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For a time Mr. Carford seemed more worried about the possible injury to his team, and the loss of some of his goods in the sled, than he was concerned about thanking the boys who had stopped the runaways. Then, as he found by looking them over, that the horses were all right, and that nothing was missing, he approached Bert and the others, saying:

"Well, boys, I'm much obliged to you. I can't tell you how much. No telling what damage the horses might have done if you hadn't stopped 'em. And I'm glad no one was hurt.

"Now I reckon you boys aren't much different than I was, when I was a youngster, and I guess you like sweets about the same. Here are a couple of dollars, Bert Bobbsey. I wish you'd treat all your friends to hot chocolate soda or candy or whatever you like best. It isn't exactly pay for what you did, but it just shows I'm not forgetful."

"Oh, we didn't stop the horses for money!" cried Bert, drawing back.

"I know you didn't," answered Mr. Carford, with a smile, "and I'm not paying you, either. You stopped the horses, or you tried to stop them, Bert, to save your sister and the other girls. I understand that all right. But the horses were stopped just the same, and please take this as a little thank offering, if nothing else. Please do."

He held out the two-dollar bill, and Bert did not feel like refusing. He accepted the money with murmured thanks, and as Mr. Carford climbed into the sled, limping more than ever after his run up the hill, the aged man muttered:

"The second time a Bobbsey has been mixed up in my affairs. I wonder what will happen when the third time comes?"

Calling good-byes to the boys and girls, and again thanking them for what they had done, Mr. Carford drove off amid a jingle of bells.

"What do you's'pose he meant by saying this was the second time a Bobbsey had been mixed up in his family affairs?" asked Charley Mason of Bert.

"I haven't the least idea. I never knew Mr. Carford before this. I'll ask my father."

"Is that bill real?" asked one boy, referring to the money.

"It sure is," answered Bert, looking at it. "Come on to the drugstore and we'll spend it. That's what it's for."

"Going to treat Danny Rugg, and his crowd, too?" asked Frank Miller.

"Well, I guess Mr. Carford wanted this money to be spent on everyone on the hill, so it includes Danny," answered Bert slowly.

But Danny and his particular friends held back from Bert, and did not share in the treat. Probably Danny did not want to come to too close quarters with Bert after the attempt made to get Freddie's sled.

The excitement caused by the runaway was over now. Bert got back his sled and, as interest in coasting had waned at the prospect of hot chocolate sodas, the crowd of boys and girls trooped from the hill and started toward town, where there was a favorite drug store.

Standing about the soda counter the boys and girls discussed the recent happening.

"What did you think, Nan, when you saw the team coming?" asked Grace Lavine.

"I really don't know what I did think," answered Nan.

"Weren't you awfully frightened?" inquired Nellie Parks.

"Oh, I suppose I was. But I hoped I could steer out of the way, and I remember hoping that Flossie and Freddie were in a safe place."

"Oh, we were all right," said Freddie quickly. "Flossie and I were watching the horses. This chocolate is awful good!" he added with a sigh. "Is there any money left, Bert?"

"Yes, a little," answered his brother. "But you have had your share."

"Oh, if there is any left let him and Flossie have it," suggested Grace. "They're the smallest ones here."

"Yes, do," urged Nellie, and as several others agreed that this was the thing to do, the two little Bobbsey twins each had another cup of chocolate.

"Though Freddie has almost as much outside his mouth as inside it," said Nan, with a laugh.

Then the merry party of boys and girls trooped homeward, Bert and Nan thinking on the way of the strange words of Mr. Carford and wondering what he meant by them.

Several of the older boys, who knew the old gentleman, told something of him. He was a strange character, living in a fine old homestead. He was said to be queer on certain matters, but kind and good, and quite charitable, especially at Christmas time, to the poor of that country neighborhood.

"We'll ask papa about him when we get home," said Bert. "Maybe he can explain it."

But when the Bobbsey twins reached their house they found that their father had suddenly been called away on a business trip to last for some days, and so they did not see him.

"I haven't the least idea what Mr. Carford meant," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when they had asked her. "I did not even know that your father knew him. I am sorry you children were in danger on the hill."

"Oh, it wasn't much, mother," said Bert quickly, for he feared if his parent grew too worried she might put a stop to the winter fun.

Supper was soon ready and then came a happy period before bedtime—that is happy after lessons had been learned. Snoop the black cat, and Snap, the smart circus dog, were allowed in the living room, to do some of their tricks, Snoop having been taught a number while with the fat lady in the circus.

Bert fell asleep vainly wondering about the queer words of Mr. Carford, and he dreamed that he was sliding down hill on the back of a horse who turned somersaults, every now and then, into a bag of popcorn.

Coasting came to an end the next day, for there was a big snow storm, and the hill would not be in good condition until the white flakes were packed hard on the slope. But there were other forms of sport—snowballing, the making of forts, snow houses and snow men, so that the Bobbseys and their friends were kept busy.

Then came a little thaw, and the snow was just soft enough to roll into big balls.

"It's just right for making a large fort!" exclaimed Danny Rugg one day, after school was out. "We'll roll up a lot of big balls, put them in lines on four sides and make a square fort. Then we'll choose sides and have a snow fight."

The other boys agreed to this, and soon Bert and the others, including Danny and his friends, were busily engaged. For the time being the hard feeling between Danny and Bert was forgotten.

The fort was finished, and there was a spirited snow battle about it, one side trying to capture it and the other trying to stop them. Bert's side managed to get into the fort, driving the others out.

"Oh, we'll beat you to-morrow!" taunted Danny, when the battle was over.

The next morning, when the children assembled at school, they saw a strange sight. On the front steps of the building was a great snowball, so large that it almost hid the door from sight And working at it, trying to cut it away so that the entrance could be used, was the janitor. He was having hard work it seemed.

"Who did it?"

"Who put it there?"

"Say, it's frozen fast, too!"

"Somebody will get into trouble about this."

These were only a few of the things said when the children saw the big snowball on the school steps.

"It's frozen fast all right enough," said the janitor, grimly. "Whoever put it there poured water over it, and it's frozen so fast that I'll have to chop it away piece by piece. All day it will take me, too, and me with all the paths to clean!"

When the classes were assembled for the morning exercises Mr. Tetlow, the school principal, stepped to the edge of the platform, and said:

"I presume you have all seen the big snowball on the front steps. Whoever put it there did a very wrong thing. I know several boys must have had a hand in it, for one could not do it alone. I will now give those who did it a chance to confess. If they will admit it, and apologize, I will let the matter drop. If not I will punish them severely. Now are you ready to tell, boys? I may say that I have a clue to at least one boy who had a hand in the trick."

Mr. Tetlow paused. There was silence in the room, and the boys looked one at the other. Who was guilty?
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The Bobbsey Twins at Snow Lodge.
Page 35.