Chapter IX. Dinner for Two
 

Freddie Bobbsey, called away from looking at the magazine pictures on the news stand, came running over when he heard Flossie shout.

"What's the matter?" asked the little boy. "Did something else fall on you, Flossie, like the sheets flopping over your head?"

"No, nothing falled on me!" exclaimed Flossie. "But look! Look at my basket! It's wriggling!"

"There's something in it!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, while her husband quickly hurried away from the man to whom he was talking, and prepared to see what the matter was. "There's something in your basket, Flossie! Did you put anything in?"

"No, Mother!" answered the little girl. "I Just put in the things you gave me. And just before I came away I took off the cover to put in some cookies Dinah handed me."

"I think I can guess what happened," said Mr. Bobbsey. "While the cover was off the basket something jumped in, Flossie."

"Oh, I see what it is! A little black squirrel!" cried Nan.

"Squirrels aren't black!" Bert said. There were some squirrels in the trees near the Bobbsey house, but all Bert had ever seen were gray or reddish brown.

"It's something furry, anyhow," Nan went on. "I can see it through the cracks in the basket."

And just then, to the surprise of every one looking on, including the Bobbsey twins, of course, the cover of the basket was raised by whatever was wriggling inside, and something larger than a squirrel, but black and furry, looked out.

"Gee!" exclaimed Bert.

"Oh, it's Snoop!" cried Nan.

"It's our cat!" added Freddie.

"In my basket!" exclaimed Flossie. "How did you get there, Snoop?" she asked, as Bert took the cat up in his arms, while the other passengers at the station laughed.

"Perhaps Snoop felt lonesome when he knew you were going to leave him," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "And when you took off the cover of your basket, Flossie, to put in the cookies Dinah gave you, Snoop must have seen his chance and crawled in."

"He kept still all the way in the auto, so we wouldn't know he was there," added Nan.

"Maybe he thought we'd take him with us," said Bert. "Did you, Snoop?" he asked. But the big black cat, who must have found it rather hard work to curl up in the basket, snuggled close to Bert, who was always kind to animals.

Just then the whistle of the train was heard down the track.

"Dear me! what shall we do?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "We can't possibly take Snoop with us, and we can't leave him here at the depot."

"Harry will take Snoop back home in the auto," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"Yes, give him to me--I'll be careful of him," promised the young man from the lumberyard office, and Bert carried his pet over to the waiting automobile.

Snoop mewed a little as Bert put the big, black cat into Harry's arms.

"Good-bye, Snoop!" Bert said, patting his pet on the head.

"Come, Bert, hurry!" called his father.

Then, as the train pulled into the station, Bert ran back and caught up his valise. The other Bobbsey twins took up their things, Flossie put back on her basket the cover the cat had knocked off in getting out, and soon they were all on the train.

"All aboard!" called the conductor, and, as the engine whistled and the cars began to move, Bert and Nan looked from the windows of their seats and had a last glimpse of Snoop being held in Harry's arms, as he sat in the automobile.

Flossie and Freddie forgot all about their cat, dog, and nearly everything in Lakeport in their joy at going out West. For they were really started on their way now, after several little upsets and troubles, such as the clothes line coming down on Flossie, and the cat hiding himself away in the basket.

"Well, now I can sit back and rest," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a sigh of relief. "I know the children are all here, and they can't get lost for a while, at least, and I don't see what mischief they can get into here."

Now, indeed, the children were all right for a time. Freddie sat with his father, next to the window, and Flossie was in the seat with her mother pressing her little nose close against the glass, so she would not miss seeing anything, as the train flew along.

Bert and Nan were sitting together, Nan being next to the window. Bert had, very politely, let his sister have that place, though he wanted it himself. However, before the first part of the journey was over there was a seat vacant on the other side of the car, and Bert took that. Then he, too, had a window.

Bert and Nan noticed, as the train passed Mr. Bobbsey's lumberyard, Mr. Hickson standing amid a pile of boards. The old man did not see the children, of course, for the train was going rather swiftly, but they saw him.

"I wish we could help him find his two sons," said Nan to Bert.

"Yes, I wish we could," Bert answered. "But it's so long ago maybe Mr. Hickson wouldn't know his boys even if he saw them again."

"He'd know their names, wouldn't he?" Nan asked.

"Yes, I s'pose he would," Bert replied.

Then the older Bobbsey twins forgot about Mr. Hickson in the joys and novelty of traveling.

The Bobbseys were going to travel in this train only as far as a junction station. There they would change to a through train for Chicago, and in that big western city they would again make a change. On this through train Mr. Bobbsey had had reserved for him a drawing room. That is part of the sleeping car built off from the rest at one end.

On arriving at the junction the Bobbseys left the train they had been on since leaving Lakeport and got on the through train, which drew into the junction almost as soon as they did. They went into the little room at the end of the sleeping coach which Mr. Bobbsey had had reserved for them. In there the twins had plenty of room to look from the windows, as no other passengers were in with them.

"It's just like being in our own big automobile," said Nan, and so it was. The children liked it very much.

The trip to Chicago would take a day and a night, and Flossie and Freddie, as well as Bert and Nan, were interested in going to sleep on a train in the queer little beds the porter makes up from what are seats in the daytime.

It was not the first time the children had traveled in a sleeping car, but they were always interested. It did seem queer to them to be traveling along in their sleep.

"Almost like a dream," Nan said, and I think she was quite right.

"Where's my basket?" Flossie asked, after they had ridden on for about an hour.

"Do you want to see if Snap is in it this time?" her father jokingly inquired.

"Snap's too big to get in my basket," Flossie answered. "He's a big dog. But I want to get some of the cookies Dinah gave me. I'm hungry."

"So'm I!" cried Freddie, who had been looking from the window. "I want a cookie too!"

"Dinah gave me some for you," Flossie said, and, when her basket had been handed down from the brass rack over the seat, she searched around in it until she had found what she was looking for--a bag of molasses and sugar cookies.

"Oh, Dinah does make such good cookies!" said Flossie, with her mouth half full, though, really, to be polite, I suppose, she should not have talked that way.

"Shall we get any cookies out on the cattle ranch?" asked Nan. "If we don't, Flossie and Freddie will miss them."

"Oh, they have cooks on ranches, same as they do in lumber camps," Bert declared. "I saw a picture once of a Chinese cook on a cattle ranch."

"Can a Chinaman cook?" asked Nan, in surprise. "I thought they could only iron shirts and collars."

"Some Chinese are very good cooks," explained Mr. Bobbsey. "And Bert is right when he says that on some ranches in the West a Chinese man does the cooking. I don't know whether we shall find one where we are going or not."

"Are we going to the lumber tract first, or to the ranch?" asked Bert.

"To where the big trees grow," answered his father. "The tract your mother is going to own is near a place called Lumberville. It is several hundred miles north and west of Chicago. We will stop off there, and go on later to the ranch. That is near a place called Cowdon."

"What funny names," laughed Bert. "Lumberville and Cowdon. You would think they were named after the trees and the cows."

"I think they were," his father said. "Out West they take names that mean something, and Lumberville and Cowdon just describe the places they are named after."

While Flossie and Freddie were looking from the window of the coach in which they were riding, while Bert and Nan were telling one another what good times they would have on the ranch and in the lumber camp, and while Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were discussing matters about the trip, there came a knock on the door.

Mr. Bobbsey opened it and a lady came in, saying:

"I am so glad to see you! I am traveling to Chicago all alone, and I saw you get on as I looked from my window in the next car. I came back to speak to you."

"Why, it's Mrs. Powendon!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey as she saw a lady whom she had first met at a Red Cross meeting. Mrs. Powendon lived in a village near Lakeport, and often came over to see Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey and other friends. "I am very glad you saw us and came in to see us," went on Mrs. Bobbsey. "Do sit down! So you are going to Chicago?"

"Yes. But what takes you away from Lakeport?"

"I don't suppose you heard the news, but an old uncle of mine, whom I had not seen for years, died and left me a western lumber tract and a cattle ranch. Mr. Bobbsey and I are on our way there now to look after matters, and we had to take the children with us."

"And I suppose they were very sorry about that," said Mrs. Powendon with a smile, as she looked at Nan and Bert.

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Bert "Indeed we weren't sorry! We're going to have fine times!"

Then Mrs. Powendon sat down and began talking to Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, while Nan and Bert looked at magazines their father had bought for them from the train boy.

No one paid much attention to Flossie and Freddie, and it was not until some little time later that Mrs. Bobbsey, looking around the drawing room, exclaimed:

"Where are they?"

"Who?" asked her husband.

"Flossie and Freddie. They aren't here!"

That was very evident. There was no place in the little room for them to hide, and yet the children could not be seen.

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, "can they have fallen off the train?"

"Of course not!" answered her husband "They must just have gone outside in the car. I'll look."

Mr. Bobbsey was about to open the door when a knock came on it, and, as the door swung back, the face of a colored porter looked in. The man wore a white jacket.

"'Scuse me, sah," he said, talking just as Sam Johnson did, "but did you-all only want dinnah for two?"

"Dinner for two? What do you mean?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"Why, dey's two li'l children in de dinin' car. Dey says as how dey belongs back yeah, an' dey's done gone an' ordered dinnah for two-- jest fo' der own selves--jest two! I was wonderin' ef you-all folks wasn't goin' to eat!"