Chapter XXI. What the Well Contained
 

The next day everybody was out early.

"The men are going to clean the well," Harry told the others, "and it's lots of fun to see all the stuff they bring up."

"Can we go?" Freddie asked.

"Nan will have to take charge of you and Flossie," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "for wells are very dangerous, you know."

This was arranged, and the little ones promised to do exactly as Nan told them.

The well to be cleaned was the big one at the corner of the road and the lane. From the well a number of families got their supply of water, and it being on the road many passersby also enjoyed from it a good cold drink.

"There they come," called Bert, as two men dressed like divers came up the road.

They wore complete rubber suits, hip-boots, rubber coats, and rubber caps. Then they had some queer-looking machines, a windlass, a force pump, grappling irons, and other tools.

The boys gathered around the men - all interested, of course, in the work.

"Now keep back," ordered Nan to the little ones. "You can see just as well from this big stone, and you will not be in any danger here."

So Freddie and Flossie mounted the rock while the large boys got in closer to the well.

First the men removed the well shelter - the wooden house that covered the well. Then they put over the big hole a platform open in the center. Over this they set up the windlass, and then one of the men got in a big bucket

"Oh, he'll get drownded!" cried Freddie.

"No, he won't," said Flossie. "He's a diver like's in my picture book."

"Is he, Nan?" asked the other little one.

"Yes, he is one kind of a diver," the sister explained, "only he doesn't have to wear that funny hat with air pipes in it like ocean divers wear."

"But he's away down in the water now," persisted Freddie. "Maybe he's dead."

"See, there he is up again," said Nan, as the man in the bucket stepped out on the platform over the well.

"He just went down to see how deep the water was," Bert called over. "Now they are going to pump it out."

The queer-looking pump, with great long pipes was now sunk into the well, and soon a strong stream of water was flowing from the spout.

"Oh, let's sail boats!" exclaimed Freddie, and then all the bits of clean sticks and boards around were turned into boats by Flossie and Freddie. As the water had a good clear sweep down the hill the boats went along splendidly, and the little folks had a very fine time of it indeed.

"Don't fall in," called Nan. "Freddie, look out for that deep hole in the gutter, where the tree fell down in the big flood."

But for once Freddie managed to save himself, while Flossie took no risk at all, but walked past that part of the "river" without guiding her "steamboat."

Presently the water in the "river" became weaker and weaker, until only the smallest stream made its way along.

"We can't sail boats in mud," declared Freddie with some impatience. "Let's go back and see what they're doing at the well."

Now the big pump had been removed and the man was going down in the bucket again.

"We lost lots of things in there," remarked Tom Mason. "I bet they'll bring up some queer stuff."

It took a few minutes for the other man to send the lanterns down after his companion and then remove the top platform so as to give all the air and light possible to the bottom of the well.

"Now the man in the well can see stars in the sky," said Harry to the other boys.

"But there are no stars in the sky," Bert contradicted, looking up at the clear blue sky of the fine summer day.

"Oh! yes there are," laughed the man at the well, "lots of them too, but you can only see them in the dark, and it's good and dark down in that deep well."

This seemed very strange, but of course it was true; and the well cleaner told them if they didn't believe it, just to look up a chimney some day, and they would see the same strange thing.

At a signal from the man in the well the other raised the first bucket of stuff and dumped it on the ground.

"Hurrah! Our football!" exclaimed Harry, yanking out from the muddy things the big black rubber ball lost the year before.

"And our baseball," called Tom Mason, as another ball was extracted from the pile.

"Peter Burns' dinner pail," laughed Harry, rescuing that article from the heap.

"And somebody's old shoe!" put in Bert, but he didn't bother pulling that out of the mud.

"Oh, there's Nellie Prentice's rubber doll!" exclaimed Harry. "August and Ned were playing ball with it and let it fly in the well."

Harry wiped the mud off the doll and brought it over to Nan.

"I'm sure Nellie will be glad to get this back," said Nan, "for it's a good doll, and she probably never had one since she lost it."

The doll was not injured by its long imprisonment in the well and when washed up was as good as ever. Nan took charge of it, and promised to give it to Nellie just as soon as she could go over to see her.

Another bucket of stuff had been brought up by that time, and the first thing pulled out was a big long pipe, the kind Germans generally use.

"That's old Hans Bruen's," declared Tom "I remember the night he dropped it."

"Foolish Hans - to try to drink with a pipe like that in his mouth!" laughed the well cleaner.

As the pipe had a wooden bowl and a hard porcelain stem it was not broken, so Tom took care of it, knowing how glad Hans would be to get his old friend "Johnnie Smoker" back again.

Besides all kinds of tin cups, pails, and saucepans, the well was found to contain a good number of boys' caps and some girls' too, that had slipped off in attempts made to get a good cool drink out of the bucket.

Finally the man gave a signal that he was ready to come up, and soon the windlass was adjusted again and the man in very muddy boots came to the top.

"Look at this!" he said to the boys' holding a beautiful gold watch. "Ever hear of anyone losing a watch in the well?"

No one had heard of such a loss, and as there was no name anywhere on the watch that might lead to its identification, the well cleaner put it away in his vest pocket under the rubber coat.

"And what do you think of this?" the man continued, and drew from his pocket a beautiful string of pearl beads set in gold.

"My beads! My lost beads!" screamed Nan. "Oh, how glad I am that you found them!"

She took the beads and looked at them carefully. They were a bit dirty, but otherwise as good as ever.

"I thought I should never see these again," said Nan. "I must tell mamma of this!" And she started for the house with flying feet. Mrs. Bobbsey was glad indeed to learn that the strings of pearls had been found, and everybody declared that Nan was certainly lucky.

"I am going to fasten them on good and tight after this," said Nan, and she did.

Down by the well the man was not yet through handing over the things he had found.

"And there's a wedding ring!" he said next, while he turned out in his hand a thin gold band.

"Oh, Mrs. Burns lost that!" chorused a number of the boys. "She felt dreadful over it too. She'll be tickled to get that back all right."

"Well, here," said the man, turning to Harry. "I guess you're the biggest boy; I'll let you take that back to Mrs. Burns with my best wishes," and he handed Harry the long-lost wedding ring.

It was only a short distance to Mrs. Burns' house, and Harry lost no time in getting there.

"She was just delighted," Harry told the man, upon returning to the well. "She says Peter will send you over something for finding it."

"No need," replied the other; "they're welcome to their own."

The last part of the well-cleaning was the actual scrubbing of the big stone in the bottom.

This stone had a hole in the middle through which the water sprang up, and when the flag had been scrubbed the well was clean indeed.

"Now you people will have good water," declared the men, as they gathered all their tools, having first put the top on the well and tried a bucketful of water before starting off.

"And are there really stars in the bottom of the well?" questioned Freddie.

"Not exactly," said the man, "but there are lots of other things in the bottoms of wells. You must get your daddy to show you the sky through a fireplace, and you will then know how the stars look in daylight," he finished, saying good-bye to all and starting off for the big deep well-pump over in the picnic grove, that had not been cleaned since it had been dug there three years before.