Chapter XX. Mr. Bobbsey Comes Back
 

"Hey, Jimmie! Give us a goat ride, will you?" called a boy in the street.

"I will for two cents," answered the red-haired lad driving the goat and wagon.

"Aw, go on. Give us a ride for a cent!"

"Nope. Two cents!"

"Oh, did you hear that?" asked Flossie of Freddie. "He gives rides for two cents."

"Then we'll have some," said Freddie. "How many rides can you get for ten cents?"

"A lot, I guess," said Flossie, who forgot all about the number-work she had studied for a little while in school.

"Hey!" called Freddie to the boy with the goat. "We've got two cents--we want a ride."

The boy, who was sitting in an old goat wagon, pulled on the reins and guided his animal over toward the curb.

"Does you really want a ride?" he asked, "No foolin'?"

"No foolin'," answered Freddie. "Sure we want a ride. I've got five cents." He showed only half of the money he had in his pocket, keeping the other nickel back.

"I'll give you an' your sister a ride for dat!" cried the goat boy, not speaking the way Freddie and Flossie had been taught to do. "Hop in!"

"Can I drive?" asked Freddie.

"Nope. I'm afraid to let youse," was the answer. "Billy's a good goat, but you see he don't just know you. Course I could introduce youse to him, an' then he'd know you. But first along you'd better not drive him. I'll steer him were you want to go. I gives a ride up an' down de block fer two cents," he went on. "Course two of you is four cents."

"I've got a nickel," said Freddie quickly.

"Sure, dat's right. I forgot. Well, I'll give you both a ride up and down de block and half way back again for de nickel."

"Here it is," said Freddie, handing it over, as he and Flossie took their seats in the goat wagon. There was plenty of room for them and the red-haired driver. Other children on the block crowded to the curbstone and looked on with eager eyes as the Bobbsey twins started on their ride. Mrs. Bobbsey, talking with her friend in the darkened parlor, knew nothing of what was going on.

"Say, he is a good goat," said Freddie, when they were half-way down the block.

"Sure he's a good goat!" agreed the boy, whose name was Mike. "There ain't none better."

"It's lots of fun," said Flossie.

It was a fine day, even if it was Winter. The sun was shining brightly, so it was not cold. What snow there was in New York, before the Bobbseys came on their visit, had either melted or been cleaned off the streets so one would hardly know there had been a storm.

"I wish we had a goat," said Freddie, when the ride was almost over.

"So do I," agreed Flossie. "Let's ask Daddy to buy one," she suggested.

"We will," said Freddie.

"I'm goin' to sell dis goat," put in Mike.

"You are? Why?" cried the Bobbsey twins.

"'Cause I'm going to work. You see I won't have time to look after him. I bought him off a feller what moved away, an' I keeps de goat in Sullivan's livery stable. But I have to pay a dollar a month, an' so I began givin' de boys an' girls around here rides for two cents to pay for Billy's keep. But I can't do dat when I goes to work, so me mudder says I must sell 'im. I don't want to, but I has to."

Flossie looked at Freddie and Freddie looked at Flossie on hearing this. Neither of them said a word, but any one who knew them could easily have told that they were thinking of the same thing--the goat.

"Well, I'll ride you back to where youse got in me wagon," said Mike, "and then your nickel's about used up."

"Oh, I've got another!" cried Freddie eagerly. "We want more ride. Don't we, Flossie?"

"Sure we do! Oh, it's such fun!"

So they rode up and down the block again, and when that was over Flossie and Freddie spent some time talking to Mike.

By this time Mrs. Bobbsey had ended her visit and had come out to look for her children.

"I thought I told you not to go off the steps," she said. They were down the street looking at the goat.

"Well, we didn't mean to," admitted Freddie. "But we did so much want a goat ride."

"And we had ten cents' worth!" laughed Flossie.

Mrs. Bobbsey smiled. It was very hard to be cross with these small twins. They never meant to do wrong, and, I suppose, taking a ride up and down the block was not so very bad.

"Good-bye!" called Freddie to Mike, the goat boy, as Mrs. Bobbsey led her children away.

"Good-bye!" added Flossie, waving her hand.

"Good-bye," echoed Mike.

"And don't forget!" said Freddie.

"No, I won't."

Mrs. Bobbsey might have asked what it was Mike was not to forget, only she was in a hurry to get back to the hotel, and so did not question Freddie.

When they reached their rooms they found a letter from Mr. Bobbsey, saying he would have to stay in Lakeport a day longer than he expected. But he would soon be in New York again, he wrote.

Bert and Nan came home from the moving pictures, saying they had had a delightful time.

"So did we--in a goat wagon," cried Freddie.

"And Freddie and me are goin' to----" began Flossie, but Freddie quickly cried:

"Come on and play fire engine, Flossie!" so his little sister did not finish what she had started to say.

It was the next day, soon after breakfast, that one of the hotel messengers--a small colored boy--knocked on the door of the suite of apartments occupied by the Bobbsey family, and when Mrs. Bobbsey answered, the colored boy said:

"He am downstairs, Ma'am. He am in de lobby."

"Who is?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"De boy what wants to see yo' little boy, Ma'am."

"Some one to see Freddie? Who is it?"

"I don't know, Ma'am. He didn't gib no name."

"Oh, perhaps it is Laddie," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Bert, please go down and see, will you? If it's Laddie, who wants Freddie to play with him, I don't see why he didn't come here. But go and see."

"Oh, I know who it is," said Freddie, "You don't need to go, Bert. Just give me five dollars, Mother, and I'll buy him."

"Buy him? Buy what?" asked the surprised Mrs. Bobbsey. "What in the world are you talking about, Freddie?"

"Mike, the goat boy. He's brought Billy here, I guess, and Flossie and I are going to buy him. Can't we, please?"

"What? Buy a goat when we're stopping at this hotel?" cried his mother. "Bert, do go and see what mischief those children have gotten into now. A goat! Oh, dear!"

"I'll go with him, 'cause Mike don't know Bert," offered Freddie.

"And I want to come!" said Flossie. "I want to see our goat."

"Your goat!" cried Nan.

"Yes, we're going to buy him. Mike brought him to sell to us."

And that is what had happened. When Mrs. Bobbsey followed Bert and Freddie down to the hotel lobby, leaving Nan to look after Flossie in the rooms, this is what she saw:

Out at the side entrance to the hotel was the goat and the rickety express wagon, in charge of a red-haired, snub-nosed boy, Mike's small brother. Mike himself, rather ragged, but clean and neat enough, was in the lobby, sitting at his ease on one of the big leather chairs, waiting.

"I've brought de goat," he said to Freddie, as soon as he saw that small Bobbsey with Bert.

"What does it all mean?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, while a crowd of the hotel guests and help gathered about.

"Why, your little boy, Ma'am, what I rode in me goat wagon up and down our block, said you'd buy Billy when I was ready to sell him. I'm ready now, 'cause I'm goin' to work. So I brought de goat an' wagon here to de hotel, just as your little boy made me promise to do. It'll be five dollars for de goat."

For a moment Mrs. Bobbsey did not know what to say. Then she turned to Freddie and asked:

"Did you really tell him you'd buy his goat, Freddie?"

"I said you'd buy it for Flossie and me. Won't you? We can have such fun with it!"

"A goat in a New York hotel!" cried Bert, laughing, "Oh, dear!"

"Hush, Bert," said his mother. "Freddie did not know any better. Of course we can't keep it," she said to Mike, "and I'm sorry you had the trouble of bringing him here. My little boy didn't stop to think, I'm afraid. He should have told me. But here is a dollar for your trouble, and I think you can easily sell your goat somewhere else."

"Oh, yes, I can easy sell him," said Mike. "But your little boy made me promise to bring Billy to dis hotel to-day and here I am, 'cordin' to promise."

"Yes, I see you kept your word," and Mrs. Bobbsey could not help smiling. "But really we have no place to keep a goat here, and we could hardly take it to Lakeport with us. So I'm afraid Freddie will have to do without it."

"All right," said Mike good-naturedly, as he took the dollar.

Of course Freddie and Flossie were disappointed at not having the goat and wagon, but they soon forgot that when their mother promised to take them to see another play that afternoon.

"It's a wonder Flossie or Freddie didn't try to bring the goat up to our rooms in the elevator," said Bert, when they were in their apartment again.

"Well, he was a good goat!" declared Freddie.

"And he could go fast," added Flossie.

"I was going to play fireman with him when we got back to Lakeport," went on Freddie. "Now I can't."

"I think you'll have just as much fun some other way," said his mother, laughing.

Three days after that, when Mrs. Bobbsey came in from shopping with the two sets of twins, she heard some one moving about in their apartment as she entered.

"Oh, it's Daddy!" cried Flossie, as some one caught her up in his arms. "Daddy's come back!"

"I'm so glad!" called Freddie, running to get a hug and kiss from his father. "And we almost had a goat!" he added.