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"Quick!" cried Bert, as he looked at the swiftly-sliding snow, "get close to the tree--on the downward side of it, and maybe the drift will go around us. Harry, you look after Freddie, and I'll take care of Flossie!"
As he spoke Bert grabbed up his little sister and hurried closer to the tree. It was a big pine, and they had been sitting under its branches, on some big rocks, as the slide started.
"What shall we do?" cried Nan. "Can't Dorothy and I help?"
"Take care of yourselves," answered Bert. "I guess it will split at the tree and not hurt us."
The snow slide had started at the top of the hill, whether from some snowball a boy had made, and rolled down, or from some other cause, Bert did not stop to consider. He was too anxious to get his little brother and sister to safety.
The snow was rather soft, and just right for the making of big balls, of the kind that had been put on the school steps. And, as it continued to slide down the hill, the mass of snow got larger and larger, until it was big enough to frighten even older persons than the Bobbsey twins and their cousins.
Harry had reached the tree with Freddie at the same time that Bert came to the protecting trunk with his little sister. Nan and Dorothy also were struggling toward it.
"Form in line!" called Bert. "In a long string down the hill, and every one stand right in line with the tree. The big trunk may split the snow slide in two."
He and Harry took their positions nearest the trunk, with Flossie and Freddie between them. Nan and Dorothy came next. Bert clasped the tree trunk with both arms, and told Harry to grasp him as tightly as he could.
"And you and Flossie hold on to Harry, Freddie," Bert directed. "Nan, you and Dorothy hold on to the little ones. Here she comes!"
By this time the snowslide had reached the tree, and the mass was now much larger than at first. Freddie and Flossie felt like crying, but they were brave and did not. It was an anxious moment.
Then just what Bert had hoped would happen came to pass. The snow slide was split in two by the tree trunk, and slid to either side, leaving the Bobbsey twins and their cousins safe.
"Oh!" gasped Nan.
"What was that you said about seeing someone up there on top of the hill?" asked Bert of Harry, a little later.
"I did see someone there just before the snow began to slide, and I'm almost sure I saw him roll that ball down that started the slide," answered Harry.
"Is that so? Could you see his face?"
"Not very well."
"Never mind. You don't know Danny Rugg, anyhow."
"Oh, Bert! Do you think Danny could have done such a thing as that?" asked Nan, in shocked tones.
"He might; not thinking how dangerous it would be," answered her brother. "I'm going up there and take a look."
"What for?" asked Dorothy.
"To see if I can find any marks in the snow. If someone was up there making a big snow ball to roll down on us there will be some marks of it. And if it was Danny Rugg I'll have something to say to him."
"He wouldn't be there now, probably," said Harry. "But do you think it would be safe to go up the side of the hill?"
"Yes, it would, by keeping right in the path of where the snow slide came down," answered Bert. "There's hardly any more snow to come down, now."
"Then I'll go with you," said Harry.
Leaving the two girls, with Flossie and Freddie, at the tree, Bert and Harry made their way up to the top of the slope. There they saw the signs of where, some one--a boy to judge by the marks of his shoes-- had tramped about, rolling a big snowball.
"That's what happened," decided Bert. "Danny Rugg, or some other mean chap, started that slide toward us. And I think it must have been Danny. He's up around here somewhere, and he's the only one who would have a grudge against me."
Several days went by at the Lodge, and they were very busy ones. As soon as breakfast was over the boys and girls would go for a walk, or would coast down hill on a slope not far away from the old farmhouse. Freddie and Flossie were not allowed to go very far away, as it was hard traveling. But they had good times around the house, and out in the old barn.
Bert and Harry made snowshoes out of barrel staves, fastening them to their feet with straps. They managed to walk fairly well on the crust.
The lake was still covered with a coating of snow, and there was no skating, nor could the ice-boat be used. Mr. Bobbsey, with Harry and Bert, took the team of horses one afternoon and went after the Ice Bird. They found it where Bert had left it the night of the storm. and hitching the horses to it, pulled the craft to the dock in front of Snow Lodge.
"It will be all ready for us when the snow is gone," said Bert.
The nights in Snow Lodge were filled with fun. Mr. Bobbsey had bought a barrel of apples, and when the family gathered about the fireplace there were put to roast in the heat of the glowing embers.
Corn was popped, and then it was eaten, with salt and butter on, or with melted sugar poured over it. Sometimes they would make candy, and once, when they did this, a funny thing happened.
Bert, Nan, Flossie and Freddie, with the two cousins, had been out in the kitchen making a panful of the sweets. I must say that Dinah did the most work, but the children always declared that they made the candy. Anyhow, Dinah always washed up the pans and dishes afterward.
"Now we'll set it out on the back steps to cool," said Nan, "and then we'll pull it into sticks."
The candy was soon in the condition for "pulling" and, putting butter on their fingers, so the sweet stuff would not stick to them, the children began their fun.
The more they pulled the candy the harder it got, and the lighter in color, Flossie and Freddie soon tired of the work, that was hard on their little arms, and Nan set their rolls of candy outside again to cool, ready for eating.
All at once a great howling was heard at the back stoop, and Flossie cried:
"Oh, someone is taking my candy!"
Bert laid the lump he was pulling down on the table, and rushed to the kitchen door. As he looked out he laughed.
"Oh, look!" he cried. "Snap tried to eat your candy, Freddie, and it's stuck to his jaws. He can't get his mouth open!"
This was just what had happened. Snap, playing around outside, had smelled the cooling candy. He was fond of sweets and in a moment had bitten on a big chunk. In an instant his jaws seemed glued together, and he set up a howl of pain and surprise.
"Oh, my lovely candy!" cried Freddie. "You bad Snap!"
"I guess Snap is punished enough," said Mrs. Bobbsey, coming to the kitchen to find out what the trouble was. And the poor dog was. He would not get his jaws open for some time, so sticky was the candy, and finally Bert had to put his pet's mouth in warm water, holding it there until the candy softened. Then Snap could open his jaws, and get rid of the rest of the sweet stuff in his mouth. He looked very much surprised at what had happened.
Freddie was given more candy to pull, and this time he set the pan in which he put it up high where no dog could get at it.
With the roasting of apples, making of popcorn and pulling of candy, many pleasant evenings were spent. Then came a thaw, and some rain that carried off most of the snow. A freeze followed, and the lake was frozen over solidly.
"Now for skates and our ice-boat!" cried Bert, and the fun started as soon as the lake was safe. The children had many good times, often going up to the nearest village in the ice-boat.
Sometimes Bert had races with other ice-boats, and occasionally he won even against larger craft that were boughten, instead of being home- made. But almost as often the Ice Bird came in last. But Bert and the others did not care. They were having a good time.
Bert met Danny Rugg in the woods one day, and spoke to him about the snow slide. Danny said he had had nothing to do with it, but Bert did not believe the bully.
Then came a spell of fine, warm weather, and as there was no snow on the ground, Bert, Nan, Dorothy and Harry decided to take a long walk one afternoon. Nan wanted to get some views with her new camera.
So interested did they all become that they never noticed how late it was, nor how far they had come.
"Oh, we must turn back!" cried Nan, when she did realize that it would soon be dark. "We're a good way from Snow Lodge."
"Oh, we can easily get back," declared Bert. "I know the path."
But though Bert might know the path they had come by daylight, it was quite different to find it after dark. However, he led the way, certain that he was going right. But when they had gone on for some distance, and saw no familiar landmarks, Nan stopped and asked:
"Are you sure this is the right path, Bert? I don't remember passing any of these rocks," and she pointed to a group of them under some trees. "I don't, either," said Dorothy.
"Well, maybe this path leads into the right one," suggested Harry. "Let's keep on a little farther."
There seemed to be nothing else to do, so forward they went. Then a few flakes of snow began to fall, and they rapidly increased until the air was white with them. It made the scene a little lighter, but it caused Bert and the others to worry a good deal.
"I hope this isn't going to be much of a storm," said Bert in a low voice to Harry.
"Why not? It would make good sleigh riding."
"Yes, but it's no fun to be in the woods when it storms; especially at night and when you're--lost."
"Lost!" cried Harry. "Are we lost?"
"I'm afraid so," answered Bert, solemnly. "I haven't seen anything that looked like the path we came over for a long time. I guess we're lost, all right."
"Oh! Oh!" cried Dorothy.
"Will we have to stay out in the woods all night?" Nan wanted to know.
Bert shook his head sadly.
"I'm afraid so," he said.
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