Chapter XVI. The Train Crash
 

"Well, Mr. Dayton," said Mr. Bobbsey, after a moment's pause, "as I said before, I do not know how to thank you for what you did to save Flossie and Freddie. I hope, some day, I may be able to do you as great a service as you did me."

And the time was nearer than Mr. Bobbsey supposed when he could do a kindness to the lumber foreman.

They all walked back to the log cabin near the other buildings, all of which made what was called the "lumber camp." The story was told of the falling tree, and how nearly Flossie and Freddie had been caught under it.

"That foreman of ours sure is quick on his feet!" said Harvey Hallock, the driver who had brought the Bobbseys from the station. Mr. Hallock was speaking to Mr. Bobbsey, outside the log cabin. "Yes, Bill Dayton is sure a quick man," went on the driver.

"Has he been foreman here long?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"No, not very long," was the answer. "He came here when your wife's uncle owned the tract, just before the uncle died. But we don't know much about Bill Dayton. He's a quiet man, and he doesn't talk much."

"I thought there was something queer about him," said Mr. Bobbsey. "But I shall always be his friend, for he saved my two children."

The Bobbsey twins thought they never had eaten such a jolly meal as the one served a little later in the log cabin. Even though it was in the midst of a great forest and in a lumber camp, the food was very good. The little bald-headed cook seemed to know almost as much as did black Dinah about making things taste good.

"The children have good appetites up here," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he filled Bert's plate for the second time.

"I want some, too!" called Freddie. "I'm hungry like a bear!"

"But you mustn't eat like a bear!" said his mother, laughing. "You must wait your turn," and she served Flossie first, for that little "fairy" was as hungry as the others.

"What funny little beds!" exclaimed Nan, when she saw where they were to sleep in the log cabin.

"They're almost like the berths in the sleeping car," said Bert.

"They are called 'bunks,'" his father told him. "Lumbermen move about so, from camp to camp, that they could not take regular beds with them. So they build bunks against the wall, spreading their blankets over pine or, hemlock boughs, as the driver did in the wagon we rode over in from the station."

But the bunks in the log cabin had mattresses stuffed with straw, and though they were not like the beds in the Pullman car, nor like those in the Bobbsey home, all the children slept well.

They did not awaken all night, nor did Freddie fall out of bed, as sometimes happened.

"I never slept so well in all my life!" exclaimed Mother Bobbsey, when she was getting ready for breakfast the next morning. "The sweet air of the lumber camp seems to agree with all of us."

Bert and Nan, as well as Flossie and Freddie, also felt fine, and they were ready for a day of fun. They had it, too, for there were so many things to do in the big tract of trees their mother now owned that the children did not know what to start first.

Of course Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey had business to look after--the business of taking over the lumber camp, since Mrs. Bobbsey was now the owner. But she made no changes. She said she wanted Bill Dayton still to act as foreman, and she wished to keep the same men he had hired from the first, as he said they were all good workers.

But while their father and mother were in the office of the lumber camp, looking over books and papers, Bert and Nan and Flossie and Freddie roamed about. They did not go alone, as that would not have been safe. Harvey Hallock, the good-natured driver of the wagon, went with them, and foreman Bill Dayton told him to be especially careful not to let Flossie and Freddie stray away.

"I guess he thinks I'll get lost," said Freddie, when the little "fireman" heard this order given to the driver.

"Do you often get lost?" asked Harvey Hallock.

"Oh, lots of times!" exclaimed Freddie. "I can get lost as easy as anything! But I always get found again!"

"Well, that's good!" laughed the driver.

He took the children to the sawmill, and, at a safe distance from the big saw, they watched to see how logs were turned into boards, planks, and beams.

They saw the rumbling wagons drive up, loaded with logs that were fastened on with chains so they would not roll off. The men, with big hooks fastened on handles of wood; turned the logs over, and slid them this way and that until they could be shoved up to the saw.

The logs were put on what was called a "carriage," to be sawed. This carriage moved slowly along on a little track, and the Bobbsey twins were allowed to ride on the end of the log farthest from the saw. When the end came too close to the big, whirring teeth that ripped through the hard knots with such a screeching sound, Bert and Nan and Flossie and Freddie were lifted off by the driver.

The children saw the place where the jolly, bald-headed cook made the meals ready for the hungry men. There was a big stove, and on it a pot of soup was cooking, and when Jed Prenty opened the oven door a most delicious smell came out.

"What's that?" asked Bert.

"Baked beans," the cook answered. "They're 'most done, too! Want some?"

"Oh, I do!" cried Freddie. "And I want a fried cake, too!"

"So do I!" echoed Flossie.

"Well, you shall have some," answered the good-natured cook. So he gave the children a little lunch on one end of the big, long table where the lumbermen would soon crowd in to dinner.

The Bobbsey twins had no fear of "spoiling their appetites" by eating thus before their regular lunch was ready. Walking about in the woods seemed to make them hungry all the while.

As the days passed Mrs. Bobbsey found she would have to stay in Lumberville longer than she had at first thought. There was much business to be done in taking over the property her uncle had left her.

"The longer we stay the better I like it!" said Nan to Bert. "There are so many birds here, and squirrels and chipmunks. And the squirrels are so tame that they come right up to me."

"Yes, they are nice," said Bert. "But I want to get out West on the ranch, and see the cowboys and the Indians."

"I want to be an Indian, too!" exclaimed Freddie, who did not quite catch what Bert said.

"What else do you want to be?" laughed the older brother. "First you're going to be a fireman, and now you want to be an Indian!"

"Couldn't I be both?" Freddie wanted to know.

"Hardly," said Nan, with a laugh. "You'd better just stay what you are--Freddie Bobbsey!"

Day after day the twins were taken around the woods by the driver or some of the lumbermen who were not busy. They saw big trees cut down, but were careful not to get in the way of the great, swaying trunks. They played in the piles of sawdust, jumping off powdery wood.

"This is as nice as Blueberry Island!" cried Nan one day, when they were all playing on the sawdust heap.

"Yes, and we're having as much fun as we did in Washington, where we found Miss Pompret's china," added Bert. "I wonder if we'll discover any mystery on this trip."

"I don't believe so," returned Nan.

However, the Bobbsey twins were to help in solving something which you will read about before this book is finished.

But all things have an end, even the happy days in the lumber camp, and one morning, after the little bald-headed cook had served breakfast in the log cabin, Mr. Bobbsey said to the children:

"Well, we are going to travel on."

"Where are we going?" asked Bert.

"To Cowdon; to the cattle ranch," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "I have settled all the business here, and now we must go farther out West."

"I'll be sorry to see you go," said the foreman, Bill Dayton, when told that the Bobbseys were going to leave. "I've enjoyed the children very much."

"Did you ever have any of your own?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"No--never did," was the answer. "I'm not much of a family man. Used to be, when I was a boy and lived at home," he went on, "But that's a good many years ago."

"Haven't you any family--any relatives?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, for she thought the foreman spoke as if he were very lonesome.

"Well, yes, I've got some folks," answered Bill Dayton slowly. "I've got a brother somewhere out West. He's a cowboy, I believe. Haven't seen him for some years."

"Are your father and mother dead?" asked Mr. Bobbsey gently.

"My mother is," was the answer. "She died when my brother and I were boys. As for my father--well, I don't talk much about him," and the foreman turned away as if that ended it.

"Why doesn't he want to talk about his father?" asked Bert of Mr. Bobbsey a little later, when they were packing the valises.

"I don't know," was the answer. "Perhaps he and his father quarreled, or something like that. We had better not ask too many questions. Bill Dayton is a queer man."

Bert thought so himself, but he did as his father had suggested, and did not ask the foreman any more questions.

The packing was soon finished, and then the Bobbsey twins said good- bye to their friends in the lumber camp. The bald-headed cook gave them a bag of "fried cakes" to take with them. They were to ride to the station in the same lumber wagon that had brought them to the camp, and Harvey Hallock was to drive them.

"Good-bye!" said Bill Dayton to Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, after he had talked to the Bobbsey twins. "If you stop off here on your way home from your ranch, we'll all be glad to see you."

"Perhaps we may stop off," Mrs. Bobbsey answered. "Now that I own a lumber tract I must look after it, though I am going to leave the management of it to you."

"I'll do my best with it," promised the foreman. "And if you should happen to meet my brother out among the cowboys tell him I was asking for him. I don't s'pose you will meet him, but you might."

And then the Bobbsey twins started off on another part of their trip to the great West. They did not have long to wait for the train in the Lumberville station, and, as they got aboard and began their travels once more, they could see Harvey Hallock waving to them from his wagon.

"And one of the horses shook his head good-bye to me!" exclaimed Flossie, who pressed her chubby nose against the window to catch the last view of the lumber team.

"I hope we have as good a time on the cattle ranch as we had in the lumber camp," said Nan, as she and the other children settled down for the long ride.

"We'll have more fun!" declared Bert. "We can ride ponies out on the ranch!"

"Oh, may we?" asked Nan with shining eyes, turning to her mother.

"I guess so," was the answer.

"I want a pony, too!" cried Freddie. "If Bert and Nan ride pony-back Flossie and I want to ride, too."

"We'll ride you in a little cart," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a laugh. "That will be safer--you won't fall so easily."

They were to ride all that day, all night, and part of the next day before they would reach the cattle ranch which Mrs. Bobbsey's uncle had left her. The railroad trip was enjoyed by the Bobbseys, but the children were eager to get to the new place they were going to visit. Bert wanted to see the cowboys and the Indians, Nan wanted to ride a pony and get an Indian doll, and as for Flossie and Freddie, they just wanted to have a good time in any way possible.

Supper was served on the train, and then came the making up of the berths in the sleeping car. This was nothing new to the Bobbseys now, and soon they were all in bed.

It was dark and about the middle of the night when all in the sleeping car were suddenly awakened by a loud crash. The train stopped with a jerk, there was a shrieking of whistles, and then loud shouts.

"What is it?" called Mrs. Bobbsey from her berth.

"Probably there has been a wreck," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he quickly got out of his berth and into the aisle. "But no one here seems to be hurt, though I think the car is off the track."

Flossie and Freddie and Bert and Nan stuck their heads out between the curtains hanging in front of their berths. They wondered what had happened.