Chapter IX. Mr. Bobbsey's Story
 

"Snow Lodge! Oh, Papa, could we go there?" cried Flossie, now wide awake.

"What fun we could have!" exclaimed Freddie, hose eyes were now as wide open as ever they had been.

Bert and Nan said little, but there was a look of pleased anticipation on their faces. They, too, realized what fun they could have in a big, old-fashioned farmhouse in winter, particularly when the building was refitted with a furnace, and had big fireplaces in it.

And Bert was wondering, more than ever, what strange reason Mr. Carford could have for not wanting to go back to lovely Snow Lodge.

"Say we can go, Daddy!" pleaded the two smaller twins, as they tried to get into their father's lap.

"Well," said Mr. Bobbsey slowly, "this is certainly very kind of, you, Mr. Carford, but I am not sure I can accept it. I am very much obliged to you, however--"

"Accept! Of course you can accept!" exclaimed the aged man. "There's no reason why you and your family shouldn't have a holiday vacation at Snow Lodge. The place has been closed up a long time, but a day or so, with a good fire in it, would make it as warm as toast. I know, for I've been there on the coldest winter days. Now you just plan to go up there with the wife and children, and have a good time. It might as well be used as to stand idle and vacant, as it is."

"What do you say, Mother?" and Mr. Bobbsey looked at his wife. "Shall we go to Snow Lodge?"

"The children would like it," said Mrs. Bobbsey slowly.

"Like it! I should say we would!" cried Nan. "I can take some pictures of the birds with my new camera--the one I am going to get for Christmas," she added with a smile.

"Oh ho! So you are going to have a camera for Christmas; are you?" laughed her father.

"I--I hope so," she replied.

"And I can build a snowhouse and live in it like the Esquimos," added Bert.

"Then I'm going to live with you!" cried Freddie. "Please go to Snow Lodge, Mamma!"

"Yes, take the youngsters up," urged Mr. Carford. "At least don't decide against it now. I'll leave the keys with you, and you can go any time you like. I don't suppose it will be until after Christmas, though, for Santa Claus might not be able to get up there," and he pinched Freddie's fat cheek.

"No, don't go until after Santa Claus has been here," urged Flossie seriously, and her mother laughed.

"Well, I must be going, anyhow," said Mr. Carford, after a pause. "It will be dark before I get back, and the storm seems to be coming up quickly. Emma will worry, I'm afraid. Now you just think it over about Snow Lodge," he concluded, "and I guess you will go, Mr. Bobbsey. You know my reasons for not wanting to set foot in the place, so I don't need to tell you.

"Now, good-bye. Go to Snow Lodge, and have a good time, and when you come back, children, tell me all about it. If I can't go there at least I like to hear about the place."

Mr. Carford went out to his team, through the now driving snow. He little realized what a joyful story the Bobbsey twins were to bring back to him from Snow Lodge, nor how it was to change his feeling in regard for his boyhood home.

"Papa," said Bert soberly, after the visitor had gone, leaving the keys of Snow Lodge behind him, "what is the secret about Mr. Carford and that winter place? And you're mixed up in it, I'm sure."

"What makes you sure, Bert?"

"Well, I've been thinking so ever since that day I helped to catch his runaway horses, and he said this was the second time a Bobbsey had tried to do him a favor.'"

"Had your favor anything to do with Snow Lodge, Papa?" asked Nan, as she put her arms about his neck.

"Well, yes, daughter, in a way. And, since Mr. Carford has told you part of the story, I may as well tell you the other half, I suppose."

"Oh, another story!" cried Flossie, in delight.

"Yes, we must be quiet and listen," said Freddie, as he drew up a stool close to his father.

"It isn't a very nice sort of story," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "In fact it is rather sad. But I'll tell it to you, anyhow. Did Mr. Carford tell you about when he was a boy?"

"Yes, and how he went away, and came back rich, and found all his folks gone and the farm sold," said Nan.

"Yes. Well, I guess he told you then, how he took his nephew, Henry Burdock, to live with him. He loved Henry almost as if he were his own son, and did everything for him. In fact he planned to leave him all his money. Then came a quarrel."

"What about?" asked Bert softly.

"Over some money. Henry was a young man who liked to spend considerable, and though he was not bad he was different from the country boys. Mr. Carford gave him plenty of spending money, however, and did not ask him what became of it.

"Then, one day, a large sum of money was missing from Snow Lodge. Mr. Carford accused Henry of taking it, and Henry said he had seen nothing of it. Then came a quarrel, and Mr. Carford, in a fit of temper, drove Henry away from Snow Lodge. There were bitter words on both sides, and after that Mr. Carford closed up the place, and has not been near it since. That is the part of the story Mr. Carford did not tell you."

"But where do you come in, Daddy?" asked Nan. "Did you find the missing money?"

"No, Nan, though I wish I had. But I was sure Henry had not taken it, and I tried to make Mr. Carford believe so. That is what he meant by me trying to do him a favor. But he would not have it so, and, for a time, he had some feeling against me. But it passed away, for he realized that I was trying to help him.

"But since then Mr. Carford and his nephew, Henry Burdock, have not spoken. As I said, Mr. Carford drove the young man away from Snow Lodge. It was in a raging storm and Henry might have frozen, only I found him and took him to a hotel. I helped look after him until he could get a start. It was a very sad affair, and it has spoiled Mr. Carford's life, for he loved Henry very much."

"And did Henry really take the money?" asked Freddie. "That was wicked, I think."

"You must not say so, Freddie," spoke Mr. Bobbsey. "We do not know that Henry did take it. No one knows. It is a mystery. I, myself feel sure that Henry did not, but I can not prove that he did not take it. His uncle believes that he did. At any rate the money disappeared."

"And where was it when Mr. Carford last saw it?" asked Nan.

"Mr. Carford left it on the mantlepiece in the big living room of Snow Lodge," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Henry was the only other person, beside himself, who was in the room, and in some way the money was taken. I even went so far as to have a man from the police station look all over the house, hoping he could find the roll of bills somewhere, but it did not come to light. And so, ever since, there has been a bad feeling between Henry and his uncle."

"What does Henry Burdock do now?" asked Bert.

"He roams about the woods, as a sort of guide and hunter. Sometimes, I am told, he comes close to Snow Lodge and looks down on it from a distant hill, thinking of the happy days he spent there."

"Maybe we'll see him when we go up," said Freddie. "If I do I'll give him all the money in my bank so he can be friends with his uncle again."

"No, Freddie," said Mrs. Bobbsey solemnly. "You must not speak of what you have just heard. It is a sad story, and is best forgotten. Both Mr. Carford and Henry feel badly enough about it, so it will be best not to mention it. Just forget all about it if we go to Snow Lodge."

"But we are going; aren't we, Papa?" asked Bert. "The trip to the woods would do us all good."

"Well, I think we might take advantage of Mr. Carford's kind offer," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Yes, we'll plan to go to Snow Lodge!"

"Hurrah!" cried Nan and Bert, grasping each other by the hands and swinging around in a sort of waltz.

"Can we take our sleds," asked Flossie.

"I'm going to take my skates--maybe I'll skate all the way there--I could--on the lake!" exclaimed Freddie, and he wondered why the others laughed.

"Well, we'll make our plans later," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Now, children, we'll have an early supper and then you must all get to bed. Christmas will come so much earlier if you go to sleep now."

"Oh, jolly Christmas!" cried Nan. "I can hardly wait!"