Chapter X. Unwelcome News
 

"Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to everybody!"

"Oh, Christmas is here! I wonder what I got?"

"I'm going to get up and see!"

The Bobbsey twins were calling to one another from their rooms, and papa and mamma Bobbsey were replying to their children's happy greetings. It was Flossie who had made the exclamation about wondering what Santa Claus had brought her, and it was Freddie who declared he was going to get up to see.

Soon the patter of bare feet announced that the two younger twins were scampering downstairs.

"You must put on your dressing gowns and slippers, my dears!" called Mrs. Bobbsey. "You'll take cold. Nan, look after them; will you?"

"Yes, mother, in just a minute. As soon as I can find my own things," and Nan got out of bed. She and Bert were not in so much of a hurry as Flossie and Freddie for they were getting older, and though Christmas was still a source of great joy to them they were not so anxious to see what gifts they had. Still Nan was eager to know if her camera had come.

From the parlor below came cries, shouts and peals of delighted and surprised laughter as Flossie and Freddie discovered their different gifts.

"Look at my book!" cried Flossie. "And a doll--a doll that you can wind up, and she walks and says 'mamma.' Look, Freddie!" and the little girl started the doll off across the room.

"Pooh! Look at what I got!" cried Freddie. "It's a fire engine, and it squirts real water. I'm going to put some in it, and play fire."

He started for the kitchen with his toy, but Nan caught him.

"Not just yet, little fat fireman," she said with a laugh, as she took him up in her arms. "You can't splash in the cold water until you have more clothes on. Get dressed and then you may play with your toys."

"All right!" answered Freddie. "Oh, look, I've got a wind-up steamboat, too. Oh! let me down so I can look at it, Nan! Now please do!"

Nan saw a pile of her own gifts, so she set Freddie down for a moment, intending to carry him up stairs a little later. She had wrapped a robe about Flossie, who was contentedly playing with her newest doll, and looking at her other presents. Santa Claus had been kind to the Bobbsey twins that Christmas.

Bert, big boy though he thought himself getting to be, could no longer resist the temptation to come down in his bath robe to see what he had received, and a little later fat Dinah, roused earlier than usual by the joyous shouts of the children, came lumbering in.

"Oh, Dinah! Dinah! Look what you got!" cried Flossie. "Your things are all here on this chair," and the little girl led the fat cook over toward it.

"Things fo' me? What yo'-all talkin' 'bout chile? Ole Dinah don't git no Christmas!" protested the jolly colored woman, laughing so that she shook all over.

"Yes, you do get a Christmas, Dinah. Look here!" and Flossie showed where there were some useful presents for the cook,--large aprons, warm shoes, an umbrella, and a bright shawl that Dinah had been wanting for a long time.

"What? All dem fo' me?" asked the surprised cook. "Good land a' massy! I guess ole Santa Claus done gone an' made a beef-steak this time, suah!"

"No, there's no mistake! See, they've got your name on!" insisted Flossie. "See, Dinah!" and she led the cook over to the chair where the presents were piled. There was no doubt of it, they were for Dinah, and near them was another chair containing gifts for her husband, Sam. He would not be in until later, however. But Dinah saw a pair of rubber boots that would be very useful in the deep snow, and there were other fine presents for Sam.

Bert and Nan were now looking at their things, and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey could be heard moving around upstairs, having decided that it was useless to lie abed longer now that the children were up.

"Come, come, Flossie and Freddie!" called Mrs. Bobbsey. "You must get dressed and then you can play as much as you like. I don't want you to get cold. If you do you can't go to Snow Lodge, remember!"

This was enough to cause the small Bobbseys to scamper upstairs. Flossie carried her doll with her, and Freddie took along his fire engine, for that was the gift he had most wanted, and for which he had begged and pleaded for weeks before Christmas.

Feeling that a little liberty might be allowed on this day, Mrs. Bobbsey did not insist on the younger children dressing completely until after breakfast, so in their warm robes and slippers Flossie and Freddie were soon again examining their toys, discovering new delights every few minutes.

Nan was busy inspecting her camera, while Bert was looking at a new postage stamp album he had long wanted, when from the kitchen where Dinah was getting breakfast came a series of excited cries, mingled with laughter and shouts of:

"Fire! Fire! Fire!"

"Mercy! What's that?" screamed Mrs. Bobbsey, turning pale.

Mr. Bobbsey made a rush for the kitchen. Nan and Bert, with Flossie, gathered about their mother. Then they heard Dinah calling:

"Stop it, Freddie! Stop it I done tell you! Does yo'-all want me t' git soaked? An' yo'-all will suah spoil them pancakes! Oh, now yo' hab done it! Yo' squirted right in mah mouf! Oh mah goodness sakes alive!"

Mrs. Bobbsey looked relieved.

"Freddie must be up to some prank," she said.

"Freddie, stop it!" commanded Mr. Bobbsey, and then he was heard to laugh. The others all went out to the kitchen and there they saw a curious sight.

Freddie, with his new toy fire engine, was pumping water on fat Dinah, who was laughing so heartily that she could do nothing to stop him. Mr. Bobbsey, too, was shouting with mirth, for the hose from the toy engine was rather small, and threw only a thin, fine spray.

"I'm a fireman!" cried Freddie, "and I'm pretending Dinah is on fire. See her red apron--that's the fire!" and the little fellow turned the crank of his engine harder than ever, throwing the tiny stream of water all over the kitchen.

"That's enough, Freddie," said Mr. Bobbsey, when he could stop laughing. Dinah was still shaking with mirth, and Freddie, looking in the tank of the engine, said:

"There's only a little more water left. Can't I squirt that?"

Without waiting for permission Freddie made the water spurt from the nozzle of the hose. At that moment the door of the kitchen opened, to let in Sam. With him came Snap, the trick dog, and the tiny stream of water caught Sam full in the face.

"Hello! What am dat?" he demanded in surprise. "Am de house leakin'?"

"It's my new fire engine!" cried Freddie. "I didn't mean to wet you, Sam, but I was playing Dinah was on fire!"

"Well, yo'-all didn't wet me so very much," replied Sam, with a grin that showed his white teeth. "Dat suah am a fine fire engine!"

Snap sprang about, barking and wagging his tail, and, there being no more water in Freddie's engine, he had to stop pumping, for which every one was glad.

"You must not do that again," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when the excitement was over, and laughing Dinah had dried her face, and put on another apron. "You frightened us all, Freddie, and that is not nice, you know."

"I won't, Mamma, but I did want to try my fire engine."

"Then you must do it in the bath room where the water will do no harm. But come now, children, get your breakfast and then you will have the whole day to look at your toys."

Breakfast was rather a hurried affair, and every now and then Flossie and Freddie would leave the table to see some of their gifts. But finally the meal was over and then came more joyous times. Sam received his presents, and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey had time to look at theirs, for Santa Claus had not forgotten them.

"And there's something for Snap, and for Snoop, too!" exclaimed Freddie. "Snoop has a new ribbon with a silver bell, and Snap a new collar, with his name on," and soon the cat and dog, newly adorned, were being put through some of their tricks.

If I tried to tell you all that went on in the Bobbsey house that Christmas this book would contain nothing else. So I will only say that the holiday was one of the most delightful the twins ever remembered.

"And then to think, with all this, that we are to go to Snow Lodge! It's great!" cried Bert.

"I hope I can get some good pictures up there with my camera," said Nan. "Will you show me how it works, Bert?"

"Yes, and we'll go out to-day and try it. I want to see how my new skates go, too. The lake is frozen and we'll have some fun."

The day was cold and clear. There had been a little fall of snow during the night, but not enough to spoil the skating, and soon Bert and Nan were on their way to the lake, while Flossie and Freddie, after inspecting all their presents over again, had gone out to play on their sleds.

This gave Dinah and Mrs. Bobbsey time to get ready the big Christmas dinner, with the roast turkey, for Mr. Bobbsey had brought home one of the largest he could find.

While Flossie and Freddie were playing on the hill, a small one near their home, they heard a voice calling to them:

"Want a ride, youngsters?"

Looking up they saw Mr. Carford in his big sled. It was filled with baskets and packages, and the Bobbsey twins guessed rightly that the generous old man was taking around his Christmas contributions to the poor families.

"Yes, we'll go!" cried Freddie. "What shall we do with our sleds?" asked Flossie.

"Oh, Harry Stone will look after them; won't you Harry?" asked Freddie, "He can use mine, and his sister Jessie can use yours until we come back, Flossie," and Freddie turned the coasters over to a poor boy and girl who lived near the Bobbsey home. Harry and his sister were delighted, and promised to take good care of the sleds.

"I won't take you far--only just around town," said Mr. Carford, as the twins got in his sled. "When are you going up to my Snow Lodge?"

"We're going soon, I guess," answered Flossie. "I heard mamma and papa talking about it yesterday."

"And we're ever so much obliged to you for letting us have your place," said Flossie. "Will you come up and see us while we're there? I've got a doll that can talk."

"And I'm going to take my fire engine along, so if the place gets on fire I can help put it out," exclaimed Freddie. "Will you come up?"

Mr. Carford started. He looked at the children in a strange sort of way, and then stared at the horses.

"No--no--I guess I won't go to Snow Lodge any more," he said slowly, and Flossie and Freddie were sorry they had asked him, for they remembered the story their father had told them about the sorrow that had come to the aged man.

But the children soon forgot this in the joy of helping in the distribution of the good things in the sled, and the happiness brought to many poor families seemed to make up, in a way, for what Mr. Carford had suffered in the trouble over his nephew.

When all the gifts had been given out from the sled, Mr. Carford drove the two younger Bobbsey twins back to the hill where they again had fun coasting.

Meanwhile Nan and Bert were having a good time on the ice. Nan's camera was used to take a number of pictures, which the children hoped would turn out well.

While Bert was taking a picture of Nan, Charley Mason came skating up, and Bert, whose best chum he was, insisted that Charley get in the picture also.

"My!" exclaimed Charley, as he saw Nan's camera, "that's a fine one!"

"I just got it to-day," said Nan, with a pleased smile. "I'm going to take a lot of pictures up at Snow Lodge."

"Snow Lodge," repeated Charley. "You mean that place Mr. Carford owns?"

"Yes," replied Bert. "He is going to let us all go up there for three weeks or so."

"Say, that's funny," spoke Charley. "You'll have some other Lakeport folks near you."

"Who else is going up to Snow Lodge?" asked Nan.

"Well, they're not exactly going to Snow Lodge," replied Charley, "but I heard a while ago that Danny Rugg and his folks were going up to a winter camp near there. Mr. Rugg has bought a lumber tract in the woods, and he's going to see about having some of the trees cut. Danny is going, too. So you'll have him for a neighbor."

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Nan, in dismay. "That spoils everything!"

"Well, if Danny tries any of his tricks I'll get after him!" exclaimed Bert, firmly. But he looked anxious over the unwelcome news Charley had brought.