Chapter XI. The President

Really it was nothing new for one of the Bobbsey twins to become lost-- especially the younger set, Flossie and Freddie. Some years before, when they were younger, it had often happened to Nan and Bert, but they were now old enough, and large enough, to look after themselves pretty well. But Flossie or Freddie, and sometimes both of them, were often missing, especially when the family went to some new place where there were strange objects to see, as was now the case in the Congressional Library.

"Where do you suppose Flossie could have gone?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she glanced around the big rotunda in which they stood with some other visitors who had come to the city of Washington.

"I'll have to ask some of the men who are in charge of this building," replied Daddy Bobbsey. "Are you sure you saw Flossie go up those stairs, Freddie?" he asked the little fireman.

"Well, she maybe went up, or she maybe went down," answered the boy. "I was lookin' at the pishures on the wall, and Flossie was by me. And then--well, she wasn't by me," he added, as if that explained it all. "But I saw a little girl go up the stairs and I thought maybe it was Flossie."

"But why didn't you tell mother, dear?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "If you had called to me when you saw Flossie going away I could have brought her back before she got lost. Why didn't you tell me that Flossie was going away?"

"'Cause," answered Freddie.

"Because why?" his father wanted to know.

"'Cause I thought maybe Flossie wanted to slide down a banister of the stairs and maybe you wouldn't let her, and I wanted to see if she could slide down and then I could slide down too!"

"Well, that's a funny excuse!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "I don't believe Flossie would slide down any banister here. But she has certainly wandered away, and we'll have to find her. You stay here with the children, so I'll know where to find you," Mr. Bobbsey said to his wife. "I'll go to look for Flossie."

"I want to come!" exclaimed Nan.

"No, you had better stay with mother," her father told her. "But I will take Bert along. He can take a message for me in case I have to send one. Come along!" he called to Nan's brother.

"All right, Daddy," answered Bert.

Up the big stone stairs went Daddy Bobbsey and Bert. Mrs. Bobbsey, with a worried look on her face, remained in the big rotunda with Nan and Freddie. The two children were worried too.

"Do you s'pose Flossie is hurt?" asked Nan.

"Oh, no, I don't believe so," and Mrs. Bobbsey tried to speak easily. "She has just gone into some room, or down some long hall, and lost her way, I think. You see there are so many rooms and halls in this building that it would be easy for even daddy or me to be lost. But your father will soon find Flossie and bring her back to us."

"But if they don't find her, Mamma?"

"Oh, they'll be sure to do that, Nan. There is nobody around this building who would hurt our little Flossie."

"What an awful big building it is," remarked Nan. "And just think of the thousands and thousands of books! Why, I didn't know there were so many books in the whole world! Mamma, do you suppose any of the people down here read all these books?"

"Hardly, Nan. They wouldn't have time enough to do that."

And now we shall see what happens to Mr. Bobbsey and Bert. Flossie's father decided to try upstairs first, as Freddie seemed to think that was the way his little sister had gone.

"Of course, he isn't very sure about it," said Mr. Bobbsey to Bert; "but we may as well start one way as the other. If she isn't upstairs she must be down. Now we'll look around and ask questions."

They did this, inquiring of every one they met whether a little blue- eyed and flaxen-haired child had been seen wandering about. Some whom Mr. Bobbsey questioned were visitors, like himself, and others were men who worked in the big library. But, for a time, one and all gave the same answer; they had not seen Flossie.

Along the halls and into the different rooms went Mr. Bobbsey and Bert. But no Flossie could they find until, at last, they approached a very large room where a man with very white hair sat at a desk. The door of this room was open, and there were many books in cases around the walls.

"Excuse me," said Mr. Bobbsey to the elderly gentleman who looked up with a smile as Flossie's father and Bert entered the room. "Excuse me for disturbing you; but have you seen anything of a little girl--"

"Did she have blue eyes?" asked the old man.

"Yes!" eagerly answered Mr. Bobbsey.

"And did she have light hair?"

"Oh, yes! Have you seen her?"

Softly the man arose from his desk and tiptoed over to a folding screen. He moved this to one side, and there, on a leather couch and covered by an office coat, was Flossie Bobbsey, fast asleep.

"Oh! Oh!" exclaimed Bert.

"Hush!" said the old man softly. "Don't awaken her. When she arouses I'll tell you how she came in here. It's quite a joke!"

"You stay here, Bert," said Mr. Bobbsey to his son, "and I'll go and get your mother, Nan and Freddie. I want them to see how cute Flossie looks. They'll be glad to know we have found her."

So while Bert sat in a chair in the old man's office Mr. Bobbsey hurried to tell his wife and the others the good news. And soon Mrs. Bobbsey and the rest of the children were peeping at Flossie as she lay asleep.

And then, suddenly, as they were all looking down at her, the little girl opened her eyes. She saw her mother and father; she saw Nan and Bert and Freddie; and then she looked at the kind old man with the white hair.

"Did you find a story book for me?" were the first words Flossie said.

"Well, I'm afraid not, my dear," was the old man's answer. "We don't have story books for little girls up here, though there may be some downstairs."

"Is that what she came in here for--a story book?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"I believe it was," answered the old man, with a smile. "I was busy at my desk when I heard the patter of little feet and a little girl's voice asking me for a story book. I looked around, and there stood your little one. I guessed, at once, that she must have wandered away from some visitors in the library, so I gave her a cake I happened to have in my lunch box, and got her to lie down on the sofa, as I saw she was tired. Then she fell asleep, and I covered her up and put the screen around her. I knew some one would come for her."

"Thank you, so much!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "But, Flossie, how did you happen to come up here?"

"Oh, I wanted a story book," explained the little girl, as she sat up. "We have story books in our library, an' there ought to be story books here. I looked in this room an' I saw a lot of books, so I did ask for one with a story in it. I like a story about pigs an' bears an'--an' everything!" finished Flossie.

"Well, I wish I had that kind of story book for you, but I haven't!" laughed the old man.

"All my books are very dull, indeed, for children, though when you grow up you may like to read them," and he waved his hand at the many books in the room.

So Flossie was lost and found again. The old man was one of the librarians, and he had taken good care of the little girl until her family came for her. After thanking him, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey led their twins downstairs and Mr. Bobbsey said:

"Well, I think we have seen enough of the library for a time. We had better go and see the Martins."

"Oh, yes!" cried Bert. "Billy said he'd take me to see the President."

"And I want to go, too!" added Nan.

"We'll see!" half promised her mother.

In an automobile the Bobbsey family rode to where the Martin family lived. And you can well believe that Billy and Nell were glad to see the Bobbsey twins once more. Mrs. Martin welcomed Mrs. Bobbsey, and soon there was a happy reunion. Mr. Martin was at his office, and Mr. Bobbsey said he would go down there to see him.

"Then couldn't we go out and see the President while mother stays here and visits with Mrs. Martin?" asked Nan. "Nell and Billy will go with us."

"I think they might go," said Mrs. Martin. "Billy and Nell know their way to the White House very well, as they often go. It isn't far from here."

"Well, I suppose they may go," said Mrs. Bobbsey slowly.

"And I want to go, too!" exclaimed Freddie. "I want to see the dent."

"It isn't a dent--it's President--the head of the United States!" explained Bert. "Our teacher told us about him, and she said if ever I came to Washington I ought to see the President."

"I want to see him too," cried Flossie.

"Let all the children go!" said Mrs. Martin. "I'll send one of my maids to walk along with them to make sure that they keep together. It is a nice day, and they may catch a glimpse of the President. He often goes for a drive from the White House around Washington about this time."

"Well, I suppose it will be a little treat for them," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Oh, goodie!" shouted Freddie.

So, a little later, the Bobbsey twins, with Nell and Billy Martin and one of the Martin maids, were walking toward the White House.

"There it is!" exclaimed Billy to Bert, as they turned the corner and came within view of the Executive Mansion, as it is often called.

"Oh, it is white!" cried Nan.

"Just like the pictures!" added Bert.

"It's got a big iron fence around," observed Freddie. "Is that so the President can't get out?"

"No, I guess it's so no unwanted people can get in," answered Nell.

The children and the maid walked down the street and looked through the iron fence into the big grounds, green even now though it was early winter. And in the midst of a great lawn stood the White House--the home of the President of the United States.

Suddenly two big iron gates were swung open. Several policemen began walking toward them from the lawn and some from the street outside.

"What's the matter?" asked Bert. "Is there a fire?"

"The President is coming out in his carriage," said Billy. "If we stand here we can see him! Look! Here comes the President!"