Chapter XVII. Called Home

For a moment Mr. Bobbsey, as well as his wife, was so surprised at what Flossie had done that neither could say or do anything. They just stood and looked at the little girl who was walking toward the apple, which lay in the straw just in front of the big elephant. Nan and Bert, however, together gave a cry of fear and Bert made a jump as though he intended to go into the elephant's cage, also.

His father, however, stepped in front of him, and said quietly:

"One child in there is enough at a time. I'll get Flossie!"

And Flossie, not at all thinking of danger, if danger there was, kept going on to get her apple.

The elephant, as it happened, was chained by one leg to a heavy iron ring in the side of his cage, and he could move only a short distance. But he was so anxious to get the apple that he stretched his legs as far as he could, pulling hard on the chain, and then he stretched out his trunk.

And truly it seemed made of rubber, that elephant's trunk did, from the way he stuck it out. But, stretch as he did, the elephant could not quite reach the apple, which he wanted very much.

"No, you mustn't take it!" Flossie was saying. "You can't have my apple! I was only going to let you smell it, Mr. Elephant. It isn't good for you to eat it, my mother says. I'll take it back and maybe some day I'll bring you another."

By this time Flossie was almost within reach of her red-cheeked apple, but, what was worse, she was also almost within reach of that trunk, which, however soft and gentle it might seem when picking up a peanut, was very strong, and could squeeze a big man or a little girl very hard indeed--that is, if the elephant was a bad one and wanted to do such a thing.

"Oh, Flossie! Come back! Come back!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, who had been so frightened at first that she could not say a word.

"I want to get my apple," answered the little girl. "The elephant can't have it! I only wanted to let him smell how good it would taste if he could eat it."

She was stooping over now, to pick up the fruit, and the tip of the long trunk was brushing the fluffy hair on Flossie's head. Nan covered her face with her hands, and Bert looked eagerly about, as though for something to throw at the big animal.

Mr. Bobbsey was climbing over the rail that was in front of the elephant's cage, and the people around were calling and shouting.

The elephant really did have the end of one of Flossie's curls on the tip of his trunk, when along came one of the keepers, or animal trainers. Somebody had sent him word, that a little girl was in one of the animal cages. The keeper knew right away what to do.

"Back, Ganges!" he cried to the big elephant. "Get back there! Back! Back!"

The elephant raised his trunk high in the air, and made a funny trumpeting noise through it, as though half a dozen big men had all blown their noses at once. Then, as the keeper himself went in between the bars, the elephant slowly backed to the far end, his chain clanking as he did so.

"There! I got my apple!" cried Flossie, as she picked it up from where it had rolled in the straw. And then, before she knew what was happening, the keeper picked her up and carried her to the outside rail, where he placed her in Mr. Bobbsey's arms.

"Oh, Flossie! Flossie!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, with tears in her eyes. "Why did you do it?"

"Why, I had to get my apple," answered the little girl. "Did you think the elephant would bite me?"

"He might," said Mr. Bobbsey, who was a little pale. "You must never do such a thing again, Flossie, no matter how many apples roll into elephants' cages."

"Oh, Ganges wouldn't have hurt her," said the keeper. "At least I don't believe he would, though he might have pinched her with his trunk if he had gotten the apple and she had tried to take it away from him. He's a very gentle elephant, and in the Summer many children ride on his back about the park."

"Oh, could I have a ride on his back?" asked Freddie, who had been anxiously watching to see what happened to Flossie.

"Not now, little man," answered the keeper. "It is too cold for the elephants to go out of doors now. If you're here in the Summer you and your sister may have lots of rides."

"Then I'm coming in the Summer!" cried Freddie.

"Oh, I don't believe I'd ever let you go near an elephant!" said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I was so frightened when I saw Flossie."

"There really wasn't any danger!" said the keeper again. "Here, I'll show you how gentle Ganges is."

The man went in the cage and the elephant, whose name was Ganges, seemed very glad to see his keeper. When the man called out an order the elephant lowered his trunk, made a sort of loop at one end, and when the keeper stepped in this the elephant raised him high in the air.

"I have taught him two or three tricks," said the man, coming back to the railing, outside of which stood the Bobbsey twins, their father and mother and a crowd of others who had heard what had happened. "He is a good elephant."

"Couldn't he have my apple?" asked Flossie. "I'm not so very hungry for it, and if I want one Daddy will get me another. Won't you, Daddy?" she asked, kissing her father, who was still holding her.

"I will if you promise never to go inside an elephant's cage again," he answered.

"Oh, I never will," said Flossie. "Here, you give him the apple," she said, holding it out to the keeper. "I guess he wants it."

"Oh, he wants it, all right!" laughed the man. "And, though it is not exactly according to the rules, I guess it will be all right this time. Here you are, Ganges!" he called. "Catch!"

The big elephant raised his trunk, making a sort of curling twist in it, and when the keeper threw the apple Ganges caught it as well as a baseball player could have done.

The next moment Flossie's apple was thrust into the elephant's mouth, and, as he chewed it, his little eyes seemed to twinkle in delight.

"He likes an apple just as much as I do," said Freddie. "Elephants is queer!"

"Don't try to go in there to feed this one peanuts!" said Bert, fearing that the little twin boy might try to do as his sister had done. Generally Flossie and Freddie wanted to do the same things.

"No, I won't go in," Freddie said.

Having swallowed the apple, the elephant held out his trunk toward the Bobbseys again. He was asking for "more," as plainly as though he had spoken.

"No more!" called the keeper, and this the elephant seemed to understand, for he lowered his trunk, and backed into his corner, throwing hay dust over his back as he did in the Summer to keep the flies from tickling him.

"Well, I guess we've seen enough of elephants for one day," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I thought I should faint when I saw Flossie go into that cage. I wish I could get a cup of tea."

"We'll go and have lunch," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It's about noon, I think."

They went to a restaurant near a great round stone, which was perched on the top of a big ledge of rock, and when Freddie wanted to know what it was his father told him.

"That's a rocking stone," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It stands there on a sort of little knob, and it is so nicely balanced that a man, or two or three boys, can easily push it and rock it to and fro."

"Do you mean one man can move that big rock?" asked Bert.

"Yes, he can make it rock, but he can not make it move off the rock on which it rests. Come and try."

Bert and his father pushed their backs against the stone, and, surely enough, they could make it rock an inch or two back and forth. Freddie helped, or at least he thought he did, which is the same thing. But the stone really did rock, and the children thought it was quite a wonderful thing. Sometimes your heavy piano, if it stands on an uneven place in the floor, may be rocked back and forth a little. That's the way it was with the rocking stone. The restaurant where the Bobbseys ate was named "Rocking Stone," because it was within sight of the queer rock.

I have not time to tell you all that the Bobbsey twins saw and did in Bronx Park that day. But they had a fine time, and Flossie and Freddie, at least, wanted to come back the next day.

"There're lots of things that we didn't see," remarked Flossie.

"Yes. And I want to rock that big stone again," added Freddie. "Why, it rocked back and forth just as easy as a cradle!"

"Oh, Freddie Bobbsey! The idea! To make out that big rock was like a cradle!" cried Flossie.

"I didn't say it was like a cradle. I said it wobbled just like a cradle," replied Freddie. "Daddy, can we go back again to-morrow?"

"I planned to take you to the Natural History Museum to-morrow," said Mr. Bobbsey. "There you can see all sorts of stuffed animals--walruses almost as big as a small house, a model of a whale and many other queer things."

"Oh, do let's go!" begged Bert.

"We will," promised Mr. Bobbsey, but when the next day came the plan of the Bobbseys had to be changed.

In Mr. Bobbsey's mail that morning was a letter from his bookkeeper at the lumberyard, which, when Mr. Bobbsey had read it, made him thoughtful.

"I hope there isn't bad news," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

"No, not exactly bad news," was her husband's answer. "But I think I shall have to go back home."