THE BOBBSEYS AND OTHERS WERE ROWED TO THE SHORE.
“Flossie! Flossie! Look at me! I’m having a steamboat ride! Oh, look!”
“I am looking, Freddie Bobbsey!”
“No, you’re not! You’re playing with your doll! Look at me splash, Flossie!”
A little boy with blue eyes and light, curling hair was standing on a raft in the middle of a shallow pond of water left in a green meadow after a heavy rain. In his hand he held a long pole with which he was beating the water, making a shower of drops that sparkled in the sun.
On the shore of the pond, not far away, and sitting under an apple tree, was a little girl with the same sort of light hair and blue eyes as those which made the little boy such a pretty picture. Both children were fat and chubby, and you would have needed but one look to tell that they were twins.
“Now I’m going to sail away across the ocean!” cried Freddie Bobbsey, the little boy on the raft, which he and his sister Flossie had made that morning by piling a lot of old boards and fence rails together. “Don’t you want to sail across the ocean, Flossie?”
“I’m afraid I’ll fall off!” answered Flossie, who was holding her doll off at arm’s length to see how pretty her new blue dress looked. “I might fall in the water and get my feet wet.”
“Take off your shoes and stockings like I did, Flossie,” said the little boy.
“Is it very deep?” Flossie wanted to know, as she laid aside her doll. After all she could play with her doll any day, but it was not always that she could have a ride on a raft with Freddie.
“No,” answered the little blue-eyed boy. “It isn’t deep at all. That is, I don’t guess it is, but I didn’t fall in yet.”
“I don’t want to fall in,” said Flossie.
“Well, I won’t let you,” promised her brother, though how he was going to manage that he did not say. “I’ll come back and get you on the steamboat,” he went on, “and then I’ll give you a ride all across the ocean,” and he began pushing the raft, which he pretended was a steamboat, back toward the shore where his sister sat.
Flossie was now taking off her shoes and stockings, which Freddie had done before he got on the raft; and it was a good thing, too, for the water splashed up over it as far as his ankles, and his shoes would surely have been wet had he kept them on.
“Whoa, there! Stop!” cried Flossie, as she came down to the edge of the pond, after having placed her doll, in its new blue dress, safely in the shade under a big burdock plant. “Whoa, there, steamboat! Whoa!”
“You mustn’t say ‘whoa’ to a boat!” objected Freddie, as he pushed the raft close to the bank, so his sister could get on. “You only say ‘whoa’ to a horse or a pony.”
“Can’t you say it to a goat?” demanded Flossie.
“Yes, maybe you could say it to a goat,” Freddie agreed, after thinking about it for a little while. “But you can’t say it to a boat.”
“Well, I wanted you to stop, so you wouldn’t bump into the shore,” said the little girl. “That’s why I said ‘whoa.’”
“But you mustn’t say it to a boat, and this raft is the same as a boat,” insisted Freddie.
“What must I say, then, when I want it to stop?”
Freddie thought about this for a moment or two while he paddled his bare foot in the water. Then he said:
“Well, you could say ‘Halt!’ maybe.”
“Pooh! ‘Halt’ is what you say to soldiers,” declared Flossie. “We said that when we had a snow fort, and played have a snowball fight in the winter. ‘Halt’ is only for soldiers.”
“Oh, well, come on and have a ride,” went on Freddie. “I forget what you say when you want a boat to stop.”
“Oh, I know!” cried Flossie, clapping her hands.
“You just blow a whistle. You don’t say anything. You just go ‘Toot! Toot!’ and the boat stops.”
“All right,” agreed Freddie, glad that this part was settled. “When you want this boat to stop, you just whistle.”
“I will,” said Flossie. Then she stepped on the edge of the raft nearest the shore. The boards and rails tilted to one side. “Oh! Oh!” screamed the little girl. “It’s sinking!”
“No it isn’t,” Freddie said. “It always does that when you first get on. Come on out in the middle and it will be all right.”
“But it feels so — so funny on my toes!” said Flossie, with a little shiver. “It’s tickly like.”
“That’s the way it was with me at first,” Freddie answered. “But I like it now.”
Flossie wiggled her little pink toes in the water that washed up over the top of the raft, and then she said:
“Well, I — I guess I like it too, now. But it felt sort of — sort of — squiggily at first.”
“Squiggily” was a word Flossie and Freddie sometimes used when they didn’t know else to say.
The little girl moved over to the middle of the raft and Freddie began to push it out from shore. The rain-water pond was quite a large one, and was deep in places, but the children did not know this. When they were both in the center of the raft the water came only a little way over their feet. Indeed there were so many boards, planks and rails in the make-believe steamboat that it would easily have held more than the two smaller Bobbsey twins. For there was a double set of twins, as I shall very soon tell you.
“Isn’t this nice?” asked Freddie, as he pushed the pretend boat farther out toward the middle of the pond.
“Awful nice — I like it,” said Flossie. “I’m glad I helped you make this raft.”
“It’s a steamboat,” said Freddie. “It isn’t a raft.”
“Well, steamboat, then,” agreed Flossie. Then she suddenly went:
“Here! what you blowin’ the whistle now for?” asked Freddie. “We don’t want to stop here, right in the middle of the ocean.”
“I — I was only just trying my whistle to see if it would toot,” explained the little girl. “I don’t want to stop now.”
Flossie walked around the middle of the raft, making the water splash with her bare feet, and Freddie kept on pushing it farther and farther from shore. Yet Flossie was not afraid. Perhaps she felt that Freddie would take care of her.
The little Bobbsey twins were having lots of fun, pretending they were on a steamboat, when they heard some one shouting to them from the shore.
“Hi there! Come and get us!” someone was calling to them.
“Who is it?” asked Freddie.
“It’s Bert; and Nan is with him,” answered Flossie, as she saw a larger boy and girl standing on the bank, near the tree under which she had left her doll. “I guess they want a ride. Is the raft big enough for them too, Freddie?”
“Yes, I guess so,” he answered. “You stop the steamboat, Flossie — and stop calling it a raft — and I’ll go back and get them. We’ll pretend they’re passengers. Stop the boat!”
“How can I stop the boat?” the little girl demanded.
“Toot the whistle! Toot the whistle!” answered her brother. “Don’t you ’member, Flossie Bobbsey?”
“Oh,” said Flossie. Then she went on:
“Toot! Toot!” answered Freddie. He began pushing the other way on the pole and the raft started back toward the shore they had left.