Chapter XII. Tige--Playing Theater
 

NAN dearly loved the dogs with which she was well acquainted, but she was in great terror of strange animals, especially if they barked loudly and showed a disposition to bite.

"Bert! Bert! what shall we do?" she gasped as she clung to her twin brother's arm.

Bert hardly knew what to say, for he himself did not like a biting dog. He looked around for a stick or a stone, and espied the doorway to the cow-shed. It was open.

"Let us get into the shed," he said quickly. "Perhaps we can close the door and keep the dog out."

Into the shed sprang Nan and her twin brother after her. The dog was almost upon them when Bert banged the door in his face. At once the animal stopped short and began to bark more furiously than ever.

"Do you--you think he can get in at the window?" faltered Nan. She was so scared she could scarcely speak.

"I don't know, I'm sure. If you'll stand by the door, Nan, I'll try to guard the window."

Nan threw her form against the door and held it as hard as if a giant were outside trying to force it in. Bert felt around the empty shed and picked up the handle of a broken spade. With this in hand he stalked over to the one little window which was opposite the door.

"Are there any cows here?" asked Nan. It was so dark she could see next to nothing.

"No cows here, I guess," answered Bert. "This building is 'most ready to tumble down."

The dog outside was barking still. Once in a while he would stop to catch his breath and then he would continue as loudly as ever. He scratched at the door with his paw, which made Nan shiver from head to feet.

"He is trying to work his way in," she cried.

"If he does that, I'll hit him with this," answered her twin brother, and brandished the spade handle over his head. He watched the window closely and wondered what they had best do if the dog leaped straight through and attacked them in the dark.

The barking continued for over a quarter of an hour. To Nan and Bert it seemed hours and hours. Then came a call from a distance.

"Hi, Tige, what's the matter? Have you spotted a tramp in the shed?"

"Help! help!" called out Bert. "Call off your dog!"

"A tramp, sure enough," said the man who was coming toward the cow-shed.

"I am not a tramp," answered Bert. "And my sister isn't a tramp, either."

"What's that? You've got your sister with you? Open the door."

"Please, we are afraid of the dog," came from Nan. "He came after us and we ran into the shed for shelter."

"Oh, that's it!" The farmer gave a short laugh. "Well, you needn't be skeert! Tige won't hurt ye none."

"Are you sure of that?" put in Bert. "He seems to be very savage."

"I won't let him touch ye."

Thus assured Nan opened the door and followed Bert outside. At a word from the farmer Tige stopped barking and began to wag his tail.

"That dog wouldn't hurt nobody, 'ceptin' he was attacked, or if a person tried to git in my house," said Farmer Sandborn. "He's a very nice fellow, he is, and likes boys and gals fust-rate; don't ye, Tige?" And the dog wagged his tail harder than ever, as if he understood every word.

"I--I was so scared," said Nan.

"May I ask what you be a-doin' on the road all alone and in this snowstorm?"

"We are going home," answered Bert, and then explained how they had been ice-boating and what had happened on the lake.

"I do declare!" cried Farmer Sandborn. "So the boat up an' run away with ye, did she? Contrary critter, eh?" And he began to laugh. "Who be you?"

"I am Bert Bobbsey and this is my twin sister Nan."

"Oh, yes, I know now. You're one pair o' the Bobbsey twins, as they call 'em over to Lakeport. I've heard Sary speak o' ye. Sary's my wife." The farmer ran his hand through his thick beard. "You can't tramp home in this storm."

"Oh, we must get home," said Nan. "What will mamma say? She will think we are killed, or drowned, or something,--and she isn't over the scare she got when Freddie was lost."

"I'll take you hack to town in my sleigh," said Farmer Sandborn. "I was going to town for some groceries to-morrow morning, but I might just as well go now, while the roads are open. They'll be all closed up ag'in by daylight, if this storm keeps up.

He led the way down the road to his house and they were glad enough to follow. By Nan's side walked Tige and he licked her hand, just to show that he wanted to make friends with her.

"I guess you are a good dog after all," said she, patting his head. "But you did give me such a scare!"

Both of the twins were very cold and glad enough to warm themselves by the kitchen fire while the farmer hitched up his horse. The farmer's wife wished to give them supper, but this they declined.

"We'll get supper at home," said Nan. "But I thank you just the same."

"So do I," added her twin.

"Well, you young ones must be hungry--bein' out in the cold," declared the farmer's wife. "Maybe you'd like to have a cookie, anyway."

Nan was about to say "no," when she caught Bert's eye. He was nodding slightly. Truth to tell, the older Bobbsey boy was quite hungry even though he had had his dinner at noon.

"Well, I don't know--" began Nan.

"Sure, you'll have a cookie," said the woman. "Young ones allers likes my cookies. See here!"

She brought from a pantry a big stone jar. Taking off the cover, she showed about two dozen big cookies each liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar.

"I make 'em for my grandchildren," she explained. "I have five of 'em--three girls an' two boys. They're allers as hungry as bears, 'specially in cold weather. So I keep the cookies handy. Here, try this."

She handed a big cookie to Nan and an equally big one to Bert. The twins bit into them readily and found them fully as good as those turned out by Dinah.

"We are much obliged," said Bert.

"Indeed we are," added Nan. "And we'll he thankful to your husband for taking us home."

"Oh, it's nothin'," said the woman. "He'd have to go to town to-morrow if he didn't to-day. An' maybe travelin' is better to-day."

"Well, it won't be so good to-morrow, if it snows some more," said Bert.

"Land sakes alive, I do wish it would stop snowin'. I believe snow gives me rheumatism."

"That's too bad," said Nan, sympathetically.

"I'm sure I wouldn't want to get rheumatism," said Bert.

"Young folks don't git it often. That's a left-handed blessin' old folks git."

Soon Farmer Sandborn drove around to the door with his sleigh and in they piled, on the soft straw, with several robes to keep them warm. Then the horse set off on a brisk trot for town.

"It's a nice enough sleigh ride for anybody," declared Bert. And yet they did not enjoy it very much, for fear of what would happen to them when they got home.

"Where in the world have you been?" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey as she ran to the door to let them in. "We have been looking all over for you. Your papa was afraid you had been drowned in the lake."

An evening dinner was in waiting for them, and sitting down to satisfy their hunger, they told their story, to which all of the others listened with much interest.

"You can be thankful you weren't blown clear to the other end of the lake," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I think after this you had better leave ice-boating alone."

"I know I shall!" declared Nan.

"Oh, I'll be more careful, papa, after this," pleaded Bert. "You know I promised to go out again with Charley."

"Well then, don't go when the wind is strong," and Bert promised.

"I'm so glad the dog didn't bite you," said little Flossie. "He might have given you hy--hydropics."

"Flossie means hydrophobics," put in Freddie. "Ain't no hydropics, is there, Bert?"

"Oh, Freddie, you mean hydrophobia!" burst out Nan, with a laugh.

"No, I mean hydrophobics," insisted the little fellow. "That's what Dinah calls them anyway."

After the adventure on the ice boat matters ran smoothly with the Bobbsey twins for two weeks and more. There was a great deal of snow and as a consequence Freddie and Flossie stayed home from school most of the time. Nan and Bert also remained home two separate days, and during those days all of the children had great fun in the attic, where there was a large storeroom, filled with all sort of things.

"Let us play theater," said Nan, who had been to several exhibitions while at home and while visiting.

"All right," said Bert, falling in with the plan at once. "Let us play Rip Van Winkle. I can be Rip and you can be the loving wife, and Flossie and Freddie can be the children."

Across the storeroom a rope was placed and on this they hung a sliding curtain, made out of a discarded blanket. Then at one side they arranged chairs, and Nan and Flossie brought out their dolls to be the audience.

"They won't clap their hands very much," said Bert. "But then they won't make any disturbance either."

The performance was a great success. It was their own version of Rip Van Winkle, and Bert as old Rip did many funny things which caused Freddie and Flossie to roar with laughter. Nan as the loving wife recited a piece called "Doughnuts and Daisies," pretending to be working around the kitchen in the meantime. The climax was reached when Bert tried to imitate a thunderstorm in the mountains and pulled over a big trunk full of old clothes and some window screens standing in a corner. The show broke up in a hurry, and when Mrs. Bobbsey appeared on the scene, wanting to know what the noise meant, all the actors and the doll audience were out of sight.

But later, when mamma went below again, Bert and Nan sneaked back, and put both the trunk and the screens in their proper places.