Chapter XII. At Rainbow Lake
 

Once the Gem was securely tied-- and Betty now made sure of this-- the tired and rather chilly girls adjourned to the cabin, and under the lights had the hot chocolate Aunt Kate and Amy had made.

"It's delicious," spoke Betty. "I feel so much better now."

"We must never let on to the boys that we came near running down a steamer," said Grace. "We'd never hear the last of it."

"But we didn't nearly run down a steamer-- she came toward us," insisted Betty, not willing to have her seamanship brought into question. "If it had been any other boat, not drawing so much water, she could have steered out of the way. As it was we, not being under control, had the right of way."

"It wouldn't have done any good to have insisted on it," remarked Grace, drawlingly.

"No, especially as we couldn't hoist the signal to show that," went on Betty. "Uncle Amos told me there are signals for nearly everything that can happen at sea, but of course I never thought of such a thing as that we'd get adrift. I must be prepared next time."

"I can't understand about those knots," spoke Grace. "Where is that book?"

"What book?"

"The one showing how to tie different kinds of knots. I'm going to study up on the subject."

"Not to-night," objected Aunt Kate. "It's nearly morning as it is."

"Well, the first thing to-morrow, then," declared Grace. "I'm going to make up for my blunder."

"Oh, don't be distressed," consoled Betty. "Any of us might have made the same mistake. It was only an accident, Grace dear."

"Well, I seem fated to have accidents lately. There was poor little Dodo---- "

"Not your fault at all!" exclaimed Mollie, promptly. "I'll not allow you to blame yourself for her accident. It was those motorists, if any-one, and I'm not sure they were altogether to blame. Anyhow, I'm sure Dodo will be cured after the operation."

"I hope so," murmured Grace.

The appetizing odor of bacon and eggs came from the little galley, mingled with the aromatic foretaste of coffee. Aunt Kate was busy inside. The girls were laughing out in the cabin, or on the lowered after-deck. It was the next morning-- which makes all the difference in the world.

"I'm afraid we're going to have a shower today," observed Amy, musingly, as she looked up at the sky. A light fog hung over the river.

"Will you ever forget the awful shower that kept us in the deserted house all night?" asked Betty, as she arranged her hair. "I mean when we were on our walking trip," she added, looking for a ribbon that had floated, like a rose petal, under her shelf-dresser.

"Oh, we'll never get over that!" declared Mollie, who was industriously putting hairpins where they would be more serviceable. "And we couldn't imagine, for the longest time, why the house should be left all alone that way."

"Now I'm going to begin my lesson," announced Grace, who, having gotten herself ready for breakfast, took up the book showing how various sailor knots should be made. With a piece of twine she tied "figure-eights," now and then slipping into the "grannie" class; she made half-hitches, clove hitches, a running bowline, and various other combinations, until Amy declared that it made her head ache to look on.

The girls had breakfast, strolled about on shore for a little while, and then started off, intending to stop in Dunkirk, which town lay a little below them, to get some supplies, and replenish the oil and gasoline.

It was while Betty was bargaining for the latter necessaries for her motor in a garage near the river that she heard a hearty voice outside asking:

"Have you men seen anything of a trim little craft, manned by four pretty girls, in the offing? She'd be about two tons register, a rakish little motor boat, sailing under the name Gem and looking every inch of it. She ought to be here about high tide, stopping for sealed orders, and---- "

"Uncle Amos!" cried Betty, hurrying to the garage door, as she recognized his voice. "Are you looking for us?"

"That's what I am, lass, and I struck the right harbor first thing; didn't I? Davy Jones couldn't be any more accurate! Well, how are you?"

"All right, Uncle. The girls are down in the boat at the dock," and she pointed. "The man is going to take down the oil and gasoline. Won't you come on a trip with us? We expect to make Rainbow Lake by night."

"Of course I'll come! That's why I drifted in here. I worked out your reckoning and I calculated that you'd be here about to-day, so I come by train, stayed over night, and here I am. What kind of a voyage did you have?"

"Very good-- one little accident, that's all," and she told about getting adrift.

"Pshaw, now! That's too bad! I'll have to give you some lessons in mooring knots, I guess. It won't do to slip your cable in the middle of the night."

The girls were as glad to see Betty's uncle as he was to greet them, and soon, with plenty of supplies on board, and with the old sea captain at the wheel, which Betty graciously asked him to take, the Gem slipped down the river again.

At noon, when they tied up to go ashore in a pleasant grove for lunch, Mr. Marlin demonstrated how to tie so many different kinds of knots that the girls said they never could remember half of them. But most particularly he insisted on all of them learning how to tie a boat properly so it could not slip away.

Betty already knew this, and Mollie had a fairly good notion of it, but Grace admitted that, all along, she had been making a certain wrong turn which would cause the knot to slip under strain.

They motored down the river again, stopping at a small town to enable Mollie to go ashore and telephone home to learn the condition of little Dodo. There was nothing new to report, for the operation would not take place for some time yet.

Grace also called up to ask if anything had been heard of the missing horse and papers, but there was no good news. However, there was no bad news, Will, who talked to his sister, reporting that the interests opposed to their father had made no move to take advantage of the non-production of the documents.

"Have a good time, Sis," called Will over the wire. "Don't worry. It doesn't do any good, and it will spoil your cruise. Something may turn up any time. But it sure is queer how Prince can be away so long."

"It certainly is," agreed Grace.

"And so you expect to make Rainbow Lake by six bells?" asked Betty's uncle, as he paced up and down the rather restricted quarters of the deck.

"Yes, Uncle, by seven o'clock," answered Betty, who was at the wheel. "Six bells-- six bells!" he exclaimed. "You must talk sea lingo on a boat, Bet."

"All right, Uncle-- six bells."

"Where's your charts?" he asked, suddenly.

"Charts?"

"Yes, how are you sailing? Have you marked the course since last night and posted it? Where are your charts-- your maps? How do you expect to make Rainbow Lake without some kind of charts? Are you going by dead reckoning?"

"Why, Uncle, all we have to do is to keep right on down the river, and it opens into Rainbow Lake. The lake is really a wide part of the river, you know. We don't need any charts."

"Don't need any charts? Have you heaved the lead to see how much water you've got?"

"Why, no," and she looked at him wonderingly.

"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "Oh, I forgot this isn't salt water. Well, I dare say you will stumble into the lake after some fashion-- but it isn't seaman-like-- it isn't seaman-like," and the old tar shook his grizzled head gloomily.

Betty smiled, and shifted her course a little to give a wide berth to some boys who were fishing. She did not want the propeller's wash to disturb them. They waved gratefully to her.

The sun was declining in the west, amid a bank of golden, olive and purple clouds, and a little breeze ruffled the water of the river. The stream was widening out now, and Betty remarked:

"We'll soon be in the lake now."

"The boat-- not us, I hope," murmured Grace.

"Of course," assented Betty, "Won't you stay with us to-night, Uncle Amos?" she asked, as she opened the throttle a little wider, to get more speed. "You can have one of the rear-- I mean after, bunks," she corrected, quickly.

"That's better," and he smiled. "No, I'll berth ashore, I guess. I've got to get back to town, anyhow. I just wanted to see how you girls were getting along."

The Gem was speeding up. They rounded a turn, and then the girls exclaimed:

"Rainbow Lake!"

In all its beauty this wide sheet of water lay before them. It was dotted with many pleasure craft, for vacation life was pulsing and throbbing in its summer heydey now. As the Gem came out on the broad expanse a natty little motor boat, long and slender, evidently built for speed, came racing straight toward the craft of the girls.

"Gracious, I hope we haven't violated any rules," murmured Betty, as she slowed down, for she caught a motion that indicated that the two young men in the boat wished to speak to her.

As they came nearer Grace uttered an exclamation.

"What is it?" asked Mollie.

"Those young men-- in the boat. I'm sure they're the same two who were in the auto that made Prince run away! Oh, what shall I do?"