Chapter VI. Frisky
 

Although they were tired from their journey, the children had no idea of resting on that beautiful afternoon, so promptly after dinner the baggage was opened, and vacation clothes were put on. Bert, of course, was ready first; and soon he and Harry were running down the road to meet the other boys and perfect their plans for the picnic.

Nan began her pleasures by exploring the flower gardens with Uncle Daniel.

"I pride myself on those zinnias," the uncle told Nan, "just see those yellows, and those pinks. Some are as big as dahlias, aren't they?"

"They are just beautiful, uncle," Nan replied, in real admiration. "I have always loved zinnias. And they last so long?"

"All summer. Then, what do you think of my sweet peas?"

So they went from one flower bed to another, and Nan thought she had never before seen so many pretty plants together.

Flossie and Freddie were out in the barnyard with Aunt Sarah.

"Oh, auntie, what queer little chickens!" Flossie exclaimed, pointing to a lot of pigeons that were eagerly eating corn with the chickens.

"Those are Harry's homer pigeons," the aunt explained. "Some day we must go off to the woods and let the birds fly home with a letter to Dinah and Martha."

"Oh, please do it now," Freddie urged, always in a hurry for things.

"We couldn't to-day, dear," Aunt Sarah told him. "Come, let me show you our new little calf."

"Let me ride her?" Freddie asked, as they reached the animal.

"Calfs aren't for riding, they're for milk," Flossie spoke up.

"Yes, this one drinks plenty of milk," Aunt Sarah said, while Frisky, the calf, rubbed her head kindly against Aunt Sarah's skirts.

"Then let me take her for a walk," Freddie pleaded, much in love with the pretty creature.

"And they don't walk either," Flossie persisted. "They mostly run."

"I could just hold the rope, couldn't I, Aunt Sarah?"

"If you keep away from the barnyard gate, and hold her very tight," was the consent given finally, much to Freddie's delight.

"Nice Frisky," he told the calf, petting her fondly. "Pretty calf, will you let Snoop play with you?" Frisky was sniffing suspiciously all the time, and Aunt Sarah had taken Flossie in the barn to see the chickens' nests.

"Come, Frisky, take a walk," suggested Freddie, and quite obediently the little cow walked along. But suddenly Frisky spied the open gate and the lovely green grass outside.

Without a moment's warning the calf threw her hind legs up in the air, then bolted straight for the gate, dragging Freddie along after her.

"Whoa, Frisky! whoa!" yelled Freddie, but the calf ran right along.

"Hold tight, Freddie!" called Flossie, as she and Aunt Sarah appeared on the scene.

"Whoa, whoa!" yelled the little boy constantly, but he might as well have called "Get app," for Frisky was going so fast now that poor little Freddie's hands were all but bleeding from the rough rope.

"Look out, Freddie! Let go!" called Aunt I Sarah as she saw Frisky heading for the apple tree.

The next minute Frisky made a dash around the tree, once, then again, winding the rope as she went, and throwing Freddie out with force against the side of the terrace.

"Oh," Freddie moaned feebly.

"Are you dead?" cried Flossie, running up with tears in her eyes.

"Oh," moaned the boy again, turning over with much trouble as Aunt Sarah lifted him.

"Oh," he murmured once more, "oh - catch - Frisky!"

"Never mind her," Aunt Sarah said, anxiously. "Are you hurt, dear!"

"No - not - a bit. But look! There goes Frisky! Catch her!"

"Your poor little hands!" Flossie almost cried, kissing the red blisters. "See, they're cut!"

"Firemen have to slide on ropes!" Freddie spoke up, recovering himself, "and I'm going to be a fireman. I was one that time, because I tried to save somebody and didn't care if I got hurted!"

"You are a brave little boy," Aunt Sarah assured him. "You just sit here with sister while I try to get that naughty Frisky before she spoils the garden."

By this time the calf was almost lost to them, as she plunged in and out of the pretty hedges. Fortunately Bert and Harry just turned in the gate.

"Runaway calf! Runaway calf!" called the boys. "Stop the runaway!" and instantly a half-dozen other boys appeared, and all started in pursuit.

But Frisky knew how to run, besides she had the advantage of a good start, and now she just dashed along as if the affair was the biggest joke of her life.

"The river! The river!" called the boys

"She'll jump in!" and indeed the pretty Meadow Brook, or river, that ran along some feet lower than the Bobbseys' house, on the other side of the highway, was now dangerously near the runaway calf.

There was a heavy thicket a few feet further up, and as the boys squeezed in and out of the bushes Frisky plunged into this piece of wood.

"Oh, she's gone now, sure!" called Harry "Listen!"

Sure enough there was a splash!

Frisky must be in the river!

It took some time to reach the spot where the fall might have sounded from, and the boys made their way heavy-hearted, for all loved the pretty little Frisky.

"There's footprints!" Bert discovered emerging from the thick bush.

"And they end here!" Harry finished, indicating the very brink of the river.

"She's gone!"

"But how could she drown so quickly?" Bert asked.

"Guess that's the channel," Tom Mason, one of the neighbors' boys, answered.

"Listen! Thought I heard something in the bushes!" Bert whispered.

But no welcome sound came to tell that poor Frisky was hiding in the brushwood. With heavy hearts the boys turned away. They didn't even feel like talking, somehow. They had counted on bringing the calf back in triumph.

When Flossie and Freddie saw them coming back without Frisky they just had to cry and no one could stop them.

"I tried to be a fireman!" blubbered Freddie. "I didn't care if the rope hurted my hands either!"

"If only I didn't go in to see the chickens nests," Flossie whimpered, "I could have helped Freddie!"

"Never you mind, little 'uns," Dinah told them. "Dinah go and fetch dat Frisky back to-morrer. See if she don't. You jest don't cry no more, but eat you supper and take a good sleep, 'cause we're goin' to have a picnic to-morrer you knows, doesn't youse?"

The others tried to comfort the little ones too, and Uncle Daniel said he knew where he could buy another calf just like Frisky, so after a little while Freddie felt better and even laughed when Martha made the white cat Fluffy and Snoop play ball in the big long kitchen.

"I'm goin' to pray Frisky will come back," Nan told her little brother when she kissed him good-night, "and maybe the dear Lord will find her for you."

"Oh, yes, Nannie, do ask Him," pleaded Freddie, "and tell Him - tell Him if He'll do it this time, I'll be so good I won't never need to bother Him any more."

Freddie meant very well, but it sounded strange, and made Aunt Sarah say, "The Lord bless the little darling!" Then night came and an eventful day closed in on our dear little Bobbseys.

"Seems as if something else ought to happen to-night," Bert remarked to Harry as they prepared to retire. "This was such a full day, wasn't it?"

"It's early yet," Harry answered, "and it's never late here until it's time to get early again."

"Sounds so strange to hear - those - those -"

"Crickets," Harry told him, "and tree toads and katydids. Oh, there's lots to listen to if you shouldn't feel sleepy."

The house was now all quiet, and even the boys had ceased whispering. Suddenly there was a noise in the driveway!

The next minute someone called out in the night!

"Hello there! All asleep! Wake up, somebody!"

Even Freddie did wake up and ran into his mother's room.

"Come down here, Mr. Bobbsey," the voice continued.

"Oh, is that you, Peter? I'll be down directly," called back Uncle Daniel, who very soon after appeared on the front porch.

"Well, I declare!" Uncle Daniel exclaimed, loud enough for all the listeners at the windows to hear. "So you've got her? Well, I'm very glad indeed. Especially on the boys' account."

"Yes," spoke out Peter Burns, "I went in the barn a while ago with the lantern, and there wasn't your calf asleep with mine as cozy as could be. I brought her over to-night for fear you might miss her and get to lookin', otherwise I wouldn't have disturbed you."

By this time the man from the barn was up and out too, and he took Frisky back to her own bed; but not until the little calf had been taken far out on the front lawn so that Freddie could see her from the window "to make sure."

"The Lord did bring her back," Freddie told his mamma as she kissed him good-night again and put him in his bed, happier this time than before. "And I promised to be awful good to pay Him for His trouble," the sleepy boy murmured.

Flossie had been asleep about two hours when she suddenly called to her mother.

"What is it, my dear?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Somebody is playing the piano," answered the little girl. "Who is it?"

"Nobody is playing. You must be dreaming," answered the mother, and smiled to herself.

"No, I am sure I heard the piano," insisted Flossie.

Mother and daughter listened, but could hear nothing.

"You were surely dreaming," said Mrs.Bobbsey. "Come, I will tuck you in again," and she did so.

But was Flossie dreaming? Let us wait and see.