“What’s the matter, girls?” she repeated more seriously. “You look worried.”
“Sit down, Miss Ladd, and read these letters I received last night,” said Marion without any change of tone or manner. “They will explain the whole thing. We were just about to call you aside and lay our trouble before you.”
“Trouble,” Miss Ladd repeated deprecatingly, “I hope it isn’t as bad as that.”
She drew an upholstered armchair close to the girls and began at once to examine the letters that Marion handed to her. Marion and Helen watched her closely as she read, but the Guardian of Flamingo Fire indicated her strength of character by a stern immobility of countenance until she had finished both letters. Then she looked at Marion steadily and said inquiringly:
“I suppose you have no idea who wrote these letters?”
“Not the slightest,” replied the girl addressed, “unless the shorter one was written and mailed by some of the Boy Scouts at Spring Lake. Helen thinks it was, and I am inclined to believe with her that it doesn’t make much difference to us who wrote it. The other letter is the one we are most interested in.”
“I agree with you thoroughly,” said Miss Ladd energetically. “And we have got to do something to prevent him from carrying out his threat.”
“Ought we to inform the other girls now?” asked Marion with a sense of growing courage, for she felt that in the Camp Fire’s Guardian she had found elements of wise counsel extending even beyond that young woman’s experience.
“Why, yes,” Miss Ladd replied. “I see no reason for delay. I’d rather tell them now than just before or after we get to Hollyhill. If we tell them now they’ll have a couple of hours in which to stiffen their courage. There are eleven girls besides you two. Suppose you call them here in three lots in succession, four, four, and three, and we’ll tell them quietly what has occurred and give them a little lecture as to how they should meet this crisis.”
“All right,” said Marion, rising. “I’ll bring the first four and you get your lecture ready.”
“It’s ready already,” said the guardian reassuringly. “It is so simple that I have no need of preparation.”
“I’m afraid I need some drill in the best means and methods of reading character,” Marion told herself as she walked back to the rear of the car. “I was really afraid to take the matter up with Helen or Miss Ladd for fear lest they recommend something foolish. Now it appears that each of them has a very clever head on her shoulders. Maybe I’ll find the other girls possessed of just as good qualities. If I do, this day will have brought forth an important revelation to me, that the average girl, after all, is a pretty level-headed sort of person. Well, here’s hoping for the best.”
Marion selected the four girls farthest in front and asked them to approach the forward end of the car. They did so with some appearance of apprehension, for by this time all the girls had begun to suspect that something unusual was doing. This appeared to be evident also to the half-dozen other passengers in the car, whose curious attention naturally was directed toward the forward group of girls.