Chapter X. A Sham Battle
 

For a few moments there was wild confusion in that part of the barn where the "show" was going on. Nan gave one look at the strange mixture of the howling Snoop and the gobbling bird in the centre of the floor, and then, catching Flossie up in her arms, Nan made a spring for the haymow.

"Wait! Wait!" cried Flossie. "I'm losing all the pins! I've dropped the pin cushion!"

That was her cash-box--the pins she had taken in as admission to the little play.

"We can't stop for it now!" cried Nan. "We must get out of the way."

"The cat has a fit!" cried Tom Mason.

"Oh, poor Snoop!" wailed Flossie.

"Grab him, somebody!" shouted Harry.

"No, let Snoop alone!" advised Bert. "He might bite, if you touched him now, though he wouldn't mean to."

"But what is it? What gave him the fit?" asked Mabel Herold.

"Our old turkey gobbler," answered Harry. "The gobbler has caught Snoop by the tail. It's enough to give any cat a fit."

"I should say so!" cried Bert. "Look out! They're coming over this way! Look out!"

The children scrambled to one side, for Snoop and the big turkey gobbler were sliding, rolling and tumbling over the barn floor toward the board seats where the show audience, but a little while before, were enjoying the performance.

The girls had followed Nan and Flossie up to a low part of the haymow, and were out of the way. But the boys wanted to be nearer where they could see what was going on.

The noise and the excitement had roused Snap, the dog, who had curled up in his cage and was sleeping, after having been exhibited as a raging and roaring lion, and now Snap was barking and growling, trying to understand what was going on. Perhaps he wanted to join in the fun, for it was fun for the turkey gobbler, if it was not for poor Snoop.

"Look out the way! Clear the track! Toot! Toot!" came a sudden cry and little Freddie came running toward the gobbler and cat, dragging after him his much-prized toy fire engine.

"Get back out of the way, Freddie!" ordered Bert. "Snoop may scratch or bite you, or the gobbler may pick you. Get out of the way!"

"I'm a fireman!" cried the fat little fellow. "Firemans never get out of the way! Toot! Toot! Clear the track! Chuu! Chuu! Chuu!" and he puffed out his cheeks, making a noise like an engine.

"You must come here!" insisted Bert, making a spring toward his little brother.

"I can't come back! Firemans never come back!" half screamed Freddie. "I'm going to squirt water on the bad gobble-obble bird that's biting my Snoop!"

And then, before anyone could stop him, Freddie unreeled the little rubber hose of his fire engine, and pointed the nozzle at the struggling gobbler and cat in the middle of the barn floor.

I have told you, I think, that Freddie's engine held real water, and, by winding up a spring a little pump could be started, squirting a stream of water for some distance.

"Whoop! Here comes the water!" cried Freddie, as he started the pump working.

Then a stream shot out, right toward the cat and turkey. It was the best plan that could have been tried for separating them.

With a howl and a yowl Snoop pulled his claws loose from where they were tangled up in the turkey's feathers. With a final gobble, the turkey let go of Snoop's tail. The water spurted out in a spraying stream, Freddie's engine being a strong one, for a toy.

"That's the way I do it!" cried Freddie, just like Mr. Punch. "That's the way I do it! Look, I made them stop!"

"Why--why, I believe you did!" exclaimed Bert, with a laugh.

The gobbler ran out through the open barn door, his feathers wet and bedraggled. He must have thought he had been caught in a rainstorm. And poor Snoop was glad enough to crawl away in a dark corner, to lick himself dry with his red tongue.

"Poor Snoop!" said Freddie, as he stopped his engine from pumping any more water. "I'm sorry I got you wet, Snoop, but I couldn't help it. I only meant to sprinkle the gobbler."

He patted Snoop, who began purring.

"Well, I guess that ends the show," said Bert, who looked funnier than ever now, as a clown, for the white on his face was streaked in many ways with the water, some of which had sprayed on him.

"Yes, the performance is over," announced Harry.

"Oh, but it was lovely!" said Nan, as she slid down the hay with Flossie. "I don't see how you boys ever got it up."

"Oh, we're smart boys!" laughed Harry.

"But I lost all the pins!" wailed Flossie. "Nan wouldn't let me stop to pick them up!"

"I should say not! With that queer wild animal bursting in on us!" exclaimed Mabel. "Oh, but I was so frightened!"

"Pooh! I wasn't!" boasted Freddie. "I knew my fire engine would scare them."

"Well, it did all right," announced Bert "I guess we'd better let Snap out now," he said, for the dog was barking loudly, and trying to break out of the packing box of which his cage was made.

Snoop's cage was broken, where the black cat had forced his way out.

"His tail must have been hanging down through the bars," explained Bert, "and the gobbler came along and nipped it. That made Snoop mad, and he got out and clawed the turkey."

"I guess that was it," agreed Harry. "Well, we had fun anyhow, if Snoop and the turkey did have a hard time."

Snoop was soon dry again, and not much the worse for what had happened to him. The gobbler, except for the loss of a few feathers, was not hurt. But after that the turkey and cat kept well out of each other's way.

Everyone voted the show a great success, and the children planned to have another one before they left Meadow Brook farm. But the Bobbsey twins did not know all that was in store for them before they went back to the city.

One day, when they were all seated at dinner in the pleasant Bobbsey farmhouse, Uncle Daniel paused, with a piece of pie half raised on his fork, and said:

"Hark!"

"What's the matter?" asked Aunt Sarah. "Did you think you heard the old ram coming again?"

"No, but it sounded like thunder," replied her husband, "and if it's going to rain I must hurry, and get those tomatoes picked."

"I heard something, too," said Mr. Bobbsey.

"So did I," spoke up Freddie. "Maybe it's the old black bull down in the pasture."

"No. There it goes again!" said Uncle Daniel. "It must be thunder!"

There sounded a dull distant booming noise, that was repeated several times.

Uncle Daniel got up hastily from the table and went to the door.

"Not a cloud in the sky," he remarked, "and yet that noise is growing louder."

It was, indeed, as they all could hear.

"It's guns, that's what it is," declared Bert "It sounds like Fourth of July."

"That's what it does," agreed his cousin

Harry. "It's back of those hills. I'm going to see what it is."

"So am I!" cried Bert. The boys had finished their dinners, and now started off on a run in the direction of the booming sounds.

"Come along," said Uncle Daniel to Mr. Bobbsey. "We may as well go also."

"I want to come!" cried Freddie.

"Not now," said his mother. "Wait until papa comes back."

Mr. Bobbsey, with his brother and the two boys, soon reached the top of the hill. All the while the sound like thunder was growing louder. Then puffs of smoke could be seen rising in the air.

"What can it be?" asked Bert.

"I can't imagine," answered Harry.

They saw, in another minute, what it was.

Down in a valley below them was a crowd of soldiers, with cannon and guns, firing at one another. The soldiers were divided into two parties. First one party would run forward, and then the other, both sides firing as fast as they could.

"It's a war!" cried Bert. "It's a battle!"

"It's only a sham battle!" said Mr. Bobbsey. "No one is being hurt, for they are using blank cartridges. It must be that the soldiers are practicing so as to know how to fight if a real war comes. It is only a sham battle."

The cannons roared, the rifles rattled and flashes of fire and puffs of smoke were on all sides.

"Oh, look at the horses--the cavalry!" cried Harry, as a company of men, mounted on horses, galloped toward some of the soldiers, who turned their rifles on them.

Then one man, on a big black horse, left the main body and came straight on toward Mr. Bobbsey, Uncle Daniel, and the two boys.

"We'd better look out!" cried Bert "Maybe he wants to capture us!"