Chapter VIII. Off for the West
 

Monday morning was the day set for the start of the Bobbsey twins for the great West. They had said good-bye to their school friends the Friday before, and now, while the bells were ringing to call the other boys and girls to their classes, Bert, Nan, Flossie and Freddie stood on their front porch and watched their friends go past. "Oh, but you are lucky!" called Danny Rugg to Bert, as the Bobbseys waved their hands to him.

"I wish I could be you!" added Charley Mason, as he swung his strap of books over his head. "I'm going out West to be a cowboy when I grow up."

"I'll tell you all about it when I come back," promised Bert.

Nan's girl friends, as they went past on their way to school, blew kisses to her from their hands, and wished her all sorts of good luck.

Flossie and Freddie were too busy running around and playing hide-and- go-seek among the trunks to pay much attention to their little school friends who went past the house.

The trunks and valises had been stacked on the front porch, and in a little while Mr. Hickson was to come with his lumber wagon to take them to the station. Later the Bobbseys would go down in the automobile, one of the men from Mr. Bobbsey's office bringing it back. Sam Johnson, though he used to drive the Bobbsey horse when they had one, never could get used to an automobile, he said.

Snap, the jolly dog, seemed to know that something out of the ordinary was going on. He did not run about and play as he nearly always did, but stayed close to Bert and Nan. He seemed to know they were going away from him.

"You'll have to watch Snap," said Mrs. Bobbsey to Sam. "He may try to sneak after us and get on the train, as he did once before. Mr. Bobbsey had to get off at the next station and bring him back."

"Yassum, I'll watch Snap," promised Sam. "But he suah does want to go wif yo' all pow'ful bad!"

"I wish we could take Snap and Snoop!" said Bert.

"Oh, dear boy, we couldn't think of it!" exclaimed his mother. "We have a long way to travel to get to the West, and we couldn't look after a cat and a dog. They'll be much better off here at home."

"Snoop maybe will," argued Bert, "'cause he doesn't like to have rough fun the way Snap does. But I guess my dog would like to see an Indian and some cowboys!"

However, the older Bobbsey twins knew it was out of the question to take their pets with them, so they made the best of it, Bert petting Snap and talking kindly to him. Snoop had gone out to the barn where he knew he might catch a mouse.

In a little while Mr. Hickson drove up for the trunks which were loaded on the lumber wagon.

"You're going to have a fine day to start for the West," said the old man, who had entirely got over his hurt got in the railroad wreck. "A very fine day!"

The June sun was shining, there was just enough wind to stir the leaves of the trees, and, as Mr. Hickson said, it was indeed a fine day for going out West, or anywhere else. Very happy were the Bobbsey twins.

With rattles and bangs, the trunks were piled on the lumber wagon, such valises as were not to be carried by Mr. or Mrs. Bobbsey, or Bert or Nan, were put in among the trunks. Flossie and Freddie were each to carry a basket which contained some things their mother thought might be needed on the trip.

"All aboard!" called Mr. Hickson, as he took his seat and gathered up the reins.

"That's what the conductor on the train says!" laughed Freddie, as he and Flossie had to stop playing hide-and-go-seek among the trunks.

"Well, I'm making believe this lumber wagon is a train," went on the old man. "I wish it was a train, and that I was going out West to find my two boys, Charley and Bill." Then he drove off with his head bowed.

"When do we start?" asked Bert. It was about the tenth time he had asked that same question that morning.

"We're going to leave soon now," his mother told him. "Don't go away, any of you. Nan, you look after Flossie and Freddie. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Freddie were to get lost at the last minute."

Just then Freddie and his little sister were running around in the yard, playing tag, and neither of the smaller Bobbsey twins showed any signs of getting lost. But one never could tell what would happen to them--never!

Finally everything seemed to be in readiness for the start. The last words about looking after the house while the Bobbseys were in the West had been said to Sam and Dinah, and Mr. Bobbsey had telephoned his final message to his office to say that he was about to start. The automobile had been brought around, and Harry Truesdell, who was to drive it back from the station, was waiting.

"Come, children, we'll start now!" called Mother Bobbsey. "Get the satchels you are to carry, Nan and Bert. Where are Flossie and Freddie?" she asked. "I want them to take their baskets."

"They were here a minute ago," replied Nan, looking around the yard for her smaller brother and Flossie.

"But they're not here now!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "See if you can find them, Nan. Tell them we must leave now."

Nan set down the valise she had taken up and was about to go around to the back yard when some excited cries were heard. Dinah's voice sounded above the others.

"Heah, now, you stop dat, Freddie Bobbsey!" called the colored cook. "Whut are yo' doin'? Heah, Freddie, yo' let mah clothes line alone!"

There was a moment of silence, and then Dinah's voice went on.

"Oh, land o' massy! Oh, I 'clare to goodness, yo' suah has gone an' done it now! Oh, mah po' li'l honey lamb! Oh, Freddie, look what you has gone an' done!"

At this moment the crying voice of Flossie was heard. The little girl seemed to be in trouble.

"I didn't mean to! I didn't mean to!" shouted Freddie.

"Something has happened!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "I knew it would, just at the last minute!"

"It does seem so," said Mr. Bobbsey, coming out on the porch. "I'll go and see what it is!" he added, as he ran around the side path.

"I'll come, too," said Mrs. Bobbsey. And Nan and Bert thought they had better follow.

They could hear Flossie crying, while Dinah was saying:

"Oh, mah po' li'l honey lamb! Freddie Bobbsey, look whut you gone an' done!"

And Freddie kept saying:

"I didn't mean to! I didn't mean to! I didn't know it was going to come down!"

"I wonder what it was that came down," thought Mrs. Bobbsey, as she hurried after her husband, with Bert and Nan bringing up the rear and Snap barking as hard as he could bark.

When Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey got around to the back yard they saw at a glance what had happened. One of the clothes lines, on which Dinah had hung the sheets she had just washed, had come down. And two or three sheets had fallen right over Flossie.

Of course the little girl was not hurt, for the sheets were not heavy. But they were damp from the tub, and Flossie was all tangled up in them and in the line. In fact, Flossie could not be seen, for she was between the two sides of a sheet, and only that Dinah was there, trying to get her out, told Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey what had happened to their little girl. Oh, yes! I forgot! Flossie was crying, and that was a sign she was there, even though she could not be seen.

Freddie was standing near a clothes post with the kitchen bread knife in his hand.

"What happened, Dinah?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she helped the fat, colored cook get Flossie out from under the sheets. "What is it all about?"

"Oh, dat Freddie boy he done cut mah clothes line an' let mah clean wash down on da ground!" exclaimed Dinah. "I didn't minded dat so much!" she said, as she wiped away the tears from the face of the frightened Flossie. "I kin wash de sheets ober ag'in. But I'm so s'prised dat Freddie done scared his li'l sister, dat's whut I am. Freddie done scared honey lamb mos' to pieces!"

"I--I didn't mean to," repeated Freddie.

"But did you really cut down Dinah's wash line?" his mother asked him, when it had been found that Flossie was only frightened and not hurt.

"I--I cut off a little piece," said Freddie, showing a dangling end in his hand. "I didn't think it would fall down. I didn't mean to make it."

"But what made you cut any of it?" asked his father, tying the cut ends together while Dinah took up the sheets which had fallen to the ground and had some black spots on them. "Why did you cut the clothes line, Freddie?"

Mr. Bobbsey did not call his little boy "fireman" now. That was a pet name, and used only when Freddie had been good, and he had been a little bad now, though perhaps he did not mean to.

"I--I cut the line to get a piece of rope," said Freddie.

"What did you want a piece of rope for?" asked his father.

"I wanted to make a lasso to lasso Indians as Bert's going to do," Freddie answered. "I wanted a piece of clothes line for a lasso. But I didn't mean to make the clothes come down."

"No, I don't guess you did," said Dinah, as she came out of the laundry with the sheets which she had rinsed clean. "Ole Dinah done gwine to forgib her honey lamb 'cause he's gwine away far off from her. An' Dinah's other honey lamb didn't get hurted any. It was only two sheets an' Dinah's done washed 'em clean again. But don't you go lassoin' any Injuns, Freddie! Dey mightn't like it."

"No, I won't!" promised the little fellow.

"And don't cut any more clothes lines," added his father.

"No, sir, I won't!"

Freddie was ready to promise anything, now that he found nothing serious had happened. At first, after he had cut the rope and let the sheets down on Flossie's head as she was running through the yard, Freddie had been very much frightened.

"Well, I'm glad it was no worse," said Mrs. Bobbsey, as she straightened Flossie's hat, which had been knocked to one side. "Now we must hurry, or we'll be late for the train."

"Yes, come along!" called Mr. Bobbsey.

Freddie gave up the bread knife to Dinah, the last good-byes were said, and the children started for the automobile. Snap leaped around Bert, barking and whining.

"Better tie up the dog, Sam, or he'll follow us," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"Yes, sah. I'll do dat."

Poor Snap was led away whining. He did not want to be left behind, but it had to be.

"Good-bye!" called Bert to his pet. "Good-bye, Snap!"

Flossie took up her basket, and Freddie had his. Each one had something to carry. Into the automobile they hurried and soon they were on the way to the station to take the train for the West.

They did not have many minutes to wait. Harry Truesdell sat in the automobile, until Mr. Bobbsey and the family should be aboard the train before he went back to the garage.

The Bobbsey twins were standing on the station platform. Mr. Bobbsey was talking to a man he knew, and Mrs. Bobbsey was speaking to two friends. Bert and Nan were putting pennies in a weighing machine to see how heavy they had grown, and Freddie was looking at the pictures on the magazine covers at the news stand.

Suddenly Flossie, who had set her basket down on one of the outside seats, gave a cry,

"What's the matter?" asked her mother, turning quickly. "What is it, Flossie?"

"Oh, my basket! My basket!" cried the little girl. "There's something in it! Something alive! Look, it's wriggling!"

And, surely enough, the basket she had carried, was "wriggling." It was swaying from side to side on the station seat.