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The Bobbsey Twins in a Great City(Chapter16)

2006-08-22 19:31

  Chapter XVI. The Big Elephant

  "What's the matter with Uncle Jack?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, "and how did you hear about him, Richard?" she asked her husband.

  "I had a letter from my bookkeeper," was the answer. "Before we came away I left word that the poor old man must be looked after, and I arranged to have news of him sent on to me. To-day I got a letter which says he is much worse than he has been, and really needs to go to a hospital. I think I shall have to raise the money to send him."

  "Who is he?" asked Mr. Whipple. "I am interested. Who is this Uncle Jack?"

  "He's just the nicest man!" cried Flossie. "He took us in when Freddie upset the ice-boat, and——"

  "I didn't upset the ice-boat——it upset itself!" Freddie cried.

  "Easy now, children! Don't dispute," said Mrs. Bobbsey gently.

  "Uncle Jack is quite a character around Lakeport," went on Mr. Bobbsey. "I don't know all his story, but he has lived in the woods for a number of years. Where he was before that I don't know."

  "He don't know hardly anything about his folks, Daddy!" piped up Freddie.

  "How do you know?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

  "He told us so," put in Flossie. "It was that day he took us in his house, after we got spilled from the ice-boat."

  "Well, perhaps that is right," said Mr. Bobbsey, when the two small twins had told what Uncle Jack had related to them. "They really know more about him than I do. All I know is that he is a good, faithful old man. He sells us wood and many of my friends buy of him. We help him all we can.

  "I suppose he must have had some folks once upon a time, but, as he says, he has lost track of them. The bad news I have about him is that he needs to go to the hospital. I think he will not get well if he does not have a good doctor. He was so good to my children that I want to help him, and I am going to tell my bookkeeper to arrange for sending Uncle Jack where he can be taken care of. I'll pay the bill. He wouldn't take the money from me, but he won't know about this."

  "Just a minute," said Mr. Whipple, as he led the way down to the restaurant in his store. "You say this old man lives in the woods?"

  "Yes, he is a regular woodsman. He was a hunter and trapper once, I believe, though he has spent most of his life working for farmers. He loves now to live by himself in a sort of camp."

  "I love camping myself," said Mr. Whipple, "and that is why I am so interested in selling things for campers. I love anybody who loves the woods, and, while I do not know this Uncle Jack, I'd like to help look after him."

  "I shall be very glad to have you join me," said Mr. Bobbsey; and the twins, listening to this talk, though they did not understand all of it, knew that their old woodsman friend was going to be cured if it were found to be possible.

  "We'll join each other in looking after him," went on Mr. Whipple. "You must let me pay half." And to this the children's father agreed. He said he would write back at once to his office, and tell some one there to look after the old woodchopper.

  "Is there any other news from Lakeport?" Mrs. Bobbsey asked her husband at the restaurant dinner table, while the children were busy talking among themselves.

  "No, not much. Everything is all right, I believe. I have some news for you, though, Bert," he went on, as his older son glanced across the table.

  "What is it?" Bert questioned. "Did Tommy Todd go through the ice in the Bird?"

  "No, but it has to do with the ice-boat. He went in a race in her on Lake Metoka, and, what is better, he won."

  "Hurray for Tommy Todd!" cried Bert, so loudly that persons at other tables in the store dining room looked over and smiled, at which Bert's ears became very red.

  "Did you hear anything of my friends?" asked Nan.

  "No, my dear," answered her father. "And the reason I happened to have news for Bert was because Tommy's father wrote to me about some business matters, and Tommy slipped in a little note himself. Here it is, Bert."

  It was just a little letter telling about the ice-boat, and Tommy expressed the wish that Bert would soon come home to help sail it in other races.

  "I'd like to be back in Lakeport," said Bert, "but we're having such a good time here in New York I don't want to leave. Guess I'll write and tell Tommy so."

  After dinner Mr. Whipple showed the Bobbseys and Laddie about the big store, and each of the children was allowed to pick out a simple gift to take away. Nan took a pretty ribbon; Bert a book he had long wanted; Flossie a piece of silk to make a dress for her doll, and Freddie saw in the toy department a little hose cart which, he said, was just what he wanted to go with his engine. Mr. Whipple gave it to Freddie, who was very much pleased. For his present from his uncle, Laddie picked out a little gun, which shot a cork.

  "I can't break any of the hotel windows with this," he said to his aunt.

  "Did you ever break any windows?" asked Flossie, rather surprised.

  "Once. I had a little wooden cannon that shot wooden balls. I shot one right through the window of our parlor, and the next ball hit George, the elevator boy, who was coming in with a telegram."

  "And after that I had to take the cannon away from him," said Mrs. Whipple, with a smile. "But I think the cork pop-gun will be all right."

  Never had the Bobbsey twins had as much fun as they did the day of their visit to Mr. Whipple's store. They were sorry when the late afternoon gave the signal for starting back home.

  "But we'll have fun to-morrow," said Bert to Nan, as they reached their hotel.

  "How do you know?" she asked.

  "'Cause I heard Daddy tell Mother he was going to take us to Bronx Park to see the animals."

  "Oh, will we see the monkeys?" cried Flossie, who heard what her older brother had said.

  "Well, there are plenty of them there, so I've read," went on Bert, "Big ones, too."

  "I like little monkeys best, even if one did pull my hat to pieces," went on Flossie. "Oh, I wish to-morrow would hurry up and come."

  To-morrow finally did come, after the Bobbsey twins had gone to bed, though when it came it was to-day instead of to-morrow. But that's the way it always happens, doesn't it?

  "All aboard for the Bronx!" cried Bert as, with his sisters and brother he followed Mr. Bobbsey into the subway train that would take them to the big animal park.

  If ever you are in New York, I hope you will go to see this place. There are many strange animals in it, and it has beautiful birds and gardens also. Of course, when the Bobbsey twins went it was in Winter, and most of the animals had to be kept shut up in their cages in the warm houses. Some, however, like the deer, buffalo and other cattle, could stay out of doors even in cold weather.

  There were so many things to see, even though it was Winter, when the park is not at its prettiest, that the Bobbsey twins hardly knew where to look first. Flossie and Freddie were anxious to get to the house where the monkeys were.

  Some of the larger ones were uglier than they were funny, and in front of the cages were many persons who never seemed to tire of looking at the queer tricks the "four-handed" animals played on each other. You might say a monkey had five hands, for those that have tails certainly use them as much as they do their paws.

  "Oh, look at that one big monkey, chewing a straw just like some of the men in front of the hotel at home chew toothpicks," said Nan, pointing to a chimpanzee crouched in a corner of his cage. He did, indeed, look like a little old man thoughtfully chewing on a toothpick. And he was so natural, and so much in earnest about it, that the Bobbsey twins, all four of them, burst out laughing.

  This seemed to surprise the chimpanzee. He darted toward the front bars of his cage, shook them, as if in anger, and then ran into a corner, turning his back on the people.

  "Just like a spoiled child," said Mrs. Bobbsey.

  "Well, where shall we go next?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, for whenever he and his wife took the children on a little pleasure trip, the parents allowed the twins to choose their own places to go, and what to see, as long as it was all right.

  "Let's go to see the elephants," cried Freddie. "I haven't seen any since we went to the circus."

  "I want to see 'em too, and feed 'em peanuts!" added Flossie.

  "No one is allowed to feed the animals in the park," said Mr. Bobbsey. "It isn't good for them to be eating all the while, and I suppose an elephant would keep on eating peanuts as long as you'd feed them to him. So we can't offer the big animals anything. They get all that is really good for them."

  As it was cold, the elephants were all inside the big elephant house, with its several cages, in the front of which were heavy iron bars, set wide apart.

  "They are close enough together to keep the elephants in," said Mr. Bobbsey, when his wife pointed out these bars, "though I suppose some animals might get out between them."

  "Whew! they are big!" cried Freddie, when he stood close in front of one of the cages, or dens, and saw the elephant swaying to and fro back of the iron bars. "I wouldn't like one like him to step on me."

  "I should say not!" laughed Bert. "Even a baby elephant would be too heavy. Look at this one stretch out his trunk to us. He wants something to eat, I guess!"

  The big elephant, in front of whose barred cage the Bobbsey twins stood, did seem to be begging for something to eat.

  Flossie had carried from the hotel a rosy-cheeked apple, which the waiter had given her at breakfast. Not wanting to eat it, she carried it with her to the park, and had it in her hand.

  Now, for some reason or other, probably without thinking, she held it out to the elephant. The big animal saw what she was doing and turned toward Flossie.

  "Oh, you mustn't feed the elephant!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "It's against the rules."

  "I'm not feeding him, Mother," Flossie answered. "I'm just lettin' him smell it. It smells awful good!"

  And just then the apple slipped from Flossie's hand and rolled or bounced straight into the elephant's cage, between the iron bars.

  "Oh, my nice apple!" cried the little girl, and before any one could stop her she had crawled under the front rail, and had run in between the bars. Right into the cage of the big elephant ran Flossie after her apple.

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