Chapter XXI. The Fat Lady's Letter
 

"Well," remarked Nan Bobbsey, a few days after it had become known that Danny Rugg was to blame for the fire in the boathouse, "I wish we could find out, as easily as we found out about Danny, who has our cat Snoop."

"So do I," added Flossie. "Poor Snoop! I do miss him so much."

"So do I!" exclaimed Freddie. "But Snap is a nice dog, and I guess I like dogs better than cats, anyhow."

"Why, Freddie Bobbsey!" cried Nan.

"Don't you love Snoop any more?"

"Oh, yes, 'course I do, but then he isn't here to be loved, and Snap is."

"Yes, I guess that does make a difference," admitted Nan. "I wonder if papa wouldn't let us go down to the railroad office and inquire once more about him? Maybe, as it's getting cold weather now, Snoop will come in from the fields where he may have been staying ever since the railroad wreck."

"Let's ask," cried Freddie, always ready for action.

It was Saturday, and there was no school. Bert had gone off coasting on his new bob, but Nan did not want to go, her mother having asked her to stay and help with the dusting. But now the little bit of housework was over, and Nan was free.

"We'll go down to papa's office," she said to Flossie and Freddie, "and ask him if we can go to the railroad. I know one of the ticket agents and he can tell us of whom to ask about our cat."

Mrs. Bobbsey had no objections, and soon, with F1ossie and Freddie at her side, Nan set off for her father's office in the lumber yard. The smaller twins were delighted.

"And maybe we can find our silver cup, too," suggested Freddie, as they trudged along in the snow, now and then stopping to make a white ball, which he threw at the fence or telegraph pole.

"The fat lady has our cup - I'm sure of that," said Flossie.

"Well, we can ask papa if he has heard from the circus people," suggested Nan.

Mr. Bobbsey was rather surprised to see his three children come into the office, but he was glad to meet them, for it made a break in his day's work. After a little thought he said they might go to the railroad office to inquire about Snoop. Nan and her brother and sister went in a trolley car, and were soon at the depot.

But to their disappointment there was no news of Snoop. The fat, black cat seemed to have completely disappeared.

"I've had the switchmen and trackmen keep a lookout for some time past," the agent told Nan, for Mr. Bobbsey did a large business in shipping lumber over the railroad, and many of the men were his friends. "One of the switchmen near where the wreck was, caught a lot of cats, that must have been living out in the fields all Summer," went on the agent, "but they were all sorts of colors. None was pure black, so I knew they could not be yours. I'm sorry."

"Yes, so are we," replied Nan. "Well, I guess Snoop is lost for good. He has been away a long time now."

On the way back to Mr. Bobbsey's office, the trolley car got off the track, on account of so much snow on the rails, and the children spent some time watching the men get it back, the electricity from the wire and rails making pretty flashes of blue fire.

"What luck?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, as the three came in his private office, their faces shining and red with the glow of winter.

"None," said Nan sadly. "Snoop is gone."

"Have you heard from the circus fat lady yet, papa?" asked Flossie.

"Yes, we want our cup back," added her brother.

"No word yet," answered Mr. Bobbsey. "That circus is traveling all over Cuba, and the letters I sent never seem to catch up to them. However, I am sending one on ahead now, to a city where they will soon give a show. The fat lady will find it there waiting for her, and she may answer then."

And with this the children had to be content. Getting back home, Flossie and Freddie took out their sleds and went for a coast on a small hill, not far from their home. This was where the smaller children had their fun, leaving the larger hill for the bigger girls and boys.

"Well, after this I think we all need something to cheer us up," said Papa Bobbsey, who came home from the office early that day.

"Oh, have you got something good?" asked Nan, for she saw a queer little twinkle in her father's eyes, and she knew that this generally meant a treat of some kind.

"I have some good news, if you would like to hear it," he said, as he drew a letter from his pocket.

"Is it to tell that some of our friends are coming to see us?" asked Bert.

"Well, yes, I think you will call it a visit from a friend - at least part of it," said Papa Bobbsey. "Now listen. This is a letter from the fat lady in the circus."

"What!" cried Flossie -the one who has our cup?"

"The same," said Mr. Bobbsey with a smile. And she has more than your cup. Listen," and he read the letter.

It was too long to put it all in here, but it went on to say how the fat lady really had the valuable silver cup belonging to the twins.

"They loaned it to me to drink from," she wrote, "and when the train stopped so suddenly, there was so much confusion that I put it in my valise by mistake. I have had it ever since and have been wondering how I could send it back to you. The circus went to Cuba soon after that, and has been traveling around that island ever since. I have only just received your last letter asking me about the cup, or I would have answered before. If you will send me directions how to ship the cup to you I shall be very glad to return it."

"Oh goodie!" cried Freddie. "We'll have our nice cup again!"

"Is that all in the letter, papa,?" asked Flossie.

"No, not quite," he said. "I'll read a little more," and be read:

"When our circus was wrecked we lost a valuable trick dog. He could play soldier, say his prayers, turn somersaults, and do a number of tricks. The ringmaster feels very badly about losing him, and has tried to locate him, but without success. If you should hear of anyone near you having such a dog we would be much obliged if you would send him to us as he belongs to the circus."

There was a moment of silence after Mr. Bobbsey read this, and then Freddie said:

"Why that must be Snap - our pet dog! Oh, papa you won't give him back to the circus; will you?"