Chapter III. A Runaway
 

"All aboard!"

"Don't forget your baggage!"

"This way for your tickets!"

"The ice-boat Bird makes no stops this side of the lake! All aboard!"

Bert Bobbsey and Tommy Todd thus were calling at the end of one of the lumberyard docks one day about a week after Nan had seen her brother building the ice-boat. Coming down the dock were Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, with Nan, Flossie and Freddie. Snap, the big dog, was bounding on ahead through the snow, barking joyously. He enjoyed fun as much as any one.

"All aboard! Please hurry up!" cried Bert.

"Why, I thought this was a special trip you were giving us, and we didn't have to hurry," laughed his mother.

"It is," Bert said. "But you see you can't sail an ice-boat if you haven't any wind, and I want you to have a ride before the wind dies away, as it might. So come on, get on board!"

"I want to steer!" cried Freddie.

"No, you must not," said Nan.

"Yes, I must. I know how to steer a motor boat, and I can steer an ice-boat, I guess," and Freddie was very sure about it.

"After a while, maybe," agreed Bert. "But an ice-boat is different to steer from a motor boat. I'll show you how, though."

Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey got on the little platform which Bert had built as a sort of open cabin. It had old carpets and rugs on it, and there were blankets and robes to keep the passengers warm. After some failures Bert and Tommy had finally managed to finish the ice-boat. It was not as easy to build as they had expected, but Mr. Bobbsey's carpenter had helped them.

The boat had been tried out on the ice, and had sailed well. Mr. Bobbsey had Mr. Watson look at it, and that gentleman had said it was safe to ride in. Then Bert had finally gotten his father and mother to promise to take a trip in the boat, bringing Nan, Flossie and Freddie with them. Mr. Bobbsey had, before this, been given a ride with Bert and Tommy, so he knew the two boys could manage the boat fairly well. Tommy and Bert had had several rides by themselves. Now they had company.

"Are you all ready?" asked Bert, after he had seen his father and mother, his sisters and brother, get on board the Bird.

"All ready," answered Mr. Bobbsey. "Don't go too fast at first, and take your mother's breath away."

"I won't!" promised Bert. "Are those two little ones covered up all right?" he asked, nodding toward Flossie and Freddie.

"Yep! We're as warm as--as popcorn!" cried Flossie.

"With butter on!" added Freddie.

"Well, you certainly ought to be good and warm," laughed Mrs. Bobbsey, as she tucked the robes closer around the two smaller twins.

"All aboard!" called Bert, and then, moving slowly at first, the ice-boat glided away from the lumber wharf, skimming over the lake with the entire Bobbsey family, not counting, of course, fat Dinah and her husband, who stayed at home. Nor was Snoop, the black cat, along. Snap, the dog, ran a little way, but when he found the ice-boat was going too fast for him, and when he noticed that he was slipping too much, he gave a sort of good-bye howl and went slowly back to shore.

"Isn't this great?" cried Bert, as he steered the ice-boat out into the middle of the lake.

"Wonderful!" cried Nan, her hair flying in the wind and her cheeks almost as red as roses. "I don't see how you made it, Bert."

"Well, it wasn't easy. How do you like it, Freddie?"

"All right. When can I steer?"

"Oh, maybe after a while," said Bert, with a laugh. "Say, we're going fast, all right."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Bobbsey. "I think the wind is getting stronger instead of dying out, Bert."

"It does seem so. Well, all the better. We won't have to walk back if it keeps on this way. We can sail to the end of the lake and ride back."

"Are you sure you can manage the boat yourself?" asked Bert's father, "She seems pretty big."

"Oh, Tommy and I sailed her in a stronger wind than this. And we have a heavier load on now, which makes it all the safer."

Mr. Bobbsey himself knew how to sail an ice-boat, but he wanted to let Bert do as much alone as he could, for this is a good way for a boy to learn, if there is not too much danger.

"And the worst that can happen," said Mr. Bobbsey, in a whisper to his wife, "is that we may upset and spill out."

"Oh! But do you really think there is any danger of that?"

"Well, there may be. Ice-boats often upset, but we can't fall very far," and he looked down at the ice, which was only a few inches below them. "And we have so many robes and blankets that falling would be like tumbling into bed. There is no danger."

The wind was blowing harder and harder. It was sweeping right across the lake and forcing the boat down. The steel runners clinked on the ice, now and then scraping up a shower of icy splinters that sparkled in the sun. On the other side of the lake were other ice-boats, and Bert wished he could have a race with some of them. But he knew his mother would not like that now.

"Can't you make it go a little slower?" asked Flossie, after a bit. "Every time I open my mouth it gets filled with cold air, and it makes me want to sneeze."

"I can't go any slower than the wind blows," answered Bert. "Turn your back to the bow, or front end of the boat, and you can open your mouth easier then."

Flossie did as she was told and felt better. Meanwhile the Bird was living up to her name, and skimming along swiftly. Bert held to the steering handle, now and then tightening or loosening the rope that was fast to the sail.

"Want any help?" asked his father.

"No, thank you, Dad. I want to manage it all by myself as long as I can."

"Isn't it my turn to steer?" asked Freddie, when they were half-way down the lake, toward the end farthest from the town, where there were deep woods on either side.

"No, not yet!" exclaimed Bert "Don't touch anything, Freddie!" he went on, for his little brother was reaching out toward the sail. "I'll have to wait until the wind doesn't blow so strong before I can let your steer, Freddie."

"But I want to steer when we're going fast!" cried the little fellow. "I know how to do it. You just----"

Freddie never finished what he was saying. Whether he touched anything, or whether Bert was afraid he would, and so pulled on the wrong rope to keep it out of Freddie's way, was never known.

Suddenly the ice-boat gave a quick whirl to one side, like a boy or a girl on roller skates going around a corner. It went around so quickly that it tipped half-way over. Mrs. Bobbsey and Nan screamed. Mr. Bobbsey called to Bert to be careful, but it was too late. Bert had lost his hold of the rudder and the sail rope.

The next second Bert shot out of the ice-boat, and slid along on his back. A moment later his father and mother were also spilled out, followed by Nan. Then the ice-boat, not having such a heavy load aboard, settled down on the ice again, and started to run away, or, rather, blow away.

Right before the wind it flew, and Flossie and Freddie, being well tucked in among the robes and blankets were not spilled out. They stayed on board; and Mr. Bobbsey, sitting up after he had slid some distance across the ice, saw the Bird scooting down the lake, carrying his two smaller twins with it.

"Oh, the ice-boat is running away with Flossie and Freddie!" cried Nan, as she, too, saw what had happened.