Chapter VIII. Lost in the Hay
 

"Oh, isn't it just lovely in the woods," sighed Nan, as she sat down on a green mossy seat beneath a great oak tree. "I could live here forever!"

"So could I!" exclaimed Mabel Herold. "There is no place so lovely as the woods."

"You--you wouldn't stay here all night, would you?" asked Freddie, as he set down the basket of sandwiches he had been carrying, and looked at a dark hole under some bushes.

"I wouldn't mind," sighed Nan again. "It is so lovely here."

"I used to think I liked the seashore best," said Mabel, "but now I think the country is prettiest."

"Well, I'm not going to stay here all night," decided Freddie. "There --there's bugs--and--and--things!"

"I thought you weren't afraid of them," spoke Nan with a smile.

"I--I meant in daytime--I'm not afraid then," declared Freddie. "But at night, why--why, I'd rather be home in bed."

"And I guess we all would," exclaimed Nan, hugging the little fat fellow.

"Oh, there goes a rabbit!" cried Bert to Harry. "Let's see if we can catch him!"

"Come on!" agreed the country boy.

"I'm with you!" shouted Tom Mason.

"Oh, will they hurt the little bunny?" asked Flossie, with quivering lips, for she dearly loved all animals.

"I guess there isn't much danger of them catching the rabbit," said Mr. Bobbsey, sitting down beside his wife in a shady green spot. "A bunny can hop very fast."

And so it proved.. The three boys raced about through the woods until they were quite tired, and very much heated up. But the rabbit got safely away.

"Ah, well, we didn't want him anyhow," said Harry, fanning himself with his cap, after the chase.

"No," agreed Bert, "we just wanted to see if we could get him."

"My! It's warm!" exclaimed Tom, looking at the basket in which the lemonade was packed in bottles. "I'm very thirsty," he said.

"You must not drink when you are too warm," advised Mr. Bobbsey. "Wait until you cool off a bit. If you take cold water, or icy lemonade, into your stomach after you are all heated up from running, you may be made ill. Rest a while before you drink, is good advice."

So the boys waited, and a little later they were allowed to have some of the cool lemonade.

"Are we going to eat our lunch here?" asked Freddie.

"No, a little farther on in the woods," said his Aunt Sarah.

So they walked on, under the shady trees, with the green carpet of moss under foot, until they came to a little glade, where the trees grew in a circle about a grassy space.

"It--it's just like a circus ring!" exclaimed Freddie. "Oh, couldn't we have a circus, or a show, while we're here at the farm?" he asked.

"We'll see," half-promised his mother.

The table-cloth was spread out on the green grass, and the wooden plates set on it. Then the lunch baskets were opened and the good things passed around. There were sandwiches of several kinds, and cake and cookies, as well as more lemonade.

"Isn't it nice to eat this way?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "When we have finished, there are no dishes to wash; just the wooden plates to throw away."

"Yes'm," declared Dinah, with a chuckle. "I spects dish yeah would be a good way to do back home--but it would be kinder cold, eatin' out in de woods in de winter time."

"I wouldn't want to live here in winter," said Freddie. "There isn't any place to hang up your stocking Christmas, and no chimney for Santa Claus to come down!" he added.

"And that would never do!" laughed Mr. Bobbsey. "But we will enjoy these woods all we can."

When the woodland picnic lunch was finished, the party sat about on the grass, in the shade of the trees, and Mr. Bobbsey told stories to the two small children. Flossie and Freddie enjoyed this very much.

Nan and Mabel went for a little walk in the woods, and Bert and Harry said they were going to try for some fish, as they had brought hooks and lines along, and could cut poles in the woods. This time they had very good luck.

"I have one!" suddenly called Harry, pulling up his line. There was a flash, as of silver, in the air, and he hauled a fish up from the water, landing it flapping on the grass behind him.

"Oh, what a big one!" cried Bert, running over to look. "I wish I could get one now."

"Maybe you will," said Harry, trying to catch the flopping creature. "Put on some fresh bait." But Harry caught another fish before Bert had even a good bite.

By this time Mr. Bobbsey had finished his story, and Flossie had taken out her doll to pretend to get it to sleep. Freddie wandered over to where Bert and Harry were fishing.

"Oh, I have one! I have one!" Bert suddenly shouted, and he, too, landed a good-sized fish. It was taken off the hook, and strung on a willow twig, and then, fastened so it could not swim away, it was put back into the water to keep fresh until it was time to go home.

Freddie was very much interested in the captive fish. He went down to the edge of the creek to watch them as they tried to swim away. But they could not, for the willow twigs held them.

Suddenly one of the fish gave a big jump in the shallow pool, where Bert had put them.

"Oh!" exclaimed Freddie, springing back. Then his foot slipped on a wet, mossy stone, and the next moment the little fellow fell down into the water.

"Bert!! Harry! Come and get me! I'm in!" he cried.

Bert and Harry dropped their poles and came up on the run, but there was no danger, for the water was only a few inches deep, near shore, and Freddie was already on his feet when they reached him.

"Oh! Oh!" sobbed the little fellow. "I--I'm all wet."

"Never mind, you have your old clothes on," said his brother. "And I'll tell mother it was an accident."

It was a warm summer day and a little wetting would not harm Freddie. He was taken back to a sunny place by Bert, and told to sit in the warm spot until he had dried out. Then the two larger boys went back to fish, but Freddie's accident must have scared all the fish away, for Bert and Harry caught no more.

"My, but you are a sight, Freddie!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, when she saw the wet and muddy little twin. "But I suppose you could not help it."

"No, mamma," he answered. "The fish made me fall in."

It was almost time for the picnic party to start back home now. Dinah was packing up the knives, forks, and glasses, and throwing away the wooden plates.

As she knelt over to fold up the table-cloth, She felt something touch her back, and the next moment something cold and wet touched her cheek.

"Go 'long wif yo' now, Bert!" she exclaimed, not turning around. "Don't yo' put any ob dem wet slimy fish on me. Don't you do it!"

Then something almost pushed Dinah over, and again she felt the wet object on the back of her neck.

"Stop it! Stop it!" cried the colored cook. "Don't yo' put any toad down mah back, Bert!"

"I'm not doing anything," Bert answered, and at the sound of his voice Dinah looked up and saw him some distance off. At the same time, though, Bert and Harry burst into a laugh.

"Oh, look what Dinah thought was me!" cried Bert.

Dinah turned around, just as a loud "Moo!" sounded in her ear, making her jump.

"Good land ob massy!" she cried. "It's a cow!"

And, surely enough, so it was. The cow had wandered out of the woods, and, coming up behind Dinah, had licked her neck with a big red tongue. Perhaps the cow thought Dinah was a lump of black salt!

"Go 'way! Go 'long outer heah! Leef me be!" screamed Dinah, and catching up a handful of wooden plates she threw them at the cow. They rattled on the animal's horns, and then, with another "Moo!" the creature turned and crashed back through the bushes.

"And Dinah thought that was I, tickling her with a fish tail," said Bert, laughing.

"Dat's what I did, honey!" the colored cook said, with a laugh. "I s'pected yo' was up to some ob yo' all tricks!"

They all laughed at this, and amid much fun and jollity the picnic things were packed up and the homeward walk begun.

"Oh, we have had such a good time!" sighed Nan. "I am sorry it is over."

"Oh, we'll have more good times," said Bert, as he and Harry walked along with the fish they had caught. Their chum, Tom Mason, had two smaller ones.

There were days of work and play on the farm, and Harry had his share of tasks to perform. Bert helped him all he could. One day, when the boys and girls had counted on going out rowing on a little lake not far from Meadow Brook, it rained. When they arose in the morning, ready for their fun, the big drops were splashing down.

"Oh, we can't go!" sighed Freddie. "I don't like rain!"

"I thought all firemen liked water," his father said, with a laugh.

"This is too much water!" went on the little chap. "We can't have any fun."

"Oh, yes, we can," said Harry. "We can go out in the barn and play in the hay. The big barn is full of new hay now, and we can slide down the mow and play hide and go seek in it."

"That will be great!" exclaimed Bert. "Come on."

Snap, the dog, must have thought he was also invited, for he ran out barking, with the children. Umbrellas kept the rain off them until they reached the barn, and then began a good time.

They went to the top of the big pile of fragrant hay in the mow, and slid down it to the barn floor, where a carpet of more hay made a soft place on which to fall. Snap slid with the rest, barking and wagging his tail every minute.

"Now let's play hide and go seek!" suggested Harry after a bit. "I'll 'blind' and when I say 'ready or not, I'm coming,' I'm going to start to find you."

The game began. Harry closed his eyes, so he would not see where the others hid, and Nan, Bert and the rest of them picked out spots in the hay, and about the barn where they thought Harry could not see them. But Harry knew the old barn well, and he easily found Bert. Then he spied Nan and Flossie, hiding together. A little later he discovered where Tom Mason and Mabel Herold were.

"Now I've only to find Freddie," said the country cousin. But Freddie was not so easy to find. Harry looked all over but could not locate him.

"There are so many holes in the barn," the country boy said, "and Freddie is so small, that I guess I'd better give him up. I'll let him come in free. Givey-up! Givey-up!" he called. "Come on in free, Freddie."

But Freddie did not answer. They all kept quiet, but all they could hear was the patter of rain drops on the barn roof.

"Freddie! Freddie! Freddie! Where are you?" cried Nan.

"Come on in free!" added Harry.

"Come on, little fat fireman," went on Bert. "Harry won't tag you, and you can hide again."

But Freddie's childish voice did not reply. The boys and girls looked anxiously at one another.

"Where's Freddie?" asked Flossie, and her lips began to tremble as they did just before she started to cry.

"Oh, we'll find him," said Bert, easily.

"Yes, he's probably hiding so far off he can't hear us," went on Harry.

"Maybe he's lost under the hay," suggested Tom. "I read of a boy getting caught under a pile of hay once, and they didn't get him out for a long time."

"Oh, Freddie's lost! Freddie's lost!" cried Flossie, bursting into tears.