Chapter I. The Invitation
 

"There goes the bell! It's the letter carrier! Let me answer!" Freddie exclaimed.

"Oh, let me! It's my turn this week!" cried Flossie.

"But I see a blue envelope. That's from Aunt Sarah!" the brother cried.

Meanwhile both children, Freddie and Flossie, were making all possible efforts to reach the front door, which Freddie finally did by jumping over the little divan that stood in the way, it being sweeping day.

"I beat you," laughed the boy, while his sister stood back, acknowledging defeat.

"Well, Dinah had everything in the way and anyhow, maybe it was your turn. Mother is in the sewing room, I guess!" Flossie concluded, and so the two started in search of the mother, with the welcome letter from Aunt Sarah tight in Freddie's chubby fist.

Freddie and Flossie were the younger of the two pairs of twins that belonged to the Bobbsey family. The little ones were four years old, both with light curls framing pretty dimpled faces, and both being just fat enough to be good-natured. The other twins, Nan and Bert, were eight years old, dark and handsome, and as like as "two peas" the neighbors used to say. Some people thought it strange there should be two pairs of twins in one house, but Nan said it was just like four-leaf clovers, that always grow in little patches by themselves.

This morning the letter from Aunt Sarah, always a welcome happening, was especially joyous.

"Do read it out loud," pleaded Flossie, when the blue envelope had been opened in the sewing room by Mrs. Bobbsey.

"When can we go?" broke in Freddie, at a single hint that the missive contained an invitation to visit Meadow Brook, the home of Aunt Sarah in the country.

"Now be patient, children," the mother told them. "I'll read the invitation in just a minute," and she kept her eyes fastened on the blue paper in a way that even to Freddie and Flossie meant something very interesting.

"Aunt Sarah wants to know first how we all are."

"Oh, we're all well," Freddie interrupted, showing some impatience.

"Do listen, Freddie, or we won't hear," Flossie begged him, tugging at his elbow.

"Then she says," continued the mother, "that this is a beautiful summer at Meadow Brook."

"Course it is. We know that!" broke in Freddie again.

"Freddie!" pleaded Flossie.

"And she asks how we would like to visit them this summer."

"Fine, like it - lovely!" the little boy almost shouted, losing track of words in his delight.

"Tell her we'll come, mamma," went on Freddie. "Do send a letter quick won't you, mamma ?"

"Freddie Bobbsey!" spoke up Flossie, in a little girl's way of showing indignation. "If you would only keep quiet we could hear about going, but - you always stop mamma. Please, mamma, read the rest," and the golden head was pressed against the mother's shoulder from the arm of the big rocking chair.

"Well, I was only just saying - " pouted Freddie.

"Now listen, dear." The mother went on once more reading from the letter: "Aunt Sarah says Cousin Harry can hardly wait until vacation time to see Bert, and she also says, 'For myself I cannot wait to see the babies. I want to hear Freddie laugh, and I want to hear Flossie "say her piece," as she did last Christmas, then I just want to hug them both to death, and so does their Uncle Daniel.' "

"Good! - goody!" broke in the irrepressible Freddie again. "I'll just hug Aunt Sarah this way," and he fell on his mother's neck and squeezed until she cried for him to stop.

"I guess she'll like that," Freddie wound up, in real satisfaction at his hugging ability.

"Not if you spoil her hair," Flossie insisted, while the overcome mother tried to adjust herself generally.

"Is that all?" Flossie asked.

"No, there is a message for Bert and Nan too, but I must keep that for lunch time. Nobody likes stale news," the mother replied.

"But can't we hear it when Bert and Nan come from school?" coaxed Flossie.

"Of course," the mother assured her. "But you must run out in the air now. We have taken such a long time to read the letter."

"Oh, aren't you glad!" exclaimed Flossie to her brother, as they ran along the stone wall that edged the pretty terrace in front of their home.

"Glad! I'm just - so glad - so glad - I could almost fly up in the air!" the boy managed to say in chunks, for he had never had much experience with words, a very few answering for all his needs.

The morning passed quickly to the little ones, for they had so much to think about now, and when the school children appeared around the corner Flossie and Freddie hurried to meet Nan and Bert, to tell them the news.

"We're going! we're going!" was about all Freddie could say.

"0h, the letter came - from Aunt Sarah!" was Flossie's way of telling the news. But it was at the lunch table that Mrs. Bobbsey finished the letter.

"'Tell Nan,'" she read, "'that Aunt Sarah has a lot of new patches and tidies to show her, and tell her I have found a new kind of jumble chocolate that I am going to teach her to make.' There, daughter, you see," commented Mrs. Bobbsey, "Aunt Sarah has not forgotten what a good little baker you are."

"Chocolate jumble," remarked Bert, and smacked his lips. "Say, Nan, be sure to learn that. It sounds good," the brother declared.

Just then Dinah, the maid, brought in the chocolate, and the children tried to tell her about going to the country, but so many were talking at once that the good-natured colored girl interrupted the confusion with a hearty laugh.

"Ha! ha! ha! And all you-uns be goin' to de country!"

"Yes, Dinah," Mrs. Bobbsey told her, "and just listen to what Aunt Sarah says about you," and once more the blue letter came out, while Mrs. Bobbsey read:

" 'And be sure to bring dear old Dinah! We have plenty of room, and she will so enjoy seeing the farming.'"

"Farming! Ha! ha! Dat I do like. Used to farm all time home in Virginie!" the maid declared. "And I likes it fuss-rate! Yes, Dinah'll go and hoe de corn and" (aside to Bert) "steal de watermelons!"

The prospects were indeed bright for a happy time in the country, and the Bobbseys never disappointed themselves when fun was within their reach.