The CURLYTOPS and THEIR PLAYMATES
HOWARD R. GARIS
THE CURLYTOPS AND THEIR PLAYMATES
Jolly Times Through the Holidays
HOWARD R. GARIS
AUTHOR OF "THE CURLYTOPS SERIES," "UNCLE WIGGILY BEDTIME STORIES," "UNCLE WIGGILY ANIMAL STORIES," ETC.
Illustrations by JULIA GREENE
NEW YORK CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
THE CURLYTOPS AND THEIR PLAYMATES
Printed in U. S. A.
I TROUBLE IN TROUBLE 1
II THE POSTMAN'S WHISTLE 14
III WHAT SHALL WE DO? 25
IV UNCLE TOBY AGAIN 36
V OFF TO THE COUNTRY 48
VI A FLURRY OF SNOW 60
VII IN THE STORM 70
VIII A STALLED TRAIN 80
IX NEW PLAYMATES 91
X AMONG THE PETS 104
XI WHERE DID TROUBLE GO? 115
XII OFF TO CRYSTAL LAKE 128
XIII THE LONELY CABIN 139
XIV AT CRYSTAL LAKE 149
XV ON THE SLIPPERY HILL 161
XVI A REAL TOBOGGAN 174
XVII THE SNOW HOUSE 184
XVIII THANKSGIVING 197
XIX SKYROCKET IS GONE 206
XX TROUBLE IS MISSING 216
XXI TROUBLE AND SKYROCKET 229
XXII A HAPPY REUNION 238
THE CURLYTOPS AND THEIR PLAYMATES
TROUBLE IN TROUBLE
"When do you s'pose it'll come, Teddy?"
"Oh, pretty soon now, I guess. We're all ready for it when it does come," and Ted Martin glanced from where he sat over toward a slanting hill made of several long boards nailed to some tall packing boxes. The boxes were piled high at one end, and on top was a little platform, reached by some steps made of smaller boxes.
"It's a good while coming though, isn't it, Ted?" asked his sister Janet, looking up toward the sky.
"Yes, I wish it would hurry," said the boy, giving his cap a twist, thereby making more of a tangle than ever the curly, golden hair that had given him and Janet the nicknames of "Curlytops."
The two children walked around the wooden structure which they had built, with the help of Tom and Lola Taylor, their playmates, after much hard work in hammering, pounding, and the straightening of crooked nails. Now and then Ted and Janet turned their faces to the gray clouds which floated above them.
"I wish it would hurry!" murmured Janet.
"So do I!" exclaimed Ted.
There was a sudden chorus of shouts and laughter coming from around the corner of the house, and another boy and girl rushed up the path.
"What you looking for, Ted?" asked Tom. "An airship?" for Ted's eyes were again turned toward the clouds.
"Or maybe birds," added Lola, with a laugh. "Are you watching to see some of the birds fly south, because it's soon going to be winter? Are you, Ted?"
"Nope!" as the answer. "I'm looking to see when it's going to snow. Mother said a snowstorm was coming, and I'm watching for the first flakes. What's the good of a toboggan slide when there isn't any snow?"
"That's right," chimed in Tom Taylor. "Now we have this toboggan slide made, we want some snow or else we can't ride down on it."
That is what the wooden structure in the yard of the Curlytops was—a toboggan slide. Tom and Ted, with the help of some other boys and the aid of a few jolly girls, who brought up boards and boxes (though they couldn't drive the nails straight) had, after much hard work, built up a sort of toboggan slide.
Now all that was needed was snow so they could ride down it on their sleds, for none of the children had toboggans—those queer, low, flat sleds, all of wood, with the round curved piece in front.
A pile of big packing boxes fastened together made the high part of the slide. To get to the top of this pile one had to climb on a number of smaller boxes arranged in the form of steps—and crazy, tottering steps they were, but the children didn't mind it. It was all the more fun when they nearly fell down in climbing up.
From the top of the high pile of big boxes there sloped down a hill of boards, nailed in some places and in others fastened together with ropes to make an incline, or hill. This was about twenty feet long, and ended in a little upturn so that a sled would shoot up with a jerk and come down with a bang. More fun!
After several days of hard work the toboggan slide had been finished, and now, as Ted remarked, all they needed was some snow to fall, to cover the incline and make it slippery enough for the sleds to glide down.
But where was the snow? The gray clouds floating high in the air seemed to promise a fall of the white flakes, but though the Curlytops and their playmates, the Taylor children, strained their eyes and made their necks ache looking up, not a feathery crystal did they see.
"Maybe if we whistled it would do some good," said Janet, as all four sat in rather gloomy silence.
"Whistle for what?" asked Ted, throwing a stick for Skyrocket, his dog, to race after, a game that Skyrocket was very glad to play.
"Whistle for snow," went on Janet. "Didn't mother read us a story about some sailors on a desert island whistling for snow?"
Ted and Tom both laughed, much to the surprise of Janet, who seemed a little hurt at their chuckles.
"Well?" she asked. "What's the matter?"
"You don't whistle for snow!" shouted Ted. "You whistle for wind! Ha! Ha!"
"She's got it twisted!" laughed Tom.
"I don't care!" exclaimed Janet, getting up and walking toward the house. "What's the difference? Wind brings snow, and if you whistle for wind, and it comes and brings snow, it's just the same as whistling for snow."
"I think so, too," agreed Lola. "Smarty!" she exclaimed, thrusting her tongue out at her brother and his chum.
"That's a good one—whistling for snow!" laughed Ted, clapping his playmate on the back. "We'll tell the fellows!"
"If you do I'll never speak to you again!" cried Janet. "And if you want to make any more of your old toboggan slides I won't help you. Will we, Lola?"
"Nope, we won't at all! Let's go get our dolls!"
"You'll want to coast down this slide when the snow does come!" taunted Ted. "And then we won't let you; will we, Tom?"
"Nope! And maybe it's going to snow pretty soon," added Tom, with another squint at the sky. It was a very hopeful sort of look, but it did not seem to bring down any of the swirling, white flakes.
The girls walked on toward the house. The boys were beginning to feel rather disappointed. They had worked so hard to get the toboggan slide finished, and now there was no snow so they could use it! Suddenly Tom Taylor gave a cry, causing the girls to turn around and making Ted look up from where he was playing with Skyrocket.
"What's the matter?" asked Lola.
"I've got an idea!" her brother answered.
"Tell us!" begged Ted.
"I know how we can have some toboggan rides without waiting for snow!" exclaimed Tom.
"How? Make believe?" asked Janet. She was very fond of this game of pretending.
"No, not make believe!" answered Tom. "Listen! Have you got any candles in your house, Ted?"
"Candles? I guess we have some. I saw my mother rubbing one on a flatiron the other day when she was ironing a dress for Jan. I don't know why she rubbed the candle on the flatiron, but she did."
"She did it so the iron wouldn't stick to the starched dress," explained Janet. "I should think anybody would know that! Wouldn't you, Lola?" she asked in a rather "snippy" manner and with an upward turn of her little nose.
"Of course!" agreed Lola. "Candles makes irons slippery."
"Well, if you've got some candles we can make our sled runners slippery the same way, and we can toboggan even if there isn't any snow," went on Tom. "I just happened to think I read a story once about some fellows who put candle grease on their sleds and rode down a wooden hill like this when there wasn't any snow. We can do like that! Get the candles, Ted, and I'll go get my sled!"
"Oh, maybe we can have some fun!" cried Janet. "Come on, Lola, let's get our sleds."
"You've got to grease your own runners," Ted warned the girls. "We aren't going to do it for you."
"Oh, I guess we can do it," answered Lola. "Boys aren't so smart!"
Tom and Lola hastened back to their house to get their sleds, which they had not brought over to the newly built toboggan slide, as there seemed no use of doing this until snow came. Janet hastened after her sled, and Ted went in the house to beg some candle ends of his mother.
"What are you going to do with them?" Mrs. Martin wanted to know. "You mustn't play with lighted candles."
Teddy told about the new plan, and his mother said:
"Well, you must be careful. I believe the candles, rubbed on your sled runners, will make them slippery enough to coast down the wooden hill. But be careful. And don't make any noise, for I've just gotten William to sleep."
"Don't let Trouble come out when we're on the toboggan," begged Ted. "He might get hurt." Trouble was the pet name for William Anthony Martin, the youngest member of the Martin family. And he was called "Trouble" because he was in it so often—sometimes through his own fault, and often because of Ted and Janet.
"Yes, I'll keep Trouble in," said Mrs. Martin, with a smile. "And here are your candle ends," she added, giving Ted a handful. "Be careful."
Ted promised and ran out into the yard to meet his playmates. Tom had also found some candle ends, and the boys and girls were soon busy rubbing the paraffine on their sled runners. For the candles mostly sold nowadays are made of paraffine, instead of beeswax or tallow, as old-fashioned candles were made. Paraffine is made from crude oil, as is kerosene and gasolene.
"Now we'll have some nifty fun!" cried Tom, as, having rubbed as much of the candle on his sled runners as the steel would hold, he turned his coaster over right side up.
"We'll have races!" cried Ted.
"But we have to take turns going down," said Janet. "The toboggan slide isn't wide enough for two to go on at a time."
"We can have sorter—now—sorter races to see who can go the farthest," remarked Ted, stumbling over his words in his excitement.
"That'll be fun," agreed Lola. She and Janet were also greasing their sled runners, all the little quarrels forgotten in the jolly good times they were hoping to have.
"All ready now!" cried Tom, picking up his sled. "Who's going to have the first coast?"
"I think Janet or Ted ought to have it, for they started the toboggan and it's in their yard," said Lola.
"That's right!" agreed her brother.
"No, company ought to have the first ride!" decided Janet, who made up her mind she would be as polite as her playmate.
"Jinks!" cried Tom, with a laugh. "Nobody'll ride if we keep on talking like this! Come on, Ted!" he added. "Let's you and me go down together!"
"Oh, don't!" begged Janet. "'Tisn't wide enough, and you might get hurt."
"Oh, we'll not!" insisted Tom. "And it'll be more fun that way. I guess it's wide enough, Ted. Let's try, anyhow."
They found that there was just about room enough on the toboggan slide for their sleds side by side. They climbed up the rickety stairs, made of small boxes nailed one to the other, and soon the two boys stood on the little platform at the top of the wooden slope. They had carried up their sleds with them—the sleds with the candle-greased runners.
"Are you ready?" asked Ted of his playmate.
"All ready," answered Tom. "Let's start!"
They put down their sleds and stretched themselves out on the coasters.
"Wouldn't it be funny if they got stuck half way down?" giggled Lola, who, with Janet, was waiting on the ground below off at one side to see what luck the boys would have.
"Oh, we won't get stuck!" laughed Tom. "Come on now, Ted! Push!"
Together they pushed themselves from the level platform down the wooden hill. The sleds hung on the brink for a moment and then went coasting down as nicely as you please, and quite swiftly.
"Hurray!" cried Ted, as he felt himself gliding along, coasting almost as well as if there had been snow on the wooden toboggan hill. "This is nifty!"
"Great!" added Tom.
The boys were so surprised to find out how well they could coast without snow that they forgot about having a race. As it was, they both came to the end of the slope at the same time. The sleds shot up the little incline and landed on the grass beyond with a bump. Teddy fell off his, but only laughed.
"How is it?" asked Lola.
"Dandy!" cried her brother. "You girls take a ride now!"
Rather timidly at first, Janet and Lola went down the incline one at a time, but they soon grew bolder and liked it as much as did the boys. It really was lots of fun, and as the boards became more slippery when partly covered with flakes of paraffine from the candles the coasting was swifter.
"Now let's have a real race!" cried Ted, after they had been sliding for some time. "I mean let's see who can go farthest from the end of the slide."
They took turns at this, one at a time coasting down the wooden hill and marking where the sleds landed on the grass. Tom and Ted seemed able to make their sleds jump farther than did the girls.
"I beat!" cried Tom, pointing to the mark his sled had made on the grass, after jumping up and away from the little end bump of the slide.
"You did not! My sled went farther!" shouted Ted. "Here, girls, I'll leave it to you!"
The four were trying to decide who had won the race when Janet, glancing back toward the toboggan slide, gave a cry of alarm.
"Look at Trouble!" she exclaimed.
There, on top of the pile of big boxes, having climbed to the platform by means of the rickety steps, stood baby William.
"I s'ide down!" he cried, jumping up and down in delight. "I s'ide!"
"No! No! Don't! Stand still, Trouble! Don't move! I'll come and get you!" shouted Ted.
He started on a run, but he was too late. A moment afterward Trouble was in trouble, for the little fellow toddled toward the back edge of the platform, which had no railing to guard it, and a second later he seemed to topple off backward.
THE POSTMAN'S WHISTLE
"Oh, Trouble has fallen! Trouble has fallen!" screamed Jan, as she ran around toward the back of the toboggan.
"Come on, Tom!" yelled Ted. "I guess my little brother's hurt!"
Lola followed the others, and as the four children raced to the aid of baby William a shrill whistle was heard near the front of the house.
"Is that a policeman?" cried Tom to his chum.
"No, it's the postman," answered Ted. "He's taking a letter into our house. Hey, Mr. Brennan!" he called, as he saw the gray-uniformed mail carrier entering the yard. "My little brother's hurt!"
Screams coming from the mouth of William seemed to tell that he was badly frightened, anyhow, and also hurt, very likely.
"Trouble hurt? I'm coming!" cried the postman dropping his bag of mail and running around the side path.
Another moment and the Curlytops and their playmates had reached the rear of the high pile of boxes from which the toboggan slide started. They looked on the ground, expecting to see Trouble huddled there in a crumpled heap.
But he wasn't there. His voice, however, could be heard crying lustily, and it seemed to come from overhead. Yet the little boy was not on the high platform, from which he had been seen to topple backward.
Where was Trouble?
This was the question the Curlytops asked themselves. And it was what their playmates wanted to know, as did the postman.
But before we settle that question I want to answer several inquiries that I feel sure some of my new readers are asking, and among these is this:
"Who are the Curlytops?"
Those who have read the previous books of this series do not need to go over this part I am writing now. They may skip it and get on with the story. Others may wish to know something about Ted, Janet and Trouble.
"Curlytops" was not their right name. As you have noticed, it was Martin. Theodore Baradale Martin was called Ted, or Teddy, and Janet's name was more often shortened to Jan. William was called Trouble as I have mentioned.
The name "Curlytops" was given the two older children because of their curly, golden heads of hair. They lived with their father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Martin in the city of Cresco, in one of our Eastern states. Mr. Martin kept a store.
The Curlytops were introduced first in the book about Cherry Farm. After that they had fun and adventures on Star Island, they were snowed in, as the book of that name tells, and later they went to Uncle Frank's ranch in the West. At Silver Lake they had fun on the water with Uncle Ben.
The book which was written just before this is called "The Curlytops and their Pets," and tells how the children cared for some dogs, a cat, a monkey, a parrot and an alligator that Uncle Toby left in their charge when he thought he had to go to South America.
Instead of going there Uncle Toby went to Canada. And it was from some of the stories he told of seeing toboggan slides there that the Curlytops had made one in their yard. Then came trouble with Trouble.
"But where is your little brother?" asked the postman of Ted and Janet, as he rushed around behind the high pile of boxes. "You say he fell off the platform, but where is he?"
"I hear him crying!" exclaimed Lola.
"So do I," added her brother. The two Taylor children were among the many playmates of the Curlytops.
"He didn't fall to the ground, that's sure, or else he'd be here now," declared the postman. "There isn't a sign of him. Maybe—"
But Mr. Brennan never finished what he started to say, for just then a little voice, above the heads of the postman and the children, cried out:
"Here I is!"
"Oh, look!" exclaimed Jan.
They all glanced up and saw the head of Trouble thrust out of one of the big packing boxes which Ted and his friends had made into the highest part of the toboggan slide.
The opening of this large packing box was toward the rear of the slide and Trouble was in the box. How he got there could only be guessed, but there he was, tears streaming down his little red face as he looked out.
"I—I wants to tum down!" he sobbed.
At times Trouble talked fairly well and plainly, but when he was excited, as he was now, he said wrong words. Nobody minded that, however.
"Don't jump, Trouble! Don't jump!" shouted the postman. "I'll get you down all right. Is there a ladder anywhere around?" he asked the children.
"There's a stepladder in the shed," answered Ted. "I'll get it."
"I'll help," offered Tom.
Away sped the boys, while Jan and Lola remained with Mr. Brennan looking up at Trouble, who seemed like some little animal in a circus cage.
"How'd you get in there, William?" asked Jan. Whenever the name "William" was used there was always more seriousness than when the youngest Martin child had been called by his pet title.
"I—I falled in!" sobbed Trouble.
"We saw you tumble over backward," remarked Lola. "But how did you get inside the box? Why didn't you fall all the way to the ground?"
"Suffin ketched me and I fell in here," was all Trouble could explain about it.
"I guess part of his clothes caught on a nail, or a piece of wood that was sticking out," said the postman, "and he was swung inside the box. A good thing, too, for it saved him a bad fall. He didn't go far."
This was true enough, for Trouble had swung into an open packing box not far from the top of the platform, so he had really only fallen a few feet—not enough to harm such a fat, chubby little fellow as he was.
"Well, we'll soon have you down," said Mr. Brennan cheerfully. "Don't cry any more, Trouble. Here come Ted and Tom with the ladder. I'll soon get you down!"
As the boys were hastening up with the ladder toward the high part of the toboggan slide, Mrs. Martin came running out of the back door of the house.
"What's the matter? What has happened?" she asked.
"Nothing much, Mrs. Martin," answered the postman, with a laugh. "Trouble is in trouble, and also in a packing box; that's all. I'll soon have him out."
"In a packing box?" William's mother repeated.
"Yes, you can see him," and Mr. Brennan pointed to the head of William thrust out from his "cage."
"Oh, the little tyke!" cried Mrs. Martin. "After he awakened from his nap and went out to play, I told him to keep away from the toboggan slide."
"Well, he went up on it when we weren't looking," explained Janet.
"And he fell off, only he didn't fall far and he swung into the box," added Ted.
"What a narrow escape!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "You children will either have to take that slide down or watch William more carefully," she added, as the postman put the ladder in place and began to climb up after Trouble.
"Oh, we don't want to take the slide down!" cried Ted. "We haven't tried it in the snow, yet. It'll be a lot more fun when it snows."
"We won't let Trouble get up on it again," added Janet.
By this time Mr. Brennan had climbed down with the little fellow in his arms. William seemed to be over his fright, for he smiled and asked:
"Can I have a wide?"
"You'd better go in the house with mother," said Ted. "No rides for you!"
"Oh, give him one ride! He's so cute!" begged Lola.
"We'll take care of him," went on Jan.
"Are you all right, darling? Are you hurt?" asked Mrs. Martin, looking William over carefully. "It's a mercy you didn't have some bones broken."
"I guess he would have had if he had fallen all the way," said Mr. Brennan. "But his clothes caught on something and saved him. He just swung into the open box like a piano being slung in a second story window by the moving men. Well, as long as you're all right, Curlytops, I'll be traveling on," he added, as he walked to where he had dropped his bag of mail.
"We're ever so much obliged to you," said Mrs. Martin.
"Oh, yes! Thank you!" called Ted and Janet. They had almost forgotten this in the excitement.
"All right!" laughed the postman, waving his hand to them, as he went out of the gate.
"Now if I leave William with you, will you watch him carefully?" asked Mrs. Martin, as she turned to go in the house.
"Oh, yes, Mother!" promised Ted and Janet in the same breath.
"We'll help!" offered Tom Taylor.
"I'll let him ride down on my sled," said Lola.
"I want to wide all alone!" declared Trouble.
"No, you can't do that!" his mother said.
The postman turned and came into the yard again.
"I forgot to give you this letter," he said, with a laugh. "So much excitement made me nearly forget the mail. There you are, Mrs. Martin," and he handed her a letter.
The children played on the wooden toboggan slide the remainder of the morning, having much fun, and the laughter and shouting of Trouble was as loud as that of the Curlytops and their playmates. Trouble was not exactly a curlytop, for his hair was not like the locks of Ted and Janet.
"I hope it snows to-morrow," said Tom, as he and his sister went home to dinner.
"So do I," added Ted. "It looks like it," he added, with a glance up at the gray clouds.
"If we pack the slide with snow we'll coast lots better," declared Lola.
Ted and Janet, with Trouble, went in the house, having planned to do more "dry" coasting after their meal.
Daddy Martin had come home to lunch from his store, and as the Curlytops entered the dining room they saw their father and mother with serious looks on their faces. Mr. Martin had just been reading a letter, the same letter the postman had left after rescuing Trouble.
"Well," Mr. Martin was saying, "I think we'll both have to take that trip, Mother, and see about this. Yes, we'll both have to go."
"Oh, are you going somewhere?" cried Ted.
"Take us!" begged Janet.
Mrs. Martin shook her head slowly. There was a worried look on her face.
"This isn't to be a pleasure trip," she said. "You children couldn't possibly go. It's about business. Just daddy and I will go, if we have to. But I don't want to go away with winter coming on."
"Why do you have to go?" Janet wanted to know.
"Because, unless we do, daddy may lose a lot of money," said Mrs. Martin gravely. "We wouldn't want that to happen. If we go away we shall have to leave you children behind, and I don't like to do that, however—"
Suddenly the bark of a dog sounded outside, and there came a ring at the front door.
"Somebody's coming!" cried Ted, making a dash for the hall.
WHAT SHALL WE DO?
"Here, Teddy! Wait a minute!" called Mr. Martin, but Ted did not wait. He was already at the front door. Trouble had started after his brother, but Janet remained with her mother.
"I wonder who it can be, just at lunch time," said Mrs. Martin. She glanced at the table to see if it were properly set, and began to think rapidly whether there would be enough pie for dessert.
"Will you and daddy really have to go away, Mother?" asked Janet, as the murmur of voices came from the front hall, whither Mr. Martin and Trouble had followed Ted.
"I'm afraid so," was the answer. "Your father had a letter this morning telling of some trouble about business, and unless he wishes to lose a lot of money he and I will have to go and see about some property he owns in a distant state."
"But I don't see why we couldn't go!" said Janet.
"Take you out of school, with the fall term just well started!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "No, indeed! You must stay and study; that is, all but William."
"But we don't want to stay here if you and daddy go away!" cried Janet, almost on the verge of tears. "It won't be any fun here alone!"
"No, I suppose not," agreed Mrs. Martin. "And yet your father and I must go. We can't afford to lose this money. I must make some plans. I hardly know what to do. I wonder who came then?"
More talk and laughter sounded in the hall. Teddy came tramping back into the dining room, carrying with him a little jacket belonging to his brother William.
"Look, Mother!" cried Ted. "Skyrocket had dragged this over in Bob Newton's yard. He was playing with Trouble's jacket—I mean our dog was—and Bob saw him and took it away. Bob just brought it back. Look, it's got a hole in it!" and Ted held up the little garment, torn by the teeth of Skyrocket.
"Oh, what a bad dog!" cried Mrs. Martin.
"He didn't mean to!" said Ted quickly. "Bob said he was just shaking it and playing with it."
"I—I—guess he was makin' believe it was a cat," explained Bob, another of the playmates of the Curlytops. "I saw him come runnin' into my yard, shakin' somethin', and first I thought it was a cat. But when I saw what it was—Trouble's coat—I took it away from Skyrocket, and brought it over here."
"We're much obliged to you, Bob," said Mrs. Martin. Mr. Martin, when he found the visitor was not for him, began reading the troublesome letter again.
"Where's Skyrocket?" asked Janet, not seeing the dog with which she and Ted had so much fun.
"Oh, he ran off when I took the jacket away from him," answered Bob.
"I wonder how he got Trouble's jacket," mused Jan.
"I—I took it off when I climbed up on de boxes to slide," explained William.
"That's right!" exclaimed Ted. "I saw it on the ground after Mr. Brennan lifted him down with the stepladder. You brought him out his sweater, Mother."
"Yes, so I did. I thought he had come out with nothing over his waist. Well, I'll have to mend this jacket now. Trouble, why didn't you pick up your jacket after you dropped it?"
"Oh—jest—'cause!" murmured the little fellow, and they all laughed except Mr. Martin. He seemed too worried over the letter even to smile.
"Well, I must get back," said Bob, twisting his cap which he held in his hands. "I—now—I've got to get back."
"Have you had your dinner, Bob?" asked Mrs. Martin.
"Part—part of it," Bob answered. "All but the fancy part."
"Oh, you mean the dessert?" asked the mother of the Curlytops.
"Yes'm, and there wasn't any to-day."
"Suppose you stay and have dessert with us," suggested Mrs. Martin, well knowing how children like to eat away from home.
"Yes'm, I—I could do that," agreed Bob, his face brightening.
"Couldn't he have all dinner with us, and not just dessert?" suggested Ted.
"Of course," his mother replied.
"Maybe Bob has eaten all he can," suggested Mr. Martin, folding the letter and putting it in his pocket.
"Oh, no! I can eat a lot more!" quickly cried Bob. "You ought to see me eat!"
"Well, we'll give you a chance," said Mr. Martin, and they all sat down to the table.
The Curlytop children told Bob about the toboggan slide, which he had not yet seen, as he lived several houses down the street and had had no hand in building up the big pile of empty boxes.
"An' you ought to see me in the box!" cried Trouble, when he had a chance to speak.
"Yes!" exclaimed Jan. "Oh, how he frightened us!"
While the children were thus talking Mr. and Mrs. Martin were conversing in low tones. And once Ted heard his mother ask:
"What shall we do?"
"Something will have to be done," her husband answered. "We must find some one to look after the children while we are away, for we shall certainly have to go. I can't let this slip away from me."
"No, indeed!" agreed his wife, with a sigh. "And yet, with the Christmas holidays coming on, it will be too bad to be away from the children."
"Perhaps we may get back by Christmas," remarked her husband.
Ted did not listen to all this, but he heard words here and there, and Christmas was one of them.
"How long to Christmas?" he asked.
"Quite a while," his mother replied. "It isn't Thanksgiving yet."
"How long before it will snow?" Janet wanted to know.
"That may happen any day now," replied her father, with a glance out of the window. "It was getting colder as I came in. If you children go out to play again you must wrap up warmly."
"We will!" promised Ted. "We're going to play toboggan again," he added. "You can stay and play with us, Bob," he said.
"Thanks! That'll be fun. Oh, you have pie!" he added quickly, as he saw Nora coming in with the dessert. "I like pie!" he frankly admitted.
"So do I," said Ted.
"An' I want two pieces!" declared Trouble.
"Hush, dear," cautioned his mother, in a low voice.
The meal over, the Curlytops prepared to go out in the yard again, to have fun on their paraffine-greased sleds. Bob ran home after his, promising to bring some candle ends, as those Mrs. Martin had found for Ted had nearly all been used.
Such fun as the Curlytops and their playmates had in the yard after dinner! Tom and Lola came back, with some other boys and girls, and they coasted down the toboggan slide one after the other. Trouble was put to bed for his afternoon nap, and so neither Ted nor Jan had to watch him, which gave them more time for fun.
"Say, it's getting real cold!" exclaimed Bob, blowing on his red hands after a coast down the wooden hill. "I guess maybe it will freeze to-night."
"Do you think it will, Tom?" asked Ted of his best chum.
"Well, it's pretty cold," was the answer. "But I don't believe it will freeze ice enough for skating."
"If it only freezes a little ice that would be enough," Ted declared.
"No, it wouldn't!" asserted Tom. "They won't let us skate on the pond lessen the ice is real thick."
"I wasn't thinking of the pond," said Ted. "I have an idea! Come on over here, Tom, and we'll talk about it. I'm sorter—now—tired of coasting on a wooden hill. I'd like some snow."
"Maybe it'll snow and freeze, too," said Tom, as he and Ted walked off by themselves to talk.
That evening, after an afternoon of fun on the toboggan, the Curlytops sat in the living room reading on one side of the table, while Mr. and Mrs. Martin were talking in low voices on the other side. Trouble had been put to bed. It was Friday night. There had been no school that day on account of an educational meeting which all the teachers had to attend, and there was no home work for Ted and Janet to worry about. So they could sit up and read until bedtime.
But, for some reason or other, Ted did not seem very intent on his book. Every now and then he would look up from it and appear to be listening.
"What's the matter?" Janet asked him after one of these periods of listening.
"Oh, nothing," her brother answered.
Janet, too, was not as much interested in her story as she ordinarily was. What her mother had said that afternoon, about having to go away with daddy leaving the children at home, was worrying the little girl more than she liked to admit.
Mr. Martin was just saying something about getting ready to leave in about a week, and Janet was going to ask who would come to keep house and stay with them, when a shrill whistle sounded out in the street.
"There's Tom!" cried Ted, dropping his book and fairly jumping from his chair.
"You aren't going out now!" said Mr. Martin. "It's after eight o'clock, Ted."
"I'm just going out in the back yard a minute," Ted answered. "I promised Tom I'd meet him there."
"All right, but don't go away," his mother said, and Ted promised. Snatching his cap down off the nail, he hurried out, giving a shrill whistle while still in the house in answer to another call from his chum.
"Quiet, Ted! You'll awaken William!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "And don't slam the door!"
But this warning came too late. The door was slammed, but Trouble seemed to sleep on. He was tired from his day of play. Janet could hear Tom and Ted talking on the side porch.
"I guess maybe they're going to toboggan a little by moonlight," thought the girl. Then her mind went back to the letter of that afternoon, and she remembered what her father had said about having to go away or else lose a lot of money. Janet did not understand much about business—very little, in fact—but she knew what it meant to lose money. Once she had dropped five cents down a hole, and she never got it back. She always remembered this.
"Who's going to stay with us, Mother?" Janet asked, after a pause.
"Stay with you when, dear?"
"When you and daddy go away."
"Well, we haven't decided that," her father answered. "In fact, it's that which bothers us. We don't know just what to do. If it wasn't that winter is coming we might take you along. But, as it is, we can't."
"We want somebody nice to stay with us," insisted Janet.
"Yes, of course, dear," agreed her mother. "We'll have to write to some of our relatives and see who can come. I don't know just who would be the best, or who could spare the time. And while I know you two Curlytops will be all right, I shall be worried over William."
"Oh, I'll look after Trouble!" promised Jan.
"Yes, I know you'll do your best, dear. And now—"
But Mrs. Martin never finished that sentence. Suddenly, from the yard, came loud shouts, a banging, rattling noise, and Ted's voice could be heard yelling:
"Look out! Look out!"
UNCLE TOBY AGAIN
Daddy and Mother Martin fairly jumped from their chairs and hastened to the back door. Nora Jones, the jolly, good-natured cook, was before them. She had just finished the kitchen work, and was on her way to her room when she heard the shouts of Ted and Tom.
"Oh, Mrs. Martin! Something must have happened!" cried Nora.
"It sounds so," agreed Mrs. Martin.
"Oh, I hope they're not hurt!" murmured Jan.
Just then the shouts of the boys were mingled with laughter.
"It doesn't sound very serious," said Mr. Martin.
The back door was opened and the light from the kitchen shone on the toboggan slide. The light also showed Tom and Ted in a mixed-up mass at the bottom of the slide, each one holding a tin pail.
And as Mr. and Mrs. Martin and Janet and Nora hastened out they saw that both boys were dripping wet, and as they untangled their legs from each other and stood up, it could be seen that they were now shivering, for the night was cold.
"What in the world has happened?" asked Mother Martin.
"And what in the world have you been doing?" asked Daddy Martin, rather sternly.
It was very plain to be seen that Ted and Tom had been doing something.
"We—we—now—we were—" began Ted.
"Don't stand here to tell us! Get in the house and into dry clothes!" cried Ted's mother. "You'll catch your deaths of colds out here! Get in the house now and explain later! Are either of you hurt?" she asked, for she noticed that each boy was limping.
"Not much," answered Tom, trying to smile. "We just tumbled down the toboggan slide, that's all, and the water—"
"Never mind now; tell us later," said Mr. Martin.
And when Tom and Ted had taken off their wet clothes, Tom being given an extra suit of Ted's, the two boys, sitting by the fire, told what had happened.
"We wanted some real ice on the toboggan slide," explained Ted. "Rubbing candles on your sled runners is all right, but we wanted some real ice. It didn't snow, so I said, 'let's pour water on our slide and let it freeze to-night, 'cause it's cold.'"
"And did you?" asked his father, trying not to smile.
"Yes, Daddy, we did. But I guess it isn't frozen yet," answered Ted. "We were spilling pails of water down on the slide. We stood on the top platform where Trouble fell off of, and then, all of a sudden, I slipped, and—"
"Yes, and he grabbed hold of me, and then I slipped!" broke in Tom, with a laugh. "And we both went down the slide together with the pails. It was almost as slippery as if there was ice on it," he added.
"Yes, it was slippery all right," chuckled Ted. "And if it freezes to-night we'll have packs of fun to-morrow."
The thought of the fun they might have seemed to make the boys forget their present troubles.
"Well, I'm glad it isn't any worse," said Mrs. Martin. "You boys should be careful on that slide. Just think! You might have been hurt!"
"Oh, you can't get hurt on that slide," declared Ted. "It's nice and smooth. And, anyhow, I didn't mean to slip; I couldn't help it." He laughed as he remembered it, and Jan laughed too. She wished she had been there to see Tom and Ted toppling down the slide together with the empty pails banging. It was this that had made the noise.
"It was like Jack and Jill, falling down the hill," laughed Janet.
"That's right," agreed Tom. "But I guess I'd better be going home," he added. "Do you s'pose my things are dry yet?" he asked Mrs. Martin.
"Oh, mercy, no!" exclaimed the mother of the Curlytops. "They won't be dry until to-morrow. I'll have Nora hang them in the kitchen by the range."
"But I guess maybe—I'd like to, but—er—now—I don't guess my mother would like me to stay here all night," said Tom hesitatingly.
"You don't have to stay here all night," Mrs. Martin said.
"Well, but if my things aren't dry—"
"Oh, wear those of Ted's that you have on," laughed Mrs. Martin. "I didn't know what you meant. That's all right—wear those things of Ted's. He has plenty more. Yours will be dry in the morning."
"And I hope there'll be ice on the toboggan slide in the morning!" exclaimed Ted. "I wish you could stay all night, Tom. Couldn't he, Mother?" he asked wistfully. "We'd be awful good and he could sleep with me and we wouldn't pillow fight or anything. And Tom's better'n I am about spilling things on the tablecloth at breakfast."
"Oh, it wasn't that I was thinking of," said Mrs. Martin. "I was thinking his mother and father would want him home. It's getting late."
"But we don't have to get up early to-morrow. It's Saturday and there's no school!" pleaded Ted, eagerly.
"My mother wouldn't care if I didn't come home, as long as I was over here," said Tom, trying not to appear too eager, for that would have been almost like asking to remain.
"Well, I suppose it would be best for you not to go out in the cold again, after having been wet," said Mrs. Martin. "We could telephone to your mother, Tom."
"All right!" he cried joyfully.
"Hurray!" shouted Ted.
"Be careful! Don't awaken Trouble!" cautioned Mrs. Martin.
Thereupon the boys quieted down, but they were still bubbling over with mirth, talking about the fun they would have sleeping together and the other fun they would have on the toboggan slide the next day.
Mr. Martin telephoned to the Taylor home, explaining about the little accident that had happened to Tom, and suggesting that, if it was all right, he should remain with the Curlytops that night. Mr. Taylor said it would be all right, and thanked Mr. Martin for his kindness.
Janet remained up a little longer, listening to Tom and Ted telling over again just how they had carried pails of water to the top of the wooden slope, spilling down the sloping boards the liquid which swished its way like rapids in a river. And then came the tumble and fall of the boys.
"Boys, as long as you are going to have good times to-morrow I suggest that you go to bed now," said Mrs. Martin, when it was past nine o'clock.
"I want to get a glass of water first," said Ted, going toward the kitchen.
"You can get a drink up in the bathroom," his mother told him.
"I don't want this to drink," Ted explained. "I want to fill a glass full of water and set it out on the steps."
"What for?" Janet wanted to know. "No birds will come to drink at night," she added, for she and her brother had made a bird-feeding station in their yard, and also a little shallow basin where the feathered songsters could bathe and drink.
"This isn't for birds," Ted explained. "I just want to set a glass of water outside and wait to see if it freezes. If it does, then we'll know if there's going to be ice on our toboggan slide in the morning."
"Nonsense!" laughed his mother. "I can't let you stay up until you find out if a glass of water will freeze. It would take too long."
"Not to see if just the top froze over," insisted Ted. "I don't mean until the whole glass freezes solid. I know that would take a long time."
"No, no!" laughed his mother, giving him a friendly little push from the room. "Go to bed! I think it will be cold enough to make at least a skim of ice on your toboggan slide. But not much more. So don't be disappointed if you have to use candles on your sled runners to-morrow."
However, Ted, and Janet, and Tom went to bed filled with joyous hopes for the next day. The boys were almost as good as they promised to be, not having any pillow fight. But they did "cut up" a little, and had to be told, more than once, to get quiet and go to sleep. And finally they did.
In spite of the fact that the morning brought Saturday, with no school, when the children might have slept later had they wished, Tom and Ted were up earlier than usual. Hardly stopping to dress properly, the two boys ran out into the yard and to the toboggan slide.
"Hurray!" cried Tom. "She froze!"
"Oh, what a nifty lot of ice!" exclaimed Ted.
And the sloping boards of the toboggan slide were covered with a film that glistened and sparkled in the sun. The morning air was cold, too, and the boys felt sure the ice that had formed from the water they poured on would not soon melt.
"Come on, Janet!" cried Tom, after breakfast. "Now you can have a real toboggan ride!"
"Me, too!" called Trouble, banging his oatmeal spoon on his plate.
"After a while, dear. You aren't dressed yet," his mother told the little fellow.
Indeed the toboggan was a real hill of ice now, though the frozen covering was thin. And the children had many fine coasts on it, for the sleds went faster than when greased with candles.
Lola Taylor came over, and so did other playmates of the Curlytops, and you can be sure that after this the thin coating of ice on the boards did not last long. It began to wear off and wear thin, first in one place and then in another, the rising sun helping to melt it. And before noon there was no ice left.
However, the boys and girls had had lots of jolly good fun, and Trouble also had his share. As the boards, once they were wet from the melting ice, were too sticky for the candle-greased sleds to coast on, the fun had to be given up just before noon.
But after dinner Tom and Ted found something else that gave them an adventure. A little brook ran through a meadow, not far from the home of the Curlytops, and on a part of this that was in the shadow from a hill there was some ice that was quite thick, and it remained unmelted, as the sun did not shine on it.
"Oh, look!" cried Ted, as the two chums, wandering through the meadow in search of fun, saw the ice. "Look! We can have a slide!"
"Will it hold?" asked Tom.
"Sure! Look at Skyrocket!" answered Ted.
The dog had walked out on the thin ice which held him up. But the boys did not stop to think that Skyrocket was not as heavy as either of them. Also Skyrocket was on four feet, and his weight was more scattered, being distributed over a larger surface than theirs would be. But Tom and Ted never thought of this. Ice that would hold Skyrocket would hold them, they thought.
In another instant they had walked out on it and were just going to run and take a little slide when there was a cracking sound, and, before they knew it, both lads had plunged into the brook at one of the deep parts.
"Oh! Oh!" cried Tom and Ted together, for they were quite frightened.
Skyrocket barked and capered about. He did not know whether this was a game the boys were playing, or whether their cries meant danger. To tell the truth there was not really much danger, as the brook was not up to the knees of the boys at this point.
They remained upright, floundering about and struggling in the cold water amid chunks of thin ice. For the ice was really too thin to hold them.
"Oh, what are we going to do?" cried Tom.
"I'm nearer shore than you are!" panted Ted. "Grab hold of my hand and I'll help you out!"
But as the boys were struggling together they heard a voice shouting at them from the far side of the meadow. They looked and saw a man running toward them. He reached them before they had gotten to the bank where Skyrocket was wildly barking, and, reaching his hands out to them, the man pulled Tom and Ted to safety.
"What in the world are you lads up to?" the man asked.
Something in the voice caused Ted to look up, and he cried.
"Yes, Uncle Toby!" admitted the man, with a laugh. "It's a good thing I happened to take the short cut across lots from the railroad. Now tell me why you chaps went in swimming on a day like this?" and he looked first at Ted and then at Tom.
OFF TO THE COUNTRY
Skyrocket ran up to Uncle Toby, barking and sniffing around the legs of the jolly man who had pulled the two boys from the ice-cold brook.
"So you remember me, don't you?" chuckled Uncle Toby, as he watched the wagging tail of the dog.
"I do, too!" said Tom. "Have you got all your pets still?"
"Most of 'em!" answered Uncle Toby. "But we mustn't stand here talking, with you boys wet through. Come on to the house. Run! That's the best way to keep from taking a cold! Run!"
"We—we got—all wet—last night, too," Ted informed Uncle Toby, the words being jerked out of him because of the jolting effect of the run.
"Were you in swimming last night?" Uncle Toby wanted to know.
"We were making a toboggan slide like those you told about seeing in Canada," explained Ted.
"And we weren't in swimming now. We were sliding and the ice broke," explained Tom.
"Well, never mind about that now," said Uncle Toby. "Come on—run!" And he ran so fast, half holding up the boys who trotted along on either side of him, with Skyrocket leaping along behind, that by the time the house was reached Ted and Tom each felt quite warm in spite of their icy bath.
"Oh, my goodness! What'll your ma say?" cried Nora, as Uncle Toby rushed the boys into the cozy kitchen.
"Get upstairs and bring them down some dry clothes. Let them undress and dress here by the fire. The water won't hurt the kitchen floor," said Uncle Toby.
In a little while Tom was again attired in his own suit, which was now dry, and Ted had on an extra one of his own, while the wet garments were taken down cellar to be hung near the furnace.
"I guess you boys had better stay in the house the rest of the day," said Mrs. Martin, when she had greeted Uncle Toby and had heard what had happened.
"I have to go home," said Tom. "Thank you for drying my clothes, and I'm sorry I got Ted's wet," he added.
"Well, be careful," cautioned Mrs. Martin, as Ted's playmate left, promising to run all the way so he would not get a chill. But the day was quite warm now, all the ice having been melted from the toboggan slide, and even the water on it drying up.
"Well, what kindly fortune brings you here, Uncle Toby?" asked Mrs. Martin, as soon as she could sit down for a chat.
"Oh, I came to ask a favor," went on the old gentleman, who had traveled in many parts of the world and who had collected quite a few strange pets, some of which he still kept at his home in Pocono. "But you look worried, Ruth," he went on. "Has anything happened? Don't worry about those boys. They won't take cold from a little dipping, even if the weather is getting a bit frosty."
"I wasn't worrying about them," said Mother Martin, with a smile. "But we have had some other troubles. Dick has had word that he is likely to lose a lot of money, and he and I will have to take a trip to see about some property. We'll have to go right away, or within a day or so, and what to do about the children I don't know. We can't very well take them with us. I was just thinking we might get some of our relations to come and stay here while we're gone. Then you drop in. Have you come to tell me that you are coming to pay a visit? I'd leave my Curlytops and William with you and know they were safe."
"And I'd ask nothing better than to look after them," said Uncle Toby, with a smile. "But I didn't come to tell you I was coming here. Instead I came to invite you to my place in the country. I have a large cottage, or camp, as you know, at Crystal Lake, just outside Pocono. I'm going to have a sort of holiday party out there this winter, and I want you and the Curlytops to come and spend some time with me. In fact I'll take some of their playmates, if their folks will spare them. That's what I came for—to invite you all out to my place to have jolly times through the holidays."
"Oh, how lovely!" cried Janet, who heard what was being said.
"Could we have a toboggan slide there?" Ted wanted to know.
"Me tum?" lisped Trouble.
"Sure you'll come!" cried Uncle Toby, catching baby William up in his arms and hugging and kissing him. "There wouldn't be any fun if we left you behind. When can you get ready to come?" he asked Mrs. Martin.
"Why," answered the mother of the Curlytops slowly, "I don't see that Dick and I can come at all. We must take this business trip or daddy will lose a lot of money," she explained to the children. "But your coming at this time is most fortunate, Uncle Toby. As long as you are going to have a party out at your country cabin on Crystal Lake, it will be just the thing for the children. They can go and stay with you while Dick and I are away."
"Of course!" cried Uncle Toby. "Aunt Sallie—you remember her I guess?" he went on—"she'll be there to cook for us and see that the children don't get their feet wet."
"Aunt Sallie," remarked Mrs. Martin. "I don't seem to remember—"
"She's Mrs. Watson, the old lady who went away from my house the time I started for South America, and left you my pets to look after," Uncle Toby explained. "She's a distant relative of mine, and I call her Aunt Sallie, though she isn't really my aunt. But she's come back to keep house for me, and she'll go out to the camp with us. It will be just the place for the older children, and they can go to school there. We've got a good little country school not far from the lake. In fact they can skate to school when the lake gets frozen over, and that will be soon if this weather keeps up."
"Oh, what fun!" cried Ted.
"It will be just the thing for us," said Mrs. Martin. "It will take away all our worries over what we were going to do about the children while we were away."
"And did you say we could have some playmates out there?" asked Janet.
"Yes, bring along some boy or girl chum—one for each of you," replied Uncle Toby.
"I'd like to have Tom!" exclaimed Ted.
"And I'll ask Lola," said Jan.
"All right," agreed Mr. Bardeen. "And they may find some other playmates when they get out there," he added in a low voice.
"Do you mean new pets?" asked Ted, overhearing what Uncle Toby remarked.
"That's a secret," was the smiling answer, and he made a sign to Mrs. Martin that he would explain to her later. As for Ted and Jan they were so excited over the prospect of going to spend the holidays in the country cabin of Uncle Toby that they danced up and down and around the room, swinging Trouble with them.
"I'm going over to tell Tom!" cried Ted.
"And I'll tell Lola," added his sister.
"Wait a while, Curlytops," advised Mrs. Martin. "Let's see what daddy says."
The children felt that they never could wait until their father came home from the store that evening. But he did arrive at last. Ted and Janet were sure he was late, but, as a matter of fact, he was a little ahead of his usual time, Mother Martin having telephoned to him about the visit of Uncle Toby. The latter had come along suddenly, not even writing to say that he was on his way.
"I just got the notion into my head that I wanted the Curlytops and some of their playmates out at my place on a holiday visit," he explained, "and so I packed up and come on. Didn't pack up much either," he said. "Just a bag. And I left that at the station and took the short cut across lots. Good thing I did," he concluded, winking at Teddy.
"You must never again go sliding on the ice until you are sure it will hold you," said Mr. Martin to his son. "Just because it held up Skyrocket doesn't prove that it will hold you. If you don't promise to be careful I can't let you go to Crystal Lake!"
"Oh, we'll be careful!" promised Ted and Janet in one breath.
"I guess this means that you've made up your mind to let them come with me, is that so?" asked Uncle Toby.
"I think it will be the best thing that could happen," answered Daddy Martin. "Ruth and I must go to see about that property. It will take both of us to clear matters up and save my money. I know the children will be in good hands when they are with you and Aunt Sallie. So we'll let them go."
"And can we take Skyrocket?" begged Jan.
"Oh, yes, I guess so," replied Uncle Toby. "My two dogs, Tip and Top, have been sold. I haven't as many pets as I had, though Jack, the monkey, Mr. Nip, the parrot, and Snuff, the cat, I have kept. I want them for company."
"Then if we take our dog it will be just about right," decided Ted. "We'll leave Turnover, our cat, here with Nora."
"Yes, she'll need company," said Mrs. Martin. "And do you really mean it about taking some playmates for Ted and Janet, Uncle Toby?"
"Of course I do! Let Tom and Lola come!"
"I'll go tell them!" offered Ted.
"I'll come, too," added Jan.
Trouble wanted to follow, but as it was dark now, being after supper, his mother decided the best place for him was in bed. And there he was taken, after he had fallen asleep in Uncle Toby's arms.
"But what is this about some other children that are going to be at your cabin?" asked Mrs. Martin, while Ted and Janet were still over at the Taylor home.
"I'm going to take charge of two little Fresh Air children," explained Uncle Toby. "You know I give money to some of the big societies in the city, and these societies send out children to the country in the summer. It isn't usual to send them out in the winter, but this is a special case.
"Their mother, whom I knew when she was a girl, has to go to the hospital for an operation, and she has no one with whom she can leave Harry and Mary. So I agreed to take charge of them this winter, as their mother may have to stay in the hospital a long time to get well and strong."
"Where is their father—dead?" asked Mr. Martin.
"I'm afraid he is," answered Uncle Toby. "And yet it isn't known for sure."
"What do you mean?" asked Mother Martin.
"You see it's this way," Uncle Toby explained. "Their father, Frank Benton, went to the big war. He was heard of for a time and then all trace of him was lost. I suppose he was killed in some battle and never found until after the fighting was over. Anyhow his two children, who are about as old as Ted and Janet, were left with their mother. She took care of them as well as she could until she became ill.
"One of the Fresh Air Society ladies heard about their sad case and she wrote to me. I said I'd keep the children all winter. And now when your Curlytops come out with their friends Tom and Lola they'll find other playmates, and I hope they'll all get along well together."
"I think they will," said Mr. Martin. "It is very kind of you to do this."
"Oh, I like it!" declared Uncle Toby. "I like children and animals. The more the merrier. And now let's plan how soon the children can come back with me."
Ted and Jan returned a little later with word that Tom and Lola could make the trip, and the next few days were busily spent in getting ready. Mr. and Mrs. Martin made arrangements to go on their trip, to try to save the money that Daddy Martin was in danger of losing.
Except for this there would have been no sadness when the time of parting came. But the Curlytops could not help seeing that their father and mother looked rather worried.
"I hope Dad doesn't lose that money," said Ted.
"So do I," echoed his sister, with a sigh.
But they were not sad for long. The day came when the children were to depart for their holiday stay at Uncle Toby's cabin on the shore of Crystal Lake.
"All aboard!" cried the jolly old gentleman, as the automobile drew up in front of the house to take along the Curlytops, Trouble, Tom, Lola, Uncle Toby himself, and Skyrocket. "All aboard!"
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" cried the children, as they piled in. The dog barked his farewells.
"Have a good time!" said Mother Martin, and there was just a tear or two in her eyes as she waved her hands.
"We'll have you all back again after Christmas!" said Daddy Martin.
"Oh, what fun we'll have at Christmas!" shouted Ted.
"All aboard!" called Uncle Toby again, and they were off on the first part of their trip to the country for the holidays.
A FLURRY OF SNOW
Uncle Toby drove the Martin automobile through the streets of Cresco. The car was a large, comfortable, roomy one, all inclosed, so that the cold weather would make no difference. There was even a small heating apparatus, a sort of radiator kept warm by the muffler under the car, so that the children would be cozy and warm even in a snow storm.
"There's Tommie Wilson!" called Ted, as he saw a boy walking along the street. "He's got to go to school!"
"Yes, and there's Bob Newton," added Tom. "I guess they wish they were like us, and didn't have to go to school!"
"Oh, you'll have to go to school as soon as we get out to Crystal Lake," declared Uncle Toby. "Don't imagine, because you are going to have holiday fun, that you won't have to go to school."
"But it'll be more fun going to school out there than it will be here," said Tom.
"Sure it will!" agreed Ted.
Lola and Jan leaned over toward the side window of the auto to wave to Jennie Jackson, a girl they both knew, and Jennie waved back, wonder showing on her face at the appearance of the Curlytops and their playmates going off in an automobile. And when the other children of Cresco learned what had happened to Ted, Jan, Tom, and Lola there were some sighs of disappointment that such good luck had not happened to every boy and girl.
Skyrocket seemed to be enjoying himself very much. He was a well-behaved dog and appeared to enjoy the ride in the automobile. He was perched on the front seat, between Ted and Tom, who sat beside Uncle Toby. In the back were the two girls and the baggage.
"Oh!" exclaimed Ted, when they had ridden on some little distance and Uncle Toby had turned into the broad highway that led to Pocono, several miles away. "Oh, I forgot all about it!"
"Forgot about what?" asked Uncle Toby, as he stopped his big automobile to let a little car shoot out of a side street.
"I forgot to tell the fellows they could use our toboggan slide while we're gone," explained Ted.
"That's right!" agreed Tom. "Bob Newton and some of the other boys could have fun on it after the snow comes. We ought to have told 'em!"
"Shall we have one out at Crystal Lake, Uncle Toby?" asked Ted.
"I reckon we can rig up one," was the answer. "There is a man out there who has a real toboggan, too, one he brought from Canada."
"Oh, that'll be great!" cried Tom.
On went the big car with the Curlytops and their playmates, bearing them to the happy country where they hoped to have much fun over the Christmas holidays that would soon be at hand. The children looked out of the windows of the car. They had made an early start, soon after sunrise, but now the sun had gone under clouds.
"Do you think it will snow?" Ted anxiously asked of Uncle Toby.
"I shouldn't wonder but what it might," was the answer. "Do you want it to?"
"Sure we do!" cried all four children at once, and Trouble added:
"I make a snow man, I will!"
"Well, then I guess it will snow," chuckled Uncle Toby. "And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we should have a storm before we get to my place," he added.
"Do you mean before we get to Crystal Lake?" asked Janet.
"No, for we aren't going there direct," said Uncle Toby. "We are first going to my place in Pocono, where we'll stay a few days. I have to get some things there, and also take aboard two more children."
"Two more children?" cried Ted and Janet. Then Ted added:
"Who are they?"
"I hope they'll be playmates for you," answered Mr. Bardeen. "I'll tell you about them later. Anyhow, first we'll go to Pocono, and later, in a day or so, out to Crystal Lake. That will give you time to meet the pets again."
"Are you going to take them out to the Lake with you?" asked Tom, who knew about the different animals Uncle Toby was so fond of.
"Well, no, I hardly think so," was the answer. "It will be pretty cold for my alligator, the monkey, and the parrot. Snuff, my cat, will be better off if she stays at my house in Pocono. But you can take Skyrocket out with you."
"That'll be all right," decided Ted. "But it would be a lot of fun if we could have all the pets out at the Lake."
"I'm afraid you'll be so busy having good times out of doors, and going to school, at least a little, that you wouldn't have much chance to play with the pets," chuckled Uncle Toby. "And I wouldn't want any of them to take cold. A dog is all right, romping out in the snow, but frost wasn't meant for monkeys and parrots."
"Where will you get these two new children that are going to be our playmates?" asked Jan.
"They are coming on a train. I expect they'll arrive at Pocono about a week after we get there. I'll tell you about them later. They are poor children, and they haven't had as many good times as you Curlytops have had, so I hope you'll be kind to them."
"Oh, we will!" chorused all four.
"An' I tish 'em, dat's what I do!" declared Trouble.
"Yes, and I'll 'tish' you!" laughed Lola, as she kissed the little chap.
On and on rumbled the big auto, until it came to a small town, which, as soon as they reached the center of it, Ted and Janet remembered.
"We stopped here for dinner when we were going out to your place this summer!" cried Janet to Uncle Toby.
"Yes. And we're going to stop here for lunch again," said Uncle Toby. "That is, if you are hungry," he added with a sly twinkle in his eyes. "Of course if you'd rather not eat—"
"Oh, I want to eat all right!" shouted Tom and Ted and Janet and Lola, all at one time.
"I wants pie!" burst out Trouble, and they all shouted with laughter.
A little later the car drew up in front of a restaurant.
"Why, it's the same one where we ate before!" exclaimed Jan, in wonderment.
"Yes, your father told me you stopped here," said Uncle Toby.
As he was helping the children out of the car a ragged boy, with a pinched and hungry face, stepped up, and, touching his cap, asked:
"Like to have me watch your machine, sir? There's been a lot of autos stolen around here lately. I'll watch it good for a quarter."
"Will you?" asked Uncle Toby, with a kind smile. "And if a thief comes, what would you do? You aren't very big?"
"I'd holler for a cop—I mean a policeman," was the boy's quick answer. "I know the policeman on this beat."
"All right, I guess you can watch the machine," said Mr. Bardeen. "Skyrocket will help you keep guard over it."
"This dog," and Uncle Toby pointed. Skyrocket had been holding back, for he did not like strangers, especially ragged ones, and this boy was rather ragged. But when Uncle Toby made it plain that the boy was to be regarded as a friend, the dog wagged his tail in welcome and curled up on the front seat.
"What are you going to do with the quarter I'm to give you for watching the car?" asked Uncle Toby.
"I'm going to get something to eat with part of it," was the answer. "I'm hungry. The rest I'm going to turn in to my mother. She needs it."
"Hum," said Uncle Toby, thoughtfully. "That's stretching a quarter rather too much, I think. Now you sit out here in the car, and I'll have the waiter bring you something to eat on a tray. Oh, don't worry!" Mr. Bardeen hastened to say, with a smile. "It won't come out of your quarter. I'll put it on my bill. And I'm going to have a bone sent out for Skyrocket. He'll keep you company."
"Yes, sir. I like dogs," said the boy, with a smile. "I'm much obliged to you. I'll watch your car good."
"Yes. I think you will. Well, children, run in and get started on your lunch. I don't want to get to Pocono after dark, and it looks as if we might get caught in a snow storm, but it may hold off."
The Curlytops and their playmates were ushered to their seats by a waiter who smiled at them.
"Do you remember us?" asked Ted, while Uncle Toby was giving orders to another waiter about sending something to eat out to the boy, and also a bone for Skyrocket.
"Of course I remember you," the waiter answered, as he pushed the chairs under Janet and Lola. "And I haven't forgotten what that little chap did," and he pointed to William, who was staring about the room as if trying to remember where he had seen it before.
"What did Trouble do?" asked Lola.
"He turned the faucet of the water-cooler and let the ice water run all over the floor," explained Janet with a laugh. "Mother's feet were in the puddle of water before we knew what had happened."
"Oh, Trouble!" chided Lola. "Did you do that?"
"Well—well, I didn't do it on pur—now—on purspuss!" stammered Trouble, as they all laughed.
Uncle Toby came and sat down at the table with the children, and the waiter who remembered the Curlytop party from their other visit was soon busy serving them. A good meal on a tray was taken out to the boy in the automobile and a juicy bone was sent to Skyrocket.
"This is jolly good fun!" declared Tom, who had not traveled about as much as had the Curlytops.
"Wait until we get out to Crystal Lake!" exclaimed Ted. "Then we'll have more fun. I hope school won't be very hard," he added in a whisper to his playmate.
"Oh, teachers aren't very strict around the holidays," answered Tom.
The meal was almost over when Lola, glancing out of the window, uttered an exclamation and cried:
Surely enough, a flurry of the white crystals was falling.
Uncle Toby looked a bit anxious.
"I don't want to hurry you children," he said. "But as soon as you have finished we'd better be on our way. We don't want to be stuck in the snow."
And as they went out to get in the automobile again the air was thick with the white flakes.
IN THE STORM
Seeing the Curlytops and their playmates coming from the restaurant with Uncle Toby, the boy who had been watching the automobile got out, followed by Skyrocket.
"Well, I see you didn't let any one take the car," said Uncle Toby with a smile, as he paid the boy, giving him more money than the lad had asked for.
"Oh, no! They couldn't take this car while I was in it," was the reply. "Though I guess your dog would make a fuss, too, if anybody tried it. Two or three men just sort of stepped up to look at the car, and Firecracker growled."
"Firecracker?" exclaimed Ted, with a laugh.
"Yes. Isn't that the name you called your dog?" asked the boy.
"No; it's Skyrocket," answered Jan.
"Well, I knew it had something to do with fireworks," laughed the ragged lad.
"But this is too much money," he said to Uncle Toby.
"That's all right, I guess you've earned it," was the reply. "Sitting in a car doing nothing isn't much fun."
The snow flakes kept on sifting down, swirling faster and faster as the automobile started off, the children calling their good-byes to the boy who had watched the car. They had left him much better off than when they first met him, for he had had a good meal and earned some money.
"Sit tight now, everybody!" ordered Uncle Toby, as they left the busier part of the village where they had stopped for a meal, and drew near the open country. "Sit tight, for I'm going to drive faster, and I don't want you falling off the seats."
"What you goin' to drive fast for?" Trouble wanted to know. "Is you goin' to have a race, Uncle Toby?"
"A sort of race, yes, Trouble," was the answer. "I'm going to race and see if we can get home ahead of the big storm that I'm afraid is coming down on us."
"Do you think it will be a very big storm?" asked Ted, and he looked with laughing eyes at Tom.
"I shouldn't wonder," was the answer. "And, though we have a strong car here, we don't want to get stuck in a snow drift and have to stay all night."
"I should think that would be lots of fun," said Tom.
"What? With nothing to eat except a few chocolate cakes Jan and Lola have in a bag?" exclaimed Uncle Toby. "That is if they have any of the cakes left."
"Oh, yes, we have them," Jan hastened to say, for she and her girl chum had bought some just before reaching the restaurant, and had not eaten them.
"Well, that's all we'd have in the way of 'rations,' as the soldiers call them, if we got stuck in the storm," declared Uncle Toby.
"Then we don't want to get stuck," decided Ted, and Tom agreed with him. The boys were fond of eating. Most boys are, I believe.
What Uncle Toby said and feared about the storm seemed to be coming true. Of course the automobile was very far from being caught in any drift, for the snow had not yet begun to pile up very much. But the flakes were coming down thicker and faster, and the wind was beginning to blow. It did not blow inside the cozy car, which was warm and comfortable, so that the boys and girls could unbutton their wraps. But they could hear the wind swishing around outside, and they could see the flakes of snow dashed against the glass windows.
After riding about an hour, the party was out in a country district where the houses were few and far apart. It was rather lonesome, for they went many miles without meeting another automobile. The snow was deeper here, and, more than once, the wheels of the Martin car ran through little piles of white crystals.
"They've had a storm here before this one that's blowing now," said Uncle Toby, as he looked at what were really quite high drifts on some parts of the road. "It may be worse farther on."
"Shall we get stuck?" Ted wanted to know.
"There's no telling," answered Uncle Toby.
Ted and Tom did not want to say they were glad of it, but they were real boys and they felt that they would not a bit mind being caught in a big drift so they would have to dig their way out. They forgot, for the time, about having nothing to eat.
Passing through a small village, which was now thickly covered with snow from the storm that was getting worse and worse all the while, Uncle Toby drove the car once more out in the country. Suddenly he leaned forward and shifted the gear lever.
"What's the matter?" asked Ted.
"I'm going into second speed," was the answer, and the boys knew what this meant. "There's quite a hill ahead of us," Uncle Toby went on. "Though I could take it on high if it wasn't for the snow, I can't do it now. We'll try it on second, and if that won't bring us up we'll have to go back into first speed."
"Shall we get to your house to-night?" asked Jan.
"Oh, yes," answered Uncle Toby. "Don't worry!"
But Jan could not help feeling a bit anxious. She was more worried over what might happen to Trouble than herself, her other brother or her playmates, for they were all older. But Trouble was used to his mother at night.
How he would behave now, away from home for the first time, remained to be seen. Jan wondered what her father and mother were doing now, and she hoped Daddy Martin would not lose that money. She wondered if they would be poor. That wouldn't be at all pleasant, she thought.
However, her ideas and those of the others were suddenly switched into new places, for the big car gave a lurch to one side and came to a stop with a jolt, awakening Trouble.
"What's matter?" he asked sleepily.
"I am afraid we are stuck," said Uncle Toby.
"There's a big drift right in front of us," announced Ted.
"Yes," agreed Mr. Bardeen. "I thought I could go through it but it's deeper than I had any idea of. No you don't!" he quickly cried as the automobile seemed about to slip backward. He put on both brakes and brought the car to a stop.
"Oh, is anything going to happen?" asked Lola.
"No! No!" laughed Uncle Toby. "Don't be afraid. I didn't change into first speed quickly enough and stalled, or stopped my engine. I'll start up again in a minute. But I guess I'd better put some stones under the wheels, to block them so they won't slide downhill as I start up again with the brakes off."
"We'll get some stones!" cried Ted. "I know how to do that! I often do it for dad on a hill. Come on, Tom!"
The two boys scrambled from the car out into the storm. As the door was opened in came a swirl of white flakes, and Trouble tried to catch them by sticking out his red tongue.
"I guess you'll have hard work to find any stones," said Uncle Toby, looking at Tom and Ted floundering around in the snow. "But it won't be safe to take the brakes off until we get something to block the wheels."
The reason for that was this. The car was now held from sliding backward downhill because Uncle Toby had put on the brakes. But to start up again, even in first or lowest speed, he would have to take off the brakes, and the car might begin to slide down before the engine could begin pulling it up. With stones blocked behind the rear wheels, this would not happen.
"Oh, we'll find some stones!" cried Tom, kicking about in the snow, moving his feet from side to side. Soon he felt something big and hard. Reaching down with his hands, he began clearing away the snow and discovered a stone. But it was frozen fast to the ground, and Tom could not move it.
"I'll help you!" offered Ted, running over to his chum. Ted had not yet found any stone.
As the boys kicked away at the stone, hoping to loosen it, Trouble called out through the crack of the door:
"Is you playin' feetball?"
"It does look like it, doesn't it?" laughed Ted, and then, with a last hard kick, he loosened the stone that Tom had found.
"Good boys!" cried Uncle Toby. "Put it back of the wheels and look for another." He had to stay in the car lest the brakes might slip and let it back down the hill.
Tom and Ted put this one stone behind the left wheel, and then began kicking about in the snow to find another. This time Ted had the luck, finding a larger stone than the one uncovered by his chum.
With hard kicks the two small chaps worked away at the frozen stone. More than once they missed their aim, and they kicked up clouds of snow, making Lola and Janet laugh, Trouble joining in. But at last the second stone was loosened and placed behind the other wheel.
"Now I can take off the brakes and start up the hill," said Uncle Toby. "Hop in, boys!"
Standing on the running board Ted and Tom knocked the snow from their shoes and took their places inside the warm car. They were breathing hard from their labors, and their cheeks were red with the cold, while their coats and caps were covered with snow-flakes.
The engine had not stopped running, though it was out of gear. But now Uncle Toby took off the brakes and began to go into first speed, and slowly the car moved up the hill. The snow was very slippery and more than once the hind wheels spun around uselessly.
"I'll put chains on when we get to the top of the hill," said Uncle Toby. "I ought to have done it before."
Slowly the car went up through the storm, the children almost holding their breaths, as if that would help. But finally the summit of the hill was reached and the danger was over for the present.
"Now we can speed up, after I put on the chains," said Uncle Toby, bringing the car to a stop beneath some overhanging evergreen trees that grew on one side of the road. "Ch'is'mus twees," Trouble called them.
But as Mr. Bardeen was getting out Ted uttered a cry of alarm.
"Where's Skyrocket?" he asked.
Then, for the first time, every one noticed that the dog was not in the car.
Where was Skyrocket?
A STALLED TRAIN
For a few moments the children could scarcely believe that Skyrocket was not in the automobile with them. Janet and Lola had been so busy watching the boys kick loose the stones, and Ted and Tom had been so occupied in this work, that none of them had paid much attention to the dog. Uncle Toby had also watched the boys, and as for Trouble, catching an occasional snow-flake on his tongue gave him so much to do that he did not look after Skyrocket.
"But where is our dog?" asked Ted, when it became certain that the pet was not in the car.
"Maybe he's under the seat asleep," suggested Lola.
They looked, but Skyrocket was not there.
"He must have jumped out when the door was open," said Tom.
"I'll go back and look for him," offered Ted. He made a move to leave the car, but Uncle Toby stopped him.
"If any one goes back after that dog, I'm going!" said the old sailor, for that is what Uncle Toby had once been. "The snow is too deep for your legs," he added, looking at Ted's short ones. "And you two lads have already done work enough in getting the stones to block the wheels. You know how fond I am of pets, so I'll go back and get Skyrocket. I suppose he's looking for us all this while."
"You'll be sure to get him, won't you, Uncle Toby?" asked Jan.
"Of course I will; unless he's gone full speed ahead back home, and I don't believe he has. Now you children stay here in this car until I come back. And don't go outside. It's snowing harder and it is getting colder. So stay inside."
The Curlytops and their playmates promised to do this, and then Uncle Toby stepped out into the storm. He turned up his coat collar and tramped off through the drifts, which were, each moment, getting deeper and deeper. So fast was the snow coming down now that he could hardly see the marks left by the wheels where he had driven up the hill.
The children looked out through the back window in the automobile and watched Uncle Toby. He was soon out of sight below the top of the hill, and all that Ted and the others could see was the cloud of swirling flakes of white.
"I—I hope he finds Skyrocket," faltered Janet.
"I hope so, too," added Ted.
"He sure is a good dog!" declared Tom.
Then all the Curlytops could do was to wait for Uncle Toby to come back.
Meanwhile the old sailor was trudging back through the storm, going down the hill up which he had lately driven the big car.
"It's easy now," thought Uncle Toby to himself, "but it won't be so easy going back. I'll have the wind in my face and I'll have to go uphill. But never mind! We'll have jolly good times—the children and I—when we get to my cabin out at the Lake."
As he walked along through the storm Uncle Toby looked on each side of the road for a sight of Skyrocket. But he did not see the dog. Nor was there any answering bark in reply to the shrill whistles uttered by Uncle Toby.
"Here, Sky! Here, Skyrocket!" the old sailor would call every now and then, but no dog appeared.
"He must have jumped out away back where I stalled the car," thought Uncle Toby. "Poor dog! He'll freeze if he has to stay out all night. And I don't know what I'll do with those children if I don't find their pet for them. Skyrocket, where are you?"
On and on went Uncle Toby, through the whirling snow. He was almost back to where the car had stopped when suddenly he heard a series of barks off to one side of the road, in a clump of trees.
"That sounds like him!" exclaimed the sailor. "Hello there, Skyrocket!" he cried.
The barking became louder. Uncle Toby floundered through the drifts, off the road and over toward the clump of evergreen trees. As he neared them a dog came dashing out, capering about in the fluffy drifts.
"Hello, Skyrocket! I've found you all right!" said Uncle Toby. "But what in the world are you doing back here? What made you jump out of the car?"
All the answer Skyrocket made was to bark. He leaped about Uncle Toby and seemed very glad to see him. But when the man started back toward the road, thinking the dog would follow, Skyrocket only barked more loudly and raced back toward the clump of trees.
"What's the matter? Is there some other dog back there you'd rather play with than come to the Curlytops?" asked the old sailor. "What's the idea?"
Skyrocket acted in such a queer way that Uncle Toby turned back to see what the matter was. And this was just what the wise dog seemed to want, for he wagged his tail joyfully and raced back ahead of Uncle Toby.
When the old sailor reached the clump of trees, under the heavy branches of which the snow was not so thick, he heard a faint mewing sound.
"Bless my heart! A kitten!" cried Uncle Toby.
And a kitten it was! A dear, cute, little kitten, half way up one of the trees, cuddled down in the thick, green branches.
"Well, no wonder you didn't want to come back and leave this poor little kitten here in the cold and storm," said kind Uncle Toby. "You're a good dog, Skyrocket!"
At this Skyrocket wagged his tail harder than ever, so it seemed a wonder that it did not fly off, and his throat must have ached with all the barking he did.
The kitten mewed and stood up when it saw Uncle Toby. It did not appear to be afraid of Skyrocket, who was capering around on the ground under the tree.
"I'll get you down and take you back with me," said the old sailor. "Come on, pussy! I don't know where I am going to get any milk to give you until we get to my place in Pocono. But I guess you'll stand it until then. I wonder how you got out here in the woods all alone?"
There was no way of finding this out, and there was no house near from which the little kitten might have wandered. Uncle Toby had an idea it might have been lost out of some car in which some children, like the Curlytops, had been riding. Then the little animal wandered into the clump of evergreens for shelter, and Skyrocket had trailed it there. The dog had probably discovered the pussy as he was racing around after he had slipped out of the car, unseen by the children or Uncle Toby.
"But you'll be all right now," said the kind old sailor. "Come to me, pussy!"
The kitten arched its back, seeming glad of a chance to stretch after being cramped on the limb. Reaching up, Uncle Toby lifted it down and put it snugly in the pocket of his big overcoat.
"Well, I wonder if you'll come back with me now?" asked Uncle Toby of Skyrocket, when the kitten had been rescued.
Skyrocket seemed very willing, for he no longer hung back, but followed with joyful barks and waggings of his tail as Uncle Toby strode through the storm with the kitten he had rescued.
It was hard work tramping back up the hill through the storm and drifts of snow with the wind blowing in his face, but the old sailor managed it, and soon the Curlytops and their friends, who had been anxiously watching through the back window, saw him looming into view.
"Here comes Uncle Toby!" cried Jan, who was the first to spy him.
"Has he got Skyrocket?" asked Ted.
"Yes, I see him!" said Tom. "He's got your dog all right."
A little later Uncle Toby was knocking the snow off his shoes on the running board of the car, and soon he was safely inside with the dog.
"Where was he?" Ted wanted to know. "What were you doing back there, Skyrocket?" he asked his pet.
"He was guarding this," said Uncle Toby, and out of his pocket came the little kitten.
"Oh! Oh!" murmured Lola. "Isn't it a darling!"
"How cute! Oh, what a dear!" exclaimed Jan.
"My kitten! Mine!" cried Trouble, always ready to claim any new pet he saw.
"Did you really find it?" asked Tom, as Jan took the kitten into her lap while she and Lola rubbed it, Trouble getting an occasional finger or two on the soft fur.
"Skyrocket found it, and I got it down out of the tree," explained the old sailor, with a laugh. "Now I guess we can move along again. I wish we had some milk for you," he went on, looking at the little cat. "But we'll be home before dark—if we have good luck," he added, as he glanced out into the storm.
Once again the automobile started, with a new passenger on board. Skyrocket was used to cats, and after he had taken part in the rescue of the kitten he paid no more attention to it but curled up and went to sleep. As for the kitten, it did not seem to mind the dog in the least.
"I guess it isn't very hungry, Uncle Toby," said Jan in a low voice, after they had ridden several miles. "See, it's going to sleep."
And the little kitten, with eyes closed, was curled contentedly in her lap.
Uncle Toby's main thought now was to drive as fast as he could with safety, so he would get the children to his home in Pocono before the storm grew any worse and before night came.
Once in his house at Pocono they could remain until the weather cleared before going out to the cabin at Crystal Lake to spend the holidays.
They passed through a small town, and Jan suggested they might stop and get some milk for the kitten, which had awakened, and was mewing a little.
"I think we'd better not stop now," said Mr. Bardeen. "It is better for the pussy to be a little hungry for a time than for us to get stuck in the snow with night coming on. We'd all be hungry then. We'll soon be home."
They came to a railroad track, almost hidden under the snow, and Uncle Toby stopped the automobile, and, opening the door a little way, seemed to be listening.
"What's the matter?" asked Ted.
"I wanted to hear if the train was coming," was the answer. "One is due here about now, and I didn't want to cross the tracks if it was too near. But I guess it's late on account of the storm. It will be safe to cross."
He drove over the tracks and was just speeding up again when they all heard a distant whistle.
"There's the train!" exclaimed Tom.
Then came several more whistles, long toots and short toots in such a queer combination that they all knew something must be the matter.
"Maybe there's been an accident," said Ted.
"Maybe," agreed Uncle Toby. "But I think that the train is stuck in a deep cut not far from here. The cut may be filled with snow so the train can't get through. It's probably stalled there."
"Will anybody be hurt?" asked Janet.
"No, only delayed for a while. Men will come with shovels to dig out the train. We can soon see what has happened, for the auto road passes near the railroad cut."
A little later they saw that what Uncle Toby had guessed at had come to pass. The children saw a passenger train with the front part of the engine buried deep in a pile of snow that filled a cut between two rocky hills on either side of the track.
As the automobile came in sight of the train the engineer blew several more shrill whistles, waking up Skyrocket, who began to bark loudly.
"Just hear him toot!" cried Jan, putting her hands over her ears, for the automobile was now quite close to the train stuck in the big snow drift. The drift was much deeper here than at any other point along the railroad, because the narrow cut between the high rocks held the white flakes tightly packed.
"Sounds as if it was calling us," said Lola.
"I believe it is!" exclaimed Ted, as the toots of the whistle kept up. "Do you s'pose he could want us to help him, Uncle Toby?"
"How could an auto pull a stalled train out of a snowdrift?" asked Tom.
"Course we couldn't pull the train," admitted Ted. "But we could sort of—now—do something, couldn't we, Uncle Toby?" he asked.
"I believe we could, and I think that is what the engineer is trying to signal us for," was the answer. "I know this railroad cut. It is a bad place in a storm. Often trains have been stuck here for days. The engine would ram its pilot, or cowcatcher, into a drift, then snow would pile up behind the last car and the train couldn't go ahead or back up."
"Maybe that's happened now!" exclaimed Lola.
"I shouldn't be a bit surprised," said Uncle Toby.
"But what do the passengers do when the train is stuck, like this one is now?" Tom wanted to know.
"Oh, sometimes they get out and walk, as it isn't very far to the station. Or if they have something to eat, and can keep warm in the cars, they stay there until men come with shovels to dig out the train. I guess that's what this engineer wants me for—to go on to the station and have a gang of men sent to dig out his train. We'll soon find out," Uncle Toby remarked.
The automobile road ran close to the tracks and near the deep cut which was filled with snow. The storm was getting worse, but on the level there was not yet enough snow to have stopped a train. It was only in the cut that the drift was deep enough for this.
Uncle Toby stopped the automobile as near the stalled train as he could go, and waited. Soon the engineer and a man with gold braid on his cap came floundering through the deep snow at the side of the train until they were within calling distance of Uncle Toby, who opened the car door to listen.
"Could you oblige us by going to the next station and having the telegraph operator send word to headquarters that we're stalled?" asked the man with the gold braid on his cap. He was the conductor of the train.
"Yes, I'll do that for you," said Uncle Toby. "I thought you were whistling for help," he added to the engineer.
"That's what I was," came the answer. "I saw you just in time. 'Tisn't often that an auto has to come to the help of a steam engine, but it happened this time," he added, with a smile.
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" asked Uncle Toby, as he prepared to start off again. The station was a little out of his way, but he didn't mind that.
"Well, I don't know," replied the conductor slowly. "We haven't many passengers on board, and all except a little boy and girl who are on their way to Pocono will be all right. The way it is now we'll hardly get there to-night, or anyhow, not until late, and they are traveling alone. They expect to be met at Pocono by—let me see—I have his name here somewhere," and he began searching among the papers in his pocket. "The children are in my charge," he went on. "Their mother had to go to a hospital and—"
"She did?" cried Uncle Toby so suddenly that the engineer and conductor looked at him in surprise. "Is the name of the man who was to meet these children Mr. Toby Bardeen?" went on the old sailor.
"Why, yes, that's his name. I have it here on a piece of paper," said the conductor. "But how did you—"
"Are those children Harry and Mary Benton?" went on Uncle Toby.
"Those are their names, certainly," the conductor admitted. "But how in the world—"
"I'm Mr. Toby Bardeen," interrupted the old sailor. "Uncle Toby is what the Curlytops call me. I was expecting these children, but I had no idea they'd arrive so soon. It's only by chance that I'm passing this way. I didn't expect Mary and Harry for nearly a week."
"Well, the society that gave them in my charge, to see that they got safely to Pocono and to Mr. Bardeen, told me their mother had to go to the hospital sooner than she expected," reported the conductor. "I was going to telegraph you when I got to the next station to make sure you'd be on hand. They said—that is, the lady of the Fresh Air Society said she'd written you to expect the children earlier."
"Well, I didn't get the letter, because I left home to go to visit the Curlytops," said Uncle Toby. "However, it's all right now. I'll take the children right into the auto with me and soon have them home. It's lucky I met you."
"Very lucky, indeed!" agreed the conductor. "I'll go back and get the children ready for you. Poor little things, they're quite sad and forlorn. Their father was killed in the war, I understand."
"Yes," agreed Uncle Toby. "At least he's missing, and I guess he must be killed or they'd have heard something from him by this time. However, I'll take charge of the children. I used to know their mother many years ago, but I haven't seen her for some time."
"If you'll drive along the road, around the cut, to the rear of the train, the snow won't be so deep for the children," said the engineer. "I'll help you carry them out," he added to the conductor.
The rocky cut, in which the train was stuck in the snow drift, was about twice as long as the engine and cars, and in front of the cut, as well as behind it, the snow was not very deep, though it was getting deeper all the while as the white flakes came sifting down faster.
Uncle Toby started the automobile again, going to the rear of the train, as near to it as he could get. A little later the conductor and engineer came tramping through the drifts, each man carrying a child, the conductor with the girl and the engineer with the boy. The children were so wrapped up in shawls that it could scarcely be told which was the boy and which was the girl.
"There you are, my dear!" said the conductor, as he set his passenger down inside the automobile.
"And one more!" added the kind-faced but grimy engineer, putting the little boy in next to his sister.
"Is this Pocono?" the boy asked freeing himself from the shawl that wrapped him. "The lady said we weren't to get out except at Pocono."
"And we want Uncle Toby," added the girl.
"Bless your hearts, I'm Uncle Toby!" cried Mr. Bardeen. "This isn't exactly Pocono, but you'd never get there to-night if you stayed on that train. I'm going to take you off and drive you to my home in Pocono in this auto. See, here are the Curlytops and some other playmates for you," for now the two strangers could see the Curlytops and their friends, Tom and Lola.
"Curlytops!" exclaimed Harry Benton, wonderingly.
"It's on account of our hair," explained Ted, taking off his cap.
"Oh, I see!" laughed Mary. "It's lovely hair! I wish mine curled."
"I'm glad mine doesn't," her brother exclaimed. "It's too hard to comb."
"It is hard," admitted Jan, while Trouble stared open-mouthed at the new playmates.
"Is he a Curlytop, too?" asked Mary, looking at Baby William.
"He belongs to the family, but his hair doesn't curl," said Uncle Toby, with a laugh. "But now that I have you children safe in here I'd better be going," he added. "I'll tell the telegraph operator to send you help as soon as he can," he added to the engineer and the conductor, who started back to the stalled train.
"Please do," begged the conductor. "We'd like to get dug out of here before night."
"Isn't it lovely in here, Harry?" asked Mary Benton, looking around inside the comfortable automobile.
"I should say so!" he exclaimed. "I never was in a car like this before."
The two children were poor—one need but look at their clothes to see this. But they were clean and neat.
"And, oh, look! A dog!" cried Harry.
"That's Skyrocket! He likes you," said Ted, for the dog, after sniffing at the two new playmates, wagged his tail in friendly fashion.
"I like him!" said Harry.
"And, oh, look at the kitten!" cried Mary, reaching her hand down to pat the little bunch of fur that was purring on the seat between Lola and Jan.
"Uncle Toby just found it in the woods," Jan explained.
"What's its name?" asked Mary.
"We haven't named it yet," Ted answered. "Skyrocket saw it up a tree and barked."
"I think Fluff would be a nice name for the pussy," said Mary. "He's such a fluffy ball of fur."
"Oh, that would be a lovely name!" cried Lola. "Why don't you call it that?"
"I guess we will. You may name the kitten Fluff, Mary, and it'll be part your cat."
"Oh, how nice!" murmured the poor little girl. "I never had even part of a cat before."
"Uncle Toby has a cat and his name is Snuff!" said Trouble. "An' he's got a monkey and a parrot!"
Mary and Harry looked as though they did not know whether or not to believe this. Seeing the doubt on their faces Ted exclaimed:
"That's right! Uncle Toby has a lot of pets out at his place, and we're going to take them to Crystal Lake with us, aren't we, Uncle Toby?"
"Oh, I guess if we take your dog that will be enough," chuckled the old sailor. "The others will be better off in Pocono. But you'll have a chance to see them," he added to the new children, noticing how disappointed they looked. Then Harry and Mary smiled.
"Well, I must be getting on if I'm going to send help to the people on the stalled train," remarked Uncle Toby, as he turned the automobile around. "And then we'll go on to Pocono. Aunt Sallie will be getting anxious about us."
"Is Aunt Sallie a monkey or a parrot?" Harry asked.
"Neither one!" answered Uncle Toby, with a laugh, in which the Curlytops joined. "She's my housekeeper; and she'll go with us to Crystal Lake for the holidays."
"What will you do with your pets?" asked Ted.
"I'll get some one to look after them. I haven't as many as when you Curlytops played circus with them. But there's enough. Too many, so Aunt Sallie thinks."
It was not a very long ride to the station from where word could be sent that help was needed by the stalled train. The agent promised to telegraph for snow shovelers at once.
Uncle Toby was about to drive on again when Janet stopped him by saying:
"Maybe the station agent could give us a little milk for the pussy."
"Maybe he could," agreed the old sailor. "I'll ask him."
As it happened, the agent kept a cat in the station on account of the mice, and that day he had brought a little milk for his pet—more milk than Choo-Choo, as he called his cat, wanted.