Chapter XIII. In a Hard Blow
 

"Are you girls warm enough?" asked Bert Bobbsey, as he and his cousin Harry started toward the frozen lake one afternoon, the day before they were all to start for Snow Lodge.

"If we aren't we will never be," answered Dorothy Minturn, who was Nan's "seashore cousin" as she called the visitor. "I've got on so many things that it would be easier to roll along instead of walking," went on Dorothy with a laugh.

"Well, it's a good thing to be warm, for it will be cold on the ice- boat; won't it, Bert?" asked Harry.

"That's what it will. There's a good wind blowing, too. It's stronger than I thought it was," and Bert bent to the blast as he walked along with the others.

"Will there be any danger?" asked Dorothy, who was not used to the activities of the Bobbseys.

"Oh, don't worry!" cried Harry. "We'll look after you girls."

"They think they will," murmured Nan looking at her cousin, "I guess I know almost as much about the Ice Bird as Bert does."

"Where is your ice-boat?" asked Harry of Bert, as they kept on along the path that led to the lake.

"Over in the next cove. I had her out the other day, and the wind died out, leaving me there. Since then we've been so busy getting ready to go to Snow Lodge that I haven't had time to bring her back to the dock."

"Will she be safe over there?"

"I guess so--hardly anybody goes there in winter."

The two cousins--Harry from the country and Dorothy from the seashore,--in each of which places the Bobbseys had spent part of the preceding summer,--had followed soon after their letters, and had been warmly welcomed by Nan, Bert, Flossie and Freddie. The visitors were rather surprised to learn that the Bobbsey family was preparing to go away for a winter vacation in the woods, but they were only too glad to accept an invitation to go along.

So it was arranged, and in another day the start to Mr. Carford's former home would be made. Mr. Bobbsey had a big sled gotten ready, there were boxes, barrels and packages of provisions, Snow Lodge had been opened by a farmer living near there, who remained in it all night, keeping up the fires so that the long-deserted house would not be chilly, and all was in readiness.

The plans of Nan and Bert to go to Snow Lodge by means of skates and on the ice-boat had been agreed to.

Dorothy and Nan thought they would rather skate than go all the way on the ice-boat, but Bert and Harry decided to keep to the ice craft all the way.

"And when you girls get tired of skating just wave your handkerchiefs, and we'll wait for you," said Bert.

Now they were going to take a little trial sail on the Ice Bird before starting off on the longer cruise.

As the four walked around a point of land, and came within sight of the ice-boat, tied to a stake in the ice of the cove, Harry uttered a cry.

"Look!" he exclaimed to Bert, "someone is at your boat!"

"That's right!" cried Bert, starting to run. Just then a figure skated away from the craft, and Bert breathed a sigh of relief.

"I guess it was only someone taking a look at her," he said "There aren't many on the lake."

"We can't go very far," said Nan, as they neared the boat, "for mamma said to be back early. We've got a great deal of packing to do yet."

"We'll just take a little spin," replied Bert.

They were soon on the ice-boat, gliding up and down the lake, which was frozen to a glassy smoothness.

"If it's like this to-morrow it will be grand for skating!" exclaimed Nan.

"Yes, and fine for ice-boating, too," replied her brother. "We'll beat you to Snow Lodge."

"Well, you ought to," said Dorothy, "but we'll be warmer skating than you will be on the ice-boat."

"Not when we take along all the fur robes I've got out for the trip," replied Bert. "I didn't bring 'em this time, as it was too far to carry. But to-morrow Harry and I will be regular Eskimos."

Back and forth on the lake sailed the Ice Bird with the merry- hearted boys and girls. Bert did not go very far, as he noticed that the wind was growing much stronger and his boat, though sturdy and well-built, was not intended to weather a gale.

"Well, I think we'd better start for home now," said Nan after about an hour's sailing. "Mamma will be expecting us."

"All right," assented Bert. "Do you want to steer her, Harry?"

"I'm afraid I don't know how," replied the country lad.

"Oh, you'll soon learn. I'll be right beside you here, and tell you what to do."

"Don't upset, please, whatever you do," urged Dorothy.

"I'll try not to," promised Harry.

When they got out of the sheltered cove they felt the full force of the wind, and for a moment even Nan, who had been on the boat many times, felt a bit timid. The Ice Bird tilted to one side, the left hand runner raising high in the air.

"Oh!" screamed Dorothy. "We're going over!"

"No, we're not! Sit still!" cried Bert, grasping the tiller, which Harry was not holding just right. By turning the ice-boat to one side the wind did not strike it so hard, and the craft settled down on the level again.

"There! That's better!" exclaimed Dorothy, who had grabbed hold of Nan.

"Oh, that's nothing," said Nan. "Bert and I are used to that."

But as the ice-boat proceeded it was evident that those on her were not going to have an easy time to get to the Bobbsey dock. The wind blew harder and harder, and the sail seemed ready to rip apart. It took both Bert and Harry to hold the rudder steady, and even then the tiller was almost torn from their grasp.

Even Nan began to look a little frightened, and she did not laugh when Dorothy stretched out flat and held on to the side of the boat with all her strength.

"I don't want to be blown away if I can help it," said Dorothy.

Harder and harder blew the wind, sending the ice-boat along at great speed. In a few minutes more it would be at the dock, where Bert kept it tied.

"If it blows this way to-morrow we won't be long getting to Snow Lodge," cried Bert in Harry's ear. He had to shout to be heard above the howling of the wind.

"That's right," agreed the country boy. "The girls can never skate along as fast as this."

"We'll have to use less sail," went on Bert, "and then we won't go so fast."

He and Harry shifted the rudder to steer closer to shore. Suddenly the wind came in a fierce gust. The ice-boat seemed about to turn completely over. The two girls screamed, even Nan being frightened now.

"Oh, what is it? What is it?" cried Dorothy.

Then came a sharp crack. There was a sound as though a hundred pop- guns were being fired, and the boat slackened speed.

"Look!" cried Harry pointing ahead "Our sail has burst, Bert"

"No, it's the sheet rope--the main rope that holds the sail fast- that's broken," replied Bert. "Lucky it did, too, or we might have gone over. I was going to let go of it."

The ice-boat slid along a short distance, and then came to a stop. The sail, no longer held in place so as to catch the wind, was blowing and flapping, making snapping sounds like a line of clothes in a heavy wind.

"All right, girls, no danger now," called Bert, as he got out to make the flapping sail fast again. As he looked at the end of the broken rope he uttered a cry of surprise.

"Look here!" he called to Harry, "this rope has been cut!"

"Cut?"

"Yes. Someone hacked it partly through with a knife, and the wind did the rest."

There was no doubt of it. The main rope had been partly severed, and the strain of the hard blow had done the rest.

"That fellow we saw near the ice-boat!" began Harry. "It must have been him! Who was he?"

"Danny Rugg--if anybody," answered Bert. "I thought it looked like him. Probably he heard that we were going to use the boat to go to Snow Lodge, and he wanted to make trouble for us. He's going to camp up there near us, I hear."

"Gracious!" cried Dorothy. "I hope he doesn't play any tricks like that up there."

"If he does I guess Harry and I can attend to him," cried Bert. "But, in a way, it's a good thing the rope did break or we might have upset. Only Danny, if he did it, had no idea of doing us a good turn. He just wanted to make trouble."

"Can you fix it?" asked Nan of her brother.

"Oh, yes, it can be spliced and will be stronger than ever. But I won't do it now. We can walk the rest of the way to the dock. The wind is blowing harder than ever, and we don't want any accidents."

Indeed, the wind was blowing a gale now, and even with the sail down the ice-boat went along at such a speed that it was all Harry and Bert could do to hold it.

But finally it was gotten to the dock, and made fast, and while the girls went on to the Bobbsey home to finish with their packing. Bert and Harry mended the broken rope.

"I'll have to teach Danny Rugg a good lesson," said Bert to his cousin.

"Yes, and I'll help you," returned Harry.