Chapter I. The Ice-Boat
 

"Oh, there comes my skate off again! Freddie, have you got any paste in your pocket?"

"Paste, Flossie! What good would paste be to fasten on your skate?"

"I don't know, but it might do some good. I can't make the strap hold it on any more," and a plump little girl shook back her flaxen, curling hair, which had slipped from under her cap and was blowing into her eyes, sat down on a log near the shore of the frozen lake and looked sorrowfully at the shining skate which had become loosened from her shoe.

"Come on, Flossie!" called the small, plump boy, just about the size of his sister, and with her same kind of light hair and blue eyes. "There go Bert, Nan and Tommy Todd 'way ahead of us. We'll never catch up to 'em if you sit here. Come on!"

"I can't help sitting here, Freddie Bobbsey! How am I going to skate on only one skate?" asked the little girl.

"Put on the other, and come along."

"I have put it on, lots of times, but it comes off every time I skate a little bit. That's why I want some paste. Maybe I could paste the strap fast around my shoe."

"I don't believe you could, Flossie," and this time the small, plump boy stopped skating around in a ring--"grinding the bar," as it is called--and glided toward his sister seated on the log. "Anyhow, I haven't any paste. What made you think I had?"

"Oh, you carry so much stuff in your pockets I thought maybe you'd have paste."

"I might if it was summer, Flossie, and I was making kites with Bert. But I haven't any paste now."

"Then have you got a postage stamp?"

"A postage stamp? Of course not! What good would a postage stamp be to fasten your skate strap?"

"Well, a postage stamp has paste on it, hasn't it? Anyhow, it's sticky, 'cause I got some on my tongue once, and I just know if I could only fasten down the end of this skate strap, to keep it from flopping up, and coming out of the buckle, I'd be all right. It's the flopping end that comes loose."

"Well, pooh! a postage stamp wouldn't be any good!" cried Freddie. "If you did stick it on it wouldn't last more than three strokes. A postage stamp wouldn't go far at all!"

"Some postage stamps do!" exclaimed Flossie. "Mother got one on a letter the other day and it had stuck itself on half-way round the world--she told me so. And if a stamp sticks half-way around the world I should think it would stick while I skated down to the end of the lake."

"Huh! That's different!" half grunted Freddie, for, just then, he was stooping over tightening one of his straps. "Anyhow, I haven't got a stamp."

"Well, maybe you could fix my skate so it wouldn't come off," suggested Flossie. "I've tried and tried, but I can't, and I don't want to stay here all alone."

"Why Flossie Bobbsey! I'm with you!"

"I know, but Nan and Bert are away down at the other end, with Tommy Todd, and Bert is going to buy hot chocolates. I know he is, 'cause he said so. I don't want to miss them."

"Me neither! Wait and I'll see if I can't fix your skate, Flossie."

Freddie was small--he and Flossie were the smaller pair of Bobbsey twins--but he was a sturdy little chap, and living out of doors, and playing games with his older brother Bert had taught Freddie how to do many things. He put Flossie's skate on her shoe, tightened the strap, and then made it still tighter by putting some pieces of wood under the leather loop.

"There!" he exclaimed, as he stood up, having been kneeling in the snow on the edge of the lake. "I guess that will hold, Flossie. Now come on, and we'll see how fast we can skate."

Together the brother and sister started off. This time Flossie's skate seemed to be all right, needing neither paste nor a postage stamp to hold it on, and in a little while the smaller twins had caught up to Bert and Nan, their brother and sister, who, with a boy neighbor, named Tommy Todd, had slowed up to wait for them.

"What kept you?" asked Nan. "Did you try to do some fancy skating, Flossie?"

"I guess Freddie stopped to see if there wasn't a crack in the ice where he could get some water to play fireman," remarked Bert with a smile, for his small brother was very fond of this game, and his best-liked toy was a small fire engine, which, when a spring was wound, could squirt real water.

"No, I didn't stop at any cracks!" exclaimed Freddie earnestly. "Cracks in the ice is dangerous--Daddy said so. It was Flossie's skate."

"That's right--it kept coming off," explained the blue-eyed girl. "But Freddie fixed it, and he didn't have to use a postage stamp, either. Did you, Freddie?"

"Nope."

"Well, I guess they know what it means, but we don't!" laughed Nan, taking her small sister's hand. "Come on, now, you little twins. I We waited for you, so we could all have hot chocolate together. You didn't get cold, I hope, stopping to fix your skate, Flossie?"

"Nope! I'm as warm as butter!"

"What does she mean by that?" asked Tommy Todd. "I often hear my grandmother say she's as warm as toast, but butter----"

"Well, when it's Winter, like it is now, you have to warm your butter so you can spread it on your bread," explained Flossie. "So I'm as warm as butter now."

"I wish I was!" cried Bert. "I'm getting a chill standing here waiting for you two! Come on, now. Skate lively, and we'll soon be there," and he pointed to a little candy and soda-water stand near the lower end of Lake Metoka, on the frozen surface of which the children were skating.

In the little cabin, which in Winter was built over the stand to make a warm place for skaters, hot chocolate and other drinks could be had, and Bert had promised to treat his brother and sisters, as well as Tommy Todd.

"Don't skate too fast," begged Flossie. "My skate might come off again, though Freddie fixed it pretty good."

"If it comes off again I'll skate and carry you on my back the rest of the way!" cried Bert. "I want something hot to drink. But mind you!" he cried, as he saw a mischievous look on his little sister's face, "don't dare make your skate come off on purpose! I don't want to carry you unless I have to."

"All right, Bert. I'll skate as fast as I can," promised Flossie.

The five started off, Tommy Todd skating beside Flossie to help her if she should need it. Tommy was a sort of chum of both pairs of twins, sometimes going with the older ones, Nan and Bert, and again with Flossie and Freddie. In fact, he played with these latter more often than with Nan and her twin, for Flossie and Freddie had played a large part in helping Tommy at one time, as I'll explain a little later.

It was a fine Winter's day, not too cold, and the sun was shining from a clear sky, but not warmly enough to melt the ice. The steel skates of the five children rang out a merry tune as they clicked over the frozen surface of the lake.

"Hurrah! Here we are!" cried Bert at last, as he skated on ahead and sat down on a bench in front of the "Chocolate Cabin," as they called the place. He began taking off his skates.

"Come on!" he called to the others. "I'll order the chocolate for you and have it cooling," for there was more trouble with Flossie's skate and Nan had stopped to help her fix it.

"Don't order chocolate for me, Bert!" called Nan. "I want malted milk. The chocolate is too sweet."

"Guess you're afraid of your complexion, Sis!" laughed Bert, as he went inside the little wooden house.

"Oh, Flossie, take both your skates off and walk the rest of the way," advised Nan, after she had tried, without much success, to fix the troublesome strap. "We'll get there sooner."

"All right," agreed Flossie. "It's a bother--this skate. I'm going to get a new pair."

"Maybe a new strap is all you need," said Tommy. "You can get one in there," and he nodded toward the little cabin.

A little later the five children were seated on stools in front of the counter, sipping the warm drinks which made their cheeks glow with brighter color and caused a deeper sparkle in their eyes.

"This is great!" cried Tommy Todd.

"That's what!" murmured Freddie, his nose deep in his cup.

"Don't forget about my strap," came from Flossie.

"Oh, yes," agreed Bert. "We don't want to have to drag you all the way home." The man who sold the chocolate and candy in the cabin also had skate straps for sale and one was soon found that would do for Flossie.

"Now my skate won't come off!" she cried, as once more they were on the ice. "I can skate as good as you, Freddie Bobbsey!"

"Let's have a race!" proposed Freddie. "Bert and Nan can give Flossie and me a head start, 'cause they're bigger than us. Will you?" he asked his brother.

"Yes, I guess so. A race will get us home quicker, and we're a little late."

"We'll let Flossie and Freddie start ahead of me," suggested Tommy, who, being a little elder than the two smaller twins, was a little better skater.

"All right," agreed Bert. "Any way you like. Go ahead, Floss and Fred. Skate on until I tell you to wait. Then I'll give Tommy a starting place and, when we're all ready, I'll give the word to begin."

Flossie and Freddie, hand in hand, skated ahead a little way. But Freddie's skate went over a little piece of wood on the ice and he tripped and fell, pulling Flossie down with him. The two plump twins were in a heap on the ice.

"Hurt yourself?" asked Bert, as he started toward them, to help them up.

"No--no--I--I guess not," answered Flossie, who was the first to get up.

"We're all right," replied Freddie. "The ice was soft right there."

"I guess it's because they're so fat, that they're soft, like a feather pillow," laughed Tommy. "They're getting fatter every day."

"That's what they are," agreed Nan with a smile. "But they are pretty good skaters for such small children."

"Everybody ready?" asked Bert, when the two small twins had taken their places, and Tommy Todd was between them and Bert and Nan.

"All right," answered Freddie.

"I am, too," came from Tommy.

"Then go!" cried Bert, suddenly.

The skating race was started. Merrily clicked the runners on the hard ice, leaving long white streaks where the children passed over. Flossie and Freddie were skating as fast and as hard as they could.

"They are very anxious to win," said Nan, who was skating beside her brother.

"Yes, but they can't keep going as fast as that all the way home."

"You're going to let them win, aren't you?" asked Nan.

"Sure I am! But they're so sharp we don't dare lag much behind. We must make a spurt toward the end, and pretend we did our best to beat them. Tommy Todd may come in ahead of them, though."

"We can skate up to him and tell him not to," suggested Nan.

"Good idea!" declared Bert. "We'll do it."

The older twins skated a little faster to overtake Tommy, who was some distance behind Flossie and Freddie, when suddenly Nan gave a cry and clutched Bert by the arm.

"Look!" she exclaimed, pointing with her hand.

"An ice-boat," remarked Bert. "And going fast, too!"

"Yes, but see! It's coming right toward Flossie and Freddie, and they're skating with their heads down, and don't see it! Oh, Bert! Yell at them! Tell them to look out! Yell at the man in the ice-boat!"

It did indeed seem a time of danger, for a swift ice-boat--one with big white sails and runners, like large skates under it, was skimming over the frozen lake straight for the smaller twins.