A Visit to Mr. Carford continued…
The dog and cat, satisfied to get out of their cages, had gone to the kitchen, where they could generally find something good to eat. Then Flossie and Freddie were kept busy putting back the chairs, and setting the room in order.
It was a day or so after the return of Mr. Bobbsey from his business trip, and though Bert had asked his father about Mr. Carford, the lumber dealer had not yet had time to give any explanation.
“It is quite a little story,” he said. “I’ll tell you about it some time, Bert. But now I have a lot of back work to catch up with, on account of being away so long, and I’ll have to go to the office early, and I’ll be late getting home.”
So the little incident had not yet been explained. The Christmas holidays were drawing nearer, and there were busy times in the Bobbsey household. Flossie and Freddie were expecting a visit from Santa Claus, and they wrote many letters to the dear old saint, telling what they wished to receive.
“But have you thought of what you are going to give?” asked Mrs. Bobbsey one day, a short time before Christmas. “It is more fun to give things than it is to get them, you know.”
“Is it?” asked Flossie, who had never heard of it in that way before.
“Indeed it is,” said Mrs. Bobbsey. “You just try it. If you have any toys you don’t care for any more, or even some that you do, and wish to give away, or books or other playthings, and if you will gather them up, I’ll see that they are given to some poor children who may not have a very good Christmas.”
The smaller twins thought this would be very nice, and they were soon busy over their possessions. Bert and Nan heard what was going on, and they insisted on giving their share also, so that quite a box full of really good toys were collected.
A day or so later, when the weather had cleared, Bert came in from coasting, and said,
“Mother, couldn’t Nan and I take a ride over to Mr. Carford’s house? He is out in front in his sled, and he says he’ll bring us back before dark. May we go?”
“Why, I guess so,” said Mrs. Bobbsey, slowly. “I don’t believe your father would object. But wrap up well, for it is chilly.”
“And can’t we go, too?” begged Flossie
“Yes, we want to,” added Freddie. “Please, Mamma!”
“Well, I guess so,” agreed Mrs. Bobbsey, “Will you look after them, Bert and Nan?”
“Oh, yes,” promised the two older twins, while Bert explained that he had met Mr. Carford, who was on his way home from the store, and had been given a ride. The invitation had followed.
“I’ll take good care of them, Mrs. Bobbsey,” said the elderly gentleman, as Mrs. Bobbsey went out to tuck in Flossie and Freddie “I’ve got to run into Newton and back again this afternoon, so I thought they’d like the ride.”
“Indeed it is very kind of you,” said the children’s mother. “I hope they will be no trouble.”
“Of course they won’t. Remember me to Mr. Bobbsey when he comes home. Ask him to come and see me when he has time. I want to talk to him about a certain matter.”
“All right,” said Mrs. Bobbsey, and Bert wondered if it had to do with the secret.
The drive out to Newton, which was a few miles from Lakeport, was much enjoyed by the Bobbsey twins. The speedy horses pulled the sled over the white snow, the jingle of the strings of bells around them mingling with other musical chimes on sleds that they met, or passed.
They saw Danny Rugg out driving with his mother in a stylish cutter, and Danny rather “turned up his nose” at the old bob sled in which the Bobbseys were riding. But Bert and his sisters and brother did not mind that. They were having a good time.
“Here we are!” called Mr. Carford after a fine ride. “Come in and get warm. I guess my sister has a few cookies left,” for a maiden sister kept house for the old gentleman.
Into the big old-fashioned farmhouse the children tramped, to be met by a motherly-looking woman, who helped them brush the snow from their feet. Then she bustled about, and brought in a big pitcher of milk, a plateful of molasses cookies, and some glasses. The children’s eyes sparkled at the sight of this fine lunch.
“There you are!” cried Mr. Carford heartily, as he passed around the good things. “Eat as much as is good for you. I’ve got to go out to the barn for a while. Emma,” he asked his sister, “have you got any more packages made up?”
“James Carford, are you going to give away more stuff?” demanded his sister. “Why, you’ll be in the poorhouse first thing you know.”
“Oh, I guess not,” he said with a laugh, “We can afford it, and there’s many who can’t. It’s going to be a hard winter on the poor. Put up a few more packages, and I’ll tie up some bags of potatoes!”
“I never saw such a man–never in all my born days!” exclaimed Miss Carford, shaking her head. “He’d give away the roof over us if I didn’t watch him.”
“What is he doing?” asked Bert.
“Oh, the same as he does every Christmas,” said the sister- housekeeper. “He makes up packages, bundles, baskets and bags of things to eat, and gives them to all the poor families he can hear of. He was poor once himself, you know, and he never can forget it.”
“He is very kind,” said Nan, in a low voice.
“Yes, he is that,” agreed Miss Carford, “and I suppose I oughtn’t to find fault. But he does give away an awful lot.”
She went out to look after matters in the kitchen, leaving the children to eat their lunch of milk and cookies alone for a few minutes. Presently Mr. Carford came back, stamping the snow from his boots.
“Ha!” he cried, as he went close to the stove to warm his hands. “This reminds me of the winters I used to spend at Snow Lodge on Lake Metoka. Were you ever up there?” and he looked at Bert.
“Ha! I thought not. It’s a fine place. But I don’t go there any more– never any more,” and he shook his head sadly.
“Did it burn down?” asked Freddie, who was always interested in fires and firemen. “Couldn’t they put it out?”
“No, Freddie, it didn’t burn down,” said Mr. Carford. “Sometimes I almost wish it had–before my trouble happened,” he added slowly. “Yes, I almost wish it had. But Snow Lodge still stands, though I haven’t been near it for some years. I couldn’t go. No, I couldn’t go,” and he shook his head sadly. “I just couldn’t go.”
The Bobbsey children did not know what to think. Mr. Carford seemed very sad. Suddenly he turned away from the fire that blazed on the hearth, and asked:
“Did I ever tell you about Snow Lodge?”
“No,” said Bert, softly.
“Then I will,” went on the aged man. “I don’t tell many, but I will you. And maybe you could make some use of the place now that the holidays are here. I used to spend all my Christmas holidays there, but I don’t any more. Never any more. But I’ll tell you about it,” and he settled himself more comfortably in the big chair.