Chapter I. Pushing Off

"Oh, Cora! Isn't this perfectly splendid!" exclaimed Bess Robinson.

"Delightful!" chimed in her twin sister, Belle.

"I'm glad you like it," said Cora Kimball, the camp hostess. "I felt that you would, but one can never be sure--especially of Belle. Jack said she would fall a prey to that clump of white birches over there, and would want to paint pictures on the bark. But I fancied she would take more surely to the pines; they are so strong--and, like the big boys--always to be depended on. But not a word about camp now. Something more important is on. My new motor boat has just arrived!"

"Has it really?" This as a duet.

"And truly," finished Cora with a smile. "Yes, it has, and there is not a boy on the premises to show me how to run it. Jack expected to be here, but he isn't. So now I'm going to try it alone. I never could wait until evening to start my new boat. And isn't it lovely that you have arrived in time to take the initial run? I remember you both took the first spin with me in my auto, the Whirlwind, and now here you are all ready for the trial performance of the motor boat. Now Belle, don't refuse. There is absolutely no danger."

"But the water," objected the timid Belle.

"We can all swim," put in her sister, "and you promised, Belle, not to be nervous this trip. Yes, Cora, I'm all ready. I saw the craft as we came up. Wasn't it the boat with the new light oak deck and mahogany gunwale? I am sure it was,"

"Yes, isn't she a beauty? I should have been satisfied with any sort of a good boat, but mother wanted something really reliable, and she and Jack did it all before I had a chance to interfere."

"I wonder what your mother will next bestow upon you?" asked Belle with a laugh. "She has such absolute confidence in you."

"Let us hope it will not be a man; we can't let Cora get married, whatever else she may do," put in Bess, as she shook the dust from her motor coat, and prepared to follow Cora, who was already leaving the camp. Belle, too, started, but one could see that she, though a motor girl, did not exactly fancy experimenting on the water. It was but a short distance to the lake's edge, for the camp had been chosen especially on account of the water advantage.

"There she is! See how she stands out in the clear sunshiny water! I tell you it is the very prettiest boat on Cedar Lake, and that is saying something," exclaimed Cora, the proud possessor of the new motor craft.

"Beautiful," reiterated the Robinson twins.

"But what do you know about running it?" queried Belle.

"Why, I have been studying marine motors in general, and have been shown about this one in particular," replied Cora. "The man who ran it up from the freight depot for me gave me a few 'pointers,' as he called them."

She stepped into the trim craft and affectionately patted the shining engine.

"'It is much simpler to run than a car, and besides, there isn't so much to get in your way on the water," Cora went on.

"My!" exclaimed Bess as she stepped in after her hostess. "This is really--scrumptious!"

"You take the seat in the stern, Belle, and Bess, you may sit here near me," said Cora, "as I suppose you will be interested in seeing how it works. Oh! There is the steamer from the train. Hurry! Perhaps there are folks aboard we know. Let us act at home, and pretend we have been running motor boats all our lives."

Cora took her place at the engine and before Bess or Belle had really gotten seated she was turning on the gasoline.

"You see this is the little pipe that feeds the 'gas' from the tank to the carburetor," she explained. "Now, I just throw in the switch: that makes the electrical connection: then I have to give this fly wheel--it's stiff--but I have to swing it around so! There!" and the wheel "flew" around twice slowly and then began to revolve very rapidly. "Now we are ready," and the engine started its regular chug chug.

"How do you steer?" asked Bess anxiously, for the big steamer with its cargo of summer folks seemed rather near.

"I can steer here," and Cora turned a wheel amidships, "or one may steer at the bow. Suppose you take the forward wheel Bess, as I may, have enough to do to look after the engine."

"Very well," acquiesced the girl, "but I hope I make no mistakes."

"Oh you won't. Just turn the wheel the way you want to go. Now we'll hurry. I want to show off my boat."

Bess took up her place at the steering wheel and turned it so that the boat started on a clear course. Everything seemed to work beautifully, and presently Bess was so interested in the gentle swerving of the craft, as the rudder responded to her slightest touch, that she, too, thought it very much simpler than motoring on land.

"There are the Blakes!" suddenly exclaimed Belle. "See, they are waving to us."

"Yes," answered Cora as she snatched off her cap and fluttered a response to the folks on the steamer. "Bess, keep clear out. The landing is just over there! The steamer makes quite a swell."

Bess turned, but she did it too suddenly. A wave from the steamer caught them broadside, and drenched the girls before they knew what had happened.

"Oh!" screamed Belle, "--we are running right into the steamer!"

"Bess! Bess!" called Cora. "Turn! I can't connect--"

Shouts from the steamer added to their confusion. Would they be run down on this, their very first attempt at navigation?

"They are the motor girls!" Cora heard some one on the steamer shout, and while this much has been told it may be well to acquaint the reader with further details of the situation. The Motor Girls were friends whom we have met in the four previous volumes of this series entitled respectively: "The Motor Girls," "The Motor Girls on a Tour," "The Motor Girls at Lookout Beach," and "The Motor Girls Through New England." In each of these volumes we have met Cora Kimball, the handsome, dashing girl who conquers everything within reason, but who, herself, is occasionally conquered, both in the field of sports and in the field of human endeavors. It was she who had the first automobile, her Whirlwind and while out in it she had some very trying experiences.

In the first volume she managed to unravel the mystery of the road. Bess and Bell, the Robinson twins, were with her, as they were again in the second volume, the story of a strange promise. This promise, odd as it was, all three girls kept, to the delight and happiness of little Wren, the crippled child. Next the girls went to Lookout Beach, where they had plenty of good fun, as well as time enough to find the runaways, two very interesting young girls, who had decamped from the "Strawberry patch." It was like a game of hide and seek, but in the end the motor girls did capture the runaways. Then in the story "Through New England," it was Cora who was hidden away by the gypsies, and what she endured, and how she escaped were assuredly wonderful. There were brothers and friends of course, Jack Kimball being the most important person of the first variety, while Walter Pennington and Ed Foster were friends in need and friends indeed.

And now we find these same girls undertaking a new role--that of running a motor boat, the gift of Mrs. Kimball to her daughter, for that mother, in her days of widowhood, had learned how safe it was to repose confidence in her two children, Cora and Jack.

The camp at Cedar Lake had been taken by Cora and her friends for a summer vacation on the water, and now, after a day's run from Chelton, the home town, in their auto, the Flyaway, the Robinson girls had again joined Cora who had come up the day previous, with a maid to get the camp to rights.

The steamer was indeed too close! Cora was frantically trying to turn the auxiliary steering wheel, but Bess in her fright was turning the more powerful bow wheel in the very direction of danger!

"Oh! Mercy!" shrieked Belle. "We are lost!"

Another wave almost submerged them. The passengers on the steamer had all run to one side of their boat.

"Turn right!" shouted Cora as she jumped up and fairly jerked from Bess the forward wheel. "Turn to the right!"