THE SCOUT MEETING

The days that followed were packed full of interesting activities. Long
rides over the mountains, swimming, camp fires and restful evenings in
the big cabin with the other members of the ranch family. The girls
felt perfectly at home; even Daisy put aside her worries and entered
into the full enjoyment like the rest.

After the day of the canoe picnic, Kirk Smith had not paid the
slightest attention to Marjorie, or in fact to any of the girls, in
spite of Irene Judson’s repeated efforts to draw his interest to
herself. He was quiet, almost sullen, again, and rarely spoke unless he
was directly addressed. It seemed to be his greatest desire to be left
alone.

None of the scouts, however, paid much attention to him, except now and
then to wonder what sort of person he really was. Marjorie had so many
other things to think about that she was glad that he had not continued
to seek her company, as he had done for the canoe trip.

The arrival of the mail twice a week was always an occasion for
excitement among the scouts, as well as among the other members of the
party. Marjorie always was fortunate enough to receive two or three
letters; but thus far she had heard nothing from John Hadley, and she
had been away over two weeks now.

That afternoon’s mail brought her two letters, one from Griffith
Hunter, inviting her to a dance early in September, and the other from
Mrs. Remington, asking all about the scouts. What had they done thus
far? Did they wear their uniforms often? Had they kept to their regular
meeting-night? What new merit-badges would they be eligible for when
they came back?

Marjorie read these questions with an increasing sense of shame. How
could she write to the captain and tell her that the scouts had done
nothing, had not even had one meeting since their arrival? The only
time they had attempted anything was the occasion on the train, when
Walter Brooks had tried to play a joke on them. And what a farce that
had been!

Thinking over it all, Marjorie was overcome with remorse when she
realized that the troop had been more inactive during these two weeks
since she had been lieutenant, than it had ever been before. She
could not write this to Mrs. Remington; no, she must plan and act
immediately. So she decided to stay home from the ride that afternoon
to prepare for a meeting. While the girls were dressing she told them
of her intention.

“Please set aside Friday evening for scouts,” she said, as she dived
into the bottom of her trunk for her scout book. “And I want the whole
evening, too.”

“But what can we do with a whole evening?” asked Mae, who hated to
sacrifice bridge, even for one time.

“I’m not sure–but something!” replied Marjorie. “I can tell you better
after this afternoon. Two hours didn’t used to seem too long for you!”

“Ah, but there was no Tom Melville then!” teased Alice.

“Marj,” said Mae, “you ought to get a bad crush on some man. It would
make you more human!”

“How about John Hadley?” suggested Doris.

“Oh, that’s too much on his side,” returned Mae. “Marj doesn’t even
take the trouble to answer his letters.”

“I never get any to answer!” muttered Marjorie.

“Probably because you already owe him one,” laughed Lily. “Well, Marj,
we’ll give up our game of bridge for once, since you insist!”

“Once!” repeated Marjorie. “We’re going to have a scout meeting every
single week, and we’re going to do some definite work–”

“I thought our good times couldn’t last long!” sighed Alice. “But look
out Marj, or you’ll get to resemble that lieutenant Walter Brooks and
Lily prepared for our benefit!”

Marjorie laughed good-naturedly.

“Girls, you know I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to,”
she assured them. “But we must have our meeting tomorrow night–and
then we’ll put everything to a vote. Be sure to come at seven-thirty
sharp–right here in our cabin.”

“We’ll all be there!” said Doris.

Although the girls pretended not to be enthusiastic about their
meeting, there was not one of them who did not really want it. The Girl
Scout troop had grown to be a part of their lives, and they dreaded
the time when they would have to give it up. So, without a single
exception, they all appeared on time the following evening.

Marjorie opened the meeting with the usual formality. Alice was elected
secretary, and the business was conducted in an orderly manner.

“I have a number of plans to talk over this evening,” said Marjorie,
“and I want your opinions and suggestions.

“First of all, I would like our troop to do something for the
ranch–something to make the people realize that the Girl Scouts are
a worth-while body. I wish it could be something permanent, so that
everybody who comes here every year might benefit by it!”

Most of the girls approved the idea, but Ethel shook her head
discouragingly.

“I’m sorry not to fall in with your plans,” she said, “but I am afraid
there isn’t much that a group of girls can do around a ranch. Mr.
Hilton and the help would probably resent it–and besides, we don’t
know enough about anything. I–really–I hate to say it, Marj,–but I’m
afraid they would think it was presumptuous.”

Marjorie was too sensible to be hurt at Ethel’s words; instead, she
made an effort to see the proposition from the other angle.

“Yes, I agree with you, Ethel. I had thought we might dam the stream in
the meadow for the cows, but, as you say, Mr. Hilton probably wouldn’t
want it done, or he would have done it before. He isn’t the kind of man
to let things slide. But don’t you suppose there is something, girls,
that we could do? Please think hard.”

“I know what you mean, Marj,” said Florence, after a moment’s silence.
“But why not do something for the other guests–?”

“Especially Kirk Smith!” interrupted Alice, laughingly. “Wouldn’t he
appreciate our attentions!”

“Alice!” said Marjorie, reprovingly. “Do let Flos finish. I think she
has the right idea.”

“Well,” continued Florence, “I’m not sure that I have much of any idea.
But I thought if we could buy a victrola, or a pool table, or fix the
tennis court, or–”

“Yes! Yes!” exclaimed two or three of the girls. “That’s the idea!”

“How about a radio!” suggested Marjorie, happily.

“Just the thing!” cried Ethel.

“But how could we ever install a radio way out here?” inquired Alice.
“They would never send a man so far, and none of us could possibly do
it correctly!”

“Maybe Marj could,” suggested Lily. “Didn’t you help Jack a lot with
his?”

“Yes, but that was only a very small one,” replied Marjorie. “No, I
really don’t know much about it. But don’t you think there is somebody
among all the boys and men on the ranch whom we might let into the
secret, and who could help us?”

“Possibly,” said Ethel. “We could sort of hint around till we found
out.”

They fell to discussing the amount they wanted to pay for the
instrument, and the best place from which to order it. No one, however,
seemed to know much about it except Marjorie; so Florence finally
put an end to the discussion by moving that their lieutenant be made
chairman of a committee to look into the matter.

“Now, another thing that has occurred to me,” said Marjorie. “I know
there isn’t much chance around the ranch to do the daily good-turn,
but I wish you would all keep it in mind. That really isn’t child’s
play, you know, but a principle we ought to practice all our lives. You
know how seriously Mrs. Remington always regarded it–well, I think we
should think just as much about it as if she were with us to remind us
of it. And, along with this same idea is the troop good-turn. Wouldn’t
it be great if the whole patrol could do something like the sort of
thing we did for Frieda Hammer? Of course I don’t know what, but let’s
keep our eyes open.”

“You mean the ‘knights of old’ idea,–helping people in distress, don’t
you, Marj?” asked Alice, a trifle teasingly.

Marjorie laughed and admitted that this, roughly, was her thought.
Then, reaching for her scout handbook, she turned the pages until she
found the place she had marked, and began to talk about actual scout
work.

“You know Mrs. Remington expects us to have something definite to show
her along this line when the summer is over, and we don’t want to
disappoint her. So I have worked out two plans for this, and I want to
hear what you think of them.

“First, do you suppose it would be possible for you six girls who
haven’t won the Golden Eaglet to prepare for the badges you still lack
before you return in the Fall, so that you could pass the examinations
then? Ethel and I could help you, and maybe some of the men on the
ranch are specialists along certain lines.”

“We’ll be begging favors of Kirk Smith yet!” remarked Alice.

“You might do worse!” said Daisy, quietly.

“Well–we needn’t beg anybody,” replied Marjorie. “But if we asked
them, I imagine some people, like Bob or Pop Welsh, would be only too
tickled to help. But seriously, what do you think of it, girls?”

“I think the idea is splendid, Marjorie,” said Florence. “Only last
night I was deciding that we seniors ought to make it our object to
become Golden Eaglet scouts before we graduate from Miss Allen’s, and
I told Alice about it. We intended to start in the Fall, when we got
back. But this would be better yet.”

Several other girls expressed their approbation of the plan, and
Marjorie began to feel very happy. How pleasant it was to have the
whole-hearted co-operation of the patrol, without any dissenting voice
of envy, such as Ruth Henry had always brought.

“Then, there’s one more thing,” she concluded, “according to our
present expectations, all the scouts here except two will be out of
Pansy troop and active scout membership in the Fall. Could we not,
therefore, take some time every Friday evening to train ourselves
a little bit for leadership, so that we can start new troops among
younger girls, when we get back East? I wrote for some books, and
really, I have the most wonderful instructions here from headquarters.
They’re simply fascinating! But I don’t want to make anybody take
the course who doesn’t want to; so I thought we could have our scout
meeting first, from seven to eight o’clock and then have the class
afterward, for everyone who wants to stay. So–think it over!”

Naturally, the girls all felt anxious to do as Marjorie suggested, and
all signed the enrollment paper to be returned to headquarters.

“Maybe Irene and Maud would like to take it too,” suggested Alice.

“Not they!” returned Ethel. “They’re too glad of a chance to get rid of
us, so they can have the boys to themselves!”

Marjorie laughed; Ethel always saw through people, fearlessly pointing
out their weaknesses. Still she was equally fair in crediting them with
their virtues.

“Has anybody else anything to bring up?” asked Marjorie, consulting her
watch.

“No, I move we adjourn!” said Lily, evidently in haste to get away.

“Why, Lil!” remarked Alice, looking at her suspiciously, “it certainly
sounds as if you had a date!”

“I have!” replied the other mysteriously.

“Then I move we don’t adjourn!” said Alice, maliciously. “It’s only
half-past eight–let’s stay and study scout work!”

“There’s a motion on the floor, Miss Endicott!” said Lily, haughtily.
“Yours is not in order!”

“And for that matter,” put in Marjorie, “Alice has a date too, only she
doesn’t know it.”

“I have? What?”

“Well, Lily and I have a little surprise for you all. We wrote home for
some food, and it came; so we’ve invited all the dudes to a party in
the dining-room. Mr. and Mrs. Hilton are there already, and something
tells me the rest of the people suspect something.”

The scouts waited for no formal adjournment now, but one and all jumped
up, embracing Marjorie and Lily as they passed in their rush for the
dining-room. The news had travelled already, and the guests were there
before their hostesses.

Mrs. Hilton had arranged the refreshments on the table while the
scouts were at their meeting. The prospect of eating those wonderful
apples and oranges that formed such an attractive center-piece of
tasting the daintiest bon-bons and chocolates, and having plenty of
more substantial things like crackers and cheese and olives, seemed
thrilling to these people to whom fresh fruit and candies were such
rarities.

The young people grouped themselves about the table and began to pass
the food. It seemed as if everything that could possibly be sent
two-thirds of the way across the continent had been thought of and
included. Figs, fruit-cake, nuts, pickles, olives, raisins, crackers
of all kinds–so much that there would be no need for breakfast the
following day.

“I hope,” remarked Mrs. Hilton apprehensively, “that you girls didn’t
write home and say that you were being starved here, did you?”

“Oh no!” replied Marjorie, with assurance. “We just said we wanted a
party.”

“And you certainly got it!” laughed Mr. Hilton.

“Does anybody feel like dancing?” asked Bob, after almost everyone had
finished eating.

“Yes–always!” answered Doris, without the slightest hesitation.

The party moved into the front room now, and soon everyone was stepping
to the music the old talking-machine was playing. Marjorie looked about
the room and saw that everybody was taking part in the gaiety; even
Kirk Smith, who was dancing with Daisy, seemed to be enjoying himself.

The party lasted until nearly eleven o’clock, when Lily suggested that
they wind it up with the latest scout song. Gathering into a close
circle, the eight girls put their heads together and sang:

“There are Girl Scouts in the cities,
There are Girl Scouts East and West;
But of all the scouts in khaki,
Hilton Ranch Scouts are _The Best!_”

Marjorie went to bed that night happy over the success of the troop
meeting and the party that had followed. Her first official duties as
lieutenant had been performed to her satisfaction.