TOMMY TODD'S STORY
"Mother, how many more stations before we'll be home?"
"Oh, quite a number, dear. Sit back and rest yourself. I thought you liked it on the train."
"I do; but it's so long to sit still."
The little fellow who had asked the question turned to his golden-haired sister, who sat in the seat with him.
"Aren't you tired, Flossie?" he asked.
"Yes, Freddie, I am!" exclaimed Flossie. "And I want a drink of water."
"Dinah will get it for you," said Mother Bobbsey. "My! But you are a thirsty little girl."
"Indeed and that's what she am!" exclaimed a fat, good-natured looking African-American woman, smiling at the little girl. Dinah was the Bobbsey family cook. She had been with them so long that she used to say, and do, just what she pleased. "This is the forty-sixteen time I've done bin down to the end of the car gittin' Miss Flossie a drink of water. And the train rocks so, like a cradle, that I done most upset every time. But I'll git you another cup of water, Flossie lamb!"
"And if you're going to upset, and fall down, Dinah, please do it where we can see you," begged Freddie. "Nothing has happened since we got on this train. Do upset, Dinah!"
"Yes, I want to see it, too," added Flossie. "Here, Freddie, you can have my place at the window, and I'll take yours on the outside. Then I can see Dinah better when the car upsets her."
"No, I want to sit here myself, Flossie. You wanted the window side, and now you must stay there."
"No, I don't want to. I want to see Dinah upset in the aisle. Mamma, make Freddie let me sit where I can see Dinah fall."
"Well, of all t'ings!" gasped the fat, cook. "If you kids think that I've going to upset myself so you can see something to laugh at, then all got to say is I ain't going to do it! No, sir! Not for one minute!" And Dinah sat up very straight in her seat.
"Children, be nice now," begged Mother Bobbsey. "I know you are tired with the long ride, but you'll soon hear the brakeman call out 'Lakeport'; and then we'll be home."
"I wish I were home now," said Freddie. "I want to get my dog Snap out of the baggage car, and have some fun with him. I guess he's lonesome for me."
"And he's lonesome for me, too!" cried Flossie. "He's as much my dog as he is yours, Freddie Bobbsey. Isn't he, Mother?"
"Yes, dear, of course. I don't know what's the matter with you two children. You never used to dispute this way."
"I guess the long train ride is tiring them," said Papa Bobbsey, looking up from the paper he was reading.
"Anyhow, half of Snoop, our black cat, is mine then," said Freddie. "Isn't she, Mother?"
"Yes. And now please don't talk like that any more. Look out of the window and watch the trees shoot past."
"Oh, I'm going to see Snoop!" exclaimed Flossie, suddenly.
"So'm I," added Freddie. And in a moment the two children were bending over a basket which was in the seat with Dinah. In the basket was Snoop, the big black cat. She always traveled that way with the Bobbseys. And she seemed very comfortable, for she was curled up on the blanket in the bottom of the basket. Snoop opened her eyes as Freddie and Flossie put their fingers through cracks and stroked her as well as they could.
"I wish Snap was in here with us," said Freddie, after a bit. "I hope he gets a drink of water."
"Oh, I want a drink of water!" exclaimed Flossie, suddenly. "I forgot I was thirsty. Mother, can't I have a drink?" she went on.
"Oh, yes, dear. I suppose so. I'll get it for you."
"No, let Dinah get it so she'll upset," begged Flossie.
"I'll get it for you, Flossie," offered Freddie. "Dinah might get hurt."
"That's the li'l gen'man," said the fat cook, smiling. "He loves ole Dinah."
"I love you too, Dinah," said Flossie, patting the black hand that had done many kind acts for the twins. "But I do want a drink, and you know you would look funny if you upset here in the car."
"Yes, I spects I would, chile," laughed Dinah.
"May I get Flossie a drink?" asked Freddie.
"You may both go down to the end of the car where the water-cooler is," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "The train is slowing down now, and going to stop, I think, so you won't fall. But be careful."
Flossie and Freddie started toward the end of the long car, but their sister Nan, who with her brother Bert was a few seats away, went with them, to make sure nothing would happen.
"I'm not thirsty any more," Flossie said, after having had two cups of cold water.
"No, but you will be in half an hour, I'm sure," laughed Nan. "Every one seems to get thirsty on a railroad journey. I do myself," and she took some water after Freddie had had enough.
The train now came to a stop, and Flossie and Freddie hurried back to their seat to look out at the station. Hardly were they both crowded close to the window before there was the sound of shouting and laughing, and into the car came rushing a number of children. With them were two ladies who seemed to be in charge. There were boys and girls--about twenty all together--and most of them made rushes for the best seats, while some hurried down to the tank to get drinks of ice-water.
"I had that cup first!" cried one.
"You did not! I had it myself," said another.
"That's my seat by the window!" shouted a third.
"It is not! I had it first, you can see where I left my hat! Oh, my hat's gone!" a boy exclaimed.
"I threw it on the floor, I wanted to sit here myself," said a big girl with red curls.
"Children! Children! You must be quiet!" called one of the ladies.
The train started again, all the other passengers watching the queer children who were making such a confusion.
"Oh, see the cow!" cried a tall boy. "It's the last cow you'll see for a year, fellows, so take a good look at her," he added as the train passed along a field.
"No more good times for a long while," sighed a boy who had a seat near Freddie and Flossie. "I wish I could live in the country always."
Flossie and Freddie looked at him. His clothes were patched here and there, but they were clean. And his face and hands were clean, which could not be said of all the other children, though some of them showed that they had tried to make themselves neat.
"The country is the best place," he said, and he looked at the two smaller Bobbsey twins as though he would like to speak to them. "I'm going to be a farmer when I grow up," he went on, after a pause.
"He--he's a nice boy," whispered Flossie to her brother. "I'm going to speak to him. We can talk about the country."
"Wait a minute," advised Freddie. "Maybe mother wouldn't want us to talk to strangers."
Flossie looked back to where her father and mother were sitting. Mrs. Bobbsey was speaking to one of the ladies who had come in the car with the noisy children.
"Are you taking part of an orphan asylum on an outing?" Flossie heard her mother ask.
"No. These are some 'fresh air' children. They have been out in the country for two weeks, and now we are taking them home. Poor things! I wish we could have kept them longer out in the green fields and woods, but there are others waiting for their chance to go.
"You see," she went on, and Flossie and Freddie listened carefully, "some kind people give us money so that the poor children of the city may have a little time in the country during the hot weather. We board them out at different farmers' houses. This company of children has been on two different farms near Branchville, where we just got on the train. Some of the little ones are from Sanderville." This was a large city not far from Lakeport, a smaller city where the Bobbsey twins lived. "Others are from Lakeport," went on the lady, speaking to Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Indeed!" exclaimed Freddie's mother. "I did not know there was a fresh air society in our city."
"It has only just been formed," said the lady, who was a Miss Carter. "We haven't much money left, I'm sorry to say."
"Then you must let me give you some," said Mr. Bobbsey. "And I will get some friends of mine to give money also. Our own children enjoy it so much in the country that I want to see others have a good time, too."
Then he and Mrs. Bobbsey began to talk about ways of helping poor children, and Flossie and Freddie did not listen any more. Besides, just then the train was passing along a field in which were many horses, some of which raced alongside the cars, and that interested the twins.
"Oh, look at 'em run!" cried the fresh air boy who sat in front of the smaller Bobbsey twins. "Don't they go fast?"
The other fresh air youngsters crowded to their windows to look out, and some tried to push their companions away so they might see better. Then a number all wanted a drink of water at the same time, and the two ladies who were in charge of the children were kept busy making them settle down.
The quiet, neat boy about whom Flossie had whispered to her brother, turned around in his seat and, looking at Freddie, asked:
"Were you ever on a farm?"
"Yes," answered Freddie, "we just came from our uncle Dan's farm, at Meadow Brook. We were there 'most all Summer. Now we're going back home."
"Where do you live, and what's your name?" asked the strange boy.
"My name's Freddie Bobbsey, and this is my sister Flossie," was the answer. "We're twins. Up there, in that other seat, are my brother and sister, Bert and Nan. They're twins too, but they're older'n we are. We live in Lakeport."
"You do?" cried the boy in surprise. "Why, that's where I live! My name is Tommy Todd."
"That's a nice name," put in Flossie politely. "I don't know any one of that name in Lakeport though. Where does your father live?"
Tommy Todd did not answer at once, and Freddie was surprised to see tears in the eyes of the strange boy.
"I--I guess you folks don't ever come down to our part of Lakeport," he said. "We live down near the dumps. It isn't very nice there."
Freddie had heard of the "dumps." It was on the farther side of the city, a long distance from his nice home. Once, when he was very little, he had wandered away and been lost. A policeman who found him had said Freddie was near the "dumps."
Freddie remembered that very well. Afterward, he heard that the "dumps" was a place where the ashes, tin cans, and other things that people threw away were dumped by the scavengers. So Freddie was sure it could not be a very nice place.
"I live out near the dumps, with my grandmother," went on Tommy Todd.
"We've a grandmother too," said Flossie. "We go to see her at Christmas. We've two grandmas. One is my mother's mother, and the other is my father's mother. That's my papa and my mother back there," and Flossie pointed to where Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were talking to the fresh air lady.
"Doesn't your father live with you and your grandmother?" asked Freddie.
"I--I haven't any father," said Tommy, and once more the tears came into his eyes. "He was lost at sea. He was a captain on a ship, and it was wrecked."
"Oh, please tell us about it!" begged Freddie. "I just love stories about the ocean; don't you, Flossie?"
"Yes, I do."
"I'm going to be a sea captain when I grow up," said Freddie. "Tell us about your father, Tommy."
So while the train rushed on Tommy Todd told his sad little story.