The Bobbsey Twins/chapter4
THE BROKEN WINDOW
Neither Danny nor Bert had expected such an ending to the snowball fight and for the moment neither knew what to do. Then, as the owner of the shoe store came running out, both set off on a run.
"Stop! stop!" roared the shoe dealer, coming after them. "Stop, I say!"
But the more he cried stop the harder they ran. Both soon reached the comer, and while Danny went up the side street, Bert went down, so the boys soon became widely separated.
Reaching the corner, the owner of the store did not know which boy to go after, but made up his mind to follow Bert, who could not run as fast as Danny. So after Bert he came, with such long steps that he was soon close to the lad.
Bert was greatly scared, for he was afraid that if he was caught he might be arrested. Seeing an alleyway close at hand, he ran into this. At the back was a fence, and with all speed he climbed up and let himself down on the other side. Then he ran around a corner of a barn, through another alleyway, and into a street leading home.
The shoe dealer might have followed, but he suddenly remembered that he had left the store unprotected and that somebody might come in and ran off with his stock and his money. So he went back in a hurry; and the chase came to an end.
When Bert got home he was all out of breath, and his legs trembled so he could scarcely stand. Nan had just arrived and the family were preparing to sit down to lunch.
"Why, Bert, why do you run so hard?" protested his mother. "You must not do it. If you breathe in so much cold air, you may take cold."
"Oh, I—I'm all right," he panted, and started to drop into his seat, but Mrs. Bobbsey made him go up to the bathroom and wash up and comb his hair.
Poor Bert was in a fever of anxiety all through the meal. Every instant he expected to hear the front door bell ring, and find there a policeman to take him to the station house. He could scarcely eat a mouthful.
"What's the matter? Do you feel sick?" asked the father.
"No, I'm not sick," he answered.
"You play altogether too hard. Take it easy. The snow will last a long time," went on Mr. Bobbsey.
After lunch Bert did not dare to go back to school. But he could think of no excuse for staying home and at last set off in company with Nan. He looked around for Danny, but the big lad did not show himself.
"What's the matter with you, Bert?" questioned his twin sister, as they trudged along.
"Nothing is the matter. Nan."
"But there is. You act so strange."
"I—I don't feel very good."
"Then you did run too hard, after all."
"It wasn't that, Nan." Bert looked around him. "Do you see anything of Danny Rugg?"
"No." Nan stopped short. "Bert Bobbsey, did you have a fight with him?"
"No—that is, not a real fight. I chased him with some snowballs and he threw a big chunk of ice at me."
"Did he hit you?"
"No, he—he—oh. Nan, perhaps I had better tell you. But you must promise not to tell anybody else."
"Tell me what?"
"Will you promise not to tell?"
"Yes," said Nan promptly, for she and her twin brother always trusted each other.
"When Danny threw the ice at me it flew past and broke Mr. Ringley's window."
"What, of the shoe store?"
"Yes. Mr. Ringley came running out after both of us. I ran one way and Danny ran another. I ran into the alleyway past Jackson's barn, and got over the fence, and he didn't come any further."
"Does Mr. Ringley think you broke the window?"
"I guess he does. Anyway, he followed me and not Danny."
"But you had nothings to do with it. Oh, Bert, what made you run away at all. Why didn't you stop and tell the truth?"
"I—I got scared, that's why. I was afraid he'd get a policeman."
"Danny ought to own up that he did it."
"He won't do it. He'll put it off on me if he can,—because I chased him in the first place."
"Did Mr. Ringley know it was you?"
"I don't know. Now, Nan, remember, you promised not to tell."
"All right, Bert, I won't say a word. But—but—what do you think Mr. Ringley will do?"
"I don't know."
When they reached the school Danny Rugg was nowhere to be seen. The boys continued to have fun snowballing, but Bert had no heart for play and went to his classroom immediately. But he could not put his mind on his lessons and missed both in geography and arithmetic.
"Bert, you are not paying attention," said the teacher severely. "You just said the capital of Pennsylvania was Albany. You must know better than that."
"Harrisburg," corrected Bert.
"After this pay more attention."
Danny Rugg did not come to school, nor did he show himself until an hour after school was out. Bert had gone home and brought forth his sled, and he and Nan were giving Freddie and Flossie a ride around the block when Danny hailed Bert.
"Come here, I want to talk to you," he said, from across the street.
"What do you want?" asked Bert roughly.
"I've got something to tell you. It won't take but a minute."
Bert hesitated, and then leaving Nan to go on alone with the sled, he crossed to where Danny was standing, partly sheltered by a tree box.
"You can't blame that broken window off on me, Danny Rugg," he began.
"Hush!" whispered Danny, in alarm. "I ain't going to blame it off on you, Bert. I only want you to promise to keep quiet about it."
"Why should I? It was your fault."
"Was it? I don't think so. You began the fight. Besides, if you dare to say a word, I'll—I'll give you a big thrashing!" blustered Danny.
He clenched his fists as he spoke and looked so fierce that Bert retreated a step.
"I haven't said anything, Danny."
"Then you had better not. Old Ringley doesn't know who broke his window. So you keep quiet; do you hear?"
"Are you sure he doesn't know?"
"Yes, because he has been asking everybody about it."
There was a pause and the two boys looked at each other.
"You ought to pay for the window," said Bert.
"Huh! I'm not going to do it. You can pay for it if you want to. But don't you dare to say anything about me! If you do, you'll catch it, I can tell you!" And then Danny walked off.
"What did he have to say?" questioned Nan, when Bert came back to her.
"He wants me to keep still. He says Mr. Ringley doesn't know who did it."
"Did you promise to keep still, Bert?"
"No, but if I say anything Danny says he will give it to me."
A crowd of boys and girls now came up and the talk was changed. All were having a merry time in the snow, and for the time being Bert forgot his troubles. He and Nan gave Freddie and Flossie a long ride which pleased the younger twins very much.
"I wish you was really and truly horses," said Flossie. "You go so beautifully!"
"And if I had a whip I could make you go faster," put in Freddie.
"For shame, Freddie!" exclaimed Nan. "Would you hit the horse that gave you such a nice ride?"
"Let me give you a ride," answered the little fellow, to change the subject.
He insisted upon it, and soon Nan was on the sled behind Flossie, and Bert and Freddie were hauling them along where pulling was easy. This was great sport for Freddie, and he puffed and snorted like a real horse, and kicked up his heels, very much to Flossie's delight.
"Gee-dap!" shrieked the little maiden. "Gee-dap!" and moved back and forth on the sled, to make it go faster. Away went Freddie and Bert, as fast as the legs of the little fellow could travel. They went down a long hill and through a nice side street, and it was a good half hour before they reached home,—just in time for a good hot supper.