Four Little Blossoms at Brookside Farm/Chapter 9

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RIGHT after dinner the four children started to hunt for the lost raft.

"It must have gone down the brook," argued Bobby, as they walked along. "Jud says things always float with the current. So we'll start on Mr. Simmond's land and walk slow."

They scrambled under the line fence, and Dot only tore one of the ruffles off her frock. They went on and on.

"We're almost to the woods," said Meg, as they dropped down under a ragged buttonwood tree to rest. "Where do you suppose the brook goes? Wouldn't it be fun to follow it through the woods and see what's on the other side!"

The four little Blossoms thought this would be great fun. They had not been in the woods yet, though Jud and Linda had promised to take them some day and Aunt Polly said it was the nicest kind of a place for picnics.

The children stood up, and shaded their eyes with their hands. They could just see the eaves of the barn and the chimneys of Aunt Polly's house and the Apgar house. The brook twisted and turned so often, they had really walked further than they guessed.

"I'll bet it's dark in the woods," said Twaddles, marching ahead. "Maybe there's bears and things in there."

"Now don't begin and scare Dot," admonished Bobby. "Let's take hold of hands. My, isn't it nice and cool!"

They stepped from the sunny glare of the brook pasture into the cool, dark, rustly stillness of the beautiful woods. A chipmunk ran across their path, and tall ferns grew higher than their heads on either side of the brook.

Almost unconsciously the children left the brook and struck off into a pretty path that was laid with stepping stones and led up a slight hill. They saw two rabbits and heard gray squirrels chattering in the trees overhead. One squirrel came down and stared gravely at them.

"Isn't he pretty?" said Meg. "I wish he'd let me pat him."

A shriek from Dot startled them all.

"I saw a snake!" she cried, running to Meg. "A horrid, nasty little green one. And now I've lost my flowers!"

Sure enough, the bouquet she had been picking was scattered in all directions.

"Don't you care," Meg comforted her. "It was only a baby water snake. Aunt Polly told Mother that's the only kind that lives round here. Honestly, snakes are all right, Dot. Lots of people don't mind 'em a bit."

"Well, I do," said Dot decidedly. "They wiggle so. Let's go home anyway."

"I think we'd better," announced Bobby. "I don't know what time it is, but I guess there's no use looking for the raft any more."

"The raft?" echoed Meg. "Oh Bobby, where is the brook?"

Bobby grinned a little sheepishly.

"We forgot about the raft, didn't we?" he said. "Let's see—we came down that path—the brook must be over there. Come on, Dot, we're going home."

Dot sat down on the ground and began to cry.

"I don't want to be lost," she wailed. "I'm hungry, and my feet hurt! And I'm so tired!"

Meg put her arms around her sister.

"Don't cry," she urged her bravely. "We're not lost, are we, Bobby?"

Bobby and Meg, as the two older, felt that they must keep the twins from becoming discouraged.

"Course we're not lost," asserted Bobby stoutly.

"Course not," echoed Meg. "I think the brook is right past those three big trees. Come on, Dot, let's run and see who gets there first."

Dot allowed herself to be pulled to her feet.

"I'll count for you," said Bobby, glad to see her stop crying. "One—two—three—go!"

Away went Meg and Dot. Meg had intended to let Dot win, because she was so much smaller she couldn't be expected to run as well as her older sister. But Meg's good intentions came to nothing. Dot had an unfortunate habit of shutting her eyes tight when she ran, and the woods, of all places, are where it pays to keep one's eyes wide open. Poor Dot, running over the uneven ground with her eyes closed, crashed headlong into a wild blackberry bush.

"Oh, ow!" she wailed shrilly. "Meg, Meg! Ow!"

Her face and hands were scratched and bleeding and her dress was badly torn by the time Meg and Bobby got her free from the prickly bush.

"I won't go," sobbed the unfortunate child, rubbing her smarting face. "I'll lie down in the grass and the birds can cover me with leaves. Nasty old woods!"

"But you'll have to come," urged Bobby. "I don't b'lieve it's much further, Dot. Come on."

"Then I'll take off my shoes and stockings," said Dot.

"Her feet are all puffed up," said Meg, unbuttoning the little tan shoes. "Poor sister! But you can't go barefoot through here—the stones and things are too sharp."

"They'll cut you," said Twaddles, who was watching anxiously.

"Let's make a chair with our hands and carry her," suggested Bobby.

So Meg and Bobby joined hands and managed to start off comfortably, carrying Dot.

Twaddles looked at them anxiously.

"It's getting dark," he quavered.

It was, too, a shadowy gray dusk there in the woods.

"I guess it's only 'cause there's so many trees," said Meg cheerfully. "It can't be dark out in the fields yet. I don't believe Jud has even started to milk."

They took up Dot again and went ahead, but it grew more and more difficult to follow the path.

"Here's where we were when you stopped to get your breath," declared Twaddles positively as they came into an open space. "I 'member that rotten log on the ground."

It was true. They had been walking in a circle!

"What's that?" cried Meg, starting up in sudden fright.

The twins clung to her, hiding their faces in her skirt.

"I saw something move—over there in those bushes," whispered Bobby.

"Is it—a—a bear?" asked Meg softly.

But Dot heard her.

"It's a bear!" she shrieked. "Twaddles, Meg, Bobby, come quick! It's a bear!"

Something bounded out of the bushes and leaped upon them with shrill, sharp barks.

"Spotty!" chorused the children. "You dear, darling old Spotty! Where did you come from?"

Spotty was apparently as glad to see them, and in his way tried to tell them so. He jumped up and down, barked excitedly and licked their hands and faces over and over.

"Say, I'll bet you Spotty knows the way home!" Bobby jumped to his feet as this thought came to him. "Spotty, show us the way home, that's a good dog. Home, Spotty!"

Spotty wagged his tail heartily and barked once. Then he rushed a little way ahead and turned to look at the children.

"Come on," he seemed to say.

"He does know," agreed Meg excitedly.

"Put your shoes on, Dot. All take hold of hands and hurry!"

They were in such haste they put the left shoe on Dot's right foot and the right one on her left, but she never even noticed it. Taking hold of hands, the four little Blossoms scurried through the dark woods, for it was pitch dark now, after Spotty. The dog kept just a little way ahead, and now and then he barked as if to tell them that everything was all right.

It was not easy walking in the dark, and they tripped and stumbled over tree roots and unsuspected stones. But at last they came out into the open. The stars were shining overhead, and it was night.

"Where are we?" asked Meg in wonder, "This isn't the brook pasture."

"I see the gate light!" cried Bobby suddenly.