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The Bobbsey Twins on a Houseboat
by Laura Lee Hope
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Snap did not stop to listen. He had, indeed, taken Flossie's doll with him. He had been holding it on his front paws as Snoop slid overboard, and, as he gave a jump, Snap did not come down on all four legs. He jumped while he was yet standing on his hind ones, and of course the doll went over the rail with him.

"What has happened?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, as she heard the screaming, and the splashes in the water. "Have any of the children fallen in?" For she had gone to another part of the deck, with Dinah, out of sight of the twins for a moment. Now she came hurrying back, and a single look showed her that the children were all safe.

"What has happened?" she asked again.

"As nearly as I can figure out," said Mr. Bobbsey, "Bert caught a fish, Snoop tried to get it and fell into the water, and now Snap has gone in after Snoop."

"And Snap has my doll! She'll get all wet—she'll be drowned!" cried Flossie.

"I'll get her for you," offered Harry. But just now they were all anxious to see what Snap and Snoop did. Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey and the children looked over the side of the houseboat. They saw the black cat swimming about in the lake, and Snap, who was a fine water-dog, was paddling toward her.

"Hadn't you better stop the boat?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, for the Bluebird was slowly floating away from the dog and the cat.

"Yes, I guess it would be best," said Mr. Bobbsey. So he called out:

"Captain! Captain White! Stop the boat! Something overboard!"

Down in the little motor room Mr. White heard the shout, and he at once shut off the gasoline engine. Then he came up on deck as fast as his lame leg would let him, to see what was wrong.

"What's that you say?" he asked. "Somebody fell overboard?"

"The dog and the cat," explained Mr. Bobbsey. "I wonder how we can get them out? It's Snoop and Snap who are in the water."

"And my doll!" added Flossie. "I want my doll back!"

"Oh, yes, and Flossie's doll," added Mr. Bobbsey. "I guess you'd better get in the rowboat, Captain White. It will be easier to lift them out from there."

"I'll do it, Mr. Bobbsey," the captain said, as he limped down stairs again. By this time Snap had swum to where poor Snoop was paddling about in the water. The dog gently took hold of the cat by the back of the neck, where her loose fur would give a good hold. Then Snap, holding Snoop's head well up out of the water, started back for the houseboat.

"Good old Snap!" called Mr. Bobbsey. Snap wanted to bark and wag his tail, as he always did when any one spoke pleasantly to him, but he knew if he opened his mouth to bark now, he would have to drop Snoop. And Snap had hard enough work swimming, without trying to wag his tail. On he came toward the boat.

By this time Captain White had gotten into the small boat, which was pulled after the Bluebird, by a rope, and he was rowing toward the dog. Seeing that the smaller boat was nearer, Snap swam toward that, instead of toward the larger one. He held Snoop carefully up out of the water.

"That's a good dog, Snap!" called Captain White, as Snap came nearer. "I'll take her now."

The engineer lifted poor, wet, dripping Snoop into his boat. She crawled close up to Captain White, for she was much frightened. After Snap had delivered the cat he had rescued, he turned back again.

"Where are you going?" asked Captain White. "Don't you want to get in my boat, too, Snap?"

"Bow wow!" barked Snap. This time he could open his mouth, as he was not carrying a cat.

"Oh, he's going to get my doll!" cried Flossie. "Look, Snap is after my doll!"

And so he was. After taking Snoop safely to the boat, Snap had seen Flossie's doll floating on the top of the water, and had swum toward that, just as he would have gone toward a floating stick, had there been one near.

"OK, now he's got her!" cried the happy Flossie. "Now Snap has my doll. Goodie!"

"And, as she's a wooden doll, the water won't hurt her," said Nan, with a laugh, "Everything is coming out all right."

And so it seemed.

Taking the doll in his mouth, as he had taken the cat, Snap swam back toward the small boat, where Captain White waited for him, now and then petting poor Snoop. Just as the dog had done with the cat, so he did with the doll, giving her to the engineer of the Bluebird. Then, seeing that his work was all done, Snap once more swam toward the big boat, not trying to get into the small one.

"Good dog, Snap!" cried Mr. Bobbsey, as he leaned over to lift him in, for there were no steps by which to climb up the side of the Bluebird.

This time Snap barked and wagged his tail, and then he gave himself a big shake to get rid of the water. He sent a regular shower of spray all about.

"Come, girls!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey with a laugh, "this is no place for us. We haven't our bathing suits on!" and she, with Nan and Dorothy, ran back out of the way of the scattering drops from Snap's shaggy coat.

A little later Captain White rowed up with Snoop and Flossie's doll, and the little girl at once said she was going to put a dry dress on the doll, so she wouldn't "take cold."

"Well," said Mr. Bobbsey, when the excitement had died down. "That's over, at any rate. All that over one little fish!"

"That's so—my fish started it all!" said Bert. "I wonder what became of it?" and he looked at his empty hook, dangling from the line of his pole.

"The fish dropped off," said Harry. "I saw it. But it was only a little one. It wouldn't have been any good."

"Poor Snoop!" said Mrs. Bobbsey. "All your trouble for nothing! You didn't get the fish."

"Oh, I'll soon catch some more for her, won't we, Harry?" Bert asked.

"That's what we will," answered the country cousin.

"Now if yo' folks am all done fallin' ovahbo'd I'se ready t' gib yo' all suffin t' eat," said Dinah, coming up from the dining-room.

"And I think we are ready to eat," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "This traveling on the water has given me an appetite."

"I guess it has all of us," spoke Mr. Bobbsey with a laugh, as he noticed the eager, hungry looks on the faces of the children.

"And give Snoop and Snap something good and hot, so they won't take cold," suggested Nan. "Though I don't believe they will this weather, it's so warm."

"I'm going to give my dollie hot chocolate," said Flossie, who, by this time, had put a dry dress on her pet.

The meal was a merry one, though at first the children, especially Flossie and Freddie, were too excited to eat. Then, too, it was so strange eating on a boat that was moving through the water, for the engine had been started again. Several times, during the meal, the two smaller twins jumped up from the table to run to the windows and look out over the lake. At last their mother said:

"Now, Flossie and Freddie, you must sit still and finish your dinner. Otherwise you may be ill. You'll have plenty of time to see things after you leave the table."

Snap was soon dry, from lying in the sun, and, a little later, Snoop was as warm and fluffy as before she had fallen into the lake. She picked out a warm spot on deck near Snap, for they had been the best of friends since the first day they had met, when Snoop came back from her long trip to Cuba, as I have told you in another book.

All the rest of that day the houseboat traveled over Lake Metoka. The children sat on Heck, and watched other boats pass them. Some of them were loaded with lumber for Mr. Bobbsey. Others were pleasure boats, and those on board waved their hands to the Bobbsey twins and their cousins.

"Are we going to travel all night?" asked Bert of his father, when Dinah called that supper was ready.

"No, we are going to anchor soon. We will go a little nearer shore first, though."

"And when will we start through Lemby Creek toward Lake Romano?"

"Oh, in a day or so, I fancy."

It was such a pleasant evening, that even the little twins were allowed to stay up on deck past their usual bedtime, looking at the twinkling stars, and the lights of other boats on the lake.

When Flossie and Freddie did get to bed, they did not go to sleep at once. It was very strange to them, sleeping on a boat in the water.

Finally the two little people dozed off, and then the older folks went to bed. In the middle of the night Freddie woke up. At first he could not remember where he was, and he wondered at the queer rocking motion of the boat, for a little wind was ruffling the lake.

Suddenly there came a loud toot.

"Mamma! Papa! I heard something!" cried Freddie, sitting up.

"Yes, dear. It was only the whistle of another boat," said his mother, who was in the room next to him. "Go to sleep again."

Freddie did.

"Well, I sure am going to catch some fish to-day," said Bert, when he and Harry went up on deck next morning, after breakfast.

"We'll try, anyhow," Harry said. "We're nearer shore now, and the fishing ought to be better. I'll get my line.".

Whether it was on account of the bait they used, or because the fish were not plentiful, the boys did not know, but they did not get even one bite. Anyhow, they had fun.

The Bluebird went slowly across the lake. The Bobbseys were in no hurry, and they wanted to enjoy the pleasant weather. For three days they sailed over the blue waters, and then Mr. Bobbsey told Captain White to steer toward Lemby Creek.

"We'll go through the creek into Lake Romano," said the twins' father. "That is a much larger lake. We'll spend most of our houseboat vacation there. We will also visit the big waterfall."

"That will be lovely!" exclaimed Dorothy. Though she lived near the sea, she also loved inland waters, such as rivers and lakes.

The houseboat moved so slowly, and was such a safe craft, that Bert and Harry were allowed to steer at times, when Mr. Bobbsey or Captain White stood near them in case of any danger. The two boy cousins had taken turns steering, until the Bluebird was close to the place where Lemby Creek emptied into Lake Metoka.

"You'd better let me take the steering wheel, now," said Mr. Bobbsey to Bert. "There is a little current from the creek into the lake, and we don't want to run ashore."

In a little while the houseboat was safely in the creek. This stream of water was narrow, though it was deep enough to float the Bluebird easily. The shores were so close, at times, that the tree branches overhung the deck, and brushed the rails.

"I could almost jump ashore," said Harry.

"But you mustn't try it!" cautioned his aunt. "You might fall in, and Snap couldn't rescue you as easily as he did Snoop or the doll."

As the houseboat went slowly around a bend in the creek, Nan, who stood in front, near her father, suddenly uttered a cry, and pointed toward shore.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"There's that boy—Will Watson!" spoke Nan. "You know—the one who liked our boat so," and she pointed to the strange lad who worked for Mr. Hardee. The boy was walking along the shore of the creek, a fish pole over his shoulder.

"Oh, let's ask him how to catch fish!" proposed Bert. "We haven't had any luck at all!"



CHAPTER XI

THE MEAN MAN

Certainly it seemed a good place to fish, in Lemby Creek, for there were many shady pools near the banks—pools that looked as though fish swam in them, just waiting to be caught.

As Harry and Bert looked more closely at the boy Nan had pointed out to them, they saw that he carried a string of fish, as well as the pole.

"Oh, he's caught some!" cried Bert. "Let's ask how he does it."

"And where he caught them," suggested Harry.

"I will," agreed Bert. "Hey there, Will!" he called. "Where'd you get the fish?"

The farm boy, who had seen the houseboat, and who was hurrying toward her, waved his hand as Bert called to him. Then, as he came nearer across the green meadow through which the creek ran, he shouted:

"Plenty of fish all around you. Just throw in from the boat, and you'll get all you want."

"What kind of bait do you use?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, for neither Bert nor Harry had thought to inquire about that, and the right kind of bait is as much needed in catching fish, as is water itself.

"Grasshoppers are best just now," answered Will.

"And we've been fishing with worms!" said Bert. "No wonder!"

"Oh, worms are all right most times," Will went on. "But the fish are hungry for grasshoppers now. I'll give you some. I've got lots left."

He came to the edge of the creek, and Mr. Bobbsey, who was steering the boat, sent it in close to shore.

"We might as well tie up here for the night, I think," he said. "That will give you boys a chance to talk to Will, and learn how to catch fish."

A little later the houseboat was rubbing along the grassy bank, and the water was so deep close to shore that there was really no need of putting out the board, called the "gangplank," for any one to get off. Mr. Bobbsey, knowing that Flossie and Freddie could not make the little jump needed to take them ashore, called to Captain White to run out a small board instead of the regular large one.

"Come on, Harry!" called Bert. "We'll get some of those grasshoppers."

He started down the stairs leading from the deck, intending to go ashore, but his mother touched him on the arm, and said, in a low voice:

"Why don't you ask that boy to come on board?"

"Why?" asked Bert.

"Well, I was just going to give you children some of the corn muffins Dinah has just baked, and perhaps Will would like—-"

"Oh, of course! Now I understand!" cried Bert. "Of course. I say, Will!" he went on, calling down from the upper deck, "can't you come aboard? We're going to have some of Dinah's corn muffins, and maybe you'd like to sample one."

Somewhat to the surprise of Mrs. Bobbsey, as well as to the wonderment of Bert and Harry, Will did not seem eager to accept the invitation.

"I'd like to come on board, very much," he said, looking back of him, and on all sides, as though he feared some one was after him. "But you see I haven't got much time. I ought to be back at the farm now. Mr. Hardee set me to hoeing a patch of corn, and I'm supposed to be back in time to feed the horses before supper. And it's almost supper time now."

"Well, we don't want you to be late," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Here, Bert," she said, as Dinah came out of the kitchen with a big plate of muffins, "you take some of these to Will, and you can walk along a little way with him, and talk about fishing. Then he won't be late.

"But don't go too far," she added, "for supper will soon be ready."

"We won't!" promised Bert. Taking some of the delicious corn muffins, the two boys hurried ashore, Snap, the dog, barking joyously, bounding along with them. Flossie and Freddie did not care to go ashore just then, as the little girl twin was playing with her doll, and her brother was trying to make Snoop do one of the tricks that the circus lady had taught the cat in Cuba.

Mrs. Bobbsey went down to the dining-room, to talk to Dinah about the evening meal, while Mr. Bobbsey and Captain White got out the ropes with which to tie the houseboat fast to some trees on the bank of the creek.

Meanwhile Bert and Harry walked along with Will.

"Have some muffins," invited Bert politely, passing his new friend some of the corn cakes that Dinah knew so well how to bake.

"Thanks! They're good!" said Will, as he bit into one.

"Say, you have some fine fish!" exclaimed Harry, half enviously. "Where'd you catch them?"

"Oh, up the creek aways—near where I was hoeing corn. You can have 'em, if you want 'em."

"What! Do you mean to GIVE them to us?" asked Bert in surprise. "After all the work you had catching them?"

"Oh, it wasn't any work catching 'em," said Will quickly. "It was fun. But it won't be any fun taking 'em home, for Mr. Hardee will be mad."

"Why?" asked Harry, as he began eating a second muffin.

"Well, he'll say I was catching fish instead of hoeing corn. But I caught all these in the noon hour, when I'm supposed to have a little time off. But he wouldn't believe that, so there's no use taking the fish home. You can have 'em. There's some pretty big sunnies, and a couple o' nice perch."

"Sure you don't want them?" asked Bert.

"No. I'd be glad to give 'em to you. And here's some grasshoppers I didn't use. They'll be good to fish with to-morrow."

"Thanks," said Bert, as he took the tin box Will held out. Inside could be heard a queer little "ticking" noise, as the grasshoppers leaped up against the cover.

"Say, these are sure some fine fish!" exclaimed Will.

"Oh, you'll catch just as nice ones to-morrow," the country boy said. "I'll have to run now, or I'll be late at the farm."

"Good-bye!" called Bert and Harry as Will hurried off along the edge of the creek. "See you to-morrow, maybe."

Will had no idea that he would see his friends then. He knew he had a hard day's work in prospect for the next day—weeding a large patch of onions that were so far away from the creek that he would have no chance, even at his noon hour, of going down to the water for a cool little swim.

Will did not know what queer things were going to happen to him very soon, nor did any of the Bobbseys realize what a part they were to play in the life of poor, friendless Will Watson.

"He's a nice boy, isn't he?" asked Harry of Bert, as they turned back toward the boat, with their fish and bait.

"Yes, I like him a lot. It's too bad he has to work so hard on the farm."

"Yes, it sure is."

Talking of the luck they expected to have the next day, fishing, the cousins soon reached the Bluebird. There they found their father and Captain White waiting for them.

"We've decided to move the boat farther down the creek before we tie up for the night," said Mr. Bobbsey, "but we didn't want to go before you boys came back."

"Are you going to start up the engine again?" asked Bert. "If you are, I wish you'd let me try to do it."

"No, you are too small to go near gasoline motors," said his father. "Besides, we are not going to use the engine. We'll just push the boat along with poles from the bank. We're not going very far, but your mother thought it would be nicer to spend the night in a more open place."

"Yes," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "I thought perhaps some animals might jump out of the trees on our deck."

The trees on shore were very close to the boat, some of the branches overhanging the railing. At the mention of animals, Bert's eyes opened wider.

"Say, if I had a gun I could shoot them, if they came aboard," he said, his eyes glistening.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed his mother. "I'd rather have an animal on board than let you have a gun. You might get shot."

"I—I could squirt water on 'em with my fire engine!" shouted Freddie, who had given up trying to make Snoop do any tricks.

"Oh, we had enough of your engine, little fat fireman," said Mr. Bobbsey with a laugh. "Now then, if you're all ready, we'll move the boat."

It was rather hard work to start the Bluebird, but once it had begun to move, it went more easily through the water. Captain White had one pushing pole, Mr. Bobbsey another, and Bert and Harry used one between them. Soon the houseboat moved out from the narrow part of the creek, and from under the trees, to a place where wide meadows were found on either side. A little farther, going around a bend in the stream, the Bobbseys came in sight of a farmhouse, a barn and several other buildings near it.

"Oh, look!" cried Nan. "Somebody lives there."

"Yes, that's Mr. Hardee's farm, I think," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We can tie up our boat here, and then, if we want some milk or eggs, we can easily get them."

"I needs some aigs," spoke Dinah. "Done used de lastest one in dem muffins."

"Then we'll make the boat fast here," decided Mr. Bobbsey. "With your corn muffins, Dinah, and the fish Will gave us, we'll have a fine supper. As soon as the boat is fast you and Harry can clean the fish, Bert."

Beyond the broad expanse which lay between the wide meadows, the creek had narrowed again opposite the farmhouse and barn. In fact, it was so narrow, that if there had been another houseboat on the stream, there would have been trouble for the Bluebird to pass. This narrow part was not, however, very long, and beyond it the creek broadened out again.

Mr. Bobbsey and Captain White had just finished fastening the ropes from the boat to some stakes driven into the ground, when Mrs. Bobbsey, who had come up from the dining-room, called out:

"Oh, look, Richard!"

"What is it?" asked her husband.

"That man! See! I'm afraid he is going to give that boy a whipping. And see, it's Will—the boy who gave Bert the fish!"

Mr. Bobbsey looked to where his wife pointed, and saw, coming out of the barn, a grizzled farmer, leading by the arm a boy whom Mr. Bobbsey at once recognized as Will Watson. Keeping a tight grip on the lad's arm with one hand, the farmer raised his other hand, in which was a long horsewhip.

Then he cried:

"I'll teach you to waste your time goin' fishin'! I'll teach you! Th' idea o' fishin' when I set you to hoein' corn! Wastin' my time! I'll learn you!"

"Oh, but, Mr. Hardee!" cried poor Will. "I only fished in the noon hour when I'm not supposed to work!"

"Not supposed to work!" cried the mean man, as he brought the whip down on Will's shoulders. "You're supposed t' work here all th' while I tell you—'cept when you're asleep! I'll teach you!" and again the cruel whip swished down.

"Oh, Richard!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey faintly, as she covered her eyes with her hands. "Can't you stop that?"



CHAPTER XII

THE WIRE FENCE

Mr. Bobbsey did not waste any time talking. With a run and a jump he was on shore, and then he started across the meadow toward the place where the mean farmer was whipping Will, who was crying out loud. For the cruel whip hurt.

"Hold on a minute, Mr. Hardee!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, when he was near enough to make himself heard. Back on the deck of the houseboat Mrs. Bobbsey, the twins, their cousins and Dinah watched and waited to see what would happen.

"You talkin' to me?" sharply demanded the mean farmer of Mr. Bobbsey.

"Yes, Mr. Hardee. I asked you to wait a minute before you keep on whipping that boy. I happened to hear part of what he said, and I think he is in the right."

"In th' right? What do you mean?"

"I mean I think he tells the truth, when he says he fished only during the noon hour. We saw him as he came along, and he gave the fish he had caught to my boy."

"Oh, he did, hey?" exclaimed Mr. Hardee. "I was wonderin' what become of 'em. Give 'em away, did he? Wa'al, he knowed better'n to bring 'em here. I knowed he'd been wastin' his time. When I set a boy to hoein' corn, an' he comes home smellin' of fish, I know what he's been doin' jest th' same as when I see a boy's head wet on a hot day I know he's been in swimmin'! You can't fool me. He's frittered away his time, when he ought t' be hoein' corn, an' now I'm goin' to take it out of him!"

Again he raised the whip, and struck the boy.

"Oh, please don't!" begged Will. "Honest I didn't fish except at noon hour, an' I ate my lunch in one hand, and fished with the other, so I wouldn't waste any time. I only took half an hour, instead of three- quarters you said I could have at noon, and I went right to work hoein' corn again."

"Humph! That's easy enough to say," spoke Mr. Hardee, "but I don't believe you. I told you I'd whip you if you went fishin' ag'in, an' I'm goin' to do it!"

Again the lash fell.

"Please don't!" begged Will, trying to break loose. But the angry farmer held him in too firm a grip.

"Look here!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey with flashing eyes. "I believe that boy is telling the truth!"

"Wa'al, I don't," snapped the mean farmer. "An' I'm goin' to give him a good lesson."

"Not that way, Mr. Hardee!" cried Mr. Bobbsey, taking a step forward.

"Huh! You seem to know my name," said the farmer, stopping in his beating of the boy, "but I don't know you."

"My name is Bobbsey," said the twins' lather, and the farmer started. "I'm in the lumber business over at Lakeport. I guess you bought some lumber of me, didn't you, for your house."

"Wa'al, s'posin' I did?" asked Mr. Hardee. "I paid you for it, didn't I?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Wa'al, then that don't give you no right to interfere with me! This is my hired boy, an' I can do as I please with him."

"Oh, no, you can't, Mr. Hardee!" said Mr. Bobbsey quickly.

"What's that? I can't? Wa'al, I'll show you! Stand back now, I'm goin' to give him a good threshin'!"

Again he raised the whip, but it did not fall on poor, timid, shrinking Will. For Mr. Bobbsey snatched it away from the angry farmer's hand and flung it far to one side.

"Here! What'd you mean by that?" demanded Mr. Hardee, his face more flushed than ever with anger.

"I mean you're not going to beat that boy!" replied the twins' father. "He hasn't done anything to deserve it, and I'm not going to stand by and see him abused. Is he your hired boy?"

"I took him out of the poorhouse—nobody would hire him. He's bound out to me until he's of age, an' I can do as I please with him."

"Oh, no, you can't," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I happen to know something of the law. You have no right to beat this boy, and if you try to do it now, or again, and I hear of it, I'll make a complaint against you. Don't you strike him again, especially when he hasn't done anything."

Mr. Hardee seemed so surprised that he did not know what to say. His grip on Will's arm slipped off, and Will quickly stepped to one side. There were tears in his eyes, and on his face.

"I believe this boy was telling the truth," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Even if he did fish a little during the time you call yours, that would be no excuse for using a horsewhip on him."

"I tell you he's bound out to me, and I can. do as I please with him!" cried Mr. Hardee.

"No, you can't," said Mr. Bobbsey. "You have no right to be cruel, even if he is a poor boy, and is bound out to you. Haven't you any folks, Will?" he asked.

"No—no, sir," was the half-sobbed answer. "No near folks. I come from th' poorhouse, just as he says. But I've got an uncle somewhere out west. He's a miner. If he knew where I was, he'd look after me."

"Where is your uncle?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"I—I got his address, but I can't write very good, or I'd send him a letter."

"Let me have his address," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "And I'll see what I can do."

"Look here!" cried the farmer. "I won't have you interferin' in my business! You ain't got a right to!"

"Every one has a right to stop a poor boy from being unjustly beaten," said the twins' father. "Will, you get me that address. I'll be here a day or so, in my houseboat, and you can bring it down to me. Do you think you can find it, and let me know where your uncle lives?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then do it."

"Now you look-a-here!" began Mr. Hardee, "I won't have you, nor anybody else, interferin' with my hired help. I—-"

"I'm not interfering except to stop you from horsewhipping a boy," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Any one has a right to do that."

"Humph!" was all the farmer said, as he over and picked up the horsewhip Mr. Bobbsey had taken from him. The twins' father thought perhaps the farmer was going to use it again, but he did not. Mr. Hardee turned to Will and said:

"Get along up to the house, and eat your supper! There's lots o' work to be done afore dark. An' if I catch you fishin' any more, I'll make you—-"

"But I wasn't fishin' except at the noon hour," the boy interrupted.

"That's enough of your talk!" the farmer cried as he walked toward the barn. "Go on!"

Mr. Bobbsey went back to the houseboat.

"It's all right," he said cheerfully to his wife and children. "I made him stop hurting Will."

"Did he—did he hit him very hard?" asked Freddie, for punishment of that sort was totally unknown in the Bobbsey home. Of course the children did not always do right, but they were punished by having some pleasure taken away from them, and never whipped.

"No, Will wasn't much hurt," said Mr. Bobbsey, for he did not want his children, or their cousins, to worry too much over what they had seen. Yet Mr. Bobbsey could not help but think that the cruel lash must have hurt Will more than the boy himself showed.

"He—he won't whip him any more, will he?" asked little Flossie.

"No, not any more," said Mr. Bobbsey, for he had made up his mind he would, if necessary, take the boy away from the mean farmer before any more whipping could be done.

"Suppah am ready!" called Dinah from the kitchen. "An' I done wants yo' all t' come right away fo' it gits cold!"

"We're coming!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "And after supper we'll sit on deck and sing songs."

She wanted to do something to take out of the minds of the children the memory of the unpleasant scene they had just observed.

"I wish it would hurry up and come morning," said Bert.

"Why?" asked his father.

"So Harry and I can go fishing. I'm sure we'll catch some with the grasshoppers for bait."

"Well, I hope you have good luck," laughed Mr. Bobbsey.

The supper was much enjoyed. The fish, which Will had given the Bobbseys, made a fine meal, with the corn muffins and other things Dinah cooked. After supper they all sat out on the deck of the houseboat, enjoying the beautiful June evening. From the farm of Mr. Hardee came the sounds of mooing cows, and whinnying horses, with an occasional grunt of the pigs, or the barking of dogs.

Nothing was seen of the farmer himself, or of poor Will.

"Can you do anything for him?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey of her husband, after the children had gone to bed that night.

"I hope so, yes. If, as he says, he has an uncle somewhere in the West, and I can get his address, I'll write to him, and ask him to look after Will. The boy needs a good home."

"Indeed he does. Oh, I'm so glad you didn't let him get that whipping!"

"I'll help him all I can," promised Mr. Bobbsey.

The twins' father rather hoped that the hired boy might slip down to the houseboat that evening, with his uncle's address, but nothing was seen of him.

In the morning a strange thing happened.

Mr. Bobbsey and Captain White decided that it would be better to take the boat a little farther down Lemby Creek, and tie it fast to the bank in a more shady spot than the one opposite the farm buildings.

"It will be better fishing in the shade, too," Mr. Bobbsey said to the boys.

So the gasoline engine was started, and the boat started off. It had not gone very far, though, before Mr. Bobbsey, who was steering, called to Captain White to shut off the engine.

"What's the matter?" asked Captain White. "You're going farther than this; aren't you?"

"I wanted to, yes. But we can't go any farther."

"Why not?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "Nothing has happened to the boat, has there, Richard?"

"No, not to the boat. But look there!" and Mr. Bobbsey pointed ahead. Stretched across a narrow part of Lemby Creek was a strong wire fence, fastened to posts driven into the bottom of the stream. The Bluebird could go no farther on her voyage. The fence stopped her.

As Mr. Bobbsey, the twins and the cousins looked at the strong wire fence, they saw Mr. Hardee come along the shore. He looked at the houseboat, and shook his fist, grinning in no pleasant fashion.

"I guess you won't go no farther!" he cried. "I've put a stop to your fancy trip all right! Huh!"



CHAPTER XIII

THE RUNAWAY BOY

"Oh, papa, can't we go on to Lake Romano?" asked Nan, as she came up on deck with Dorothy, and saw the big wire fence stretched across the creek to stop them.

"It doesn't look so—unless we can fly over that," and her brother Bert pointed to the metal strands that went from post to post.

"It does seem to hinder us," said Mr. Bobbsey. He was trying to think of what would be best to do. He looked at Mr. Hardee, who seemed to think it all a fine joke.

"Papa, I know how we can get through," eagerly said little Freddie, who was holding Snoop in his arms. The big black cat was almost too much of a load for the little boy, but Freddie wanted her to do some tricks, and he held her so she would not run away.

"I know how to get past that fence," the little twin went on.

"How?" asked his father, rather absentmindedly. "How?"

"Just cut the wires!" said Freddie, as though no one but himself had thought of that. "If I had one of those cutter-things the telephone man had, when he climbed the pole in front of our house, I could cut the wires and we could go right on up the creek."

"Yes, I suppose so, my little fat fireman," said Mr. Bobbsey. "But I don't believe the man who put that fence up there would let us cut the wires."

"It's queer," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "That fence wasn't across the creek before, was it?"

"I don't know," answered her husband. "It looks as though it had been put up lately—even last night, perhaps. But I haven't been along the creek in some time, so I can't be sure."

"It wasn't here last week, that's certain," Captain White spoke. "For I was up here then fishing, and I didn't see it. I fancy that Mr. Hardee knows something about it."

"I shouldn't wonder," agreed Mr. Bobbsey. "Now the question is: What are we to do? We can't go on through the fence, and we can't very well go around it, for the Bluebird won't float on dry ground. And I don't want to go back. This is the only way to get to Lake Romano."

"I know what to do, papa," spoke Flossie. "We can ask that man to take down the wires, if Freddie can't cut them with the cutter-thing."

"Yes, I suppose we could do that," Mr. Bobbsey said, slowly.

By this time Mr. Hardee had come closer to the houseboat, which had drifted near to the shore.

"Will you take that fence down, and let us go past?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, as politely as he could.

"No, I won't!" snapped Mr. Hardee in reply. "No!"

"But we want to go on down the creek," explained the twins' father, "and we can't get past the fence."

"I know you can't!" said Mr. Hardee with a chuckle. "That's what I put it up there for. I strung it last night—me and my hired men. I didn't think you'd hear, and you didn't. Give you a sort of surprise, didn't it?"

"It certainly did," and Mr. Bobbsey's voice was stern. "And I want to say that you had no right to stretch that fence across the creek to stop my boat. You had no right!"

"Oh, yes, I had!" said Mr. Hardee with a sneer.

"This is a public creek," went on Mr. Bobbsey.

"Maybe it is, in certain places," said the mean farmer, "but here the creek runs through my land. I own on both sides of it, and I own the creek itself. If I don't want to let anybody go through in a boat, I don't have to."

"Oh, so you own the creek here, do you?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, rather surprised.

"Yes, I do."

"And you aren't going to let us pass?"

"Nope! That's why I strung that fence last night. It's a good, strong fence, and if you run into it, and try to bust it I'll have th' law on ye!"

"Oh, you needn't worry that I'll do anything like that," spoke Mr. Bobbsey. "But why won't you let us pass?"

"Because of what you did last night—interferin' between me and my help. You wouldn't let me give Will Watson the threshin' he deserved, an' I won't let you pass through my creek. I want you to back up your boat, too, and go back where you come from. I own that part of the creek where you are now."

"Come now, be reasonable," suggested Mr. Bobbsey. "I stopped you from beating that boy only because you were in the wrong. If you'll just think it over, you'll say so yourself. And, just for that, you shouldn't stop my boat from going up the creek."

"Well, I have stopped you, and I'm going to keep on stoppin' you!" cried Mr. Hardee, again shaking his fist. "You can't get past my fence. It's a good strong fence."

"I—I could cut it, if I had one of those cutter-things, the telephone man had," said Freddie, in his clear, high voice.

"Hush, Freddie dear," said his mother. "Leave it to papa."

Mr. Bobbsey was silent a moment, and then he went on:

"And so you strung that fence in the night, and won't let my houseboat pass, just because I stopped you from beating that boy?"

"That's it," the mean farmer said. "And for more than that, too."

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Bobbsey quickly.

"I mean that you made that boy, Will Watson, run away."

"Run away!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, in surprise.

"Yes, run away," repeated the farmer. "He didn't come down to breakfast this mornin', and when I went to call him to do the chores, he was gone. And, what's more, I think you had somethin' to do with him runnin' away," went on the angry farmer. "You put a lot o' notions in his head. You're to blame!"

"Now look here!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey. "We don't know any more about that boy running away than you do, Mr. Hardee. If he has gone, I'm sorry for him, for he may have a hard time. I'm not sorry I stopped you from beating him, though. Perhaps he is around the farm somewhere."

"No, he isn't!" insisted the farmer. "He's gone. What clothes he had he took with him. He's run away, and it's your fault, too. I put up that fence last night to pay you back for interferin', an' now I'm glad I did, for you're to blame for Will runnin' off."

"I tell you that you are mistaken," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "But if you feel that way about it, there is no use talking to you. Then you won't take down that wire fence and let us pass?"

"No, I won't, and I order you, and your boat, out of my part of the creek. Go back where you come from. You can't go through to Lake Romano this way!"

Mr. Bobbsey turned and looked at the wire fence. It certainly was a strong one, and the farmer and his hired men had worked well during the night. It was far enough off from where the Bluebird then was so that the pounding on the posts, to drive them into the mud of the creek bottom, was not heard.

"Well, I guess there's nothing for us to do but to go back," said Mr. Bobbsey. He felt very sorry, when he saw the looks of disappointment on the faces of the twins and their cousins.

"Papa," said Freddie again, "if I had one of those wire-cutter things, I could snip that wire like the telephone men did."

"Yes, but we haven't one, little fat fireman, and we would have no right to use it if we had," said Mr. Bobbsey. "No, I must think of some other way."

"It's too bad," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I wonder what has become of that poor runaway boy?" she asked.

"I don't know," answered Mr. Bobbsey. But, had he only known it, Will Watson was nearer than any one suspected.



CHAPTER XIV

OFF AGAIN

"What are we going to do?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as she stood at the side of her husband on the deck of the houseboat. Mr. Bobbsey was looking at the wire fence, as though trying to find a way to get past it—either under it, or over it, or to one side or the other of it. Of course he did not think it wise to try little Freddie's plan of breaking the wire with a "cutter thing" such as the telephone men carried.

"Well," said Mr. Bobbsey, after a bit, "I guess the only thing for us to do is to go back, until we are anchored in some part of Lemby Creek that doesn't belong to Mr. Hardee."

"Does he really own this water?" asked Bert.

"Well, he says so, and I have no doubt but what he does," said Mr. Bobbsey. "If he owns land on both sides of the creek, naturally he owns the creek, too."

"And we can't go up or down it?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Not unless he lets us."

"What about the fishes?" asked Bert "He can't stop them from swimming up and down."

"No, he can't do that," agreed his father, with a smile.

"Then can he stop Harry and me from catching fish?" Bert wanted next to know.

"Not if you fish somewhere else than in his waters," spoke the twins' father. "The best thing for us to do is to go back where we were at first, near where the creek runs into Lake Metoka. There we can anchor for a time."

"But how are we going to get to Lake Romano?" asked Nan. "I want to show Dorothy the big waterfall."

"Well, perhaps we can get there a little later," her father said. "Just now Mr. Hardee has the best of us, and we'll have to do as he says. So, Captain White, I guess we'll have to back up the boat, as we can't go past the fence."

"If I had one of those wire-cutter things," began Freddie, "I could snip that wire as easy as anything." He seemed to think of nothing else.

"Oh, you and Flossie had better go play with Snap, or Snoop," suggested Bert with a laugh. "Or you can come and watch Harry and me fish. We're going to as soon as we get back aways."

"I'm going to fish, too," declared Freddie, eagerly.

The creek, near Mr. Hardee's farm, was so narrow that the houseboat could not be turned around in it, and it had to go backward. This was easy, since the Bluebird was something like a ferry boat, built to go backward or forward.

The twins were a little sad as they saw their boat backing up, but it could not be helped.

"We'll have a good time fishing, anyhow," said Harry.

"That's right," agreed Bert. "I wonder if that boy Will took his fishing rod with him? He'd probably need it, if he has run away, and is going out west to find his uncle."

"Why would he need a fish-rod?" asked Nan.

"To catch fish to eat," her brother said. "He'll have to have something, and fish are the easiest to get. I almost wish I had gone with him. It will be lots of fun."

"Oh, but it will be very hard, too," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Think of the lonely nights he'll have to spend, and perhaps with no place to sleep, but on the hard ground. And when it rains—-"

"I guess I'll stay home!" laughed Bert, as though he had ever had an idea of running away from home.

Slowly the Bluebird made her way backward until she had passed some posts near the edge of the water. These posts marked the boundary line of Mr. Hardee's farm. He did not own beyond them, and Captain White said the creek was public property there.

"Then we'll anchor here," decided Mr. Bobbsey, as he steered the houseboat toward shore. "Then I think I'll take a little trip back to Lakeport."

"And leave us alone?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Only for a short while. I want to see some friends of mine, and find out if Mr. Hardee really has the right to fence off Lemby Creek. I don't believe he has."

"Will you be back to-night?"

"Oh, yes. It isn't far to Lakeport. I can walk across the fields and go by trolley."

"I do hope you can find some way of getting past the fence," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "It would be too bad to have our trip spoiled."

As Mr. Bobbsey was getting ready to go back to town, Dinah came out of the dining-room, looking rather puzzled.

"What is the matter?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "Are you worried because we can't get those eggs from Mr. Hardee?"

"Well, yessum, dat's partly it," said the fat cook. "We's got t' hab eggs, an' other things too."

"Bert and Harry can walk to the village," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It isn't far from here. I'll go part way with them. So don't worry, Dinah."

"Oh, dat isn't all dat's worryin' me, Massa Bobbsey. But did yo' say de chillums could hab dem corn muffins whut was left over?" and she looked at Mrs. Bobbsey.

"The corn muffins that were left over?" repeated the twins' mother. "No, I said nothing about them. And they know they should not eat between meals without asking me. Why, are the muffins gone, Dinah?"

"Yessum; fo' ob 'em. I put 'em on a plate on de dinin' room table, but now dey's gone."

"Maybe Snap took them," suggested Mr. Bobbsey. "Snoop wouldn't, for she doesn't like such things. But Snap is very fond of them."

Freddie, who heard the talk, hurried over to where the dog was lying asleep in a patch of sunlight, and opened his mouth.

"No, Snap didn't take 'em," said Freddie. "There aren't any crumbs in his teeth."

"Well, maybe you can tell that way, but I doubt it," laughed Mr. Bobbsey. "Perhaps you forgot where you put the muffins, Dinah, or maybe there were none left."

"Oh, I'se shuah I done put 'em on de table," said the fat cook, "an' I'se shuah dey was some left. I'll go look some mo', though."

As there were a few other things besides eggs that were needed for the kitchen of the houseboat, Bert and Harry planned to take a basket, and go to the nearest village store for them. They would walk across the fields with Mr. Bobbsey.

"We'll fish when we come back," said Bert.

"And get enough for dinner and supper," added Harry.

"Better get enough for one meal first," suggested Nan, with a laugh.

The houseboat was now made fast to the bank of the creek some distance away from the wire fence Mr. Hardee had stretched across the stream. It was not to be seen, nor were the farm buildings. The last the Bobbseys had observed of the farmer was as he stood near his wire fence, shaking his fist at the houseboat.

Mr. Bobbsey did not just know how he was going to get past the fence with the Bluebird, or how he could get Mr. Hardee to cut the wire. The twins' father decided to ask the advice of some friends.

Meanwhile Bert and Harry had reached the store, and had brought the eggs, and other groceries, back to Dinah.

"Did you find those corn muffins?" asked Bert. "Because, if you did, Harry and I would like some. May we have one, mother?"

"If Dinah has them, yes."

"But I cain't find 'em!" complained the fat cook. "Dem muffins hab jest done gone an' hid de'se'ves."

"Oh, I guess we ate them up without knowing it," Bert said, with a laugh. "Never mind, Dinah, a piece of cake, or pie will do just as well."

"Go 'long wif yo'!" cried the cook with a laugh. "I'se got suffin else t' do 'cept make cake an' pies fo' two hungry boys. Yo' jest take a piece ob bread an' butter 'till dinnah am ready."

"All right," agreed Bert. "It won't be long until twelve o'clock. Come on, Harry, and we'll see what luck we have fishing."

"I'm ready," was Harry's answer.

"I'll get you the bread and butter," offered Nan, and she did, adding some jam to the bread, which was a delightful surprise to the two boys.

"I want to fish, too," said Freddie.

"All right, I'll fix you a line," offered Bert. "But be careful you don't fall in. A fish might pull you overboard."

Soon the three boys were dangling their lines over the rail of the Bluebird, while Nan helped her mother with some of the rooms, which, even though they were on a boat, needed "putting to rights." Dinah was busy in the kitchen.

By this time Mr. Bobbsey had reached Lakeport by the trolley. He was going to his lumber office, thinking some of his friends, whom he might call on the telephone could suggest a way out of the trouble. Before he reached the lumber yard, however, he met an acquaintance on the street, a Mr. Murphy.

"Why, hello, Mr. Bobbsey!" exclaimed Mr. Murphy. "I thought you were off on a vacation with your family in a houseboat."

"I was," said the lumber merchant, "but I came back."

"Back so soon? Didn't you like it?"

"Oh, yes, first rate. But we can't go any farther."

"Can't go any farther? What's the matter, did your boat sink?"

"No, but we're stuck in Lemby Creek. Mr. Hardee, a farmer who owns land on both sides of the creek, has put a wire fence across to stop us from going on to Lake Romano."

"Is that so! Well, that's too bad. How did it happen?"

"I'll tell you," said Mr. Bobbsey.

Then he told the story of stopping the angry farmer from beating Will Watson, and how the fence had been built in the night.

"Well, that certainly was a mean trick on the part of Mr. Hardee," said Mr. Murphy. "And so the boy ran away?"

"Yes, and Mr. Hardee accused me of knowing something about him, but I don't—any more than you do."

"I suppose not. But now the question is, How are you going to get past that wire fence?"

"I don't know. The only way I see is to get Mr. Hardee to cut it, or take it down, and he says he won't do either."

"Humph! Let me see. There ought to be a way out of it. I believe he has the right, as far as the law goes, to put that fence up, but no one else would be so mean. I guess we'll just have to force him to cut those wires, as your little boy, Freddie, suggested."

"Yes, but how can we do it?" asked Mr. Bobbsey. "Mr. Hardee is very headstrong, and set in his ways."

"Let me see," spoke Mr. Murphy slowly, "isn't his name Jake Hardee?"

"Yes, I believe it is."

"And didn't he buy from you the lumber to build his house?"

"Yes, I sold him the lumber, but he paid me for it," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I couldn't get any hold on him that way. He paid for the lumber in cash."

"Yes," cried Mr. Murphy, "but he got the money from me to pay you, and he hasn't paid ME back. He still owes ME the money, and he gave me a mortgage on his house as security. I've got a hold on him all right. He owes me some interest money, too."

I might say to you little children that when a man wants to build a house and has not enough money, he goes to another man and borrows cash, just as your mamma sometimes borrows sugar, or tea, from the lady next door.

When the man borrows money to build his house, he gives to the man who lends him the cash, a piece of paper, called a mortgage. That paper says that if the man who borrowed the money does not pay it back, and also pay interest for the use of it, the man who lent him the money can take the house. The house is "security" for the loaned money.

It is just as if your mamma went next door to borrow a cup of sugar, and said:

"Now, Mrs. Jones, if I don't pay you back this sugar, and a little more than you gave me, for being so kind as to lend it to me—if I don't pay it back in a week, why you can keep my new Sunday hat." And your mamma might give Mrs. Jones a Sunday hat as "security" for the cup of sugar. Of course ladies do not do those things, but that is what a mortgage is like.

"Yes." said Mr. Murphy to Mr. Bobbsey, "Mr. Hardee borrowed from me the money to buy from you the lumber for his house. And he hasn't paid me back the money, nor any interest on it. I think I'll go up and have a talk with him. And, when I get through talking, I guess he'll let you go through his wire fence."

"I hope he will," said Mr. Bobbsey, "for it would be too bad to have our trip spoiled."

"I'll go right back with you," offered Mr. Murphy.

So it happened that Mr. Bobbsey, with his friend, reached the houseboat, in Lemby Creek, shortly after dinner.

"Oh, back so soon?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "What are you going to do, Mr. Murphy?"

"Have a talk with Mr. Hardee."

Mr. Bobbsey and Mr. Murphy walked down the bank of the creek to the farm. They found Mr. Hardee mending a broken harness.

"Mr. Hardee," said Mr. Murphy, "I hear you have put a wire fence across Lemby Creek, so my friend, Mr. Bobbsey, can't get past with his houseboat."

"Yes, I have," growled the farmer, "and that fence is going to stay up, too! I'll show him he can't come around here, interferin' with me when I try to punish my help. He made Will run away too."

"No, I did not. I know nothing of him," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"Mr. Hardee," went on Mr. Murphy. "I want you to take down that fence, and let the houseboat go on up the creek."

"And I'm not going to!"

"Very well, then," said Mr. Murphy, quietly, "perhaps you are ready to pay me the interest on my mortgage which has been due me for some time, Mr. Hardee."

The farmer seemed uneasy.

"Well, to tell you the truth," he said, "I haven't got that money just now, Mr. Murphy. Times have been hard, and crops are poor, and I'm short of cash. Can't you wait a while?"

"I have waited some time."

"Well, I'd like to have you wait a little longer. I'll pay you after a while."

"And I suppose you'll take down that wire fence, and let Mr. Bobbsey and the twins go past—after a while?"

"Well—maybe," growled the mean farmer.

"Maybe won't do!" exclaimed Mr. Murphy. "I want you to take the wire fence down RIGHT AWAY."

"Well, I'm not going to do it. He interfered with me, and made that boy run away, and I'm not going to let him go up my part of the creek."

"Well, then, Mr. Hardee, if you can't do something for Mr. Bobbsey, as a favor, I can't do anything to oblige you. Mr. Bobbsey is a friend of mine and unless you cut your wire fence, I'll have to foreclose that mortgage, and take your house in payment for the money you owe me. That's all there is about it. Either pay me my money—or cut that fence. It must be one or the other."

Mr. Hardee squirmed in his seat, and seemed very uneasy.

"I—I just can't pay that money," he said.

"Then I'll have to take your house away."

"I—I don't want you to do that, either."

"Then cut the wire fence!" cried Mr. Murphy.

"Wa'al, I—I guess I'll have to," said Mr. Hardee, but it was clearly to be seen that he did not want to. He went into the barn, and came out wearing a pair of rubber boots, and carrying a pair of pincers— the "wire-cutting things," as Freddie called them.

Wading out into the creek Mr. Hardee snipped the wires of the fence.

"There, now you can go on," he said to Mr. Bobbsey, but his tone was not pleasant.

"I thought I knew how to make him give in," whispered Mr. Murphy.

"Thank you," said Mr. Bobbsey to his friend. They hurried back to the houseboat.

"We're going on again!" cried the twins' father. "The fence is down."

"Oh, fine!" said Bert.

"Now for the waterfall!" sighed Nan, who loved beautiful scenery.

"Oh, I've caught a fish!" suddenly shouted Freddie and he jumped about so that his mother, with a scream, ran toward him, fearing he would go overboard.



CHAPTER XV

OVERBOARD

"Look out, Freddie!"

"Be careful there, little fat fireman!"

Thus Mrs. Bobbsey cried to the small twin, and thus Mr. Bobbsey also warned his son, who had pulled up his pole with a jerk, when he felt a nibble on the fish-line.

"I'll look out for him!" cried Bert, and he got between his little brother and the railing of the boat, so there would be no danger of Freddie's falling overboard. Freddie had no intention of getting into the water, but he was much excited over his fish.

"I caught it all myself!" he cried. "I caught a fish all by myself, and nobody helped me. Didn't I, Bert?"

"Yes, Freddie, except that Harry put on the grasshopper bait."

"But where's the fish?" asked Nan, who, as yet, had not seen one.

"Here it is!" cried Freddie, as he ran toward the end of his line which lay on deck. "I caught a fish, and it's all mine—every bit," and he held up a little, wiggling sunfish which, somehow or other, had been caught on the tiny hook.

"Oh, it's a real, live fish!" squealed Flossie, dropping her doll to get a better view of this new plaything. "Are we going to have it for supper, Freddie?"

"No!" cried the little fat fellow, as he tried to hold the fish up by the swinging line in one hand, and grasp it in the other. The fish was so slippery that, every time Freddie had it, his hand slid off of it. "We're not going to eat my fish!" cried Freddie. "I'm going to keep it forever, in a glass globe, and make it do tricks!"

The others gathered around to see Freddie's catch, for the little fellow was very proud of his success, though, once or twice before, on trips to the country, he had been allowed to fish with Bert and Nan. He was too impatient to sit still long, so he never caught much.

"Here comes Snoop," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a laughing glance at his friend Mr. Murphy, who had come back to the houseboat with him, after the mean farmer had cut the wire fence.

"Snoop can't have my fish!" cried Freddie, now hugging his dangling prize close to his waist.

"Oh, you'll get your clothes all dirty!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey, as the black cat came snooping and sniffing around, for she smelled fish, which she very much liked.

"Go 'way, Snoop! You can't have my fish!" cried Freddie. "I'm going to put it in a glass globe, and keep it forever and teach it to do tricks."

"I guess swimming is the only trick a fish can do," said Bert, with a laugh, "and you don't have to teach them that. They know it already."

Freddie was so afraid that Snoop might get his fish, that Dinah brought him up a glass dish, in which, when it was filled with water, the little "sunny" was allowed to swim around. The hook had become fastened in only a corner of the mouth, and the fish was not hurt in the least.

Freddie was as proud as though he had caught a whale or a shark. He did not care to fish any more, but stood on deck near the box on which had been placed the dish containing his fish.

Bert and Harry, who had caught some larger fish, went back to their rods and lines, while Nan took up Freddie's pole and used it for herself. Flossie divided her time between getting her doll to "sleep" and watching Freddie's fish.

"Well, are we really going up the creek?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Yes, Mr. Murphy got the farmer to cut the wire fence, so we can get past," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We had better start, too, for Mr. Hardee might change his mind, and put back the wire fence."

"I guess there isn't much danger of that," spoke Mr. Murphy. "But you have a fine boat. I don't wonder that you didn't want to stay cooped up here in this creek."

Flossie, who had come over near the visitor, said:

"There's a stove in our kitchen, and Dinah cooks things on it—good things to eat!"

"Does she?" cried Mr. Murphy, catching the little girl up in his arms. "That's fine!"

"I think you might take that as an invitation to dinner," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a laugh.

"Thanks, I will stay, and see how it feels to eat on board a houseboat," replied the man who had helped Mr. Bobbsey.

Bert and Harry decided that they had caught enough fish now, so they pulled in their lines, and soon the Bluebird was moving slowly up the creek, toward Lake Romano, though it would be a day or so before the Bobbseys reached it.

As the houseboat went past the wire fence, which had been cut, the twins and their cousins looked at it in wonder. Only the posts stood there now, and there was room enough between them for the houseboat to pass. A little way back from the shore stood Mr. Hardee.

"I'm not going to let every boat go past that wants to!" he called to Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll let you through, as a favor to Mr. Murphy, but I'm not going to have a whole lot of them sailin' up and down my creek!"

"Just as if it would hurt the water," said Bert, in a low voice.

They were all glad when a turn of the stream hid Mr. Hardee from sight. The mean farmer evidently thought he had not been unpleasant enough, for he ran after the houseboat a little way, crying:

"If you see anything of that good-for-nothing boy of mine, I want you to tell him to come back here, or it will be the worse for him."

"We're not likely to see him," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"I don't know about that," went on the farmer. "I believe you folks know something about him."

"That's all nonsense!" said Mr. Bobbsey, sharply. "I've told you we don't know where he is, and haven't seen him since you tried to horsewhip him. That ought to be enough."

"Wa'al, we'll see," was the growling answer, as the mean farmer turned away.

The houseboat kept on, until it was well past Mr. Hardee's land, and then, in a pleasant part of the creek, it was tied to the bank. Dinah served supper.

"See! I told you we had a stove, and that Dinah could cook things," said Flossie, as a plate full of steaming hot corn muffins was set on the table.

"So you did, my dear!" exclaimed Mr. Murphy, who sat next to the little "fat fairy."

Flossie seemed to think the most wonderful part of the houseboat was the kitchen and the stove.

When the pleasant meal was over, they sat on deck in the evening, until it was time for Mr. Murphy to go home. He was to walk across the meadow, about a mile, to get a trolley car. Mr. Bobbsey went with him, part of the way.

For several days after this, the Bobbsey twins had all sorts of amusements on the house-boat. The BLUEBIRD was still kept in the creek, for it was so pleasant there, along the shady waterway, that Mrs. Bobbsey said they might as well enjoy it as long as possible.

"But I want to see the big lake and the waterfall," said Nan.

"We'll soon be there," promised her father.

One day the houseboat was moved along the creek for about a mile, and anchored there. Bert and Harry found the fishing so good, that they wanted to stay a long time. They really caught some large perch and chub.

"But we didn't come on this trip just to fish," said Mr. Bobbsey. "There are other things to do. We want to go in swimming, when it gets a little warmer, and then, too, we can take some walks in the woods on the shores of Lake Romano."

"And can we have picnics, and take our lunch?" asked Freddie.

"Yes, little fat fireman," answered his father, laughing.

Freddie had been kept so busy with other amusements, that he had not once played with his fire engine, since coming on board.

"Let me catch some fish," begged Flossie, on the afternoon of the day when they were to move from the place that Bert and Harry liked so well.

"You may take my line," offered Freddie. "I'm tired of fishing."

I think perhaps Freddie grew weary because he had had no bites. That one fish he had caught, and which had caused so much excitement, seemed to be all he could get. That one was still alive in the glass dish, which Bert had made into sort of an aquarium.

"I'm going to catch a big fish," said Flossie, as she laid her doll down beside the sleeping dog Snap, and took Freddie's pole.

"Don't fall in—that's all," cautioned Mrs. Bobbsey.

"I'll watch her," offered Dorothy, for Nan had gone down to help dry the dishes, it being her "turn."

Somehow or other, every one forgot Flossie for a moment, and even Dorothy, who had promised to watch her, forgot when she saw some small boats, filled with young folks on an excursion, pass the houseboat.

Suddenly there came a scream from little Flossie.

"I see him! I see him!" she cried. "He's on our boat!"

The next moment her mother, who turned quickly as she heard Flossie's voice, saw the little girl lean far over the rail of the Bluebird. Then came a splash. Flossie had fallen overboard!



CHAPTER XVI

THE MISSING SANDWICHES

"Flossie is in the water!"

"Get the boat!"

"Snap! Jump in and get her!"

"Oh, Flossie!"

So many were the excited cries that followed the falling over the rail of little Flossie, that no one could tell who was speaking, or crying out.

Harry, who was near the rail, turned sharply as he heard the splash, and then, quickly casting off his coat, he gave a clean dive over the side. Harry was a country boy, and had learned to swim when very young. He was not at all afraid of the water, and, more than once, he had pulled from "the old swimming hole," boys smaller than himself, who had gone beyond their depth, and could not get out.

"I'll get her!" cried Harry, as he dived over the side.

"Oh, it's all my fault!" sobbed Dorothy. "I said I'd watch her. But I forgot! It's all my fault!"

"No, it isn't, dear!" said Nan, quickly putting her arms around her cousin. "Flossie does things so quickly, sometimes, that no one can watch her. But we'll get her out, for the water isn't deep."

It was deep enough though, on that side of the boat, to be well over Flossie's head, and of course, plunging down from the height she did, she at once went under water.

Snap seemed to understand what had happened, and to know that his services were needed, for he gave a bark, and made a rush for the rail.

"Don't let him jump in!" cried Mr. Bobbsey to Bert. "If Harry can get her, Snap might only make trouble. Hold him back, Bert, while I get the rowboat."

Mrs. Bobbsey, with one arm around Freddie, had rushed to the rail to look down. She saw Flossie come to the surface, choking and gasping for breath, and then saw Harry, who had gone under, but who had come up again, strike out for the little girl.

"Oh, save her!" gasped Mrs. Bobbsey.

"He will!" said Bert. "Harry's a fine swimmer. Come back, Snap!" he called to the big dog, getting his hands on his collar, just in time, for Snap was determined to go to the rescue himself. He whined, pulled and tugged to get away from Bert.

"Help me hold him!" cried Bert to Nan.

"I will!" she answered, glad to be doing something. Together the two older Bobbsey twins managed to keep Snap back. Dorothy, too, helped, for Snap was very strong.

"Did Flossie go after a fish?" asked Freddie, and he asked it in such a queer way that it would have caused a laugh at any other time. Just now every one was too frightened to laugh.

After all, there really was not so much danger. Mr. Bobbsey had taught Flossie some of the things one must do when learning to swim, and that is to hold your breath when you are under water. For it is the water getting into the lungs that causes a person to drown. After her first plunge into the creek, the little girl thought of what her father had told her, and did hold her breath.

"I—I'll get you!" called Harry to her. "Don't be afraid, Flossie! I'll get you!"

Flossie was too much out of breath to answer, so she did not try to speak. Harry was soon at her side, and called to her:

"Now put your hands on my shoulders, Flossie, and I'll swim to the boat with you. Don't try to grab me around the neck."

Harry knew how dangerous it was for a person trying to rescue another in the water to be choked. Flossie was a wise little girl, even if she was not very old. She did as her cousin told her, and, with Flossie's hands on his shoulders, Harry began to swim toward the Bluebird.

He did not have to go very far, though, for by this time Mr. Bobbsey and Captain White were there with the rowboat, and the two children were soon lifted in. They were safe, and not harmed a bit, except for being wet through.

"Oh, Flossie, whatever did you do it for?" asked her mother, when she had hugged the dripping little girl in her arms. "Why did you do it?"

"Do what, mamma?" Flossie asked.

"Lean over so far."

"I wanted to see if I had a fish," went on Flossie. "And I had to lean over. And then I saw him."

"Saw whom?" asked her father. "What do you mean?"

"Why, I saw him—that boy," and Flossie seemed surprised that her father did not understand.

"What boy?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "Did you fall asleep there, Flossie, and were you dreaming, when you fell in?"

"No, mamma. I didn't fall asleep. I saw HIM, I tell you."

"I heard her say something about seeing some one, just as she went over the rail, head first," Dorothy said.

"But whom do you mean, Flossie?" asked puzzled Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Why, that boy—the one the bad man whipped."

"Oh, Will Watson!" exclaimed Bert. "Where did you see him, Flossie? Was he in one of the excursion boats that went past?"

"No, he was on our boat—down there," and Flossie pointed straight down. "I saw him!" she declared.

"I guess she must have dozed off a little, and dreamed it," spoke Mr. Bobbsey, with a smile. "That was it. The sun was so hot, that she just slept a little as she was fishing. She might have had a bite, and that awakened her so suddenly that she gave a jump and fell over the rail. I must have it built higher. Then there won't be any danger."

"Yes, do," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "We've had scares enough."

"But I did see that boy—the one that gave Bert the fish," insisted Flossie. "He was on our boat. I saw him as plain as anything."

"It must have been some one in the excursion boats that looked like him," spoke Nan.

"No, I saw Will!" declared the little twin, and, rather than get her excited by disputing, they allowed her to think she really had seen a strange face, as she leaned over.

"But of course she either dreamed it, or saw some one she thought was that runaway boy," Mr. Bobbsey said, afterward. "It's all nonsense to think he was on our boat."

Snap, who had not been allowed to go to the rescue, much as he had wanted to, leaped about Flossie, barking and wagging his tail in joy.

"Anybody would think he'd done it all," said Bert. "Say, Harry, you're all right! That was a dandy dive!" and he clapped his cousin on the back.

"Indeed we never can thank you enough. Harry," said Mrs. Bobbsey, and tears of thankfulness glistened in her eyes.

"Oh, it wasn't anything at all," the country boy said, modestly blushing, for he did not like such a "fuss" made over him. "I knew I could get her out."

"Well, it was very fine of you," said Mr. Bobbsey, warmly. "Now then, you had better change your clothes, for, though it is summer, you might take cold. And Flossie, too, must change."

"Yes, I'll look after her," said her mother "Now remember, little fat fairy," Mrs. Bobbsey went on, giving Flossie her father's pet name, "you must never lean over the rail again. If you do—-"

"But I saw—-" began Flossie.

"No matter what you saw—don't lean over the rail!" said her mother. "If you do, we shall have to give up this houseboat trip."

This seemed such a dreadful thing, that Flossie quickly promised to be very careful indeed.

"But I did see him, all the same!" she murmured, as her mother took her to the bedroom to change her clothes. "I saw that boy on our boat."

The others only laughed at Flossie for thinking such a queer thing.

"That poor boy is far enough away from here now," said Bert. "I wonder if he will really try to make his way out west?"

"I don't know," answered Harry, who had changed to a dry suit, hanging his other in the sun to let the water drip out of it. "I've read of boys making long journeys that way."

"I wouldn't want to try it," spoke Bert.

"Neither would I," said his cousin. "This houseboat suits me!"

Flossie was little the worse for her accident, and was soon playing about again with Snoop and Snap, and with Freddie. The little fellow and his sister made the dog and cat do many tricks.

It was the day after this, when the Bluebird had gone a little farther up the creek, that Mrs. Bobbsey planned a little picnic on shore. They were not far from a nice, green forest.

"We'll have Dinah put us up a little lunch, and we'll go in the woods and eat it," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Oh, that will be fun!" cried Nan. "Won't it, Dorothy?"

"Indeed it will," said the seashore cousin.

"I'm going to take my doll," Flossie said. "There's no water in the woods for her to fall in, is there, mamma?"

"No, not unless you drop her into a spring," laughed Mrs. Bobbsey.

"I'll see if Dinah has finished making the sandwiches," offered Nan. "She had them almost finished a little while ago."

But when Nan went to the dining-room, she found the colored cook very much excited.

"What is the matter, Dinah?" asked Nan.

"Mattah! What am de mattah?" Dinah repeated, "Dey's lots de mattah, Missie Nan."

"Why, what can it be?"

"De sandwiches is gone, dat's what's de mattah!"

"The sandwiches, Dinah?"

"Yes'm, de sandwiches what I done make fo' de excursnick!"

"Oh, you mean for our picnic, Dinah?"

"Yes'm, dat's it. Excursnick I calls it. But de sandwiches I done jest made am gone. I s'pects Massa Bert or his cousin done take 'em fo' fun."

"Oh, no, Dinah. Bert nor Harry wouldn't do that. Are you sure you made the sandwiches?"

"I'se jest as shuah, Missie Nan, as I am dat I'se standin' heah. I'se jest as shuah as I is dat time when I made de corn cakes, an' somebody tuck dem! Dat's how shuah I is! Dem sandwiches what was fo' de excursnick am done gone completely."

"But have you looked everywhere, Dinah?" asked Nan.

"Eberywhere! Under de table an' on top ob de table. I had dem sandwiches all made an' on a plate. I left dem in de dinin' room to go git a basket, an' when I come back, dey was gone entirely. I want t' see yo' ma, Missie Nan. I ain't gwing t' stay on dish yeah boat no mo, dat's what I ain't!"

"But why not, Dinah?" asked Nan, in some alarm.

"Because dey's ghostests on dish yeah boat; dat's what dey is! An' I ain't gwine stay on no ha'nted boat. Fust it were de corn cakes, an' now it's de sandwiches. I'se gwine away—I ain't gwine stay heah no mo'!"



CHAPTER XVII

IN THE STORM

Dinah was certainly very much frightened, but Nan was not. She knew better than to believe in such things as "ghosts," and, though the sandwiches might have disappeared, the little girl felt sure there must be some reasonable explanation about the mystery.

"I'll call mamma, Dinah," offered Nan. "She won't want you to leave us now, when we have just started on this trip."

"Go on, honey lamb, call yo' ma," agreed the fat cook. "But I ain't gwine t' stay on dish yeah boat no mo'! Dat's settled. Call yo' ma, honey lamb, an' I'll tell her about it."

Mrs. Bobbsey had heard the excited voice of Dinah and had come down to the dining-room of the houseboat to see what it was all about.

"What is it, Dinah?" she asked.

"It's ghostests, Mrs. Bobbsey—dat's what it is," said the cook. "Ghostests what takes de sandwiches as fast as I make 'em—dat's de trouble. I can't stay heah no mo'!"

Mrs. Bobbsey looked to Nan for an explanation. The little girl said:

"Dinah made a plate of sandwiches for our picnic—-"

"Dat's right, for de excursnick," put in Dinah.

"And she left them on the table," went on Nan. "But when she went to get a basket to put them in, and came back—-"

"Dey was clean gone!" burst out the colored cook, finishing the story for Nan. "An' ghostests took 'em; ob dat I'se shuah. So you'd bettah look fo' anoder cook, Mrs. Bobbsey."

"Nonsense, Dinah! We can't let you go that way. It's all foolishness to talk about ghosts. Probably the door was left open, and Snap might have taken the sandwiches, though I never knew him to take anything off the table. But it must have been Snap."

"No'm, it couldn't be," said Dinah. "It wasn't Snap."

"How do you know?"

"Could Snap come through a closed do', Mrs. Bobbsey. Could Snap do that?"

"Come through a door? No, I don't believe he could. But he might open it. Snoop can open doors."

"Yes, maybe do's that hab a catch on, but not knob-do's, Snoop can't open, an' Snap can't neither. Besides, de do' was shut when I left de sandwiches on de table an' went fo' de basket."

"Oh, was it?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, trying to think of how the pieces of bread and meat could have been taken.

"It shuah was," went on Dinah. "Nobody took dem sandwiches, but a ghostest, an' I can't stay in no boat what has ghostests."

"Nonsense!" laughed Mrs. Bobbsey. "I know how it was done, Dinah. I know how the sandwiches were taken."

"How, Mrs. Bobbsey?" asked the colored cook, as she stood looking first at the empty plate on the table, and then at Nan and lastly at Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Why, through that window," said the twins' mother, pointing to an open window on the side of the Bluebird. "Snap must have come in that window, and taken the sandwiches. He was probably very hungry, poor dog, though he knows better than to do anything like that." "No'm, Mrs. Bobbsey," went on Dinah. "Snap couldn't hab come in fru dat window, fo' it opens right on to de watah. He'd hab to stand in de watah to jump in, an' he can't do that."

"No, perhaps not," admitted Mrs. Bobbsey. "Oh, I dare say you forgot where you put the sandwiches, Dinah. Now don't worry a bit more about them. Just make some fresh ones, and we'll go on our little picnic."

"But I'se gwine t' leab," said Dinah. "I ain't gwine stay on a boat, where ghostests takes sandwiches as fast as I can make 'em."

"You shall come with us on the picnic," said Nan's mother. "When we come back, there won't be any ghost. Now don't fuss. Just make some fresh sandwiches, and we'll go. I'm sure it was Snap."

"And I'se shuah it were a ghostest," murmured Dinah, as she went out to the kitchen.

"Mamma, who do you think it could have been?" asked Nan of her mother.

"Why, Snap, to be sure, little daughter."

"But with the door shut, and the window opening out on the water?" went on Nan.

"Oh, dogs are very smart," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Smarter than we think. Now suppose you help Dinah make more sandwiches. We are late."

Nan went out to the kitchen, while Mrs. Bobbsey made her way up on deck, where she found her husband talking to Captain White about the motor engine of the houseboat.

"Richard, I want to speak to you," said Mrs. Bobbsey, and when she and the twins' father were in a quiet corner of the deck, Mrs. Bobbsey went on:

"Richard, I think there are thieves about here."

"Bless my soul!" he exclaimed. "Thieves! What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean that Dinah says a plate of sandwiches was just taken, and you remember the time the corn muffins were missing?"

"Yes, but perhaps Dinah was mistaken both times, or Snap might have taken a bite between meals."

"Hardly Snap this time," Mrs. Bobbsey went on, "and Dinah, though she does forget once in a while, would not be likely to do so twice in such a short time. No, I think some tramps along shore must have come along quietly in a boat, reached or climbed in through the window and taken the sandwiches."

"Well, perhaps they did," Mr. Bobbsey, said. "I'll tell Captain White, and we'll keep a lookout. We don't want thieves coming around."

"No, indeed," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Dinah threatens to leave, if any more queer things happen."

"Well, we wouldn't know how to get along without Dinah," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a smile. "I'll put some wire netting over the windows. I was going to do it anyhow, for the mosquitoes will soon be buzzing around. The netting will keep thieves from reaching in and taking our nice sandwiches."

"Yes, I think the netting would be a good idea," said his wife. "But it certainly is queer."

A little later, the Bobbsey twins—both sets of them—with their cousins, mother, father, and Dinah went ashore for the little picnic in the woods, taking with them the fresh sandwiches that Nan had helped to make.

"You shan't have any of these—at least not until we want you to have them," said Nan to Snap, the dog, who, of course, was not left behind. Yet, the more she thought of it the more sure Nan was that Snap had not taken the others.

"But, if he didn't, who did?" she wondered.

"Oh, isn't it just lovely in these woods!" exclaimed Dorothy, as they walked along on the soft moss under the trees. At the seashore, where she lived, the woods were too far away to allow her to pay many visits to them, and she always liked to walk in the cool forests.

Harry, though he lived in the country, not far from the woods, liked them as well as did the Bobbsey twins, and the children were soon running about, playing games, while Snap raced about with them, barking and wagging his tail.

Dinah sat down near the lunch basket.

"Don't you want to walk around a bit?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"No'm," answered the fat cook. "I ain't gwine t' leab dish yeah basket ob victuals until dey's eaten. Dey ain't no ghostests, nor no dogs, gwine t' git nothin' when I'se heah! No'm!" and Dinah slipped her fat arm in through the handle of the basket.

"Let's look for chestnuts!" cried Freddie. "I love chestnuts!"

"It's too early for them," said his father. "But if you find me a willow tree, I can make you some whistles."

The children found one, near a little brook, and Mr. Bobbsey was soon busy with his knife. The bark slipped off easily from the willow wood, which is why it is so often used for whistles.

Soon all four children were blowing whistles of different tones, and making so much noise that, with the barking of Snap, who seemed to think he must bark every time a whistle was blown, Mrs. Bobbsey cried out for quietness.

"Come on, we'll go farther off in the woods and play Indian," suggested Bert, and soon this game was under way.

It was lunch time almost before the children knew it, and what fun it was to sit around the table cloth Dinah spread out on the grass, and eat the good things from the basket. Snap was given his share, but Snoop, the black cat, had not come along, staying on the houseboat with Captain White.

"Isn't this fun?" cried Nan to Dorothy.

"Indeed it is! Oh, I can't tell you how glad I am that you asked me to come on this trip!"

"Oh! Look at that big bug!" suddenly cried Freddie, and he made a jump toward his mother, to get out of the way of a big cricket that had hopped onto the white table cloth.

"Look out, Freddie!" called his father. "You'll upset your glass of lemonade!"

Mr. Bobbsey spoke too late. Freddie's heel kicked over the glass, and the lemonade spilled right into Mrs. Bobbsey's lap.

"Oh, Freddie!" cried Bert.

"Never mind—it's an old dress," laughed Mrs. Bobbsey, "and there's more lemonade. Accidents will happen on picnics. Never mind, Freddie."

The cricket was "shooed" away by Nan, Freddie's glass was filled again, and the picnic went on merrily. Soon it was time to go back to the boat.

As they walked along through the woods, Mr. Bobbsey glanced up now and then through the trees at the sky.

"Do you think it's going to rain?" his wife asked.

"Not right away, but I think we are soon going to have a storm," he said.

"Oh, well, the houseboat doesn't leak, does it?"

"No, but I don't want to go out on Lake Romano in a storm, and I intended this evening to go on up the creek until we reached the lake. But I'll wait and see what the weather does."

"Well, did anything happen while we were gone?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey of Captain White, as they got back to the houseboat.

"No, not a thing," he answered. "It was so still and quiet here, that Snoop and I had a nice sleep," and he pointed to the black cat, who was stretched out in his lap, as he sat on deck.

As it did not look so much like a storm now, Mr. Bobbsey decided to move the houseboat farther up the creek, almost to where the stream flowed from Lake Romano, so as to be ready to go out on the larger body of water in the morning, if everything was all right.

The engine was started, and just before supper, the Bluebird came to a stop in Lemby Creek about a mile from the big lake. She was tied to the bank, and then supper was served.

Then followed a pleasant hour or two on deck, and when it was dark, the children went into the cabin and played games until bedtime—Nan and Bert, as well as the smaller twins and the cousins, were asleep when Mrs. Bobbsey, who had sat up to write some letters, heard her husband walking about on deck.

"What are you doing?" she called to him through a window.

"Oh, just looking at the weather," he answered. "I think we're going to have a storm after all, and a hard one, too. I'm glad we're safely anchored."

Sure enough. That night, about twelve o'clock, the storm came. There was at first distant, muttering thunder, which soon became louder. Then lightning followed, flashing in through the windows of the houseboat, so that Mrs. Bobbsey was awakened.

"Oh, it's going to be a terrible storm," she said to her husband.

"Oh, perhaps not so very bad," he answered. "Here comes the rain!"

Then it began to pour. But the houseboat was well built, and did not leak a bit.

Next the wind began to blow, gently at first, but finally so hard that Mr. Bobbsey could hear the creaking of the ropes that tied the boat to trees on shore.

"I think I'd better look and see if those ropes are well tied," he said, getting up to dress, and putting on a raincoat.

He had hardly gotten out on deck, before the houseboat gave a sudden lurch to one side, and then began to move quickly down stream.

"Oh, what has happened?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey.

At the same time Flossie and Freddie awakened, because of the loud noise from the storm.

"Mamma! Mamma!" they cried.

"Richard, has anything happened?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Yes!" he shouted. "The strong wind has broken the ropes, and we are adrift. But don't worry. We'll soon be all right!"

Faster and faster went the Bluebird, while all about her the rain splashed down, the wind blew, the thunder roared, and the lightning flashed.



CHAPTER XVIII

STRANGE NOISES

The frightened cries of Flossie and Freddie soon awakened Nan and Bert, and it was not long before Harry and Dorothy, too, had roused themselves.

"What's the matter?" asked Bert.

"Oh, we've gone adrift in the storm," his mother said. "But don't worry. Papa says it will be all right."

"Come up on deck and see what's going on!" cried Bert to Harry.

He had begun to dress, and now he thrust his head out from his room. "Hurry up, Harry," he added. "We want to see this storm."

"No, you must stay here," Mrs. Bobbsey said. "It is too bad a storm for you children to be out in, especially this dark night. Your papa and Captain White will do all that needs to be done."

"Mamma, it—it isn't dark when the lightning comes," said Freddie. He did not seem to be afraid of the brilliant flashes.

"No, it's light when the flashes come," said his mother. "But I want you all to stay here with me. It is raining very hard."

"I should say it was!" exclaimed Harry, as he heard the swish of the drops against the windows of the houseboat.

"Is Snap all right, mamma?" asked Flossie. "And Snoop? I wouldn't want them out in the storm."

"They're all right," Mrs. Bobbsey said.

"Oh, what's that!" suddenly cried Nan, as the houseboat gave a bump, and leaned to one side.

"We hit something," Bert said. "Oh, I wish I could go out on the deck!"

"No, indeed!" cried his mother. "There! They've started the engine. Now we'll be all right."

As soon as Mr. Bobbsey had found out that the houseboat had broken loose from the mooring ropes in the storm, he awakened Captain White, and told him to start the motor.

This had been done, and now, instead of drifting with the current of the creek, the boat could be more easily steered. Soon it had been run into a sheltered place, against the bank, where, no matter how hard the wind blew, it would be safe.

"Are we all right now?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as her husband came down to the cabin.

"Yes, all right again," he said. "There really was not much danger, once we got the motor started."

"Is it raining yet?" asked Freddie, who was sitting in his mother's lap, wrapped in a sweater.

"Indeed it is, little fat fireman," his father answered. "You wouldn't need your engine to put out a fire to-night."

The patter of the raindrops on the deck of the houseboat could still be heard, and the wind still blew hard. But the thunder and lightning were not so bad, and gradually the storm grew less.

"Well, we'd better get to bed now," said Mr. Bobbsey. "To-morrow we shall go to the big lake."

"Did the storm take us far back down the creek?" asked Bert.

"Not more than a mile," said his father.

"And the man can't tie us in with wire again, can he?" Freddie wanted to know. "If he does, and I had one of those cutter-things, I could snip it."

"You won't have to, Freddie," laughed Bert.

"Speaking of that mean farmer reminds me of the poor boy who ran away from him," said Mrs. Bobbsey to her husband, when the children had gone to bed. "I wonder where he is to-night, in this storm?"

"I hope he has a sheltered place," spoke the father of the Bobbsey twins.

Not very much damage had been done by the storm, though it was a very hard one. In the morning the children could see where some big tree branches had blown off, and there had been so much rain, that the water of the creek was higher. But the houseboat was all right, and after breakfast, when they went up the creek again, they stopped and got the pieces of broken rope, where the Bluebird had been tied before.

The houseboat then went on, and at noon, just before Dinah called them to dinner, Nan, who was standing near her father at the steering wheel, cried:

"Oh, what a lot of water!"

"Yes, that is Lake Romano," said Mr. Bobbsey. "We'll soon be floating on that, and we'll spend the rest of our houseboat vacation there."

"And where shall we spend the rest of our vacation?" asked Bert, for it had been decided that the houseboat voyage would last only until about the middle of August.

"Oh, we haven't settled that yet," his father answered.

On and on went the Bluebird, and, in a little while, she was on the sparkling waters of the lake.

"I don't see any waterfall," said Freddie, coming toward his father, after having made Snap do some of his circus tricks.

"The waterfall is at the far end of the lake," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"I wonder if there are any fish in this lake?" spoke Bert.

"Let's try to catch some," suggested his cousin Harry, and soon the two boys were busy with poles and lines.

The Bobbsey twins, and their cousin-guests, liked Lake Romano very much indeed. It was much bigger than the lake at home, and there were some very large boats on it.

Bert and Harry caught no fish before dinner, but in the afternoon they had better luck, and got enough for supper. The evening meal had been served by Dinah, Snap and Snoop had been fed, and the family and their guests were up on deck, watching the sunset, when Dinah came waddling up the stairs, with a queer look on her face.

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