THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY
LAURA LEE HOPE
I. THE INVITATION II. THE START III. SNOOP ON THE TRAIN IV. A LONG RIDE V. MEADOW BROOK VI. FRISKY VII. A COUNTRY PICNIC VIII. FUN IN THE WOODS IX. FOURTH OF JULY X. A GREAT DAY XI. THE LITTLE GARDENERS XII. TOM'S RUNAWAY XIII. PICKING PEAS XIV. THE CIRCUS XV. THE CHARIOT RACE XVI. THE FLOOD XVII. A TOWN AFLOAT XVIII. THE FRESH-AIR CAMP XIX. SEWING SCHOOL XX. A MIDNIGHT SCARE XXI. WHAT THE WELL CONTAINED XXII. LITTLE JACK HORNER—GOOD-BYE
THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY
"There goes the bell! It's the letter carrier! Let me answer!" Freddie exclaimed.
"Oh, let me! It's my turn this week!" cried Flossie.
"But I see a blue envelope. That's from Aunt Sarah!" the brother cried.
Meanwhile both children, Freddie and Flossie, were making all possible efforts to reach the front door, which Freddie finally did by jumping over the little divan that stood in the way, it being sweeping day.
"I beat you," laughed the boy, while his sister stood back, acknowledging defeat.
"Well, Dinah had everything in the way and anyhow, maybe it was your turn. Mother is in the sewing room, I guess!" Flossie concluded, and so the two started in search of the mother, with the welcome letter from Aunt Sarah tight in Freddie's chubby fist.
Freddie and Flossie were the younger of the two pairs of twins that belonged to the Bobbsey family. The little ones were four years old, both with light curls framing pretty dimpled faces, and both being just fat enough to be good-natured. The other twins, Nan and Bert, were eight years old, dark and handsome, and as like as "two peas" the neighbors used to say. Some people thought it strange there should be two pairs of twins in one house, but Nan said it was just like four-leaf clovers, that always grow in little patches by themselves.
This morning the letter from Aunt Sarah, always a welcome happening, was especially joyous.
"Do read it out loud," pleaded Flossie, when the blue envelope had been opened in the sewing room by Mrs. Bobbsey.
"When can we go?" broke in Freddie, at a single hint that the missive contained an invitation to visit Meadow Brook, the home of Aunt Sarah in the country.
"Now be patient, children," the mother told them. "I'll read the invitation in just a minute," and she kept her eyes fastened on the blue paper in a way that even to Freddie and Flossie meant something very interesting.
"Aunt Sarah wants to know first how we all are."
"Oh, we're all well," Freddie interrupted, showing some impatience.
"Do listen, Freddie, or we won't hear," Flossie begged him, tugging at his elbow.
"Then she says," continued the mother, "that this is a beautiful summer at Meadow Brook."
"Course it is. We know that!" broke in Freddie again.
"Freddie!" pleaded Flossie.
"And she asks how we would like to visit them this summer." "Fine, like it—lovely!" the little boy almost shouted, losing track of words in his delight.
"Tell her we'll come, mamma," went on Freddie. "Do send a letter quick won't you, mamma?"
"Freddie Bobbsey!" spoke up Flossie, in a little girl's way of showing indignation. "If you would only keep quiet we could hear about going, but—you always stop mamma. Please, mamma, read the rest," and the golden head was pressed against the mother's shoulder from the arm of the big rocking chair.
"Well, I was only just saying—" pouted Freddie.
"Now listen, dear." The mother went on once more reading from the letter: "Aunt Sarah says Cousin Harry can hardly wait until vacation time to see Bert, and she also says, 'For myself I cannot wait to see the babies. I want to hear Freddie laugh, and I want to hear Flossie "say her piece," as she did last Christmas, then I just want to hug them both to death, and so does their Uncle Daniel.'"
"Good!—goody!" broke in the irrepressible Freddie again. "I'll just hug Aunt Sarah this way," and he fell on his mother's neck and squeezed until she cried for him to stop.
"I guess she'll like that," Freddie wound up, in real satisfaction at his hugging ability.
"Not if you spoil her hair," Flossie insisted, while the overcome mother tried to adjust herself generally.
"Is that all?" Flossie asked.
"No, there is a message for Bert and Nan too, but I must keep that for lunch time. Nobody likes stale news," the mother replied.
"But can't we hear it when Bert and Nan come from school?" coaxed Flossie.
"Of course," the mother assured her. "But you must run out in the air now. We have taken such a long time to read the letter."
"Oh, aren't you glad!" exclaimed Flossie to her brother, as they ran along the stone wall that edged the pretty terrace in front of their home.
"Glad! I'm just—so glad—so glad—I could almost fly up in the air!" the boy managed to say in chunks, for he had never had much experience with words, a very few answering for all his needs.
The morning passed quickly to the little ones, for they had so much to think about now, and when the school children appeared around the corner Flossie and Freddie hurried to meet Nan and Bert, to tell them the news.
"We're going! we're going!" was about all Freddie could say.
"Oh, the letter came—from Aunt Sarah!" was Flossie's way of telling the news. But it was at the lunch table that Mrs. Bobbsey finished the letter.
"'Tell Nan,'" she read, "'that Aunt Sarah has a lot of new patches and tidies to show her, and tell her I have found a new kind of jumble chocolate that I am going to teach her to make.' There, daughter, you see," commented Mrs. Bobbsey, "Aunt Sarah has not forgotten what a good little baker you are."
"Chocolate jumble," remarked Bert, and smacked his lips. "Say, Nan, be sure to learn that. It sounds good," the brother declared.
Just then Dinah, the maid, brought in the chocolate, and the children tried to tell her about going to the country, but so many were talking at once that the good-natured colored girl interrupted the confusion with a hearty laugh.
"Ha! ha! ha! And all you-uns be goin' to de country!"
"Yes, Dinah," Mrs. Bobbsey told her, "and just listen to what Aunt Sarah says about you," and once more the blue letter came out, while Mrs. Bobbsey read:
"'And be sure to bring dear old Dinah! We have plenty of room, and she will so enjoy seeing the farming.'"
"Farming! Ha! ha! Dat I do like. Used to farm all time home in Virginie!" the maid declared. "And I likes it fuss-rate! Yes, Dinah'll go and hoe de corn and" (aside to Bert) "steal de watermelons!"
The prospects were indeed bright for a happy time in the country, and the Bobbseys never disappointed themselves when fun was within their reach.
With so much to think about, the few weeks that were left between vacation and the country passed quickly for the Bobbseys. As told in any first book, "The Bobbsey Twins," this little family had a splendid home in Lakeport, where Mr. Bobbsey was a lumber merchant. The mother and father were both young themselves, and always took part in their children's joys and sorrows, for there were sorrows sometimes. Think of poor little Freddie getting shut up all alone in a big store with only a little black kitten, "Snoop," to keep him from being scared to death; that was told of in the first book, for Freddie went shopping one day with his mamma, and wandered off a little bit. Presently he found himself in the basement of the store; there he had so much trouble in getting out he fell asleep in the meantime. Then, when he awoke and it was all dark, and the great big janitor came to rescue him—oh!—Freddie thought the man might even be a giant when he first heard the janitor's voice in the dark store.
Freddie often got in trouble, but like most good little boys he was always saved just at the right time, for they say good children have real angels watching over them. Nan, Bert, and Flossie all had plenty of exciting experiences too, as told in "The Bobbsey Twins," for among other neighbors there was Danny Rugg, a boy who always tried to make trouble for Bert, and sometimes almost succeeded in getting Bert into "hot water," as Dinah expressed it.
Of course Nan had her friends, as all big girls have, but Bert, her twin brother, was her dearest chum, just as Freddie was Flossie's.
"When we get to the country we will plant trees, go fishing, and pick blackberries," Nan said one day.
"Yes, and I'm going with Harry out exploring," Bert announced.
"I'm just going to plant things," prim little Flossie lisped. "I just love melons and ice cream and—"
"Ice cream! Can you really plant ice cream?" Freddie asked innocently, which made the others all laugh at Flossie's funny plans.
"I'm going to have chickens," Freddie told them. "I'm going to have one of those queer chicken coops that you shut up tight and when you open it it's just full of little 'kippies.'"
"Oh, an incubator, you mean," Nan explained. "That's a machine for raising chickens without any mother."
"But mine are going to have a mother," Freddie corrected, thinking how sad little chickens would be without a kind mamma like his own.
"But how can they have a mother where there isn't any for them?" Flossie asked, with a girl's queer way of reasoning.
"I'll get them one," Freddie protested. "I'll let Snoop be their mamma."
"A cat! the idea! why, he would eat 'em all up," Flossie argued.
"Not if I whipped him once for doing it," the brother insisted. Then Nan and Bert began to tease him for whipping the kitten after the chickens had been "all eaten up."
So the merry days went on until at last vacation came!
"Just one more night," Nan told Flossie and Freddie when she prepared them for bed, to help her very busy mother. Bert assisted his father with the packing up, for the taking of a whole family to the country meant lots of clothes, besides some books and just a few toys. Then there was Bert's tool box—he knew he would need that at Meadow Brook.
The morning came at last, a beautiful bright day, a rare one for traveling, for a fine shower the evening before had washed and cooled things off splendidly.
"Now come, children," Mr. Bobbsey told the excited youngsters. "Keep track of your things. Sam will be ready in a few minutes, and then we must be off."
Promptly Sam pulled up to the door with the family carriage, and all hurried to get in.
"Oh, Snoop, Snoop!" cried Freddie. "He's in the library in the box! Dinah, get him quick, get him!" and Dinah ran back after the little kitten.
"Here you is, Freddie!" she gasped, out of breath from hurrying. "You don't go and forget poor Snoopy!" and she climbed in beside Sam.
Then they started.
"Oh, my lan' a-massy!" yelled Dinah presently in distress. "Sam Johnson, you jest turn dat hoss around quick," and she jerked at the reins herself. "You heah, Sam? Quick, I tells you. Get back to dat house. I'se forgot to bring—to bring my lunch basket!"
"Oh, never mind, Dinah," Mrs. Bobbsey interrupted. "We will have lunch on the train."
"But I couldn't leab dat nice lunch I got ready fo' de chillen in between, missus," the colored woman urged. "I'll get it quick as a wink. Now, Sam, you rush in dar quick, and fetch dat red and white basket dat smells like chicken!"
So the good-natured maid had her way, much to the delight of Bert and Freddie, who liked nothing so well as one of Dinah's homemade lunches.
The railroad station was reached without mishap, and while Mr. Bobbsey attended to getting the baskets checked at the little window in the big round office, the children sat about "exploring." Freddie hung back a little when a locomotive steamed up. He clung to his mother's skirt, yet wanted to see how the machine worked.
"That's the fireman," Bert told him, pointing to the man in the cab of the engine.
"Fireman!" Freddie repeated. "Not like our firemen. I wouldn't be that kind," He had always wanted to be a fireman who helps to put out fires.
"Oh, this is another kind," his father explained, just then coming up in readiness for the start.
"I guess Snoop's afraid," Freddie whispered to his mother, while he peeped into the little box where Snoop was peacefully purring. Glad of the excuse to get a little further away, Freddie ran back to where Dinah sat on a long shiny bench.
"Say, chile," she began, "you hear dat music ober dar? Well, a big fat lady jest jumped up and down on dat machine and it starts up and plays Swanee Ribber."
"That's a weighing machine," Nan said with a laugh. "You just put a penny in it and it tells you how much you weigh besides playing a tune."
"Lan' o' massy! does it? Wonder has I time to try it?"
"Yes, come on," called Bert. "Father said we have plenty of time," and at the word Dinah set out to get weighed. She looked a little scared, as if it might "go off" first, but when she heard the soft strain of an old melody coming out she almost wanted to dance.
"Now, ain't dat fine!" she exclaimed. "Wouldn't dat be splendid in de kitchen to weigh de flour, Freddie?"
But even the interesting sights in the railroad station had to be given up now, for the porter swung open a big gate and called: "All aboard for Meadow Brook!" and the Bobbseys hurried off.
SNOOP ON THE TRAIN
"I'm glad Dinah looks nice," Flossie whispered to her mother, when she saw how beautiful the parlor car was. "And isn't Freddie good?" the little girl remarked anxiously, as if fearing her brother might forget his best manners in such a grand place.
Freddie and Bert sat near their father on the big soft revolving chairs in the Pullman car, while Nan and Flossie occupied the sofa at the end near their mother. Dinah sat up straight and dignified, and, as Flossie said, really looked nice, in her very clean white waist and her soft black skirt. On her carefully parted hair she wore a neat little black turban. Bert always laughed at the number of "parts" Dinah made in her kinky hair, and declared that she ought to be a civil engineer, she could draw such splendid maps even on the back of her head.
The grandeur of the parlor car almost overcame Freddie, but he clung to Snoop in the pasteboard box and positively refused to let the kitten go into the baggage car. Dinah's lunch basket was so neatly done up the porter carried it very carefully to her seat when she entered the train, although lunch baskets are not often taken in as "Pullman car baggage."
"I'm going to let Snoop out!" whispered Freddie suddenly, and before anyone had a chance to stop him, the little black kitten jumped out of the box, and perched himself on the window sill to look out at the fine scenery.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, "the porter will put him off the train!" and she tried to catch the now happy little Snoop.
"No, he won't," Mr. Bobbsey assured her. "I will watch out for that."
"Here, Snoop," coaxed Nan, also alarmed. "Come, Snoop!"
But the kitten had been captive long enough to appreciate his liberty now, and so refused to be coaxed. Flossie came down between the velvet chairs very cautiously, but as soon as Snoop saw her arm stretch out for him, he just walked over the back of the highest seat and down into the lap of a sleeping lady!
"Oh, mercy me!" screamed the lady, as she awoke with Snoop's tail whisking over her face. "Goodness, gracious! what is that?" and before she had fully recovered from the shock she actually jumped up on the chair, like the funny pictures of a woman and a mouse.
The people around could not help laughing, but Freddie and the other Bobbseys were frightened.
"Oh, will they kill Snoop now?" Freddie almost cried. "Dinah, please help me get him!"
By this time the much scared lady had found out it was only a little kitten, and feeling very foolish she sat down and coaxed Snoop into her lap again. Mr. Bobbsey hurried to apologize.
"We'll have to put him back in the box," Mr. Bobbsey declared, but that was easier said than done, for no sooner would one of the Bobbseys approach the cat than Snoop would walk himself off. And not on the floor either, but up and down the velvet chairs, and in and out under the passengers' arms. Strange to say, not one of the people minded it, but all petted Snoop until, as Bert said, "He owned the car."
"Dat cat am de worst!" Dinah exclaimed. "'Pears like it was so stuck up an' fine dar ain't no place in dis 'yere Pullin' car good 'nough fer him."
"Oh, the porter! the porter!" Bert cried. "He'll surely throw Snoop out of the window."
"Snoop! Snoop!" the whole family called in chorus, but Snoop saw the porter himself and made up his mind the right thing to do under the circumstances would be to make friends.
"Cat?" exclaimed the good-looking colored man. "Scat! Well, I declare! What you think of that?"
Freddie felt as if he were going to die, he was so scared, and Flossie's tears ran down her cheeks.
"Will he eat him?" Freddie blubbered, thinking of some queer stories he had heard like that. Mr. Bobbsey, too, was a little alarmed and hurried to reach Snoop.
The porter stooped to catch the offending kitten, while Snoop walked right up to him, sniffed his uniform, and stepped upon the outstretched black hand.
"Well, you is a nice little kitten," the porter admitted, fondling Snoop in spite of orders.
"Oh, please, Mr. Porter, give me my cat!" cried Freddie, breaking away from all restraint and reaching Snoop.
"Yours, is it? Well, I don't blame you, boy, for bringing dat cat along. An' say," and the porter leaned down to the frightened Freddie, "it's against orders, but I'd jest like to take dis yer kitten back in de kitchen and treat him, for he's—he's a star!" and he fondled Snoop closer.
"But I didn't know it was wrong, and I'll put him right back in the box," Freddie whimpered, not quite understanding the porter's intention.
"Well, say, son!" the porter exclaimed as Mr. Bobbsey came up. "What do you say if you papa let you come back in de kitchen wid me? Den you can jest see how I treat de kitty-cat!"
So Freddie started off after the porter, who proudly carried Snoop, while Mr. Bobbsey brought up the rear. Everybody along the aisle wanted to pet Snoop, who, from being a little stowaway was now the hero of the occasion. More than once Freddie stumbled against the side of the big seats as the cars swung along like a reckless automobile, but each time his father caught him by the blouse and set him on his feet again, until at last, after passing through the big dining car, the kitchen was reached.
"What you got dar? Somethin' fer soup?" laughed the good-natured cook, who was really fond of cats and wouldn't harm one for the world.
Soon the situation was explained, and as the porters and others gathered around in admiration, Snoop drank soup like a gentleman, and then took two courses, one of fish and one of meat, in splendid traveler fashion.
"Dat's de way to drink soup on a fast train," laughed the porter. "You makes sure of it dat way, and saves your clothes. Ha! ha! ha!" he laughed, remembering how many men have to have their good clothes cleaned of soup after a dinner on a fast train. Reluctantly the men gave Snoop back to Freddie, who, this time, to make sure of no further adventures, put the popular black kitten in his box in spite of protests from the admiring passengers.
"You have missed so much of the beautiful scenery," Nan told Freddie and her father when they joined the party again. "Just see those mountains over there," and then they sat at the broad windows gazing for a long time at the grand scenery as it seemed to rush by.
A LONG RIDE
The train was speeding along with that regular motion that puts many travelers to sleep, when Freddie curled himself on the sofa and went to sleep.
"Poor little chap!" Mr. Bobbsey remarked. "He is tired out, and he was so worried about Snoop!"
"I'm glad we were able to get this sofa, so many other people like a rest and there are only four sofas on each car," Mrs. Bobbsey explained to Dinah, who was now tucking Freddie in as if he were at home in his own cozy bed. The air cushion was blown up, and put under the yellow head and a shawl was carefully placed over him.
Flossie's pretty dimpled face was pressed close to the window pane, admiring the big world that seemed to be running away from the train, and Bert found the observation end of the train very interesting.
"What a beautiful grove of white birch trees!" Nan exclaimed, as the train swung into a ravine. "And see the soft ferns clinging about them. Mother, the ferns around the birch tree make me think of the fine lace about your throat!"
"Why, daughter, you seem to be quite poetical!" and the mother smiled, for indeed Nan had a very promising mind.
"What time will we get there, papa?" Bert asked, returning from the vestibule.
"In time for dinner Aunt Sarah said, that is if they keep dinner for us until one o'clock," answered the parent, as he consulted his watch.
"It seems as if we had been on the train all night," Flossie remarked.
"Well, we started early, dear," the mother assured the tired little girl. "Perhaps you would like one of Dinah's dainty sandwiches now?"
A light lunch was quickly decided on, and Dinah took Flossie and Nan to a little private room at one end of the train, Bert went with his father to the smoking room on the other end, while the mother remained to watch Freddie. The lunch was put up so that each small sandwich could be eaten without a crumb spilling, as the little squares were each wrapped separately in waxed paper.
There was a queer alcohol lamp in the ladies room, and other handy contrivances for travelers, which amused Flossie and Nan.
"Dat's to heat milk fo' babies," Dinah told the girls, as she put the paper napkins carefully on their laps, and got each a nice drink of icewater out of the cooler.
Meanwhile Bert was enjoying his lunch at the other end of the car, for children always get hungry when traveling, and meals on the train are only served at certain hours. Two other little girls came into the compartment while Flossie and Nan were at lunch. The strange girls wore gingham aprons over their fine white dresses, to keep the car dust off their clothes, and they had paper caps on their heads like the favors worn at children's parties. Seeing there was no stool vacant the strangers darted out again in rather a rude way, Nan thought.
"Take you time, honeys," Dinah told her charges. "If dey is very hungry dey can get ice cream outside."
"But mother never lets us eat strange ice cream," Flossie reminded the maid. "And maybe they can't either."
Soon the lunch was finished, and the Bobbseys felt much refreshed by it. Freddie still slept with Snoop's box close beside him, and Mrs. Bobbsey was reading a magazine.
"One hour more!" Bert announced, beginning to pick things up even that early.
"Now we better all close our eyes and rest, so that we will feel good when we get to Meadow Brook," Mrs. Bobbsey told them. It was no task to obey this suggestion, and the next thing the children knew, mother and father and Dinah were waking them up to get them ready to leave the train.
"Now, don't forget anything," Mr. Bobbsey cautioned the party, as hats and wraps were donned and parcels picked up.
Freddie was still very sleepy and his papa had to carry him off, while the others, with some excitement, hurried after.
"Oh, Snoop, Snoop!" cried Freddie as, having reached the platform, they now saw the train start off. "I forgot Snoop! Get him quick!"
"Dat kitten again!" Dinah exclaimed, with some indignation. "He's more trouble den—den de whole family!"
In an instant the train had gotten up speed, and it seemed Snoop was gone this time sure.
"Snoop!" cried Freddie, in dismay.
Just then the kind porter who had befriended the cat before, appeared on the platform with the perforated box in his hand.
"I wanted to keep him," stammered the porter, "but I knows de little boy 'ud break his heart after him." And he threw the box to Mr. Bobbsey.
There was no time for words, but Mr. Bobbsey thrust a coin in the man's hand and all the members of the Bobbsey family looked their thanks.
"Well, I declare, you can't see anybody," called out a good-natured little lady, trying to surround them all at once.
"Aunt Sarah!" exclaimed the Bobbseys.
"And Uncle Dan!"
"Hello! How do? How are you? How be you?" and such kissing and handshaking had not for some time entertained the old agent at the Meadow Brook station.
"Here at last!" Uncle Daniel declared, grabbing up Freddie and giving him the kind of hug Freddie had intended giving Aunt Sarah.
The big wagon from the Bobbsey farm, with the seats running along each side, stood at the other side of the platform, and into this the Bobbseys were gathered, bag and baggage, not forgetting the little black cat.
"All aboard for Meadow Brook farm!" called Bert, as the wagon started off along the shady country road.
"Oh, how cool the trees are out here!" Flossie exclaimed, as the wagon rumbled along so close to the low trees that Bert could reach out and pick horse-chestnut blossoms.
"My, how sweet it is!" said Dinah, as she sniffed audibly, enjoying the freshness of the country.
Freddie was on the seat with Uncle Dan and had Snoop's box safe in his arms. He wanted to let the cat see along the road, but everybody protested.
"No more Snoop in this trip," laughed Mr. Bobbsey. "He has had all the fun he needs for to-day." So Freddie had to be content.
"Oh, do let me get out?" pleaded Nan presently. "See that field of orange lilies."
"Not now, dear," Aunt Sarah told her. "Dinner is spoiling for us, and we can often walk down here to get flowers."
"Oh, the cute little calf! Look!" Bert exclaimed from his seat next to Harry, who had been telling his cousin of all the plans he had made for a jolly vacation.
"Look at the billy-goat!" called Freddie.
"See, see, that big black chicken flying!" Flossie cried out excitedly.
"That's a hawk!" laughed Bert; "maybe it's a chicken hawk."
"A children hawk!" Flossie exclaimed, missing the word. Then everybody laughed, and Flossie said maybe there were children hawks for bad girls and boys, anyway.
Aunt Sarah and Mrs. Bobbsey were chatting away like two schoolgirls, while Dinah and the children saw something new and interesting at every few paces old Billy, the horse, took.
"Hello there, neighbor," called a voice from the field at the side of the road. "My horse has fallen in the ditch, and I'll have to trouble you to help me."
"Certainly, certainly, Peter," answered Uncle Daniel, promptly jumping down, with Mr. Bobbsey, Bert, and Harry following. Aunt Sarah leaned over the seat and took the reins, but when she saw in what ditch the other horse had fallen she pulled Billy into the gutter.
"Poor Peter!" she exclaimed. "That's the second horse that fell in that ditch this week. And it's an awful job to get them out. I'll just wait to see if they need our Billy, and if not, we can drive on home, for Martha will be most crazy waiting with dinner."
Uncle Daniel, Mr. Bobbsey, and the boys hurried to where Peter Burns stood at the brink of one of those ditches that look like mud and turn out to be water.
"And that horse is a boarder too!" Peter told them. "Last night we said he looked awful sad, but we didn't think he would commit suicide."
"Got plenty of blankets?" Uncle Daniel asked, pulling his coat off and preparing to help his neighbor, as all good people do in the country.
"Four of them, and these planks. But I couldn't get a man around. Lucky you happened by," Peter Burns answered.
All this time the horse in the ditch moaned as if in pain, but Peter said it was only because he couldn't get on his feet. Harry, being light in weight, slipped a halter over the poor beast's head.
"I could get a strap around him!" Harry suggested, moving out cautiously on the plank.
"All right, my lad, go ahead," Peter told him, passing the big strap over to Bert, who in turn passed it on to Harry.
It was no easy matter to get the strap in place, but with much tugging and splashing of mud Harry succeeded. Then the ropes were attached and everybody pulled vigorously.
"Get up, Ginger! Get up, Ginger!" Peter called lustily, but Ginger only seemed to flop in deeper, through his efforts to raise himself.
"Guess we'll have to get Billy to pull," Uncle Daniel suggested, and Mr. Bobbsey hurried back to the road to unhitch the other horse.
"Don't let Billy fall in!" exclaimed Nan, who was much excited over the accident.
"Can't I go, papa?" Freddie pleaded. "I'll stay away from the edge!"
"You better stay in the wagon; the horse might cut up when he gets out," the father warned Freddie, who reluctantly gave in.
Soon Billy was hitched to the ropes, and with a few kind words from Uncle Daniel the big white horse strained forward, pulling Ginger to his feet as he did so.
"Hurrah!" shouted Freddie from the wagon. "Billy is a circus horse, isn't he, Uncle Dan?"
"He's a good boy," the uncle called back patting Billy affectionately, while Mr. Bobbsey and the boys loosened the straps. The other horse lay on the blankets, and Peter rubbed him with all his might, to save a chill as he told the boys.
Then, after receiving many thanks for the help given, the Bobbseys once more started off toward the farm.
"Hot work," Uncle Daniel remarked to the ladies, as he mopped his forehead.
"I'm so glad you could help Peter," Aunt Sarah told him, "for he does seem to have SO much trouble."
"All kinds of things happen in the country," Harry remarked, as Billy headed off for home.
At each house along the way boys would call out to Harry, asking him about going fishing, or berrying, or some other sport, so that Bert felt a good time was in store for him, as the boys were about his own age and seemed so agreeable.
"Nice fellows," Harry remarked by way of introducing Bert.
"They seem so," Bert replied, cordially.
"We've made up a lot of sports," Harry went on, "and we were only waiting for you to come to start out. We've planned a picnic for to-morrow."
"Here we are," called Uncle Daniel as Billy turned into the pretty driveway in front of the Bobbseys' country home. On each side of the drive grew straight lines of boxwood, and back of this hedge were beautiful flowers, shining out grandly now in the July sun.
"Hello, Martha!" called the visitors, as the faithful old servant appeared on the broad white veranda. She was not black like Dinah, but looked as if she was just as merry and full of fun as anyone could be.
"Got here at last!" she exclaimed, taking Dinah's lunch basket.
"Glad to see you, Martha," Dinah told her. "You see, I had to come along. And Snoop too, our kitty. We fetched him."
"The more the merrier," replied the other, "and there's lots of room for all."
"Starved to death!" Harry laughed, as the odor of a fine dinner reached him.
"We'll wash up a bit and join you in a few minutes, ladies," Uncle Daniel said, in his polite way. The horse accident had given plenty of need for a washing up.
"Got Snoop dis time," Freddie lisped, knocking the cover off the box and petting the frightened little black cat. "Hungry, Snoopy?" he asked, pressing his baby cheek to the soft fur.
"Bring the poor kitty out to the kitchen," Martha told him. "I'll get him a nice saucer of fresh milk." And so it happened, as usual, Snoop had his meal first, just as he had had on the Pullman car. Soon after this Martha went outside and rang a big dinner bell that all the men and boys could hear. And then the first vacation dinner was served in the long old-fashioned dining room.
Although they were tired from their journey, the children had no idea of resting on that beautiful afternoon, so promptly after dinner the baggage was opened, and vacation clothes were put on. Bert, of course, was ready first; and soon he and Harry were running down the road to meet the other boys and perfect their plans for the picnic.
Nan began her pleasures by exploring the flower gardens with Uncle Daniel.
"I pride myself on those zinnias," the uncle told Nan, "just see those yellows, and those pinks. Some are as big as dahlias, aren't they?"
"They are just beautiful, uncle," Nan replied, in real admiration. "I have always loved zinnias. And they last so long?"
"All summer. Then, what do you think of my sweet peas?"
So they went from one flower bed to another, and Nan thought she had never before seen so many pretty plants together.
Flossie and Freddie were out in the barnyard with Aunt Sarah.
"Oh, auntie, what queer little chickens!" Flossie exclaimed, pointing to a lot of pigeons that were eagerly eating corn with the chickens.
"Those are Harry's homer pigeons," the aunt explained. "Some day we must go off to the woods and let the birds fly home with a letter to Dinah and Martha."
"Oh, please do it now," Freddie urged, always in a hurry for things.
"We couldn't to-day, dear," Aunt Sarah told him. "Come, let me show you our new little calf."
"Let me ride her?" Freddie asked, as they reached the animal.
"Calfs aren't for riding, they're for milk," Flossie spoke up.
"Yes, this one drinks plenty of milk," Aunt Sarah said, while Frisky, the calf, rubbed her head kindly against Aunt Sarah's skirts.
"Then let me take her for a walk," Freddie pleaded, much in love with the pretty creature.
"And they don't walk either," Flossie persisted. "They mostly run."
"I could just hold the rope, couldn't I, Aunt Sarah?"
"If you keep away from the barnyard gate, and hold her very tight," was the consent given finally, much to Freddie's delight.
"Nice Frisky," he told the calf, petting her fondly. "Pretty calf, will you let Snoop play with you?" Frisky was sniffing suspiciously all the time, and Aunt Sarah had taken Flossie in the barn to see the chickens' nests.
"Come, Frisky, take a walk," suggested Freddie, and quite obediently the little cow walked along. But suddenly Frisky spied the open gate and the lovely green grass outside.
Without a moment's warning the calf threw her hind legs up in the air, then bolted straight for the gate, dragging Freddie along after her.
"Whoa, Frisky! whoa!" yelled Freddie, but the calf ran right along.
"Hold tight, Freddie!" called Flossie, as she and Aunt Sarah appeared on the scene.
"Whoa, whoa!" yelled the little boy constantly, but he might as well have called "Get app," for Frisky was going so fast now that poor little Freddie's hands were all but bleeding from the rough rope.
"Look out, Freddie! Let go!" called Aunt Sarah as she saw Frisky heading for the apple tree.
The next minute Frisky made a dash around the tree, once, then again, winding the rope as she went, and throwing Freddie out with force against the side of the terrace.
"Oh," Freddie moaned feebly.
"Are you dead?" cried Flossie, running up with tears in her eyes.
"Oh," moaned the boy again, turning over with much trouble as Aunt Sarah lifted him.
"Oh," he murmured once more, "oh—catch—Frisky!"
"Never mind her," Aunt Sarah said, anxiously. "Are you hurt, dear!"
"No—not—a bit. But look! There goes Frisky! Catch her!"
"Your poor little hands!" Flossie almost cried, kissing the red blisters. "See, they're cut!"
"Firemen have to slide on ropes!" Freddie spoke up, recovering himself, "and I'm going to be a fireman. I was one that time, because I tried to save somebody and didn't care if I got hurted!"
"You are a brave little boy," Aunt Sarah assured him. "You just sit here with sister while I try to get that naughty Frisky before she spoils the garden."
By this time the calf was almost lost to them, as she plunged in and out of the pretty hedges. Fortunately Bert and Harry just turned in the gate.
"Runaway calf! Runaway calf!" called the boys. "Stop the runaway!" and instantly a half-dozen other boys appeared, and all started in pursuit.
But Frisky knew how to run, besides she had the advantage of a good start, and now she just dashed along as if the affair was the biggest joke of her life.
"The river! The river!" called the boys
"She'll jump in!" and indeed the pretty Meadow Brook, or river, that ran along some feet lower than the Bobbseys' house, on the other side of the highway, was now dangerously near the runaway calf.
There was a heavy thicket a few feet further up, and as the boys squeezed in and out of the bushes Frisky plunged into this piece of wood.
"Oh, she's gone now, sure!" called Harry "Listen!"
Sure enough there was a splash!
Frisky must be in the river!
It took some time to reach the spot where the fall might have sounded from, and the boys made their way heavy-hearted, for all loved the pretty little Frisky.
"There's footprints!" Bert discovered emerging from the thick bush.
"And they end here!" Harry finished, indicating the very brink of the river.
"But how could she drown so quickly?" Bert asked.
"Guess that's the channel," Tom Mason, one of the neighbors' boys, answered.
"Listen! Thought I heard something in the bushes!" Bert whispered.
But no welcome sound came to tell that poor Frisky was hiding in the brushwood. With heavy hearts the boys turned away. They didn't even feel like talking, somehow. They had counted on bringing the calf back in triumph.
When Flossie and Freddie saw them coming back without Frisky they just had to cry and no one could stop them.
"I tried to be a fireman!" blubbered Freddie. "I didn't care if the rope hurted my hands either!"
"If only I didn't go in to see the chickens nests," Flossie whimpered, "I could have helped Freddie!"
"Never you mind, little 'uns," Dinah told them. "Dinah go and fetch dat Frisky back to-morrer. See if she don't. You jest don't cry no more, but eat you supper and take a good sleep, 'cause we're goin' to have a picnic to-morrer you knows, doesn't youse?"
The others tried to comfort the little ones too, and Uncle Daniel said he knew where he could buy another calf just like Frisky, so after a little while Freddie felt better and even laughed when Martha made the white cat Fluffy and Snoop play ball in the big long kitchen.
"I'm goin' to pray Frisky will come back," Nan told her little brother when she kissed him good-night, "and maybe the dear Lord will find her for you."
"Oh, yes, Nannie, do ask Him," pleaded Freddie, "and tell Him—tell Him if He'll do it this time, I'll be so good I won't never need to bother Him any more."
Freddie meant very well, but it sounded strange, and made Aunt Sarah say, "The Lord bless the little darling!" Then night came and an eventful day closed in on our dear little Bobbseys.
"Seems as if something else ought to happen to-night," Bert remarked to Harry as they prepared to retire. "This was such a full day, wasn't it?"
"It's early yet," Harry answered, "and it's never late here until it's time to get early again."
"Sounds so strange to hear—those—those—"
"Crickets," Harry told him, "and tree toads and katydids. Oh, there's lots to listen to if you shouldn't feel sleepy."
The house was now all quiet, and even the boys had ceased whispering. Suddenly there was a noise in the driveway!
The next minute someone called out in the night!
"Hello there! All asleep! Wake up, somebody!"
Even Freddie did wake up and ran into his mother's room.
"Come down here, Mr. Bobbsey," the voice continued.
"Oh, is that you, Peter? I'll be down directly," called back Uncle Daniel, who very soon after appeared on the front porch.
"Well, I declare!" Uncle Daniel exclaimed, loud enough for all the listeners at the windows to hear. "So you've got her? Well, I'm very glad indeed. Especially on the boys' account."
"Yes," spoke out Peter Burns, "I went in the barn a while ago with the lantern, and there wasn't your calf asleep with mine as cozy as could be. I brought her over to-night for fear you might miss her and get to lookin', otherwise I wouldn't have disturbed you."
By this time the man from the barn was up and out too, and he took Frisky back to her own bed; but not until the little calf had been taken far out on the front lawn so that Freddie could see her from the window "to make sure."
"The Lord did bring her back," Freddie told his mamma as she kissed him good-night again and put him in his bed, happier this time than before. "And I promised to be awful good to pay Him for His trouble," the sleepy boy murmured.
Flossie had been asleep about two hours when she suddenly called to her mother.
"What is it, my dear?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Somebody is playing the piano," answered the little girl. "Who is it?"
"Nobody is playing. You must be dreaming," answered the mother, and smiled to herself.
"No, I am sure I heard the piano," insisted Flossie.
Mother and daughter listened, but could hear nothing.
"You were surely dreaming," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Come, I will tuck you in again," and she did so.
But was Flossie dreaming? Let us wait and see.
A COUNTRY PICNIC
When morning came everyone was astir early, for not only was a happy day promised, but there was Frisky, the runaway, to be looked over. Mr. Richard Bobbsey, Freddie's father, left on an early train for Lakeport, and would not come back to Meadow Brook until Saturday afternoon.
"Let me go out and see Frisky," Freddie insisted, even before his breakfast had been served. "I want to be sure it's her."
"Yes, that's her," Freddie admitted, "'cause there's the rope that cut my hands when I was a real fireman!"
But Frisky didn't seem to care a bit about ropes or firemen, but just chewed and chewed like all cows do, as if there was nothing in this world to do but eat.
"Come on, sonny," called Dinah. "You can help me pick de radishes fo' breakfast," and presently our little boy, with the kind-hearted maid, was up in the garden looking for the best radishes of the early crop.
"See, Freddie," said Dinah. "De red ones show above de ground. And we must only pull de ones wid de big leaves, 'cause dey're ripe."
Freddie bent down so close to find the radishes that a disturbed toad hopped right up at his nose.
"Oh!" he cried, frightened. "Dinah, was that—a—a—a snake?"
"Snake, chile; lan' sakes alive! Dat was a poor little toady—more scare' den you was," and she pointed to the big dock leaf under which the hop-toad was now hiding.
"Let's pick beans," Freddie suggested, liking the garden work.
"Not beans fer breakfast," laughed Dinah.
"That stuff there, then," the boy persisted, pointing to the soft green leaves of early lettuce.
"Well, I dunno. Martha didn't say so, but it sure does look pretty. Yes, I guess we kin pick some fo' salad," and so Dinah showed Freddie how to cut the lettuce heads off and leave the stalks to grow again.
"Out early," laughed Uncle Daniel, seeing the youngest member of the family coming down the garden path with the small basket of vegetables.
"Is it?" Freddie asked, meaning early of course, in his queer way of saying things without words.
"See! see!" called Nan and Flossie, running down the cross path back of the cornfield.
"Such big ones!" Nan exclaimed, referring to the luscious red strawberries in the white dish she held.
"Look at mine," insisted Flossie. "Aren't they bigger?"
"Fine!" ejaculated Dinah.
"But my redishes are-are—redder," argued Freddie, who was not to be outdone by his sisters.
"Ours are sweeter," laughed Nan, trying to tease her little brother.
"Ours are—ours are—"
"Hotter," put in Dinah, which ended the argument.
Bert and Harry had also been out gathering for breakfast, and returned now with a basket of lovely fresh water-cress.
"We can't eat 'em all," Martha told the boys, "But they'll go good in the picnic lunch."
What a pretty breakfast table it was! Such berries, such lettuce, such water-cress, and the radishes!
"Too bad papa had to go so early," Bert remarked. "He just loves green stuff."
"So does Frisky," put in Freddie, and he wondered why everyone laughed.
After breakfast the lunch baskets were put up and while Bert and Harry, Nan and Aunt Sarah, went to invite the neighboring children, Flossie and Freddie were just busy jumping around the kitchen, where Dinah and Martha were making them laugh merrily with funny little stories.
Snoop and Fluffy had become good friends, and now lay close together on the kitchen hearth. Dinah said they were just like two babies, only not so much trouble.
"Put peaches in my basket, Dinah," Freddie ordered.
"And strawberries in mine," added Flossie.
"Now, you-uns jest wait!" Dinah told them; "and when you gets out in de woods if you hasn't 'nough to eat you kin jest climb a tree an' cut down—"
"Wood!" put in Freddie innocently, while Martha said that was about all that could be found in the woods in July.
The boys had come in from inviting the "other fellers," when Uncle Daniel proposed a feature for the picnic.
"How would you like to take two homer pigeons along?" he asked them. "You can send a note back to Martha to say what time you will be home."
"Jolly!" chorused the boys, all instantly making a run for the pigeon house.
"Wait!" Harry told the visitors. "We must be careful not to scare them." Then he went inside the wire cage with a handful of corn.
"See—de—coon; see—de—coon!" called the boys softly, imitating the queer sounds made by the doves cooing.
Harry tossed the corn inside the cage, and as the light and dark homers he wanted tasted the food Harry lowered the little door, and took the birds safely in his arms.
"Now, Bert, you can get the quills," he told his cousin. "Go into the chicken yard and look for two long goose feathers. Tom Mason, you can go in the kitchen and ask Dinah for a piece of tissue paper and a spool of silk thread."
Each boy started off to fulfill his commission, not knowing exactly what for until all came together in the barnyard again.
"Now, Bert," went on Harry, "write very carefully on the slip of paper the message for Martha. Have you a soft pencil?"
Bert found that he had one, and so following his cousin's dictation he wrote on one slip:
"Have dinner ready at five." And on the other he wrote: "John, come for us at four."
"Now," continued Harry, "roll the slips up fine enough to go in the goose quills."
This was done with much difficulty, as the quills were very narrow, but the task was finally finished.
"All ready now," concluded Harry, "to put the letters in the box," and very gently he tied with the silken thread one quill under the wing of each pigeon. Only one feather was used to tie the thread to, and the light quill, the thin paper, and the soft silk made a parcel so very small and light in weight that the pigeons were no way inconvenienced by the messages.
"Now we'll put them in this basket, and they're ready for the picnic," Harry announced to his much interested companions. Then all started for the house with Harry and the basket in the lead.
John, the stableman, was at the door now with the big hay wagon, which had been chosen as the best thing to take the jolly party in.
There was nice fresh hay in the bottom, and seats at the sides for the grown folks, while the little ones nestled in the sweet-smelling hay like live birds.
"It's like a kindergarten party," laughed Nan, as the "birds' nests" reminded her of one of the mother plays.
"No, 'tain't!" Freddie corrected, for he really was not fond of the kindergarten. "It's just like a picnic," he finished.
Besides the Bobbseys there were Tom Mason, Jack Hopkins, and August Stout, friends of Harry. Then, there were Mildred Manners and Mabel Herold, who went as Nan's guests; little Roy Mason was Freddie's company, and Bessie Dimple went with Flossie. The little pigeons kept cooing every now and then, but made no attempt to escape from Harry's basket.
It was a beautiful day, and the long ride through the country was indeed a merry one. Along the way people called out pleasantly from farmhouses, for everybody in Meadow Brook knew the Bobbseys.
"That's their cousins from the city," little boys and girls along the way would say.
"Haven't they pretty clothes!" the girls were sure to add.
"Let's stop for a drink at the spring," suggested August Stout, who was stout by name and nature, and always loved a good drink of water.
The children tumbled out of the wagon safely, and were soon waiting turns at the spring.
There was a round basin built of stones and quite deep. Into this the clear sprinkling water dropped from a little cave in the hill above. On top of the cave a large flat stone was placed. This kept the little waterfall clean and free from the falling leaves.
"Oh, what a cute little pond!" Freddie exclaimed, for he had never seen a real spring before.
"That's a spring," Flossie informed him, although that was all she knew about it.
The big boys were not long dipping their faces in and getting a drink of the cool, clear water, but the girls had to take their hats off, roll up their sleeves, and go through a "regular performance," as Harry said, before they could make up their minds to dip into the water. Mabel brought up her supply with her hands, but when Nan tried it her hands leaked, and the result was her fresh white frock got wet. Flossie's curls tumbled in both sides, and when she had finished she looked as if she had taken a plunge at the seashore.
"Let me! Let me!" cried Freddie impatiently, and without further warning he thrust his yellow head in the spring clear up to his neck!
"Oh, Freddie!" yelled Nan, grabbing him by the heels and thus saving a more serious accident.
"Oh! oh! oh!" spluttered Freddie, nearly choked, "I'm drowned!" and the water really seemed to be running out of his eyes, noses and ears all at once.
"Oh, Freddie!" was all Mrs. Bobbsey could say, as a shower of clean handkerchiefs was sent from the hay wagon to dry the "drowned" boy.
"Just like the flour barrel!" laughed Bert, referring to the funny accident that befell Freddie the winter before, as told in my other book "The Bobbsey Twins."
"Only that was a dry bath and this a wet one," Nan remarked, as Freddie's curls were shook out in the sun.
"Did you get a drink?" asked August, whose invitation to drink had caused the mishap.
"Yep!" answered Freddie bravely, "and I was a real fireman too, that time, 'cause they always get soaked; don't they, Bert?"
Being assured they did, the party once more started off for the woods. It was getting to be all woods now, only a driveway breaking through the pines, maples, and chestnut trees that abounded in that section.
"Just turn in there, John!" Harry directed, as a particularly thick group of trees appeared. Here were chosen the picnic grounds and all the things taken from the wagon, and before John was out of sight on the return home the children had established their camp and were flying about the woods like little fairies.
"Let's build a furnace," Jack Hopkins suggested.
"Let's," said all the boys, who immediately set out carrying stones and piling them up to build the stove. There was plenty of wood about, and when the fire was built, the raw potatoes that Harry had secretly brought along were roasted, finer than any oven could cook them.
Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Sarah had spread the tablecloth on the grass, and were now busy opening the baskets and arranging the places. There were so many pretty little nooks to explore in the woods that Mrs. Bobbsey had to warn the children not to get too far away.
"Are there giants?" Freddie asked.
"No, but there are very dark lonely places the woods and little boys might find snakes."
"And bears!" put in Freddie, to which remark his mother said, "perhaps," because there really might be bears in a woods so close to the mountains.
FUN IN THE WOODS
"Dinner served in the dining car!" called Bert through the woods, imitating the call of the porter on the Pullman car.
"All ready!" echoed the other boys, banging on an old boiler like the Turks do, instead of ringing a bell.
"Oh, how pretty!" the girls all exclaimed, as they beheld the "feast in the forest," as Nan put it. And indeed it was pretty, for at each place was set a long plume of fern leaves with wood violets at the end, and what could be more beautiful than such a decoration?
"Potatoes first!" Harry announced, "because they may get cold," and at this order everybody broke the freshly roasted potatoes into the paper napkins and touched it up with the extra butter that had come along.
"Simply fine!" declared Nan, with the air of one who knew. Now, my old readers will remember how Nan baked such good cake. So she ought to be an authority on baked potatoes, don't you think?
Next came the sandwiches, with the watercress Harry and Bert had gathered before breakfast, then (and this was a surprise) hot chocolate! This was brought out in Martha's cider jug, and heated in a kettle over the boys' stone furnace.
"It must be fun to camp out," Mabel Herold remarked.
"Yes, just think of the dishes saved," added Mildred Manners, who always had so many dishes to do at home.
"And we really don't need them," Nan argued, passing her tin cup on to Flossie.
"Think how the soldiers get along!" Bert put in.
"And the firemen'" lisped Freddie, who never forgot the heroes of flame and water.
Of course everybody was either sitting on the grass or on a "soft stump." These latter conveniences had been brought by the boys for Aunt Sarah and Mrs. Bobbsey.
"What's that!" exclaimed little Flossie, as something was plainly moving under the tables cloth.
"A snake, a snake!" called everybody at once, for indeed under the white linen was plainly to be seen the creeping form of a reptile.
While the girls made a run for safety the boys carefully lifted the cloth and went for his snakeship.
"There he is! There he is!" shouted Tom Mason, as the thing tried to crawl under the stump lately used as a seat by Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Whack him!" called August Stout, who, armed with a good club, made straight for the stump.
"Look out! He's a big fellow!" Harry declared, as the snake attempted to get upright.
The boys fell back a little now, and as the snake actually stood on the tip of his tail, as they do before striking, Harry sprang forward and dealt him a heavy blow right on the head that laid the intruder flat.
"At him, boys! At him!" called Jack Hopkins, while the snake lay wriggling in the grass; and the boys, making good use of the stunning blow Harry had dealt, piled on as many more blows as their clubs could wield.
All this time the girls and ladies were over on a knoll "high and dry," as Nan said, and now, when assured that the snake was done for they could hardly be induced to come and look at him.
"He's a beauty!" Harry declared, as the boys actually stretched the creature out to measure him. Bert had a rule, and when the snake was measured up he was found to be five feet long!
"He's a black racer!" Jack Hopkins announced, and the others said they guessed he was.
"Lucky we saw him first!" remarked Harry, "Racers are very poisonous!"
"Let's go home; there might be more!", pleaded Flossie, but the boys said the snake hunt was the best fun at the picnic.
"Goodness!" exclaimed Harry suddenly, "we forgot to let the pigeons loose!" and so saying he ran for the basket of birds that hung on the low limb of a pretty maple. First Harry made sure the messages were safe under each bird's wing, then he called:
Snap! went something that sounded like a shot (but it wasn't), and then away flew the pretty birds to take the messages home to John and Martha. The shot was only a dry stick that Tom Mason snapped to imitate a gun, as they do at bicycle races, but the effect was quite startling and made the girls jump.
"It won't take long for them to get home!" said Bert, watching the birds fly away.
"They'll get lost!" cried Freddie.
"No, they won't. They know which way we came," Nan explained.
"But they was shut up in the basket," argued Freddie.
"Yet they could see," Nan told him.
"Can pigeons see when they're asleep?" inquired the little fellow.
"Maybe," Nan answered.
"Then I'd like to have pigeon eyes," he finished, thinking to himself how fine it would be to see everything going on around and be fast asleep too.
"Oh, mamma, come quick!" called Flossie, running along a path at the edge of the wood. "There's a tree over there pouring water, and it isn't raining a drop!"
Everybody set out now to look at the wonderful tree, which was soon discovered where Flossie had found it.
"There it is!" she exclaimed. "See the water dropping down!"
"A maple tree," Harry informed them, "and that sap is what they make maple sugar out of."
"Oh, catch it!" called Freddie, promptly holding his cap under the drops.
"It would take a good deal to make a sugar cake," Harry said, "but maybe we can get enough of it to make a little cake for Freddie."
At this the country boys began looking around for young maples, and as small limbs of the trees were broken the girls caught the drops in their tin cups. It took quite a while to get a little, but by putting it all together a cupful was finally gathered.
"Now we will put it in a clean milk bottle," Mrs. Bobbsey said, "and maybe we can make maple syrup cake to-morrow."
"Let's have a game of hide-and-seek," Nan suggested.
In a twinkling every boy and girl was hidden behind a tree, and Nan found herself "It." Of course it took a big tree to hide the girls' dresses, and Nan had no trouble in spying Mildred first. Soon the game was going along merrily, and the boys and girls were out of breath trying to get "home free."
"Where's Roy?" exclaimed Tom Mason, the little boy's brother.
"Hiding somewhere," Bessie ventured, for it only seemed a minute before when the little fat boy who was Freddie's companion had been with the others.
"But where is he?" they all soon exclaimed in alarm, as call after call brought no answer.
"Over at the maple tree!" Harry thought.
"Down at the spring," Nan said.
"Looking for flowers," Flossie guessed.
But all these spots were searched, and the little boy was not found.
"Oh, maybe the giants have stoled him!" Freddie cried.
"Or maybe the children's hawk has took him away," Flossie sobbed.
Meanwhile everybody searched and searched, but no Roy could they find.
"The boat!" suddenly exclaimed Tom, making a dash for the pond that ran along at the foot of a steep hill.
"There he is! There he is!" the brother yelled, as getting over the edge of the hill Tom was now in full view of the pond.
"And in the boat," called Harry, close at Tom's heels.
"He's drifting away!" screamed Bert. "Oh, quick, save him!"
Just as the boys said, the little fellow was in the boat and drifting.
He did not seem to realize his danger, for as he floated along he ran his little fat hand through the water as happily as if he had been in a steam launch, talking to the captain.
"Can you swim?" the boys asked Bert, who of course had learned that useful art long ago.
"She's quite a long way out," Tom said,
"But we must be careful not to frighten him. See, he has left the oars here. Bert and I can carry one out and swim with one hand. Harry and Jack, can you manage the other?"
The boys said they could, and quickly as the heaviest clothes could be thrown off they were striking out in the little lake toward the baby in the boat. He was only Freddie's age, you know, and perhaps more of a baby than the good-natured Bobbsey boy.
"Sit still, Roy," called the anxious girl from the shore, fearing Roy would upset the boat as the boys neared him. It was hard work to swim and carry oars, but our brave boys managed to do it in time to save Roy. For not a great way down the stream were an old water wheel and a dam. Should the boat drift there what would become of little Roy?
Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Sarah were worrying over this as the boys were making their way to the boat.
"Easy now!" called Bert. "Here we are," and at that moment the first pair of swimmers climbed carefully into the boat, one from each side, so as not to tip it over. Jack and Harry were not long in following, and as the boys all sat in the pretty green rowboat with their white under-clothing answering for athletic suits, they looked just like a crew of real oarsmen.
"Hurrah, hurrah!" came shout after shout from the bank. Then as the girls heard the rumble of wheels through the grove they all hurried off to gather up the stuff quickly, and be ready to start as soon as the boys dressed again. The wet under-clothing, of course, was carried home in one of the empty baskets that Freddie ran back over the hill with to save the tired boys the extra walk.
"Here they are! Here they are!" called the girls as the two little fellows, Roy and Freddie, with the basket of wet clothes between them, marched first; then came the two pairs of athletes who proved they were good swimmers by pushing the heavy oars safely to the drifting boat.
"And all the things that happened!" exclaimed Flossie, as John handed her into the hay wagon.
"That made the picnic lively!" declared, John, "and all's well that ends well, you know." So the picnic was over, and all were happy and tired enough to go to bed early that night, as Nan said, seeing the little ones falling asleep in hay wagon on their way home.
FOURTH OF JULY
The day following the picnic was July third, and as the Meadow Brook children were pretty well tired out from romping in the woods, they were glad of a day's rest before entering upon the festivities of Independence Day.
"How much have you got?" Tom Mason asked the Bobbsey boys.
"Fifty cents together, twenty-five cents each," Harry announced.
"Well, I've got thirty-five, and we had better get our stuff early, for Stimpson sold out before noon last year," concluded Tom.
"I have to get torpedoes for Freddie and Flossie, and Chinese fire-crackers for Nan," Bert remarked, as they started for the little country grocery store.
"I guess I'll buy a few snakes, they look so funny coiling out," Tom said.
"I'm going to have sky rockets and Roman candles. Everybody said they were the prettiest last year," said Harry.
"If they have red fire I must get some of it for the girls," thoughtful Bert remarked.
But at the store the boys had to take just what they could get, as Stimpson's supply was very limited.
"Let's make up a parade!" someone suggested, and this being agreed upon the boys started a canvass from house to house, to get all the boys along Meadow Brook road to take part in the procession.
"Can the little ones come too?" August Stout asked, because he always had to look out for his small brother when there was any danger like fireworks around.
"Yes, and we're goin' to let the girls march in a division by themselves," Bert told him. "My sister Nan is going to be captain, and we'll leave all the girls' parts to her."
"Be sure and bring your flag," Harry cautioned Jack Hopkins.
"How would the goat wagons do?" Jack asked.
"Fine; we could let Roy and Freddie ride in them," said Bert. "Tell any of the other fellows who have goat teams to bring them along too."
"Eight o'clock sharp at our lane," Harry told them for the place and time of meeting. Then they went along to finish the arrangements.
"Don't tell the boys," Nan whispered to Mildred, as they too made their way to Stimpson's.
"Won't they be surprised?" exclaimed Mabel.
"Yes, and I am going to carry a real Betsy Ross flag, one with thirteen stars, you know."
"Oh, yes, Betsy Ross made the first flag, didn't she?" remarked Mildred, trying to catch up on history.
"We'll have ten big girls," Nan counted. "Then with Flossie as Liberty we will want Bessie and Nettie for her assistants."
"Attendants," Mabel corrected, for she had seen a city parade like that once.
It was a busy day for everybody, and when Mr. Bobbsey came up on the train from Lakeport that evening he carried boxes and boxes of fireworks for the boys and girls, and even some for the grown folks too.
The girls could hardly sleep that night, they were so excited over their part, but the boys of course were used to that sort of thing, and only slept sounder with the fun in prospect.
"Are you awake, Bert?" called Harry, so early the next morning that the sun was hardly up yet.
"Yep," replied the cousin, jumping out of bed and hastily dressing for the firing of the first gun.
The boys crept through the house very quietly, then ran to the barn for their ammunition. Three big giant fire-crackers were placed in the road directly in front of the house.
"Be careful!" whispered Bert; "they're full of powder."
But Harry was always careful with fireworks, and when he touched the fuses to the "cannons" he made away quickly before they exploded.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
"Hurrah!" shouted Freddie, answering the call from his window, "I'll be right down!"
All the others too were aroused by the first "guns," so that in a very short time there were many boys in the road, firing so many kinds of fire-crackers that Meadow Brook resounded like a real war fort under fire.
"Ouch!" yelled Tom Mason, the first one to bum his fingers. "A sisser caught me right on the thumb."
But such small accidents were not given much attention, and soon Tom was lighting the little red crackers as merrily as before.
"Go on back, girls!" called Bert. "You'll get your dresses burnt if you don't."
The girls were coming too near the battlements then, and Bert did well to warn them off.
Freddie and Flossie were having a great time throwing their little torpedoes at Mr. Bobbsey and Uncle Daniel, who were seated on the piazza watching the sport. Snoop and Fluffy too came in for a scare, for Freddie tossed a couple of torpedoes on the kitchen hearth where the kittens were sleeping.
The boys were having such fun they could hardly be induced to come in for breakfast, but they finally did stop long enough to eat a spare meal.
"It's time to get ready!" whispered Nan to Bert, for the parade had been kept secret from the grown folks.
At the girls' place of meeting, the coach house, Nan found all her company waiting and anxious to dress.
"Just tie your scarfs loose under your left arm," ordered Captain Nan, and the girls quickly obeyed like true cadets. The broad red-white-and-blue bunting was very pretty over the girls' white dresses, and indeed the "cadets" looked as if they would outdo the "regulars" unless the boys too had surprises in store.
"Where's Nettie?" suddenly asked Nan, missing a poor little girl who had been invited.
"She wouldn't come because she had no white dress," Mildred answered.
"Oh, what a shame; she'll be so disappointed! Besides, we need her to make a full line," Nan said. "Just wait a minute. Lock the door after me," and before the others knew what she was going to do, Nan ran off to the house, got one of her own white dresses, rolled it up neatly, and was over the fields to Nettie's house in a few minutes. When Nan came back she brought Nettie with her, and not one of her companions knew it was Nan's dress that Nettie wore.
Soon all the scarfs were tied and the flags arranged. Then Flossie had to be dressed.
She wore a light blue dress with gold stars on it, and on her pretty yellow curls she had a real Liberty crown. Then she had the cleanest, brightest flag, and what a pretty picture she made!
"Oh, isn't she sweet!" all the girls exclaimed in admiration, and indeed she was a little beauty in her Liberty costume.
"There go the drums!" Nan declared. "We must be careful to get down the lane without being seen." This was easily managed, and now the girls and boys met at the end of the lane.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" shouted the boys, beating the drums and blowing their horns to welcome the girls.
"Oh, don't you look fine!" exclaimed Harry, who was captain of the boys.
"And don't you too!" Nan answered, for indeed the boys had such funny big hats on and so many flags and other red-white-and-blue things, that they too made a fine appearance.
"And Freddie!" exclaimed the girls. "Isn't he a lovely Uncle Sam!"
Freddie was dressed in the striped suit Uncle Sam always wears, and had on his yellow curls a tall white hat. He was to ride in Jack Hopkins' goat wagon.
"Fall in!" called Harry, and at the word all the companies fell in line.
"Cadets first," ordered the captain.
Then Flossie walked the very first one. After her came Nan and her company. (No one noticed that Nettie's eyes were a little red from crying. She had been so disappointed at first when she thought she couldn't go in the parade.) After the girls came Freddie as Uncle Sam, in the goat wagon led by Bert (for fear the goat might run away), then fifteen boys, all with drums or fifes or some other things with which to make a noise. Roy was in the second division with his wagon, and last of all came the funniest thing.
A boy dressed up like a bear with a big sign on him:
He had a gun under his arm and looked too comical for anything.
It was quite warm to wear a big fur robe and false face, but under this was Jack Hopkins, the bear Teddy, and he didn't mind being warm when he made everybody laugh so.
"Right foot, left foot, right foot, forward march!" called Nan, and the procession started up the path straight for the Bobbsey house.
"Goodness gracious, sakes alive! Do come see de childrens! Ha, ha! Dat sure am a parade!" called Dinah, running through the house to the front door to view the procession.
"Oh, isn't it just beautiful!" Martha echoed close at Dinah's heels.
"My!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey; "how did they ever get made up so pretty!"
"And look at Flossie!" exclaimed Aunt Sarah.
"And see Freddie!" put in Uncle Daniel.
"Oh, we must get the camera!" Mr. Bobbsey declared, while the whole household, all excited, stood out on the porch when the parade advanced.
Such drumming and such tooting of fifes and horns!
Freddie's chariot was now in line with the front stoop, and he raised his tall hat to the ladies like a real Uncle Sam.
"Oh, the bear! the bear!" called everybody, as they saw "Teddy" coming up.
"That's great," continued Uncle Daniel.
By this time Mr. Bobbsey had returned with the camera.
"Halt!" called Harry, and the procession stood still.
"Look this way. There now, all ready," said Mr. Bobbsey, and snap went the camera on as pretty a picture as ever covered a plate.
"Right wheel! forward march!" called Nan again, and amid drumming and tooting the procession started off to parade through the center of Meadow Brook.
A GREAT DAY
Never before had such a parade been seen in the little country place, and all along the road cheer after cheer greeted our young friends, for even the few old soldiers who lived in Meadow Brook enjoyed the children's Fourth of July fun.
By lunch time the procession had covered all the ground planned, so from the postoffice the cadets and regulars started back over the shady country road.
And at home they found a surprise awaiting them!
Ice cream on the lawn for everybody in the parade.
Aunt Sarah and Uncle Daniel had set out all the garden benches, and with the two kinds of ice cream made by Dinah and Martha, besides the cookies and jumbles Aunt Sarah supplied, with ice-cold lemonade that John passed around, surely the tired little soldiers and cadets had splendid refreshment!
"My goat almost runned away!" lisped Freddie. "But I held on tight like a real fireman."
"And mine wanted to stop and eat grass in the middle of the big parade," Roy told them.
"Now eat up your ice cream. Nettie, have some more? Jack, you surely need two plates after carrying that bear skin," said Uncle Daniel.
The youngsters did not have to be urged to eat some more of the good things, and so it took quite a while to "finish up the rations," as Uncle Daniel said.
"They're goin' to shoot the old cannon off, father," Harry told Uncle Daniel, "and we're all going over on the pond bank to see them, at three o'clock."
"They're foolish to put powder in that old cracked gun," remarked Uncle Daniel. "Take care, if you go over, that you all keep at a safe distance."
It was not long until three o'clock, and then when all the red-white-and-blue things had been stored away for another year, the boys hurried off to see Peter Burns fire the old cannon.
Quite a crowd of people had gathered about the pond bank, which was a high green wall like that which surrounds a reservoir.
Peter was busy stuffing the powder in the old gun, and all the others looked on anxiously.
"Let's go up in that big limb of the willow tree," suggested Bert. "We can see it all then, and be out of range of the fire."
So the boys climbed up in the low willow, that leaned over the pond bank.
"They're almost ready," Harry said, seeing the crowd scatter.
"Look out!" yelled Peter, getting hold of the long string that would fire the gun.
Peter gave it a tug, then another.
Everybody held their breath, expecting to hear an awful bang, but the gun didn't go off.
Very cautiously Peter stepped nearer the cannon to see what might be the matter, when the next instant with a terrific report the whole cannon flew up in the air!
Peter fell back! His hat seemed to go up with the gun!
"Oh, he's killed!" yelled the people.
"Poor Peter!" gasped Harry.
"He ought to know better!" said Mr. Mason.
"Father said that cannon was dangerous," Harry added.
By this time the crowd had surrounded Peter, who lay so still and looked so white. The Bobbsey boys climbed down from the tree and joined the others. "He's only unconscious from the shock," spoke up Mr. Mason, who was leaning down very close to Peter. "Stand back, and give him air."
The crowd fell back now, and some of the boys looked around to find the pieces of cannon.
"Don't touch it," said Tom Mason, as a little fellow attempted to pick up a piece of the old gun. "There might be powder in it half lighted."
Mrs. Burns had run over from her home at the report of the accident, and she was now bathing Peter's face with water from the pond.
"He's subject to fainting spells," she told the frightened people, "and I think he'll be all right when he comes to."
Peter looked around, then he sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Did it go off?" he smiled, remembering the big report.
"Guess it did, and you went off with it," Mr. Mason said. "How do you feel?"
"Oh, I'll be all right when my head clears a bit. I guess I fainted."
"So you did," said Mrs. Burns, "and there's no use scolding you for firing that old gun. Come home now and go to bed; you have had all the fireworks you want for one day."
Quite a crowd followed Peter over to his home, for they could not believe he was not in any way hurt.
"Let us go home," Harry said to his cousin. "We have to get all our fireworks ready before evening."
The boys found all at home enjoying themselves. Freddie's torpedoes still held out, and Flossie had a few more "snakes" left. Nan had company on the lawn, and it indeed was an ideal Fourth of July.
"Look at the balloon!" called John from the carriage house. "It's going to land in the orchard." This announcement caused all the children to hurry up to the orchard, for everybody likes to "catch" a balloon.
"There's a man in it," John exclaimed as the big ball tossed around in the air.
"Yes, that's the balloon that went up from the farmers' picnic," said Harry.
The next minute a parachute shot out from the balloon; and hanging to it the form of a man could be seen.
"Oh, he'll fall!" cried Freddie, all excited. "Let's catch him—in something!"
"He's all right," John assured the little boy. "That umbrella keeps him from coming down too quickly."
"How does it?" Freddie asked.
"Why, you see, sonny, the air gets under the umbrella and holds it up. The man's weight then brings it down gently."
"Oh, maybe he will let us fly up in it," Freddie remarked, much interested.
"Here he comes! here he comes!" the boys called, and sure enough the big parachute, with the man dangling on it, was now coming right down—down—in the harvest-apple tree!
"Hello there!" called the man from above, losing the colored umbrella and quickly dropping himself from the low tree.
"Hello yourself!" answered John. "Did you have a nice ride?"
"First class," replied the man with the stars on his shirt. "But I've got a long walk back to the grove. Could I hire a bicycle around here?"
Harry spoke to his father, and then quickly decided to let the balloon man ride his bicycle down to the picnic grounds.
"You can leave it at the ice-cream stand," Harry told the stranger. "I know the man there, and he will take care of it for me until I call for it."
The children were delighted to talk to a real live man that had been up in a balloon, and the balloonist was indeed very pleasant with the little ones. He took Freddie up in his arms and told him all about how it felt to be up in the sky.
"You're a truly fireman!" Freddie said, after listening to all the dangers there are so far above ground. "I'm a real fireman too!"
Just then the balloon that had been tossing about in the air came down in the other end of the orchard.
"Well, there!" exclaimed the man. "That's good luck. Now, whichever one of you boys gets that balloon first will get ten dollars. That's what we pay for bringing it back!"
With a dash every boy started for the spot where the balloon had landed. There were quite a few others besides the Bobbseys, and they tumbled over each other trying to get there first. Ned Prentice, Nettie's brother, was one of the best runners, and he cut across the orchard to get a clear way out of the crowd.
"Go it, Bert!" called John.
"Keep it up, Harry!" yelled someone else.
"You'd get it, Tom!" came another voice.
But Ned was not in the regular race, and nobody noticed him.
"They've got it," called the excited girls.
"No, it's Bert!"
"'Tisn't either—it's Ned!" called John, as the only poor boy in the crowd proudly touched the big empty gas-bag!
"Three cheers for Ned!" called Uncle Daniel, for he and Mr. Bobbsey had joined in the crowd.
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" shouted all the boys good-naturedly, for Ned was a favorite companion, besides being one who really needed the money.
"Suppose we drive down," Uncle Daniel suggested. "Then we can bring Ned back with his ten dollars."
This was agreed upon as a good plan, and as quickly as John had hitched up the big wagon ail the boys piled in with the aeronaut and started for the grove.
THE LITTLE GARDENERS
When little Ned Prentice put the ten-dollar bill in his mother's hand, on that pleasant Fourth of July evening, he felt like a man. His mother could hardly believe the story of Ned's getting the money just for finding a balloon, but when it was explained how valuable the balloon was, and how it sometimes takes days of searching in the woods to find one after the balloonist lets go and drops down with his parachute, she was finally convinced that the money rightfully belonged to Ned.
"No one needs it more than I do," Mrs. Prentice told Mr. Bobbsey, who had brought Ned home in the wagon, "for since the baby was sick we have hardly been able to meet our bills, it cost so much for medicine."
"We were all glad when Ned got there first,"
Harry said politely, "because we knew he deserved the reward most."
As Ned was a poor boy, and had to work on farms during vacation, his father being dead and only one brother being old enough to go to work, the reward turned out a great blessing, for ten dollars is a good deal of money for a little boy to earn at one time.
"Be sure to come up to our fireworks tonight," Harry called, as they drove away, and Ned promptly accepted the invitation.
"It has certainly been a great Fourth of July!" Uncle Daniel exclaimed, later in the evening when the children fired off their Roman candles and sky rockets and burned the red fire. The little children had beautiful pinwheels and "nigger chasers" that they put off on the porch. Then Nan had a big fire balloon that she sent up, and they watched it until it was out of sight, away over the pond and clear out of Meadow Brook.
It was a very tired lot of children that rolled off to sleep that night, for indeed it had been a great day for them all.
For a few days after the Fourth it rained, as it always does, on account of all the noise that goes up in the air to shake the clouds.
"You can play in the coach house," Aunt Sarah told the children, "but be careful not to run in and out and get wet." The children promised to remember, and soon they were all out in the big wagon house playing merrily. Freddie climbed in the wagon and made believe it was a "big fire engine." Bert attached a bell on the side for him, and when he pulled a rope this bell would clang like a chemical apparatus. Nan and Flossie had all their dolls in the pretty new carriage with the soft gray cushions, and in this the little girls made believe driving to New York and doing some wonderful shopping.
"Freddie, you be coachman," coaxed Flossie, "because we are inside and have to have someone drive us."
"But who will put out all the fires?" Freddie asked, as he clanged the bell vigorously.
"Make b'lieve they are all out," Flossie told him.
"But you can't make b'lieve about fires," argued the little fellow, "'cause they're really."
"I tell you," Nan suggested. "We will suppose this is a great big high tally-ho party, and the ladies always drive them. I'll be away up high on the box, but we ought to have someone blow a horn!"
"I'll blow the horn," Freddie finally gave in, "cause I got that big fire out now."
So Freddie climbed up on the high coach with his sisters, and blew the horn until Nan told them they had reached New York and were going to stop for dinner.
There were so many splendid things to play with in the coach house, tables, chairs, and everything, that the Bobbseys hardly knew it before it was lunch time, the morning passed so quickly.
It cleared up in the afternoon and John asked the children if they wanted to help him do some transplanting.
"Oh! we would love to," Nan answered, for she did love gardening.
The ground was just right for transplanting, after the rain, and the tender little lettuce plants were as easy to take up as they were to put down again.
"I say, Nan," John told her, "you can have that little patch over there for your garden. I'll give you a couple of dozen plants, and we will see what kind of a farmer you will make."
"Oh, thank you, John," Nan answered. "I'll do just as I have seen you doing," and she began to take the little plants in the pasteboard box from one bed to the other.
"Be careful not to shake the dirt off the roots," said John, "and be sure to put one plant in each place. Put them as far apart here as the length of this little stick, and when you put them in the ground press the earth firmly around the roots."
Flossie was delighted to help her sister, and the two girls made a very nice garden indeed.
"Let's put little stones around the path," Flossie suggested, and John said they could do this if they would be careful not to let the stones get on the garden.
"I want to be a planter too," called Freddie, running up the path to John. "But I want to plant radishes," he continued, "'cause they're the reddist."
"Well, you just wait a few minutes, sonny," said John, "and I'll show you how to plant radishes. I'll be through with this lettuce in a few minutes."
Freddie waited with some impatience, running first to Nan's garden then back to John's. Finally John was ready to put in a late crop of radishes.
"Now, you see, we make a long drill like this," John explained as he took the drill and made a furrow in the soft ground.
"If it rains again that will be a river," said Freddie, for he had often played river at home after a rain.
"Now, you see this seed is very fine," continued John. "But I am going to let you plant it if you're careful."
"That ain't redishes!" exclaimed Freddie "I want to plant redishes."
"But this is the seed, and that's what makes the radishes," John explained.
"Nope, that's black and it can't make it red?" argued Freddie.
"Wait and see," the gardener told him. "You just take this little paper of seeds and scatter them in the drill. See, I have mixed them with sand so they will not grow too thick."
Freddie took the small package, and kneeling down on the board that John used, he dropped the little shower of seeds in the line.
"They're all gone!" he told John presently; "get some more."
"No, that's enough. Now we will see how your crop grows. See, I just cover the seed very lightly like mamma covers Freddie when he sleeps in the summer time."
"Do you cover them more in the winter time too, like mamma does?" Freddie asked.
"Yes, indeed I do," said the gardener, "for seeds are just like babies, they must be kept warm to grow."
Freddie stood watching the line he had planted the seed in.
"They ain't growing yet," he said at last. "Why don't they come up, John?"
"Oh!" laughed the gardener, "they won't come up right away. They have to wake up first. You will see them above the ground in about a week, I guess."
This was rather a disappointment to the little fellow, who never believed in waiting for anything, but he finally consented to let the seeds grow and come back again later to pick the radishes.
"Look at our garden!" called Nan proudly, from across the path. "Doesn't it look straight and pretty?"
"You did very well indeed," said John, inspecting the new lettuce patch. "Now, you'll have to keep it clear of weeds, and if a dry spell should come you must use the watering can."
"I'll come up and tend to it every morning," Nan declared. "I am going to see what kind of lettuce I can raise."
Nan had brought with her a beautiful string of pearl beads set in gold, the gift of one of her aunts. She was very proud of the pearls and loved to wear them whenever her mother would let her.
One afternoon she came to her mother in bitter tears.
"Oh, mamma!" she sobbed. "The the pearls are gone,"
"Gone! Did you lose them?" questioned Mrs. Bobbsey quickly.
"I—I don't know," and now Nan cried harder than ever.
The news soon spread that the string of pearls were lost, and everybody set to work hunting for them.
"Where do you think you lost 'em?" asked Bert.
"I—I don't know. I was down in the garden, and up the lane, and at the well, and out in the barn, and over to the apple orchard, and feeding the chickens, and over in the hayfield,—and lots of places."
"Then it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack," declared Aunt Sarah.
All the next day the boys and girls hunted for the string of pearls, and the older folks helped. But the string could not be found. Nan felt very bad over her loss, and her mother could do little to console her.
"I—I sup—suppose I'll never see them again," sobbed the girl.
"Oh, I guess they'll turn up some time," said Bert hopefully.
"They can't be lost so very, very bad," lisped Flossie. "'Cause they are somewhere on this farm, ain't they?"
"Yes, but the farm is so very big!" sighed poor Nan.
For a few days Freddie went up to the garden every morning to look for radishes. Then he gave up and declared he knew John had made a mistake and that he didn't plant radishes at all. Nan and Flossie were very faithful attending to their garden, and the beautiful light green lettuce grew splendidly, being grateful for the good care given it.
"When can we pick it?" Nan asked John, as the leaves were getting quite thick.
"In another week!" he told the girls, and so they continued to watch for weeds and kept the ground soft around the plants as John had told them.
Freddie's radishes were above ground now, and growing nicely, but they thought it best not to tell him, as he might pull them up too soon. Nan and Flossie weeded his garden as well as their own and showed they loved to see things grow, for they did not mind the work of attending to them.
"Papa will come up from Lakeport to-night," Nan told Flossie; "and won't he be pleased to see our gardens!"
That evening when Mr. Bobbsey arrived the first thing he had to do was to visit the garden.
"Why, I declare!" he exclaimed in real surprise. "You have done splendidly. This is a fine lettuce patch."
Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Sarah had also come up to see the girls' garden, and they too were much surprised at the result of Nan's and Flossie's work.
"Oh!" screamed Freddie from the other side of the garden. "See my redishes! They growed!" and before anyone could stop him he pulled up a whole handful of the little green leaves with the tiny red balls on the roots.
"They growed! They growed!" he shouted, dancing around in delight.
"But you must only pick the ripe ones," his father told him. "And did you really plant them?" Mr. Bobbsey asked in surprise.
"Yep! John showed me," he declared, and the girls said that was really Freddie's garden.
"Now I'll tell you," Aunt Sarah remarked. "We will let our little farmers pick their vegetables for dinner, and then we will be able to say just how good they are."
At this the girls started in to pick the very biggest heads of lettuce, and Freddie looked carefully to get the very reddest radishes in his patch. Finally enough were gathered, and down to the kitchen the vegetables were carried.
"You will have to prepare them for the table," Mrs. Bobbsey said. "Let us see, girls, what a pretty dish you can make."
This was a pleasant task to Nan and Flossie, who both always loved to play at housekeeping, and when at last Nan brought the dish in to the dinner table everybody said how pretty it looked.
"Them's my redishes!" exclaimed Freddie, as he saw the pretty bright red buttons peeping out from between the lettuce leaves.
"But we can all have some, can't we, Freddie?" his father asked.
"Yes, 'course you can. But I don't want all my good redishes smothered in that big dish of green stuff," he pouted.
"Now, Nan, you can serve your vegetables," Aunt Sarah said, and then Nan very neatly put a few crisp lettuce leaves on each small plate, and at the side she placed a few of Freddie's radishes, "with handles on" as Dinah said, meaning the little green stalks.
"Just think, we've done it all from the garden to the table!" Nan exclaimed, justly proud of her success at gardening.
"I done the radishes," put in Freddie, gulping down a drink of water to wash the bite off his tongue, for his radishes were quite hot.
"Well, you have certainly all done very nicely," Mrs. Bobbsey said. "And that kind of play is like going to school, for it teaches you important lessons in nature."
The girls declared they were going to keep a garden all summer, and so they did.
It was an unusually warm night, and so nearly all the doors were left open when the folks went to bed. Freddie was so worked up over his success as a gardener he could not go to sleep.
At last he dozed off, but presently he awoke with a start. What was that strange sound ringing in his ears? He sat up and listened.
Yes, somebody must surely be playing the piano. But what funny music! It seemed to come in funny runs and curious thumps. He called out sharply, and his mother came at once to his side.
"I heard piano-playing," said Freddie, and Mrs. Bobbsey started, for she remembered how Flossie had once told her the same thing.
"Oh, Freddie, are you sure?" she asked.
"Sure," repeated the little fellow. "But it wasn't very good playing."
Mrs. Bobbsey called Uncle Daniel, and the latter lit a lamp and went below into the parlor. Nobody was at the piano or in the room.
"I've made a careful examination," he said, on coming back. "I can see nothing unusual. Some of the children left a piece of cake on the keys of the piano, that's all."
"Well, cake can't play," put in Freddie. "Maybe it was a ghost."
"No, you must have been dreaming," said his mother. "Come, go to sleep," and presently Freddie dropped off. Mrs. Bobbsey was much worried, and the next day the older folks talked the matter over; but nothing came of it.
"Tom Mason is going to bring his colt out this afternoon," said Harry to Bert, "and we can all take turns trying him."
"Oh, is it that pretty little brown horse I saw in the field back of Tom's home?" asked Bert.
"That's him," Harry replied. "Isn't he a beauty!"
"Yes, I would like first-rate to ride him, but young horses are awful skittish, aren't they?"
"Sometimes, but this one is partly broken. At any rate, we wouldn't have far to fall, for he is a little fellow," said Harry.
So the boys went down to Tom's home at the appointed time, and there they met Jack Hopkins.
"We've made a track around the fields," Tom told his companions, "and we will train him to run around the ring, for father thinks he may be a race-horse some day, he's so swift."
"You may go first," the boys told him, "as he's your horse."
"All right!" Tom replied, making for the stake where Sable, the pony, was tied. Sable marched along quietly enough and made no objections to Tom getting on his back. There was no saddle, but just the bit in the horse's mouth and attached to it a short piece of rein.
"Get app, Sable!" called Tom, snapping a small whip at the pony's side.
But instead of going forward the little horse tried to sit down!
"Whoa! whoa!" called the boys, but Tom clung to Sable's neck and held on in spite of the pony's back being like a toboggan slide.
"Get off there, get off there!" urged Tom, yet the funny little animal only backed down more.
"Light a match and set it under his nose," Harry suggested. "That's the way to make a balky horse go!"
Someone had a match, which was lighted and put where Sable could sniff the sulphur.
"Look out! Hold on, Tom!" yelled the boys all at once, for at that instant Sable bolted off like a deer.
"He's running away!" called Bert, which was plain to be seen, for Tom could neither turn him this way or that, but had all he could do to hold on the frightened animal's neck.
"If he throws him Tom will surely be hurt!" Harry exclaimed, and the boys ran as fast as they could across the field after the runaway.
"Whoa! whoa! whoa!" called everybody after the horse, but that made not the slightest difference to Sable, who just went as if the woods were afire. Suddenly he turned and dashed straight up a big hill and over into a neighbor's cornfield.
"Oh, mercy!" cried Harry, "those people are so mean about their garden, they'll have Tom arrested if there's any corn broken."
Of course it was impossible for a runaway horse to go through a field of corn and do no damage, and Tom realized this too. By this time the dogs were out barking furiously, and altogether there was wild excitement. At one end of the field there was a high board fence.
"If I could only get him there he would have to stop," thought Tom, and suddenly he gave Sable a jerk in that direction.
"Drop off, Tom, drop off!" yelled the boys. "He'll throw you against the fence!"
But at that minute the little horse threw himself against the boards in such a way that Tom slid off, yet held tightly to the reins.
The horse fell, quite exhausted.
As quickly as they could get there the boys came up to help Tom.
"Hurry!" said Harry, "there is scarcely any corn broken, and we can get away before the Trimbles see us. They're away back in the fields planting late cabbage."
Tom felt hardly able to walk, but he limped along while Harry led Sable carefully between the cornhills. It was only a few feet to the edge of the field, and then they were all safe on the road again.
"Are you hurt?" the boys asked Tom, when finally they had a chance to speak about the runaway.
"I feel as if I had dropped from a balloon onto a lot of cobblestones," Tom answered, "but I guess that's only the shaking up I got. That pony certainly can go."
"Yes indeed," Harry admitted; "I guess he doesn't like the smell of sulphur matches. Lucky he was not injured with that fall against the fence."
"I found I had to throw him," Tom said, "and I thought the fence was softer than a tree."
"I suppose we ought to make him run until he is played out," said Bert, "That's the way to cure a horse of running away."
But none of the boys felt like risking their bones even to cure Sable, so the panting animal was led to the stable and for the rest of the day allowed to think over his bad conduct.
But that was not the last of the runaway, for in the evening just after supper old Mr. Trimble paid a visit to Tom's father.
"I came over to tell you what a scallywag of a boy you've got," began the cross old man. "He and a lot of young loafers took a horse and drove him all through my cornfield to-day, and now you've got to pay the damages."