JACK AND THE TWINS RESCUE THE INJURED MAN.
“Sure! Been ready half an hour.”
“Wait a minute, Frank, till I tighten my skate strap,” cried Fred Rover, as he bent down to adjust the loosened bit of leather.
“Hurry up, Fred, we don’t want to stand here all day,” sang out his Cousin Andy gaily.
“That’s it! I want to win this race,” broke in Randy Rover, Andy’s twin brother.
“Now remember, the race is to be to the old white pine and back,” announced the starter. “Every contestant has got to touch the tree before he starts to come back; otherwise he’ll be counted out.”
“You ought to have a pistol to start us with,” came from Jack Rover.
“I guess my old locomotive whistle will do for that,” answered Frank Newberry. He paused to look at the line of skaters. “Now then, everybody on the job!” and a loud whistle rent the air.
Instantly there was a scurry of skates, and off the line started across Clearwater Lake to where a blasted pine tree reared its naked trunk against the skyline.
It was a Saturday afternoon in early winter, and the cadets of Colby Hall Military Academy were out in force to enjoy themselves on the smooth ice of the lake, near which the school was located. The cadets had been amusing themselves in various ways, playing tag and hockey, and in “snapping the whip,” as it is called, when Gif Garrison, at the head of the athletic association, had suggested a race.
“We might as well find out who is the best skater in the school,” Gif had said.
“Right you are,” had come from his particular chum, Spouter Powell. “Let us get up a race by all means.”
With so many cadets who could skate well, it was an easy matter to arrange for the contest. To make the matter more interesting, one of the Hall professors, Mr. Brice, said he would give some prizes to the pupils coming in first, second and third.
“I’ll give a fine book of adventures to the first cadet, and also books to the others,” Mr. Brice announced. He was still a young man, and in hearty sympathy with everything in the way of outdoor sports.
Among those to enter the contest were Jack Rover and his three cousins, Fred, Andy and Randy. All were provided with hockey skates, and each felt confident of making a good record for himself. Yet they all knew that the school boasted of some fine skaters, one lad in particular, Dan Soppinger, having won several contests on the ice in years gone by.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us!” cried Fred Rover, as he skated beside Jack.
“Save your wind, Fred,” answered his cousin briefly.
“Believe me, this is going to be some race!” came from Randy, who was on the other side of Jack, with his twin brother next to him.
“I don’t care who wins so long as I’m not last,” responded his twin merrily.
Over twenty cadets had started in the contest, and soon the line, which had been fairly even for a few seconds after the whistle had sounded, began to take on a straggly appearance, as some skaters forged ahead and others fell behind.
“Don’t give up! Everybody keep in the race until the finish!” cried Professor Brice encouragingly. “Remember, a race isn’t over until the end is reached.”
Thus encouraged, those who were in the rear did their best to overtake those ahead. But gradually the skaters divided into three groups; eight in the lead, six but a short distance behind them, and the others several yards further to the rear.
In the front group were Jack and his cousin Randy, while Fred and Andy were less than ten feet behind.
The distance across Clearwater Lake was about half a mile, but the blasted pine tree was located some distance down the shore, so that the race would be close to a mile and a half in length.
Spouter Powell was in the lead when the first group of skaters came up to the pine tree. Dan Soppinger was close behind him, with Jack and Randy following. Behind Randy came Walt Baxter, another cadet who skated remarkably well. The others of the first group were gradually dropping back to the second contingent. Spouter Powell touched the tree with his finger tips, and was followed almost immediately by Dan Soppinger. As they turned to go back to the starting point, they were followed by Jack and Randy.
“Hi, you fellows! what do you mean by skating so quick?” piped out Andy Rover gaily.
“We’ll leave the tree to you, Andy!” shouted his twin.
“I don’t think we’ll win, but, anyway, we won’t be last,” came from Fred, as he and Andy touched the tree.
“Well, we can’t have everything in this world,” was the philosophic reply from the other Rover boy.
It could be seen that the race had now narrowed down to the five who were in the lead. Of these, Spouter Powell and Dan Soppinger were less than two feet apart, while only a yard to the rear came Jack, Randy and Walt Baxter.
“Go it, Randy!” sang out Andy, as he dropped still further behind. “Go it! I know you can win!”
“Keep it up, Jack!” yelled Fred, who, being the smallest of the four Rovers, found it impossible to keep up the pace. “Don’t let Spouter and Dan hold you back!”
There were numerous cries of encouragement for all of the skaters as they swept forward toward the starting point. Here a line had been drawn on the ice, and the cadets stood at either end, some with their watches in their hands to time the winners.
“I’ll bet Dan Soppinger wins!” cried one of the cadets. “He’s the best skater on the lake.”
“Well, Spouter Powell is a good skater, too,” returned another.
“Huh! what’s the matter with the Rover boys?” burst out a third cadet, round-faced and remarkably fat — so fat, in fact, that he had not dreamed of participating in the contest.
“I don’t know much about how they can skate,” was the reply. “They weren’t here last winter, you remember.”
“Yes, I know that,” answered Fatty Hendry.
“Here they come!”
By this time the skaters were half way on the return from the blasted pine. Spouter Powell and Dan Soppinger were still in the lead, but Walt Baxter was crawling up steadily, while Jack and Randy were close behind.
“Say, this is going to be a neck-and-neck race!” cried one of the cadets, Ned Lowe by name. He had wanted to race himself, but knew that his skates were too dull for that purpose.
“Stand back! Give them plenty of room!” exclaimed Professor Brice, and he took measures to clear the cadets away from the finishing line.
Quite a crowd had assembled to witness the contest, not only cadets, but also some folks from the neighboring town of Haven Point, and also a number of young ladies from Clearwater Hall, a seminary located some distance away.
The skaters had still a distance of several hundred yards to cover when it was seen that Spouter Powell was gradually falling behind. Then Jack Rover forged forward, followed by his Cousin Randy.
“The Rovers are crawling up!”
“See, Jack Rover and his Cousin Randy and Dan Soppinger and Walt Baxter are all in a line!”
“This certainly is one close race!”
The excitement increased as the racers drew closer to the finishing line. Walt Baxter was panting painfully, showing that he had used up almost every ounce of his strength.
“Oh, dear! I do hope the Rovers come in ahead,” whispered one girl skater to another. She was a tall girl, remarkably good looking and dressed in a suit of brown, with furs.
“So do I hope the Rover boys win, Ruth,” answered her girl companion, “now that my Cousin Dick has fallen behind.”
“It’s too bad, May, that your Cousin Dick couldn’t have kept up,” answered Ruth Stevenson.
Closer and closer to the finishing line crept the four leading skaters, Jack and Randy in the middle, with Dan Soppinger on their left and Walt Baxter on their right. Now Spouter Powell had fallen back to the second group of racers.
“Here they come!”
“It’s Dan Soppinger’s race!”