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XI Betty Crusoe
All summer Betty had been in the city. Then, the last day of September came an eventful invitation from a school-friend of her mother’s. “Dear Betty,” it ran, “I know your mother can’t be persuaded to leave daddy and the boys, but can’t you pack up and spend the rest of the vacation with me in my big house here at Riverby? I’m all alone for October.” So, in two days, there was Betty in Riverby!

Mrs. Roberts and she took long motor rides, but the rest of the time—and much of the time—Betty had to amuse herself. She was always longing for a boat ride on the lovely blue river that was within sight of the house, but Mrs. Roberts never seemed inclined to go out rowing. It was one day when she was lonely and wishing for somebody her own age to play with that she wandered through the[Pg 148] grounds down toward the shore. Some magic must have been at work, for right there upon the sandy beach sat a pink gingham dress much like Betty’s own! It turned as Betty’s white shoes crunched the coarse gravel. “Hello,” she greeted. “I was just wishing I had a girl to talk to and then you came!”

Betty laughed. “I was just wishing, myself,” she smiled. “I’m staying with Mrs. Roberts. Do you live next door?”

The pink hair-ribbon bobbed. “I’m staying with my aunt,” it said. “I just came from the West. I don’t know a soul my own age here and it’s stupid. Now that you’ve come, let’s have some fun together. My name’s Lydia. What’s yours?”

It seemed to the two of them that they had known each other always and, naturally, having so begun, it appeared that the two of them were longing to go out upon the river for a row—and had been longing for that ever since they came to Riverby.

“Don’t I wish we could find a boat!”

“Do you know where there is one?”

“No—and I’ve only rowed on the lake in the park—”

[Pg 149]“Well, never mind. You could row out a little way, if we could find a boat! Let’s!”

“We wouldn’t go out very far—”

“No, not very far. I think we can find a boat if we walk along the shore—”

So the two trotted along the sandy rim of the river and, after a while, they did come upon a boat drawn high up. There were oars in it and it appeared to be waiting for the two, just as Lydia had been waiting for Betty a half hour before. They didn’t stop to think. They merely accepted the boat as they had accepted each other. It was part of the adventure, of course. With frantic tugging, they finally launched the boat and Betty took the oars.

As she dipped them, “I’ve got to be back by four,” she said. “Mrs. Roberts asked me to go calling—pity me, Lydia, I’ll have to come back and put on my best dress. I’d rather stay on the river—I hope you’ve a watch with you. I didn’t bring mine.”

“No, I haven’t any watch but I can tell time by the sun,” reassured Lydia. “Do you know, Betty, I’m longing to know what’s just[Pg 150] around the bend of the river. We can go that far, can’t we?”

“Sure,” replied Betty, bravely. She did not say that her arms were already rather tired. She waited for Lydia to offer to take the oars.

But when they reached the bend, right there in the very center of the river was a big wooded island. Its shore was overhung with dark pine trees. It was a most fascinating island!

“Oh, row over to the island, Betty,” screamed Lydia. “I do so want to go there! We can stop for a bit and then come back and you’ll be home in time to dress for that call.” So Betty, tired but very willing to prolong the fun, rowed on.

They beached the boat near a rock, but while they were beaching it, out fell an oar! Before anybody could get it, it had floated far out beyond reach! Oh dear! Oh dear! Could anything ever be worse! Oh dear, dear, dear!

They sat upon the beach there under the pines and wondered what was going to happen. What indeed? The island seemed[Pg 151] nothing but woods, and the boats that passed by were too far away to hear what Betty and Lydia screamed at them. They evidently took the wild antics of the two pink dresses on the island beach as just so much joyous kind of greeting, nothing more. Neither Lydia or Betty could swim. So there was every reason to believe they would stay upon that island forever.

“My aunt didn’t know I was going off anywhere,” wailed Lydia. “She’d never think of my being here!”

“And Mrs. Roberts is expecting me to be dressed for calling at four!”

“I don’t know what we’re going to do!”

“Neither do I!”
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