Chapter II. Old Mr. Carford
 

"Stop the horses!"

"Yes, grab them, somebody, or they'll run into the girls!"

"Look out, everybody, they're coming right this way!"

"I'm going to get my bob to a safe place!"

It was Danny Rugg who called out this last, and the other boys had shouted the previous expressions, as they watched the oncoming, runaway horses.

Bert Bobbsey had thrown himself on his sled and was coasting toward the group of girls, of whom his sister Nan was one. They were on their sleds in the very path of the team. It seemed that nothing could save them. But Bert had a plan in his mind.

And, while he was preparing to carry it out, I will take just a moment to tell my new readers something about the characters of this story, and the books that have gone before in the series.

Bert and Nan, Freddie and Flossie Bobbsey were the twin children of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bobbsey, who lived in an Eastern city called Lakeport, at the head of Lake Metoka. Mr. Bobbsey was a prosperous lumber merchant. Other members of the household were Dinah and Sam Johnson. Dinah was the cook, fat and good-natured. Sam was her husband, slim and also good-natured. He did all sorts of work about the place, from making garden to shoveling snow.

Then there was Downy, a pet duck; Snoop, a pet black cat, and, of late, Snap, the fine trick dog, who had come into the possession of the Bobbseys in a peculiar manner.

In the first book of this series, entitled "The Bobbsey Twins," I told of the good times the four children had in their home. How they played in the snow, went coasting, helped to discover what they thought was a "ghost," and did many other things. Bert even went for a sail in an ice boat he and Charley Mason had made, though it was almost more than the boys could manage at times.

The second volume, called "The Bobbsey Twins in the Country," told of the good times the four had when they went to the farm of Uncle Daniel Bobbsey and his wife, Aunt Sarah, who lived at Meadow Brook.

Such fun as there was!

There was a country picnic, sport in the woods, and a great Fourth of July celebration, A circus gave a chance to have other good times, and though once there was a midnight scare, it all turned out happily.

But though the twins had much happiness in the country they were destined to have still more fun when they went to the ocean shore, and in the third book, called "The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore," I related all that happened to them there.

They went on a visit to their uncle, William Minturn, who lived at Ocean Cliff, and their cousin Dorothy showed them many strange scenes and sights. They had most delightful times, and toward the close of their visit there was a great storm at sea, and a shipwreck. The life savers were on hand, however, and did such good work that no one was drowned. And if you want to learn how a certain little girl was made very happy, when she found that her father was among those saved, you must read the book.

Then, after the storm ceased, there were more happy days at the shore. The time for the Bobbseys to leave came all too soon. School was about to open, and even the smaller twins must now settle down to regular lessons.

In the fourth book of the series, called "The Bobbsey Twins at School," there is told of the start for home.

But many things happened before the family arrived. There was the wreck of the circus train, the escape of the animals, the meeting with the very fat lady, and the loss of Snoop, the pet cat. Then, too, a valuable cup the smaller Bobbsey twins had been drinking from, seemed to be lost, and they were very sorry about it.

On the way home something else occurred. They were followed in the dark by some strange animal. At first they feared it was some wild beast from the circus but it proved to be only a friendly dog.

How Flossie and Freddie insisted on keeping the dog, now that their pet cat Snoop was gone, how they named him Snap, and how it was discovered that he could do tricks, are all part of the story.

There were many more happenings after the twins started in at school. Mr. Bobbsey's boathouse caught fire in a mysterious manner. Snap was found to be a circus dog, and it was pretty certain that the fat lady in the train had also belonged to the show, and that it was she who had the valuable silver cup.

In time all was straightened out, and how Snoop came back from the circus in far-off Cuba, how Snap was allowed to stay with the Bobbseys, and how even the cup was finally recovered--all this you will find set down in the fourth book of this series.

And now winter had come in earnest, though even before this story opens the Bobbsey twins had had a taste of snow and ice. The accident on the coasting hill now occupied the attention of all.

"Oh, Nan! Nan will be killed!" cried Flossie, as she stood with Freddie gazing down the slope.

"No, she won't!" exclaimed Freddie, "Bert is going to save her--you'll see!"

"Oh, if he only can!" murmured Nellie Parks, one of Nan's friends.

"I think he will! See, he is coming nearer to them," added Grace Lavine, another friend.

Danny Rugg, mean as he was, was not quite so mean as to discourage this hope. Some of the girls on the sleds that were coming nearer to the rushing horses seemed about to roll off, rather than take chances of steering out of the way of the steeds.

"What can Bert be going to do?" asked Grace. "How can he save them?"

"I don't know," answered Nellie. "Let's watch him. Maybe he's going to stop the horses."

"He'd never dare!" murmured Grace.

"Oh, Bert is brave," was the answer.

But Bert had no intention of leaping for the horses' heads just now. His first idea was to get his sister and the other girls to a place of safety. As he came near to them, his sled going much faster than theirs, he called out:

"Steer to the right! Go to the right! I'll see if I can't make the horses go over to one side."

"All right!" cried Nan, who understood what her brother meant. "Keep to the right, girls," she called to her frightened chums, "and don't any of you fall off!"

Those who had been about to roll from their sleds now held on with firmer clasps. They were close to the runaway team now. Bert was near to them also, and, while wondering to whom they belonged, and whether they had injured their driver or anyone else in their mad rush, he caught up a handful of snow as his sled glided onward.

It was hard work to throw the snow ball at the horses, going down hill as he was, but Bert managed to do it. He had the good luck to hit one of the animals with the wad of snow, and this sent the horse over to one side, its mate following. This was just what Bert wanted, as it gave Nan and the others more room to coast past them.

And this is just what the girls did. Their sleds whizzed past the runaways, one sled, on which Hattie Jenson rode, almost grazing a hoof.

"Now you're safe!" cried Bert. "Keep on to the foot of the hill! You're all right!"

He gathered up another handful of snow, and threw it at the steeds, making them swerve more than ever towards the side of the hill. Then one of the animals slipped and stumbled. This caused them both to slow up, and Bert, seeing this, left his sled, rolling off, and letting it go down without him.

Hardly thinking of what he was doing, he ran for the heads of the horses. Perhaps it was not just wise, for Bert was not very tall, but he was brave. However, he was not to stop the runaways all alone, for just then some of the larger boys, who had been rushing down the hill, came up, and before the horses could start off again several lads had grasped them by the bridles and were quieting them.

"That was a good idea of yours, Bert Bobbsey," said Frank Miller. "A fine idea, lo throw snowballs at them. It made them go to one side all right, and slowed them up."

"I wanted to save the girls," said Bert, who was panting from his little run.

"Whose team is it?" asked another boy.

"I don't know," answered Bert. "I can't say that I ever saw them before. There's no one in the sled, anyhow, though it is pretty well loaded with stuff."

He and the other boys looked into the vehicle. It contained a number of boxes and bags. Then the boys looked down the hill and saw that the girls who had been in danger were now safe. Nan and the others were walking up, dragging their sleds.

The boys then noticed a man half running up the slope. He was waving his arms in an excited fashion.

"I guess that's the man who owns the horses," said Charley Mason.

There was no doubt of it a few minutes later, when the man came close enough to make himself heard.

"Are they all right, boys?" he asked. "Are my horses hurt?"

"They don't seem to be," answered Frank.

"That's good. Are my things all right?"

"Everything seems to be here," said Charley Mason, who was standing beside Bert. "I know who he is now," went on Charley in a low tone to his chum." He's Mr. James Carford, of Newton."

"He's lame," observed Bert, for the man limped slightly.

"Yes, he was in the war," went on Charley. "He's real rich, too, but peculiar, they say."

By this time aged Mr. Carford was looking over the team and the sled and its contents. He seemed weary and out of breath.

"Yes, everything is all right," he said slowly. "I hope no one was hurt by my runaways, I never knew 'em to do that before. I left 'em outside the store a minute while I went in to get something, and they must have taken fright. I hope no one was hurt."

"No, everyone got out of the way in time," said Bert.

"That's good. Who stopped the horses?" the old man asked.

"Bert Bobbsey," answered Frank Miller. "He warned his sister and the other girls to steer to one side, and then he threw snow at the horses and made them fall down. Then they slowed up so we could grab 'em."

"Ha! Bert Bobbsey did that, eh?" exclaimed aged Mr. Carford. "So this is the second time a Bobbsey has mixed up in my family affairs. The second time," and Mr. Carford looked at Bert in a peculiar manner.

"Did you fall out of the sled, Mr. Carford?" asked another boy, coming up just then.

"No, they started off when I was in the store. Funny, too, that they should. Well, I'm glad there's no one hurt and no damage done. I couldn't walk home to Newton. I'm much obliged to you boys. And to you too, Bert Bobbsey.

"Are you Richard Bobbsey's son?" he suddenly asked, peering at Bert from beneath his shaggy eyebrows.

"Yes, sir."

"Ha! I thought so. You look like him. You do things like him, too, without stopping to be asked. Yes, this is the second time a Bobbsey has meddled with my family affairs. Trying to do me a good turn, I suppose. Well, well!" and he seemed lost in thought.

"What is it? What is the matter?" asked Nan, in a low voice of her brother, as she came to stand beside him. "Is he finding fault because you helped stop his runaway horses?"

"No, Nan. I don't exactly understand what he does mean," answered Bert. "There seems to be some mystery about it."