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"I've got a special delivery letter for you," called the boy from the postoffice to Harry.
Now when Jim Dexter rode his wheel with the special delivery mail everybody about Meadow Brook knew the rush letter bore important news.
Jim jumped off his wheel and, opening the little bag, pulled out a letter for Mrs. Richard Bobbsey from Mrs. William Minturn of Ocean Cliff.
"I'll take it upstairs and have your book signed," Harry offered, while Jim sat on the porch to rest.
"That's from Aunt Emily," Bert told Harry when the messenger boy rode off again. "I guess we're going down to Ocean Cliff to visit there."
"I hope you won't go very soon," replied Harry. "We've arranged a lot of ball matches next month. We're going to play the school nine first, then we're to play the boys at Cedarhurst and a picked nine from South Meadow Brook."
"I'd like first-rate to be here for the games," said Bert. "I'm a good batter."
"You're the player we need then, for Jim Smith is a first-rate pitcher and we've got really a fine catcher in Tom Mason, but it's hard to get a fellow to hit the ball far enough to give us runs."
"Oh, Bert!" called Nan, running out of the house. "That was an invitation for us to go to Aunt Emily's at the seashore. And Cousin Dorothy says we will have such a lovely time! But I'm sure we could never have a better time than we had here. Harry," she added to her cousin.
"I'll be awfully sorry to have you go, Nan," replied Harry. "We have had so much fun all month. I'll just be dead lonesome, I'm sure," and Harry sat down in dejection, just as if his loved cousins had gone already.
"There's no boy at Uncle William's;" said Bert. "Of course Nan will have Dorothy, but I'll have to look around for a chum, I suppose."
"Oh, you'll find lots of boys at the beach," said Harry. "And to think of the fun at the ocean! Mother says we will go to the shore next summer."
"I wish you were going with us," said Bert politely.
"Maybe you will come down for a day while we are there," suggested Nan. "Aunt Emily isn't just exactly your aunt, because she's mamma's sister, and it's papa who is Uncle Daniel's brother. But the Minturns, Aunt Emily's folks, you know, have been up here and are all like real cousins."
"We're going away!" exclaimed Freddie, joining the others just then. "Mamma says I can stick my toes in the water till the crabs bite me, but I'm going to have a fishhook and catch them first."
"Are you going to take Snoop?" Harry asked his little cousin.
"Yep," replied the youngster. "He knows how to go on trains now."
"Dorothy has a pair of donkeys," Nan told them, "and a cart we can go riding in every day."
"I'll be the driver," announced Freddie. "And I suppose you'll have a sailboat, Bert!" said Harry.
"Not in the ocean," said nervous little Flossie, who had been listening all the time and never said a word until she thought there was some danger coming.
"Certainly not," said Bert; "there is always a little lake of quiet water around ocean places."
Aunt Sarah came out now, all dressed for a drive.
"Well, my dears," she said, "you are going to Ocean Cliff to-morrow, so you can invite all your Meadow Brook friends to a little lawn party to-day. I'm going down now to the village to order some good things for you. I want you all to have a nice time this afternoon."
"I'm going to give some of my books to Nettie," said Flossie, "and some of my paper dolls too."
"Yes. Nettie has not many things to play with," agreed Nan, "and we can get plenty more."
"I'm going to get all my birds' nests together," said Bert, "and that pretty white birch bark to make picture frames for Christmas."
"I've got lovely pressed flowers to put on Christmas post-cards," said Nan. "I'm going to mount them on plain white cards with little verses written for each friend. Won't that be pretty?"
Then what a time there was packing up again! Of course Mrs. Bobbsey had expected to go, and had most of the big things ready but the children had so many souvenirs.
"John gave me this," cried Freddie, pulling a great big pumpkin in his express wagon down to the house. "And I'm going to bring it to Aunt Emily."
"Oh, how could we bring that!" protested Nan.
"In the trunk, of course," Freddie insisted.
"Well, I have to carry a box of ferns," said Flossie; "I'm going to take them for the porch. There are no ferns around the salt water, mamma says."
So each child had his or her own pet remembrances to carry away from Meadow Brook.
"We had better go and invite the girls for this afternoon," Nan said to Flossie.
"And we must look after the boys," Harry told Bert.
A short invitation was not considered unusual in the country, so it was an easy matter to get all the children together in time for the farewell lawn party.
"We all hope you will come again next year," said Mildred Manners. "We have had such a lovely time this summer. And I brought you this little handkerchief to remember me by."
The gift was a choice bit of lace, and Nan was much pleased to accept it.
"There is something to remember me by," said Mabel Herold, presenting Nan with a postcard album.
The little girls brought Flossie a gold-striped cup and saucer, a set of doll's patterns, and the dearest little parasol. This last was from Bessie Dimple.
And Nettie brought - what do you think?
A little live duck for Freddie!
It was just like a lump of cotton batting, so soft and fluffy.
"We'll fatten him up for Christmas," laughed Bert, joking.
"No, you won't!" snapped Freddie. "I are going to have a little house for him and a lake, and a boat - "
"Are you going to teach him to row?" teased Harry.
"Well, he can swim better than - than - "
"August Stout," answered Bert, remembering how August had fallen in the pond the day they went fishing.
When the ice cream and cake had been served on the lawn, Mrs. Bobbsey brought out a big round white paper pie. This she placed in the middle of a nice clean spot on the lawn, and all around the pie she drew out long white ribbons. On each ribbon was pinned the name of one of the guests.
"Now this is your Jack Horner pie," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "and when you put in your thumb you will pull out a plum."
Nan read off the names, and each girl or boy took the place assigned. Finally everybody had in hand a ribbon.
"Nettle has number one," said Nan; "you pull first, Nettie."
Nettie jerked her ribbon and pulled out on the end of it the dearest little play piano. It was made of paper, of course, and so very small it could stand on Nettie's hand.
"Give us a tune!" laughed the boys, while Nettie saw it really was a little box of candy.
"Mildred next," announced Nan.
On the end of Mildred's ribbon came an automobile!
This caused a laugh, for Mildred was very fond of automobile rides.
Mabel got a hobby-horse - because she was learning to ride horseback.
Nan received a sewing machine, to remind her of the fresh-air work.
Of course Tom Mason got a horse - a donkey it really was; and Jack Hopkins' gift was a wheelbarrow. Harry pulled out a boat, and Bert got a cider barrel.
They were all souvenirs, full of candy, favors for the party, and they caused no end of fun.
Freddie was the last to pull and he got -
A bunch of real radishes from his own garden!
"But they're not candy," he protested, as he burned his tongue with one.
"Well, we are going to let you and Flossie put your thumbs in the pie," said his mamma, "and whoever gets the prize will be the real Jack Horner."
All but the center of the pie was gone now, and in this Flossie first put her thumb. She could only put in one finger and only fish just one, and she brought out - a little gold ring from Aunt Sarah.
"Oh, isn't it sweet!" the girls all exclaimed.
Then Freddie had his turn.
"Can't I put in two fingers?" he pleaded.
"No; only one!" his mother insisted.
After careful preparation Freddie put in his thumb and pulled out a big candy plum!
"Open it!" called Nan.
The plum was put together in halves, and when Freddie opened it he found a real "going" watch from Uncle Daniel.
"I can tell time!" declared the happy boy, for he had been learning the hours on Martha's clock in the kitchen.
"What time is it, then?" asked Bert.
Freddie looked at his watch and counted around it two or three times.
"Four o'clock!" he said at last, and he was only twenty minutes out of the way. The watch was the kind little boys use first, with very plain figures on it, and it was quite certain before Freddie paid his next visit to Uncle Daniel's he would have learned how to tell time exactly on his first "real" watch.
The party was over, the children said good bye, and besides the play favors each carried away a real gift, that of friendship for the little Bobbseys.
"Maybe you can come down to the seashore on an excursion," said Nan to her friends. "They often have Sunday-school excursions to Sunset Beach."
"We will if we can," answered Mabel, "but if I don't see you there, I may call on you at Lakeport, when we go to the city."
"Oh yes, do!" insisted Nan. "I'll be home all winter I guess, but I might go to boarding school. Anyhow, I'll write to you. Good-bye, girls!"
"Good-bye!" was the answering cry, and then the visitors left in a crowd, waving their hands as they disappeared around a turn of the road.
"What a perfectly lovely time we have had!" declared Nan to Bert.
"Oh, the country can't be beat!" answered her twin brother. "Still, I'll be glad to get to the seashore, won't you?"
"Oh yes; I want to see Cousin Dorothy."
"And I want to see the big ocean," put in Freddie.
"I want to ride on one of the funny donkeys," lisped Flossie. "And I want to make a sand castle."
"Me too!" chimed in Freddie.
"Hurrah for the seashore!" cried Bert, throwing his cap into the air, and then all went into the house, to get ready for a trip they looked forward to with extreme pleasure. And here let us say good-bye, hoping to meet the Bobbsey Twins again.
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