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.