The first college eight went off to
Gillings, and, as it was only a few miles by rail,
half the student body, at least, went to root for the
crew. The Ardmore boat was beaten.
“Oh, dear! To come home
plucked in such a disgusting way,” groaned Helen,
who, with Jennie, as well as Ruth, was among the disgruntled
and disappointed girls who had gone to see the race.
“It is awful.”
“It’s taught them a lesson,
I wager,” Ruth said practically. “We
have all been rowing in still water. The river
at Gillings is rough, and the local eight was used
to it. I say, girls!”
“Say it,” said Jennie,
gruffly. “It can’t be anything that
will hurt us after what we’ve seen to-day.
Three whole boatlengths ahead!”
“Never mind,” broke in
Helen. “The races with Hampton and Beardsley
will be on our own lake.”
“And if there is a flutter of
wind, our first eight will be beaten again,”
from Jennie Stone.
“No, no, girls!” Ruth
cried. “I heard the coach tell them that
hereafter she was going to make them row if there
was a hurricane. And that’s what we
“Who must do, Ruthie? What do you
mean?” asked Helen.
“The freshman eight.”
“E-lu-ci-date,” drawled Jennie.
“We must learn to handle our
shell in rough water. If there is a breath of
wind stirring we mustn’t beat it to land,”
said Ruth, vigorously. “Let’s learn
to handle our shell in really rough water.”
“Sounds reasonable,” admitted
Jennie. “Shall we all take out accident
“No. All learn to swim.
That’s the wisest course,” laughed Ruth.
“Ain’t it the trewth?”
agreed Jennie, making a face. “I’m
not much of a swimmest in fresh water. But I
never could sink.”
The freshmen with the chums in the
eight-oared shell proved to be all fair swimmers.
And that crew was not the only one that redoubled its
practice after the disastrous race at Gillings College.
Each class crew did its very best.
The coaches were extremely stern with the girls.
Ardmore had a reputation for turning out champion crews,
and the year before, on their own water, the Ardmore
eight had beaten Gillings emphatically.
“But if we can
win races only on our own course,” The Jasper,
Ardmore College paper
declared, “what is the use of supporting an
and four perfectly useless crews?”
They had all been so sure of victory
over Gillings both the student body and
the faculty that the disgrace of their beating
cut all the deeper.
“It is fortunate,” said
the same stern commenter, “that our races with
Hampton, and again with Beardsley, will be on Lake
Remona. At least, our crew knows the water
here on a perfectly calm day, at any
“I see Merry Dexter’s
fine Italian hand in that,” Ruth declared,
when she and her chums read the criticism of the chief
college eight. “And if it is true of the
senior shell, how much more so of our own? We
must be ready to risk a little something for the sake
of pulling a good race.”
“Goodness!” murmured Helen.
“When we’re away off there in the middle
of the course between the landing and Bliss Island,
for instance, and a squall threatens, it is going
to take pluck, my dear, to keep us all steady.”
“I tell you what!” exclaimed Jennie Stone.
“Tell it, if you’re sure it won’t
hurt us,” laughed Helen.
“Let’s get the coach to
have us circle the island when we’re out in
practice. It’s always a little rough off
both ends of Bliss Island, and we should get used
to rough water before our final home races.”
For, before the season was over, the
four Ardmore eights would compete, and that race was
the one which the three under-classes particularly
Jennie’s suggestion sounded
practical to her chums; so there were three already
agreed when it was broached to the freshmen eight.
The coach thought well of it, too; for there was always
a motor boat supposed to be in sight of the shells
when they were out at practice.
This was in April, and, in Ardmore’s
latitude, a very uncertain month April is a
time of showers and smiles, calms and uncertain gales.
Nevertheless, so thoroughly were the freshmen eight
devoted to practice that it had to be a pretty black
looking afternoon, indeed, that kept them from stepping
into their boat.
The boatkeeper was a weather-wise
old man, who had guarded the Ardmore girls against
disaster on the lake for a decade. Being so well
used to reading the signs he never let the boats out
when he considered the weather threatening in any
One afternoon, when there had been
a call passed for the freshmen eight to gather at
the boathouse immediately after recitations, Johnnie,
as the boatman was called, had been called away from
his post. Only a green assistant was there to
look after the boats, and he was much too bashful
to “look after the girls,” as Jennie, giggling,
“I don’t see why they
don’t put blinders on that young man,”
she said. “Whenever he has to look at one
of us girls his freckles light up as though there
was an electric bulb behind each individual one.”
“Oh, Heavy! Behave!”
murmured Helen, yet amused, too, by the bashfulness
of the assistant.
“We are a sight, I admit,”
went on Jennie. “Everything in the shell,
girls? Now! up with it. Come on, little Trix,”
she added to the coxswain. “Don’t
get your tiller-lines snarled, and bring your ‘nose-warmer’” by
which inelegant term she referred to the megaphone
which, when they were really trying for speed was strapped
to the coxswain’s head.
The eight oarswomen picked the light
shell up, shoulder high, and marched down the platform
to the float. Taking their cue from the tam-o’-shanters
the seniors had made them wear early in their college
experience, the freshmen eight wore light blue bandannas
wound around their heads, with the corners sticking
up like rabbit-ears, blue blouses, short skirts over
bloomers, and blue stockings with white shoes.
Their appearance was exceedingly natty.
“If we don’t win in the
races, we’ll be worth looking at,” Helen
once said pridefully.
The assistant boatkeeper remained
at a distance and said not a word to them, although
there was a bank of black cloud upon the western horizon
into which the sun would plunge after a time.
“We’re the first out,”
cried one of the girls. “There isn’t
another boat on the lake.”
“Wrong, Sally,” Ruth Fielding
said. “I just saw a boat disappear behind
“Not one of ours?”
cried Jennie, looking about as they lowered the shell
into the water.
“No. It was a skiff.
Came from the other side, I guess. Or perhaps
it came up the river from the railroad bridge.”
“Now,” said Trix Davenport,
the coxswain, “are we going to ask that boy
to get out the launch and follow us?”
“Oh, goodness me! No,”
said Helen, with assurance. “We don’t
want him tagging us. Do we, girls?”
“Perhaps it might be better,” Ruth said
But the chorus of the other girls
cried her down. Besides, she did not believe
there was any danger. Of course, a rowing shell
is an uncertain thing; but she had never yet seen
an accident on the lake.
All stepped in, adjusted their oars,
and the coxswain pushed off. Having adjusted
the rudder-lines, Trix affixed the megaphone, and lifted
her hand. The eight strained forward, and the
coxswain began to beat time.
Ruth set the pace in a long, swinging
stroke, and the other seven fell into time. The
shell shot out from the landing just as the coach
appeared around the corner of Dare Hall, on her way
down from the gymnasium. She gave one glance
at the sky, and then started to run.
“Those foolish girls!” she exclaimed.
The freshman eight was far out upon
the lake when she reached the boathouse, and she quickly
saw that the old boatkeeper was not in sight.
She tried to signal the crew of the shell to return;
but the girls in the frail craft were too interested
in their practice to look back toward the shore.
Indeed, in a very few minutes, they swept through the
slightly rough water at the eastern end of the island
and disappeared behind it. The coach, Miss Mallory,
beckoned the assistant boatman and ordered out the
launch. But there was something wrong with the
engine, and he lost some time before getting the craft
Meanwhile, the cloudbank was rolling
up from the west. The sun suddenly was quenched.
A breath of cold wind swept down the lake and fretted
the tiny waves. They sprang up in retaliation
and slapped the bow of the launch, which finally got
under its sputtering way.
Then a squall of wind swooped down
and Miss Mallory was almost swept off her feet.
The boatman steered carefully, but the engine was not
yet working in good fashion. The coach made a
mistake, too, in directing the launch. Instead
of starting directly up the lake, and rounding the
head of the island to meet the freshman shell, she
ordered the boatman to trail the boat that had disappeared.
The launch was some time in beating
around the lower end of the island.