THE SCOUT PARTY

Marjorie and Daisy slept well that night in the cabin, in spite of the
hardness of their beds. They were too tired to dream about the strange
revelation which they had just heard. When they awoke, they both felt
cheerful; even Daisy had shaken off the unhappiness which Kirk’s
despair had caused her the night before. In the bright sunlight of this
fresh, beautiful day she was ready to believe that her sister was still
alive.

“Daisy,” said Marjorie, as they were dressing, “do you know I feel more
than ever as if I would like to give up everything else to find your
sister. It seems as if something could be done. What do you think?”

“Yes, I think something more could. In the first place, we haven’t told
any of our friends, or Olive’s friends, for fear of notoriety. But I
think that’s a mistake. Lots of people might see Olive somewhere and
not think to mention the fact to us.”

“And is that your mother’s wish?” asked Marjorie.

“Yes, to keep it all as quiet as possible. I have been begging her
to make the thing public–even to come out in the newspapers with
a statement–and she has promised to do it in September if nothing
happens before then.”

“Kirk doesn’t seem to want to do anything either, does he?”

“No, he certainly has surrendered to despair. Well, Marj, I’m glad to
know about him, for we can maybe do something to make his life brighter
during the rest of the visit. And–speaking of that–suppose we go out
now, and see whether we can get his breakfast.”

But much to their surprise, the girls found their breakfast all
prepared for them. Kirk laughed good-naturedly at their amazement in
finding the work all done.

As soon as they had concluded their meal of bacon and bread, they
started back for camp. This time there was no dread of getting lost, no
fear of a storm. They reached the camp in good time, and were greeted
with joyous war whoops and numerous pistol shots; even the cook was
waiting to see with his own eyes that the girls were safe.

Early in the afternoon the whole party started out again. Riding
steadily upward to the top of the mountain, they found the scenery
even more wonderful than Mr. Hilton had depicted. Making their camp,
they stayed there over night, and early the next morning started on
the return trip to the ranch. This time the journey was less eventful;
nothing occurred to prevent them from reaching home on scheduled time.

The five scouts who had taken the trip were now thoroughly accustomed
to living out of doors, and would have been sorry indeed to return to
civilization, had it not been for the prospect of seeing the other
scouts. It seemed much longer than three days to Marjorie since she had
said goodbye to Lily; she longed for the time when they were to see
each other again.

And then, there was the mail. It had been almost a week since she had
been away; surely there must be some letters for her. The last one she
had received before her departure was from her brother Jack, telling
her about having seen John Hadley with another girl at Cape May.
Perhaps now she would get a letter from John, telling her about his new
friend.

She found Lily and Doris and Mae sitting on the porch, watching for
their return. In their hands they held the girls’ mail, so that they
might have it the minute they arrived.

Marjorie saw in a flash that among her letters there was one from John
Hadley. Her cheeks flushed, and her eyes lighted up with anticipation;
it had been so long since she had heard from him.

But when she read the letter–a cool, impersonal sort of thing that
seemed as if it had been written with an effort, she was conscious of a
feeling of disappointment. Reluctantly she opened her other letters.

“What’s John doing with himself?” asked Lily, who could not help
noticing and recognizing the handwriting on the envelope.

“Working hard, going to Cape May every week-end with his mother. He
gets his vacation the last two weeks in August.” Marjorie answered
mechanically, without raising her eyes from the letter she was reading.

“And that will be the end of ours, too!” sighed Lily. “It doesn’t seem
possible that it will soon be the first of August does it?”

“No, it doesn’t. The Judson girls are going home then.”

“So they are. I guess Kirk won’t be sorry,” said Lily. “By the way, do
you like him any better since he did the rescue act, which Tom just
told us about?”

Marjorie smiled half to herself. It was so hard to keep anything from
Lily–to refrain from telling her the whole story. And yet Kirk had
exacted the promise, and she knew that she could not go back on it.

“Yes, he seemed awfully nice. You’ll like him better, too, after the
Judsons go home.”

As soon as Marjorie had an opportunity she glanced slyly at Daisy, and
found her smiling also. But neither girl said anything further.

“Did John say anything about the girl Jack saw him with?” asked Lily;
for Marjorie had read her brother’s letter aloud to her.

“No, he didn’t” answered the other girl.

“Bad sign!” said Lily, jokingly.

“He can marry her for all of me,” returned Marjorie, indifferently.

“Why, Marj! Are you in love with Kirk?” asked Lily.

“Mercy, no!” replied Marjorie, so emphatically that Lily wondered
whether she had said anything awful.

When the girls took their places at the next meal, Marjorie found Kirk
sitting beside her.

“I have written my letter,” he said. “And if they are the up-to-date
company that I think they are, they will probably reply by telegram.”

“That would be great!” said Marjorie, realizing, of course, that Kirk
referred to the radio, although he had not mentioned it.

“Do you suppose,” asked Marjorie, “that there is any chance of its
arriving by the fifteenth? You know the trip to Yellowstone comes
during the last two weeks in August, so we thought we should like to
give a scout party the fifteenth, and present the radio to Mrs. Hilton.
Do you think it would be safe to plan it for then?”

“Yes, I think so,” replied Kirk, still keeping his voice to the
undertone they had adopted for safety’s sake. “Anyway, I can hurry them
up with a telegram,” he added.

“Then we’ll go right ahead with the party,” said Marjorie.

The next three weeks were filled with busy days for the scouts.
Marjorie showed them that she was just as zealous about carrying out
her plans as she was in making them; and the classes and study went on,
in conjunction with the rides and walks and other regular activities
on the ranch. Before the fifteenth of August had arrived, every single
scout had sent in an examination paper to headquarters which would
allow her, when she had passed her eighteenth birthday if she had not
already done so, to be commissioned as a lieutenant. Alice, Daisy and
Florence were fully prepared to pass the remaining tests to win their
Golden Eaglet badges in the Fall; and although the other three girls
were not yet quite ready, they had made good advancement. The radio
was ordered and paid for; the scout party was well organized. With
one exception, Marjorie had carried out every project she had started,
and she was nearly satisfied. If only the troop could in some way do
its good-turn, then she would feel that her summer–her last one as an
active member of Pansy troop–would be as profitable as it had been
pleasant.

“Only three more days!” said Marjorie, folding the letter from her
mother which promised a box of good things for the party, “Suppose the
radio doesn’t come!”

“Well, we’ll have a good time anyhow!” returned Doris, cheerfully.
“Think of all the wonderful food we’re going to get. Has everybody
heard from her mother?”

“Yes! Yes!” cried several of the girls at once.

“I haven’t,” said Daisy, after a pause. “I never even wrote!”

“Well, of course nobody wanted you to!” said Marjorie, with assurance.
“Your mother certainly has enough to worry about.”

“I thought no one would mind,” replied the other girl, quietly.

Marjorie passed the next three days in feverish excitement, always
on the alert to spy a messenger the minute he should arrive with the
radio. But no one came, and she found it difficult not only to restrain
her own impatience, but to keep the girls from blurting out the
secret. On the morning of the party, she gathered the scouts together
in her cabin.

“We must go about our preparations for the party just the same,” she
told them, “and maybe it will come during the day. Mrs. Hilton is going
to shut off the living room, and make the people use the back door all
afternoon, so that we can decorate. So, if anybody wants to go riding,
she had better go this morning!”

The girls accepted their lieutenant’s advice as they accepted
everything else she said and did–without question; and fell to work at
their appointed tasks. Florence and Alice made the ice cream; Lily and
Mae decorated the room with flowers, and crêpe paper which Mrs. Andrews
had sent from New York; Ethel and Doris unpacked boxes of food, and
Marjorie and Daisy arranged the dishes on the refreshment table at the
side.

“Let’s see how many of us there are,” said Marjorie, as she was putting
the silver on the table–“eight of us scouts, Mr. and Mrs. Hilton and
Bob and Art, the two Melvilles, and Kirk–that makes fifteen. Why,” she
continued, as if the idea had just struck her, “that means eight girls
and only five boys! That’s hard on the dancing!”

“I’ll tell you how we can fix that!” exclaimed Alice, who had finished
making her ice cream, “I’ll wear my breeches and be a man. Who wants
me for a partner?”

“I’d be charmed,” said Florence, laughingly.

“Good work!” commented Marjorie. “Now there will be only one extra
girl, and I will be that one, and play chaperone.”

“Oh, everybody will dance with everybody else!” said Doris, lightly.
“Even Alice needn’t think she’ll be able to keep the men away by
wearing trousers!”

“Marj!” said Alice, abruptly, “what does Kirk have to say about the
radio. Oh, if it doesn’t come, I’ll never forgive him!”

“But it wouldn’t be his fault!” protested Daisy, who made it a point to
defend the young man. “He certainly did his part.”

“I bet he ordered it from some poor, one-horsepower company that
delivers once in ten years,” returned Alice.

“No, he didn’t either!” said Marjorie, positively. “He ordered it from
one of the best companies in the East!”

When supper was over, the scouts disappeared into their cabins to put
on their uniforms. With the exception of Alice, who still insisted upon
playing man, they all wore khaki dresses and black ties. In addition to
their merit-badges, which covered the sleeves of all the girls in the
patrol, Marjorie and Ethel wore the Golden Eaglets they had won at the
national training camp the preceding summer.

The party began at half-past seven, when the enclosure shutting off the
living room from the dining room was removed, and the victrola began to
play. All the guests arrived at once, and immediately the dancing began.

Marjorie took up her place at the victrola and resolutely remained
there during three dances, refusing all invitations to dance on the
plea of her duty. But at the end of that time, Mrs. Hilton insisted
upon relieving her, and she yielded to Kirk’s invitation.

Up to that time she had never danced with him–in fact, she had
never seen him dance with any girl at all during her whole visit at
the ranch, and she was both surprised and delighted to find him so
accomplished. Half closing her eyes, she surrendered herself to the
rhythm of the motion, talking little, and dreamily gliding about the
big room under her partner’s skillful direction. She had almost lost
the sense of where she was, when a sharp knock at the screen door
rudely brought her back to the real world. Abruptly the music ceased,
and everyone stopped dancing. With an effort, Marjorie recalled the
probable reason of the interruption: The Radio! Her heart beat wildly
with excitement.

She was still standing with her arm resting on Kirk’s shoulder,
as Bob Hilton opened the door to admit the stranger. With a gasp
of astonishment, the girl’s arm dropped to her side, and she gazed
open-eyed at the visitor. It was John Hadley! Not the radio messenger,
after all–but John Hadley, all the way from Cape May!

Instantly her face darkened, and a cold fear took possession of her.
Was something wrong at home, and had they sent him to break the news
to her gently? In her terror she gripped Kirk’s hand tightly, her face
showing anything but the welcome John had hoped for. Then, as if in a
dream, she heard him speak.

“I would like to speak to the lieutenant of the Scout Troop,” and, as
she dropped Kirk’s hand and stepped forward, he added in a lower tone,
“I have your outfit from our company.”

“Oh!” cried Marjorie, suddenly realizing what his presence meant, and
smiling in intense relief. But what a strange coincidence that he–John
Hadley–should bring it, and without her knowledge, too!

But without waiting to give expression to her own thoughts, she turned
quickly to the rancher’s wife.

“Mrs. Hilton,” she began, speaking so that everyone in the room might
hear, “we Girl Scouts have had such a wonderful time this summer
that we wanted to present the ranch with something as a token of our
appreciation. We had hoped that this gift would come earlier, so that
more of this summer’s guests could enjoy it. But at least it will be
here for next year.”

“I therefore present you, in the name of the Girl Scouts of Pansy
Troop, this radio set, which Mr. Hadley, the representative of the
company from which it was ordered, will put up tomorrow.”

Mr. and Mrs. Hilton were both so taken by surprise by the generosity
and unusualness of the gift, that neither could find words with which
to accept it. Marjorie and the other scouts saw their amazement and
pleasure, and felt rewarded; and before Mrs. Hilton could even stammer
out her thanks, both her sons had raised a noisy cry of approval.
Their informality put the party into an uproar. As there were no more
speeches to be made, someone started the music, and the dancing began
again.

Marjorie, however, made no motion towards summoning her partner, but
remained standing where she was, near the doorway, talking to John.

“I was so surprised to see you!” she said. “And right away I was
scared, for fear something was wrong with my family!”

To John the remark seemed rather odd. Was she not expecting someone
from his company–so why not him?

“Of course you couldn’t know I would be the one to come,” he said, “but
then there was a chance. And after you ordered the outfit from our
company—-”

“I didn’t order it from anybody!” objected the girl. “I left that
entirely to Kirk Smith–the young man with whom I was dancing when you
came in!”

“It certainly was a coincidence!” he remarked, bitterly.

“Not at all!” replied Marjorie, graciously. “It just shows that yours
is the best company in the market.”

“Thanks,” replied John, rather stiffly. Then, feeling it his duty to
allow her to return to her partner, he asked her whether she did not
want to finish her dance.

“Yes, I suppose so,” answered Marjorie, with more indifference than
John would have expected her to display. Then, turning to go, she
added. “I’ll see you later.”

But John found no further opportunity to speak with Marjorie, for
after a _Paul Jones_, refreshments were served, and there was no more
dancing. He joined gaily in the general cheerfulness of his companions,
pinning all his hopes upon the opportunities of the following day.

“Tomorrow!” he thought, as he sought his cabin at midnight. “Tomorrow!
But I won’t spend my vacation here if she doesn’t want me!”