I sat down in the
mud to think. There was probably some special term of derision for an orienteer
who lost his compass. Could you sink lower than that? But in this last
extremity I was saved by something that no orienteering organizer can ever
legislate against: the yelps and small cries of triumph that escape from the
inexperienced runner when he finds a control point. This time half a dozen of
them must have found it together, judging from the baying that went up not many
yards from me.
New life surged
in me. I leaped up, homed in on the noise and stamped my card. Three down, two
to go. Next objective: Turn in Track. And this time I didn't intend to let my
guides get out of sight. I didn't intend to but, in fact, that is what they
did. Somehow or other, one by one, they outpaced me on the muddy hillside and
vanished in the trees. I kept going, though, in their general direction, hoping
for the best. I slogged up the hill until the trees dwindled near the summit.
Once again there was a panoramic view of rolling, fern-covered countryside, and
I surveyed it, looking for some sign of a track that, sooner or later, was
bound to have a turn in it.
There were dozens
of tracks crisscrossing the slopes, all of them 12 or 18 inches wide. Travis'
semantics at fault again. To me, a track is a path fit for humans. I set out in
what I reckoned was the general direction of home, if you could call Santon
Bridge Village Hall that. If I came across the control point, well and good.
Otherwise it was just defeat for me, and I was ready to concede it. Old Russet
Pants had probably romped home by this time anyway, with all the rest of the
If she hadn't
moved suddenly I wouldn't have seen her, even though she was within 10 yards of
the track I was following. There was good old flash again as she sat up in the
ferns and eased herself into a more comfortable position. I went straight up to
tell me," I said politely, "where North is?" She didn't answer. She
couldn't. Her mouth was full of food. There was a big, opened bag beside her.
It was packed with sandwiches—and calories. I came then, perhaps, as near as I
have ever been to robbery with violence, but she forestalled this by indicating
the bag with a civilized gesture. I took one. Beef.
When she could
talk she said, "I don't think the senior men are supposed to come this
"I'm a junior
lady," I confessed. She gave me a sharp look. "I'm just a novice,"
I explained, "so they put me in with the junior ladies."
"We're on our
own, the two of us," she said, and it was my turn to look uneasy. "I
mean, I'm the only real junior girl. It's just you and I on Course D."
"I lost my
compass," I said.
That won me