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.