The children loved to climb up into them. A hunting-box made such a nice airy room, they said; but mother was glad when they were down again without broken limbs.
Mother was surprised when she entered the inn-parlour to find the Herr Baron engaged in a game of quartette with Trudel and Lottchen and Fritz. Indeed he was so sociable and kind and fond of children that she thought it was a pity that he had none of his own.
On the pond near the house were two most remarkable-looking boats. These Hermann and Fritz had made themselves with the aid, I believe, of the Herr Baron. They had a long stick and punted about in them on the water, and they managed them quite cleverly. To Trudel and Lottchen they seemed to suggest Robinson Crusoe and all sorts of fine adventures.
One day when mother was reading a book which absorbed her attention, and so was safe not to interfere with them, they thought, the children stole down to the pond. Hermann and Fritz were waiting for them. It was a pre-conceived plan. "Come along and get in," they shouted to the girls.
"I daren't," said Lottchen. "Mother would be so cross; she has forbidden us to go near the water."
"You are surely not going to spoil the fun," said Trudel. "Come along; I'm going to get in first. I can swim, you know!"
"But not in mud and water-weeds," said Lottchen wisely.
The boys began to laugh at them.
"Why, you're funky, I do believe; the pond isn't really deep anywhere," they said.
So with beating hearts the children got into the boats, Trudel with Fritz, and Hermann, who was the eldest of the party, with Lottchen. It was splendid, quite a real adventure.
"Sit still in the middle of the boat," said Fritz; "I think we had better keep near the bank."
"It's going down on my side; O dear, what shall I do?" said Trudel. "I don't like it! I want to get out."
"You're a bit too heavy and upset the balance," said Fritz. "Very well, then, get out!"
Trudel tried to do so; but the boat was very wobbly. It was not so easy; her foot slipped, and in she stepped with one foot into the deep mud.