It was a laughable, as well as interesting sight.
Having reached the various places mentally selected as the scene of their intended operations in fire building, the boys set down their kettles, and commenced to feverishly whack away at dead branches, or other wood.
In several instances two of them happened to pick out the same place, and naturally there was considerable rivalry between them, as well as an exchange of remarks intended to irritate and delay.
“Look at Wallace, will you!” observed Jack, presently; “nearly all the others have smoke going, but he’s chipping away as steadily as you please. Why, he seems in no hurry at all. I guess he doesn’t want to come in ahead!”
“Wait, my boy,” laughed Paul. “You don’t know that sly fox. He’s up to all the dodges at fire making, and believes in a good start. Some of those smokes never will amount to much, for they just struggle along, and threaten to go out because it takes all the puffing the fellows can give to keep them alive. Now he’s going to strike up. Only one match needed with Wallace, you see.”
“And how his blaze jumps! You were right; he made sure he had enough fine kindling first, before starting in. Now he’s adding larger stuff; and what’s this he’s doing with those stones?”
“What do you suppose?” said the scout leader, nodding his head approvingly. “Making a little fireplace where he can perch his kettle, and have the hottest part of his fire under it. Note also that the opening is in the direction of the breeze. That allows the flame to be fanned. Wallace will never have to blow out his cheeks and puff to keep his blaze going.”
By this time some of the contestants were bobbing their heads to ascertain just how Wallace had done it; and made haste to follow suit. All were willing to take pattern from a past master who knew the wrinkles of the game.
One upset his kettle, and despairing of having any show, withdrew from the race.
Eleven fires kept on burning, some of them under protest, apparently, for they did not give much promise of landing their unlucky builders as victors.
“How long is it?” asked Jack, presently, as certain signs caught his eye that told him the end was near.
“Just nine minutes; but—”
“Look at Wallace,” cried Jack; “he’s raising his hat. There goes an inspector to see. He nods his head. The water must be boiling; and who would have thought it? Hurrah for the Carberry Twin! Look at Ted and Ward! They act as if they thought there was some trickery, for they’re running up to see. I guess they’ve tried this game, and come in under the wire in about fifteen minutes. Hello! there’s Bluff calling out. Good boy! He’s going to run Wallace a race next time. But I’d like to see you make the test, Paul?”