Chapter VIII. Off in the "Bluebird"
 

For a few seconds after Mr. Bobbsey told of the news he had heard over the telephone, none of the twins seemed to know what to say. They just stared at their father, and I really believe, for a moment, that Flossie and Freddie thought he was playing a joke on them. Then Mrs. Bobbsey seemed to understand it.

"What!" she cried. "Our houseboat adrift?"

"That's what the watchman tells me," said Mr. Bobbsey, as he started for the front door.

"But who did it?" asked Bert, managing to get his tongue in working order.

"Can't you get her back again?" asked Nan. "Our boat, I mean."

"Let me come with you!" pleaded Freddie.

"And I want to come, too!" added Flossie. She seldom wanted to be left behind, when her twin brother went anywhere.

"No, no! You children must stay here," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I will hurry down to the lake, and come right back. I'll tell you all about it, when I return."

"But what could have happened?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "What would make our boat go adrift?"

"Oh, some of the ropes might have come loose," replied her husband. "Or the ropes might even have been cut through, rubbing against the dock. The wind is blowing a little, and that is sending the boat out into the lake. I'll get one of our steam tugs, and go after her. It will not take long nor be hard work to bring her back."

A number of small steam tugs were owned by Mr. Bobbsey for use in hauling lumber boats, and lumber rafts about Lake Metoka. Some of these tugs were always at the dock, and one always had steam up, ready for instant use.

"Well, I hope you get the Bluebird back all right," said Bert. "We don't want to miss our trip, especially after we have asked Harry and Dorothy."

"Oh, it would be too bad to disappoint them," put in Nan.

"Oh, I'll get the boat back all right," declared Mr. Bobbsey.

Flossie and Freddie breathed sighs of relief. They were not worried now, for they knew their father would do as he said.

Fat Dinah put her head in through the door of the sitting room.

"Am anyt'ing de mattah?" she asked. "I done heah yo' all talkin' in heah, an' I t'inks maybe dat honey lamb Freddie done got his steam enjine squirtin' watah ag'in."

"Not this time, Dinah," said Mrs. Bobbsey, for the cook was almost like one of the family. Then the twins' mother explained what the trouble was.

"I 'clar t' goodness!" Dinah exclaimed. "Suffin's always happenin' in dish yeah fambily."

It was not a very serious happening this time. Mr. Bobbsey hurried down to his lumber yard in the darkness of the June evening.

He was gone about an hour, when the telephone rang. On account of the little excitement Flossie and Freddie had been allowed to stay up, although it was long past their usual bedtime.

"I'll answer it," said Mrs. Bobbsey, as the telephoned bell stopped jingling, for Bert had started from his seat.

"Oh, it's papa," the twins' mother went on, after she had listened for a second after saying "Hello!"

"Is the boat all right?" asked Nan, anxiously.

"Yes," answered her mother, and then she turned to listen to the rest of Mr. Bobbsey's talk over the telephone.

"Papa went after the Bluebird, and brought her safely back," Mrs. Bobbsey explained, when she had hung up the receiver. "He'll be here in a few minutes to tell us all about it. He telephoned from the lumber office after he had our boat safe."

"Oh, I'm so glad the boat's all right," said Nan.

"Pooh, I knowed it would be--when papa went after it," said Freddie, with a sleepy yawn.

"You must say 'knew,' not 'knowed,' dear," spoke Mamma Bobbsey. "And now I think it is time for you and Flossie to go to bed."

Neither of the smaller twins offered any objection. They were too sleepy to want to stay up and listen to the story of the bringing back of the Bluebird.

Nan and Bert were anxious to hear it, and Mr. Bobbsey came in soon after Flossie and Freddie were tucked in bed. He told the story of the drifting houseboat.

"How did it break loose?" asked Bert.

"It didn't break loose," said his father. "Some one untied the knots in the ropes."

"Untied!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "How did it happen?"

"Why, some one went aboard the boat," explained Mr. Bobbsey, "and I think it must have been some boys, for I found this cap," and he held up a gray one.

"Why!" cried Bert when he saw it. "That's Danny Rugg's cap!"

"I thought so," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "Danny, and some of his chums, must have gone on the boat early this evening. They played about, as boys will, and some of them, either on purpose or accidentally, must have loosed the knots in the ropes before coming ashore. Then the boat just drifted away after that."

"Those boys had no right to go on our boat!" said Nan.

"No, they had not," agreed her father, "But I'm glad there was no real damage done. The watchman saw the Bluebird soon after she had drifted away from the dock, and he telephoned me. I went out in one of our tugs and soon brought her back. So you think this is Danny Rugg's cap, Bert?"

"I'm sure of it, yes, sir. Danny wanted me to take him, and some of the other boys, on the boat, but I wouldn't."

"I'm glad you remembered what I told you," spoke Mr. Bobbsey, and Bert blushed with pleasure.

"I'll give Danny his cap in the morning," Bert went on. "It may surprise him to know where he lost it."

"I don't believe you can surprise that Danny Rugg very much," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

The next morning, when Bert took Danny's cap to school with him, and handed it to the boy who had caused so much trouble, a queer look came over Danny's face.

"Thanks," he said. "I was wondering where I left that. I guess I must have dropped it, when I was--playing football over in the fields."

"No, you dropped it on our houseboat, the Bluebird, just before you and the other fellows untied the ropes that let her go adrift," said Bert. "And you'd better keep off her after this!"

"Huh! I'm not afraid of your father!" was all Danny growled, as he stuffed his cap in his pocket, for he had worn another to school.

When Danny's chums learned that it was known who had set the boat adrift, they were rather frightened. When they realized the damage they might have done, they kept away from Mr. Bobbsey's lumber yard for a long time.

One day, about a week after this, the Bobbsey twins hurried home from school without stopping to play with any of their friends.

"Why are you in such a hurry?" asked Grace Lavine of Nan.

"We expect our cousins to-day," Nan answered. "Then we are going to get ready to go away in our houseboat."

Surely enough, when the twins reached home, there the cousins were to greet them--Dorothy and Harry, one from the seashore, and the other from the country.

"Oh, but I'm so glad to see you!" cried Nan, as she hugged and kissed Dorothy.

"And I'm so glad to come," Dorothy answered with a smile. "It was lovely of you to invite me to go on your boat."

"We'll have a lot of fun," said Bert to Harry.

"That's what we will," replied the boy from the country.

"We're both awful glad to see you!" chimed in Flossie, speaking both for herself and for Freddie. "But we can't play with the fire engine."

"Not if we put water in," added Freddie.

"What in the world do they mean?" asked Dorothy, wonderingly.

"Oh, I'll have to tell you," laughed Nan, as she explained about the accident.

The cousins had much to tell the twins, and talk about, and the twins had as much more to tell, so, for a time, there was a merry sound of talk and laughter.

Dorothy and Harry had come by different trains, one from the seashore and the other from the country, but they had reached the Bobbsey house at the same time. Their schools had not yet closed, but as they were both well advanced in their studies, their parents had allowed them to leave their classes ahead of time, since they were both sure to "pass."

"Just think!" cried Nan, when there was a moment of quiet. "In three days more our school will close, and then we'll go on the trip."

"Won't it be lovely!" murmured Dorothy.

I leave you to imagine all that took place in those three days. Schooldays came to an end, and the Bobbsey twins were among those at the heads of their classes. Then came a packing-up time, and the Bobbsey house was a scene of great excitement. Trunks and boxes were taken aboard the Bluebird, a man was hired to run the gasoline engine. Plenty of good things to eat were stowed away in the kitchen lockers, as cupboards are called on a boat. At last all was ready for the start.

Snoop and Snap, of course, were on hand, as was Dinah. Mr. Bobbsey saw to it that his family, and the two cousins, were safely aboard, and then he gave the order to cast off the lines. The Bluebird floated away from the dock, and out into the lake that was almost as blue as her name.

"All aboard!" cried Bert.

"Toot! Toot!" whistled Freddie, pretending to be an engine.

"Oh, look out! You're stepping on my doll!" screamed Flossie, who had put her toy down on the deck a moment.

"Good-bye! Good-bye!" called Nan to Grace Lavine, and some others of her girl friends, who had come down to the dock to see them off. "Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!" echoed the girls, waving their hands.

"Come on!" called Bert to Harry, as he started for the lower cabin.

"What are you going to do?" asked the boy from the country.

"Let's get out our fishing poles. Maybe we can catch something for dinner."

"That's right!" agreed Harry.

Slowly the Bluebird moved out into the lake, for the gasoline engine was working. The houseboat trip of the Bobbsey twins had begun, and many things were to happen before it was to end.