Nancy's treehouse plans with her best friends are spoiled when Lauren's camera is stolen, and Nancy must find the camera in order to keep a reluctant Lauren from giving up on Camp Treehouse altogether.
"No, no, no," Bess Marvin said to her friend, Nancy Drew. She shook her head hard. Her blond hair swung back and forth across her shoulders. "I'll do anything but that. Anything! I'd rather eat worms!"
Eight-year-old Nancy laughed. "That's not true," she said. "You wouldn't even touch a worm!"
"Okay, you're right," Bess said. "I wouldn't eat a worm. But if I had to, I'd rather eat worms than go swimming."
Nancy sighed and flopped down on her bunk bed. She lay across the mattress, with her legs hanging off one side. She stared at the cabin floor.
I want to go swimming, Nancy thought. But I don't want to fight with my best friend.
Nancy and Bess had been going to day camp together all summer. Now it was August. As a special treat, all the day campers were spending a long weekend at a sleep-away camp called Camp Treehouse.
The campers had arrived the afternoon before. There had been a special picnic dinner to welcome them. Now it was Saturday morning. Nancy was excited about everything -- and especially about swimming. The lake was clear and blue. But Bess didn't want to swim. She was afraid of the water.
"You can come swimming with me," a tall girl across the cabin said to Nancy.
Nancy looked up and saw Lauren Soules smiling at her. Lauren was a new friend Nancy had made at day camp. She had friendly brown eyes and long, dark brown hair. Nancy liked her because Lauren was never mean to anyone.
"Yeah, come with us," Dana Smiley said. Dana was always in a hurry. Now she was hurrying to put on her bathing suit. Even before breakfast!
"Oh, please don't," Bess begged Nancy. "I thought we were going to stay together. It's more fun that way. Please? I'll do anything else. Anything."
"But why won't you even try swimming?" Nancy asked. "You like wading in the pool at home."
"That's different," Bess said. "Here they make you put your face in the water, and blow bubbles."
"How do you know?" Nancy asked.
"Nora told me," Bess said.
Nancy looked over at Nora Chang. She was sitting on her bunk by the wall with her best friend, Joanna Richter. Joanna had the bunk next to hers.
Nora and Joanna had been best friends for a long time. Nora had dark brown eyes and long black hair. Joanna had shoulder-length red hair and blue eyes, and she wore glasses.
The two girls didn't look alike. But they often dressed alike and wore their hair alike. Today they were both wearing pigtails. Their pigtails bounced up and down as they both nodded.
"It's true," Nora said. "You have to blow bubbles. That's why we're not doing it, either."
"Besides that," Bess said, "I bet creeps like David Mulholland or Mike Silver would swim up behind me and pull me under." Bess shuddered. "Ugh."
"Okay," Nancy said, finally giving in to Bess. She sat up, and her blue eyes sparkled. "How about horseback riding?"
"Oh , not horses!" Bess said. "What if I fall?"
"Bess Marvin, you're chicken about everything! " Nancy said, laughing. She tossed a pillow at Bess, who was in the bunk across from Nancy's.
Bess ducked and laughed, too. "Yeah, I guess I am," she said. She pulled a headband over her head, then pushed it up over her hair. "Okay," Bess agreed. "Maybe I'll try horseback riding. But only if they have a really small horse."
"Great," Nancy said, sitting up.
"Girls, are you all dressed for breakfast?" a voice called.
Nancy turned to look over her shoulder. Mary Ann Remar was coming in through the cabin's screen door. She had been one of the counselors at day camp. Now she was the counselor in the Bluebird cabin. She was short and athletic, with chin-length brown hair.
Nancy bounced off the bed and hurried to put on her sneakers. Her stomach rumbled. She was hungry.
"Come on, Bluebirds," Mary Ann said.
All the girls gathered near the screen door. All except one. Lauren was still looking for something in her duffel bag.
"Now, before we go," Mary Ann said, "I want to review the camp rules one more time. First, no one is allowed to go anywhere alone. Not unless you have special permission from a counselor. Otherwise, you must always have a buddy."
Then Mary Ann told them everything else they needed to know. Where to sit in the dining hall. How to sign up for morning activities and afternoon activities. What to do when a loud bell rang three times.
"That's the signal for everyone to go to the next activity," Mary Ann explained.
I wish someone would ring a bell right now, Nancy thought -- a breakfast bell. I'm ready to go to the eating activity.
"What if you don't know what activity you want to sign up for?" Bess asked, sounding worried.
"Well, you can talk to me about that at breakfast," Mary Ann said. "I'm sure we can find something you'll like. How about the treehouse?"
"What's that?" Dana asked quickly.
"Didn't you see it?" Nora said. Her brown eyes shone with excitement. "It's a huge treehouse in an oak tree over by the Arts and Crafts shop."
"Yeah. It's gigantic," Joanna agreed. "It has ramps and towers and ladders and special rooms -- and everything."
"That's how Camp Treehouse got its name," Mary Ann explained.
"Oh," Dana said, her green eyes lighting up. "It sounds like fun. Now I don't know whether to pick swimming or treehouse."
"They're both fun," Mary Ann said. "But treehouse is very popular. Only fifteen kids can play there at one time. Maybe you should wait and sign up for that in the afternoon."
"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go," Dana said eagerly.
"Lauren, are you ready?" Mary Ann called.
Nancy looked over at Lauren, who was sitting on her bed staring at the floor. Her face was red, and she looked as if she was going to cry. Her dark brown eyes were filled with tears.
"Lauren? What's wrong?" Mary Ann asked.
Lauren raised her eyes. "My camera has been stolen!" she cried.
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