"Well, here we are back home again!" exclaimed Nan Bobbsey, as she sat down in a chair on the porch. "Oh, but we have had such a good time!"
"The best ever!" exclaimed her brother Bert, as he set down the valise he had been carrying, and walked back to the front gate to take a small satchel from his mother.
"I'm going to carry mine! I want to carry mine all the way!" cried little fat Freddie Bobbsey, thinking perhaps his bigger brother might want to take, too, his bundle.
"All right, you can carry your own, Freddie," said Bert, pleasantly. "But it's pretty heavy for you."
"It--it isn't very heavy," panted Freddie, as he struggled on with his bundle, his short fat legs fairly "twinkling" to and fro as he came up the walk. "It's got some cookies in, too, my bundle has; and Flossie and I are going to eat 'em when we get on the porch."
"Oh, so that's the reason you didn't want Bert to take your package, is it?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, with a smile, as she patted the little fat chap on the head.
"Oh, well, I'll give Bert a cookie if he wants one," said Freddie, generously, "but I'm strong enough to carry my own bundle all the way; aren't I, Dinah?" and he appealed to a fat, good-natured looking colored woman, who was waddling along, carrying a number of packages.
"Dat's what yo' is, honey lamb! Dat's what yo' is!" Dinah exclaimed. "An' ef I could see dat man ob mine, Sam Johnson, I'd make him take some ob dese yeah t'ings."
As Dinah spoke there came from around the corner of the house a tall, slim colored man, who as soon as he saw the party of returning travelers, ran forward to help them carry their luggage.
"Well, it's about time dat yo' come t' help us, Sam Johnson!" exclaimed his wife. "It's about time!"
"Didn't know yo' all was a-comin', Dinah! Didn't know yo' all would get heah so soon, 'deed I didn't!" Sam exclaimed, with a laugh, that showed his white teeth in strange contrast to his black face. "Freddie, shall I take yo' package? Flossie, let me reliebe yo', little Missie!"
"No, Sam, thank you!" answered the little girl, who was just about the size and build of Freddie. "I have only Snoop, our cat, and I can carry him easily enough. You help Dinah!"
"'Deed an' he had better help me!" exclaimed the colored cook.
Sam took all the packages he could carry, and hurried with them to the stoop. But he had not gone very far before something happened.
From behind him rushed a big dog, barking and leaping about, glad, probably, to be home again from part of the summer vacation.
"Look out, Sam!" called Bert Bobbsey, who was carrying the valise his mother had had. "Lookout!"
"What's de mattah? Am I droppin' suffin?" asked Sam, trying to turn about and look at all the bundles and packages he had in his arms and hands.
"It's Snap!" cried Nan, who was sitting comfortably on the shady porch. "Look out for him, Sam."
"Snap! Behave yourself!" ordered little fat Flossie, as she set down a wooden cage containing a black cat. "Be good, Snap!"
"Here, Snap! Snap! Come here!" called Freddie.
Snap, the big dog, was too excited just then to mind. With another loud, joyous bark he rushed up behind Sam, and, as the colored man of all work about the Bobbsey place had very bow, or curved, legs, Snap ran right between them. That is, he ran half way, and then, as he was a pretty fat dog, he stuck there.
"Good land ob massy!" exclaimed Sam, as he looked down to see the dog half way between his bow legs, Snap's head sticking out one way, and his wagging tail the other. "Get out ob dat, Snap!" cried Sam. "Get out! Move on, sah!"
"Bow wow!" barked Snap, which might have meant almost anything.
"Look out!" shouted Sam. "Yo'll upset me! Dat's what you will!"
And indeed it did seem as though this might happen. For Sam was so laden down with packages that he could not balance himself very well, and had almost toppled over.
"Here, Snap!" called Bert, who was laughing so hard that he could hardly stand up, for really it was a funny sight.
"Don't call him, Bert," advised Mrs. Bobbsey. "If you do he'll run out, and then Sam surely will be knocked over. And there are some fresh eggs in one of those packages he took from Dinah."
Snap himself did not seem to know what to do. There he was, tightly held fast, his fat sides between Sam's bow legs. Snap could go neither forward nor backward just then. He barked and wagged his tail, for he knew it was all in fun.
"Open your legs wider, Sam, man!" exclaimed his wife. "Den de dorg kin git out!"
Sam, holding tightly to the packages, did manage to stoop down and so spread his legs a little farther apart. This released Snap, who, with a happy bark, and a wild wagging of his tail, bounded up on the stoop where Nan sat.
A little later the whole Bobbsey family, with the exception of Mr. Bobbsey, were sitting comfortably in the porch chairs, while Sam was opening the front shutters, having already unlocked the front door for the returning family.
"Home again!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey, with a little sigh, as she looked around at the familiar scenes. "My, but how dusty it is after being on the lovely water."
"Yes'm, dey shuah has been lots ob dust!" exclaimed Sam. "We need rain mighty bad, an' I've had de garden hose goin' ebery night, too."
"I'll soon sweep off dish yeah porch," said Dinah. "Sam, yo' git me a broom."
"Oh, don't bother now, Dinah," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Make a cup of tea, first. The dust doesn't matter, and we'll not be here long."
"Won't we?" exclaimed Nan. "Oh, where are we going next?"
"We'll talk about it as soon as your father comes home," said Mrs. Bobbsey, for her husband had stopped on the way from the houseboat dock, where the family had lately landed, to go to his lumber office for a little while.
"Let Snoop out!" begged little Flossie. "Snoop's tired of being shut up in that box." In order to carry him from the boat to the house Snoop had been put in a small traveling crate.
"I'll let him out as soon as I get a screwdriver," promised Bert. "My, but it's hot here!"
"Indeed it is," agreed his mother, who was fanning herself with her pocket handkerchief as she sat in a rocking-chair. "It isn't much like our nice houseboat, is it?"
"No, indeed," agreed Nan. "I wish we hadn't come home."
"And summer is only half over," went on Bert. "Here it is only August."
"Oh, well, there are plenty of good times ahead of you children yet, before school begins," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Now let's see. Have we everything?" and she looked at the pile of bundles and valises on the porch.
"I guess we didn't forget anything, except papa," said Freddie. "And he's coming," he added, as the others laughed.
"Sam, am de fire made?" demanded Dinah. "I wants t' make a cup ob tea."
"Fire all made," reported the colored man. "I'll go git a fresh pail ob water now. I didn't know jest prezackly when yo' was comin'," he said to Mrs. Bobbsey, "or I'd a' been down to de dock t' meet de houseboat."
"Might a' come anyhow," muttered Dinah. "Yo' all didn't hab nuffin' t' do heah!"
"Huh! I didn't, eh?" cried Sam. "Nuffin t' do! Why, I cut de grass, an' fed de chickens, an' watered de lawn, an'--an'--"
"Go 'long wif yo'," ordered his wife with a laugh. "Bring in some mo' wood for de fire!"
"And get a screw-driver so I can let Snoop out," begged Flossie. "He's tired of being shut up in the crate!"
"Right away, Missie! Right away!" promised good-natured Sam.
A little later Snoop, the black cat, was stretching himself on the porch, while Snap, the big dog, rushed up and down the lawn, barking loudly to let all the neighbors' dogs know he was back home again--at least for a time.
Meanwhile Bert, as the "little man of the house," had brought in the packages and satchels from the porch. Nan was helping her mother get out a cool kimona, while Dinah was down in the kitchen getting ready a cup of tea for Mrs. Bobbsey.
Flossie and Freddie, as the youngest Bobbsey twins, had nothing in particular to do, so they ran about, here, there, everywhere, renewing acquaintance with the familiar objects about the yard--things they had forgotten during the two months they had been away on a houseboat, for part of their summer vacation.
"Oh, look! My flower-bed is full of weeds!" cried Flossie, as she came to a corner of the yard where she had set out some pansy plants just before going away.
"And I can't even see the lettuce I planted," said Freddie. "I guess Sam didn't weed our gardens."
"Never mind, we can make new ones," Flossie said. "Oh, Freddie, look! There's a strange cat!" Both children ran to where Snoop was making the acquaintance of a pussy friend. The cats seemed to like one another and the strange one let the little twins pet it as it lapped some milk from Snoop's saucer.
A little later Dinah called Flossie and Freddie into the house to have a glass of milk and some bread and jam, for it was past lunch time. The small twins came willingly enough.
"What are we going to do the rest of the summer?" asked Nan, as she sat next to her mother at the table. "Are we going away again?"
"I hope so!" exclaimed Bert. "The houseboat suited me, but if we can have a trip to the seashore, or go to the country, so much the better."
"We shall see," half-promised Mrs. Bobbsey. "As soon as papa comes home from the office, he will know how much more time he can spare from business to go with us. Then I can tell you--"
"There he comes now, mamma!" exclaimed Nan. "Oh, excuse me for interrupting you," she went on, for Mrs. Bobbsey insisted upon the children being just as polite at home, and to one another, as they would be among strangers.
"That's all right, Nan," said her mother kindly. "When papa comes in, and has had a cup of tea, we'll talk over matters, and decide what to do."
"Well, are you all settled?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, as he came in, catching little Freddie up in his strong arms. "Haven't put out any fires since you got here, have you?" he asked, for Freddie had a great love for playing fireman, and he often put out "make-believe" blazes with a toy fire engine he had, which squirted real water.
"No alarms to-day," laughed Freddie, for his father was tickling him in his "fat ribs," as Freddie called them.
"How's my little fat fairy?" went on Mr. Bobbsey, catching Flossie up as he had Freddie.
"All right." she answered. "Oh, papa, your whiskers prick!" she cried, as Mr. Bobbsey kissed her.
"Sit down and have a cup of tea," invited Mrs. Bobbsey. "Then we can talk about what we are to do. The children are anxious to get away again, and if we are to go there is no need of unpacking more than we have to."
"Would you like to go to Meadow Brook?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, looking at his happy family.
"You know I would," answered his wife, with a smile.
"Meadow Brook! Oh, are we going there?" cried Nan.
"Well, Uncle Daniel has sent us an invitation," said Mr. Bobbsey, "and your mother and I are thinking of it."
"Can you leave your lumber business long enough to go with us?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I think so," replied her husband. "I just stopped at the office, and everything there is going along nicely. So I think we'll go to Meadow Brook, in the country, for the rest of the summer."
"Hurray! Hurrah! Oh, how nice!" cried the children.
"Dinah, I think I'll have another cup of tea," went on Mr. Bobbsey, as the colored cook waddled in. "Make it cold, this time--with ice in it. I am very warm."
"Yais-sah," said Dinah, taking his cup.
Then followed a confusion of talk, the two sets of twins doing the most. They were joyfully excited at the idea of going to Meadow Brook farm.
"I'm going to turn somersaults in the grass--just like this," cried Freddie, rolling over and over on the floor. He rolled toward the door that led from the dining-room to the kitchen, and, just as he reached it, Dinah came in with Mr. Bobbsey's cup of iced tea.
Before Freddie could stop himself, and before fat Dinah could get out of the way, the little Bobbsey chap had rolled right into the cook, and down she went in a heap on the floor, the cup and saucer crashing into dozens of pieces, and the tea spilling all over.