A FLURRY OF SNOW
Uncle Toby drove the Martin automobile through the streets of Cresco. The car was a large, comfortable, roomy one, all enclosed, so that the cold weather would make no difference. There was even a small heating apparatus, a sort of radiator kept warm by the muffler under the car, so that the children would be cozy and warm even in a snow storm.
"There's Tommie Wilson!" called Ted, as he saw a boy walking along the street. "He's got to go to school!"
"Yes, and there's Bob Newton," added Tom. "I guess they wish they were like us, and didn't have to go to school!"
"Oh, you'll have to go to school as soon as we get out to Crystal Lake," declared Uncle Toby. "Don't imagine, because you are going to have holiday fun, that you won't have to go to school."
"But it'll be more fun going to school out there than it will be here," said Tom.
"Sure it will!" agreed Ted.
Lola and Jan leaned over toward the side window of the auto to wave to Jennie Jackson, a girl they both knew, and Jennie waved back, wonder showing on her face at the appearance of the Curlytops and their playmates going off in an automobile. And when the other children of Cresco learned what had happened to Ted, Jan, Tom, and Lola there were some sighs of disappointment that such good luck had not happened to every boy and girl.
Skyrocket seemed to be enjoying himself very much. He was a well-behaved dog and appeared to enjoy the ride in the automobile. He was perched on the front seat, between Ted and Tom, who sat beside Uncle Toby. In the back were the two girls and the baggage.
"Oh!" exclaimed Ted, when they had ridden on some little distance and Uncle Toby had turned into the broad highway that led to Pocono, several miles away. "Oh, I forgot all about it!"
"Forgot about what?" asked Uncle Toby, as he stopped his big automobile to let a little car shoot out of a side street.
"I forgot to tell the fellows they could use our toboggan slide while we're gone," explained Ted.
"That's right!" agreed Tom. "Bob Newton and some of the other boys could have fun on it after the snow comes. We ought to have told 'em!"
"Shall we have one out at Crystal Lake, Uncle Toby?" asked Ted.
"I reckon we can rig up one," was the answer. "There is a man out there who has a real toboggan, too, one he brought from Canada."
"Oh, that'll be great!" cried Tom.
On went the big car with the Curlytops and their playmates, bearing them to the happy country where they hoped to have much fun over the Christmas holidays that would soon be at hand. The children looked out of the windows of the car. They had made an early start, soon after sunrise, but now the sun had gone under clouds.
"Do you think it will snow?" Ted anxiously asked of Uncle Toby.
"I shouldn't wonder but what it might," was the answer. "Do you want it to?"
"Sure we do!" cried all four children at once, and Trouble added:
"I make a snow man, I will!"
"Well, then I guess it will snow," chuckled Uncle Toby. "And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we should have a storm before we get to my place," he added.
"Do you mean before we get to Crystal Lake?" asked Janet.
"No, for we aren't going there direct," said Uncle Toby. "We are first going to my place in Pocono, where we'll stay a few days. I have to get some things there, and also take aboard two more children."
"Two more children?" cried Ted and Janet. Then Ted added:
"Who are they?"
"I hope they'll be playmates for you," answered Mr. Bardeen. "I'll tell you about them later. Anyhow, first we'll go to Pocono, and later, in a day or so, out to Crystal Lake. That will give you time to meet the pets again."
"Are you going to take them out to the Lake with you?" asked Tom, who knew about the different animals Uncle Toby was so fond of.
"Well, no, I hardly think so," was the answer. "It will be pretty cold for my alligator, the monkey, and the parrot. Snuff, my cat, will be better off if she stays at my house in Pocono. But you can take Skyrocket out with you."
"That'll be all right," decided Ted. "But it would be a lot of fun if we could have all the pets out at the Lake."
"I'm afraid you'll be so busy having good times out of doors, and going to school, at least a little, that you wouldn't have much chance to play with the pets," chuckled Uncle Toby. "And I wouldn't want any of them to take cold. A dog is all right, romping out in the snow, but frost wasn't meant for monkeys and parrots."
"Where will you get these two new children that are going to be our playmates?" asked Jan.
"They are coming on a train. I expect they'll arrive at Pocono soon after we get there. I'll tell you about them later. They are poor children, and they haven't had as many good times as you Curlytops have had, so I hope you'll be kind to them."
"Oh, we will!" chorused all four.
"An' I tish 'em, dat's what I do!" declared Trouble.
"Yes, and I'll 'tish' you!" laughed Lola, as she kissed the little chap.
On and on rumbled the big auto, until it came to a small town, which, as soon as they reached the center of it, Ted and Janet remembered.
"We stopped here for dinner when we were going out to your place this summer!" cried Janet to Uncle Toby.
"Yes. And we're going to stop here for lunch again," said Uncle Toby. "That is, if you are hungry," he added with a sly twinkle in his eyes. "Of course if you'd rather not eat—"
"Oh, I want to eat all right!" shouted Tom and Ted and Janet and Lola, all at one time.
"I wants pie!" burst out Trouble, and they all shouted with laughter.
A little later the car drew up in front of a restaurant.
"Why, it's the same one where we ate before!" exclaimed Jan, in wonderment.
"Yes, your father told me you stopped here," said Uncle Toby.
As he was helping the children out of the car a ragged boy, with a pinched and hungry face, stepped up, and, touching his cap, asked:
"Like to have me watch your machine, sir? There's been a lot of autos stolen around here lately. I'll watch it good for a quarter."
"Will you?" asked Uncle Toby, with a kind smile. "And if a thief comes, what would you do? You aren't very big?"
"I'd holler for a cop—I mean a policeman," was the boy's quick answer. "I know the policeman on this beat."
"All right, I guess you can watch the machine," said Mr. Bardeen. "Skyrocket will help you keep guard over it."
"This dog," and Uncle Toby pointed. Skyrocket had been holding back, for he did not like strangers, especially ragged ones, and this boy was rather ragged. But when Uncle Toby made it plain that the boy was to be regarded as a friend, the dog wagged his tail in welcome and curled up on the front seat.
"What are you going to do with the quarter I'm to give you for watching the car?" asked Uncle Toby.
"I'm going to get something to eat with part of it," was the answer. "I'm hungry. The rest I'm going to turn in to my mother. She needs it."
"Hum," said Uncle Toby, thoughtfully. "That's stretching a quarter rather too much, I think. Now you sit out here in the car, and I'll have the waiter bring you something to eat on a tray. Oh, don't worry!" Mr. Bardeen hastened to say, with a smile. "It won't come out of your quarter. I'll put it on my bill. And I'm going to have a bone sent out for Skyrocket. He'll keep you company."
"Yes, sir. I like dogs," said the boy, with a smile. "I'm much obliged to you. I'll watch your car good."
"Yes. I think you will. Well, children, run in and get started on your lunch. I don't want to get to Pocono after dark, and it looks as if we might get caught in a snow storm, but it may hold off."
The Curlytops and their playmates were ushered to their seats by a waiter who smiled at them.
"Do you remember us?" asked Ted, while Uncle Toby was giving orders to another waiter about sending something to eat out to the boy, and also a bone for Skyrocket.
"Of course I remember you," the waiter answered, as he pushed the chairs under Janet and Lola. "And I haven't forgotten what that little chap did," and he pointed to William, who was staring about the room as if trying to remember where he had seen it before.
"What did Trouble do?" asked Lola.
"He turned the faucet of the water-cooler and let the ice water run all over the floor," explained Janet with a laugh. "Mother's feet were in the puddle of water before we knew what had happened."
"Oh, Trouble!" chided Lola. "Did you do that?"
"Well—well, I didn't do it on pur—now—on purspuss!" stammered Trouble, as they all laughed.
Uncle Toby came and sat down at the table with the children, and the waiter who remembered the Curlytop party from their other visit was soon busy serving them. A good meal on a tray was taken out to the boy in the automobile and a juicy bone was sent to Skyrocket.
"This is jolly good fun!" declared Tom, who had not traveled about as much as had the Curlytops.
"Wait until we get out to Crystal Lake!" exclaimed Ted. "Then we'll have more fun. I hope school won't be very hard," he added in a whisper to his playmate.
"Oh, teachers aren't very strict around the holidays," answered Tom.
The meal was almost over when Lola, glancing out of the window, uttered an exclamation and cried:
Surely enough, a flurry of the white crystals was falling.
Uncle Toby looked a bit anxious.
"I don't want to hurry you children," he said. "But as soon as you have finished we'd better be on our way. We don't want to be stuck in the snow."
And as they went out to get in the automobile again the air was thick with the white flakes.