A REAL TOBOGGAN
"Let's have a race!" cried Ted, as soon as his skates were fastened on his shoes, for as soon as breakfast was over the children had gone out on the ice with their skates.
"All right!" shouted Tom, who was quite ready for this sort of fun. "I can beat you, Ted Martin!"
"And I can beat you, Tom Taylor!" exclaimed Lola, his sister, who was a very good skater.
"Oh, wouldn't it be fun if we two could beat them?" suggested Jan to Lola.
"We'll try," was the answer.
Meanwhile, though Mary and Harry had put on their skates, they took no part in this talk and stood about on the ice as if they hardly knew what to do.
"Will you join in the race?" asked Lola of Mary. "We three girls against the boys."
"I don't believe I can skate well enough to race," Mary answered, and her brother joined in with:
"You see we never had much chance to skate, and about all we can do is to move along in a straight line." He laughed good-naturedly over his own lack of skill.
"Oh, that's all right!" cried Ted, in jolly fashion. "We won't have any race then—that is, until after you two get more used to your skates."
"Oh, don't let us stop you from having fun!" exclaimed Mary.
"We can have just as much fun not racing. I don't care much for it, anyhow, do you, Jan?" said Lola.
"No, indeed!" answered the Curlytop girl. Thus did they try to make Mary and Harry feel happier, and they succeeded.
"I tell you what we can do," suggested Tom Taylor. "Ted and I can show you a few easy tricks on skates, Harry, and Jan and Lola can do the same with Mary."
"That will be fine!" exclaimed Harry. "Then, when we know more about it, we can have a race."
So it was decided, and then and there began lessons for the two children whom Uncle Toby had brought to Crystal Lake so they might have a good time over the holidays. Harry and Mary were quick to learn, and though it would be some time before they could beat any of the other four children in a race, they did very well for beginners.
"See if you can do this!" cried Ted, after having shown Harry how to "grind the bar" backward, a trick Harry soon learned.
"Watch me!" cried Ted, as he began doing what he called a grapevine twist. To do it he darted farther out from shore than any of them had yet gone, and just as he was doing some fancy skating there was a loud booming, cracking sound that sent a shiver all through the ice on which the others were standing.
"Oh, come! Come back!" cried Jan to her brother. "The ice is going to break! We'll fall in!"
"That's right!" yelled Tom. "Come on back, Ted!"
Ted needed no urging, but skated as fast as he could toward shore, whither the others were fleeing as fast as they could strike out on their skates. They reached land safely, and, to their surprise, no big cracks or holes appeared in the ice. It seemed as solid as ever.
"I wonder what made that?" asked Janet, whose heart was beating fast.
"The ice broke somewhere," declared Lola.
"We'd better not go on it anymore," said Mary.
"Well go up and ask Uncle Toby about it," suggested Ted. "I don't want to stop skating."
As the children were about to take off their skates to go back to the cabin, Aunt Sallie was seen coming down, dragging Trouble on a sled. There were patches of snow here and there so it was not hard to pull the sled along. And Trouble was not very heavy.
"Oh, Aunt Sallie, you ought to hear the ice crack!" called the children in a chorus.
"Is it dangerous?" asked Mary.
Uncle Toby came out of the bungalow and heard what was asked.
"That rumbling, cracking sound isn't anything dangerous," he said. "The ice often does that, and often big cracks come in it out in the middle of the lake. But it is thick enough, and it won't break through with you or I shouldn't have let you go skating. But, even with all I have said, don't go too far out."
The children felt safer, now that Uncle Toby had told them this, and Ted again started to show Harry how to do a grapevine twist. Aunt Sallie gave the sled and Trouble over in charge of the girls, and they skated up and down pulling William to and fro, to his great delight.
The boys, now that Harry felt more at home on his skates, began to try to outdo each other in tricks, and when Harry said he would be the judge, Tom and Ted had a race, Ted winning.
Once Jan and Lola skated so fast, pretending they were a team of horses pulling Trouble on his sled, that Jan stumbled and fell down, also tripping Lola. The girls were not hurt, and they slid along over the ice laughing. But the sled was upset, Trouble fell off, and though he was so bundled up that he didn't get hurt, he began to cry.
"I guess we'd better take him in," suggested Jan. "He may be cold. Anyhow, I've had enough skating."
"So have I," said Mary and Lola.
They went up to the cabin, taking Trouble with them. But the boys remained on the ice a while longer, and Harry was rapidly becoming a good skater.
The three lads did not take off their skates until it was time for dinner, and after the meal they went back on the frozen lake again, though the girls stayed in to play with their dolls.
"Make the most of your skating," said Uncle Toby, as he watched the three lads circling around on the ice.
"Why?" asked Tom.
"Because I think we are going to have another storm," was the answer. "It is going to snow, and then all the ice will be covered. Of course you can scrape clean a small place, but it will be hard work. So get all the skating you can while it's good."
This the boys did, that day and the next. But the following morning, when they awakened and looked from the windows, they saw the ground white with snow, and more flakes coming down.
"Hurray!" cried Tom. "Now we can have fun coasting!"
"And maybe we can make a toboggan slide!" added Ted.
"I've seen them," remarked Harry, "but I was never on one."
"We had a wooden one in our yard, but we had to put candle grease on our sled runners first," Ted explained. "It would be great if we could make a regular toboggan slide."
"Let's ask Uncle Toby," suggested Janet.
Uncle Toby laughed in jolly fashion as the Curlytops and their playmates swarmed around him in the cozy cabin.
"A toboggan slide, eh?" he cried. "Well, I don't see why you can't have one, and you don't need to build it of wood, either, for there's a good hill not far away. But how would you like to coast on a regular toboggan instead of your sleds?"
"Oh, could we?" shouted Ted.
"I guess so," was the answer. "There's a Frenchman who lives not far away, and he has a big toboggan. We'll go over in the auto and see if he'll let us take it. I used to have one out here, but I find that it's broken."
"Oh, what fun we'll have!" sang Janet, and the others joined in the chorus of joy.
It kept on snowing, but they could journey out in the big, closed automobile even with the storm all about, and this they soon did.
"But if we get the toboggan how can we get it in here? There isn't much room," remarked Ted, for the children and Uncle Toby almost filled the big machine.
"Oh, we'll tie it on behind and pull it over," said Uncle Toby. "A toboggan can go faster than any auto."
"I ride on it!" said Trouble, and the others just laughed.
Soon, they were at the cabin of the French Canadian.
"Could we borrow your toboggan, Jules?" asked Uncle Toby.
"Oh, of a sure yes!" was the answer, Jules doing his best to speak what to him was a new language. "I bring she out to you!"
He ran around to the back of his shack, and soon came into view again with a real toboggan, at the sight of which the children set up a joyous shout.