from American Girl
Jo Ann and the Princess
by Ellis Parker Butler
Bumpy -- who was, of course, Miss Bumpus -- came out of her shack just in time to see Jo Ann do the "upside-down,"' which was something not supposed to be done by the girls of the camp. Jo Ann did it while swinging full and far in the swing on the maple limb, standing on the board. She uttered a whoop, clutched the ropes firmly as far up as she could reach, and upside-downed herself, catching the ropes above her head, twisting her feet and legs around them. She hung there a moment, her hands free, then reached out her arms and fluttered her fingers, head down!
"Jo Ann!" exclaimed Miss Bumpus sharply. "Come down from there!"
"Golly!" exclaimed Jo Ann. She righted herself and let her feet come down to the swingboard.
"I had hoped," said Miss Bumpus, "that you were now old enough to leave such tomboyishness to the juniors, Jo Ann."
"There's not a junior in this camp can do that stunt," said Jo Ann. "If it's to be done I have to do it."
"I prefer not to have it done," said Miss Bumpus. "You give the bugle call for the senior hike, Jo Ann?"
"Yes, Miss Bumpus," Jo Ann said. She was the official bugler and if there had been no Jo Ann, there would have been no official bugler because no one else in camp knew how to blow a bugle. Jo Ann knew things of that sort. Now she backed toward the swing, bent swiftly and picked up something that had fallen from her pocket when she upside-downed herself.
"What is that? What was that you picked up?" Miss Bumpus asked. Jo Ann took the object from her pocket.
"It's an apple," she said, looking at the apple with what might have been surprise but was not. Miss Bumpus took the apple from Jo Ann and frowned.
"Just as I thought -- an Early Mellow," she said. "To the best of my recollection no Early Mellow apples have been passed into the camp by me or the staff, Jo Ann. You know it is forbidden to have food stuffs that have not been passed by me or the staff?"
"Yes, Miss Bumpus," said Jo Ann. The other girls gathered closer because this was apt to be interesting. A number of them had enjoyed Early Mellows that Jo Ann had provided. Five, at least, knew where Jo Ann had secured the Early Mellows.
"I am surprised!" said Miss Bumpus although, as a fact, she was never seriously surprised by anything Jo Ann did, because Jo Ann did do many things. "I am surprised! Mr. Burton came to me this morning and said someone had been robbing his apple orchard, but I did not imagine it could have been one of my girls. I told him it was impossible. I told him my girls did not rob apple trees. How did you get into his orchard?"
"I thought of a way," said Jo Ann.
"With his gate locked?" Mr. Burton took no chances. He was devoted to locked gates and barbed wire.
"Yes, ma'am," said Jo Ann.
"Over the fence?" Miss Bumpus asked, and Jo Ann thought for a moment.
"Yes -- over the fence," she said. "I went out over the fence." Jo Ann's voice was calm.
"Last night?" asked Miss Bumpus.
"Yes, Miss Bumpus."
"Did any of the girls go with you?"
"Well, I should think not!" exclaimed Jo Ann. "Not likely!"
"How many apples did you take?" asked Miss Bumpus.
"Twelve," said Jo Ann.
"Twelve," repeated Miss Bumpus. "Sixty cents will be deducted from your allowance this week to pay Mr. Burton for his apples. I will let you know later the further penalty. Please blow the assembly call for the hike, Jo Ann. I am very greatly put out by your prank -- very greatly!"
The hike was an overnight hike on which twenty seniors were going. Miss Bumpus never hiked, and in charge this time were Miss Franz and Miss Cooper. The party went up the narrow lane between the camp and Mr. Burton's farm until it reached the main road, and there it turned east. Striding briskly in couples the girls followed Miss Franz and Miss Cooper past the high wire fence -- barbed! -- that protected Mr. Burton's farm and Mr. Burton's apples, and as they turned the jog of the road they saw that something interesting was going on ahead of them.
Jo Ann, with the bugle slung over her shoulder by a strap, was paired with Gladys Carter and they had been talking, Gladys doing most of the talking because Jo Ann was wondering what punishment Bumpy would have in store for her. Something fierce, she expected.
"Jo Ann," Gladys said, "tell me, will you? How did you get into that orchard to get the apples? Did you honestly climb the fence -- all that awful barbed wire?"
"I didn't say I climbed the fence," Jo Ann said.
"Why, Jo Ann!" cried Gladys. "You did so!"
"I said I went over the fence," said Jo Ann. "I didn't say I climbed it. Nobody could climb that barbed wire fence."
"I know!" exclaimed Gladys. "You did it with a pole, like a pole-jump! Didn't you?"
"I went over the fence," Jo Ann repeated. "No one ever told us not to go and get apples."
"Bumpy said never to leave camp unless accompanied by a counselor," said Gladys.
"I didn't leave camp," Jo Ann insisted. "I came right back. Besides no one ever told me not to go out over the fence. If I'm told, I won't. Say, what's happening up the road?"
"It's the boys from Camp Mondega," Gladys guessed. "They've come up to have field day races on the road where it's level."
She was right. As the hikers from Camp Minnedawa neared the crowd in the road it was plain that all the boys of Camp Mondega had gathered along the sides of the road, as well as half Mondega's counselors, and Coopy and Franzie led their hikers to the roadside. Mr. Branch, of Camp Mondega, lifted his cap and spoke to Miss Cooper and Franzie. The hikers came to a halt. They dropped on the dusty grass, throwing off their knapsacks.
"Mr. Branch has invited us to stop awhile and watch the races, girls," Miss Cooper said, "and we have time, if you all would care to wait for it."
Would they! Jo Ann and Gladys settled themselves comfortably. Across the road from them four of the senior boys of Mondega, clad only in jerseys and running shorts, were prancing up and down in one spot, limbering up for a hundred yard dash. Mr. Branch was explaining to Miss Cooper that this was to be the next event -- Mondega's best sprinters.
"I have picked that lad with the red hair -- Tommy Bassick -- for the winner," Mr. Branch was explaining. "He develops great speed and is quick at the get-away."
"Tommy Bassick?" Gladys asked Jo Ann. "Isn't that the boy from your town?"
"Yes, the swellhead!" said Jo Ann. "He makes me so mad! You ought to hear him brag about his camp. And run down our camp. Know what he calls us?"
"The kindergarten. He called The Princess a doll," said Jo Ann bitterly. "He said we were a lot of girl babies playing with a doll. I can't stand that boy -- the smarty!"
Perhaps the reason Jo Ann thought things about Tommy Bassick was because they lived next door to each other at home, and Jo Ann was not the girl to let any boy, even a red-headed one, be very bossy to her. Tomboy girls are apt to be like that. Their feud had been the result of an incident the first year Jo Ann had come to Camp Minnedawa, when she was the smallest of the juniors and Miss Bumpus had led the younger juniors on one of those baby hikes that were all such small girls could stand. The hike party that day had come along the road and another hike party of juniors from Mondega had come from the opposite direction and Tommy Bassick had made the mistake of screwing up his face at Jo Ann, practically sticking out his tongue at her. The next instant Jo Ann had been out of the ranks and her two hands were in Tommy Bassick's red hair. She got a knee-hold on him and down they went in the dust of the road. She was astride of him, pushing his head into the dust, when Bumpy pulled her away, panting and pulling to get at him again. She had acted like a wildcat. Back in her home town, after camp closed, Tommy Bassick had taunted her about attacking him when he had not expected it, declaring that was the only reason she had been able to get at him, so she took him by the hair again and threw him down the terrace, just to show him who was who.
The feud had continued. Jo Ann no longer took Tommy Bassick by his red hair and threw him around but she made him understand that one girl, at least, would put up with no nonsense about the superiority of boys in anything. Or of boys' camps! She let him know that Minnedawa was the best camp in the world and that Mondega did not begin to match it. Last year she had done a thing that Tommy Bassick was sure he could never forgive. The one annual event in which Camp Mondega and Camp Minnedawa officially recognized each other's existence was a picnic which both camps attended. It had been started several years before by some fond visiting parents who had a son or two in Camp Mondega and a daughter or so in Camp Minnedawa.
So after the first get-together, the picnic just repeated itself year after year. Sometimes the boys did the cooking honors and the girls built the fires, and sometimes the other way around, and although they wouldn't have admitted it for worlds, they wouldn't have missed it for worlds! At least, Camp Minnedawa wouldn't have missed the one the summer before, not for anything!
On this particular occasion, someone had suggested a game of baseball. The boys had been fearfully condescending. Play with the big ball the girls always used? Sure! Of course! Give 'em a handicap, too, if they wanted it.
The girls had scorned the handicap -- and the big ball, too, for that matter, only Bumpy refused to let them play at all unless they did it with their own ball. Thereupon started a game that piled fuel sky-high on the flames of Tommy Bassick's feud with Jo Ann. She had pitched for Minnedawa -- pitched the entire nine innings -- while Tommy Bassick, pitching for Mondega, was taken out of the pitcher's box in the sixth inning when Jo Ann hit one of his fast balls for a home run, bringing in two Minnedawas who were on bases. The score at the end of the game was nine to seven in Minnedawa's favor.
For Mondega this was nothing less than dire disgrace -- beaten at baseball by a bunch of girls -- but the worst was to come. The game was played on Mondega's field because they happened to be hosts at the picnic and when the game was over the Minnedawa girls went mad. If it had been a football game they would have torn down Mondega's goal posts in their triumph, but they did the next best thing, as it was -- something far worse in Mondega boys' eyes. They made a rush for the sacred Mondega totem pole, the treasured emblem of the camp, and Jo Ann herself shook it until it loosened and came out of the earth. Triumphantly and speedily they carried the totem to the shore of Lake Lomas and dumped it ingloriously into the water.
Miss Bumpus declared it was a disgraceful and unladylike proceeding. And now Minnedawa-ites and Mondega-ites had no more picnics.
"Don't you think," asked Mr. Branch of Miss Cooper as the girls lolled on the dusty grass, "we might induce Miss Bumpus to let us have a picnic again this year? It seems to me the trouble over the totem pole was entirely due to that tomboy girl, and you've probably refused to let her come back this year."
"Jo Ann?" said Miss Cooper. "But she did come back. Why, I believe none of the seniors would have come back if we had shut out Jo Ann. You probably don't understand that they consider her a hero -- no, not a heroine, a hero. She has their admiration and --"
"Pardon me," said Mr. Branch, interrupting her. "This is our hundred yard dash for seniors. I am supposed to fire the starting gun."
He walked across the road where one of the Mondega counselors was lining up the senior sprinters for the dash. Jo Ann got to her feet.
"Watch my bugle, Gladdy," she said and moved to the starting line as if interested in what was happening.
"Ready! Set!" cried Mr. Branch, and the pistol he held above his head spat viciously. Tommy Bassick and the other competitors leaped forward from their crouching position -- and so did Jo Ann. With her head high and her arms pressed against her sides she ran side by side with Tommy at the head of the sprinters until within twenty yards of the finish. Then she made her famous Nurmi-style finish, leaped ahead of Tommy Bassick and broke the tape three-tenths of a second ahead of him. The Minnedawa girls jumped up and down and screamed, and Mr. Branch loped to the finish line.
"We will run this over -- we will run this over," he said, flustered. "Young lady --"
"She got away ahead of the gun," Tommy Bassick said. "She couldn't do it if she took a fair start."
"I could, too!" Jo Ann declared. "I'll run you again."
Miss Cooper came up, her face red.
"Jo Ann," she said, "this is too much! You will return to camp at once."
And that ended that. Jo Ann went down the road, pausing to wave back at the hikers, and at the camp reported at once to the chief. Bumpy was very stern when she heard the story.
"You will remain in your shack until Miss Cooper returns," she said. "When she returns and I hear the story from her I will decide what is to be done. It is probable that I shall have to send you home. I am afraid that you are always to be a disturbing element, Josephine.
The disturbing element obeyed Miss Bumpus' orders. In her shack she threw her knapsack on the bed and stretched out beside it. She thought over what she had done and she was not sorry she had done it; only one thing distressed her -- she had not heard what time she had made in the hundred yard dash.
"This time," she thought, suddenly solemn, "I do get chucked. That's pretty sure. They can't stand girls who do things more lively than play jack-stones and bean-bag. Well, mother won't break her heart; I didn't do anything so awful. But I hate to leave at that! Oh, gosh!"
She had a book to read and it was not so annoying to be confined to the shack when the other seniors were out of the camp. But after supper she hated to go back there alone, with all the juniors getting ready for campfire, especially this particular night. As she drifted off to sleep she heard the Princess Minnedawa Song, she knew then that the juniors were making the annual offering of maize to the Princess, and that the hiking seniors, wherever they had stopped for the night, were gathered in a circle and singing the Princess song, too, for this was the night dedicated to the Princess.
As Jo Ann slept, the juniors were gathered in a circle in the rectangle made by the shacks. They were seated on the ground around the Princess and the Princess was wearing her buckskin costume. The Princess was to Camp Minnedawa what the totem was to Camp Mondega, or perhaps even more. She was not exactly wooden because she had been made of a root of a tree. The first year the camp had existed Miss Florance, counselor in arts and crafts, had found the root and had noticed that it resembled an Indian, more or less, and she had carved the face and limbs, set the figure in the middle of the rectangle amidst the huts and dubbed it "Princess Minnedawa." Here on a stump the Princess had stood for years, the symbol and patron saint of the camp.
Once each year the Festival of the Maize was held after the corn had ripened, and grains of corn were presented to the Princess, one grain for each girl in camp. But no grain of corn would be given to the Princess for Jo Ann this night because she was in disgrace.
The juniors and even the seniors took the Princess very seriously. Counselors and even Bumpy herself might be laughed at now and then but the Princess was the Spirit of the Camp, and that is why Miss Gerton, crossing the rectangle after all the juniors were in their huts that night, stopped short and uttered an exclamation of amazement. The Princess was not on her stump! The Princess was gone!
The exclamation uttered by Miss Gerton was not one of amazement merely because the Princess was gone but because not a minute before the Princess had been standing on the stump, the grains of corn at her feet, the headdress of feathers on her head, her buckskin festival garb on her carved-root body.
Miss Gerton had crossed the rectangle only to take a book to Miss Torrance in Shack Six. She had left her own shack, passed in front of the Princess, entered Shack Six to hand the book to Miss Torrance, and had come out again immediately -- and the Princess in that short moment had disappeared. Utterly disappeared.
It took Miss Gerton but a moment to observe several things. Many of the grains of corn had been swept off the stump and now lay on the ground. Someone or something had walked across the wetted remains of the fire of honor. The crown of feathers that had been on the head of the Princess lay on the stump. But another thing Miss Gerton noticed as well. She herself had hung three of her handkerchiefs on a cord that was stretched rather high in the air -- say seven feet -- between Shack Nine and Shack Four, and now one of these handkerchiefs was gone.
For a moment or two Miss Gerton stood with her fingers on her lip, thinking. The juniors had all been present at the festival and they were now undoubtedly all in their shacks; they were hardly in their beds yet, and in each shack was a counselor. That accounted for the juniors, and there was but one senior in camp -- Jo Ann. Miss Gerton looked toward the shack where she thought she had left Jo Ann asleep and she drew a deep breath as she saw something white on the step. It was the missing handkerchief from the line. It all seemed plain to Miss Gerton now. Jo Ann had only pretended to be asleep and, as soon as she was left alone she had rushed out and wrenched the Princess from her stump. She had brushed the handkerchief from the line, probably carrying the Princess on her shoulder, and she had hidden the Princess somewhere. Miss Gerton walked hastily to the shack and looked in. Jo Ann was sitting on the side of the bed.
"Put something on," said Miss Gerton, "I want you to come with me to Miss Bumpus. Or wait! Perhaps I need not bring this to Miss Bumpus' attention if you will immediately return the Princess to her place. Will you?"
"If I --" exclaimed Jo Ann. "If I what?"
"Return the Princess to her place," said Miss Gerton very seriously. "I know you must feel some resentment, but what you have done isn't a bit fair to the other girls. You know as well as I do that they won't think it a bit funny that you stole the Princess and hid her. On the night of the Maize Festival, of all times."
"Is the Princess gone?" asked Jo Ann, Miss Gerton thought with suspicious innocence of expression.
"If that is the attitude you are going to take, Jo Ann," she said, "I think you had better come with me to see Miss Bumpus."
Now, Jo Ann was as completely a tomboy as one could wish but that did not mean that she was hard as nails. As she got into her khaki she was as hurt as a person can be if accused of what she has not done. She thought that being kept in her shack was quite enough. And to be accused of insulting her beloved camp by taking liberties with the Princess was just too much! As she stood before Miss Bumpus while Miss Gerton told the story of the disappearance of the Princess, the mouth of Jo Ann was set and defiant and she would not say a word.
Jo Ann supposed one of the juniors had taken the Princess as a lark, but when the seniors returned a camp council was held in the rectangle to decide what was to be done. It was, in effect a trial of Jo Ann, with the whole camp as jury. It was then, with juniors, seniors, counselors and Miss Bumpus in the circle around the empty stump-pedestal of the Princess, that Jo Ann stood up. She had been gazing fixedly at a crotch in the tree from which hung the swing.
"I tell you." she said, "that I did not take the Princess. I ought to hate you for thinking I would do such a thing, but I don't. All I ask you is one thing -- do you want the Princess back?"
"We certainly do!" they exclaimed.
"Then I'll get her," said Jo Ann.
The next moment she was standing on the board of the swing that hung from the maple limb above their heads. She went up the swing ropes hand over hand, threw a leg over the limb of the maple and drew herself up. Along the maple limb she crept to the trunk of the tree. Here she hoisted herself up to a second limb that reached out in the opposite direction -- over the wire enclosure and the lane between the camp and Mr. Burton's farm. Out this limb she went until she reached a point where, by standing upright and reaching high, she could clasp a limb of a giant white oak tree that stood inside the fence of Mr. Burton's farm. And so to the oak's trunk.
Up the trunk of the oak Jo Ann clambered to where three branches met, and here she let herself into a rotted hollow in the trunk. In a moment she was up again, holding the Princess in her teeth. And down she came.
"There's your Princess," she said, "I knew that was where Tommy Bassick would put her -- I saw that hollow when I went to get the apples."
"But, my dear Jo Ann!" exclaimed Miss Bumpus, "how ever did you guess that Tommy Bassick --"
"Anybody could guess that," said Jo Ann. "He had to lie on that limb up there, and fish for the Princess with a cord and a hook. He caught her and dragged her across the grains of corn and through the wet fire. When he lifted her she hit the handkerchief so it fell."
"But how did you know it was Tommy Bassick?" asked Miss Bumpus.
"Hah!" exclaimed Jo Ann. "Who else did I beat in a hundred yard dash?"
"And is that the only reason you think he stole the Princess?"
"Except that he has a red head," said Jo Ann, "and --" she laughed, "he bet me a dime last summer that he would and -- I saw some maize up there in the crotch of the tree that the Princess must have dropped on her way."
"You may go back to your shack, Jo Ann," said Miss Bumpus, who was a human being after all, it seemed. "We will overlook everything this time."
"And that," as Jo Ann said when she was back in the shack, "is that!"