THE BOBBSEY TWINS
Merry Days Indoors and Out
LAURA LEE HOPE
Author of "The Bobbsey Twins in the Country," "The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore," Etc.
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers Copyright, 1904, by The Mershon Company All rights reserved
I. THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT HOME 1
II. ROPE JUMPING, AND WHAT FOLLOWED 9
III. THE FIRST SNOW STORM 18
IV. THE BROKEN WINDOW 27
V. BERT'S GHOST 36
VI. COASTING, AND WHAT CAME OF IT 44
VII. FREDDIE AND FLOSSIE'S SNOW HOUSE 52
VIII. FUN ON THE ICE 61
IX. FREDDIE LOSES HIMSELF 70
X. LOST AND FOUND 79
XI. THE CRUISE OF THE "ICE BIRD" 88
XII. TIGE—PLAYING THEATER 97
XIII. NAN'S FIRST CAKE-BAKING 106
XIV. CHRISTMAS 115
XV. THE CHILDREN'S PARTY 124
XVI. A GRAND SLEIGH RIDE 133
XVII. THE RACE AND THE RUNAWAY 142
XVIII. A QUARREL IN THE SCHOOLYARD 151
XIX. NAN'S PLEA 160
XX. ST. VALENTINE'S DAY 169
XXI. THE RESCUE OF SNOOP, THE KITTEN 178
XXII. THE LAST OF THE GHOST—GOOD-NIGHT 187
THE BOBBSEY TWINS
THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT HOME
The Bobbsey twins were very busy that morning. They were all seated around the dining-room table, making houses and furnishing them. The houses were being made out of pasteboard shoe boxes, and had square holes cut in them for doors, and other long holes for windows, and had pasteboard chairs and tables, and bits of dress goods for carpets and rugs, and bits of tissue paper stuck up to the windows for lace curtains. Three of the houses were long and low, but Bert had placed his box on one end and divided it into five stories, and Flossie said it looked exactly like a "department" house in New York.
There were four of the twins. Now that sounds funny, doesn't it? But, you see, there were two sets. Bert and Nan, age eight, and Freddie and Flossie, age four.
Nan was a tall and slender girl, with a dark face and red cheeks. Her eyes were a deep brown and so were the curls that clustered around her head.
Bert was indeed a twin, not only because he was the same age as Nan, but because he looked so very much like her. To be sure, he looked like a boy, while she looked like a girl, but he had the same dark complexion, the same brown eyes and hair, and his voice was very much the same, only stronger.
Freddie and Flossie were just the opposite of their larger brother and sister. Each was short and stout, with a fair, round face, light-blue eyes and fluffy golden hair. Sometimes Papa Bobbsey called Flossie his little Fat Fairy, which always made her laugh. But Freddie didn't want to be called a fairy, so his papa called him the Fat Fireman, which pleased him very much, and made him rush around the house shouting: "Fire! fire! Clear the track for Number Two! Play away, boys, play away!" in a manner that seemed very lifelike. During the past year Freddie had seen two fires, and the work of the firemen had interested him deeply.
The Bobbsey family lived in the large town of Lakeport, situated at the head of Lake Metoka, a clear and beautiful sheet of water upon which the twins loved to go boating. Mr. Richard Bobbsey was a lumber merchant, with a large yard and docks on the lake shore, and a saw and planing mill close by. The house was a quarter of a mile away, on a fashionable street and had a small but nice garden around it, and a barn in the rear, in which the children loved at times to play.
"I'm going to cut out a fancy table cover for my parlor table," said Nan. "It's going to be the finest table cover that ever was."
"Nice as Aunt Emily's?" questioned Bert. "She's got a—a dandy, all worked in roses."
"This is going to be white, like the lace window curtains," replied Nan.
While Freddie and Flossie watched her with deep interest, she took a small square of tissue paper and folded it up several times. Then she cut curious-looking holes in the folded piece with a sharp pair of scissors. When the paper was unfolded once more a truly beautiful pattern appeared.
"Oh, how lubby!" screamed Flossie. "Make me one, Nan!"
"And me, too," put in Freddie. "I want a real red one," and he brought forth a bit of red pin-wheel paper he had been saving.
"Oh, Freddie, let me have the red paper for my stairs," cried Bert, who had had his eyes on the sheet for some time.
"No, I want a table cover, like Nanny. You take the white paper."
"Whoever saw white paper on a stairs—I mean white carpet," said Flossie.
"I'll give you a marble for the paper, Freddie," continued Bert.
But Freddie shook his head. "Want a table cover, nice as Aunt Em'ly," he answered. "Going to set a flower on the table too!" he added, and ran out of the room. When he came back he had a flower-pot in his hand half the size of his house, with a duster feather stuck in the dirt, for a flower.
"Well, I declare!" cried Nan, and burst out laughing. "Oh, Freddie, how will we ever set that on such a little pasteboard table?"
"Can set it there!" declared the little fellow, and before Nan could stop him the flower-pot went up and the pasteboard table came down and was mashed flat.
"Hullo! Freddie's breaking up housekeeping!" cried Bert.
"Oh, Freddie! do take the flower-pot away!" came from Flossie. "It's too big to go into the house."
Freddie looked perplexed for a moment. "Going to play garden around the house. This is a—a lilac tree!" And he set the flower-pot down close to Bert's elbow. Bert was now busy trying to put a pasteboard chimney on his house, and did not notice. A moment later Bert's elbow hit the flower-pot and down it went on the floor, breaking into several pieces and scattering the dirt over the rug.
"Oh, Bert! what have you done?" cried Nan, in alarm. "Get the broom and the dust-pan, before Dinah comes."
"It was Freddie's fault."
"Oh, my lilac tree is all gone!" cried the little boy. "And the boiler to my fire engine, too," he added, referring to the flower-pot, which he had used the day before when playing fireman.
At that moment, Dinah, the cook, came in from the kitchen.
"Well, I declar' to gracious!" she exclaimed. "If yo' chillun ain't gone an' mussed up de floah ag'in!"
"Bert broke my boiler!" said Freddie, and began to cry.
"Oh, never mind, Freddie, there are plenty of others in the cellar," declared Nan. "It was an accident, Dinah," she added, to the cook.
"Eberyt'ing in dis house wot happens is an accident," grumbled the cook, and went off to get the dust-pan and broom. As soon as the muss had been cleared away Nan cut out the red table cover for Freddie, which made him forget the loss of the "lilac tree" and the "boiler."
"Let us make a row of houses," suggested Flossie. "Bert's big house can be at the head of the street." And this suggestion was carried out. Fortunately, more pasteboard boxes were to be had, and from these they made shade trees and some benches, and Bert cut out a pasteboard horse and cart. To be sure, the horse did not look very lifelike, but they all played it was a horse and that was enough. When the work was complete they called Dinah in to admire it, which she did standing near the doorway with her fat hands resting on her hips.
"I do declar', it looks most tremend'us real," said the cook. "It's a wonder to me yo' chillun can make sech t'ings."
"We learned it in the kindergarten class at school," answered Nan.
"Yes, in the kindergarten," put in Flossie.
"But we don't make fire engines there," came from Freddie.
At this Dinah began to laugh, shaking from head to foot.
"Fire enjuns, am it, Freddie? Reckon yo' is gwine to be a fireman when yo' is a man, hey?"
"Yes, I'm going to be a real fireman," was the ready answer.
"An' what am yo' gwine to be, Master Bert?"
"Oh, I'm going to be a soldier," said Bert.
"I want to be a soldier, too," put in Freddie. "A soldier and a fireman."
"Oh, dear, I shouldn't want to be a soldier and kill folks," said Nan.
"Girls can't be soldiers," answered Freddie. "They have to get married, or be dressmakers, or sten'graphers, or something like that."
"You mean stenographers, Bert. I'm going to be a stenographer when I get big."
"I don't want to be any stenogerer," put in Flossie. "I'm going to keep a candy store, and have all the candy I want, and ice cream——"
"Me too!" burst in Freddie. "I'm going to have a candy store, an' be a fireman, an' a soldier, all together!"
"Dear! dear!" laughed Dinah. "Jess to heah dat now! It's wonderful wot yo' is gwine to be when yo' is big."
At that moment the front door bell rang, and all rushed to the hallway, to greet their mother, who had been down-town, on a shopping tour.
ROPE JUMPING, AND WHAT FOLLOWED
"Oh, mamma, what have you brought?" Such was the cry from all of the Bobbsey twins, as they gathered around Mrs. Bobbsey in the hallway. She had several small packages in her hands, and one looked very much like a box of candy.
Mrs. Bobbsey kissed them all before speaking. "Have you been good while I was gone?" she asked.
"I guess we tried to be good," answered Bert meekly.
"Freddie's boiler got broke, that's all," said Flossie. "Dinah swept up the dirt."
Before anything more could be said all were in the dining room and Mrs. Bobbsey was called upon to admire the row of houses. Then the box of candy was opened and each received a share.
"Now you had better go out and play," said the mother. "Dinah must set the table for dinner. But be sure and put on your thick coats. It is very cold and feels like snow."
"Oh, if only it would snow!" said Bert. He was anxious to try a sled he had received the Christmas before.
It was Saturday, with no school, so all of the boys and girls of the neighborhood were out. Some of the girls were skipping rope, and Nan joined these, while Bert went off to join a crowd of boys in a game of football.
"Let us play horse," suggested Freddie to Flossie. They had reins of red leather, with bells, and Freddie was the horse while his twin sister was the driver.
"I'm a bad horse, I'll run away if you don't watch me," cautioned Freddie, and began to prance around wildly, against the grape arbor and then up against the side fence.
"Whoa! whoa!" screamed Flossie, jerking on the reins. "Whoa, you naughty horse! If I had a whip, I'd beat you!"
"If you did that, I'd kick," answered Freddie, and began to kick real hard into the air. But at last he settled down and ran around the house just as nicely as any horse could. Then he snorted and ran up to the water bucket near the barn and Flossie pretended to give him a drink and some hay, and unharnessed him just as if he was a real steed.
Nan was counting while another girl named Grace Lavine jumped, Grace was a great jumper and had already passed forty when her mother called to her from the window.
"Grace, don't jump so much. You'll get sick."
"Oh, no, I won't," returned Grace. She was a headstrong girl and always wanted her own way.
"But jumping gave you a headache only last week," continued Mrs. Lavine. "Now, don't do too much of it," and then the lady closed the window and went back to her interrupted work.
"Oh, dear, mamma made me trip," sighed Grace. "I don't think that was fair."
"But your mamma doesn't want you to jump any more," put in another girl, Nellie Parks by name.
"Oh, she didn't say that. She said not to jump too much."
It was now Nan's turn to jump and she went up to twenty-seven and then tripped. Nellie followed and reached thirty-five. Then came another girl who jumped to fifty-six.
"I'm going a hundred this time," said Grace, as she skipped into place.
"Oh, Grace, you had better not!" cried Nan.
"You're afraid I'll beat you," declared Grace.
"No, I'm not. But your mamma said——"
"I don't care what she said. She didn't forbid my jumping," cut in the obstinate girl. "Are you going to turn or not?"
"Yes, I'll turn," replied Nan, and at once the jumping started. Soon Grace had reached forty. Then came fifty, and then sixty.
"I do believe she will reach a hundred after all," declared Nellie Parks, a little enviously.
"I will, if you turn steadily," answered Grace, in a panting voice. Her face was strangely pale.
"Oh, Grace, hadn't you better stop?" questioned Nan. She was a little frightened, but, nevertheless, kept on turning the rope.
"No!" puffed Grace. "Go—go on!"
She had now reached eighty-five. Nellie Parks was counting:
"Eighty-six, eighty-seven, eighty-eight, eighty-nine, ninety!" she went on. "Ninety-one-, ninety-two——"
"No—not so—so fast!" panted Grace. "I—I—oh!"
And then, just as Nellie was counting "Ninety-seven," she sank down in a heap, with her eyes closed and her face as white as a sheet.
For a moment the other girls looked on in blank wonder, not knowing what to make of it. Then Nan gave a scream.
"Oh, girls, she has fainted!"
"Perhaps she is dead!" burst out Nellie Parks. "And if she is, we killed her, for we turned the rope!"
"Oh, Nellie, please don't say that!" said Nan. She could scarcely speak the words.
"Shall I go and tell Mrs. Lavine?" asked another girl who stood near.
"No—yes," answered Nan. She was so bewildered she scarcely knew what to say. "Oh, isn't it awful!"
They gathered close around the fallen girl, but nobody dared to touch her. While they were there, and one had gone to tell Mrs. Lavine, a gentleman came up. It was Mr. Bobbsey, coming home from the lumber yard for lunch.
"What is the trouble?" he asked, and then saw Grace. "What happened to her?"
"She was—was jumping rope, and couldn't jump any more," sobbed Nan. "Oh, papa, she—isn't de—dead, is she?"
Mr. Bobbsey was startled and with good reason, for he had heard of more than one little girl dying from too much jumping. He took the limp form up in his arms and hurried to the Lavine house with it. "Run and tell Doctor Briskett," he called back to Nan.
The physician mentioned lived but a short block away, and Nan ran as fast as her feet could carry her. The doctor had just come in from making his morning calls and had his hat and overcoat still on.
"Oh, Doctor Briskett, do come at once!" she sobbed. "Grace Lavine is dead, and we did it, turning the rope for her!"
"Grace Lavine dead?" repeated the dumfounded doctor.
"Where is she?"
"Papa just carried her into her house."
Without waiting to hear more, Doctor Briskett ran toward the Lavine residence, around which quite a crowd had now collected. In the crowd was Bert.
"Is Grace really dead?" he asked.
"I—I—guess so," answered Nan. "Oh, Bert, it's dreadful! I was turning the rope and she had reached ninety-seven, when all at once she sank down, and——" Nan could not go on, but leaned on her twin brother's arm for support.
"You girls are crazy to jump rope so much," put in a big boy, Danny Rugg by name. Danny was something of a bully and very few of the girls liked him.
"It's no worse than playing football," said a big girl.
"Yes, it is, much worse," retorted Danny. "Rope jumping brings on heart disease. I heard father tell about it."
"I hope Grace didn't get heart disease," sobbed Nan.
"You turned the rope," went on Danny maliciously. "If she dies, they'll put you in prison, Nan Bobbsey."
"They shan't do it!" cried Bert, coming to his sister's rescue. "I won't let them."
"Much you can stop 'em, Bert Bobbsey."
"No, you can't."
"I'll see if I can't," answered Bert, and he gave Danny such a look that the latter edged away, thinking he was going to be attacked.
Doctor Briskett had gone into the house and the crowd hung around impatiently, waiting for news. The excitement increased, and Mrs. Bobbsey came forth, followed by Freddie and Flossie, who had just finished playing horse.
"Nan, Nan! what can it mean?" said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Oh, mamma!" murmured Nan, and sank, limp and helpless, into her mother's arms.
Just then Mr. Bobbsey came forth from the Lavine residence. Seeing his wife supporting their daughter, he hurried in that direction.
"Grace is not dead," he announced. "She had a fainting spell, that is all. But I think after this she had better leave rope skipping alone."
THE FIRST SNOW STORM
Nan felt greatly relieved to learn that Grace was not dead.
"Oh, mamma, I am so glad!" she said, over and over again.
"I am glad too," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "Her mamma has told her several times not to jump so much."
"Yes, I heard her." Nan's eyes dropped. "I was wicked to turn the rope for her."
In the end Nan told her mother the whole story, to which Mrs. Bobbsey listened very gravely.
"It was certainly wrong, Nan," she said. "After this I hope my little girl will try to do better."
"I shall try," answered Nan.
It was long after the dinner hour before the excitement died away. Then it was learned that Grace was resting quietly in an easy chair and the doctor had ordered that she be kept quiet for several days. She was very much frightened and had told her parents that she would never jump rope again.
The time was the fall of the year, and that Saturday evening there was a feeling of snow in the air stronger than before.
"Oh, if only it would snow!" came from Bert, several times. "I like winter better than anything."
"I don't," answered Nan. "Think of the nice flowers we have in the summer."
"You can't have much fun with flowers, Nan."
"Yes, you can. And think of the birds——"
"I like the summer," piped in Freddie, "cos then we go to the country where the cows and the chickens are!"
"Yes, and gather the eggs," put in Flossie, who had gathered eggs many times during the summer just past, while on a visit to their Uncle Daniel Bobbsey's farm at Meadow Brook. All of the Bobbsey children thought Meadow Brook the finest country place in all the world.
Bert's wish for snow was soon gratified. Sunday morning found it snowing steadily, the soft flakes coming down silently and covering the ground to the depth of several inches.
"Winter has come after all!" cried the boy. "Wish it was Monday instead of Sunday."
"The snow is not quite deep enough for sleighing yet," returned his father.
Despite the storm, all attended church in the morning, and the four children and Mrs. Bobbsey went to Sunday school in the afternoon. The lady taught a class of little girls and had Flossie as one of her pupils.
To the children, traveling back and forth through the snow was great sport, and Bert couldn't resist the temptation to make several snowballs and throw them at the other boys. The other boys threw back in return and Bert's hat was knocked off.
"Bert, this will not do on Sunday," said Mrs. Bobbsey, and there the snowballing came to an end.
All through that night the snow continued to come down, and on Monday morning it was over a foot deep. The air was crisp and cold and all of the children felt in the best of spirits.
"Nan and Bert can go to school," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "But I think Freddie and Flossie had better stay home. Walking would come too hard on them."
"I want to go out in the snow!" cried Freddie. "I don't want to stay indoors all day."
"You shall go out later on, in the garden," replied his mother.
"They can watch Sam shovel off the snow," put in Mr. Bobbsey. Sam was the man of all work. He and Dinah, the cook, were married and lived in some pleasant rooms over the stable.
"Yes, let us watch him!" cried Flossie, and soon she and Freddie were at the window, watching the colored man as he banked up the snow on either side of the garden walk and the sidewalk. Once Sam made a motion as if to throw a shovelful of snow at the window, and this made them dodge back in alarm and then laugh heartily.
The school was only a few blocks away from the Bobbsey home, but Nan and Bert had all they could do to reach it, for the wind had made the snow drift, so that in some spots it was very deep.
"Better look out or we'll get in over our heads," cried Bert.
"Oh, Bert, wouldn't it be terrible to have such a thing happen!" answered his twin sister. "How would we ever get out?"
"Ring the alarm and have the street-cleaning men dig us out," he said merrily. "Do you know, Nan, that I just love the snow. It makes me feel like singing and whistling." And he broke into a merry whistle.
"I love it because it looks so white and pure, Bert."
They were speedily joined by a number of other boys and girls, all bound for school. Some of the girls were having fun washing each other's faces and it was not long before Nan had her face washed too. The cold snow on her cheek and ear did not feel very nice, but she took the fun in good part and went to washing like the rest.
The boys were already snowballing each other, some on one side of the street and some on the other. The snowballs were flying in all directions and Bert was hit on the back and on the shoulder.
"I'll pay you back!" he cried, to Charley Mason, who had hit him in the back, and he let fly a snowball which landed directly on Charley's neck. Some of the snow went down Charley's back and made him shiver from the cold.
"I wouldn't stand that, Charley," said Danny Rugg, who was close at hand. "I'd pitch into him if I were you."
"You pitch into him," grumbled Charley. "You can throw awfully straight."
Danny prided himself on his throwing, which, however, was no better than the throwing of the other lads, and he quickly made two hard snowballs. With these in hand he ran out into the street and waited until Bert's hands were empty. Then he came up still closer and threw one of the snowballs with all his might. It struck Bert in the back of the head and sent him staggering.
"Hi! how do you like that?" roared Danny, in high glee. "Have another?" And as Bert stood up and looked around he let drive again, this time hitting Bert directly in the ear. The snowball was so hard it made Bert cry out in pain.
"For shame, Danny Rugg, to hit Bert so hard as that!" cried Nan.
"Oh, you keep still, Nan Bobbsey!" retorted Danny. "This is our sport, not yours."
"But you shouldn't have come so close before you threw the snowball."
"I know what I'm doing," growled the big boy, running off.
The whack in the ear made that member ache, and Bert did not feel near so full of fun when he entered the schoolyard. Several of his friends came up to him in sympathy.
"Did he hurt you very much, Bert?" asked one.
"He hurt me enough. It wasn't fair to come so close, or to make the snowballs so hard."
"Let us duck Danny in the snow," suggested one of the boys.
This was considered a good plan, but nobody wanted to start in, for, as I have said before, Danny was a good deal of a bully, and could get very rough at times.
While the boys were talking the matter over, the school bell rang and all had to go to their classrooms. In a little while Bert's ear stopped aching, but he did not forget how Danny Rugg had treated him.
"I'll pay him back when we go home to dinner," Bert told himself, and laid his plans accordingly.
As soon as Bert got out of school he hurried into a corner of the yard and made three good, hard snowballs. These he concealed under his overcoat and then waited for Danny to appear.
The big boy must have known that Bert would try to square matters with him, for as soon as he came out he ran in the direction of one of the main streets of Lakeport, just the opposite direction to that which he usually pursued.
"You shan't get away from me!" cried Bert, and ran after him. Soon he threw one snowball and this landed on Danny's back. Then he threw another and knocked off the bully's cap.
"Hi! stop that!" roared Danny, and stooped to pick up the cap. Whiz! came the third snowball and hit Danny on the cheek. He let out a cry of pain.
"I'll fix you for that, Bert Bobbsey!" he said, stooping down in the street. "How do you like that?"
He had picked up a large chunk of ice lying in the gutter, and now he threw it at Bert's head with all force. Bert dodged, and the ice went sailing past him and hit the show window of a small shoe store, shattering a pane of glass into a hundred pieces.
THE BROKEN WINDOW
Neither Danny nor Bert had expected such an ending to the snowball fight and for the moment neither knew what to do. Then, as the owner of the shoe store came running out, both set off on a run.
"Stop! stop!" roared the shoe dealer, coming after them. "Stop, I say!"
But the more he cried stop the harder they ran. Both soon reached the corner, and while Danny went up the side street, Bert went down, so the boys soon became widely separated.
Reaching the corner, the owner of the store did not know which boy to go after, but made up his mind to follow Bert, who could not run as fast as Danny. So after Bert he came, with such long steps that he was soon close to the lad.
Bert was greatly scared, for he was afraid that if he was caught he might be arrested. Seeing an alleyway close at hand, he ran into this. At the back was a fence, and with all speed he climbed up and let himself down on the other side. Then he ran around a corner of a barn, through another alleyway, and into a street leading home.
The shoe dealer might have followed, but he suddenly remembered that he had left the store unprotected and that somebody might come in and run off with his stock and his money. So he went back in a hurry; and the chase came to an end.
When Bert got home he was all out of breath, and his legs trembled so he could scarcely stand. Nan had just arrived and the family were preparing to sit down to lunch.
"Why, Bert, why do you run so hard?" protested his mother. "You must not do it. If you breathe in so much cold air, you may take cold."
"Oh, I—I'm all right," he panted, and started to drop into his seat, but Mrs. Bobbsey made him go up to the bathroom and wash up and comb his hair.
Poor Bert was in a fever of anxiety all through the meal. Every instant he expected to hear the front door bell ring, and find there a policeman to take him to the station house. He could scarcely eat a mouthful.
"What's the matter? Do you feel sick?" asked the father.
"No, I'm not sick," he answered.
"You play altogether too hard. Take it easy. The snow will last a long time," went on Mr. Bobbsey.
After lunch Bert did not dare to go back to school. But he could think of no excuse for staying home and at last set off in company with Nan. He looked around for Danny, but the big lad did not show himself.
"What's the matter with you, Bert?" questioned his twin sister, as they trudged along.
"Nothing is the matter, Nan."
"But there is. You act so strange."
"I—I don't feel very good."
"Then you did run too hard, after all."
"It wasn't that, Nan." Bert looked around him. "Do you see anything of Danny Rugg?"
"No." Nan stopped short. "Bert Bobbsey, did you have a fight with him?"
"No—that is, not a real fight. I chased him with some snowballs and he threw a big chunk of ice at me."
"Did he hit you?"
"No, he—he—oh, Nan, perhaps I had better tell you. But you must promise not to tell anybody else."
"Tell me what?"
"Will you promise not to tell?"
"Yes," said Nan promptly, for she and her twin brother always trusted each other.
"When Danny threw the ice at me it flew past and broke Mr. Ringley's window."
"What, of the shoe store?"
"Yes. Mr. Ringley came running out after both of us. I ran one way and Danny ran another. I ran into the alleyway past Jackson's barn, and got over the fence, and he didn't come any further."
"Does Mr. Ringley think you broke the window?"
"I guess he does. Anyway, he followed me and not Danny."
"But you had nothing to do with it. Oh, Bert, what made you run away at all. Why didn't you stop and tell the truth?"
"I—I got scared, that's why. I was afraid he'd get a policeman."
"Danny ought to own up that he did it."
"He won't do it. He'll put it off on me if he can,—because I chased him in the first place."
"Did Mr. Ringley know it was you?"
"I don't know. Now, Nan, remember, you promised not to tell."
"All right, Bert, I won't say a word. But—but—what do you think Mr. Ringley will do?"
"I don't know."
When they reached the school Danny Rugg was nowhere to be seen. The boys continued to have fun snowballing, but Bert had no heart for play and went to his classroom immediately. But he could not put his mind on his lessons and missed both in geography and arithmetic.
"Bert, you are not paying attention," said the teacher severely. "You just said the capital of Pennsylvania was Albany. You must know better than that."
"Philadelphia," corrected Bert.
"After this pay more attention."
Danny Rugg did not come to school, nor did he show himself until an hour after school was out. Bert had gone home and brought forth his sled, and he and Nan were giving Freddie and Flossie a ride around the block when Danny hailed Bert.
"Come here, I want to talk to you," he said, from across the street.
"What do you want?" asked Bert roughly.
"I've got something to tell you. It won't take but a minute."
Bert hesitated, and then leaving Nan to go on alone with the sled, he crossed to where Danny was standing, partly sheltered by a tree box.
"You can't blame that broken window off on me, Danny Rugg," he began.
"Hush!" whispered Danny, in alarm. "I ain't going to blame it off on you, Bert. I only want you to promise to keep quiet about it."
"Why should I? It was your fault."
"Was it? I don't think so. You began the fight. Besides, if you dare to say a word, I'll—I'll give you a big thrashing!" blustered Danny.
He clenched his fists as he spoke and looked so fierce that Bert retreated a step.
"I haven't said anything, Danny."
"Then you had better not. Old Ringley doesn't know who broke his window. So you keep quiet; do you hear?"
"Are you sure he doesn't know?"
"Yes, because he has been asking everybody about it."
There was a pause and the two boys looked at each other.
"You ought to pay for the window," said Bert.
"Huh! I'm not going to do it. You can pay for it if you want to. But don't you dare to say anything about me! If you do, you'll catch it, I can tell you!" And then Danny walked off.
"What did he have to say?" questioned Nan, when Bert came back to her.
"He wants me to keep still. He says Mr. Ringley doesn't know who did it."
"Did you promise to keep still, Bert?"
"No, but if I say anything Danny says he will give it to me."
A crowd of boys and girls now came up and the talk was changed. All were having a merry time in the snow, and for the time being Bert forgot his troubles. He and Nan gave Freddie and Flossie a long ride which pleased the younger twins very much.
"I wish you was really and truly horses," said Flossie. "You go so beautifully!"
"And if I had a whip I could make you go faster," put in Freddie.
"For shame, Freddie!" exclaimed Nan. "Would you hit the horse that gave you such a nice ride?"
"Let me give you a ride," answered the little fellow, to change the subject.
He insisted upon it, and soon Nan was on the sled behind Flossie, and Bert and Freddie were hauling them along where pulling was easy. This was great sport for Freddie, and he puffed and snorted like a real horse, and kicked up his heels, very much to Flossie's delight.
"Gee-dap!" shrieked the little maiden. "Gee-dap!" and moved back and forth on the sled, to make it go faster. Away went Freddie and Bert, as fast as the legs of the little fellow could travel. They went down a long hill and through a nice side street, and it was a good half hour before they reached home,—just in time for a good hot supper.
Bert felt relieved to learn that Mr. Ringley did not know who had broken the store window, but he was still fearful that the offense might be laid at his door. He was afraid to trust Danny Rugg, and did not know what the big boy might do.
"He may say I did it, just to clear himself," thought Bert. "And if Mr. Ringley comes after me, he'll remember me sure."
But his anxiety was forgotten that evening, when some of the neighbors dropped in for a call. There was music on the piano and some singing, and almost before Bert and Nan knew it, it was time to go to bed. Freddie and Flossie had already retired, worn out by their play.
But after Bert had said his prayers and found himself alone in the small bed chamber he occupied, he could not sleep. The talk of the folks below kept him awake at first, and even after they had gone to bed he could not forget the happening of the day, and he could still hear the crash of that glass as the chunk of ice went sailing through it.
At last he fell into a troubled doze, with the bright light of the moon shining across the rug at the foot of the bed. But the doze did not last long, and soon some kind of a noise awoke him with a start.
He opened his eyes and his gaze wandered across the moon-lit room. Was he dreaming, or was that really a figure in white standing at the foot of his bed? With a shiver he ducked down and covered his head with the blankets.
For two or three minutes he lay quiet, expecting every instant to have something unusual happen. Then, with great caution, he pushed the blankets back and took another look.
There was nothing there!
"But I saw something," he told himself. "I am sure I saw something. What could it have been?"
Ah, that was the question. For over an hour he continued to lie awake, watching and listening. Nan was in the next little chamber and he was half of a mind to call her, but he was afraid she would call him a "'fraid-cat!" something he despised.
Bert had heard of ghosts and now he thought of all the ghost stories he could remember. Had the thing in white been a ghost? If so, where had it come from?
After a while he tried to dismiss the thing from his mind, but it was almost morning before he fell asleep again. This time he slept so soundly, however, that he did not rouse up until his mother came and shook him.
"Why, Bert, what makes you sleep so soundly this morning?" said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I—I didn't get to sleep until late," he stammered. And then he added: "Mamma, do you believe in ghosts?"
"Why, of course not, Bert. What put that into your head?"
"I—I thought I saw a ghost last night."
"You must have been mistaken. There are no ghosts."
"But I saw something," insisted the boy.
"Right at the foot of the bed. It was all white."
"When was this?"
"Right in the middle of the night."
"Did you see it come in, or go out?"
"No, mamma. When I woke up it was standing there, and when I took a second look at it, it was gone."
"You must have been suffering from a nightmare, Bert," said Mrs. Bobbsey kindly. "You should not have eaten those nuts before going to bed."
"No, it wasn't a nightmare," said the boy.
He had but little to say while eating breakfast, but on the way to school he told Nan, while Freddie and Flossie listened also.
"Oh, Bert, supposing it was a real ghost?" cried Nan, taking a deep breath. "Why, I'd be scared out of my wits,—I know I'd be!"
"Mamma says there are no ghosts. But I saw something—I am sure of that."
"I don't want to see any ghostses," came from Flossie.
"Nor I," added Freddie. "Sam told about a ghost once that was as high as a tree an' had six heads, to eat bad boys and girls up. Did this have six heads, Bert?"
"How many heads did it have?"
"I don't know—one, I guess."
"And was it as high as a tree?" went on the inquisitive little fellow.
"Oh, it couldn't stand up in the room if it was as high as a tree," burst out Flossie.
"Could if it was a tiny baby tree," expostulated Freddie.
"It was about as high as that," said Bert, putting out his hand on a level with his shoulder. "I can't say how it looked, only it was white."
"Perhaps it was moonshine," suggested Nan, but at this Bert shook his head. He felt certain it had been more substantial than moonshine.
That day Danny Rugg came to school as usual. When questioned about his absence he said he had had a toothache. When Bert looked at him the big boy merely scowled, and no words passed between the pair.
Directly back of Lakeport was a long hill, used during the winter by all the boys and girls for coasting. After school Nan and Bert were allowed to go to this hill, in company with a number of their friends. They were admonished to come back before dark and promised faithfully to do so.
Among the boys there was a great rivalry as to who could go down the hill the fastest, and who could make his sled go the farthest after the bottom was reached.
"I'll try my sled against yours!" cried Charley Mason to Bert.
"Done!" returned Bert. "Are you going down alone, or are you going to carry somebody?"
"You must carry me down," insisted Nan.
"Then I'll take Nellie Parks," went on Charley.
Nellie was close at hand and soon the two sleds were side by side, with a girl on each. Bert and Charley stood behind.
"Are you ready?" asked Charley.
Away went both lads, giving each sled a lively shove down the hill. Then each hopped aboard, and took hold of the rope with which to steer.
"A race! A race!" shouted those standing near.
"I think Charley will win!" said some.
"I think Bert will win!" said others.
"Oh, let us win if we can!" whispered Nan to her twin brother.
"I'll do my best, Nan," was the answer.
Down the long hill swept the two sleds, almost side by side. Each was rushing along at a lively rate of speed, and those aboard had to hold on tightly for fear of being jounced off.
"Whoop!" roared Charley. "Clear the track, for I am coming!"
"Make room for me!" sang out Bert. "We are bound to win!"
The bottom of the hill was almost reached when Charley's sled began to crawl a bit ahead.
"Oh, Bert, they are going to beat us after all," cried Nan disappointedly.
"I knew we'd beat you," cried Nellie Parks. "Charley's is the best sled on the hill."
"The race isn't over yet," said Bert.
His sled had been running in rather soft snow. Now he turned to where the coasting was better, and in a twinkling his sled shot forward until he was once more beside Charley and Nellie.
"Here we come!" shouted Bert. "Make room, I say! Make room."
On and on they went, and now the bottom of the hill was reached and they ran along a level stretch. Charley's sled began to slow up, but Bert's kept on and on until he had covered a hundred feet beyond where Charley had come to a stop.
"We've won!" cried Nan excitedly. "Oh, Bert, your sled is a wonder."
"So it is," he answered, with pride. "But it was a close race, wasn't it?"
When they came back to where Charley and Nellie stood they found Charley rather sulky.
"Nellie is heavier than Nan," said he. "It wasn't a fair race. Let us try it alone next time."
"I'm willing," answered Bert.
COASTING, AND WHAT CAME OF IT
It was a long walk back to the top of the hill, but Nan and Bert did not mind it.
"So you won, did you?" said one of the boys to Bert. "Good enough."
"We are going to try it over again," put in Charley. "Come on."
In the crowd was Danny Rugg, who had a brand-new sled.
"I guess I can beat anybody!" cried Danny boastfully. "This new sled of mine is bang-up."
"What slang!" whispered Nan, to Bert. "If I were you I shouldn't race with him."
"I'm going to race with Charley," answered her twin brother, and took no notice of Danny's challenge.
Bert and Charley were soon ready for the test, and away they went amid a cheer from their friends.
"I think Charley will win this time," said Nellie.
"And I think that Bert will win," answered Nan.
"Oh, you think your brother is wonderful," sniffed Nellie, with a shrug of her shoulders.
"He is just as good as any boy," said Nan quickly.
Down the hill swept the two sleds, keeping side by side as before. They were but a foot apart, for each owner wished to keep on the hardest part of the slide.
"Keep on your side, Bert Bobbsey!" shouted Charley warningly.
"And you keep on yours, Charley Mason!" returned Bert.
All of the others on the hill had stopped coasting to witness the contest, but now with a whoop Danny Rugg swept forward with his new sled and came down the hill at top speed.
The bottom of the hill was barely reached when Charley's sled made an unexpected turn and crashed into Bert's, throwing Bert over on his side in the snow.
"What did you do that for?" demanded Bert angrily.
"I—I—didn't do it," stammered Charley. "I guess you turned into me."
"No, I didn't."
Bert arose and began to brush the snow from his clothes. As he did so he heard a rushing sound behind him and then came a crash as Danny Rugg ran into him. Down he went again and his sled had a runner completely broken off. Bert was hit in the ankle and badly bruised.
"Why didn't you get out of the way!" roared Danny Rugg roughly. "I yelled loud enough."
"Oh, my ankle!" groaned Bert. For the moment the wrecked sled was forgotten.
"I didn't touch your ankle," went on the big boy.
"You did so, Danny—at least, the point of your sled did," answered Bert.
"You ran into me in the first place," came from Charley.
"Oh, Charley, you know better than that." Bert tried to stand, but had to sit down. "Oh, my ankle!"
"It wasn't my fault," said Danny Rugg, and began to haul his sled away. Charley started to follow.
"Don't leave me, Charley," called out Bert. "I—I guess I can't walk."
Charley hesitated. Then, feeling in his heart that he was really responsible for running into Bert in the first place, he came back and helped Bert to his feet.
"The sled is broken," said Bert, surveying the wreck dismally.
"That was Danny's fault."
"Well, then, he ought to pay for having it fixed."
"He never pays for anything he breaks, Bert,—you know that."
Slowly and painfully Bert dragged himself and his broken sled to the top of the hill. Sharp, hot flashes of pain shooting through his bruised ankle. Nan ran to meet him.
"Oh, Bert, what is the matter? Are you hurt?" she asked.
"Yes,—Danny ran into me, and broke the sled."
"It wasn't my fault, I say!" blustered the big boy. "You had a right to get out of the way."
"It was your fault, Danny Rugg, and you will have to have my sled mended," cried Bert.
Throwing down the rope of his own sled, Danny advanced and doubled up his fists as if to fight.
"Don't you talk like that to me," he said surlily. "I don't like it."
Bert's ankle hurt too much for him to continue the quarrel. He felt himself growing dizzy and he fell back.
"Let us go home," whispered Nan.
"I'll ride you home if you can't walk," put in Charley, who was growing alarmed.
In the end Bert had to accept the offer, and home he went, with Charley and Nan pulling him and with the broken sled dragging on behind.
It was all he could do to get into the house, and as a consequence Mrs. Bobbsey was much alarmed. She took off his shoe and stocking and found the ankle scratched and swollen, and bathed it and bound it up.
"You must lie down on the sofa," she said. "Never mind the broken sled. Perhaps your papa can fix it when he comes home."
Bert detested playing the part of an invalid, but he soon discovered that keeping the ankle quiet felt much better than trying to walk around upon it. That night Mr. Bobbsey carried him up to bed, and he remained home for three days, when the ankle became as well as ever. The broken sled was sent to a nearby cabinet maker, and came back practically as good as new.
"You must not have anything to do with Danny Rugg," said Mrs. Bobbsey to her son. "He is very rough and ungentlemanly."
"I'll leave him alone, mamma, if he'll leave me alone," answered Bert.
During those days spent at home, Nan did her best to amuse her brother. As soon as she was out of school she came straight home, and read to him and played games. Nan was also learning to play on the piano and she played a number of tunes that he liked to hear. They were so much attached to each other that it did not seem natural for Nan to go out unless her twin brother could go out too.
The first snow storm had been followed by another, so that in the garden the snow lay deeper than ever. This was a great delight to Freddie and Flossie, who worked hard to build themselves a snow house. They enlisted the services of Sam, the stableman, who speedily piled up for them a heap of snow much higher than their heads.
"Now, chillun, dar am de house," said the colored man. "All yo' hab got to do is to clear out de insides." And then he went off to his work, after starting the hole for them.
Flossie wanted to divide the house into three rooms, "dining room, kitchen, and bedroom," as she said, but Freddie objected.
"'Taint big enough," said the little boy. "Make one big room and call it ev'rything."
"But we haven't got an ev'rything," said Flossie.
"Well, then, call it the parlor," said Freddie. "When it's done we can put in a carpet and two chairs for us to sit on."
It was hard work for such little hands to dig out the inside of the heap of snow, but they kept at it, and at last the hole was big enough for Freddie to crawl into.
"Oh, it's jess beautiful!" he cried, "Try it, Flossie!" And Flossie did try, and said the house was going to be perfect.
"Only we must have a bay window," she added. "And a curtain, just like mamma."
They continued to shovel away, and soon Freddie said he could almost stand up in the house. He was inside, shoveling out the snow, while his twin sister packed what he threw out on the outside, as Sam had told them to do.
"Where shall I put the bay window?" asked the little boy, presently.
"On this side," answered Flossie, pointing with the shovel she held.
At once Freddie began to dig a hole through the side of the pile of snow.
"Be careful, or the house will come down!" cried Flossie, all at once, and hardly had she spoken when down came the whole top of the snow pile and poor Freddie was buried completely out of sight!
FREDDIE AND FLOSSIE'S SNOW HOUSE
"Freddie! Freddie!" shrieked Flossie, when she saw her twin brother disappear. "Do come out!"
But Freddie could not come out, and when, after a few seconds he did not show himself, she ran toward the kitchen door, screaming at the top of her breath.
"Oh, Dinah! Dinah! Freddie is buried! Freddie is buried!"
"Wot's dat yo' say, Flossie?" demanded the cook, coming to the door.
"Freddie is buried. The ceiling of the snow house came down on him!"
"Gracious sakes alive, chile!" burst out Dinah, and without waiting to put anything on her head she rushed forth into the garden. "Gib me dat shovel quick! He'll be stuffocated fo' yo' know it."
She began to dig away at the pile of snow, and presently uncovered one of Freddie's lower limbs. Then she dropped the shovel and tugged away at the limb and presently brought Freddie to view, just as Mrs. Bobbsey and Nan appeared on the scene.
"What in the world is the matter?" questioned Mrs. Bobbsey, in alarm.
"Dat chile dun gwine an' buried himself alive," responded the colored cook. "De roof of de snow house cabed in on him, pooh dear! He's 'most stuffocated!"
In the meantime Freddie was gasping for breath. Then he looked at the wreck of the snow house and set up a tremendous roar of dismay.
"Oh, Flossie, it's all spoilt! The bay window an' all!"
"Never mind, Freddie dear," said his mother, taking him. "Be thankful that you were not suffocated, as Dinah says."
"Yes, but Flossie and me were makin' an ev'rything house, with a parlor, an' a bay window, an' ev'rything. I didn't want it to fall down." Freddie was still gasping, but now he struggled to the ground. "Want to build it up again," he added.
"I am afraid you'll get into trouble again, Freddie."
"No, I won't, mamma. Do let us build it up again," pleaded the little fellow.
"I kin watch dem from de doah," suggested Dinah.
"Let me help them, mamma," put in Nan. "Bert is reading a book, so he won't want me for a while."
"Very well, Nan, you may stay with them. But all of you be careful," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
After that the building of the snow house was started all over again. The pile of snow was packed down as hard as possible, and Nan made Flossie and Freddie do the outside work while she crept inside, and cut around the ceiling and the bay window just as the others wanted. It was great sport, and when the snow house was finished it was large enough and strong enough for all of them to enter with safety.
"To-night I'll poah some water ober dat house," said Sam. "Dat will make de snow as hard as ice." This was done, and the house remained in the garden until spring came. Later on Bert built an addition to it, which he called the library, and in this he put a bench and a shelf on which he placed some old magazines and story papers. In the main part of the snow house Freddie and Flossie at first placed an old rug and two blocks of wood for chairs, and a small bench for a table. Then, when Flossie grew tired of the house, Freddie turned it into a stable, in which he placed his rocking-horse. Then he brought out his iron fire engine, and used the place for a fire-house, tying an old dinner bell on a stick, stuck over the doorway. Dong! dong! would go the bell, and out he would rush with his little engine and up the garden path, looking for a fire.
"Let us play you are a reg'lar fireman," said Flossie, on seeing this. "You must live in the fire-house, and I must be your wife and come to see you with the baby." And she dressed up in a long skirt and paid him a visit, with her best doll on her arm. Freddie pretended to be very glad to see her, and embraced the baby. But a moment later he made the bell ring, and throwing the baby to her rushed off again with his engine.
"That wasn't very nice," pouted Flossie. "Dorothy might have fallen in the snow."
"Can't help it," answered Freddie. "A fireman can't stop for anything."
"But—but—he doesn't have to throw his baby away, does he?" questioned Flossie, with wide open eyes.
"Yes, he does,—ev'rything."
"But—but supposing he is—is eating his dinner?"
"He has to throw it away, Flossie. Oh, it's awful hard to be a real fireman."
"Would he have to throw his jam away, and his pie?"
"Then I wouldn't be a fireman, not for a—a house full of gold!" said Flossie, and marched back into the house with her doll.
Flossie's dolls were five in number. Dorothy was her pride, and had light hair and blue eyes, and three dresses, one of real lace. The next was Gertrude, a short doll with black eyes and hair and a traveling dress that was very cute. Then came Lucy, who had lost one arm, and Polly, who had lost both an arm and a leg. The fifth doll was Jujube, a colored boy, dressed in a fiery suit of red, with a blue cap and real rubber boots. This doll had come from Sam and Dinah and had been much admired at first, but was now taken out only when all the others went too.
"He doesn't really belong to the family, you know," Flossie would explain to her friends. "But I have to keep him, for mamma says there is no colored orphan asylum for dolls. Besides, I don't think Sam and Dinah would like to see their doll child in an asylum." The dolls were all kept in a row in a big bureau drawer at the top of the house, but Flossie always took pains to separate Jujube from the rest by placing the cover of a pasteboard box between them.
With so much snow on the ground it was decided by the boys of that neighborhood to build a snow fort, and this work was undertaken early on the following Saturday morning. Luckily, Bert was by that time well enough to go out and he did his fair share of the labor, although being careful not to injure the sore ankle.
The fort was built at the top of a small hill in a large open lot. It was made about twenty feet square and the wall was as high as the boys' heads and over a foot thick. In the middle was gathered a big pile of snow, and into this was stuck a flag-pole from which floated a nice flag loaned by a boy named Ralph Blake.
"Let us divide into two parties of soldiers," said Ralph. "One can defend the fort and the others can attack it."
"Hurrah! just the thing!" cried Bert. "When shall the battle begin?"
The boys talked it over, and it was decided to have the battle come off after lunch.
The boys went home full of enthusiasm, and soon the news spread that a real soldiers' battle was to take place at the lot.
"Oh, Bert, can't I go and look on?" asked Nan.
"I want to go, too," put in Flossie.
"Can't I be a soldier?" asked Freddie. "I can make snowballs, and throw 'em, too."
"No, Freddie, you are too little to be a soldier," answered Bert. "But you can all come and look on, if you wish."
After lunch the boys began to gather quickly, until over twenty were present. Many girls and a few grown folks were also there, who took places out of harm's way.
"Now, remember," said a gentleman who was placed in charge. "No icy snowballs and no stones."
"We'll remember, Mr. Potter," cried the young soldiers.
The boys were speedily divided into two parties, one to attack and one to defend the fort. It fell to Bert's lot to be one of the attacking party. Without loss of time each party began to make all the snowballs it could. The boys who remained in the fort kept out of sight behind the walls, while the attacking party moved to the back of the barn at the corner of the big lot.
"Are you all ready?" shouted Mr. Potter presently.
A yell of assent came from nearly all of the young soldiers.
"Very well, then; the battle may begin."
Some of the boys had brought horns along, and now a rousing blast came from behind the barn and then from the snow fort.
"Come on and capture the fort!" cried Bert, and led the way, with his arms full of snowballs.
There was a grand cheer and up the hill rushed the young soldiers, ready to capture the snow fort no matter what the cost.
FUN ON THE ICE
"Oh, the fight is going to start!" cried Nan, in high excitement. "See them coming up the hill!"
"Will they shoot?" asked Flossie, just a bit nervously.
"Course they won't shoot," answered Freddie. "Can't shoot snowballs. Ain't got no powder in."
The attacking party was still a good distance from the fort when those inside let fly a volley of snowballs. But the snowballs did not reach their mark, and still the others came up the hill.
"Now then, give it to them!" cried Bert, and let fly his first snowball, which landed on the top of the fort's wall. Soon the air was full of snowballs, flying one way and another. Many failed to do any damage, but some went true, and soon Bert received a snowball full in the breast and another in the shoulder. Then he slipped and fell and his own snowballs were lost.
The attacking party got to within fifty feet of the fort, but then the ammunition gave out and they were forced to retreat, which they did in quick order.
"Hurrah! they can't take the fort!" cried those inside of the stronghold, and blew their horns more wildly than ever. But their own ammunition was low and they made other snowballs as quickly as they could, using the pile of snow in the middle of the fort for that purpose.
Back of the barn the attacking party held a consultation.
"I've got a plan," said a boy named Ned Brown. "Let us divide into two parties and one move on the fort from the front and the other from the back. Then, if they attack one party, the other party can sneak in and climb over the fort wall and capture the flag."
"All right, let us do that," said Bert.
Waiting until each boy had a dozen or more snowballs, half of the attacking force moved away along a fence until the rear of the fort was gained. Then, with another cheer, all set out for the fort.
It was a grand rush and soon the air was once more filled with snowballs, much to the delight of the spectators, who began to cheer both sides.
"Oh, I hope they get into the fort this time," said Nan.
"I hope they don't," answered another girl, who had a brother in the fort.
Inside the fort the boys were having rather a hard time of it. They were close together, and a snowball coming over the walls was almost certain to hit one or another. More than this, the pile of snow around the flag was growing small, so that the flag was in great danger of toppling over.
Up the two sides of the hill came the invaders, Bert leading the detachment that was to attack the rear. He was hit again, but did not falter, and a moment later found himself at the very wall.
"Get back there!" roared a boy from the fort and threw a large lump of soft snow directly into his face. But Bert threw the lump back and the boy slipped and fell flat. Then, amid a perfect shower of snowballs, Bert and two other boys fairly tumbled into the fort.
"Defend the flag! Defend the flag!" was the rallying cry of the fort defenders, and they gathered around the flag. The struggle was now a hand-to-hand one, in which nothing but soft snow was used, and nearly every boy had his face washed.
"Get back there!" roared Danny Rugg, who was close to the flag, but as he spoke two boys shoved him down on his face in the snow, and the next moment Bert and another boy of the invading party had the flag and was carrying it away in triumph.
"The fort has fallen!" screamed Nan, and clapped her hands.
"Hurrah!" shouted Freddie. "The—the forters are beaten, aren't they?"
A cheer was given for those who had captured the fort. Then some of the boys began to dance on the top of the walls, and down they came, one after another, until the fort was in ruins, and the great contest came to an end.
"It was just splendid!" said Nan to Bert, on the way home. "Just like a real battle."
"Only the band didn't play," put in Freddie disappointedly. "Real soldiers have a band. They don't play fish-horns."
"Oh, Freddie!" cried Flossie. "They weren't fish-horns. They were Christmas horns."
"It's all the same. I like a band, with a big, fat bass-drum."
"We'll have the band next time—just for your benefit, Freddie," said Bert.
He was tired out and glad to rest when they got home. More than this, some of the snow had gotten down his back, so he had to dry himself by sitting with his back to the sitting-room heater.
"Danny Rugg was terribly angry that we captured the fort," said he. "He is looking for the boys who threw him on his face."
"It served him right," answered Nan, remembering the trouble over the broken show window.
The second fall of snow was followed by steady cold weather and it was not long before the greater part of Lake Metoka was frozen over. As soon as this happened nearly all of the boys and girls took to skating, so that sledding and snowballing were, for the time being, forgotten.
Both Nan and Bert had new skates, given to them the Christmas before, and each was impatient to go on the ice, but Mrs. Bobbsey held them back until she thought it would be safe.
"You must not go too far from shore," said she. "I understand the ice in the middle of the lake, and at the lower end, is not as firm as it might be."
Freddie and Flossie wanted to watch the skating, and Nan took them to their father's lumber yard. Here was a small office directly on the lake front, where they could see much that was going on and still be under the care of an old workman around the yards.
Nan could not skate very well, but Bert could get along nicely, and he took hold of his twin sister's hand, and away they went gliding over the smooth ice much to their combined delight.
"Some day I am going to learn how to do fancy skating," said Bert. "The Dutch roll, and spread the eagle, and all that."
"There is Mr. Gifford," said Nan. "Let us watch him."
The gentleman mentioned was a fine skater and had once won a medal for making fancy figures on the ice. They watched him for a long while and so did many of the others present.
"It's beautiful to skate like that," cried Nan, when they skated away. "It's just like knowing how to dance everything."
"Only better," said Bert, who did not care for dancing at all.
Presently Nan found some girls to skate with and then Bert went off among the boys. The girls played tag and had great fun, shrieking at the top of their lungs as first one was "it" and then another. It was hard work for Nan to catch the older girls, who could skate better, but easy enough to catch those of her own age and experience on the ice.
The boys played tag, too, and "snapped the whip," as it is termed. All of the boys would join hands in a long line and then skate off as fast as they could. Then the boy on one end, called the snapper, would stop and pull the others around in a big curve. This would make the boys on the end of the line skate very fast, and sometimes they would go down, to roll over and over on the ice. Once Bert was at the end and down he went, to slide a long distance, when he bumped into a gentleman who was skating backwards and over went the man with a crash that could be heard a long distance off.
"Hi! you young rascal!" roared the man, trying to scramble up. "What do you mean by bowling me over like that?"
"Excuse me, but I didn't mean to do it," answered Bert, and lost no time in getting out of the gentleman's way. The gentleman was very angry and left the ice, grumbling loudly to himself.
Down near the lower end of Mr. Bobbsey's lumber yard some young men were building an ice-boat. Bert and Charley Mason watched this work with interest. "Let us make an ice-boat," said Charley. "I can get an old bed-sheet for a sail, if you will get your father to give you the lumber."
"I'll try," answered Bert, and it was agreed that the ice-boat should be built during the following week, after school.
FREDDIE LOSES HIMSELF
Christmas was now but four weeks away, and the stores of Lakeport had their windows filled with all sort of nice things for presents. Nan and Bert had gazed into the windows a number of times, and even walked through the one big department store of which the town boasted, and they had told Freddie and Flossie of many of the things to be seen.
"Oh, I want to see them, too!" cried Flossie, and begged her mother to take her along the next time she went out.
"I want to go, too," put in Freddie. "Bert says there are sixteen rocking horses all in a row, with white and black tails. I want to see them."
"I am going to the stores to-morrow," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "You can go with me, after school. It will be better to go now than later on, when the places are filled with Christmas shoppers."
The twins were in high glee, and Freddie said he was going to spend the twenty-five cents he had been saving up for several months.
"Let us buy mamma something for Christmas," said Flossie, who had the same amount of money.
"What shall we buy?"
That question was a puzzling one. Flossie thought a nice doll would be the right thing, while Freddie thought an automobile that could be wound up and made to run around the floor would be better. At last both consulted Nan.
"Oh, mamma doesn't want a doll," said Nan. "And she ought to have a real automobile, not a tin one."
"Can't buy a real auto'bile," said Freddie. "Real auto'biles cost ten dollars, or more."
"I'll tell you what to do," went on Nan. "You buy her a little bottle of cologne, Freddie, and you, Flossie, can buy her a nice handkerchief."
"I'll buy her a big bottle of cologne," said Freddie. "That big!" and he placed his hands about a foot apart.
"And I'll get a real lace handkerchief," added Flossie.
"You'll have to do the best you can," said practical Nan, and so it was agreed.
When they left home each child had the money tucked away in a pocket. They went in the family sleigh, with Sam as a driver. The first stop was at Mr. Ringley's shoe store, where Mrs. Bobbsey purchased each of the twins a pair of shoes. It may be added here, that the broken window glass had long since been replaced by the shoe dealer, and his show window looked as attractive as ever.
"I heard you had a window broken not long ago," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when paying for her purchases.
"Yes, two bad boys broke the window," answered the shoe dealer.
"Who were they?"
"I couldn't find out. But perhaps I'll learn some day, and then I mean to have them arrested," said Mr. Ringley. "The broken glass ruined several pairs of shoes that were in the window." And then he turned away to wait on another customer.
Soon the large department store was reached and Mrs. Bobbsey let Freddie and Flossie take their time in looking into the several windows. One was full of dolls, which made the little girl gape in wonder and delight.
"Oh, mamma, what a flock of dolls!" she cried. "Must be 'bout ten millions of them, don't you think so?"
"Hardly that many, Flossie; but there are a good many."
"And, oh, mamma, what pretty dresses! I wish I had that doll with the pink silk and the big lace hat," added the little girl.
"Do you think that is the nicest, Flossie?"
"Indeed, indeed I do," answered the little miss. "It's too lovely for anything. Can't we get it and take it home?"
"No, dear; but you had better ask Santa Claus to send it to you," continued her mother with a smile.
Some wooden soldiers and building blocks caught Freddie's eye, and for the time being his favorite fire engines were forgotten.
"I want wooden soldiers," he said. "Can set 'em up in a row, with the sword-man in front, an' the man with the drum."
"Perhaps Santa Claus will bring you some soldiers in your stocking, Freddie."
"Stocking ain't big enough—want big ones, like that," and he pointed with his chubby hand.
"Well, let us wait and see what Santa Claus can do," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
Inside of the store was a candy counter near the doorway, and there was no peace for Mrs. Bobbsey until she had purchased some chocolate drops for Flossie, and a long peppermint cane for Freddie. Then they walked around, down one aisle and up another, admiring the many things which were displayed.
"Bert said they had a lavater," said Freddie presently. "Mamma, I want to go in the lavater."
"Lavater?" repeated Mrs. Bobbsey, with a puzzled look. "Why, Freddie, what do you mean?"
"He means the stairs that runs up and down on a big rope," put in Flossie.
"Oh, the elevator," said the mother. "Very well, you shall both ride in the elevator."
It was great sport to ride to the third story of the store, although the swift way in which the elevator moved made the twins gasp a little.
"Let us go down again," said Freddie. "It's ever so much nicer than climbing the stairs."
"I wish to make a few purchases first," answered the mother.
She had come to buy a rug for the front hallway, and while she was busy in the rug and carpet department she allowed the twins to look at a number of toys which were located at the other end of the floor.
For a while Freddie and Flossie kept close together, for there was quite a crowd present and they felt a little afraid. But then Flossie discovered a counter where all sorts of things for dolls were on sale and she lingered there, to look at the dresses, and hats, and underwear, and shoes and stockings, and chairs, trunks, combs and brushes, and other goods.
"Oh, my, I must have some of those things for my dolls," she said, half aloud. There was a trunk she thought perfectly lovely and it was marked 39 cents. "Not so very much," she thought.
When Freddie got around to where the elevator was, it was just coming up again with another load of people. As he had not seen it go down he concluded that he must go down by way of the stairs if he wanted another ride.
"I'll get a ride all by myself," he thought, and as quickly as he could, he slipped down first one pair of stairs and then another, to the ground floor of the store. Then he saw another stairs, and soon was in the basement of the department store.
Here was a hardware department with a great number of heavy toys, and soon he was looking at a circular railroad track upon which ran a real locomotive and three cars. This was certainly a wonderful toy, and Freddie could not get his eyes off of it.
In moving around the basement of the store, Freddie grew hopelessly mixed up, and when he started to look for the elevator or the stairs, he walked to the storage room. He was too timid to ask his way out and soon found himself among great rows of boxes and barrels. Then he made a turn or two and found himself in another room, filled with empty boxes and casks, some partly filled with straw and excelsior. There was a big wooden door to this room, and while he was inside the door shut with a bang and the catch fell into place.
"Oh, dear, I wish I was back with mamma," he thought, and drew a long and exceedingly sober breath. "I don't like it here at all."
Just then a little black kitten came toward him and brushed up affectionately. Freddie caught the kitten and sat down for a moment to pet it. He now felt sleepy and in a few minutes his eyes closed and his head began to nod. Then in a minute more he went sound asleep.
Long before this happened Mrs. Bobbsey found Flossie and asked her where Freddie was. The little girl could not tell, and the mother began a diligent search. The floor-walkers in the big store aided her, but it was of no avail. Freddie could not be found, and soon it was time to close up the establishment for the day. Almost frantic with fear, Mrs. Bobbsey telephoned to her husband, telling him of what had occurred and asked him what had best be done.
LOST AND FOUND
When Freddie woke up all was very, very dark around him. At first he thought he was at home, and he called out for somebody to pull up the curtain that he might see.
But nobody answered him, and all he heard was a strange purring, close to his ear. He put up his hand and touched the little black kitten, which was lying close to his face. He had tumbled back in the straw and this had proved a comfortable couch upon which to take a nap.
"Oh, dear me, I'll have to get back to mamma!" he murmured, as he struggled up and rubbed his eyes. "What can make it so awful dark? They ought to light the gas. Nobody can buy things when it's so dark as this."
The darkness did not please him, and he was glad to have the black kitten for a companion. With the kitten in his arms he arose to his feet and walked a few steps. Bump! he went into a big box. Then he went in another direction and stumbled over a barrel.
"Mamma! Mamma!" he cried out. "Mamma, where are you?"
No answer came back to this call, and his own voice sounded so queer to him that he soon stopped. He hugged the kitten tighter than ever.
He was now greatly frightened and it was all he could do to keep back the tears. He knew it must be night and that the great store must be closed up.
"They have all gone home and left me here alone," he thought. "Oh, what shall I do?"
He knew the night was generally very long and he did not wish to remain in the big, lonely building until morning.
Still hugging the kitten, he felt his way around until he reached the big wooden door. The catch came open with ease, and once more he found himself in that part of the basement used for hardware and large mechanical toys. But the toy locomotive had ceased to run and all was very silent. Only a single gas jet flickered overhead, and this cast fantastic shadows which made the little boy think of ghosts and hobgoblins. One mechanical toy had a very large head on it, and this seemed to grin and laugh at him as he looked at it.
"Mamma!" he screamed again. "Oh, mamma, why don't you come?"
He listened and presently he heard footsteps overhead.
"Who's there?" came in the heavy voice of a man.
The voice sounded so unnatural that Freddie was afraid to answer. Perhaps the man might be a burglar come to rob the store.
"I say, who's there?" repeated the voice. "Answer me."
There was a minute of silence, and then Freddie heard the footsteps coming slowly down the stairs. The man had a lantern in one hand and a club in the other.
Not knowing what else to do, Freddie crouched behind a counter. His heart beat loudly, and he had dim visions of burglars who might have entered the big store to rob it. If he was discovered, there was no telling what such burglars might do with him.
"Must have been the cat," murmured the man on the stairs. He reached the basement floor and swung his lantern over his head. "Here, kittie, kittie, kittie!" he called.
"Meow!" came from the black kitten, which was still in Freddie's arms. Then the man looked in that direction.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed, starting in amazement. "What are you doing here? Are you alone?"
"Oh, please, I want my mamma!" cried Freddie.
"You want your mamma?" repeated the man. "Say!" he went on suddenly. "Are you the kid that got lost this afternoon, youngster?"
"I guess I did get lost," answered Freddie. He saw that the man had a kindly face and this made him a bit braver. "I walked around and sat down over there—in the straw—and went to sleep."
"Well, I never!" cried the man. "And have you been down here ever since?"
"Yes, sir. But I don't want to stay—I want to go home."
"All right, you shall go. But this beats me!"
"Are you the man who owns the store?" questioned Freddie curiously.
At this the man laughed. "No; wish I did. I'm the night watchman. Let me see, what is your name?"
"Freddie Bobbsey. My papa owns the lumber yard."
"Oh, yes, I remember now. Well, Freddie, I reckon your papa will soon come after you. All of 'em are about half crazy, wondering what has become of you."
The night watchman led the way to the first floor of the department store and Freddie followed, still clutching the black kitten, which seemed well content to remain with him.
"I'll telephone to your papa," said the watchman, and going into one of the offices he rang the bell and called up the number of the Bobbsey residence.
In the meantime Mrs. Bobbsey and the others of the family were almost frantic with grief and alarm. Mr. Bobbsey had notified the police and the town had been searched thoroughly for some trace of the missing boy.
"Perhaps they have stolen Freddie away!" said Nan, with the tears starting to her eyes. "Some gypsies were in town, telling fortunes. I heard one of the girls at school tell about it."
"Oh, the bad gypsies!" cried Flossie, and gave a shudder. The idea that Freddie might have been carried off by the gypsies was truly terrifying.
Mr. Bobbsey had been out a dozen times to the police headquarters and to the lake front. A report had come in that a boy looking like Freddie had been seen on the ice early in the evening, and he did not know but what the little fellow might have wandered in that direction.
When the telephone bell rang Mr. Bobbsey had just come in from another fruitless search. Both he and his wife ran to the telephone.
"Hullo!" came over the wire. "Is this Mr. Bobbsey's house?"
"It is," answered the gentleman quickly. "What do you want? Have you any news?"
"I've found your little boy, sir," came back the reply. "He is safe and sound with me."
"And who are you?"
"The night watchman at the department store. He went to sleep here, that's all."
At this news all were overjoyed.
"Let me speak to him," said Mrs. Bobbsey eagerly. "Freddie dear, are you there?" she asked.
"Yes, mamma," answered Freddie, into the telephone. "And I want to come home."
"You shall, dear. Papa shall come for you at once."
"Oh, he's found! He's found!" shrieked Nan. "Aren't you glad, Bert?"
"Of course I am," answered Bert. "But I can't understand how he happened to go to sleep in such a lively store as that."
"He must have walked around until he got tired," replied Nan. "You know Freddie can drop off to sleep very quickly when he gets tired."
As soon as possible Mr. Bobbsey drove around to the department store in his sleigh. The watchman and Freddie were on the look-out for him, the little boy with the kitten still in his arms.
"Oh, papa!" cried Freddie. "I am so glad you have come! I—I don't want to go to sleep here again!"
The watchman's story was soon told, and Mr. Bobbsey made him happy by presenting him with a two-dollar bill.
"The little chap would have been even more lonely if it hadn't been for the kitten," said the man. "He wanted to keep the thing, so I told him to do it."
"And I'm going to," said Freddie proudly. "It's just the dearest kitten in the world." And keep the kitten he did. It soon grew to be a big, fat cat and was called Snoop.
By the time home was reached, Freddie was sleepy again. But he speedily woke up when his mamma and the others embraced him, and then he had to tell the story of his adventure from end to end.
"I do not know as I shall take you with me again," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "You have given us all a great scare."
"Oh, mamma, I won't leave you like that again," cried Freddie quickly. "Don't like to be in the dark 'tall," he added.
"Oh, it must have been awful," said Flossie. "Didn't you see any—any ghosts?"
"Barrels of them," said Freddie, nodding his head sleepily. "But they didn't touch me. Guess they was sleepy, just like me." And then he dropped off and had to be put to bed; and that was the end of this strange happening.
THE CRUISE OF THE "ICE BIRD"
The building of the ice boat by Bert and Charley Mason interested Nan almost as much as it did the boys, and nearly every afternoon she went down to the lumber yard to see how the work was getting along.
Mr. Bobbsey had given Bert just the right kind of lumber, and had a man at the saw-mill saw the sticks and boards to a proper size. He also gave his son some ropes and a pair of old iron runners from a discarded sleigh, so that all Charley had to provide was the bed-sheet already mentioned, for a sail.
The two boys worked with a will, and by Thursday evening had the ice boat completed. They christened the craft the Ice Bird, and Bert insisted upon it that his father come and see her.
"You have certainly done very well," said Mr. Bobbsey. "This looks as if you were cut out for a builder, Bert."
"Well, I'd like to build big houses and ships first-rate," answered Bert.
The sail was rigged with the help of an old sailor who lived down by the lake shore, and on Friday afternoon Bert and Charley took a short trip. The Ice Bird behaved handsomely, much to the boys' satisfaction.
"She's a dandy!" cried Bert. "How she can whiz before the wind."
"You must take me out soon," said Nan.
"I will," answered Bert.
The chance to go out with Bert came sooner than expected. On Monday morning Mrs. Mason made up her mind to pay a distant relative a visit and asked Charley if he wished to go along. The boy wanted to see his cousins very much and said yes; and thus the ice boat was left in Bert's sole charge.
"I'll take you out Monday afternoon, after school," said Bert to his twin sister.
"Good!" cried Nan. "Let us go directly school is out, so as to have some good, long rides."
Four o'clock in the afternoon found them at the lake shore. It was a cloudy day with a fair breeze blowing across the lake.
"Now you sit right there," said Bert, as he pointed to a seat in the back of the boat. "And hold on tight or you'll be thrown overboard."
Nan took the seat mentioned, and her twin brother began to hoist the mainsail of the Ice Bird. It ran up easily, and caught by the wind the craft began to skim over the surface of the lake like a thing of life.
"Oh, but this is lovely!" cried Nan gleefully. "How fast the boat spins along!"
"I wish there were more ice boats around," answered Bert. "We might then have a race."
"Oh, it is pleasure enough just to sail around," said Nan.
Many other boys and girls wished a ride on the ice boat, and in the end Bert carried a dozen or more across the lake and back. It was rather hard work tacking against the wind, but the old sailor had taught him how it might be done, and he got along fairly well. When the ice boat got stuck all the boys and girls got off and helped push the craft along.
"It is 'most supper time," said Nan, as the whistle at the saw-mill blew for six o'clock. "We'll have to go home soon, Bert."
"Oh, let us take one more trip," pleaded her twin brother.
The other boys and girls had gone and they were left alone. To please Bert, Nan consented, and their course was changed so that the Ice Bird might move down the lake instead of across.
It had grown dark and the stars which might have shone in the sky were hidden by heavy clouds.
"Not too far now, remember," said Nan.
The wind had veered around and was blowing directly down the lake, so, almost before they knew it, the Ice Bird was flying along at a tremendous rate of speed. Nan had to hold on tight for fear of falling off, and had to hold her hat, too, for fear that would be blown away.
"Oh, Bert, this is too fast!" she gasped, catching her breath.
"It's just glorious, Nan!" he cried. "Just hold on, it won't hurt you."
"But—but how are we to get back?"
Bert had not thought of that, and at the question his face fell a little.
"Oh, we'll get back somehow," he said evasively.
"You had better turn around now."
"Let us go just a little bit further, Nan," he pleaded.
When at last he started to turn back he found himself unable to do so. The wind was blowing fiercely and the Ice Bird swept on before it in spite of all he could do.
"Bert! Bert! Oh, why don't you turn around?" screamed Nan. She had to scream in order to make herself heard.
"I—I can't," he faltered. "She won't come around."
Nan was very much frightened, and it must be confessed that Bert was frightened too. He hauled on the sail and on the steering gear, and at last the Ice Bird swung partly around. But instead of returning up the lake the craft headed for the western shore, and in a few minutes they struck some lumpy ice and some snow and dirt, and both were thrown out at full length, while the Ice Bird was tipped up on one side.
Bert picked himself up without difficulty and then went to Nan's aid. She lay deep in the snow, but fortunately was not hurt. Both gazed at the tipped-up ice boat in very great dismay.
"Bert, whatever shall we do now?" asked Nan, after a spell of silence. "We'll never get home at all!"
"Oh, yes, we shall," he said, bravely enough, but with a sinking heart. "We've got to get home, you know."
"But the ice boat is upset, and it's so dark I can't see a thing."
"I think I can right the ice boat. Anyway, I can try."
Doing his best to appear brave, Bert tried to shove the Ice Bird over to her original position. But the craft was too heavy for him, and twice she fell back, the second time coming close to smashing his toes.
"Look out, or you'll hurt your foot," cried Nan. "Let me help you."
Between them they presently got the craft right side up. But now the wind was blowing directly from the lake, so to get the Ice Bird out on the ice again was beyond them. Every time they shoved the craft out the wind drove her back.
"Oh, dear, I guess we have got to stay here after all!" sighed Bert, at last.
"Not stay here all night, I hope!" gasped Nan. "That would be worse than to stay in the store, as Freddie did."
It began to snow. At first the flakes were but few, but soon they came down thicker and thicker, blotting out the already darkened landscape.
"Let us walk home," suggested Nan. "That will be better than staying out here in the snow storm."
"It's a long walk. If only we had brought our skates." But alas! neither had thought to bring skates, and both pairs were in the office at the lumber yard.
"I don't think we had better walk home over the ice," said Bert, after another pause. "We may get all turned around and lost. Let us walk over to the Hopedale road."
"I wish we had some crullers, or something," said Nan, who was growing hungry. They had each had a cruller on leaving home, but had eaten them up before embarking on the ice-boat voyage.
"Please don't speak of them, Nan. You make me feel awfully hollow," came from her twin brother. And the way he said this was so comical it made her laugh in spite of her trouble.
The laugh put them both in better spirits, and leaving the Ice Bird where she lay, they set off through the snow in the direction of the road which ran from Lakeport to the village of Hopedale, six miles away.
"It will take us over an hour to get home," said Nan.
"Yes, and I suppose we'll catch it for being late," grumbled Bert. "Perhaps we won't get any supper."
"Oh, I know mamma won't scold us after she finds out why we were late, Bert."
They had to cross a pasture and climb a fence before the road was reached. Here was an old cow-shed and they stood in the shelter of this for a moment, out of the way of the wind and driving snow.
"Hark!" cried Bert as they were on the point of continuing their journey.
"It's a dog!" answered Nan. "Oh, Bert, he is coming this way. Perhaps he is savage!"
They listened and could hear the dog plainly. He was barking furiously and coming toward them as fast as he could travel. Soon they made out his black form looming into view through the falling snow.
Nan dearly loved the dogs with which she was well acquainted, but she was in great terror of strange animals, especially if they barked loudly and showed a disposition to bite.
"Bert! Bert! what shall we do?" she gasped as she clung to her twin brother's arm.
Bert hardly knew what to say, for he himself did not like a biting dog. He looked around for a stick or a stone, and espied the doorway to the cow-shed. It was open.
"Let us get into the shed," he said quickly. "Perhaps we can close the door and keep the dog out."
Into the shed sprang Nan and her twin brother after her. The dog was almost upon them when Bert banged the door in his face. At once the animal stopped short and began to bark more furiously than ever.
"Do you—you think he can get in at the window?" faltered Nan. She was so scared she could scarcely speak.
"I don't know, I'm sure. If you'll stand by the door, Nan, I'll try to guard the window."
Nan threw her form against the door and held it as hard as if a giant were outside trying to force it in. Bert felt around the empty shed and picked up the handle of a broken spade. With this in hand he stalked over to the one little window which was opposite the door.
"Are there any cows here?" asked Nan. It was so dark she could see next to nothing.
"No cows here, I guess," answered Bert. "This building is 'most ready to tumble down."
The dog outside was barking still. Once in a while he would stop to catch his breath and then he would continue as loudly as ever. He scratched at the door with his paw, which made Nan shiver from head to feet.
"He is trying to work his way in," she cried.
"If he does that, I'll hit him with this," answered her twin brother, and brandished the spade handle over his head. He watched the window closely and wondered what they had best do if the dog leaped straight through and attacked them in the dark.
The barking continued for over quarter of an hour. To Nan and Bert it seemed hours and hours. Then came a call from a distance.
"Hi, Tige, what's the matter? Have you spotted a tramp in the shed?"
"Help! help!" called out Bert. "Call off your dog!"
"A tramp, sure enough," said the man who was coming toward the cow-shed.
"I am not a tramp," answered Bert. "And my sister isn't a tramp, either."
"What's that? You've got your sister with you? Open the door."
"Please, we are afraid of the dog," came from Nan. "He came after us and we ran into the shed for shelter."
"Oh, that's it?" The farmer gave a short laugh. "Well, you needn't be skeert! Tige won't hurt ye none."
"Are you sure of that?" put in Bert. "He seems to be very savage."
"I won't let him touch ye."
Thus assured Nan opened the door and followed Bert outside. At a word from the farmer Tige stopped barking and began to wag his tail.
"That dog wouldn't hurt nobody, 'ceptin' he was attacked, or if a person tried to git in my house," said Farmer Sandborn. "He's a very nice fellow, he is, and likes boys and gals fust-rate; don't ye, Tige?" And the dog wagged his tail harder than ever, as if he understood every word.
"I—I was so scared," said Nan.
"May I ask what you be a-doin' on the road all alone and in this snowstorm?"
"We are going home," answered Bert, and then explained how they had been ice-boating and what had happened on the lake.
"I do declare!" cried Farmer Sandborn. "So the boat up an' run away with ye, did she? Contrary critter, eh!" And he began to laugh. "Who be you?"
"I am Bert Bobbsey and this is my twin sister Nan."
"Oh, yes, I know now. You're one pair o' the Bobbsey twins, as they call 'em over to Lakeport. I've heard Sary speak o' ye. Sary's my wife." The farmer ran his hand through his thick beard. "You can't tramp home in this storm."
"Oh, we must get home," said Nan. "What will mamma say? She will think we are killed, or drowned, or something,—and she isn't over the scare she got when Freddie was lost."
"I'll take you back to town in my sleigh," said Farmer Sandborn. "I was going to town for some groceries to-morrow morning, but I might just as well go now, while the roads are open. They'll be all closed up ag'in by daylight, if this storm keeps up."