Chapter XII. The Stunt's the Thing
 

"Where would a shipwreck look best, right by the dock, or farther up the shore?" Sahwah's forehead puckered up with the force of her reflection.

"Oh, not right by the dock," said Jo Severance decidely. "That would be too modern and--commonplace. It's lots more epic to be dashed against a rocky cliff. All the shipwrecks in the books happen on stern and rockbound coasts and things like that."

"It might be more epic for those who are looking on, but for the one that gets shipwrecked," Sahwah reminded her. "As long as I'm the one that get's wrecked I'm going to pick out a soft spot to get wrecked on."

"Why not capsize some distance out in the water and swim ashore?" suggested Migwan.

"Of course!" exclaimed Sahwah. "Why didn't we think of that before? Geese!"

"This is the way we'll start, then," said Migwan, taking out her notebook and scribbling in it with a pencil. "Scene One. Sinbad the Sailor clinging to wreckage of vessel out in the water. He drifts ashore and lands in the kingdom of the Keewaydins." She paused and bit the end of her pencil, seeking inspiration. "Then, what will you do when you land, Sahwah?"

"Oh, I'll just poke around a bit, and then discover the Keewaydins in their native wilds," replied Sahwah easily. "Then I'll go around with you while you go through the events of a day in camp. O, I think it's the grandest idea!" she interrupted herself in a burst of rapture. "We'll get the stunt prize as easy as pie. The Avenue will never be able to think up anything nearly as good. How did you ever manage to think of it, Migs?"

"Why, it just came all by itself," replied Migwan modestly.

Anyone who had ever spent a summer at Camp Keewaydin, passing at that moment, and hearing the conversation, would have known exactly what week of the year it was without consulting a calendar. It was the second week in August--the week of Camp Keewaydin's annual Stunt Night, when the Avenue and the Alley matched their talents in a contest to see which one could put on the best original stunt. Next to Regatta Day, when the two struggled for the final supremacy in aquatics, Stunt Night was the biggest event of the camping season. Rivalry was intense. It was a fair test of the talents of the girls themselves, for the councilors were not allowed to participate, nor to give the slightest aid or advice. The boys from Camp Altamont came over with their councilors, and together with the directors and councilors of Camp Keewaydin they voted on which stunt was the best. Originality counted most; finish in working out the details next.

The Alley's stunt this year was a sketch entitled THE LAST VOYAGE OF SINBAD THE SAILOR, and was a burlesque on Camp life. The idea had come to Migwan in a flash of inspiration one night when Dr. Grayson was reading the Arabian Nights aloud before the fire in the bungalow. She communicated her idea to the rest of the Alley and they received it with whoops of joy.

Now it lacked but three days until Stunt Night, and the Alleyites, over on Whaleback, where they would be safe from detection, were deep in the throes of rehearsing. Sahwah, of course, was picked for the role of the shipwrecked Sinbad, for she was the only one who could be depended upon to stage the shipweck in a thrilling manner.

"What kind of a costume do I wear?" she inquired, when the location of the shipwreck itself had finally been settled. "What nationality was Sinbad, anyhow?"

"He came from Bagdad," replied Sahwah brilliantly.

"But where was Bagdad?"

"In Syria," declared Oh-Pshaw.

"Asia," promptly answered Gladys.

"Turkey," said Katherine, somewhat doubtfully, and "Persia," said Agony in the same breath.

Then they all looked at each other a little sheepishly.

"The extent to which I don't know geography," remarked Sahwah, "is something appalling."

"Well, if we don't know what country Bagdad was in, it's pretty sure that none of the others will either," said Hinpoha brightly, "so it doesn't make much difference what kind of a costume you wear. Something Turkish is what you want, I suppose. A turban and some great big bloomers, you know the kind, with yards and yards of goods in them."

"But you can't swim in such awfully full bloomers," Sahwah protested.

"That's so, too," Hinpoha assented.

"Well, get them as big as you can swim in," said Migwan pacifically.

"Who's going to make them?" Sahwah wanted to know. "We haven't much time."

"Oh, just borrow Tiny Armstrong's regular ones," Migwan replied. "They'll look like Turkish bloomers on you."

"Won't she suspect what we're going to do if I borrow them?" Sahwah demurred.

"Nonsense! What could she suspect? She will know of course that you want them for the stunt, but she couldn't guess what for."

"We've got to have her other pair, too, for the person who is going to impersonate Tiny," Agony reminded Migwan.

"So we do," replied Migwan, making a note in her book. "And her stockings, too, those red and black ones. We're going to do that snake business over again. Somebody will have to get these without Tiny's knowing it, or she'll suspect about the snake. Who's in her tent?"

"We are," replied Katherine and Oh-Pshaw. "We'll manage to get them for you. Who's going to impersonate Tiny Armstrong?"

Migwan squinted her eyes in a calculating manner and surveyed the girls grouped around her. "It'll have to be Katherine, I guess," she finally announced. "She's the biggest of us all. But even she isn't nearly as big as Tiny," she added regretfully.

"Couldn't we put two of us together?" suggested Sahwah. "Carmen Chadwick is as light as a feather and she could get up on Katherin's shoulders as easy as not."

"But we need Katherine to impersonate the Lone Wolf. She's the only one who can do it well," objected Migwan. "Somebody else will have to be the bottom half of Tiny. Hinpoha, you'll do for that part. Gladys, you'll be Pom-pom, of course. There, that's three councilors taken care of. As soon as your parts are assigned will you please step over to that side, girls. Then I can see what I have left. Now, who'll be Miss Peckham?"

There was a silence, and all the eligibles looked at one another doubtfully. Nobody quite dared impersonate Miss Peckham--and nobody wanted to, for that matter.

"Jo?" Migwan began hesitatingly. "You're such a good mimic--no--" she broke off decidely, "you have to be Dr. Grayson, of course, because you can play men's parts so beautifully."

She looked from one to the other inquiringly. Her eye fell upon Bengal Virden. "Bengal, dear--"

Bengal looked up with a jerk and a grimace of distaste. "I wouldn't be Pecky for a thousand dollars," she declared flatly. "I hate her, I tell you." Then something seemed to occur to her, and a mischievous twinkle came into her eyes. "Oh, I'll be her," she exclaimed, throwing grammar to the winds in her eagerness. "Please let me. I want to be, I want to be."

"All right," said Migwan relievedly, putting the entry down in her notebook and proceeding with the assignment of parts. But Agony, having seen the mischievous gleam that came into Bengal's eyes when she so suddenly changed her mind about impersonating Miss Peckham, wondered as to its meaning.

She called Bengal to come aside with her, and Bengal, enraptured at being noticed by her divinity, trotted after her like a delighted Newfoundland puppy, bestowing clumsy caresses upon her as they proceeded.

"Oh, I've got the best joke on Pecky!" she gurgled, before Agony had had a chance to broach the subject herself.

"Yes?" said Agony.

"Did you know," confided Bengal, with a fresh burst of giggles, "that Pecky shaves?"

Then, as Agony gave a little incredulous exclamation, she hastened on. "Really she does, her whole chin, with a razor, every morning. I found it out a couple of days ago. I guess she'd have a regular beard if she didn't. You've noticed how kind of hairy her chin is, haven't you? I found a little safety razor among her things one day--"

"Bengal! You weren't rummaging among her things, were you?"

"No, of course not. But once when we were all up in the bungalow she found that she'd forgotten her watch, and sent me back to get it out of her bathrobe pocket, and there was a little safety razor in where the watch was. I didn't think anything about it then, but after that I noticed that she always went off by herself in the woods. While the rest of us went for morning dip. Yesterday I followed her and saw what she did. She shaved her chin with that safety razor. Oh, won't it be great fun when I do that in the stunt? Won't she be hopping mad, though!" Bengal hopped up and down and chortled with anticipatory glee.

"Bengal!" said Agony firmly, "don't you dare do anything like that? Don't you know that it's terribly bad taste to make fun of people's personal blemishes?"

"But she deserves it," Bengal persisted, still chuckling. "She's such a prune."

"That has nothing whatever to do with the matter," Agony replied sternly. "Do you want to ruin our stunt for us? That's what will happen if you do anything as ill-bred as that. It would take away every chance we have of winning the prize."

"Well, if you say I shouldn't do it I won't," said Bengal rather sulkily. "But wouldn't it have been the best joke!" she added regretfully.

"Bengal," Agony continued, realizing that even if Bengal could be suppressed as far as the stunt went, she would still have plenty of opportunity for making life miserable for Miss Peckham now that she had learned her embarrassing secret, "you won't mention this to any of the other girls, will you? You see, it must be very embarrassing for Miss Peckham to have to do that, and naturally she would feel highly uncomfortable if the camp found it out. You see, you found it out by accident; she didn't tell you of her own free will, so you have no right to tell it any further. A girl with a nice sense of honor would never think of telling anything she found out in that way, when she knew it would cause embarrassment if told. So you'll give me your promise, won't you, Bengal dear, that you will never mention this matter to anybody around camp?"

Bengal flushed and looked down, maintaining an obstinate silence.

"Please, won't you, Bengal dear?" coaxed Agony in her most irresistible manner. "Will you do it for me if you won't do it for Miss Peckham?"

Bengal could not hold out against the coaxing of her adored one, but she still hesitated, bargaining her promise for a reward. "If you'll let me wear your ring for the rest of the summer, and come and kiss me goodnight every night after I'm in bed--"

"All right," Agony agreed hastily, with a sigh of resignation for this departure from her fixed principles regarding the lending of jewelry and about promiscuous demonstrations of affection, but peace in camp was worth the price.

Bengal claimed the ring at once, and then, after pawing Agony over like a bear cub, said a little shamefacedly, "I wish I were as good as you are. You're so honorable. How do you get such a 'nice sense of honor' as you have? I think I'd like to have one."

"Such a nice sense of honor as you have!" Agony jerked up as though she had been jabbed with a red hot needle. "Such a nice sense of honor as you have!" The words lingered in her ears like a mocking echo. The smile faded from her lips; her arm stiffened and dropped from Bengal's shoulder. The frank admiration in the younger girl's eyes cut her to the quick. With a haggard look she turned away from Bengal and wandered away to the other part of the island, away from the girls. Just now she could not bear to hear their gay, carefree voices. What would she not give, she thought to herself, to have nothing on her mind. She even envied rabbit-brained little Carmen Chadwick, who, if she had nothing in her head, had nothing on her conscience either.

"Who am I to talk of a 'nice sense of honor' to Bengal Virden?" she thought miserably. "I'm a whole lot worse than she. She's only a mischievous child, and doesn't know any better, but I do. I'm no better than Jane Pratt, either, even though I told Mrs. Grayson about her going out at night with boys from Camp Altamont." This matter of Jane Pratt had tormented Agony without ceasing. True to her contemptuous attitude toward Agony's plea that she break bonds no more, she had refused to tell Mrs. Grayson about her nocturnal canoe rides and thus had forced Agony to make good her threat and tell Mrs. Grayson herself. She had hoped and prayed that Jane would take the better course and confess her own wrong doing, but Jane did nothing of the kind, and there was only one course open to Agony. It was the rule of the camp that anyone seeing another breaking the rules must first give the offender the opportunity to confess, and if that failed must report the matter herself to the Doctor or Mrs. Grayson. So Agony was obliged to tell Mrs. Grayson that Jane was breaking the rules by slipping out nights and setting a bad example to the younger girls if any of them knew about it.

The matter caused more of a stir than Agony had expected, and much more than she had wished for. Dr. Grayson prided himself upon the high standard of conduct which was maintained at his camp, and he knew that the mothers of his girls gave their daughters into his keeping with implicit faith that they would meet with no harmful influences while they were at Camp Keewaydin. If a rumor should ever get about that the girls from his camp went out in canoes after hours Keewaydin's reputation would suffer considerably. Dr. Grayson was outraged and thoroughly angry. He decided at once that Jane should be sent home in disgrace. That very day, however, Mrs. Grayson had received a letter saying that Jane's mother was quite ill in a sanatarium and that all upsetting news was being carefully kept away from her. She particularly desired that Jane should not come home, as there was no place for her to stay, and she was so much better taken care of in camp than she would be in a large city with no one to look after her. It was this letter that brought about a three-hour conference between the Doctor and Mrs. Grayson. Dr. Grayson was firm about sending Jane home in disgrace; Mrs. Grayson, filled with concern about her well loved friend, could not bear to risk upsetting her at this critical time by turning loose her unruly daughter. In the end Mrs. Grayson won her point, and Jane was allowed to stay in camp, but she was deprived of all canoe privileges for the remainder of the summer and forbidden to go on any of the trips with the camp. She was taken away from the easy-going, sound-sleeping councilor whose chaperonage she had succeeded in eluding, and placed in a tent with Mrs. Grayson herself. Dr. Grayson called the whole camp together in council and explained the matter to the girls, dwelling upon the dishonorableness of breaking rules, and when he finished his talk there was small danger that even the smallest rule would be broken again during the summer. The sight of Jane Pratt called out in public to be censured was not one to be soon forgotten. Agony was commended by the Doctor for her firm stand in the matter, and praised because she did not take the easier course of remaining silent about it and running the risk of letting the reputation of the camp suffer.

Since then Jane, though somewhat subdued, had treated Agony with such marked animosity of manner that Agony hardly dared look at her. Added to her natural embarrassment at having been the in-former--a role which no one ever really enjoys--was the matter which lay like lead on Agony's own conscience and which tortured her out of all proportion to its real significance.

"Pretender!" the whole world seemed to shriek at her wherever she went.

Thus, although Agony apparently was throwing herself heart and soul into the preparations for Stunt Night, her mind was not on it half of the time and at times she was hardly conscious of the bustle and excitement around her.

These last three days the camp were as a house divided against itself, as far as the Avenue and the Alley were concerned. Such a gathering of groups into corners, such whispering and giggling, such sudden scattering at the approach of one from the other side! Sahwah spent two whole afternoons over on the far side of Whaleback, rehearsing her shipwreck, while the rest of the Alleyites worked up their parts on shore, trying to imitate the voices and characteristics of the various councilors. All went fairly well except the combination Tiny Armstrong. Carmen Chadwick, on top of Hinpoha, and draped up in Tiny's clothes, made a truly imposing figure that drew involuntary applause from the rest of the cast, but when Tiny spoke, the weak, piping voice that issued from the gigantic figure promptly threw them all into hysterics. The real Tiny's voice was as deep and resonant as a fog horn.

"That'll never do!" gasped Migwan through her tears of merriment. "That doesn't sound any more like Tiny than a chipping sparrow sounds like a lion. We'll have to get somebody with a deeper voice for the upper half of Tiny."

"But there isn't anybody else as light as Carmen," Hinpoha protested, "and I can't carry anybody that's any heavier."

Migwan wrinkled her brows and considered the matter.

"Oh, leave it the way it is," proposed Jo Severance. "They'll never notice a little thing like that."

"Yes, they will too," Gladys declared. "Anyway, you can't hear what Carmen says, and we want the folks to hear Tiny's speech, because it's so funny."

"But what are we going to do about it?" asked Migwan in perplexity.

"I know," said Katherine, rising to the occasion, as usual, "let the other half of Tiny do the talking. Hinpoha can make her voice quite deep and loud. It doesn't make any difference which half of Tiny talks, as long as the people hear it."

"Just the thing!" exclaimed Migwan delightedly. "Katherine, that head of yours will make your fortune yet. All right, Hinpoha, you speak Tiny's lines."

Hinpoha complied, and the effect of her voice coming apparently from beneath Tiny's ribs, while Tiny's mouth up above remained closed, was a great deal funnier than the first way.

"Never mind," said Migwan firmly, while the rest wept with laughter on each other's shoulders, "it sounds more like Tiny than the other way. You might stand with your back turned while you talk if Sinbad can't keep his face straight when he looks at you. You'd all better practice keeping your faces straight though. Katherine, you won't forget to get that gaudy blanket off the Lone Wolf's bed, will you?"

Migwan, her classic forehead streaked with perspiration and red color from the notebook in her hands, directed the rehearsal of her production all through the hot afternoon, until the lengthening shadows on the island warned them that is was time to get back to camp and prepare for the real performance. The stunts were to begin at six-thirty, and would be held in the open space in front of Mateka, overlooking the river. The Avenue's stunt was to go on first, as the long end had fallen to them in the drawing of the cuts.

There was a great scurrying around after props after the Alleyites came back from the Island after that last rehearsal. Migwan, checking up her list, was constantly coming upon things that had been forgotten.

"Did somebody get Tiny Armstrong's red striped stockings?" she asked anxiously.

Nobody had remembered to get them. Katherine departed forthwith in quest of the necessary hosiery and found one of the stockings hanging out on the tent rope. The other was not in evidence. She was about to depart quietly without going into the tent, for one stocking was all that she needed, when a toothbrush suddenly whizzed past her ear, coming from the tent door. Laughing, she turned and went into the tent, first hastily concealing Tony's stocking in the front of her middy.

The flinger of the toothbrush turned out to be Tiny herself, who was sitting up in bed with her nightgown on.

"What's the matter, Tiny?" Katherine asked solicitously. "Are you sick? Aren't you going to get up to see the Stunts?"

"Get up!" shouted Tiny wrathfully. "I can't get up--I haven't any clothes."

"No clothes?" murmured Katherine in a puzzled tone.

"Everything's gone," continued Tiny plaintively, "bloomers, middies, shoes, stockings, hat, everything. Somebody has taken and hidden them for a joke, I suppose. I went to sleep here this afternoon, and when I woke up everything was gone."

Katherine suddenly grew very non-committal, although she wanted to shriek with laughter. Oh-Pshaw, who had been sent after a suit of Tiny's that afternoon, had apparently made a pretty thorough job of it.

"Somebody must be playing a joke on you," Katherine remarked tranquilly, although she was conscious of the lump that Tiny's one remaining stocking made under her middy. "Never mind. Tiny, I'll go out and borrow some things for you to wear."

"But there's nothing of anybody's here that I can get into," mourned Tiny. "I'm four sizes bigger than the biggest of you. You'll have to find out who's hidden my things and bring them back."

Katherine was touched by Tiny's predicament, but the stunt had first claim on her. She came back presently with Tiny's bathing suit, which she had hanging on a nearby tree, and a long raincoat of Dr. Grayson's, together with his tennis shoes. She even had to beg a pair of his socks from Mrs. Grayson, for all of Tiny's that had not been borrowed were away at the laundry. And in that collection of clothes Tiny had to go and sit in the Judges' box at the Stunts, but her good nature was not ruffled one whit on account of it.

Katherine was still getting Tiny into her improvised wardrobe when a loud hubbub proclaimed the arrival of the boys from Camp Altamont, and at the same time the bugle sounded the assembly call for the girls. The Alleyites, bursting with impatience for the time of their own stunt to arrive, settled themselves in their places to watch the Avenue stunt. The bugle sounded again, and the chairman of the Avenue stunt stood up.

"Our stunt tonight," she announced, "tells a hitherto unpublished one of Gulliver's Travels, namely, his voyage to the Land of the Keewaydins."

The Alley sat up with one convulsive jerk. "Gulliver's Travels!" That sounded nearly like their own idea.

Then the stunt proceeded, beginning with Gulliver wrecked on the shore of the Land of the Keewaydins. Undine Girelle was Gulliver, and her shipwreck was trully a thrilling one. She finally landed, spent with swimming, on the shore, and was taken in hand by the friendly Keewaydins, who proceeded to show him their customs. The Alley gradually turned to stone as they saw practically the very same things they were planning to do, being performed before their eyes by the Avenue. There was Miss Peckham and the stocking-snake (that explained to Katherine why she had only been able to find one of Tiny's red and black stockings); there was Tiny herself, and made out of two girls, just as they were going to do it! There was Dr. Grayson, there were all the other councilors; there was a burlesque on camp life almost exactly as they had planned to do it!

The boys and the councilors applauded wildly, but the Alleyites, too surprised and taken back to be appreciative, merely looked at each other in mute consternation.

"Somebody gave away our secret!" was the first indignant thought that flashed into the minds of the Alleyites, but the utter astonishment of the Avenue when the Alley said that their stunt was practically the same, soon convinced them that the whole thing was a mere co-incidence.

"It's a wonder I didn't suspect anything when I found that all of Tiny's clothes were gone," said Katherine. "That should have told me that someone else was impersonating her."

The Alley at first declined to put on their stunt, since it was so nearly the same as the other, but the audience refused to let them off, insisting that they had come to see two stunts, and they were going to see two, even if they were alike.

"We can still judge which is the best," said Dr. Grayson. "In fact, it is an unusual opportunity. Usually the stunts are so different that it is hard to tell which is the better, but having two performances on the same subject gives a rare chance to consider the fine points."

So the Alley went ahead with their stunt just as if nothing out of the way had occurred, and the judges applauded them just as wildly as they had the others. In the end, the honors had to be evenly divided between the two, for the judges declared that one was just as good as the other and it was impossible to decide between them.

"And we were so dead sure that the Avenue would never be able to think up anything nearly as clever as ours," remarked Sahwah ruefully, as she prepared for bed that night.

"I'm beginning to come to the conclusion," replied Hinpoha with a sleepy yawn, "that it isn't safe to be too sure of anything. You never can tell from the outside of people what they are likely to have inside of them."

"No, you can't" echoed Agony soberly.