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    Chapter XXI. Bad Money

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    Chapter 21
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    Bert, Harry and their chums hardly knew what to do. They felt sorry for Frank, and wanted to help him, but they did not know just how to go about it.

    "Do you know how to work on a farm?" asked Harry.

    "Well, no, not exactly," replied Frank. "But I know something about the lumber business, and I guess I could chop wood. They have to do that on farms, don't they?" he asked, and he was smiling a little now.

    "Oh, yes, wood has to be chopped," said Harry. "Entirely too much of it, I think. It makes my back ache."

    "Say, why can't we ask him to come back with us?" whispered Bert to Harry, as Frank picked up a stone and tossed it into the water.

    "I guess we could," said Harry, slowly.

    "Then I'm going to do it," went on Bert. "I say," he spoke to Frank, "wouldn't you like to come back to my uncle's house, and get something to eat? Maybe he could give you work. I know Harry and I have plenty to do."

    "I would like to come, very much," replied Frank, a brighter look coming over his face. "I'll do all the work I can, too," he added, quickly.

    "Come along then," invited Harry, and as Bert and Frank walked along together, ahead of the others, Harry told his chums how he had first met Frank at the circus, the time Freddie was lost. He also explained to the boys what Bert had told him about Frank running away.

    Leaving their chums with whom they had gone swimming, Bert and Harry led Frank down toward the pleasant farmhouse. Freddie was out in front, playing with his toy fire engine as usual. As soon as the little Bobbsey twin saw the circus lad, he exclaimed:

    "Oh, there's my boy--my elephant-boy that found me when everybody was lost but me. Oh, I'm glad to see you!" he cried, and he ran to Frank, who caught Freddie up in his arms, and kissed him.

    Nan and Flossie came down off the porch to see what all the excitement was about.

    "Oh, it's the circus-boy!" Flossie cried. "Did you bring any trained monkeys or elephants with you?" she asked.

    "No, not this time, I'm sorry to say," replied Frank. "They wouldn't let me take any of the animals with me when I came away."

    "Well, did you bring any--any peanuts?" asked Freddie. "Peanuts are good, even if you haven't any elephants to eat 'em."

    "No peanuts, either," went on Frank. Poor lad! He looked so hungry that if he had had any peanuts he probably would have eaten them himself.

    "Well, did you bring any--any balloons?" Flossie wanted to know.

    "Well, yes, I have some toy balloons," said Frank, and he pulled some pieces of rubber from his pocket. "These are circus balloons before they are blown up," explained Frank. "You can use a hollow goose quill to blow them full of air, and then tie a string, or thread, around the bottom, so the air won't come out. They won't go up like circus balloons, though," Frank said.

    "Why not?" Freddie wanted to know.

    "Because they have only air in them, instead of gas," Frank explained. "Gas is lighter than air, and that makes it lift the balloon. But you can have some fun with these," and he gave two each to Flossie and Freddie. "One of the circus men gave them to me," he went on. The children were soon playing with the balloons.

    By this time Mrs. Bobbsey had come out of the house, and when she saw Frank she remembered him at once.

    "Oh, it is very good to see you again," she exclaimed, and she looked sorry when he told her he had lost his place with the circus.

    "Well, perhaps it is all for the best," said Mr. Bobbsey, when he heard the news. "A circus is not the nicest place in the world for a growing boy, though many good men and women are in circuses."

    "I think I'd like to work on a farm for a change," said Frank.

    "Well, you won't find farm work very easy," spoke Uncle Daniel, as he came out to listen to the runaway's story. "And I think you had better go back to your guardian," he added. "He has been looking for you."

    "So Bert said," remarked Frank, "but I'll never go back to that lumber office to be treated as I was before. Mr. Mason really wasn't fair to me."

    "Perhaps he meant to be," said Mr. Bobbsey.

    "Well, didn't he punish me for something that wasn't my fault--taking that bad twenty dollar bill?" asked Frank.

    "He did punish you, yes," admitted Mr. Bobbsey, "and I am not saying he did right in that. But you were put in his charge by the courts, and he has authority to look after you, the same as a father would look after his children."

    "I think it is best that you go back to him," went on Uncle Daniel.

    "I never will!" exclaimed Frank.

    "Would you if I saw Mr. Mason and got him to promise to treat you more kindly, and overlook the loss of the twenty dollars?" asked the farmer.

    "Well, I might," replied Frank, slowly.

    "That's better!" exclaimed Uncle Daniel. "I like a young lad to have a real home," he went on, "and not be traveling about with a circus, no matter how good a show it is. What happened to the side-show you were with?" he asked Frank.

    "Oh, our biggest snake died," said the boy, "and the fat lady was taken sick, and got so thin she wasn't a curiosity any more, so the show 'busted up,' as the circus people called it."

    "Well, maybe it's just as well," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "I never did like snakes, anyhow, and it can't be healthful to be as fat as that lady was. I hope she gets better, and is thin enough to be comfortable. And now we must look after you, Frank. You will stay with us a few days, until Mr. Bobbsey and Uncle Daniel can arrange about your going back to your guardian."

    "Yes," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Now that you have promised, Frank, I shall write to Mr. Mason, telling him you are here. He is probably searching for you, wondering what has happened to you since you lost your place with the circus."

    "You are very kind to me," murmured the homeless boy.

    "Yes, and I think Mr. Mason will be kind to you, too, after we have had a talk with him," said Mr. Bobbsey. "Now, Frank, make yourself at home here, and have a good time."

    Frank certainly needed a good time if anyone did, for he had not had much fun thus far in life.

    Aunt Sarah took Frank to the dining-room, and soon Dinah had served a meal that would make any hungry boy feel very much at home, Frank said.

    "He shore hab got some appetite!" exclaimed Dinah, as she looked in through a crack in the kitchen door, and watched Frank eat.

    "Well, I guess anyone would have an appetite if they had to live on hay and oats," said Martha.

    "Hay an' oats!" cried Dinah. "Did he hab t' eat hay an' oats?"

    "He must have," Martha replied. "That's about all they have in circuses."

    "Pore boy!" sighed Dinah. "I'se gwine t' bake him a whole chocolate cake fo' his ownse'f; dat's what I am!"

    And she did, too, though Frank shared his treat with the others, a day or so later, when it was given to him.

    Meanwhile Frank was taken in almost as one of the family by the Bobbseys and their relatives and friends. Freddie never wanted to be away from his "circus-boy," as he called Frank, and Flossie, too, was quite in love with the wanderer.

    "It makes me homesick for Mrs. Mason's two little girls," said Frank to Mrs. Bobbsey, as he came in one day from having taken Freddie and Flossie for a walk.

    "Well, it's a good sign to be homesick," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "It shows you like your home, in spite of some bad times there. You will soon be back again."

    Mr. Mason had been written to, and told that his ward was at Meadow Brook, and would go back with him if he called. But no answer had yet been received.

    "I suppose he is trying to find you by following up the circus," said Mr. Bobbsey to Frank.

    A few days after this Bert, Harry and Frank were on their way to the village store to get some groceries for Aunt Sarah. As they came near the place, in front of which was a large porch, a man was seen peering around the corner of the building. At the sight of him Frank started and pulled Bert by the sleeve.

    "What's the matter?" asked Harry's cousin.

    "That man!" whispered Frank. "See him! That's the one who gave me the bad money--the Confederate twenty dollar bill. What can he be doing here? Oh, if I could only get Mr. Mason's money back from that man!"

    "Let's wait and see what he is doing," suggested Harry. The man had not yet seen them. The boys could watch him as he seemed to be hiding back of the corner of the country store.

    "He's up to some trick, I'm sure," said Bert.

    A few seconds later Mr. Mack, the owner of the store, came out and walked down the village street. Hardly had he started off than the strange man quickly went into the store.

    "He's going to take the money!" exclaimed Bert. "There's no one in the store now. He waited for Mr. Mack to come out, so he could go in and get the money."

    "No, I don't think that," spoke Harry. "George Smith, a boy I know, works for Mr. Mack, and attends to the store when Mr. Mack goes out. George must be in there now."

    "Well, that man is up to some trick, I'm sure!" exclaimed Frank. "How can we find out what it is?"

    "We can go in the store through the back door," said Harry. "Come on, we'll do it, and sneak in quietly! Then we can see what's going on."

    Quietly the three boys went into the store through the rear entrance. No one up front could see them because of the piles of boxes and barrels in front of the counters.

    "Well, what can I do for you to-day?" the three heard George Smith ask the stranger.

    "I want two pounds of the best butter," was the man's answer. "And I suppose you can change a twenty dollar bill, can't you?"

    "Oh, yes," said George. "We've got that much change."

    "You were sure of that?" asked the man, glancing around the store nervously.

    "Yes, sir, we always keep plenty of change on hand."

    "Very well then, go and weigh out the butter and be sure and give me good weight."

    "We always give full weight, sir," answered George.

    Bert and the others could hear, but could not see George as he weighed out the butter. Then Frank whispered:

    "I want to get near enough so I can see what kind of a twenty dollar bill that man gives this boy. Maybe it will be no good, just as he fooled me."

    "Come over here," whispered Harry. "You can look through this crack between two boxes. It's right near the cash drawer, and you can see the bill when George makes change for it."

    Frank crept up to make an observation, and as the store boy took the bill from the man, and began making change, Frank could not hold back any longer. He saw that the bill was the same kind that had fooled him. It was Confederate money, and utterly worthless.

    "Don't give that man any change!" cried Frank. "That's bad money!"
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