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The Camp Fire Girls at Long Lake - Bessie King in Summer Camp
by Jane L. Stewart
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Later they talked it over again, when they had dried and resumed the clothes they wore about the camp, and Eleanor Mercer, her enthusiasm warming her cheeks, told them something they had not heard even a hint of as yet.

"A friend of mine is scoutmaster of a troop of Boy Scouts," she said. "And he has teased me, sometimes, about our work. He says we just imitate the Boy Scouts, and that we just pretend we're camping out and doing all the things they do. Well, I told him that some time we'd have a contest with them, and show them; a regular field day. And, just for fun, we made up a sort of list of events."

"Oh, what were they?"

"Well, we planned to start in, all morning, and make a regular trip, cook meals, and come back. And on the way we to divide into parties; there are three patrols his troop, you know, and we could divide up the same way. The parties were to keep in touch with one another by smoke signals—they're made with blankets—and there was to be a fire-making contest, to see which could make fire quickest without matches. And, oh, lots of other things."

"That would be fine."

"Then I got reckless, I think. I said my girls could beat his boys in the water—that we could swim better—I meant more usefully, not just faster, in a race, because I think they'd beat us easily in just a plain race. And I'm afraid I boasted a little."

"I bet you didn't; I bet we can do just as well as any old Boy Scouts!" exclaimed Dolly. "I wish we just had the chance, that's all."

"Well, you have," said Eleanor, with a smile. "That's what I'm trying to tell you, girls. Mr. Hastings is over at Third Lake right now with one patrol of his troop. He got there yesterday and the way I happened to hear about it was that he was on his way over yesterday morning—he got in ahead of the boys—to help us look for Dolly and Bessie, when they were found."

"Oh, that's fine! And shall we have that field day?"

"Later on, before we go home, yes. But he began teasing me again yesterday, and I told him we'd have a water carnival any time he wanted to bring his boys over. And he said they'd come Saturday."

"We'll have to get ready and show them what we can do, then," said Margery Burton, with determination in her voice. "My brother's a Boy Scout, and I know just what they're like; they think we're just the same as all the other girls they know. I tell you what would be fun; to get up a baseball team."

"Maybe we'll try that later," said Eleanor. "But right now we want to be ready for Saturday. So I'll teach you everything I can. And I'm quite sure we can beat them in a life-saving drill; their three best against our three. We'd have you, Margery, and Bessie, and Dolly Ransom."

So it was agreed, and they all began to practice.

"I wish I could do something," said Zara, wistfully. "But I don't believe I could learn to swim before Saturday."

"You could learn to keep yourself afloat," said Margery. "But that wouldn't be much good, of course. You'd rather not go in at all, I suppose, unless you could really swim."

"I know what I could do, though," said Zara, suddenly, after she had watched Bessie go through the life saving drill. But she would not confide her idea to anyone but Miss Mercer, who looked more than doubtful when she heard it.

"I don't know, Zara," she said, "I'll see. It seems a little risky. But I'll think it over. It would be splendid, but, well, we'll see."

Speed swimming, pure racing, was barred when Saturday came. But with Scoutmaster Hastings and Miss Mercer as referees, and three summer visitors from the Loon Pond Hotel, who had no prejudice in favor of either side as judges, several contests were arranged that called for skill rather than strength.

"In this diving," Hastings explained to the judges, "what we want to figure on is the way they do it. If a dive is graceful, and the diver strikes the water true, going straight down, with arms and legs held close together, you give so many points for that. I'll make each dive first; that will serve as a model, you see."

Scoutmaster Hastings was not speaking in a boastful manner. He was a noted diver, and had won prizes and medals in many meets for his skill. And, when everything was arranged, he did all the standard dives from the spring-board at the end of the dock, and three members of each organization followed him.

Bessie had taken remarkably well to these new tricks, as she considered them. Her powers as a swimmer no one had questioned, but it was remarkable to see how quickly she had acquired the ability to dive well and gracefully. And, to the surprise and chagrin of the Boy Scouts, who had expected, as boys always do, when they are pitted against girls, to win so easily that they could afford to be magnanimous, and to abstain from gloating, the judges were unanimous in deciding that she had done better than any of the six competitors in all five of the standard dives in which Hastings showed the way.

As there were six competitors, the judges awarded six points for first place in each dive, five for second, four for third, three for fourth, two for fifth, and one for sixth place. And in two of the dives second place went to Margery Burton, while one of the Boy Scouts, Jack Perry, was second in the other four.

To the disgust of the other boys, Margery was placed third in the four dives in which Jack Perry beat her, and Dolly, a good, but not a really wonderful diver, was fifth in every one of the dives, beating at least one boy in each. So sixty-six points altogether went to the Camp Fire Girls, while the Boy Scouts, who had expected to finish one, two, three, had to be content with forty-eight, and were soundly beaten.

"That girl that was first is a wonder," said Hastings admiringly to Miss Mercer. "I take it all back, Eleanor. But I didn't think you'd have anyone as good as she is. Why, she's better than you are, and I always thought you were the nearest to a fish of any girl I ever saw in the water. She could win the woman's championship with a little more practice."

"Maybe you won't crow so much over us after this," said Eleanor, with a laugh.

"Not about the diving, certainly," said Hastings, generously, "But that's tricky, after all. The life saving is going to be different There strength figures more. I really think my boys ought to give a handicap in that."

"Not a bit of it," said Eleanor. "Women have been taking handicaps from men too long. They've got so that they think they can't do anything as well as a man. This Camp Fire movement is going to show you that that's all over and done with."

"Well, we'll go through the tests first," said Hastings. "Then your girls will know what they've got to beat, anyhow."

The tests for life saving were to be conducted on a time basis. From a boat a certain distance out in the lake a boy or girl was to be thrown overboard, and, at the same moment, the competitor was to leap in after the one who represented the victim and take him or her to shore, the winners being those who did it in the shortest time. Again, as there were to be six competitors, the first place was to count six points, the second, five, and so on.

First, the boys went out and went through their exercise in fine style. Although the boy who played the part of victim could swim, he made no move to help himself, simply staying perfectly still and letting his "rescuer" take him in.

Then, when the three boys had finished, with only five seconds between the fastest and the slowest, Eleanor and Hastings rowed out with the three who represented the Camp Fire Girls, and, as "victim," Zara!

Zara had insisted.

"I really would be drowned if they didn't save me," she said, "so it will be a real test."

And, with that added spur, each of the three girls actually managed to beat the fastest time of the boys. Margery was first, Bessie was second, and Dolly third. Hastings, as soon as he discovered that Zara could not swim, was full of admiration.

"That's the nerviest thing I ever heard of," he said. "Of course they did better. But it's your 'victim' that deserves the credit. She's certainly plucky."

"So I really did help, didn't I!" said Zara. "My, I was scared at first. But then I knew the girls wouldn't let me go down, and, after the first time, it wasn't so bad."

"Well, you gave us a surprise, and a licking," said Scoutmaster Hastings. "But we'll be ready for you when we have that field day. How about some day next week!"

"Splendid," said Eleanor. "And we'll give you a chance to get even."

THE END

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