UNCLE TOBY AGAIN
Daddy and Mother Martin fairly jumped from their chairs and hastened to the back door. Nora Jones, the jolly, good-natured cook, was before them. She had just finished the kitchen work, and was on her way to her room when she heard the shouts of Ted and Tom.
"Oh, Mrs. Martin! Something must have happened!" cried Nora.
"It sounds so," agreed Mrs. Martin.
"Oh, I hope they're not hurt!" murmured Jan.
Just then the shouts of the boys were mingled with laughter.
"It doesn't sound very serious," said Mr. Martin.
The back door was opened and the light from the kitchen shone on the toboggan slide. The light also showed Tom and Ted in a mixed-up mass at the bottom of the slide, each one holding a tin pail.
And as Mr. and Mrs. Martin and Janet and Nora hastened out they saw that both boys were dripping wet, and as they untangled their legs from each other and stood up, it could be seen that they were now shivering, for the night was cold.
"What in the world has happened?" asked Mother Martin.
"And what in the world have you been doing?" asked Daddy Martin, rather sternly.
It was very plain to be seen that Ted and Tom had been doing something.
"We—we—now—we were—" began Ted.
"Don't stand here to tell us! Get in the house and into dry clothes!" cried Ted's mother. "You'll catch your deaths of colds out here! Get in the house now and explain later! Are either of you hurt?" she asked, for she noticed that each boy was limping.
"Not much," answered Tom, trying to smile. "We just tumbled down the toboggan slide, that's all, and the water—"
"Never mind now; tell us later," said Mr. Martin.
And when Tom and Ted had taken off their wet clothes, Tom being given an extra suit of Ted's, the two boys, sitting by the fire, told what had happened.
"We wanted some real ice on the toboggan slide," explained Ted. "Rubbing candles on your sled runners is all right, but we wanted some real ice. It didn't snow, so I said, 'let's pour water on our slide and let it freeze tonight, 'cause it's cold.'"
"And did you?" asked his father, trying not to smile.
"Yes, Daddy, we did. But I guess it isn't frozen yet," answered Ted. "We were spilling pails of water down on the slide. We stood on the top platform where Trouble fell off of, and then, all of a sudden, I slipped, and—"
"Yes, and he grabbed hold of me, and then I slipped!" broke in Tom, with a laugh. "And we both went down the slide together with the pails. It was almost as slippery as if there was ice on it," he added.
"Yes, it was slippery all right," chuckled Ted. "And if it freezes tonight we'll have packs of fun tomorrow."
The thought of the fun they might have seemed to make the boys forget their present troubles.
"Well, I'm glad it isn't any worse," said Mrs. Martin. "You boys should be careful on that slide. Just think! You might have been hurt!"
"Oh, you can't get hurt on that slide," declared Ted. "It's nice and smooth. And, anyhow, I didn't mean to slip; I couldn't help it." He laughed as he remembered it, and Jan laughed too. She wished she had been there to see Tom and Ted toppling down the slide together with the empty pails banging. It was this that had made the noise.
"It was like Jack and Jill, falling down the hill," laughed Janet.
"That's right," agreed Tom. "But I guess I'd better be going home," he added. "Do you s'pose my things are dry yet?" he asked Mrs. Martin.
"Oh, mercy, no!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "They won't be dry until tomorrow. I'll have Nora hang them in the kitchen by the range."
"But I guess maybe—I'd like to, but—er—now—I don't guess my mother would like me to stay here all night," said Tom hesitatingly.
"You don't have to stay here all night," Mrs. Martin said.
"Well, but if my things aren't dry—"
"Oh, wear those of Ted's that you have on," laughed Mrs. Martin. "I didn't know what you meant. That's all right—wear those things of Ted's. He has plenty more. Yours will be dry in the morning."
"And I hope there'll be ice on the toboggan slide in the morning!" exclaimed Ted. "I wish you could stay all night, Tom. Couldn't he, Mother?" he asked wistfully. "We'd be awful good and he could sleep with me and we wouldn't pillow fight or anything. And Tom's better'n I am about spilling things on the tablecloth at breakfast."
"Oh, it wasn't that I was thinking of," said Mrs. Martin. "I was thinking his mother and father would want him home. It's getting late."
"But we don't have to get up early tomorrow. It's Saturday and there's no school!" pleaded Ted, eagerly.
"My mother wouldn't care if I didn't come home, as long as I was over here," said Tom, trying not to appear too eager, for that would have been almost like asking to remain.
"Well, I suppose it would be best for you not to go out in the cold again, after having been wet," said Mrs. Martin. "We could telephone to your mother, Tom."
"All right!" he cried joyfully.
"Hurray!" shouted Ted.
"Be careful! Don't awaken Trouble!" cautioned Mrs. Martin.
Thereupon the boys quieted down, but they were still bubbling over with mirth, talking about the fun they would have sleeping together and the other fun they would have on the toboggan slide the next day.
Mr. Martin telephoned to the Taylor home, explaining about the little accident that had happened to Tom, and suggesting that, if it was all right, he should remain with the Curlytops that night. Mr. Taylor said it would be all right, and thanked Mr. Martin for his kindness.
Janet remained up a little longer, listening to Tom and Ted telling over again just how they had carried pails of water to the top of the wooden slope, spilling down the sloping boards the liquid which swished its way like rapids in a river. And then came the tumble and fall of the boys.
"Boys, as long as you are going to have good times tomorrow I suggest that you go to bed now," said Mrs. Martin, when it was past nine o'clock.
"I want to get a glass of water first," said Ted, going toward the kitchen.
"You can get a drink up in the bathroom," his mother told him.
"I don't want this to drink," Ted explained. "I want to fill a glass full of water and set it out on the steps."
"What for?" Janet wanted to know. "No birds will come to drink at night," she added, for she and her brother had made a bird-feeding station in their yard, and also a little shallow basin where the feathered songsters could bathe and drink.
"This isn't for birds," Ted explained. "I just want to set a glass of water outside and wait to see if it freezes. If it does, then we'll know if there's going to be ice on our toboggan slide in the morning."
"Nonsense!" laughed his mother. "I can't let you stay up until you find out if a glass of water will freeze. It would take too long."
"Not to see if just the top froze over," insisted Ted. "I don't mean until the whole glass freezes solid. I know that would take a long time."
"No, no!" laughed his mother, giving him a friendly little push from the room. "Go to bed! I think it will be cold enough to make at least a skim of ice on your toboggan slide. But not much more. So don't be disappointed if you have to use candles on your sled runners tomorrow."
However, Ted, and Janet, and Tom went to bed filled with joyous hopes for the next day. The boys were almost as good as they promised to be, not having any pillow fight. But they did "cut up" a little, and had to be told, more than once, to get quiet and go to sleep. And finally they did.
In spite of the fact that the morning brought Saturday, with no school, when the children might have slept later had they wished, Tom and Ted were up earlier than usual. Hardly stopping to dress properly, the two boys ran out into the yard and to the toboggan slide.
"Hurray!" cried Tom. "She froze!"
"Oh, what a nifty lot of ice!" exclaimed Ted.
And the sloping boards of the toboggan slide were covered with a film that glistened and sparkled in the sun. The morning air was cold, too, and the boys felt sure the ice that had formed from the water they poured on would not soon melt.
"Come on, Janet!" cried Tom, after breakfast. "Now you can have a real toboggan ride!"
"Me, too!" called Trouble, banging his oatmeal spoon on his plate.
"After a while, dear. You aren't dressed yet," his mother told the little fellow.
Indeed the toboggan was a real hill of ice now, though the frozen covering was thin. And the children had many fine coasts on it, for the sleds went faster than when greased with candles.
Lola Taylor came over, and so did other playmates of the Curlytops, and you can be sure that after this the thin coating of ice on the boards did not last long. It began to wear off and wear thin, first in one place and then in another, the rising sun helping to melt it. And before noon there was no ice left.
However, the boys and girls had had lots of jolly good fun, and Trouble also had his share. As the boards, once they were wet from the melting ice, were too sticky for the candle-greased sleds to coast on, the fun had to be given up just before noon.
But after dinner Tom and Ted found something else that gave them an adventure. A little brook ran through a meadow, not far from the home of the Curlytops, and on a part of this that was in the shadow from a hill there was some ice that was quite thick, and it remained unmelted, as the sun did not shine on it.
"Oh, look!" cried Ted, as the two chums, wandering through the meadow in search of fun, saw the ice. "Look! We can have a slide!"
"Will it hold?" asked Tom.
"Sure! Look at Skyrocket!" answered Ted.
The dog had walked out on the thin ice which held him up. But the boys did not stop to think that Skyrocket was not as heavy as either of them. Also Skyrocket was on four feet, and his weight was more scattered, being distributed over a larger surface than theirs would be. But Tom and Ted never thought of this. Ice that would hold Skyrocket would hold them, they thought.
In another instant they had walked out on it and were just going to run and take a little slide when there was a cracking sound, and, before they knew it, both lads had plunged into the brook at one of the deep parts.
"Oh! Oh!" cried Tom and Ted together, for they were quite frightened.
Skyrocket barked and capered about. He did not know whether this was a game the boys were playing, or whether their cries meant danger. To tell the truth there was not really much danger, as the brook was not up to the knees of the boys at this point.
They remained upright, floundering about and struggling in the cold water amid chunks of thin ice. For the ice was really too thin to hold them.
"Oh, what are we going to do?" cried Tom.
"I'm nearer shore than you are!" panted Ted. "Grab hold of my hand and I'll help you out!"
But as the boys were struggling together they heard a voice shouting at them from the far side of the meadow. They looked and saw a man running toward them. He reached them before they had gotten to the bank where Skyrocket was wildly barking, and, reaching his hands out to them, the man pulled Tom and Ted to safety.
"What in the world are you lads up to?" the man asked.
Something in the voice caused Ted to look up, and he cried.
"Yes, Uncle Toby!" admitted the man, with a laugh. "It's a good thing I happened to take the short cut across lots from the railroad. Now tell me why you chaps went in swimming on a day like this?" and he looked first at Ted and then at Tom.