"Freddie! what made you do it?" asked Bert.
"I couldn't help being thirsty, could I?" asked the little boy. "And it wasn't my fault the handle got stuck! I didn't know so much water would come out!"
And I suppose it really wasn't his fault. The girl soon shut oft the water at the faucet, and a janitor mopped up the puddle on the floor, so that when Mr. Bobbsey came out with his friend from the inner office, everything was all right again. And the business man only laughed when he heard what Freddie had done.
"Now we'll go to the Woolworth Building," said Mr. Bobbsey to Freddie and Bert, as they went out on Broadway. "I think mother and the girls will be there waiting for us, as I stayed talking business longer than I meant to."
And, surely enough, Mrs. Bobbsey, Nan, and Flossie were waiting in the lobby of the big Woolworth Building when Mr. Bobbsey came up with the two boys. This building is the tallest one in the world used for business, and from the top of the golden tower one can look for miles and miles, across New York Bay, up toward the Bronx, over to Brooklyn and can see towns in New Jersey.
"We'll go up in the tower and have a view," said Mr. Bobbsey, "and then we'll get lunch and go to the Bronx, where the animals are."
They entered one of the many elevators, with a number of other persons who also wanted to go to the Woolworth tower, and, in a moment, the sliding doors were closed.
"Oh!" suddenly exclaimed Nan.
And Flossie, Freddie and Bert all said the same thing, while Mrs. Bobbsey clasped her husband's arm and looked rather queer.
"What's the matter?" asked her husband.
"Why, we're going up so fast!" exclaimed the children's mother. "It makes me feel queer!"
"This is an express elevator," said Mr. Bobbsey. "There are so many floors in this tall building that if an elevator went slowly, and stopped at each one, it would take too long to get to the top. So they have some express elevators, that start at the bottom floor, and don't stop until they get to floor thirty, or some such number as that."
"Are there thirty floors to this building?" asked Bert, as the elevator car, like a big cage in a tunnel standing on end, rushed up.
"Yes, and more," his father answered.
"I like to ride fast," said Freddie, "I wish we had an elevator like this at home."
They had to take another, and smaller elevator, that did not go so fast, to get to the very top of the tower, and from there the view was so wonderful that it almost took away the breath of the Bobbsey twins.
"My, this is high up!" exclaimed Bert, as he looked over the edge of the railing, and down at the people in the streets below, who seemed like ants crawling around.
"Well, I guess we'd better be going now," said Mr. Bobbsey, after a bit. "Come, children! Nan—Bert—Flossie—Why, where is Freddie?" he asked, looking around.
"Isn't he here?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, her face turning white.
"I don't see him," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "He must have gone inside." But Freddie was not there, nor was he anywhere on the outside platform that surrounded the topmost peak of the tall building.
"Oh, where is he? What has happened to Freddie?" cried his mother. "If he has fallen! Freddie!"
WASHINGTON AT LAST
The startled cries of Mrs. Bobbsey alarmed a number of other women on the tower platform, and some one asked:
"Did your little boy fall off?"
"I don't know what happened to him!" said Mrs. Bobbsey, who was now almost crying. "He was here a moment ago, and now he's gone!"
"He couldn't have fallen off!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "Some one would have seen him. I think he must have gone down by himself in the little elevator. I'll ask the man."
The elevator, just then, was at the bottom of the tower, but it was soon on its way up, and Mrs. Bobbsey fairly rushed at the man as he opened the door.
"Where is my little boy? Oh, have you seen my little boy?" she cried.
"Well, I don't know, lady," answered the elevator man. "What sort of little boy was he?"
"He has blue eyes and light hair and—"
"Let me explain," Mr. Bobbsey spoke quietly. "My little boy, Freddie, was out on the tower platform with us looking at the view, a few minutes ago, and now we can't find him. We thought perhaps he slipped in here by himself and rode down with you."
"Well, he might have slipped into my elevator when I wasn't looking," answered the man. "I took two or three little boys down on the last load, but I didn't notice any one in particular. Better get in and ride to the ground floor. Maybe the superintendent or the head elevator man can tell you better than I. Get in and ride down with me."
"Oh, yes, and please hurry!" begged Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, what can have happened to Freddie?"
"I think you'll find him all right," said the elevator man. "No accident has happened or I'd have heard of it."
"Yes; don't worry!" advised Mr. Bobbsey.
But Mrs. Bobbsey could not help worrying, and Nan, Bert and Flossie were very much frightened. They were almost crying. Even though the Bobbseys got in an express elevator after getting out of the small, slower one, it could not go down fast enough to suit Freddie's mother. When the ground floor was reached she was the first to rush out.
One look around the big corridor of the Woolworth Building showed Mrs. Bobbsey that something had happened over near one of the elevators. There was a crowd there, and, for a moment, she was very much frightened. But the next second she saw Freddie himself, with a crowd of men around him, and they were all laughing.
"Oh, Freddie! where did you go and what have you been doing?" cried his frightened mother as she caught him up in her arms.
"I've been having rides in the elevator," announced the small boy. "And it went as fast as anything! I rode up and down lots of times!"
"Yes, that's what he did," said the elevator man, with a laugh. "I didn't pay much attention to him at first, but when I saw that he was staying in my car trip after trip, I asked him at what floor he wanted to get out. He said he didn't want to get out at all—that he liked me, and liked to stay in and ride!"
And at this the crowd laughed again.
"And is that what you have been doing, Freddie—riding up and down in the elevator?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Yes, and I liked it!" exclaimed Freddie. "I wished Flossie was with me."
"I'm here now!" said the "little fat fairy," laughing. "I can ride with you now, Freddie."
"No! There has been enough of riding," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "And you gave me a bad fright, Freddie. Why did you wander away?"
"'Cause I liked an elevator ride better than staying up so high where the wind blew," explained the little fellow.
And when they asked him more about it he said he had just slipped away from them while they were on the tower platform, gone back into the room and ridden down in the elevator with the other passengers. No one realized that Freddie was traveling all by himself, the elevator man thinking the blue-eyed and golden-haired boy was with a lady who had two other children by the hands.
Freddie rode to the ground floor, and then he just stayed in the express elevator, riding up and down and having a great time, until the second elevator man began to question him.
"Well, don't ever do it again," said Mr. Bobbsey, and Freddie promised that he would not.
After this there was a lunch, and then they all went up to Bronx Park, traveling in the subway, or the underground railway, which seems strange to so many visitors to New York. But the Bobbsey twins had traveled that way before, so they did not think it very odd.
"It's just like a big, long tunnel," said Bert, and so the subway is.
The Bronx Park is not such a nice place to visit in winter as it is in summer, but the children enjoyed it, and they spent some time in the elephant house, watching the big animals. There was also a hippopotamus there, and oh! what a big mouth he had. The keeper went in between the bars of the hippo's cage, with a pail full of bran mash, and cried:
"Open your mouth, boy!"
"Oh, look!" cried Bert.
And, as they looked, the hippopotamus opened his great, big red jaws as wide as he could, and the man just turned the whole pail full of soft bran into the hippo's mouth!
"Oh, what a big bite!" cried Freddie, and every one laughed.
"Does he always eat that way?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey of the keeper.
"Well, I generally feed him that way when there are visitors here," was the answer. "The children like to see the big red mouth open wide. And here's something else he does."
After the hippo, which is a short name for hippopotamus, had swallowed the pail full of bran mash, the keeper took up a loaf of bread from a box which seemed to have enough loaves in it for a small bakery, and cried: "Open again, old fellow!"
Wide open went the big mouth, and right into it the man tossed a whole loaf of bread. And the hippo closed his jaws and began chewing the whole loaf of bread as though it were Only a single bite.
"Oh my!" cried Freddie and Flossie, and Freddie added: "If he came to a party you'd have to make an awful lot of sandwiches!"
"I should say so!" laughed the keeper. "One sandwich would hardly fill his hollow tooth, if he had one."
The children spent some little time in the Bronx Park, and enjoyed every moment. They liked to watch the funny monkeys, and see the buffaloes, which stayed outdoors even though it was quite cold.
The Bobbsey twins spent four days in New York, and every day was a delight to them. They had many other little adventures, but none quite so "scary" as the one where Freddie slipped away to ride in the elevator.
Finally, Mr. Bobbsey's business was finished, and one evening he said:
"To-morrow we go to Washington."
"Hurray!" exclaimed Bert. "Then I can see Billy Martin."
"And I can see Nell. I like her very much," added Nan.
"And I'm going to see the big monument!" cried Freddie.
Early the next morning the Bobbsey family took a train at the big Pennsylvania Station to go to Washington. Nothing very strange happened on that trip except that a lady in the same car where the twins rode had a beautiful little white dog, and Flossie and Freddie made friends with it at once, and had lots of fun playing with the animal.
"Washington! Washington!" called the trainman, after a ride of about five hours. "All out for Washington!"
"Here at last, and I am glad of it," sighed Mrs. Bobbsey. "I shall be glad to have supper at the hotel and get to bed. I am tired!"
But the children did not seem to be tired. They had enjoyed every moment of the trip. In an automobile they rode to their hotel, and soon were in their rooms, for Mr. Bobbsey had engaged three with a nice bath. He had decided it would be best to stay at a hotel rather than at the Martins' house, because there were so many Bobbseys; but they expected to visit their friends very often.
It was evening when the Bobbseys arrived in Washington, and too late to go sight-seeing. But on the way to the hotel in the automobile they had passed the Capitol, with the wonderful lights showing on the dome, making it look as though it had taken a bath in moon-beams.
"Oh, it's just lovely here!" exclaimed Nan, with a happy little sigh as they went down to supper, or "dinner" as it is generally called, even though it is eaten at night.
"Scrumptious!" agreed Bert.
The Bobbsey family had a little table all to themselves at one side of the room, and a waiter came up to serve them, Mr. Bobbsey giving the order.
Nan and Bert and Flossie and Freddie looked about. It was not the first time they had stopped at a big hotel, but there was always something new and strange and interesting to be seen.
Bert, who had been gazing about the room, began to look at the dishes, knives and forks the waiter was putting on the table. Suddenly the dark- haired boy took hold of the sugar bowl and turned it over, spilling out all the lumps.
"Why Bert! you shouldn't do that," exclaimed his father.
"I want to see what's on the bottom of this bowl," Bert said. "It looks just like the one Miss Pompret lost, and if it's the same I'll get a hundred dollars! Oh, look, it is the same! Nan, I've found her lost sugar bowl!" cried Bert.
Several persons, dining at different tables, looked over to the one where the Bobbseys were. They smiled as they heard Bert's excited voice and saw him with the empty, overturned sugar bowl in his hand.
"Yes, this is the very one Miss Pompret lost!" Bert went on. "If we can only find the milk pitcher now we'll have both pieces and we can get the reward. Look at the pitcher, Nan, and see if it's got the dog—I mean the lion—on as this has."
"Don't dare turn over the milk!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, as Nan reached for the pitcher. "Spilling the sugar was bad enough. Bert, how could you?"
"But, Mother, that's the only way I could tell if it was Miss Pompret's!" said the boy, while Flossie and Freddie looked curiously at the heap of square lumps of sugar where Bert had emptied them in the middle of the table.
"Let me see that bowl, Bert," said Mr. Bobbsey a bit sternly. "I think you are making a big mistake. This isn't at all like the kind of china Miss Pompret has. Hers is much finer and thinner."
"But this has got a lion on the bottom, and it's in a circle just like the lion on Miss Pompret's dishes!" said Bert, as he passed the bowl to his father.
"Are the letters there—the letters 'J.W.'?" Nan asked eagerly.
"I don't see them," said Bert. "But the lion is there. Maybe the letters rubbed off, or maybe the tramp scratched 'em off."
"No, Bert," and Mr. Bobbsey shook his head, "this sugar bowl has a lion marked on the bottom, it is true, but it isn't the same kind that is on Miss Pompret's fine china. This tableware is made in Trenton, New Jersey, and it is new—it isn't as old as that Miss Pompret showed you. Now please pick up the sugar, and don't act so quickly again."
"Well, it looked just like her sugar bowl," said Bert, as he began putting the square lumps back where they belonged. A smiling waiter saw what had happened, and came up with a sort of silver shovel, finishing what Bert had started to do.
"Wouldn't it have been great if we had really found her milk pitcher and sugar bowl?" asked Nan. "If we had the hundred dollars we could buy lots of things in Washington."
"Don't count on it," advised Mrs. Bobbsey. "You will probably never see or hear of Miss Pompret's missing china. But I'm glad Bert overturned the sugar bowl and not the milk pitcher searching for the lion mark."
"Oh, I wouldn't upset the milk'" exclaimed Bert with a laugh. "I knew the sugar wouldn't hurt the tablecloth."
So that incident passed, much to the amusement of the other hotel guests, and, really, no great harm was done, for the sugar was easily put back in the bowl. Then dinner was served, and for a time the Bobbsey twins did not talk very much. They were too busy with their knives, forks and spoons.
Bert wanted to go out and take a look at the Capitol by night, to see the searchlights that were arranged to cast their glow up on the dome from the outside. Nan, also, said she would like to take a little walk, and as Mrs. Bobbsey was tired she said she would stay in with Flossie and Freddie.
So it was arranged, and Mr. Bobbsey took the two older children out of the hotel. It was still early evening, and the streets were filled with persons, some on foot, some in carriages, and many in automobiles.
It was not far from the hotel where the Bobbseys were staying to the Capitol, and soon Bert and Nan, with their father, were standing in front of the beautiful structure, with its long flight of broad steps leading up to the main floor.
"It's just like the picture in my geography!" exclaimed Nan, as she stood looking at it.
"But the picture in your book isn't lighted up," objected Bert.
"Well, no," admitted Nan.
"The lights have not been in place very long," explained Mr. Bobbsey. "Very likely the picture in Nan's book was made before some one thought of putting search lamps on the dome."
"Could we go inside?" Bert wanted to know. "I'd like to see where the President lives."
"He doesn't live in the Capitol," explained Nan. "He lives in the White House; doesn't he Daddy? Our history class had to learn that."
"Yes, the White House is the home of the President," said Mr. Bobbsey. "But we could go inside the Capitol for a few minutes I guess. The senators and congressmen are having a night session."
"What for?" asked Nan. "Do they have to work at night?"
"They don't work," declared Bert. "They just talk. I know, 'cause I heard Mr. Perkins say so down in our post-office at home one day. He said all the senators and congressmen did was talk and talk and talk!"
"Well, they do talk a lot!" laughed Bert's father. "But that is one of the ways in which they work. Now we'll go inside for a little while."
In spite of the fact that it was night the Capitol was a busy place. Later Mr. Bobbsey learned that the senators and congressmen were meeting at night in order to finish a lot of work so they could the sooner end the session—"adjourn," as it is called.
Bert and Nan walked around the tiled corridors. They saw men hurrying here and there, messenger boys rushing to and fro, and many visitors like themselves.
The children looked at the pictures and statues of the great men who had had a part in the making of United States history, but, naturally, Nan and Bert did not care very much for this.
"It isn't any fun!" exclaimed Bert. "Can't we go in and hear 'em talk and talk and talk, like Mr. Perkins said they did?"
"We'll go in and hear the senators and congressmen debate, or talk, as you call it, some other time," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We mustn't stay too late now on account of having left mother and Freddie and Flossie at the hotel. I think you've seen enough for the first evening."
So, after another little trip about the corridors, Bert and Nan followed their father outside and down the flight of broad steps.
"Say, this would be a great place to slide down with a sled if there was any ice or snow!" exclaimed Bert.
"They wouldn't let him, would they, Daddy?" asked Nan.
"Hardly," answered her father.
"Well, I can have fun some other way," Bert said. "I wish I could find Miss Pompret's dishes and get the hundred dollars."
"So do I!" sighed Nan.
But their father shook his head and told them not to hope or think too much about such a slim chance as that.
Flossie and Freddie were in bed and asleep when Mr. Bobbsey and Bert and Nan reached the hotel again, and, after a little talk with their mother, telling her what they had seen, the two older Bobbsey twins "turned in," as Bert called it, having used this expression when camping on Blueberry Island, and taking the voyage on the deep, blue sea.
Because they were rather tired from their trip, none of the Bobbseys arose very early the next morning.
"It's a real treat to me to be able to lie in bed one morning as long as I like," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a happy sigh as Flossie crept in with her. "And I don't have to think whether or not Dinah will have breakfast on time. I'm having as much fun out of this trip as the children are," she told her husband.
"I am glad you are, my dear," he said. "I'll be able to go around with you a little to-day, but after that, for about a week, I shall be quite busy with Mr. Martin. But Mrs. Martin and Nell and Billy will go around with you ant the children."
"When are we going to see Billy and Nell?" asked Bert, at the breakfast table.
"To-day," answered his father. "I telephoned Mr. Martin last night that we had arrived, and they expect us to lunch there to-day. But first I thought I'd take the children into the Congressional Library building. It is very wonderful and beautiful."
And it certainly was, as the children saw a little later, when their father led them up the broad steps. The library building was across a sort of park, or plaza, from the Capitol.
"We will just look around a little here, and then go on to Mr. Martin's," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It takes longer than an hour to see all the beautiful and wonderful pictures and statues here."
Mrs. Bobbsey was very much interested in the library, but I can not say as much for Flossie and Freddie, though Nan and Bert liked it. But the two smaller Bobbsey twins were anxious to get outdoors and "go somewhere."
"Well, we'll go now," said Mr. Bobbsey, when he and his wife had spent some little lime admiring the decorations. "Come, Freddie. Where's Flossie?" he asked, as he looked around and did not see his "little fat fairy."'
"She was here a little while ago," replied Nan. "I saw her with Freddie."
"Where did Flossie go, Freddie-boy?" asked his mother.
"Up there!" and the little chap pointed to a broad flight of stone steps.
"Oh, she has wandered away," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I'll run up and get her!" offered Mr. Bobbsey. Up the stairs he hurried, but he came back in a little while with a queer look on his face. "I can't find her," he said.
"Oh, Flossie's lost!" cried Freddie. "Oh, maybe she falled down stairs and got lost!"
Really it was nothing new for one of the Bobbsey twins to become lost— especially the younger set, Flossie and Freddie. Some years before, when they were younger, it had often happened to Nan and Bert, but they were now old enough, and large enough, to look after themselves pretty well. But Flossie or Freddie, and sometimes both of them, were often missing, especially when the family went to some new place where there were strange objects to see, as was now the case in the Congressional Library.
"Where do you suppose Flossie could have gone?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she glanced around the big rotunda in which they stood with some other visitors who had come to the city of Washington.
"I'll have to ask some of the men who are in charge of this building," replied Daddy Bobbsey. "Are you sure you saw Flossie go up those stairs, Freddie?" he asked the little fireman.
"Well, she maybe went up, or she maybe went down," answered the boy. "I was lookin' at the pishures on the wall, and Flossie was by me. And then—well, she wasn't by me," he added, as if that explained it all. "But I saw a little girl go up the stairs and I thought maybe it was Flossie."
"But why didn't you tell mother, dear?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "If you had called to me when you saw Flossie going away I could have brought her back before she got lost. Why didn't you tell me that Flossie was going away?"
"'Cause," answered Freddie.
"Because why?" his father wanted to know.
"'Cause I thought maybe Flossie wanted to slide down a banister of the stairs and maybe you wouldn't let her, and I wanted to see if she could slide down and then I could slide down too!"
"Well, that's a funny excuse!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "I don't believe Flossie would slide down any banister here. But she has certainly wandered away, and we'll have to find her. You stay here with the children, so I'll know where to find you," Mr. Bobbsey said to his wife. "I'll go to look for Flossie."
"I want to come!" exclaimed Nan.
"No, you had better stay with mother," her father told her. "But I will take Bert along. He can take a message for me in case I have to send one. Come along!" he called to Nan's brother.
"All right, Daddy," answered Bert.
Up the big stone stairs went Daddy Bobbsey and Bert. Mrs. Bobbsey, with a worried look on her face, remained in the big rotunda with Nan and Freddie. The two children were worried too.
"Do you s'pose Flossie is hurt?" asked Nan.
"Oh, no, I don't believe so," and Mrs. Bobbsey tried to speak easily. "She has just gone into some room, or down some long hall, and lost her way, I think. You see there are so many rooms and halls in this building that it would be easy for even daddy or me to be lost. But your father will soon find Flossie and bring her back to us."
"But if they don't find her, Mamma?"
"Oh, they'll be sure to do that, Nan. There is nobody around this building who would hurt our little Flossie."
"What an awful big building it is," remarked Nan. "And just think of the thousands and thousands of books! Why, I didn't know there were so many books in the whole world! Mamma, do you suppose any of the people down here read all these books?"
"Hardly, Nan. They wouldn't have time enough to do that."
And now we shall see what happens to Mr. Bobbsey and Bert. Flossie's father decided to try upstairs first, as Freddie seemed to think that was the way his little sister had gone.
"Of course, he isn't very sure about it," said Mr. Bobbsey to Bert; "but we may as well start one way as the other. If she isn't upstairs she must be down. Now we'll look around and ask questions."
They did this, inquiring of every one they met whether a little blue- eyed and flaxen-haired child had been seen wandering about. Some whom Mr. Bobbsey questioned were visitors, like himself, and others were men who worked in the big library. But, for a time, one and all gave the same answer; they had not seen Flossie.
Along the halls and into the different rooms went Mr. Bobbsey and Bert. But no Flossie could they find until, at last, they approached a very large room where a man with very white hair sat at a desk. The door of this room was open, and there were many books in cases around the walls.
"Excuse me," said Mr. Bobbsey to the elderly gentleman who looked up with a smile as Flossie's father and Bert entered the room. "Excuse me for disturbing you; but have you seen anything of a little girl—"
"Did she have blue eyes?" asked the old man.
"Yes!" eagerly answered Mr. Bobbsey.
"And did she have light hair?"
"Oh, yes! Have you seen her?"
Softly the man arose from his desk and tiptoed over to a folding screen. He moved this to one side, and there, on a leather couch and covered by an office coat, was Flossie Bobbsey, fast asleep.
"Oh! Oh!" exclaimed Bert.
"Hush!" said the old man softly. "Don't awaken her. When she arouses I'll tell you how she came in here. It's quite a joke!"
"You stay here, Bert," said Mr. Bobbsey to his son, "and I'll go and get your mother, Nan and Freddie. I want them to see how cute Flossie looks. They'll be glad to know we have found her."
So while Bert sat in a chair in the old man's office Mr. Bobbsey hurried to tell his wife and the others the good news. And soon Mrs. Bobbsey and the rest of the children were peeping at Flossie as she lay asleep.
And then, suddenly, as they were all looking down at her, the little girl opened her eyes. She saw her mother and father; she saw Nan and Bert and Freddie; and then she looked at the kind old man with the white hair.
"Did you find a story book for me?" were the first words Flossie said.
"Well, I'm afraid not, my dear," was the old man's answer. "We don't have story books for little girls up here, though there may be some downstairs."
"Is that what she came in here for—a story book?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"I believe it was," answered the old man, with a smile. "I was busy at my desk when I heard the patter of little feet and a little girl's voice asking me for a story book. I looked around, and there stood your little one. I guessed, at once, that she must have wandered away from some visitors in the library, so I gave her a cake I happened to have in my lunch box, and got her to lie down on the sofa, as I saw she was tired. Then she fell asleep, and I covered her up and put the screen around her. I knew some one would come for her."
"Thank you, so much!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "But, Flossie, how did you happen to come up here?"
"Oh, I wanted a story book," explained the little girl, as she sat up. "We have story books in our library, an' there ought to be story books here. I looked in this room an' I saw a lot of books, so I did ask for one with a story in it. I like a story about pigs an' bears an'—an' everything!" finished Flossie.
"Well, I wish I had that kind of story book for you, but I haven't!" laughed the old man.
"All my books are very dull, indeed, for children, though when you grow up you may like to read them," and he waved his hand at the many books in the room.
So Flossie was lost and found again. The old man was one of the librarians, and he had taken good care of the little girl until her family came for her. After thanking him, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey led their twins downstairs and Mr. Bobbsey said:
"Well, I think we have seen enough of the library for a time. We had better go and see the Martins."
"Oh, yes!" cried Bert. "Billy said he'd take me to see the President."
"And I want to go, too!" added Nan.
"We'll see!" half promised her mother.
In an automobile the Bobbsey family rode to where the Martin family lived. And you can well believe that Billy and Nell were glad to see the Bobbsey twins once more. Mrs. Martin welcomed Mrs. Bobbsey, and soon there was a happy reunion. Mr. Martin was at his office, and Mr. Bobbsey said he would go down there to see him.
"Then couldn't we go out and see the President while mother stays here and visits with Mrs. Martin?" asked Nan. "Nell and Billy will go with us."
"I think they might go," said Mrs. Martin. "Billy and Nell know their way to the White House very well, as they often go. It isn't far from here."
"Well, I suppose they may go," said Mrs. Bobbsey slowly.
"And I want to go, too!" exclaimed Freddie. "I want to see the dent."
"It isn't a DENT—it's PRESIDENT—the head of the United States!" explained Bert. "Our teacher told us about him, and she said if ever I came to Washington I ought to see the President."
"I want to see him too," cried Flossie.
"Let all the children go!" said Mrs. Martin. "I'll send one of my maids to walk along with them to make sure that they keep together. It is a nice day, and they may catch a glimpse of the President. He often goes for a drive from the White House around Washington about this time."
"Well, I suppose it will be a little treat for them," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Oh, goodie!" shouted Freddie.
So, a little later, the Bobbsey twins, with Nell and Billy Martin and one of the Martin maids, were walking toward the White House.
"There it is!" exclaimed Billy to Bert, as they turned the corner and came within view of the Executive Mansion, as it is often called.
"Oh, it IS white!" cried Nan.
"Just like the pictures!" added Bert.
"It's got a big iron fence around," observed Freddie. "Is that so the President can't get out?"
"No, I guess it's so no unwanted people can get in," answered Nell.
The children and the maid walked down the street and looked through the iron fence into the big grounds, green even now though it was early winter. And in the midst of a great lawn stood the White House—the home of the President of the United States.
Suddenly two big iron gates were swung open. Several policemen began walking toward them from the lawn and some from the street outside.
"What's the matter?" asked Bert. "Is there a fire?"
"The President is coming out in his carriage," said Billy. "If we stand here we can see him! Look! Here comes the President!"
Down the White House driveway rolled the carriage, drawn by the prancing horses. It was coming toward the iron gate near which, on the sidewalk, stood the Bobbsey twins, with their new friends, Billy and Nell Martin.
On the front seat of the carriage, which was an open one, in spite of the fact that the day was cool, though not very cold, sat two men. One drove the horses and the other sat up very straight and still.
"I should think he'd have an automobile," remarked Bert.
"He has," answered Billy. "He has an auto—two of 'em, I guess. But lots of times he rides around Washington in a carriage just as he's doing now."
"That's right," chimed in Nell. "Sometimes we see the President and his wife in a carriage, like now, and sometimes in a big auto."
By this time the carriage, containing the President of the United States, was passing through the gate. A crowd of curious persons, who had seen what was going on, as had the Bobbsey twins, came hurrying up to catch a glimpse of the head of the nation. The police officers and the men from the White House ground kept the crowd from coming too close to the President's carriage.
The Chief Executive, as he is often called, saw the crowd of people waiting to watch him pass. Some of the ladies in the crowd waved their hands, and others their handkerchiefs, while the men raised their hats.
Billy put his hand to his cap, saluting as the soldiers do, and Bert, seeing this, did the same thing. Nell and Nan, being girls, were not, of course, expected to salute. As for Flossie and Freddie they were too small to do anything but just stare with all their eyes.
As the President's carriage drove along he smiled, bowed, and raised his hat to those who stood there to greet him. The President's wife also smiled and bowed. And then something in the eager faces of the Bobbsey twins and their friends, Nell and Billy, attracted the notice of the President's wife.
She smiled at the eager, happy-looking children, waved her hand to them, and spoke to her husband. He turned to look at the Bobbseys and their friends, and he waved his hand, He seemed to like to have the children watching him.
And then Flossie, with a quick little motion kissed the tips of her chubby, rosy fingers and fluttered them eagerly toward the President's wife.
"I threw her a kiss!" exclaimed Flossie with a laugh.
"I'm gin' to throw one too," exclaimed Freddie. And he did.
The President's wife saw what the little Bobbsey twins had done, and, as quick as a flash, she kissed her hand back to Flossie and Freddie.
"Oh, isn't that sweet!" exclaimed a woman in the throng, and when, afterward, Nan told her mother what had happened, Mrs. Bobbsey said that when Flossie and Freddie grew up they would long remember their first sight of a President of the United States.
"Well, I guess that's all we can see now," remarked Billy, as the President's carriage rolled off down the street and the crowd that had gathered at the White House gate began moving on. The gates were closed, the policemen and guards turned away, and now the Bobbsey twins and their friends were ready for something else.
"Where do you want to go?" asked Billy of Bert.
"Oh, I don't know. 'Most anywhere, I guess."
"Could we go to see the Washington Monument?" asked Nan. "I've always wanted to see that, ever since I saw the picture of it in one of daddy's books at home."
"I don't believe we'd better go out there alone," said Nell. "It's quite a way from here. We'd better have our mothers or our fathers with us. But we can walk along the streets, and go in the big market, I guess."
"Let's do that!" agreed Billy. "There's heaps of good things to eat in the market," he added to Bert. "It makes you hungry to go through it."
"Then I don't want to go!" laughed Bert. "I'm hungry now."
"I know where we can get some nice hot chocolate," said Nell. "It's in a drug store, and mother lets Billy and me go there sometimes when we have enough money from our allowance."
"Oh, I'm going to treat!" cried Bert. "I have fifty cents, and mother said I could spend it any way I pleased. Come on and we'll have chocolate. It's my treat!"
"We may go, Mayn't we, Jane?" asked Nell, of the maid who had accompanied them.
"Oh, yes," was the smiling answer. "If you go to Parson's it will be all right."
And a little later six smiling, happy children, and a rosy, smiling maid were seated before a soda counter sipping sweet chocolate, and eating crisp crackers.
After that Billy and Nell took the Bobbsey twins to the market, which is really quite a wonderful place in Washington, and where, as Billy said, it really makes one hungry to see the many good things spread about and displayed on the stands.
"I think we've been gone long enough now," said the maid at last. "We had better go back."
So, after looking around a little longer at the part of the market where flowers were sold and where old negro women sold queer roots, barks, and herbs, the Bobbsey twins and their friends started slowly back toward the Martin house.
On the way they passed a store where china and glass dishes were sold, and there were many cups, saucers and plates in one of the windows.
"Wait a minute!" cried Bert, as Billy was about to pass on. "I want to look here!"
"What for?" Billy asked. "You don't need any dishes!"
"I want to see if Miss Pompret's sugar bowl and cream pitcher are here," Bert answered. "If Nan or I can find them we'll get a lot of money, and I could spend my part while I was here."
"Why Bert Bobbsey!" cried Nan, "you couldn't find Miss Pompret's things here—in a store like this. They only sell new china, and hers would be secondhand!"
"I know it," admitted Bert. "But there might be a sugar bowl and pitcher just like hers here, even if they were new."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Nan. "There couldn't be any dishes like Miss Pompret's. She said there wasn't another set in this whole country."
"Well, I don't see 'em here, anyhow!" exclaimed Bert, after he had looked over the china in the window. "I guess her things will never be found."
"No, I guess not," agreed Billy, to whom, and his sister, Nan told the story of the reward of one hundred dollars offered by Miss Pompret for the return of her wonderful sugar bowl and cream pitcher, while Bert was looking at the window display.
"Well, did you have a good time?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, when her twins came trooping back.
"Yes. And we saw the President!" cried Nan.
And then they told all about it.
The Bobbseys spent the rest of the day visiting their friends, the Martins, and returned to their hotel in the evening. They planned to have other pleasure going about the city to see the sights the next day and the day following.
"Could we ever go into the house where the President lives?" asked Nan of her father that night.
"Yes, we can visit the White House or, rather, one room in it," said Mr. Bobbsey. "What they call the 'East Room' is the one in which visitors are allowed. Perhaps we may go there tomorrow, if Mr. Martin and I can finish some business we are working on."
After breakfast the next morning the Bobbsey twins were glad to hear their father say that he would take them to the White House; and, a little later, in company with other visitors, they were allowed to enter the home of the President, and walk about the big room on the east side of the White House.
"I'm going to sit down on one of the chairs," said Nan. "Maybe it will be one that the President once sat on."
"Very likely it will be," laughed Mrs. Bobbsey, as Nan picked out a place into which she "wiggled." From the chair she smiled at her brothers and sister, and they, too, took turns sitting in the same chair.
Bert found a pin on the thick green carpet in the room. The carpet was almost as thick and green as the moss in the woods, and how Bert ever saw the tiny pin I don't know. But he had very sharp eyes.
"What are you going to do with it?" asked his father.
"Just keep it," the boy answered. "Maybe it's a pin the President's wife once used in her clothes."
"Oh, you think it's a souvenir!" laughed Mrs. Bobbsey, as Bert stuck the pin in the edge of his coat. And for a long time he kept that common, ordinary pin, and he used to show it to his boy friends, and tell them where he found it.
"The White House President's pin," he used to call it.
"And now," said Mr. Bobbsey, as they came from the White House, "I think we'll have time to see the Monument before lunch."
"That's good!" exclaimed Nan. "And shall we go up inside it?"
"I think so," her father replied.
Washington Monument, as a good many of you know, is not a solid shaft of stone. It is built of great granite blocks, as a building is built, and is, in fact, a building, for it has several little rooms in the base; rooms where men can stay who watch the big pointed shaft of stone, and other rooms where are kept the engines that run the elevator.
The bottom part of Washington Monument is square, and on one side is a doorway. Above the base the shaft itself stretches up over five hundred feet in height, and the top part is pointed, like the pyramids of the desert. The monument shaft is hollow, and there is a stairway inside, winding around the elevator shaft. Some people walk up the stairs to get to the top of the monument, where they can look out of small windows over the city of Washington and the Potomac River. But most persons prefer to go up and down in the elevator, though it is slow and, if there are many visitors they have to await their turns.
If the Bobbseys had walked up inside the monument they would have seen the stones contributed by the different states and territories. Each state sent on a certain kind of stone when the monument was being built, and these stones are built into the great shaft.
As it happened, there was not a very large crowd visiting the monument the day the Bobbseys were there, so they did not have long to wait for their turn in the elevator.
"This isn't fast like the Woolworth Building elevators were," remarked Bert as they felt themselves being hoisted up.
"No," agreed his father. "But this does very well. This is not a business building, and there is no special hurry in getting to the top."
But at last they reached the end of their journey and stepped out of the elevator cage into a little room. There were windows on the sides, and from there the children could look out.
"It's awful high up," said Nan, as she peeped out.
"Not as high as the Woolworth Building," stated Bert, who had jotted down the figures in a little book he carried.
Flossie and Freddie had gone around to the other side of the elevator shaft with their mother, to look from the windows nearest the river, and, a moment later, Mr. Bobbsey, Nan and Bert heard a cry of:
"Oh, Flossie! Flossie! Look out! There it goes!"
A STRAY CAT
MR. BOBBSEY, who was standing near Bert and Nan, turned quickly as he heard his wife call and ran around to her side.
"What's the matter?" he called. "Has Flossie fallen?"
But one look was enough to show him that the two little Bobbsey twins and their mother were all right. But Flossie was without her hat, and she had been wearing a pretty one with little pink roses on it.
"What happened?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, while one of the men who stay inside the Monument at the top, to see that no accidents happen, came around to inquire if he could be of any help.
"It's Flossie's hat," explained Mrs. Bobbsey. "She was taking it off, as she said the rubber band hurt her, when a puff of wind came along—-" "And it just blowed my hat right away!" cried Flossie. "It just blowed it right out of my hand, and it went out of the window, my hat did! And now I haven't any more hat, and I'll—I'll—an'—an'—"
Flossie burst into tears.
"Never mind, little fat fairy!" her father comforted her, as he put his arms around her. "Daddy will get you another hat."
"But I want that one!" sobbed Flossie. "It has such pretty roses on it, an' I liked 'em, even if they didn't smell!"
"I guess the little girl's hat will be all right when you get down on the ground," said the monument man. "Many people lose their hats up here, and unless it's a man's stiff one, or unless it's raining or snowing, little harm comes to them. I guess your little girl's hat just fluttered to the ground like a bird, and you can pick it up again"
"Do you think so?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Oh, you'll get her hat back again, ma'am, I'm sure," the man said. "There's lots of boys and young men who stay around the monument, hoping for a chance to earn a stray dime or so by showing visitors around or carrying something. One of them probably saw the hat flutter out of the window, and somebody will pick it up."
"Well, let's go down and see," suggested Mr. Bobbsey. "I think we have had all the view we want."
"Don't cry, Flossie," whispered Nan consolingly, as she took her little sister by the hand. "We'll get your hat back again."
"And the roses, too?" Flossie asked.
"Yes, the roses and everything," her mother told her.
"If I were a big, grown-up fireman, I could climb down and get Flossie's hat," said Freddie. "That's what firemans do. They climb up and down big places and get things—and people," the little boy added after a moment of thought.
"Well, I don't want my little fireman climbing down Washington Monument," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It's safer to go down in the elevator."
And, a little later, the Bobbsey twins and their father and mother were back on the ground again. Once outside the big stone shaft, they saw a boy come running up with Flossie's hat in his hand.
"Oh, look! Look!" cried the little girl. "There it is! There it is!"
"Is this your hat?" the small boy wanted to know. "I saw it blow out of the window, and I chased it and chased it. I was afraid maybe it would blow into the river."
"It was very nice of you," said Mr. Bobbsey, and he gave the boy twenty- five cents, which pleased that small chap very much.
Flossie's hat was a little dusty, but the pink roses were not soiled, and soon she was wearing it again. Then, smiling and happy, she was ready to go with the others to the next sight-seeing place.
"Where now?" asked Bert, as they started away from the little hill on which the Monument stands.
"I think we'll go to the Smithsonian Museum," said his father. "There are a few things I want to see, though you children may not be very much interested. Then I want to take your mother to the art gallery and after that—well, we'll see what happens next," and he smiled at the Bobbsey twins.
"I know it will be something nice!" exclaimed Nan.
"I hope it's something good to eat!" murmured Bert. "I'm hungry!"
"I'd like to see a fire!" cried Freddie. "Do they ever have fires in Washington, Daddy?"
"Oh, yes, big ones, sometimes. But we really don't want to see any, because a fire means danger and trouble for people."
"And wettings, too," put in Flossie. "Sometimes when Freddie plays fire he gets me wet."
"Well, I'm goin' to be a fireman when I grow up," declared Freddie. "And I wish I had my little fire engine now, 'cause I don't like it not to have any fun."
"We'll have some fun this afternoon," his father promised him.
Just as Mr. Bobbsey had expected, the children were not much amused in the art gallery or the museum. But Mrs. Bobbsey liked these places, and, after all, as Nan said, they wanted their mother to have a good time on this Washington trip.
After lunch they went again to call on the Martins, as Mr. Bobbsey had to see the father of Billy and Nell on business.
"And where are we going to have some fun?" Bert asked, as they journeyed away from their hotel toward the Martin house.
"You'll see," his father promised. The children tried to guess what it might be, but they could not be sure of anything.
It did not take Mr. Bobbsey long to get through with his business with Mr. Martin and then the father of the twins said to Mrs. Martin:
"Can you let Billy and Nell come with us on a little trip?"
"To be sure. But where are you going?" Mrs. Martin replied.
"I thought we'd take one of the big sight-seeing autos and ride about the city, and perhaps outside a little way," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Nell and Billy can tell us the best way to go"
"Oh, yes! I can do that'" cried Billy. "I often take rides that way with my uncle when he comes to Washington. Come on, Nell! We'll get ready."
"May we really go?" asked Nell, of her mother.
"Yes, indeed!" was the answer.
So, a little later, the Bobbsey twins, with Billy and Nell and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, were on one of the big automobiles. It was not too cold to ride outside, as they were all bundled up warm.
Through the different parts of the city the sight-seeing car went, a man on it telling the persons aboard about the different places of interest as they were passed. In a little while the machine rumbled out into the quieter streets, where the houses were rather far apart.
Then the automobile came to a stop, and some one asked:
"What's so wonderful to see here?"
"Nothing," the driver of the car answered. "But I have to get some water for the radiator. We won't be here very long. Those who want to, can get out and walk around."
"Yes, I'll be glad to stretch by legs," said one man with a laugh. He was sitting next to Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, and they began talking to him. Nan and Bert were talking to Billy and Nell, and, for the time being, no one paid much attention to Flossie and Freddie, who were in a rear seat.
Suddenly Flossie called to her little brother;
"Oh, look! There's a cat! It's just like our Snoop!"
Freddie looked to where Flossie pointed with her chubby finger.
"No, that isn't like our Snoop," said the little boy, shaking his head.
"Yes, 'tis too!" declared his sister. "I'm going to get down and look at it. I like a cat, and I didn't see one close by for a long time."
"Neither did I," agreed Freddie. "If that one isn't like our Snoop, it's a nice cat, anyhow."
The cat, which seemed to be a stray one, was walking toward the car, its tail held high in the air "like a fishing pole."
Flossie and Freddie were in the rear seat, as I have said, and no one seemed to be paying any attention to them. Their father and mother were busy talking to the man who had gotten down to "stretch his legs," and Nan and Bert, with Billy and Nell, were busy talking.
"Let's get down," proposed Flossie.
"All right," agreed Freddie.
In another moment the two smaller Bobbsey twins had left their seat, climbed down the rear steps of the sight-seeing automobile, and were running toward the stray cat, which seemed to wait for them to come and pet it.
"Nice pussy! Come and let me rub you!" said Freddie softly, as he held out his hand toward the stray cat.
"Yes, come here, Snoop!" added Flossie, as she walked along with her brother.
"'Tisn't Snoop, and you mustn't call him that name," ordered Freddie.
"Well, he looks like Snoop," declared Flossie.
"But if that isn't his name he won't like to be called by it, no more than if I called you Susie when your name's Flossie," went on the little boy.
"Do you s'pose cats know their names?" asked Flossie.
"Course they do!" exclaimed her brother. "Don't our Snoop know his name when I call him, same as our dog Snap does?"
"Oh, well, but our cat is a very, very, smart cat!"
"Maybe this one is, too," Freddie said. "Anyhow, we'll just call him 'Puss' or 'Kittie,' and he'll like that, 'cause that's a name for any cat."
"That's so," agreed Flossie.
So calling to the stray cat in their soft, little voices, and holding out their hands to pet the animal, Flossie and Freddie walked farther away from the sight-seeing car, and soon they were petting the cat that, indeed, did look a bit like Snoop.
They stroked the soft back of the cat, rubbed its ears, and the animal rubbed up against their legs and purred. Then, suddenly, the cat heard a dog barking somewhere, and ran down toward the side entrance of a large, handsome house.
"Oh, come on!" cried Freddie to his sister, as he saw the cat running away. "Maybe there's some little cats back here, and we could get one to take home with us! Come on, Flossie!"
Flossie was willing enough to go, and in a moment they were in the rear yard of one of the big houses, and out of sight from the street where the auto stood, while the man was putting water in the radiator.
The cat, once over its fright about the barking dog, seemed quieter now, and let the two little Bobbsey twins pet it again. Freddie saw a little box-like house in one corner of the yard and cried:
"I'm going to look here, Flossie! Maybe there's kittens in it!"
"Oh, let me see!" exclaimed the little girl. Forgetting, for a time, the stray cat they had started to pet, she and her brother ran over to the little box-like house.
"Better look out!" exclaimed Flossie, as they drew near.
"Why?" asked Freddie.
"'Cause maybe there's a strange dog in that box."
"If there was a dog in this yard I guess this cat wouldn't have come in here," replied Freddie. "The cat ran when the other dog barked, and there can't be a dog here, else the cat wouldn't come in."
"I wonder what's there?" murmured Flossie.
"We'll soon find out," her brother said, as he bent over the little house, which was made of some boxes nailed together. There was a tiny window, with a piece of glass in it, and a small door.
Freddie began to open the little door, and he was not very much afraid, for now the cat was purring and rubbing around his legs, and the little boy felt sure that there could be no dog, or anything else scary, in the box-house, or else the cat would not have come so close.
"Maybe there isn't anything in there," suggested Flossie.
"Oh, there's got to be SOMETHING!" declared Freddie. "It's a place for chickens, maybe."
"It's too little for chickens," said Flossie.
"Well, maybe it's a place for——"
That is as far as Freddie got in his talk, for, just then, a voice called from somewhere behind the children:
"Hi there! What do you want?"
Freddie and Flossie both called out in surprise as they turned. They saw, standing on the back steps of the big house, a boy about as big as Bert.
"We came in after this cat," said Freddie, and he pointed to the stray pussy that was rubbing against his legs.
"Is it your cat?" the boy wanted to know.
Flossie shook her head.
"We just followed after him," she said. "He was out on the street, and we saw him, and we got down to rub him, and he heard a dog bark, and he ran in here, and we ran after him."
"Oh, I see," and the boy on the back steps smiled in a friendly way. "So it isn't your cat."
"No," answered Freddie, "Is it yours?"
The boy shook his head.
"I never saw the cat before," he answered. "It's a nice one, though, and maybe I'll keep it if you don't want it."
"Oh, we don't want it!" Freddie said quickly. "We have a cat of our own at home. His name is Snoop."
"And we have a dog, too," added Flossie. "But his name is Snap. And we have Dinah and Sam. Only they aren't a cat or a dog," she went on. "Dinah is our cook and Sam's her husband."
"Where do you live?" the boy asked.
"Oh, away off," explained Freddie. "We live in Lakeport, and we go to school."
"Only now there isn't any school," went on Flossie. "We can't have a fire 'cause something broke, and we came to Washington."
"Have you come here to live?" the strange boy questioned.
"No, only to visit," explained Freddie. "My father has to see Mr. Martin. Do you know Mr. Martin?"
The strange boy shook his head.
"I guess he doesn't live around here," he remarked. "I've lived here all my life; but there's nobody named Martin on this block. Where did you come from?"
"Offen the auto," explained Freddie. "We were riding on the auto with Billy Martin and Nell, and our father and mother and Nan and Bert and—- -"
"Say, there are a lot of you!" cried the boy with a laugh.
"It was a big auto," explained Flossie. "But the man had to stop and give it some water, so we got down to pet the cat. It's a nice cat."
"Yes, it's a nice cat all right," agreed the strange boy, and he came down the steps and began to rub the animal. "I like cats," he went on to the children. "What's your names?"
"Flossie and Freddie Bobbsey," answered Freddie. "What's yours?"
"Tom Walker," was the answer. "I guess I know where you came from. It's one of those big, sight-seeing autos. They often go through this street, but I never saw one stop before. You'd better look to see that it doesn't go off and leave you."
"Oh, the man said we could get down," returned Freddie. "And one man is going to stretch his legs. I'd like to see a man stretch his legs." he went on. "I wonder how far he can stretch them?"
"Not very far, I guess," remarked Tom Walker. "But I'm glad to see you, anyhow. I've been sick, and I had to stay home from school, but I'm better now, and I'm going back to-morrow. But I haven't had any one to play with, and I'm glad you came in—you and the cat."
"'Tisn't our cat!" Flossie hastily explained.
"Oh, I know!" agreed the boy. "But he came in with you."
"We thought maybe there were kittens in that box," and Freddie pointed to the one he had been about to open.
"Oh, that was the place where I used to keep my rabbits," said Tom. "I haven't any now, but maybe I'll get some more; so I left the little house in the yard. I like rabbits."
"So do I!" declared Freddie.
"And their nose goes sniff-snuff so funny!" laughed Flossie. "Rabbits eat a lot of cabbage," she said. "If I had something to eat now I would like it."
"Say, I can get some cookies!" cried Tom. "Wait, I'll go in the house after some. You wait here!"
"We'll wait!" said Freddie.
Into the house bounded Tom, and to the cook in the kitchen he called:
"Oh, please give me some cookies. There's a stray cat in our yard and some stray children, and I want to give 'em something to eat, and——"
"My goodness, boy, how you do rattle on!" cried the cook. "What do you mean about stray cats and stray children?"
"WHERE ARE THEY?"
Freddie and Flossie walked slowly up the yard, away from the empty rabbit house, and stood at the foot of the back steps up which Tom Walker had hurried to ask the cook for something to eat for the "stray children." The little Bobbsey twins had not heard what the cook said to Tom after he had asked for something to eat. But the cook repeated her question.
"What do you mean by stray cats and stray children?"
"There are the stray children out in the yard now," answered Tom. "They strayed away from some place, just as that dog I kept for a while once did. There was a stray cat, too, but I don't see it now."
"Stray children, is it?" cried the jolly cook. "Oh, look at the little darlin's!" she exclaimed, as she saw the small Bobbsey twins standing out in the yard, waiting for Tom to come back. Freddie and Flossie certainly did look very sweet and pretty with their new winter coats and caps on, though it was not very cold. It was not as cold in Washington as in Lakeport.
"Do you think he'll bring us anything to eat?" asked Freddie of Flossie, as they stood there waiting.
"I hope he does," the little girl answered. "I'm hungry."
"So'm I!" Freddie admitted. "I guess that cat was, too. Where did he go?"
The cat answered himself, as though he knew he was being talked about. He came out from under the back steps, rubbed up against Flossie's fat, chubby legs with a mew and a purr, and then, seeing a place where the sun shone nice and warm on the steps, the cat curled up there and began to wash its face, using its paws as all cats do.
"Please, Sarah, can't I have something to eat for the stray children, and maybe for the cat?" again asked Tom of the cook.
"Oh, I dunno!" she answered. "Sure an' you're a bother! Your mother's out and I don't know what to do. These must be lost children, and, most likely, their father or mother's lookin' all over for 'em now. But I'd better bring 'em in an' keep 'em safe here, rather than let 'em wander about the streets. How did they come into our yard, do you think, Tom?"
"They just walked in, after the stray cat. They were on one of the big automobiles, and it stopped, so they got off. I told 'em maybe their folks would be looking for them," went on Tom, who was older than Flossie and Freddie. "But they seem to think it's all right."
"Well, they're lost, as sure as anything," declared the cook. "But it's best to keep 'em here until their folks can come after 'em. I'll give you something for them to eat, Tom, and then you must look after 'em, as I'm too busy, getting ready for the party your mother is going to have this night."
The kind cook soon got ready a plate of cookies and some glasses of milk for Flossie and Freddie. And, as Tom began to feel hungry himself when he saw something being made ready for his new little friends, a place was set for him, also, on a side table in the dining room.
"Call 'em in, now!" said the cook. "Everything is ready. And is the cat there?"
"Yes," answered Tom, as he looked out and saw the pussy curled up in the sun on the steps. "It's there."
"Well, I think I'll give it some milk," said the cook.
So, a little later, Flossie and Freddie, the stray children—for that is what they were—sat down to a nice little lunch in a strange, house. Tom Walker sat down with them, and the stray cat had a saucer of milk in the kitchen.
"I looked out in the street," said the cook, as she came back to get Freddie another glass of milk, "but I don't see any automobile there. Did you really ride here in an auto?"
"Oh, yes," answered Freddie. "And the man on it all the time talked through a red horn, but I didn't know what he said."
"That was the man speaking through a megaphone so everybody on the sight-seeing auto would know what they were looking at as they rode along," said Tom. "They often pass through here, though I haven't seen any to-day."
"But what to do about you children I don't know," said the cook, when Flossie and Freddie had eaten as much as they wanted. "If you did come here on an auto it's gone now, and there isn't a sign of it. I think you must have come two or three streets away from the car before you turned in here."
"Oh, no!" exclaimed Freddie. "When we got down off the auto we saw the cat and we came in after it. The auto was right out in front."
"Well, it isn't there now," said the cook. "I guess it must have gone away and taken your folks with it. Maybe they're looking for you. But I guess you'll have to stay here until they come to find you. You're too small to be allowed to go about alone."
"We like it here," said Flossie, settling back comfortably in her chair. "We can stay as long as you want us to."
"And we can stay to supper if you ask us," went on Freddie. "Course mother wouldn't let us ask for an invitation, but if you WANT to ask us to stay we can't help it."
"'Specially if you have cake," added Flossie, smoothing out her dress.
"Yes, 'specially cake!" agreed Freddie.
"Oh my!" laughed the cook. "Sure an' you're very funny! But I like you. And I only wish I knew where your folks were. But the best I can do is to keep you here until they come. They must know about where they lost you. Come, Tom, take the stray children out and amuse them. Your mother'll be home pretty soon."
If Tom's mother had been at home she would have at once telephoned and told the police that she had two lost—or stray—children at her house, so that in case Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey inquired, as they did, they would know that the tots were all right.
But Mrs. Walker was not at home, and the cook did the best she could. She made sure the children were safe and comfortable while they were with her.
And, after they had eaten, Tom got out some of his toys, and he and Flossie and Freddie had a good time playing about the house and in the yard. The stray cat wandered away while Flossie and Freddie were eating their little lunch, and the Bobbsey twins did not see him again.
Now while Flossie and Freddie were having a pretty good time, eating cookies and drinking milk, there was much excitement on the big sight- seeing car where Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, Nan, Bert, and the other, still had their seats.
For some little time after the car had stopped to allow the man to put water in the radiator, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Bobbsey missed their smaller twins. They were busy talking, and Bert and Nan were looking about and having a good time, talking to Billy and Nell Martin.
At last, however, the auto man called:
"Everything is all right! Get on board!"
That meant he was going to start off again, and it was not until then that Mrs. Bobbsey thought to look around to see if Flossie and Freddie were all right. And, of course, she did not see them.
"Flossie! Freddie! Where are you?" called Mrs. Bobbsey.
There was no answer, and the seat which the two smaller children had been in on the big bus, was empty.
"Oh, Daddy!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, "Flossie and Freddie have gone."
"Gone? Gone where?" Mr. Bobbsey asked,
"That's it—I can't say," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "The last I saw of them was when the auto stopped."
"I saw the two little tots climb down off the rear steps of the car," said the man who had wanted to "stretch his legs." "They seemed to be going after something," he added.
"It was a cat," said the woman next to the big man who had last spoken. "I saw the children get down and go toward a stray cat and then I got to thinking of something else."
"Oh, if it was a cat you might know it!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey with a laugh." I guess they're all right. They can't have gone far. Probably they are on the other side of the street, looking at some bedraggled kitten." But a look up and down the street did not show Flossie and Freddie. By this time the auto was all ready to start off again.
"But we can't go without Flossie and Freddie!" cried Nan.
"I should say not!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, where are they? Where can my darlings have gone? What has happened?"
THE FIRE BELL
Mrs. Bobbsey's cries of alarm, of course, excited all the other passengers who had got back on the sight-seeing auto, ready to start off again. They had had a little rest while the water was being put into the radiator, and the man had "stretched his legs" all he wanted to, it seemed.
"The children can't be far away," said Mr. Bobbsey. "They were here only a moment ago. Even if they have wandered off, which is probably what they have done, they can't be far."
"They're all right," the man who drove the car assured Mr. Bobbsey. "I didn't see 'em go away, of course, as I was busy, but I'm sure nothing has happened."
"But what shall we do?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, and tears came into her eyes. "It does seem as if more things have happened to Flossie and Freddie since we started on this trip than ever before."
"Oh, they'll be all right," declared Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll look around. Perhaps they may have gone into one of these houses."
"Did you look under the seats?" asked Bert.
"Under the seats!" exclaimed Billy. "What good would that do? Your brother and sister couldn't be under there!"
"Pooh, you don't know much about Flossie and Freddie!" answered Bert. "They can be in more places than you can think of; can't they, Nan?"
"Yes, they do get into queer places sometimes. But they aren't under my seat," and Nan looked, to make sure.
"Nor mine," added Nell, as she looked also.
Some of the other passengers on the auto did the same thing. Mr. Bobbsey really thought it might be possible that Freddie and Flossie, for some queer reason, might have crawled under one of the seats when the big machine stopped for water. But the children were not there.
"Oh, what shall we do?" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey.
"They'll be all right," her husband answered. "They can't be far away."
"That's right ma'am," said a fat, jolly-looking man.
"Some of you go and inquire in the houses near here," suggested the man who drove the auto. "And I'll go and telephone back to the office, and see if they're there."
"But how could they be at your automobile office?" Mrs. Bobbsey wanted to know.
"It might easily happen," replied the man. "We run a number of these big machines. One of them may have passed out this way while I was stopping here for water, and perhaps none of us notice it, and the children may have climbed on and gone on that car, thinking it was this one."
"They couldn't get on if the auto didn't stop," said Billy.
"Well, maybe it stopped," returned the driver. "Perhaps it passed up the next street. The children may have gone down there and gotten on. Whatever has happened, your little ones are all right, ma'am; I'm sure of that."
"I wish I could be!" sighed Mrs. Bobbsey.
Several men volunteered to help Mr. Bobbsey look for the missing twins, and they went to the doors of nearby houses and rang the bells. But to all the answer was the same. Flossie and Freddie had not been seen.
And the reason for this was that the small Bobbsey twins, in following the stray cat, had turned a corner and gone down another street, and were on the block next the one where the auto stood. That was the reason the Walker cook, looking out in front, could see no machine, and why it was that none of those who helped Mr. Bobbsey look for the missing children could find them.
"Well, this is certainly queer!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, when at none of the houses was there any word of Flossie and Freddie.
"But what are we to do?" cried his wife.
"I think we'd better notify the police," said Mr. Bobbsey. "That will be the surest way."
"Yes, I think it will," agreed the auto man. "I telephoned to the office, but they said no lost children had been turned in. Get aboard, every one, and I'll drive to the nearest police station."
Away started the big auto, leaving Flossie and Freddie behind in the home of Tom Walker on the next street. And though Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey, with Nan and Bert and Billy and Nell were much worried, Flossie and Freddie themselves, were having a good time.
For they were playing with Tom, who showed them his toys, and he told them about the rabbits he used to keep.
"I have had as many as six big ones at a time," Tom said. "And I had one pair that had the finest red eyes you ever saw."
"Red eyes!" cried Flossie. "What funny rabbits they must have been!"
"Oh, I know some rabbits have red eyes," declared Freddie. "But not very many. Bert said so."
"I don't believe I'd like to have red eyes," answered his twin sister. "Everybody'd think I'd been crying."
"They're not red that way," explained Tom. "They just have the color red in them; just as some people have black eyes, blue eyes, and brown eyes- -like that."
"Oh! Say, I heard Nan say once that a girl in her room at school had one black eye and one grey eye. Wasn't that funny?"
"It certainly was," answered Tom. And then he showed the little Bobbsey twins a number of picture books and a locomotive which went around a little track.
Freddie and Flossie were having such a good time that they never thought their father and mother might be worried about them.
But, after a while, Mrs. Walker came home. You can well imagine how surprised she was when she found the two lost, strayed children in her house.
"And so they got off one of the sight-seeing autos, did they?" cried Tom's mother. "Oh, my dears! I'm glad you're here, of course, and glad you had a good time with Tom. But your mother and father will be much frightened! I must telephone to the police at once."
"We'll not be arrested, shall we?" asked Freddie anxiously.
"No, indeed, my dear! Of course not! But your parents have probably already telephoned the police, who must be looking for you. I'll let them know I have you safe."
"Why, course we're safe!" cried Flossie.
So Mrs. Walker telephoned. And, just as she guessed, the police were already preparing to start out to hunt for the missing children. But as soon as they got Mrs. Walker's message everything was all right.
"They're found!" cried Mr. Bobbsey to his wife, when a police officer telephoned to the hotel to let the father of the small Bobbsey twins know that the children were safe. "They're all right!"
"Where were they?" asked his wife,
"All the while they were right around the corner and just in the next street from where our auto was standing."
"Oh, dear me!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, "what a relief"
"I should say so!" agreed Mrs. Martin, who had gone to the hotel, where her friends were staying, to do what she could to help them.
"I'll get a taxicab and bring them straight here," said Mr. Bobbsey.
A little later Flossie and Freddie were back "home" again. That is, if you call a hotel "home," and it was, for the time, to the traveling Bobbseys.
"What made you do it?" asked Flossie's mother, when the story had been told. "What made you go after the stray cat?"
"It was such a nice cat!" said the little girl,
"And we wanted to see if it was like our Snoop," added Freddie.
"Well, don't do such a thing again!" ordered Mr. Bobbsey.
"No, we won't!" promised Freddie.
"No, but they'll do something worse," said Bert in a low voice to his friend Billy, who had also come to the hotel.
So the little excitement was over, and soon the Bobbsey twins were in bed. Not, however, before Nan had asked her father:
"Where are you going to take us to-morrow?"
"To Mount Vernon, I think," was his answer.
"Oh, where Washington used to live!" remarked Bert.
"Where—" But right there Freddie went to sleep.
"Yes, and where he is buried," added Nan.
And then she, too, fell asleep. And she dreamed that Flossie and Freddie were lost again, and that she started out to find them riding on the back of a big cat while Bert rode on a dog, like Snap.
"And I was so glad when I woke up and, found it was only a dream," said Nan, telling Nell about it afterward.
There are two ways of going to Mount Vernon from the city of Washington. Mount Vernon is down on the Potomac River, and one may travel to it by means of a small steamer, which makes excursion trips, or one can get there in a trolley car.
"I think we'll go down by boat and come back by trolley," said Mr. Bobbsey. "In that way we can see more."
"I'd rather go on the boat all the while," said Freddie. "Maybe I could be a fireman on the boat."
"Oh, I think they have all the firemen they; need," laughed his father.
"Is Mount Vernon an old place?" asked Nan. as they were getting ready to leave their hotel after breakfast.
"Quite old, yes," her father answered.
"And do they have old-fashioned things there, like spinning wheels, and old guns and things like those in Washington's headquarters that we went to once?" Nan went on.
"Why, yes, perhaps they do," her father said. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I was just thinking," went on Nan, "that if they had a lot of old- fashioned things there they might have Miss Pompret's sugar bowl and cream pitcher, and we could get 'em for her."
"How could we?" asked Bert. "If they were there they'd belong to Washington, wouldn't they, Daddy?"
"Well, I suppose all the things in the house once belonged to him or his friends," said Mr. Bobbsey. "But I don't imagine those two missing pieces of Miss Pompret's set will be at Mount Vernon, Nan."
"No, I don't s'pose so," sighed the little girl. "But, oh, I would like to find 'em!"
"And get the hundred dollars reward!" added Bert.
"Don't think too much of that," advised their mother. "Of course it would be nice to find Miss Pompret's dishes, and do her a favor, but I think it is out of the question after all these years that they have been lost."
The weather was colder than on the day before, when Flossie and Freddie had been lost, and the sun shone fitfully from behind clouds.
"I think we are going to have a snow storm," said Mr. Bobbsey, on their way to take the boat for Mt. Vernon.
"Oh, goodie!" cried Flossie. "I hope it snows a lot!"
"So do I!" added Freddie. "Could we send home for our sled if there's lots of snow, Daddy?" he asked.
"I hardly think it would be worth while," said his father. "We are not going to be here much more than a week longer. And it would be quite a lot of work to get your sleds here and send them home again. I think you'll get all the coasting and skating you want when we get back to Lakeport."
"Anyway, we're having a nice time while we're here," said Nan, with a happy little sigh.
"It's fun when Freddie and Flossie don't get lost," added Bert. "I'm going to keep watch of 'em this time."
"I'll help," added Nan. "Oh, here are Billy and Nell!" she called, waving her hand to their new friends. The Martin children were to go to Mount Vernon with the Bobbsey twins, and they now met them near the place from which the boat started.
"All aboard!" cried Freddie, as they went on the small steamer that was to take them to Mount Vernon. "All aboard. I'm the fireman!"
"There aren't any fires to put out," said, Nell, teasing the small chap a little.
"Yes, there is—a fire in the boiler, and it makes steam," said Freddie, who had often looked in the engine room of steamers. "But I'm not that kind of fireman. I put out fires. I'm going to be a real fireman when I grow up," he added.
Soon they were comfortably seated on board the boat, which after a bit moved out into the Potomac. Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were talking together. Nan, Bert, Billy and Nell were watching another boat which was passing, and Flossie was near them. But Freddie had slipped away, in spite of what Bert had said about going to keep a watchful eye on his small brother.
Suddenly, when the steamer was well out in the river, there was the loud clanging of a bell, and a voice cried:
"Fire! Fire! Fire!"
At once every one on the boat jumped up. The women looked frightened, while the men seemed uncertain what to do.
"Clang! Clang! Clang!" rang the fire alarm bell.
FREDDIE'S REAL ALARM
"I hope nothing has happened—that the boat isn't on fire," said Mrs. Bobbsey to her husband. "That would be terrible!"
"I hardly think that is it," he said. "There may be a small fire, somewhere on the boat, but, even if there is, they have a way of putting it out. I'll go and see what it is. You stay with the children."
But just then, after another clanging of the bell, some one was heard to laugh—the ringing, hearty laugh of a man.
"There!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, "I guess everything is all right. They wouldn't be laughing if there was any danger."
"Let's go to the fire!" cried Bert. "I want to see it!"
"So do I!" chimed in his new chum, Billy, eagerly.
"Oh, can't we see it; whatever it is?" begged Nan.
"First I'll have to make sure there is a fire," replied Mr. Bobbsey. "I hope there isn't. But, if there should be a small one, and the firemen on the boat are putting it out, and if they let us get near enough to see, and if the smoke isn't too thick—"
"Oh, Daddy! Not so many 'ifs' please!" laughed Nan.
The Bobbseys all laughed at this, as did Nell and Billy.
"Freddie would like to see the fire, if there is one," remarked Nell Martin.
"Oh, that's so! Where is Freddie?" cried Bert.
Then, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey noticed that the little blue-eyed and light-haired boy was not with them.
But at that moment around the corner of a deck cabin came a man wearing a cap with gold braid around the edge. He was smiling and leading by the hand a little boy. And the little boy was Freddie!
"Oh, there he is!" cried Flossie. "Freddie, where were you?" she asked. "And did you been to see the fire?"
"Well, I rather guess he did!" exclaimed the man, who was the captain of the boat. "He Was the whole fire himself!"
"The whole fire?" cried Mr. Bobbsey. "Do you mean to say that my little boy started a fire?"
"Oh, nothing as bad as that!" said the captain, and he smiled down on Freddie who smiled up at him in return. "No, all your little boy did was to ring the fire alarm bell and then call out 'Fire!' But of course that was enough to start things going, and we had quite a good deal of excitement for a time. But it's all right now, and I think he won't do it again."
"Just what did he do?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as Freddie came over to stand beside his mother. He looked rather ashamed.
"Well, on the deck, back of the wheel-house, which is the little place where I or my men stand to steer the boat, there is a fire alarm bell. It's there for any one to ring who finds the boat on fire, and when the bell is rung all my firemen hurry to put out the blaze," said the captain.
"Now this little chap of yours went up and rang that bell, and then he cried out 'Fire,' as I've told you. Then—well, lots of things happened. But I couldn't help laughing when I found out it was a false alarm, and learned just why Freddie, as he tells me his name is, rang the bell."
"And why was that?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, quickly.
Freddie spoke up for himself.
"The bell had a sign on it," said the little fellow, "and it said to ring it for a fire. I wanted to see a fire, and so I rang the bell and— and—"
Freddie's lips began to quiver. He was just ready to cry.
"There, there, my little man!" said the captain kindly. "No harm is done. Don't worry. It's all right," and he patted Freddie on the shoulder.
"You see it's just as Freddie says," the captain went on. "There is a large sign painted near the bell which reads: 'Ring this for a fire.' I suppose it would be better to say; 'Ring the bell in case of fire.' I believe I'll have it changed to read that way. Anyhow, your little boy saw the sign over the bell, And on the bell is a rope so low that any one, even a child, can reach it. So your Freddie just pulled the rope, clanged the bell, and then he cried 'Fire!' as loudly as he could. Some one else took up the cry, and, there you are!"
"And so you rang the bell, did you, Freddie, because you wanted to see a fire?" asked the father of the little fellow.
"Yes," answered Flossie's brother. "I wanted to see how they put out a fire on a boat, and the bell said for to ring for a fire, and I wanted a fire, I did; not a big one, just a little one, and so——"
"And so you just naturally rang the bell!" laughed the captain. "Well, I guess that's partly my fault for having the sign read that way. I'll have it changed. But your little boy is quite smart to be able to read so well," he added.
"Oh, I go to school!" said Freddie proudly, "only there isn't any now on account of—well I guess the boiler got on fire," he added.
"He's a regular little fireman," said Mr. Bobbsey. "He can't read very much, but one of the first words he learned to spell was 'fire,' and he's never forgotten it."
The boat was now going on down the river toward Mount Vernon, and the excitement caused by the false alarm of fire was over.
Of course Freddie had done wrong, though he had not meant to, and perhaps it was not all his fault. However, his father and mother scolded him a little, and he promised never to do such a thing again.
I wish I could tell you that the Bobbsey twins were interested in Mount Vernon, but the truth of the matter is that the two younger ones were so busy talking about Freddie's fire alarm, and Bert and Nan, with Billy and Nell, also laughed so much about it, that they did not pay much attention to the tomb of the great Washington, or anything about the place where the first President of the United States once had his home.
Of course Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were interested in the place where the wonderful man had lived, and they looked about the grounds where he had once walked, and they visited the house where he had lived. But, really, the children did not care much for it.
"When are we going back?" asked Freddie several times.
"Don't you like it here?" asked his mother. "Just think of what a wonderful and beautiful place this is!"
"Well," said Freddie slowly, "I didn't see any fire engines yet."
Mrs. Bobbsey tried not to laugh, but it was hard work.
"I think we'd better go back to Washington," she said to her husband.
"I think so, too," he answered, and back to Washington they went. This time they rode on a trolley car, and there was no danger of Freddie's sending in an alarm of fire.
And on the way home something quite wonderful happened. At least it was wonderful for Freddie.
He was looking out of the window, when suddenly he gave a yell that startled his father and mother, as well as Nan, Bert, Nell and Flossie, and that made the other passengers sit up.
"Oh, look! There's a fire engine! There's a fire engine!" cried the little chap, pointing; and, surely enough, there was one going along the street. It was bright and shiny, smoke was pouring from it and the horses were prancing.
The other Bobbsey twins turned to look at it, and Bert said:
"Pooh, that's only coming back from an alarm."
"That's so," agreed Mr. Bobbsey. "The horses are going too slowly to be running to a fire, Freddie. They must be coming back."
"Well, it's a fire engine, anyhow," said Freddie, and every one had to agree with him. Freddie watched the shiny engine until it was out of sight, and then he talked about nothing else but fires on the way home.
Tired, but well satisfied with their trip, the Bobbsey's reached their hotel, and the Martin children went to their home, promising to meet the following day and see more Washington sights.
It was about the middle of the night that Mrs. Bobbsey, who slept in the same room with Flossie and Freddie, felt herself being shaken in bed. She roused up to see, in the dim light, Freddie standing near her, and shaking her with his chubby hands.
"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, sleepily.
"Fire!" hoarsely whispered Freddie. "The house is on fire, and it's real, too, this time!"
THE ORIENTAL CHILDREN
At first Mrs. Bobbsey was too sleepy, from having been so quickly awakened, to really understand what Freddie was saying. She turned over in bed, so as to get a better look at the small boy, who was in his night gown, and with his hair all tousled and frowsled from the pillow. There was no mistake about it—Mrs. Bobbsey was not dreaming. Her little boy was really standing beside her and shaking her. And once more he said:
"Wake up, Momsie! There's a real fire! This house is on fire, and we've got to get out. I can hear the fire engines!"
"Oh, Freddie! you're walking in your sleep again," said his mother as she sat up, now quite awake—"You have been dreaming, and you're walking in your sleep!"
Freddie had done this once or twice before, thought not since he had come to Washington.
"The excitement of going to Mount Vernon, and your ringing of the fire bell on the boat has made you dream of a fire, Freddie," his mother went on. "It isn't real. There isn't any fire in this hotel, nor near here. Go back to sleep."
"But, Momsie, I'm awake now!" cried Freddie. "And the fire is real! I can see the red light and I can hear the engine puffin'! Look, you can see the light!"
Freddie pointed to a window near his mother's bed. And, as she looked, she certainly saw a red, flickering light. And then the heard the whistle which she knew came from a fire engine. It was not like a locomotive whistle, and, besides, there were no trains near the hotel!
"Oh, it is a fire!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "Freddie, call your father!"
Mr. Bobbsey slept in the next room with Bert, while Nan had a little bed chamber next to her mother's, on the other side of the bath room.
But there was no need to call Mr. Bobbsey. In his big, warm bath robe he now came stalking into his wife's room.
"Don't be frightened," he said. "There's a small fire in the building next to this hotel. But it is almost out, and there is no danger. Stay right in bed."
"But it's a real fire, isn't it, Daddy?" cried Freddie. "I heard the engines puffin', and I saw the red light and it woke me up and I comed in and telled Momsie; and it's a real fire, isn't it?"
"Yes, Freddie, it's a real fire all right," said Mr. Bobbsey. "But don't talk so loud, nor get excited. You may awaken the people in the other rooms around us, and there is no need. I was talking to the night clerk of the hotel over the telephone from my room, and he says there is no danger. There is a big brick wall between our hotel and the place next door, which is on fire. The blaze can't get through that."
"Can't I look out the window and see the engines?" Freddie wanted to know.
"Yes, I guess it would be too bad not to let you see them, as long as they are here, and it's a real fire," answered Mrs. Bobbsey. "I hope no one was hurt next door," she added to her husband.
"I think not," he replied. "The fire is only a small one. It is almost out."
So Freddie had his dearest wish come true in the middle of the night—he saw some real fire engines puffing away, spouting sparks and smoke, and pumping water on a real fire. Of course the little boy could not see the water spurting from the hose, as that was happening inside the burning building. But Freddie could see some of the firemen at work, and he could see the engines shining in the light from the fire and the glare of the electric lamps. So he was satisfied.
Bert and Nan were awakened, and they, too, looked out on the night scene. They were glad it was not their hotel which was on fire. As for Flossie, she slept so soundly that she never knew a thing about it until the next morning. And then when Freddie told her, and talked about it at the breakfast table, Flossie said:
"I don't care! I think you're real mean, Freddy Bobbsey, to have a fire all to yourself!"
"Oh, my dear! that isn't nice to say," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "We thought it better to let you sleep."
"Well, I wish I'd seen the fire," said Flossie. "I like to look at something that's bright and shiny."
"Then you'll have a chance to see something like that this afternoon," said Mr. Bobbsey to his little girl.
"Where?" asked all the Bobbsey twins at once, for when their father talked this way Nan and Bert were as eager as Flossie and Freddie.
"How would you all like to go to a theater show this afternoon—to a matinee?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.
"Oh, lovely!" cried Flossie.
"Could Nell and Billy go?" asked Nan, kindly thinking of her little new friends.
"Yes, we'll take the Martin children," Mr. Bobbsey promised.
"And will there be some red fire in the theater show?" Flossie wanted to know.
"I think so," said her father. "It is a fairy play, about Cinderella, and some others like her, and I guess there will be plenty of bright lights and red fire."
"Will there be a fire engine?" asked Freddie. Of course you might have known, without my telling you, that it was Freddie who asked that question, But I thought I'd put his name down to make sure.
"I don't know about there being a fire engine in the play," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I hardly think there will be one. But the play will be very nice, I'm sure."
"I think so, too," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "We'll have a fine time."
"Will there be any cowboys or Indians in it?" Bert asked.
"Well, hardly, I think," his father answered. "But if we don't like the play, after we get there, we can come home," he added, his eyes twinkling.
"Oh, Daddy!" cried all the Bobbsey twins at once. And then, by the way their father smiled, they knew he was only joking.
"Oh, we'll stay," laughed Bert.
"Oh, it's snowing!" cried Freddie as they left the breakfast table and went to sit in the main parlor of the hotel. "It's snowing, and we can have sleigh rides."
"If it gets deep enough," put in Bert. "I guess it won't be very deep here, will it, Daddy?"
"Well, sometimes there is quite a bit of snow in Washington," answered Mr. Bobbsey. "We'll have to wait and see."
"The snow won't keep us from going to show in the theater; will it?" asked Nan.
"No," her mother said. "Nor to see the show given there," she added, smiling.
After a visit to the Martins, to tell them of the treat in store, the tickets were purchased, the Bobbseys had dinner, and, in due time, the merry little party was at the theater.
They were shown to their seats, and then the children looked around, waited eagerly for the curtain to go up, while Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey talked together. More and more people came in. There were a large number of children, for it was a play especially for them, though, of course, lots of "grown-ups" came also.
The musicians entered and took their places on the funny little place back of a brass rail. Then came the delicious thrills of the squeaking violins as they were tuned, the tap-tap of the drum, the tinkle of a piano, and the soft, low notes of a flute.
"Oh, it's going to begin soon," whispered Nell to Nan.
"I hope it's a good show," said Bert to his chum Billy, and trying to speak as if he went to a matinee every other day at least.
"Oh, they have pretty good shows here," Billy said.
"Look!" suddenly whispered Nan, pointing to a box at their left. "Look at the Chinese children!"
And, surely enough, into a near-by box came several boys and girls about the age of the Bobbsey twins, and some almost babies, but they were dressed in beautiful blue, golden and red silken garments. And with them came their father, who also wore a silk robe of blue, embroidered with golden birds.
"Who are they—some of the actors in the play?" asked Bert.
"No, that's the Chinese minister and some of his family, and I guess some of their friends," explained Billy. "I've seen them before. They don't often dress up in the same kind of clothes they wear in China, but they did to-day."
"Oh, aren't they cute!" said Nell to Nan.
"Too lovely for anything!" agreed Nan enthusiastically.
Many eyes were on the box, but the Chinese minister and his beautifully dressed children did not seem to mind being looked at. The children were just as much interested in staring about the theater as were the Bobbsey twins, and the Oriental tots probably thought that the other children were even more queer than the American boys and girls thought the Chinese to be.
Having given a good deal of attention to the Chinese children in the box, the Bobbseys looked around the theater at the other little folk in the audience.
"Oh, look at the funny fat boy over there!" cried out Freddie in a loud voice.
"Hush, hush, Freddie!" whispered Nan quickly. "You mustn't talk so loud. Every one will hear you."
"But he is awful fat, isn't he?" insisted Freddie.
"He isn't any fatter than you'll be if you keep on eating so much," remarked Bert.
"Oh, I don't eat any more than I have to," declared the little boy. "When you are really and truly hungry you can't help eating. Nobody can!"
"And you're hungry most all the time," said Bert.
"I'm not at all! I'm hungry only when—when—I'm hungry," was Freddie's reply.
Then the orchestra began to play, and, a little later, the curtain went up and the fairy play began.
I am not going to tell you about it, because you all know the story of Cinderella. There she was, sitting among the ashes of the fire-place, and in came the godmother who made a pumpkin turn into a golden coach, and did all the other things just like the story.
The play was a little different from the story in some books. In one scene a bad fairy sets off a lighted fire cracker under the palace of the princess. And on the stage, when this happened, there was a loud banging noise, just as Bert and Nan had often heard on the Fourth of July.