THE INVITATION

The five remaining days at the ranch seemed all too short to the Girl
Scouts. Never had a summer passed so quickly; never did the approaching
conclusion of a vacation bring so much unhappiness. It was to be the
breaking up of the dear old senior patrol of Pansy troop, the severing
of all their dearest ties, the beginning of a new life.

All the girls seemed anxious to pack these last five days as full as
possible. In spite of the fact that they were rather tired from their
strenuous trip, they insisted upon riding the very first day they were
back.

“Please give me this afternoon!” begged John of Marjorie; for he had
been looking forward to some time alone with the girl. “Just once?”

But Marjorie shook her head.

“No, John; I’m sorry, but I’m dying to get on my dear old horse again.
You’ve no idea how I’ve missed her! Just think, I haven’t seen her for
ten whole days!”

“You didn’t see me for almost ten weeks, but I didn’t notice you
grieving much!” argued the young man, gloomily.

“But you’re not a horse–or rather, my horse!” she retorted.

John knew by the sparkle of her eyes that she was teasing him, that
there was no use to expect her to give up her ride. Instead, he begged
her to take a walk with him after supper.

“I can’t do that either,” she replied. “I have to write home.”

“But that won’t take all evening!”

“No, but I have other letters to write besides. And what about
you–don’t you have to write to your mother, and to your friends in
Cape May?”

John smiled at the insinuation. How he wished Marjorie would give him
an opportunity to tell Dorothy’s story. But she seemed determined to
avoid seeing him alone.

“No, I expect to write to mother this afternoon while you are out
riding, and I have no other letters that need answering.”

“Then why don’t you join our party?” inquired Marjorie.

“You know why!” he replied, as if he were rather ashamed of his reason.
“Because I can’t ride well enough!”

“But you have to learn some time!”

“I expect to learn–I am going out with Bob this afternoon. But I don’t
feel ready to join your party yet.”

“Nothing but pride!” teased Marjorie. “Still, have it your own way. If
you don’t like our society–”

“Marjorie!” he exclaimed. “You know as well as I do–oh, of course
you’re only joking! But do let’s be serious! You have got to promise me
one afternoon–a whole day, if possible–before we leave. May I have
tomorrow?”

“No, that’s a special Girl Scout celebration–our last one alone with
each other. We’re going to take our lunches, and our horses, and go off
for the whole day–without a single man to mar our pleasure!”

“Marjorie, you’re cruel! Are you going to invent some excuse for every
day? I wanted to have a good talk with you alone, to tell you about
Dorothy Snyder–”

“About whom?” interrupted Marjorie, although she was sure this was the
girl whom Jack had mentioned in his letter.

“Dorothy Snyder–my friend at Cape May. Did you ever meet her?”

“No. Why?”

“Nothing, except that she thought she had met some girls from Miss
Allen’s school.”

Marjorie sighed wearily; after all, she was not so much interested in
this rival of hers since John had shown by his willingness to remain at
the ranch, where his greatest interest lay. However, she did not intend
to refuse his request; she meant to give him one afternoon before they
left for the East.

“Well, if you really want to set a time,” she said; “let’s make it for
the day after tomorrow.”

“Fine!” cried John. “And what do you prefer to do?”

“I like canoeing best after riding,” she said.

“Canoeing it shall be, then!” he agreed.

The next day John saw practically nothing of Marjorie. As she had told
him, all the Girl Scouts left the ranch about nine o’clock in the
morning with their lunches packed in their knapsacks, and started for
their ride. Mrs. Hilton had given her consent rather grudgingly to such
a venture, without the protection of anyone who was really familiar
with the country. But the girls had begged so hard that she had seen
what it meant to them to have this last excursion alone, and had
finally given in. Marjorie assured her that after her own and Daisy’s
experience on the pack trip, she would be very careful not to encounter
a similar disaster. So they rode off happily, unaware of the fact that
both Kirk and John were fully prepared to go after them, in case they
did not return at the appointed time.

“It certainly is sad to think this is the last time the dear old
patrol will be alone together,” observed Doris, regretfully.

“Why!” exclaimed Marjorie, “you forget the trip home. We’ll have all
that time, and I’m even planning a last scout meeting for then.”

“Just like you, Marj!” laughed Mae. “But we won’t be entirely alone,
because the Melville boys are going back on the same train, and their
parents are going to join them at St. Paul.”

“And how about John Hadley?” put in Lily. “Surely you didn’t forget
him?”

“No, I didn’t forget him,” replied Marjorie; “but I simply thought we
wouldn’t have to bother much with him!”

“Listen to the indifferent woman!” exclaimed Alice. “But you needn’t
put that on with us, Marj. It won’t go.”

All this time Marjorie was paying strict attention to the trail. She
was leading the girls to a familiar spot, the destination of many a
previous ride; for it was one which possessed the unusual attraction of
trees. There they would eat their luncheon rest, and talk until it was
time to come back.

Marjorie had planned no formal meeting for the day, but the
conversation dwelt chiefly upon scout topics. She and Ethel and Doris
took a solemn oath to start new troops in the Fall, and Daisy half
promised to do the same. It was Marjorie’s dream that the great scout
ideals, which the members of Pansy troop had learned to follow under
the leadership of their captain, Mrs. Remington, should be passed on to
other young girls.

The group sat for a long time among those few pine trees, discussing
their past and their future; but it was their future that interested
them most. It seemed as if they all dreaded to stop talking and
mount their horses to return to the ranch. Marjorie, however, felt
responsible, and was watching the time. At four o’clock she made the
move to go.

“If we could only have one more reunion!” sighed Alice. “Marj,
you always know how to manage things, won’t you see if you can do
something?”

“It would be great!” murmured Marjorie, without entertaining the
slightest hope of such a possibility.

When the girls were within a mile of the ranch, they met Kirk and John,
coming towards them, on horseback. Little did they know that these two
young men had come out for the very purpose of finding them. Both of
them, however, had too much tact to tell this to the girls, for they
knew that Marjorie would have insisted that they were perfectly able
to take care of themselves. Instead, John made some excuse of learning
how to ride, and turned back to the ranch with the party. He made
no attempt to ride beside Marjorie; he was content to remember that
tomorrow was to be his day.

Although Marjorie would scarcely have confessed it to herself, she was
looking forward to the following day with almost as much pleasure as
John. When the time came, she met him on the porch as she had promised.
Instead of the usual riding breeches and flannel shirt, she had
substituted a simple summer dress, and the change made her seem even
more attractive to the young man.

They left the ranch immediately after lunch, walking slowly, and
talking about their recent trip as they went. John seemed as sorry as
Marjorie that the vacation was almost over.

When they reached the water, Marjorie stepped into the canoe, intending
to take her place in the bow; but John surprised her by asking her to
sit in the middle.

“You can rest for one afternoon, can’t you?” he pleaded. “It’s so hard
to talk when I have only your back to look at!”

Laughingly, Marjorie agreed, and seated herself upon a cushion on the
bottom. She, too, wanted to have a confidential little chat.

It was not until they had gone for some distance, away from the
shallow water, that John plunged into the subject in which he was so
interested. He began by telling about his mother’s invitation.

“Marjorie,” he said,–“or rather, Lieutenant Marjorie, for I am asking
you now as I would consult the officer of Pansy troop, do you think
your patrol would like to have a little week-end house party soon after
we get back home?”

Before Marjorie answered, John knew by the sparkle of her eyes that the
idea appealed to her. Had not the girls all expressed such a desire
only the day before, and had not Alice put it up to her to provide the
means? Naturally, she answered readily in the affirmative.

“We’d all love it!” she cried.

“That’s bully! Well, you know mother has a cottage at Cape May–nothing
gorgeous, you understand, but quite comfortable–and she would like to
entertain the whole patrol before you separate. How about the week-end
after we get home?”

“That would be perfectly heavenly!” she replied. “Oh, if you could know
how much we wanted one more reunion; but we simply didn’t see how we
could manage it.”

“Then that’s settled. Will you invite the others for mother? She’d
have written, but she thought it would be better to have me ask you
privately first.”

Marjorie dipped her hand into the water, forgetting for a moment the
young man’s presence in her joy at the thought of what was in store for
the patrol. The scout good times were not over, then; she could still
look forward to one more party with the members of the senior patrol.
She would have one more pleasant memory to store away for the time
when she would be among strangers at college. How good Mrs. Hadley was
to suggest such a thing! She was very happy.

But John abruptly interrupted her reverie.

“I want to tell you about Dorothy Snyder,” he said.

“Yes?” she answered, without raising her eyes from the water.

“It was she who suggested the house party. She is so anxious to meet
you Girl Scouts.”

“Oh!” remarked Marjorie, a trifle coolly. “So she will be there?”

“You don’t object, do you?” A cloud passed over John’s face. “You see
she lives with my mother.”

“With your mother? Why? Is she a nurse? Is your mother so ill–?”

“No, no, not at all!” he replied, hastily. “I want to tell you her
story–of the strange way she came to us. Mother found her alone and
sick, in a pavilion.”

In a few brief words he summed up the facts of Dorothy’s case as he
knew it, up to the time he received his telegram to go to the West. He
recounted her strange desire to meet the Girl Scouts of Miss Allen’s
School, which at the time seemed to him unaccountable.

“But when I found out her real reason for wanting to meet you, as she
told it to me that last night at home, I was very glad I had promised
to do all in my power to grant her request. It seems that she had lost
her memory, and could recall nothing except her escape from a hospital,
when she wandered into the pavilion where mother found her. She does
not even know her real name, but adopted Dorothy Snyder as the first
one that came into her head.

“And then when she heard Miss Allen’s School mentioned, she said
something sounded strangely familiar; and when I mentioned Girl Scouts,
she grew even more interested. So perhaps–”

But Marjorie, who had been leaning forward tensely, listening
breathlessly to every word, interrupted him with a wild cry of delight.
Perhaps–it was possible–that this girl might be Daisy’s sister!

“Did she wear a wedding ring?” she demanded, seizing both of John’s
knees, as if she would like to shake the answer out of him, in order to
get it more quickly.

John thoughtfully shook his head.

“No, she didn’t. Why?”

“Oh!” she sighed, limply dropping back in the canoe. “I thought maybe
she was Daisy’s sister!”

“Daisy’s sister?” repeated John, in perplexity. “Daisy who?”

“Daisy Gravers, of course. Was she pretty?”

“Yes, very. But–?”

“With a high color?” continued Marjorie, ignoring his desire for an
explanation.

“No, she seemed rather pale to me.”

Again Marjorie experienced disappointment. After all, it was a
comparatively common thing for people to lose their memories
temporarily, and it was too much to expect that the girl might be
Olive. A tear crept into her eye, but she made no attempt to brush it
away.

“Do tell me why you hoped Dorothy might be Daisy Gravers’ sister!”
persisted John, still in the dark about the situation.

Marjorie told her story, without mentioning Kirk’s name; she recounted
the strange disappearance, the search, and last of all, Pansy troop’s
resolution to do all in their power to find her. John listened in
amazement, allowing himself to express the hope that Dorothy might
after all be the girl they were seeking.

“For she could have thrown away her wedding ring, or left it at home,
and she may have lost her color through her illness,” he suggested.

Marjorie brightened a little at the words of hope.

“Have you a picture of her?” she asked.

“No, I haven’t,” he replied. “Has Daisy?”

“No, she hasn’t one with her, and if she had, I wouldn’t want to ask
her, and probably raise her hopes for nothing. No, let’s wait until we
get back, and find out for ourselves.”

“And if it should be–”

“And if it should be! The joy, the happiness to Daisy, and her family,
and the Girl Scouts–and Kirk!”

“Kirk?” repeated John, in surprise. “Kirk Smith?”

“Yes,” replied Marjorie. “Kirk is Olive’s husband!”