The Bobbsey Twins/chapter18
A QUARREL IN THE SCHOOLYARD
Three days after the grand sleighing party to Dalton, Nan came down to breakfast looking very pale and worried.
"What is the trouble, Nan?" questioned her mamma. "What has happened?"
"Oh, mamma, I scarcely feel like telling," answered Nan. "I am afraid you'll laugh at me."
"I fancy you had best tell me," went on Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I saw the ghost last night—or rather, early this morning."
"What, the ghost that I saw?" shouted Bert.
"I think it must have been the same. Anyway, it was about that high"—Nan raised her hand to her shoulder—"and all pure white."
"Oh, Nan!" shivered Freddie. "Don't want no ghostses!"
"I don't want to see it," put in Flossie, and edged closer to her mamma as if fearful the ghost might walk into the dining room that minute.
"This is certainly strange," came from Mr. Bobbsey. "Tell us all about it, Nan."
"Oh, papa, you won't laugh?" and Nan's face grew very red. "I—I—didn't think of it then, but it must have been very funny," she continued.
"It's not very funny to see a ghost, Nan," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I don't mean that—I mean what I did afterward. You see I was asleep and I woke up all of a sudden, for I thought somebody had passed a hand over my face. When I looked out into the room the ghost was standing right in front of the dresser. I could see into the glass and for the minute I thought there were two ghosts."
"Oh!" came from Flossie. "Two! Wasn't that simply dreadful!" And she crouched closer than ever to her mamma.
"As I was looking, the ghost moved away toward the window and then I saw there was but one. I was so scared I couldn't call anybody."
"I believe you," said Bert. "It's awful, isn't it?"
"This is certainly strange," said Mr. Bobbsey, with a grave look on his face. "What did you do next, Nan."
"You—you won't laugh, papa?"
"I thought of my umbrella. It was resting against the wall, close to the bed. I turned over and reached for the umbrella, but it slipped down and made a terrible noise as it struck the floor. Then I flung the covers over my head."
"What did you want the umbrella for?" questioned Freddie, in great wonder. "'Twasn't raining."
"I thought I could—could punch the ghost with it," faltered Nan.
At this Bert could hold in no longer, and he set up a shout of laughter, which was instantly repressed by Mr. Bobbsey.
"Oh, Nan, I'm sorry I laughed," said her twin brother, when he could speak. "But the idea of your poking at a ghost with an umbrella!"
"It was more than you tried to do," said Mr. Bobbsey dryly.
"That is so." Bert grew red in the face. "Did you see the ghost after that?" he asked to hide his confusion.
"Not at all?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"No, mamma. I stayed under the covers for about a minute—just like Bert did—and when I looked the ghost was gone."
"I will have to investigate this," said Mr. Bobbsey seriously. "It is queer that neither I nor your mamma has seen the ghost."
"I ain't seen it," said Flossie.
"Don't want to see it," piped in Freddie.
Dinah, in the kitchen, had heard Nan's story and she was almost scared to death.
"Dat am de strangest t'ing," she said to Sam, when he came for his dinner. "Wot yo' make of it, hey?"
"Dunno," said Sam. "Maybe sumbuddy's gwine to die."
The matter was talked over by the Bobbsey family several times that day, and Mr. Bobbsey remained awake nearly all of that night, on the watch for the ghost. The following night Mrs. Bobbsey watched, and then Dinah took her turn, followed by Sam, who sat in the upper hall in a rocking chair, armed with a club. But the ghost failed to show itself, and after a week the excitement died down once more.
"Perhaps you were dreaming, Nan," said Mrs. Bobbsey.
"No, I wasn't dreaming, mamma, and Bert says he wasn't dreaming either."
"It is strange. I cannot understand it at all."
"Do you believe in ghosts, mamma?"
"No, my dear."
"But I saw something."
"Perhaps it was only a reflection. Sometimes the street lamps throw strange shadows on the walls through the windows."
"It wasn't a shadow," said Nan; and there the talk ended, for Mrs. Bobbsey knew not what to say to comfort her daughter.
In some way the news that a ghost had been seen in the Bobbsey house spread throughout the neighborhood, and many came to ask about it. Even the boys and girls talked about it and asked Nan and Bert all manner of questions, the most of which the twins could not answer.
The "ghost talk," as it was called, gave Danny Rugg a good chance to annoy both Nan and Bert.
"Afraid of a ghost! Afraid of a ghost!" he would cry, whenever he saw them. "Oh, my, but ain't I afraid of a ghost!"
"I think it is perfectly dreadful," said Nan one day, on returning from school. Her eyes were red, showing that she had been crying.
"I'll 'ghost' him, if he yells at us again," said Bert. "I'm not going to stand it, so there!"
"But what will you do, Bert?"
"I'll fight him, that's what I'll do."
"Oh, Bert, you mustn't fight."
"Then he has got to leave you alone—and leave me alone, too."
"If you fight at school, you'll be expelled."
"I don't care, I'm going to make him mind his own business," said Bert recklessly.
Danny Rugg was particularly sore because he had not been invited to Grace Lavine's party. Of all the boys in that neighborhood he was the only one left out, and he fancied it was Nan and Bert's fault.
"They don't like me and they are setting everybody against me," he thought. "I shan't stand it, not me!"
Two days later he followed Bert into the schoolyard, in which a large number of boys were playing.
"Hullo! how's the ghost?" he cried. "Is it still living at your house?"
"You be still about that ghost, Danny Rugg!" cried Bert, with flashing eyes.
"Oh, but wouldn't I like to have a house with a ghost," went on Danny tantalizingly. "And a sister who was afraid of it!"
"Will you be still, or not?"
"Why should I be still? You've got the ghost, haven't you? And Nan is scared to death of it, isn't she?"
"No, she isn't."
"Yes, she is, and so are you and all the rest of the family." And then Danny set up his old shout: "Afraid of a ghost! Afraid of a ghost!"
Some of the other boys followed suit and soon a dozen or more were crying, "Afraid of a ghost!" as loudly as they could.
Bert grew very pale and his breath came thickly. He watched Danny and when he came closer caught him by the arm.
"Let go!" cried the big boy roughly.
"I want you to stop calling like that."
"I shan't stop."
"I say you will!"
Bert had hardly spoken when Danny struck at him and hit him in the arm. Then Bert struck out in return and hit Danny in the chin. A dozen or more blows followed in quick succession. One struck Bert in the eye and blackened that organ, and another reached Danny's nose and made it bleed. Then the two boys clinched and rolled over on the schoolyard pavement.
"A fight! A fight!" came from those looking on, and this was taken up on all sides, while many crowded forward to see what was going on.
The school principal, Mr. Tetlow, was just entering the school at the time. Hearing the cry he ran around into the yard.
"Boys! boys! what does this mean?" he demanded, and forced his way through the crowd to where Bert and Danny lay, still pummeling each other. "Stand up at once and behave yourselves," and reaching down, he caught each by the collar and dragged him to his feet.