Chapter IX. Washington at Last
 

The startled cries of Mrs. Bobbsey alarmed a number of other women on the tower platform, and some one asked:

"Did your little boy fall off?"

"I don't know what happened to him!" said Mrs. Bobbsey, who was now almost crying. "He was here a moment ago, and now he's gone!"

"He couldn't have fallen off!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "Some one would have seen him. I think he must have gone down by himself in the little elevator. I'll ask the man."

The elevator, just then, was at the bottom of the tower, but it was soon on its way up, and Mrs. Bobbsey fairly rushed at the man as he opened the door.

"Where is my little boy? Oh, have you seen my little boy?" she cried.

"Well, I don't know, lady," answered the elevator man. "What sort of little boy was he?"

"He has blue eyes and light hair and--"

"Let me explain," Mr. Bobbsey spoke quietly. "My little boy, Freddie, was out on the tower platform with us looking at the view, a few minutes ago, and now we can't find him. We thought perhaps he slipped in here by himself and rode down with you."

"Well, he might have slipped into my elevator when I wasn't looking," answered the man. "I took two or three little boys down on the last load, but I didn't notice any one in particular. Better get in and ride to the ground floor. Maybe the superintendent or the head elevator man can tell you better than I. Get in and ride down with me."

"Oh, yes, and please hurry!" begged Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, what can have happened to Freddie?"

"I think you'll find him all right," said the elevator man. "No accident has happened or I'd have heard of it."

"Yes; don't worry!" advised Mr. Bobbsey.

But Mrs. Bobbsey could not help worrying, and Nan, Bert and Flossie were very much frightened. They were almost crying. Even though the Bobbseys got in an express elevator after getting out of the small, slower one, it could not go down fast enough to suit Freddie's mother. When the ground floor was reached she was the first to rush out.

One look around the big corridor of the Woolworth Building showed Mrs. Bobbsey that something had happened over near one of the elevators. There was a crowd there, and, for a moment, she was very much frightened. But the next second she saw Freddie himself, with a crowd of men around him, and they were all laughing.

"Oh, Freddie! where did you go and what have you been doing?" cried his frightened mother as she caught him up in her arms.

"I've been having rides in the elevator," announced the small boy. "And it went as fast as anything! I rode up and down lots of times!"

"Yes, that's what he did," said the elevator man, with a laugh. "I didn't pay much attention to him at first, but when I saw that he was staying in my car trip after trip, I asked him at what floor he wanted to get out. He said he didn't want to get out at all--that he liked me, and liked to stay in and ride!"

And at this the crowd laughed again.

"And is that what you have been doing, Freddie--riding up and down in the elevator?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"Yes, and I liked it!" exclaimed Freddie. "I wished Flossie was with me."

"I'm here now!" said the "little fat fairy," laughing. "I can ride with you now, Freddie."

"No! There has been enough of riding," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "And you gave me a bad fright, Freddie. Why did you wander away?"

"'Cause I liked an elevator ride better than staying up so high where the wind blew," explained the little fellow.

And when they asked him more about it he said he had just slipped away from them while they were on the tower platform, gone back into the room and ridden down in the elevator with the other passengers. No one realized that Freddie was traveling all by himself, the elevator man thinking the blue-eyed and golden-haired boy was with a lady who had two other children by the hands.

Freddie rode to the ground floor, and then he just stayed in the express elevator, riding up and down and having a great time, until the second elevator man began to question him.

"Well, don't ever do it again," said Mr. Bobbsey, and Freddie promised that he would not.

After this there was a lunch, and then they all went up to Bronx Park, traveling in the subway, or the underground railway, which seems strange to so many visitors to New York. But the Bobbsey twins had traveled that way before, so they did not think it very odd.

"It's just like a big, long tunnel," said Bert, and so the subway is.

The Bronx Park is not such a nice place to visit in winter as it is in summer, but the children enjoyed it, and they spent some time in the elephant house, watching the big animals. There was also a hippopotamus there, and oh! what a big mouth he had. The keeper went in between the bars of the hippo's cage, with a pail full of bran mash, and cried:

"Open your mouth, boy!"

"Oh, look!" cried Bert.

And, as they looked, the hippopotamus opened his great, big red jaws as wide as he could, and the man just turned the whole pail full of soft bran into the hippo's mouth!

"Oh, what a big bite!" cried Freddie, and every one laughed.

"Does he always eat that way?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey of the keeper.

"Well, I generally feed him that way when there are visitors here," was the answer. "The children like to see the big red mouth open wide. And here's something else he does."

After the hippo, which is a short name for hippopotamus, had swallowed the pail full of bran mash, the keeper took up a loaf of bread from a box which seemed to have enough loaves in it for a small bakery, and cried: "Open again, old fellow!"

Wide open went the big mouth, and right into it the man tossed a whole loaf of bread. And the hippo closed his jaws and began chewing the whole loaf of bread as though it were Only a single bite.

"Oh my!" cried Freddie and Flossie, and Freddie added: "If he came to a party you'd have to make an awful lot of sandwiches!"

"I should say so!" laughed the keeper. "One sandwich would hardly fill his hollow tooth, if he had one."

The children spent some little time in the Bronx Park, and enjoyed every moment. They liked to watch the funny monkeys, and see the buffaloes, which stayed outdoors even though it was quite cold.

The Bobbsey twins spent four days in New York, and every day was a delight to them. They had many other little adventures, but none quite so "scary" as the one where Freddie slipped away to ride in the elevator.

Finally, Mr. Bobbsey's business was finished, and one evening he said:

"To-morrow we go to Washington."

"Hurray!" exclaimed Bert. "Then I can see Billy Martin."

"And I can see Nell. I like her very much," added Nan.

"And I'm going to see the big monument!" cried Freddie.

Early the next morning the Bobbsey family took a train at the big Pennsylvania Station to go to Washington. Nothing very strange happened on that trip except that a lady in the same car where the twins rode had a beautiful little white dog, and Flossie and Freddie made friends with it at once, and had lots of fun playing with the animal.

"Washington! Washington!" called the trainman, after a ride of about five hours. "All out for Washington!"

"Here at last, and I am glad of it," sighed Mrs. Bobbsey. "I shall be glad to have supper at the hotel and get to bed. I am tired!"

But the children did not seem to be tired. They had enjoyed every moment of the trip. In an automobile they rode to their hotel, and soon were in their rooms, for Mr. Bobbsey had engaged three with a nice bath. He had decided it would be best to stay at a hotel rather than at the Martins' house, because there were so many Bobbseys; but they expected to visit their friends very often.

It was evening when the Bobbseys arrived in Washington, and too late to go sight-seeing. But on the way to the hotel in the automobile they had passed the Capitol, with the wonderful lights showing on the dome, making it look as though it had taken a bath in moon-beams.

"Oh, it's just lovely here!" exclaimed Nan, with a happy little sigh as they went down to supper, or "dinner" as it is generally called, even though it is eaten at night.

"Scrumptious!" agreed Bert.

The Bobbsey family had a little table all to themselves at one side of the room, and a waiter came up to serve them, Mr. Bobbsey giving the order.

Nan and Bert and Flossie and Freddie looked about. It was not the first time they had stopped at a big hotel, but there was always something new and strange and interesting to be seen.

Bert, who had been gazing about the room, began to look at the dishes, knives and forks the waiter was putting on the table. Suddenly the dark- haired boy took hold of the sugar bowl and turned it over, spilling out all the lumps.

"Why Bert! you shouldn't do that," exclaimed his father.

"I want to see what's on the bottom of this bowl," Bert said. "It looks just like the one Miss Pompret lost, and if it's the same I'll get a hundred dollars! Oh, look, it is the same! Nan, I've found her lost sugar bowl!" cried Bert.