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Are you all ready?" called Danny to Bert, looking over at the homemade bob, and there was something like contempt in his tone.
"All ready," answered Bert. "I'll start as soon as you give the word."
"We ought to have someone to shove us off," suggested Danny. "It won't be fair if one or the other gets a headstart."
"Hi! He's afraid already!" cried Charley Mason. "He knows we're going to beat!"
"I am not!" retorted Danny. "It will be a walkover for me once I start. But I don't want Bert Bobbsey saying I took advantage of him, after the race is over."
"You needn't be afraid - I won't say so - I won't have to," replied Bert. "All the same I think it would be better if we each had a push. I want to be fair, too."
"Hey, Bert!" called a shrill voice, as the elder Bobbsey lad was looking about for some on the hill to whom he might appeal. "Can't I ride down with you, Bert?"
It was Freddie who called, and he came runnining up, anxious to take part in the exciting race.
"No, Freddie, not this time," explained Bert kindly. "I want only large boys with me in the race. I'll give you a ride afterward."
"After I beat him, he means," sneered Danny.
"Come on, let's race if we're going to," called some of the boys on Danny's sled.
"Yes; don't stay here all day."
"Get a move on!"
"We'll beat, anyhow, what's the use of racing?"
There were only a few of things that those on the big new sled of Danny's, called to those on Bert's bob. On their part Bert's friends voiced such remarks as:
"We're not so strong on looks, but we'll get there first!"
"We're going to give Danny a tow to the bottom of the hill!"
"He won't know he's moving, once Bert's sled gets started going!"
"Well, what are we going to do?" asked Danny at last. "Shall we shove off ourselves?"
Just then there came along two large boys, Frank Cobb, and his particular chum, Irving Knight.
"What's going on here; a race? " asked Frank.
"It looks that way," said Irving.
"Oh, will you push us off?" begged Bert, appealing to Frank, whose father worked in Mr. Bobbsey's lumber yard.
"Sure we will," answered Frank goodnaturedly. "Take the other sled, Irving," he said to his chum, "and we'll give 'em an even start. Then we'll see which beats, and may the best sled win!"
"That's what I say!" cried Irving.
The two larger boys took their places behind the bobs. They slowly shoved them to the edge of the hill, held them there a moment, and, at a nod to each other, shoved them down evenly.
"Hurray!" cried the crowd of other coasters. "There they go!"
"And Danny's ahead!" said some of his friends.
"No, Bert's sled is!" shouted his admirers.
As a matter of fact, though, both sleds were even at the start. On and on they went very swiftly, for the hill had been worn smooth. Then Bert saw his bob getting ahead a little, and he felt that he was going to win easily.
But he was glad too soon, for, a little later, Danny's sled shot ahead, and for some distance was in the lead.
"Can't you beat him, Bert?" whispered Charley Mason, who sat just behind his chum.
"I hope so," was the answer. "But I can't really do anything. We just have to depend on the sled, you know."
"Steer a little more over to the left," suggested another boy. "It looks smoother there."
"I will," said Bert, and he turned the steertng wheel of his bob while Luke Morton, in the rear, pulled hard on the bell, making it clang out a loud warning.
"Look out where you're going, Bert Bobbsey!" warned Danny, looking back.
"You're coming over on my side of the hill!"
"No I'm not. I'm away from the middle even," said Bert. "Besides, I'm behind you."
"I know you are, and you're going to stay there; but I don't want you to run into me."
Bert thought of the time, the winter before, when Danny had run into him, and broken his sled, but he said nothing. He did not want that kind of an accident to be repeated if he could help it.
On, on and on dashed the big bobs, with the crowd on the hill, and a number of coasters scattered along the way, watching anxiously. As soon as Bert had steered over to the left his sled began to go faster, as the snow was packed better there. He was fast catching up to Danny, when one of the boys on that bob, looking back, saw it, and warned the steersman.
"He's coming, Danny," he cried.
"Oh, he is; eh? Well, he won't pass me," and Danny steered his sled over directly in front of Bert's, almost causing Bert to collide vith him.
"Shame!" cried some watchers. "That wasn't fair!"
"Let him keep on his own side then," warned Danny.
But this mean trick did Danny little good for, though Bert was forced to go to the right, to avoid crashing into Danny, he, most unexpectedly, found good coasting there, and he shot ahead until his sled was even with that of the bully's.
"Better look out, Danny," warned the boy sitting directly back of him.
"He's crowding us fast."
"Oh, it's only a spurt. We'll soon be at the bottom of the hill and win."
On and on came Bert's bob, the Flier. It was a little ahead of Danny's now, and the latter, seeing this, steered over, thinking the going was better there.
"Look out!" warned Bert. "Who's crowding over now?"
"Well, I've got a right here!" snarled Danny.
But Bert knew his rights also, and would not give away. He held to his place, and Danny dared not come too close. Then, as Bert found himself on smooth, hardpacked snow, he steered as straight as he could. More and more ahead of Danny he went, until he was fully in front of him.
"We're going to win! We're going to win!" cried Bert's friends. "We're going to win the race!"
Danny was wild with anger. He steered his sled over sharply, hoping to get on the same track as was Bert and so pass him. But it was not to be. Danny took too sudden a turn, and the next instant his bob overturned, spilling everyone off.
There was a cry of surprise at the accident, and some of those on Bert's sled looked back. Bert himself looked straight ahead as a steersman always should.
"Danny's upset!" cried Charley.
"I'm sorry!" said Bert. "Now he'll claim the race wasn't fair."
And that is what Danny did when he picked himself up, and walked down to meet Bert, whose bob got safely to the foot of the hill, and so won the race.
"Aw, I'd have beaten if you hadn't gotten in my way so I had to steer over," cried Danny.
"Don't talk that way now," said Irving, who, with Frank Cobb had come to the end of the hill. "Bert beat you fair and square."
"Aw, well" grumbled Danny.
"I'll race over again, if you like," offered Bert.
"Yes, and do the same thing," grumbled Danny. "I will not. I know my sled is the best."
But few others, save those who hoped for a ride on it, agreed with the bully, and Bert's homemade bob was held to be champion of the hill.
Then came many more coasts, Bert giving Nan and Flossie and Freddie, and a number of their little girl and boy friends, several rides.
Until late that evening the coasting kept up, and Bert and Charley were congratulated on all sides for the fine bob they had made. And what fun Bert had home after supper, telling of how he had won the race!
It was in the middle of the night, when the Bobbsey household was awakened by the ringing of fire bells. They all heard the alarm, and as Papa Bobbsey counted the number, he said to his wife:
"That must be near here. Guess I'll look. It's a windy night and a fire in my lumber yard would be very bad."
As he went to the window he saw a glare on the sky in the direction of the lake.
"It is near here!" he said. "The engines are going past our house! I'd better take a look."
"Can I come?" asked the little "Fat Fireman" from his cot. "Take me, papa!"
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