"Hurry up, Peter," growled Ludwig. "We're freezing by inches--there! I knew you'd be the last after all to get on your skates."
"Did you?" said his brother, looking up with an air of deep interest. "Clever boy!"
Ludwig laughed but tried to look cross, as he said, "I'm in earnest. We must get home sometime this year."
"Now, boys," cried Peter, springing up as he fastened the last buckle. "There's a clear way before us! We will imagine it's the grand race. Ready! One, two, three, start!"
I assure you that very little was said for the first half hour. They were six Mercuries skimming the ice. In plain English, they were lightning. No--that is imaginary too. The fact is, one cannot decide what to say when half a dozen boys are whizzing past at such a rate. I can only tell you that each did his best, flying, with bent body and eager eyes, in and out among the placid skates on the canal, until the very guard shouted to them to "Hold up!" This only served to send them onward with a two-boy power that startled all beholders.
But the laws of inertia are stronger even than canal guards.
After a while Jacob slackened his speed, then Ludwig, then Lambert, then Carl.
They soon halted to take a long breath and finally found themselves standing in a group gazing after Peter and Ben, who were still racing in the distance as if their lives were at stake.