The Curlytops Adventures


Uncle Toby brought the automobile to a stop and looked at the boy.

"A telegram?" repeated Uncle Toby. "For whom is it?"

"You," answered the boy, and Ted and Jan wondered if it could be about their father and mother. Suppose one of them were ill, or suppose Daddy Martin had lost all his money, and Ted and Jan had to go back home? It doesn't take much to worry children, just as it doesn't take much to make them happy.

Tom and Lola, too, knew that telegrams often bring bad news, and as Uncle Toby was opening the yellow envelope which the boy handed him, these two playmates of the Curlytops thought perhaps something had happened at their home.

And, in turn, Harry and Mary began to fear that the message might be bad news about their mother in the hospital. A few tears began to form in Mary's eyes, but they soon dried away when Uncle Toby, after reading the message, gave a hearty laugh.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" chuckled Uncle Toby. "This is funny! The idea of sending me a message like this!"

"What is it?" asked Ted, while the messenger boy waited to see if Uncle Toby wanted to send an answer to the telegram.

"Oh, it's from an old friend of mine, Hezekiah Armstrong. He says he has a chance to buy an elephant cheap, and he telegraphs to ask me if I don't want it."

"Want an elephant!" repeated Jan.

"Yes, for a pet, I suppose. It may be one of his jokes, or he may mean it, but I certainly don't want an elephant, in winter time especially."

"Would you want one in summer?" asked Tom, with a laugh.

"Well, an elephant is easier to take care of in summer than in winter," answered Mr. Bardeen. "In warm weather I could turn the elephant out in the meadow and let him eat grass. But in winter I'd have to keep him in a barn and let him eat hay, and they eat a big lot of hay—enough to keep me poor, I guess. So I'll just telegraph back to Hezekiah that I don't want an elephant. We couldn't take it to Crystal Lake, anyhow. Here you are, son!" he called pleasantly to the boy. "You take back this message for me."

Uncle Toby wrote it on a blank of which the boy had a number in his pocket. As Mr. Bardeen paid the lad and was about to start the automobile again, the boy asked:

"Where you going?" He was acquainted with Mr. Bardeen.

"Out to Crystal Lake," answered Uncle Toby, and the children in the automobile wondered if the messenger lad did not wish he were going.

"Crystal Lake!" exclaimed the boy. "Are you going out there to catch the burglar?"

"Catch the burglar? What burglar?" asked Uncle Toby. "This is the first I've heard a burglar was out there. What do you mean?"

"It was in the paper this morning," the boy went on. "It said some of the cabins and camps out at the Lake had been broken into and robbed. They haven't any police out there, so it said the police from Pocono had been asked to see if they could catch the burglar. I thought maybe that's why you were going out."

"Oh, no!" replied Uncle Toby. "I'm not a policeman. And though I wouldn't want a burglar to get into my cabin, he wouldn't find very much to take if he did get in. I guess, most likely, it's some tramp that has broken into some of the cabins. We'll not worry about that, shall we, Curlytops?" chuckled Uncle Toby. "If we find any burglars out there we'll make Skyrocket bite 'em—sha'n't we, Trouble?" and he playfully pinched William's cheek.

"We make elephant run after 'em!" laughed Trouble.

"That's right!" said Uncle Toby.

Once more they started off in the big comfortable car that so well kept out the cold. Most of the snow from the recent storm was gone, though Uncle Toby said there would probably be some left in the woods around Crystal Lake, where it did not melt as fast as in Pocono.

As they were passing a meat market on the edge of town, Uncle Toby stopped the car and began to get out.

"What are you going to do?" asked Aunt Sallie. "I have everything we need for getting supper out at the Lake, and we have our lunch with us."

"It isn't for us," said Uncle Toby. "It's for Skyrocket. I want to get him a nice bone to gnaw. It will keep him quiet on the ride," he explained. "I'm going to get a fine, juicy bone for Skyrocket."  And when Uncle Toby made Skyrocket sit up in the automobile and "beg" for the bone, the dog did it in such a funny way that the children all laughed.

Soon they were out in the country. The weather was pleasant after the storm, though it was cold, and would soon be more frosty, for winter was at hand, and the children had already begun to think of Christmas.

As Aunt Sallie had said, there had been placed in the automobile a number of boxes of lunch to be eaten on the way, as it would be night, or very near it, before the cabin in the woods could be reached. Uncle Toby had written to a lumberman to build a fire in it so the place would be warm for the children. It was a large roomy cabin, with many comforts and conveniences. Having the lunch in the automobile, the next thing to think about was the time to eat it.

Possibly the boys thought more about this than the girls; at any rate that must have been the reason why Tom and Ted so often asked Uncle Toby what time it was, for the clock on the instrument board of the automobile was not going.

"Well, it will soon be eating time, if that's what you want to know," answered Uncle Toby, with a laugh, after this same question had been asked many times. He seemed to be always laughing.

"In fact we may as well get the lunch out now, I guess, Aunt Sallie," he went on. "We had an early breakfast and—"

He suddenly stopped talking, for there was a loud hissing sound from beneath the automobile, as if a big snake had had its tail run over.

"Puncture!" cried Tom and Ted, for they knew enough about cars to tell this.

"Well, I'm glad it isn't a blow-out!" Uncle Toby exclaimed. Had there been a blow-out the noise would have been much louder. "As long as it's only a puncture we can easily mend it, and I'll do that while the rest of you eat."

"Oh, let me help!" begged Ted. "I often help daddy when he has tire trouble."

"I want to help, too," cried Tom.

"So do I," added Harry. "We never had an auto," he went on, "so I don't know anything about them. But I'll do what I can."

"Well, you boys can hand me the tools," said Uncle Toby, "and I'll do the hard work. This is a heavy car and I don't want you getting into any danger around it. You can be getting out the lunch, Aunt Sallie. We'll be ready to eat after we finish putting in a new rubber tube."

"We'll help," offered Jan and the other two girls, while Trouble cried:

"I want to see punchure! Want to see punchure!"

"No, you stay in here," said his sister, for she knew he would only get in the way if allowed to run about. "I'll let you open some of the boxes."

This satisfied Trouble, who was now content to stay in the big car. Skyrocket, though, went out with the boys and nosed about in the woods near which the stop had been made.

It did not take Uncle Toby long to jack up the car, take off the tire, put in a new tube, and be ready to start again. But before doing that they halted a bit longer to eat lunch. Hot chocolate had been brought along in thermos bottles, and Uncle Toby thought the chocolate would spill on the children if they tried to drink it while the automobile was moving.

"There! I feel better!" exclaimed Ted, after the lunch.

"So do I!" cried Tom and Harry.

Once more they were on their way, journeying now along some country road, and again through some lonely stretch of wood. They were almost at Crystal Lake, and in another quarter of an hour would be at Uncle Toby's cabin, when Mr. Bardeen began sniffing the air.

"The engine's getting too hot," he said, and then, as he noticed some steam coming out of the radiator cap he added: "Water's getting low. I'll have to stop and get some."

"Where can you get any water around here?" asked Ted.

"I'll try at that cabin," answered Uncle Toby, pointing to a lonely one a short distance ahead on the road. "I guess it will be safe to run the car that much farther."

"Who lives there?" asked Ted, as the automobile went along more slowly, for Uncle Toby did not want to overheat it.

"Nobody lives there now," was the reply. "It's deserted. But there's a well near it, and it's such a deep one I don't believe it will be frozen. I can get some water from the well."

Uncle Toby stopped the car in front of the lonely cabin. He got out a folding canvas pail from the tool-box, and was going toward the cabin when Ted exclaimed:

"I thought you said nobody lived here, Uncle Toby!"

"So I did," was the answer. "No one has lived here for several years."

"Well, look at him!" cried the boy, and he pointed to a man running away over the field from the back door of the lonely cottage.


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