“All engaged, two days ago. It’s a busy season. But I’ve got to be going. You had better go over to the dock at once. They want to go out at three o’clock sharp.”
“Very well, I’ll be on hand,” answered our hero.
AN ACCIDENT ON THE LAKE.
Joe certainly presented a neat appearance when he rowed over to the hotel dock. Before going he purchased a new collar and a dark blue tie, and these, with his new suit and new cap, set him off very well.
The boat had been cleaned in the morning, and when the ladies appeared they inspected the craft with satisfaction.
“What a nice clean boat,” said Mabel Mallison, the niece of the proprietor of the hotel.
“And a nice clean boatman, too,” whispered one of her friends. “I couldn’t bear that man we had day before yesterday, with his dirty hands and the tobacco juice around his mouth.”
The ladies to go out were four in number, and two sat in the bow and two in the stern. It made quite a heavy load, but as they were not out for speed our hero did not mind it.
“We wish to go up to Fern Rock,” said Mabel Mallison. “They tell me there are some beautiful ferns to be gathered there.”
“There are,” answered Joe. “I saw them last week.”
“And I wish to get some nice birch bark if I can,” said another of the ladies.
“I can get you plenty of it.”
Joe rowed along in his best style, and while doing so the ladies of the party asked him numerous questions concerning the lake and vicinity. When Fern Rock was reached, all went ashore, and our hero pointed out the ferns he had seen, and dug up such as the others wished to take along. An hour was spent over the ferns, and in getting some birch bark, and then they started on the return for the hotel.
“I’d like to row,” cried one of the ladies, a rather plump personage.
“Oh, Jennie, I don’t think you can!” cried another.
“Of course I can,” answered Jennie, and sprang up from her seat to take the oars.
“Be careful!” came in a warning from Joe, as the boat began to rock.
“Oh, I’m not afraid!” said the plump young lady, and leaned forward to catch hold of one oar. Just then her foot slipped and she fell on the gunwale, causing the boat to tip more than ever. As she did this, Mabel Mallison, who was leaning over the side, gazing down into the clear waters of the lake, gave a shriek.
“Oh, save me!” came from her, and then she went over, with a loud splash.
Joe was startled, and the ladies left in the boat set up a wail of terror.
“She will be drowned!”
“Oh, save her! Save her, somebody!”
“It is my fault!” shrieked the plump young lady. “I tipped the boat over!”
Joe said nothing, but looked over the side of the boat. He saw the body of Mabel Mallison not far away. But it was at the lake bottom and did not offer to rise.