Chapter XIV. Regatta Day
 

The long anticipated, the much practiced for Regatta Day had dawned, bringing with it crowds of visitors to Camp. It was Camp Keewaydin's great day, when the Avenue and the Alley struggled for supremacy in aquatics. The program consisted of contests in swimming and diving, canoe upsetting and righting, demonstrations of rescue work, stunts and small canoe races, and ended up with a race between the two war canoes. Visitors came from all the summer resorts around, and many of the girls' parents and friends came to see their daughters perform.

The dock and the diving platform were gay with flags; the tents had been tidied up to wax-like neatness and decorated with wild flowers until they looked like so many royal bowers; in Mateka an exhibition of Craft Work was laid out on the long tables--pottery and silver work and weaving and decorating. Hinpoha's rose jar, done with infinite pains and patience after its unfortunate meeting with Cousin Egmont, held the place of honor in the centre of the pottery table, and her silver candlesticks, done in an exquisite design of dogwood blossoms, was the most conspicuous piece on the jewelry table.

"Hinpoha'll get the Craft Work prize, without any doubt," said Migwan to Agony as they stood helping to arrange the articles in the Craft Work exhibit. "She's a real artist. The rest of us are just dabblers. It's queer, though, I admire that little plain pottery bowl I made myself more than I do Hinpoha's wonderful rose jar. I suppose it's because I made it all myself; it's like my own child. There's a thrill about doing things yourself that makes you hold your head higher even if other people don't think it's anything very wonderful. Don't you feel that way, Agony?"

"I suppose so," murmured Agony, rather absently, her animation falling away from her in an instant, and a weary look creeping into her eyes.

"That's the way you must feel all the time since you did that splendid thing," continued Migwan warmly. "No matter where you are, or how hard a thing you're up against, you have only to think, 'I was equal to a great emergency once; I did the brave and splendid thing when the time came,' and then you'll be equal to it again. O, how wonderful it must be to know that when the time comes you won't be a coward! O Agony, we're all so proud of you!" cried Migwan, interrupting herself to give Agony an adoring hug. "All the Winnebagos will be braver and better because you did that, Agony. They'll be ashamed to be any less than you are."

"It wasn't anything much that--I did," Agony protested in a flat voice.

Migwan, busy straightening out the rows of bracelets and rings, did not notice the hunted expression in Agony's face, and soon the bugle sounded, calling all the girls together on the dock.

Only those who have ever taken part in Regatta Day will get the real thrill when reading an account of it in cold print--the thrill which comes from seeing dozens of motor boats filled with spectators lined up on the river, and crowds standing on the shore; the sun shining in dazzling splendor on the ripples; the flags snapping in the breeze, the starters with their pistols standing out on the end of the dock, the canoes rocking alongside, straining at their ropes as if impatient to be off in the races; the crews, in their new uniforms, standing nervously around their captains, getting their last instructions and examining their paddles for any possible cracks; the councilors rushing around preparing the props for the stunts they were directing; and over all a universal atmosphere of suspense, of tenseness, of excitement.

The Alleys wore bright red bathing caps, the Avenues blue; otherwise they wore the regulation Camp bathing suits, all alike. First on the program came the demonstrations--canoe tipping, rescuing a drowning person, resuscitation. Sahwah won the canoe tipping contest, getting her canoe righted in one minute less time than it took Undine Girelle, so the first score went to the Alley. The Avenue had a speedy revenge, however, for Undine took first honors in the diving exhibition which followed immediately after. Even the Winnebagos, disappointed as they were that Sahwah had not won out, admitted that Undine's performance was unequalled, and joined heartily in the cheers that greeted the announcement of her winning. In the smaller contests the Avenue and the Alley were pretty well matched, and at the end of the swimming and small canoe races the score was tied between them. This left the war canoe race, which counted ten points, to decide the championship.

A round of applause greeted the two crews as they marched out on the dock to the music of the Camp band and took their places in the war canoes. Sahwah was Captain of the Dolphins, the Alley crew; Undine commanded the Avenue Turtles. Agony was stern paddler of the Dolphin, the most important position next to the Captain. Prominence had come to her in many ways since she had become the camp heroine; positions of trust and honor fell to her thick and fast without her making any special efforts to get them. If nothing succeeds like success it is equally true that nothing brings honor like honor already achieved. To her who hath shall be given.

Besides Sahwah and Agony the Dolphin crew consisted of Hinpoha, Migwan, Gladys, Katherine, Jo Severance, Jean Lawrence, Bengal Virden, Oh-Pshaw, and two girls from Aloha, Edith Anderson and Jerry Mortimer, a crew picked after severe tests which eliminated all but the most expert paddlers. That the Winnebagos had all passed the test was a matter of considerable pride to them, and also to Nyoda, to whom they had promptly written the good news.

"I am not surprised, though," she had written in return. "I am never surprised at anything my girls accomplish. I always expect you to do things--and you do them."

Quickly the two Captains brought their canoes out to the starting line and sat waiting for the shot from the starter's pistol. The command "Paddles Up!" had been given, and twenty-four broad yellow blades were poised stiffly in air, ready for the plunge into the shining water below. A hush fell upon the watching crowd; the silence was so intense that the song of a bird on the roof of Mateka could be plainly heard. A smile came to Sahwah's lips as she heard the joyous thrill of the bird. An omen of victory, she said to herself.

Then the pistol cracked. Almost simultaneously with its report came her clear command, "Down paddles!" Twelve paddles dipped as one and the Dolphin shot forward a good five feet on the very first stroke. The race was on.

The course was from the dock to Whaleback Island, around the Island and back to the starting point.

Until the Island was reached the canoes kept practically abreast, now one forging a few inches ahead, now the other, but always evening up the difference before long. As the pull toward Whaleback was downstream both crews made magnificent speed with apparently little effort. The real struggle lay in rounding the Island and making the return pull upstream. The Dolphin had the inside track, a fact which at first caused her crew to exult, because of the shorter turn, but they soon found that the advantage gained in this way was practically offset by the force of the current close to the Island, which made it difficult for the boat to keep in her course. It took all of Agony's skill as stern paddler to swing the Dolphin around and keep her out of the current. The two canoes were still abreast when they recovered from the turn and started back upstream. As they rounded the large pile of rocks which formed a bodyguard around Whaleback, the current caught the Dolphin and gave her a half turn back toward the Island. Agony bore quickly down on her paddle to offset the pull of the current; it struck an unexpected rock underneath the surface and twisted itself out of her hands. In a moment the current had caught it and whirled it out of reach. Only an instant did Agony waste looking after it in consternation.

"Give me your paddle," she said quickly to Bengal Virden, who sat in front of her, and took it out of her hand without ceremony.

The Dolphin righted herself without any further trouble and came out into the straight upstream course only a little behind the Turtle. Then the real race began.

In a few moments the Turtle had forged ahead, and it soon became apparent that the Dolphin, carrying one member of the crew who was not paddling, could not hope to keep up.

"Bengal," megaphoned Sahwah, taking in the situation at a glance, "you'll have to get out. You're dead weight. Jump and swim back to the island. The water isn't deep here."

Bengal refused. "I want to stay in the race."

Sahwah gave a disgusted snort into the megaphone. Agony cast herself into the breach and made use of Bengal's crush on her for the sake of the Alley cause. "If you do it, Bengal, I'll come and sleep with you all the rest of the time we're in camp."

Bengal rose to the bait. "I'll do it for you," she said adoringly, and promptly jumped out of the canoe and swam back the short distance to the Island where she was soon picked up by one of the visiting launches and carried to the sidelines.

Relieved of Bengal's weight, which had been considerable, the Dolphin quickly recovered herself and caught up with the Turtle; then slowly worked into the lead. She did not lose the lead again, but came under the line a good three feet ahead of the Turtle. The long anticipated struggle was over and the Alley was the victor.

The rest of the Alley rushed down upon the dock and dragged the victorious crew up out of the Dolphin as she came up alongside of the dock, and lifting them to their shoulders carried them to shore in a triumphal procession, with waving banners, and ear splitting cheers, and songs which excess of emotion rendered slightly off key. Bengal was brought over and given a separate ovation for having so nobly sacrificed herself for the cause of the Alley; Agony also came in for a great deal of extra cheering because she had acted so promptly when she lost her paddle, and Sahwah--well, Sahwah was the Captain, and when did the Captain of a victorious crew ever suffer neglect from the side he represented?

Until Taps sounded that night the Alley celebrated its victory, and the last thing they did for joy was to carry all the beds out of the tents and set them in one long row in the Alley, and when Miss Judy went the last rounds there they lay, all linked together arm in arm, smiling one long smile which reached from one end of the Alley to the other.