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The Bobbsey Twins at Home/Chapter 12


CHAPTER XII


TOMMY IS REWARDED


Freddie Bobbsey was a wise little chap, even if he was only about five years old, and when he found that he was shut up in the queer play-house, and could not get out, he did not cry. He stopped calling for help, when he found no one answered him, and sat down to think what was best to do.

"It would be nice in here, if Flossie could be with me to play," he said to himself. "But she couldn't get in unless some way was opened, or unless one of the cracks was made bigger. There ought to be a door and some windows to this place. Then we could go in and out, and have fun. And we ought to have something to eat, too," Freddie went on.

But there was nothing to eat under the pile of lumber, and Freddie had not thought to put a piece of cake or an apple in his pocket as he sometimes did when he went to visit his father.

That morning he had thought of nothing much but about making a ship to go sailing with Tommy Todd to look for Tommy's father. And all Freddie had put in his pockets were the nails and bits of string. He could not eat them, and, anyhow, they were back by the pile of shingles where he had been talking to James.

"Maybe James will come and find me after a bit," Freddie thought. "I'll just stay here and wait."

He called as loudly as he could once or twice more, but no one answered him. Freddie made himself as easy as he could in the queer little lumber play-house, and, as it was warm with the sun shining down, pretty soon he felt sleepy. How long he slept Freddie did not know, but, all of a sudden he was awakened by hearing a scratching sound near his ear. Some one was scratching away at the lumber.

"Who is there?" Freddie cried, sitting up.

No one answered but Freddie again heard the scratching.

"Oh—oh!" he exclaimed, shrinking back in one corner. "I wonder if that is a big rat? Rats scratch and gnaw."

Once more came the funny sound, and then Freddie heard:

Mew! Mew!

"Oh! Now I know that isn't a rat!" cried the little boy. "Rats can scratch, but rats can't mew. Only cats can do that! Here, pussy!" he called. "Come in and see me!"

Once more there was a scratching and a mewing and up through one of the larger cracks same a big gray cat, that lived in the lumber yard. Freddie knew her quite well, for he had often seen her in his father's office.

"Oh Sawdust!" he called joyfully. Sawdust was the cat's name; a very good name for a lumber yard cat, I think. "I'm so glad it's you, Sawdust!" cried Freddie.

The big cat came up to Freddie, and rubbed against his legs. The little boy rubbed her back and the cat's tail stood up stiff and straight, like the flag pole in front of Mr. Bobbsey's office.

"I thought you were a rat, Sawdust," went on Freddie. "But I'm glad you weren't. I like you!"

The cat purred again. She seemed to like Freddie, too. Soon she curled up beside him, and Freddie put his arm around her. And, before he knew it he was asleep again, and so was Sawdust. She had found her way into the queer play-house while wandering about the lumber yard as she often did, taking walks, I suppose, to make sure there were no mice or rats about.

It was not long after this that Mr. Bobbsey left the office to go over to one part of his lumber yard to see about some boards a man wanted to buy. On the way Freddie's father passed the place where James, the watchman, was sitting by the shingles.

"Well, did Freddie bother you much?" asked Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll look after him now, as I'm not so busy."

"Why no, he didn't bother me, Mr. Bobbsey," said the watchman. "He wanted to build a toy boat, and he brought some nails and string. I had to go over to help Jason load his wagon, and when I came back, having left Freddie to hunt for some boards, he wasn't here. Didn't he go back to the office?"

"Why no, he didn't!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, in some alarm. "I haven't seen him. I wonder where he can have gone?"

They looked up and down the rows between the piles of lumber, but no Freddie could be seen.

"Perhaps he went home," said James. "You could find out by calling Mrs. Bobbsey on the telephone."

"So I could, yes. But if I asked if Freddie were home she would want to know why I asked, and why he wasn't here with me—that is, if he wasn't at home. Then she would worry for fear something had happened to him. No, I'll have to find out in some other way."

"I could take a walk down past the house," the watchman said. "I could look in and see if Freddie was there. If he wasn't, we'd know he was somewhere around the yard yet."

"Well, you might do that," Mr. Bobbsey said. He himself was a little worried now. "But don't let Mrs. Bobbsey see you," he went on to James. "If she did she'd want to know what you were doing away from the yard. Just walk past the house. If Freddie is at home he'll be out in the yard playing. If you don't see him let me know. Meanwhile, I'll be searching around here for him, and I'll get some of the men to look with me."

"All right," agreed James, hurrying off. While he was gone Mr. Bobbsey looked around the many lumber piles near the bundles of shingles where Freddie had last been seen. But no little boy was in sight, being, as we know, fast asleep, with the big yard cat, under the pile of boards which had fallen in the shape of a little play-house.

"This is queer," thought Mr. Bobbsey. "Freddie never goes home by himself after he has come to see me without telling me that he is going. I wonder where he is."

Mr. Bobbsey looked and called Freddie's name, but the little fellow, being sound asleep, did not hear.

Then Mr. Bobbsey told several of his men about the little lost boy, and they began searching for him. No one thought of looking under the pile of boards, for there were many such in the yard. And so Freddie remained hidden.

When he was not to be found Mr. Bobbsey grew more and more anxious, and he hoped that James would come back to say that Freddie was safe at home.

But when the watchman came back he said:

"Your other children are playing in the yard of your house, Mr. Bobbsey. Bert, Nan and Flossie are there. But Freddie isn't with them."

"Maybe he is in the house, getting something to eat," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"No, I hardly think so," answered James, "for when I was going past the house, on the other side of the street so they wouldn't see me, a little boy, who plays with Freddie, came running along. He called to Nan, this other little boy did, to know where Freddie was."

"And what did Nan say?"

"She said Freddie was down at the lumber yard."

"Then he can't have gone home, or Nan would know it. He must be around here somewhere. I—I hope he didn't go near the lake. And yet he might, with his idea of boats."

"Oh, I don't believe he would do that, Mr. Bobbsey," said James. "We'll find him."

Mr. Bobbsey and the men scattered through the lumber yard, looking on all sides of the many piles. But still no one thought of looking under the boards that had slid off the stack upon which Freddie had climbed. For it did not seem as though any one could be beneath them.

"Well, I don't know what to do," said Mr. Bobbsey, after a bit. "I guess I'll blow the big fire whistle, and get all the men from the shops and every place to help us look. This is too bad!"

Besides the lumber yard Mr. Bobbsey owned a mill, or shop, where boards were made into doors, windows and other parts of houses. Many men worked in this shop.

All this while Freddie was peacefully sleeping under the lumber, with Sawdust curled up near him, purring happily.

Finally, Freddie awakened again, and as he sat up and rubbed his eyes he could not, for a moment, remember where he was: Then he looked down and saw Sawdust, and he said:

"Oh, I'm in my little lumber play-house yet. I must get out. Where did you get in, Sawdust? Maybe I can get out the way you came in. Show me where it was."

Sawdust mewed. Perhaps she knew that Freddie was in trouble, though she did not quite understand all that he said. At any rate the big cat walked over toward a large crack, and squeezed her way through it to the outside.

"That's too small for me," said Freddie, for he could not get even one foot through the opening. "I'll have to find a bigger place."

He looked all over but there was none. Then he called out as loudly as he could:

"Papa! Mamma! Help me! I'm under the lumber!"

Freddie paused to listen. He heard some one walking past the pile of lumber. The little boy called as hard as he could:

"Get me out! Get me out!"

Then, suddenly, a voice asked:

"Who are you and where are you?"

"I'm Freddie Bobbsey," was the answer. "I'm down under the lumber and I can't get out. Please help me. Who are you?"

"Of course I'll help you, Freddie," was the answer. "I'm Tommy Todd. I just happened to pass through the lumber yard. I'm going to ask your father if he has any errands for me to do, as it's Saturday and there is no school. But I'll get you out first, Freddie."

"Oh Tommy! I'm so glad you came. Please get me out!"

But to get Freddie out from under the lumber was too hard for little Tommy Todd.

"I'll run and tell your father, Freddie," Tommy said. "Don't be afraid. He'll soon get you out."

"I'm not afraid," Freddie said.

Tommy ran up to Mr. Bobbsey, who was just getting ready to blow the big mill whistle and call out all the men, more than a hundred of them, to help search for the missing boy.

"Oh Mr. Bobbsey!" cried Tommy. "Freddie can't get out and I can't get him out."

"Where is he? Tell me quickly!"

"He's under a pile of lumber. I'll show you!"

Tommy quickly led the way, Mr. Bobbsey, James and some other men following. When they reached the pile of lumber that had slid over Freddie's head the men carefully but quickly lifted away the boards, and the little boy could come out.

"Oh Freddie!" cried his father. "I was so worried about you! What happened?"

Then Freddie told of having climbed up on the lumber pile, and of its having toppled over with him, but not hurting him in the least.

"It was just like a play-house," he said. "And I heard a scratching and thought it was a rat. But it was Sawdust."

"I saw the cat come out from under the lumber," said Tommy. "But I did not know Freddie was there until I heard him calling. I was coming to you to ask if you had any work for me this Saturday, as there isn't any school. I need to work to earn money for my grandmother."

"Work? Of course I can give you work," said Mr. Bobbsey, who had Freddie in his arms. "You deserve a good reward for finding Freddie for us, and you shall have it. I'm glad I didn't have to call out all the men, for if I had blown the big whistle Mrs. Bobbsey would have heard it, and she would have thought there was a fire."

So Tommy Todd was rewarded for having found where the lost Freddie was. The fresh air boy was given some easy work to do, for which he was well paid, and besides this, Mr. Bobbsey gave the grandmother five dollars to buy the food and the clothing which she needed very much.

"I'm glad I happened to come past the lumber pile where you were," said Tommy a little later, when he was taking Freddie home, for Mr. Bobbsey sent Tommy along to see that the little chap did not get lost again.

"I'm glad, too," said Freddie. "I'm not going to climb up on lumber piles any more. But we've got to make that boat, Tommy, and sail off to find your father."

"Yes, I wish we could find him, but I'm afraid we can't. Anyhow it will be Winter soon and it isn't any fun going to sea in the Winter, so my grandmother says. Maybe we'd better wait until it's Summer again before we think of the ship."

"Well, maybe we had, Tommy."