Chapter VIII. Bert Sees Something
 

Lessons were not very well learned that first day in school, but this is generally the case when the Fall term opens after the Summer vacation.

Just as were the Bobbsey twins, nearly all the other pupils were thinking of what good times they had had in the country, or at the seashore, and in consequence little attention was paid to reading, spelling, arithmetic and geography.

But Principal Tetlow and his teachers were prepared for this, and they were sure that, in another day or so, the boys and girls would settle down and do good owrk [sic]. Many of the children were in new rooms and different classes, and this did not make them feel so much "at home" as before vacation.

Nan Bobbsey's first duty, after reporting to her new teacher, was to go to the kindergarten room, and ask the teacher there if Flossie and Freddie might sit together.

"You see," Nan explained, "this is really their first real school work. They attended a few times before, but did not stay long."

"I see," spoke the pretty kindergarten instructor with a laugh, "and we must make it as pleasant for them this time as we can, so they will want to stay. Yes, my dear, Flossie and Freddie may sit together, and I'll look after them as much as I can. But, oh, there are such a lot of little tots!" and she looked about the room that seemed overflowing with small boys and girls.

Some were playing and talking, telling of their summer experiences. Others seemed frightened, and stood against the wall bashfully, little girls holding to the hands of their little brothers.

Nan looked for Freddie and Flossie. She saw her little sister trying to comfort a small girl who was almost ready to cry, while Freddie, like the manly little fellow he was, had taken charge of a small chap in whose eyes were two large tears, just ready to fall. It was his first day at school.

"Oh, I am sure your little twin brother and sister will get along all right," said the kindergarten teacher, with a smile to Nan, as she saw what Flossie and Freddie were doing. "They are too cute for anything - the little dears!"

"And they are very good," said Nan, "only of course they do - things - sometimes."

"They wouldn't be real children if they didn't," answered the teacher.

This was during a recess that had come after the classes were first formed. On her way back to her room, to see if she could arrange to sit with Grace and Nellie at one of the new big desks, Nan saw her brother Bert. He looked a little worried, and Nan asked at once:

"What is the matter, Bert? Haven't you got a nice teacher?"

"Oh, yes, she's fine!" exclaimed Bert "There's nothing the matter at all."

"Yes there is," insisted Nan. "I can tell by your face. It's that Danny Rugg; I'm sure. Oh, Bert, is he bothering you again?"

"Well, he said he was going to."

"Then why don't you go straight and tell Mr. Tetlow? He'll make Danny behave. I'll go tell him myself!"

"Don't you are [sic], Nan!" cried Bert. "All the fellows would call me 'sissy,' if I let you do that. Never mind, I can look out for my self. I'm not afraid of Danny."

"Oh, Bert, I hope you don't get into fight."

"I won't, Nan - if I can help it. At least I won't hit first, but if he hits me - "

Bert looked as though he knew what he would do in that case.

"Oh dear!" cried Nan, "aren't you boys just awful!"

However, she made up her mind that if Danny got too bad she would speak to the principal about him, whether her brother wanted her to or not.

"He won't know it," thought Nan.

She had no trouble in getting permission from her teacher for herself and her two friends to sit together, and soon they had moved their books and other things to one of the long desks that had room for three pupils.

Meanwhile Flossie and Freddie got along very well in the kindergarten. At first, just as the others did, they gave very little attention to what the teacher wanted them to learn, but she was very patient, and soon all the class was gathered about the sand table, in the little low chairs, making fairy cities, caves, and even makebelieve seashore places.

"This is like the one where we were this Summer," said Flossie, as she made a hole in her sand pile to take the place of the ocean." If I had water and a piece of wood I could show you where there was a shipwreck," she said to the girl next to her.

"That isn't the way it was," spoke Freddie, from the other side of the room." There was more sand at the seashore than on this whole table - yes, on ten tables like this."

"There was not!" cried Flossie.

"There was too!" insisted her brother.

"Children - children!" called the teacher. "You must not argue like that - ever - in school, or out of it. Now we will sing our worksong, and after that we will march with the flags," and she went to the piano to play. All the little ones liked this, and the dispute of Flossie and Freddie was soon forgotten.

Bert kept thinking of what might happen between himself and Danny Rugg when school was out, and when his teacher asked him what the Pilgrim Fathers did when they first came to settle in New England Bert looked up in surprise, and said:

"They fought."

"Fought!" exclaimed the teacher. "The book says they gave thanks."

"Well, I meant they fought the - er - the Indians." stammered Bert.

Poor Bert was thinking of what might take place between himself and the bully.

"Well, yes, they did fight the Indians," admitted the teacher, "but that wasn't what I was thinking of. I will ask you another question in history."

But I am not going to tire you with an account of what went on in the classrooms. There were mostly lessons there, such as you have yourselves, and I know you don't care to read about them.

Bert did not see Danny Rugg at the noon recess, when the Bobbsey twins and the other children went home for lunch. But when school was let out in the afternoon, and when Bert was talking to Charley Mason about a new way of making a kite, Danny Rugg, accompanied by several of his chums, walked up to Bert. It was in a field some distance from the school, and no houses were near.

"Now I've got you, Bert Bobbsey!" taunted Danny, as he advanced with doubledup fists. "What did you want to squirt the hose on me that time for?"

"I told you it was an accident," said Bert quietly.

"And I say you did it on purpose. I said I'd get even with you, and now I'm going to."

"I don't want to fight, Danny," said Bert quietly.

"Huh! he's afraid!" sneered Jack Westly, one of Danny's friends.

"Yes, he's a coward!" taunted Danny.

"I'm not!" cried Bert stoutly.

"Then take that!" exclaimed Danny, and he gave Bert a push that nearly knocked him down. Bert put out a hand to save himself and struck Danny, not really meaning to.

"There! He hit you back!" cried one boy.

"Yes, go on in, now, Dan, and beat him!" said another.

"Oh, I'll fix him now," boasted Danny, circling around Bert. Bert was carefully watching. He did not mean to let Danny get the best of him if he could help it, much as he did not like to fight.

Danny struck Bert on the chest, and Bert hit the bully on the cheek. Then Danny jumped forward swiftly and tried to give Bert a blow on the head. But Bert stepped to one side, and Danny slipped down to the ground.

As he did so a white box fell from his pocket. Bert knew what kind of a box it was, and what was in it, and he knew now, what had stained Danny's fingers so yellow, and what made his clothes have such a queer smell. For the box had in it cigarettes.

Danny saw where it had fallen, and picked it up quickly. Then he came running at Bert again, but a boy called:

"Look out! Here comes Mr. Tetlow, the principal!"

This was a signal for all the boys, even Bert, to run, for, though school was out, they still did not want to be caught at a fight by one of the teachers, or Mr. Tetlow.

"Anyhow, you knocked him down, Bert," said Charley Mason, as he ran on with Bert. "You beat!"

"He did not - I slipped," said Danny. "I can fight him, and I will, too, some day."

"I'm not afraid of you," answered Bert.

Mr. Tetlow did not appear to have seen the fight that amounted to so little. Perhaps he pretended not to.