Chapter XIV. Freddie is Missing
 

Flossie came back from her talk with Dinah, looking very disappointed.

"What is the matter, dear?" asked her mother, noting the sorrowful look on the little girl's face.

"Dinah isn't going to the circus," said Flossie, almost ready to cry, for she was very fond of the faithful and loving colored woman.

"Oh, I guess she'll go with us," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Why doesn't she want to come?"

"She's afraid of the wild animals," answered Flossie.

"Pooh! I'm not afraid!" boasted Freddie. "You tell her, Flossie, that I'll take my fire engine along an' scare 'em. Wait, I'll tell her myself."

Out Freddie ran to the kitchen, where Dinah was helping Martha with the baking.

"Don't you be afraid, Dinah!" he cried. "I won't let any of the wild animals get you!"

"Bress yo' heart, honey lamb!" exclaimed the colored cook with a laugh that made her shake "like a bowl full of jelly."

"I--I'll scare 'em off with my fire engine," Freddie went on.

"Will yo', honey lamb? So yo' won't let ole black Dinah get hurted, eh? Well, honey, lamb, I'd gib yo' all a hug but mah hands am all flour," and Dinah held them up for Freddie to see.

"Never mind, you can hug me some other time--you can hug me twice to make up for this," said Freddie. "Now you'll come to the circus, won't you?"

"I--I'll see, honey lamb," Dinah half-promised.

Later Mrs. Bobbsey told the colored cook there would be no danger, and when Dinah learned that Uncle Daniel was going, as well as one of his hired men, she made no more objections.

The day of the circus came, bright and sunny. Everyone was up early in the farm-house, for Uncle Daniel said they wanted to be in time to see the morning parade. Then they would eat their dinner, which they would take with them, as though it were a picnic, and go to the show in the afternoon.

"Oh, I wish papa were here!" sighed Nan, as she and Bert left the breakfast table.

"Why, you're not afraid, are you?" he asked.

"No, only I'd like him to see the show," she said. Nan was always thoughtful for her father.

"Yes, it would be nicer if he could come with us," agreed Bert. And then he forgot all about it, because he and Harry had a discussion as to whether an elephant or a hippopotamus could eat the most hay.

Work on the farm was almost forgotten that circus day. Uncle Daniel and the hired man did what had to be done, and then the horses were hitched to the big wagon, which was filled with straw.

Mrs. Bobbsey and Aunt Sarah were busy dressing Flossie and Freddie. Bert, Harry and Nan could look out for themselves. Dinah and Martha were busy in the kitchen putting up the lunch.

"Here comes Tom Mason!" called Bert to his cousin, as he saw the country boy, dressed in his best, coming up the walk.

"Oh, I do hope Mabel isn't late," exclaimed Flossie. Mabel and Tom were to go to the circus with Uncle Daniel, as the guests of the Bobbsey twins.

"There she comes--down the road," announced Harry, after greeting Tom. "Here comes Mabel!"

The children gathered out on the lawn to wait for the older folks. Finally everything was in readiness, the wagon, drawn by the prancing horses, rattled up, and into it piled the children, sitting down in the soft, clean straw.

"Where's Dinah?" called Flossie.

"Heah I is, honey lamb," answered the colored cook, as she came out with a big basket of good things to eat.

"Oh, I'm going to sit next to Dinah!" cried Bert with a laugh. "I always did like you, didn't I, Dinah?" he demanded.

"Go 'long wif you, honey!" she exclaimed.

"Yo' all doan't git none ob de stuff in dish yeah basket 'till lunch time--no, suh! No mattah how lubbin' yo' is!"

Off they started, with laughter and shouts, Uncle Daniel and his hired man sitting on the front seat, taking turns driving the horses. Freddie wanted to hold the reins, but his uncle said the animals were too frisky that morning for such little hands.

"When they come back they will be tired, and won't be so anxious to run away," the farmer said. "Then you may drive, Freddie."

All along the road were circus posters, and at each new one which they saw the children would shout and laugh in delight. They saw many other farm wagons going along, also filled with family parties, who, like themselves, were going to the circus.

"Hurrah for the big show!" Bert or Nan would call out.

"Hurray! Hurray!" the children in other wagons would answer back. "Isn't it jolly?"

And indeed it was a jolly time for everyone. Even Dinah forgot her fear of the wild animals when from a distance she caught sight of the white circus tents with the gaily colored flags streaming from them.

Uncle Bobbsey found a shed, near the circus grounds, where he could leave the horses and wagon, for he did not want to take the team into town, for fear the sight of the circus animals, and the music of the band, and the steam piano, or Calliope, might scare them, and make them run away.

"We'll watch the parade," Uncle Daniel said. "Then we'll come back here, eat our lunch, and go to the show in the afternoon."

This plan was carried out, and a little later the children and the old folks were standing in line in the big crowd, waiting for the circus parade to come past. Every once in a while someone would step out into the middle of the street, and look up and down.

"Is it coming? Is it coming?" others in the crowd would ask.

"Not yet," would be the answer.

"Oh, look!" suddenly exclaimed Bert, pointing to the window of an office building near which they were standing. "There's Mr. Westen taking moving pictures!"

"Oh, so he is!" cried Nan. And there indeed, with his camera pointed out of the window, was their old friend.

He saw the children and waved to them.

"Here it comes! Here it comes!" was the sudden cry, and from the distance came the sound of music.

"The parade has started! The parade has started!" was the cry that ran through the crowd.

"Oh, isn't this great!" cried Nan, clasping her chum Mabel by the arm.

"It's just lovely!" the country girl said, "and so nice of your mother and uncle and aunt to ask me."

"Oh, we were only too glad to have you," said Nan, politely, but she meant it.

Freddie snuggled close up to fat Dinah.

"Don't you be afraid," he said to the black cook. "I--I won't let any wild animals get you!"

"Dat's a good boy, honey lamb!" she murmured, as she took hold of his hand.

Louder played the music. The children in the crowd began dancing up and down, so excited were they.

"Here it comes! Here it comes!" they cried over and over again.

Then swept past the horses, gay with plumes, and covered with blankets of gold and silver, of purple and red. On the backs of the horses rode men and women with scarlet cloaks, carrying spears tipped with glittering silver.

Then came a herd of elephants, swinging themselves along, now and then sucking up dust from the street and blowing it on their big backs to keep off the flies. Men rode on top of the elephants' heads.

"Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid, Dinah!" said Freddie over and over again.

Ponies, camels, donkeys, more horses, more elephants and other animals went past in the parade.

Then came the gilded wagons, filled with gaily dressed men and women who nodded, smiled and waved their hands at the crowds in the streets.

Bert looked up at the window where Mr. Weston was perched with his camera, and saw him taking moving pictures.

"Oh, look! There's a lion in a cage!" cried Freddie, suddenly.

Just then the big beast sent out a roar that seemed to shake the very ground, and he threw himself against the bars of his cage.

"Oh, he's going to get out! He's going to get out!" came the cry and the people rushed back away from the street.

"No danger! No danger!" shouted the circus men.

"Hold on to me, Dinah!" cried Freddie. "Hold on to me. I won't let him bite you!"

More cages of wild animals rumbled past, but most of the beasts slept peacefully. Only the lion seemed to want to get out, and far down the street his roar could be heard.

"He's a new lion," said someone in the crowd. "He isn't used to being shut up, and he is trying to get out."

"Well, I hope he done stays shut up," murmured Dinah.

The parade came to an end at last, with the steam piano bringing up in the rear of the procession. The man played puffy little tunes, with a tooting chorus that made one want to dance.

"Now for lunch, and then to see the big show," said Uncle Daniel, as he led the way back to where the wagon had been left.

And what a jolly party it was, to sit in the straw and eat nice sandwiches, pies, cookies and cakes Martha and Dinah had put into the baskets. There was lemonade, too, and if it was not pink, like the kind the circus men sold, it was much better and sweeter.

"But when are we going into the circus?" Freddie wanted to know.

"Soon now," said Uncle Daniel.

A little later they made their way to the big tents. First they went in the one where the wild animals, in cages, were drawn up in a circle inside. There were lions, tigers, bears, giraffes, rhinocerosi, hippopotami, and elephants, to say nothing of the cute monkeys.

"Are dem cages good an' strong, mistah?" asked Dinah of one of the circus attendants.

"Oh, yes," he answered, as he passed a carrot in to one of the monkeys.

"Well, dat's good," she said. "'Cause I doan't want none ob dem bears or lions t' come after me when I'se watchin' de circus performers."

"I'll see that none of them get loose," promised the circus man with a laugh at Dinah's fears.

Then the Bobbsey party went on in to the main tent. I wish I could tell you all they saw, but I have not the room in this book. There was a parade around the ring to start with, and then in came rushing the comical clowns, the men and women who rode on horses and who jumped from one trapeze to another.

Jugglers they were, men with trained horses, trick ponies, trained dogs and trained elephants. Some elephants played a ball game, others turned somersaults. Clowns jumped over their backs, and through paper hoops.

"Look here!" Nan would exclaim.

"No, see over there!" Bert would cry.

"Oh, mamma, a man jumped from the top of the tent right into a big fish net!" exclaimed Freddie.

"Look at the monkey riding on the dog's back," Flossie shouted.

"And see that man jump off a horse and jump on him again backwards!" called Tom Mason.

"Oh, but look at the cute ponies," sighed Mabel Herold.

There was so much to see and talk about that the children's eyes must have been tired, and their necks aching before the circus was over.

At last it came to an end with the exciting chariot races, and the crowd began to leave the big tent.

"Now keep close together, children," warned Mrs. Bobbsey. "You must not get lost in this crowd."

"Yes, follow me," advised Uncle Daniel.

How it happened they could not tell, but .when they reached the outside of the tent, and found a space where the crowd was not so thick, Freddie was missing.

"Where is Freddie?" asked Nan, looking about for him.

"Freddie!" exclaimed Her mother! "Isn't he here?"

But Freddie was not with them, and with anxious faces they looked at one another.