Chapter XVII. A Wild Animal Scare
 

Back to the shed where they had left the horses, went the Bobbsey party, the children talking on the way of the wonderful things they had seen in the circus, while the older folks spoke of Freddie being lost, and found again, by Frank Kennedy.

"But I wasn't lost!" the little chap insisted. "I knew where I was all the time. Besides, the elephants were with me, and so was Frank, the boy who was shooked. I saw him shooked and so did Bert, didn't you?" and Freddie looked at his older brother.

"Well, we won't talk about that part of it," said his mother with a smile. "It isn't nice to think about, and I am glad Frank is in a place now where he will be kindly treated. Though perhaps Mr. Mason did not mean to be cruel. He was probably very sorry at losing so much money."

"I like Frank," said Freddie. "He let me, take hold of one of the elephant's tooths."

"Oh, Freddie!" exclaimed Dinah. "It's a wonder he didn't cotch an' bite yo, honey lamb!"

"Oh, I didn't take hold of one of his tooths away back in his mouth," explained Freddie, "it was the long tooth-pick tooth that stuck out under his nose."

"He means the elephant's tusk," explained Bert with a laugh.

"Oh, Freddie! I hope you weren't in any danger!" his mother cried.

"What an escape he had!" sighed Aunt Sarah. "Suppose an elephant had eaten him!"

"Pooh! Elephants don't eat anything but hay," said Freddie, who, of course, did not mean to be impolite, speaking to his aunt that way. "Frank told me so," he went on, "and I saw them eat hay. They eat a awful lot, and one of them took all my peanuts."

"Well, I'll buy you some more," said Uncle Daniel with a laugh. "You deserve it after the trouble you have had--getting lost and all that."

"I--I wasn't losted!" declared Freddie again. "I knew--"

"Oh, look at the balloons!" cried Flossie, as she saw a man outside the circus grounds selling the red, green and yellow gas-bags. "I want one, mamma!" cried the little girl.

"And so do I!" added Freddie, forgetting what he was going to say about not being lost "I want a balloon!"

They each had one, and then the children and older folks took their places in the wagon, and soon were on their way to Meadow Brook farm again, talking over the wonderful good time they had had.

"I'm coming to the circus to-morrow," announced Freddie, as though going to circuses was all there was to do in this world.

"The circus won't be there," said Bert.

"Won't be there? Where will it go?" asked Freddie, wonderingly.

"It will travel to the next town," Bert went on. "A circus stays in a town only one day, unless it's a very big place. This show will be far away by this time to-morrow."

"And will Frank be away, too?" asked

Flossie. "I like Frank, 'cause he found Freddie."

"Yes, Frank will be away, too, poor boy," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "that is, if he stays with the circus. I wish Richard could do something for him," she went on to Uncle Daniel and Aunt Sarah. "I feel sure that boy ought to be back in his guardian's home."

"But he said Mr. Mason was cruel to him," declared Aunt Sarah.

"Perhaps he wouldn't be any more," remarked Mrs. Bobbsey, wondering how anyone could be really cruel to children. She loved her twins very much.

"Well, I'se glad mah honey lamb am safe!" murmured Dinah, as she cuddled Freddie up in her big arms.

"Oh--oh, Dinah!" cried the little fellow with a laugh. "You squeeze me like an elephant's trunk!"

"Dat's 'cause I lubs yo', honey lamb!" went on the dear old colored woman.

Back to Meadow Brook in the cool of the evening came the Bobbseys and their friends. Tom and Mabel declared they had never had such a good time, and as for Freddie and Flossie they were too busy playing with their toy balloons to say much. But you may be sure they had enjoyed themselves, and Freddie forgot all about being lost.

On their way home the Bobbseys had met Mr. Weston with his moving picture camera. He said he had made several fine views of the circus.

"What about our pictures?" asked Nan. "The ones you took of us children near the school?"

"They will soon be finished," said Mr. Weston. "And when they are ready to be shown, I shall send your father word, so he may bring you, and let you look at yourselves on the white screen in our moving picture theatre. Won't you like that?"

"That will be great!" cried Bert. "I never saw myself in moving pictures."

"Nor I," said Nan.

Back in the pleasant farmhouse that evening all the happenings of the day were gone over again, until Mrs. Bobbsey, noticing that Flossie and Freddie were nodding their heads, and blinking their eyes real often, said:

"Come now, little tots, time you were in bed. To-morrow is another day."

"I'm going to take my balloon to bed with me," said Freddie.

"So am I!" exclaimed Flossie, who wanted to do as many things as did her brother.

"Oh, I wouldn't," their mother said. "Leave the balloons here until morning."

"And then we'll have a balloon race," proposed Bert.

"What's a balloon race?" Freddie wanted to know.

"No more talk to-night, little fat fireman!" said his mother. "Off to bed you go!" and he and Flossie were "packed off," the other children coming soon after.

Freddie and Flossie were up bright and early next morning, out playing with their balloons before breakfast. They tied long threads to them, and let them float above the trees.

"When will we have the balloon race?" asked Freddie.

"Whenever you like," Bert answered. "Only to have a race you have to let your balloon sail off, without any string fast to it, and you will not get it back again."

At first Freddie would not hear of that, but finally he and Flossie became tired of the toy circus balloons, and came to Bert to beg him to make a race for them.

Bert cut the string off both balloons. Freddie's was red and Flossie's blue.

"Now we'll let go of both balloons at the same time," Bert explained, "and the balloon that goes up highest will win the race. Now watch, everyone!"

They all watched, as Bert let go the toys, one from either hand. Up, up, up, went the red and blue balloons.

"Oh, mine's going faster!" cried Freddie.

"No, mine is!" exclaimed Flossie.

And, for a time first the red balloon would be ahead, and then the blue one. But finally they both were at exactly the same height, and in that way they sailed onward and upward until they were only little specks in the blue sky, so no one could tell which one was ahead in the race.

It was while the children were out in the yard in front of the Meadow Brook farmhouse, watching the disappearing balloons, that Bert heard a stranger's voice calling.

"I say, do you children know where there is a circus around here?" was the question, and, turning, Nan, Bert and the others saw a man in a carriage, on the road just outside the fence.

"A circus?" repeated Bert.

"Yes, I heard there was one showing around here," the man went on, "and I'd like to find it."

"There was a circus over at Rosedale yesterday," spoke Bert, "but it has traveled on by this time. If you inquired there you could find out where it went."

"I'll do that," the man said. "I'm much obliged to you," and he was about to drive on, when Bert asked:

"Aren't you Mr. Mason, who has a lumber yard near my father's?"

"Whoa!" called the man to his horse. "Yes, I'm Mr. Mason," he went on, "and I have a lumber yard. But I don't seem to know you."

"I'm Bert Bobbsey," the lad said, "and my father--"

"Oh, yes, to be sure! Of course I know you!" the man exclaimed. "Why, you were the boy in the automobile the day my ward, Frank Kennedy, ran away from me."

"Yes, I was there," said Bert.

"Well, it's about Frank that I came on here," said Mr. Mason. "I have been tracing him. I heard he joined a circus when he ran away from me, and I want to find him and take him back. I came on here by train, and hired this horse and carriage to drive about the country. But now, when I am almost up to the circus, you tell me it has moved. That's too bad, and I'm not sure, when I find it, that Frank will be with it."

"I think he will be, Mr. Mason," said Bert, quietly.

"What's that?" cried Mr. Mason. "You think Frank will be with the circus? What makes you think so?"

"Because we saw him with it yesterday," said Nan, taking part in the talk, "and he said he was going to travel with it."

"Yes, that's right," agreed Bert. He thought it only fair to give information about Frank, since Mrs. Bobbsey had said she thought it would be best for the runaway boy to go back to his guardian.

"Hum!" exclaimed Mr. Mason. "If Frank is with the circus, I'll soon get him. I'll drive over to Rosedale, and inquire where the show went from there. I can easily trace it. Much obliged to you for your information," he called over his shoulder, as he drove off. He did not stop to inquire how Frank was, nor how he had fared since running away. Perhaps Mr. Mason did not think of this.

"Oh, I hope he--I hope he doesn't shake Frank, when he finds him," said Nan, as the lumber man drove on.

"I don't believe he will," remarked Bert. "I fancy Frank will make his guardian promise to treat him better if he goes back to the lumber office."

Nan and Bert went in the house to tell their mother of meeting the man who was looking for Frank. She said they had done right to tell what they knew.

"Poor boy," she sighed, "he hasn't had a very happy life, but perhaps this will be all for the good, and he may be better treated now."

That afternoon, as Harry and the Bobbsey children, with Tom Mason and Mabel Herold were going down the road to pick some blackberries, they met a farmer boy driving an empty hay wagon. This boy knew Bert, Harry and Tom.

"Hello!" he called to them, "did you hear the news about the circus?"

"What news?" asked Bert, wondering if the boy meant that Mr. Mason had reached the show and taken away Frank.

"News about the wild animals escaping from the circus," went on the boy on the hay-wagon.

"Wild animals escaping!" exclaimed Nan, with a frightened look over her shoulder, while Flossie came over closer to her sister.

"That's it!" said the boy. "When the show was moving out of Rosedale last night, some tigers and lions got loose, and ran off in the woods. They looked for 'em, but couldn't find 'em. Some of the farmers around here are out now with guns."

"Oh, Nan!" exclaimed Flossie. "Let's go back home! I don't like wild animals!"