Chapter XV. Lost on an Island




The calm that always follows a storm settled down upon the Cliffs the day after the carnival. The talk of the entire summer settlement was Nellie and her prize, and naturally, the little girl herself thought of home and the lonely mother, who was going to receive such a surprise--fifty dollars!

It was a pleasant morning, and Freddie and Flossie were out watching Downy trying to get through the fence that the boys had built to keep him out of the ocean. Freddie had a pretty little boat Uncle William had brought down from the city. It had sails, that really caught the wind, and carried the boat along.

Of course Freddie had a long cord tied to it, so it could not get out of his reach, and while Flossie tried to steer the vessel with a long whip, Freddie made believe he was a canal man, and walked along the tow path with the cord in hand.

"I think I would have got a prize in the boat parade if I had this steamer," said Freddie, feeling his craft was really as fine as any that had taken part in the carnival.

"Maybe you would," agreed Flossie. "Now let me sail it a little."

"All right," said Freddie, and he offered the cord to his twin sister.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "I dropped it!"

The next minute the little boat made a turn with the breeze, and before Flossie could get hold of the string it was all in the water!

"Oh, my boat!" cried Freddie. "Get it quick!"

"I can't!" declared Flossie. "It is out too far! Oh, what shall we do!"

"Now you just get it! You let it go," went on the brother, without realizing that his sister could not reach the boat, nor the string either, for that matter.

"Oh, it's going far away!" cried Flossie; almost in tears.

The little boat was certainly making its way out into the lake, and it sailed along so proudly, it must have been very glad to be free.

"There's Hal Bingham's boat," ventured Flossie. "Maybe I could go out a little ways in that."

"Of course you can," promptly answered Freddie. "I can row."

"I don't know, we might upset!" Flossie said, hesitating.

"But it isn't deep. Why, Downy walks around out here," went on the brother.

This assurance gave the little girl courage, and slipping the rope off the peg that secured the boat to the shore, very carefully she put Freddie on one seat, while she sat herself on the other.

The oars were so big she did not attempt to handle them, but just depended on the boat to do its own sailing.

"Isn't this lovely!" declared Freddie, as the boat drifted quietly along.

"Yes, but how can we get back?" asked Flossie, beginning to realize their predicament.

"Oh, easy!" replied Freddie, who suddenly seemed to have become a man, he was so brave. "The tide comes down pretty soon, and then our boat will go back to shore."

Freddie had heard so much about the tide he felt he understood it perfectly. Of course, there was no tide on the lake, although the waters ran lazily toward the ocean at times.

"But we are not getting near my boat," Freddie complained, for indeed the toy sailboat was drifting just opposite their way.

"Well, I can't help it, I'm sure," cried Flossie. "And I just wish I could get back. I'm going to call somebody."

"Nobody can hear you," said her brother. "They are all down by the ocean, and there's so much noise there you can't even hear thunder."

Where the deep woods joined the lake there was a little island. This was just around the turn, and entirely out of view of either the Minturn or the Bingham boat landing. Toward this little island the children's boat was now drifting.

"Oh, we'll be real Robinson Crusoes!" exclaimed Freddie, delighted at the prospect of such an adventure.

"I don't want to be no Robinson Crusoe!" pouted his sister. "I just want to get back home," and she began to cry.

"We're going to bunk," announced Freddie, as at that minute the boat did really bump into the little island. "Come, Flossie, let us get ashore," said the brother, in that superior way that had come to him in their distress.

Flossie willingly obeyed.

"Be careful!" she cautioned. "Don't step out till I get hold of your hand. It is awfully easy to slip getting out of a boat."

Fortunately for the little ones they had been taught to be careful when around boats, so that they were able to take care of themselves pretty well, even in their present danger.

Once on land, Flossie's fears left her, and she immediately set about picking the pretty little water flowers, that grew plentifully among the ferns and flag lilies.

"I'm going to build a hut," said Freddie, putting pieces of dry sticks up against a willow tree. Soon the children became so interested they did not notice their boat drift away, and really leave them all alone on the island!

In the meantime everybody at the house was looking for the twins. Their first fear, of course, was the ocean, and down to the beach Mrs. Bobbsey, Aunt Sarah, and the boys hurried, while Aunt Emily and the girls made their way to the Gypsy Camp, fearing the fortune tellers might have stolen the children in order to get money for bringing them back again.

Dorothy walked boldly up to the tent. An old woman sat outside and looked very wicked, her face was so dark and her hair so black and tangled.

"Have you seen a little boy and girl around here?" asked Dorothy, looking straight into the tent.

"No, nobody round here. Tell your fortune, lady?" This to Aunt Emily, who waited for Dorothy.

"Not to-day," answered Aunt Emily. "We are looking for two children. Are you sure you have not seen them?"

"No, lady. Gypsy tell lady's fortune, then lady find them," she suggested, with that trick her class always uses, trying to impose on persons in trouble with the suggestion of helping them out of it.

"No, we have not time," insisted Aunt Emily; really quite alarmed now that there was no trace of the little twins.

"Let me look through your tent?" asked Dorothy, bravely.

"What for?" demanded the old woman.

"To make sure the children are not hiding," and without waiting for a word from the old woman, Dorothy walked straight into that gypsy tent!

Even Aunt Emily was frightened.

Suppose somebody inside should keep Dorothy?

"Come out of my house!" muttered the woman, starting after Dorothy.

"Come out, Dorothy," called her mother, but the girl was making her way through the old beds and things inside, to make sure there was no Freddie or Flossie to be found in the tent.

It was a small place, of course, and it did not take Dorothy very long to search it.

Presently she appeared again, much to the relief of her mother, Nan, and Nellie, who waited breathlessly outside.

"They are not around here," said Dorothy. "Now, mother, give the old woman some change to make up for my trespassing."

Aunt Emily took a coin from her chatelaine.

"Thank the lady! Good lady," exclaimed the old gypsy. "Lady find her babies; babies play--see!" (And she pretended to look into the future with some dirty cards.) "Babies play in woods. Natalie sees babies picking flowers."

Now, how could anybody ever guess that the old gypsy had just come down from picking dandelions by the lake, where she really had seen Freddie and Flossie on the island?

And how could anybody know that she was too wicked to tell Aunt Emily this, but was waiting until night, to bring the children back home herself, and get a reward for doing so?

She had seen the boat drift away and she knew the little ones were helpless to return home unless someone found them.

Mrs. Bobbsey and the boys were now coming up from the beach.

What, at first, seemed only a mishap, now looked like a very serious matter.

"We must go to the woods," insisted Dorothy. "Maybe that old woman knew they were in the woods."

But as such things always happen, the searchers went to the end of the woods, far away from the island. Of course they all called loudly, and the boys gave the familiar yodel, but the noise of the ocean made it impossible for the call to reach Freddie and Flossie.

"Oh, I'm so afraid they are drowned!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, breaking down and crying.

"No, mamma," insisted Nan, "I am sure they are not. Flossie is so afraid of the water, and Freddie always minds Flossie. They must be playing somewhere. Maybe they are home by this time," and so it was agreed to go back to the house and if the little ones were not there--then---

"But they must be there," insisted Nellie, starting on a run over the swampy grounds toward the Cliffs.

And all this time Freddie and Flossie were quite unconcerned playing on the island.

"Oh, there's a man!" shouted Freddie, seeing someone in the woods. "Maybe it's Friday. Say there, Mister!" he shouted. "Say, will you help us get to land?"

The man heard the child's voice and hurried to the edge of the lake.

"Wall, I declare!" he exclaimed, "if them babies ain't lost out there. And here comes their boat. Well, I'll just fetch them in before they try to swim out," he told himself, swinging into the drifting boat, and with the stout stick he had in his hand, pushing off for the little island.

The island was quite near to shore on that side, and it was only a few minutes' work for the man to reach the children.

"What's your name?" he demanded, as soon as he touched land.

"Freddie Bobbsey," spoke up the little fellow, bravely, "and we live at the Cliffs."

"You do, eh? Then it was your brothers who brought my cow home, so I can pay them back by taking you home now. I can't row to the far shore with this stick, so we'll have to tramp it through the woods. Come along." and carefully he lifted the little ones into the boat, pushing to the woods, and started off to walk the round-about way, through the woods, to the bridge, then along the road back to the Cliffs, where a whole household was in great distress because of the twins' absence.



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