THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SNOW LODGE
LAURA LEE HOPE
Author of the Bobbsey Twins.
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY GROSSET & DUNLAP.
I. THE RUNAWAYS
II. OLD MR. CARFORD
III. THE BIG SNOWBALL
IV. THE ACCUSATION
V. HOLIDAYS AT HAND
VI. A VISIT TO MR. CARFORD
VII. THE STORY OF SNOW LODGE
VIII. A KIND OFFER
IX. MR. BOBBSEY'S STORY
X. UNWELCOME NEWS
XI. MAKING PLANS
XII. THE LETTERS
XIII. IN A HARD BLOW
XIV. AT SNOW LODGE
XV. THE SNOW SLIDE
XVI. LOST IN THE WOODS
XVII. HENRY BURDOCK
XIX. SNAP IS GONE
XX. THE BIG STORM
XXI. THE FALLING TREE
XXII. THE MISSINC MONEY
"Will Snap pull us, do you think, Freddie?" asked little Flossie Bobbsey, as she anxiously looked at her small brother, who was fastening a big, shaggy dog to his sled by means of a home-made harness. "Do you think he'll give us a good ride?"
"Sure he will, Flossie," answered Freddie with an air of wisdom. "I explained it all to him, and I've tried him a little bit. He pulled fine, and you won't be much heavier. I'll have the harness all fixed in a minute, and then we'll have a grand ride."
"Do you think Snap will be strong enough to pull both of us?" asked the little girl.
"Of course he will!" exclaimed Freddie firmly. "He's as good as an Esquimo dog, and we saw some pictures of them pulling sleds bigger than ours."
"That's so," admitted Flossie. "Well, hurry up, please, Freddie 'cause I'm cold standing here, and I want to get under the blankets on the sled and have a nice ride."
"I'll hurry all right, Flossie. You go up there by Snap's head and pat him. Then he'll stand stiller, and I can fix the harness on him quicker."
Flossie, with a shake of her light curls, and a stamp of her little feet to rid them of the snow from the drift in which she had been standing, went closer to the fine-looking and intelligent dog, who did not seem to mind being all tied up with ropes and leather straps to Freddie's sled.
"Good old Snap!" exclaimed Flossie, patting his head. "You're going to give Freddie and me a fine ride; aren't you, old fellow?"
Snap barked and wagged his tail violently.
"Hey! Stop that!" cried Freddie. "He's flopping his tail right in my face!" the little boy added. "I can't see to fasten this strap. Hold his tail, Flossie."
Snap, hearing the voice of his young master—one of his two masters by the way—wagged his tail harder than ever. Freddie made a grab for it, but missed. Flossie, seeing this, laughed and Snap, thinking it was a great joke, leaped about and barked with delight. He sprang out of the harness, which was only partly fastened on, and began leaping about in the snow. Finally he stood up on his hind legs and marched about, for Snap was a trick dog, and had once belonged to a circus.
"There now! Look at that!" cried Freddie. "He's spoiled everything! We'll never get him hitched up now."
"It—it wasn't my fault," said Flossie, a tear or two coming into her eyes.
"I know it wasn't, Flossie," replied Freddie, speaking more quietly. "It's always just that way with Snap when he gets excited. Come here!" he called to the dog, "and let me harness you. Come here Snap!"
The dog was well enough trained so that he knew when the time for fun was over and when he had to settle down. Still wagging his tail joyously, however, Snap came up to Freddie, who started over again the work of harnessing the animal to the sled.
"I guess you'd better stand at his tail instead of at his head," said Freddie. "So when he wags it you can grab it, Flossie, and hold it still. Then it won't slap me in the face, and I can see what I'm doing. Hold his tail, Flossie."
"Then he can't wag it," objected the little girl.
"I know he can't. I don't want him to."
"But it may make him angry."
"Snap never gets mad; do you, Snap?" asked Freddie, and the dog's bark seemed to say "No, never!"
So Flossie held the dog's tail, while Freddie put on the harness again. This time he succeeded in getting it all arranged to suit him, and the frisky Snap was soon made fast to the sled.
"Now get on, Flossie," called her brother, "and we'll see how fast Snap can pull us."
"But don't make him go too fast, Freddie," begged the little girl. "For it's hard pulling in the snow."
"No, I'll let him go slow," promised Freddie. "But it won't be hard work pulling us. My sled goes awfully easy, anyhow."
Freddie tucked Flossie in amid the robes and rugs which the children had taken from the house, near which they had started to harness the dog. Then Freddie took his place in front of his sister, holding to two reins that were fastened to the dog's head. Freddie had made no bit, such as is used for horses and goats, but he thought by making straps fast to a sort of muzzle by which he could guide Snap, by pulling his head to one side or the other.
"All ready, Flossie?" called Freddie, when he himself was comfortable on the sled.
"All ready," she answered.
"Giddap, Snap!" cried Freddie, and, with a bark, off the dog started, pulling the sled and the two children after him.
"Oh, he's going! He's giving us a ride! It's as real as anything!" cried Flossie in delight, holding fast to the sled. "Oh, Freddie!"
"Of course it's real!" said Freddie. "Bert and Nan said Snap wouldn't pull us, but I knew he would. I just wish they could see us now."
As if in answer to this wish a little later, when the two smaller twins had turned a corner, they saw coming toward them their brother and sister Nan and Bert, also twins, but four years older.
"Look, look!" cried Flossie to Nan. "See what a nice ride we're having."
"Oh, look, Bert!" exclaimed Nan, "Snap really is pulling them," and she grasped her brother's arm. Bert was pulling his own sled and that of his twin sister.
"Yes, he'll pull them a little way," admitted Bert, as if he knew all about it, "and then, the first thing they know, Snap will turn around short and tip them into a snowdrift. He hasn't been trained to pull a sled, no matter how many other tricks he can do."
"I trained him myself!" declared Freddie, as he pulled on the lines to bring the dog to a stop. But Snap, seeing Nan and Bert, was eager to reach them to be patted and made much of, so he did not obey the command given by the reins, but kept on.
"Whoa there!" cried Freddie, holding back with all his little strength.
"See, I told you he wouldn't mind," said Bert, with a laugh.
"Oh, but isn't it cute!" exclaimed Nan, flapping her hands. "I didn't think they'd get any ride at all."
"We'll show you! We'll have a fine ride!" panted Freddie, vainly trying to make Snap halt.
Then just what Bert said would happen seemed about to take place. The dog leaped around, and turned short to get nearer to the older Bobbsey twins.
"Look out!" cried Bert, but his warning came too late.
Over went the sled, and Flossie and Freddie were pitched from it into a big, fluffy bank of snow, falling into it deeply, but with no more harm to them than if they had landed on a bed of feathers.
"Oh dear!" cried Flossie, as she felt herself shooting toward the snow.
"Whoa there! Whoa! Don't you run away, Snap!" shouted Freddie. Then his mouth was filled with snow and he could say nothing more.
"Oh, Bert! They'll be smothered!" cried Nan. "Help me get them out!"
Bert was laughing, and trying to defend himself against the jumping up of Snap, who seemed to want to hug the boy with his paws.
"Stop laughing! Help me!" ordered Nan, who was already trying to lift Flossie from her snowy bed.
"I can't help laughing—Freddie looked so funny when he went over," said Bert.
"There's no danger of smothering, though. That snow is as dry as sand. Here you go, Freddie. Give me your hand and I'll pull you out."
In a few seconds the smaller Bobbsey twins stood beside their larger brother and sister, while Snap capered about them, barking loudly and wagging his tail.
"Oh, he's got loose, and the harness is all broken," said Freddie, and tears of disappointment stood in his blue eyes.
"Never mind," said Bert. "I'll help you make a better harness to- morrow, Freddie. That one wasn't strong enough for Snap, anyhow. I'll fix it differently."
"Oh, but we were going to have such a fine ride!" said Flossie, who was also ready to cry. The smaller twins were only about five years old, so it might have been expected.
"Well, come on and go coasting with Bert and me," said Nan, as she patted her little sister's head. "We're going over on the long hill. It's fine there, and you'll have just as much fun as if you had Snap to pull you."
"Shall we go, Freddie?" asked Flossie, who generally depended on him to start their amusements.
"I guess so," he answered. "This harness is all busted, anyhow."
Sadly he looked at the tangled strings and straps fast to the sled, where Snap had broken away from them. The harness Freddie had made with such care was all broken now.
"Never mind," said Bert again. "I'll make you a better one to-morrow, Freddie. Come along now, and we'll have some fun. And when we get through coasting I'll buy everybody a hot chocolate soda."
"Really?" asked Flossie, her sorrow forgotten now.
"Sure thing," promised Bert.
"Come on, then, Freddie," said his little sister. "We can harness Snap up to-morrow."
The useless harness was taken to the Bobbsey home, not far away, and then the four twins—the two sets of them, as it were—started for the coasting hill, Flossie and Freddie having one sled between them, and Nan and Bert each having one of their own.
On the way to the hill they met many of their friends, also bound for the same place. School was just out and the boys and girls were eager to have a good time in the snow.
"There's Charley Mason!" exclaimed Bert, seeing a boy he knew. "Hello, Charley!" he called. "Going coasting?"
"Sure. Where's the big bob?" For some time before this Bert and Charley had made, in partnership, a large bob sled.
"Oh, I didn't know you'd be out, or I'd have brought it," replied Bert. "Anyhow, I promised Nan I'd coast with her."
"Oh, that's all right. I guess the hill will be too crowded for a bob, anyhow. Danny Rugg was taking his over, though, for I saw him and some of his crowd hauling it from his barn a little while ago."
"Well, let 'em. We can get ours later. Got a new sled?" and Bert looked admiringly at the one Charley was pulling.
"No, it's only my old one painted over. But it makes it look like new."
"We had Snap hitched up, but he broke loose," said Freddie. "But we're going to have a stronger harness to-morrow."
"That's good," said Charley, with a broad smile.
Soon the children were on the hill. There was a large crowd of coasters there, and fun was at its height. There was merry shouting and laughter, and several spills and upsets. As Bert had said, the hill was very much crowded.
"I thought it would be no good for a bob," he remarked.
"There goes Danny Rugg now!" exclaimed Charley. "He's giving orders to everyone."
"He'd better not give any to me," said Bert, in a quiet voice, but with determination in his tones.
"Oh, Bert!" exclaimed Nan. "Please don't have any fuss; will you?"
"Not on my part," said Bert "But if Danny Rugg thinks he can boss me he is mistaken."
It was evident that Danny liked to play master. He could be heard giving orders to this one and the other one to get out of the way, to pull his bob around in place, and then to shove it off with its load of boys and girls.
Now, though Danny was a bully, some of the children were friendly with him for the sake of getting a ride on his sled, which was a large and expensive one.
Bert and Nan, and Flossie and Freddie, soon were coasting with their friends, having a good time on the hill. The two smaller twins went down together.
As Freddie came up the long slope, pulling his sled in readiness for another trip, Danny Rugg with his bob reached the head of the slope at the same time.
"Say, Danny, give me a ride this trip; won't you?" begged a small boy, who had no sled, but who often did errands for the bully, and played mean tricks for him that, Danny was too lazy to play himself. "Let me go on your bob?"
"Not this time, Sim," said Danny. "The bob is going to be filled. But here, you can take Freddie Bobbsey's sled. He doesn't want it," and without giving Freddie time to say whether he did or not Danny snatched the sled rope from him and held it out to Sim Watson.
For a moment Freddie was too surprised to utter a protest and then, as he realized what had happened, he cried out:
"Here, Danny Rugg, you let my sled alone! I do want it! Give it back to me!"
"Aw, go on!" said Danny. "You've had rides enough. Let Sim take your sled, or I'll punch you!" and Danny gave Freddie a shove, and held out the rope of the sled to Sim.
"Stop it!" cried Freddie. "I'll tell Bert on you."
"Pooh! Think I'm afraid of your brother. I can handle him with one hand tied behind my back."
"Then it's time you started in!" exclaimed a voice just back of Danny, and the bully turned suddenly to see Bert standing near him, Danny's face flushed, and then grew pale. Before he could make a move Bert grabbed away from him the rope of Freddie's sled, which Sim had not yet taken, and passed it back to his small brother.
"Don't you try that again," warned Bert.
"I will if I want to," said Danny, meanly, "I'm not afraid of you."
"Maybe not," said Bert, quietly, "and I'm not afraid of you, either. But if you take my brother's sled for some of your friends you'll have to settle with me. You leave Freddie alone; do you hear?"
"I don't have to mind you!"
"We'll see about that. Go ahead, Freddie. You and Flossie coast as much as you like, and if Danny bothers you any more let me know."
Danny, with an uneasy laugh, turned aside. Some of his particular chums gathered about him, and one murmured:
"Why don't you fight him?"
For a moment it looked as though there might be trouble, but an instant later all thoughts of it passed, for a series of girls' screams came from midway down the long hill.
All eyes were turned in that direction, and those at the top of the slope saw a team of runaway horses, attached to a heavy bobsled, plunging madly up the hill.
And, right in the path of the frightened animals was Nan Bobbsey, and one or two other girls, on their sleds, coasting straight for the runaways.
A cry of fear came from Bert Bobbsey as he noticed his sister's danger.
OLD MR. CARFORD
"Stop the horses!"
"Yes, grab them, somebody, or they'll run into the girls!"
"Look out, everybody, they're coming right this way!"
"I'm going to get my bob to a safe place!"
It was Danny Rugg who called out this last, and the other boys had shouted the previous expressions, as they watched the oncoming, runaway horses.
Bert Bobbsey had thrown himself on his sled and was coasting toward the group of girls, of whom his sister Nan was one. They were on their sleds in the very path of the team. It seemed that nothing could save them. But Bert had a plan in his mind.
And, while he was preparing to carry it out, I will take just a moment to tell my new readers something about the characters of this story, and the books that have gone before in the series.
Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie Bobbsey were the twin children of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bobbsey, who lived in an Eastern city called Lakeport, at the head of Lake Metoka. Mr. Bobbsey was a prosperous lumber merchant. Other members of the household were Dinah and Sam Johnson. Dinah was the cook, fat and good-natured. Sam was her husband, slim and also good-natured. He did all sorts of work about the place, from making garden to shoveling snow.
Then there was Downy, a pet duck; Snoop, a pet black cat, and, of late, Snap, the fine trick dog, who had come into the possession of the Bobbseys in a peculiar manner.
In the first book of this series, entitled "The Bobbsey Twins," I told of the good times the four children had in their home. How they played in the snow, went coasting, helped to discover what they thought was a "ghost," and did many other things. Bert even went for a sail in an ice boat he and Charley Mason had made, though it was almost more than the boys could manage at times.
The second volume, called "The Bobbsey Twins in the Country," told of the good times the four had when they went to the farm of Uncle Daniel Bobbsey and his wife, Aunt Sarah, who lived at Meadow Brook.
Such fun as there was!
There was a country picnic, sport in the woods, and a great Fourth of July celebration. A circus gave a chance to have other good times, and though once there was a midnight scare, it all turned out happily.
But though the twins had much happiness in the country they were destined to have still more fun when they went to the ocean shore, and in the third book, called "The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore," I related all that happened to them there.
They went on a visit to their uncle, William Minturn, who lived at Ocean Cliff, and their cousin Dorothy showed them many strange scenes and sights. They had most delightful times, and toward the close of their visit there was a great storm at sea, and a shipwreck. The life savers were on hand, however, and did such good work that no one was drowned. And if you want to learn how a certain little girl was made very happy, when she found that her father was among those saved, you must read the book.
Then, after the storm ceased, there were more happy days at the shore. The time for the Bobbseys to leave came all too soon. School was about to open, and even the smaller twins must now settle down to regular lessons.
In the fourth book of the series, called "The Bobbsey Twins at School," there is told of the start for home.
But many things happened before the family arrived. There was the wreck of the circus train, the escape of the animals, the meeting with the very fat lady, and the loss of Snoop, the pet cat. Then, too, a valuable cup the smaller Bobbsey twins had been drinking from, seemed to be lost, and they were very sorry about it.
On the way home something else occurred. They were followed in the dark by some strange animal. At first they feared it was some wild beast from the circus but it proved to be only a friendly dog.
How Flossie and Freddie insisted on keeping the dog, now that their pet cat Snoop was gone, how they named him Snap, and how it was discovered that he could do tricks, are all part of the story.
There were many more happenings after the twins started in at school. Mr. Bobbsey's boathouse caught fire in a mysterious manner. Snap was found to be a circus dog, and it was pretty certain that the fat lady in the train had also belonged to the show, and that it was she who had the valuable silver cup.
In time all was straightened out, and how Snoop came back from the circus in far-off Cuba, how Snap was allowed to stay with the Bobbseys, and how even the cup was finally recovered—all this you will find set down in the fourth book of this series.
And now winter had come in earnest, though even before this story opens the Bobbsey twins had had a taste of snow and ice. The accident on the coasting hill now occupied the attention of all.
"Oh, Nan! Nan will be killed!" cried Flossie, as she stood with Freddie gazing down the slope.
"No, she won't!" exclaimed Freddie, "Bert is going to save her—you'll see!"
"Oh, if he only can!" murmured Nellie Parks, one of Nan's friends.
"I think he will! See, he is coming nearer to them," added Grace Lavine, another friend.
Danny Rugg, mean as he was, was not quite so mean as to discourage this hope. Some of the girls on the sleds that were coming nearer to the rushing horses seemed about to roll off, rather than take chances of steering out of the way of the steeds.
"What can Bert be going to do?" asked Grace. "How can he save them?"
"I don't know," answered Nellie. "Let's watch him. Maybe he's going to stop the horses."
"He'd never dare!" murmured Grace.
"Oh, Bert is brave," was the answer.
But Bert had no intention of leaping for the horses' heads just now. His first idea was to get his sister and the other girls to a place of safety. As he came near to them, his sled going much faster than theirs, he called out:
"Steer to the right! Go to the right! I'll see if I can't make the horses go over to one side."
"All right!" cried Nan, who understood what her brother meant. "Keep to the right, girls," she called to her frightened chums, "and don't any of you fall off!"
Those who had been about to roll from their sleds now held on with firmer clasps. They were close to the runaway team now. Bert was near to them also, and, while wondering to whom they belonged, and whether they had injured their driver or anyone else in their mad rush, he caught up a handful of snow as his sled glided onward.
It was hard work to throw the snow ball at the horses, going down hill as he was, but Bert managed to do it. He had the good luck to hit one of the animals with the wad of snow, and this sent the horse over to one side, its mate following. This was just what Bert wanted, as it gave Nan and the others more room to coast past them.
And this is just what the girls did. Their sleds whizzed past the runaways, one sled, on which Hattie Jenson rode, almost grazing a hoof.
"Now you're safe!" cried Bert. "Keep on to the foot of the hill! You're all right!"
He gathered up another handful of snow, and threw it at the steeds, making them swerve more than ever towards the side of the hill. Then one of the animals slipped and stumbled. This caused them both to slow up, and Bert, seeing this, left his sled, rolling off, and letting it go down without him.
Hardly thinking of what he was doing, he ran for the heads of the horses. Perhaps it was not just wise, for Bert was not very tall, but he was brave. However, he was not to stop the runaways all alone, for just then some of the larger boys, who had been rushing down the hill, came up, and before the horses could start off again several lads had grasped them by the bridles and were quieting them.
"That was a good idea of yours, Bert Bobbsey," said Frank Miller. "A fine idea, lo throw snowballs at them. It made them go to one side all right, and slowed them up."
"I wanted to save the girls," said Bert, who was panting from his little run.
"Whose team is it?" asked another boy.
"I don't know," answered Bert. "I can't say that I ever saw them before. There's no one in the sled, anyhow, though it is pretty well loaded with stuff."
He and the other boys looked into the vehicle. It contained a number of boxes and bags. Then the boys looked down the hill and saw that the girls who had been in danger were now safe. Nan and the others were walking up, dragging their sleds.
The boys then noticed a man half running up the slope. He was waving his arms in an excited fashion.
"I guess that's the man who owns the horses," said Charley Mason.
There was no doubt of it a few minutes later, when the man came close enough to make himself heard.
"Are they all right, boys?" he asked. "Are my horses hurt?"
"They don't seem to be," answered Frank.
"That's good. Are my things all right?"
"Everything seems to be here," said Charley Mason, who was standing beside Bert. "I know who he is now," went on Charley in a low tone to his chum. "He's Mr. James Carford, of Newton."
"He's lame," observed Bert, for the man limped slightly.
"Yes, he was in the war," went on Charley. "He's real rich, too, but peculiar, they say."
By this time aged Mr. Carford was looking over the team and the sled and its contents. He seemed weary and out of breath.
"Yes, everything is all right," he said slowly. "I hope no one was hurt by my runaways, I never knew 'em to do that before. I left 'em outside the store a minute while I went in to get something, and they must have taken fright. I hope no one was hurt."
"No, everyone got out of the way in time," said Bert.
"That's good. Who stopped the horses?" the old man asked.
"Bert Bobbsey," answered Frank Miller. "He warned his sister and the other girls to steer to one side, and then he threw snow at the horses and made them fall down. Then they slowed up so we could grab 'em."
"Ha! Bert Bobbsey did that, eh?" exclaimed aged Mr. Carford. "So this is the second time a Bobbsey has mixed up in my family affairs. The second time," and Mr. Carford looked at Bert in a peculiar manner.
"Did you fall out of the sled, Mr. Carford?" asked another boy, coming up just then.
"No, they started off when I was in the store. Funny, too, that they should. Well, I'm glad there's no one hurt and no damage done. I couldn't walk home to Newton. I'm much obliged to you boys. And to you too, Bert Bobbsey.
"Are you Richard Bobbsey's son?" he suddenly asked, peering at Bert from beneath his shaggy eyebrows.
"Ha! I thought so. You look like him. You do things like him, too, without stopping to be asked. Yes, this is the second time a Bobbsey has meddled with my family affairs. Trying to do me a good turn, I suppose. Well, well!" and he seemed lost in thought.
"What is it? What is the matter?" asked Nan, in a low voice of her brother, as she came to stand beside him. "Is he finding fault because you helped stop his runaway horses?"
"No, Nan. I don't exactly understand what he does mean," answered Bert. "There seems to be some mystery about it."
THE BIG SNOWBALL
For a time Mr. Carford seemed more worried about the possible injury to his team, and the loss of some of his goods in the sled, than he was concerned about thanking the boys who had stopped the runaways. Then, as he found by looking them over, that the horses were all right, and that nothing was missing, he approached Bert and the others, saying:
"Well, boys, I'm much obliged to you. I can't tell you how much. No telling what damage the horses might have done if you hadn't stopped 'em. And I'm glad no one was hurt.
"Now I reckon you boys aren't much different than I was, when I was a youngster, and I guess you like sweets about the same. Here are a couple of dollars, Bert Bobbsey. I wish you'd treat all your friends to hot chocolate soda or candy or whatever you like best. It isn't exactly pay for what you did, but it just shows I'm not forgetful."
"Oh, we didn't stop the horses for money!" cried Bert, drawing back.
"I know you didn't," answered Mr. Carford, with a smile, "and I'm not paying you either. You stopped the horses, or you tried to stop them, Bert, to save your sister and the other girls. I understand that all right. But the horses were stopped just the same, and please take this as a little thank offering, if nothing else. Please do."
He held out the two-dollar bill, and Bert did not feel like refusing. He accepted the money with murmured thanks, and as Mr. Carford climbed into the sled, limping more than ever after his run up the hill, the aged man muttered:
"The second time a Bobbsey has been mixed up in my affairs. I wonder what will happen when the third time comes?"
Calling good-byes to the boys and girls, and again thanking them for what they had done, Mr. Carford drove off amid a jingle of bells.
"What do you s'pose he meant by saying this was the second time a Bobbsey had been mixed up in his family affairs?" asked Charley Mason of Bert.
"I haven't the least idea. I never knew Mr. Carford before this. I'll ask my father."
"Is that bill real?" asked one boy, referring to the money.
"It sure is," answered Bert, looking at it. "Come on to the drugstore and well spend it. That's what it's for."
"Going to treat Danny Rugg, and his crowd, too?" asked Frank Miller.
"Well, I guess Mr. Carford wanted this money to be spent on everyone on the hill, so it includes Danny," answered Bert slowly.
But Danny and his particular friends held back from Bert, and did not share in the treat. Probably Danny did not want to come to too close quarters with Bert after the attempt made to get Freddie's sled.
The excitement caused by the runaway was over now. Bert got back his sled and, as interest in coasting had waned at the prospect of hot chocolate sodas, the crowd of boys and girls trooped from the hill and started toward town, where there was a favorite drug store.
Standing about the soda counter the boys and girls discussed the recent happening.
"What did you think, Nan, when you saw the team coming?" asked Grace Lavine.
"I really don't know what I did think," answered Nan.
"Weren't you awfully frightened?" inquired Nellie Parks.
"Oh, I suppose I was. But I hoped I could steer out of the way, and I remember hoping that Flossie and Freddie were in a safe place."
"Oh,—we were all right," said Freddie quickly. "Flossie and I were watching the horses. This chocolate is awful good!" he added with a sigh. "Is there any money left, Bert?"
"Yes, a little," answered his brother "But you have had your share."
"Oh, if there is any left let him and Flossie have it," suggested Grace. "They're the smallest ones here."
"Yes, do," urged Nellie, and as several others agreed that this was the thing to do, the two little Bobbsey twins each had another cup of chocolate.
"Though Freddie has almost as much outside his mouth as inside it," said Nan, with a laugh.
Then the merry party of boys and girls trooped homeward, Bert and Nan thinking on the way of the strange words of Mr. Carford and wondering what he meant by them.
Several of the older boys, who knew the old gentleman, told something of him. He was a strange character, living in a fine old homestead. He was said to be queer on certain matters, but kind and good, and quite charitable, especially at Christmas time, to the poor of that country neighborhood.
"We'll ask papa about him when we get home," said Bert. "Maybe he can explain it."
But when the Bobbsey twins reached their house they found that their father had suddenly been called away on a business trip to last for some days, and so they did not see him.
"I haven't the least idea what Mr. Carford meant," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when they had asked her. "I did not even know that your father knew him. I am sorry you children were in danger on the hill."
"Oh, it wasn't much, mother," said Bert quickly, for he feared if his parent grew too worried she might put a stop to the winter fun.
Supper was soon ready and then came a happy period before bedtime— that is happy after lessons had been learned. Snoop the black cat, and Snap, the smart circus dog, were allowed in the living room, to do some of their tricks, Snoop having been taught a number while with the fat lady in the circus.
Bert fell asleep vainly wondering about the queer words of Mr. Carford, and he dreamed that he was sliding down hill on the back of a horse who turned somersaults, every now and then, into a bag of popcorn.
Coasting came to an end the next day, for there was a big snow storm, and the hill would not be in good condition until the white flakes were packed hard on the slope. But there were other forms of sport— snowballing, the making of forts, snow houses and snow men, so that the Bobbseys and their friends were kept busy.
Then came a little thaw, and the snow was just soft enough to roll into big balls.
"It's just right for making a large fort!" exclaimed Danny Rugg one day, after school was out. "We'll roll up a lot of big balls, put them in lines on four sides and make a square fort. Then, we'll choose sides and have a snow fight."
The other boys agreed to this, and soon Bert and the others, including Danny and his friends, were busily engaged. For the time being the hard feeling between Danny and Bert was forgotten.
The fort was finished, and there was a spirited snow battle about it, one side trying to capture it and the other trying to stop them. Bert's side managed to get into the fort, driving the others out.
"Oh, we'll beat you to-morrow!" taunted Danny, when the battle was over.
The next morning, when the children assembled at school, they saw a strange sight. On the front steps of the building was a great snowball, so large that it almost hid the door from sight. And working at it, trying to cut it away so that the entrance could be used, was the janitor. He was having hard work it seemed.
"Who did it?"
"Who put it there?"
"Say, it's frozen fast, too!"
"Somebody will get into trouble about this."
These were only a few of the things said when the children saw the big snowball on the school steps.
"It's frozen fast all right enough," said the janitor, grimly. "Whoever put it there poured water over it, and it's frozen so fast that I'll have to chop it away piece by piece. All day it will take me, too, and me with all the paths to clean!"
When the classes were assembled for the morning exercises Mr. Tetlow, the school principal, stepped to the edge of the platform, and said:
"I presume you have all seen the big snow ball on the front steps. Whoever put it there did a very wrong thing. I know several boys must have had a hand in it, for one could not do it alone. I will now give those who did it a chance to confess. If they will admit it, and apologize, I will let the matter drop. If not I will punish them severely. Now are you ready to tell, boys? I may say that I have a clue to at least one boy who had a hand in the trick."
Mr. Tetlow paused. There was silence in the room, and the boys looked one at the other. Who was guilty?
For what seemed a long time Mr. Tetlow stood looking over the room full of pupils. One could have heard a pin drop, so quiet was it. The hard breathing of the boys and girls could be heard. From over in a corner where Danny Rugg sat, came a sound of whispering.
"Quiet!" commanded the principal sharply. "There must be no talking. I will wait one minute more for the guilty ones to acknowledge that they rolled the big snowball on the steps. Then, if they do not speak, I shall have something else to say."
The minute ticked slowly off on the big clock. No one spoke. Bert glanced from side to side as he sat in his seat, wondering what would come next. Many others had the same thought.
"I see no one wishes to take advantage of my offer," said Mr. Tetlow slowly. "Very well. You may all go to your class-rooms, with the exception of Bert Bobbsey. I wish to see him in my office at once. Do you hear, Bert?"
There was a gasp of astonishment, and all eyes were turned on Bert. He grew red in the face, and then pale. He could see Nan looking at him curiously, as did other girls. Bert was glad Flossie and Freddie were not in the room, for the kindergarten children did not assemble for morning exercises with the larger boys and girls. Flossie and Freddie might have been frightened at the solemn talk.
For a moment Bert could hardly believe what he had heard. He was wanted in Mr. Tetlow's office! It did not seem possible. And there was but one explanation of it. It must be in connection with the big snowball. And Bert knew he had had no hand in putting it on the school steps.
There was a buzz of talk, many whisperings, and some one spoke aloud. It sounded like Danny Rugg, but poor Bert was so confused at his own plight that he could not be sure.
"Silence!" commanded Mr. Tetlow, as the boys and girls marched to their various rooms. "Bert, you will wait for me in my office," he added. Poor Bert looked all around. He met many glances that were kind, and others, from Danny Rugg's friends, that were not. Nan waved her hand at her brother as she passed him, and Bert smiled at her. He made up his mind to be brave. Bert went to the principal's office, and sat in a chair. There was another boy there, who looked at Bert in a questioning manner.
"Are you here to get some writing paper, Bert?" asked the other boy. "Miss Kennedy sent me for some."
"No," answered Bert. "I only wish I was. I guess Mr. Tetlow thinks I had something to do with the big snowball."
"I did not!" exclaimed Bert quickly.
The principal entered a little later, gave to the other boy the package of writing paper Miss Kennedy had sent for, and then sat down beside Bert.
"I am sorry to have to do this, Bert," he said, "but this is a serious matter and I must treat it seriously. Now again, I ask if you have anything to say to me? Perhaps you were too worried to stand up before the whole school."
"No, sir," answered Bert, "I don't know that I have anything to say, if you mean about the big snowball."
"Then you deny that you had anything to do with it?"
"Yes, sir. I never helped roll it on the steps."
"Do you know who did?"
"No, sir. I haven't the least idea."
"And you were not anywhere near it?"
"Ahem! Let me ask you, have you a knife, Bert?"
Without thinking Bert's hand went to his pocket, and then, as he recalled something, his face turned red, and he said:
"I have one, but I haven't got it now."
"Is this it?" asked Mr. Tetlow, suddenly holding out one.
Bert did not need to give more than a single glance at it to know that it was his knife. It had his name on the handle and had been given him by his father at Christmas.
"Yes, that's mine," he said slowly.
"So I thought. And do you know where it was found, Bert?"
"No, Mr. Tetlow, I haven't any idea."
"Suppose I told you the janitor picked it up on the steps almost under the big snowball? If I tell you that what have you to say?"
"Well, Mr. Tetlow, I'll have to say that I don't know anything about it. I didn't drop my knife there, I'm sure."
"Then someone else must have done it. Be careful now, Bert. I don't want to be hasty, but it looks to me very much as though you were one of the boys who had played this trick—a trick that has made considerable trouble. I am sure there must have been others concerned with you, and I am almost positive that you had a hand in it.
"Now I am not going to ask you to tell tales against your companions. I don't believe in that sort of thing. But I am very sorry that you did not admit at first that you had a share in rolling the big ball. Very sorry, Bert."
"But, Mr. Tetlow, I didn't do it!" cried poor Bert, the tears coming into his eyes. "I don't know how my knife got there, but I do know I didn't help roll that ball. Please believe me; won't you?"
For a moment the principal was silent. Then he said slowly:
"Bert, I would very much like to believe you, for I have always found you a good, manly and upright boy. But the evidence is strong against you I am sorry to say. And this trick was one I can not easily overlook. Rolling the snowball on the steps was bad enough, but when water was poured over it, to freeze, and become ice, making it so much harder to clean off, it made matters so much worse.
"Besides making a lot of work for the janitor, there was danger that some of the teachers might slip on the icy path and be injured. If your knife had only been found lying on top of the ice I might think you had come up merely to look at the big ball, and had dropped your property there. But the knife was found frozen fast, showing that it must have been dropped during the time the water was poured on the steps. So you see whoever left it there must have been on hand when the trick was played."
"That may be true, Mr. Tetlow!" cried Bert, "but I did not leave my knife there. I remember now—I can explain it! I couldn't think, at first, but I see it now."
"Very well," said Mr. Tetlow quietly, "I'll hear what you have to say, Bert."
HOLIDAYS AT HAND
Bert Bobbsey was thinking rapidly. Something that he had nearly forgotten came suddenly to his mind, and he hoped it would clear him of the accusation.
And what he had seen, that brought back to his mind something that he had nearly forgotten, was the sight of an elderly gentleman driving past the school in a sled. It was aged Mr. Carford, whose runaway team Bert had helped stop that day on the hill.
"Will you let me call in Mr. Carford?" asked Bert of the principal.
"Call in Mr. Carford?" repeated Mr. Tetlow in some surprise. "What for?"
"Because, sir," said Bert eagerly, "he saw me lend my knife to Jimmie Belton last night, and he can tell you that I went on home, leaving my knife with Jimmie."
"Ha! Do you mean to say that Jimmie dropped it in the ice on the school steps?"
"No, Mr. Tetlow, I don't mean to say that. But I can prove by Mr. Carford that I went home last night without my knife. Please call him in."
Bert thought of the strange old man, who had made such an odd remark concerning the Bobbsey family. And Bert was determined to find out what it meant, but, as yet, he had had no chance, as his father was still away on a business trip.
"Very well, we shall see what Mr. Carford has to say," spoke the principal. "And I will have Jimmie Belton in also."
Mr. Tetlow pressed a bell button that called the janitor, and the latter, who was still chopping away at the frozen steps, came to see what was wanted.
"Just call to that old gentleman going past in the bob sled to come in here," said Mr. Tetlow. "He is Mr. Carford."
"Tell him Bert Bobbsey wants to see him," added the boy, amazed at his own boldness.
"Yes, you may do that," said Mr. Tetlow, as the janitor looked toward him. Somehow the principal was beginning to doubt Bert's guilt now.
From the office window Bert watched the janitor hail the aged man, who paused for a minute, and then, tying his team, came on toward the school. Bert's heart was lighter now. He was sure the old gentleman would bear out what he had said, and Bert felt he would be glad to do him a good turn in part payment for what Bert and his chums had done in catching the runaways.
"Mr. Carford," began Mr. Tetlow, who knew the aged man slightly, "there has been trouble here, and Bert Bobbsey thinks perhaps you can help clear it up. So I have asked you to step in for a moment." Then he told about the big snowball, and mentioned how he had come to suspect Bert.
"But Bert tells me," went on Mr. Tetlow, "that you saw him lending his knife to Jimmie Belton last night. May I ask you, is that so?"
"Why, yes, it is," said the aged man slowly. "I'll tell you how it was." He nodded at Bert in a friendly way, and there was a twinkle in his deep-set eyes.
"It was just toward dusk last evening," went on Mr. Carford, "and I was on my way home to Newton. I'd been in town buying some supplies, and near the cross roads I met Bert and another boy."
"That was Jimmie," said Bert eagerly.
"Well, I heard you call him Jimmie—that's all I know," said Mr. Carford. "Bert was cutting a branch from a tree, and when I came up to them I offered them a ride as far as I was going. They got in, and Bert here was whittling away with his knife as he sat beside me. Yes, that's the knife," said Mr. Carford, as the principal showed it to him.
"I was making a ramrod for a toy spring gun I have," explained Bert. "It shoots long sticks, like arrows, and I had lost one of my best ones, so on the way home I cut another. Then just before Mr. Carford gave us the ride, Jimmie came along and asked me to lend him my knife. I said I would as soon as I had finished making my arrow. I did finish it in the sled and I gave him my knife just before we got out."
Mr. Tetlow looked inquiringly at Mr. Carford, who nodded in answer.
"Yes," said the aged man, "that was the way of it. Bert did lend that other boy—Jimmie he called him—his knife. I saw the two boys separate and Jimmie carried off Bert's knife. But that's all I do know. The snowball business I have nothing to do with."
"No, I suppose not," said the principal slowly. "I am sorry now that I said what I did, Bert. But there still remains the question of how your knife got on the steps. Do you think Jimmie had a hand in putting the snowball there?"
"I don't know, Mr. Tetlow. I wouldn't like to say."
"No, of course not. I'll have Jimmie here." The principal called a messenger and sent him for Jimmie, who came to the office wondering what it was all about.
Without telling him what was wanted Mr. Tetlow asked Jimmie this question quickly: "What did you do with Bert's knife fie lent it to you last night?"
For a moment Jimmie was confused. A strange look came over his face. He clapped his hand to his pocket and exclaimed:
"I—I lent it to Danny Rugg."
"Danny Rugg!" cried Bert.
"No, I didn't exactly lend it to Danny," explained Jimmie, "for I knew, Bert, that you and he weren't very friendly. But after you let me take it last night, to start making that sailboat I was telling you about, I forgot all about promising you that I'd bring it back after supper. Then Danny came over, and he helped me with the boat. When he saw I had your knife, and when he heard me say I must take it back, he offered to leave it for you when he came past your house the next time."
"And did you give it to him?" asked the principal.
"Yes, I did," answered Jimmie. "I thought he would do as he said. He took the knife when he went home from my house."
"But he never gave it to me!" said Bert quickly.
"I am beginning to believe he did not," said the principal. "I think we will have Danny in here."
The bully came in rather defiant, and stared boldly around at those in the office. Mr. Tetlow resolved on a surprising plan.
"Danny," he said suddenly, "why did you put Bert's knife on the step, and let it freeze there to make it look as though Bert had helped place the snowball in front of the door? Why did you?"
"I—I—" stammered Danny, "I didn't—"
"Be careful now," warned the principal. "We have heard the whole story. Jimmie has told how you promised to leave the knife with Bert, but you did not."
Danny swallowed a lump in his throat. He was much confused, and finally he broke down and admitted that he had been present and had helped roll the snowball on the steps.
"But I wasn't the only one!" he exclaimed. "There was—"
"Tut Tut!" exclaimed the principal. "I want no tale-bearing. I think those who did the trick will confess now, after I tell them what has happened. Danny, it was very wrong of you to play such a joke, but it was much worse to try to throw the blame on Bert by leaving his knife there."
"I—I didn't do it on purpose," said Danny. "The knife must have slipped out of my pocket." But no one believed that, for Danny was known to have a grudge against Bert, and that was reason enough for trying to throw the blame on our little hero.
But Bert was soon cleared, for, a little later, when Mr. Tetlow called the school together, saying that he had been mistaken in regard to Bert, and relating what had come out about the knife, several of the boys who, with Danny had placed the big ball on the steps, admitted their part in it.
They were all punished, but Danny most of all, for his mean act in trying to make it look as though Bert had done it.
"Well," said Mr. Carford, as he took his leave, having helped to prove Bert's innocence "this time I have had a chance to do a Bobbsey a favor, in return for one you did me, Bert."
"Yes, sir," answered Bert, not knowing what else to say. He was puzzling over what strange connection there might be between his family and Mr. Carford.
"Come up and see me sometime," said the aged man. "And bring your brother and sisters, Bert. I'll be glad to see them at my place. I'm going to stay home all this winter. I'm getting too old to go to Snow Lodge anymore."
Bert wondered what Snow Lodge was, but he did not like to ask.
Thus was cleared up the mystery of the big snowball, and Bert's many friends were as glad as he was himself that he had been found innocent.
There came more snow storms, followed by freezing weather after a thaw, and the boys and girls had much fun on the ice, a number of skating races having been arranged among the school pupils.
The end of the mid-winter term was approaching, and the Christmas holidays would soon be at hand. Then would come a three week's vacation, and the Bobbsey twins were talking about how they could spend it.
"It's too cold to go to the seashore," said Nan with a shiver, as she looked out of the window over the snowy yard.
"And the country would be about the same," added Bert.
"Oh, it's lovely in the country during the winter, I think," said Nan.
"We could get up a circus in the barn, with Snoop and Snap," said Flossie, who was busy over a picture book.
"Then I'm going to be the ring-master and crack a big whip and wear big boots!" cried Freddie.
"I do hope papa will be home for Christmas," sighed Nan, for Mr. Bobbsey's business trip, in relation to lumber matters, had kept him away from home longer than expected.
"I have good news for you, children," said Mrs. Bobbsey, coming into the room just then with a letter. "Your father is coming home to- morrow."
"Oh, how nice!" cried Nan.
"I hope he brings us something," said Freddie.
"I'll have a chance to ask him about Mr. Carford," thought Bert. "I wonder what that old man meant by his strange words?"
A VISIT TO MR. CARFORD
"Freddie, what in the world are you doing?"
"Flossie! Oh dear! You children! You have the place all upset!"
Mrs. Bobbsey, who had come into the big living room, to see the two younger twins engaged in some strange proceedings, paused at the doorway to look on. Indeed the place was upset, for the chairs had been dragged out from against the walls and from corners to be placed in a row before a large sofa. From one corner of this to a side wall was stretched a sheet, and in another corner, in a pen made of chairs, could be seen the wagging tail of Snap, the trick dog.
"What in the world are you doing?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, dear, how I do dread a rainy day!" for it was pouring outside, and the older, as well as the younger twins had to stay in doors.
"We're playing circus," explained Freddie gravely, as he peered between the "bars" of the cage made of chairs. "Snap is a lion," went on the little fellow. "Growl, Snap!"
And Snap, always ready to have fun, growled and barked to satisfy the most exacting circus lover.
"Oh dear!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "I'll never get this room straightened out again."
"Oh, we'll fix it, mamma, after the circus," said Flossie sweetly. "Sit down and see the show. I'll make Snoop do some of the tricks the fat circus lady taught her," and Flossie lifting up one corner of the sheet, showed the black cat curled up on a cushion, while back of her, tied by one leg, was Downy the pet duck.
"This was going to be the happy family cage," explained Flossie, "only when we had Snap in here he kept playing with Downy, and Downy quacked and that made Snoop nervous so we couldn't do it very well."
"So we made Snap the lion, and part of the time he's going to be the tiger," said Freddie. "Dinah is going to give us some blueing that she uses on the clothes, and I'm going to paint stripes on Snap."
"Don't you dare do it," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "The idea of painting blue stripes on poor Snap! Whoever heard of a blue-striped tiger?" and she tried hard not to laugh.
"Well, this is a new kind," said Freddie. "Sit down, mamma, and we'll make Snoop do a trick for you. Make her chase her tail, Flossie."
"No, I'll make her walk a tight rope," said the little girl. "That's more of a trick."
Flossie got her jumping rope, which she had little use for now, and tied it from the back of one chair to the back of another, placed some distance away. Then she pulled the rope tight between them, and, taking Snoop up in her arms, placed the cat carefully on the stretched rope.
Snoop stood still for a minute, meowing a little and waving her tail back and forth. Poor Snoop! The black cat did not like to do tricks as well as did Snap. No cats do. But Snap, when he saw what was going on, was eager to show off what he could do.
He leaped about in his chair "cage," barking loudly, much to the delight of Freddie who liked to hear the "lion" roar.
"Go on, Snoop!" called the twins, and gave the cat a gentle shove. Then Snoop did really walk across the rope, for it was almost as easy as walking the back fence, which Snoop had often done. Only the rope was not as steady as the fence. But the fat circus lady had trained the black cat well, and Snoop performed the trick to the delight of the children.
"That is very good," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, see! Snap is turning a somersault in his cage. Poor dog, let him out, Freddie; won't you?"
"He isn't a dog—he's a lion," insisted the little boy. "I dassen't let out a lion, or he might bite you."
But Snap had no idea of playing the lion all the while. Suddenly Downy, the duck, with a loud quack, got her leg loose from the string and flew out across the room. This so surprised Snoop, who had started back over the tight rope, that he fell off with a cry of alarm.
This was too much for Snap, who evidently did not think he was having his share of the fun. With a loud bark and a rush he burst from his cage of chairs, intent on playing with Snoop, for he and the cat were great friends.
Just at that moment fat Dinah, the colored cook, came into the room to ask Mrs. Bobbsey something. Snoop, seeing the open door, and being tired of doing tricks for the children, made a dash to get out, darting under Dinah's skirts.
Snap, thinking this was part of the game, rushed after his friend the cat, but when he tried to dive underneath Dinah's dress there was an accident.
He knocked the feet from under the fat cook, and she sat down on the floor with a force that jarred the whole house, just missing sitting on Snap.
"Fo' de lub ob goodness what am de mattah?" cried Dinah. "Am it an earfquake Mrs. Bobbsey?"
"I don't know, Dinah!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, wanting to laugh, and yet not wishing to hurt Dinah's feelings. "The children said it was a circus, I believe. Here, Snap!" she called, as the dog rushed on after Snoop.
Just then Downy, the duck, sailed back across the room, and lighted squarely on Dinah's black and kinky head, where the fowl perched "honking" loudly,
"Good land ob massy!" murmured Dinah over and over again. "Mo' trouble!"
Flossie and Freddie were so surprised at the sudden ending of their circus that they did not know what to do. Then they both raced to capture the duck.
"One of the dining-room windows is open!" called Freddie. "If Downy flies out he'll freeze. Grab him, Dinah!"
"Chile!" cried the colored cook slowly, "I ain't got bref enough lef to ketch eben a mosquito. But yo'-all don't need to worry none about dish yeah duck gittin loose. His feet am all tangled up in mah wool, an' I guess you'l hab t' help git 'em loose, chilluns!"
It was indeed so. Downy's webbed feet were fast in Dinah's kinky hair, and it took some time to disentangle them. Then the cook could get up, which she did with many a sigh and groan.
"Are you hurt, Dinah?" asked Flossie. "If you are you can come to our circus for nothing; can't she, Freddie?"
"Yes," he answered, "only we haven't got a circus now. It's all gone except Downy."
"Well, I think you have played enough circus for today," said Mrs. Bobbsey "Straighten up the room now, and have some other kind of fun."
The dog and cat, satisfied to get out of their cages, had gone to the kitchen, where they could generally find something good to eat. Then Flossie and Freddie were kept busy putting back the chairs, and setting the room in order.
It was a day or so after the return of Mr. Bobbsey from his business trip, and though Bert had asked his father about Mr. Carford, the lumber dealer had not yet had time to give any explanation.
"It is quite a little story," he said. "I'll tell you about it some time, Bert. But now I have a lot of back work to catch up with, on account of being away so long, and I'll have to go to the office early, and I'll be late getting home."
So the little incident had not yet been explained. The Christmas holidays were drawing nearer, and there were busy times in the Bobbsey household. Flossie and Freddie were expecting a visit from Santa Claus, and they wrote many letters to the dear old saint, telling what they wished to receive.
"But have you thought of what you are going to give?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey one day, a short time before Christmas. "It is more fun to give things than it is to get them, you know."
"Is it?" asked Flossie, who had never heard of it in that way before.
"Indeed it is," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "You just try it. If you have any toys you don't care for any more, or even some that you do, and wish to give away, or books or other playthings, and if you will gather them up, I'll see that they are given to some poor children who may not have a very good Christmas."
The smaller twins thought this would be very nice, and they were soon busy over their possessions. Bert and Nan heard what was going on, and they insisted on giving their share also, so that quite a box full of really good toys were collected.
A day or so later, when the weather had cleared, Bert came in from coasting, and said,
"Mother, couldn't Nan and I take a ride over to Mr. Carford's house? He is out in front in his sled, and he says he'll bring us back before dark. May we go?"
"Why, I guess so," said Mrs. Bobbsey, slowly. "I don't believe your father would object. But wrap up well, for it is chilly."
"And can't we go, too?" begged Flossie
"Yes, we want to," added Freddie. "Please, Mamma!"
"Well, I guess so," agreed Mrs. Bobbsey, "Will you look after them, Bert and Nan?"
"Oh, yes," promised the two older twins, while Bert explained that he had met Mr. Carford, who was on his way home from the store, and had been given a ride. The invitation had followed.
"I'll take good care of them, Mrs. Bobbsey," said the elderly gentleman, as Mrs. Bobbsey went out to tuck in Flossie and Freddie "I've got to run into Newton and back again this afternoon, so I thought they'd like the ride."
"Indeed it is very kind of you," said the children's mother. "I hope they will be no trouble."
"Of course they won't. Remember me to Mr. Bobbsey when he comes home. Ask him to come and see me when he has time. I want to talk to him about a certain matter."
"All right," said Mrs. Bobbsey, and Bert wondered if it had to do with the secret.
The drive out to Newton, which was a few miles from Lakeport, was much enjoyed by the Bobbsey twins. The speedy horses pulled the sled over the white snow, the jingle of the strings of bells around them mingling with other musical chimes on sleds that they met, or passed.
They saw Danny Rugg out driving with his mother in a stylish cutter, and Danny rather "turned up his nose" at the old bob sled in which the Bobbseys were riding. But Bert and his sisters and brother did not mind that. They were having a good time.
"Here we are!" called Mr. Carford after a fine ride. "Come in and get warm. I guess my sister has a few cookies left," for a maiden sister kept house for the old gentleman.
Into the big old-fashioned farmhouse the children tramped, to be met by a motherly-looking woman, who helped them brush the snow from their feet. Then she bustled about, and brought in a big pitcher of milk, a plateful of molasses cookies, and some glasses. The children's eyes sparkled at the sight of this fine lunch.
"There you are!" cried Mr. Carford heartily, as he passed around the good things. "Eat as much as is good for you. I've got to go out to the barn for a while. Emma," he asked his sister, "have you got any more packages made up?"
"James Carford, are you going to give away more stuff?" demanded his sister. "Why, you'll be in the poorhouse first thing you know."
"Oh, I guess not," he said with a laugh, "We can afford it, and there's many who can't. It's going to be a hard winter on the poor. Put up a few more packages, and I'll tie up some bags of potatoes!"
"I never saw such a man—never in all my born days!" exclaimed Miss Carford, shaking her head. "He'd give away the roof over us if I didn't watch him."
"What is he doing?" asked Bert.
"Oh, the same as he does every Christmas," said the sister- housekeeper. "He makes up packages, bundles, baskets and bags of things to eat, and gives them to all the poor families he can hear of. He was poor once himself, you know, and he never can forget it."
"He is very kind," said Nan, in a low voice.
"Yes, he is that," agreed Miss Carford, "and I suppose I oughtn't to find fault. But he does give away an awful lot."
She went out to look after matters in the kitchen, leaving the children to eat their lunch of milk and cookies alone for a few minutes. Presently Mr. Carford came back, stamping the snow from his boots.
"Ha!" he cried, as he went close to the stove to warm his hands. "This reminds me of the winters I used to spend at Snow Lodge on Lake Metoka. Were you ever up there?" and he looked at Bert.
"Ha! I thought not. It's a fine place. But I don't go there any more— never any more," and he shook his head sadly.
"Did it burn down?" asked Freddie, who was always interested in fires and firemen. "Couldn't they put it out?"
"No, Freddie, it didn't burn down," said Mr. Carford. "Sometimes I almost wish it had—before my trouble happened," he added slowly. "Yes, I almost wish it had. But Snow Lodge still stands, though I haven't been near it for some years. I couldn't go. No, I couldn't go," and he shook his head sadly. "I just couldn't go."
The Bobbsey children did not know what to think. Mr. Carford seemed very sad. Suddenly he turned away from the fire that blazed on the hearth, and asked:
"Did I ever tell you about Snow Lodge?"
"No," said Bert, softly.
"Then I will," went on the aged man. "I don't tell many, but I will you. And maybe you could make some use of the place now that the holidays are here. I used to spend all my Christmas holidays there, but I don't any more. Never any more. But I'll tell you about it," and he settled himself more comfortably in the big chair.
THE STORY OF SNOW LODGE
"When I was a boy," began Mr. Carford after a pause, during which he looked into the blazing fire, "I lived on a farm, and I had to work very hard."
"We were on a farm once, weren't we, Flossie?" interrupted Freddie.
"Hush, dear," said Nan in a low voice "Listen to Mr. Carford's story."
"That isn't a story," insisted Flossie. "He didn't begin it right. He must say: 'Once upon a time, a good many years ago—!'"
Mr. Carford laughed.
"So I should, my dear!" he exclaimed. "It's been so long since I've told a story to little folks that I've forgotten how, I guess.
"So I'll begin over again. Once upon a time, a good many years ago, I was a little boy, and I lived on a farm. I guess it must have been the same sort of a farm you and Flossie went to, Freddie, for we had cows and horses and pigs and chickens and sheep. There was lots of work, and, as my father was not rich, I had to help as soon as I got old enough.
"But, for all that, I had good times. I thought so then and, though I'm an old man now, I still think so. But the good times did not last long enough. I wish I could go back to them.
"But I stayed on the farm a good many years, with my brothers and sisters, and finally when I grew up, and thought I was big enough to start to work for myself, I ran away."
"Did you—did you get lost?" asked Flossie, with her eyes wide open, staring at Mr. Carford.
"No, my dear, I didn't exactly get lost. But I thought there was easier work than living on a farm, so, instead of staying and helping my father, as I think now I should have done, I ran away to a big city. I wanted to be dressed up, and wear a white collar instead of overalls and a jumper.
"But I found that life in the city, instead of being easier than on the farm, was harder, especially as I didn't know much about it. Many a time I wished I was back with my father, but I was too proud to admit that I had made a mistake. So I kept on working in the city, and finally I began to forget all about the farm.
"I won't make this story too long, for you might get tired of it," said Mr. Carford, as he got up to put a log on the fire.
"Oh, we like stories; don't we, Freddie?" said Flossie.
"Yes," said Freddie softly.
"I know, my dear," said the old man kindly, "but I am afraid you wouldn't like my kind. Anyhow I kept on working in the city—in one city after another—until I became successful and then, in time, I got rich."
"Rich!" cried Freddie. "Very rich?" and his big eyes opened wide.
"Freddie!" cautioned Nan, with a sharp look.
"Oh, I don't mind!" laughed Mr. Carford "Yes, I got quite rich, and then I thought it was time to go back to the old farm, and see my father. My mother had died before I went away. Maybe if she had lived I wouldn't have gone. And then I began to find out that life wasn't all happiness just because you had money.
"My father had died too, and the old farm had been sold. My brother and sisters had gone—some were married and some had died. I found I was a lonesome old man, with few friends, and hardly any relatives, left. I had been too busy getting rich, you see, to take time to make friends.
"Well, I didn't know what to do. All the while, you understand, I had been counting on going back to the farm, with a lot of money, and saying to my father: 'Now, daddy, you've worked hard enough. You can stop now, and have happiness the rest of your life.' But you see my father wasn't there. I was too late.
"So I made up my mind the best thing I could do was to buy back the old farm, and spend the rest of my days there, for the sake of old times. Well, I did buy the place, and I named it 'Snow Lodge,' for there used to be lots of snow there in the winter time. I fixed the old house all over new, put in a furnace, and other things to make it comfortable, and I lived there for some time.
"I heard from some of my brothers and sisters who had also gone away from the farm, and one of my sisters, who had married a man named Burdock, had become very poor. Her husband had died, and she was very sick. I brought her to Snow Lodge to live with me, and her son, Harry, a fine lad, came along.
"My poor sister did not live very long, and when she died I took Henry Burdock to live with me. I felt toward him as toward a son, and for years we stayed in Snow Lodge together.
"Then I bought this place, and we used to spend part of the year here and part of it at Snow Lodge. It was a fine place winter or summer, Snow Lodge was."
Mr. Carford became silent and looked again into the glowing logs on the hearth.
"Don't you go to Snow Lodge any more?" asked Nan in a low voice.
"No," replied the old man. "Never any more. Not—not since Henry went away," and he seemed to be in pain. "I have never gone there since Henry went away," he added, "though the place is well kept up, and it is ready to live in this minute."
"Did your nephew Henry run away, as you did?" asked Bert.
"No—not exactly," was the reply. "I don't like to talk about that part of it. I like to think of Snow Lodge on the shore of the lake as a place where I lived when I was a boy.
"Oh, it's just fine there!" went on Mr. Carford. "In summer the grass is so green, and you can sit on the porch and look down at the lake. In the winter, when the lake is frozen over, there is skating and ice boating on it, and you can fish through the ice. And such hills as there are to coast down! and such valleys filled with snow! Sometimes it seems as if the whole house would be covered with the white flakes.
"But you can always keep warm in Snow Lodge, for there are big fireplaces, as well as the furnace, and there is plenty of wood. Many times I've had a notion to go back there, but somehow I couldn't, since—since Henry went away. So I came here to live with my other sister, and here I guess I'll stay the rest of my life. Snow Lodge is shut up, and I guess it always will be."
Mr. Carford sighed, and kept looking at the fire. Nan thought what a pity it was that Snow Lodge could not be used, while Bert wondered what had happened between Henry Burdock and his uncle, Mr. Carford, that caused Henry to go away. Also Bert wondered if Mr. Carford would explain his strange remark, made at the time the runaway horses were caught. But the aged man seemed to have forgotten it.
"Yes, Snow Lodge is closed up," said Mr. Carford. "I don't suppose it will ever be used again. But I've told you the story of it, and I'm afraid I've tired you."
"No you haven't," said Nan. "We enjoyed it very much."
"That's right!" exclaimed Bert.
"Did—did you ever see any bears there?" asked Freddie, "any real big bears?"
"Or tigers—or—or elephants?" asked Flossie, not to let her brother get ahead of her in asking questions.
"Huh! Elephants don't grow here—only bears," said Freddie.
"No, I never saw anything bigger than foxes," said Mr. Carford with a laugh. "Snow Lodge isn't very far from here, you know, so you have the same kind of animals there that you have here. Only there are more woods at Snow Lodge.
"But I must be getting back with you youngsters. It is getting late and your folks may worry about you. I'll bring the sled around, and my sister Emma can tuck you in. Then I'll get you home, and see to my Christmas packages. It's going to be a hard winter on the poor."
"We give the poor people something," said Freddie. "At school we all brought something just before vacation, and Mr. Tetlow is going to give it to all the poor people."
"That was at Thanksgiving, dear," said Nan.
"Well, maybe they've got some left for Christmas," said Freddie, as the others laughed.
"That's right—try and make other people happy, little man," said Mr. Carford, patting Freddie's head.
The big sled with the horses and their jingling bells was soon at the door. Miss Carford had warmed some bricks to put down in the straw, to keep the children's feet warm, and soon, cozily wrapped up, they were on their way home.
A KIND OFFER
"Nan!" called Freddie from under a big fur robe, as he sat in the warm straw of Mr. Carford's sled next to his sister.
"Yes, what is it?" asked Nan, bending over him to look at his face in the gathering dusk of the winter afternoon. "Are you warm enough, Freddie?"
"Yes, I'm as warm as the toast Dinah makes for breakfast. But say, I want to ask you—do you think we'll meet Santa Claus before we get home?"
"No, Freddie. The idea! What makes you think that?"
"Well, it's near Christmas, and we're out in a sled, and he goes out in a sled, only with reindeers of course, and—"
Freddie's voice trailed off sleepily. In fact he had aroused himself from almost a nap to ask Nan the question. Flossie, warmly wrapped up, was already slumbering in Bert's arms.
"No, I don't believe we'll meet Santa Claus this trip," said Nan. "He is only supposed to travel at night, you know, Freddie."
"That's so. Well, if we do meet him, and I'm asleep, you wake me up: will you?"
"Yes, Freddie," promised his sister, and she looked across at Bert and smiled. The two younger twins were soon both soundly slumbering, for being out in the cold air and wind does seem to make one sleepy when, later on, one gets warm and comfortable.
Mr. Carford sat up on the seat in front driving the sturdy horses, while the string of bells around them jingled at every step.
"Wasn't that a queer story of Snow Lodge?" asked Nan of Bert, in a low voice.
"It surely was," he replied. "It seems too bad to have the place all shut up, with no one to use it this winter. It would be just great, I think, if we could go up there for the Christmas holidays. We could go up right after Christmas, and not come back until the middle of January, for school doesn't open again until then. Wouldn't it be great!"
"Fine!" agreed Nan. "But I don't s'pose we could. Mr. Carford doesn't want Snow Lodge used, I guess. But he gave us a good time at his house."
"Indeed he did," agreed Bert.
On glided the sled, the bells making merry music. A light snowfall began, and Mr. Carford urged the horses to faster speed, for he wanted to get back home before the storm broke.
"Wake up, Freddie!"
"Wake up, Flossie!"
Nan and Bert gently shook their little brother and sister to arouse them. The sled had stopped in front of the Bobbsey home.
"Is it—is it morning?" asked Flossie, as she rubbed her eyes.
"Did Santa Claus come?" demanded Freddie, trying to wiggle out of Bert's arms.
"Not yet," laughed Mr. Carford. "But I think he soon will be here. Can you manage them, Nan—Bert?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, we often carry them," replied Nan. "They'll soon be wide awake again, and they won't want to go to sleep until late to-night, on account of the nap they've had."
Mrs. Bobbsey was at the door waiting for the children Flossie and Freddie soon roused up enough to walk in.
"Won't you come in?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey of Mr. Carford. "I can give you a cup of tea. Mr. Bobbsey just came home. Perhaps you'd like to say 'how-d'ye-do.'"
"Thanks, I'll come in for just a minute," was the answer. "Then I must be getting back before the storm breaks. And I'll tie my horses, too. I can't risk another runaway," Mr. Carford said with a smile at Bert.
Mr. Bobbsey greeted the caller cordially, and the children were soon telling their parents of the nice visit they had had.
"And Miss Carford can make almost as good cookies as Dinah!" cried Freddie.
"Ha! Ha!" laughed Mr. Carford. "I'll have to tell my sister that. She'll be real proud."
Bert, looking from his father to Mr. Carford, wondered what could have once taken place between the two men. That there was some sort of secret he felt sure, and up to now there had been no explanation of the strange words used by the aged man at the time Bert and the others caught the runaways.
"I haven't seen you in some time, Mr. Bobbsey," said Mr. Carford, after they had talked about the weather.
"No, I've been very busy, and I suppose you have also. Have you been at Snow Lodge lately?"
"No, and I don't expect to set foot in the place again. I guess you know why. And I want to say now, that though I was rather cross with you when you tried to get me to change my mind about that matter, some time ago, I want to say that I'm sorry for it. I realize that you did it for the best."
"Yes," said Mr. Bobbsey, "I did, but I know how you felt about it. I believed then, and I believe now, that you made a mistake about your nephew Henry."
"No, I don't think I did," was the slow reply. "I am afraid Henry is a bad young man. I don't want to see him again, nor Snow Lodge either. But I'm glad you tried to help me. However, I have come about a different matter now. How would you and your family like to spend the winter there? How would a vacation at Snow Lodge suit you?"
No one spoke for a few seconds. All were surprised at the kind offer made by Mr. Carford.
"A vacation at Snow Lodge!" said Mr. Bobbsey slowly.
"Do you mean it, Mr. Carford?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I certainly do," was the answer. "I have told your youngsters something about Snow Lodge, and they seemed to like the place. I heard them talking among themselves, on the way back here, how they'd like to go there.
"Oh, that's all right—no harm done!" exclaimed Mr. Carford, as he looked at the blushing faces of Nan and Bert. "I'm glad I did overhear what you were saying. It is a shame to keep that place locked up, and I'm just beginning to realize it.
"I don't want to go there myself, but that's no reason why others shouldn't. So, Mr. Bobbsey, if you like, you can take your whole family up there to Snow Lodge, near the lake, and in the woods, and stay as long as you like. Here are the keys!" and Mr. Carford tossed a jingling bunch on the table.
MR. BOBBSEY'S STORY
"Snow Lodge! Oh, Papa, could we go there?" cried Flossie, now wide awake.
"What fun we could have!" exclaimed Freddie, whose eyes were now as wide open as ever they had been.
Bert and Nan said little, but there was a look of pleased anticipation on their faces. They, too, realized what fun they could have in a big, old-fashioned farmhouse in winter, particularly when the building was refitted with a furnace, and had big fireplaces in it.
And Bert was wondering, more than ever, what strange reason Mr. Carford could have for not wanting to go back to lovely Snow Lodge.
"Say we can go, Daddy!" pleaded the two smaller twins, as they tried to get into their father's lap.
"Well," said Mr. Bobbsey slowly, "this is certainly very kind of, you, Mr. Carford, but I am not sure I can accept it. I am very much obliged to you, however—"
"Accept! Of course you can accept!" exclaimed the aged man. "There's no reason why you and your family shouldn't have a holiday vacation at Snow Lodge. The place has been closed up a long time, but a day or so, with a good fire in it, would make it as warm as toast. I know, for I've been there on the coldest winter days. Now you just plan to go up there with the wife and children, and have a good time. It might as well be used as to stand idle and vacant, as it is."
"What do you say, Mother?" and Mr. Bobbsey looked at his wife. "Shall we go to Snow Lodge?"
"The children would like it," said Mrs. Bobbsey slowly.
"Like it! I should say we would!" cried Nan. "I can take some pictures of the birds with my new camera—the one I am going to get for Christmas," she added with a smile.
"Oh ho! So you are going to have a camera for Christmas; are you?" laughed her father.
"I—I hope so," she replied.
"And I can build a snowhouse and live in it like the Esquimos," added Bert.
"Then I'm going to live with you!" cried Freddie. "Please go to Snow Lodge, Mamma!"
"Yes, take the youngsters up," urged Mr. Carford. "At least don't decide against it now. I'll leave the keys with you, and you can go any time you like. I don't suppose it will be until after Christmas, though, for Santa Claus might not be able to get up there," and he pinched Freddie's fat cheek.
"No, don't go until after Santa Claus has been here," urged Flossie seriously, and her mother laughed.
"Well, I must be going, anyhow," said Mr. Carford, after a pause. "It will be dark before I get back, and the storm seems to be coming up quickly. Emma will worry, I'm afraid. Now you just think it over about Snow Lodge," he concluded, "and I guess you will go, Mr. Bobbsey. You know my reasons for not wanting to set foot in the place, so I don't need to tell you.
"Now, good-bye. Go to Snow Lodge, and have a good time, and when you come back, children, tell me all about it. If I can't go there at least I like to hear about the place."
Mr. Carford went out to his team, through the now driving snow. He little realized what a joyful story the Bobbsey twins were to bring back to him from Snow Lodge, nor how it was to change his feeling in regard for his boyhood home.
"Papa," said Bert soberly, after the visitor had gone, leaving the keys of Snow Lodge behind him, "what is the secret about Mr. Carford and that winter place? And you're mixed up in it, I'm sure."
"What makes you sure, Bert?"
"Well, I've been thinking so ever since that day I helped to catch his runaway horses, and he said this was the second time a Bobbsey had tried to do him a favor.'"
"Had your favor anything to do with Snow Lodge, Papa?" asked Nan, as she put her arms about his neck.
"Well, yes, daughter, in a way. And, since Mr. Carford has told you part of the story, I may as well tell you the other half, I suppose."
"Oh, another story!" cried Flossie, in delight.
"Yes, we must be quiet and listen," said Freddie, as he drew up a stool close to his father.
"It isn't a very nice sort of story," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "In fact it is rather sad. But I'll tell it to you, anyhow. Did Mr. Carford tell you about when he was a boy?"
"Yes, and how he went away, and came back rich, and found all his folks gone and the farm sold," said Nan.
"Yes. Well, I guess he told you then, how he took his nephew, Henry Burdock, to live with him. He loved Henry almost as if he were his own son, and did everything for him. In fact he planned to leave him all his money. Then came a quarrel."
"What about?" asked Bert softly.
"Over some money. Henry was a young man who liked to spend considerable, and though he was not bad he was different from the country boys. Mr. Carford gave him plenty of spending money, however, and did not ask him what became of it.
"Then, one day, a large sum of money was missing from Snow Lodge. Mr. Carford accused Henry of taking it, and Henry said he had seen nothing of it. Then came a quarrel, and Mr. Carford, in a fit of temper, drove Henry away from Snow Lodge. There were bitter words on both sides, and after that Mr. Carford closed up the place, and has not been near it since. That is the part of the story Mr. Carford did not tell you."
"But where do you come in, Daddy?" asked Nan. "Did you find the missing money?"
"No, Nan, though I wish I had. But I was sure Henry had not taken it, and I tried to make Mr. Carford believe so. That is what he meant by me trying to do him a favor. But he would not have it so, and, for a time, he had some feeling against me. But it passed away, for he realized that I was trying to help him.
"But since then Mr. Carford and his nephew, Henry Burdock, have not spoken. As I said, Mr. Carford drove the young man away from Snow Lodge. It was in a raging storm and Henry might have frozen, only I found him and took him to a hotel. I helped look after him until he could get a start. It was a very sad affair, and it has spoiled Mr. Carford's life, for he loved Henry very much."
"And did Henry really take the money?" asked Freddie. "That was wicked, I think."
"You must not say so, Freddie," spoke Mr. Bobbsey. "We do not know that Henry did take it. No one knows. It is a mystery. I, myself feel sure that Henry did not, but I can not prove that he did not take it. His uncle believes that he did. At any rate the money disappeared."
"And where was it when Mr. Carford last saw it?" asked Nan.
"Mr. Carford left it on the mantlepiece in the big living room of Snow Lodge," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Henry was the only other person, beside himself, who was in the room, and in some way the money was taken. I even went so far as to have a man from the police station look all over the house, hoping he could find the roll of bills somewhere, but it did not come to light. And so, ever since, there has been a bad feeling between Henry and his uncle."
"What does Henry Burdock do now?" asked Bert.
"He roams about the woods, as a sort of guide and hunter. Sometimes, I am told, he comes close to Snow Lodge and looks down on it from a distant hill, thinking of the happy days he spent there."
"Maybe we'll see him when we go up," said Freddie. "If I do I'll give him all the money in my bank so he can be friends with his uncle again."
"No, Freddie," said Mrs. Bobbsey solemnly. "You must not speak of what you have just heard. It is a sad story, and is best forgotten. Both Mr. Carford and Henry feel badly enough about it, so it will be best not to mention it. Just forget all about it if we go to Snow Lodge."
"But we are going; aren't we, Papa?" asked Bert. "The trip to the woods would do us all good."
"Well, I think we might take advantage of Mr. Carford's kind offer," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Yes, we'll plan to go to Snow Lodge!"
"Hurrah!" cried Nan and Bert, grasping each other by the hands and swinging around in a sort of waltz.
"Can we take our sleds," asked Flossie.
"I'm going to take my skates—maybe I'll skate all the way there—I could—on the lake!" exclaimed Freddie, and he wondered why the others laughed.
"Well, we'll make our plans later," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Now, children, we'll have an early supper and then you must all get to bed. Christmas will come so much earlier if you go to sleep now."
"Oh, jolly Christmas!" cried Nan. "I can hardly wait!"
"Merry Christmas to everybody!"
"Oh, Christmas is here! I wonder what I got?"
"I'm going to get up and see!"
The Bobbsey twins were calling to one another from their rooms, and papa and mamma Bobbsey were replying to their children's happy greetings. It was Flossie who had made the exclamation about wondering what Santa Claus had brought her, and it was Freddie who declared he was going to get up to see.
Soon the patter of bare feet announced that the two younger twins were scampering downstairs.
"You must put on your dressing gowns and slippers, my dears!" called Mrs. Bobbsey. "You'll take cold. Nan, look after them; will you?"
"Yes, mother, in just a minute. As soon as I can find my own things," and Nan got out of bed. She and Bert were not in so much of a hurry as Flossie and Freddie for they were getting older, and though Christmas was still a source of great joy to them they were not so anxious to see what gifts they had. Still Nan was eager to know if her camera had come.
From the parlor below came cries, shouts and peals of delighted and surprised laughter as Flossie and Freddie discovered their different gifts.
"Look at my book!" cried Flossie. "And a doll—a doll that you can wind up, and she walks and says 'mamma.' Look, Freddie!" and the little girl started the doll off across the room.
"Pooh! Look at what I got!" cried Freddie. "It's a fire engine, and it squirts real water. I'm going to put some in it, and play fire."
He started for the kitchen with his toy, but Nan caught him.
"Not just yet, little fat fireman," she said with a laugh, as she took him up in her arms. "You can't splash in the cold water until you have more clothes on. Get dressed and then you may play with your toys."
"All right!" answered Freddie. "Oh, look, I've got a wind-up steamboat, too. Oh! let me down so I can look at it, Nan! Now please do!"
Nan saw a pile of her own gifts, so she set Freddie down for a moment, intending to carry him up stairs a little later. She had wrapped a robe about Flossie, who was contentedly playing with her newest doll, and looking at her other presents. Santa Claus had been kind to the Bobbsey twins that Christmas.
Bert, big boy though he thought himself getting to be, could no longer resist the temptation to come down in his bath robe to see what he had received, and a little later fat Dinah, roused earlier than usual by the joyous shouts of the children, came lumbering in.
"Oh, Dinah! Dinah! Look what you got!" cried Flossie. "Your things are all here on this chair," and the little girl led the fat cook over toward it.
"Things fo' me? What yo'-all talkin' 'bout chile? Ole Dinah don't git no Christmas!" protested the jolly colored woman, laughing so that she shook all over.
"Yes, you do get a Christmas, Dinah. Look here!" and Flossie showed where there were some useful presents for the cook,—large aprons, warm shoes, an umbrella, and a bright shawl that Dinah had been wanting for a long time.
"What? All dem fo' me?" asked the surprised cook. "Good land a' massy! I guess ole Santa Claus done gone an' made a beef-steak this time, suah!"
"No, there's no mistake! See, they've got your name on!" insisted Flossie. "See, Dinah!" and she led the cook over to the chair where the presents were piled. There was no doubt of it, they were for Dinah, and near them was another chair containing gifts for her husband, Sam. He would not be in until later, however. But Dinah saw a pair of rubber boots that would be very useful in the deep snow, and there were other fine presents for Sam.
Bert and Nan were now looking at their things, and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey could be heard moving around upstairs, having decided that it was useless to lie abed longer now that the children were up.
"Come, come, Flossie and Freddie!" called Mrs. Bobbsey. "You must get dressed and then you can play as much as you like. I don't want you to get cold. If you do you can't go to Snow Lodge, remember!"
This was enough to cause the small Bobbseys to scamper upstairs. Flossie carried her doll with her, and Freddie took along his fire engine, for that was the gift he had most wanted, and for which he had begged and pleaded for weeks before Christmas.
Feeling that a little liberty might be allowed on this day, Mrs. Bobbsey did not insist on the younger children dressing completely until after breakfast, so in their warm robes and slippers Flossie and Freddie were soon again examining their toys, discovering new delights every few minutes.
Nan was busy inspecting her camera, while Bert was looking at a new postage stamp album he had long wanted, when from the kitchen where Dinah was getting breakfast came a series of excited cries, mingled with laughter and shouts of:
"Fire! Fire! Fire!"
"Mercy! What's that?" screamed Mrs. Bobbsey, turning pale.
Mr. Bobbsey made a rush for the kitchen. Nan and Bert, with Flossie, gathered about their mother. Then they heard Dinah calling:
"Stop it, Freddie! Stop it I done tell you! Does yo'-all want me t' git soaked? An' yo'-all will suah spoil them pancakes! Oh, now yo' hab done it! Yo' squirted right in mah mouf! Oh mah goodness sakes alive!"
Mrs. Bobbsey looked relieved.
"Freddie must be up to some prank," she said.
"Freddie, stop it!" commanded Mr. Bobbsey, and then he was heard to laugh. The others all went out to the kitchen and there they saw a curious sight.
Freddie, with his new toy fire engine, was pumping water on fat Dinah, who was laughing so heartily that she could do nothing to stop him. Mr. Bobbsey, too, was shouting with mirth, for the hose from the toy engine was rather small, and threw only a thin, fine spray.
"I'm a fireman!" cried Freddie, "and I'm pretending Dinah is on fire. See her red apron—that's the fire!" and the little fellow turned the crank of his engine harder than ever, throwing the tiny stream of water all over the kitchen.
"That's enough, Freddie," said Mr. Bobbsey, when he could stop laughing. Dinah was still shaking with mirth, and Freddie, looking in the tank of the engine, said:
"There's only a little more water left. Can't I squirt that?"
Without waiting for permission Freddie made the water spurt from the nozzle of the hose. At that moment the door of the kitchen opened, to let in Sam. With him came Snap, the trick dog, and the tiny stream of water caught Sam full in the face.
"Hello! What am dat?" he demanded in surprise. "Am de house leakin'?"
"It's my new fire engine!" cried Freddie. "I didn't mean to wet you, Sam, but I was playing Dinah was on fire!"
"Well, yo'-all didn't wet me so very much," replied Sam, with a grin that showed his white teeth. "Dat suah am a fine fire engine!"
Snap sprang about, barking and wagging his tail, and, there being no more water in Freddie's engine, he had to stop pumping, for which every one was glad.
"You must not do that again," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when the excitement was over, and laughing Dinah had dried her face, and put on another apron. "You frightened us all, Freddie, and that is not nice, you know."
"I won't, Mamma, but I did want to try my fire engine."
"Then you must do it in the bath room where the water will do no harm. But come now, children, get your breakfast and then you will have the whole day to look at your toys."
Breakfast was rather a hurried affair, and every now and then Flossie and Freddie would leave the table to see some of their gifts. But finally the meal was over and then came more joyous times. Sam received his presents, and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey had time to look at theirs, for Santa Claus had not forgotten them.
"And there's something for Snap, and for Snoop, too!" exclaimed Freddie. "Snoop has a new ribbon with a silver bell, and Snap a new collar, with his name on," and soon the cat and dog, newly adorned, were being put through some of their tricks.
If I tried to tell you all that went on in the Bobbsey house that Christmas this book would contain nothing else. So I will only say that the holiday was one of the most delightful the twins ever remembered.
"And then to think, with all this, that we are to go to Snow Lodge! It's great!" cried Bert.
"I hope I can get some good pictures up there with my camera," said Nan. "Will you show me how it works, Bert?"
"Yes, and we'll go out to-day and try it. I want to see how my new skates go, too. The lake is frozen and we'll have some fun."
The day was cold and clear. There had been a little fall of snow during the night, but not enough to spoil the skating, and soon Bert and Nan were on their way to the lake, while Flossie and Freddie, after inspecting all their presents over again, had gone out to play on their sleds.
This gave Dinah and Mrs. Bobbsey time to get ready the big Christmas dinner, with the roast turkey, for Mr. Bobbsey had brought home one of the largest he could find.
While Flossie and Freddie were playing on the hill, a small one near their home, they heard a voice calling to them:
"Want a ride, youngsters?"
Looking up they saw Mr. Carford in his big sled. It was filled with baskets and packages, and the Bobbsey twins guessed rightly that the generous old man was taking around his Christmas contributions to the poor families.
"Yes, we'll go!" cried Freddie. "What shall we do with our sleds?" asked Flossie.
"Oh, Harry Stone will look after them; won't you Harry?" asked Freddie, "He can use mine, and his sister Jessie can use yours until we come back, Flossie," and Freddie turned the coasters over to a poor boy and girl who lived near the Bobbsey home. Harry and his sister were delighted, and promised to take good care of the sleds.
"I won't take you far—only just around town," said Mr. Carford, as the twins got in his sled. "When are you going up to my Snow Lodge?"
"We're going soon, I guess," answered Flossie. "I heard mamma and papa talking about it yesterday."
"And we're ever so much obliged to you for letting us have your place," said Flossie. "Will you come up and see us while we're there? I've got a doll that can talk."
"And I'm going to take my fire engine along, so if the place gets on fire I can help put it out," exclaimed Freddie. "Will you come up?"
Mr. Carford started. He looked at the children in a strange sort of way, and then stared at the horses.
"No—no—I guess I won't go to Snow Lodge any more," he said slowly, and Flossie and Freddie were sorry they had asked him, for they remembered the story their father had told them about the sorrow that had come to the aged man.
But the children soon forgot this in the joy of helping in the distribution of the good things in the sled, and the happiness brought to many poor families seemed to make up, in a way, for what Mr. Carford had suffered in the trouble over his nephew.
When all the gifts had been given out from the sled, Mr. Carford drove the two younger Bobbsey twins back to the hill where they again had fun coasting.
Meanwhile Nan and Bert were having a good time on the ice. Nan's camera was used to take a number of pictures, which the children hoped would turn out well.
While Bert was taking a picture of Nan, Charley Mason came skating up, and Bert, whose best chum he was, insisted that Charley get in the picture also.
"My!" exclaimed Charley, as he saw Nan's camera, "that's a fine one!"
"I just got it to-day," said Nan, with a pleased smile. "I'm going to take a lot of pictures up at Snow Lodge."