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How warm and cozy it was in Snow Lodge! How bright were the lights, and how the big fire blazed, crackled and roared up the chimney! And what a delightful smell came from the kitchen! It could easily be told that Dinah was out there.
"Where have you been?"
"What happened to you?"
"Was there an accident?"
"Did you get lost?"
"Did the ice-boat sink?"
It was Freddie and Flossie who asked the last two questions, and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey who asked the others as Bert, Nan, Harry and Dorothy came into the farmhouse. Oh, how good it seemed after their battle in the darkness with the storm!
"The ice-boat couldn't go on account of the snow," explained Bert," so we had to leave it and walk."
"And we got lost," added Nan. "Oh, it was terrible out there on the frozen lake!"
"Indeed it was," agreed Dorothy. "I never had such a time in all my life."
"It was too bad," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "You children should have come in the sled with us."
"Oh, we didn't mind it much," spoke Harry. "We had a good lunch. We saw the light and thought it was some farmhouse. We didn't think it was Snow Lodge. But we're glad it is," he added with a laugh.
"We got here some time ago," said Mr. Bobbsey. "The farmer had the fires all going finely, and it was as warm as toast. We began getting things to rights, but when it got dark, and snowed, and you children weren't here, we all got worried."
"And we were going to look for you," added Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, I was so worried I didn't know what to do!"
The evening was spent in playing a few games, and in talking and telling stories. Everyone was too tired to stay up long, after the day's trip, and so "early to bed" was the rule, for the first night at least.
As Bert went up to his room with his cousin Harry he looked out of the window. It was too dark to see much, but the boy could get a glimpse of the snow blowing against the panes with great force.
"Poor Henry Burdock!" thought Bert. "If it wasn't for that missing money he and his uncle might be living here at Snow Lodge. I wonder where Henry is now? Maybe off somewhere in the woods, lost--as we nearly were!"
The thought made him feel sad. Surely it was a terrible night to be out in the forest, amid the storm and darkness.
"I wish I could help him," thought Bert, but he did not see how he could. Mr. Carford was a stern old man, and he believed his nephew had taken the money that was missing.
The storm raged all night, and part of the next day. Then it cleared off, leaving a great coating of white in the woods, and over the fields.
"No skating or ice-boating now," said Bert, "and not for some days. We'll have to wait for a thaw and another freeze."
"But we can take walks in the woods; can't we?" asked Nan. "Would you like that, Dorothy?"
"Indeed I would," was the answer.
"Can't we come?" asked Freddie. "Flossie and I have rubber boots."
"Yes, you may come for a little way," said Bert. "We won't go far. Say, Harry, we ought to have snowshoes for this sort of thing."
"That's right," agreed his cousin. "I saw a picture of some, but I don't believe I would know how to make them."
"I made some once, but they weren't much good," admitted Bert. "We'll get my father to show us how some day. It would be fun to take a trip on them over the snow."
Well wrapped up, the young folks set off through the woods, Snap trotting along with them, barking joyously. All about Snow Lodge, back from the lake, and on either side, were dense woods, and under the trees the snow was not as deep as in the open fields, for the branches kept part of it off. But it was deep enough to make walking hard.
"We can't go very far at this rate," said Nan, as she and Dorothy struggled on through the drifts.
"Let's go to that hill, and see what sort of view there is," suggested Harry.
"All right," agreed Bert.
"And we can stop there and eat our lunch," put in Freddie.
"Our lunch!" exclaimed Nan. "We didn't bring any lunch, dearie!"
"Flossie and I did!" cried "the little fat fireman," as his papa often called Freddie. "We thought we'd get hungry, so we had Dinah make us some sandwiches, and give us a piece of cake."
"I'm hungry now," said Flossie, and from under her cloak she drew out a bundle, which she opened, showing a rather crumpled sandwich and a piece of cake.
"I'm going to eat, too," decided Freddie, as he brought out his lunch.
"Well, I declare; you two are the greatest ever!" cried Bert. "But it was a good idea all the same!"
"Yes, I could eat something myself," admitted Harry. "I guess this air makes you hungry."
"We--we haven't got enough for all of us--I guess," said Freddie, looking wistfully at his package.
"Don't worry!" answered Harry with a laugh. "I won't take any, Freddie. I can wait until we get home."
Thereupon the two smaller twins proceeded to eat the lunch they had brought, doing this while trudging through the snow toward the little hill.
They reached the top, and stood for a time looking over the broad snow-covered expanse of lake and woods. Then they started down. But it was not easy work, especially for Flossie and Freddie, so the whole party stopped for a rest about half way.
They were sitting under a sheltering tree, looking at some flitting snow-birds, when from behind them came a curious sound. Bert looked back, and leaping to his feet, cried: "It's a snow slide! A snow slide! It's coming right toward us!"
Indeed a great drift of me white snow was sliding down the side of the hill toward the children. A great white ball seemed to have started it, and as Harry looked up he gave a cry of surprise.
"I saw a boy up there!" he said. "He pushed that snowball on us!"
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