Chapter VI. Ready for a Cruise
 

"What a pretty cabin!" cried Mollie.

"And see the places to put things!" exclaimed Betty.

"Places to put things!" fairly snorted Mr. Marlin, or to give him his proper title, Captain Marlin. "Places! Huh! Lockers, young ladies! Lockers! That's where you put things. The aft starboard locker, the for'd port locker. You must learn sea lingo if you're to cruise in the Gem."

The girls were still aboard the new motor boat. They could not seem to leave it since Betty had been told that it was a gift from her uncle. They inspected every part, turned the wheel, daintily touched the shining motor, and even tried the bunks.

"There is room for five in the cabin," said Betty, looking about. "If we wanted to take another girl with us we could, when we go cruising."

"Or a chaperone," added Grace. "We may have to do that, you know."

"Well, we can," admitted Betty. "The question is, shall we go on a cruise?"

"Ask us!" exclaimed Mollie with a laugh. "Just ask us!"

"I do ask you," retorted the little captain of the Gem. "Girls, you are hereby invited to accompany me on a cruise to go-- Oh, where can we go?"

"To Rainbow Lake, of course," said Grace, promptly. "We can go down the river into the lake, motor about it, go out into the lower river if we want to, camp on an island or two, if we like, and have a general good time."

"That's the way to talk!" cried Captain Marlin. "And I'll come with you part of the time. There's some extra bunks back here maybe you didn't see," and he showed them three folding ones in the cockpit back of the trunk cabin, where awnings could be stretched in stormy weather, enclosing that part of the craft.

"But what makes the boat go?" asked gentle Amy.

"The motor makes it 'mote,'" spoke Betty. "It's up in front; isn't it, Uncle Amos?"

"Up in front! There you go again, Bet. Up in front! You mean for'ard; up for'ard!"

"That's right, Uncle, I forgot. Come, we'll show these girls where the motor is," and she led the way to where the machinery was enclosed in a large compartment in the bow, close by hinged wing-covers.

The motor, one of three cylinders, was a self-starter, but by means of a crank and chain could be started from the steering platform, just aft of the trunk cabin, in case of emergency. There was a clutch, so that the motor could be set in motion without starting the boat, until the clutch, set for forward or reverse motion, had been adjusted, just as the motor of an automobile can be allowed to run without the car itself moving.

"And what a dear little stove in the kitchen!" exclaimed Betty, as the girls looked in the cooking compartment-- it was not much more than a compartment.

"Kitchen!" cried Captain Marlin. "That isn't a kitchen!"

"What is it?" Amy wanted to know.

"The galley, lass, the galley. That's where we cook aboard a ship, in the galley. There's an alcohol and oil stove combined. You can have chafing dish parties-- is that what you call them? and he laughed.

"That's right, Uncle," cried Betty. "And see the-- what are we supposed to call these?" and she pointed to pots, pans, dishes and other utensils that hung around the galley.

"Oh, call 'em galley truck, that's as good a name as any," said the old captain. "Do you like this, Bet?"

"Like it, Uncle Amos! It's the dearest little boat in the world. I don't deserve it. You are so good to get it for me, and it was such a surprise."

"Yes, I calculated it would be a surprise, all right. But I didn't forget that you always wanted to be a sailor, and so when I got the chance, I made up my mind I'd get you something worth while before I got sent to Davy Jones' locker."

"Where is that?" asked Amy, innocently.

"Oh, he means before he got drowned, or something like that," explained Betty. "Oh, Uncle Amos, you're a dear!" and she kissed him, somewhat to his confusion.

"So I got a man to build this boat to suit my ideas," went on the old seaman. "It's equipped for salt water, if so be you should ever want to take a trip to sea."

"Never!" cried Mollie.

"Well, you never can tell," he said sagely. "After she was finished I had him ship her here, and then I got her into the water. I will say, that, for her size, she is a sweet little craft. And I hope you'll like her, Bet."

"Like her! Who could help it? Uncle you're a---- "

"No more kissing, Bet. I'm too old for that."

"The idea! Oh, girls, aren't the bunks too cute for anything!" and Betty sat down on one.

"And the dining room-- may I call it that?" Grace timidly asked of the captain.

"Well, saloon is a better word, but let it go," he murmured. "Now, what do you say to a little run down the river? It will give you an idea of how to handle her."

"Oh, how lovely!" cried Betty. "Let's go, girls."

"That man is from the firm that built the craft," went on the former sailor. "He'll show you all the wrinkles," and he motioned to a man standing near.

Lines were cast off, the motor started, the clutch thrown in and then, with Captain Betty at the wheel, her uncle standing near to instruct her, the Gem started down the stream, attracting not a little attention.

"This is a sea wheel," explained the captain. "That is, you turn it the opposite way to what you want the boat to go. I wouldn't have a land-lubber's wheel on any boat I built. So don't forget, Bet, your boat shifts opposite to the way you turn the wheel."

"I'll remember, Uncle."

With dancing eyes and flushed faces, the girls sat in the cockpit back, or "aft," of the trunk cabin, and watched Betty steer. She did very well, for she had had some practice in a small motor boat the girls occasionally hired.

"Oh, I couldn't have had anything in the world I wanted more than this!" she cried to her uncle. "It is just great!"

"And you think you girls will go for a cruise?"

"I am sure we will, and as soon as we can. It will be the very thing for the hot summer."

"Wouldn't Will just love this?" sighed Grace.

"Perhaps Betty will invite him and Allen Washburn and Percy Falconer to come along on a trip or two," said Mollie, with a wink at her chums as she mentioned Percy's name. The latter was a foppish young man about town, who tried to be friendly with Betty; but she would have none of him.

"Never Percy!" she declared. "I'll ask Will, of course, and Frank Haley, but---- "

"Not Allen?" inquired Amy, mischievously, for it was no great secret that Betty really liked Allen, a young law student, and that he was rather attentive to her.

"Which way shall I steer to pass that boat, Uncle?" asked Betty, to change a subject that was getting too personal.

"Port," he answered briefly.

"And that is----" she hesitated.

"The left," he answered quickly. "It's easy if you think that the letter L comes before the letter P and that L is the beginning of left. Port means left, always."

"I'm sure it's easy to say left and right," commented Grace, who was eating a chocolate.

"Hum!" exclaimed the old captain, disapprovingly.

The Gem proved worthy of her name. The girls made a little trip about the river, and then Captain Marlin, on learning that there was a boat house and dock on the property of Mollie's mother, steered the craft there, where it would be tied up until the girls started on their cruise.

And that they would cruise was fully decided on in the next few days. Now that the great surprise was known, plans were made to spend some time on the lake and river in the new craft.

The wonder and delight of it grew. Each day the girls discovered something different about Betty's boat. It was most complete, and practical. The boys were in transports over it, and when Will and his chum Frank Haley were allowed to steer they could not talk enough about it.

Preparations for the cruise went on apace. Captain Marlin oversaw them at odd times, for he was in business, and made trips between New York and Deepdale.

In the meanwhile Grace fully recovered from the runaway accident. Not so poor Dodo, however, and it was feared that the little girl would have to be operated on.

"When?" asked Betty, thinking that this would spoil Mollie's trip.

"Oh, not for some time," was the answer. "They are going to try everything else first."

Some of the mothers arranged to go along on part of the cruises, and other married ladies volunteered for the remaining days, so the girls would be properly chaperoned. Then began the final preparations.

"And if you see anything of Prince on your wanderings, don't fail to catch him," begged Will, a few nights before the day set for the start.

"We will," promised Grace.

The telephone rang-- they were all at Grace's house. She answered.

"Yes, yes. This is Mr. Ford's residence. What's that-- you have a stray white horse? Oh, Will, maybe it's Prince!" and she turned eagerly to her brother. "A man from Randall's livery stable is on the wire. He says they have a white horse that was just brought in. A farmer says he found him wandering about the country. Hurry down there!"