Chapter II. A Traveling Menagerie
 

It took some time for the people to get settled down again, for all had enjoyed the fun with the duck. The boys wanted Freddie to let him out of the box, on the quiet, but Bert overheard the plot and put a stop to it. Then, when the strange youngsters got better acquainted, and learned that the other box contained a little black kitten, they insisted on seeing it.

"We'll hold him tight," declared the boy from the back seat, "and nothing will happen to him."

'`But you don't know Snoop," insisted Bert. "We nearly lost him coming up in the train, and he's the biggest member of Freddie's menagerie, so we have to take good care of him."

Mr. Bobbsey, too, insisted that the cat should not be taken out of the box; so the boys reluctantly gave in.

"Now let us look around a little," suggested Mrs. Bobbsey, when quiet had come again, and only the rolling of the train and an occasional shrill whistle broke in on the continuous rumble of the day's journey.

"Yes, Dinah can watch the things and we can look through the other cars," agreed Mr. Bobbsey. "We might find someone we know going down to the shore."

"Be awful careful of Snoop and Downy," cautioned Freddie, as Dinah took up her picket duty. "Look out the boys don't get 'em," with a wise look at the youngsters, who were spoiling for more sport of some kind.

"Dis yeah circus won't move 'way from Dinah," she laughed. "When I goes on de police fo'ce I takes good care ob my beat, and you needn't be a-worryin', Freddie, de Snoopy kitty cat and de Downy duck will be heah when you comes back," and she nodded her wooly head in real earnest.

It was an easy matter to go from one car to the other as they were vestibuled, so that the Bobbsey family made a tour of the entire train, the boys with their father even going through the smoker into the baggage car, and having a chance to see what their own trunk looked like with a couple of railroad men sitting on it.

"Don't you want a job?" the baggagemaster asked Freddie. "We need a man about your size to lift trunks off the cars for us."

Of course the man was only joking, but Freddie always felt like a real man and he answered promptly:

"Nope, I'm goin' to be a fireman. I've put lots of fires out already, besides gettin' awful hurted on the ropes with 'Frisky.'"

"Frisky, who is he?" inquired the men.

"Why, our cow out in Meadow Brook. Don't you know Frisky?" and Freddie looked very much surprised that two grown-up people had never met the cow that had given him so much trouble.

"Why didn't you bring him along?" the men asked further.

"Have you got a cow car?" Freddie asked in turn.

"Yes, we have. Would you like to see one?" went on one of the railroaders. "If your papa will bring you out on the platform at the next stop, I'll show you how our cows travel."

Mr. Bobbsey promised to do this, and the party moved back to meet Nan, Flossie, and their mamma. Freddie told them at once about his promised excursion to the cattle car, and, of course, the others wanted to see, too.

"If we stop for a few minutes you may all come out," Mr. Bobbsey said. "But it is always risky to get off and have to scramble to get back again. Sometimes they promise us five minutes and give us two, taking the other three to make up for lost time."

The train gave a jerk, and the next minute they drew up to a little way station.

"Here we are, come now," called Mr. Bobbsey, picking Freddie up in his arms, and telling the others to hurry after him.

"Oh, there go the boys from our car!" called Bert, as quite a party of youngsters alighted. "They must be going on a picnic; see their lunch boxes."

"I hope Snoop is all right," Freddie reflected, seeing all the lunch boxes that looked so much like Snoop's cage.

"Come on, little fellow," called the baggage man, "we only have a few minutes."

Then they took Freddie to the rear car and showed him a big cage of cows--it was a cage made of slates, with openings between, and through the openings could be seen the crowded cattle.

"Oh, I would never put Frisky in a place like that," declared Freddie; "he wouldn't have room to move."

"There is not much room, that's a fact," agreed the man. "But you see cows are not first-class passengers."

"But they are good, and know how to play, and they give milk," said Freddie, speaking up bravely for his country friends. "What are you going to do with all of these cows'"

"I don't know," replied the man, not just wanting to talk about beefsteak. "Maybe they're going out to the pasture."

One pretty little cow tried to put her head out through the bars, and Bert managed to give her a couple of crackers from his pocket. She nibbled them up and bobbed her head as if to say:

"Thank you, I was very hungry."

"They are awfully crowded," Nan ventured, "and it must be dreadful to be packed in so. How do they manage to get a drink?"

"They will be watered to-night," replied the man, and then the Bobbseys had to all hurry to get on the train again, for the locomotive whistle had blown and the bell was ringing.

They found Dinah with her face pressed close to the window pane, enjoying the sights on the platform.

"I specked you was clean gone and left me," she laughed. "S'pose you saw lots of circuses, Freddie?"

"A whole carful," he answered, "but, Dinah," he went on, looking scared, "where's Snoop?"

The box was gone!

"Right where you left him," she declared. "I nebber left dis yeah spot, and nobody doan come ter steal de Snoopy kitty cat."

Dinah was crawling around much excited, looking for the missing box. Bert, Nan, and Flossie, of course, all rummaged about, and even Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey joined in the search. But there was no box to be found.

"Oh, the boys have stoled my cat!" wailed Freddie. "I dust knowed they would!" and he cried outright, for Snoop was a dear companion of the little fellow, and why should he not cry at losing his pet?

"Now wait," commanded his father, "we must not give up so easily. Perhaps the boys hid him some place."

"But suah's you lib I nebber did leab dis yeah seat," insisted Dinah, which was very true. But how could she watch those boys and keep her face so close to the window? Besides, a train makes lots of noise to hide boys' pranks.

"Now, we will begin a systematic search," said Mr. Bobbsey, who had already found out from the conductor and brakeman that they knew nothing about the lost box. "We will look in and under every seat. Then we will go through all the baggage in the hangers" (meaning the overhead wire baskets), "and see if we cannot find Snoop."

The other passengers were very kind and all helped in the hunt. The old lady who had thrown her hand bag at Downy thought she had seen a boy come in the door at the far end of the car, and go out again quickly, but otherwise no one could give any information that would lead to the discovery of the person or parties who had stolen Snoop.

All kinds of traveling necessities were upset in the search. Some jelly got spilled, some fresh country eggs were cracked, but everybody was good-natured and no one complained.

Yet, after a thorough overhauling of the entire car there was no Snoop to be found!

"He's gone!" they all admitted, the children falling into tears, while the older people looked troubled.

"They could hardly have stolen him," Mr. Bobbsey reflected, "and the conductor is sure not one of those boys went in another car, for they all left the train at Ramsley's."

"I don't care!" cried Freddie, aloud, "I'll just have every one of them arrested when we get to Auntie's. I knowed they had Snoop in their boxes."

How Snoop could be "in boxes" and how the boys could be found at Auntie's were two much mixed points, but no one bothered Freddie about such trifles in his present grief.

"Why doan you call dat kitty cat?" suggested Dinah, for all this time no one had thought of that.

"I couldn't," answered Freddie, "'cause he ain't here to call." And he went on crying.

"Snoop! Snoop! Snoop Cat!" called Dinah, but there was no familiar "me-ow" to answer her.

"Now, Freddie boy," she insisted, "if dat cat is alibe he will answer if youse call him, so just you stop a-sniffing and come along. Dere's a good chile," and she patted him in her old way. "Come wit Dinah and we will find Snoop."

With a faint heart the little fellow started to call, beginning at the front door and walking slowly along toward the rear.

"Stoop down now and den," ordered Dinah, "cause he might be hiding, you know."

Freddie had reached the rear door and he stopped.

"Now jist gib one more good call" said Dinah, and Freddie did.

"Snoop! Snoop!" he called.

"Me-ow," came a faint answer.

"Oh, I heard him!" cried Freddie.

"So did I!" declared Dinah.

Instantly all the other Bobbseys were on the scene.

"He's somewhere down here," said Dinah. "Call him, Freddie!"

"Snoop! Snoop!" called the boy again.

"Me-ow--me-ow!" came a distant answer.

"In the stove!" declared Bert, jerking open the door of the stove, which, of course, was not used in summer, and bringing out the poor, frightened, little cat.