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Practice Makes Perfect




George tumbled into the river, splashing water all over the three girls lying on the river bank. Scamper, who had been asleep in the sun, made a desperate leap to avoid getting any of the water on him!


“You didn’t even last five seconds!” laughed Janet. “Come on Peter, show us how it’s done!”


“Watch this then!” replied the head of the Secret Seven as he leapt onto the tree trunk, the bark of which was smeared with soap.


He took a tray from Colin that had four glasses filled with water on it and set off. Cautiously balancing on the trunk’s round and shiny surface, he began his “crossing”.


“Bravo, big brother!” Janet couldn’t help shouting when he reached the halfway point of his journey.


“Go slow and take it easy,” advised Colin, who was waist-deep in the water and wading along just underneath.


Peter continued on his way. Slowly but surely, he progressed along the tree trunk that formed a bridge over the river. Inch by inch, he drew nearer to the opposite bank, the tray of glasses in his hand. Firstly he took one step, barely touching the smooth and slippery surface. Then, when he was sure of his footing, he carefully put all his weight forward before starting the whole process over again with the next step. And so, step by painstaking step, he made it nearly all the way across.


“He’s almost there!” murmured Pam, biting her lip.


“Don’t think of anything except your feet and the tray!” urged Jack.


Peter instinctively glanced down at the glasses, and at that moment, he lost concentration and slipped! He fell sideways and landed in the water with an enormous splash!


“I’d almost made it!” he grumbled as he came to the surface. “You shouldn’t have said anything to me,” he scolded Jack. “Come on, take the tray and let’s see if you can do better!”


So saying, he dived into the water and reappeared a few seconds later with the four glasses. Colin took them off him and brought them to Jack, who was already standing at the start of the bridge.


“It’s a good thing these are plastic!” grinned Jack. He set them on the tray and climbed up onto the tree trunk, ready to get going.


“Just a minute!” Peter interrupted him. “This sun will dry out the soap, which would make it too easy!”


He struck the water vigorously with his arms, which soon soaked the tree trunk again. A white bubbly foam was now visible on its surface.


“There!” said Peter with a satisfied air. “If you can cross that, you’ll be the winner! Go ahead – we’re watching!”


Jack didn’t let himself get flustered. Peter had challenged him, and he was jolly well going to see this through! Come what may, he was determined to cross that beastly tree trunk without losing his footing! To achieve this, he adopted a new technique. Instead of advancing one step at a time as they had all done up to now, he steadily slid his way along the trunk. The advantage of this was that he never lost contact with the trunk and was able to keep the weight of his body on both legs at all times. What was more, the new method was much faster. Jack made it halfway across the river in just a third of the time that his friends had taken.


From his vantage point in the water, Peter watched Jack unblinkingly. Would Jack prevail? No one said a word. The three girls on the bank held their breath. At their feet, Scamper cocked his ears, a sign that the Secret Seven’s canine mascot was in deep concentration.


The glasses on the tray clinked slightly. Jack continued on unabated, maintaining the same rhythm. His feet left two furrows in the soapy lather.


Just two metres to go! Now one metre …


Peter, George and Colin looked on in amazement from the middle of the river. Jack had very nearly reached the opposite bank. He made the last few centimetres, then hopped down onto the grassy bank.


Janet, Barbara and Pam gave him a round of applause.


“Did you see that?” he asked Peter without a trace of irony.


“That was brilliant!” the latter acknowledged. “Well done! You’ve beaten us all. And with your system, we might be able to have a bit more luck tonight.”


“There’s always hope,” said George. He had not got nearly as far along the trunk as the other boys. In fact, he had fallen off almost as soon as he’d started!


“This is no time to rest on our laurels! I’m going to have another go,” decided Colin. But the words were scarcely out of his mouth when the noise of a car engine attracted his attention. “I say, look at that car! It’s simply enormous!”


Just at that moment, a magnificent black limousine was coming around the wide bend in the road above the river. To the Seven’s great surprise, it stopped directly above where they were swimming!


“We’ve got a visitor!” observed George, impressed.


“Perhaps it’s a millionaire who’s heard of our remarkable reputation and has a mystery for us to solve,” deadpanned Colin.


“Your head’s swelling up like a balloon!” Barbara teased him.


The rear door of the impressive automobile now opened and a boy stepped out.


“Gosh, look!” gasped Janet. “He’s our age!”


Spellbound, none of the Seven moved a muscle. Thirty metres above them, the young boy stood motionless and gazed back at them. Apart from curly blond hair that was blowing about in the breeze, he too was as still as a statue.


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