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The Bobbsey Twins on a Houseboat
by Laura Lee Hope
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THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON A HOUSEBOAT

BY

LAURA LEE HOPE

Author Of The "Bobbsey Twins," "The Outdoor Girls Of Deepdale," "The Outdoor Girls In Florida," "The Moving Picture Girls," "The Moving Picture Girls At Rocky Ranch," Etc.

ILLUSTRATED



BOOKS BY LAURA LEE HOPE

THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES For Little Men and Women

THE BOBBSEY TWINS THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE SEASHORE THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SCHOOL THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SNOW LODGE THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON A HOUSEBOAT THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT MEADOW BROOK

THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS SERIES

THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT OAK FARM THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS SNOWBOUND THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS UNDER THE PALMS THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT ROCKY RANCH THE MOVING PICTURE GIRLS AT SEA

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES

THE OUTDOOR GIRLS OF DEEPDALE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT RAINBOW LAKE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A MOTOR CAR THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A WINTER CAMP THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT OCEAN VIEW



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. GOOD NEWS II. SNAP SAVES FREDDIE III. DINAH'S UPSET IV. AT THE HOUSEBOAT V. THE STRANGE BOY VI. FREDDIE'S FIRE ENGINE VII. THE TWO COUSINS VIII. OFF IN THE "BLUEBIRD" IX. SNOOP AND SNAP X. DOWN THE CREEK XI. THE MEAN MAN XII. THE WIRE FENCE XIII. THE RUNAWAY BOY XIV. OFF AGAIN XV. OVERBOARD XVI. THE MISSING SANDWICHES XVII. IN THE STORM XVIII. STRANGE NOISES XIX. SNAP'S QUEER ACTIONS XX. AT THE WATERFALL XXI. WHAT BERT SAW XXII. THE STOWAWAY



CHAPTER I

GOOD NEWS

"What are you doing, Freddie?" asked Bert Bobbsey, leaning over to oil the front wheel of his bicycle, while he glanced at his little brother, who was tying strings about the neck of a large, handsome dog.

"Making a harness," answered Freddie, not taking time to look up.

"A harness?" repeated Bert, with a little laugh. "How can you make a harness out of bits of string?"

"I'm going to have straps, too," went on Freddie, keeping busily on with his work. "Flossie has gone in after them. It's going to be a fine, strong harness."

"Do you mean you are going to harness up Snap?" asked Bert, and he stood his bicycle against the side of the house, and came over to where Freddie sat near the big dog.

"Yes. Snap is going to be my horse," explained Freddie. "I'm going to hitch him to my express wagon, and Flossie and I are going to have a ride."

"Ha! Ha!" laughed Bert. "You won't get much of a ride with THAT harness," and he looked at the thin cord which the small boy was winding about the dog's neck.

"Why not?" asked Freddie, a little hurt at Bert's laughter. Freddie, like all small boys, did not like to be laughed at.

"Why, Snap is so strong that he'll break that string in no time," said Bert. "Besides—"

"Flossie's gone in for our booty straps, I tell you!" said Freddie. "Then our harness will be strong enough. I'm only using string for part of it. I wish she'd hurry up and come out!" and Freddie glanced toward the house. But there was no sign of his little sister Flossie.

"Maybe she can't find them," suggested Bert. "You know what you and Flossie do with your books and straps, when you come home from school Friday afternoons—you toss them any old place until Monday morning."

"I didn't this time!" said sturdy little Freddie, looking up quickly. "I—I put 'em—I put 'em—oh, well, I guess Flossie can find 'em!" he ended, for trying to remember where he had left his books was more than he could do this bright, beautiful, Saturday morning, when there was no school.

"I thought so!" laughed Bert, as he turned to go back to his bicycle, for he intended to go for a ride, and had just cleaned, and was now oiling, his wheel.

"Well, Flossie can find 'em, so she can," went on Freddie, as he held his head on one side and looked at a knotted string around the neck of Snap, the big dog.

"I wonder how Snap is going to like it?" asked Bert. "Did you ever hitch him to your express wagon before, Freddie?"

"Yes. But he couldn't pull us."

"Why not?"

"'Cause I only had him tied with strings, and they broke. But I'm going to use our book straps now, and they'll hold."

"Maybe they will—if you can find 'em—or if Flossie can," Bert went on with a laugh.

Freddie said nothing. He was too busy tying more strings about Snap's neck. These strings were to serve as reins for the dog-horse. Since Snap would not keep them in his mouth, as a horse does a bit, they had to go around his neck, as oxen wear their yokes.

Snap stretched out comfortably on the grass, his big red tongue hanging out of his mouth. He was panting, and breathing hard, for he and Freddie had had a romping play in the grass, before quieting down for the horse-game.

"There, Snap!" Freddie exclaimed, after a bit. "Now you're almost hitched up. I wish Flossie would hurry up with those straps."

Freddie Bobbsey stood up to look once more toward the house, which his little twin sister had entered a few minutes before, having offered to go in and look for the book straps. She had not come back, and Freddie was getting Impatient.

At last the little girl appeared on the side porch. Her yellow hair blew in the gentle June breeze, making sort of a golden light about her head.

"Freddie! Freddie!" she cried. "I can't find 'em! I can't find the book straps anywhere!"

"Why, I put 'em—I put 'em—" said Freddie helplessly, trying to remember where he had put them, when he came in from school the day before.

"You've got to come and help me hunt for 'em!" Flossie went on. "Mamma says she can't find the straps."

"All right. I'll come," spoke Freddie. "Snap, you stay here!" he ordered, but the big dog only blinked, and stuck out his tongue farther than ever. Perhaps he had already made up his mind what he would do when Freddie let him alone.

Off toward the house went the little fat Freddie. He was pretty plump —so much so that his father often called him a little "fat fireman." Freddie was very fond of playing fireman, ever since the time he had owned a toy fire engine. But to-day he had other ideas.

"I'll find those straps," he said, as he toddled off. "Then we'll hitch Snap to my express wagon, and Flossie and I'll have a fine ride. Don't you run away, Snap."

Snap did not say whether he would or not. Flossie, standing on the side porch, waited for her little brother. She was just his age, and only a little smaller in height. She was just about as fat and plump as was Freddie, and both had light curly hair. They made a pretty picture together, and if Freddie was a "fat fireman" Flossie was a "fat fairy," which pet name her father often called her.

"Did you look under the sofa for the straps?" asked Freddie when he had joined his sister.

"Yes. I looked there, and—and—everywhere," she answered. "I can't find 'em."

"Maybe Snap hid 'em," suggested Freddie.

"Maybe," agreed Flossie. "He would, if he knew you were going to hitch him up with 'em."

"Pooh. He couldn't know that," said Freddie. "I didn't know it myself until a little while ago, and I didn't tell anybody but you."

"Well, maybe Snap heard us talking about it," went on Flossie. "He's awful smart, you know, Freddie, from having been in a circus."

"But he isn't smart enough for that, even if he can do lots of tricks," Freddie went on. "There's Snoop!" he exclaimed, as a big, black cat ran across the lawn. "Maybe SHE took our book straps."

"She couldn't," said Flossie. "Our books were in 'em, and they'd be too heavy for Snoop to drag."

"That's so," admitted Freddie. "Well, come on, we'll find 'em!"

The twins went into the house and began searching for the straps. High and low they looked, in all the usual, and unusual, places, where they sometimes tossed their books when they came in from school Friday afternoons, with the joyous cry of:

"No more lessons until Monday! Hurray!"

But this time they seemed to have tossed their books and straps into some very much out-of-the-way place, indeed.

"We can't find 'em," said Flossie. "Can't you take some strong string, to tie Snap to the wagon, instead of the straps, Freddie?"

"I don't think so," he answered. "I know what to do. Let's ask Dinah. Maybe she's seen 'em."

"Oh, yes, let's!" agreed Flossie, and together they hurried to the kitchen where Dinah, the big, good-natured, colored cook, was rattling the pots and pans.

"Dinah! Dinah!" cried Flossie and Freddie in a twins' chorus.

"Yep-um, honey-lambs! What yo' all want?" asked Dinah, opening the oven door, to let out a little whiff of a most delicious smell, and then quickly closing it again. "Ef yo' wants a piece ob cake, it ain't done yit!"

"Oh, Dinah! We don't want any cake!" said Freddie.

"What's dat? Yo' don't want cake?" and Dinah quickly straightened up, put her fat hands on her fat hips, and looked at the two children in surprise. "Yo—don't—want—no cake!" gasped Dinah. "What's de mattah? Yo' all ain't sick, is yo'?"

For that was the only reason she could think of why Flossie and Freddie should not want cake—as they generally did Saturday morning.

"No, we're not sick," said Flossie, "and we'd like a piece of cake a little later, please Dinah. But just now we want our book straps. Have you seen 'em?"

"Book straps! Book straps!" exclaimed Dinah in great surprise. "Go 'long wif yo' now! I ain't got no time to be bodderin' wif book straps, when dey's pies an' puddin's an' cakes t' bake. Trot along now, an' let ole Dinah be! Book straps! Huh!"

Flossie and Freddie knew there was little use in "bodderin'" Dinah any more, especially when she was in the midst of her baking.

"Come on, Flossie," spoke Freddie. "We'll have another look for those straps. Next time I'll put our books where we can find 'em."

Once more the children started through the different rooms. They looked everywhere. But no straps could they find.

"You see what a lot of trouble it makes, not only for you, but for others as well, when you don't take care of your books," said Mrs. Bobbsey gently. She knew it would be a good lesson for the twins to search for their things. Next time they might remember.

Suddenly, from out in the yard, came a shout.

"Freddie! Freddie! Come out here, quick!"

"That's Bert!" exclaimed Freddie.

"Oh, maybe he's found the straps, so we can harness up Snap," cried Flossie.

But Bert's next words soon told the younger twins that it was no such good luck as that, for he cried:

"Snap's running away, Freddie! He's running away. If you're going to harness him up you'll have to catch him!"

"Oh dear!" cried Flossie.

"Come on, help me catch him!" called Freddie.

Together they ran into the yard. As Bert had said, Snap, getting tired of being tied to a post with a thin string, had broken the cord, and now was racing over the fields after another dog with whom he often played.

"Come back, Snap! Come back!" cried Freddie.

Snap paid no heed.

Just then, through the front gate, came a girl. She looked so much like Bert, with his dark hair and eyes, with his slimness and his tallness, that you could tell at once she was his sister. As soon as Flossie saw her, she cried:

"Oh, Nan! We were going to hitch Snap to the express wagon, but Freddie and I can't find our straps, and Snap ran away, and—and—"

"Never mind, Flossie dear," said Nan. "Wait until you hear the good news I have for you!"

"Good news?" exclaimed Bert, coming away from his bicycle, toward his twin sister.

"Yes, the very best!" Nan went on. "It's about a houseboat! Now, Flossie and Freddie, sit down on the grass and I'll tell you all about the good news!"



CHAPTER II

SNAP SAVES FREDDIE

Down on the soft green grass of the lawn, sat the two sets of Bobbsey twins. Yes, there were two "sets" of them, and I shall tell you how that was, in a little while.

"Begin at the beginning," suggested Bert to his sister. He always liked to hear all of anything, so Nan prepared to skip nothing.

"Well," said Nan, as she leaned over to re-tie the bow of Flossie's hair ribbon. It had become loose in the hurried search for the book straps. "Well, you know I went down to papa's lumber office this morning, to bring him the letter that came here to the house by mistake. It was a letter from—"

"You can skip that part of it," suggested Bert. "I don't want to wait so long about hearing the news."

"Well, I thought I'd tell you everything," said Nan. "Anyhow, when I was in papa's office he bought it."

"What did he buy?" asked Freddie, getting to the point more quickly than Bert would have done. "What'd he buy, Nan?"

"A houseboat," went on the older girl twin. Mr. Marvin was there, and he sold papa the Marvin houseboat. Oh! and such fun as we're—"

"What's a houseboat?" interrupted Flossie.

"It's a boat with a house on it, of course," spoke Bert, eagerly. "I know. I've seen lots of them. You can live in them just like in a house, only it's on water. There's more room in a houseboat than in a regular boat. Go on, Nan."

"Are we going to live in it?" asked Freddie.

"I think so—at least part of the time," said Nan. "Now I'll tell you all I know about it. I couldn't stay to ask all I wanted to, as papa was busy. Besides, it was sort of a secret, and I found it out by accident before he meant me to. So you mustn't tell mamma yet—it's to be a surprise to her," and Nan looked at the two smaller twins, and raised a cautioning finger.

"I won't tell," promised Flossie.

"Neither will I," promised Freddie. "Is that all you're going to tell us, Nan?"

"Well, isn't that enough?" demanded Nan. "I think it's just fine, that we're going to have a houseboat! I've always wanted one."

"So have I," spoke Bert. "Go on, Nan! Tell me more about it. How big is it? Is there an engine in it? Where is it? Can we go on board? When is papa going to get it? Is there a room for me in it? I wonder if I can run the engine and steer? How much did it cost?"

"Gracious!" cried Nan, pretending to cover her ears with her hands. "It will take me all morning, Bert, to answer those questions. Please start over again."

"First tell me where I can see the boat," suggested Bert. "I want to go look at it."

"It's down in the lake," said Nan.

"Come on, Flossie," spoke Freddie. "There's Snap coming back now, and maybe we can catch him. Then we'll harness him up. Dinah ought to be done with her baking now, and maybe she can find those straps for us. Here, Snap!"

Flossie and Freddie, being some years younger than Bert and Nan, did not care to bear much more about the houseboat just then. That they were going to have one was enough for them. They were much pleased and delighted, but they had the idea of hitching Snap to the express wagon, and they could not get that out of their minds.

"You go in and ask Dinah to help you look for the straps," directed Freddie to his little sister, "and I'll catch Snap. Here, Snap! Snap!" he called to the dog who had come back into the yard after a romp and frolic with his animal friend.

Snap was glad enough to stretch out on the grass and rest. He was tired from his run. Freddie put his arms around the dog's neck, and laid his head down on the shaggy coat.

"Now you can't run away again," said Freddie, as he pretended to go to sleep, while Flossie toddled into the house once more, to have another look for the missing book straps.

At a little distance from Freddie sat Nan and Bert, talking about the houseboat, and the good times they would have on board. Freddie roused up, and looked toward the house. Flossie had not yet come out.

"It takes her a long time," said the little boy. "We won't have any ride at all, if she doesn't hurry up."

Then Freddie saw something else that attracted his attention. This was Bert's bicycle, leaning now against the side of a shed. Bert was too much interested in the houseboat to want to ride just then.

A new idea came into Freddie's head.

"I'm going to have a ride on Bert's wheel, while I'm waiting for Flossie to come out with the straps," said the little twin chap. "Bert won't care."

Freddie did not take any chances on asking Bert. His elder brother was still busy talking to Nan about the new houseboat. Freddie scrambled to his feet.

"Now you stay there, Snap!" he commanded the big dog, for Snap, ready again for some fun, was anxious to follow his little master. "Lie down, Snap!" ordered Freddie, and Snap again stretched out.

Freddie walked slowly over toward the bicycle. Of course he was too small to ride it in the regular way, with his feet on the pedals, for his little legs were not long enough to reach them. But he could sit on the seat, and Bert had taught him how to steer a little, so that though a bicycle has only two wheels, and will tip over if it is not properly guided, Freddie could manage to ride a little way on it without toppling over, especially if some one put him on and gave him a push, or if he was given a start down a little hill.

"I'm going to have a ride," thought Freddie. "I'll have a little ride, while I'm waiting for Flossie."

Freddie had a velocipede of his own, but that had three wheels instead of two. Freddie thought two wheels were much more fun than three.

"If I can get up on that bicycle, I'll have a nice ride," murmured Freddie. He looked toward the house. Flossie was not in sight. She had not yet found the straps.

Then Freddie looked toward Bert and Nan. They were still busy talking about the houseboat. They paid no attention to Freddie.

The little twin chap looked around until he had found a small box. By stepping on this he could get up on the seat of the bicycle, which was leaning against the shed. Then Freddie could give himself a little push, and away he would go. There was a little hill leading from where the bicycle stood down to the gate, and into the road. The gate was open.

"Maybe I can even ride down the road a little way," thought Freddie to himself. "That would be great."

It was rather hard work for Freddie to get up on the bicycle from the box, but he managed it. Then he sat on the leather saddle, and took hold of the handle bars. As I have told you, he knew how to steer, even though he could not reach the pedals.

"Here I go!" cried Freddie softly, as he gave himself a little push. Down the hill he went, along the path, straight for the yard gate.

"Oh! I'm going out in the road!" exclaimed Freddie, this time out loud, for he was far enough away from Nan and Bert now.

And into the road he did go, on Bert's bicycle. The wheel was going faster and faster, for Bert had just oiled it and it rode very smoothly.

"This is great!" Freddie cried. "Maybe I can ride all the way to the bridge."

He looked down the road to where a little white bridge spanned a small brook. And then, as Freddie looked, he saw something which made his heart beat very fast indeed. For, coming right toward him, was a team of horses, hitched to a big lumber wagon—it was one of Freddie's papa's own lumber teams, as the little boy could see for himself.

On came the trotting team, pulling the heavily laden lumber wagon, and, worst of all, there was no driver on the seat to guide the horses. They were trotting away all by themselves, and Freddie was out in the road, on the bicycle that was far too big for him,

"Oh dear!" cried Freddie.

Just then he heard Flossie scream. She had come out on the side porch, and she saw the team coming toward her little brother.

"Nan! Bert!" screamed Flossie. "Look at Freddie!"

Nan and Bert jumped up and raced down the path.

"Freddie's in trouble again!" thought Bert.

It was not the first time Freddie had gotten into mischief. Though usually he was a pretty good boy, he sometimes made trouble without intending to.

I have told you there were two sets of Bobbsey twins, and those of you who have read the first book of this series know what I mean by that. The first book is called "The Bobbsey Twins," and in that I told you how the Bobbsey family lived in an eastern city called Lakeport, at the head of Lake Metoka. Mr. Bobbsey was a lumber merchant, and owned a large sawmill, and a yard, near the lake, in which yard were piled many stacks of lumber.

Nan and Bert were the older Bobbsey twins, being past nine, while Flossie and Freddie were about "half-past-five." So you see that is how there were two sets of twins. Nan was a tall, slender girl, with a dark face and red cheeks. Her eyes were brown, and so were her curls. Bert, too, was quite dark, like Nan.

Flossie and Freddie were very light, with blue eyes. They were short and fat, instead of tall and thin. So you see the two sets of twins were very different.

Oh! such good times as the Bobbsey twins had! I could not tell you all of them, if I wrote a dozen books. But some of the good times I have related in the first book. In the second, called "The Bobbsey Twins in the Country," there are more happenings mentioned.

Uncle Daniel Bobbsey, his wife Sarah, and their son Harry lived in the country, at a place called Meadow Brook, and there the twins often went on their vacation.

Uncle William Minturn, and his wife Emily, with their nine-year-old daughter Dorothy, lived at Ocean Cliff. As you might guess, this was on the coast, and in the third book, "The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore," I have told you of the good times the children had there, how they saw a wreck, and what came of it.

In "The Bobbsey Twins at School" you will find out how they came to get the dog Snap, as a pet. They already had a black cat, named Snoop, but one day, when the twins, with their father and mother, were on a railroad train, something happened, and Snoop was lost.

They found Snap, instead. He was a circus dog, and—but there, if you want to read of Snap, you must do so in the book about him. I shall tell you this much, though. Snap was a very fine dog, and could do many tricks, and in the end the Bobbseys kept him for a pet, as well as getting back their lost cat Snoop.

When school was over for the winter holidays one year, the Bobbseys went to "Snow Lodge," and in the book of that name I have told you about a queer mystery the twins helped solve while out amid the snow and ice.

Now the Bobbseys were back in their fine house in Lakeport, where Dinah, the fat cook, gave them such good things to eat, and where Sam Johnson, her husband, kept the lawns so nice and green for the children to play on.

Just now Freddie Bobbsey would have been very glad, indeed, to be playing on that same lawn instead of being on his brother's bicycle, rolling toward the team of lumber horses, who were coming straight for him.

"Oh, look at Freddie! Look at Freddie!" screamed Flossie, dropping the two book straps which she had at last found. "Save him, Nan! Bert! Oh, Freddie!"

"I 'clar t' goodness!" exclaimed fat Dinah in the kitchen. "Dem chillens am up t' some mo' trouble!"

"Freddie, steer to one side! Steer out of the way!" shouted Bert, as he ran for the gate. He could not hope to reach his little brother in time, though.

Freddie was too frightened and excited to steer. The bicycle was going fast—faster than he had ever ridden on it before. All he could do was to sit tight, and hold fast to the handle bars.

"Oh, he'll be run over!" cried Nan, as she, too, raced after Bert.

The team, with no driver to guide it, ran faster and faster. Freddie began to cry. And then, all at once, the front wheel of the bicycle ran over a stone, and turned to one side. The handle bars were jerked from Freddie's grasp, and over he went, wheel and all!

Luckily for him, he fell to one side of the road, on the soft grass, or he might have been injured, but, as it was, the fall did not hurt him at all. One of his little fat legs, though, became tangled up in the wire spokes of the front wheel, and Freddie lay there, with the wheel on top of him, unable to get up.

"Oh, Bert! Bert!" screamed Nan.

"Grab him—quick!" shouted Dinah, waddling down the walk. But she was too fat to go fast enough to do any good.

"Roll out of the way, Freddie!" cried Bert.

Freddie was too much entangled in the wheel to be able to move. And, all the while, the lumber team was coming nearer and nearer to him. Would the horses, with no driver at the reins, know enough to turn to one side, or would the wheels roll over poor Freddie and the bicycle?

Nan covered her face with her hands. She did not want to look at what was going to happen.

"I must get there in time to pull him out of the way!" thought Bert, as he ran as fast as he could. But the team was almost on Freddie now.

Suddenly the dog Snap, who had jumped up when he heard the shouts, saw what the danger was. Snap knew about horses, and he was smart enough to know that Freddie was in danger.

Without waiting for anyone to tell him what to do, Snap ran straight for the lumber team. Leaping up in front of them, and barking as loudly as he could, Snap turned the trotting horses to one side. And just in time, too, for, a little more, and one of the front wheels of the heavily loaded lumber wagon would have run over the bicycle in which Freddie was still entangled.

"Bow wow!" barked Snap. The horses were perhaps afraid of being bitten, though Snap was very gentle. At any rate, they turned aside, and would have run on faster, only Snap, leaping up, grabbed the dangling reins in his teeth and pulled hard on them. "Whoa!" called Bert. When the horses heard this, and felt the tug on the lines, they knew it meant to stop. And stop they did. Snap had saved Freddie.



CHAPTER III

DINAH'S UPSET

"What's the matter? What has happened?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, who had run out to the front porch, upon hearing the excited cries, and the exclamations of fat Dinah, the cook. "Oh! has anything happened to any of the children?"

"Yes'm, I s'pects there has, ma'am," said Dinah. "Pore li'l Freddie am done smashed all up flatter'n a pancake, Mrs. Bobbsey!"

"Freddie—Oh!"

"He's all right!" shouted Bert, who had, by this time, reached his little brother, and was lifting him out of the bicycle. "Not hurt a bit, are you, Freddie?"

"N—no, I—I guess not," said Freddie, a bit doubtfully. "I—I'm scared, though."

"Nothing to be frightened at now, Freddie," said Bert, holding up the little chap, so his mother could see him.

"Why, Freddie isn't hurt, Dinah," said Mrs. Bobbsey, in great relief. "What made you think so?"

"Well, I seed him all tangled up in dat two-wheeled velocipede ob Bert's, an' de hoss team was comin' right down on de honey-lamb. I thought shuah he was gwine t' be squashed flatter'n a pancake. But he ain't! Bless mah soul he ain't! Oh, dere's mah cake burnin'!" and into the kitchen ran Dinah, glad, indeed, that nothing had happened worse than the scare Freddie received.

"Good Snap! Good old dog!" said Nan, as she patted his head.

"Bow wow!" barked Snap. He still held the horse reins in his strong white teeth. He was not going to let the horses go yet.

"Oh, Freddie!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, when she understood what had happened. "What danger you were in! Why did you take Bert's wheel?"

"I—I wanted a ride, Mamma. I didn't think I'd fall off, or that the team would come."

"You must never do it again," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Never get on Bert's wheel again, unless he is with you to hold you. You are, too small, yet, for a bicycle."

"Yes'm," said Freddie in a low voice.

"But where is the driver of the wagon?" went on Mrs. Bobbsey, looking at the empty seat.

"Maybe he fell off," suggested Nan, who had taken Freddie from Bert, the latter picking up his wheel, and looking to see if it had been damaged by the fall. But it was all right.

"Here comes a driver now," said Flossie, who saw one of the men from her father's lumber yard hurrying along the road.

"Is anybody hurt?" the man asked, as he came up, running and breathing fast, for he had come a long way.

"No one, I think," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "But my little boy had a very narrow escape."

"I am sorry," said the driver. "I left the team standing out in front of the lumber yard, while I went in the office to find out where I was to deliver the planks. When I came out the horses were trotting away. I guess they were scared by something. I ran fast, but I could not catch them."

"Snap caught them for you," said the twins' mother, as she looked at the former circus dog, who was still holding the horse-reins.

"Yes, he's a good dog," the lumber wagon driver said. "I was afraid, when I saw how far the horses had gone, that they might do some damage. But I'm glad no one was hurt."

"I think we all are glad," spoke Mrs. Bobbsey. "It was partly my little boy's own fault, for he should not have gotten on his brother's bicycle. But he won't do it again."

"No, I never will!" promised Freddie, as he rubbed his leg where it had been bruised a little from becoming tangled up in the wire spokes.

Snap barked and wagged his tail, as the driver took the lines from him, and then, when the man drove off with the horses and the load of lumber, Mrs. Bobbsey went with the twins back into the yard.

"Well, I'm glad all the excitement is over," she said. "Where were you, Nan? Grace Lavine called for you, but I looked out in the yard and did not see you, so she went away again."

"Why, I went down to papa's office, Mamma, with that letter you gave me for him."

"Yes, I know, but I supposed you had come back. What kept you so long?"

"Well, I—er—I was talking to papa, and—-"

Nan did not want to go on. for she did not want to tell that she had been talking about the houseboat.

Mr. Bobbsey had been intending to keep that as a little secret surprise for his wife, but now, if her mother asked about it, Nan felt she would have to tell. She hardly knew what to say, but just then something happened that made everything all right.

Mr. Bobbsey himself came hurrying down the street, from the direction of his lumber office. He seemed much excited, and his hat was on crooked, as though he had not taken time to put it on straight.

"Is everything all right?" he called to his wife. "None of the children hurt?"

"No, none of them," she answered with a smile. Mr. Bobbsey could see that for himself now, since Freddie and Flossie were going up the walk together, Freddie tying one of the book straps around the dog's neck, while Nan and Bert followed behind them, with Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Someone telephoned to me," said the lumber merchant, "that they saw one of our teams running away down this street, and I was afraid our children, or those of some of the neighbors, might be hurt. So I hurried down to see. Did you notice anything of a runaway team?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "But everything is all right now. Only I haven't yet heard what it was that kept Nan so long down at your office," and she smiled.

Nan looked at her father, and Mr. Bobbsey looked at Nan. Then they both smiled and laughed.

"To tell you the truth," said Mr. Bobbsey, with another smile, "Nan discovered a secret I was not going to tell at once."

"A secret?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey in surprise.

"Yes, it's about—-" began Nan.

Then she stopped.

"Go on. You might as well tell her," said Mr. Bobbsey, laughing.

"I know!" exclaimed Freddie, who was all over his fright now. "It's about a boathouse and—-"

"A houseboat!" interrupted Bert. "You've got the cart before the horse, Freddie."

"That's it!" exclaimed Nan. "Papa has bought the Marvin's houseboat, Mamma, and we're going to have lovely times in it this summer."

"And I'm going to run the engine," declared Bert.

"I'm going to be fireman!" cried fat Freddie. "I'm going to put on coal and squirt water on the fires!"

"I'm going to sit on deck and play with my dolls," spoke Flossie, who was trying to climb up on Snap's back to get a ride.

Mrs. Bobbsey looked at her husband.

"Really?" she asked. "Have you bought the boat?"

"Yes," he replied, "I have. You know we have been thinking of it for some time. Lake Metoka would be just fine for a houseboat, and we could go on quite a cruise with one. Mr. Marvin wanted to sell his boat, and as he and I had some business dealings, and as he owed me some money, I took the boat in part payment."

"And is it ours now, Papa?" asked Bert.

"Yes, the houseboat is ours. It is called the Bluebird, and that is a good name for it, since it is painted blue—like your eyes, little fat fairy!" he cried, catching Flossie up in his arms.

"Is it a big boat, Papa?" asked Bert. Like most boys he liked things big and strong.

"Well, I think it will be large enough," said Mr. Bobbsey with a smile as he set down Flossie and caught up Freddie in the same way. "Were you frightened when you fell down and saw the lumber team coming toward you?" he asked.

"A little," Freddie said. "But I wished my legs were long enough so I could ride Bert's bicycle. Then I could get out of the way."

"You'd better keep away from the wheel until you are bigger," said his father, who had been told about the accident and the excitement. "But now I must get back to the office. I have plenty of work to do."

"Oh, but can't you stay just a little longer, to tell us more about the boat!" pleaded Nan. "When can we have a ride in it?"

"A boat is called 'her,'" interrupted Bert,

"Well, 'her' then," said Nan. "Tell us about HER, papa. I didn't hear much at your office."

"You heard more than I meant you to," said Mr. Bobbsey with a smile. "Nan came in with that letter just as Mr. Marvin and I were finishing our talk about the houseboat," he went on. "I was going to keep it secret a little longer, but it's just as well you should know now.

"I think you will like the Bluebird. It has a little gasoline engine, so we can travel from place to place. And there is a large living room, a kitchen, several bed rooms and a nice open deck, where we can sit, when it is too hot to be inside."

"Oh, that's going to be great!" cried Bert. "I want a room near the engine."

"And can I be a fireman?" asked Freddie.

"I want to be near mamma—and you," spoke little Flossie.

"Oh, isn't it going to be lovely!" exclaimed Nan, clapping her hands.

"Scrumptious, I call it!" cried Bert, and he ran into the house, through the hall, and into the dining-room, just as big, fat Dinah, the cook, was entering the same room, carefully holding a big cake which she had just covered with white frosting.

"Oh dear!" cried Bert, as he ran, full tilt, Into the big cook.

"Good land ob massy!" fairly yelled Dinah. "Wha—wha—-"

But that was all she could say. She tried to save herself from falling, but she could not. Nor could Bert. He went down, on one side of the doorsill, and Dinah sat down, very hard, on the other, the cake bouncing from her hands, up toward her head, and then falling into her lap.



CHAPTER IV

AT THE HOUSEBOAT

"Did—did I hurt you, Dinah?" asked Bert, after he had gotten his breath. "I'm—I'm sorry—but did I hurt you?"

"Hurt me? Hurt me, honey lamb? No indeedy, but I done reckon yo' has hurt yo'se'f, honey! Look at yo' pore haid!" and she pointed her fat finger at Bert.

"Why, what's the matter with my head?" he asked, putting up his hand. He felt something sticky, and when he looked at his fingers, he saw that they were covered with white stuff.

"Oh, it's the frosting off the cake!" said Nan with a laugh. "You look something like one of the clowns in the circus, Bert, only you haven't enough of the white stuff on."

"And look at Dinah!" laughed Freddie. "She's turning white!"

"What's dat, honey lamb? Turnin' white?" gasped the big, colored cook. "Don't say dat!"

"It's the cake frosting on Dinah, too!" said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, Bert! why aren't you a little more careful?"

"I'm sorry, mamma," Bert said, as he watched Dinah wipe the frosting off her face with her apron. "I didn't know she was coming through the door then."

"And I shore didn't see yo', honey lamb," went on the cook. "Land ob massy! Look at mah cake!" she cried, as she gazed at the mass in her lap. "All de frostin' am done slid off it!"

"Yes, you're a regular wedding cake yourself, Dinah," said Mr. Bobbsey, who had come in to see what all the noise meant. "Well, this seems to be a day of excitement. I'm glad it was no worse, though. Better go up stairs and wash, Bert."

"The cake itself isn't spoiled," said Mrs. Bobbsey, lifting it from Dinah's lap, so the colored cook could get up. It was no easy work for her to do this, as she was so fat. But at last, after many groanings and gruntings, she rose to her feet, and took the cake from Mrs. Bobbsey.

"I'll put some mo' frostin' on it right away, ma'am," she said. "An' I hopes nobody else runs inter me," she went on with a laugh. "I shuah did feel skeered dat Bert was hurt bad."

They could all laugh at the happening now, and after Mr. Bobbsey had told a little more about the new houseboat, he went back to the office.

"Come on, Flossie," suggested Freddie. "Now you've found the book straps, we can hitch Snap to the express wagon. Where'd you find 'em?"

"The straps were on our books, under the hall rack," said Flossie.

"That's just where I left 'em!" exclaimed Freddie. "I knew I left 'em somewhere."

"But next time you must remember," cautioned his mother. "And remember another thing—no more bicycle rides—you stay on your velocipede."

"Yes'm," said Freddie. "Come on, Flossie. Where's Snap?"

When the little twins went to look for their big, shaggy pet, who could do so many circus tricks, they could not find him.

"Have you seen Snap?" asked Freddie of Dinah's husband, Sam Johnson, who was out in the barn.

"Snap?" repeated the colored man. "Why, Freddie, I done jest see Snap paradin' down de road wif dat black dog from Mr. Brown's house."

"Then Snap's gone away again," said Flossie with a sigh. "Never mind, Freddie. Let's play steamboat, and you can be the fireman."

"All right," he agreed, much pleased with this idea. "We'll make believe we're in our new houseboat. Come on."

"Steamboat" was a game the smaller twins often played on the long Saturdays, when there was no school. All they needed was an old soap box for the boat, and some sticks for oars. Then, with some bits of bread or cake, which Dinah gave them to eat, in case they were "shipwrecked," they had fine times.

Meanwhile, Bert and Nan had asked permission of their mother to go over to where some of their boy and girl friends lived, so they were prepared to have a good time, too.

"Oh, but what fun we'll have on the houseboat, won't we, Bert?" said Nan.

"That's what we will," he agreed with a laugh.

Monday morning came, after Sunday (as it always does if you wait long enough) and the two sets of Bobbsey twins started for school.

"I wish we didn't have to go," said Bert, as he strapped up his books. "I want to go down to our new houseboat."

"But you must go to school," said his mother with a smile. "There will not be many more days now. June will soon be over, and you know school closes a little earlier than usual this year. So run along, like good children."

Off they hurried and soon they were mingling with their boy and girl friends, who were also on their way to their classes.

"You can't guess what we're going to have," said Freddie to a boy named Johnnie Wilson, who was in his room.

"Kittens?" asked Johnnie.

"No."

"Puppies?"

"No."

"I give up—what is it?"

"A houseboat," said Freddie. "It's a house on a boat, and you can live in it on water."

"Huh!" said Johnnie. "There isn't any such thing."

"Yes, there is, too, isn't there, Flossie?" and Freddie appealed to his small sister.

"'Course there is," she said. "Our papa bought one, and Freddie's going to be the fireman, and I'm going to cook the meals, so there! Haven't we got a houseboat, Nan?"

"Yes, dear," answered the older sister, who was walking with Bert. At this, coming from Nan, Johnnie had nothing to say, except that he murmured, as he walked away:

"Huh! A houseboat's nothing. We've got a baby at our house, and it's got hair on its head, and two teeth!"

"A houseboat's better'n a baby," was Freddie's opinion.

"It is not!" cried Johnnie.

"It is so!" Freddie exclaimed.

"Hush!" begged Nan. "Please don't dispute. Houseboats and babies are both nice. But now it's time to go to school."

The Bobbsey twins could hardly wait for the classes to be out that day, for their mother had promised to call for them after lessons, and, with their father, they were going to see the Bluebird. The houseboat had been brought up the lake by Mr. Marvin, and tied to a dock not far from Mr. Bobbsey's lumber office. The boat was now the property of Mr. Bobbsey, but that gentleman had not yet fully planned what he would do with her.

Just as the children were trooping out of the school yard, along came Mrs. Bobbsey. Nan and Flossie saw their mother and hastened toward her, while Freddie and Bert came along more slowly.

In a little while all five of them were at Mr. Bobbsey's lumber office. He came out of his private room, when one of his clerks told him Mrs. Bobbsey and the children were there.

"Ah, what can I do for you to-day?" asked Mr. Bobbsey of his wife, just like Mr. Fitch, the grocery-store-keeper. "Would you like a barrel of sawdust, ma'am; or a bundle of shingles to fry for the children's suppers?" and Mr. Bobbsey pretended he was no relation to his family.

"I think we'll have a houseboat," said his wife with a laugh. "Have you time to take us down to it? I can't do a thing with these children, they are so anxious to see the Bluebird." "Well, I hope they'll like her," said Mr. Bobbsey, "and not pull any feathers out of her tail."

"Oh, is there a real bird on the boat?" asked Flossie.

"No, papa is only joking," said Nan, with a smile.

Mr. Bobbsey put on his hat, and soon the whole Bobbsey family had reached the place where the boat was tied. At the first sight of her, with her pretty blue paint and white trimming, Nan cried:

"Oh, how lovely!"

"And how big it is!" exclaimed Freddie his eyes large and round with wonder.

"Let's go aboard—where's the gang-plank?" asked Bert, trying to use some boat language he had heard from his father's lumbermen.

The Bluebird was indeed a fine, large houseboat, roomy and comfortable. The children went inside, and, after looking around the main, or living room, and peering into the dining-room, Nan opened the door of a smaller compartment. Inside she saw a cunning little bed.

"Oh, may I have this room?" she asked. "Isn't it sweet!"

"Here's another just like it," said Mrs. Bobbsey, opening the next door.

"That will be mine," said Flossie.

"My room's going to be back here, by the engine," spoke Bert, as he picked out his sleeping place.

"And I'll come with you," said Freddie. "I'm going to be fireman!" Gleefully the children were running about, clapping their hands, and finding something new and strange every minute.

"Where is your room, mamma?" asked Nan. "We ought to have let you and papa have first choice."

"Oh, there are plenty of rooms," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Let's go up on deck and—-"

He stopped suddenly, and seemed to be listening.

"What is it?" asked his wife.

"There seems to be some one on this boat beside ourselves," answered Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll go look."



CHAPTER V

THE STRANGE BOY

The Bobbsey twins looked at one another, and then at their mother, as Mr. Bobbsey went out of the living room of the houseboat, toward the stairway that led up on deck.

Bert tried to look brave, and as though he did not care. Nan moved a little closer to her mother. As for Flossie, she, too, was a little frightened, but Freddie did not seem at all alarmed.

"Is it somebody come to take the boat away from us?" he asked in his high-pitched, childish voice. "If it is—don't let 'em, papa."

They all laughed at this—even Mr. Bobbsey, and he turned to look around, half way up the stairs, saying:

"No, Freddie, I won't let them take our boat."

"Pooh! Just as if they could—it's ours!" spoke Bert.

"Who could it be on board here, mamma?" asked Nan.

"I don't know, dear, unless it was some one passing through the lumber yard, who stopped to see what the boat looked like," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "Papa will soon find out."

The noise they had heard was the footsteps of some one walking about on the deck of the houseboat.

"Perhaps it was one of the men from the office, who came to tell papa he was wanted up there, or that some one wanted to speak to him on the telephone," went on Mrs. Bobbsey. She saw that the children, even Bert, were a little alarmed, for the boat was tied at a lonely place in the lumber yard, and tramps frequently had to be driven away from the piles of boards under which there were a number of good places to sleep.

Mr. Bobbsey did not mean to be unkind to the poor men who had no homes, but tramps often smoke, and are not careful about their matches. There had been one or two fires in the lumber yard, and Mr. Bobbsey did not want any more blazes.

Soon the footsteps of the children's father were heard on the deck above them, and, a little later Freddie and the others could hear the talk of two persons.

"I guess it was one of the men," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

"I'm going to see," spoke Bert, and he moved toward the stairway, followed by Nan, Flossie and Freddie. They went up on deck and saw their father talking to a strange boy. None of the Bobbsey children knew him.

"Are you looking for some one?" asked Mr. Bobbsey kindly, of the strange boy. Often, when he was in distant parts of the lumber yard, and he was wanted at the office, or telephone, his men might ask some boy to run and tell the owner of the yard he was needed. But Mr. Bobbsey had never seen this lad before.

"No, sir, I—I wasn't looking for any one," said the boy, as he looked down at his shoes, which were full of holes, and put his hands into the pockets of his trousers, which were quite ragged. "I was just looking at the boat. It's a fine one!"

"I'm glad you like it," said Mr. Bobbsey with a smile.

"Could you go to sea in this boat?" asked the boy, who was not very much older than Bert.

"Go to sea? Oh, no!" answered Mr. Bobbsey. "This boat is all right on a lake, or river, but the big waves of the ocean would be too strong for it. We don't intend to go to sea. Why? Are you fond of sailing?"

"That's what I am!" cried the boy. "I'm going to sea in a ship some day. I'm sick of farm-life!" and his eyes snapped.

"Are you a farmer?" asked the twins' father.

"I work for a farmer, and I don't like it—the work is too hard," the boy said, as he hung his head.

"There is plenty of hard work in this world," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "Of course too much hard work isn't good for any one, but we must all do our share. Where do you work?"

"I work for Mr. Hardee, who lives just outside the town of Lemby," answered the boy.

"Oh, yes, I know Mr. Hardee," spoke Mr. Bobbsey. "I sold him some lumber with which he built his house. So you work for him? But what are you doing so far away from the farm?"

"Mr. Hardee sent me over here, to Lakeport, on an errand."

"Well, if I were you I wouldn't come so far away from where I left my horse and wagon," cautioned Mr. Bobbsey, for the place where the boat was tied was a long distance from the main road leading from Lakeport to Lemby.

"I didn't come in a wagon," said the boy. "I walked."

"What! You don't mean to say you walked all the way from Lemby to Lakeport?" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, who had now come up on deck.

"Yes'm, I did," answered the boy. "Mr. Hardee said he needed the horses to work on the farm. He said I was young, and the walk would do me good. So Mrs. Hardee, she gave me some bread and butter for my lunch, and I walked. I'm walking back now, and I came this way by the lake. It's a short cut.

"Then I happened to see this boat here. I like boats, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to come on board."

"Oh, no, that's all right!" said Mr. Bobbsey quickly. "I'll be glad to have you look around, though this is only a houseboat, and not built for ocean travel. So you work for Mr. Hardee, eh? What's your name?"

"Will Watson," the boy said. Mrs. Bobbsey was trying to motion to her husband to come toward her. It seemed as though she wanted to say something to him privately.

"Will Watson, eh?" went on Mr. Bobbsey. "I don't seem to know any family of that name around here."

"No, I don't belong around here," the boy said. "I come from out west —or I used to live there when I was littler. I've got an uncle out there now, if I could ever find him. He's a gold miner."

"A gold miner?" said Mr. Bobbsey, and then his wife came up to him, and whispered in his ear. Just what she said the twins could not hear, but, a moment later Mr. Bobbsey said:

"Bert, suppose you take Will down and show him the boat, since he is so interested."

"Oh, I'm going to!" cried Freddie. "I want to show him where I'm going to be a fireman."

"And I want to show him my room," said Flossie.

The strange boy looked at the little twins and smiled. He had a nice face, and was quite clean, though his clothes were ragged and poor.

"Come along down if you like," said Bert kindly. "There's a lot to see below the deck."

With a friendly nod of his head Will Watson followed the three children. Nan stayed on deck with her parents.

"It's a shame to make him walk all the way from Lemby here and back," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "It must be all of five miles each way."

"It is," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Quite a tramp for a little fellow."

"Can't you find some way to give him a ride back?" asked his wife. "Aren't any of your wagons going that way?"

"Perhaps," replied Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll find out, and I'll send him as near to Mr. Hardee's place as I can."

"Poor little fellow," said Mrs. Bobbsey, and she thought how hard it would be if her son Bert had to go to work for his living so young.

"He seems like a nice boy," spoke Mr. Bobbsey, "and from what I know of Mr. Hardee he isn't an easy man to work for. Well, have you seen enough of the boat, Nan? Do you think you'll like it?"

"Oh, I just love it," Nan answered. "I'm so anxious for the time to come when we can go sailing, or whatever you do in a boat like this. Mamma, may I bring some of my things from home to fix up my room?"

"I think so—yes. We shall have to talk about that later. I think it is time we started home now. Dinah will not want to wait supper for us."

"Well then, run along," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll get the others up from down below."

"And you won't forget about trying to give that boy a ride home?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"No, indeed," replied her husband. "I'm going right back to the office now, and I'll take him with me. I'll let him ride on the wagon that's going nearest to Lemby."

Mr. Bobbsey met Bert and the strange boy coming up.

"It sure is a dandy boat!" said Will Watson with a sigh of envy. "If ever I go away to sea, I hope I'll have as nice a room as yours," and he looked at Bert. "I just couldn't help coming on the boat when I saw her tied here," he went on. "I hope you didn't mind."

"Not a bit!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, wishing she had some of Dinah's cake or crullers with her to give to the boy, for the twins' mother thought he looked hungry.

The door, leading into the cabin of the houseboat was locked, and they all went on shore, over the gangplank, the board that extended from the dock to the boat.

"Good-bye, Bluebird!" called Flossie, waving her fat, chubby, little hand toward the houseboat. "We'll soon be back."

"And I'm going to bring my fire engine, when I come again," exclaimed Freddie. "If the boat gets on fire I can put it out."

"Boats can't get on fire in the water!" declared Flossie.

"They can so—can't they, papa?" appealed the little boy.

"Well, sometimes, perhaps. But we hope ours doesn't," replied Mr. Bobbsey with a smile. He led the way off the boat, and as Will was about to walk on along the lake shore, on his return to Lemby, Mrs. Bobbsey said:

"Wouldn't you like a ride back, little boy?"

"Indeed I would," he said. "My feet hurt, on account of my shoes being so full of holes, I guess. I'm pretty tired, but I had a little rest. I don't expect to get back much before dark."

"Well, perhaps you can ride nearly all the way," went on Mrs. Bobbsey. "My husband has some lumber wagons going in your direction."

"Yes, come along and we'll see what we can do for you," put in the twins' father, nodding at the strange boy.

Will went off with Mr. Bobbsey, while Nan, Bert, Flossie and Freddie walked with their mother.

"Oh, mamma, when do you think we can go in our boat?" asked Flossie.

"Well, as soon as school closes, my dear."

"And will we sail across the ocean?" Freddie wanted to know.

"Of course not!" cried Bert. "A houseboat isn't a ship."

"That boy knew about ships," said Nan. "I like him, don't you, mamma?"

"Yes, he seemed real nice. He hasn't a very easy life, I'm afraid, working on a farm. But we must hurry on to supper. We'll talk about the boat after papa comes home."



CHAPTER VI

FREDDIE'S FIRE ENGINE

"Papa, when can we go sailing in the houseboat?"

"May I take my fire engine along?"

"Where did you leave that boy?"

"Did he get a ride to Lemby?"

"Thus Bert, Freddie, Flossie and Nan questioned Mr. Bobbsey when he came home to supper after the visit to the Bluebird.

"My! My!" exclaimed the lumber merchant, as he stopped in the hall to hang up his hat. "What a lot of talk all at once! Let me see—whose question shall I answer first?"

"Did you manage to get that poor boy a ride?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

It was the first time she had had a chance to ask her question.

"Answer mamma first," said Bert politely. "The rest of us can wait."

Mr. Bobbsey gave his older son a pleased look, and then replied:

"Yes, I found that one of our lumber wagons was going within half a mile of the village of Lemby, so I let the boy ride with the driver. It will give him a good lift."

"Indeed it will," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I felt so sorry for him. I wish I could help him!"

"I hope the horses don't run away," spoke Freddie with such a serious air that they all laughed.

"I guess they won't run away, little fat fireman!" said Mr. Bobbsey, as he caught Freddie up in his arms. "They are good, steady horses, and they had a pretty heavy load to drag. So Will won't be in any danger. But I hope supper is ready. I'm hungry!"

"But you didn't answer my question," said Nan. "When are we going in the houseboat, father?"

"Oh, whenever school ends and your mother is ready," was the answer. "I should say in about two weeks."

"Good!" cried Bert. "And are we going to take Snap along?" he asked, as he caught sight of the trick dog outside, standing on his hind legs, while Sam Johnson held up a bone for him. Snap was "begging" for his supper, as he often did.

"Yes, I think we can find room for Snap on board," the lumber man said.

"What about our cat, Snoop?" asked Flossie. "I want to take Snoop along. Wouldn't you like to go in a boat, Snoop?" and Flossie picked the fat cat up in her arms. Snoop was quite an armful now. "Don't you want to go, Snoop?"

"Meow!" was all Snoop said, and that might have meant anything at all.

"Supper first," suggested Mr. Bobbsey, "and after that we'll talk about the boat."

The meal was a merry one, and there was much talk and laughter. As Dinah brought on one good thing to eat after another, Mrs. Bobbsey said:

"I hope every one has as nice a supper as we have."

"Were you thinking of any one in particular?" asked her husband.

"Yes, of that poor boy who came on the boat to-day," she answered. "I wonder if he has a good supper after his long walk this morning?"

"Well, they say Mr. Hardee doesn't feed his help any too well," spoke Mr. Bobbsey. "But now let's talk about our houseboat trip."

"Oh, what fun we'll have!" cried Freddie and Flossie, clapping their chubby hands.

"Did you plan a trip?" Mrs. Bobbsey wanted to know.

"Well, partly, yes. I thought we could go down Lake Metoka to Lemby Creek. We haven't been down that direction in some time."

"Lemby Creek!" exclaimed Bert. "Isn't that the name of the place where that boy came from?" "Well, Lemby is a town on Lemby Creek," spoke his father. "Will Watson works on Mr. Hardee's farm, and that is just outside the village. Lemby Creek is about ten miles long, and by going along that we can get into Lake Romano. That is a large body of water, and there is a waterfall at the farther end."

"A waterfall!" cried Freddie. "Oh, goodie! Can we go see it, papa?"

"I guess so," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We'll make this a long trip. It will take over a month, but of course we won't travel every day. Some days we'll just anchor the boat in a shady place, and—-"

"Fish!" interrupted Bert.

"Yes, fish, or go in swimming—anything to have a good time," Mr. Bobbsey said.

"Oh, won't we have fun!" cried Freddie again. "We'll take Snoop and Snap along, and they'll like it, too."

"I guess Snap will, because he's fond of the water," said Bert, with a laugh. "But Snoop doesn't care for it."

"Snoop can sleep on deck in the sun," said Nan. "She'll like that. I wish I could ask one of my girl friends to come along with us for the houseboat trip. We have so many nice rooms on the Bluebird it seems a pity not to use them."

"And I'd like one of my boy chums, too," spoke Bert. Flossie and Freddie were busy trying to make Snoop do one of the tricks the circus lady had taught her. But Snoop wanted to go out in the kitchen, and have Dinah give her some supper.

"Company, eh?" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, slowly. "Well, I don't know. We have plenty of room on the Bluebird. I wonder how it would do to ask Harry and Dorothy to come with us?" he inquired of his wife.

"Oh, Cousin Harry!" cried Bert. "That would be fine!"

"And Cousin Dorothy!" added Nan. "She and I could have lovely times together. Do ask her, mother!"

"We might ask the cousins," agreed Mrs. Bobbsey. "They haven't been to visit us in some time, and I think both Harry and Dorothy would enjoy the trip."

Harry and Dorothy, as I have told you, were cousins of the Bobbseys. Harry lived at Meadow Brook, in the country, and Dorothy at Ocean Cliff, near the sea.

"I'll write to-morrow," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "and find out if they can go with us. Now have we anything else to settle about our trip?"

"What about something to eat?" asked Freddie, in such a funny, anxious voice, that all the others laughed.

"My goodness, little fat fireman!" exclaimed his father. "Here you have just finished your supper, and you are already hungry again."

"Oh, I'm not hungry now," explained Freddie, "but I will be on the boat."

"Don't worry," said his mother. "Dinah is coming with us."

"Oh, then it will be all right," went on the little twin, with a contented sigh. "Come on, Flossie," he called to his small sister, "I know how we can have some fun. 'Scuse me," he murmured, as he and the other little twin slipped from their chairs.

Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, with Nan and Bert, remained at the table for some time longer, talking about the coming trip in the Bluebird. As Mr. Bobbsey had said, it would be about two weeks, yet, before they could start. There were two weeks more of school, but the classes would close earlier than usual that summer, because an addition was to be built to the school building, and the men wanted to get to work on it, to have it finished in time for school early in September.

"So we'll get an extra week or so of vacation," explained Bert. "And we'll spend it all on the houseboat."

"Well, perhaps not all of it," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I may not be able to stay with you all that while. But we'll spend a month or two on the Bluebird."

"What will we do the rest of vacation?" asked Bert.

"Oh, perhaps we'll go to the mountains, or some place like that," his mother said with a smile. "It isn't settled yet."

"Is it a high waterfall at Lake Romano?" asked Nan. "I just love them."

"Yes, it's a pretty high one," her father said. "I haven't been to Lake Romano in some years, but I remember it as a very beautiful place."

"I'm sure we shall enjoy it," Mrs. Bobbsey said.

"Is the fishing good?" Bert wanted to know.

"So I have heard. We'll take some poles and lines along, anyhow, and try our luck," his father replied.

Mr. Bobbsey pushed back his chair from the table, and looked around for the evening paper. Bert and Nan had some home work to do, to get ready their lessons for the next day's school classes, and Mrs. Bobbsey got out her sewing basket. There were always stockings to mend, if there was nothing else of the children's that needed attention.

The house was quiet except for the distant rattling of dishes in the kitchen, where fat Dinah was singing away as she worked. Suddenly her song ceased, and she was heard to exclaim:

"Now yo' want t' be careful, honey lamb! Doan't yo' go to muxin' up Dinah's clean kitchen flo'."

"No, we won't, Dinah!" replied Freddie's voice.

"If any gets spilled, I'll wipe it up," said Flossie.

"I wonder what those children are up to now?" remarked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she rolled up two stockings she had just darned.

"Oh, I guess they're all right," said Mr. Bobbsey easily, as he turned over a page of the evening paper.

The next moment there came a shout from Dinah in the kitchen.

"Stop it, Freddie. Stop it, I say!" cried the fat, colored cook. "Yo' suah am gittin' me all wet! Oh, there it goes ag'in! Stop it!"

"I—I can't!" cried Freddie. "Hold your hand over it, Flossie!"

"Oh, now it's squirting on me!" came in Flossie's tones. "Make it stop, Freddie."

"It—it won't stop!" was the frightened answer.

"Oh! Land ob massy!" shouted Dinah. "Sam! Sam! Mr. Bobbsey, come heah quick! It's squirtin' all ober!"

"Oh! Something has happened!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, starting toward the kitchen.

"Maybe a water pipe has burst," suggested Mr. Bobbsey, dropping his paper and making a jump toward the kitchen. As he did so, he heard Dinah cry again:

"Oh, yo' am all wet, honey lamb! Yo' is all soakin' wet! Oh, now it's comin' fo' me ag'in! Oh, stop it, Freddie! Stop it!"

"I—I can't!" was all Freddie said.

The next moment Mr. Bobbsey, followed by his wife, had reached the kitchen. There they saw a queer sight.

In the middle of the floor stood Flossie and Freddie, water dripping from their hands and faces. Dinah, too, was wet, and she was fairly flying around, with a plate in one hand and a dish towel in the other.

And, all about the kitchen was spurting a stream of water, while over by the stove stood Freddie's toy fire engine. It was this engine that was spraying the water all over the room.



CHAPTER VII

THE TWO COUSINS

"Oh, Freddie! What has happened?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey.

"It—it's the—-" began Freddie, but that was as far as he got, for just then the stream of water from his toy engine spurted right into his open mouth.

"Shut it off!" cried Mr. Bobbsey. "Here, I'll do it!"

He started across the kitchen floor.

"Look out, Massa Bobbsey!" yelled Dinah. "It'll cotch yo' shuah. It done cotched me!" and then as she saw the little rubber hose of Freddie's fire engine swing around, and the nozzle point at her, the fat cook ran into the dish-closet and shut the door.

"How did it happen?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, not so excited, now that she found nothing serious was the matter.

"Freddie—Freddie—he wanted to try how his fire engine worked, 'cause he hadn't played with it this week," explained Flossie. Freddie was busy wiping the water from his face. "So he filled the tank, and wound it up, and now—and now—it won't—it won't stop-squirtin'!" went on Flossie. "It—it—-"

And then she, too, had to stop talking, for the hose was spurting water at her now.

"I'll shut it off. Something must be the matter with the spring," said Mr. Bobbsey. He walked toward Freddie's fire engine, which was pretty large, for a toy. But before he reached it, the water hose had swung around, and, instead of sprinkling Flossie, was aimed at Mr. Bobbsey. However he did not mind. Holding the newspaper in front of his face, Freddie's father reached the fire engine, and turned off the machinery that pumped the water.

"There!" he cried. "The fire's out! The only damage is from water," and he laughed, for he was wet, and so were Mrs. Bobbsey, Flossie and Freddie; and the kitchen itself was pretty well sprinkled.

"What's it all about?" asked Bert, for he and Nan, who had been studying their lessons, had heard the noise of the excitement, and had run to the kitchen to see what had caused it.

"Oh, Freddie turned in a false alarm," said Mr. Bobbsey. "How did you come to put water in your engine, when mamma has told you not to do so in the house?" he asked the little boy.

"Be—be—cause," said Freddie slowly, "I wanted to see if it would— work. I'm going to take it on the houseboat with me."

"Well, I guess it WORKED all right," Bert said, as he looked around at the wet kitchen. Luckily there was oil cloth on the floor, and the walls were painted, so the water really did no harm.

Dinah slowly opened the door of the dish-closet, and peered out.

"Am it all done, honey lamb?" she asked, looking at Freddie.

"Yes, Dinah! It's all done squirtin'," he said. "I guess there isn't any more water, anyhow."

"No," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a smile, as he looked in the tank of the engine, "it's all pumped out."

Freddie's toy fire engine was a large and expensive one his uncle had given him on Christmas. It was made as nearly like a real engine as possible, only instead of working by steam, it worked by a spring. When a spring was wound up, it operated a small pump in the engine. The pump made water spurt out through a little rubber hose, and the water for the engine was poured into a tank. The tank held about two gallons, so you see when it was all pumped out in the kitchen, and spurted on those in the room, it made them pretty wet.

"It's clean water," said Nan, when every one had somewhat cooled down, "and it's so warm to-night, I wouldn't mind being sprayed with a hose myself."

"Still, Freddie shouldn't have done it," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I have told you not to play with your engine in the house, when it had water in it, Freddie. How did you come to disobey me?" she asked, for usually the little fellow was very good about minding.

"I—I didn't mean to, mamma," he said "First I just wanted to see if the engine tank leaked, so I put in some water. I didn't think it would hurt, out here on the kitchen oil cloth, and honestly I wasn't going to squirt it."

"No, I suppose not," said Mr. Bobbsey, wiping the water from his face, and glancing at his soaked newspaper.

"So I just filled the tank with water from the sink," explained Freddie.

"I—I helped him," confessed Flossie, ready to take her share of the blame.

"What happened next?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Why—er—I just wanted to see if the spring was all right, so I wound that up," Freddie went on. "Then I sort of forgot about the water in the tank, and before I knew it, why it—it went off—sudden like."

"Land ob massy! I should say it done did go off—suddint laik!" exclaimed Dinah. "Fust I knowed I was dryin' de dishes an' den I got a mouth full ob watah. I shuah did t'ink a watah pipe had done gone an' busted. I shuah did!"

"It—it just kept on squirtin'!" said Freddie. "I couldn't stop it like it always used to stop."

"No, the pump is out of order," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he looked at the now empty fire engine. "It wouldn't stop pumping. Well, I'm glad it wasn't a real fire, and glad that no one is hurt. Put your engine away now, Freddie, and, after this, don't play with water in the house, when mamma has told you not to."

"I won't," promised Freddie. "But it's a good engine, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes, it's a good engine, all right."

"And I can take it on the houseboat, can't I?"

"Yes, but you won't need to put any water in. There'll be enough in the creek and lakes," said Mrs. Bobbsey with a smile. "Come now, Flossie and Freddie, you are wet, so you might as well get undressed and go to bed. It is nearly time, anyhow, and you have had quite a day of it. Off to bed!"

Off to bed the twins went.

Dinah wiped up the kitchen, and, as she did so, she murmured over and over again: "It shuah did go off suddint laik! It shuah did!"

Flossie and Freddie, little the worse for their wetting, went off to school next day, with Nan and Bert. The two sets of twins talked of many things on their way to their classes, but, most of all, they talked of the coming trip on the houseboat, and of the accident to the fire engine the night before.

"I do hope Cousin Dorothy can come with us," said Nan, as she left Bert to walk along with Nellie Parks.

"And I hope Harry can go," said Bert. "Better hurry along, Freddie," he called to his little brother. "There goes your bell, and yours, too, Flossie."

The two little tots turned into the gate of the school that led to the yard where the smallest pupils formed in line.

"Well, even if Harry and Dorothy can't go, I'll take my fire engine," said Freddie.

"And we'll take Snoop and Snap, so we won't be lonesome," suggested Flossie. "Oh, won't it be fun, Freddie!"

"Yes, I wish it was time to go now. I'm tired of school," said the little fellow.

But school must go on, whether there are houseboat parties or not, so the Bobbsey twins had to study their lessons. I think that day, however, Bert must have been thinking of other things than his books, for when the teacher asked him what an island was, Bert gave a queer answer. Instead of saying it was a body of land, surrounded by water, Bert said:

"An island is a fire engine in the kitchen."

"Why, Bert Bobbsey! What ARE you thinking of?" asked the teacher.

"Oh, I—I was thinking of something that happened at our house last night," Bert went on, while all the children in the room laughed.

"Then you'd better tell us about it," suggested Miss Teeter, the instructor, for she was very kind. So Bert told of Freddie's mishap, and how it was he happened to be thinking of that instead of the right answer to the question about the island.

"I hear you have a houseboat, Bert," said John Blake, a boy in the same room, as the children came out of school that afternoon.

"Yes, my father bought the one Mr. Marvin owned," said Bert. "It's a fine one, too. We're going to have a trip in her soon."

"You're a lucky boy!" exclaimed John. "Can't you take me down and show me over the boat?"

"I'd like to," said Bert, "but father said I wasn't to go aboard, when he was not with me."

"Pooh! He'll never know," suggested Danny Rugg, a boy with whom Bert had had more or less trouble. "You needn't tell your father you went to the boat. Come on, take us down and let's see it."

"No," said Bert, quietly but firmly. "Maybe my father wouldn't know I had been on board, but I'd know it."

"Aw, you're a fraid-cat!" sneered Danny. "Come on, take us down, and we'll have some fun."

"No," said Bert with a shake of his head. "I'm sorry. Some other time, after I've asked my father if I may, I'll show you all over the Bluebird."

"I want to go now," Danny said.

"Oh, there's plenty of time," spoke John, pleasantly. "I wouldn't want Bert to do what his father told him not to, just to oblige me. I'll see the boat some other time, Bert; that will do just as well."

"Huh! He's a fraid-cat!" muttered Danny again, as he shuffled off, muttering to himself. Several times he had made trouble for the Bobbsey twins, and Bert was not any too friendly with him. Danny was a bully in the school.

Bert wished, very much indeed, that he could have taken some of his boy friends down to the houseboat, but his father had a good reason for not wanting any boys aboard, unless he could be with them. Workmen were making certain changes in the craft, and doing some painting inside and outside.

A few days after this, when the Bobbsey twins reached home from school, Mrs. Bobbsey met them at the door, saying:

"I have good news for you, children!"

"What is it?" cried Bert.

"Don't we have to go to school any more?" Freddie.

"Are we going on the houseboat sooner than we expected?" Nan wanted to know.

"It's about your two cousins—Harry and Dorothy," went on Mrs. Bobbsey. "They have both accepted our invitations, and they will come with us on the trip! Won't that be nice?"

"Lovely!" exclaimed Nan, her eyes shining with delight. "Dorothy and I'll have such nice times together!"

"And Harry and I'll catch a lot of fish," declared Bert.

The days went on. The houseboat was nearly ready for her trip. Very soon school would close.

"Come on, Bert, can't you show us over the boat now?" asked Danny Rugg one afternoon, on his way home from school, with Nan's brother, and some other boys.

"I can't to-day, but perhaps I can to-morrow," said Bert. "I'll ask my father."

"He'll never know about it," tempted Danny again, but Bert could not be influenced that way.

"Never mind, I'll fix you!" threatened Danny, which was what he usually said, when he could not have his own way.

Bert thought little of the threat at the time, though later he recalled it vividly.

It was that night, just as the smaller twins were getting ready for bed, that the telephone in the Bobbsey house rang out a call.

"I'll answer it," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he went to the instrument. "Hello!" he called. Then his wife and children heard him cry:

"What! Is that so! That's too bad! Yes, I'll attend to it right away. I wonder how it happened?"

"Oh, what has happened?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, in alarm.

"Is the lumber yard on fire again?" asked Freddie, thinking of his toy engine.

"Not as bad as that," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he quickly put on his hat. "But the watchman at the dock just telephoned me that our houseboat, the Bluebird, has gotten adrift, and is floating out into the lake."



CHAPTER VIII

OFF IN THE "BLUEBIRD"

For a few seconds after Mr. Bobbsey told of the news he had heard over the telephone, none of the twins seemed to know what to say. They just stared at their father, and I really believe, for a moment, that Flossie and Freddie thought he was playing a joke on them. Then Mrs. Bobbsey seemed to understand it.

"What!" she cried. "Our houseboat adrift?"

"That's what the watchman tells me," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he started for the front door.

"But who did it?" asked Bert, managing to get his tongue in working order.

"Can't you get her back again?" asked Nan. "Our boat, I mean."

"Let me come with you!" pleaded Freddie.

"And I want to come, too!" added Flossie. She seldom wanted to be left behind, when her twin brother went anywhere.

"No, no! You children must stay here," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I will hurry down to the lake, and come right back. I'll tell you all about it, when I return."

"But what could have happened?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "What would make our boat go adrift?"

"Oh, some of the ropes might have come loose," replied her husband. "Or the ropes might even have been cut through, rubbing against the dock. The wind is blowing a little, and that is sending the boat out into the lake. I'll get one of our steam tugs, and go after her. It will not take long nor be hard work to bring her back."

A number of small steam tugs were owned by Mr. Bobbsey for use in hauling lumber boats, and lumber rafts about Lake Metoka. Some of these tugs were always at the dock, and one always had steam up, ready for instant use.

"Well, I hope you get the Bluebird back all right," said Bert. "We don't want to miss our trip, especially after we have asked Harry and Dorothy."

"Oh, it would be too bad to disappoint them," put in Nan.

"Oh, I'll get the boat back all right," declared Mr. Bobbsey.

Flossie and Freddie breathed sighs of relief. They were not worried now, for they knew their father would do as he said.

Fat Dinah put her head in through the door of the sitting room.

"Am anyt'ing de mattah?" she asked. "I done heah yo' all talkin' in heah, an' I t'inks maybe dat honey lamb Freddie done got his steam enjine squirtin' watah ag'in."

"Not this time, Dinah," said Mrs. Bobbsey, for the cook was almost like one of the family. Then the twins' mother explained what the trouble was.

"I 'clar t' goodness!" Dinah exclaimed. "Suffin's always happenin' in dish yeah fambily."

It was not a very serious happening this time. Mr. Bobbsey hurried down to his lumber yard in the darkness of the June evening.

He was gone about an hour, when the telephone rang. On account of the little excitement Flossie and Freddie had been allowed to stay up, although it was long past their usual bedtime.

"I'll answer it," said Mrs. Bobbsey, as the telephoned bell stopped jingling, for Bert had started from his seat.

"Oh, it's papa," the twins' mother went on, after she had listened for a second after saying "Hello!"

"Is the boat all right?" asked Nan, anxiously.

"Yes," answered her mother, and then she turned to listen to the rest of Mr. Bobbsey's talk over the telephone.

"Papa went after the Bluebird, and brought her safely back," Mrs. Bobbsey explained, when she had hung up the receiver. "He'll be here in a few minutes to tell us all about it. He telephoned from the lumber office after he had our boat safe."

"Oh, I'm so glad the boat's all right," said Nan.

"Pooh, I knowed it would be—when papa went after it," said Freddie, with a sleepy yawn.

"You must say 'knew,' not 'knowed,' dear," spoke Mamma Bobbsey. "And now I think it is time for you and Flossie to go to bed."

Neither of the smaller twins offered any objection. They were too sleepy to want to stay up and listen to the story of the bringing back of the Bluebird.

Nan and Bert were anxious to hear it, and Mr. Bobbsey came in soon after Flossie and Freddie were tucked in bed. He told the story of the drifting houseboat.

"How did it break loose?" asked Bert.

"It didn't break loose," said his father. "Some one untied the knots in the ropes."

"Untied!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "How did it happen?"

"Why, some one went aboard the boat," explained Mr. Bobbsey, "and I think it must have been some boys, for I found this cap," and he held up a gray one.

"Why!" cried Bert when he saw it. "That's Danny Rugg's cap!"

"I thought so," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "Danny, and some of his chums, must have gone on the boat early this evening. They played about, as boys will, and some of them, either on purpose or accidentally, must have loosed the knots in the ropes before coming ashore. Then the boat just drifted away after that."

"Those boys had no right to go on our boat!" said Nan.

"No, they had not," agreed her father, "But I'm glad there was no real damage done. The watchman saw the Bluebird soon after she had drifted away from the dock, and he telephoned me. I went out in one of our tugs and soon brought her back. So you think this is Danny Rugg's cap, Bert?"

"I'm sure of it, yes, sir. Danny wanted me to take him, and some of the other boys, on the boat, but I wouldn't."

"I'm glad you remembered what I told you," spoke Mr. Bobbsey, and Bert blushed with pleasure.

"I'll give Danny his cap in the morning," Bert went on. "It may surprise him to know where he lost it."

"I don't believe you can surprise that Danny Rugg very much," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

The next morning, when Bert took Danny's cap to school with him, and handed it to the boy who had caused so much trouble, a queer look came over Danny's face.

"Thanks," he said. "I was wondering where I left that. I guess I must have dropped it, when I was—playing football over in the fields."

"No, you dropped it on our houseboat, the Bluebird, just before you and the other fellows untied the ropes that let her go adrift," said Bert. "And you'd better keep off her after this!"

"Huh! I'm not afraid of your father!" was all Danny growled, as he stuffed his cap in his pocket, for he had worn another to school.

When Danny's chums learned that it was known who had set the boat adrift, they were rather frightened. When they realized the damage they might have done, they kept away from Mr. Bobbsey's lumber yard for a long time.

One day, about a week after this, the Bobbsey twins hurried home from school without stopping to play with any of their friends.

"Why are you in such a hurry?" asked Grace Lavine of Nan.

"We expect our cousins to-day," Nan answered. "Then we are going to get ready to go away in our houseboat."

Surely enough, when the twins reached home, there the cousins were to greet them—Dorothy and Harry, one from the seashore, and the other from the country.

"Oh, but I'm SO glad to see you!" cried Nan, as she hugged and kissed Dorothy.

"And I'm SO glad to come," Dorothy answered with a smile. "It was lovely of you to invite me to go on your boat."

"We'll have a lot of fun," said Bert to Harry.

"That's what we will," replied the boy from the country.

"We're both awful glad to see you!" chimed in Flossie, speaking both for herself and for Freddie. "But we can't play with the fire engine."

"Not if we put water in," added Freddie.

"What in the world do they mean?" asked Dorothy, wonderingly.

"Oh, I'll have to tell you," laughed Nan, as she explained about the accident.

The cousins had much to tell the twins, and talk about, and the twins had as much more to tell, so, for a time, there was a merry sound of talk and laughter.

Dorothy and Harry had come by different trains, one from the seashore and the other from the country, but they had reached the Bobbsey house at the same time. Their schools had not yet closed, but as they were both well advanced in their studies, their parents had allowed them to leave their classes ahead of time, since they were both sure to "pass."

"Just think!" cried Nan, when there was a moment of quiet. "In three days more OUR school will close, and then we'll go on the trip."

"Won't it be lovely!" murmured Dorothy.

I leave you to imagine all that took place in those three days. Schooldays came to an end, and the Bobbsey twins were among those at the heads of their classes. Then came a packing-up time, and the Bobbsey house was a scene of great excitement. Trunks and boxes were taken aboard the Bluebird, a man was hired to run the gasoline engine. Plenty of good things to eat were stowed away in the kitchen lockers, as cupboards are called on a boat. At last all was ready for the start.

Snoop and Snap, of course, were on hand, as was Dinah. Mr. Bobbsey saw to it that his family, and the two cousins, were safely aboard, and then he gave the order to cast off the lines. The Bluebird floated away from the dock, and out into the lake that was almost as blue as her name.

"All aboard!" cried Bert.

"Toot! Toot!" whistled Freddie, pretending to be an engine.

"Oh, look out! You're stepping on my doll!" screamed Flossie, who had put her toy down on the deck a moment.

"Good-bye! Good-bye!" called Nan to Grace Lavine, and some others of her girl friends, who had come down to the dock to see them off. "Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!" echoed the girls, waving their hands.

"Come on!" called Bert to Harry, as he started for the lower cabin.

"What are you going to do?" asked the boy from the country.

"Let's get out our fishing poles. Maybe we can catch something for dinner."

"That's right!" agreed Harry.

Slowly the Bluebird moved out into the lake, for the gasoline engine was working. The houseboat trip of the Bobbsey twins had begun, and many things were to happen before it was to end.



CHAPTER IX

SNOOP AND SNAP

Nan and Dorothy, after waving good-bye to the girl friends on the dock, went down to the living room of the houseboat. There they found Mrs. Bobbsey and Dinah putting away some of the things that had been brought on board at the last moment.

"I 'clar t' goodness!" exclaimed the colored cook, "dish yeah houseboatin' am wuss dan movin'!"

"Oh, not quite as bad as that," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a laugh. "But what are you going to do, Nan, dear? Do you like it, Dorothy?"

"Oh! indeed I do," answered the "seashore cousin," as Nan called her to distinguish her from Harry, who lived in the country.

"We are just going to our rooms for a minute, mother," Nan answered. "I want to show Dorothy my new sailor suit."

Every body on the houseboat was busy, even down to Flossie and Freddie, and the two little twins were busy having fun.

Mrs. Bobbsey and Dinah were engaged in putting to rights the different rooms, for there were a number on the Bluebird, which was built for a large family. Bert and Harry were up on deck fishing, as the boat moved slowly through the blue waters of Metoka Lake. Flossie and Freddie, as I have said, were playing, the little girl with her doll, and Freddie with a new toy his father had bought him.

As for Mr. Bobbsey, he was down in the engine room with "Captain White." Mr. White was one of Mr. Bobbsey's men who had once been in charge of a tugboat, but one day there was an accident aboard, and Mr. White was made lame for life.

But Mr. Bobbsey liked his faithful employee, and kept him at work, and since Mr. White could not do heavy tasks, he was allowed to do easy ones.

Mr. White was called "Captain" by every one, though he was not really a captain. Still, he knew a great deal about boats, the weather clouds and storms, and all things such as sea captains are supposed to know.

When Mr. Bobbsey bought Mr. Marvin's houseboat, he at once began to think of some one who could sail it for him, and take care of the gasoline engine. Naturally, he thought of Captain White. So the Bluebird was put in charge of Captain White, who, you may be sure, was very glad to be on the water again, even if it was only in a slow- moving houseboat, and not in a swift steam tug.

Mr. Bobbsey and Captain White were down in the motor, or engine room together. Mr. Bobbsey was learning how to run the gasoline engine.

I have told you how the Bluebird was driven along through the water by a small engine. It was not a steam engine, such as are found in many boats, but a gasoline one, such as those in most automobiles.

Mr. Bobbsey did not intend to sail very fast in the houseboat. In fact, for many days, he expected to just drift along, or push the boat with a long pole through some shallow creek, or in parts of the lake where it was not deep. When he wanted to move more quickly from place to place, there was the gasoline engine all ready to use. And Captain White knew how to use it.

Mr. Bobbsey came up out of the little motor room after a while, and watched his wife and Dinah putting things away. The boat was moving down the lake.

"Oh, look at your face!" suddenly cried Mrs. Bobbsey.

"What's the matter with it?" asked her husband, putting his hand up to his nose, as almost any person will do when you speak of his face.

"It's all black!" went on Mrs. Bobbsey. "So are your hands. Oh, Richard! What have you been doing?"

"Learning to run the gasoline engine," he said. "I want to know how it works so that if we need to start any time when Captain White is on shore, or asleep, I can do it."

"I hope you won't start off any time when Captain White is on shore," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "You don't know enough about a boat to run it without him."

"Very well, then. I promise I'll run the gasoline engine only when Captain White is asleep," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a laugh. "And then, if anything happens, I'll only have to awaken him, and ask him what is wrong."

"That's the best plan," said Mrs. Bobbsey, also laughing. "And now you had better go wash your face. Some one might see you—looking like that."

There was a nice little bathroom aboard the Bluebird, and Mr. Bobbsey was soon splashing away with the water and soap. Meanwhile Mrs. Bobbsey and Dinah finished their work, and went up on deck.

It was a very pleasant day, and with the sun shining down from a blue sky overhead, just warm enough, and not too hot, with a gentle breeze that hardly ruffled the surface of the lake, but which made it delightfully cool as the boat moved slowly along. In short, it was just perfect weather, as the Bobbsey twins started off on their houseboat.

Nan and Dorothy, having finished looking at each other's dresses, which always seems to delight girls, had come up on deck so that now the whole Bobbsey family, and their country, and seashore cousin visitors also, were there.

"Have you caught any fish yet?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, walking over to where Bert and Harry were dangling their lines in the water.

"Not yet, but we've had two or three bites," said Bert, hopefully.

"I think you'll have better luck when we reach some quiet place, and anchor," Mr. Bobbsey went on. "At any rate, you need not worry, if you don't catch any fish. Dinah will be able to give us something else for dinner, I think."

"I think so, too," said Harry with a laugh. "I can smell something cooking now."

This was so. For, though the Bobbseys had started early that morning, there was so much to do that it was now nearly noon. To them it seemed only an hour or so since they had started. Dinah was a good cook. She kept one eye on the clock and the other on the things she was cooking. And she made up her mind that the meals would be on time, even if they were served on a houseboat. So it was the cooking of dinner that Harry smelled.

"Oh, Dorothy!" exclaimed Nan, after a little while, during which the two girls looked across the lake to the distant shores they had left. "I must show you a new trick Snap has learned."

"What! Another trick?" cried Dorothy. "My! He knows a lot of them now. He certainly is a clever dog!"

Snap, as I have told you, used to belong to a circus before the Bobbseys bought him, so perhaps learning tricks came easier to him than to most dogs.

"Yes, I taught him this trick myself," went on Nan. "He will walk around on his hind legs, and carry a doll in his front paws, just like a nurse girl. When I dress him up in one of my old skirts and a jacket, he is too funny for anything! I'll make him do the trick now, only I won't dress him up, for I can't find the clothes he wears. I don't believe we brought them. But I'll make him carry the doll for you. Here, Snap!" called Nan.

The dog, who had been sleeping in a sunny Spot on deck, near Snoop, the black cat, sprang up, when he heard his name called.

"Where are you going to get a doll for him to carry?" asked Dorothy.

"I'll take Flossie's. You'll let sister take your doll to make Snap do a trick, won't you, dear?" she asked.

"Yes, Nan," answered flaxen-haired Flossie. "I just love to see Snap do that trick! He carries the doll so cute!"

Flossie brought her doll to Nan, and Snap stood near, wagging his tail, for he seemed to know what was coming.

"Now, Snap," said Nan, pointing her finger at the dog, "I want you to show Dorothy how you play nurse-girl, and carry a doll."

"Bow wow!" barked Snap. That was what he always said when any one spoke to him. I suppose HE knew what he meant, but no one else did. At any rate, he seemed to understand what was said to him.

"Up, Snap! Up!" called Nan suddenly, and Snap rose on his hind legs, holding his fore paws out in front of him, so Nan could place the doll on them.

This the little girl did, putting Flossie's "sawdust baby" carefully across Snap's paws.

"Now take the doll for a walk!" ordered Nan, and, with another bark, off Snap started, parading across the deck.

"Oh, isn't he too cute!" cried Dorothy, laughing and clapping her hands. "Oh, what a smart dog he is!"

"Isn't he!" agreed Nan. "Bert said I never could teach him to do a trick, but I did."

"Indeed you did!" agreed Dorothy.

"Now come back here, Snap!" ordered Nan. But just then something happened.

How it was no one knew exactly, but Bert suddenly caught a fish. He was so surprised at getting a hard bite on his line, that he jerked it up quickly. Something flashed in the sunlight, and, the next moment, a little sunfish landed flapping on the deck, right in front of the sleeping black cat Snoop.

"Flop!" went the fish, and Snoop awakened with a jump. Up to her feet she leaped like a flash, and then she saw the fish. Snoop was very fond of fish, and made a spring for the one Bert had caught. But the fish was wet and slippery, and no sooner had Snoop pounced on it with her claws than the fish slid across the deck of the houseboat. Snoop slid after it, just as she often slid across the kitchen oilcloth, when she sprang for a piece of string that Flossie or Freddie would pull along to make the cat play.

Right across the deck, after the slippery fish slid Snoop, and, the next instant, the poor cat had slid right off the deck, and fallen into the lake with a splash!



CHAPTER X

DOWN THE CREEK

"There goes Snoop!"

"Oh, somebody get her!"

Nan and Dorothy both shouted at the same time. As for Bert, he was so surprised at having caught a fish, and at seeing the cat slide off the deck with it, that he could say nothing. It was almost the same with Harry. He had jumped to his feet, however, and had run toward Snoop, but too late.

Then, all of a sudden, Snap, with a loud bark, gave one spring, and the next moment he had jumped right over the deck railing, under which Snoop had slid. Right over it went Snap, and down into the lake. For he knew that Snoop had fallen in, and, being the kind of a dog that asks nothing better than to save something, or somebody, from the water, Snap was right on hand.

"Oh, my doll! My doll!" cried Flossie. "Snap is taking my doll into the lake with him! Come back, Snap! Come back!"

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