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"How did it all happen?" asked Uncle Jack, a little later, as he led Flossie and Freddie along a path through the snow to his cabin in the woods. "Why are you two out ice-boating alone?"
"The rest of 'em spilled out," answered Freddie; "and I upset Flossie and me when I pulled on the wrong rope. But we're not hurt a bit. It was fun. Wasn't it, Flossie?"
"Ye--yes, I--I guess so."
"Hum! You're part of the Bobbsey twins, aren't you?" asked the old woodchopper, who made a living by cutting firewood and kindling wood in the forest, where he lived by himself in a lonely cabin all the year around.
"Yes, we're the littlest ones," answered Flossie. "Bert and Nan are bigger, but they fell off, too."
"So falling from an ice-boat doesn't go by sizes," laughed the old man.
Then, taking turns, Flossie and Freddie told the story of the runaway ice-boat, and of having left the rest of their family several miles away on the ice.
"We tried to stop, but we couldn't," said Flossie. "And, oh, dear! I wonder where Daddy and Mother are now." Flossie spoke as though it would not take much to make her cry.
"Don't worry," said Uncle Jack, as every one around Lakeport called him. "If your father and mother don't come for you I'll take you home."
"It--it's a long way to walk," said Freddie with a sigh. "And I guess Flossie is hungry. Aren't you?" he asked of his little sister.
"Well--a little," admitted the blue-eyed girl twin.
"How about you, little man?" asked Uncle Jack.
"I--I guess I am, too," Freddie admitted. "Have you got anything to eat?"
"Well, maybe we can find something in my cabin," said the old man. He had left his axe sticking in a tree near where the ice-boat had run into the snow bank, and was leading the children along by either hand. Flossie and Freddie looked up into his kindly, wrinkled face, the cheeks glowing red like two rosy apples, and they knew they would be well taken care of. Uncle Jack was a fine, honest man, and he was always kind to children, who, often in the Summer, would gather flowers near his lonely log cabin.
In a little while Flossie and Freddie were seated in front of a stove, in which crackled a hot fire, eating bread and milk, which was the best the woodchopper could offer them. But they were so hungry that, as Freddie said afterward, it tasted better than chicken and ice-cream.
"Haven't you got any little girl?" asked Flossie after a while.
"No, I haven't a chick or a child, I'm sorry to say."
"My father would give you a chicken if you wanted it," said Freddie. "And some days we could come and stay with you."
"That last part would be all right," said the old man with a smile; "but I haven't any place to keep a chicken. It would get lonesome, I'm afraid, while I'm off in the forest chopping wood. But I thank you just the same."
"Didn't you ever have any children?" asked Flossie, taking a second glass of milk which the kindly old man gave her.
"Never a one. Though when I was a boy I lived in a place where there were two children, I think. But it's all kind of hazy."
"Where was that?" asked Freddie, brushing up the last of the bread crumbs from his plate.
"I don't remember much about my folks. Most of my life has been spent working on farmers' land, until I got so old I could not plow or cut hay. Then the man who owns this forest said I might come here and chop firewood, and I did. I built this cabin myself, and I've lived all alone in it for many years."
This was so, for Jack had been in the woods from the time when Bert and Nan were babies, so Flossie and Freddie had often heard their older brother and sister say.
"Haven't you any folks?" asked Freddie.
"Well, I seem to remember that once I had a brother and a sister. But I lost track of them, and they lost me, I guess; so where they are now, if they're anywhere, I don't know. I'm all alone, I guess," and the woodchopper's face was sad.
"Never mind! We'll come to see you," said Flossie, with a smile. "But now maybe we'd better start home, Freddie. Papa and Mamma may be worried about us."
"I'll take you home, if you've had enough to eat," said Uncle Jack.
"Oh, we've had plenty, thank you," said Freddie. "But it's a long way to go home. If I could sail the ice-boat back----"
"I don't like that boat!" cried Flossie.
"How would you like to ride on a sled?" asked the woodchopper. "In a sled drawn by a horse with jingling bells?"
"That would be fine!" cried Freddie, clapping his hands. "But where is he--the horse, I mean?"
"Oh, out in my little stable. I built a small stable, as well as this cabin, for I have to haul my wood into town to sell it. I'll get my bobsled ready and tuck you in among the blankets that spilled from your ice-boat. Then I'll drive you home."
Flossie and Freddie liked this plan, and were soon snugly tucked in among their own robes, for the ice-boat had upset not far from the woodchopper's cabin.
"Your folks will likely be worried about you," said Uncle Jack, "so I'll get you home as fast as I can, though my horse isn't very speedy. He's getting old, like myself."
"You don't look old," said Flossie kindly.
"Well, I am. I'm old and full of pains and aches."
"Have you got a stomachache?" asked Flossie. "If you have my mother could give you some peppermint."
"My pain is in my bones and back; peppermint isn't much good for that. I guess I need to go to a hospital. But never mind me, I must look after you children now."
Along through the snow jogged the woodcutter's horse, his bells jingling as he hauled the sled over the road that led along the shore of the lake.
"What'll we do about Bert's ice-boat?" asked Flossie.
"I'll look after it until he comes for it," said Uncle Jack. "It isn't damaged any, and it will be all right. Few folks come down to this end of the lake in Winter. I have it all to myself."
"You must be lonesome," remarked Freddie.
"I am, sometimes. Often I wish I had folks, like other men. But it isn't to be, I reckon. G'lang there, Bucksaw."
"Is that the name of your horse?"
"Yes. Bucksaw is his name. Pretty good for a woodchopper's horse, I guess," and the old man smiled.
While Flossie and Freddie were being driven home by the woodchopper, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, with Bert and Nan, left far behind on the ice when the Bird upset, were much worried and excited.
"What can we do?" cried Bert.
"We must go after those children!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey.
"That's what I'm going to do," Mr. Bobbsey remarked.
"If I could borrow one of those ice-boats over there," put in Bert, pointing toward some on the other side of the lake, "I could sail down and get them."
"No more ice-boats to-day!" said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, I do hope nothing happens to Flossie and Freddie!"
"I don't believe they'll be hurt," said their father. "Even if they fall out they can't get much of a bump on the ice, and if they run ashore, as they're likely to do, they'll only fall in the snow. Don't worry."
"But we must go after them!" cried his wife.
"Just what I am going to do. Bert and I will go to shore, hire a team and drive down the lake after them. The road runs right along the lake shore and we'll be sure to see them, or hear something of them. They'll be all right."
It did not take Mr. Bobbsey and Bert long to get started on the search for the missing ones, for Flossie and Freddie in the ice-boat had sailed around the point of land, as I told you, and were out of sight of their folks.
Mrs. Bobbsey and Nan were taken home by some friends who happened to pass the lake in their automobile, and half-way to the woodcutter's cabin, though he had no idea the children had been there, Mr. Bobbsey and Bert met them being driven to Lakeport by Uncle Jack.
"Oh, there's Daddy!" cried Freddie.
"And Bert!" added Flossie, as she saw her brother. "Your ice-boat's all right," she added. "We just fell out of it."
"Are you all right?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, stopping his horses.
"Fine!" cried Freddie. "And we had bread and milk."
"Well, I'm sure I'm much obliged to you, Uncle Jack," said the children's father. "It was very kind of you."
Then Flossie and Freddie told their story, and the woodchopper told of having seen them tossed into the snow and of how he helped them out, and then Mr. Bobbsey told what had happened to him, the children's mother, Bert and Nan.
"I just pulled on the wrong rope, that's all, and I guess I steered the boat crooked," said Freddie with a laugh.
"You're lucky it was no worse," remarked Bert, laughing also. "But as long as you two are all right, and the Bird isn't damaged, I'm glad."
Mr. Bobbsey was also, and then he took the children into his sleigh, driving home with them while Uncle Jack turned back.
"I like him," said Flossie, speaking of the old woodchopper to her father. "He hasn't a chick or a child and he lives all alone in the woods."
"Yes, poor Uncle Jack doesn't have a very happy life," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I must see what we can do to help him."
Little was talked of in the Bobbsey home that afternoon and evening but the adventure with the ice-boat, and what had happened to Flossie and Freddie when it ran away with them.
The next day Bert and Tommy Todd got the Bird back and had fine times sailing in it. Flossie and Freddie, as well as some of their friends, were also given rides, but Bert cut the sail smaller so his boat would not go so fast, making it safer.
When the Bobbsey twins were not ice-boating they were skating, or building snow forts or snow men. Once Flossie and Freddie built a little snow house and got inside it with Snoop, the black cat, and Snap, the dog.
Everything was very nice, but the house was so small that, when they were all in it, there was not room for Snap to wag his tail. And as there never was a dog yet, with a tail, who did not want to wag it, you can easily guess what happened.
Either Snap wagged his tail in the faces of Flossie and Freddie or he whacked Snoop with it, and as the cat did not like that she ran out of the snow house.
But Snap kept on wagging his tail, and as Flossie and Freddie made him get to one side when he did it the only other place he had to wag it was against the sides of the snow house.
Now these snow sides were not very thick or strong--they were not made to be wagged against by a big dog's tail, and, all of a sudden, Snap wagged his tail right through the snow house.
Then, with a swish and a swush, down the snow house toppled right on the heads of Flossie, Freddie and Snap. Snap gave a howl and dug his way out. But the two small twins were laughing so hard that it took them a little longer to dig their way out.
They were not hurt in the least, however, and they thought it great fun to have the snow house fall on them when Snap's tail wagged too hard.
It was about a week after the funny ice-boat ride that Mr. Bobbsey came home from his office a little earlier than usual. He was smiling, and when his wife saw him she asked:
"Did it come?"
"Did what come?" asked Nan. "Are we going to have a new automobile, Mother?"
"Not yet, Nan."
"Then what came?"
"Glorious news!" cried her father, catching her up and kissing her. "Glorious news came in a letter. We are all going to a great city!"
"No, just on a visit," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, it is good news! I have been wanting to go for a long while. Come in, Bert--and you too, Flossie and Freddie--and hear the good news!" she called to the other twins. "Daddy has glorious news for us!"
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