THE SNOW HOUSE
The Frenchman's toboggan was a large one. It would hold all of the Curlytops and their playmates, with room to spare. I suppose most of you have seen toboggans, or pictures of them, and know what they are. Instead of being made like a sled, with steel runners, a toboggan is like a thin, flat board, with the front end curled up like the old fashioned Dutch skates. Only instead of being made of one flat piece of wood, a large toboggan is made of several strips fastened together so it will not so easily break.
On the side of Jules's toboggan were hand rails, to which the riders could hold. There was also a cushion on which to sit, and altogether it was a very fine way of coasting downhill.
"Oh, what fun we'll have on this!" cried Jan.
"Will it go fast?" asked Lola.
"It'll go like an express train!" cried Ted.
"And we fellows will take turns sitting on the back and sticking our feet out to steer," added Tom, for that is how a toboggan is guided, you know.
"If it's going as fast as an express train I don't believe I want to ride," said Mary, who was rather more timid than the other children.
"Don't let those boys scare you," advised Janet. "They're only talking to hear themselves talk. Tom and Ted are always that way—aren't they, Lola?"
"Yes," answered Tom's sister, with a laugh.
The boys were now clustered around the big toboggan, and Trouble had taken his seat in the middle of the cushion.
"You give me wide!" he demanded of his brother.
"Not now—a little later," promised Ted. He wanted to listen to what the Canadian was saying, telling Uncle Toby how the big toboggan was best managed on a hill.
"I'll go down with the children the first few times," said Uncle Toby, "to make sure it's all right. Our hill isn't so very steep, and I don't believe there's much danger."
"On little hill not—no!" exclaimed Jules, with a smile that showed all his white teeth. "But on big hill, steep so like roof of house, toboggan her go like what you say—fifty-nine?"
"I guess you mean like sixty," laughed Uncle Toby.
"Mebby so. Her go very fast. I like for childrens to have good time, but not too fast!"
"I'll see that they are careful," promised Uncle Toby.
After saying good-bye to Jules and thank you for allowing the children to play with his toboggan, they started for home, toboggan trailing behind the car all the way.
"And now for some real tobogganing!" cried Ted, as they pulled up in front of the cabin.
Uncle Toby, however, would not let the children go down alone for the first few times. He wanted to be sure the boys knew how to manage the big sled, which, though large, was very light, as all toboggans are, and thus are much safer than a sled with steel runners.
There was a long, but not too steep, hill near the cabin, and the Curlytops and their playmates were soon at the top of this, with Uncle Toby and the toboggan.
"All aboard!" called Mr. Bardeen, and they took their places on the cushion, holding to the hand rails. Trouble was not allowed to go down the first time, but Aunt Sallie had all she could do to keep him with her as she stood at the top of the slope watching the coasting party.
"You shall soon have a ride, Trouble," Aunt Sallie promised. "As soon as the hill is made a little smooth."
"All ready?" cried Uncle Toby.
"Let's go!" cried Ted.
Uncle Toby gave a push with his foot, which he had thrust out behind to steer with, and down the snow-covered hill went the toboggan with its happy load. They did not go very fast on this first trip, as the snow needed to be packed down smooth and hard. But after the second or third voyage the toboggan moved more swiftly.
"Do you like it Mary?" asked Janet.
"Oh, I just love it!" cried the other, with shining eyes.
Uncle Toby, finding that everything was safe, allowed the boys, one after another, to try steering the light, wooden sled. Finding that they could manage all right, he let them have charge of the toboggan, and at last Trouble was allowed to coast down, sitting between Lola and Janet.
Of course Trouble wanted to take his turn at steering with the other boys, but that was out of the question, even though he teased very much. It would not have been safe, of course.
And such fun as the Curlytops and their playmates had! The toboggan was much better than a sled, and safer, even though it went faster. It was almost like flying with the snowbirds, Lola said.
Of course there were little accidents and upsets. Once, when Harry was steering, the toboggan turned completely around when half way down the hill and began sliding backward. And as the back end was blunt, having no curve to slip easily over the snow, there was a turnover, and the children were spilled all the way down the hill.
But they never minded that, only rolling over and over to the bottom, or nearly there, laughing and shouting meanwhile. It was fun for Skyrocket, too, the dog leaping here and there, barking and chasing snowballs which the girls threw for him to race after.
Once they took Skyrocket down on the toboggan with them, or, rather, they took him half way, for midway on the hill Skyrocket decided he didn't like that way of traveling, and with a howl he leaped off. It was too swift for him, I suppose.
But the children had great delight in it, and would have kept on with the toboggan fun all day if Uncle Toby had let them. He did not want them to get too tired, however, nor did Aunt Sallie want Trouble to stay out in the cold too long, though he was a sturdy little chap.
After lunch, when Trouble was having his usual nap, Lola and Jan said they would like to try steering the toboggan, and Uncle Toby said they might.
"Well, we fellows won't ride if you girls steer," declared Ted. "You'd upset us first shot."
"Pooh! You don't need to ride!" laughed Janet. "We can do better without you."
The girls learned to steer, after a lesson or two from Uncle Toby. Even timid Mary managed to do quite well, though Janet and Lola, being more used to outdoor life in the country, did better than Mary. The girls had their little accidents, too, upsetting more than once, but they did not mind this.
For several days, while the snow lasted, the Curlytops and their friends had fun in the snow. The weather was bright and sunny, and not too cold. One day Janet, going out to the kitchen where Aunt Sallie was busy, found the table covered with packages and bundles that Uncle Toby had brought from the village store.
"What's going on?" asked Janet.
"Thanksgiving will soon be going on," answered Aunt Sallie. "I must get my mincemeat made, and do a lot of planning for the big family I expect to have at dinner."
"Oh, I didn't know Thanksgiving was so near!" exclaimed Janet. At first she was joyous, and then a little feeling of sadness came to her. This would be the first Thanksgiving she remembered when daddy and mother were not present. The other children, too, when they were told about the coming feast at Uncle Toby's cabin, looked a little serious when they realized that none of their grown-ups would be with them. Of course Mary and Harry did not expect this, for they knew their mother could not come from the hospital for a long time, and as for their father—they had, long ago, given him up on seeing him ever again.
"But maybe daddy and mother will be here for Christmas!" said Janet.
"Maybe!" agreed Ted.
"I'm going to write and ask our father and mother to come here for Christmas. May I, Uncle Toby?" asked Lola, for in common with the Curlytops she called Mr. Bardeen by this name.
"Of course!" Uncle Toby answered. "The more the merrier! And if your mother is able to come from the hospital, we'll have her here for Christmas," and he nodded at Mary and Harry. This made that boy and girl very happy, for it is often happiness just to think of something pleasant that may happen.
One morning, several days after the first of the toboggan riding, the boys, who had gotten up ahead of the girls for once, began shouting outside the cabin.
"What's going on, I wonder?" asked Janet.
"Oh, I guess they're just yelling for the fun of it," answered Lola.
"They're saying something about a house," said Mary.
Janet raised the window and listened. Just then Ted shouted:
"Come on out, girls, and help us build a snow house. We're going to make the biggest snow house you ever saw!"
"And when it's finished you can have a tea party in it," added Tom.
"Oh, what lovely fun that will be!" cried Mary.
Soon the boys and girls, with Skyrocket frolicking around them, began making the snow house. The sun had so warmed the snow that it packed well.
First a number of big snowballs were rolled and placed one after the other in the form of a square on the ground. This was to be the foundation of the house.
Other snowballs were lifted on top of the first large ones, and snow packed in the cracks until, when afternoon came, there were four walls of snow, much higher than the heads of the children.
"It looks more like a fort than a snow house," said Lola.
"We've got to put the roof on," Tom answered. "How we going to do that, Ted?"
"I don't know," was the reply. "I never made such a big snow house. If we make the roof only of snow it will fall in on us."
"You'd better ask Uncle Toby," suggested Janet, and this they did.
"I'll show you how to make a good roof," Uncle Toby told the children. "Just get me a lot of poles from that pile over there. I used them to raise beans this summer. Bring me a lot of those long poles."
The children ran to carry them to him, wondering how Uncle Toby could make a roof on a snow house out of poles.