MoboReader> Literature > The Outdoor Girls in a Winter Camp / Or, Glorious Days on Skates and Ice Boats

   Chapter 5 UNPLEASANT NEWS

The Outdoor Girls in a Winter Camp / Or, Glorious Days on Skates and Ice Boats By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 7862

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Will was the first to realize the import of the message. He exclaimed briskly:

"Gone out; eh? Well, it won't be hard to track him, for there is a light, new covering of snow on the ground and sidewalks. That is, if we get right at it. Come on, Mr. Blackford, and we'll find the little rascal!"

"Of course we will!" cried Betty. "Don't cry, Mollie dear. He can't be lost for long; everyone in Deepdale knows him and whoever finds him will take him home."

"Yes, but he-he may freeze!"

"Oh, it isn't cold!" declared Grace, though she was even then shivering. Grace was not any too well built to stand cold weather.

"That's it! Stick to it!" whispered Will in her ear. "Insist that it isn't cold."

"I'll come with you and help search," suggested Amy, who had been bidding her callers good-night. "I wonder if we ought to have a lantern?"

"It would be useful," spoke Betty.

"I have one of those pocket electric flash-lights," remarked Will.

"And I can get another," said Amy. "I'll be right with you, as soon as I get my coat and rubbers."

Soon the six young people were tramping through the storm, which seemed to be increasing in severity, though knowing how Mollie would worry about her little brother being out in it, the others kept insisting that it was a mere flurry, that it would amount to nothing, and would soon be over, or turn to rain.

But the snow did not itself hold out any such mild promises as that, and Mollie shivered as she felt the cold and cutting blasts of wind, which had a lower temperature than on the ice that afternoon.

They reached Mollie's house to find a very much excited and tearful Mrs. Billette, the widow being ministered to by some of her neighbors who had hurriedly come in, on hearing from a servant what had happened.

"Tell me all about it, Mother!" cried Mollie, partly lapsing into French in her excitement. Mrs. Billette spoke entirely in that language now.

It appeared that little Paul had been allowed to stay up later than usual without being undressed, as he had a new picture book to look at.

Then company had come in, and, in the abstraction of playing hostess, Mrs. Billette had forgotten about Paul until a little while before. He had been missed and a hasty search had not disclosed him in the house, but had shown the absence of his little cap, coat and rubbers.

"And he has gone out! Out into the storm!" cried Mrs. Billette on Mollie's shoulder. "Oh, my little Paul!"

"There, there, Mother, we'll find him!" declared Mollie, more bravely than she felt. She had dried her own tears under the stress of looking after her mother.

"Of course we shall!" affirmed Will. "Scatter and search now. Get more lights!"

Fortunately Mollie had some of the pocket torches and soon the little party of searchers was going about the house. In the mantle of newly-fallen snow it would seem to be an easy, matter to pick out the child's footprints and at least trace in which direction he went.

Will was the first to locate them, and a joyful whoop told of his success.

"Here they are!" he called. "He came out of this side door, and headed for the river--"

"The river!" screamed Mrs. Billette, clutching at Mollie's arm.

"Hush, Mother! It is frozen over, you know. He can come to no harm, I'm sure."

"Oh, Will, hurry! Do! Find my little baby!" cried the frantic mother.

Will dashed on, followed by the others. They kept their electric torches aglow, and could easily trace the line of tiny footsteps, since no other persons had passed down this way over the Billette property to the frozen Argono.

A sound near the boathouse attracted Will, and he turned in that direction, seeing instinctively that the steps led there. Then he saw a flash of light in the structure where, in addition to some craft owned by Mollie, was stored Betty's motor boat, the Gem.

"Are you in there, Paul?" cried Will.

They all waited anx

iously for the answer.

"Ess," was the childish answer. "What oo want? I goin' way off in boat. I goin' be Robbyson Tuso."

"Oh, Paul!" reproached his mother. But her voice showed relief.

They pushed open the side door of the boat house, which had been left unlocked that day-inadvertently, it seemed-as a man was doing some repairs to Betty's craft.

They saw Paul gravely seated in the boat, which he had managed to get into by means of a chair. He had a lantern with him, taken, it developed, from where Isaac, the furnace man, had left it for a moment in the Billette kitchen. And Paul was gravely playing that he was Robinson Crusoe, starting off on a voyage.

"Oh, Paul, how could you frighten mamma so?" asked Mollie, as she caught him up. "You should be punished!"

"Pichure in my book about Robbyson Tuso. He got in boat-I go in boat. Betty no care-does oo?"

"No, dear, not about my boat. But--"

"You were very, very naughty!" said Mollie, severely, "and sister doesn't love you any more. Naughty Paul!"

The sensitive lip of the toddler began pursing outward, quivering. His eyes filled with tears. Then catching sight of Grace, who, with the others, formed a circle about the recovered lost one, Paul smiled through the gathering mist of tears and asked:

"Oo dot any tandy?"

And he laughed with them as Grace produced some chocolates in a bag. And no one remarked on her failing-that time, at least.

Paul was soon in bed, having made many promises not to offend again. Then Will went back with Amy, Mr. Blackford escorting Betty and Grace, who lived near each other. The girls promised to meet again next day, but this was hardly necessary, since scarcely a day passed that they were not together-"inseparables," they had been dubbed.

Of course for the next few days little was talked of except the prospect of going to the winter camp. From the parents of the three, tentative permission had been wrung, Grace's father and mother being much in favor of her making the trip.

"Her lungs are none too strong," Mr. Ford had said to his wife, "and the winter in the pine woods will do her good."

"If only there is no danger!"

"Danger! Nonsense!" Mr. Ford had exclaimed.

But he did not know what was in prospect, or he might not have been so positive. Even as it was, a few days later brought unpleasant news to him.

He had been in correspondence with the old lumberman and his wife, and had practically arranged for them to take charge of the camp, and look after the girls, who would occupy one of the large cabins, if they went to the woods. Then came a letter from a brother lawyer who was looking after some details of the receivership.

"By Jove! That makes it bad!" exclaimed Mr. Ford on reading this communication.

"What is it, Daddy?" asked Grace, who happened to be in the library with her father when the mail came in.

"Why, Travert writes me that Jallow has begun cutting timber on the strip that is in dispute. Valuable timber, too, that I'm sure belongs to me. This is contrary to the ruling of the court. I must stop this if I have to come to an open fight!"

"Oh, Father, will this stop us going to camp?"

"No, not necessarily. The strip is far enough away from the camp itself. I don't know but what it will be a good plan to have you on the ground, Grace. You can let me know if anything happens. Now I must see what I can do about this. If only I could find Paddy Malone, and he could testify about the changed boundary lines, I'd have none of this trouble," and Mr. Ford sighed.

"Maybe we can find him up there, papa," said Grace, softly.

"Maybe; but I doubt it. I've been trying for a year to locate him, and can't. But never mind. Don't let this bad news worry you. You and your chums can go there all right, and have a good time. Maybe you'll have more of a time than you want. It looks as though we would have a hard winter."

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