The Bobbsey Twins at the County Fair
BY LAURA LEE HOPE
AUTHOR OF "THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES,"
This book, while produced under wartime conditions, in full compliance with government regulations for the conservation of paper and other essential materials, is COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
Made in the United States of America
COPYRIGHT, 1922, by GROSSET & DUNLAP
The Bobbsey Twins at the County Fair
I. THE BROKEN BRIDGE 1
II. "THERE'S A SNAKE!" 14
III. THE MERRY-GO-ROUND 25
IV. A MISSING COAT 34
V. SAM IS WORRIED 48
VI. HAPPY DAYS COMING 57
VII. THE CRYING BOY 68
VIII. ANGRY MR. BLIPPER 79
IX. THE BIG SWING 89
X. DOWN A BIG HOLE 99
XI. THE COUNTY FAIR 108
XII. ON THE TRACK 121
XIII. IN THE CORNFIELD 129
XIV. FREDDIE AND THE PUMPKIN 139
XV. UP IN A BALLOON 148
XVI. ON THE ISLAND 158
XVII. THE SEARCHING PARTY 167
XVIII. ON THE ROCKS 173
XIX. TWO LITTLE SAILORS 182
XX. A HAPPY MEETING 194
XXI. BERT, NAN AND BOB 199
XXII. JOYOUS TIMES 207
THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE COUNTY FAIR
THE BROKEN BRIDGE
"Aren't you glad, Nan? Aren't you terrible glad?"
"Why, of course I am, Flossie!"
"And aren't you glad, too, Bert?" Flossie Bobbsey, who had first asked this question of her sister, now paused in front of her older brother. She looked up at him smiling as he cut away with his knife at a soft piece of wood he was shaping into a boat for Freddie. "Aren't you terrible glad, Bert?"
"I sure am, Flossie!" Bert answered, with a laugh. "What makes you ask such funny questions?"
"Well, if you're glad why doesn't you wiggle like I do?" asked Flossie, without answering Bert. "I feel just like wigglin' and squigglin' inside and outside!" she added.
"Well, wiggle as much as you please, dear, but don't get your dress dirty, whatever you do," advised Nan, with the air of a little mother, for she felt that she must look after her smaller sister, since Mrs. Bobbsey was not there to do it.
"Oh, I won't get my dress dirty!" laughed Flossie. "'Cause if I do——"
"'Cause if you do you can't go to the picnic!" finished Freddie, who was so interested in watching brother Bert make the little wooden ship that he forgot all about talking.
"I'm just goin' to wiggle standin' up," Flossie said, and she did so, squirming about in delight at the fun which was soon to come.
"Don't forget your 'g' letters!" called Nan, shaking her finger at her sister. "You must say 'going' and 'standing' not 'goin',' my dear, or 'standin',' you know."
"Yes, I know. But when you feel like wigglin'—I mean wigglING," and Flossie said the last syllable very loudly, "why, then you don't think about 'g' letters; do you, Freddie?"
"I don't guess so," he answered, not taking his eyes off the knife that was flashing in Bert's hand, making the white slivers of wood scatter over the green grass.
"Oh, I just can hardly wait till the auto truck comes; can you, Nan?" asked Flossie, dancing over the lawn like a fairy in a play. "Oh, I'm so glad it doesn't rain!" and she looked anxiously up at the sky as if some cloud might float across the wonderful blue and spoil the day of pleasure.
"Yes, the weather is lovely," agreed Nan. "And if you don't think so much about it, Flossie, the truck will get here all the sooner."
"But I like to think about it!" cried Flossie. "It's the same as Christmas! The more you think about it the more fun it is! Oh, I'm going to look down the road and see if the truck is coming!"
Down toward the front gate she skipped, the big bow of ribbon on her hair flapping up and down like the wings of some great blue butterfly.
"Be careful about climbing on the gate!" warned Nan. "If you get rusty spots on your white dress they won't come out!"
"I'll be careful," Flossie promised, calling back over her shoulder, and, as she tripped along she sang: "We're going to a picnic! We're going to a picnic!"
"I think I'd better watch her so she won't soil her clothes," said Nan, getting up from a bench, where she had been sitting beside the boxes and baskets of lunch. "It would be too bad if she should get her dress dirty and couldn't go."
"I'm not going to get my clothes dirty, am I, Nan?" asked Freddie, as he looked at his white blouse.
"I hope not," Nan answered.
Suddenly there was an exclamation from Bert, as Nan started down the path toward Flossie.
"Ouch!" cried Bert.
"What's the matter?" Nan asked quickly.
"Oh! Oh, dear!" screamed Freddie, who did not like the sight of the red blood which oozed from the end of his brother's finger.
"Oh, don't get any on my clean blouse, else I can't go to the picnic!"
Bert, who had popped the cut finger into his mouth as soon as he felt the hurt, now took it out to laugh.
"That's all you care about me, Freddie!" he joked. "I cut my finger, while making you a little boat, and all you care about is that I mustn't dirty your white blouse! I'll make you a lot more ships—I guess not!"
"Oh, but I am sorry for you!" Freddie declared. "Only I do so want to go to the picnic!"
"Yes, I know," Bert went on, seeing that Freddie was taking his talk too seriously. "I won't get any blood on you!"
"Is it much of a cut?" asked Nan "Do you want me to get the iodine?" Their Mother had taught the Bobbsey twins not to neglect hurts of this kind, and iodine, they knew, was good to "kill the germs," whatever that meant. Iodine smarted when put into a cut, but it was better to stand a little smart at first than a big pain afterward, so Daddy Bobbsey had said.
"Oh, it isn't much of a cut," Bert said. "I guess I don't need any iodine. You'd better go look after Flossie. The trucks may be along any time now, and we don't want to keep them waiting."
"All right. But you'd better not whittle any more on that boat or you may cut yourself so bad you can't go to the picnic."
"Let the boat go!" advised Freddie. "It's good enough, anyhow, and I want you to go to the picnic, Bert."
"All right. The little ship is almost finished, anyhow. I just have to make about three more cuts and then I'm done."
His finger had stopped bleeding—indeed the cut was a very small one—and Bert was soon putting the last touches to the tiny craft which Freddie wanted to sail in the little lake at the picnic grounds.
Just as Bert handed the homemade toy to his brother, and when Nan reached Flossie, in time to stop her from climbing on the gate, a noise of honking horns was heard down the street.
"Oh, here they come! Here come the trucks!" cried Flossie, dancing up and down.
"Get the lunch!" called Freddie, to make sure they would not go hungry on the picnic.
"I'll go in and tell mother we're going," called Nan to Bert, who shut up his knife, brushed the whittlings off his clothes, and began to gather up the boxes and baskets of lunch. "Watch Flossie!" Nan added, for there was no telling what the excitable little "fairy" might do at the last moment.
"All right," Bert answered. "Here, Freddie!" he called. "Don't run with that sharp-pointed boat in your hand. If you fall on it you'll get hurt."
"But I'm not going to fall!" said Freddie.
"You can't tell what you're going to do! Go easy!" Bert advised, and Freddie walked as slowly as he could to the gate where Flossie was eagerly gazing down the road.
The noise of the auto horns sounded more loudly, and soon two big trucks, filled with children and gay with flags, came into view. Boxes had been placed in the trucks for seats, and on these boxes, laughing, shouting, waving their hands and flags, were scores of happy, smiling boys and girls.
One of the trucks drew up at the gate of the house where lived the Bobbsey twins, the other auto keeping on, as it was well filled. But room had been saved in this one for Bert, Nan, Flossie and Freddie.
"Come on, Nan! Come on!" cried Flossie, still jumping up and down.
"Tell Nan to hurry!" added Freddie to his brother.
"She's coming," Bert said, as he walked down to the gate with the packages of lunch.
"Hello, Bert!" called Charlie Mason, from the truck. "Got enough to eat?"
"I guess so," Bert answered his chum, holding up the boxes and baskets. "Enough for two picnics I should say!"
"You can eat a lot when you're off in the woods," added Dannie Rugg. "It's like camping out."
"Here comes Nan!" exclaimed Grace Lavine, a particular chum of the older Bobbsey girl.
Nan, having hurried in to tell her mother the trucks had arrived, now hastened down the path, her hair flying in the wind.
"Have you everything? Take good care of Flossie and Freddie! Have a good time, and don't fall into the water!" Mrs. Bobbsey said, as she waved good-by to her twins while they clambered up into the truck.
"We will!" they answered.
"Good-by, Mother! Good-by!"
"Honk! Honk!" tooted the auto horn.
"All aboard!" called Nellie Parks. "All aboard!"
"I want to sit on the end!" declared Freddie, struggling to get in this position.
"You might fall out going up hill," said Bert. "I'll sit there, Freddie, and you can sit next me." The little fellow had to be content with this.
With children laughing, children singing, children shouting and children smiling, with flags flying and the horn tooting, the big auto started off, having taken aboard the Bobbsey twins; and soon the two trucks were out of sight around a turn in the road, bound for Pine Grove, on the outskirts of the town of Lakeport. It was the yearly picnic of one of the Lakeport Sunday schools.
"Isn't it a wonderful day?" asked Grace of Nan. The two friends and Nellie were sitting together.
"Yes, beautiful. We nearly always have a good day for the picnic."
"Did you bring any olives in your lunch. Nan?"
"Yes, and some dill pickles, too!"
"Oh, I just love dill pickles!" exclaimed Grace, "and we didn't have one in the house."
"I'll give you some of mine," offered Nan.
Flossie and Freddie were too excited, looking at sights along the road, to talk much, but they were as happy as if they had been chattering away like the others.
"Did your dog Snap bite your finger, Bert?" asked Dannie Rugg.
"No, my knife slipped when I was making Freddie a boat. Say, Freddie," he asked the little fellow, "did you lose your boat?"
"Nope, I have it here," and he held it up.
"Oh, all right."
On rumbled the trucks, raising clouds of dust. On each big auto were several grown folks, officers of the Sunday school, who were looking after the children. Some were fathers and mothers of the boys and girls.
Pine Grove was several miles outside the town of Lakeport, on the shores of a little lake. It was there the yearly picnics of the Sunday schools were always held, and the Bobbsey twins, as well as the other young people of the town, looked forward with pleasure to the outings.
"What you say we get up a ball game?" asked Dannie of Bert, when they were all settled in their places.
"Sure we will," Bert agreed. "Have we got enough fellows?"
"If you haven't, some of us girls will play," offered Nan.
"Pooh! Girls can't play ball!" sneered Charlie Mason.
"I can! I can bat a ball as far as you!" declared Nellie Parks.
"Maybe you can—if you can hit it!" admitted Charlie.
"I want to play ball!" chimed in Freddie. "I know how!"
"I guess if you sail your boat it will be all you want to do," said Bert, looking at his cut finger to see if it would hinder him from taking part in a game. He decided that it would not.
"We'll have lots of fun," said Dannie. "If we haven't enough for two nines we'll play a scrub game."
"Sure!" agreed Bert.
They were well out in the country now, and almost at the Grove. To reach it the trucks had to cross a bridge over a creek that flowed into Pine Lake, as the body of water was called.
The first truck passed over this bridge with a rumble like thunder. As it reached the other side Bert saw the driver of it lean from his seat, look back, and shout something to the driver of the truck on which the Bobbsey twins rode. What the man said Bert could not hear, and as he was wondering about it the second truck started over the bridge.
Suddenly there was a cracking of wood, a splintering, breaking sound, and the heavy truck, loaded with children, the Bobbsey twins among them, seemed to be sinking down.
"Oh, the bridge is breaking!" screamed Grace.
"We'll fall in the creek!" added Nellie.
There was a thundering sound as the auto driver turned on full power, and then, with another loud cracking noise, the truck came to a stop, and seemed to be sinking down through the breaking bridge!
"THERE'S A SNAKE!"
With the first cries of alarm, Bert Bobbsey had jumped to his feet, one arm had gone out toward his sister Nan, and the other toward Flossie and Freddie. But no boy has arms long enough to reach for three relatives at once, especially when two of them, as Flossie and Freddie happened to be, were some distance away.
Bert did, however, manage to put one arm around Nan, and he pulled her toward him, though just why he hardly knew. As he did so there was a frightened movement on the part of all the other children aboard the truck, for they seemed to be sliding down toward the front of it.
"Oh, Bert! what has happened?" cried Nan. "Get hold of Flossie and Freddie, can't you?"
"I'm trying to," he answered.
"What's the matter?" Flossie called to Nan and Bert. "We're all slipping down!"
And this was just what was happening. The bridge over the stream seemed to have broken in the middle, just as the heavy truck got to that spot, and the auto's front wheels being lower than the rear ones, had slid the load of picnic merrymakers into a heap.
"Oh! Oh!" screamed Grace Lavine. "What is going to happen?"
"You'll be all right if you just keep quiet!" called the driver of the auto in a loud voice. "The bridge has only sagged a little! It isn't going to fall!"
This was good news provided it was true.
"All of you get off, and do it quietly," advised the driver. "You'll be all right."
"Are you sure?" asked Mrs. Simpson, one of the ladies in charge of the children.
"Oh, yes, ma'am. There's no danger," declared the man. He had jumped from his seat and was looking at the floor of the bridge under the front wheels of the truck.
"Keep quiet, every one!" ordered Mr. Blake, one of the gentlemen who had agreed to help the ladies look after the children. "Don't scream or cry, and move as quietly as you can. The easier you move the less danger there will be. The bridge hasn't quite broken in two yet."
But it was in grave danger of doing that, as Mr. Blake saw, and he was fearful that a bad accident would soon happen.
However, the thing to do now was to get all the children off the truck, over the bridge, and safe on solid ground. After that it might be possible to get the truck over and keep on to the picnic.
One by one the children, including the Bobbsey twins, started to get off the truck. They moved as carefully as they could, for they felt that they were like skaters on thin ice. The least quick movement might break something.
The truck that had gotten safely over the bridge had come to a stop, and children and grown folks were piling off it to see what they could do to save those in danger on the broken bridge.
And while the work of rescue is going on I will take a moment or two to tell my new readers something about the Bobbsey twins. Those of you who have read the other books in this series do not need to be introduced to Bert, Nan, Flossie and Freddie.
Those were the names of the four children. Bert and Nan were the older twins, and Flossie and Freddie the younger. You are first told about them in the book called "The Bobbsey Twins," and in that you learn that the Bobbsey family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bobbsey and their four children, lived in Lakeport, an eastern city on the shore of Lake Metoka, where Mr. Bobbsey had a lumber business.
In the family, though not exactly members of it, were Dinah, the jolly, fat, colored cook, and Sam Johnson, her husband. Then we must not forget Snap, the dog, and Snoop, the big cat.
Following the first book are a number of volumes telling of the adventures of the Bobbsey twins. They went to the country to visit Uncle Daniel, and at the seashore they had fun at the home of Uncle William. After that the Bobbseys enjoyed a trip in a houseboat, they journeyed to a great city, camped on Blueberry Island, saw the sights of Washington and even sailed to sea.
As if this was not enough Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey took their children on a western trip among the cowboys, and just before the present story opens Bert and Nan, with Flossie and Freddie, had come back from Cedar Camp, where they had had some exciting adventures.
Now it was summer again, and one of the first delights of that season was the Sunday school picnic which had started off so well but which seemed likely now to end in an accident.
It was too bad that one truck should have gotten safely over the bridge, and that the other had to break through. The second truck was heavier than the first. The first may have cracked the bridge beams and the second one broken them.
"Careful now, children, careful!" warned Mr. Blake. "Don't jump down! Come to the end of the truck and I'll lift you down!"
"And as soon as you are down walk to the other side of the bridge; don't run—walk!" ordered the driver.
Bert remembered that it said this on the programs of the moving picture theaters, and he decided it was good advice.
One by one the children made their way up the sloping floor of the truck to the tailboard, and there Mr. Blake, Mrs. Simpson, and other men and women helped the little ones down.
"Oh, I feel like fainting!" sighed Grace.
"Don't be silly!" exclaimed Nan. "Nothing is going to happen!"
It was a good thing Nan felt this way, though, as a matter of fact, something dreadful might happen at any moment. If the cracked beams of the bridge should break all the way through, the auto would slide down into the water. And, though the creek was not very deep, still many would be hurt in the crash.
The Bobbsey twins, being nearest the rear of the auto, were among the first off. They did what the driver told them—walked quietly off the bridge.
At the farther end they joined the picnic party that had gotten off the first truck. And there, almost breathless, they watched the work of rescue going on.
One by one little boys and girls were lifted down off the truck, and then, when the last had reached safely the far shore, Mr. Blake, Mrs. Simpson, and the other men and women made their way carefully to land.
"Aren't you coming?" asked Mr. Blake of the truck driver, for the man was still close to his big car, looking at it and the sagging floor of the bridge.
"I want to see if I can get this truck off," he answered. "The machine isn't damaged any—it's only the bridge. I guess the load was too heavy for it."
"I heard it cracking as I went over," called the driver of the first truck. "I shouted a warning to you, but it was too late."
"Yes, it was too late to save the bridge, but maybe I can get my truck off," the other driver went on. "Anyhow, none of the children is hurt."
And this was so—something for which the Sunday school officers were very glad, indeed.
"If we had some pieces of wood to put under the bridge, to brace it up, maybe you could get the truck over," said the driver of the big auto that was safe on the far shore.
"Why don't you take fence rails?" asked Bert, who felt better, now that his sisters and brother were all right.
"Yes, we could do that," agreed the driver of the second auto. "Come on—give me a hand!" he called to his companion.
The two men worked away for a time, and braced up the bridge so that the auto could be driven carefully over it, though it was not easy to get it up the hill made when the bridge had sunk into the shape of the letter V.
But finally the empty second truck was safe on the other side of the stream, near the first one, and rails were put across the road to warn other vehicles not to try to cross the bridge. It was safe enough for a person to walk across, but it would not hold up an auto or a horse and wagon.
"We may as well go on to the picnic grounds," said Mr. Blake, when the smaller, frightened children had gotten over their crying.
"How we going to get home again if we can't cross the bridge?" asked Flossie, looking at the sagging structure.
"Oh, there's another bridge over the creek, about two miles down," the driver of the second truck said. "That will be all right."
Soon the children and grown folks were on the autos again, and moving toward the picnic grounds. This time there was not so much merry laughter and singing, for all felt that there had been a narrow escape from a terrible accident.
But gloom does not long remain with a party of jolly boys and girls, and by the time they alighted at Pine Grove each one was in high spirits again.
There were plenty of amusements at the picnic grounds. Little rustic pavilions here and there formed places where one could sit in the shade and eat lunch. There were swings for those who liked them, and boats for the older ones.
A green meadow, not far away, made a fine baseball field, and Bert, Charlie, and Dannie, with some of the older boys, at once made a rush for the field to start a baseball game.
"You take care of the lunch, Nan," Bert begged his older sister. "I'll come back when it's time to eat."
"Oh, I know that all right!" laughed Nan.
"Can't I play ball?" Freddie called, starting to follow Bert.
"You stay and sail your boat," Bert advised. "I made it for you to sail on the lake."
"That means I'll have to stay and watch him so he doesn't fall in," sighed Nan. "Well, you can't sail it all day, Freddie. I want to have some fun, too."
"You can sail it when I get tired," Freddie offered.
"I want to go in a big boat—a rowboat!" declared Flossie.
"I'll take you all for a row after the ball game," Bert promised, and Nan held this pleasure out to them to get them to do what she wanted.
The fun was now in full sway at the picnic grounds. Over in the meadow the boys were playing ball and shouting, and out on the little lake were many rowboats containing jolly parties. Some of the picnic folks had already started to eat their lunches.
"I'm hungry!" declared Freddie, seeing some children with sandwiches.
"So'm I!" added Flossie.
"Well, we can eat a little," decided Nan. She opened one of the smaller boxes, and took out a few sandwiches. "Let's go over under that tree and eat," she suggested, and soon they were sitting beneath a big pine tree, where the ground was covered with the smooth, brown needles.
Flossie had taken only a few bites of her sandwich when she suddenly jumped up and ran to Nan.
"Oh!" cried the little girl. "There's a snake! A snake!"
Nan, though several years older than Flossie, was at first as much frightened by the cry of "a snake!" as was her little sister. Though Bert had often said only harmless snakes were in the woods around Lakeport, Nan could not help jumping up with a scream and pulling Flossie toward her.
"What's the matter?" asked Freddie, who had taken his sandwich a little distance away to eat.
"A snake! I saw a big snake!" cried Flossie again.
"Where is it?" asked Nan, for, as yet, she had caught no sight of any serpent.
"I—I almost sat on it," explained Flossie, clinging to Nan, and looking down over her shoulder.
Nan glanced toward where her sister had been sitting just before the alarm. She saw no wiggling snake crawling over the ground.
"Are you sure, Flossie?" Nan asked. "Are you sure you saw a snake?"
"Course I did. He almost put his head in my lap."
"Maybe he was hungry and wanted your sandwich," suggested Freddie. As he spoke he stepped forward to look at the place Flossie had pointed to as being the spot where she had seen the snake. And no sooner did Freddie take a step than Flossie cried:
"There it is again! Oh, the snake! The snake! Don't let him get me, Nan!"
Nan, too, saw something round and black moving near the place where Flossie had been sitting, and, fearing for the safety of her sister, the older Bobbsey girl lifted Flossie in her arms.
But no snake glided across the brown pine needles, and there was no hissing sound nor any forked tongue playing rapidly in and out, as Nan had once seen in a little snake Bert and Charlie Mason had caught.
"I don't believe there is a snake," Nan said, as Flossie slipped to the ground. "If there was one it has gone away."
"I'll hit him with a stone!" cried Freddie, turning to look for a rock. And as he moved Flossie cried again:
"There it is! I saw it move! That black thing!"
This time she pointed so carefully that Nan, letting her eye follow along Flossie's finger, saw what the little girl meant. And Nan laughed.
"Why, that isn't a snake!" she cried. "It's only a crooked, black tree branch! It does look a little like a snake, but it isn't really one, Flossie."
"But what made it move?" the little girl asked.
"I think it was Freddie, though he didn't do it on purpose," went on Nan. "Take another step, Freddie, as you did when you were looking for a stone."
Freddie moved a little and then they all saw what it was that had caused Flossie's fright. A long, dead branch of a tree lay on the ground. The larger end of it was close to where Flossie had been sitting with Nan, and this end did look somewhat like a snake, with a mouth and eyes. The middle of the stick was covered with pine needles, and the lower end stuck out beyond the needles and dried leaves close to where Freddie stood.
When the little boy took a step his foot touched the thin end of the branch, and made the thick end, near Flossie, move. Flossie took this for the swaying of a snake's head, and so she had screamed in fright.
"There's your snake—only a tree branch!" laughed Nan, as she lifted the dead limb and held it up.
"Ho! Ho!" laughed Freddie.
"Was that it—for sure?" asked Flossie.
"Of course!" answered Nan. "Come sit down and finish your sandwich. Then we'll play until it's time to eat our regular lunch."
"Well, I'm glad it wasn't a real snake," sighed Flossie, as she took her place with her sister beneath the tree.
"If it had been a real snake I'd 'a' pegged a rock at it!" boasted Freddie.
This was not the only fright at the picnic, for a little girl about Flossie's age cried when she saw a big frog in a pool, and a little boy ran screaming to his mother because a grasshopper perched on his shoulder.
But things like these always happen at picnics, and when the little frights were over even the children themselves laughed at their short-lived terror.
After the ball game Bert and Nan took the smaller Bobbsey twins for a row in a boat. Everything went well except that Freddie, in trying to sail his tiny ship over the side of the rowboat, nearly fell in himself. But Bert caught him just in time and pulled him back.
Then it was time for lunch, and what a good time all the children had, sitting at tables in the little rustic houses, or on the ground, eating from boxes and baskets. The Bobbsey twins, with a group of their friends, sat in a little pavilion by themselves.
Besides the lunch which each child or group of children brought, there was to be ice cream and cake, given by the Sunday school. The big freezers had been arranged in a sort of shed, and the cake and cream treat was to be given after the picnic lunches had been eaten. Just before the time for this part of the program, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey arrived at the grounds, driving over in the auto, as they had promised to do.
"Well, children, having fun?" asked the father of the Bobbsey twins.
"A dandy time!" exclaimed Bert. "My team won the ball game."
"And I 'most fell out of a boat!" boasted Freddie.
"Pooh! That's nothing! I 'most saw a snake!" exclaimed Flossie.
"A snake!" cried her mother.
"It wasn't real," Nan hastened to add, and Mrs. Bobbsey seemed to breathe easier.
"Well, you have had some excitement as well as fun," observed Mr. Bobbsey.
"Excitement!" cried Bert. "Say, Daddy, you ought to have been there when the truck almost smashed through the bridge!"
"Oh, did that happen?" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey.
"No, but almost," Bert went on.
"Well, it seems to me that everything 'almost' happened," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Flossie almost saw a snake, Freddie almost fell overboard and the truck almost broke the bridge."
"Oh, the bridge really is broken," Nan said. And she told about that accident. Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey had come to the picnic grounds by another road, and so had not seen the bridge that sagged in the middle.
"Well, all's well that ends well, so they say," remarked Mr. Bobbsey, "and we're glad you are having a good time. Yes, Mr. Blake, what is it?" he asked, for Mr. Blake, had come to where Mr. Bobbsey was talking to the children, and had called aloud.
"Do you want to help the ladies dish out the ice cream?" asked Mr. Blake.
"Surely!" answered the twins' father. "Wait until I take off my coat. Dishing out ice cream is rather messy work."
He removed his coat, hanging it on the limb of a tree near the shed where the ice cream freezers had been placed. Mrs. Bobbsey also offered to help, and when it became known that it was time for the ice cream and cake treat the picnic children began gathering at the rustic shed.
Before the dainties could be served, however, there came from down the road, in the opposite direction from the broken bridge, a low, rumbling sound.
"I hope it isn't going to rain," said Mrs. Morris, as she held a plate of ice cream in one hand.
"What makes you think it is?" Mrs. Bobbsey asked.
"Didn't you hear that thunder? I can't see the sky, on account of the trees, but I'm afraid it's clouding over."
"No, the sun is shining," said the twins' mother.
"But I'm sure that is thunder," went on Mrs. Morris.
There was a rumbling sound down the road, and there seemed to be some excitement there, for a number of children who had started toward the ice cream pavilion turned back.
"I wonder what it is," mused Mrs. Bobbsey. "I hope no 'almost' accidents are going to happen."
"I'll go see what it is," offered Bert.
He ran down the road, was gone a little while, and came back, his eyes shining with eagerness.
"Oh, it's a big merry-go-round!" he cried.
"A merry-go-round?" repeated his mother, busy at the ice cream.
"Yes, a man has a big merry-go-round in pieces on three or four big wagons," Bert reported. "Something's the matter with the engine—it runs by a steam engine, and something's the matter!"
"Bert, go call your father," said Mrs. Bobbsey, for her husband had gone to the far side of the grove to get another ice cream tub from the truck on which they were brought to the picnic. "We don't want any strange men setting up a merry-go-round here. Call your father!"
A MISSING COAT
Mr. Bobbsey came hurrying over to the ice cream pavilion, with Bert almost running beside him to keep up with his father.
"What's all this, Mother?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, who, with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up, was working hard to help the ladies at the Sunday school picnic. "What's all this about a merry-go-round coming here?"
"I don't know that it is coming here," answered Mrs. Bobbsey, with a smile. "But some sort of affair is thundering along the road. You can see the crowd of children near it. A merry-go-round some one said. I thought perhaps some men owning one of those traveling affairs had heard about our picnic and had come here to set up a machine. We don't want anything like that."
"No," agreed Mr. Bobbsey with a smile. "We don't. I'll go see about it," and off he went, followed by Bert. Nan, with Flossie and Freddie, had already joined the group of children down near the road that extended along one edge of the picnic grove.
As Bert and his father neared the place, a loud, hissing sound was heard and a white cloud of steam shot into the air, while the little ones screamed and scattered.
"What's that?" cried Bert.
"I hope those youngsters don't go too near!" murmured Mr. Bobbsey. "The safety valve of his steam engine is blowing off. He's got too much pressure on. It may be dangerous," and Mr. Bobbsey broke into a run, which Bert imitated as well as he could with his shorter legs.
However, there was no great danger. As Mr. Bobbsey had said, the safety valve of a steam engine, on one of the trucks which carried the merry-go-round outfit, was blowing off, and a short, stout man, with a very red face, and a lanky boy, wearing ragged clothes, were working about the engine.
"Keep back, children! Keep back!" called Mr. Bobbsey, as he reached the road. "This merry-go-round isn't going to be set up here. Keep back out of danger!"
"That's what I wish they'd do, mister!" said the red-faced man in no very friendly voice. "They're under foot, and some of 'em may get stepped on. I've got trouble enough without a bunch of kids getting in the way."
He did not speak very nicely of children, Bert thought, and Nan was evidently of the same opinion from the way in which she looked at her brother. Flossie and Freddie thought nothing of this. They were too excited in looking at the merry-go-round outfit.
This fun-making machine was loaded on four large trucks, hauled by four sturdy horses each. On one truck was an engine, with a fire in it and smoke and steam coming from it. It was this that seemed to be causing the trouble which the red-faced man and the lanky boy were trying to make better.
Behind the engine truck, which was in the lead, were three other trucks, and the drivers of the horses kept to their seats, not offering to help the red-faced man.
The three trucks were piled high with the frame and roof of the merry-go-round. There were posts, boards, long iron rods, greasy cog wheels and all sorts of queer things. But what interested the children most were the wooden animals that made up the more showy part of the merry-go-round. There were horses, lions, tigers, camels, elephants, zebras, an ostrich and a cow.
"Oh, I want to ride on the cow!" cried Freddie.
"I'm going to get on the lion's back!" exclaimed Flossie.
"No, I want the lion, you can have the cow!" yelled Freddie. "I want the lion!"
"I had him first! I choosed him first an' he's mine! Daddy, can't I have the lion?" begged Flossie.
"Hush, children!" said Mr. Bobbsey, as Freddie opened his mouth to wail that he wanted the king of beasts. "The merry-go-round isn't going to be set up here. No one is going to get a ride."
"That's what, mister!" exclaimed the red-faced man. "I'm not going to stop here. I'm on my way to the Bolton County Fair with this merry-go-round outfit. I'm going to be there for a week or more. Just had a little trouble with this engine. I got steam up on it while on the road to see what the matter was."
"Is it fixed now?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Yes, seems to be. Here, Bob," he called to the lanky boy, "haul the fire now, and we'll let her cool down. I guess she'll work now. Got up a good steam pressure, anyhow."
The ragged boy did something to the engine, when suddenly a burst of melody struck on the ears of all, and from an organ there was ground out a gay dancing tune.
"Oh, music!" cried Flossie.
"Where's the hand organ monkey?" Freddie wanted to know.
"I'm going to get Grace and we can dance!" exclaimed Nan, for she and her chums did simple little dances at school.
"I want to see the monkey!" wailed Freddie again.
"There isn't any monkey," Bert said. "It isn't exactly a hand organ. It's one that works by steam, I imagine," he said. "It's part of the merry-go-round."
"That's right. It's a good organ, too," said the ragged, lanky boy, who was working away at the engine, while the red-faced man had started for the front of the truck. Hearing the melody the red-faced man turned to the boy and angrily cried:
"Here! I didn't tell you to turn that music on! Shut it off, do you hear!"
"My, what a cross man!" said Flossie, in what she meant to be a whisper.
"Hush!" her father said.
"Shut that organ off! What'd you turn it on for, Bob?" grumbled the man.
"I didn't turn it on, Mr. Blipper. It turned itself on—too much steam, I guess."
"Well, shut it off, do you hear! I don't want to play music when I don't get any money for it. Shut it off!"
The boy did something to the engine and the organ music died away in a sad wail.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Flossie.
"Now we can't have any dance," lamented Nan.
"How long are you going to stop here, Mr.—er—did I understand your name was Blipper?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, thinking he might arrange to have the organ played a little while for the children.
"Blipper is my name—Aaron Blipper," answered the man. "Sole owner and proprietor of Blipper's Merry-Go-Round which will exhibit for a week, and maybe more, at the Bolton County Fair."
"My name is Bobbsey," went on the father of the twins. "Your name and mine have the same first letter, anyhow. I was going to say that if you were going to remain here a while I'd give you a dollar to let the organ play for the children. This is a Sunday school picnic."
"I guessed it was," said Mr. Blipper. "Well, if you was to give me a dollar I'd have Bob turn the music on again. I think a dollar will pay for what coal I burn in the engine. The organ is worked by the engine. I can't turn it by hand, or I'd let Bob do that. But I'll play for a dollar."
"Here you are then," said Mr. Bobbsey, and he passed over a bill.
"Turn the organ on, Bob!" ordered Mr. Blipper. "And while we're waiting here get a pail and water the horses. Might as well make yourself useful as well as ornamental."
To the Bobbsey twins it seemed that Bob had been making himself busy, if not useful, ever since the merry-go-round had halted near the picnic grounds.
The boy turned a handle and once more the organ began grinding out music of one kind or another. It was not very good, of course, but it pleased the children. Soon Flossie and Freddie were dancing on the green grass beside the road, and Nan and many of the other children were also enjoying themselves in this way. Though it was a Sunday school picnic, such simple dances as the children did could not be found fault with by any one.
Bert and his especial chums did not dance. They walked about the trucks of the merry-go-round, looking at the wooden animals. Mainly, however, they were interested in the steam engine which not only turned the machine around, once it was set up, but also played the organ.
"I'd like to see this thing going," said Charlie Mason.
"So would I," agreed Dannie Rugg.
"Maybe my father will take me to the Bolton County Fair," remarked Bert. "If he does I'll have a ride."
Then the ragged boy, who had been watering the horses, while the drivers dozed on their high seats, came up with an empty pail. He looked at the engine, changed the organ so that it played a different tune and let some hot water run out of a little faucet.
"Do you know how to run the engine?" asked Bert.
"Sure I do!"
"What's your name?" asked Charlie.
"Bob what?" Dannie wanted to know.
"Bob Guess! That's a queer name," remarked Bert.
"Well, it isn't exactly my real name," the ragged lad went on. "I'm an orphan. I haven't had any real folks in a long time. I was taken out of the asylum by this man, so he says. He adopted me, I reckon, and he said he gave me that name 'cause he had to guess what my real name was. So I'm called Bob Guess."
"A queer name," murmured Bert. "But I'd like to know how to work a steam engine."
"So'd I!" agreed the other boys.
"Pooh! It's easy," said Bob Guess, who seemed to like to show off. For he turned another little faucet, thereby sending out a cloud of steam, and causing Charlie Mason to jump back.
"Don't be skeered! It won't hurt you!" laughed Bob.
"Isn't it hot?"
"Not after it comes from the boiler. Look, I can hold my hand right in it," which Bob Guess did, letting a cloud of steam envelop both his rather dirty hands.
"Whew!" whistled Dannie, in amazement.
"I'm going to try it!" said Bert, rightly guessing that at a short distance from the faucet the steam cooled off; which was true, as you know if you have ever "felt" of the steam coming from a house radiator on a cold day.
But as Bert stretched out his hand to test the steam as Bob had done, Mr. Blipper called from where he stood talking to the driver of the last truck.
"Stop monkeying with that engine, Bob!" yelled the red-faced man. "You want to get it all out of kilter again!"
"I was only testin' the steam gauge," the boy answered.
"Well, you let it alone, do you hear, and water the horses."
"I have watered 'em!"
"Well, water 'em some more! I'm not going to stop again till I get to the Bolton County Fair if I can help it."
"He's sort of cross, isn't he?" asked Charlie, as Bob moved off.
"More than that—he's mean!" declared the ragged lad.
Bert and his chums stood looking at the steam engine and listening to the organ, while Nan and the smaller children danced. Then up came Mr. Blipper.
"I guess this is a dollar's worth of music," he announced.
"I believe so," agreed Mr. Bobbsey, with a smile. "The children have enjoyed it. Thank you!"
"Um!" grunted Mr. Blipper. "Here you, Bob!" he roared. "Come and shut off this steam. We're going to travel!"
He climbed up on the seat, and Bob, after hanging the water pail on a hook beneath the truck, shut off the engine. The organ ceased playing, and the trucks containing the merry-go-round lumbered off.
"Good-by!" called the Bobbsey twins.
"Good-by!" echoed Bob Guess.
"I wonder if we'll ever see him again," murmured Bert.
And he was to see the strange lad again, under queer circumstances.
"Come, children, your ice cream will get cold!" called Mrs. Bobbsey, who had come from the pavilion to summon the little guests.
"Ice cream get cold! Ha! Ha!" laughed Grace Lavine.
"I like mine cold," chuckled Dannie Rugg.
Back across the fields ran the merry, laughing children. The Sunday school picnic, in spite of the danger at the bridge, had turned out most wonderfully.
Soon the caravan of the merry-go-round was but a series of faint specks down the dusty road. It was taking a route that would not take it across the broken bridge.
The Bobbsey twins and their friends sat about eating ice cream and cake, and some of them talked about the strange boy and the organ that was played by steam.
"I'm going to have an organ like that when I grow up," said Freddie.
"An' I'm goin' to help you play it, an' ride on a lion," added Flossie, and the others laughed.
Picnics, however delightful, cannot go on forever, and this one came to an end as the afternoon shadows were falling. Mr. Bobbsey had been very busy helping his wife and the other ladies, and now, as the time came for him to go home in the small auto in which he and his wife had ridden to the grove, he rolled down his sleeves, and looked about him.
"What are you after?" his wife asked.
"My coat. I hung it on a tree limb right here, I thought."
"Yes, I saw you," said Nan.
"But it isn't here now!" her father went on.
"Here's some sort of coat," announced Bert, picking up one from the ground under a tree near the ice cream pavilion.
"That's where I hung my coat," said Mr. Bobbsey. "And this coat isn't mine. Mine was a good, new one. This is an old, ragged one. Dear me! I hope my coat hasn't been stolen! It had some money in one pocket, and also some papers I need at the lumber office! Where is my coat?"
SAM IS WORRIED
While fathers, mothers, and other relatives were gathering up their own children, or children of whom they had charge, to see that they were safely loaded into the two big trucks to go home from the picnic, the Bobbsey twins—at least Bert and Nan—were searching for their father's coat. Flossie and Freddie were too small to pay much attention to anything of this sort. The smaller twins were talking about the merry-go-round and starting over again the dispute as to who should ride on the wooden lion.
"Are you sure you left your coat hanging on the tree limb?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I'm certain of it," her husband answered. "And this old coat never was mine—I wouldn't own it!"
He dropped to the ground the ragged garment that had been found lying beneath the tree.
"I thought maybe you had hung your coat over by the ice cream shed," went on Mrs. Bobbsey. "You may have done that and have forgotten about it."
"No, I didn't do that," said the father of the Bobbsey twins. "I remember hanging my coat on the tree, for I recall noticing what a regular hook, like one on our rack at home, a broken piece of the branch made. My coat was here. But it's gone now, and this old one is left in place of it."
There was no question about that. Search as Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey and the children did, over the picnic grounds, the lumberman's coat, with money in one pocket and papers in another, was gone.
"Who do you s'pose could have taken it?" asked Nan, as her father looked about him with a puzzled air.
"I don't know," he answered, "unless——"
"Maybe it was tramps!" interrupted Bert.
"There weren't any tramps here on our picnic grounds," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Some of the drivers of the merry-go-round trucks looked like tramps, but they didn't get off their seats, did they?"
"Not that I noticed," her husband answered. "Well, there's no use looking farther. My coat is gone—stolen I'm afraid. This old one is left in its place. I haven't any use for this," and he kicked it to one side. "Never mind. It isn't cold. I can ride home without a coat."
"There's a lap robe in the auto," Mrs. Bobbsey said. "You can wrap that about you if you get chilly on the way home."
"Yes," agreed Mr. Bobbsey, "I can do that. Trot along, Bobbsey twins. Get into your picnic truck, and we'll see who gets home first."
"Like Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf," laughed Flossie.
While Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey walked over to where Mr. Bobbsey had left the runabout auto in which he and his wife had come to the picnic grounds, Bert, Nan, and the other children took their places in the big truck.
"Merrily we roll along—roll along—roll along!"
Some one started that song as the trucks rumbled out of the picnic grove. On account of the broken bridge a different road home had to be taken; a longer one. Having a lighter car than the trucks, Mr. Bobbsey and his wife could go faster than the loads of merry-makers, and the twins waved good-by to their parents, who were soon lost to sight.
"I guess they'll get home first," said Nan to Bert.
"I guess so—I Bob Guess so!" he added, making a joke on the name of the strange lad who had worked the steam organ of the merry-go-round.
"I feel sorry for that boy," said Nan. "Mr. Blipper was so cross and mean to him."
"Yes, he was cross," agreed Bert. "I hope daddy finds his coat," he added. "It's funny to have a coat stolen at a Sunday school picnic."
"Maybe somebody took it by mistake," suggested his sister.
"I don't believe they would, and leave an old ragged coat in place of a good one," Bert remarked.
"Maybe not," said Nan.
The picnic party was rather more quiet on the journey home than it had been on the way to Pine Grove. The reason was that the children were tired, and some of them sleepy. They sang for a while after leaving the grove, Bert and Nan starting many melodies in which the others joined.
But finally the songs died away, and about the only noise that was heard was the rumble of the big trucks.
"Do we have to cross any bridges?" asked Mrs. Morris, of the driver of the auto in which she rode with the Bobbsey twins.
"One bridge—yes, lady," was the answer.
"Dear me! I hope it doesn't break down as the white one did to-day," exclaimed the nervous little lady.
"No danger. It's a big iron one," said the driver.
"I'm glad of that," went on Mrs. Morris. "I'm always worried when I cross a bridge."
But there were no more accidents. The trucks took a little longer returning to Lakeport than they had making the trip earlier in the day, for they had to go a roundabout way. But finally the outskirts of the town were reached, and the children began getting off as they neared their homes.
"Good-by! Good-by!" they called one to another.
Finally the home of the Bobbsey twins came in sight in the early summer evening.
"Good-by, Bert and Nan!" called their chums.
"Good-by, Flossie and Freddie!"
"Good-by! Good-by!" echoed the Bobbsey twins.
"Dad is home ahead of us," remarked Bert to Nan, as they went up the steps.
"How do you know?" asked Nan.
"Because I see the runabout there," and Bert pointed toward the garage. "Seems to be something wrong," Bert went on. "Mother is there and so is Sam."
"Let's go see what it is," suggested Nan, as Dinah came to the door, calling:
"Am mah honey lambs safe an' sound?"
"Yes, Dinah!" said Freddie. "And I'm hungry, too!"
"Ah spects yo' is, honey! Ah spects yo' is!" laughed the jolly, fat cook. "Come right in yeah an' hab some cake!"
"I'm going to ride on a lion, I am!" stated Flossie.
"Good lan', chile! A lion!" exclaimed Dinah, raising her hands in surprise.
"Yep! A lion!"
"Oh, mah honey lamb! Don't yo' do no sich a thing!" cried Dinah. "A lion done eat yo' laigs off!"
"'Tisn't a real lion. I mean a wooden lion on a merry-go-round like we saw to-day," Flossie explained.
"Oh, a wooden lion!" and Dinah laughed. "Well, come in yeah, honey lambs, an' I'll feed yo'. Ah'll make beliebe yo' all is hungry lions, an' Ah'll feed yo'!"
And while Flossie and Freddie went into the house with Dinah, Bert and Nan hurried toward the garage, where they saw their father and mother talking with Sam Johnson.
"I's done suah I put dat lap robe in de auto," said Dinah's husband.
"I thought you did, Sam," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Yet when Mr. Bobbsey looked for it, to put around him, as he had no coat, the robe was gone."
"Are you sure it isn't in the garage, Sam?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Sartin suah, sah! I done put it in de little auto when yo' all started off, 'case I reckoned it'd be dusty."
"Well, the lap robe is gone like my coat," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Too bad, for it was a new one."
"It suah am too bad!" declared Sam. "Yo' all has me worried!"
"Well, you don't need to worry, Sam," said Mrs. Bobbsey kindly. "It isn't your fault. I know you put the robe in the auto, for I saw it when we started. But when I wanted it to wrap around Mr. Bobbsey, after his coat was taken, and it was cool riding home, the robe was gone."
"Stolen, Mother, do you think?" asked Nan.
"I wouldn't say that. It may have fallen out on the way."
"Well, that's two things gone the same day," said Mr. Bobbsey, who was still in his shirt sleeves, as he had come from the picnic. "My coat and the lap robe. I guess that Blipper's merry-go-round, which is to show at the Bolton County Fair, didn't bring me any good luck."
Bert and Nan were wondering if Bob Guess or the red-faced man knew anything of their father's coat and the missing lap robe when from the kitchen Dinah's voice excitedly called:
"Come heah! Come heah if yo' please, Mr. Bobbsey! Suffin's done gone an' happened!"
"Oh, dear!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "What's the matter now?"
HAPPY DAYS COMING
When Dinah called in this fashion, with worry making itself heard in her voice, Mrs. Bobbsey always hurried to see what the matter was. Generally it was something the smaller Bobbsey twins had done. And as she knew Flossie and Freddie were now in the kitchen, Mother Bobbsey feared one of the smaller children had been hurt.
"What is it, Dinah?" asked the mother, as she hurried back toward the house. Bert and Nan, with their father, waiting only a moment, followed Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I should think Freddie and Flossie would have had enough fun at the picnic not to want to do any more cutting up," remarked Nan.
"You never can tell what those tykes will do," observed Bert. "I don't hear either of 'em yelling, and that's a good sign."
But just as he spoke there came a wail from the kitchen, which, by this time, Mrs. Bobbsey had reached, disappearing within.
"That's Flossie," said Nan.
Again came the voice of a little child, crying either in fear or in delight at some funny happening, it could not be told which.
"There goes Freddie, letting off steam," said Bert. "I guess it isn't anything very much. Freddie always laughs in that squealing way when something tickles him."
Mr. Bobbsey, with the two older twins, entered the kitchen soon after Mrs. Bobbsey. There stood Flossie and Freddie before a low kitchen table, one leaf of which was down, so that whatever was under could not be seen very well, on account of the shadow cast by the electric light. And beside Flossie and Freddie stood Dinah.
"What's the matter?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Dinah says Snoop, our cat, has caught some sort of animal and has it under the table," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"It's a big animal and it's got fur on," declared Flossie, greatly excited.
"An' it's got yellow eyes and four legs an' it's long—it's as long as my arm!" added Freddie, his eyes big with wonder. "Oh, it was awful funny!" he went on, squealing with delight. "I saw Snoop drag it under the table and I called Dinah. Didn't I, Dinah?"
"Dat's whut yo' done, honey lamb! Ah don't know whut it is Snoop has, Mis' Bobbsey," went on the colored cook, "but it's some sort o' animile!"
"And Snoop growled, he did, when he dragged it under the table!" exclaimed Flossie. "I heard Snoop growl, I did! Listen!"
Surely enough the cat growled again, just as a lion or a tiger in the jungle would growl after catching its dinner—only not so loud, of course.
"Oh!" murmured Flossie, making a dive for her mother's skirts.
"There! Look! I saw its tail!" cried Freddie.
As he spoke just a flash of some furry animal was seen under the table where Snoop had gone to hide.
"I hope it isn't a little skunk!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Don't worry!" advised her husband. "If it was a young skunk that Snoop had, you'd have known it long before this. And Snoop never would try to catch a skunk—Snoop would know better."
"But what is it? He has something!" insisted Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Maybe I can coax Snoop out," put in Nan. "He minds me better than he does any one else. Here, Snoop! Come on out, nice Snoop!" she called in a gentle voice.
But Snoop only growled in answer, and seemed to be shaking, beneath the table, the unknown animal he had caught and dragged there.
"Shall I get the rake and pull him out?" asked Bert.
"No, you might hurt him," replied Mr. Bobbsey. "Go out to the garage and get the big flash lamp from Sam. I can shine that under the table and we can see what it is before we do anything. Evidently Snoop isn't going to come out until he gets ready. And it may be he has a large rat or——"
Dinah gave a scream.
"Oh—a rat!" she cried.
"Maybe it's only a little mouse—I like a funny little mouse," said Flossie.
"Well, I don't," said Dinah. "They eats mah food."
"Maybe it's only a little mole from the garden," went on Mr. Bobbsey.
"It's bigger'n a ground mole!" declared Freddie. "I saw it, an' it's long and brown and has legs an' brown eyes that shine."
"Well, whatever it is it can't be very dangerous," said Mr. Bobbsey. "If it was, Snoop never would have dared to get it. But I don't want to reach under there in the dark and perhaps get bitten and scratched by Snoop, or whatever he has. We'll wait for the flash light."
Bert now came running in with this, Sam following when he heard that the cat had something strange under the table in the kitchen.
"Dey suah am lots ob t'ings happenin' dis day," observed Sam.
Mr. Bobbsey flashed the light under the table. The four twins had stooped down to get a better view, and Freddie cried:
"I see its eyes shining!"
"I can see its tail! Oh, no, that's Snoop's tail!" added Flossie.
"Snoop, what have you there? Stop growling and give it to me!" demanded Mr. Bobbsey, thrusting his hand under the table.
"Be careful," advised his wife. "It may bite."
Mr. Bobbsey laughed and thrust his hand farther under the table. There was a little scuffle as Snoop tried to hold fast to what he had. He clung so hard to it with teeth and claws that he was dragged over the smooth linoleum on the floor.
"Here's your wild beast!" cried Mr. Bobbsey, as he arose, and held something covered with brown fur dangling from one hand.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "That's not a rat."
"No, it's your fur neck piece," her husband said, with a laugh.
"Oh, I wore it to the picnic, for I thought it would be cool coming home," said Mrs. Bobbsey, as she took the piece of fur. "And I laid it on the hall table. I forgot about Snoop. He must have seen it, thought it was a strange animal, and carried it away with him. Oh, Snoop!" and she shook her finger at the cat which, now that it had nothing to play with, came out from beneath the table.
"It does look like an animal," said Nan.
And indeed the fur piece did. For it was fashioned with an imitation of an animal's head, with yellow glass eyes. The fur piece was quite long and four little legs were fastened to it. So that it is no wonder a cat, or even a boy or a girl, at first look, would take it for something real.
"Well, Snoop had a good time with it, while it lasted," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a laugh.
"And my fur wouldn't have lasted much longer with him, if he'd started to claw and bite it," remarked Mrs. Bobbsey. "I'm glad you called me in, Dinah."
"Yessum, Ah thought maybe yo'd better see what the cat had, 'cause Ah couldn't make out what 'twas," the cook answered.
"Well, now that the excitement is over, we'd better have supper," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Or did you youngsters have enough at the picnic to last until morning?"
"We want to eat now!" decided Bert. "That wasn't so much we had at the picnic."
"I guess you were extra hungry, from being out of doors all day," his mother said. "Well, supper will soon be ready."
As they ate they talked over the fun they had had at Pine Grove, and Flossie remarked:
"I'm going to ride on a wooden lion, I am—on the merry-go-round. I'm going to ride on the lion."
"So'm I," declared Freddie. "There are two lions, an' I'm going to ride on one an' Flossie on the other one."
"Where's your merry-go-round?" asked Nan.
"At the fair—the Bolton County Fair," said Freddie. "I heard that funny red-faced man say so."
"But the Bolton Fair is a long way off," went on Nan.
"Daddy will take us; won't you?" asked Flossie. "Can't we go to the fair and ride on the merry-go-round?" she teased.
"Well, I don't know," answered Mr. Bobbsey slowly. "I suppose it would be a good thing to visit a big county fair, and this is one of the largest."
"But we'd have to go and stay for some time," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Bolton is a long way off. We couldn't go and come the same day."
"One ought to spend more than a day at a big fair if he wants to see everything," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "I never could stay as long as I wanted to when I was a boy. Now, I was thinking perhaps we could all go to Meadow Brook Farm for a little visit. From Meadow Brook it isn't far to the Bolton County Fair."
"Oh, let's go!" cried Bert and Nan.
"What about school?" asked their mother.
"School doesn't open until later this fall than usual," explained Mr. Bobbsey. "They are repairing the school house and the work will not be finished in time for the regular fall opening. I know, for the school board buys lumber of me.
"So, as long as the children don't have to be back until the middle of October, we could all go to Meadow Brook, and from there visit the fair. Would you like that?" he asked his wife.
"I think it would be lovely!"
"So do I!" echoed the Bobbsey twins.
"Well, then, we'll think about it," promised their father. "You will have some happy days to think about until it is time to go. And now I think it is time for my little Fairy and my brave Fireman to go to bed." Daddy Bobbsey sometimes called the small twins by these pet names. "Come on! Up to bed!" he called. "We'll talk more about the Bolton County Fair another day!"
As he was carrying the smaller children up to bed, a style of travel the little twins loved, there came a ring at the front door bell. Dinah, who answered, came back to say:
"Dere's a p'liceman outside whut wants to see yo', Mr. Bobbsey."
"A policeman for me?"
"Dear me!" Mr. Bobbsey murmured. "What can be the matter now!"
"Oh, Daddy!" squealed Flossie, at once filled with excitement.
"What do you suppose——" began Bert, and then stopped in the midst of his speech.
"Maybe he has found your lost coat," suggested Nan, as her father put Flossie and Freddie down in an easy chair.
THE CRYING BOY
There had been so much excitement over the strange "animal" which Snoop had under the table that, for a time, the Bobbsey twins had forgotten about their father's coat having been taken at the picnic. Nor had they remembered about the missing lap robe. But now, as Nan said this, every one—except perhaps the smaller twins—thought about the things that were gone.
"Oh, that's so!" exclaimed Bert, following what his sister said. "Maybe the policeman has come to bring back your lost coat, Daddy!"
"I hope he has," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Not only do I not want to lose the coat, for a suit of clothes isn't of much use without a coat, but I don't like to lose the money and papers."
"No, sah, Mr. Bobbsey, de p'liceman didn't hab no coat," said Dinah.
"He didn't?" remarked Mr. Bobbsey.
"No, sah. He didn't."
"Well then, I can't imagine what he wants," went on the father of the Bobbsey twins. "Ask him to come in, Dinah."
In came the policeman. He was one the children knew, from having often seen him pass the house.
"Good evening, Mr. Bobbsey," said the officer, the light flashing on his brass buttons. "I came up to see about a lap robe stolen from your auto."
"Did you find it?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "I'm so glad! And did you find Mr. Bobbsey's coat, also?"
"Why, no, Mrs. Bobbsey, I didn't," answered Policeman Murphy. "I didn't know about any lost coat. I was just sent up from the police station to inquire about the robbery of a lap robe. Somebody telephoned down that a policeman was wanted because a lap robe had been stolen. That's why I came up—because of the telephone message."
"Telephone!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "I didn't telephone for you, Mr. Murphy."
"Neither did I," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Perhaps it was one of the children," and she looked at Bert and Nan.
The older Bobbsey twins shook their heads. Flossie and Freddie, though they knew how to telephone, would hardly have thought of calling up the police. But they were asked about it.
"Nope, we didn't do it," Flossie said. "Though we likes p'licemans; don't we, Freddie?"
"Yeppie," he answered sleepily. "When I grows up I'm goin' be a p'licemans or a firesmans—I forget which."
"He's sleepy," laughed the officer. "But what about this, Mr. Bobbsey? Some one must have telephoned."
"Yes, of course. I wonder if it could have been Mr. Blipper or that lad who called himself Bob Guess?"
"Who are they?" the officer asked.
"Mr. Blipper is a man who owns a merry-go-round he takes to fairs and circuses. He passed the picnic grounds where we were to-day. He's on his way to the Bolton County Fair. He had with him a boy named Bob Guess—called that because the lad is an orphan and they had to 'guess' at his name. Soon after this Blipper and his outfit left, I missed my coat, and, coming home, we found the lap robe gone. I was going to ride after him, but we had a little excitement here, and I haven't had a chance. Then you came along and——"
The sound of steps was heard on the side porch, and in came Sam, quite excited.
"'Scuse me!" he murmured, as he entered. "Oh, de p'liceman done come!" he exclaimed. "He's heah! I'm glad!"
"Did you expect him?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Yes, sah, Mr. Bobbsey, I did! When de lap robe was gone I t'ought maybe you t'ink I might 'a' been careless like, an' let some chicken t'ieves in. So I telephoned fo' a p'liceman to come an' see if he could cotch de burglar!"
"Oh, Sam, you didn't need to do that!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "We know it wasn't your fault that the lap robe was taken, any more than it was that Mr. Bobbsey's coat was stolen."
"Of course not!" echoed her husband.
"Well, I t'ought better we have a p'liceman," murmured Sam.
"I don't know what there is for him to do," said Mr. Bobbsey. "As nearly as I can figure it out, my coat was stolen at the picnic grounds and the lap robe was taken about the same time."
"It was," agreed Mrs. Bobbsey. "And I think that Blipper—or perhaps Bob Guess—had something to do with both thefts."
"It might be," replied the officer. "Those traveling show people aren't very careful, sometimes. I'll report back to the chief and see what he says. If we get sight of this merry-go-round crowd, Mr. Bobbsey, we'll stop them and ask them about your coat and the robe."
"Thank you, I wish you would. But I don't imagine you'll see them. They are on their way to Bolton, and we shall be there ourselves next week, so we can make some inquiries."
Officer Murphy left, finding there was nothing he could do. Flossie and Freddie were carried up to bed, and Nan danced about the room, singing:
"We're going to the fair! We're going to the fair! We're going to the Bolton County Fair!"
And Bert echoed:
"Maybe we'll find daddy's coat when we get there!"
Then, tired but happy over their fun at the picnic and too sleepy to worry much over the lost articles, the Bobbsey twins at last went to bed.
As their parents had said, school would not open as early that fall as in other years, because some rebuilding work was being done in a few of the rooms. So there was time to go to Meadow Brook, and from there to visit Bolton, a few miles away, where the big fair was being held.
"Do you really think we can go, Mother?" asked Nan, the next day.
"I don't see why not. Your father seems to have made up his mind to it."
"Well, I hope he doesn't change it, as he does sometimes," said Bert, with a laugh. "They're going to have airships and a balloon at the fair, Charlie Mason says, and maybe I can go up in the balloon. Wouldn't that be great, Nan?"
"I'm not going up in any balloon!"
"I am!" decided Bert, as if that was all there was to it.
"An' I'm going to ride on a lion!" cried Flossie.
"So'm I!" chimed in her brother Freddie.
Uncle Daniel Bobbsey and his wife Sarah, with their son Harry, lived at Meadow Brook Farm. The Bobbsey twins had been there more than once, as those who have read the other books of this series will remember. And now it was proposed to go there again.
"But we'll be at the fair more than we will be at Meadow Brook, sha'n't we?" asked Nan of her father.
"Well, sort of betwixt and between," he answered, with a laugh.
Uncle Daniel having been written to, said he would be delighted to have his brother and his brother's family come out for the remainder of the summer and early fall. And in about a week all preparations were made.
The trip was to be made in the Bobbsey's big auto, and would take about a day. By starting early in the morning Meadow Brook Farm could be reached by night. From there it was only a short distance to Bolton where, each year, a big fair was held.
"And if I see that Bob Guess I'll make him tell where daddy's coat is!" declared Bert.
"And the lap robe, too!" added Nan.
It was a fine, sunny day when the start was made. Into the auto piled the Bobbsey twins, with boxes and baskets of lunch.
"It's like another picnic!" laughed Nan, as she saw Bert piling away the good things to eat.
"Hab a good time, honey lambs!" called fat Dinah, as she and her husband stood on the steps, waving good-by.
"Take good care of Snoop and Snap!" begged Nan.
"We will!" promised Sam.
Snap, the dog, wanted to come along, but as he could not very well be looked after on this trip he had to be left behind, much to his sorrow. He howled dismally as the auto went down the road.
Not very much happened on the way to Meadow Brook. Once a tire was punctured and Mr. Bobbsey had to stop to put on a spare one. But this happened near a garage, so he had a man from there do the work, while he and his wife, with the twins, went into a little grove of trees and ate lunch.
"Be careful of your coat!" warned Mrs. Bobbsey, as her husband took it off and hung it on a tree while he built a fire to heat the water for tea.
"Oh, no one is going to steal this one!" he said. "Anyhow, it's an old one. But there's no one here to take it. No Mr. Blipper or Bob Guess around now."
"Well, don't forget, and go off, leaving it hang on the tree," warned his wife.
"I won't," said Mr. Bobbsey.
A fire was made, and as Mrs. Bobbsey was sitting with her back against a stump, comfortably sipping her tea, she heard the sound of crying. As Bert and Nan, with Flossie and Freddie, were gathering flowers not far away, Mrs. Bobbsey could see that it was none of her twins who was sobbing.
But the crying kept up, and she looked around to see whence it came. Mr. Bobbsey was busy packing up the lunch things, for there was enough food left to serve a little tea around five o'clock, since Meadow Brook Farm would not be reached before seven o'clock that evening, on account of the delay over the tire.
"Who is that crying, Dick?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Crying? Why, I don't hear—yes, I do, too!" her husband added, as the sound of sobs came to his ears. He looked to make sure his own children were all right and then glanced about.
As he did so there came from a little clump of trees, not far from the grove where the Bobbseys had eaten lunch, a ragged boy, who seemed in pain or distress, for he was crying very hard.
"Oh, the poor lad!" said Mrs. Bobbsey in a kind voice. "Go see what the matter is, Dick! He is in trouble of some sort! I wonder who he is?"
"Yes, without doubt, the lad's in trouble. We'll see what we can do," answered the father of the twins.
The crying boy walked slowly toward the Bobbsey family, and now the twins, hearing his sobs, looked up in wonder from their flower-gathering.
ANGRY MR. BLIPPER
"Why, it's Bob Guess!" cried Bert, dropping his bunch of flowers, so excited was he. "It's Bob Guess!"
"So it is!" agreed Nan. "And he's crying."
There was no doubt of that: It was Bob Guess, the lad the Bobbsey twins had seen working at the merry-go-round engine the day of the Sunday school picnic. Bob came slowly along, sobbing hard.
"What's the matter, Bob?" asked Bert, who had taken a liking to the ragged chap. For the time being Mr. Bobbsey's missing coat and the lap robe were forgotten. "Why are you crying?"
"Can we help you?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
Bob Guess ceased sobbing and looked up. He seemed surprised to see the children and their parents.
"Oh, I—I didn't know anybody was here," he stammered.
"That's all right," said Mr. Bobbsey. "If there's anything we can do to help you—— Where's Mr. Blipper, by the way? There is something I should like to ask him. Or perhaps you can tell me."
"Not now, Dick, not now," said Mrs. Bobbsey in a whisper, with a shake of her head at her husband. She knew what he wanted to ask—about his coat and the robe. "Not now; he is too miserable," she went on.
"Has anything happened?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, changing his first line of questions.
"Ye—yes," stammered Bob, not sobbing so hard now. "I—I've run away from Mr. Blipper!"
"You've run away!" echoed Nan.
Bob nodded his head vigorously to show that he meant "yes," and he went on:
"He treated me mean! There was a lot of hard work setting up the merry-go-round at the Bolton Fair, and I had more than my share. He wouldn't give me any money—he hardly gave me enough to eat. And I ran away. I'm not done running yet, only I'm so hungry I can't go very fast any more."
"You poor boy!" murmured Mrs. Bobbsey. "Is that why you cried—because you were hungry?"
"Yes—yes'm," murmured Bob Guess.
"Well, we have plenty to eat," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a kindly pat on the shoulder of the ragged boy. "Here, we'll give you a lunch, and then maybe you can tell me what I want to know. Where is Mr. Blipper?"
"He's back there at the merry-go-round. We had some trouble with the engine. But I guess he has it fixed by now. He's back at the fair grounds. It opens to-morrow. That is, he's there unless he has come chasing after me."
"Do you think he'd do that?" asked Bert. It was quite an exciting adventure, Bert thought, to run away and be chased by Mr. Blipper.
"Well, he said if I ever ran away he'd run after me and bring me back," answered Bob. "Anyhow, I've run away, but it isn't as much fun as I thought it'd be. Only I can't stand Mr. Blipper! He's too cross!"
"Poor boy!" murmured Mrs. Bobbsey again. "Get him something to eat, Dick. He must be very hungry!"
And Bob was, to judge by the manner in which he ate some of the Bobbsey's lunch. It was a good thing there was plenty. Having eaten all he seemed to care for and drinking two glasses of milk, Bob leaned back against a tree stump and said:
"Now can't I do something to pay you for my meal?"
"Do something to pay for it?" repeated Mrs. Bobbsey, wonderingly.
"Yes, Mr. Blipper says I've always got to work for my board. Sometimes he says I'm not worth my salt."
"Well, this time there is no need of doing anything for us," said Mr. Bobbsey. "You are welcome to what you have had to eat. But now what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to run away farther if I can," Bob Guess answered.
"Hum! I'm not so sure that we ought to let you, now that we know about you," went on the father of the Bobbsey twins. "Has this Mr. Blipper any claim on you?"
"He says he adopted me and can keep me until I'm twenty-one years old."
"He may be right. I don't know about that. It must be looked into. Anyhow, I don't feel like letting you run away, Bob," went on Mr. Bobbsey kindly. "I'd like to have a talk with Blipper on my own account, and I could ask him about you. Did you happen to see——"
But before Mr. Bobbsey could ask what he intended to—about his missing coat and the lap robe—a man from the garage where the automobile had been left to have the tire changed came across the field.
"It's a good thing you stopped when you did, Mr. Bobbsey," said the garage man.
"Because if you had gone on a little farther one of the wheels of your car would have come off, and if you had been going fast, or down-hill, you might have had a bad accident. I found the break when I was putting on the tire, and I came over to ask if you wanted me to fix it."
"Yes, I suppose so. I'll come and have a look. We don't want to go on if there is any danger."
"There is danger. And it will take half a day to mend the break."
"Half a day!" said Mr. Bobbsey, as he followed the man, forgetting for the time all about Bob and Mr. Blipper. "That means we'll not get to Meadow Brook to-night. Is there a good hotel in town?"
"Yes, a very good one not far from my garage."
"Well then, in case we have to remain, we can stay at the hotel. But wait until I take a look at the broken wheel."
Mr. Bobbsey found that the garage man was right. The automobile was in need of repairs, and had the party gone on, without noticing the break, a bad accident might have happened.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Mrs. Bobbsey, when told of the news, "must we stay here all night?"
"Unless I hire another auto, or you and the children go on by train," said her husband. "I shall have to stay here to bring our car on."
"Oh, I don't want that! No, we'll stay at the hotel. But what about him?" she asked in a low voice, pointing to Bob Guess, who was talking to the twins.
"That's so. We can't turn him adrift," Mr. Bobbsey agreed. "Well, I'll get a room for him at the hotel. In the morning I can decide what to do. I don't like to send him back to Blipper. But if the man has adopted him he has a claim on the boy. We'll see what happens by morning."
Mrs. Bobbsey may have disliked to break the journey and stay at a strange hotel, but the Bobbsey twins thought it great fun. The hotel was a small country one, clean and neat, and the Bobbseys and Bob Guess were about the only guests there.
"I'm not fit to stop at a hotel," said the ragged boy.
"Oh, you're all right," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Perhaps I can get you some clothes here. If there isn't a store that sells them I may be able to get you a second-hand suit from the hotel keeper."
As it happened, there was no clothing store in the village of Montville, where the stop was made. But the hotel proprietor had some clothes of one of his sons who had gone to the city to work. Bob was given a partly worn but very good coat and trousers.
"He's a nice looking boy when he's dressed well," said Mrs. Bobbsey, as the lad discarded his old clothes.
"Yes," agreed her husband. "He has a good, honest face. And yet, when I think of my coat and the lap robe—— But I'll wait until I see Blipper."
"Do you think you will see him?"
"Yes, I imagine he'll follow this boy. He's a hard worker, Bob is, and Blipper won't want to lose him. I shouldn't wonder but what he came on after Bob."
"How will he know where to find him?" asked Bert, who heard what his father and mother said.
"Oh, he can make inquiries along the way. But I'll do what I can for Bob."
Bert and Nan, with Flossie and Freddie, had good times at the country hotel. Their rooms were on a long corridor, and the twins raced up and down this, playing tag and other games. No one seemed to mind.
At supper Bob ate a good meal, but did not talk much. And every time the dining room door opened he looked around quickly, as if fearing to see Mr. Blipper come in.
In the evening Mr. Bobbsey went down to the garage to see how the men were progressing with the repairs to his car, for they had promised to work all night. Bert went with his father.
"I guess you'll be able to go on in the morning, Mr. Bobbsey," the garage man said.
"I hope so. My youngsters are anxious to get to Meadow Brook, and from there go to the Bolton County Fair."
"That's quite a fair. Lots of attractions I hear. A merry-go-round, a balloon, airships, and auto races. I'd go myself if I had time."
As Bert and his father reached the hotel a little later they heard loud talking coming from the sitting room where they had left Mrs. Bobbsey and the children. The voice of an angry man was saying:
"Well, I tell you I'm going to have that boy back! He ran away from me! I'm his legally appointed guardian, and I want him back! You come along with me, Bob Guess!"
Then Mrs. Bobbsey said firmly:
"Mr. Blipper, you shall not take this boy away until my husband comes back. Mr. Bobbsey wants to see you. You can't take Bob away like this. I won't let you. If necessary I'll call a policeman. You must wait until my husband comes back!"
"I'm not going to wait! I'm going to take that boy now!" cried the angry man, as Bert and his father hurried in.
THE BIG SWING
Mr. Bobbsey and Bert now looked on a rather sad scene in the hotel sitting room. On one side of the apartment stood Mr. Blipper, having hold of the coat collar of Bob Guess. And Bob was crying again.
On the other side of the room stood Mrs. Bobbsey with Nan, Flossie, and Freddie close to her. At one end of the room, looking in through the door, was the good-natured but easy-going proprietor of the hotel and some of the servants.
"What is going on here?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"I'm going away, if that's what you mean!" snapped out Mr. Blipper in angry tones. "I traced this runaway adopted son of mine here, and I'm taking him back with me. This lady says I can't!"
"I told him to wait until you came back," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I didn't want him to take poor Bob away. I don't believe he has any right to take him."
"I don't know who you are!" spluttered the angry Mr. Blipper. "But you haven't any right to stop me."
"This lady is my wife," said Mr. Bobbsey, and he spoke in such a way that Mr. Blipper at once lost some of his bluster. "She has the same right that any one has to inquire into something he thinks is wrong."
"But this isn't wrong!" cried Mr. Blipper. "I have a right to this boy. I adopted him legally, I did! I gave him a name when he didn't have any before. Bob Guess I call him, 'cause I had to guess at his name. I took him out of an orphan asylum and give him a good home!"
"Home!" cried Bob Guess. "You didn't give me any home! You keep dragging me all over the country with that merry-go-round! I haven't any home except sleepin' in a truck."
"You were glad enough to come with me!" sneered Mr. Blipper.
"Anyway, I'm sick of it. That's why I ran away."
"Well, you're going to run back again!" said Mr. Blipper, grimly, as he gave the boy a shake.
"Wait a minute," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Have you a legal right to this boy?"
"That's what I have. I expected some such question would be asked of me, and I brought along my papers. There they are. You can look 'em over for yourself."
He tossed a long envelope containing papers to Mr. Bobbsey, and the latter looked at the documents.
"Don't let him take me back!" pleaded Bob Guess. "I don't like him!"
"I don't like you, when it comes to that!" sneered the angry man. "But I'm going to have you back! I have a right to you, and you've got to work for me."
"These papers seem to be all right," said Mr. Bobbsey, slowly. "He is your legal guardian, Bob. You had better go with him, and do as he says. But if he treats you cruelly let me know. I am going to the Bolton County Fair, and when I get there I'll keep my eye on you."
"Say, who are you, anyhow?" sneered Mr. Blipper.
"My name is Bobbsey," answered the children's father. "I live in Lakeport. I thought perhaps you might know my name."
"How should I know your name?"
"It was on some papers in my coat that disappeared from the Sunday school picnic grounds the day you had trouble with your engine near the grove."
Mr. Blipper looked first at Bob and then at Mr. Bobbsey.
"Say!" cried the merry-go-round owner, "maybe you think I know something about your coat."
"Maybe you do," answered Mr. Bobbsey, easily.
"And the lap robe!" whispered Bert.
"Hush, Bert!" warned his mother. "Leave this to Daddy!"
"Well, I don't know anything about your coat or a lap robe, either!" declared Mr. Blipper. "All I know is that Bob ran away from me, and now I'm going to run him back!"
There seemed no help for it. Mr. Bobbsey sadly shook his head when the twins and his wife pleaded with him to do something to save Bob.
"Those papers show the boy is adopted," he said. "I can do nothing. But we'll keep our eyes on him. We are going to the fair, and if Bob is not kindly treated I'll complain to the Children's Aid Society."
"You don't need to worry!" gruffly said Mr. Blipper. "I'll treat him as well as he deserves."
"Am I to keep these clothes?" asked Bob, as Mr. Blipper led him away.
"Of course," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I bought them for you."
"What's that? Who's been giving you clothes?" demanded Mr. Blipper.
"Don't you think he needed them?" inquired Mrs. Bobbsey, gently.
"Well—er—I was going to buy him a new suit after we took in some money at the Bolton Fair," sheepishly said Mr. Blipper. "I—I'm much obliged to you folks, though. Bob isn't a bad boy when he wants to be good. Come on now. I've a rig outside and we can get back to the fair grounds to-night if we hurry."
With a sad look at the friends who had been so kind to him, Bob followed his adopted father out of the room. He did not cry, but he seemed to want to.
"Good-by!" called the Bobbsey twins. "We'll see you at the fair!"
"Good-by!" echoed Bob Guess.
The Bobbsey twins wondered when they would see him again.
It might be thought that the excitement of the runaway boy who was caught again would keep Bert and Nan awake. Flossie and Freddie were too young to give the matter much attention. But though the older Bobbsey twins felt sorry for the lad, they had the idea that their father would make matters all right concerning him, and so they did not lie awake vainly worrying.
They slept soundly, the night passed quietly, and in the morning after an early breakfast the family were on their way again in the automobile which had been mended during the night.
"We'll soon be at Meadow Brook Farm, sha'n't we?" asked Freddie over and over again.
"Yes," his mother told him.
"And I'm going to milk a cow, I am!" announced Flossie.
"So'm I!" echoed Freddie. "I'm goin' milk two cows, I am!"
"I guess you mean you're going to see them milked!" laughed Nan. "Milking cows would be hard work even for Bert."