Four Little Blossoms at Brookside Farm
by Mabel C. Hawley
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Akron, Ohio—New York

Copyright MCMXX


Four Little Blossoms at Brookside Farm

Made in the United States of America







The little girl curled up in the window-seat did not move.

"Meg, you know Mother said we were to go before four o'clock, and it's half-past three now. You'll wait till the twins come in, and then they'll want to go, too." Bobby Blossom looked anxiously at his sister.

Meg put down her book and untangled her feet from the window cushions.

"I'm coming," she promised. "I never do get a chapter all read, Bobby. Where's my hat? I see it. I'll get it!"

Meg's hat was on the lawn outside where she had dropped it, and now she raised the screen and tumbled through the window to the ground. It wasn't far to tumble, and Meg had done it so often she was sure of landing safely.

"Norah says no lady goes out of the house through a window," giggled Bobby, tumbling after Meg and closing the screen carefully. Bobby was always careful to leave everything as he found it.

Meg giggled, too.

"I don't care, long as I grow up to be a lady like Mother," she asserted. "Let's hurry, Bobby, and perhaps we can stop at the library."

The children had reached the two stone posts at the foot of the lawn when a loud shriek halted them.

"Meg Blossom, you said I could go! Wait for me!"

Down the slightly sloping lawn hurried a short, thick-set little girl with dark eyes and hair and the reddest cheeks you ever saw. She carried a doll whose blue eyes opened and shut snappily with every jump her small mother took. This was Dot, Meg's little sister.

"You said I could go," panted Dot, when she caught up with Meg and Bobby. "Wait for Twaddles, he's coming. He wants to take the kiddie car."

"I told you so," scolded Bobby. "I never went uptown in my life all you children didn't want to tag along. You've got grease on your dress, Dot."

"Sam was cleaning the car," said Dot serenely. "I guess I brushed against the grease can. It won't show when I'm sitting down. There's Twaddles."

Bumping its way over the green grass came a kiddie car with a small boy astride it.

"I'm all ready," he beamed. "Come on, Bobby."

"You can't take that kiddie car," announced Bobby firmly. "Mother said this letter was to go in the four o'clock mail and we've got to hurry. If you and Dot want to go, you'll have to walk fast."

Twaddles usually minded Bobby. He promptly surrendered the kiddie car and continued to smile pleasantly.

The four Blossoms trudged briskly along. If you had ever lived in Oak Hill you would have known them. The whole town knew Meg and Bobby and Dot and Twaddles, and the children knew nearly every one, having lived in that one place all their short lives.

Bobby was the oldest. He was seven, and was remarkably like his sister Meg in looks. Both had fair hair and blue eyes. Meg's real name was Margaret Alice Blossom, and she was named for her mother. Bobby's full name was Robert Hayward Blossom. He was just a year older than Meg.

The twins were the funniest and dearest little couple, four years old and as roly-poly, happy-go-lucky a pair of youngsters as ever tumbled into one scrape after another and out again. They were known as Dot and Twaddles to all their friends, but, of course, they had "real" names like other children. Dot was named for an aunt, Dorothy Anna Blossom, and Twaddles was Arthur Gifford Blossom, if you please. Only no one ever called him that.

The Blossom children lived at the very tip end of the long straggling street that divided Oak Hill into two sections; in fact the Blossoms' rambling, comfortable old house was almost outside the town limits. Father Blossom owned the big foundry on the other side of the railroad.

"I'll go in," said Bobby, when they reached the post-office. "You wait here."

He disappeared into the yellow wooden building that was the Oak Hill post-office, and the other Blossoms, seeing a stalled car, stopped to watch the troubles of the interurban motorman whose trolley-car was blocked by a dog that apparently wanted to be run over.

The motorman clanged his bell and a boy on the curbstone whistled shrilly, but the dog refused to budge. He only rolled over on his side.

"He's hurt," said Meg. "See, his foot drags. I'll get him off."

She dashed out into the street and bent over the poor animal. Meg was "just crazy," her brothers said, about animals, and she was never afraid of any four-footed creature. Now, as she leaned over the little dog, he began to lick her hand with his rough tongue.

"His leg's broken," Meg said pityingly to the conductor and the motorman who had joined her. "Oh, the poor doggie! But Doctor Maynard will fix it."

There was a crowd now gathered on the car tracks, and Bobby, who had come out of the post-office and heard from the twins what was going on, pushed his way through to his sister.

"You hold your dress," he directed. "I'll lift him. There!"

The little dog was a heavy armful for Meg, but she held him bravely.

"I'm afraid of strange dogs myself," declared the conductor, plainly relieved that some one else had tended to the dog. "What are you going to do with him, little girl?"

"Take him to the doctor's," announced Meg. "Aren't we, Bobby?"

"Of course," affirmed Bobby.

He and Meg, carrying the dog, went back to where Twaddles and Dot were waiting. The twins were used to waiting patiently while the older children investigated sudden alarms and excitements.

"Let me pat him," begged Dot. "He's pretty, isn't he? Is he hurt, Meg? What are you going to do with him?"

"Take him to Doctor Maynard's," said Meg briefly. "I guess he's in, 'cause it's after four o'clock."

Kind, jolly Doctor Maynard was in. He was the Blossoms' family doctor, and knew the children very well. He didn't seem a bit surprised to have the four of them walk into his consulting room.

"Now, who's sick?" he demanded, pretending to be anxious. "Don't tell me Dot needs gingerbread pills? Or has Twaddles been eating too much layer cake? Dear, dear, you can't all have the whooping cough!"

Meg smiled, a little watery smile. Tears stood in her blue eyes.

"It's this," she said, spreading out her dress on the couch so that the doctor could see the dog. "I think his leg is broken."

Doctor Maynard sat down on the couch and the children crowded around him. The brown eyes of the dog watched him intently as though he knew that help was at hand.

"Yes, it's broken," said the doctor gently, after feeling of the slim little hind leg that dragged so uselessly. "But we can mend it, Meg. I have splints right here."

While the others watched, Doctor Maynard tore off long white strips of cloth and selected two wooden splints. These he placed one on each side of the broken leg and then directed Meg to wind the strips firmly around while he held the splints in place. This was to make the leg grow strong and straight again.

"Doesn't it hurt?" demanded Twaddles curiously.

"Yes, it hurts him," admitted Doctor Maynard, stroking the head of the little dog. "But animals are splendid patients, and they seldom complain. Now, then, our little friend is about as good as new, except that he will have to go on three legs for a bit."

The telephone rang just then and it proved to be a call for the doctor.

"I'll have to run along, chicks," he said hurriedly. "Going to keep the dog, Meg?"

"If Mother doesn't care," answered Meg.

"Mother won't care," said Bobby, as the children were walking home. He was very fond of his sister and tried to help her get whatever she wanted. "Sam will let him sleep in the garage and perhaps he will be a ratter. Sam likes a dog that is a ratter." Sam Layton was the man of all work employed by Mr. Blossom.

Meg and Bobby took turns carrying the dog home, and Twaddles mourned the fact that the kiddie car had not been brought along.

"I could have given him a ride," he explained. "What makes his tongue hang out like that, Meg?"

"He's hot," said Meg. "And I think he wants a drink. Let's take him around to the kitchen and give him some water."

As they neared the kitchen door some one spoke to them through the screen.

"Meg! Meg! What's this you do be bringing home with ye? A dog? Most likely it has the mange now, or some disease ye will all be catching. Why can't ye ever take up with a nice, quiet cat? 'Tis no dog I'll be having in me clean kitchen, mind that!"

Meg put the strange dog down on the gravel path. He swayed unsteadily on three legs.

"Look, Norah," she said. "His leg is broken. Doctor Maynard set it. And we only want to get him a drink of water. He's thirsty. He needn't even come into the house."

Norah had a sharp tongue, but her heart was generous and sweet.

"The poor beastie!" she said, opening the screen door of her jealously guarded kitchen. "Bring him in, Meg. He do be having fever, I suspect. I'll get him a cup of water. Dear, dear!"

Making a soft, sympathetic, clucking noise, Norah hurried to get a cup of cool water which the little dog lapped up greedily, standing on his three good legs.

"Bobby said he thought Sam would let him sleep in the garage," said Meg. "I suppose it is cooler there for him. All right, Norah, I'll carry him out. But we want to show him to Mother."

"She went to meet your father—she and Sam with the car," Norah told them. "And if I don't get my biscuits in, they'll be back before there's a thing cooked to eat."

The children took the hint and hurried to the garage. Bobby and Twaddles spread an old mat for the dog in a cool, dark corner, and very glad he seemed to be to have a place to lie down.

"We'll bring you some supper," Meg promised, patting him kindly. "You take a nap and forget 'bout your troubles."

"There's the car round front!" shouted Twaddles. "Bet you I see Daddy first."

"Bet you don't!" shrieked Dot.

With wild whoops the children tore round to the front of the house and fell upon Father and Mother Blossom just getting out of the car.

"We brought a dog home," cried Bobby.

"Come out and see him," urged Meg, clinging to her Mother's hand. "He's a dear little dog, and I love him already."



The Blossoms all went back to the garage and found Sam bending over the sick dog.

"He's a cute little fellow, Mr. Blossom," said Sam. "Just a pup, too. Shouldn't wonder if he turned out to be a good ratter when his leg gets well."

That was the highest praise Sam could give a dog, and Meg and Bobby were delighted.

"May we keep him, Mother?" they urged. "He can live in the garage. Please, Mother."

Mother Blossom looked at Father.

"Well, Ralph?" she said.

"Why, keep him, of course," counseled Father Blossom, laughter-twinkles in his kind eyes. "Norah is the sole objector in the family, and if you can pacify her there's no reason why we shouldn't have as many dogs as we want. Named him yet, Meg?"

"I want to think about a name for him," replied Meg. "You can't change names, you know, and I wouldn't want him to have a silly name."

"That's my cautious daughter," said Father Blossom. "And now it seems to me that some one said we were going to have supper early to-night."

"We are," declared Mother Blossom. "Children, you have several things to do before you are ready for the table. Your faces and hands are a sight. Bobby, didn't you go to the post-office? Was there any mail?"

"I forgot, Mother—there was one letter for you," answered Bobby, pulling a crumpled envelope from his pocket. "The dog kind of took my attention," he added.

Mother Blossom went into the house to read her letter, and the four children scampered upstairs to wash their faces and hands. Meg and Dot shared the same room, and Bobby and Twaddles slept in the room adjoining. Each child had a little white bed and a separate bureau.

"I s'pose I'd better put on another dress," said Dot doubtfully. "Mother didn't say to, though. Shall I, Meg?"

"Well, I would," advised Meg. "Not a spandy clean one, 'cause you mussed up two yesterday. Put on the green one again, can't you?"

"I tore that," objected Dot, who certainly had bad luck with her clothes. "Oh, dear, I don't see why I wasn't a bird with a dress all glued on."

"'Most ready?" asked Mother Blossom, who had come upstairs while the little girls were talking. "Let Mother tie your ribbon, Meg. What's the matter with Dot?"

Meg bubbled into a gay little laugh.

"She was wishing she was a bird with a dress glued on," she said. "Wouldn't that be funny?"

"Yes, it would," agreed Mother Blossom. "But bring me the white pique, dear, and let me help you into it. Daddy is waiting for us."

Dot was buttoned into a clean dress in a minute, and then Mother Blossom had to call Twaddles away from the basin in the bathroom where he was playing in the water instead of washing his hands, and she had to find a clean handkerchief for Bobby, and then, at last, they could all go downstairs.

Father Blossom was playing the mechanical piano, but he stopped as soon as he saw them.

"Everybody here to-night?" he asked. "Well, that is fine! Come on, Dottie-mine, and Daddy will tie your bib for you."

The twins did not always have supper with Mother and Father Blossom. Sometimes they had their bread and milk at five o'clock and went to bed at half-past six. It was a treat for them to eat supper with their father.

Mother Blossom smiled at the eager faces.

"We've company coming," she announced. "Some one you love to have visit us."

"When are they coming?" asked Meg.

"To-morrow," answered Mother Blossom. "If I hadn't asked Bobby for the mail, we might have been in a great pickle. She's coming on the nine-fifty-six to-morrow morning."

"Aunt Polly!" shouted the four little Blossoms.

"Is it Aunt Polly, Mother?"

"How long will she stay?"

"Can we go to meet her?"

"Will she bring a trunk?"

Mother Blossom put her hands over her ears.

"Don't all talk at once," she begged. "Yes, Aunt Polly is coming. She can't stay long, not even a week——"

"But what do you think?" interrupted Father Blossom. "She wants the four Blossoms to go home with her!"

"Ralph, you're not a bit better than Bobby," scolded Mother Blossom. "I didn't want to tell them to-night. However, there's no use trying to keep a secret in this family. Aunt Polly has invited you all to spend the summer at Brookside Farm."

Well, of course, the children could talk of nothing else after that. Aunt Polly Hayward was Mother Blossom's eldest sister. She was a widow and lived on a fine farm many miles distant from the town of Oak Hill. She came often to visit Mother Blossom, and the children thought there was no one like her. To go to see Aunt Polly was a wonderful treat, and even Bobby, who, as the oldest of the four little Blossoms, had had more experiences than the others, had never been away from home in his life to stay.

They were all up early the next morning, and Sam and the car took Father Blossom to the foundry immediately after breakfast so as to be back in time to meet Aunt Polly.

"Aunt Polly's coming, Norah," said Meg, happily, as Norah was clearing the table.

"Sure, and I've heard nothing else since last night," rejoined Norah. "How is the dog, your poor patient, this bright morning?"

Bobby and Twaddles and Dot looked at each other.

"The dog?" repeated Bobby. "My goodness, we forgot him!"

"I didn't forget him," Meg said. "At least, I remembered him after I was in bed. I came down to feed him, and Daddy heard me and wouldn't let me go out in my nightgown. He took him some bread and milk. And this morning I fed him before breakfast."

"How's he feel?" asked Twaddles sympathetically.

"He's ever so much better," Meg informed him. "He can wag his leg some."

"His tail, you mean," corrected Bobby. "Dogs don't wag their legs."

"They do, too," argued Meg. "Anyway this one does, so that shows he is better. And I've thought up a name for him. I'm going to call him Philip."

Bobby stared.

"What do you want to call him that for?" he said curiously.

"I read it in a book," answered Meg. "He looks as if he ought to be named Philip."

Bobby was too surprised to argue, and just then Mother Blossom called to them that Sam was coming back with the car and they hurried out to see who could go to the station.

"Aunt Polly will like to see us," declared Dot confidently. "And this dress is just as clean, Mother. There's only a tiny speck of egg on a tuck—it doesn't show a bit."

Mother Blossom sat down on the top step and pulled Dot into her lap.

"It's a duck of a clean frock," she assured her small daughter, kissing her. "And do you know there's just one way to avoid disappointment, and we'll take it; we'll all go to meet Aunt Polly. If she has any bundles, she'll just have to leave them, or Sam can tie them on behind."

Sam grinned.

When they reached the station Mother Blossom announced that the children were to stay quietly in the car while she went around to the front platform to meet Aunt Polly.

"Do you suppose she'll bring us anything?" asked Twaddles hopefully, as Mother Blossom disappeared around the corner of the ticket window.

"That isn't polite," reproved Meg quickly. "You must be glad to see company whether they bring you things or not."

"There she is!" Dot stood up in the car and pointed. "Aunt Polly!"

"Aunt Polly!" shouted the three other little Blossoms loudly.



Aunt Polly was short and stout with merry blue eyes and curly dark hair that, where it showed under her pretty hat brim, was just touched with gray.

"Hello, Blessings!" she greeted the children, as they spilled out of the car to meet her. "Every one of you here? That's fine. How do you do, Sam? I've two bags there on the platform, if you will get them."

When they were all stowed away in the car, Sam put the bags in the front where he and Bobby sat, and backed the car out of the station driveway.

"Well, have you decided to come home with me?" Aunt Polly put the question to them bluntly.

The four little Blossoms glanced uncertainly at each other.

"Polly Hayward," said Mother Blossom gayly, "you know perfectly well no one could get four children ready to take a journey in three days. Why, Dot has absolutely nothing to wear!"

"Oh, I'll lend her something," smiled Aunt Polly.

The children laughed at the idea of Auntie lending any dress of hers to small Dot.

"We'll fix it somehow," declared Aunt Polly comfortably. "I simply have to have those youngsters for a visit at Brookside. We're all getting so fat and lazy with no one to stir us up. Even the dog and cat need rousing."

"We have a dog, Aunt Polly," announced Meg, her eyes shining. "His name is Philip."

Before she had a chance to describe Philip the car reached the Blossom house and stopped at the side door.

"Here I am again, Norah," said Aunt Polly, as Norah came out to receive her.

"And 'tis glad I am to see ye, Mrs. Hayward," responded Norah heartily. "I'll take the bags, Sam. The guest room's all ready, ma'am."

The four children went as far as the guest-room door with Aunt Polly, and then Mother Blossom waved them back.

"Auntie and I have a great deal to talk over," she said. "You run away and amuse yourselves till lunch time, like good little Blossoms."

"Wait till I give them what I've brought them," hastily interposed Aunt Polly. "Bobby, you open that black bag and the four parcels on top are for you children."

Bobby opened the bag and took out four packages neatly wrapped in paper and tied with cord.

"How'll we know which is which?" he asked.

"That's for you to find out," returned his aunt, giving him a kiss.

Mother Blossom sat down on the bed and began talking in a low tone to Aunt Polly and the four children raced downstairs and out to the garage to open their presents. They liked the garage because there was plenty of space to play in, where, indeed, they had four empty rooms above the first floor for their own uses.

This morning they rushed upstairs so fast that they never thought of Philip till, as they reached the top step, Meg looked back and saw the little dog painfully hobbling after them on his three good legs.

"He wants to come, too," she said. "Here, Philip, come on up, good doggie."

Philip managed to finish his climb and then lay down on the floor, panting, but satisfied to be where his friends were.

"I'll give each one a package," Bobby decided. "Then we'll open them, one at a time, like Christmas. You first, Meg."

Meg ripped the string off her parcel with a single motion and pulled off the paper in such a hurry that she tore it in two. Meg always hurried to solve mysteries.

"Why, it's a game!" she cried, when she had opened the box. "All in pieces. Look!"

Bobby took a look and shrieked with delight.

"It's an airplane," he announced instantly. "That's mine, 'cause Aunt Polly knows I like experiments. What you got, Dot?"

Dot hastily unwrapped her package and discovered a doll's trunk.

"With clothes in it for Geraldine," she reported, after turning the tiny key and taking a peep inside. "That's mine all right. What's Twaddles got?"

Twaddles unwrapped his parcel slowly and importantly. He was sure it was for him, and he rather enjoyed making the others wait.

"Nothing but a book," he said disgustedly. "What kind of a book is it, Bobby?"

"That's for Meg," Bobby informed him. "'Black Beauty.' Aunt Polly knows Meg likes to read and is always fussing with animals. I must have your present, Twaddles."

The four Blossoms were more interested in Twaddles' gift than in their own because it was the only one they had not seen. Bobby carefully untied the string and wound it up in a neat ring; then he slowly took off the paper and folded that; finally he opened the flat box.

Twaddles promptly tried to stand on his head, a habit he had when he was pleased. He never did succeed in standing on his head, but he usually turned a very good somersault. He did now.

"Give it to me," he shouted, bobbing right side up again. "See, Dot, it's a water pistol!"

"Well, I don't think that's a good thing to give you," pronounced Meg decisively. "You'll be hitting Dot in the eye."

"Won't, neither," retorted Twaddles, feeling unjustly accused. "Aunt Polly asked me what I wanted most last time she was here and I told her; and she said if I'd promise not to shoot at people, she'd get me one. So there!"

Bobby, the peace-maker, proposed that they all go in and show their presents to Norah, and he helped Meg carry Philip downstairs because she was sure the trip would hurt his leg. Bobby was never in too much of a hurry to do what Meg wanted him to do.

In the afternoon, after lunch, all the Blossoms went for a long ride in the car, stopping at the foundry office on the way home to pick up Father Blossom. Still nothing was said about the children going home with Aunt Polly.

"Do you suppose Mother will let us?" asked Dot, as Meg was helping her undress that night. "Maybe she's afraid I will use up my clean dresses too fast, and Aunt Polly won't have any to put on me. But you could lend me yours, Meg."

"No, I don't believe that's the reason," said Meg slowly. "I tell you what I think—I think Mother and Daddy have to plan a lot before they know whether we can go. But you ought to be more careful with your dresses, Dot."

The next morning Mother Blossom announced that if the children would come out on the porch she had something to tell them. There was a general stampede from the breakfast table—Father Blossom had had an early breakfast and had gone before the others were down—and Aunt Polly in the swing and Mother Blossom in a huge rocking-chair were nearly smothered in a shower of kisses.

"Are we going to Brookside?"

"Are we going home with Aunt Polly?"

"Can I learn to milk a cow?"

"Do you have chickens, Aunt Polly?" Four little voices chorused at once.

"Dear, dear," chuckled Aunt Polly. "So you've been thinking about Brookside all this time, have you? And what makes you think your mother wants to talk about the farm with you?"

Four pairs of eyes fixed their anxious gaze upon Mother Blossom.

"Well, dearies," said Mother Blossom in answer, "Daddy and Aunt Polly and I have talked this over, and we've come to a decision. It is impossible for me to get you ready to go home with Aunt Polly to-morrow."

"Oh, Mother!" mourned Twaddles.

"Would you want to go and leave Mother?" that dear lady asked in surprise.

"Not—not exactly," stammered the little boy. "But I want to go somewhere awfully."

"Couldn't you go, too, Muddie?" suggested Meg.

"Listen, and I'll tell you what we've planned," said Mother Blossom. "Aunt Polly has to go back to-morrow. We've tried to persuade her to stay, but it seems the summer is a very bad time to be away from a farm. But a week from to-morrow, if you are all very good and help me as much as you can, I will take you to Brookside to visit Aunt Polly for a month, or as long as she can stand four active youngsters in her quiet house."

"Hurrah!" shouted the four little Blossoms.

"Won't that be great! Let's get the trunk down right away, Mother."

"Well, I wouldn't, not till Daddy comes home," said Aunt Polly, fanning herself and smiling. "A week is plenty of time, and I hear that Dot has to have some new frocks made."

"Is Daddy coming?" Bobby asked suddenly.

"I wanted him to, for I think he needs a rest," said Aunt Polly soberly. "But the most we could get him to promise was that he might come up with your mother when it is time for you to go home."

"Mother's going—she said so," Meg reminded her aunt.

"Only to take you to Brookside, Daughter," explained Mother Blossom. "Then I am coming home again to stay with Daddy. You see, I couldn't leave him alone in this house for a whole month. Think how lonesome he would be."

Twaddles thought this over for a moment.

"Well, I guess it will be a change for him, 'thout any children," he remarked, with a sunny smile.

Aunt Polly scooped him into her lap and gave him a big hug.

"Now where in the world did you get that idea?" she said.

"I found it," confided Twaddles cheerfully.

Dot had already disappeared. She thought it time to begin her packing. Presently they heard her in the house tumbling books out of the bookcase on to the polished floor.

"Glory be, whatever are ye doing?" came Norah's cry. "Haven't I enough to be doing, without ye upsetting a room as fast as I put it in order?"



Meg rushed into the house.

"Dot Blossom, you're not to touch my books," she scolded. "The idea! Why don't you fuss with your own things?"

Dot looked vexed.

"I'm helping you," she explained. "Don't you want to take your books to Aunt Polly's to read rainy days? Well, then, I'll pack 'em for you."

Mother Blossom had followed Meg, and now she intervened.

"No one is to pack anything to-day," she said firmly. "I want Dot to go into town with a message for Miss Florence. And Meg must practice on the piano half an hour at least. This afternoon we're going to take Aunt Polly driving. After she goes home there will be plenty for all of us to do to get ready."

Miss Florence Davis was the dressmaker who often came to the house to make clothes for the Blossom children, and Dot set off presently for her house, carrying a note to her. Miss Florence had no telephone. She said she wasn't home long enough to answer it. But she always left a slip of paper pinned to her door to tell people at whose house she was sewing, and her customers were used to going about the town till they found her.

"She says she can come," reported Dot when she returned from her errand. "She can give you four days, Mother. Where are the boys?"

Mother Blossom looked at her small daughter and sighed.

"I thought you knew Sam painted the fence last night," she said mildly.

"I did, but I forgot," explained Dot, trying to fold over a pleat so that the vivid streaks of green paint would not show. "I guess I kind of brushed up against it, Mother."

Usually when Aunt Polly went home the four little Blossoms were disconsolate, but the next morning they saw her to the station quite cheerfully. Were they not going to Brookside themselves exactly one week from that day?

"Now we must fly around and get ready," announced Bobby, when they returned to the house. Bobby had a great trick of remembering speeches he had heard older folk make.

"Indeed then and you must," agreed Norah, who was sweeping the porch. "Your mother wants Dot in the sewing room. Miss Florence is ready to try on. And, Bobby, it's sorry I am, but we're out of soap."

It was rather a long walk to the grocery store, and Bobby didn't think that going for soap promised one bit of excitement. Neither did Meg want to practice the piano scales that one day were to make her a good musician. Norah knew something of what they were thinking.

"You'll both be helping your mother to get ready to go," she said earnestly and kindly. "I've got extra washing to do, for all your clothes must be clean. And if Meg's going to stop learning music every time a new plan comes up, she'll grow up to be terrible ignorant of lots of things."

"All right, I'm going," said Bobby quickly. "An' you'll be through by the time I get back, Meg. Then I guess we can pack the toys."

Twaddles, left alone, wandered up to the sewing room.

"Hello, Twaddles," said Miss Florence pleasantly. "Have you come up to see what pretty dresses Dot is going to have? And what is this I hear about every one going to Brookside?"

"We're going to see Aunt Polly," explained Twaddles. "And, Mother, can we take toys? Bobby's all ready to pack 'em as soon as he gets back."

"If you don't pack something pretty soon, the house won't hold you," observed Mother Blossom, smiling. "You see, Twaddles dear, Mother doesn't believe you will need many toys at Brookside. There will be so many wonderful new out-of-door things for you to play with. Suppose we say that each of you may choose the two things you are fondest of. That won't make so much to carry."

So that was settled, and when Bobby came back from town and Meg had finished practicing scales and Dot's three new dresses had all been tried on, the children went upstairs to their playroom to select the toys they thought they would want to take with them.

"I think we ought to take the things Aunt Polly gave us," announced Meg. "They're new, and we haven't played with them much. She might think we didn't like 'em if we left them at home."

"All right, we will," decided Bobby. "And I'll take my ball and bat. Guess I won't break Aunt Polly's windows. There must be lots of room on a farm."

"I'm going to take the paper dolls," said Meg. "I'm pretty sure Aunt Polly will have books to read, so that's all right. What you going to take, Dot?"

"Geraldine and Tottie-Fay and the trunk," was the prompt response.

"That's three," Meg reminded her. "Mother said we could each have two. I tell you—you don't need the trunk; just take Geraldine's new clothes."

"All right," acquiesced Dot briefly.

Tottie-Fay was an old dollie, but dearly loved, and, as Father Blossom said when he heard that she was going to Brookside, no one could need a change of air more.

"I'm going to carry my kiddie-car," declared Twaddles serenely.

The others protested that the kiddie-car wouldn't go in the trunk; that there would be no pavement on which to ride it; that Twaddles should take a smaller toy.

Twaddles listened politely and set his obstinate little chin firmly. He meant to take the kiddie-car.

"We'll express it," said Father Blossom kindly that night. "I'm going to send a porch swing up and a——Oh, my goodness, I almost told you. And it is a surprise!"

"What is it?" cried the four little Blossoms eagerly. "Tell us, Daddy! Ah, do! Please!"

"It can be a surprise for Aunt Polly," suggested Meg artfully. "Won't you tell us, Daddy?"

"No. I like surprises that are surprises," asserted Father Blossom. "Now, not another word does any one get out of me on this subject. Not a word."

The next few days were very busy ones; but at last two trunks were brought down and placed in the hall, and Mother Blossom made lists and packed and explained her plans to Meg and Bobby, who, as the oldest, could be expected to remember.

"All the stockings are here, dear, right in this tray," Mother Blossom would say. "And I'm putting Bobby's blouses in this trunk. You are sure you will remember so that Aunt Polly needn't be bothered in case I don't get both trunks unpacked for you?"

Meg was sure she could remember.

"Where's Twaddles?" asked Mother Blossom the last afternoon, when she was putting in the very final things. "I haven't seen him since lunch time. Dot, do you know where he went?"

"I think he's watching Sam give Philip a bath," volunteered Bobby. "He likes the smell of that dog soap, Mother."

"I can't say I do," said Mother Blossom frankly. "It is strongly carbolic. Go and call him in, will you, Bobby?"

Bobby found Twaddles blissfully watching the shivering Philip enduring a last rinsing after his bath. Sam liked to keep him clean, and he said that because a dog had a broken leg was no reason why he shouldn't be washed.

"Mother says for you to come in," Bobby told his brother. "It's time to get ready for supper. Gee, that soap does smell, doesn't it?"

"I like it," Twaddles affirmed, sniffing luxuriously. "I wish we took baths with that kind."

Mother Blossom sent him to the bathroom to wash his face and hands and she brushed his hair for him herself.

"What is that I keep smelling?" she asked once or twice, "Oh, the carbolic dog-soap. Twaddles, I do wish you wouldn't handle it so much."

"Who's been to the drug store?" said Father Blossom, when they sat down to supper. "Phew! I smell carbolic, strong."

"Philip had a bath," explained Twaddles uneasily. "Perhaps you smell it, Daddy."

"Twaddles means the soap," giggled Meg. "You can't smell a bath, silly."

Father Blossom laid down his carving knife and fork.

"I can't stand that," he declared positively. "Twaddles, you needn't tell me just handling a soapy dog is responsible for the whiffs of carbolic I'm getting. What is that in your pocket?"

A dark wet stain was slowly spreading in the square little pocket of the blouse Twaddles wore.

"I—I saved a piece," he stammered. "I thought Spotty, Aunt Polly's dog, ought to have some. It's awful healthy for dogs, Daddy. Sam says so."

Father Blossom had to laugh.

"I don't doubt it," he admitted. "But that's no reason why we should have to smell it. Wrap it up and put it away if you like for Spotty. And then come back and we'll see if we can finish supper in peace."



"Good-by, Daddy! Good-by, Daddy dear! Good-by, dear, darling Daddy!"

The four little Blossoms all tried to hug their father at once. They were at the station, where Sam and the car had brought them, and the train that was to take them on the first lap of the journey to Aunt Polly's farm was turning the curve down the track.

"Be good," said Father Blossom, speaking as clearly as he could with Dot hanging around his neck and Twaddles pounding his chest affectionately. "Help Mother all you can, and be sure to write me nice letters."

The long, shiny train glided into the station, and there was a scramble among the people waiting on the platform. Apparently every one wanted to be the first to get on. It took Mother and Father Blossom and Sam and the jolly conductor to see that all four of the little Blossoms and the two bags were stowed away comfortably in two seats.

Then Father Blossom and Sam got off and stood on the platform talking through the open window until the train began to move slowly.

"Good-by!" shouted the children. "Good-by, Daddy! Good-by, Sam!"

Meg leaned over Twaddles, who was seated next to the window.

"Don't forget to feed Philip," she cried.

Sam waved his hand to show that he heard and understood, and the train went faster and faster. In a few minutes Oak Hill station was far behind them.

"Now we're started," announced Bobby, with satisfaction.

"Did my kiddie-car get on?" asked Twaddles anxiously. "S'posing they forgot it?"

"Is that why you were hanging round the baggage-room?" demanded Bobby. "Course the kiddie-car is on. I saw Mr. Hayes putting it on. You ask the conductor."

But the conductor, who came through presently for tickets, didn't know.

"I tell you what you do," he said, his eyes twinkling at Twaddles. "You ask the brakesman to take you into the baggage car and let you look around. Then you can see for yourself."

"But that is making a great deal of trouble," protested Mother Blossom. "You can easily wait till we get to Brookside, dear."

"Let him go, let him go," advised the conductor cheerily. "It will kind of break up the monotony of the trip, ma'am. These little folks are going to get pretty tired before they get to Alawana."

So Twaddles marched off importantly with the conductor to find the young, good-natured brakesman, and the three little Blossoms rather wished they could go, too.

"What happens when we get to Alawana, Mother?" asked Bobby. "Do we change cars?"

"No, dear, we take the boat," explained Mother Blossom. "If the train is on time we have an hour to wait, which will allow us to have lunch; then we take a steamer that takes us up Lake Tobago to Little Havre. There we take a stage, or a wagon, or whatever they have to meet the boat, and ride to Four Crossways; and there Aunt Polly meets us and drives us over to Brookside."

"Here comes Twaddles," announced Dot. "Did you find the kiddie car?" she asked.

"Yes, it's there," reported Twaddles, squeezing in past Meg, and climbing into his place beside his twin. "There's lots of trunks and things there, too."

During the long stretches when the train hummed steadily along and there was nothing to be seen from the car windows but miles and miles of green fields and woods with here and there a house, the children played a game Mother Blossom had known when she was a little girl.

"My ship is loaded with apples," Bobby would say.

"My ship is loaded with apricots," Meg would declare.

Dot usually had to think a minute.

"My ship is loaded with—with ashes," she might announce finally.

"My ship is loaded with at;" this from Twaddles.

"Oh, Twaddles!" Bobby would scold. "You can't load a ship with 'at.' That isn't anything."

"'Tis, too," maintained Twaddles stubbornly. "It begins with 'a,' doesn't it? And it's a word. So there."

If Twaddles had his way and was excused from thinking up another word, it would be Mother Blossom's turn.

"My ship is loaded with asters," she might say, smiling.

When no one could think of another word that began with A, they would go on to B. This game amused the children for many minutes at a time. They had just started on words beginning with C when the train reached Alawana.

"I'm hungry," declared Meg, when they all stood together on the platform and the train that had brought them from Oak Hill was nothing but a black speck in the distance. "We had breakfast an awful long time ago."

"I guess it was yesterday," said Dot mournfully.

Mother Blossom laughed.

"Poor chickens, you are hungry," she said. "Never mind, I see a nice little restaurant across the street. Let me find out when the boat goes, and then we'll have a good, hot lunch."

The Lake Tobago boat, Mother Blossom found out, left in half an hour. Their train had been late. However, the dock was not far off, and Mother Blossom was sure they would have time for sandwiches and milk at least.

All the children were tremendously excited at the thought of going on a steamer, as not one of them had ever been on a boat. There was no lake or river near Oak Hill, and the largest body of water the four little Blossoms had seen was the town reservoir.

"If they have sails, I'm going to roll 'em up and down," Dot announced, so thrilled at the prospect that she upset her glass of milk down the front of her frock.

"You'll have to wear it," said Mother Blossom, mopping her as dry as she could with a napkin. "Perhaps I can put a dry dress on you on the boat. Now try to eat quietly, dear; we haven't much time."

The shower-bath of milk rather subdued Dot for the moment, and lunch was finished without further mishap. Then a brief walk through the pretty little country town brought them to the lake.

"O-oh! Isn't it lovely!" breathed Meg. "Just see how it sparkles in the sun. Don't you like it, Dot?"

"It's all right," agreed Dot carelessly.

Her quick eyes had spied an old organ grinder and his monkey on the other side of the dock. She slipped under the rope, where the people who wanted to take the boat were standing, and ran over to the music.

"We needn't have hurried," said Mother Blossom, coming back to her little folk. She had been to the office to have the baggage checks looked after. "The boat is held up for another half hour because of some engine trouble. Where's Dot?"

Well, where was Dot? Meg had thought her little sister was standing next to her. The boys were sure she had been just behind them. Where was Dot?

She stood in the crowd gathered about the organ grinder, a little girl with shining dark eyes and a milk-splashed frock, watching the clever bowing and scraping of the small monkey with evident delight. Then a sudden movement of the people about her startled her. She remembered that she was supposed to go somewhere with the rest of her family. She saw people hurrying toward a large automobile with nine or ten long seats in it, and she hurried toward it, too. A man helped her up the high step, and she found a seat just behind the driver.

The automobile was lumbering up a narrow white road with woods on either side of it before Dot realized where she was.

"Why, this isn't the boat!" she said aloud.

The lady seated next to her glanced at her curiously.

"The boat?" she repeated. "This jitney goes to Fermarsh. You're not traveling all alone, are you, little girl? You don't look more'n five."

"I was four in June," announced Dot with dignity. "Twaddles was, too. We're twins. But I have to go to Little Havre on the boat."

"You're going in the opposite direction," said the woman placidly. She did not seem to care. "What's that on your dress?"

Dot's tears brimmed over.

"Milk," she sobbed. "I tipped it over. An' I have to go on the boat with my mother."

The jitney driver heard and turned.

"What's this?" he asked. "You belong on the boat, little girl? Well, now, don't cry; we'll fix it. I heard they had engine trouble to-day, and like as not they'll be late starting. Long up the road a spell we'll meet the two o'clock jitney coming back, and I'll see that Dave Gunn takes you in with him. An' if you do miss the boat my wife'll take care of you over night and we'll ship you up to Little Havre on to-morrow's boat."

Dot felt that the jitney driver was very kind, but she hoped with all her heart that she would not have to stay all night in a strange house. She wanted her mother, and Twaddles and Meg and Bobby. She hadn't known till this minute how dearly she loved them.

Sure enough, their jitney had not gone very far when they saw another jitney coming toward them.

"Hi, Dave!" called the driver of Dot's jitney. "Got a passenger for you. A little lady who tangled up her traveling directions and missed getting on the boat. You take her with you, and see that she lands on the steamer."

Mr. Gunn stopped his machine and came over to the other jitney.

"Come on, Sister," he said pleasantly, lifting Dot down gently.

"Why, you are little to be traveling on your own. I've got three home 'bout your size."

Mother Blossom, as you may suppose, had been nearly frantic all this time. She had taken the other children on board the boat and had left them on deck with the bags, after they had promised not to stir from the spot where she left them, and she had been going up and down the dock making inquiries, and even walking up into the town, believing that perhaps some of the store windows had attracted Dot.

No one remembered seeing a little girl in a green dress and a brown straw hat.

Just as Mother Blossom was wearily wondering if she should telegraph Father Blossom that Dot was lost, a motor jitney lumbered down to the dock. Some one in a green dress and a brown straw hat was sitting on the front seat beside the driver.

"Mother! Mother!" shouted Dot.

There was just time for her to tumble out of the car into her mother's arms, just time for Mother Blossom to give the driver a dollar bill and say a word of thanks, and then the steamboat whistle blew loudly once.

"That means she's starting," said the jitney man. "Run!"

And hand in hand, Mother Blossom and Dot raced down the wharf and over the gangplank on to the deck of the boat, just as it began to slide away.



"We thought you weren't coming," said Meg anxiously.

"Where did you find Dot?" asked Bobby and Twaddles in the same breath.

Dot smiled serenely.

"I came back myself," she informed them. "The jitney man told me how."

Mother Blossom sat down on a camp-stool and fanned herself with Twaddles' blue sailor hat.

"See if we can't get to Brookside without any more mishaps," she commanded the children. "If we had missed the boat, think of the worry and trouble for Aunt Polly. Even if we telegraphed she wouldn't get it before she started over to meet us."

The four little Blossoms promised to be very good and to stay close together.

Lake Tobago was a small lake, very pretty, and for some minutes the children saw enough on the shores they were passing to keep them contented and interested. In one place two little boys and their father were out fishing in a rowboat and the steamer passed so close to them that the four little Blossoms, leaning over the rail, could almost shake hands with them.

"There's another wharf! Do we stop there? Yes, we do! Come on, Dot, let's watch!" shouted Twaddles, as the steamer headed inshore toward a pier built out into the water.

"Keep away from the gangplank," warned Mother Blossom. "You mustn't get in people's way, dear."

The pier was something of a disappointment, because when the boat tied up there the children discovered that only freight was to be taken off and more boxes carried on. There was only one man at the wharf, and apparently no town for miles.

"Doesn't anybody live here?" asked Twaddles, almost climbing over the rail in his eagerness to see everything.

"Sure! There's a town back about half a mile," explained the deck-hand who was carrying on a crate of live chickens. "This is just where farmers drive in with their stuff."

"Let me see the chickens," cried Dot, climbing up beside her brother.

Her elbow knocked his hat, and because he hadn't the elastic under his chin, it went sailing over on to the wharf. One of the men rolling a barrel toward the steamer did not see the hat and calmly rolled his barrel over it.

"Now you've done it!" scolded Meg, in her big-sister anxiety. "That's a fine-looking hat to go to see Aunt Polly in. Hey, please, will you bring it back here with you?"

The man with the barrel heard and turned. He picked up the shapeless broken straw that had been Twaddles' best new hat, and brought it to them, grinning. Several people who had been watching laughed.

"It does look funny, doesn't it?" said Meg. "You'd better go and show it to Mother, Twaddles."

Twaddles went back to Mother Blossom and dangled his hat before her sadly.

"Oh, Twaddles!" she sighed. "Is that your hat? And we're miles from a store. Here, let me straighten out the brim. What happened to it? Where did you go?"

Twaddles said truthfully enough that he hadn't been anywhere, and explained what had happened to the hat. The boat was out in the lake again by this time and steaming on toward Little Havre.

"Where are the others?" asked Mother Blossom. "Tell them we get off in fifteen or twenty minutes, and I want them all to come and stay near me."

Presently the boat scraped alongside a wide wharf and a number of people began to bustle off.

"Where are we going now?" asked Twaddles, his round eyes dancing with excitement. Twaddles certainly loved traveling.

"Don't you 'member?" said Meg importantly. "We have to go to Four Crossways, and Aunt Polly will meet us. There's a bus that says 'Four Crossways,' Mother."

Mother Blossom had to see about the trunks and the kiddie-car, which, it seemed, were all to go in a queer contrivance attached to the motor bus, a "trailer," the driver called it.

"Isn't that nice?" beamed Bobby, when he heard of this arrangement. "Our trunks will get there the same time we do."

The children watched this trailer being loaded, and then all climbed into the bus and began the journey to Four Crossways. There were so many people on their way there that Bobby and Twaddles had to be squeezed into the front seat between the driver and the man who took the fares, and they liked this immensely.

"We're going to Brookside," volunteered Twaddles, who was sociably inclined, as soon as the driver seemed to have his engine fixed to suit him and the car was purring up the straight, wide road.

"To see Aunt Polly," chimed in Bobby.

"There's a lot of you, isn't there?" said the driver, smiling.

When both boys said they had never been on a real farm, the driver, whose name, he told them, was Gus Rede, had so much to say about the fun that awaited boys on a farm and especially such a fine place as Brookside that before Bobby and Twaddles knew it the bus had driven up to the post-office and there was dear Aunt Polly waiting to welcome them.

"Bless their hearts," she said warmly, when she had kissed Mother and had hold of a child with either hand. "Are they all tired out, poor lambs? It's a fearful place to get to, especially the first trip."

Mother Blossom assured her sister that they were all right, and as glad to see her as she was to see them.

"I left the car around on a side street," explained Aunt Polly, leading the way. "You see so many horses are still afraid of automobiles that we think it more thoughtful not to leave 'em standing on the main street. Yes, I drove over alone for you—either Peter or Jud will come over to-morrow for your trunks."

This last was in response to a question Mother Blossom had asked.

Aunt Polly's car was large enough to hold them all comfortably. Dot and Twaddles fell into a little doze, leaning against Mother Blossom. They had had rather a long day. But Meg and Bobby sat up very straight and asked questions whenever Aunt Polly was not speaking to their mother.

"Who's Peter and Jud?" Bobby wanted to know first.

"Peter Apgar is my tenant farmer and runs the farm for me," said Aunt Polly, pulling over to one side of the road to let a huge load of hay go past. "Jud is his son. You'll like Jud. They live in a house about a quarter of a mile from our house."

"How is Spotty?" came from Meg. "I thought maybe you'd bring him with you."

"Spotty is very lively and well," answered Aunt Polly. "I like a farm dog to stay at home and watch things, so I've never trained him to ride in the car with me. By the way, Meg, we have a new addition to our animal family that I'm sure you'll like."

Meg was immediately curious—what was it?

"The blackest cat you ever saw," said Aunt Polly. "And I think probably the largest. He is so shiny, and not a white hair on him! He belonged to the people on the next farm, but spent about half his time with me; so when they sold and moved away last week Poots was given to me to keep."

"Is that his name—Poots?" inquired Meg. "How funny!"

"Well, he's a funny cat," replied her aunt. "And now, children, if you look sharp you'll see Brookside!"

She turned the car into a neat graveled roadway which parted a pretty concrete wall exactly in half, while Twaddles was puzzling how those things that looked to him like chickens could ever turn into big juicy turkeys.

Eagerly the four little Blossoms tumbled out. They saw a compact, modern house that looked even from the outside as if one might find all sorts of unexpected corners within. A green lawn bordered each side of the driveway, and in one direction was a red-tiled house with smoke coming out of the chimney and in another a birdhouse perched on a high pole near the gate the four little Blossoms had just come through.

Bobby spied the other house and Meg saw the home for the birds, just as people always see whatever they are most interested in first.

"Flowers!" said Dot.

She had seen the hollyhocks that stood up straight and tall against the fence that shut off the back of Aunt Polly's house.

Peter Apgar had come up to take the car and perhaps to see the new arrivals. The four little Blossoms liked him at once, and when he spoke in a soft, lazy drawl that was good-nature itself they knew he was going to be a good friend.

"Can't say you're lonesome now, Miss Polly," he chuckled pleasantly. He always called her Miss Polly, never Mrs. Hayward. "And I guess Jud is as good as useless to me the rest of the summer. What these youngsters don't think up to do, he will," the farmer added, with a broad grin.



Though all of the four little Blossoms protested that they were not the least bit sleepy, it was not long after Mother and Aunt Polly had helped them to delicious brown bread and honey and milk and baked apples that they were stumbling up the stairs to baths and bed. Linda, a girl about fifteen, who lived with Aunt Polly and went to school in the winter and worked during the summer, had made the two pretty bedrooms as dainty as possible and had left a vase of flowers on the table in each room. It was Linda, too, who brought armfuls of clean towels and showed them which was the hot and which the cold water in Aunt Polly's white and green bathroom.

The next day the four children and Mother Blossom and Aunt Polly, with Linda and Jud part of the time and Spotty and Poots in constant attendance, explored Brookside thoroughly.

They saw the poultry yard, where ducks and chickens and guinea-hens and one lame turkey lived happily together. The other turkeys roamed all over the farm, and Aunt Polly said that at night they slept out of doors in the trees. She said they would be sick if cooped up in houses, and that they had to roam half-wild to thrive.

The visitors called on Mrs. Sally Sweet, the beautiful gentle Jersey cow that gave such wonderful rich milk; they saw the seven new little white pigs; they took salt to the sheep that were in a stony pasture and that came running when Peter called to them from the bars.

They made the acquaintance, too, of Jerry and Terry, the two faithful farm horses, and Nelly Bly, the brown mare who had a small colt, Felix, by her side. Meg had to be dragged away from the colt. She said she had never seen such a darling little horse.

Jud Apgar was a tall, lanky boy, with the same pleasant drawling way of speaking his father had, and the "evenest temper that ever was," Linda said. Linda should have known, because she was a great tease.

On their way back from the sheep pasture Aunt Polly and the Blossoms stopped at the tenant house, and Mrs. Apgar asked them in to taste of her fresh buttermilk. She had just finished churning, and the children saw their first churn. They admired the firm yellow butter, but they did not care much for the buttermilk, though Mother Blossom drank two glasses of it and said it was delicious.

It was nearly dinner time now, for Aunt Polly, like many people who live in the country, liked to have her dinner at noon, and they all hurried home to get freshened up for the meal. Poor Dot, as usual, had managed to soil her frock, and she had to be buttoned into a clean dress.

"How'd you ever get that old egg on it?" scolded Meg, nevertheless helping her to fasten the buttons.

"I didn't know eggs broke so easy," explained Dot. "I was looking in a nest where a hen was sitting, and she flew up and scared me. And I just touched one of her eggs and it broke."

Meg happened to glance from the window.

"Peter's brought the trunks!" she cried. "And the kiddie-car and a bundle that must be the surprise Daddy told us about. Hurry, Dot."

The two little girls ran downstairs and found the others gathered about the trunks and parcels on the front porch.

"Daddy's surprise!" shouted Bobby. "Let me open it, Mother?"

Mother Blossom handed him the shears and he cut the heavy cord. Something brown and heavy was inside.

"It's a dress. No, it isn't, it's a tent! It's a tent and four Indian suits!" Bobby was so delighted that he gave a war-whoop then and there and began to do a war dance.

"An Indian suit!" shrieked Twaddles, trying to stand on his head.

"Indian beads!" cried Meg, holding up a long chain of bright colored glass beads.

"And feathers!" Dot, too, had been digging in the package.

The rest of the afternoon was a busy time for them all. Jud helped them set up the tent on the side lawn, and then the four little Blossoms dressed up in their new suits and played Indians to their hearts' content. There were jackets and trousers and feather head-dresses for Bobby and Twaddles and squaw costumes and bead chains for Meg and Dot. Jud made them each a wooden hatchet, which completed the make-believe.

The next morning Mother Blossom had to go back to Oak Hill. The children went as far as the gate to say good-by to her, but both she and Aunt Polly, who was to drive her over, not in the car but with Nelly Bly and a smart-looking red-wheeled buggy, thought that it was better for them not to go to town.

When they had kissed her good-by and watched the buggy till it was nothing but a cloud of dust in the road, the four little Blossoms began to feel very queer indeed. They had never been alone in a strange place without any mother before.

"Well, my goodness, if you're not here," said Jud cheerily, coming up behind them. He pretended not to see the tears beginning to splash down Dot's cheeks. "I'm going down to the brook to mend the line fence, and I thought if you wanted to come along and play in the water——"

They did, of course. Dot slipped her hand into Jud's and the others followed, talking busily. What was a line fence? How could he fix it? What could they play in the water?

Jud didn't mind questions at all. Indeed, he rather enjoyed answering them.

"You see, this fence goes along the brook right in the center," he explained carefully, "to show where your Aunt Polly's land stops and Mr. Simmond's land begins. If we didn't have a fence there his cattle would walk right through the brook and up into our meadows. Say, build a raft, why don't you? I always did when I was a kid. Here, I'll show you."

Jud in a few minutes had shown Bobby how to make a little raft, and he and Twaddles finished it while Meg and Dot ran up to the house to get some toys to sail on it. For a raft, you know if you have ever made one, is no fun at all unless it has a cargo.

"We brought Geraldine!" cried Dot, running back, out of breath, with her best doll. "And now I wish I'd brought her trunk. But here's Meg's 'Black Beauty' book. She says we can play that's a trunk. It's heavy. And Meg is bringing your airplane, Bobby, and the singing bird for Twaddles."

The singing bird was a little toy one of the neighbors in Oak Hill had given Twaddles. It had come from abroad, and he was very proud of it. It was a tiny yellow wooden bird that wound up with a key and sang three tunes for all the world like a music box.

Bobby fixed the string, and the children arranged the toys on the raft, the smiling Geraldine occupying the place of honor in the center and leaning gracefully against the book which served her as a prop.

"Look, Jud!" shouted Bobby. "See it float!"

Jud, in the middle of the stream, waved his hand encouragingly.

"It's beginning to sprinkle," he called. "Better run on up to the barn, out of the wet. You'll find Dad working there. Tie your raft—this is only a shower."

Bobby obediently tied the raft to a tree root that extended out over the water, and the four little Blossoms, taking hold of hands, raced madly for the barn. They were only just in time, for as they reached the door the rain fell in sheets.

"Most caught you, didn't it?" chuckled Peter, who was mending harness in a little room that opened on to the barn floor. "A rain like this could drown that littlest one."

"No, it couldn't," protested Dot, who was the "littlest one."

"Maybe Jud will drown," worried Bobby. "Does he stay out in the wet?"

"A bit of rain doesn't hurt Jud," said Peter comfortably. "He's used to it, and his mother has dry clothes ready for him when he comes in. Well now, look around, and make yourselves at home. You can do most anything in Miss Polly's barn."

"Let's play see-saw," proposed Meg, pointing to a long board that stood in the corner. "Could we have that, Mr. Peter?"

"Of course you can. I'll lay it across this saw-horse, so, and that's as fine a see-saw as any one could ask for," said Peter, lifting the heavy plank with ease.

Bobby and Meg took possession of the see-saw, and Dot and Twaddles made the simultaneous discovery that hay was slippery. They found this out because Twaddles had climbed to the top of a pile of loose hay and was intending to reach an open window when his foot slipped and he gently slid down to the floor.

"Let me do that," cried Dot, hastily scrambling up. "Watch me, Meg."

She sat down, gave herself a little shove and neatly slid down the side of the hay. Then Twaddles tried, and then they took turns.

Spotty appeared at the barn door, wagging his tail engagingly. He was "part white terrier" and "part something else" Jud had told the children, and he had one funny black spot on his back near his tail.

In less than half an hour the rain had stopped and a watery sun was struggling through the breaking clouds.

"Bobby!" Meg thought of something so suddenly, she stopped the see-saw with a bump that jarred poor Bobby's teeth. "What do you know about the things we left on the raft? Geraldine will be soaked!"

"And the wings of my airplane," cried Bobby. "Why, I never thought! We should have taken the toys off. Let's get 'em now, and maybe Linda can dry them in the kitchen for us."

Hastily calling the twins, Meg and Bobby set off, running for the brook. The grass was very wet and their shoes were soaked in a few minutes. But they didn't mind that if only the toys were not damaged!

Bobby reached the brook first. No Jud was in sight, but a neat, firm fence showed where he had completed his work. No raft was tied to the root, either.

"It's gone!" gasped Meg, who had followed Bobby closely. "My lovely book I've never even read yet!"

"And my airplane I meant to have such fun sailing out where there is lots of room," said Bobby mournfully. "Dot, the raft's floated away!"

Dot and Twaddles came up to them and Dot at first could not believe the bad news.

"But you tied it, Bobby," she urged. "How could it get gone?"

"Don't say 'get gone,'" said Bobby absently. "I don't know how it got loose, but it has. You can see for yourself. And all our toys are lost!"

"Poor, poor Geraldine!" sobbed Geraldine's little mother. "All drowned! And Twaddles' Dicky bird! Maybe, couldn't Jud have them, Bobby?" she added suddenly.

Bobby had not thought of that.

"You run and ask him," he said, "while we walk down the brook a way and look for 'em."



Dot ran off to the Apgar house as fast as her short legs would carry her, to find Jud and ask him if he had taken their toys in out of the rain. The other children followed Bobby along the brook.

"Because our feet are as wet as they can be, now," he said, "and if Aunt Polly is going to scold, getting them wetter won't make her scold any more."

"It looks like more rain," worried Meg, scanning the clouds. "Why don't we go back, Bobby, and come out after dinner? If the raft floated as far as the woods, the trees will keep it dry."

Bobby was very damp and very hungry, and he, too, thought that after dinner would be a better time to hunt for the toys.

"Come on, Twaddles," he shouted. "We're going back."

Twaddles was some distance ahead, and he turned so quickly that one foot slipped. Meg and Bobby saw him tumble into the brook with a loud splash.

It wasn't very deep, but it was very wet, and though Bobby reached him in a second, poor Twaddles was frightened.

"I'm so co-old!" he wept loudly. "I want Mother!"

"Well, don't stand here all day," said Bobby practically. "Take hold of Meg's hand, and we'll run to the house. Linda was making soup this morning, Twaddles. Think how good nice, hot soup will taste!"

Meg took his hand, and, Bobby on the other side, Twaddles ran with all his might toward dry clothes and hot soup. It was raining hard again.

"Why, children!" Aunt Polly met them at the door, for she had long ago come back from taking Mother Blossom to town. "Has anything happened? I found Dot in the hammock crying for her doll and——But Twaddles is dripping!"

"He fell in the brook," explained Bobby concisely.

"Poor lamb!" comforted Aunt Polly. "Come upstairs, dear, and Auntie will see that you're rubbed dry. And Bobby and Meg, don't stand around in those wet shoes one minute. Change them immediately."

Half an hour later four clean, dry little Blossoms were at the table enjoying Linda's delicious soup and other good things. The day had turned to a cold, rainy, dismal one, very different from the promise of the sunny summer morning. Aunt Polly said they would have to manufacture their own sunshine that afternoon.

"You mustn't think of going to hunt for the toys till to-morrow, and only then if it's clear," she announced firmly. "Likely as not the raft sank, and you mustn't feel too bad about the toys. You'll find plenty of other things to play with on the farm."

All that afternoon it poured, and all that afternoon the four little Blossoms spent in Linda's kitchen cooking and pulling molasses candy. They had the sweetiest, stickiest time you ever heard of, and when about six o'clock the rain stopped and the sun came out pure yellow gold, they had a plate of beautiful cream-colored candy to take to Mrs. Peter Apgar.

"Who wants to help me milk?" asked Jud, passing the kitchen door as they were talking to his mother.

"Oh, Jud, I do!" begged Meg. "You promised to show me how."

"We'll all come," said Bobby. "Aunt Polly isn't going to have supper till seven o'clock to-night, 'cause the minister is coming. We've got oceans of time."

"Dot looks dressed up to me," announced Jud. "Keep her out of the mud, somebody."

"This is my prettiest dress," said Dot serenely, smoothing down the folds of her white dotted swiss under her coral-colored sweater.

Mrs. Sally Sweet looked mildly interested when she saw such a number of people coming into her comfortable barnyard, and when Jud drove her into the barn and fastened her in the stanchion, all the children stood around to watch.

When Jud had the pail nearly full of milk, he rose carefully.

"Now, Meg," he said, "you sit here. Easy now; don't be nervous. Don't you know a cow won't give milk if she knows you're nervous? Now work your fingers like this——"

Meg sat on the three-legged stool and tried to do exactly as Jud told her. Bobby and Dot and Twaddles stared at her open-mouthed. She was actually milking a live cow!

"Keep right on; that's fine," encouraged Jud. "You're doing first rate."

His father called him just then, and he ran to the door to see what was wanted. Meg, beaming, kept on milking. All would have been well if Mrs. Sally Sweet hadn't remembered her calf, Buttercup, and opened her mouth to give a tremendous and unexpected, "Moo!"

The four little Blossoms were sadly startled. Meg jumped up, upsetting the pail of milk over herself and Bobby, who stood nearest, and knocking down Twaddles and Dot who were close behind her. As luck would have it, both twins pitched into a heap of soft hay and were not hurt at all. But when they scrambled to their feet, alas! streams of yellow, bright yellow, decorated Dot's sweater and dress and splashed Twaddles' middy blouse.

"For goodness' sake!" cried Jud, coming back in time to view this wholesale damage. "What have you been up to now?"

Meg explained.

"There must have been eggs in that hay," said Twaddles disapprovingly.

"Some hen stole her nest, and you've finished her hopes," sighed Jud. "I must say you're a sweet looking mess. Wonder what Miss Polly will say?"

"My! and the minister's coming to supper," announced Bobby, remembering this for the first time.

"I thought you looked dressed up," Jud groaned. "I suppose I ought to have paid more attention. Well, come on, we'll go up the back way and I'll tell Miss Polly most of it was my fault."

The four little Blossoms, eggy and milky, followed Jud up to the house. He meant to take them in through the kitchen in case the minister should be on the front porch and so spare Aunt Polly's company the sight of such a forlorn procession. But, just as they rounded the back of the house, they met Aunt Polly showing the minister and his wife her kitchen garden.

"Twaddles!" gasped poor Aunt Polly, for Twaddles was ahead.

"We—we—we were learning to milk," said Meg apologetically.

The minister and his wife took one look at the four, and then they sat down on the back doorstep and laughed and laughed. After a minute Aunt Polly joined them, and then the children and Jud began to giggle.

"Hurry and get into something clean," commanded Aunt Polly, wiping her eyes. "Linda is just putting supper on the table. I don't care what you put on, as long as it is clean. I spent an hour dressing you, and now see the result."

The four little Blossoms made haste to scurry into clean suits and dresses, and in a short time were ready to come downstairs and meet the minister and his wife properly.

"To-morrow morning," said Bobby, as Aunt Polly put out the light and kissed them good-night, "we must go and hunt for the raft."

But in the morning Peter Apgar rattled up to the door while they were still at the breakfast table, with Jerry and Terry harnessed to an empty wagon.

"Anybody here want to go over to the mill with me?" he called loudly.

Of course the four children were wild to go, and Aunt Polly said that she was sure Peter had room for every one.

"Take good care of them, Peter," she said, following them down to the gate.

"I will," promised Peter. "I've got an old quilt spread down in the bottom for them to sit on. If the jolting tires 'em two can sit up with me, taking turns."

Spotty wagged his tail as they drove off, but he would not follow the wagon. He knew it was his place to stay and take care of Aunt Polly.

The mill was about four miles from Brookside, and the children enjoyed the drive intensely. Good-natured Peter allowed each one to "drive," holding the reins carefully as he told them, "Because," said Peter seriously, "even if you're only learning, you might as well begin right."

When they reached the mill, Jerry and Terry were tied to a post and Peter and the children went inside. Bobby was rather disappointed with the outside of the mill; he had expected it to look like the mills he saw in pictures, with great wide sails flattened against the sky.

"Electric power runs this mill," Peter explained when Bobby asked where the sails were. "You'll find plenty to see inside."

A short, stout man in a dusty white coat met them, and Peter gave him his order.

"I've some little folks from down the state a way with me," Peter told the man. "Guess you can show 'em round the mill a bit this morning?"

"I should say so!" was the hearty answer. "Come along, everybody, and we'll see just how grain is milled."

It was not a real flour mill. That is, not one of the great mills that turn millions of bushels of wheat into flour; but it did grind buckwheat for the farmers and made coarse flour and feed for their stock, cracked corn for poultry and so on. The four little Blossoms saw much to interest them, but the great round stones that ground the grains and the arrangements for sifting the dust and chaff from the grain interested them the most.

"It must be fun to be a miller!" said Bobby, when they were ready to go and the noon whistle blew and the big stones stopped turning as the power was shut off. "Maybe when I grow up I'll run a mill."

Rattling home in the big wagon with two sacks of "middlings" in the back with them, Twaddles and Dot decided that they, too, would have a mill some day.



Right after dinner the four children started to hunt for the lost raft.

"It must have gone down the brook," argued Bobby, as they walked along. "Jud says things always float with the current. So we'll start on Mr. Simmond's land and walk slow."

They scrambled under the line fence, and Dot only tore one of the ruffles off her frock. They went on and on.

"We're almost to the woods," said Meg, as they dropped down under a ragged buttonwood tree to rest. "Where do you suppose the brook goes? Wouldn't it be fun to follow it through the woods and see what's on the other side!"

The four little Blossoms thought this would be great fun. They had not been in the woods yet, though Jud and Linda had promised to take them some day and Aunt Polly said it was the nicest kind of a place for picnics.

The children stood up, and shaded their eyes their hands. They could just see the eaves of the barn and the chimneys of Aunt Polly's house and the Apgar house. The brook twisted and turned so often, they had really walked further than they guessed.

"I'll bet it's dark in the woods," said Twaddles, marching ahead. "Maybe there's bears and things in there."

"Now don't begin and scare Dot," admonished Bobby. "Let's take hold of hands. My, isn't it nice and cool!"

They stepped from the sunny glare of the brook pasture into the cool, dark, rustly stillness of the beautiful woods. A chipmunk ran across their path, and tall ferns grew higher than their heads on either side of the brook.

Almost unconsciously the children left the brook and struck off into a pretty path that was laid with stepping stones and led up a slight hill. They saw two rabbits and heard gray squirrels chattering in the trees overhead. One squirrel came down and stared gravely at them.

"Isn't he pretty?" said Meg. "I wish he'd let me pat him."

A shriek from Dot startled them all.

"I saw a snake!" she cried, running to Meg. "A horrid, nasty little green one. And now I've lost my flowers!"

Sure enough, the bouquet she had been picking was scattered in all directions.

"Don't you care," Meg comforted her. "It was only a baby water snake. Aunt Polly told Mother that's the only kind that lives round here. Honestly, snakes are all right, Dot. Lots of people don't mind 'em a bit."

"Well, I do," said Dot decidedly. "They wiggle so. Let's go home anyway."

"I think we'd better," announced Bobby. "I don't know what time it is, but I guess there's no use looking for the raft any more."

"The raft?" echoed Meg. "Oh Bobby, where is the brook?"

Bobby grinned a little sheepishly.

"We forgot about the raft, didn't we?" he said. "Let's see—we came down that path—the brook must be over there. Come on, Dot, we're going home."

Dot sat down on the ground and began to cry.

"I don't want to be lost," she wailed. "I'm hungry, and my feet hurt! And I'm so tired!"

Meg put her arms around her sister.

"Don't cry," she urged her bravely. "We're not lost, are we, Bobby?"

Bobby and Meg, as the two older, felt that they must keep the twins from becoming discouraged.

"Course we're not lost," asserted Bobby stoutly.

"Course not," echoed Meg. "I think the brook is right past those three big trees. Come on, Dot, let's run and see who gets there first."

Dot allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.

"I'll count for you," said Bobby, glad to see her stop crying. "One—two—three—go!"

Away went Meg and Dot. Meg had intended to let Dot win, because she was so much smaller she couldn't be expected to run as well as her older sister. But Meg's good intentions came to nothing. Dot had an unfortunate habit of shutting her eyes tight when she ran, and the woods, of all places, are where it pays to keep one's eyes wide open. Poor Dot, running over the uneven ground with her eyes closed, crashed headlong into a wild blackberry bush.

"Oh, ow!" she wailed shrilly. "Meg, Meg! Ow!"

Her face and hands were scratched and bleeding and her dress was badly torn by the time Meg and Bobby got her free from the prickly bush.

"I won't go," sobbed the unfortunate child, rubbing her smarting face. "I'll lie down in the grass and the birds can cover me with leaves. Nasty old woods!"

"But you'll have to come," urged Bobby. "I don't b'lieve it's much further, Dot. Come on."

"Then I'll take of my shoes and stockings," said Dot.

"Her feet are all puffed up," said Meg, unbuttoning the little tan shoes. "Poor sister! But you can't go barefoot through here—the Stones and things are too sharp."

"They'll cut you," said Twaddles, who was watching anxiously.

"Let's make a chair with our hands and carry her," suggested Bobby.

So Meg and Bobby joined hands and managed to start off comfortably, carrying Dot.

Twaddles looked at them anxiously.

"It's getting dark," he quavered.

It was, too, a shadowy gray dusk there in the woods.

"I guess it's only 'cause there's so many trees," said Meg cheerfully. "It can't be dark out in the fields yet. I don't believe Jud has even started to milk."

They took up Dot again and went ahead, but it grew more and more difficult to follow the path.

"Here's where we were when you stopped to get your breath," declared Twaddles positively as they came into an open space. "I 'member that rotten log on the ground."

It was true. They had been walking in a circle!

"What's that?" cried Meg, starting up in sudden fright.

The twins clung to her, hiding their faces in her skirt.

"I saw something move—over there in those bushes," whispered Bobby.

"Is it—a—a bear?" asked Meg softly.

But Dot heard her.

"It's a bear!" she shrieked. "Twaddles, Meg, Bobby, come quick! It's a bear!"

Something bounded out of the bushes and leaped upon them with shrill, sharp barks.

"Spotty!" chorused the children. "You dear, darling old Spotty! Where did you come from?"

Spotty was apparently as glad to see them, and in his way tried to tell them so. He jumped up and down, barked excitedly and licked their hands and faces over and over.

"Say, I'll bet you Spotty knows the way home!" Bobby jumped to his feet as this thought came to him. "Spotty, show us the way home, that's a good dog. Home, Spotty!"

Spotty wagged his tail heartily and barked once. Then he rushed a little way ahead and turned to look at the children.

"Come on," he seemed to say.

"He does know," agreed Meg excitedly. "Put your shoes on, Dot. All take hold of hands and hurry!"

They were in such haste they put the left shoe on Dot's right foot and the right one on her left, but she never even noticed it. Taking hold of hands, the four little Blossoms scurried through the dark woods, for it was pitch dark now, after Spotty. The dog kept just a little way ahead, and now and then he barked as if to tell them that everything was all right.

It was not easy walking in the dark, and they tripped and stumbled over tree roots and unsuspected stones. But at last they came out into the open. The stars were shining overhead, and it was night.

"Where are we?" asked Meg in wonder. "This isn't the brook pasture."

"I see the gate light!" cried Bobby suddenly.



Sure enough, ahead of them twinkled the pretty ornamental light that Aunt Polly had lighted on dark nights to show where the driveway went through the gates.

"We're in back of the house!" cried Meg. "See, that's the kitchen window where the white curtain is. Don't things look different at night?"

"Hello! Hello!" came Jud's clear call. "Bobby, Meg, is that you?"

Then as Bobby answered him, they heard Jud shouting:

"All right, folks, they've come. I told you they were all right."

Peter and Jud and a neighbor's boy came running toward the children, swinging lanterns, and followed by Mrs. Peter Apgar and Aunt Polly and Linda. Such a time as there was, and such a hugging and kissing and explaining!

"When you didn't come home to supper, I began to worry," said dear Aunt Polly, carrying Dot, big girl as she was. Peter had picked up Meg, and Jud had shouldered Twaddles, while Bobby kept running beside them.

"You must be starved," was Linda's greeting. "We've got fried chicken and currant jelly, too."

And though it was late, Aunt Polly was sure that fried chicken would hurt no one, and while the hungry Blossoms ate, she sat by and listened to what had happened to them in the woods.

"Why, darlings," she cried over and over, "Auntie will buy you other books and toys, but I couldn't possibly buy your mother other children if anything happened to you. Look at Dot's feet; the poor child must have walked miles. And her face and hands are terribly scratched."

Directly after supper the tired children were ready for bed, and Linda and Aunt Polly undressed them and bathed the sore little feet and put soothing cold cream on sunburned, scratched little faces.

The summer weeks flew merrily by, and when a rainy afternoon came and Aunt Polly suggested that the children should write to their father and mother, the Blossoms discovered that they really had a good deal to tell.

"I'll begin, 'cause I'm the oldest and I can write in pencil," said Bobby. "Then Meg can print, and I'll write what Dot and Twaddles tell me to. I guess they will like that kind of letter."

Aunt Polly thought so, too, and she gave Bobby her own pretty mahogany "secretary" that was ever so old a desk, to write at.

Bobby put his tongue in his cheek and worked hard for fifteen minutes. Then he was ready to read aloud.

"'Dear Daddy and Mother:'" he read. "'We thought you would like to hear from us. Last week Peter was haying and Meg and I helped him make loads. Meg drove into the barn all by herself. It is fun to see them unload the hay, because they have a thing they call a hayfork that comes down and takes up big handfuls and carries it up to the mow. I can almost milk. The twins are very good most of the time. Your loving son, Robert Hayward Blossom.'"

* * * * *

"Will they know that's from you?" asked Meg doubtfully, slipping into the chair at the desk and taking up the pencil to print her letter. "You never call yourself Robert."

"I guess I know how to write a letter," Bobby informed her with dignity. "You always sign your real names to letters, don't you, Aunt Polly?"

"Yes, indeed, dear," said Aunt Polly, who was doing something to a pair of overalls.

Meg printed slowly and carefully, and soon her letter was ready to be read aloud.

"'Dear Daddy and Mother,'" she began proudly. "'We hope you are well. We are. Dot most wasn't, but I took care of her. She went out to the barn to hunt for eggs, and the turkey gobbler saw her. He thought she was carrying corn in the basket. He chased her and she ran. I heard her crying and I ran down to the barn. She was backed up into a corner and he was making noises at her. He is awful big, but I am not afraid of him. I grabbed the broom Jud keeps to sweep the barn floor with and I chased that old gobbler clear into the orchard. We are going to pick berries to-morrow.'"

* * * * *

The twins had kept still as long as they could, and now it was their turn.

"Tell Mother 'bout the snake I saw this morning," said Twaddles. "Jud says it was a black snake after baby robins. It was on the grape arbor where there is a robin's nest. Jud killed it."

"Tell Daddy I weeded a whole onion row for Aunt Polly," begged Dot.

"Wait a minute, I have to sign my name," interrupted Meg.

And she signed it, "Margaret Alice Blossom," right in among the words of the twins' letters that Bobby was patiently writing.

The next day was very warm, and Aunt Polly thought they had better play in the orchard instead of picking berries, so they trooped out soon after breakfast, to find the orchard cool and shady.

"I wish I had my book that was drowned," mourned Meg. "I love to sit up in a tree and read."

"Well, I loved Geraldine better than Tottie-Fay," said Dot, giving the old doll a shake as she spoke.

"No use fussing," advised the sensible Bobby. "They're lost, and we mustn't let Aunt Polly hear us, 'cause she'll think she ought to go right off and buy us some more. I'm going to climb this tree. Who wants a ripe apple?"

"I do," and Meg jumped up. "Let me hold my apron and you throw 'em down, Bobby. Twaddles, stop teasing Spotty."

"I aren't teasing him," declared Twaddles indignantly. "I'm going to teach him to carry bundles."

Twaddles' method of teaching the patient Spotty was to sit down on him with feet spread wide apart and wait for the dog to shake him off.

Dot sat down quietly in the grass and began to make a bouquet of wild-flowers. It was Dot who always helped Aunt Polly weed and water her flower garden, and Dot who liked to see fresh flowers on the dining-room table.

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