….Besides, we had only a little bit left to dig now.
The next morning we got up later than the others. Oh dear, how achy we felt! Our arms ached, our legs ached and our backs felt as if they were breaking!
“What’s the matter with us?” said Mishka.
“Too much digging in one go,” I said.
We felt a little better after we had moved about a bit, and at breakfast Mishka started boasting to everyone that we were going to win the banner for sure.
After breakfast we all went off to the garden. Mishka and I didn’t hurry. We had plenty of time!
By the time we reached the plots all the others were busy digging away like beavers. We laughed at them as we strolled by.
“You needn’t try so hard because you can’t win the banner anyway!” we told them.
“You’d better get to work, you two!” they shouted back.
Just then Mishka said: “Look at this plot. I wonder whose it is. They’ve hardly dug anything yet. They must be at home fast asleep.”
I looked at the marker. No. 12. “Why, it’s our plot!”
“It can’t be,” said Mishka. “We’ve done far more than that.”
I thought we had too.
“Perhaps someone has gone and changed the markers for a lark.”
“No. All the other numbers are right. Here’s No. 11 and there’s No. 13 on the other side.”
We looked again and saw a tree-stump sticking up in the middle. We couldn’t believe our eyes.
“Listen,” I said. “If this is our plot what’s that stump doing there? We pulled it out, didn’t we?”
“Of course we did,” said Mishka. “A new one couldn’t have grown in its place overnight.”
Just then we heard Vanya Lozhkin on the plot next to ours say:
“Look, fellows! A real miracle! There was a big stump here yesterday and now it’s gone. Where could it be?”
Everyone ran to look at the miracle. Mishka and I went over too.
What had happened? Yesterday they had less than half of their plot dug and now there was only a small corner left.
“Mishka,” I said. “You know what? It was their plot we dug up last night. And that stump we pulled out was theirs too.”
“It can’t be!”
“Well, it is.”
“Oh, what donkeys we are!” groaned Mishka. “What shall we do now? By rights they ought to give us their plot and take ours. All that work done for nothing!”
“Shut up,” I said. “You don’t want us to be the laughing-stock of the whole camp, do you?”
“But what shall we do?”
“Dig,” I said. “Dig like blazes.”
We picked up our spades. But when we started to dig, our poor backs and arms and legs ached so much that we had to stop. We had worked so hard on our neighbours’ plot that now we hadn’t the strength to finish our own.
Before long Vanya Lozhkin and Senka Bobrov finished their plot. Vitya congratulated them and handed them the banner. They stuck it in the middle of their plot. All the others gathered round and clapped. Mishka couldn’t stand it.
“It’s not fair!” he said.
“Why isn’t it fair?” said Vitya.
“Someone pulled that stump out for them. They said so themselves.”
“It isn’t our fault, is it?” said Vanya. “Suppose someone wanted it for fire-wood. That’s their look-out, not ours.”
“Maybe someone dug it up by mistake,” said Mishka.
“If they had it would be lying about here somewhere.”
“Maybe someone threw it into the river,” Mishka went on.
“Maybe this, maybe that. What are you getting at?” But Mishka couldn’t keep quiet.
“Someone did the digging for you last night,” he said.
I kept nudging him to hold his tongue. Vanya said:
“Maybe they did. We didn’t measure our plot.”
We went back to our own plot and started digging. Vanya and Senka stood watching us and snickering.
“Look at them,” said Senka. “They’re as slow as turtles.”
“We’ll have to lend them a hand,” said Vanya. “They’re way behind everyone else with their digging.”
So they lent us a hand. They helped us with the digging and they helped us to pull out the stump, but we finished last just the same.
Someone suggested putting the scarecrow on our plot since we were the last to finish. Everybody thought that was a wonderful idea and so the scarecrow came to our plot. Mishka and I felt very sore about it.
“Cheer up!” said the boys. “If you do your planting and weeding well we’ll take the scarecrow off your plot.”
Yura Kozlov made a proposal: “Let’s award it to the team that makes the worst showing with the rest of the work.”
“Yes, let’s!” shouted the others.
“And in the autumn we’ll present it to the team with the worst crop,” said Senka Bobrov.
Mishka and I decided to work hard and get rid of that nasty scarecrow, but try as we did it stood on our plot all summer long. When planting time came Mishka got everything mixed up and planted beet-roots on top of the carrot seeds. And when we did the weeding he pulled up all the parsley instead of the weeds, and we had to plant radishes instead. I wanted to quit several times but I didn’t have the heart to leave a. chum in the lurch. So I stayed with him to the end.
And would you believe it, Mishka and I got the banner after all. To everybody’s surprise we got the biggest crop of cucumbers and tomatoes.
There was a fuss!
“It’s not fair,” said the others. “They were behind everybody else all the time and they got the biggest crop. How’s that?”
But Vitya said: “It’s perfectly fair. They may have been slower than all the rest of you but they worked the soil thoroughly and they tried hard.”
Vanya Lozhkin said: “They had a good bit of land, that’s what it is. Me and Senka got a bad plot. That’s why we have a poor harvest although we worked hard too. And they can keep their old scarecrow. They had it all summer.”
“We don’t mind,” said Mishka. “We’ll take it with pleasure.”
Everybody laughed. Mishka said: “If it wasn’t for that scarecrow we wouldn’t have won the banner!”
“How’s that?” everyone asked.
“Because it drove the crows away from our plot and that’s why we have the biggest harvest. Besides, it reminded us all the time that we had to work hard.”
I said to Mishka: “What are we going to do with that silly old scarecrow?”
“Let’s go and throw it in the river,” said Mishka.
We took the scarecrow down to the river and threw it into the water. We watched it sail down the river with its arms spread out and we threw stones into the water to make it go faster. When it was gone we went back to the camp.
That day Lyosha Kurochkin photographed Mishka and me standing on our plot beside the Challenge Banner. So if you would like to have a picture of us we shall be glad to send you one.
comments always welcome