Chapter XV. Overboard

"Look out, Freddie!"

"Be careful there, little fat fireman!"

Thus Mrs. Bobbsey cried to the small twin, and thus Mr. Bobbsey also warned his son, who had pulled up his pole with a jerk, when he felt a nibble on the fish-line.

"I'll look out for him!" cried Bert, and he got between his little brother and the railing of the boat, so there would be no danger of Freddie's falling overboard. Freddie had no intention of getting into the water, but he was much excited over his fish.

"I caught it all myself!" he cried. "I caught a fish all by myself, and nobody helped me. Didn't I, Bert?"

"Yes, Freddie, except that Harry put on the grasshopper bait."

"But where's the fish?" asked Nan, who, as yet, had not seen one.

"Here it is!" cried Freddie, as he ran toward the end of his line which lay on deck. "I caught a fish, and it's all mine--every bit," and he held up a little, wiggling sunfish which, somehow or other, had been caught on the tiny hook.

"Oh, it's a real, live fish!" squealed Flossie, dropping her doll to get a better view of this new plaything. "Are we going to have it for supper, Freddie?"

"No!" cried the little fat fellow, as he tried to hold the fish up by the swinging line in one hand, and grasp it in the other. The fish was so slippery that, every time Freddie had it, his hand slid off of it. "We're not going to eat my fish!" cried Freddie. "I'm going to keep it forever, in a glass globe, and make it do tricks!"

The others gathered around to see Freddie's catch, for the little fellow was very proud of his success, though, once or twice before, on trips to the country, he had been allowed to fish with Bert and Nan. He was too impatient to sit still long, so he never caught much.

"Here comes Snoop," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a laughing glance at his friend Mr. Murphy, who had come back to the houseboat with him, after the mean farmer had cut the wire fence.

"Snoop can't have my fish!" cried Freddie, now hugging his dangling prize close to his waist.

"Oh, you'll get your clothes all dirty!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, as the black cat came snooping and sniffing around, for she smelled fish, which she very much liked.

"Go 'way, Snoop! You can't have my fish!" cried Freddie. "I'm going to put it in a glass globe, and keep it forever and teach it to do tricks."

"I guess swimming is the only trick a fish can do," said Bert, with a laugh, "and you don't have to teach them that. They know it already."

Freddie was so afraid that Snoop might get his fish, that Dinah brought him up a glass dish, in which, when it was filled with water, the little "sunny" was allowed to swim around. The hook had become fastened in only a corner of the mouth, and the fish was not hurt in the least.

Freddie was as proud as though he had caught a whale or a shark. He did not care to fish any more, but stood on deck near the box on which had been placed the dish containing his fish.

Bert and Harry, who had caught some larger fish, went back to their rods and lines, while Nan took up Freddie's pole and used it for herself. Flossie divided her time between getting her doll to "sleep" and watching Freddie's fish.

"Well, are we really going up the creek?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Yes, Mr. Murphy got the farmer to cut the wire fence, so we can get past," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We had better start, too, for Mr. Hardee might change his mind, and put back the wire fence."

"I guess there isn't much danger of that," spoke Mr. Murphy. "But you have a fine boat. I don't wonder that you didn't want to stay cooped up here in this creek."

Flossie, who had come over near the visitor, said:

"There's a stove in our kitchen, and Dinah cooks things on it--good things to eat!"

"Does she?" cried Mr. Murphy, catching the little girl up in his arms. "That's fine!"

"I think you might take that as an invitation to dinner," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a laugh.

"Thanks, I will stay, and see how it feels to eat on board a houseboat," replied the man who had helped Mr. Bobbsey.

Bert and Harry decided that they had caught enough fish now, so they pulled in their lines, and soon the Bluebird was moving slowly up the creek, toward Lake Romano, though it would be a day or so before the Bobbseys reached it.

As the houseboat went past the wire fence, which had been cut, the twins and their cousins looked at it in wonder. Only the posts stood there now, and there was room enough between them for the houseboat to pass. A little way back from the shore stood Mr. Hardee.

"I'm not going to let every boat go past that wants to!" he called to Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll let you through, as a favor to Mr. Murphy, but I'm not going to have a whole lot of them sailin' up and down my creek!"

"Just as if it would hurt the water," said Bert, in a low voice.

They were all glad when a turn of the stream hid Mr. Hardee from sight. The mean farmer evidently thought he had not been unpleasant enough, for he ran after the houseboat a little way, crying:

"If you see anything of that good-for-nothing boy of mine, I want you to tell him to come back here, or it will be the worse for him."

"We're not likely to see him," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"I don't know about that," went on the farmer. "I believe you folks know something about him."

"That's all nonsense!" said Mr. Bobbsey, sharply. "I've told you we don't know where he is, and haven't seen him since you tried to horsewhip him. That ought to be enough."

"Wa'al, we'll see," was the growling answer, as the mean farmer turned away.

The houseboat kept on, until it was well past Mr. Hardee's land, and then, in a pleasant part of the creek, it was tied to the bank. Dinah served supper.

"See! I told you we had a stove, and that Dinah could cook things," said Flossie, as a plate full of steaming hot corn muffins was set on the table.

"So you did, my dear!" exclaimed Mr. Murphy, who sat next to the little "fat fairy."

Flossie seemed to think the most wonderful part of the houseboat was the kitchen and the stove.

When the pleasant meal was over, they sat on deck in the evening, until it was time for Mr. Murphy to go home. He was to walk across the meadow, about a mile, to get a trolley car. Mr. Bobbsey went with him, part of the way.

For several days after this, the Bobbsey twins had all sorts of amusements on the house-boat. The Bluebird was still kept in the creek, for it was so pleasant there, along the shady waterway, that Mrs. Bobbsey said they might as well enjoy it as long as possible.

"But I want to see the big lake and the waterfall," said Nan.

"We'll soon be there," promised her father.

One day the houseboat was moved along the creek for about a mile, and anchored there. Bert and Harry found the fishing so good, that they wanted to stay a long time. They really caught some large perch and chub.

"But we didn't come on this trip just to fish," said Mr. Bobbsey. "There are other things to do. We want to go in swimming, when it gets a little warmer, and then, too, we can take some walks in the woods on the shores of Lake Romano."

"And can we have picnics, and take our lunch?" asked Freddie.

"Yes, little fat fireman," answered his father, laughing.

Freddie had been kept so busy with other amusements, that he had not once played with his fire engine, since coming on board.

"Let me catch some fish," begged Flossie, on the afternoon of the day when they were to move from the place that Bert and Harry liked so well.

"You may take my line," offered Freddie. "I'm tired of fishing."

I think perhaps Freddie grew weary because he had had no bites. That one fish he had caught, and which had caused so much excitement, seemed to be all he could get. That one was still alive in the glass dish, which Bert had made into sort of an aquarium.

"I'm going to catch a big fish," said Flossie, as she laid her doll down beside the sleeping dog Snap, and took Freddie's pole.

"Don't fall in--that's all," cautioned Mrs. Bobbsey.

"I'll watch her," offered Dorothy, for Nan had gone down to help dry the dishes, it being her "turn."

Somehow or other, every one forgot Flossie for a moment, and even Dorothy, who had promised to watch her, forgot when she saw some small boats, filled with young folks on an excursion, pass the houseboat.

Suddenly there came a scream from little Flossie.

"I see him! I see him!" she cried. "He's on our boat!"

The next moment her mother, who turned quickly as she heard Flossie's voice, saw the little girl lean far over the rail of the Bluebird. Then came a splash. Flossie had fallen overboard!