Chapter I. Under the Hay

"This is 'most as much fun as we had on Blueberry Island, or when we went to Florida on the deep, blue sea, isn't it, Bert?" asked Nan Bobbsey, as she sat on the porch and fanned herself with her hat. She and her brother had been running around the house, playing a new game, and Nan was warm.

"Yes, it's fun all right," agreed Bert. "But I liked the deep, blue sea better--or even Blueberry Island," and off came his hat to cool his flushed face, for, though it was late in September, the day was warm.

"But we couldn't stay on the island, always," went on Nan. "We have to go to school, daddy says!"

"Don't speak about it!" begged Bert. "I don't want to go to school for a long, long time, and not then!"

"Have we got to go to school?" asked a little light-haired and blue-eyed girl, as she ran up the steps, to sink in a heap at the feet of her sister, Nan Bobbsey. "When do we go?" she went on.

"Oh, not right away, 'little fat fairy!'" laughed Nan, giving Flossie the name her father sometimes called her. "School won't open for two weeks more."

"Hurray!" cried Bert. "The longer it stays closed the better I like it. But come on, Nan! Let's have some more fun. This isn't like Blueberry Island, sitting still on a porch!"

"You haven't sat still more than three minutes, Bert Bobbsey!" cried his sister. "I can hardly get my breath, you made me run so fast!"

Just then a little boy, who had the same sort of blue eyes and golden hair that made Flossie such a pretty little girl, came tumbling up the steps with a clatter and a bang, falling down at Bert's feet. The older boy caught his small brother just in time, or there might have been a bumped nose.

"Hi there, Freddie, what's the matter?" asked Bert, with a laugh. "Is our dog Snap chasing you, or have you been playing a trick on our cat Snoop?"

"I--I--I'm a--a fireman!" panted Freddie. for he, too, was out of breath from running. "I'm a fireman, and I--I've got to get the engine. There's a big, big fire!" and his eyes opened wide and round.

"A big fire--really?" asked Nan quickly.

"Course not! He's only making believe!" replied Bert.

"Well, I thought maybe he might have seen some boys start a bonfire somewhere," explained Nan. "They sometimes do."

"I know they do," admitted Bert. "And I hope they don't start one near daddy's lumberyard."

"There was a fire down in the lumber once!" exclaimed Freddie. He was too young to have seen it, but he had heard his father and mother talk about the time Mr. Bobbsey's lumberyard was nearly burned out. Freddie Bobbsey was very fond of a toy fire engine he had been given for Christmas, and his father often called Freddie a "little fireman," just as Flossie was named a "fairy."

"Well, if it's only a make-believe fire we can sit here and cool off," went on Nan. "What were you doing, Flossie?" she asked her little sister.

"Oh, I was having a race with our cat Snoop; but I guess I beat, 'cause Snoop didn't get here to the porch before I did."

"Yes, you won the race all right," laughed Bert. "But it's too hot for any more running games. I wish we were back on the island where we found that boy, Jack Nelson, and could play we were sailors and could splash in the water."

"That would be fun!" sighed Nan, as she fanned herself harder than ever with her hat.

The Bobbsey twins had, a few days before, returned to their home from a vacation spent on a strange island off the coast of Florida. They had gone there with Cousin Jasper Dent to rescue a boy who had been left in a lonely cave, and very many strange adventures the Bobbsey twins and their father and mother, to say nothing of Cousin Jasper, had had on that voyage.

Now the simple games they tried to get up around the house, and the thought of having to go back to school soon, made them feel a bit lonesome for the deep, blue sea, over which they had made a voyage to rescue the boy, Jack Nelson, and also for Blueberry Island, where once they spent a vacation.

"I know what we can do!" cried Nan, after a rest.

"What?" asked Bert, always ready to join Nan in any fun she thought of. "What can we do?"

"Go out to the barn and play that's a ship like the one we went on to Florida. It'll be cooler in the barn than it is here, anyhow."

"That's so," admitted Bert. "And oh! I know how we can have packs of fun!"

"How?" This time it was Nan who eagerly asked.

"Why we can swing on some of the ropes that are in the haymow. I guess the ropes are there to tie things up on in the winter. But we can swing on 'em now, and make believe we're sailors, just as we did when we found that boy in the cave where we went with Cousin Jasper."

"Oh, so we can!" cried Nan. "Come on!"

"I'll be a fireman on the ship!" declared fat Freddie, as he got slowly to his feet from the floor where he had been sitting near Bert. I'll be a fireman and squirt water."

"Not real--only make believe" cried Bert. "Water spoils hay, you know, Freddie. You can't splash any water on daddy's hay in the barn."

"No, I'll only make believe," agreed the light-haired little boy. "Come on Flossie!" he called to his sister, who had slipped down off the porch to run after a big black cat that marched along with his tail in the air, "like a fishing pole," Bert said. "Come on, Flossie!" called Freddie. "We'll go out to the barn and play ship and sailors, and I'll be a fireman and you can be----"

"I'm going to be hungry, and have something good to eat! That's what I'll be," declared Flossie quickly. "I'm going to be awful hungry!"

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Nan, but she was laughing. "That's always the way. Those two want to do something different."

"Well, we can all make believe we're hungry," said Bert. "And maybe Dinah will give us some cookies to eat."

"There she goes now. I'll ask her!" offered Nan, as she saw the Bobbsey's fat and good-natured colored cook cross the lawn with a small basket of clothes to hang up. "We'll have a little play-party out in the barn."

"But I'm going to be real hungry--not make believe!" said Freddie. "I want to eat real."

"And so you can!" declared Nan. "I'll get enough for all of us."

A little later the Bobbsey twins--the two pairs of them--were on the way to the barn that stood a little way back of the house. Mr. Bobbsey did not live on a farm. He lived in a town, but his place was large enough to have a barn on it as well as a house. He kept a horse, and sometimes a cow, but just now there was no cow in the stable--only a horse.

And the horse was not there, either, just then, for it was being used to pull a wagon about the streets of Lakeport. Mr. Bobbsey had an automobile, but he also kept the horse, and this animal was sometimes used by the clerks from the lumber office.

So out to the barn, which had in it the winter supply of hay and oats for the horse, went the Bobbsey twins. Nan and Bert, being older, reached the place first, each one carrying some sugar and molasses cookies Dinah had given them. After Nan and Bert ran Flossie and Freddie, each one looking anxiously at the packages of cookies,

"Don't those cookies look good?" cried Flossie.

"And I guess they'll eat just as good as they look," was Freddie's comment.

Just then Nan's foot slipped on a small stone, and she came very near falling down.

"Oh!" cried Flossie and Freddie together.

"Don't drop your cookies, Nan!" came quickly from Bert.

"Oh, if you dropped 'em they'd get all dirty," said Flossie.

"They wouldn't get very dirty," answered Freddie hopefully. "Anyway, we could brush 'em off. They'd be good enough to eat, wouldn't they?" and he looked at Bert.

"I guess they wouldn't get very dirty," answered Bert. "Anyway, Nan didn't drop them. But you'd better be careful, Nan," he went on.

"Don't be so scared, Bert Bobbsey," answered his sister. "I won't drop them."

In a minute more the Bobbsey twins were at the barn where the sugar and molasses cookies Dinah had given them were put in a safe place.

"There are the ropes!" exclaimed Bert, as he pointed to some dangling from a beam near the haymow.

"They're too high to climb!" Nan said, for some of the ropes were fast to the rafters of the barn.

"Oh, we won't climb 'em!" Bert quickly returned, for he knew his mother would never allow this. "We'll just swing on 'em, low down near this pile of hay, so if we fall we can't hurt ourselves."

"I want to swing on a rope, too!" exclaimed Freddie, as he heard what his older brother and sister were talking of. "I like to be a sailor and swing on a rope."

"Not now, Freddie," answered Bert. "The ropes are too high for you and Flossie. You just play around on the barn floor, and you can watch Nan and me swing. Then we'll play steamboat, maybe."

"I want to be the steam, and go puff-puff!" cried Freddie.

"And I want to be the captain and say 'All aboard!'" was Flossie's wish.

"You can take turns," agreed Bert. "Now don't get in our way, Flossie and Freddie. Nan and I want to see how big a swing we can take by holding to the ropes."

"All right. I'll go and see if I can find any eggs," replied Freddie. "Hens lay eggs in the barn."

"Well, if you find a nest don't step in it and break all the eggs," warned Nan.

She and Bert, as Flossie and Freddie went marching around the big barn, climbed up on the pile of hay, and began swinging on the ropes. To and fro swung the older Bobbsey twins.

"Isn't this better than Blueberry Island?" asked Nan.

"Well no, it isn't any better," said Bert; "but it's just as good. Look, I'm going to let go and drop on the hay."

"Be careful and don't hurt yourself!" begged Nan, as she swung to and fro, her feet raised from the hay beneath her, while Bert, also, swayed slowly to and fro.

"Oh, I'll be careful!" Bert promised. "Anyhow, the hay is nice and soft to fall in. I'll make believe I'm a man in the circus, falling from the top of the tent."

He swung a little farther to and fro, and then suddenly cried:

"Here I go!"

"Oh!" screamed Nan, but, really, nothing happened to harm Bert. He just dropped into the pile of soft hay.

"Come on, Nan! You try it! Lots of fun!" laughed Bert as he scrambled up and made for his rope again.

Nan said "no" at first, but when Bert had swung once more and again dropped into the hay, she took her turn. Into the hay she plunged, and sank down to her shoulders in the soft, dried grass.

"Come on--let's do it some more!" laughed Bert. Then he and his older sister had lots of fun swinging on the ropes and dropping into a pile of hay.

"I wonder what Flossie and Freddie are doing," said Bert, after they had had about an hour of this fun. "I haven't seen them for a long while."

"Maybe they found a hen's nest and took the eggs to the house," said Nan. "They'd do that."

"Yes, if they found one," agreed Bert. "Well, we'll see where they are after I take another swing. And I'm going to take a big one."

"So will I!" decided Nan. "Oh, it's just as nice as Blueberry Island or on the deep, blue sea, isn't it, Bert?"

"It is when we play this way--yes. But just watch me."

"Here come Flossie and Freddie now!" exclaimed Nan, as she glanced at her older brother, who was taking a firm hold of the rope for his big swing. The two smaller twins, at this moment, came into the barn through the door that led to the cow stable.

"Where have you been?" asked Nan, as she watched Bert get ready for his swing.

"Oh, we had fun," said Flossie.

"And I squirted water, out where the horse "drinks," added Freddie,

"I hope you didn't get wet!" exclaimed Nan. "If you did----"

"Well, I have on a dirty waist, so it won't hurt me any if I am wet," said Freddie calmly. "I want to swing like that, Bert," he added. "Give me a swing!"

"After I've had my turn I'll give you and Flossie each one," promised Nan. "Watch me, Bert!" she called.

Off the mow swung Nan, clinging to the swaying rope with both hands.

"Come on--let's both let go together and see who falls into the hay first!" proposed Bert.

"All right!" agreed Nan.

"One, two, three!" cried Bert. "Ready! Let go!"

He and Nan let go of the ropes at the same time. Together they dropped down to the hay--and then something happened! The two older Bobbsey children jumped too near the edge of the mow, where the hay was piled in a big roll, like a great feather bed bolster, over the top rail. And Bert and Nan, in their drop, caused a big pile of hay--almost a wagonload--to slip from the mow and down to the barn floor. And directly underneath were Flossie and Freddie!

Down on the two little twins fell Bert and Nan and the big pile of dried grass, and, in an instant, the two golden heads were buried out of sight on the barn floor in a large heap of hay.