Chapter XIV. The Store Camp

The noise like a gun which Freddie heard was made when something exploded, or blew up, in the burning store, and at first Freddie thought he had been blown up with it and was flying through the air.

Then, as he opened his eyes (for he had closed them when the strange thing began to happen) he saw that he was in the arms of the fireman with the white rubber coat, and the fireman was smiling down at him.

"Am I--am I hurted?" Freddie asked.

"Bless your little heart! Of course not!" was the answer. "But you might have been if you had stayed where you were--not so much hurt by the fire, for that's almost out--as by the crowd. How did you get past the fire lines?"

"I--I didn't see 'em," said Freddie. "Back in Lakeport, where I live, we don't have fire lines, though I've got a fish line."

"Humph! You're from the country, all right. Where do you live, and how comes it your father let you out in the streets during a fire?"

"I live in the Parkview Hotel and my father didn't let me out. He's gone to see the airships with Nan and Bert, and Laddie and I came out to see the fire ourselves. Flossie stayed with her doll. Laddie went back to get his aunt, 'cause she likes fires--I mean to see 'em--and I waited for him, and--and----"

"Yes, I guess you don't know what happened next," laughed the fireman. "But as I want to telephone to headquarters about one of the engines that is broken, I'll use the hotel 'phone, and, at the same time, take you back where you belong. You're too little to get inside the ropes at a New York fire."

"I'm going to be a fireman when I grow up," said Freddie, as the assistant chief carried him into the corridor of the hotel.

"Well, that won't be for some time yet, and while you're waiting to grow up don't go too near fires--they're dangerous. There you are, and I think some one is looking for you," the fireman went on, as he saw a lady rushing toward him when he set Freddie down.

"That's my mother," said Freddie.

"Oh, Freddie! Where have you been?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, for when she heard of a fire she went in search of the two small twins, and could not find them in Mrs. Whipple's rooms.

"I've been to the fire, and I was rescued," answered Freddie. "He did it," and he pointed to the white-coated fireman.

"Oh, he really wasn't in any real danger," the assistant chief said, taking off his heavy helmet and bowing to Mrs. Bobbsey. "He was inside the fire lines and I carried him here."

"Oh, I can't thank you enough!" cried Freddie's mother. "I never knew him to do such a thing as that before. But he is simply wild about fires!"

"Yes, most boys are."

Then the fireman telephoned about the broken engine. Freddie told his mother how he and Laddie came to go down to watch the "puffers" (part of which story Flossie had already told Mrs. Bobbsey), and then along came Laddie and his aunt. Mrs. Whipple was almost as much worried as was Mrs. Bobbsey.

But everything came out all right; no one was hurt, and the fire, though it badly burned the store in which it started, did not get near the hotel or any other buildings.

But Freddie could not forget about his "rescue," as he called it, and when his father, with Nan and Bert, came home that evening the story had all to be told over again.

"But you and Laddie did wrong to go down to the fire without telling Laddie's aunt," said Mr. Bobbsey to his small son. "You must never do it again!"

"I never will," promised Freddie. "But I was rescued all right, wasn't I?"

"I guess so," and Mr. Bobbsey had to turn his head away so Freddie would not see his smile.

Laddie, Flossie and Freddie soon became fast friends, and when the smaller Bobbsey twins were not being taken about New York, to see what to them were very wonderful sights, they were either playing in the rooms of Mrs. Whipple or in their own at the hotel.

Bert and Nan were a little too old for this kind of fun, but they met, in the same hotel, a brother and sister of about their own age--Frank and Helen Porter--with whom they had good times.

Mr. Bobbsey had to spend many days looking after the business that had brought him to New York, but Mrs. Bobbsey was free to go about with the children. She took Nan and Bert shopping with her sometimes, leaving Flossie and Freddie with Mrs. Whipple. This suited the small twins, for Laddie and they were great friends and played well together.

Other times Bert and Nan would go to the park, or somewhere with the Porter brother and sister, and Mrs. Bobbsey would take Flossie and Freddie to a matinee or the moving pictures.

"Oh, I think New York is just the nicest place in the world," said Nan one afternoon, after a trip she and Bert had had on top of a Fifth avenue automobile stage, Frank and Helen Porter having gone with them.

"Yes, it is nice," agreed Bert "But it's nice in Lakeport, too. You can't have fun riding down hill here, and the skating isn't as good as on our Lake Metoka. And I haven't seen an ice-boat since we came here, except in moving pictures. I wonder how Tommy Todd is making out with mine."

"Hasn't he written to you?" asked Nan.

"No; but he promised he would. Guess I'll write him a postal now and ask him how the Bird is sailing."

"And I'll write to some of the girls in Lakeport," said Nan.

I had forgotten to tell you that some time before this, Mr. Whipple, the man who owned the store where Flossie's hat was bought the day the monkey chewed up hers, had met the two smaller twins in his wife's rooms one day, when Flossie and Freddie had come to play with Laddie.

"Why, those are the two little children who were on the elevated express," said the store owner, in surprise.

"That's so, you do know them, don't you?" returned Mrs. Whipple.

"I should say I did!" cried her husband, and he told all that had happened, while Mrs. Whipple related how Laddie, Flossie and Freddie had come to know one another in the theatre.

Mr. Whipple, at another time, once more met Mr. Bobbsey, whom he had seen that day in the store, and the two families became very good friends, though Mr. Whipple was so busy he did not have much time for calling.

One evening, however, Mr. Whipple came home from the store rather earlier than usual, and, finding Flossie and Freddie in his apartments playing with Laddie, the store-owner asked:

"How would you youngsters like to come and see a woodland camp--a camp with tents, a real fire, where a man is cooking his dinner and all that? How would you like it?"

"Oh, please take us!" begged Laddie.

"Where is it?" Freddie asked, ready to go at once.

"In my store," said Mr. Whipple.

"A store is a funny place for a camp in the woods," said Freddie. He and Flossie had often pretended to camp out in a tent made from a blanket or quilt, and they knew what it meant.

"Well, you just come and see it," laughed Mr. Whipple. "If your folks say it's all right, I'll take you all to-morrow."

"Oh, we'll come!" cried Freddie. "I love a camp!"