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CHAPTER XXIV THE CANOE MEET

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    With characteristic modesty, Marjorie put aside the congratulations of her friends, and the feeling of inward triumph that her victory had brought her, to fasten her thoughts upon the contest of the following day. For, after all, as she said again and again, the tennis championship belonged rather to Griffith Hunter than to herself.

    “I suppose if he had played with Alice, or Frieda, or me,” teased Lily, as the girls were getting ready for bed, “that he would have won just the same?”

    “No doubt. Oh, Lil, suppose it should rain to-morrow!”

    “Oh, it wouldn't dare do it again! My, but wasn't it lucky that it did on Wednesday!”

    “It certainly was.”

    “Marj,” said Lily, “did Jack tell your parents to put a detective to work searching for that old man?”

    “No,” replied Marjorie, quietly. “I told him not to tell them anything about it, forI caught the man myself!”

    “You!” cried Lily. “But how?”

    231 “Sh! I don't want anybody to hear. But since you're going to spend the night with me, I'll tell you the whole story now, just as I have figured it out. But don't tell a soulI never even said anything about it to Frieda. I'm going to tell Jack when we get home and he promised to say nothing about it till then.”

    “Why, is it a secret?”

    “Yes,” answered Marjorie. “Listen!”

    Curled up on the same bed, Marjorie proceeded to tell what she had correctly guessed to be the truththat Harold Mason, in disguise, was really the old man. She described his appearance, and showed the grey hair. Then, too, she reminded Lily of his embarrassment at seeing it, and his urgent desire to make his escape.

    “And that accident was all cooked up, too,” she concluded. “Of course he couldn't make Frieda want to drive the car, and run into a tree, but he was going to get around it somehowto make us late for the meet.”

    Lily was so angry now that she could scarcely sit still.

    “And do you suppose that Ruth knew all about it?”

    “Positively!”

    “I'm going to go accuse her, this very minute!” flashed Lily, jumping off the bed.

    232 But Marjorie restrained her.

    “Don't Lil; it won't do any good. She'll deny that she had any part in it. But I've let her know that I have solved the problem, and she's pretty uncomfortable when I'm around. The best thing we can do about it is to ignore itand her, as far as possible, without seeming rude.”

    “Well, she's no longer a friend of mine!” exclaimed Lily.

    “No, nor anybody else's in the troop,” added Marjorie. “For I think most of the girls have found her out!”

    Saturday proved to be cooler, and delightful; the girls were up early to enjoy the fine air of the morning.

    “But I don't move from this porch till time to dress for the meet,” announced Marjorie, with a significant glance at Ruth. “I'm not taking any chances.”

    At eleven o'clock the Girl Scouts, all in bathing suits covered by raincoats, drove in the machines to the shore of the lake. Already crowds of people were sitting on the benches, and standing on the shore, waiting for the meet to start.

    Through a megaphone Mr. Remington thanked the audience for their splendid support, and announced the relay and obstacle races which were to constitute the first part of the program. These, he233 said, were not included in the reckoning of points for the silver cup, and ribbons would be awarded to the successful teams. As lots were drawn to determine the participants of each side, the rivalry was not sharp; in fact Ruth, Frieda, and Marjorie, the three best canoeists, were all on the same side, so that they easily came in ahead. The real excitement lay in the individual contests.

    The first of these was the rescue of the capsized canoe. Only five of the girls entered the event; Ethel Todd, Marjorie Wilkinson, Ruth Henry, Frieda Hammer, and Florence Evans. They all succeeded in their attempts; it would have been hard for the casual observer to decide whether to award the honors to Marjorie, Ruth, or Frieda. The judgesthree men of Silvertownput down mysterious marks in their books.

    A short intermission of rest was granted the contestants before the final eventthe individual canoe race. All of the girls had agreed to enter, although several of themDoris, and Lily, and Alice Endicott, for exampleknew that they stood not the slightest chance of winning. The distance required was across the lake and backprobably about three hundred yards.

    The girls knelt in the center of their canoes, their paddles in their hands, awaiting the signal of departure. As soon as the whistle blew, the nine234 canoes shot forward, as if controlled by a single hand.

    But they did not remain abreast long, for in a moment four fell back. And of the five in the lead, Ruth Henry's came first!

    “Hurry up, Marjorie! Oh, hurry!” cried Eloise Trowbridge, now a staunch friend of the girl.

    But Marjorie knew what she was doing; the race was by no means short, and she calculated that endurance would count. Ruth Henry's mighty effort could not last to the end; she would give out before they were three quarters finished. So Marjorie continued her steady strokes, now leaving all but Ruth behind, and taking her place as second.

    It was Ruth's canoe which first reached the farther shore, and started to swing around. But here she encountered one of her weaknesses: she had never learned to turn a canoe gracefully and quickly. Before she had swung into position again, Marjorie was beside her, and the two canoes turned almost together.

    But Ruth was still confident. She had beaten Marjorie to this shore with an equal start; now that she was slightly ahead there ought to be no doubt about her victory. But her muscles stiffened under the strain; she realized suddenly that she was tired! Marjorie shot ahead with renewed vigor, as if she were fresh for the race.

    235 As the canoes neared the middle of the lake again, Ruth took a fresh spurt and pulled two or three inches ahead of Marjorie; but the gain was temporary, for the latter, carefully measuring her distance, decided that now was the time for putting forth her utmost effort. With sudden, swift strokes, she left all the canoes behind, and made like lightning for the shore. A great shout went up from the spectators; she arrived fully three seconds before Frieda, who came second. For Ruth had fallen back to third place!

    In a moment, Mr. Andrews was calling for Marjorie, and holding up the beautiful silver cup. The girl, out of breath, but smiling happily, advanced to accept the award with a bow of acknowledgement. The meet was over.

    Turning around to look for Lily, Marjorie almost bumped into the Trowbridge girls, waiting anxiously to be the first to congratulate her.

    “And mother and father want you to spend the second week in August with us,” said Jeanne, as she took Marjorie's arm; “so that you can take part in the big carnival. Can you?”

    “I'd love to!” cried Marjorie, catching sight of Ruth's envious face behind her. Surely the girl was being punished now, in the bitterest way possible: to see Marjorie surrounded by the honor and social distinction that she coveted for herself!

    236 The Trowbridge girls and Griffith Hunter were the only outsiders at the banquet that night. But it was a festive occasion; the table was laden with flowers, and the ten-course dinner was served noiselessly and beautifully. On one side of Marjorie sat John Hadley; on the other her new friend Griffith Hunter; and she could not tell which was the more entertaining.

    Suddenly, at the end of the salad course, a piano in the living room struck up a wedding march. The guests all stopped eating to behold little Dorothy Trowbridge, a tiny tot of about four years of age, appear, dressed in a filmy costume, and bearing a Cupid's dart in her hand. She went towards a side table, upon which Mr. Andrews lifted her, and in her clear childish voice, she said,

    “I am here to tell you that Mr. Remington and Miss Phillips are going to be married!”

    Amid the exclamations of the whole party, the blushing captain held up her left hand to display a beautiful diamond ring; while Mr. Remington bowed in acknowledgement of the congratulations that poured in from all sides.

    “But we'll lose you at Miss Allen's!” wailed Marjorie, in distress.

    “But not as Scout Captain,” replied Miss Phillips. “For I promise to take Pansy troop to the official scout camp next summer, and I mean to do as I said!”

    237 “Thank goodness for that!” breathed Lily, in relief.

    The next volume of this series will be “The Girl Scouts' Rivals.”

    The End
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