Tug was still swimming easily, but he was putting more power into his strokes. Walter followed his example and kept neck and neck with him. They were now the last of the field. The sprint of the two Hurons had given them a good lead, and this had had its effect on the other swimmers, all of whom were putting forth every effort to overhaul the leaders. Walter found that it took every bit of will power he possessed not to do the same. The pace was beginning to tell on those in front, but Tug never varied his strong easy stroke and presently Walter noticed that they were slowly but surely closing up the gap between them and the nearest competitors.
They had now covered a third of the course and the leaders were still a long way ahead. Would Tug never hit it up ? What was he waiting so long for? Perhaps he was, as he had said, " all in," and couldn't go any faster. Ought he to stay back as Tug had told him to ? If he should lose out for place the blame would be laid to him, not to Tug, Ha ! Tug had quickened the stroke a bit! It was not much, but there was a perceptible gain with each swing of the arms and kick of the legs.
The half-way mark, and still Tug did not give the word. What was the matter with him? He glanced at him anxiously, but the grin on that astute young gentleman's face revealed nothing, certainly not anxiety. Two or three of the swimmers had begun to splash badly, notably the two Hurons in the lead. Walter had his second wind, and he found that he was holding Tug with less effort than at first. He could hear the shrill yells of the Hurons and Senecas at the finish line as they urged on their braves, and there was an unmistakable note of triumph in every yell. It gave him a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
" Now go! " screamed a voice almost in his ear. Dimly he realized that Tug had given him the word. Quickening his stroke he put in every ounce of reserve strength, and at once the result began to show. One after another he overtook and passed the other swimmers until there was only one between him and the finish line. The two Hurons who had led so long were splashing in manifest distress. They were behind him now, their bolt shot, but still struggling gamely. But the swimmer ahead was a Huron who had come up strongly in the last quarter.
The pace was beginning to tell. Every muscle in his body ached, and his straining lungs seemed to gasp in no air at all. He was neck and neck with the leader now, but his tortured muscles seemed on the point of refusing to act altogether. If he could only rest them just a second! Ha, what was that? "Whoop! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Whoop! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Whoop! Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo ! Upton !"
It was the long rolling yell of the Delawares. It seemed to put new life into him. They were calling on him now for the honor of the tribe ! He was almost there. Could he make it? He would make it! He gulped his lungs full of air, buried his face in the water and swung into the crawl, and then it seemed to him that his movements were wholly automatic. " For the honor of the tribe. For the honor of the tribe. For the honor of the tribe." Over and over his brain hammered that one phrase.
The bang of the finish gun crashed into it, but for a minute he did not sense what it meant. " For the honor of the tribe," he murmured, weakly paddling the water with his hands.
" And the honor of the boy ! " cried a hearty voice, as strong hands caught the slack of his jersey and pulled him into a boat.
He looked up in a daze into the face of Woodhull. " Did I win ? " he gasped.
" You sure did ! " was the prompt response.
"No, I didn't; Tug did it," muttered Walter to himself as he saw his coach wearily finish at the tail end.
Second place had gone to the Hurons and third to the Algonquins. The score now stood Wigwam No. 1—1,483; Wigwam No. 2 —1,481, and the excitement of the visitors was hardly less than that of the tribes as they waited for the canoe events.
The fours were called first. There were four entries, one crew from each tribe, four brawny boys in each canoe, captained by the four chiefs. The distance was half a mile with a turn, start and finish being opposite the pier. A pretty sight they made as they lined up for the start, each boy on one knee, leaning well over the side of the canoe, blade poised just over the water at his utmost reach.
Almost with the flash of the gun the sixteen blades hit the water and, amid a wild tumult of yells, the canoes shot away like greyhounds from a leash.
" Did you get on to that start of the Hurons —one long stroke, then five short ones and then the regular long stroke ! " yelled Billy Buxby, whose sharp eyes seldom missed anything new.
As a matter of fact this little trick had given the Hurons the best of the start, the quick short strokes getting their boat under full headway before the others. But their advantage was short-lived, and it could be seen that as the turning buoys were approached they were last.
" Wonder if they'll spring something new on the turn," muttered Billy, leaning forward until he threatened to upset his canoe. " Ah, I thought so ! "
The Delawares had reached the turn first with the Senecas a close second and the Algonquins third, but the leaders had not fairly straightened out for home when the Hurons turned their buoy as if on a pivot and actually had the lead.
In silence the spectators watched the flashing blades draw up the course. It was anybody's race, a " heart-breaker," as Spud Ely expressed it. Like clockwork the blades rose and fell. The Algonquins were using a long body swing. The Senecas swung their shoulders only, and their stroke was shorter and faster. The Hurons had dropped a little behind, but between the three leaders there was little to choose.
"It's quite primeval, isn't it?" said Mr. Upton as he returned the binoculars which Mr. Harrison had loaned him.
" That just expresses it," replied the latter as pandemonium broke loose in shrill yells from the four tribes urging on their crews. " The forest setting, the Indian craft—it's all like a picture out of early history."