“She’ll find out the truth some time, Bessie, never fear. And think about what I said. One of the great things this Camp Fire movement is trying to do is to make women’s lives healthier and happier all over the country. And I don’t believe that we’ve thought half enough of the women on the farms so far. You’ve made me realize that.”
“But there are lots and lots of Camp Fires in country places, aren’t there, Miss Eleanor? I read about ever so many of them.”
“Yes, but not in the sort of country places I mean. There are Camp Fires, and plenty of them, in the towns in the country, and even in the bigger villages. But the places I’m thinking of are those like Hedgeville, where all the village there is is just a post office and two or three stores, where the people come in from the farms for miles around to get their mail and buy a few things. You know how much good a Camp Fire would do in Hedgeville, but it would be pretty hard to get one started.”
Bessie’s eyes shone.
“Oh, I wish there was one!” she cried. “I know lots of the girls on the farms there would love to do the things we do. They’re nice girls, lots of them, though they didn’t like me much. You see, Jake Hoover used to tell his maw lies about me, and she told them to her friends, and they told their girls—and they believed them, of course. I think that was one reason why I couldn’t get along very well with the other girls.”
“I think that’s probably the real reason, Bessie, just as you say. But if you go back you can make it different, I’m sure. You needn’t be afraid of Jake Hoover any more, I think, especially after what he did at General Seeley’s.”
“Killing that poor pheasant? Wasn’t that a mean thing for him to do? They used to say he did some poaching, sometimes, around Hedgeville, but then about everyone did there, I guess. But I didn’t think he’d ever try to catch such beautiful birds as the ones General Seeley had.”
“I could forgive him for killing the bird much more easily than for trying to get you blamed for doing it, Bessie. But let’s change the subject. How did you and Dolly Ransom get along?”
Bessie smiled at the recollection of the stream of questions she had had to answer from her new roommate.
“She’s great!” she said, enthusiastically. “I think we’re going to be fine friends, Miss Eleanor.”
“I hope so. There isn’t a bit of real harm in Dolly, but she’s mischievous and loves to tease, and I’m afraid that some time she’ll go too far and get herself into trouble without meaning to at all.”
“She doesn’t like her aunt, Miss Eleanor—the one she lives with now that her father’s away so much.”
Miss Mercer made a wry face.
“Miss Ransom’s lovely in many ways,” she said, “but she doesn’t understand young girls, and she seems to think that Dolly ought to be just as wise and staid and sober as if she were grown up. I think that is the chief reason for Dolly’s mischief. It has to have some way to escape, and she’s pretty well tied down at home. So I overlook a lot of her tricks, when, if one of the other girls was guilty, I’d have to speak pretty severely about it. Well, here she is now! Go off with her if you like, Bessie.”