Chapter V. Meadow Brook
 

"Oh, how cool the trees are out here!" Flossie exclaimed, as the wagon rumbled along so close to the low trees that Bert could reach out and pick horse-chestnut blossoms.

"My, how sweet it is!" said Dinah, as she sniffed audibly, enjoying the freshness of the country.

Freddie was on the seat with Uncle Dan and had Snoop's box safe in his arms. He wanted to let the cat see along the road, but everybody protested.

"No more Snoop in this trip," laughed Mr. Bobbsey. "He has had all the fun he needs for to-day." So Freddie had to be content.

"Oh, do let me get out?" pleaded Nan presently. "See that field of orange lilies."

"Not now, dear," Aunt Sarah told her. "Dinner is spoiling for us, and we can often walk down here to get flowers."

"Oh, the cute little calf! Look!" Bert exclaimed from his seat next to Harry, who had been telling his cousin of all the plans he had made for a jolly vacation.

"Look at the billy-goat!" called Freddie.

"See, see, that big black chicken flying!" Flossie cried out excitedly.

"That's a hawk!" laughed Bert; "maybe it's a chicken hawk."

"A children hawk!" Flossie exclaimed, missing the word. Then everybody laughed, and Flossie said maybe there were children hawks for bad girls and boys, anyway.

Aunt Sarah and Mrs. Bobbsey were chatting away like two schoolgirls, while Dinah and the children saw something new and interesting at every few paces old Billy, the horse, took.

"Hello there, neighbor," called a voice from the field at the side of the road. "My horse has fallen in the ditch, and I'll have to trouble you to help me."

"Certainly, certainly, Peter," answered Uncle Daniel, promptly jumping down, with Mr. Bobbsey, Bert, and Harry following. Aunt Sarah leaned over the seat and took the reins, but when she saw in what ditch the other horse had fallen she pulled Billy into the gutter.

"Poor Peter!" she exclaimed. "That's the second horse that fell in that ditch this week. And it's an awful job to get them out. I'll just wait to see if they need our Billy, and if not, we can drive on home, for Martha will be most crazy waiting with dinner."

Uncle Daniel, Mr. Bobbsey, and the boys hurried to where Peter Burns stood at the brink of one of those ditches that look like mud and turn out to be water.

"And that horse is a boarder too,!" Peter told them. "Last night we said he looked awful sad, but we didn't think he would commit suicide."

"Got plenty of blankets?" Uncle Daniel asked, pulling his coat off and preparing to help his neighbor, as all good people do in the country.

"Four of them, and these planks. But I couldn't get a man around. Lucky you happened by," Peter Burns answered.

All this time the horse in the ditch moaned as if in pain, but Peter said it was only because he couldn't get on his feet. Harry, being light in weight, slipped a halter over the poor beast's head.

"I could get a strap around him!" Harry suggested, moving out cautiously on the plank.

"All right, my lad, go ahead," Peter told him, passing the big strap over to Bert, who in turn passed it on to Harry.

It was no easy matter to get the strap in place, but with much tugging and splashing of mud Harry succeeded. Then the ropes were attached and everybody pulled vigorously.

"Get up, Ginger! Get up, Ginger!" Peter called lustily, but Ginger only seemed to flop in deeper, through his efforts to raise himself.

"Guess we'll have to get Billy to pull," Uncle Daniel suggested, and Mr. Bobbsey hurried back to the road to unhitch the other horse.

"Don't let Billy fall in!" exclaimed Nan, who was much excited over the accident.

"Can't I go, papa?" Freddie pleaded. "I'll stay away from the edge!"

"You better stay in the wagon; the horse might cut up when he gets out," the father warned Freddie, who reluctantly gave in.

Soon Billy was hitched to the ropes, and with a few kind words from Uncle Daniel the big white horse strained forward, pulling Ginger to his feet as he did so.

"Hurrah!" shouted Freddie from the wagon. "Billy is a circus horse, isn't he, Uncle Dan?"

"He's a good boy," the uncle called back patting Billy affectionately, while Mr. Bobbsey and the boys loosened the straps. The other horse lay on the blankets, and Peter rubbed him with all his might, to save a chill as he told the boys.

Then, after receiving many thanks for the help given, the Bobbseys once more started off toward the farm.

"Hot work," Uncle Daniel remarked to the ladies, as he mopped his forehead.

"I'm so glad you could help Peter," Aunt Sarah told him, "for he does seem to have so much trouble."

"All kinds of things happen in the country," Harry remarked, as Billy headed off for home.

At each house along the way boys would call out to Harry, asking him about going fishing! or berrying, or some other sport, so that Bert felt a good time was in store for him, as the boys were about his own age and seemed so agreeable.

"Nice fellows," Harry remarked by way of introducing Bert.

"They seem so," Bert replied, cordially.

"We've made up a lot of sports," Harry went on, "and we were only waiting for you to come to start out. We've planned a picnic for to-morrow."

"Here we are," called Uncle Daniel as Biily turned into the pretty driveway in front of the Bobbseys' country home. On each side of the drive grew straight lines of boxwood, and back of this hedge were beautiful flowers, shining out grandly now in the July sun.

"Hello, Martha!" called the visitors, as the faithful old servant appeared on the broad white veranda. She was not black like Dinah, but looked as if she was just as merry and full of fun as anyone could be.

"Got here at last!" she exclaimed, taking Dinah's lunch basket.

"Glad to see you, Martha," Dinah told her. "You see, I had to come along. And Snoop too, our kitty. We fetched him."

"The more the merrier," replied the other, "and there's lots of room for all."

"Starved to death!" Harry laughed, as the odor of a fine dinner reached him.

"We'll wash up a bit and join you in a few minutes, ladies," Uncle Daniel said, in his polite way. The horse accident had given plenty of need for a washing up.

"Got Snoop dis time," Freddie lisped, knocking the cover off the box and petting the frightened little black cat. "Hungry, Snoopy?" he asked, pressing his baby cheek to the soft fur.

"Bring the poor kitty out to the kitchen," Martha told him. "I'll get him a nice saucer of fresh milk." And so it happened, as usual, Snoop had his meal first, just as he had had on the Pullman car. Soon after this Martha went outside and rang a big dinner bell that all the men and boys could hear. And then the first vacation dinner was served in the long old- fashioned dining room.