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The Bobbsey twins at first did not know what to think of the queer man who had fallen down in the snow just as he reached the top of the hill, at the bottom of which was the train wreck. But when Bert noticed the bleeding cut on the head he guessed what had happened.
"I guess he was one of the passengers, and got hurt," said the boy to Nan.
"I guess so, too." she said.
Flossie and Freddie, not having Sam's hand to take hold of now, were holding each other's and watching the colored man help the stranger.
"Hold on now! Jest take it easy!" advised Sam, in, a soothing voice. "Yo's gwine to feel better soon. Is you much hurted?"
The man seemed more dazed than ever. He put his hand to his head, letting go of the banana he had been holding, and when he saw that his fingers were red, because they had touched the bloody cut, he exclaimed:
"Oh, now I remember what happened! I was in the train wreck!"
"That's right! I guess you was," said Sam, "You come up de hill from down by de railroad tracks, an' you done slipped back down ag'in almost! I jest caught you in time!"
"Thank you," said the man. "I really didn't know what I was doing. All I wanted to do was to get away from the wreck, and I took the first path I saw. I must have got out of breath, for when I reached the top of the hill I couldn't go any more, and I just slipped down."
"I saw you!" exclaimed Sam. "Maybe dat whack you got on top ob yo' haid makes you feel funny."
"I rather think it does," said the man. "But I'm feeling better now. When the crash came I jumped out of my seat--as soon as I could get up after being knocked down--and rushed out of the car. I must have been wandering around for some time. Then I saw this path leading up the hill and I took it."
"Why didn't you put your hat on?" asked Bert, who, with the other Bobbsey twins, had been looking closely at the stranger.
"My hat? That's so, I did forget to put it on," he said, and, for the first time, he seemed to remember that he was carrying his hat in his hand.
"You might catch cold," remarked Nan.
"That's right, little girl--so I might," he said, and he smiled at her. He had a kind smile, had the man, though his face looked weary and sad.
"Did you get much hurt in the wreck?" asked Bert.
"No, I think not," was the answer, and again he put his hand to his head. "It's only a cut, I'm thankful to say. I'll be all right in a little while. I'll hold a little snow to it. That will wash the blood off, as well as water would."
With Sam's help, he now managed to stand up. The colored man took up a handful of snow and gave it to the stranger, who held it to the cut on his head. The cold snow seemed to make him feel better, and when he had wiped away the blood he put on his hat, shook the snow from his overcoat, and looked at the banana which he had dropped in a drift.
"Well, I do declare!" cried the stranger.
"What's de mattah?" asked Sam.
"Why, all the while I thought that banana was my satchel," was the answer. "I was eating it when the crash came--eating the banana I mean, not my satchel," and he smiled at Bert and Nan, who smiled back at this little joke. Flossie and Freddie stood there looking on.
"I was sitting in my seat, eating this banana," went on the man, "when, all of a sudden, there was a terrible crash, and I was so shaken up, together with a lot of other passengers, that I fell out of my seat. That's how my head was cut, I suppose. I thought I was grabbing up my satchel, so I could run out and be safe, but I must have kept hold of the banana instead.
"I know I got my hat down from the rack overhead, where I had put it, and then out I rushed. My! it was a terrible sight, though I heard it said that nobody was killed, and I'm glad of that. But it was a terrific crash, and it made me feel dizzy. I evidently didn't know what I was doing."
"I should think so, sah!" exclaimed Sam with a smile. "When a body takes a banana for a satchel he's jest natchully out ob his mind I say!"
"I didn't seem to come to myself until I got up here on top of the hill," went on the man "But I'm feeling better now. I'm not really hurt at all, except this cut on my head, and that's only a scratch. I'm going down and get my satchel. I can see the car I was in. It isn't smashed at all. I'll go for my valise."
"I'll go with you," offered Sam. "You chilluns stay heah till I come back," he went on. "Don't move away. I got to he'p dis gen'man find his baggage."
"It will be a great help to me," said the man.
"I might get dizzy again and fall. It's rather steep going down that hill. Will the children be all right if you leave them?"
"Yes, we'll stay right here," promised Nan.
"And we'll look after Flossie and Freddie," added Bert
With this promise, Sam thought it would be all right to go down to the wreck and help the stranger look for the valise he had left near his seat in the car. While the two men were gone, the colored servant helping the other, the Bobbsey twins watched the railroad men starting to clear away the wreck. A big derrick had been brought up on another train, and with this the engines and cars that had left the tracks could be lifted back on to them.
In a short time Sam came back with the man, and the colored helper at the Bobbsey home was carrying a large valise.
"We found it all right," said the stranger. "It was right near my seat. I might have stayed there, but I was so excited I didn't know what I was doing. What place is this, anyhow?"
"This is Lakeport," answered Bert. "The station's down the track a little way. Your train hadn't got to it yet."
"No, the other train got in the way," said the man with a smile. "Well, accidents will happen, I suppose. So this is Lakeport! Well, this is the very place I was coming to, but I didn't expect to reach it amid so much excitement."
"You were coming here?" repeated Nan.
"To Lakeport, yes. I want to find a Mr. Richard Bobbsey. Maybe you children can tell me where he lives."
The Bobbsey twins looked so surprised on hearing this that the man gazed at them in astonishment.
"Do you know Mr. Bobbsey?" he asked. "I hope he hasn't moved away from here. I want to see him most particularly. Do you know him?"
"Does dey know him!" exclaimed Sam, his eyes opening wide. "Does dey know him? Well I should say dey does!"
"He's our father!" exclaimed Nan and Bert together.
"Mr. Bobbsey your father! Well, I do declare!" cried the strange man, and he smiled at the children. They were beginning to like him very much. "Just think of that now!" he went on. "My railroad train gets in a wreck right near Lakeport, where I want to get off, and first I know I run into Mr. Bobbsey's children! Well, well! To think of that!"
"Here comes daddy now!" cried Flossie, pointing to a figure walking over the snow toward them.
"Oh, Daddy, I saw the train wreck!" yelled Freddie. "And I saw the firemans, I did, but they didn't have any engines, and I--I--I saw--" But Freddie was too much out of breath from running to meet his father to tell any more just then.
It was indeed Mr. Bobbsey who had come along just then. He had come home earlier than usual from the lumberyard office, and his wife had told him that the children had gone down the street with Sam to look at the railroad wreck.
"I'll go down and bring them back," said Mr. Bobbsey, "I heard about the wreck. It isn't as bad as at first they thought it was. No one was killed."
"I'm glad of that," replied his wife. "I told Sam to bring the children back if it was too bad."
So it had come about that Mr. Bobbsey reached the top of the cut, down in which the railroad wreck was, just as the strange man was asking the Bobbsey children about their father.
"Well, little fireman and little fat fairy," asked Mr. Bobbsey of Flossie and Freddie, "did you see all there was to see?"
"I saw the engines all smashed together," answered Flossie.
"And I saw a fireman help get a lady out of a car," added Freddie.
"Is this Mr. Bobbsey?" asked the voice of the man, as he stepped forward and stood near the children's father.
"Yes, that is my name," was the answer. "Did you wish to see me?"
"I came all the way to Lakeport for that," the stranger went on; "but I didn't mean to come in just this exciting way."
"Were you in the wreck?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Oh, yes, he was in it, and he thought a banana was his satchel!" exclaimed Flossie, "Wasn't that funny, Daddy?"
Mr. Bobbsey did not quite know what to make of this.
"Your little girl is quite right," said the man. "I was so excited, from being in the wreck, where I got a cut on the head, that I rushed from the car carrying a banana instead of my valise.
"However, I'm all right now, and Sam here, as the children call him, was good enough to help me get back my satchel," went on the man. "I was just telling the children that I came here to find Mr. Bobbsey, when, to my great surprise, they let me know that he is their father, and along you came."
"Yes, these are my youngsters," said Mr. Bobbsey, smiling at Bert and Nan and Flossie and Freddie. "Sam Johnson helps us look after them, and his wife, Dinah, cooks for us. But what did you want to see me about?" and he looked at the man.
"Don't you remember me?" came the question.
Mr. Bobbsey looked more closely at the stranger. He did not recognize him.
"Hickson is my name," said the man.
"Hiram Hickson. I used to know you when--"
"Oh, now I remember! Now I know you!" cried Mr. Bobbsey. "Hiram Hickson! Of course! I remember you well now! Well, well! This is a surprise! How did you come--"
But just then a loud shouting in the railroad cut below caused Mr. Bobbsey to stop speaking.
"Look out! Look out!" came the cry, and people began rushing away from the cars, some of which were almost overturned, while others were completely on their side. "Look out!" cried the warning voice again.
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