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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 22. Mollie Wins
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The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 22. Mollie Wins Post by :joebiff Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1942

Click below to download : The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 22. Mollie Wins (Format : PDF)

The Outdoor Girls On Pine Island - Chapter 22. Mollie Wins

CHAPTER XXII. MOLLIE WINS

The Outdoor Girls found the boys waiting for them, and evidently as eager as the girls to begin the race.

"Well, it didn't take you very long," Frank remarked; for the boys had never ceased to marvel that girls could be on time.

"What point do you start from?" asked Conway, as they started off together. "How long is the race, anyway?" he added.

"Well," said Allen, electing himself spokesman, "we decided on a starting point about a quarter of a mile from here. You see, from a sharp turn there, there is, for about three-quarters of a mile, a course almost straight. So, you see, that makes a fairly good course."

"I should say so," Conway commented. "Why didn't you say something about it to the folks over at the hotel--you'd have had considerable of a crowd for an audience."

"Oh, we didn't want it," cried Amy, shrinking from the very mention of such a thing. "I couldn't swim at all if I thought anybody was looking at me."

"Don't you make any exceptions?" asked Anita, twinkling. "Con and I don't feel like going home just yet, and Mrs. Irving has elected to be audience instead of actor."

"Oh, of course I didn't mean you!" Amy exclaimed, embarrassed at the slip. "I don't mean one or two----"

"Of course you don't," said Anita remorsefully. "I only wish I could go in with you."

They soon reached the bend of the river which Allen had indicated, the girls growing more nervous with every step.

"I tell you what you can do," said Allen, struck by a sudden thought. "You and your sister can be the judges. In case there are any ties--although, of course such a thing is improbable"--the girls refused to become indignant at this shot--"we'll need somebody to settle our dispute, and Mrs. Irving has flatly refused to interfere before this."

"All right, that will be fine--provided everybody agrees to abide by our decision. You see, we are absolutely neutral."

"Oh, we won't kick at anything you say," Frank promised. "There is not much I can say for this crowd. But one thing--we are good sports. All in favor of Allen's proposition say 'Aye.'"

The vote was carried unanimously, and the newly made judges were instructed by Will to "trot along to the finishing point" and wait till they saw him leading the van. Then they would know who had won the race. There was an ironic shout at this assertion and Conway's laugh came back to them as he and his sister started to obey orders.

"Well, now, is everybody ready?" Roy asked, surveying the group critically. "Suppose you girls get started. We won't jump in until one of you gets well past that jut in the shore--then it's our time to show a little speed."

"All right, we are ready," said Mollie. "Frank, when you say the word we'll start."

The girls lined up with beating hearts, waiting for the word that would relieve their taut muscles.

"One--two--three--_go_!" Frank counted, and the Outdoor Girls made a running dive into the water, which was deep at this point, and struck out strongly for the goal.

"Those girls sure can swim some," was Will's admiring comment.

"For girls," grunted Roy.

"Get ready now, fellows," commanded Allen. "They've almost reached the point."

"I think we gave them too big a handicap," said Frank doubtfully. "They swim like fish."

"You old croaker!" Will exclaimed. "Why, we ought to be able to beat them with twice that handicap."

"Look out, Mollie has reached the point, fellows!" Allen shouted. "Now's the time!"

Without more ado, the boys struck out bravely, determined to overtake the girls in the shortest time possible. They found it was not so easy, however, as might have been anticipated. The girls had had a big advantage and were still swimming strongly. Will and Roy began to agree with Frank that they had given them too long a handicap.

On the other hand, the girls were not so confident. The strain was beginning to tell even upon their tried young muscles. Their breath was becoming labored and the goal seemed terribly far away.

Mollie and Betty had fallen a short distance behind the other two. They had felt the tax the speed was making on their strength, and had decided wisely to save the rest of it until it was more needed then at the present.

Naturally Amy and Grace thought their friends were giving up and marveled at it. How on earth could they have lost out so soon? Had they been more versed in races they could have answered that question themselves.

Meanwhile the boys, pulling hard, had managed to make up half the distance between them and the girls, and in sight of Betty's and Mollie's evident weariness their hopes soared high. Why, with these last two out of the running the race was as good as won.

On, on they came, hand over hand, stroke following stroke, rhythmic and strong and confident.

Betty looked at Mollie and Mollie looked at Betty, and each knew she had discovered the other's secret and at the same time recognized a rival.

Amy had come to the limit of her strength with the goal an eighth of a mile away. She knew that for her the race was over. The waters pushed her back, forced her back, seeming like some pitiless enemy bent upon her downfall.

And what of Grace? She would not acknowledge to herself that her strength was leaving her--why, she had swum as far as that many a time before--it was absurd that she should give up now. Besides, she was leading them all. With this thought she put the remainder of her waning strength into a few last desperate strokes.

Meanwhile, the boys had caught up with Mollie, and seeing this she quickened her stroke, forging ahead again. But Betty kept the same calm, steady stroke which had so deceived the boys--and the girls, too, for that matter, with the exception of Mollie.

On, on they came--almost abreast now. The boys, tired from the long chase, were resting, gathering strength for the last spurt.

The finish line had been very conveniently marked by a slender tree which had evidently been torn down in some terrific storm and now lay half on the shore and half upon the water. This, then, was their goal.

Conway was the first to see them coming. "Look, Nita!" he cried, seizing his sister's arm and drawing her to the edge of the water. "From the way they are all lined up I should judge this is nobody's race yet. That's the kind of a thing I enjoy--where there is occupation at the end. And look----"

"Look at Betty," cried Anita, interrupting him. "She can swim better than I can, and I thought I was pretty good." There was no conceit in this remark--it was simply a statement of fact.

Out on the water the girls and boys knew the time had come when they must show what was in them. Grace and Amy, with the discomfited Will, had fallen to the rear, and the race lay between the other five. Allen was leading, and the two young judges on the bank had just decided that either he or Frank would be the winner. Then it happened! The two girls gathered all their energy, that splendid reserve strength they had kept so well in check--summoned every ounce of vitality they had and gave it full rein.

Their muscles, trained to outdoor life, gallantly responded to the call. They passed first Frank, then Allen, who stared after them stupidly. You see, the boys were not believers in miracles. However, they rallied their reserved strength and shot ahead until they were even with the girls again.

The goal was close before them. Now, if ever, must come the last desperate spurt. Could they make it? They must! they must! The thought kept hammering itself over and over in the girls' consciousness. They were so near now--they couldn't lose--oh, they couldn't!

And the girls were right. Anita almost fell into the water in her excitement as the four swept on, swimming as though they had just touched the water.

"Mollie! Betty!" she cried. "Go it--for the cause!"

Whether this encouragement reached the ears it was intended for is doubtful. Suffice it to say, the girls followed her instructions to the letter.

Conway stretched forward eagerly as the swimmers rushed on toward the mark. Four hands closed over the fallen tree trunk almost at the same instant--but not quite. Mollie reached the goal a fraction of a second ahead--the race was hers.

As the dripping contestants drew themselves up upon the bank, Anita and Conway rushed forward eagerly. "Mollie had it!" they cried together, and Nita added:

"I don't see how you ever did it--it was the closest thing I ever saw."

For a few seconds the swimmers were too spent even to congratulate the winner. But when they did recover sufficient breath, they fairly overwhelmed her with praises. As Roy had said, "they were nothing if not sports."

"It was lucky you did have a judge, or, I should say judges." Conway glanced apologetically toward his sister. "Otherwise I don't believe anybody would have known which of you got there first. It was as near a tie as anything I have ever seen."

As the four lagging participants in the race came up to them, rather sore and disgruntled, the young folks delicately forbore to look in their direction and Frank covered their coming with a remark. "I don't know how you girls ever accomplished it--I thought you were done almost at the beginning. Tell us the secret."

Mollie and Betty looked at each other significantly. "That's our secret," said Betty. Then, springing to her feet, she cried: "Let's give three cheers for the winner of the race, Miss Mollie Billette!"

The cheers were given with a will that awoke the answering echoes on the island.

Mollie flushed gratefully. "Thank you," she said. "It was only luck anyway that I happened to touch the tree a second before the rest of you."

"Don't be modest, Mollie," Roy entreated. "You beat us all fairly--especially me," he added ruefully. They laughed and Betty added whimsically: "I thought I had you up to the last, Mollie. It wasn't fair to lead me on like that."

"Well, you sure know how to swim--all of you," Conway commented admiringly. "You must do a lot of it."

"Oh, we are at it a good deal of the time," Frank agreed carelessly. "And the girls--well, they have formed a club for all sorts of outdoor stunts. You see the results."

"Oh, isn't that great!" exclaimed Anita with genuine enthusiasm. "I love all those things, too. I wish I could belong to such a club."

"If you lived anywhere near Deepdale," said Betty warmly, "we should be very glad to have you join us."

Only too soon--for Anita and the Outdoor Girls had taken a great liking to one another--the former declared that it was time she and her big brother must be starting for home. "Dad and mother worry whenever I am out of their sight nowadays--even though Con is with me," she explained.

"Come again soon," Betty called after them.

"Will you have another race?" asked Anita.

"Yes, especially for your entertainment," laughed the Little Captain. "And we won't let Mollie win it either."

"All right, then, I'll come," Anita promised.

"Humph, we'll see about that," said Mollie, referring to Betty's last remark. "History often repeats itself, you know."

Allen sighed as they started homeward. "We won't be able to come anywhere near them now, fellows," he said. "They'll have suffrage banners hung all over the house."

The girls laughed, for after all they _had won through Mollie, and the taste of triumph was very sweet.

"Wasn't it grand!" cried Betty.

"The best ever!" returned Grace, as she popped a chocolate candy in her mouth.

"I'd like another such race," said Mollie, wistfully.

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