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

   Chapter 21 A HELPING HAND

The Outdoor Girls in a Winter Camp / Or, Glorious Days on Skates and Ice Boats By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 12556

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

"What is he doing?"

"What a queer boat!"

"Sometimes it's in the water, and again it's on the ice!"

"No matter! He's coming to save us, and it's high time! There goes another chunk off our ice raft!"

It was Betty who gave voice to the last, and Grace, Amy and Mollie in turn, who had expressed the other sentiments. All were true in their way. The man did certainly seem to be advancing in a peculiar manner. At times he appeared to be rowing, or padding, and again he propelled himself over a big cake of ice, pushing himself along by means of short poles on either side of the boat.

And, as Mollie had said, at times he was in the water, and again gliding over the ice. What Betty had said was but too true. Now and then, with a startling report, the big floe on which rested the auto ice boat containing the girls would be lessened by a great chunk, that would break off, and go floating away.

"Oh, hurry! Do, please, hurry!" breathed Grace, as she sat huddled close beside Amy, gazing now and then into the ice-encumbered black water that seemed momentarily to be encroaching on their margin of safety.

"We can never all get in that boat!" decided Amy, as the man alternately pushed and paddled it toward them. "It will only hold two, and he'll have to make four trips. It may be too late-for the last one!"

"He's doing all he can," said Betty. "Perhaps the boat will hold more than you think." But, even as she said this she looked askance at the peculiar craft. Clearly it was small, and at most could hold but three. There would be danger in this even. And it would necessitate two trips at best. This delay, with the constantly-decreasing size of the floe meant danger for two of them.

"Hold on, ladies, I'm coming!!" cried the man in the boat. "I'll soon have you safe ashore. Don't jump, whatever you do, or you'll be ground to pieces by the ice cakes!"

"Cheerful prospect," remarked Betty grimly.

Amy and Grace did not try to conceal the tears in their eyes. Mollie was more like the Little Captain-brave and hopeful. Not that Grace and Amy were cowards-far from it-but they had not the buoyant reserve strength of their chums.

"Steady now, and I'll have you!" cried the man. He had come to a halt in his boat on a big swirling cake, which was keeping pace with the progress of the one containing the ice boat. "I'm going to make a line fast to you," the man explained, "and take my end ashore. Then I can haul you in. I don't dare risk taking you off in the boat. The ice is breaking up too fast. Stand by now, to catch the line I'm going to throw."

He was kneeling in his queer craft, and the girls could now see that it was made for just such work as this. It was a small punt, capable of being rowed or paddled. And to enable it to slide over the ice two strips of iron, for runners, extended along the bottom from stem to stern, just under the lower and outer edges of the boat's sides. In other words it was a combined sled and boat. It was a type much used by muskrat-hunters who have to seek their quarry on flooded meadows that often freeze over uncertainly.

"Here you go!" shouted the man. "Make this line fast to the forward part of your boat. How are the runners; well sunk in?"

"Yes!" answered Betty, glancing to make sure. The steel runners of the cross-piece of the craft, as well as the steering plates in the rear, had, because of the fact that the boat had been stationary so long, sunk deep into the soft ice. The Spider was firmly anchored.

"The rope will hold better on your craft, than on the ice itself," the man explained after he had thrown it. "Have you made it fast?"

"Yes!" cried Mollie, who had assisted Betty in catching the line, and taking a couple of turns about a strong cleat.

"Oh, do please hurry and-and save us!" panted Grace.

"I will, miss. Don't be skeered," said their rescuer kindly. The girls could see that he was a burly lumberman, but no one they had ever met before, as far as any of them could remember.

"I'll have you ashore soon," he added. "I'll make as good time back as I can, though it's ticklish work, for the ice is going out fast. It's early for it, too, and the river will freeze up again bad. But don't worry. Your floe will hold until I get you all ashore. Just sit tight, and don't worry!"

"But we-we can't help it," half whispered Amy.

The man, having tossed the rope which Betty and Mollie secured, now arranged the coils in the bottom of his boat so that it would pay out without tangling.

"I was just passing when I saw your pickle," he told them. "Lucky I had the rope with me, and I knew old Muskrat Ike must have his punt hid along the bank somewhere. I routed it out and here I am. Now I'm off. Keep up your spirits!" he called with a smile.

With two short, iron shod and pointed poles he shoved his boat around and off the floe where he had halted. Into the water plunged the queer craft, and then the man paddled. He slid the shelving, pointed prow out on another ice cake and thus, alternately progressing, he neared the shore.

As he approached it, narrowly watched by the girls, who cast occasional glances at their own floe, Betty uttered a cry.

"There are the boys!"

Three figures could be seen hurrying down to the edge of the ice-filled river, and it needed but a glance to show that they were Will, Frank and Allen.

In another minute or two the lumberman, in his queer boat, had reached the shore. Out he leaped, and shoving his punt to one side he began hauling on the rope that was fast to the ice-anchored auto craft, the rope forming a slender bridge to the land. Slowly the ice-floe began to approach the shore, shoving the lesser cakes aside.

But now a new danger presented itself. As long as the big floe had gone down with the current it had not been struck hard by other chunks of ice, since all were moving at the same rate of speed. Now, as the big floe was hauled cross-ways to the current, other cakes collided with it, breaking off large chunks.

"There won't be anything left when we get ashore," cried Grace. "We're going to pieces fast!"

"Don't get excited!" advised Mollie. "We'll be all right," but she watched with eager eyes the progress they were making, and the ever-decreasi

ng size of their floe.

"The boys are going to help him!" cried Mollie. "Now we will move faster."

Will and the others, reaching the side of the lumberman, and seeing his plan, laid hold of the rope with him, and hauled with all their might. Then, indeed, the floe containing the ice boat did move toward shore more quickly. And to such good purpose did the rescuers haul that, in a short time, the cake grounded in shallow water, with one point so near shore that the girls could leap across the intervening water safely.

And it was only just in time, for when Betty, who insisted on being the last to leave the boat, landed, the cake split in half, and the Spider was partly submerged.

"What luck!" cried Will, as he clasped his sister's hand. "Whatever possessed you girls to go out on a day like this?"

"Never mind asking questions now," replied Grace half-hysterically. "We're safe! Better get your boat ashore boys."

"That's good advice," agreed Allen, and with the help of the lumberman the Spider was hauled ashore, not in the least damaged. The girls were beginning to recover their nerves now, though they were a trifle shaky.

"Let's get back to the cabin!" cried Grace. "Oh, I'll never go ice boating again."

"Not when the ice is like it was to-day," commented her brother. "Franklin says he warned you."

"Oh, well, we didn't think we'd go so far," said Mollie. "We must thank that man. Where is he?"

The lumberman, having replaced the queer punt where he had found it, was walking away, when Betty, running after him, cried:

"Oh, won't you let us know who you are? We want to thank you, and--"

"Oh that's all right," he said, with rough good-nature. "It was all in the day's work. I've done the same thing before."

"But won't-won't you tell us who you are?" asked Allen.

"It doesn't matter. I'm a stranger around here, and I don't expect to stay. I'll be getting along," and he took off his fur cap and bowed. It was so evident that he did not want to disclose this identity that the boys did not press him.

"But we can't thank you enough," said Mollie.

"The sight of your pretty faces is enough," he replied gallantly, and with just the trace of a brogue. He smiled genially, bowed again and tramped off through the snow.

"How odd!" exclaimed Grace.

"Maybe he's one of the Jallow lumbermen, and didn't want it known that he had done the Ford family a favor," suggested Will.

"Silly!" remarked his sister.

"Well, there's something queer about him anyhow," insisted Will. "Say, but you girls were in a pickle, all right."

"It was a whole jar full-with some olives thrown in," remarked Betty. "Oh, I was so frightened!"

"You didn't show it, my dear," spoke Amy. "You were very brave!"

"Well, some one had to be. Not that you all weren't!" said Betty quickly.

"When we got back, and Franklin said you'd gone off in the boat, and we saw the ice breaking up, we were wild about you," spoke Will. "We started out to trace you, keeping on the high ground to see you quicker. But the lumberman beat us to it."

"Oh, I don't know what we should have done without him," declared Mollie.

"Well, let's get back to the cabin," voiced Will. "My feet are wet."

"And we'll all feel better for a cup of tea," added Mollie.

Behold them then, a little later, seated about a cosy fire, sipping tea, coffee or chocolate, according to their fancies, Mrs. Franklin having insisted on serving them. Soon the danger was but a poignant memory.

Days passed. The thaw spent itself and a freeze set in. Again there was excellent skating and ice boating, though the girls were a bit timid of the latter. Then came several winter affairs-parties in country-homes to which the girls were invited through the courtesy of Mrs. Franklin.

The girls enjoyed every one of them, and so did the boys. The winter was approaching its coldest spell. The Christmas holidays were not far off. Regarding the disputed claim, Mr. Jallow appeared to have matters in his favor. His men continued to cut the choice timber despite the protest of Mr. Ford, who was in despair at his inability to prove what he believed to be his right.

Alice Jallow and her friends remained in their winter cabin, but our friends saw little of them. Occasionally the boys met one another, but beyond rather frigid greetings little was said.

A big snow storm put an end to ice sports and the boys and girls went in for snowshoes, no one being very expert on them, however. One afternoon, when the boys had gone to town for some supplies, Betty proposed that the girls go for a little tramp. It was not cold, and the snow, with a heavy crust, was just right for the "tennis racquets," as she somewhat gaily dubbed the snowshoes.

They walked for several miles, and were about to turn back, when, unexpectedly they came in sight of a little cabin in a snow-filled glade.

"I wonder who lives there?" said Amy.

"Don't go too close. It may be another bear trap," said Betty with a laugh.

"That's no trap!" insisted Grace. "It's a regular cabin. I'm going to look in. Maybe an Indian used to live there, and we can find some relics."

The others rather reluctantly followed as Grace advanced. She peered in one of the windows, and, as she uttered a cry the others heard a distinct groan.

"What-what's that?" gasped Amy.

"Some one is in there! I saw a man lying in a bunk!" exclaimed Grace, moving away.

As the girls hesitated, looking at one another with fear-blanched faces, they heard a hollow voice calling:

"Help! Help! Get me a doctor!"

"Some one is hurt!" cried Betty. "We must see who it is, and help."

"But it-it's a man!" gasped Grace. "I saw him!"

"Well, a man can need help as well as anyone else," said Mollie, in defense of her chum Betty. "Come-I'm not afraid."

Resolutely she went to the front door. It opened at her touch, and the others, standing behind her saw a figure huddled up on a bunk built against the cabin wall.

"Oh, thank the dear Lord some one has come!" groaned a man's voice. "Will you please get a doctor or someone. My leg is broken, and I've been without help for two days!"

Then his voice trailed off weakly.

"He's fainted!" cried Betty, hurrying to his side.

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