Chapter VI. Freddie's Fire Engine
 

"Papa, when can we go sailing in the houseboat?"

"May I take my fire engine along?"

"Where did you leave that boy?"

"Did he get a ride to Lemby?"

"Thus Bert, Freddie, Flossie and Nan questioned Mr. Bobbsey when he came home to supper after the visit to the Bluebird.

"My! My!" exclaimed the lumber merchant, as he stopped in the hall to hang up his hat. "What a lot of talk all at once! Let me see--whose question shall I answer first?"

"Did you manage to get that poor boy a ride?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

It was the first time she had had a chance to ask her question.

"Answer mamma first," said Bert politely. "The rest of us can wait."

Mr. Bobbsey gave his older son a pleased look, and then replied:

"Yes, I found that one of our lumber wagons was going within half a mile of the village of Lemby, so I let the boy ride with the driver. It will give him a good lift."

"Indeed it will," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I felt so sorry for him. I wish I could help him!"

"I hope the horses don't run away," spoke Freddie with such a serious air that they all laughed.

"I guess they won't run away, little fat fireman!" said Mr. Bobbsey, as he caught Freddie up in his arms. "They are good, steady horses, and they had a pretty heavy load to drag. So Will won't be in any danger. But I hope supper is ready. I'm hungry!"

"But you didn't answer my question," said Nan. "When are we going in the houseboat, father?"

"Oh, whenever school ends and your mother is ready," was the answer. "I should say in about two weeks."

"Good!" cried Bert. "And are we going to take Snap along?" he asked, as he caught sight of the trick dog outside, standing on his hind legs, while Sam Johnson held up a bone for him. Snap was "begging" for his supper, as he often did.

"Yes, I think we can find room for Snap on board," the lumber man said.

"What about our cat, Snoop?" asked Flossie. "I want to take Snoop along. Wouldn't you like to go in a boat, Snoop?" and Flossie picked the fat cat up in her arms. Snoop was quite an armful now. "Don't you want to go, Snoop?"

"Meow!" was all Snoop said, and that might have meant anything at all.

"Supper first," suggested Mr. Bobbsey, "and after that we'll talk about the boat."

The meal was a merry one, and there was much talk and laughter. As Dinah brought on one good thing to eat after another, Mrs. Bobbsey said:

"I hope every one has as nice a supper as we have."

"Were you thinking of any one in particular?" asked her husband.

"Yes, of that poor boy who came on the boat to-day," she answered. "I wonder if he has a good supper after his long walk this morning?"

"Well, they say Mr. Hardee doesn't feed his help any too well," spoke Mr. Bobbsey. "But now let's talk about our houseboat trip."

"Oh, what fun we'll have!" cried Freddie and Flossie, clapping their chubby hands.

"Did you plan a trip?" Mrs. Bobbsey wanted to know.

"Well, partly, yes. I thought we could go down Lake Metoka to Lemby Creek. We haven't been down that direction in some time."

"Lemby Creek!" exclaimed Bert. "Isn't that the name of the place where that boy came from?" "Well, Lemby is a town on Lemby Creek," spoke his father. "Will Watson works on Mr. Hardee's farm, and that is just outside the village. Lemby Creek is about ten miles long, and by going along that we can get into Lake Romano. That is a large body of water, and there is a waterfall at the farther end."

"A waterfall!" cried Freddie. "Oh, goodie! Can we go see it, papa?"

"I guess so," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We'll make this a long trip. It will take over a month, but of course we won't travel every day. Some days we'll just anchor the boat in a shady place, and---"

"Fish!" interrupted Bert.

"Yes, fish, or go in swimming--anything to have a good time," Mr. Bobbsey said.

"Oh, won't we have fun!" cried Freddie again. "We'll take Snoop and Snap along, and they'll like it, too."

"I guess Snap will, because he's fond of the water," said Bert, with a laugh. "But Snoop doesn't care for it."

"Snoop can sleep on deck in the sun," said Nan. "She'll like that. I wish I could ask one of my girl friends to come along with us for the houseboat trip. We have so many nice rooms on the Bluebird it seems a pity not to use them."

"And I'd like one of my boy chums, too," spoke Bert. Flossie and Freddie were busy trying to make Snoop do one of the tricks the circus lady had taught her. But Snoop wanted to go out in the kitchen, and have Dinah give her some supper.

"Company, eh?" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, slowly. "Well, I don't know. We have plenty of room on the Bluebird. I wonder how it would do to ask Harry and Dorothy to come with us?" he inquired of his wife.

"Oh, Cousin Harry!" cried Bert. "That would be fine!"

"And Cousin Dorothy!" added Nan. "She and I could have lovely times together. Do ask her, mother!"

"We might ask the cousins," agreed Mrs. Bobbsey. "They haven't been to visit us in some time, and I think both Harry and Dorothy would enjoy the trip."

Harry and Dorothy, as I have told you, were cousins of the Bobbseys. Harry lived at Meadow Brook, in the country, and Dorothy at Ocean Cliff, near the sea.

"I'll write to-morrow," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "and find out if they can go with us. Now have we anything else to settle about our trip?"

"What about something to eat?" asked Freddie, in such a funny, anxious voice, that all the others laughed.

"My goodness, little fat fireman!" exclaimed his father. "Here you have just finished your supper, and you are already hungry again."

"Oh, I'm not hungry now," explained Freddie, "but I will be on the boat."

"Don't worry," said his mother. "Dinah is coming with us."

"Oh, then it will be all right," went on the little twin, with a contented sigh. "Come on, Flossie," he called to his small sister, "I know how we can have some fun. 'Scuse me," he murmured, as he and the other little twin slipped from their chairs.

Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, with Nan and Bert, remained at the table for some time longer, talking about the coming trip in the Bluebird. As Mr. Bobbsey had said, it would be about two weeks, yet, before they could start. There were two weeks more of school, but the classes would close earlier than usual that summer, because an addition was to be built to the school building, and the men wanted to get to work on it, to have it finished in time for school early in September.

"So we'll get an extra week or so of vacation," explained Bert. "And we'll spend it all on the houseboat."

"Well, perhaps not all of it," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I may not be able to stay with you all that while. But we'll spend a month or two on the Bluebird."

"What will we do the rest of vacation?" asked Bert.

"Oh, perhaps we'll go to the mountains, or some place like that," his mother said with a smile. "It isn't settled yet."

"Is it a high waterfall at Lake Romano?" asked Nan. "I just love them."

"Yes, it's a pretty high one," her father said. "I haven't been to Lake Romano in some years, but I remember it as a very beautiful place."

"I'm sure we shall enjoy it," Mrs. Bobbsey said.

"Is the fishing good?" Bert wanted to know.

"So I have heard. We'll take some poles and lines along, anyhow, and try our luck," his father replied.

Mr. Bobbsey pushed back his chair from the table, and looked around for the evening paper. Bert and Nan had some home work to do, to get ready their lessons for the next day's school classes, and Mrs. Bobbsey got out her sewing basket. There were always stockings to mend, if there was nothing else of the children's that needed attention.

The house was quiet except for the distant rattling of dishes in the kitchen, where fat Dinah was singing away as she worked. Suddenly her song ceased, and she was heard to exclaim:

"Now yo' want t' be careful, honey lamb! Doan't yo' go to muxin' up Dinah's clean kitchen flo'."

"No, we won't, Dinah!" replied Freddie's voice.

"If any gets spilled, I'll wipe it up," said Flossie.

"I wonder what those children are up to now?" remarked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she rolled up two stockings she had just darned.

"Oh, I guess they're all right," said Mr. Bobbsey easily, as he turned over a page of the evening paper.

The next moment there came a shout from Dinah in the kitchen.

"Stop it, Freddie. Stop it, I say!" cried the fat, colored cook. "Yo' suah am gittin' me all wet! Oh, there it goes ag'in! Stop it!"

"I--I can't!" cried Freddie. "Hold your hand over it, Flossie!"

"Oh, now it's squirting on me!" came in Flossie's tones. "Make it stop, Freddie."

"It--it won't stop!" was the frightened answer.

"Oh! Land ob massy!" shouted Dinah. "Sam! Sam! Mr. Bobbsey, come heah quick! It's squirtin' all ober!"

"Oh! Something has happened!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, starting toward the kitchen.

"Maybe a water pipe has burst," suggested Mr. Bobbsey, dropping his paper and making a jump toward the kitchen. As he did so, he heard Dinah cry again:

"Oh, yo' am all wet, honey lamb! Yo' is all soakin' wet! Oh, now it's comin' fo' me ag'in! Oh, stop it, Freddie! Stop it!"

"I--I can't!" was all Freddie said.

The next moment Mr. Bobbsey, followed by his wife, had reached the kitchen. There they saw a queer sight.

In the middle of the floor stood Flossie and Freddie, water dripping from their hands and faces. Dinah, too, was wet, and she was fairly flying around, with a plate in one hand and a dish towel in the other.

And, all about the kitchen was spurting a stream of water, while over by the stove stood Freddie's toy fire engine. It was this engine that was spraying the water all over the room.