Chapter XIV. At Snow Lodge
 

"Are we all here?"

"Have we got everything?"

"Here, Snap! If you jump out again you can't go!"

"Dinah, you hold Snap, will you?"

"Good lan' chile! I'se got about all I kin do to hold mah own self!"

These were some of the cries and exclamations as the Bobbsey family prepared to start on the trip to Snow Lodge. With the exception of Nan and Bert, and Dorothy and Harry, they were all in a big sled, drawn by four horses that were prancing about in the snow, anxious to get started. At every step the bells jingled. Sam, the colored man, was driving. With him on the front seat sat fat Freddie.

"I'm going to drive, as soon as we get out on the country road!" cried Freddie.

"He is not; is he, Sam?" demanded Flossie, who was taking one of her dolls on the trip, and with the doll, and her big muff, little Flossie had about all she could manage.

"Yes, I am too," declared Freddie. "You said I could, Sam; you know you did!"

"Well I guess you kin drive, where the roads are easy," promised the colored man, with a scratch of his black, kinky head.

Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were now on their seat, with Flossie between them. Dinah was on the seat behind, while in back of her were piled the packages of food.

Snap, the trick dog, was to be taken along, but it had been decided to leave Downy the duck, and Snoop, the fat, black cat at home. A neighbor had promised to look after them and feed them.

"Well, I guess we're all ready," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he looked back at the well-loaded sled. "Now be careful," he called to Nan and Bert, who with their cousins were to go to Snow Lodge on the icy lake. The girls would skate part of the way and ride on the ice-boat the remainder of the distance.

"We'll be careful," said Bert.

The day was cold, and clouds overhead seemed to tell that it was going to snow. But the young folks hoped the storm would hold off until night, when they would be safe in the big, old-fashioned farmhouse.

Everyone was well wrapped up, and Flossie and Freddie were almost lost in big rugs that had been tucked around them, for their mother did not want them to get cold.

Piles of rugs and blankets had been put on the ice-boat so those aboard would be comfortable.

"Well, let's start!" called Mr. Bobbsey finally. "We'll see who will get there first, Bert, or us."

"All right--a race then!" cried Nan.

Down to the glittering, icy lake went the boys and girls, down to where the ice-boat awaited them. It had been put in good shape for the trip, but before starting Bert and Harry looked over all the ropes to make sure none were frayed, or had been cut. Nothing had been seen of Danny Rugg, and Charley Mason told Bert he thought the bully had gone to the wood camp with his father.

"Don't you girls want to come on the iceboat for a ways first?" asked Bert of his sister and Dorothy. "Then, when you get tired of riding, you can skate."

"Shall we?" inquired Nan.

"I guess so," answered Dorothy, and so they did. The wind was not as strong as it had been the day before, but it was enough of a breeze to send the Ice Bird along at a good speed. Well wrapped in the robes and blankets, the young people enjoyed the trip very much.

"I'm sure we'll be there before papa and mamma are," said Nan as they glided along. "See how fast we are going."

"Yes, but this wind may not keep up all the way," spoke her brother. "And it's a good ways to Snow Lodge."

"Oh, well, we'll have a good time, anyhow," said Dorothy.

"And we'll stop and build a fire and have lunch when we're hungry," added Harry, for they had brought some food with them, and could make chocolate over a little fire.

Meanwhile the sled-load of the Bobbseys with their two colored servants, and Snap was proceeding along the snowy road. The path had been well broken, and the going was good, so they made fairly fast time. But every now and then Snap would insist on jumping out to run along the road, and every time he did this Flossie and Freddie would set up a howl, fearing he would get lost.

"Snap!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, when this had happened four or five times, "if you don't stay here quietly I'll tie you fast. Lie down, sir!"

Snap barked, wagged his tail, and looked at Mr. Bobbsey with his head tilted to one side as much as to say:

"Very well sir. I'll be good now. But I did want a little run." Then Snap curled up at Dinah's feet and gave no more trouble.

"I 'clar t' goodness!" exclaimed the colored cook, with a laugh that made her shake all over, "dat ar' Snap am a good foot-warmer, so he be. I jest hopes he don't jump out no mo', so I does." And, for a time at least, the trick dog seemed content to lie quietly in the sled.

It was not a very exciting trip for those in the sled, as they went along through the streets of Lakeport and so out into the open country. Then they passed through village after village, with little occurring. The roads were good, and occasionally they met other teams.

Once they came to a narrow place between two big drifts, and as another sled was coming toward them it was rather a race to see which one would get to the opening first.

"You can't go through when he does, Sam," said Mr. Bobbsey, nodding toward the other driver.

"I knows I can't, sah. But I'll get there first."

Sam called to his horses and they sprang forward. A little later they had reached the opening between the drifts and the other sled had to wait until the Bobbseys got out of the narrow place.

All this time Bert and the others were making their way up the lake on the ice. After going a mile or two on the ice-boat the wind died down so that the craft did not go very fast.

"Come on, Dorothy," called Nan, "let's skate for a ways. And if you get too far ahead of us, please wait, Bert," she added, and her brother promised that he and Harry would.

For a time Dorothy and Nan enjoyed the skating very much, and it was a welcome change from sitting still on the ice-boat. Then the wind sprang up again, and Harry and Bert got so far ahead that the two girls thought they should never be able to skate to them.

"Oh, I wish they'd wait," said Dorothy. "I'm getting tired."

"I'll wave to them--maybe they'll see my handkerchief," said Nan.

Bert and Harry did see the girls, and, guessing what the white signal meant, they lowered the sail of the ice-boat and waited for the two to come up. And the girls were glad enough now to sit amid the comfortable robes and blankets.

"Skating such a long distance is harder than I thought it would be," confessed Nan, with a sigh.

"Yes, the ice-boat is good enough for me," agreed Dorothy. "But when we get to Snow Lodge we'll do some skating."

"That's what we will," said Nan.

Mile after mile was covered by the Ice Bird. They passed small towns and villages on the shore of the frozen lake. Many of the places were known to Nan and Bert, who had often visited them in the summer time, rowing to them in their boat, or sailing to them with the older folks.

"Isn't it almost time to eat?" asked Bert after a bit. "That sun looks as if it were noon, Nan."

"It's half-past eleven," spoke Harry, glancing at his watch. "There's a nice little cove where we can be out of the wind, and where we can build a fire," he went on, pointing ahead.

"That's what we'll do!" cried Bert, steering toward it. "Now you girls will have a chance to show what sort of cooks you are."

"Humph! There's nothing to cook but chocolate!" said Nan. "Any one could make that."

They had brought with them the chocolate all ready to heat in a pot, and soon it was set over a fire of sticks which the boys had made on shore, scraping away the snow from the ground. Nan and Dorothy got out the packages of sandwiches and cake, and soon a merry little party was seated on the ice-boat, eating the good things.

The meal was soon over and then the young people got ready to resume their trip. Nan and Dorothy wanted to skate a bit, but Bert looking up at the sky, said:

"I don't think it will be safe. It looks as though it were going to storm soon, and we don't want to be caught in it. It isn't far to Snow Lodge now, and once we are there let it snow as much as it likes. But if it comes down before we get there we'll have hard work to keep on in the ice-boat. Even a little snow on the ice will clog the runners."

So the skating idea was given up, and soon they were under way in the ice-boat again. The clouds grew darker, and there were a few scattering flakes of snow.

"I guess we're going to be in for it," said Bert. "If the wind would only blow harder we could go faster."

As if in answer to his wish the wind started up and the boat fairly flew over the ice. Then the storm suddenly broke and the snow was so thick that they could not see where they were going.

"What shall we do?" cried Dorothy, who was not used to being out in such a blow.

"Keep on--that's the only thing to do," answered Bert. "We will go as far as we can in the boat and then we'll walk."

"Walk to Snow Lodge!" cried Nan. "We could never do it!"

"Oh, it isn't so far now," said her brother.

The snow fell so fast that soon the ice-boat went slower and slower. Finally it stopped altogether, the runners clogged with snow. The wind blowing on the sail nearly turned the craft over.

"Cast off those ropes!" cried Bert to Harry. "We'll have to leave her here and walk on."

The sail was lowered, the blankets and robes were picked up to be carried, and the four girls and boys set out over the ice.

"We must keep near the shore," said Bert, "Snow Lodge is right on the shore of the lake, and we can't miss it."

"Oh, suppose we did, and had to stay out all night?" cried Dorothy.

"We won't worry until we have to," spoke Nan.

It snowed harder and harder, and grew quite dark. Even Bert was worried. He and Harry walked on ahead, to keep the wind and snow as much as possible out of the faces of the girls.

"Bert, I'm sure we're lost!" cried Nan a little later. "We can't see where we're going! Don't go on any farther."

"We can't stay here on the ice all night," objected Bert.

"Well, it is pretty dark," said Harry. "Are there any houses around here?"

They gazed at the fast-gathering blackness all about them. They were beginning to be very much afraid. The wind howled, and the snow came down harder than ever.

"There's a light!" suddenly called Dorothy.

"Where?" cried all the others eagerly.

"There," answered Dorothy, pointing toward where they had last seen the land. "Right over in those trees."

"Then let's go toward it," suggested Bert. "Maybe they can tell us where Snow Lodge is, and if it's too far we'll stay there all night, if they'll let us."

The welcome light shone out through the storm and darkness. The four young folks made their way toward it as best they could, and, as they came nearer they could see that it was a big house in the midst of trees. Bert rubbed his eyes. He looked again, and then he cried:

"Why, it's Snow Lodge! It's Snow Lodge! We've found it after all! We're all right now! We're at Snow Lodge!"

"Hurray!" cried Harry.

"Oh, how glad I am!" said Nan, with her arms around Dorothy.

A door opened and the light streamed out over the snow.

"Who is there?" called Mr. Bobbsey. "Is that you, Bert?"

"Yes, father. We're here at last."

"Oh, thank goodness!" said Mrs. Bobbsey. "We were just going out to search for you!"