OFF TO CRYSTAL LAKE
This was not the first time Trouble Martin had been lost or missing. It happened more or less often at home in Cresco, and once when the Curlytops had come to Uncle Toby's. But he had never before been lost after a big snow storm—that is, as far as Janet or Teddy could remember. What Janet was afraid of was that her little brother might wander off and fall into some drift. For the snow was deep in places not very far from Uncle Toby's house.
"Oh, we'll find him!" declared Ted. "He can't be far off. We didn't want him playing around our fort for fear he'd spoil it."
"And I sent him away from our snowman on the same account," sighed Janet. "I wish I had kept him by me."
Aunt Sallie came out of the house, her apron thrown over her head.
"Did you find Trouble?" she asked.
"No'm," chorused the children.
"Dear me!" exclaimed the old lady. "You must call Uncle Toby and tell him. He's out in the barn working over the auto, getting ready for the trip to Crystal Lake. Go tell him Trouble is missing."
Janet and the others thought this would be the best thing to do, and Uncle Toby soon heard the latest happening regarding the Curlytops.
"If Trouble isn't in the house nor around where you are playing, he must have wandered off down the street," said Uncle Toby. "The walks have been pretty well cleaned off by this time. The snowplow has been along." For in Pocono the street cleaning department sent out a big snowplow, drawn by horses, after every big storm, and thus the sidewalks were made easy to walk on without waiting for each householder to clean his own space.
"But where would he go?" asked Janet, hardly able to keep back her tears.
"That's what we must find out," said Uncle Toby. "Don't worry. We'll find him. I'll ask the police if they've seen him. A little chap like Trouble would be sure to be noticed."
"Unless maybe he fell in a snowdrift," suggested Janet.
"If he fell in he'd shout and cry until some of us came to help him out," said Uncle Toby. "Now we'll start a searching party. I'll go with you girls up the street, and the three boys can go down the street. Ask every one you meet if they have seen Trouble."
"Only," suggested Jan, "we'd better give him his right name of William."
"That's so!" laughed Uncle Toby. "If we go along asking every one we meet if they have seen Trouble, they'll think we are trying to make fun of them. Yes, we must ask for news of a little boy named William."
So they started out, Ted, Tom and Harry going one way, and Uncle Toby and the three girls the other way. Aunt Sallie remained behind in the house, but she was very anxious, and she said she would call up police headquarters, asking that each officer be told to be on the lookout.
At first the question asked by the searchers had no effect. No one seemed to have noticed Trouble toddling along the streets, which, as Uncle Toby had said, were now quite free from snow, which was piled high on either side.
"Maybe he wandered off toward the woods," suggested Lola, for there was a clump of trees, called "woods" not far from Uncle Toby's house.
"I don't believe so," was Mr. Bardeen's answer. "I think he wouldn't go there alone. But here comes Policeman McCarthy. I'll ask him."
And, to the delight of the girls, Policeman McCarthy said he had seen a little boy going along the street a few minutes before.
"I don't know what his name was," the officer said. "But he was dressed just as you say. He seemed to know where he was going, so I didn't stop him, though he was pretty little to be out alone."
"Where did he go?" asked Uncle Toby.
"Right down that way," answered the policeman, pointing. "He was standing in front of that barber shop the last I saw him."
"Oh, now I know where he's gone!" suddenly cried Janet.
"Where?" asked Uncle Toby.
"In the barber shop," answered the little girl. "Trouble was in the bathroom this morning, Uncle Toby, getting washed," Janet explained. "He found some of your shaving soap, and he liked the smell of it. He was rubbing it on his face when I stopped him. He asked me where you got your soap and I told him in a barber shop, I thought. Then he wanted to know what a barber shop was like, and I told him it was a place that had a red, white, and blue pole in front of it. So that's where he's gone—to the barber shop to get some of that nice smelling soap."
"I shouldn't wonder," agreed Uncle Toby. "I hope the barber kept him there, if he went in."
They hurried to the shop in front of which was a gay red, white, and blue pole, and there they found Trouble. But they found him more than just inquiring for scented soap, for he was up in the chair, kept specially for children.
In front of Trouble, draped around his neck, was a white apron, and the barber, with comb and scissors, was just about to cut the little fellow's long hair.
"Trouble! What are you doing?" cried Uncle Toby, his voice causing the barber to turn around in surprise.
"I goin' get hair cut!" announced the little fellow.
"Oh, no! You mustn't!" exclaimed Jan.
"I wants hair cut an' nice smelly stuff on my face," announced the little fellow, holding tightly to the arms of the barber's chair, lest he be made to come out.
"No, no!" said Janet. "Not now, Trouble!"
"Didn't some of you send him to have his hair trimmed?" asked the barber, in some surprise.
"No, indeed!" laughed Uncle Toby, who knew the barber quite well. "He ran off by himself. I'm glad we reached here in time to stop you. He's a little tyke; that's what he is!"
"Well, he came in here as bold as you please," said Mr. Miller, the barber. "He climbed up in the chair himself, and though he didn't tell me so exactly, I thought he wanted a haircut, as it's pretty long. He did say he wanted some nice perfume on him, but all the children say that when they come in here. And I've often had them as young as he is come in here alone. But of course their fathers or mothers sent 'em. And you didn't send this little chap?" he asked, as he helped Trouble down out of the chair, much to William's disgust.
"No, we didn't send him," chuckled Uncle Toby. "He just took the notion himself. Tried some of my shaving soap this morning, so his sister says. Well, I am glad he's found. We'd better take him back so the boys will know we've come to the end of the search. You mustn't do anything like this again, Trouble," said Uncle Toby, a bit sternly, shaking his finger at William.
"Nope!" he readily promised. "Maybe I have some nice smelly stuff take home?" he added hopefully.
"Here you are!" laughed the barber, and he gave Trouble a little cake of scented soap.
"You gave us a big scare," said Janet, when they were on their way back to Uncle Toby's house.
"You make big snowman?" asked Trouble, and that's about all he seemed to care. Janet wanted to laugh, but she did not think it wise.
They met the boys coming back, Ted and the other two being anxious, as of course they had heard no word about the missing wanderer. But they saw William in Uncle Toby's arms, and knew everything was now all right.
"I'll keep my eye on you after this," said Janet when the children were once more playing in the snow around Uncle Toby's house.
But it was one thing to say she would keep watch over a little chap like Trouble, and another thing actually to do it. And William made more trouble before the day was over.
Evening came, when it was time to stop playing out of doors and come into the house. And it was after supper when the children were sitting in the living room, listening to Uncle Toby tell a story, that Aunt Sallie came running in from the kitchen.
"Oh, Uncle Toby!" she cried. "There's a leak in one of the pipes. There's a big puddle of water in the middle of the kitchen floor. It was dry when I went up to see if the beds were ready, and when I came down, just now, I found a lot of water there."
"A broken pipe? That's too bad!" exclaimed Uncle Toby. "I may be able to fix it myself; but if I can't, we'll have hard work getting a plumber this time of night. I can shut off the water in the cellar, though, I suppose. I'll take a look."
The children followed Uncle Toby and Aunt Sallie out to the kitchen. Surely enough there was a large puddle of water in the middle of the oilcloth. Uncle Toby looked up and around, and said:
"I can't see what pipe has burst. If it was one in the kitchen the water would be spurting out now. It seems to come from under the sink."
By this time Trouble was toddling across the room toward the sink, under which was a sort of cupboard with two swinging doors. The little fellow was trying to open one of these doors.
"Here, Trouble! Let Uncle Toby look!" said Ted.
"I wants get my snowball," announced William.
"Your snowball!" cried Jan.
"Yep! I put big snowball there when I comed in. Wants to get it now," and William tugged at the sink door.
"Ha! Maybe that's where the water came from!" cried Uncle Toby.
And it was. As the sink cupboard was opened more water was seen, and in the midst of the puddle there floated what was left of a large ball of snow. Trouble had brought it in, put it under the sink when no one was looking, and there the warmth of the kitchen stove had slowly melted it, causing the water to run out under the doors.
"What in the world made you put a snowball in there, Trouble?" asked Ted, as Aunt Sallie mopped up the water.
"Maybe I wants make snowman in night," was Trouble's answer.
That may have been his reason—no one could tell. At any rate, no great harm was done, as the snow water was clean and the oilcloth was soon wiped dry.
"I guess you'd better go to bed before you get into any more mischief," said Janet.
And soon the Curlytops and their playmates were all sound asleep.
The next day it rained, and as the weather turned warm the snow was soon nearly all melted or washed away.
"So much the better for making the trip to Crystal Lake," said Uncle Toby. "I don't care what it does after we get there, but I like good going through the woods."
"Oh, what fun we'll have at Crystal Lake!" cried the Curlytops and their playmates.
They started three days later, in the big automobile. Uncle Toby, Aunt Sallie, the children, and Skyrocket. Uncle Toby hired a neighbor man and his wife to come and look after the pets, including the new kitten, Fluff, while he was at camp for the holidays.
"Hurray! Here we go!" cried Ted and the others, as Uncle Toby started the automobile.
As they were turning out of the drive a boy came riding up the street on a bicycle, waving a yellow envelope in his hand.
"Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" he shouted. "Here's a telegram!"