Chapter XIII. Picking Peas
 

"Mother," said Harry, using that loved name to show that what he was about to say was something important, "Peter Burns is sick. He has not been able to work since the cannon exploded and gave him the shock, and all his peas are spoiling because there's no one to pick them. Mrs. Burns hired some boys yesterday, but they broke down so many vines she had to stop them; and, mother, would you mind if Bert and I picked some to-day? The sun is not hot."

"Why, my dear," replied Aunt Sarah, "it would be very nice of you to help Peter; he has always been a kind neighbor. I don't think it would do you any harm to pick peas on a cool day like this. Bert can ask his mother, and if she is satisfied you can put on your play overalls and go right along."

Both boys were given the desired permission, and when Tom and Jack heard where the Bobbseys were going they said at once they would go along.

"Are you sure your mother won't mind?" Mrs. Burns asked the boys, knowing Harry's folks did not need the money paid to pick the peas. "Of course I'm very glad to have you if your mothers are satisfied."

Soon each boy had a big basket under his arm, and was off for the beautiful field of soft green peas, that stretched along the pond bank at the side of Mrs. Burns' home. Now, peas are quite an expensive vegetable when they come in first, and farmers who have big fields of them depend upon the return from the crop as an important part of the summer's income. But the peas must be picked just as soon as they are ripe, or else they will spoil. This was why Harry got his friends to turn in to help poor Peter Burns.

"I'll go down this row and you take that' ' suggested Bert to Harry. "Then we can talk to each other without hollering."

"All right," Harry replied, snapping the peas off the vines and dropping them into his basket like a real farmer.

"Let's have a race," called Tom. "see who gets his basket full first."

"But no skipping for big ones," put in Jack. "You have to pick every ripe one."

The boys all started in at the top of the hill, each working two rows at a time. They were so interested in the race that scarcely a word was spoken. The peas were plentiful and ripe too, so that the baskets were filling up quickly. Mrs. Burns herself was picking, in fact she had been in the field since the very first peep of dawn, and she would be sure to stay out until the darkness would drive her in.

"You are fine pickers," she told the boys, seeing how quickly they worked. "I pay ten cents a basket, you know."

"I guess we can earn a dollar a day at this rate," laughed Tom, whose basket was almost full.

"I'm done," called Jack from his row.

"No, you're not," said Harry, "you have to cover the rim."

"Oh!" exclaimed Jack, who had just slipped between the rows. "Oh! there goes my basket."

And sure enough the big basket had been upset in Jack's fall, and most of the peas were scattered on the ground.

"Ha! ha!" laughed Bert. "I'm first. My basket is full."

"I'm next!" called Tom, picking his basket up in his arms.

"Well, I'll be last I guess," laughed Tom, trying hard to pick up the scattered peas.

"There's mine!" called Harry, and now all the boys carried their baskets to the big bag at the end of the field and dumped them in.

"It won't take long to fill the bag," said Harry, "and it will be so good for Peter to have them ready, for to-morrow is market day."

So the boys worked on right along until lunch time, each having picked four big baskets full. August Stout came along and helped some too, but he could not stay long, as he had to cut some clothes poles for his mother.

"Well, I declare!" said Mrs. Burns, looking at the three full bags the boys had picked. "Isn't that splendid! But I can't pay until Peter comes from market."

"We just did it for fun," answered Harry. "We don't want any pay."

"Indeed you must have forty cents apiece, ten cents a basket," she insisted. "See what a good load you have picked!"

"No, really, Mrs. Burns; mother wouldn't like us to take the money," Harry declared. "We are glad to have helped you, and it was only fun."

Poor Mrs. Burns was so grateful she had to wipe her eyes with her gingham apron.

"Well," she said finally, "There are some people in this world who talk about charity, but a good boy is a gift from heaven," and she said this just like a prayer of blessing on the boys who had helped her.

"The crop would have been spoiled to-morrow," remarked Tom, as he and his companions started up the road. "I'm awfully glad you thought of helping her, Harry."

It seemed all that day everything went right for the boys; they did not have even a single mishap in their games or wanderings. Perhaps it was because they felt so happy over having done a good turn for a poor neighbor.

"Say, fellows," Tom said later, while they sat on the pond bank trying to see something interesting in the cool, clear water, "what do you say if we make up a circus!"

"Fine," the others answered, "but what will be the show?"

"Animals of course," continued Tom; "we've got plenty around here, haven't we?"

"Well, some," Harry admitted. "There's Sable, for instance."

At this the boys all laughed at Tom, remembering the runaway.

"Well, I could be a cowboy, and ride him just the same," spoke up Tom. "I rode him around the track yesterday, and he went all right. He was only scared with that sulphur match when he ran away."

"A circus would be fine," Bert put in. "We could have Frisky as the Sacred Calf."

"And Snoopy as the Wild Cat," said Harry.

"And two trained goats," August added.

"And a real human bear, 'Teddy'?" suggested Jack.

"Then a cage of pigeons," went on Harry.

"Let's get them all in training," said Tom, jumping up suddenly, anxious to begin the sport.

"I tell you!" Harry planned. "We can each train our own animals and then we can bring them together in a well-organized circus."

"When will we have it?" August asked impatiently.

"About next week," Harry thought, and this was decided upon.

During the interval the boys were so busy training that they had little time for other sports, but the girls found out-door life quite as interesting as their brothers did, and now made many discoveries in and about the pretty woodlands.

"Oh, we saw the prettiest little rabbits today," Nan told her mother, after a trip in the woods. "Flossie and Freddie were sitting on an old stump when two rabbits ran right across the road in front of them. Freddie ran after them as far as he could go in the brushwood, but of course no one can go as fast as a rabbit."

"And the squirrels," Flossie told them. "I think the squirrels are the prettiest things that live in the woods. They have tails just like mamma's feather boa and they walk sitting up so cute."

"Oh, I think the rabbits are the nicest," lisped Freddie, "'cause they are Bunnies, and Bunnies bring Easter eggs."

"And we have made the loveliest fern garden up back of the swing," said Flossie. "We got a whole basket of ferns in the woods and transplanted them."

"In the center we have some lovely Jack-in the-pulpits," Nan added. "Some are light green striped, and the largest are purple with gold stripes. The Jacks stand up straight, just like real live boys preaching in a pulpit."

"Don't you think, mamma," asked Flossie, "that daisies and violets make a lovely garden? I have a round place in the middle of our wild flower bed just full of light blue violets and white daisies."

"All flowers are beautiful," their mamma told them, "but I do think with Flossie that daisies and violets are very sweet."

"And, mamma, we got a big piece of the loveliest green moss! It is just like real velvet," said Flossie. "We found a place all covered with it down by the pond, under the dark cedar trees. Nan said it wouldn't grow in our garden, but I brought some home to try. I put it in a cool dark place, and I'm going to put lots of water on it every day."

"Moss must be very cool and damp to grow," Mrs. Bobbsey replied. "I remember how disappointed I used to be when I was a little girl and tried to make it grow around my geraniums. It would always dry up and turn brown in a few days."

"Oh," called Freddie from his garden under the cherry tree, "come quick! Look at the funny bugs!"

Nan and Flossie hurried to where their little brother had dug a hole in the earth."

"They're mice!" exclaimed Nan. "Oh, aren't they cute! Let's catch them. Call Bert or Harry."

While Flossie ran to tell Bert, Nan watched the tiny mice so that they would not get away.

"It's a nest of field mice," Harry told them.

"We'll put them in a cage and have them in our circus."

"But they're my mice," cried Freddie, "and I won't let anybody have them!"

"We're only going to help you take care of them in a little box. Oh, there's the mother - catch her, Harry," called Bert.

The mother mouse was not so easy to catch, however, and the boys had quite a chase after her. At last she ran into a tin box the boys had sunk in the ground when playing golf. Here Harry caught the frightened little creature.

"I've got a queer kind of a trap," Harry said. "It's just like a cage. We can put them in this until we build a larger one. We can make one out of a box with a wire door."

The mice were the smallest, cutest things, not larger than Freddie's thumb. They hardly looked like mice at all, but like some queer little bugs. They were put in the cage trap, mother and all, and then Bert got them a bit of cheese from the kitchen.

"What! Feed mice!" exclaimed Dinah "Sakes alive, chile! you go bringing dem mice in de house to eat all our cake and pie. You just better drown dem in de brook before dey bring a whole lot more mices around here."

"We'll keep them away from the house," Bert told Dinah. "We're going to have a circus, you know, and these will be our trained mice."

Freddie, of course, was delighted with the little things, and wanted to dig for more.

"I tell you!" said Bert. "We might catch butterflies and have them under a big glass on the table with all the small animals "

"That would be good," Harry agreed. "We could catch some big brown ones and some little fancy ones. Then after dark we could get some big moths down by the postoffice electric light."

The girls, too, went catching butterflies. Nan was able to secure four or five yellow ones in the flower garden near the porch, and Flossie got two of the small brown variety in the nasturtium bed. Harry and Bert searched in the close syringa bushes where the nests are usually found.

"Oh! look at this one!" called Freddie, coming up with a great green butterfly. "Is it bird?" he asked. "See how big it is!"

It really was very large, and had such beautiful wings it might easily be mistaken for some strange bird.

"We will try to keep them alive," said Harry, "and perhaps we can get ma's big glass globe to put them in. She has one she used to put wax flowers under."

"And, oh say!" exclaimed Bert, "couldn't we have an aquarium with snakes and turtles and toads in?"

"Fine!" declared Harry. "We've got a big glass tank I used to have gold fish in. We'll get the other fellows to help catch some snakes, fish, and turtles and toads, and - and anything else that will stand water!"

Then what a time they had hunting for reptiles! It seemed each boy had a different variety on his premises. August Stout brought three turtles and Jack Hopkins caught two snakes under a big stone in his back yard. Tom Mason supplied four lovely gold fish, while Ned Prentice brought three bright green frogs.

"I can catch hop-toads," declared Freddie, and sure enough the little fellow brought two big ones and a baby toad in his hat down to the boys, who had their collection in a glass tank in the barn.

"We can't put the snakes in with the others or they'll eat them up," said Jack. "I'll get a big glass jar for the snakes."

"And say!" said Harry. "Will we charge admission to the show?"

"Sure - five cents each," said Tom, "and give the money to the fresh-air camp over on the mountain."

This was considered a good plan, and now it was only a few days more until Wednesday - the day of the circus!