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

   Chapter 19 MAROONED

The Outdoor Girls in a Winter Camp / Or, Glorious Days on Skates and Ice Boats By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 7675

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


"Dare we take it out ourselves?" asked Grace.

"I don't see why not," replied Mollie. "I can run a motor car, Betty can manage a motor boat, and this is sort of between them both. Of course we can run it!"

"Will you promise to go slow?" asked Amy, timidly.

"Of course," agreed Betty. "Anyhow the ice is so soft that we can't get as much speed out of it as the boys did the other day."

The outdoor girls were grouped about the auto ice boat at the little dock near their cabin. The boys had gone off on a hunt, a rumor of a bear having been seen about five miles off coming to them by a friendly lumberman.

The girls were discussing the advisability of going out for a little trip in the queer craft that Will and his chums had made. For a week past the boys had run it at various times, taking the girls out on trips, and explaining how the motor and notched wheel operated. The girls had even run it for short distances themselves, under the tutelage of the boys.

A week has passed since it was first run and, though it was voted "great sport," the boys had rather tired of it, especially when the rumor of the bear reached them.

"Will said we could take it whenever we wanted to," spoke Grace, as she arranged some fur rugs in the cockpit. "But are you sure you can run it, Mollie-or Betty?"

"It's simple," replied Betty noncommittally. "It will do no harm to try."

"And it's easy to stop," said Mollie. "Even if we forget to shut off the engine, by pushing down on this handle, the wheel will be raised, and won't cut into the ice. Then it will stop."

"Just as when you throw out the clutch on your auto," suggested Betty.

"Exactly. Come on girls. We'll go for a little run. There's nothing else to do in camp."

The week had been rather a monotonous one, for the weather had turned warm, and the ice was not in good condition for skating. It was almost too soft for the boat, and the boys had rather given it up. But the girls wanted to do something, and the auto ice craft offered them a chance.

They had visited a hunters' camp a few days before, and seen some novel sights, though game was not as plentiful as the hunters had wished.

"Well, if we're going-let's go!" cried Betty in a jolly voice, as she buttoned her sweater more closely about her, and saw that her cap fitted snugly.

"You must expect to get some speed out of it," returned Amy. "But remember you promised to go slow."

"We can't do much else-it's so soft," declared Mollie, digging the toe of her shoe into the surface of the ice.

"Well-let's mote!" exclaimed Grace. "I've got some chocolates, so that if the wind does out--"

"Wind! You forget we don't use a sail," cried Betty with a laugh. "We can get home in a dead calm. So if that's your only excuse for bringing chocolates--"

"We might run out of gasoline," Grace interrupted. "I'll take them, anyway."

"That's right, angel child!" murmured Mollie, "and I'll help you eat them," and she calmly appropriated the box Grace had produced, and selected some choice confections.

Just as the girls were about to leave, having shoved the ice boat out away from the dock so as to get a good start, Mr. Franklin, the camp care-taker, who had been over to a distant section, came running down to the dock.

"Do you think your father is back from his Western trip yet, Miss Ford?" he asked.

"Yes, I had a letter from home to-day, saying he would be home to-night. Why?"

"Well, those Jallows are acting mean again. They're cutting timber on land I'm sure belongs to your father, regardless of the strip in dispute. I'm going to wire him to come up here. This thing ought to be stopped."

"Oh dear! More trouble!" sighed Grace. "Well, do as you think best, Mr. Franklin. I think you'll find papa home. Oh, I wish this was all settled. I wonder why the

re are such people as the Jallows, anyhow?"

"Probably for the same reason that there are mosquitoes," said Betty. "It's so we will appreciate nice people all the more. But don't worry, Grace."

"Are you girls going out in that boat?" asked Mr. Franklin as he started back toward his cabin.

"Yes. Why shouldn't we?" inquired Mollie, for she saw a look of concern on his face.

"Well, you'll be all right if you stay around here, but the ice is breaking up below and above you, on account of the thaw. It won't be safe to go too far, or you'll meet open water. Be on the lookout."

"We will," promised Betty. "We're only just going out for a practice spin by ourselves. It will surprise the boys."

She did not realize what a surprise she and her chums were to get before long.

After one or two ineffectual attempts the girls got the motor running. Then, looking to see that all was clear, Betty, who was at the helm, gave the word for Mollie to lower the toothed wheel, which engaging on the ice, would move the craft.

At first there was only a shower of soft and rather watery ice. The surface was too "mushy" to enable the teeth to "bite."

"Harder! Push down harder!" directed Betty.

Mollie did so, and then, after hesitating a second as if uncertain whether or not to go, the Spider moved off, gradually acquiring speed.

"Oh, this is glorious!" cried Grace as she sat well forward and breathed in deep of the fresh air. "Betty-Mollie-you are wonderful!"

"Oh, it's easy to run," said Mollie, calmly. "I understand it now. Really, it's very simple."

The girls took turns steering, for the boat was not going very fast, on account of the condition of the ice. Once or twice there were booming noises, like the sound of distant cannon.

"What are those?" asked Amy, with a start.

"The ice cracking," explained Betty. "It isn't anything. It often happens on a big surface, and we're on a wide part of the river now."

They went on for a mile or so, until Mollie suddenly clutched the arm of Betty, and cried:

"Look-there's open water ahead!"

"That's right," agreed Betty, as she quickly shifted the helm. "We don't want to plunge into that," for the water looked black and treacherous in contrast with the white ice about it.

They headed for their camp. The sound of the cracking ice became oftener, and more than once Betty looked a bit apprehensively at Mollie. But they tried to conceal their growing uneasiness from Grace and Amy.

Suddenly there came a sharp report, louder than any that had gone before, and, involuntarily, Mollie raised the spiked wheel. The ice boat slowly lost headway.

"Don't stop! Don't stop!" cried Betty. "Keep on!"

"But it may be dangerous!"

"It will be more dangerous to stand still! Don't you know that a moving body has a better chance over thin ice than one standing still? Keep going, Mollie, and head for shore!"

"Oh, I'm sure something is going to happen!" cried Amy.

"Nonsense, be quiet!" urged Betty. "Grace, give her a chocolate! Mollie, lower that wheel again."

Again the "propeller" engaged the ice, and the Spider forged ahead. Grace looked back, and saw where a big crack had appeared. It was constantly widening.

Then came a thunderous report. The girls screamed, and Betty almost let go of the tiller. Then she grasped it more tightly, for she saw, with a shudder of fear, that black water was now all around them.

"Stop! Stop!" cried Betty to Mollie. "Stop the boat! We're on a big cake of ice and we're floating away! Stop it!"

In an instant Mollie had lifted the wheel, and in the next she had shut of the motor. The Spider with the girl passengers was indeed marooned on an immense cake of ice, while all about were other cakes, grinding and smashing over one another. The river was breaking up fast.

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