sat there for half an hour, when as you remember, the
storm began to abate a little. Then we resolved to go out again. But we
had ridden for only about fifteen minutes when it began again, harder
than ever. And we couldn’t find our rock!”

“Je-rusalem!” exclaimed Bob. “That was tough!”

“Well, we just about despaired,” said Marjorie. “Then we thought if we
could get higher up, maybe we could see where we were. So we made for
this spot. Imagine our joy when we found this cabin!”

“And our greater joy in finding you two!” added Daisy. “Now tell us how
you happened to be here.”

Briefly the young men related their adventures, stating, of course,
that they–the two girls–were the object of their search.

“And now what to do?” asked Bob.

Kirk thought seriously for a moment; then he came forth with a plan.

“Let’s have supper now, and then Bob can ride right back to the camp,
and tell them the good news. It would be too late for you girls to go,
after your hard day, and besides, it may rain. So we’ll stay here–you
girls can have the cabin, and I’ll sleep somewhere near outside. Then
tomorrow we’ll start early for camp.”

After the boys made a fire in the fire-place, the girls cooked supper,
glad of the opportunity to get warm and dry. In spite of the bread they
had already eaten, both Marjorie and Daisy were still very hungry.
With the exception of what they were saving for breakfast, they ate
everything in sight.

When the meal was finally concluded, Bob rose reluctantly to go. The
rain had stopped, and there was a beautiful sunset over the hills.
Marjorie and Daisy and Kirk went out doors to see it, and to wave
goodbye to their messenger.

“My, but we were lucky!” breathed Marjorie, as she turned into the
cabin, to clear away the supper.

“I’ll say we were!” added Daisy, fervently.

Continue Reading

NIGHT FEARS

When Marjorie and Kirk reached the camp again, they found the rest
of the party already eating breakfast. Too hungry to wait for the
wanderers, they had begun as soon as the cook announced that he was
ready.

“See what we have!” cried Marjorie, gleefully, holding up her catch.

“Great!” commended Bob, thinking of the pleasant addition to his
breakfast. The scouts, however, were too much surprised to see Marjorie
and Kirk together to think much about the fish.

“When did you get up?” questioned Alice.

“Oh, pretty early!” replied Marjorie, seating herself upon the ground
beside Lily, and helping herself to a biscuit.

“Why didn’t you let some of us in on your fun?” demanded Ethel.

“Two’s a company–three’s a crowd!” teased Alice. “I should think you’d
know that by this time, Ethel!”

Marjorie flushed angrily, but hid her embarrassment with a smile.

“I went by myself,” she said, calmly. “And Kirk came down later, and
happened to find me there. It was a good thing for us all, too, that he
did, because I didn’t catch a single fish till he came!”

“And what magic does he use?” asked Alice, sarcastically.

“Oh, Kirk and Pop Welsh are the best fishermen on the ranch!” put in
Bob. “I know that from experience. It’s handy to have people like them
on a pack trip.”

“Well,” said Marjorie, returning to Ethel’s previous question, “I
certainly did want to waken somebody to go with me, but you all seemed
to be sleeping so peacefully, I just didn’t have the heart. So I went
alone.”

“And did you all sleep well last night?” asked Mrs. Hilton. “Was
everybody warm enough?”

“Yes, indeed!” cried several of the girls promptly.

“And how soon are we off?” asked Marjorie. She was always anxious to be
on the go.

“Just as soon as the tents are down,” replied Bob, “and the horses
packed. Probably in an hour or two.”

“It seems to me it takes an awfully long time to put up the tents and
take them down every day,” remarked Ethel. “Why couldn’t we do without
them, when it is clear?”

“No, it’s better to have them,” said Mr. Hilton; “but you girls really
might learn to take down your own. It would save us a lot of time.”

“We will! We will!” cried several; and Kirk and Tom offered to give
them instructions.

Doris and Mae were not, however, particularly ambitious. They were
tired from the long ride of the preceding day, and their muscles were
horribly stiff. Neither said anything, but neither made any move to
help with the tents.

“What’s the matter, Doris?” asked Marjorie. “All in?”

“Yes, my knees hurt so,” she replied.

“Well, I’ll take down your tent,” offered Marjorie. Then, turning to
Kirk, “I really don’t think we need much instruction, because you see
we’ve done it before, with tents very much like these. We didn’t have
any young men to help us on our canoe trip.”

This little assistance to the men saved quite a considerable amount of
time, and the whole party were on their way again almost an hour sooner
than they had expected.

Everyone seemed quieter than they were on the day before; as they rode
along they talked little, and did not sing at all. Perhaps this was
because the girls who were usually the merriest were the most tired.
Lily, Mae, and Doris all began to wish in their hearts that they were
back at the ranch.

Somehow Mr. Hilton sensed this feeling, and ordered that an early stop
be made for dinner. After all, it was a pleasure trip, and there was no
reason for undue hurry. Tomorrow, undoubtedly they would reach the goal
of their journey.

“Just wait till we come to our stopping-place tomorrow!” he said, by
way of cheering their spirits, as they were eating dinner. “It is one
of the prettiest scenes around here–really almost as wonderful as
the Park itself. It’s way up on a mountain, where there is the most
astonishing view. And the place itself looks like a carefully cared-for
garden. There are acres of smooth, velvety grass, and tiny lakes
and waterfalls. And the flowers! You never saw anything like their
colors in the East! Here and there, too, you’ll see pine trees, and
sometimes beautiful herds of elk. It would be a perfect place to take
photographs.”

In spite of the vividness of the picture Mr. Hilton gave them, Doris
sighed wearily. She wished that she might take a warm bath, sleep in a
bed under a roof, and not have this eternal climb, climb, climb, while
her knees ached so dreadfully.

“Oh!” shrieked Alice, suddenly terrified. “What is the matter with
Bob’s horse? Do look at him!”

The horse was repeatedly jumping several feet into the air, waving his
head about wildly, and acting as if he had gone mad. The girls watched
him in terror, but Bob laughed reassuringly.

“He only smells a bear!” he explained. “That’s the way he always acts!”

This explanation, however, did not serve the desired purpose, for
the girls were even more afraid of a bear than of a crazy horse. To
quiet their fears, Mr. Hilton stood up and looked searchingly in the
direction in which the horses were sniffing at the air. Several of the
boys followed his example, but apparently there was no animal within
sight.

“There’s really no need to worry,” said Bob. “He probably won’t come
around here.”

“But suppose he does!” said Doris, who felt so nervous that she did not
want to eat any more dinner. “What shall we do?”

“We’ll shoot, of course,” said Mr. Hilton, calmly. “Wouldn’t it be
thrilling to take a bear skin back with you?”

But Doris continued to shiver, unappeased by the man’s confidence. She
resolved to stick pretty close to camp that afternoon.

“And what is the program for this afternoon?” asked Kirk, as he lighted
his pipe after dinner.

“Swimming and washing for those who want to,” answered Mr. Hilton. “We
men will give the girls first chance at the swimming hole; then after
they are through, we will take ours. How does that suit everybody?”

“Fine!” exclaimed Marjorie, who had decided that morning to wash her
extra things.

All the girls decided to take advantage of this opportunity, and even
Doris found a great deal of pleasure in swimming about in the cool
delightful water. It was early in the afternoon that they went in, and
the sun was still hot, so that they found the exercise refreshing.
Fortunately, the temperature was not so low as that of the stream on
the ranch.

“I wonder if bears can swim!” remarked Doris, who could not get away
from her fears. “If they can’t, we could jump into the water if one of
them attacked us.”

“I don’t know–I think they can,” said Marjorie. “But I do wish you
would stop worrying about it so much.”

“Yes,” said Alice, a little sharply, for she never could sympathize
with a person of Doris’s nature; “if you had some real worry like
Daisy has, perhaps you’d have some reason to complain. But look how
self-controlled she is!”

The words which sounded harsh were really just what Doris needed, for
she had been thinking entirely too much about herself. Alice was right:
Daisy Gravers was certainly a girl to be admired. She bore her trouble
bravely; she had never even mentioned it to anyone but Marjorie since
that first day at the ranch.

“You are right, Alice,” Doris admitted, accepting the rebuke meekly. “I
guess I am a baby.”

“Oh, I have no need to preach,” replied Alice, repenting of her
harshness. “But we all have to acknowledge that Daisy is a wonder. Even
Kirk Smith treats her differently from the other girls.”

The swim and the clean clothing had a refreshing effect upon all the
girls; they returned to the camp in brighter spirits. Marjorie felt
positively exhilarated.

Supper that night was perhaps the gayest meal of the trip; everyone
seemed to have some joke to tell, or some story to add to the enjoyment
of the occasion. It was not until long afterward when the whole party
was sitting around the camp fire that Arthur Hilton introduced the
first unlucky stroke. He could not resist the opportunity to tell a
harrowing story of an attack by a bear.

The men listened with the keenest relish to this exciting adventure,
but the girls began to edge up closer and closer to each other,
breathing a sigh of relief when Arthur finished.

Mrs. Hilton, as usual, made the first move to go to bed. The girls were
only too glad to follow her example.

Still impressed by Alice’s rebuke of the afternoon, Doris had
resolutely succeeded in keeping her fears to herself. Now she crept
hastily into bed, pulling her blanket up tight about her, as if to shut
out the darkness and the sounds of the night.

She was almost dropping to sleep, when her senses were suddenly aroused
by a queer howl–the weirdest noise she had ever heard, she thought.
She listened, terrified, too much afraid even to sit up in bed.

“Marjorie!” she called to her nearest tent-mate, “do you hear that
howl?”

Marjorie sat up in bed. She had heard it, but had not thought much
about it.

“Yes, I do,” she replied. “But I don’t know what it is. Listen again!”

They were perfectly still, and the sound was repeated. It was not like
anything they had ever heard before.

“It’s a bear!” wailed Doris. “I just know it is!”

“I don’t honestly think so,” replied Marjorie.

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t know.”

They were quiet for a few minutes, and the sound kept recurring.

“Marj!” whispered Doris, “I can’t stand it! I’m going to call the men!”

“I wouldn’t, Doris.”

“I’ve got to–I’m so scared, I’d never live through the night.”

Immediately she let out a piercing shriek.

“Mr. Hilton! Bob!… _Bears!_”

Instantly the men were awake, and had pulled on their boots, and seized
their guns.

“Where? Where?” demanded Bob.

“We can’t see them–only hear them!” answered Doris. “Listen!”

During the silence that followed, the weird howling could be heard
again. Both Bob and Mr. Hilton burst out laughing.

“That isn’t a bear! It’s a coyote!” said Mr. Hilton. “And far off too.
It won’t hurt you!”

Doris breathed a sigh of relief.

“Are you sure?” she demanded.

“Positive.”

“I’m awfully sorry I wakened you,” she said, apologetically.

“Oh, that’s all right,” replied Mr. Hilton pleasantly. “Now go back to
sleep.”

One by one the girls’ heads disappeared inside the tents, but not
before their owners had addressed some laughing remark at Doris,
teasing her for her fears. Nor could the girls go immediately to sleep
again; for a long while tent-mates lay there whispering to each other,
and from the suppressed giggles that were heard from time to time,
they were evidently enjoying the situation immensely.

After they had quieted down, an idea occurred to Mae.

“Doris!” she called. “Hello, Doris!”

“Well, what now?” demanded Doris.

“If you hear anything more, you just scream like that again, and you’ll
scare all the bears within fifty miles.”

“I don’t care!” responded Doris; “if there are bears around here, I
won’t stay.”

This sally caused another chorus of giggles, and the chiding was
resumed again until Marjorie put a sudden stop to it by calling sharply,

“That’s enough, girls! It’s mean to tease Doris so–especially when
none of you are a bit braver than she is, but only less nervous. Now go
to sleep!”

After this rebuke, all was quiet.

But although there was no more talking, not all of the girls went to
sleep right away. Marjorie was right; they were not braver than Doris;
and as they lay there thinking about her remark, wondering what they
would do if a bear really did appear, they began to realize that they
did not at all relish the possibility. In the end, the fatigues of the
day and the good health of the girls asserted themselves, and they fell
into a sound sleep.

It was sometime later that Marjorie awoke. She felt strangely
wide-awake as she lay there staring about her in the gloom of her tent;
it seemed as if she had not been asleep at all. The moon had risen;
she could see that by the bar of pale light slanting across the ground
from where the flaps of the tent were loosely joined. She could hear
the stamping of the horses, hobbled over beyond the tents of the men.
She wanted to get up, but she knew that she would surely waken her
tent-mates if she moved about; so she resolutely forced herself to lie
there, while her thoughts wandered from one thing to another–scouting,
John Hadley, the strange disappearance of Daisy’s sister–until she
finally dozed off.

Suddenly she came wide-awake again, and found herself sitting upright
on her bedsack. Then she knew that something had wakened her. Could it
be overwrought nerves, she wondered? She was as bad as Doris, who now
slumbered peacefully a few feet away from her. Surely, it could not be
nerves, since she felt no fear.

The night air had become chilly, almost cold; and she pulled her
blankets about her shoulders and prepared to listen and to wait
for something to happen. But as she sat straining her ears for the
slightest sound, she could hear nothing but the regular breathing of
her companions. The silence was becoming almost unbearable, and she
was about to give up and lie down again, when she heard, just outside
her tent, a strange sniffing noise such as her dog at home often made
when he had something up his nose.

Bears! It was her first thought. For an instant she felt too terrified
to move, even to breathe. But no; it could not be a bear; the thought
flashed across her brain that the horses would smell it and be alarmed.
What was it then? She waited for a repetition of the sound. When it
came again it was accompanied by a scuffling noise that seemed to
approach to the very canvas wall which separated her from the outside
world. Now she was sure it was a bear–it was just the sort of noise a
bear would make. Perhaps those horses had run away. The girl was now
terrified indeed, and pressed both hands tightly against her mouth to
prevent herself from crying out, expecting every moment to have the
thing outside break through the wall of her tent and tramp over her.

But whatever it was, it had paused, and all was quiet again; except
once or twice she heard a slight swishing sound against the canvas,
as if a branch containing dead leaves had been brushed against it.
Marjorie was determined not to utter a sound, though she was so
frightened she could feel first hot and then cold chills passing over
her body. There came a muffled tramp of steps receding to a short
distance away.

As she waited, trembling, and nothing more occurred, her courage slowly
returned and her active brain commenced to plan. The danger, at least,
was no longer imminent. Should she arouse the men? And how? The thing
was still out there somewheres, she reflected; if she attempted to
leave her tent she would call its attention to herself; if she cried
for help, she would not only frighten the rest of the girls out of
their wits, but would bring forth the men–perhaps unprepared–face
to face with the unknown danger. She had read somewhere that bears,
when cornered, were extremely ferocious. Perhaps she had better remain
quiet; there was always the possibility that it would go away.

Then the thought occurred to her that she might safely raise the lower
edge of the tent without being heard, and make observations. Rolling
over, with her head to the ground, slowly she stretched forth a cold,
shaking hand to the cover, fumbled with her fingers beneath the edge,
and raised it sufficiently to look out. But she kept her eyes tightly
closed for fear of what she was about to see.

When she opened them she thought she must have been dreaming. After the
darkness of the tent, the world without appeared remarkably bright in
the soft light of the moon. Glancing quickly about, Marjorie beheld,
to her utter amazement–not a bear, but a horse! It stood clearly
outlined against the wall of Mr. Hilton’s tent, about fifteen yards
away and was apparently dozing; for it was motionless, with drooping
head. Marjorie felt so provoked that she risked waking the other girls
by putting her head outside her tent to utter a sharp hiss. The horse
raised its head with a jerk, and with a loud snort trotted back to its
companions.

Marjorie threw herself back upon her bed, and pulled the blankets over
her. She was undecided whether to laugh or to cry. But she did neither.
Now that she was relaxed she felt limp and worn out. She again told
herself that she was worse than Doris; but she was glad that she had
not aroused the men and alarmed the girls unnecessarily; that she had
had sufficient courage to sit there quietly in spite of her fears. She
resolved to say nothing about it, not because of the joking which would
be sure to ensue at her expense, but for the sakes of the more timid
of the girls; and she determined to go through with the rest of the
journey even though she were the only girl to remain in the party.

“I decided last night to go back,” announced Doris at breakfast. “At
least if anybody will take me.”

“Of course somebody will,” said Marjorie sympathetically. “And I
shouldn’t be surprised if some of the other girls wouldn’t like to go,
too.”

“Yes, I’d be glad to,” said Mae.

“And I, too,” put in Lily.

“But you’ll miss today’s trip to that wonderful place!” cried Alice, in
amazement. “How could you?”

“The ranch is good enough for me,” said Doris.

The subject was discussed at greater length, and the plans made. The
Melville boys agreed to conduct the girls across to a little town where
they could hire a Ford to take them back to the ranch.

“I suppose you can go without a chaperone,” said Mrs. Hilton, “because
you will surely reach the ranch by afternoon. So I had better stay
here.”

“May Daisy and I ride a little piece with them?” asked Marjorie, who
was not in the least tired or stiff. Somehow she dreaded a whole
morning of inactivity; for the party had promised to wait there until
after lunch for the boys to return.

They started early, the girls in high good spirits at the prospect
of reaching the ranch without encountering the dangers of the steep
descent of the trail they had just climbed. They all talked and laughed
so much that Marjorie and Daisy wished they might accompany them to the
place where they were to get the automobile; but Tom persuaded them
that this would be foolish, that they would tire themselves so that
they would not be fit for the afternoon’s ride.

“You better turn back now,” he said, consulting his watch; “but do be
careful not to get lost.”

“Oh, I’m sure we know the way,” replied Marjorie. “We’ll see you later.”

Reluctantly, they said goodbye to the other girls, and turned their
horses in the direction from which they had come. But they were quiet
now, missing the gay chatter of their companions, and thinking how hard
it would be to be separated from them during the next three days.

“Well, I’m glad we’ll be back with the rest of the girls for lunch,”
said Marjorie.

Little did she think, as she said this, that they had taken the wrong
trail, and if they continued in the direction for which they were
headed, they stood not a chance in the world of reaching their camp by
noon.

But they rode on, blissfully ignorant of their plight.

Continue Reading

THE PACK TRIP

Before Marjorie had time to carry out her resolution to write to John
Hadley, the mail came in, bringing her Jack’s letter.

“And guess whom I met at a dance at Cape May?” he wrote. “John Hadley!
With the prettiest little girl you ever saw! He didn’t notice me at
first, he seemed so absorbed in her.

“I kidded him about not grieving much, and you ought to have seen him
blush. Just the same I’m glad he has pluck enough to find somebody
else, for you don’t always give him a square deal. Not only about the
vacation, but your senior dance, and a lot of little things. It would
serve you right if you lost him. You can play with a serious chap like
him once too often!”

“Play with him!” repeated Marjorie, to herself. Did it seem to others
that that was what she had been doing? She had never intended to do
so. A sudden wave of loneliness spread over her; she felt that if she
lost John’s regard, she would be deprived of one of her truest friends.
She hoped Jack had attached more importance to the simple episode than
it deserved; and yet John had stopped writing to her. Was he so much
interested in this new girl that he had forgotten all about her?

If that were the case, she decided she would not think any more about
him. She was having a wonderful time on the ranch, living this out-door
life and learning to be a more accomplished horsewoman. What more could
any girl want?

And so she abandoned her idea of writing to John and gave her
whole-hearted attention to the life she was living. To her great joy,
a pack trip had been planned for the following day, a pack trip that
would last five whole days, and take them up into the mountains. At
last the scouts were to have a taste of real Western out-door life;
they would ride all day long, make camp in the afternoon, and sleep
under the stars at night.

To most of the girls, who were at the age when every new experience
brings delight, the prospect was thrilling. From the time when the trip
was announced until the hour of starting, they talked of little else.

“We aren’t allowed to take very much along with us, are we?” asked
Alice, when the girls were collecting their necessary articles and
wrapping them in their blankets and ponchos.

“No, for the poor pack-horses have plenty to carry as it is,” replied
Marjorie. “Just think of the good time we are going to have, while
they, poor things, have to do all the hard work!”

“I wonder how many pack-horses they will take,” remarked Alice.

“There will be six, Bob said,” answered Marjorie. “He is to be
horse-wrangler, and Mr. Hilton and Art are going to help with the
packing and putting up tents.”

“The Academy boys aren’t going, are they?” said Mae.

“No,” replied Marjorie again, for she had taken pains to find out all
about the trip. “They want to save money, and they have been on some of
the trips before we arrived. And the Judson girls aren’t going either.”

“Well, one thing good, we’re going to sleep in tents,” said Mae. “I
made sure of that before I consented to go.”

“But we may freeze to death at night!” remarked Doris, who was the
least enthusiastic of the scouts over the trip. “And suppose we are
attacked by wild animals!”

“Oh, no one worries about that!” laughed Marjorie. “The men would take
care of them, and it would only make a little excitement.”

“I’m afraid I don’t care about that kind of excitement,” said Doris.

Marjorie put her arm around the timid girl; she honestly felt sorry for
her, for she knew that she could not overcome her fears.

“Doris, don’t you worry–Bob Hilton will take care of you. He’s used to
the mountains, and sleeping out, and wild animals, and everything like
that. But if you really don’t like the idea, why don’t you stay home
with the Judson girls, and Mrs. Hilton’s sister? They’d probably be
only too delighted to have more company.”

“No,” said Doris, resolutely, “I want to try it once, but if I don’t
like it, I won’t ever go again. I’d never forgive myself if I found I
really didn’t mind it, and that I had missed all that wonderful scenery
just because of my silly fears.”

When the girls were ready, they went over to the cabin where the rest
of the party was assembling on the porch. Besides the eight scouts
and Mrs. Hilton, there were seven men–the three Hiltons, the two
Melvilles, Kirk Smith, and a cook. It was what Mr. Hilton considered a
large party for a pack trip.

The girls sat on the porch talking with the others while the horses
were being loaded. The Judson girls seemed bent upon telling them all
the discouraging points about such a trip.

“I suppose that this is you girls’ first experience in sleeping out,”
remarked Maud, with a somewhat superior air. “I wonder how you’ll like
it.”

Marjorie laughed, but she left it to Ethel to correct the girl’s
supposition.

“Not exactly!” replied Ethel. “Three summers ago we camped for two
weeks, and two summers ago we took a canoe trip and slept out every
night for ten days–in all sorts of weather. And we have had various
shorter trips. Don’t suppose that Girl Scouts–even Eastern Girl
Scouts–are mere tenderfeet!”

“Indeed!” remarked Maud, evidently quite impressed.

“Then you’re quite used to sleeping on the ground, with your clothing
on?” pursued Irene.

“We’re used to everything except the trousers!” laughed Marjorie. “And
we’re certainly getting used to them now.”

A few minutes later the party were on their way. The weather was clear
and warm, and the prospect for a fair week promising; the horses were
fresh, and the riding smooth and easy. It was Mr. Hilton who first
introduced a discordant note.

“I don’t want to scare you,” he said, “for there is really no danger if
you follow in our tracks, but we are going to pass over some mines in
a few minutes. The riding won’t be so easy for a while, but after that
part of our journey is over, the rest is fine.”

“Oh, we don’t mind anything!” said Marjorie, cheerfully. “I think it’s
all wonderful. Walt Whitman sang the glories of the open road, but
he only spoke about tramping. Following a trail on horseback seems
infinitely more alluring to me.”

“There’s another point we have in common,” remarked Kirk Smith, who had
been riding behind Marjorie.

“Another?” repeated the girl, unaware that she had anything in common
with this strange young man.

“Yes, you seem to share my desire in trying to avoid the members of the
opposite sex.”

Marjorie laughed.

“I don’t try to avoid anybody,” she said. “But I also don’t run after
anybody.”

“A very good rule,” observed the young man, approvingly.

They were going over the mines now, and saw a group of deserted cabins,
inhabited only by pack-rats. Nearby were the mine shafts, and all about
were pine trees, shutting out the light and making the place appear
gloomy and forbidding. Involuntarily the girls shuddered.

“Marj,” whispered Lily, thinking of the troop good turn the other had
talked about at scout meeting, “do you think we ought to get off our
horses and search those cabins to see whether there are any people in
them in need of help? I once saw a movie where everybody in the house
was dead except a tiny baby, and if some people hadn’t happened in by
chance, it would have died of starvation.”

Marjorie saw that Lily was more than half in earnest, and she was
too considerate to laugh at the suggestion. But she shook her head
decidedly.

“No, Lil, I guess there’s nothing in there. And we mustn’t go anywhere
that Mr. Hilton doesn’t go, because it might cave in, and if we’d
fall–”

“Oh, look at this cliff, Marj!” interrupted Lily.

Ahead of them was a steep, rocky ascent, so narrow that the horses
scarcely had room to go along in single file. To the right was a sharp
bank, with a deep ravine below. Involuntarily the scouts gasped at the
danger; for if their horses should slip, there would be no chance for
their lives. But no one said anything until the worst was past; then
Doris heaved a sigh of relief.

“Is there anything worse than that?” asked Florence, a few minutes
later.

“Not on this trip,” replied Mr. Hilton. “But I will say that Girl
Scouts are plucky!”

“They certainly are!” added Kirk, admiringly.

The rest of the ride was comparatively easy. At three o’clock the party
came to a stop in a pleasant place where a few pine trees afforded
a little protection. The men began to unpack, and to make a fire,
while the cook prepared dinner. Everyone was hungry; except for some
chocolate and crackers, the girls had not tasted food since breakfast.

Later in the day the whole party except Mr. Hilton and Arthur walked
up to a higher level to see the sunset and the surrounding country.
To the scouts, who were used to such entirely different scenery in
the East, it was a magnificent spectacle. They could see for miles in
almost every direction. The flowers too were wonderful, so bright and
so beautiful, seeming to grow right up against the snow drifts.

Marjorie and Daisy stood together with linked arms. Both had the same
thoughts–how vast the great heavens were, how great the mountains, and
how small and insignificant each individual was. Both naturally thought
of Olive, and wondered whether they would ever find her.

Mr. and Mrs. Hilton had decided that it would be best for the whole
party to go to bed early that night; so soon after the girls returned
to the camp, they began to make their preparations. They had a big
climb before them on the morrow, and they would need all the rest they
could get.

The fire, which had been replenished, was burning brightly, and the
girls were glad to note that their tents were nearest to it, for
already the air was growing cold. Marjorie was a little lame and sore
from the riding, and she too was glad to go to bed. But if possible,
she meant to get up early the next day, in time to do a little fishing
before breakfast.

She fell asleep almost immediately in spite of her hard bed, and slept
soundly all night. Awakening before five o’clock, she got up quietly,
put on her boots, and hurried off to wash. In five minutes she had her
line, and had started for the fishing hole.

Everything seemed strange and silent in the early morning; no one else
was stirring, not even the cook. The sun, which was just appearing in
all its glory over the distant mountain peaks, shone upon the snow and
made it glisten like the tinsel on a Christmas tree. Marjorie watched
the spectacle in speechless wonder.

After she had dropped her line into the water, she waited patiently for
perhaps a quarter of an hour, but without any success. Suddenly she
felt lonely. Why had she not asked Ethel or Alice to come with her?
They were always anxious for adventure, and they would have loved the
sunrise. The minutes dragged on, and she began to grow weary. Perhaps
it would be best for her to give up her plan, if she could get back
to the camp without being seen, so long as she did not seem able to
catch any fish. But, glancing at the sun, she decided it would be too
late now to hope to avoid the cook, and of course he would tell of her
failure.

So she decided to remain on the bank a little longer, and hope for
better luck. She sat still for a long time, allowing her thoughts
to wander in many directions. She thought of the scout troop, and
her plans for the summer, of the radio, of John Hadley and their
misunderstanding, and most of all of Daisy’s sister.

Probably an hour had passed, when she was suddenly aroused by the
sound of footsteps behind her. She looked up hopefully, but was only
disappointed. It was the one person in camp whom she did not care to
see: it was Kirk Smith!

“Good morning, Marjorie,” said the young man, pleasantly. “Caught
anything?”

“Not yet!” replied Marjorie, dully.

“May I join you?” he asked.

“If you care to,” replied the girl, indifferently.

Kirk sat down and cast his line into the stream. It was only a minute
later that he brought up a beautiful fish.

“How pretty!” cried Marjorie, with true admiration in her tone. He was
subtly flattered, and in a little while succeeded in repeating his
achievement.

“Please show me,” said the girl, humbly, handing her line to him.

Kirk put down his line and placed a stone upon it to hold it in place,
and, taking Marjorie’s, examined the hook.

“I guess you’ve been dreaming, young lady; your hook is empty,” he
announced, laughing.

Baiting it for her from his own supply, he cast it in again, and handed
the line back to her.

Kirk seemed in a talkative mood. He commenced a conversation on the art
of angling, giving Marjorie brief pointers here and there, to which she
listened with eager attention. So rapt was she in the subject that she
temporarily forgot all about her former dislike for the man.

Before very long, Marjorie was more successful, landing four big
trout, one after another. Her eyes shone with happiness; she felt very
grateful to Kirk.

They were picking up their fish when it suddenly occurred to Marjorie
to ask whether her companion knew anything about radio.

“A little–and I’m tremendously interested in the subject,” he replied.

“Well, if I’d tell you a secret,” said Marjorie, “would you promise not
to laugh at me, or tell anybody?”

“Certainly,” replied the young man gravely.

Marjorie then proceeded to unfold the Girl Scouts’ plan in regard to
providing one for the ranch. She wanted advice in buying it, and help
in putting it up when it arrived.

“I know one young man who is employed by a firm that manufactures
outfits,” she said, “but I don’t know the name of the firm, and I’d
rather not write to him personally.”

“Well, I will write to the best firm I know if you want me to,” he
said, “if you will tell me about what you want to spend.”

Marjorie named the price.

“And you would help us?” she asked, eagerly.

“I’d be delighted!” replied the young man, and they strolled back to
camp together.

Continue Reading