Chapter I. Good News
 

"What are you doing, Freddie?" asked Bert Bobbsey, leaning over to oil the front wheel of his bicycle, while he glanced at his little brother, who was tying strings about the neck of a large, handsome dog.

"Making a harness," answered Freddie, not taking time to look up.

"A harness?" repeated Bert, with a little laugh. "How can you make a harness out of bits of string?"

"I'm going to have straps, too," went on Freddie, keeping busily on with his work. "Flossie has gone in after them. It's going to be a fine, strong harness."

"Do you mean you are going to harness up Snap?" asked Bert, and he stood his bicycle against the side of the house, and came over to where Freddie sat near the big dog.

"Yes. Snap is going to be my horse," explained Freddie. "I'm going to hitch him to my express wagon, and Flossie and I are going to have a ride."

"Ha! Ha!" laughed Bert. "You won't get much of a ride with that harness," and he looked at the thin cord which the small boy was winding about the dog's neck.

"Why not?" asked Freddie, a little hurt at Bert's laughter. Freddie, like all small boys, did not like to be laughed at.

"Why, Snap is so strong that he'll break that string in no time," said Bert. "Besides--"

"Flossie's gone in for our booty straps, I tell you!" said Freddie. "Then our harness will be strong enough. I'm only using string for part of it. I wish she'd hurry up and come out!" and Freddie glanced toward the house. But there was no sign of his little sister Flossie.

"Maybe she can't find them," suggested Bert. "You know what you and Flossie do with your books and straps, when you come home from school Friday afternoons--you toss them any old place until Monday morning."

"I didn't this time!" said sturdy little Freddie, looking up quickly. "I--I put 'em--I put 'em--oh, well, I guess Flossie can find 'em!" he ended, for trying to remember where he had left his books was more than he could do this bright, beautiful, Saturday morning, when there was no school.

"I thought so!" laughed Bert, as he turned to go back to his bicycle, for he intended to go for a ride, and had just cleaned, and was now oiling, his wheel.

"Well, Flossie can find 'em, so she can," went on Freddie, as he held his head on one side and looked at a knotted string around the neck of Snap, the big dog.

"I wonder how Snap is going to like it?" asked Bert. "Did you ever hitch him to your express wagon before, Freddie?"

"Yes. But he couldn't pull us."

"Why not?"

"'Cause I only had him tied with strings, and they broke. But I'm going to use our book straps now, and they'll hold."

"Maybe they will--if you can find 'em--or if Flossie can," Bert went on with a laugh.

Freddie said nothing. He was too busy tying more strings about Snap's neck. These strings were to serve as reins for the dog-horse. Since Snap would not keep them in his mouth, as a horse does a bit, they had to go around his neck, as oxen wear their yokes.

Snap stretched out comfortably on the grass, his big red tongue hanging out of his mouth. He was panting, and breathing hard, for he and Freddie had had a romping play in the grass, before quieting down for the horse-game.

"There, Snap!" Freddie exclaimed, after a bit. "Now you're almost hitched up. I wish Flossie would hurry up with those straps."

Freddie Bobbsey stood up to look once more toward the house, which his little twin sister had entered a few minutes before, having offered to go in and look for the book straps. She had not come back, and Freddie was getting Impatient.

At last the little girl appeared on the side porch. Her yellow hair blew in the gentle June breeze, making sort of a golden light about her head.

"Freddie! Freddie!" she cried. "I can't find 'em! I can't find the book straps anywhere!"

"Why, I put 'em--I put 'em--" said Freddie helplessly, trying to remember where he had put them, when he came in from school the day before.

"You've got to come and help me hunt for 'em!" Flossie went on. "Mamma says she can't find the straps."

"All right. I'll come," spoke Freddie. "Snap, you stay here!" he ordered, but the big dog only blinked, and stuck out his tongue farther than ever. Perhaps he had already made up his mind what he would do when Freddie let him alone.

Off toward the house went the little fat Freddie. He was pretty plump --so much so that his father often called him a little "fat fireman." Freddie was very fond of playing fireman, ever since the time he had owned a toy fire engine. But to-day he had other ideas.

"I'll find those straps," he said, as he toddled off. "Then we'll hitch Snap to my express wagon, and Flossie and I'll have a fine ride. Don't you run away, Snap."

Snap did not say whether he would or not. Flossie, standing on the side porch, waited for her little brother. She was just his age, and only a little smaller in height. She was just about as fat and plump as was Freddie, and both had light curly hair. They made a pretty picture together, and if Freddie was a "fat fireman" Flossie was a "fat fairy," which pet name her father often called her.

"Did you look under the sofa for the straps?" asked Freddie when he had joined his sister.

"Yes. I looked there, and--and--everywhere," she answered. "I can't find 'em."

"Maybe Snap hid 'em," suggested Freddie.

"Maybe," agreed Flossie. "He would, if he knew you were going to hitch him up with 'em."

"Pooh. He couldn't know that," said Freddie. "I didn't know it myself until a little while ago, and I didn't tell anybody but you."

"Well, maybe Snap heard us talking about it," went on Flossie. "He's awful smart, you know, Freddie, from having been in a circus."

"But he isn't smart enough for that, even if he can do lots of tricks," Freddie went on. "There's Snoop!" he exclaimed, as a big, black cat ran across the lawn. "Maybe she took our book straps."

"She couldn't," said Flossie. "Our books were in 'em, and they'd be too heavy for Snoop to drag."

"That's so," admitted Freddie. "Well, come on, we'll find 'em!"

The twins went into the house and began searching for the straps. High and low they looked, in all the usual, and unusual, places, where they sometimes tossed their books when they came in from school Friday afternoons, with the joyous cry of:

"No more lessons until Monday! Hurray!"

But this time they seemed to have tossed their books and straps into some very much out-of-the-way place, indeed.

"We can't find 'em," said Flossie. "Can't you take some strong string, to tie Snap to the wagon, instead of the straps, Freddie?"

"I don't think so," he answered. "I know what to do. Let's ask Dinah. Maybe she's seen 'em."

"Oh, yes, let's!" agreed Flossie, and together they hurried to the kitchen where Dinah, the big, good-natured, colored cook, was rattling the pots and pans.

"Dinah! Dinah!" cried Flossie and Freddie in a twins' chorus.

"Yep-um, honey-lambs! What yo' all want?" asked Dinah, opening the oven door, to let out a little whiff of a most delicious smell, and then quickly closing it again. "Ef yo' wants a piece ob cake, it ain't done yit!"

"Oh, Dinah! We don't want any cake!" said Freddie.

"What's dat? Yo' don't want cake?" and Dinah quickly straightened up, put her fat hands on her fat hips, and looked at the two children in surprise. "Yo--don't--want--no cake!" gasped Dinah. "What's de mattah? Yo' all ain't sick, is yo'?"

For that was the only reason she could think of why Flossie and Freddie should not want cake--as they generally did Saturday morning.

"No, we're not sick," said Flossie, "and we'd like a piece of cake a little later, please Dinah. But just now we want our book straps. Have you seen 'em?"

"Book straps! Book straps!" exclaimed Dinah in great surprise. "Go 'long wif yo' now! I ain't got no time to be bodderin' wif book straps, when dey's pies an' puddin's an' cakes t' bake. Trot along now, an' let ole Dinah be! Book straps! Huh!"

Flossie and Freddie knew there was little use in "bodderin'" Dinah any more, especially when she was in the midst of her baking.

"Come on, Flossie," spoke Freddie. "We'll have another look for those straps. Next time I'll put our books where we can find 'em."

Once more the children started through the different rooms. They looked everywhere. But no straps could they find.

"You see what a lot of trouble it makes, not only for you, but for others as well, when you don't take care of your books," said Mrs. Bobbsey gently. She knew it would be a good lesson for the twins to search for their things. Next time they might remember.

Suddenly, from out in the yard, came a shout.

"Freddie! Freddie! Come out here, quick!"

"That's Bert!" exclaimed Freddie.

"Oh, maybe he's found the straps, so we can harness up Snap," cried Flossie.

But Bert's next words soon told the younger twins that it was no such good luck as that, for he cried:

"Snap's running away, Freddie! He's running away. If you're going to harness him up you'll have to catch him!"

"Oh dear!" cried Flossie.

"Come on, help me catch him!" called Freddie.

Together they ran into the yard. As Bert had said, Snap, getting tired of being tied to a post with a thin string, had broken the cord, and now was racing over the fields after another dog with whom he often played.

"Come back, Snap! Come back!" cried Freddie.

Snap paid no heed.

Just then, through the front gate, came a girl. She looked so much like Bert, with his dark hair and eyes, with his slimness and his tallness, that you could tell at once she was his sister. As soon as Flossie saw her, she cried:

"Oh, Nan! We were going to hitch Snap to the express wagon, but Freddie and I can't find our straps, and Snap ran away, and--and--"

"Never mind, Flossie dear," said Nan. "Wait until you hear the good news I have for you!"

"Good news?" exclaimed Bert, coming away from his bicycle, toward his twin sister.

"Yes, the very best!" Nan went on. "It's about a houseboat! Now, Flossie and Freddie, sit down on the grass and I'll tell you all about the good news!"