Chapter VII. A Country Picnic
 

When morning came everyone was astir early, for not only was a happy day promised, but there was Frisky, the runaway, to be looked over. Mr. Richard Bobbsey, Freddie's father, left on an early train for Lakeport, and would not come back to Meadow Brook until Saturday afternoon.

"Let me go out and see Frisky," Freddie insisted, even before his breakfast had been served. "I want to be sure it's her."

"Yes, that's her," Freddie admitted, "'cause there's the rope that cut my hands when i was a real fireman!"

But Frisky didn't seem to care a bit about ropes or firemen, but just chewed and chewed like all cows do, as if there was nothing in this world to do but eat.

"Come on, sonny," called Dinah. "You can help me pick de radishes fo' breakfast," and presently our little boy, with the kind-hearted maid, was up in the garden looking for the best radishes of the early crop.

"See, Freddie," said Dinah. "De red ones show above de ground. And we must only pull de ones wid de big leaves, 'cause dey're ripe."

Freddie bent down so close to find the radishes that a disturbed toad hopped right up at his nose.

"Oh!" he cried, frightened. "Dinah, was that - a - a - a snake?"

"Snake, chile; lan' sakes alive! Dat was a poor little toady - more scare' den you was," and she pointed to the big dock leaf under which the hop-toad was now hiding.

"Let's pick beans," Freddie suggested, liking the garden work.

"Not beans fer breakfast," laughed Dinah.

"That stuff there, then," the boy persisted, pointing to the soft green leaves of early lettuce.

"Well, I dunno. Martha didn't say so, but it sure does look pretty. Yes, I guess we kin pick some fo, salad," and so Dinah showed Freddie how to cut the lettuce heads off and leave the stalks to grow again.

"Out early," laughed Uncle Daniel, seeing the youngest member of the family coming down the garden path with the small basket of vegetables.

"Is it?" Freddie asked, meaning early of course, in his queer way of saying things without words.

"See! see!" called Nan and Flossie, running down the cross path back of the cornfield.

"Such big ones!" Nan exclaimed, referring to the luscious red strawberries in the white dish she held.

"Look at mine," insisted Flossie. "Aren't they bigger?"

"Fine!" ejaculated Dinah.

"But my redishes are -are - redder," argued Freddie, who was not to be outdone by his sisters.

"Ours are sweeter," laughed Nan, trying to tease her little brother.

"Ours are - ours are - "

"Hotter," put in Dinah, which ended the argument.

Bert and Harry had also been out gathering for breakfast, and returned now with a basket of lovely fresh water-cress.

"We can't eat 'em all," Martha told the boys, "But they'll go good in the picnic lunch."

What a pretty breakfast table it was! Such berries, such lettuce, such water-cress, and the radishes!

"Too bad papa had to go so early," Bert remarked. "He just loves green stuff."

"So does Frisky," put in Freddie, and he wondered why everyone laughed.

After breakfast the lunch baskets were put up and while Bert and Harry, Nan and Aunt Sarah, went to invite the neighboring children, Flossie and Freddie were just busy jumping around the kitchen, where Dinah and Martha were making them laugh merrily with funny little stories.

Snoop and Fluffy had become good friends, and now lay close together on the kitchen hearth. Dinah said they were just like two babies, only not so much trouble.

"Put peaches in my basket, Dinah," Freddie ordered.

"And strawberries in mine," added Flossie.

"Now, you-uns jest wait!" Dinah told them; "and when you gets out in de woods if you hasn't 'nough to eat you kin jest climb a tree an' cut down - "

"Wood!" put in Freddie innocently, while Martha said that was about all that could be found in the woods in July.

The boys had come in from inviting the "other fellers," when Uncle Daniel proposed a feature for the picnic.

"How would you like to take two homer pigeons along?" he asked them. "You can send a note back to Martha to say what time you will be home."

"Jolly!" chorused the boys, all instantly making a run for the pigeon house.

"Wait!" Harry told the visitors. "We must be careful not to scare them." Then he went inside the wire cage with a handful of corn.

"See - de - coon; see - de - coon!" called the boys softly, imitating the queer sounds made by the doves cooing.

Harry tossed the corn inside the cage, and as the light and dark homers he wanted tasted the food Harry lowered the little door, and took the birds safely in his arms.

"Now, Bert, you can get the quills," he told his cousin. "Go into the chicken yard and look for two long goose feathers. Tom Mason, you can go in the kitchen and ask Dinah for a piece of tissue paper and a spool of silk thread."

Each boy started off to fulfill his commission, not knowing exactly what for until all came together in the barnyard again.

"Now, Bert," went on Harry, "write very carefully on the slip of paper the message for Martha. Have you a soft pencil?"

Bert found that he had one, and so following his cousin's dictation he wrote on one slip:

"Have dinner ready at five." And on the other he wrote: "John, come for us at four."

"Now," continued Harry, "roll the slips up fine enough to go in the goose quills."

This was done with much difficulty, as the quills were very narrow, but the task was finally finished.

"All ready now," concluded Harry, "to put the letters in the box," and very gently he tied with the silken thread one quill under the wing of each pigeon. Only one feather was used to tie the thread to, and the light quill, the thin paper, and the soft silk made a parcel so very small and light in weight that the pigeons were no way inconvenienced by the messages.

"Now we'll put them in this basket, and they're ready for the picnic," Harry announced to his much interested companions. Then all started for the house with Harry and the basket in the lead.

John, the stableman, was at the door now with the big hay wagon, which had been chosen as the best thing to take the jolly party in.

There was nice fresh hay in the bottom, and seats at the sides for the grown folks, while the little ones nestled in the sweet-smelling hay like live birds.

"It's like a kindergarten party," laughed Nan, as the "birds' nests" reminded her of one of the mother plays.

"No, 'tain't!" Freddie corrected, for he really was not fond of the kindergarten. "It's just like a picnic," he finished.

Besides the Bobbseys there were Tom Mason., Jack Hopkins, and August Stout, friends of Harry. Then, there were Mildred Manners and Mabel Herold, who went as Nan's guests; little Roy Mason was Freddie's company, and Bessie Dimple went with Flossie. The little pigeons kept cooing every now and then, but made no attempt to escape from Harry's basket.

It was a beautiful day, and the long ride through the country was indeed a merry one. Along the way people called out pleasantly from farmhouses, for everybody in Meadow Brook knew the Bobbseys.

"That's their cousins from the city," little boys and girls along the way would say.

"Haven't they pretty clothes!" the girls were sure to add.

"Let's stop for a drink at the spring," suggested August Stout, who was stout by name and nature, and always loved a good drink of water.

The children tumbled out of the wagon safely, and were soon waiting turns at the spring.

There was a round basin built of stones and quite deep. Into this the clear sprinkling water dropped from a little cave in the hill above. On top of the cave a large flat stone was placed. This kept the little waterfall clean and free trom the falling leaves.

"Oh, what a cute little pond!" Freddie exclaimed, for he had never seen a real spring before.

"That's a spring," Flossie informed him, although that was all she knew about it.

The big boys were not long dipping their faces in and getting a drink of the cool, clear water, but the girls had to take their hats off, roll up their sleeves, and go through a "regular performance," as Harry said, before they could make up their minds to dip into the water. Mabel brought up her supply with her hands, but when Nan tried it her hands leaked, and the result was her fresh white frock got wet. Flossie's curls tumbled in both sides, and when she had finished she looked as if she had taken a plunge at the seashore.

"Let me! Let me!" cried Freddie impatiently, and without further warning he thrust his yellow head in the spring clear up to his neck!

"Oh, Freddie!" yelled Nan, grabbing him by the heels and thus saving a more serious accident.

"Oh! oh! oh!" spluttered Freddie, nearly choked, "I'm drowned!" and the water really seemed to be running out of his eyes, noses and ears all at once.

"Oh, Freddie!" was all Mrs. Bobbsey could say, as a shower of clean handkerchiefs was sent from the hay wagon to dry the "drowned" boy.

"Just like the flour barrel!" laughed Bert, referring to the funny accident that befell Freddie the winter before, as told in my other book "The Bobbsey Twins."

"Only that was a dry bath and this a wet one," Nan remarked, as Freddie's curls were shook out in the sun.

"Did you get a drink?" asked August, whose invitation to drink had caused the mishap.

"Yep!" answered Freddie bravely, "and I was a real fireman too, that time, 'cause they always get soaked; don't they, Bert?"

Being assured they did, the party once more started off for the woods. It was getting to be all woods now, only a driveway breaking through the pines, maples, and chestnut trees that abounded in that section.

"Just turn in there, John!" Harry directed, as a particularly thick group of trees appeared. Here were chosen the picnic grounds and all the things taken from the wagon, and before John was out of sight on the return home the children had established their camp and were flying about the woods like little fairies.

"Let's build a furnace," Jack Hopkins suggested.

"Let's," said all the boys, who immediately set out carrying stones and piling them up to build the stove. There was plenty of wood about, and when the fire was built, the raw potatoes that Harry had secretly brought along were roasted, finer than any oven could cook them.

Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Sarah had spread the tablecloth on the grass, and were now busy opening the baskets and arranging the places. There were so many pretty little nooks to explore in the woods that Mrs. Bobbsey had to warn the children not to get too far away

"Are there giants?" Freddie asked.

"No, but there are very dark lonely places the woods and little boys might find snakes."

"And bears!" put in Freddie, to which remark his mother said, "perhaps," because there really might be bears in a woods so close to the mountains.