Chapter II. Rope Jumping, and What Followed
 

"OH, mamma, what have you brought?"

Such was the cry from all of the Bobbsey twins, as they gathered around Mrs. Bobbsey in the hallway. She had several small packages in her hands, and one looked very much like a box of candy.

Mrs. Bobbsey kissed them all before speaking. "Have you been good while I was gone?" she asked.

"I guess we tried to be good," answered Bert meekly.

"Freddie's boiler got broke, that's all," said Flossie. "Dinah swept up the dirt."

Before anything more could be said all were in the dining room and Mrs. Bobbsey was called upon to admire the row of houses. Then the box of candy was opened and each received a share.

"Now you had better go out and play," said the mother. "Dinah must set the table for dinner. But be sure and put on your thick coats. It is very cold and feels like snow."

"Oh, if only it would snow!" said Bert. He was anxious to try a sled he had received the Christmas before.

It was Saturday, with no school, so all of the boys and girls of the neighborhood were out. Some of the girls were skipping rope, and Nan joined these, while Bert went off to join a crowd of boys in a game of football.

There were only fifteen boys to make up two teams, so the lads had to divide into two sides of seven players each, This left one boy over.

"What am I going to do?" questioned the lad, who was named Jack Barton. "I want to play."

"You can be the audience," suggested one small youth.

"I don't want to be that."

"I'll tell you what you can do," suggested, Bert. "You can be the umpire and referee."

"I've got to have a whistle for that."

"I'll lend you my whistle," said one boy who had been chosen to be the captain of one of the sides, and he brought from his pocket a bright, silver whistle.

"All right, I'll be umpire and referee," said Jack. "And you have got to mind what I say or I'll put you off the team," he went on, sternly.

The game was soon in full swing. Of course the boys played in their own fashion and not strictly according to rules, and the umpire had to warn them any number of times.

By the time the game was half over the score stood 18 to 26 and Bert was on the losing side.

"We've got to brace up," said the captain of Bert's side. "Everybody do his best."

"That's what I've been doing right along," said one boy.

"Well, try and do better."

"We're too slow in passing the ball," said Bert. "Everybody get a move on."

The game went on and slowly but surely Bert's side began to crawl up until the score stood at 28 to 34.

"We've only got six minutes more to play," said one lad who was playing on Bert's side. "Let's smash into 'em!"

The game went on until they had only two minutes more to play.

"A tie! A tie!" was the sudden cry. And this was true--the score was now a tie.

The football went into play again and soon Bert got it and away he ran swiftly. Several tried to catch him, but he dodged them all and carried it over the line.

"A touchdown!" was the cry.

"Kick the goal, quick!" This was done. Then the game came to an end with the side Bert had played on the winner.

In the meantime Freddie and Flossie had gone down near the Bobbsey barn.

"Let us play horse," suggested Freddie to Flossie. They had reins of red leather, with bells, and Freddie was the horse while his twin sister was the driver.

"I'm a bad horse, I'll run away if you don't watch me," cautioned Freddie, and began to prance around wildly, against the grape arbor and then up against the side fence.

"Whoa! whoa!" screamed Flossie, jerking on the reins. "Whoa! you naughty horse! If I had a whip, I'd beat you!"

"If you did that, I'd kick," answered Freddie, and began to kick real hard into the air. But at last he settled down and ran around the house just as nicely as any horse could. Then he snorted and ran up to the water bucket near the barn and Flossie pretended to give him a drink and some hay, and unharnessed him just as if he was a real steed.

Nan was counting while another girl named Grace Lavine jumped. Grace was a great jumper and had already passed forty when her mother called to her from the window.

"Grace, don't jump so much. You'll get sick."

"Oh, no, I won't," returned Grace. She was a headstrong girl and always wanted her own way.

"But jumping gave you a headache only last week," continued Mrs. Lavine. "Now, don't do too much of it," and then the lady closed the window and went back to her interrupted work.

"Oh, dear, mamma made me trip," sighed Grace. "I don't think that was fair."

"But your mamma doesn't want you to jump any more," put in another girl, Nellie Parks by name.

"Oh, she didn't say that. She said not to jump too much."

It was now Nan's turn to jump and she went up to twenty-seven and then tripped. Nellie followed and reached thirty-five. Then came another girl who jumped to fifty-six.

"I'm going a hundred this time," said Grace, as she skipped into place.

"Oh, Grace, you had better not!" cried Nan.

"You're afraid I'll beat you," declared Grace.

"No, I'm not. But your mamma said--"

"I don't care what she said. She didn't forbid my jumping," cut in the obstinate girl. "Are you going to turn or not?"

"Yes, I'll turn," replied Nan, and at once the jumping started. Soon Grace had reached forty. Then came fifty, and then sixty.

"I do believe she will reach a hundred after all," declared Nellie Parks, a little enviously.

"I will, if you turn steadily," answered Grace, in a panting voice. Her face was strangely pale.

"Oh, Grace, hadn't you better stop?" questioned Nan. She was a little frightened, but, nevertheless, kept on turning the rope.

"No!" puffed Grace. "Go--go on!"

She had now reached eighty-five. Nellie Parks was counting:

"Eighty-six, eighty-seven, eighty-eight, eighty-nine, ninety!" she went on. "Ninety-one, ninety-two--"

"No--not so--so fast!" panted Grace. "I--I--oh!"

And then, just as Nellie was counting "ninety-seven," she sank down in a heap, with her eyes closed and her face as white as a sheet.

For a moment the other girls looked on in blank wonder, not knowing what to make of it. Then Nan gave a scream.

"Oh, girls, she has fainted!"

"Perhaps she is dead!" burst out Nellie Parks. "And if she is, we killed her, for we turned the rope!"

"Oh, Nellie, please don't say that!" said Nan. She could scarcely speak the words.

"Shall I go and tell Mrs. Lavine?" asked another girl who stood near.

"No--yes," answered Nan. She was so bewildered she scarcely knew what to say. "Oh, isn't it awful!"

They gathered close around the fallen girl, but nobody dared to touch her. While they were there, and one had gone to tell Mrs. Lavine, a gentleman came up. It was Mr. Bobbsey, coming home from the lumber yard for lunch.

"What is the trouble?" he asked, and then saw Grace. "What happened to her?"

"She was--was jumping rope, and couldn't jump any more," sobbed Nan. "Oh, papa, she--isn't de--dead, is she?"

Mr. Bobbsey was startled and with good reason, for he had heard of more than one little girl dying from too much jumping. He took the limp form up in his arms and hurried to the Lavine house with it. "Run and tell Doctor Briskett," he called back to Nan.

The physician mentioned lived but a short block away, and Nan ran as fast as her feet could carry her. The doctor had just come in from making his morning calls and had his hat and overcoat still on.

"Oh, Doctor Briskett, do come at once!" she sobbed. "Grace Lavine is dead, and we did it, turning the rope for her!"

"Grace Lavine dead?" repeated the dumfounded doctor.

"Yes, yes!"

"Where is she?"

"Papa just carried her into her house."

Without waiting to hear more, Doctor Briskett ran toward the Lavine residence around which quite a crowd had now collected. In the crowd was Bert.

"Is Grace really dead?" he asked.

"I--I--guess so," answered Nan. "Oh, Bert, it's dreadful! I was turning the rope and she had reached ninety-seven, when all at once she sank down, and Nan could not go on, but leaned on her twin brother's arm for support.

"You girl's are crazy to jump rope so much," put in a big boy, Danny Rugg by name. Danny was something of a bully and very few of the girls liked him.

"It's no worse than playing football," said a big girl.

"Yes, it is, much worse," retorted Danny. "Rope jumping brings on heart disease. I heard father tell about it."

"I hope Grace didn't get heart disease," sobbed Nan.

"You turned the rope," went on Danny maliciously. "If she dies, they'll put you in prison, Nan Bobbsey."

"They shan't do it!" cried Bert, coming to his sister's rescue. "I won't let them."

"Much you can stop 'em, Bert Bobbsey."

"Can't I?"

"No, you can't."

"I'll see if I can't," answered Bert, and he gave Danny such a look that the latter edged away, thinking he was going to be attacked.

Doctor Briskett had gone into the house and the crowd hung around impatiently, waiting for news. The excitement increased, and Mrs. Bobbsey came forth, followed by Freddie and Flossie, who had just finished playing horse.

"Nan, Nan! what can it mean?" said Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Oh, mamma!" murmured Nan, and sank limp and helpless, into her mother's arms.

Just then Mr. Bobbsey came forth from the Lavine residence. Seeing his wife supporting their daughter, he hurried in that direction.

"Grace is not dead," he announced. "She had a fainting spell, that is all. But I think after this she had better leave rope skipping alone."