Chapter II. Building the "Bird"

Flossie and Freddie, anxious to win the skating race, were bending over with heads down, as all skaters do who wish to go fast and keep the wind from blowing on them too hard. So they did not see the ice-boat coming toward them, for the craft, blown by the wind, made hardly any noise, and what little it did make was taken up by the clicking of the skates of the smaller twins.

"Oh, Bert! Do something!" cried Nan.

"Yes, yes! I will--of course!"

Bert shook off Nan's hand, for it was still on his arm, and started to skate toward the twins as fast as he could. He hoped to reach them in time to stop them from skating right into the path of the oncoming ice-boat.

But he soon saw that he was not going to be able to do this. The ice-boat was coming toward the small twins faster than Bert could ever hope to skate and reach them.

"Yell at them!" shouted Nan. "That's the only way to stop them! Yell and tell them to look out!"

Bert himself had decided this was the best thing to do. He stopped skating and, making a sort of funnel, or megaphone, of his hands, he cried out:

"Flossie! Freddie! Look out! Danger--the ice-boat!"

Just at this moment, whether it was because of Bert's shouts or because they were tired of going so fast and wanted a rest, the two children leading the skating race stood up straight and looked back. They saw Bert pointing toward them and then they glanced at the ice-boat. It was very close, and Flossie screamed.

At the same time the man who was steering the boat saw the children. With a shout that echoed the one given by Bert, and the screams of Nan and Flossie, the man steered his boat to one side. But he made such a sudden change that, though he steered out of the way of Flossie and Freddie, he nearly ran into Tommy Todd. That small boy, however, was a good skater and stopped just in time, for he had seen the ice-boat coming.

Then with a whizz and a clink of ice, as the runners of the boat scraped big chips from the frozen lake, the skimming boat shot past Nan and Bert, not doing a bit of harm, but scaring all five children very much.

"Sorry! Didn't see you! Next time----"

This was what the man in the ice-boat shouted as he whizzed by. His last words seemed whipped away by the wind and the children did not know what he meant.

"Maybe he meant next time he'd be sure to run into us," said Tommy Todd.

"Oh, he wouldn't do that!" declared Bert "That was Mr. Watson. He buys lumber from my father. I guess he meant that next time he'd give us a ride."

"Oh, my!" exclaimed Nan. "Would you ride in one of those dangerous things, Bert Bobbsey?"

"Would I? Well, just give me the chance! How about you, Tommy?"

"I should say so! They're great!"

"Oh, I can't bear them!" went on Nan. "Please let's stop and rest. My heart is beating so fast I can't skate for a while."

"All right--we'll call the race off," agreed Bert. Flossie and Freddie were a little startled by the closeness of the ice-boat, and they skated back to join their brother and sister.

And while they are taking a little rest on the ice I shall have a chance to let my new readers know something of the past history of the children about whom I am writing.

There were two pairs of Bobbsey twins. They were the children of Mr. Richard Bobbsey and his wife Mary, and the family lived in an Eastern city called Lakeport, which was at the head of Lake Metoka. Mr. Bobbsey was in the lumber business, having a yard and docks on the shore of the lake about a quarter of a mile from his house.

The older Bobbsey twins were Nan and Bert. They had dark hair and eyes, and were rather tall and slim. Flossie and Freddie, the younger twins, were short and fat, with light hair and blue eyes. So it would have been easy to tell the twins apart, even if one pair had not been older than the other. Besides the children and their parents there were in the "family" two other persons--Dinah Johnson, the fat, good-natured colored cook, and Sam, her husband, who looked after the furnace in the Winter and cut the grass in Summer.

Then there was Snoop, and Snap. The first was a fine black cat and the second a big dog, both great pets of the children. Those of you who have read the first book of this series, entitled "The Bobbsey Twins," do not need to read this explanation here, but others may care to. In the second volume I told you of the fun the twins had in the country. After that they went to the seashore, and this subject has a book all to itself, telling of the adventures there.

Later on the Bobbseys went back to school, where they had plenty of fun, and when they were at Snow Lodge there were some strange happenings, as there were also on the houseboat Bluebird. There was a stowaway boy--but there! I had better let you read the book for yourself.

The Bobbsey twins spent some time at Meadow Brook, but there was always a question whether they had better times there or "At Home," which is the name of the book just before this one.

You, who have read that book, will remember that Flossie and Freddie found, in a big snow storm, the lost father of Tommy Todd, a boy who lived with his grandmother in a poor section of Lakeport. And it was still that same Winter, after Tommy's father had come home, that we find the Bobbsey twins skating on the ice, having just missed being run into by the ice-boat.

"My! but that was a narrow escape!" exclaimed Nan, as she skated slowly about. "My heart is beating fast yet."

"So's mine," added Flossie. "Did he do it on purpose?"

"No, indeed!" exclaimed Bert. "I guess Mr. Watson wouldn't do a thing like that! He was looking after the ropes of the sail, or doing something to the steering rudder, and that's why he didn't see you and Freddie."

"What makes an ice-boat go?" asked Freddie.

"The wind blows it, just as the wind blows a sailboat," explained Bert, looking down the lake after the ice-boat.

"But it hasn't any cabin to it like a real boat," went on Freddie. "And it doesn't go in the water. Where do the people sit?"

"An ice-boat is like this," said Bert, and with the sharp heel end of his skate he drew a picture on the ice. "You take two long pieces of wood, and fasten them together like a cross--almost the same as when you start to make a kite," he went on. "On each end of the short cross there are double runners, like skates, only bigger. And at the end of the long stick, at the back, is another runner, and this moves, and has a handle to it like the rudder on a boat. They steer the ice-boat with this handle.

"And where the two big sticks cross they put up the tall mast and make the sail fast to that. Then when the wind blows it sends the ice-boat over the ice as fast as anything."

"It sure does go fast," said Tommy Todd. "Look! He's almost at the end of the lake now."

"Yes, an ice-boat goes almost as fast as the wind," said Bert. "Maybe some day----"

"Oh, come on!" cried Flossie. "I want to go home! I'm cold standing here."

"Yes, we had better go on," said Nan. "I'm all right now."

As the five children skated off, no longer thinking of the race, Nan asked Bert:

"What are you going to do some day?"

"Oh, I don't know. I haven't got it all thought out yet. I'll tell you after a bit."

"Is it a secret?" asked Nan, eagerly.

"Sort of."

"Oh, please tell me!"

"Not now. Come on, skate faster!"

Bert and Nan skated on ahead, knowing that Flossie and Freddie would try to keep up with them, and so would get home more quickly. But they did not leave the smaller twins too far behind.

A little later the Bobbseys were safe at home. Tommy Todd went to his grandmother's house, and Flossie and Freddie took turns giving their mother an account of their escape from the ice-boat.

"Was there really any danger?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey of Bert.

"Well, maybe, just a little. But I guess Mr. Watson would have stopped in time. He's a good ice-boat sailor."

"But don't let Flossie and Freddie get so far away from you another time. They might have been hurt."

Bert promised to look well after his little sister and brother, and then, having asked his mother if she wanted anything from the store, he said he was going down to his father's lumberyard.

"What for?" asked Nan, as she saw him leaving. "Is it about the secret?"

"Partly," answered Bert with a laugh.

Two or three days later the Bobbseys were again out skating on the ice, Nan and Bert keeping close to Freddie and Flossie. They had not been long gliding about when Freddie suddenly called:

"Oh, here comes that ice-boat again!"

"Surely enough, it is!" added Nan. "Oh, we must skate toward shore! Come on!"

"No need to do that," replied Bert. "It isn't coming fast, and Mr. Watson sees us."

"He's waving his hand at us!" cried Flossie. "I guess he wants to give us a ride. Come on, Freddie!"

"Here! Wait a minute!" called Bert "Don't get into any more danger. But I believe he is going to stop," he went on, as the ice-boat came slowly up to them. Then, as it swung up into the wind, with the sail loosely flapping, Mr. Watson called:

"Come on, children, don't you want to go for a ride?"

"Oh, let's!" cried Flossie, clapping her hands.

"And I want to steer!" added Freddie.

"No, you can't do that!" exclaimed Nan. "Oh, Bert, do you think it would be all right for us to go?" she asked her older brother.

"I don't see why not," said Bert. "The wind doesn't blow hard, and Mr. Watson knows all about ice-boats. I say let's go!"

"Oh, what fun!" cried Flossie and Freddie.

They took off their skates and walked toward the ice-boat. Mr. Watson smiled at them.

"I'm so sorry I nearly ran into you the other day," he said. "I did not see you until almost the last minute. So I made up my mind the next time I saw you on the lake I'd give you a ride. Come on, now, get aboard!"

"He talks just as if it was a real boat!" laughed Flossie, for, living near the lake as they did, and often seeing boats at their father's lumber dock, the Bobbsey twins knew something about water craft.

"Well, of course, this isn't as big as some boats," said Mr. Watson, "but it will hold all of us, I think."

The children saw where there was a sort of platform, with raised sides, built on the center of the crossed sticks, and on this platform were spread some fur rugs and blankets.

Mr. Watson saw to it that the little children, especially, were well wrapped, and then, telling them all to hold on, he let out the sail and away flew the ice-boat down the frozen lake, fairly whizzing along.

"My! how fa-fa-fast we go!" gasped Nan, for really the wind seemed to take away her breath.

"This sure is sailing!" cried Bert, and then Nan noticed that her brother was looking at different parts of the ice-boat, as if to find out how it was made.

Flossie and Freddie were having lots of fun holding on to one another, and also to the sides of the ice-boat, for the craft slid this way and that so quickly, sometimes seeming to rise up in the air, that it was like being on the back of a horse.

But the Bobbseys liked it, and the ride in the ice-boat came to an end all too soon. With sparkling eyes, and red, glowing cheeks, the twins got out close to their father's lumber dock, calling their thanks to Mr. Watson.

"I'll take you again, some time," he answered, as he sailed off down the lake.

"Ah, ha! And so my little fat fireman had a ride in an ice-boat, did he?" cried Mr. Bobbsey that night, when he came home from the office and heard the story. "And how did my little fat fairy like it?" And he lifted up first Freddie and then Flossie to kiss them. "Fat fireman" and "fat fairy" were Mr. Bobbsey's pet names for the smaller twins. Bert and Nan had had pet names when they were small, but they were too large for them now, growing out of them as they grew out of their clothes.

"Oh, it was glorious!" cried Nan. "Sailing in an ice-boat must be like the way it feels to be in an airship."

"I'm going up in an airship when I get big!" cried Freddie, making a dive after Snoop, the cat, who was hiding under the table.

"Have you heard yet whether you are to go?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, of her husband, when the noisy greetings to the children were over.

"No, not yet," he answered, and he made a motion with his head, as if to tell his wife not to speak of a certain matter before the children.

"Oh, I saw you wink!" cried Nan, clapping her hands. "What does it mean? Is it a secret, Momsey?"

"Well, yes, Nan. You shall be told in plenty of time, if anything comes of it."

"Oh, that's two secrets!" cried Nan. "Bert has one and now there's one here."

"What is Bert's secret?" asked Nan's mother.

"I don't know yet; he won't tell me."

"Yes, I'll tell you to-morrow," said her brother. "But what's this about Father going away, Mother? Are we going too?"

"Supper am ready, chilluns!" exclaimed the voice of Dinah, the cook, and that ended the talk about secrets for the time being.

"But when are you going to tell me yours?" Nan managed to whisper to her brother when the dessert was being served.

"Come down to the lumberyard to-morrow afternoon," he whispered. "It's almost done."

Without telling Flossie or Freddie anything about it, Nan slipped off by herself the next afternoon, and from the watchman in her father's lumberyard learned that Bert and another boy were in one of the sheds. As Nan came closer she could hear the noise of hammering and sawing.

"Oh, Bert, what are you making?" cried Nan, as she saw her brother and Tommy Todd busy with sticks, boards, hammer and nails.

"This is the Bird!" cried Bert, waving a hammer at something that, so far, did not look like much of anything.

"A bird?" cried Nan. "It looks more like a scare-crow!"

"Just wait until it's finished!" said Tommy Todd. "When we get the sail on----"

"Oh, Bert! is it a boat?" cried Nan eagerly.

"Yes, it's going to be an ice-boat, and I've called it the Bird," was the answer. "I got the idea of building it after I'd seen Mr. Watson's. Father said I might, and he gave me the lumber, and let me have a carpenter to help, for Tommy and I couldn't do it all. But now the ice-boat is almost done and in a few days I'll sail it."

"And may I have a ride?" asked Nan.

"Of course. I'll take the whole family," said Bert. "Just you wait," and then he and Tommy went on hammering and sawing.