Chapter XIX. Snap's Queer Actions
 

The Bobbsey twins looked at one another. Then they glanced at their cousins, Harry and Dorothy. Next the eyes of all the children were turned on fat Dinah.

"Was--was it a baby crying?" Freddie wanted to know.

"Yes, honey lamb--it done did sound laik a baby--only a big baby," explained the colored cook.

"Maybe it was one of Flossie's dolls," the little "fat fireman" went on.

"Flossie's dolls can't cry!" exclaimed Nan. "Not even the one that says 'mama,' when you punch it in the back. That can't cry, because it's broken."

"Well, Flossie says her dolls cry, sometimes," said Freddie, "and I thought maybe It was one of them now."

"It was Snoop, our cat," said Bert, with a laugh. "That's what you heard, Dinah, Snoop crying for something to eat. Maybe she's shut up in a closet."

"Probably that's what it was, Dinah," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

"I'll go let her out," said Mr. Bobbsey, starting toward the lower part of the houseboat.

"'Scuse me, Mr. Bobbsey," said Dinah firmly, "but dey ain't no use yo' going t' let out no cat Snoop."

"Why not, Dinah?"

"Because it wasn't any cat dat I done heah. It was a human bein' dat I heard cryin', dat's what it was, an' I know who it was, too," the colored woman insisted.

"Who, Dinah?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"It was de same ghostest dat done took mah cakes an' sandwiches, dat's who it was. I'se mighty sorry t' leab yo', Mrs. Bobbsey, but I guess I'll done be goin' now."

"What, Dinah!" cried her mistress. "Going? Where?"

"Offen dish yeah boat, Mrs. Bobbsey. I cain't stay heah any mo' wif a lot of ghostests."

"Nonsense, Dinah!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "There isn't any such thing as a ghost, and you know it! It's silly to even talk about such a thing. Now you just come with me, and show me where you heard those noises."

"No, sah, I cain't do it, Mr. Bobbsey," the colored cook exclaimed, moving backward.

"Why not?" Mr. Bobbsey wanted to know.

"'Cause it's bad luck, dat's why. I ain't goin' neah no ghostest---"

"Don't say that again, Dinah!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey sharply, with a glance at the children.

"Oh, we're not afraid, mother!" chimed in Bert. "We know there's no such thing as a ghost."

"That's right," spoke his father. "But, Dinah, I must get this matter settled. It won't do for you to be frightened all the while. You must come and show me where you heard the noise."

"Has I got to do it, Mrs. Bobbsey?" asked Dinah.

"Yes, I think you had better."

"Well, den, I heard de noise right down in de passageway dat goes from de kitchen to de dinin' room. Dat's where it was. A noise laik somebody cryin' an' weepin'."

"And are you sure it wasn't Snoop, Dinah?"

"Shuah, Mr. Bobbsey. 'Cause why? 'Cause heah's Snoop now, right ober by Miss Dorothy."

This was very true. The little seashore Cousin had been playing with the black cat.

"Snap howls sometimes," said Freddie, who seemed to be trying to find some explanation of the queer noise. "Lots of times he used to howl under my window, and I'd think it was some boy, but it was only Snap. He used to like to howl at the moon."

"Dat's right, so he does, honey lamb," Dinah admitted. "But dere ain't no moon now, an' Snap's eatin' a bone. He don't never howl when he's eatin' a bone, I'se sartain ob dat."

"Oh, well, if it wasn't the dog or cat, it was some other noise that can easily be found," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll go have a look."

"I'm coming, too," said Nan.

"And so am I!" exclaimed Bert.

Harry and Dorothy looked at each other a moment, and then Dorothy said, rather unhesitatingly:

"I'm not afraid!"

"I should say not!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "What is there to be afraid of, just in a noise?"

"Let's all go!" suggested Harry.

"Good!" cried Mr. Bobbsey, for he wanted his children not to give way to foolish fears. They were not "afraid of the dark," as some children are, and from the time when they were little tots, their parents had tried to teach them that most things, such as children fear, are really nothing but things they think they see, or hear.

"Aren't you coming, Dinah?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as they all started for the lower part of the houseboat.

"No'm, I'll jest stay up heah an'--an' git a breff ob fresh air," said the colored cook.

"Come on, children," called Mr. Bobbsey, with a laugh. "We'll very soon find out what it was."

They went down off the deck, to the passageway between the kitchen and dining-room. This place was like a long, narrow hall, and on one side of it were closets, or "lockers," as they are called on ships. They were places where different articles could be stored away. Just now, the lockers were filled with odds and ends--bits of canvass that were sometimes used as sails, or awnings, old boxes, barrels and the like. Mr. Bobbsey opened the lockers and looked in.

"There isn't a thing here that could make a crying noise, unless it was a little mouse," he said, "and they are so little, I can't see them. I guess Dinah must have imagined it."

"Let's listen and see if we can hear it," suggested Mrs. Bobbsey.

All of them, including the children, kept very quiet. Snap, the trick dog, was still gnawing his bone in the kitchen. They could hear him banging it on the floor as he tried to get from it the last shreds of meat. Snoop, the black cat, was up on deck in the sun.

"I don't hear a thing," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

Indeed it was very quiet.

"Hark!" suddenly called Nan. "Isn't that a noise?"

They all listened sharply, and then they did hear a faint sort of crying, or whining, noise.

"Oh!" exclaimed Freddie. "It's a---"

"It's the boat pulling on one of the anchor ropes," said Mr. Bobbsey, for the Bluebird was anchored out in the lake by two anchors and ropes, one at each end. "The wind blows the boat a little," the children's father explained, "and that makes it pull on the ropes, which creak on the wooden posts with a crying noise."

"I know!" exclaimed Flossie. "Just like our swing rope creaks, when it's going slow."

"Exactly," said her mother. Mrs. Bobbsey was glad that the little girl could think out an explanation for herself that way.

"There it goes again!" suddenly exclaimed Bert.

They all heard the funny noise. There was no doubt but that it was the creaking of the rope by which the boat was tied.

"Here, Dinah!" called Mr. Bobbsey, with a laugh. "Come down here. We've found your ghost."

"I doan't want to see it!" exclaimed the colored cook, "Jest toss it overbo'd!"

"It's nothing but a noise made by a creaking rope," said Nan. "And you can't throw that overboard."

"All right, honey lamb. Yo' can call it a rope-noise ef yo' all laiks," said Dinah, when finally she had been induced to come down. "But I knows it wasn't. It was some real pusson cryin', dat's what it was."

"But you said it was a ghost, Dinah!" laughed Bert, "and a ghost is never a real person, you know. Oh, Dinah!"

"Oh, go long wif yo', honey lamb!" exclaimed the fat cook. "I ain't got no time t' bodder wif you'. I'se got t' set mah bread t' bake t'morrow. An' dere's some corn cakes, ef yo' ma will let yo' hab 'em."

"I guess she will," said Bert, with a laugh. "Some cakes and then bed."

They all thought the "ghost" scare was over, but Mr. Bobbsey noticed that when Dinah went through the passage between the kitchen and dining-room, she hurried as fast as her feet would take her, and she glanced from side to side, as though afraid of seeing something.

Every one slept soundly that sight, except perhaps Dinah, but if anything disturbed her, she said nothing about it, when she got up to get breakfast. It was a fine, sunny day, and a little later the Bluebird was moving across the lake, the motor turning the propeller, which churned the blue water into foam.

Mr. Bobbsey steered the boat to various places of interest on the lake. There were several little islands that were to be visited, and on one of the tiniest, they went ashore to eat their lunch.

"Let's play we're shipwrecked," suggested Freddie, who was always anxious to "pretend" something or other.

"All right," agreed Flossie. "You'll be Robinson Crusoe, and I'll be your man Thursday."

"Friday--not Thursday," corrected Freddie, for his father had read to him part of Robinson's adventures.

The little twins were allowed to take some of their lunch, and go off to one side of the island, there to play at being shipwrecked. Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey sat in the shade and talked, while Nan, Dorothy, Bert and Harry went off on a little "exploring expedition," as Bert called it. Bert was making a collection of stones and minerals that year, and he wanted to see what new specimens he could find.

Suddenly the peacefulness of the little island was broken by a cry of:

"Oh, Mamma! Papa! Come quick! Freddie's in the cave, and can't get out. Oh, hurry!"

"That's Flossie's voice!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, in alarm.

Mr. Bobbsey did not say anything. He just ran, and soon he came to the place where Flossie and Freddie had gone to play shipwreck. He saw Flossie jumping up and down in front of a little hill.

"Where's Freddie?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"In there," Flossie answered, pointing to the pile of dirt that looked to have been freshly dug. "We made a cave in the side of the and Freddie went in to hide, but he dirt slid down on him and he--he's there yet!"

"Gracious!" cried Mr. Bobbsey. "It's a good thing we're here!"

With a piece of board he soon scattered the dirt until he came to Freddie's head. Fortunately the little fellow was covered with only a few inches of the soil, and as a piece of brush had fallen over his face, he had had no trouble in breathing. He was rather badly frightened, however, when he was dug out, little the worse, otherwise, for his adventure.

"What did you do it for?" asked his father, when he and his mother had brushed the dirt from the little chap, while the other children gathered around to look on.

"I--I was making a cave, same as Robinson Crusoe did," Freddie explained. "I dug it with a board in the sand, and I went in--I mean, I went in the cave, and it--it came down--all of a sudden."

"Well, don't do it again," cautioned his mother. "You might have been badly hurt."

They finished their visit on the island, and went back on board the Bluebird again. Snap, who always went with them on these little excursions, bounded on deck, and then made a rush for the kitchen, for he was hungry, and he knew Dinah generally had a bone, or something nice for him.

Mr. Bobbsey, who was following close behind Snap, was surprised to see the dog come to a sudden stop in the passageway between the kitchen and dining-room. Snap growled, and showed his teeth, as he did when some savage dog, or other enemy, was near at hand.

"What's the matter, old fellow?" asked Mr. Bobbsey. "Do you see something?"

Snap turned and looked at Mr. Bobbsey. Then the dog looked at one of the locker doors, and, with a loud bark, sprang toward it, as though he would go through the panels.