BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE SUNNY SOUTH
LAURA LEE HOPE
Author of The Bunny Brown Series, The Bobbsey Twins Series, The Outdoor Girls Series, The Six Little Bunkers Series, The Make-Believe Stories, Etc.
Illustrated by Walter S. Rodgers
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers Made in the United States of America
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BY LAURA LEE HOPE
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
THE BUNNY BROWN SERIES
BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON GRANDPA'S FARM BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE PLAYING CIRCUS BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT AUNT LU'S CITY HOME BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CAMP-REST-A-WHILE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE BIG WOODS BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON AN AUTO TOUR BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AND THEIR SHETLAND PONY BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE GIVING A SHOW BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CHRISTMAS TREE COVE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE SUNNY SOUTH
THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES
THE BOBBSEY TWINS THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE SEASHORE THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SCHOOL THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SNOW LODGE THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON A HOUSEBOAT THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT MEADOW BROOK THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT HOME THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN A GREAT CITY THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON BLUEBERRY ISLAND THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN WASHINGTON THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE GREAT WEST THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT CEDAR CAMP
THE SIX LITTLE BUNKERS SERIES
THE MAKE-BELIEVE STORIES
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES
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Grosset & Dunlap Publishers New York Copyright, 1921, by Grosset & Dunlap
Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue in the Sunny South
CHAPTER PAGE I THE SNOW MAN 1 II BUNNY'S TRICK 10 III ORANGE BLOSSOMS 19 IV A RUNAWAY 31 V OUT OF A DUSTPAN 43 VI OFF FOR GEORGIA 50 VII THE PLANTATION 60 VIII AMONG THE COTTON PICKERS 73 IX GATHERING PEANUTS 84 X ON TO FLORIDA 93 XI THE POOR CAT 104 XII A STRANGE RIDE 115 XIII NUTTY, THE TRAMP 123 XIV A QUEER PICNIC 134 XV LEFT ALONE 144 XVI THE JOLLY SWITCHMAN 154 XVII A WORRIED MOTHER 164 XVIII THE TRICK DOG 171 XIX A HAPPY REUNION 180 XX AT ORANGE BEACH 191 XXI GOLDEN APPLES 198 XXII THE RAFT 207 XXIII ON THE ISLAND 216 XXIV THE ALLIGATORS 225 XXV MR. BUNN 234
BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE SUNNY SOUTH
THE SNOW MAN
"Oh, Bunny! what you making such a big nose for?"
"So I can hit it easier, Sue, when I peg snowballs at it."
Bunny Brown and his sister Sue were in the backyard of their home, making a big man of snow. There had been quite a storm the day before, and many white flakes had fallen. As soon as the storm stopped and the weather grew warm enough, Mrs. Brown let Bunny and Sue go out to play. And of course one of the first things they did, after running about in the clean white snow, making "tracks," was to start a snow man.
Bunny was working away at the face of the white chap when Sue asked him about the big nose he was making.
"What'd you say you were going to do, Bunny?" asked Sue, who was digging away in the snow about where the man's legs would be when he was finished.
"I said—" replied her brother, as he pressed some snow in his red-mittened hand, getting ready to plaster it on the man's funny face—"I said I was making his nose big so I could hit it easier with a snowball."
"Oh, Bunny!" cried Sue, "are you going to throw snowballs at our nice snow man?"
"Of course!" replied Bunny. "That's what we're making him for! I'm going to put a hat on him, too. Course a hat's easier to hit than a nose, 'specially a tall hat like the one I'm going to make. You can throw at the hat if you want to and I'll throw at the nose."
"Oh, Bunny!" exclaimed Sue, and from her voice you might have thought Bunny had said he was going to throw a snowball at Wango, the pet monkey of Mr. Jed Winkler, an animal of which Bunny Brown and his sister Sue were very fond. "Bunny, don't hurt him!"
"Pooh! You don't s'pose a snow man can feel, do you?" asked Bunny, turning to look at his sister. He had just begun to understand why it was that Sue did not want him to throw snowballs at the big white fellow when he was finished.
"Well, maybe he can't feel," said Sue, for she was really too old to have such a little child's belief. At least she felt she was too old to confess to such a feeling. "But what's the fun of making a nice snow man and then hitting him all over with snowballs? I'm not going to throw at his tall hat, even if you make one. Why can't you throw balls at something else, Bunny, like a tree or a telegraph pole?"
"'Cause I can peg at them any time," Bunny answered, with a laugh. "It's more fun to throw snowballs at a snow man and make believe he's real. He can't chase you then."
"Well, I'm not going to throw anything at our nice snow man," decided Sue, digging away with her little shovel to carve out the legs.
"You don't have to," said Bunny, fairly enough. "I'll do it all, Sue."
"Well," said his sister, with a shake of her head, "you can throw at your part of the snow man, if you like, but you can't throw at my part!"
"Which—which is your part?" asked Bunny, and he spoke as though greatly surprised.
"The legs," answered Sue. "I wish you wouldn't throw any snowballs at the legs, Bunny Brown."
"All right, I won't," he promised kindly. For Bunny was a year older than his sister, and, at most times, was kind and good to her.
"You can throw at your own part as much as you like," went on Sue, "but I'm not going to have my part spoiled."
"All right," her brother agreed again. "I'll throw at his nose and high hat—after I make it—and I won't touch his legs."
This seemed to satisfy Sue, and for some time the children played in the yard, where the big snow man was being made. He was as large as Sue and Bunny could build him. First they had rolled a snowball around the yard, and, as the snow was soft and packed well, the ball grew larger and larger.
Then, when it was about the size Bunny thought was right, it was left at the place where the man was to stand.
"Now we have to roll another ball," Bunny had said.
"What for?" asked Sue, who, though she had often seen snow men, had perhaps forgotten just how they were made.
"This second ball is for his stomach," Bunny said.
"What good is a stomach?" asked Sue. "He can't eat."
"He could maybe eat icicles if he wanted to," Bunny had answered. "Anyhow, the second snowball has to go on top of the bottom one and make the body. Then you cut legs out of the bottom snowball. You can cut the legs, 'cause I'm taller 'n you and I can reach up and make the face."
Sue was digging away with her little shovel at the bottom snowball to make the man's legs, and Bunny was just finishing the big nose when, suddenly, a snowball came sailing into the Brown yard and fell with a thud between Bunny and his sister.
They both started, and Bunny cried:
"Did you throw that, Sue? If you did you mustn't, for 'tisn't time to start throwing yet!"
"Ha! Ha!" laughed a voice around the corner of the Brown home, and down the path came running Charlie Star, one of Bunny's playmates, followed by Helen Newton, a little girl with whom Sue was very fond of playing. It was Charlie who had laughed.
"I threw the snowball," he said. "But I only did it to make you jump. I wasn't trying to hit you, Bunny and Sue."
"All right," replied Bunny. "Want to help make the snow man?"
"Sure!" answered Charlie.
"Oh, what fun!" added Helen. "May I help?"
"You may help me make the legs," replied Sue. "Bunny says he's going to throw snowballs at his part—that's the head," she explained.
"That'll be fun!" decided Charlie Star. "Come on, let's hurry up and get it finished and then we'll see who's the best shot."
"I've got to get a hat made first," Bunny stated. "It'll be a lot more fun pegging at a tall hat."
"If you could get a real one—one of the shiny black kind—it would be dandy," said Charlie.
"Well, I can make one just as good of snow," Bunny said. "Come on, Charlie!"
Together the four children played around the snow man, who was slowly coming to look more and more like himself.
"Oh, isn't he a big fellow!" cried Helen, walking off a little way to get a better view.
"Wait till I make his hat," suggested Bunny. "Then he'll look bigger, and we can hit him easier, Charlie."
"All but his legs!" cried Sue. "You mustn't hit his legs, Bunny Brown. They're my part."
"No, we won't hit the legs," agreed Bunny. "Charlie, you look for some pieces of coal for the eyes. I'm going to roll another snowball to make the tall hat."
Bunny walked over toward the side of his house to find some snow that had not been trampled on, so he would have a good place to start to roll the ball that could be cut into the shape of a tall hat. Sue and Helen had about finished work on the snow man's legs, and Charlie had fitted in two chunks of black coal for eyes.
"Shall I put some of the red paper on for ears?" asked Charlie, as he was about to make the mouth.
"Snow men don't have red ears!" laughed Helen.
"My ears get red when they're cold," said Sue.
"We'll make the ears out of snow," called Bunny, who was rolling the snowball near the house. "I forgot about them. But I guess we don't need 'em, anyhow."
All of a sudden, as Bunny was bending over to give the hat snowball a final roll, which would make it about the right size, a queer noise sounded. It seemed to come from the roof of the Brown house.
Charlie, Sue, and Helen looked up. They saw, sliding down the sloping roof of the house, a big mass of snow, like a great drift. It was just above Bunny's head, and the other children could see that it would slide right down on top of him.
"Look out, Bunny!" screamed Sue.
Her brother glanced up from the ball he was rolling.
"Look out for the slide from the roof!" shouted Charlie.
Bunny started to run, but it was too late. In another second down came the big mass of snow with a rush, covering Bunny Brown from sight!
For a moment after the rush and fall of the snow from the roof, the mass of white flakes coming down with a swish and a thud, there was silence. Sue, Helen, and Charlie were so frightened and surprised that they did not know what to do. Then, after two or three seconds, Sue seemed to find her voice, and she exclaimed:
"He—he's gone!" gasped Helen.
But Charlie understood.
"Bunny's covered up under that snow!" he cried. "We've got to dig him out. You'd better run in and tell your mother, Sue!"
This was something Sue understood. Mother was the one to tell in times of trouble, especially when daddy wasn't there.
"Oh, Mother! Mother!" cried Sue, running toward the house, "Bunny is under the snow—a big pile of it!"
"And we must dig him out!" screamed Helen, remembering what Charlie had said.
Charlie, while the girls ran screaming toward the house, leaped toward the pile of snow that had slid from the roof and began digging in it with his hands.
And while Bunny is under the snow heap, from which he doubtless hoped soon to be rescued, I will take just a moment or two to tell my new readers something about Bunny Brown and his sister Sue.
Those were the names of the children. Their father, Mr. Walter Brown, kept a boat and fish dock in the town of Bellemere on Sandport Bay, near the ocean. Helping Mr. Brown at the dock was Bunker Blue, a big, strong boy, very fond of Bunny and Sue. The first book of the series is called "Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue," and in that you may read of the many adventures the children had together, and with their friends, who, besides Charlie and Helen, were George and Mary Watson, Harry Bentley, Sadie West, and a number of other children.
In the town of Bellemere were other persons, more or less friendly to Bunny and Sue. I have mentioned Jed Winkler, an old sailor who owned a monkey named Wango. His sister, Miss Euphemia, was not as fond of monkeys or children as was her brother.
Uncle Tad was an old soldier, who lived in the Brown home. He was really an uncle to Mr. Brown, but Bunny and Sue claimed him as their own. In a distant city lived Aunt Lu, whom the children had once visited.
Bunny Brown and his sister Sue had many adventures besides those told of in the first book. They went to Grandpa's farm, they played circus, they visited at Aunt Lu's city home, they camped in the woods at "Camp Rest-a-While," journeyed to the big woods, took an auto tour, had rides on a Shetland pony, gave a show in the town hall, and just before this story opens they had been to Christmas Tree Cove, where they took part in many strange happenings and solved a queer mystery.
They had been back from Christmas Tree Cove for some time, and now winter had set in. Then came the big storm, the making of the snow man and the slide of snow from the roof, covering Bunny Brown from sight.
"Oh, Mother! Mother! come and get Bunny out," cried Sue, as she raced toward the house.
"And bring a shovel!" added Helen, glancing back to see where Charlie was trying to get to the bottom of the pile by using his hands.
"What's the matter?" asked Mrs. Brown, as she came to the door in answer to the cries of the two girls.
"Oh, Bunny—Bunny—a—a—" Then Sue had to stop, for she was breathless.
"He's under the snow!" cried Helen, able to finish the sad news Sue had started.
Mrs. Brown, who had been sewing in the house, had heard the slide of snow from the roof, and had also heard the thud it made as it landed in the yard. Now she understood what Sue and Helen meant. Bunny, somehow or other, was under that snowslide.
"Oh, Uncle Tad!" cried Mrs. Brown. "Come quick! Bunny is under a snowslide from the roof! We'll have to get him out!"
Mrs. Brown hurried from the house, followed by the two little girls. But Helen paused long enough to shout:
"Bring a shovel! That's what Charlie said!"
"Is Charlie under the snow, too?" asked Mrs. Brown, as she hurried around the corner of the house.
"No'm. But he's digging with his hands," Helen answered. "I guess the shovels Bunny and Sue were making the snow man with are too small to dig with."
This was so, and Mrs. Brown was thinking of turning back into the house to get the large shovel when she saw Uncle Tad coming with it.
"I'll soon dig him out," said the old soldier, as he began to work with the shovel.
"Poor Bunny!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "I can't even see him."
"The snow came down from on top," explained Charlie. "It went right over his head and everything!"
"I hope he isn't hurt," said Mrs. Brown, picking up one of the small shovels the children had been using and beginning to help Uncle Tad dig.
"I guess it won't hurt him much," Charlie said. "The snow's soft. Once I was in a snow house and the roof fell in on me and I was all covered up, but I wasn't hurt."
"That's good," remarked Mrs. Brown. "We're digging you out, Bunny," she called.
"I don't guess he can hear you," said Helen, when no answer came from beneath the snow.
"I couldn't hear when I was in the snow house," said Charlie. "My ears were all stopped up."
"We'll soon have him out," declared Uncle Tad, tossing aside big shovelfuls of the damp snow. "It's a deep pile, though."
There were now three of them digging away at the pile of snow which hid Bunny Brown from sight. Of course Uncle Tad was doing the most work, as his shovel was so large. Pile after pile he tossed aside, and he was fast getting to the bottom, when, all of a sudden there was a cracking sound, and the handle of Uncle Tad's shovel broke in the middle.
"Oh, dear!" cried the old soldier. "This is too bad!"
"And we haven't another large shovel!" said Mrs. Brown. "Walter took our second one down to the dock with him this morning!"
"Well, perhaps I can make this do," said Uncle Tad. "Though I can't work as fast as I could if the handle wasn't broken."
"Sue, and Helen, run next door and see if you can borrow a large snow shovel," called Mrs. Brown. "Don't stop to tell them what it's for, or Bunny may smother."
"Oh, no'm, I guess he won't," Charlie said, as he dug away with the little shovel that Sue had been using. "When I was under the snow I could breathe all I wanted to."
Mrs. Brown said she was glad to hear this, but, for all that, she dug as fast as she could with the other small shovel, and Uncle Tad, using the one with the broken handle, did the best he could.
Helen and Sue hurried next door to see if they could borrow a broad wooden shovel, but before they returned Uncle Tad had managed to dig down through the pile of snow until he reached the ground and the side of the house foundation—the upper part of the cellar wall.
"Why, Bunny isn't here!" cried Uncle Tad, in great surprise.
"Isn't he?" asked the little boy's mother, looking over Uncle Tad's shoulder down into the hole in the snow pile.
"There isn't a sign of him," went on the soldier. "Are you sure you saw him get covered from sight here?" he asked Charlie.
"It was right here," answered Bunny's chum. "He was rolling a snowball to make a hat for the man when down the snow slid off the roof. It covered Bunny and the snowball he was rolling."
"Oh, we must hurry!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown, now growing very anxious. "He surely will be smothered, under the snow all this while!"
She began to dig again with the small shovel, and Uncle Tad was doing his best with the broken one when Sue and Helen, coming around the corner with a large shovel which they had borrowed next door, gave a sudden cry.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Brown.
"There's Bunny now!" exclaimed Sue. "Look!"
They all looked, and, surely enough, Bunny was coming up the outside steps of the cellar. He walked up as if nothing had happened.
"Bunny Brown! what trick is this?" exclaimed his mother. "What made you pretend to be buried under all that snow and give us such a fright for, when you weren't there at all?"
"But I was there, Mother," Bunny said. "I was under the snow."
"Then how did you get out?" Uncle Tad asked. "It surely looks like a trick, Bunny Brown."
Bunny Brown walked from the cellarway over to where his mother, Uncle Tad, his sister, and his playmates stood. Uncle Tad and Mother Brown looked rather reproachfully at the little boy. They really thought he had played a joke on them, or at least that he had caused the other children to do so, sending them to cry that he was buried under the snow.
But Sue, Charlie, and Helen knew that Bunny had really been covered from sight under the snow. They knew there was no trick about it, though they did not know how it was Bunny appeared as if coming out of the cellar when he should have been under the snow.
"I didn't play any trick, Mother. Really I didn't," said Bunny earnestly. He had played tricks in times past, but his mother knew he always told the truth.
"Were you really under that pile of snow?" asked the old soldier.
"Yes, Uncle Tad, I was," Bunny answered. "The snow came down off the roof and covered me all up."
"Then why didn't I find you there when I dug all the way down to the ground and the cellar wall?" asked Uncle Tad.
"Because," answered Bunny, with a queer little smile on his rosy face, "when the snow piled on top of me, and knocked me down, I was right close by a cellar window. First I didn't know what to do. Then I saw the window, and I pushed on it, and it opened.
"I went through the window into the cellar. There was a box under the window inside the cellar, and I got on that and then I jumped off down to the floor.
"First I couldn't see anything, 'cause it was so dark there, but I could after a while, and I come out by the door."
"Oh, Bunny!" exclaimed his mother. "We never thought of the cellar windows! Of course I see how it could happen," she said to Uncle Tad. "The pile of snow does cover a window."
She pointed toward one end of the big pile under which Bunny had been hidden. This end did, indeed, cover one of the low cellar windows, and when the snow was shoveled away it could be seen where the little boy had scrambled through.
"Say, it was lucky the cellar window wasn't fastened," said Charlie.
"It surely was!" agreed Bunny. "I was glad when it opened."
"I didn't know we had left any of them unbolted," Mrs. Brown said. "We'll fasten it now. But don't get under any more snowslides, Bunny."
"Now we can finish making our snow man!" Bunny said, as his mother and uncle turned to go into the house.
"Yes, I guess there's no more danger of snow sliding off the roof," remarked Uncle Tad. "All that could fall has slid off."
"Don't forget to take Mr. Snyder's shovel back," Mother Brown called to the children.
They promised to return it, and then began an hour of fun with the snow man. Bunny finished making the tall white hat, and then he and Charlie threw snowballs at it and at the nose of the snow man until he was so battered and plastered that he did not look at all like himself.
Sue and Helen threw a few snowballs at the legs of the man, but they soon tired of this, for Charlie and Bunny grew so excited with their sport that there was not much chance for the girls.
"Let's go and slide downhill," proposed Sue.
"That'll be fun," agreed Helen. So, taking their sleds, the girls went to a little hill not far away, where, meeting Mary Watson and Sadie West, they had good times riding down the snowy slope.
"Well, he doesn't look much like a snow man now," laughed Charlie Star, after many balls had been thrown at the white image.
"No; his face is all gone," Bunny agreed. "What'll we do now?"
"Let's go over on the hill," proposed Charlie. "It's getting so warm that maybe the snow won't last much longer, and we don't want to miss the fun."
"It is getting warmer," Bunny agreed. "The wind's coming from the south," he added as he looked at the weather vane on the barn and saw that it was pointed to the south. "I guess they don't ever have snow down south; do they, Charlie?"
"They don't where my aunt lives," Charlie answered. "She's down in Florida—away down in the end, near Key West. She sends me letters sometimes, and she says they never have snow there. She has all the oranges she wants, too!"
"I'd like to live there!" Bunny said, smacking his lips. "I love oranges. But I'd like a little snow once in a while, wouldn't you, Charlie?"
"Oh, yes! You couldn't have any fun in winter without snow."
"I'd like to see such a place—just once, anyhow," went on Bunny Brown. And he little knew how soon he was to get his desire.
The two boys, having pelted the snow man all they wished, got their sleds and soon joined Sue and the other girls on the hill. There they had races, and coasted down in as many different ways as they could think of. Finally Bunny cried:
"Let's make a bob, Charlie!"
"No, you mustn't do that!" exclaimed Sue.
"Who said so?" demanded Bunny.
"Daddy," Sue answered. "He said I wasn't to make any bobs on the hill."
"Well, he didn't tell me not to," declared her brother.
"I guess he meant you," answered Sue. "You'd better not make a bob, Bunny Brown! You might get hurt!"
Making a bob, it might be explained, meant that two or three boys and sometimes the older girls would lie flat on their sleds. Then one coaster would take hold of the rear of the sled in front of him, and twine his feet around the front runners of the sled behind him. In this way half a dozen boys or girls could lock themselves and their sleds together and go down the hill that way.
There was danger in it because sometimes the hands or legs of some one in the middle would lose their grip, and the "bob" would come apart. Then sleds would crash together, and often the children were hurt. Sue's father had told her never to do this, for he had more than once seen children hurt at this game.
Whether he had told Bunny not to make a bob I do not know. I think if Bunny had been forbidden this fun he would not have taken part in it. But perhaps he forgot.
Anyhow, he and Charlie and some of the other lads stretched out on their sleds, making a bob as I have told you it was done, and down the hill they coasted.
All went well for some distance, and then suddenly Harry Bentley, who was in the middle, lost his hold of Bunny's sled.
"Hold on to me! Hold on to me!" cried Bunny, as he saw that he was slipping sideways.
"I can't!" Harry answered.
A few seconds later the bob came apart, some boys rolling off their sleds and others coasting down backwards or sideways. Bunny went on by himself for some little distance, and then, all of a sudden, the two last boys, who were still locked together, crashed right into the side of Bunny's sled, knocking him off and coasting on right over him!
"Oh! Oh!" cried Sue, who saw what had happened. "Look at Bunny!"
For a moment it seemed that her brother must be severely hurt, but when some of the older boys ran to pick him up, Bunny arose by himself. On his face was a spot of blood.
"Oh, you're hurt!" cried Charlie Star.
Bunny put his hand to his nose. It was bleeding, and at first he was frightened. But he did not cry.
"I—I don't care!" he said bravely. "I've had nose-bleed before. It don't hurt much!"
"Hold some snow on it," advised one boy. "That'll stop the bleeding."
Bunny did this, but as the cold snow hurt worse than the pain of his bumped nose, he soon tossed the red ball away.
"Come on, I'll take you home," said Jack Denson, one of the older boys. "Don't cry, Sue," he said, as Bunny's sister began to whimper. "He's all right."
Jack was very kind, wiping the blood off Bunny's face at times with a handkerchief, so that when the Brown home was almost reached the bleeding had nearly stopped. Sue, who had been very much frightened at first, was growing calmer, and Bunny was feeling better. As they neared their house they saw their father coming home from his work at the boat and fish dock.
"There's my father," Bunny said.
"Oh, then you'll be all right," remarked Jack. "I'll skip back then, for I've got to go to the store for my mother."
Mr. Brown stood at the gate waiting for his two children, who came along dragging their sleds.
"Why, Bunny! what's the matter?" asked Mr. Brown, when he saw the blood on his son's face.
"He played bob; and didn't you tell him not to?" broke out Sue. "An' the bob busted and he got bumped into and he was run over and he was under a drift and he crawled through the cellar window an' Uncle Tad couldn't find him an'—an'—everything!" gasped Sue, now quite out of breath.
"My, you're telling all the bad news at once!" laughed her father, for he saw that Bunny was not seriously hurt and he knew that sometimes accidents will happen on coasting hills.
Mr. Brown had a box under his arm. It was a box that had come through the mail, as Bunny and Sue could see by the stamps. It looked very interesting and mysterious, this box did, and the children regarded it curiously as they walked up the path to the front door of the house with their father.
"Didn't you tell Bunny never to make a bob?" asked Sue, as Daddy Brown took his key from his pocket to open the door.
"I don't know that I did," was the answer. "Still if it is dangerous to make bobs I wish neither you nor Bunny to do it."
"Oh, it's lots of fun," Bunny said. "And my nose doesn't hurt much now. What's in the box, Daddy?" he asked.
"I'll show you in a minute," Mr. Brown promised. "It is something very nice."
"Candy?" cried Sue, who had more than one "sweet tooth," I think.
"No, not candy," her father teased. "You'll soon see."
He went into the house with the children, and as soon as Mrs. Brown saw Bunny she knew what had happened; at least she knew his nose had bled.
"Did you have a tumble?" she asked.
"He was in a bob and it broke and he was run over!" cried Sue, who seemed anxious to do all the telling.
"Well, I'm glad it was no worse," said Mother Brown. "What's this?" she asked, as her husband handed her the box. "For me?"
"Yes," he answered. "Orange blossoms."
"Orange blossoms! How lovely!" cried the children's mother. "Where from?"
"Florida. Mr. Halliday sent them. He's down there on an orange farm, and I may have to go down myself."
"Down where?" cried Bunny.
"South," answered his father.
"To Florida where the orange blossoms grow?" asked Sue eagerly, as her mother was opening the box.
"Well, we may get to Florida. But first I shall have to go to Georgia," answered Mr. Brown.
"Oh, take us!" cried Bunny and Sue. "Please take us!"
"We'll see," said Mr. Brown, with a look at his wife. "We'll talk it over after supper. Let's look at the orange blossoms now."
While Mother Brown was opening the box there came a noise at the side door as though some one were trying to break it open by pounding on it.
Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, who were standing on their tiptoes to look at the orange blossoms in the box, turned quickly and glanced at the door as the pounding sounded again.
"I wonder who that can be," said Mother Brown, pausing with the box cover in her hand.
"I'll go and see," offered Mr. Brown. "It's queer they didn't go to the front door."
"Maybe it's somebody from the post-office come to take our orange blossoms away," suggested Bunny.
"What would they do that for?" Sue wanted to know.
"'Cause," answered Bunny, "maybe the orange blossoms came to the wrong place and have to go to somebody else, like that letter one day." He was speaking of a time when the letter carrier left a wrong missive at Mr. Brown's home, and came later to get it.
"Oh, these are daddy's orange blossoms all right!" said Mrs. Brown, as she looked at the address on the box. "They came to him at his office on the dock."
"Then who can it be?" asked Bunny, as the knock sounded again.
There came the sound of a bark as Mr. Brown opened the door, and next the children heard their father exclaim:
"Well, you poor half-frozen fellow! Come in and get warm! Go on away, dog!" exclaimed Mr. Brown. "Let Wango alone!"
"Oh, it's Wango!" cried Sue, running to the door.
"Mr. Winkler's monkey!" added Bunny. "Did he bring him over to play with us?"
"No, Wango seems to have come by himself," answered Mr. Brown, and as soon as the door was opened wider in scrambled the monkey, a stick of wood in one paw probably being what he had been pounding on the door with. From the light of the lamp, which streamed out on the side porch, the children could see a big black dog that, very likely, had been chasing and barking at poor Wango.
"Go on away, dog!" cried Mr. Brown, and, stooping, he gathered up a handful of snow from a corner of the side porch and threw it at the barking animal, which then ran away.
Meanwhile Wango, the pet monkey that was a great favorite with Bunny and Sue, came shivering into the room to get warm.
"Oh, you poor thing!" cried Sue. "I'll get you my coat to put on! You're all shivery!" She started for the hall to get her garment, while Bunny petted the wet head of the long-tailed animal.
"No, Sue! Don't take your coat," called her mother. "You'll get it covered with monkey hairs. Wrap a floor rug around Wango if you like."
"I'll do that!" cried Bunny, taking a small carpet rug up from the floor. This he draped around Wango's shoulders, and the cold, shivering monkey seemed to like it.
"Well, Wango, what made you come out this kind of weather?" asked Mr. Brown, coming back to the table on which was standing the box of orange blossoms.
"Maybe Mr. Winkler left the window open and he got out," said Sue.
"Don't monkeys like cold, Daddy?" asked Bunny.
"No, they come from warm, tropical countries," answered his father. "They cannot stand the cold."
"Florida is warm, isn't it, Daddy?" asked Sue, as she helped wrap the rug about Wango.
"Oh, yes, Florida, especially the southern part where oranges grow, is quite warm," Mr. Brown answered. "There is no snow there."
"Then maybe we can find some monkeys when we go down!" Sue said. "Won't that be nice, Bunny? We'll each have a monkey of our own."
"I'm going to teach mine to do circus tricks!" cried Bunny.
"Hold on! Hold on!" laughed Mr. Brown. "In the first place, there aren't any monkeys in Florida—at least none running around wild as there are in the South American jungles. And in the second place, what makes you children so sure you are going to Florida?"
"You said you'd take us!" replied Bunny.
"I said I'd see," remarked his father. "Anyway, I have to go on business to Georgia, not Florida, though your mother and I may take a trip to the orange country later on."
"But if you went you'd take us, wouldn't you?" pleaded Sue.
"Oh, of course he would! Don't tease the children so!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "And what are we going to do with Wango?" she asked, for the monkey seemed quite contented now that he was in a warm, light room with his two special friends, Bunny and Sue.
"I think Jed will be after him as soon as he finds his monkey is missing," said Mr. Brown. "But let's get those orange blossoms in water, to freshen them up. Mr. Halliday said he would send me some packed in damp moss, so they would keep pretty well, but he told me to put them in a bathtub full of water as soon as I got them and they would freshen up."
"These seem quite fresh now," remarked Mother Brown, as she lifted from the box, lined with moss, the fragrant orange blossoms. Their perfume filled the whole room, and even Wango sniffed in delight, at least so Bunny said.
The children were allowed to look at the beautiful waxlike white blossoms, with their glossy green leaves, and then Mother Brown carried them upstairs to immerse them in the bathtub full of water. When they had freshened up they would be put in vases.
"Oh, I'd just love to see orange blossoms growing on a tree!" sighed Sue, as she drew in a deep breath of the fragrance.
"I'd rather see oranges and eat 'em!" exclaimed Bunny. "Can I pick oranges off a tree?" he asked his father.
"Well, yes. I suppose I might as well say I'll take you and then you'll stop teasing," said Mr. Brown laughingly, as his wife came back, having left the orange blossoms upstairs. "We'll all go to Florida!"
"When?" cried Bunny and Sue, eagerly.
"In about a week, I think," their father answered. "I shall have to go to Georgia then, and after I get through my business there we can run down to Florida for a few weeks."
There came a knock on the door just then, and when it was opened there stood the old sailor, Jed Winkler.
"Is my monkey here?" he asked. "Yes, I see he is," he added, as he caught sight of his pet near Bunny and Sue. "Come here, you rascal!" he went on, pretending to be cross. "What did you want to run away for?"
"Is that what he did?" asked Bunny.
"Yes," answered Mr. Winkler, as he came in. "My sister opened the windows to-day when she was sweeping or dusting or doing something like that, and she must have forgotten to lock one. Wango found it and got out. I didn't miss him until a little while ago. I hope he hasn't been into any mischief."
"Oh, no," answered Mr. Brown. "It looks as though a strange dog might have chased him after he left your house. We heard a pounding on our door a few minutes ago, and when I opened it Wango rushed in.
"There was a big, strange dog near the porch, but I drove it away. Your monkey had a stick in his hand. He probably picked it up to hit the dog with, and he used it to pound on our door."
"He pounded hard, too," said Sue. "Wango pounded very hard."
"Hope he didn't hurt the door," said the old sailor.
"Oh, I think not," Mr. Brown answered. "But he was cold and shivery, so the children wrapped him up."
"Well, I'm much obliged," said Mr. Winkler. "Come along home, Wango!" he called, and the monkey leaped into his master's arms, dropping the stick, which he no longer needed. "What's that nice smell?" asked Mr. Winkler, as he started for home. "Did somebody break a bottle of perfume?"
"It's orange blossoms," explained Bunny.
"And we're going to Florida and pick oranges," added Sue. "But there aren't any monkeys there."
"Then that's the place where my sister ought to go," laughed the old man. "She hates monkeys, and I think sometimes she leaves the windows open or unlocked on purpose so Wango'll get lost. But I wouldn't want to tell her that," he went on. For Miss Winkler was of rather a sour disposition, not at all as jolly and happy as her brother.
When the old sailor and his pet had gone and supper was over, Bunny and Sue sat near their father and mother, talking happily about the coming trip to the sunny South where the orange blossoms grow. The flowers had been brought downstairs and filled the rooms with fragrance.
"You'll be sure to take us now, won't you, Daddy?" asked Bunny, as he and Sue started for bed a little later.
"Oh, yes, we shall all go South," promised Mr. Brown. "But you can't make snow men or go coasting there, Bunny."
"Picking oranges will be more fun," decided the little boy.
He and Sue had happy dreams that night, and there were no visions of alligators mingled with those of orange flowers.
In the night it snowed, so the next day there was more of the white flaky substance on the ground.
"This'll make good sleighing," said Uncle Tad at the breakfast table. "You children want to come for a ride with me?"
Did they? You should have heard Bunny Brown and his sister Sue exclaim in delight at this!
"Where are you going?" asked Mrs. Brown, as Uncle Tad went out to harness the horse to the small sleigh.
"Walter wanted me to go to the railroad depot and get some freight that came in for him," answered the old soldier. "There are some small boxes of things he needs for his motor boat. There'll be plenty of room for the youngsters."
"All right—take them along," said Mrs. Brown. And a little later Bunny and Sue were in the sleigh with Uncle Tad.
"Whoa there now! Steady, Prince!" called the soldier to the horse, for the animal seemed rather more frisky than usual.
"What makes him go so fast?" asked Bunny, for he could tell that Uncle Tad was having hard work to hold in the horse.
"Oh, he hasn't been out for two or three days and he feels frisky," the soldier answered. "But I guess I can manage him all right. Sit tight, you two!"
There were many other sleighs and cutters out around Bellemere, and the air was filled with the jingle of merry bells. Bunny and Sue saw many of their friends and waved to them.
"I guess all the boys and girls'll wish they were us when we go to Florida, won't they?" asked Sue of Bunny.
"I guess they will!" he declared.
They were nearing the railroad now, on their way to the freight depot to get the boxes for Mr. Brown. There were several tracks to cross before the depot could be reached.
Suddenly, as the sleigh containing Bunny and Sue was about to cross the rails, a distant locomotive gave a loud whistle. Prince gave a jump and, a moment later, began to trot very fast.
"Whoa! Whoa there! Steady, Prince!" cried Uncle Tad, taking a firm hold of the reins. But Prince did not settle down. Instead he ran the faster, and straight for the tracks. And as the whistle of the locomotive sounded louder, Bunny and Sue knew a train was coming!
"Oh, Uncle Tad!" cried Sue, clinging to Bunny.
"Keep quiet, children!" begged the old soldier. "I guess we'll be all right!"
"Is he running away?" asked Bunny.
"I'm afraid he is," answered Uncle Tad. "But I'll pull him down in a minute. Sit tight and hold fast!"
OUT OF A DUSTPAN
Prince was certainly a frisky horse that morning. In spite of all Uncle Tad could do by pulling on the reins and calling soothingly to the animal, he raced with the sleigh over the railroad tracks. And the train was coming nearer and nearer. Bunny and Sue well knew what would happen if it hit them.
"Whoa there, Prince! Be a good horse!" called Uncle Tad. He pulled harder on the reins, and when he saw that unless turned, the animal might dash across the tracks right in front of the rushing train, the old soldier gave such a pull that he swung the head of the runaway horse around and guided him alongside of the tracks instead of across them.
"Look out, Uncle Tad! You're going into a big drift!" cried Bunny.
"That's just where I want to go!" said the soldier. "If I head Prince into the drift he can't run any more."
And this is just what Uncle Tad did. By a hard pull on the reins he swung the horse to one side, and not any too soon, either. For as Prince dragged the sled along the tracks and into a big drift that was almost as high as the head of the animal himself, the train dashed by—the train with the locomotive that had whistled and set Prince to running away.
"Whoa, there now! Quiet! Steady, old fellow!" called Uncle Tad soothingly, as Prince saw the big drift in front of him and seemed to know that he could neither go through it nor jump over it, especially when harnessed to the sleigh.
With a whizz and a roar the train sped past Bunny and Sue in the sleigh. They were quite near it, being alongside the tracks.
Prince stamped and reared a little, but he seemed to have gotten over his first fright, and was more like himself. Usually he was not skittish nor afraid of trains or engines. But not having been out of the stable for some time and having had no exercise, he was, like many other horses, ready to run away at the first loud noise. But Uncle Tad had pulled him down to a walk and guided him into the snowdrift just in time.
"My, that train was going fast!" exclaimed Sue, as it roared on its way.
"If it had hit us it would—it would have busted us all to pieces, wouldn't it, Uncle Tad?" asked Bunny, who, being a little older than his sister, knew more about the danger they had been in.
"Yes, indeed!" exclaimed the soldier, as he again spoke soothingly to Prince. "Getting in the way of railroad trains is dangerous. But we're all right now."
"Then let's go on," begged Sue. "I don't like it here. Let's get daddy's boxes and go for a nice ride where there aren't any trains, Uncle Tad."
"All right, we will," promised the old gentleman. But as he looked up and down the track, to make sure all was clear, he heard the whistle of another engine and the roar of an approaching train.
"We'll wait until this one goes past," he said, little guessing what a strange thing was to happen.
Prince pranced a little as he heard another locomotive coming toward him, but he did not try to run away again nor jump through the snowdrift.
With a roar the second train approached, gliding swiftly past Bunny, Sue, and Uncle Tad seated in the sleigh alongside of the tracks. And as the children watched for the last car they saw the rear door of it open, and a colored porter, with his white jacket on, stood on the platform.
It was a chair car, and the porter had evidently been doing some sweeping, for he held in his hands a dustpan. This dustpan he had taken to the back door to empty, and, just as his car came near the sleigh in the snowdrift, the porter threw the dust, dirt, and other things from the pan into the air.
The train was going so fast that it made quite a breeze, and this wind carried the stuff from the dustpan into the very faces of Uncle Tad and Sue. Bunny, being on the outside of the seat, did not get any dust in his face.
"Oh!" cried Sue, as she felt the swirling wind and dust.
"That porter certainly was a careless fellow!" exclaimed Uncle Tad. "That dust nearly blinded me!" The old soldier held the reins in one hand, for Prince seemed ready to bolt again, and with the other hand Uncle Tad wiped the dust from the porter's pan out of his eyes.
Bunny had a glimpse of torn papers and other refuse from the car falling into the snowdrift near the sleigh.
"I guess he didn't mean to do it, Uncle Tad," the little boy said. "He wasn't looking this way when he emptied that dustpan."
"I wish he had been!" exclaimed the old soldier. "Did you get a lot of dust in your eyes, Sue?"
"Yes," answered the little girl. "But it's most gone now."
"How about you, Bunny?" asked Uncle Tad.
"Oh, I'm all right," Sue's brother answered. "Look, Uncle Tad, there are some papers the porter threw out, too," and he pointed to the heap of refuse on the snow.
"All trash, I suppose," said the soldier. "People in parlor cars throw on the floor things they don't want, and the porter has to sweep it up. Well, we'll get along now."
"Wait a minute, Uncle Tad!" cried Bunny, as the soldier was about to swing Prince around to go on to the freight depot.
"Eh? What's that, Bunny? What's the matter?" asked Uncle Tad.
"There's a nice green and gold piece of paper down there," Bunny answered. "Maybe it's some good."
"No, I don't believe so, else the porter wouldn't have thrown it out," Uncle Tad answered, as he looked at the train now a mile or more away down the track.
"Maybe it's some good," Bunny insisted. "Please let me get it, Uncle Tad. Maybe it's some old railroad ticket and Sue and I can play conductor on the train when we go to Florida."
"Well, all right, get it if you want to," agreed the old soldier. "Whoa, Prince! Whoa!"
He steadied the horse while Bunny got down out of the sled, and ran to the scattered refuse from the porter's dustpan. Bunny picked up the paper. It was printed in green and gold, as he had said, and was not torn as were the other scraps of paper that had come from the chair car.
"Look, Uncle Tad!" called Bunny, holding up what he had found. "Is this a railroad ticket?"
The old soldier put on his glasses and looked carefully at the paper.
"Why, Bunny boy!" he exclaimed, "you've found something worth a lot of money—a whole lot of money. I must put this away in my pocket and show it to your father. Whoa there! Steady, Prince! Bunny has just found, what may be worth a lot of money!"
OFF FOR GEORGIA
Uncle Tad slipped into his coat pocket the paper printed in green and gold that Bunny had picked up from the refuse tossed out by the Pullman car porter. Then the old soldier turned Prince around so the horse could pull the sleigh out of the drift.
"How much money did I find, Uncle Tad?" asked Bunny.
"Well, I don't know just how much it may amount to," was the answer. "'Tisn't exactly money, you understand. That paper, Bunny, is what is called a certificate, or something like that, and it's for some stock in an oil well made out to bearer, as nearly as I can tell."
"Can I have some of the money to spend?" Bunny asked. "I want to get some candy for Sue and me."
"You can't exactly spend this money," said the old soldier. "In the first place, it isn't yours, Bunny. You just found it, you know, and finding isn't always keeping. This oil stock certificate must belong to some one on the train. They very likely dropped it in the car, and when the colored porter was cleaning up he swept it into his dustpan and never noticed it when he threw the dirt in our faces. That certificate may be worth a lot of money, but it would have to be sold before you could get cash for it, and, besides, it isn't yours."
"Whose is it?" Bunny wanted to know. "I found it, didn't I?"
"Yes, but we must try to learn to whom it belongs, and give it back," Uncle Tad went on. "They may give a reward for it, and then you would have real money."
Bunny could not understand this, nor could Sue. If you found a thing why couldn't you keep it? the little boy wondered. Also when something looked so much like money, as this gold and green paper looked like nice new bills from the bank, why couldn't some of it be spent for candy? Bunny and Sue wondered about this.
But when Prince was driven across the tracks to the freight depot, and when Bunny Brown and his sister Sue were given some pennies by Uncle Tad and allowed to go to a near-by store while the boxes of motor boat parts were being loaded into the sleigh, the two children forgot all about the oil stock paper. They were more interested in getting the kind of candy they wanted.
"Wouldn't it be nice, Bunny," said Sue, as she chewed a red gumdrop, "if you'd get a lot of money so we could spend it in Florida?"
"Course it would be nice," her brother agreed. "But where shall I get a lot of money?" and he bit the end off a stick of cocoanut candy.
"You might get it from that stiff thing you found," went on Sue. "But I don't think it's very stiff. I saw Uncle Tad bend it when he put it in his pocket."
"Oh, you mean that stiff cut," laughed Bunny, as he remembered the paper he had picked up in the snow. "Isn't it a funny name, Sue—stiff cut? I s'pose somebody cut the paper. But it isn't very stiff if you can bend it."
Of course Bunny and Sue did not get the name just right, but then, as they didn't understand about certificates and oil stock, there is no use in worrying over the matter.
Uncle Tad and the freight man finished putting into the sleigh the different boxes for Daddy Brown's motor boat in which Bunker Blue often went out after fish in the summer, sometimes taking Bunny and Sue with him. By this time the two children came back from the candy store and got in the sleigh.
"Well, did you find any more valuable papers, Bunny?" asked Uncle Tad, with a joking laugh as he started Prince down the road.
"Nope, I didn't," answered the little boy. "But maybe I'll find some in Florida."
"You're going to the state of Georgia first, I heard your father say," remarked the old soldier.
"Are there any oranges in Georgia?" asked Sue.
"Or alligators?" Bunny wanted to know, for he had heard that there were plenty of the big, scaly and long-tailed creatures in Florida.
"I don't know much about Georgia," answered Uncle Tad, "except I've heard that peaches grow there. But, of course, you won't find any of them now, as it isn't summer."
"Isn't Georgia nice and warm in winter, like Florida?" asked Sue. "And can't we get some orange blossoms there?"
"I don't believe you'll find any oranges in Georgia," answered Uncle Tad, "and it isn't as warm as the southern part of Florida, though of course Florida and Georgia, being close together, are a good deal alike. They grow lots of cotton in Georgia, and peanuts."
"Peanuts!" cried Bunny, in delight. "Oh, I'm glad! Peanuts are most as good as oranges, aren't they, Sue?"
"Yes," agreed the little girl. "But it would be nice if we had peanuts and oranges. 'Cause then when we got thirsty from eating peanuts off a tree we could go and pick an orange off another tree and suck the juice, and we wouldn't be thirsty any more, would we, Uncle Tad?"
"No, I presume not," answered the old soldier, with a laugh. "But peanuts don't grow on trees, Sue."
"They don't?" cried the little girl. "Why not? Hickory nuts do."
"I don't know why, but they don't," said Uncle Tad. "Peanuts grow on vines, under the ground. In some places down South peanuts are called 'goobers.'"
"What a funny name!" said Bunny. "We'll have some fun in Georgia when we get there."
"Yes, you two seem to have fun wherever you go, like the lady with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, so she had music 'wherever she goes,'" said Uncle Tad.
Prince had now quieted down, and he drew the sled along without trying to run away. A little later Bunny and Sue reached home, and Mrs. Brown was quite excited when she heard how near they had been to the rushing train.
Bunny and Sue told about the porter and his dustpan, and Uncle Tad took from his pocket the green and gold oil stock certificate.
"We'll show it to daddy when he comes home," said Mrs. Brown. "He will know what to do with it."
But though Mr. Brown telephoned to the railroad office, telling about the finding of the valuable paper, which was thought to be worth much money, the owner of it could not be found.
After several days, during which Bunny and Sue had more fun in the snow, Mr. Brown told his wife that the railroad people had not even yet been able to find the person who owned the oil stock paper.
"It must have been dropped by some one who was riding in that Pullman car," said Mr. Brown. "Perhaps he dropped it and didn't know it until he got off the train. Then he may have thought he lost it somewhere else, and so didn't come back to the railroad office."
"Can't you find out who owns it by writing to the oil company?" Mrs. Brown asked.
"I could if the certificate were made out in somebody's name," her husband answered. "But it is made out to 'bearer'—that is, anybody who holds it can get the permanent certificates. This is a temporary one."
"Could Bunny or Sue?"
"Yes, and if this isn't claimed and we can't find to whom it belongs, they can sell it and get the money. But the owner may write to the oil company, even though his name isn't on the paper. In that way I may find out to whom it belongs. I'll write to the oil company myself in a few days."
But Mr. Brown had so much to do, getting ready to leave for the sunny South with Bunny and Sue that, for a time, he forgot about the oil stock certificate.
As for Bunny and Sue, they talked so much about their coming trip to the South, mentioning oranges, peanuts, and alligators—it was Bunny who spoke of the last, you may be sure—that all their little boy and girl friends were interested.
"I wish you'd send me back some oranges, Sue," begged Mary Watson. "And some orange blossoms, too. Then I could put them on one of my dolls and pretend to have a wedding."
"I'll send you lots of oranges and blossoms," promised Sue.
"And will you send me some peanuts from Georgia?" asked Sadie West.
"Lots of 'em!" promised Sue.
At last the day came when the start was to be made. Bunny Brown and his sister Sue thought it never would arrive, but finally it did, and after trunks and valises had been packed the party started for the station. The weather was cold, more snow had fallen, and it seemed that another storm would soon come.
"But in a little while we'll be where they never have any snow," said Daddy Brown.
The last good-byes were called back and forth. Bunny and Sue took their places in the parlor car—the same kind of car as that from which the porter had tossed the oil stock certificate—and the train began to move. They were at last off for Georgia and from there would go to Florida—two states of the sunny South.
As the train began to roll more rapidly out of the station there came the sound of some excitement from the narrow passageway at one end—the passage where the porter keeps his towels and soap.
"Oh, there goes Dickie!" cried a woman's voice. "Oh, Dickie, come back! You'll be hurt, I know you will! Oh, porter! don't let Dickie jump off and be killed!"
"No'm, I won't," answered the colored man. "Ah'll get yo' Dickie fo' you!"
"Maybe it's a little child!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown to her husband. "You'd better go and help her, Walter! That porter is so slow! Go and save Dickie!"
Mr. Brown knew how he and his wife would worry if anything should happen to Bunny or Sue, so, with this thought in mind, he hurried to the end of the car to do what he could in the rescue of Dickie.
Mrs. Brown stayed with the two children, but she was so anxious to help the woman who had called out about Dickie that she made up her mind to go to the aid of her husband as soon as Bunny and Sue were settled in their seats.
As for Mr. Brown, as he hastened toward that end of the parlor car where some one was begging the porter not to let Dickie be harmed, he saw the woman who was so excited. She was a large woman, wearing a wide-brimmed hat trimmed with many ostrich feathers which nodded and swayed as she moved about.
"Oh, Dickie! Dickie! Where did you go?" this woman cried, clasping her hands. "Why didn't you stay with me? Now you'll be killed, I'm sure you will! Or else you'll jump off the train and be left behind! Oh, porter, close the door so Dickie can't get off!"
"Yes'm. De do' am done closed!" said the colored man. "Ah'll git yo' Dickie fo' you ef you-all jest waits a minute!"
"Perhaps I can help," suggested Mr. Brown, coming up at that moment, and looking about in the narrow passageway and in the men's smoking room for a sight of some little child who might have wandered away from his mother.
"Oh, if you only can get him!" exclaimed the large woman with the big hat. "I had him in my arms, but he jumped out—"
"Jumped out of your arms!" exclaimed Mr. Brown. "I should think he would have been hurt."
"Oh, no, he often does that," said the woman. "He always lands on his feet."
"What a strange child!" thought Mr. Brown. "He must be training for a circus performer."
"He jumped out of my arms and ran in there," went on the woman, and she pointed to the smoking room, which, just then, was empty. It was a room containing several leather chairs, a leather settee across one end, and a wash basin in one corner.
"Ah'll git him in jest a minute," said the porter, who was putting some clean towels in a rack over the basin. "He must be under the long seat."
"I'll bring him out," offered Mr. Brown, getting down on his hands and knees to look under the long leather seat at one end of the smoking compartment. He remembered a time when Sue had thus crawled under a sofa at home and what a time he had to get her to come out.
"Oh, Dickie, why did you do it?" wailed the woman. "Are you sure he didn't fall off the train?" she asked.
"No'm," answered the porter. "Nobody, man, woman or chile, got off dish yeah car after it started. I shet de do' too quick for dat! But I didn't see anybody come in heah!"
"This is where he came," said the woman, following Mr. Brown into the smoking room. "Oh, I do hope he is under the seat."
By this time the father of Bunny Brown and his sister Sue was able to see under the leather seat. But, to his surprise, he saw no little boy or girl there. All he caught sight of was a white poodle dog, cowering back in the corner.
"There's no Dickie here—only a dog," said Mr. Brown.
"That's Dickie!" cried the woman. "Oh, dear Dickie! are you there? I was afraid my precious was lost forever! Oh, Dickie, come out!"
Mr. Brown was so surprised that he did not know what to say. He had thought he was coming to the rescue of a little child, and it had turned out to be—a dog! And while Mr. Brown loved animals, he was a little angry to think that anybody would make as much fuss over a poodle that had crawled under a couch as would be made over a missing little boy or girl.
Still Mr. Brown was too polite to say all that he felt, and so he reached his hand under the long seat, and tried to get hold of the dog's fuzzy coat.
The dog growled and barked, and snapped at Mr. Brown's hand.
"Does he bite?" the children's father asked the woman.
"Not very hard," she answered.
"Hum!" mused Mr. Brown, as he drew back and arose. "Perhaps you'd better coax him out," he said, for he had no desire to be bitten even by a little dog, as sometimes their teeth inflict a poisonous wound.
"Oh, Dickie! you wouldn't bite the nice, kind man, would you?" the lady exclaimed, stooping down and trying to peer under the seat.
"Ah'll put on mah gloves an' git him," offered the porter, who perhaps felt that the woman might give him a large tip. And, of course, Mr. Brown was very willing to let the colored man have any reward there might be.
Putting on a pair of heavy gloves he used when he did rough work in cleaning the Pullman car, the porter reached under the seat and dragged forth the growling, snapping little white poodle.
By this time Mrs. Brown, hearing the loud talking out in the smoking room, thought something serious had happened. She hastened to that end of the car, followed by Bunny and Sue, who did not want to be left behind. They arrived in time to see the porter handing the woman her pet.
"Oh, Dickie!" exclaimed the wearer of the big hat, as she clasped the poodle in her arms, "oo bad 'ittle snookums!"
"Where's the child?" asked Mrs. Brown.
In answer Mr. Brown pointed to the dog, and his wife understood.
"Oh, isn't he nice!" exclaimed Sue.
"May I see him?" asked Bunny.
"In a little while," the woman answered. "Dickie is so fussed up now his 'ittle heart is beating too hard! I must cuddle him!"
She turned and walked into the next car for, it seemed, she had got into the wrong one, or, rather, her dog had leaped from her arms and had gone into the one in which the Browns had seats and the woman had followed her pet.
"Come in and see me when I get 'ittle Dickie quiet," said the woman, but even Bunny and Sue, much as they loved pets, did not like the silly fuss this woman made over her dog. So they did not go into the other car.
Mr. Brown turned and went with his wife and children up to the middle of the car, where they had their seats. As they left, the porter, with a queer grin which showed his white teeth, said:
"Golly, she suah did make a fuss ober dat dog!"
"Yes," agreed Mr. Brown with a laugh, "she did!"
"He was a nice little dog," observed Sue, "but I like a big dog better—you can have more fun with it."
"Sure!" agreed Bunny. "And poodles are so snappy."
"I'm glad you didn't pull him out, Walter," Mrs. Brown said. "I'd be anxious if he had bitten you."
"I didn't give him the chance," her husband said. "Well, now that Dickie is safe we can settle down."
And so the travelers made themselves as comfortable as possible, for they had rather a long trip ahead of them. They would be on the train all night and a large part of the next day.
"I'm glad that woman with the dog isn't in our car," said Mrs. Brown to her husband, when Bunny and Sue were contentedly looking from the windows. "She probably makes a fuss over the animal all the while."
"Yes, it's just as well for us she isn't here," agreed the children's father. "Though if it were the kind of dog they could play with it would make the time pass more quickly for Bunny and Sue."
"Oh, I think they'll manage to keep themselves amused," said their mother. "They like traveling."
Bunny and Sue certainly did, and it was a pleasure for them to look from the windows at the scenery.
No very remarkable adventures happened on the journey to Georgia. To be sure, Sue did fall out of the berth once, and her mother had to pick her up. But the little girl scarcely awakened, and as the carpet on the floor of the sleeping car was soft and thick she was not hurt in the least.
Bunny had a little accident, too. During the day he went to the end of the car to get Sue a drink, taking a folding silver cup his mother carried in her handbag. But when the little boy was half way down the aisle the train gave a swing around a curve, Bunny almost fell, and the cup closed, spilling the water all over him.
However, it was not a great deal, and as the car was warm no harm resulted. Bunny himself laughed at the happening, and insisted on going back and filling the cup for Sue. This time he brought it to her nearly full of water.
And so, with looking out of the windows, reading some of their best-loved books which they had brought with them, eating and sleeping, the time passed most happily for Bunny Brown and his sister Sue.
As mile after mile was reeled off by the train, the children began to notice a difference in the scenery.
The weather was cold, and there was much snow on the ground when they left Bellemere, and the snow continued to cover the ground for some distance. But as the train went farther and farther south the snow seemed to disappear—melting away until, when the children looked from the windows of their car toward the end of their journey, they saw green leaves on the trees.
"Oh, are we down South now, Daddy?" called Sue.
"Yes, we are in the southern part of Georgia," was the answer. "We have left winter behind us. In a little while, especially when we get into Florida, you will be in the sunny South."
"Oh, what fun we'll have!" cried Sue.
"Where are the oranges?" demanded Bunny. "I don't see any," and he looked at the trees.
"Oranges don't grow in Georgia, at least not in the open," said Mr. Brown. "Some may be raised in hothouses, but to grow them in the open air warmer weather than Georgia has in winter is needed. We shall have to wait until we get to Florida to gather oranges."
"What about peanuts?" asked Bunny.
"Oh, I think I can promise you plenty of peanuts," answered his father.
"And shall we see cotton growing?" asked Mrs. Brown. "I have always wanted to see a cotton field, with the darkies singing and picking the white, fluffy stuff."
"There is plenty of cotton in Georgia," her husband answered, "but there may be none where we are going. However, I hope you will have your wish. If we can't have oranges we may have peanuts and cotton."
"We'll not eat the cotton though, shall we, Daddy?" asked Sue.
"You won't have to unless you want to," he laughed in answer.
A little later, when Mr. and Mrs. Brown had got together their baggage, for they were near their destination, Bunny, who was looking from the window, suddenly called:
"Oh, look! Here they are, picking cotton!"
Sue rushed to her window and Mrs. Brown turned to gaze out on the scene. As Bunny had said, the train was then passing through a cotton section, and in the fields on either side of the track a number of colored men, women, and children were picking the big white clumps of cotton from the bushes which grew in long, straight rows. It was a late crop.
"Oh, it's a cotton plantation!" cried Mrs. Brown. "I'm glad, for I've always wanted to see one."
As they looked out at the sight, which was a new one to Bunny and Sue, the train began to slow up. In a very few moments they could see painted in very large letters on the end of the station the word "Seedville."
"This is our station," announced Daddy Brown.
"Oh, we're going to get out right near the cotton plantation!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "I'm glad! Why didn't you tell us we were going to be so near where they pick cotton?" she asked her husband.
"I didn't really know it myself," he said. "Mr. Morton, whom I am going to see, said he owned cotton land, but I did not know it was a plantation. However, we'll get out here." And Bunny and Sue were wild with delight at the new adventures which might be in store for them.
AMONG THE COTTON PICKERS
When the train reached the station of Seedville the cotton fields with the colored pickers were out of sight around a bend in the road. But Bunny and Sue were glad they were going to stop not far away from this new and interesting sight.
As the Brown family alighted from the train at the small station, a gentleman with a broad-brimmed hat, under which his pleasant smiling face could be seen, came forward.
"Hello, Jim!" called Mr. Brown. "Well, here we are!"
"So I see, and I'm glad of it!" Mr. Morton answered. Then he was introduced to Mrs. Brown and the children. Mr. Morton was the man Daddy Brown had come to Georgia to see on business. Later Mr. Brown would have to visit Mr. Halliday at Orange Beach, Florida.
"Give me your checks and I'll look after your baggage," went on the Southerner. "I have my auto right behind the station, and it's only a short ride over to my place."
"Have you any peanuts?" asked Sue.
"Yes, I grow a few," answered Mr. Morton.
"Course you don't have any oranges?" Bunny added, feeling pretty sure, from what his father had said, there would be none; but still he could not help hoping.
"No, I'm sorry to say I haven't any orange grove," Mr. Morton replied, smiling.
"Is that your cotton field we passed?" asked Mrs. Brown, pointing back toward the scene through which they had come a little while before.
"That's part of my plantation, yes," answered the Southerner. "It's quite interesting if you haven't seen it as often as I have."
A little later the family was riding toward Mr. Morton's home, where the Browns were to stay while Daddy and Mr. Morton finished their business, which would take about a week. Mrs. Morton welcomed the family, and Bunny and Sue were delighted to find that there were two children, a boy and a girl, not much older than they were—Sam and Grace Morton.
"Oh, now we can have a lot of fun!" cried Bunny, when he saw these playmates. "Will you show me how to pick cotton?" he asked Sam.
"Sure," was the answer. "I help pick it myself, sometimes."
"And will you show me how to dig peanuts?" asked Sue of Grace.
"You don't have to do much digging," answered the little Southern girl, laughing. "You just pull up the vines and the peanuts stick to 'em, same as potatoes do. Course you sometimes have to dig out some that don't come up on the vine."
While Mr. and Mrs. Brown and Mr. and Mrs. Morton were talking together, the children were allowed to go to one of the near-by cotton fields. Cotton, as you know, grows on low bushes, which are planted in long rows, so the pickers may easily walk between them. In some countries the cotton bushes, or plants, last from one year to the next, but in Georgia most of the cotton grows from new bushes each year. The seeds are planted in the spring, but the picking is not finished until sometimes late in what is the winter season of the North.
Of course in some parts of Georgia there are frosts which kill the bushes, and in these parts of the state the cotton must be picked earlier than in the southern part, where the Browns were.
So, though there was cold weather and snow in Bellemere, there were warm, blue skies in Georgia, and the colored men, women and children were out in the fields picking the cotton.
As Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, with Sam and Grace, reached the field of cotton, they could hear the darkies singing. Some one would start a tune, and then others would join in.
"It's jolly!" laughed Bunny, as they stopped to listen to a funny song about a mule.
"Yes, the darkies always seem to be happy," said Sam.
The children from the North watched as the colored pickers pulled off the great, fluffy balls of white, stuffing them into bags or baskets which were later taken from the field on two-wheeled mule carts.
"What are all those brown things in the cotton?" asked Sue, as she looked at a fluffy clump on a near-by bush.
"Seeds," answered Grace. "The cotton clump, or boll, is full of seeds, and these have to be taken out before the cotton is baled up for the mill."
"Oh, I 'member about that!" cried Bunny. "We learned it in school. A man named Eli Whitney made a machine for taking seeds out of the cotton."
"That's right," admitted Sam. "I'll take you to the gin, as it is called, where the seeds are taken from the cotton and the white stuff is pressed into bales. You ought to see the big presses! It squeezes the cotton all up!"
"I hope it doesn't squeeze us!" laughed Sue.
"I'll keep you back out of danger," promised Grace.
The children walked through the cotton field of the plantation and were greeted by broad grins and smiles on the part of the colored folk. There seemed to be more children than grown people working in the field, and Sam said it was sometimes hard to get old pickers, so children had to be used.
The darkies did not work very fast, and often, as Bunny and his sister walked along with their new friends, the hands would stop working to look at the children. This, with their habit of stopping to sing every now and then, slowed up the cotton picking.
"I'd like to go to the mill and see the cotton pressed into bales," said Bunny after a while.
"All right, we'll go," said Sam. "You've seen about all there is to see here."
As they turned away Sue suddenly called:
They all listened, and Grace said:
"That's one of their banjos! They bring them to the field and play and dance."
"Oh, let's see that!" cried Sue. "It'll be more fun than going to the cotton factory!"
Bunny, too, wanted to listen to the music, so they turned aside into a part of the field where most of the cotton had been picked from the bushes. The darkies, who had finished this part of their work, were celebrating after a fashion.
Some boards had been laid down, and an awning placed over them to make a place where bags of cotton were tied up to be taken to the gin. Gathered around this platform were a number of negro men, women and children. One of the men had an old banjo, and though the instrument seemed battered and broken, he managed to get some lively music from it.
"Golly, dat suah mek me want to shuffle mah feet!" exclaimed one bright-eyed colored lad.
"Why doan you shuffle 'em den, Rastus?" some one called. "Show de white folks how you kin cut de pigeon wing!"
"Oh, landy, banjo music suah am sweet!" cried an old white-wooled colored woman, with a jolly laugh.
Then the man with the banjo "cut loose," as one of his friends called it, and played such a lively tune that even Bunny and Sue said they felt like dancing. But they wanted to see what the cotton pickers did, and so they watched. Out on the wooden platform shuffled Rastus, and the way he kicked up, turned cartwheels, stood on his hands and danced around made Bunny and Sue laugh in delight.
Others of the pickers, men and women, girls and boys, danced, and then along came the driver of one of the mule carts who had a mouth organ. He added this music to that of the banjo, until quite a crowd had collected.
"My goodness!" exclaimed a voice behind Bunny and Sue when there came a lull in the fun. "Cotton picking can't be such very hard work after all!" The children turned around to see their mother and Mrs. Morton, who had come to the field.
"Oh, the darkies have to have their fun, and if we didn't let them we wouldn't get as much work done as now takes place," said the wife of the cotton planter. "Life is rather slow and easy down here."
Indeed it seemed so. After more banjo and mouth organ music, the pickers gradually went to another part of the field, and Bunny and Sue, with the two Morton children, were allowed to go to the place where the loose cotton was pressed into big bales.
Cotton, as you have doubtless noticed, is very light and fluffy. A pound of it, loose, takes up much room, and it is to save room that it is pressed into bales, or bundles. Each one weighs about five hundred pounds, and the bales are somewhat larger than a barrel, though of square shape and not round. But if the cotton were allowed to fluff out, it would take up four or five times this room.
Guided by Sam and Grace, Bunny and his sister were taken to the cotton gin and baling place. First the seeds must be taken out of the cotton. To do this the fluffy mass, as it is taken from the bags or baskets in which it is carted from the field, is fed into a machine.
The machine is like a big clothes wringer, but the rolls, instead of being made of smooth rubber, are rough, and covered with sharp iron teeth.
As the cotton passes between these toothed rollers they tear it apart, loosening the seeds, which drop down while the cleaned cotton goes to the other side of the machine ready to be baled.
The cotton seeds are used for many things, being sometimes fed to cattle in the form of meal, or from them oil may be squeezed which is almost as good to eat as olive oil.
"I want to see the cotton pushed into bales," said Bunny, and his Southern friends led the way into the factory. There were white wisps of cotton all about, clinging to the walls and ceiling of the pressing room, as well as to the colored men who were working there. Bunny and Sue did not understand much about the machinery. But they could see how the cotton was put into a sort of iron box. A big plunger then pressed down what might be called the "lid" of the box. This squeezed the big, fluffy mass of cotton into a bale, and iron straps, or wires, were put around the outside of the burlap bagging that kept the cotton clean.
Sue was standing with Sam and Grace, watching the cotton being pressed into bales, when suddenly behind them came a noise as of something falling, and a voice cried:
"That's Bunny!" exclaimed Sue, turning around.
She did not see her brother, but she saw some men gathered around a big heap of cotton on the floor of the gin. And, not seeing Bunny, his sister Sue had the most dreadful scare.
"Oh, Bunny's in a cotton press! He's being put into one of the bales!" she cried. "Oh, Bunny! Bunny!" and she broke away from the holding hand of Grace and rushed toward the heap of cotton on the floor, which was tumbling about in the queerest fashion.
Sam and Grace Morton were somewhat older than Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, and they knew more about cotton gins. So when Sue cried that Bunny was being pressed into one of the white bales neither Sam nor Grace thought this could be so.
For they had been standing near the big press all the while, and they would have seen if Bunny had fallen in. But the little boy was not in sight, and something must have happened to him, or why did he cry out as he had? Sue had certainly heard Bunny's voice.
"Bunny! Bunny! where are you?" shouted Sue, as she broke away from the Morton children.
"Who yo' all lookin' fo'?" asked a big colored man, who had been rolling bales of cotton about the floor.
"My—my bro-brother!" stammered Sue, almost ready to cry. "He's in a bale of cotton!"
"Oh, nopey! Nopey, he ain't, li'l girl!" said the kind colored man. "I done see dat li'l boy jest a minute ago. He was climbin' up on a basket ob loose cotton, an' he done pulled it over on top ob him! He's under dat pile right yeah!" and he pointed to the mass of white, fluffy stuff on the floor.
"I see what happened!" exclaimed Sam, hurrying over with his sister to Sue, who stood near the pile of cotton. "Bunny's all right. You can't get hurt when loose cotton falls on you," and he laughed.
"Is—is Bu-Bunny under there?" asked Sue.
There was no need for any one to answer her, for a moment later out from under the fluffy pile crawled Bunny himself. Lumps of cotton clung to him all over, and his clothes were covered, but he was not in the least harmed.
"I—I was under there!" gasped the little fellow.
"You don't need to tell us that!" laughed Sam. "We can see for ourselves. You sure have been under the cotton."
"What happened to you, Bunny?" his sister asked, happy, now that nothing had occurred to harm her brother.
"I saw a big basket of loose cotton," he explained, "and I wanted to see how heavy it was and to find out if I could lift it. I pushed on it, and it fell over on top of me. Then I yelled."
"We heard you," said Grace.
"And I thought you were being pressed in a bale," added Sue.
"I'm glad I wasn't," remarked Bunny, as he noticed how very hard the press squeezed the loose cotton.
The colored workers picked up the fluffy stuff Bunny had spilled from the big basket, which he had pulled over on him. He had been hidden from sight in the white mass that had toppled out on the floor.
"It was just like the time when I was under the snowdrift, only it wasn't so cold," Bunny said, telling about his accident afterward. "And it was awfully ticklish!"
"Better that than a cotton press," his mother said. "You must be careful around the gin, children."
"It's all right to go to the peanut fields though, isn't it, Mother?" asked Sue. She had been eager, ever since hearing that peanuts grew in Georgia, to see how they clung to the ends of the vines, like little potatoes.
"Yes, I think visiting the peanuts will be all right, if you don't eat too many," Mrs. Brown said.
"They won't want to eat too many," said Sam Morton. "When the peanuts come out of the ground they are raw, and they have to be roasted before they are good to eat. They won't eat too many."
"Can't we roast some?" Sue wanted to know, and her mother promised that this would be done.
When the children came away from Mr. Morton's cotton press and gin, after the little happening to Bunny, the visitors could hear the darkies singing there, as they had sung in the fields.
Most of Mr. Morton's peanut crop had been gathered, as it was almost the close of the season, but some late vines were growing in one of the fields, and this was visited by the children a day or so after their arrival in Seedville.
Bunny Brown and Sue had been rather disappointed when they heard that peanuts did not grow on trees, as did chestnuts and hickory nuts, but they soon forgot this when Sam told them something about this crop, by which his father made money.
"We don't call 'em peanuts down here," Sam said.
"What do you call 'em?" asked Bunny.
"Ground nuts and sometimes goobers," answered the Southern boy. "Over in England, my father says, they call 'em monkey nuts."
"What for?" Bunny wanted to know.
"I s'pose it's because the first peanuts came from Africa, and there are so many monkeys in Africa," answered Sam.
"I wish there was a monkey here!" exclaimed Sue. "I'd like to see him eat peanuts—I mean goobers!" she added, with a laugh at the funny word.
"There's a monkey near our house at home," explained Bunny. "We could send Wango some peanuts, couldn't we, Sue?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, let's!" cried the little girl.
"Well, come on first and pick some, or dig 'em, which is what you'll have to do," suggested Sam.
What had not been gathered of Mr. Morton's peanut crop was growing in a field not far from the plantation buildings. There were no darkies gathering the goobers, as it was more important now to pick the cotton.
"Pull up one of the vines," suggested Sam to the children from the North.
You can imagine how delighted Bunny and Sue were when they pulled up by the roots one of the vines and saw, dangling on the end, some of the peanuts they knew so well.
"Oh, wouldn't Mrs. Redden like it here?" cried Bunny, as he pulled off some of the peanuts.
"Who's she?" asked Grace.
"She keeps a peanut and candy store where we live," explained Sue. "And she sells lots of peanuts. If she was here she could get all she wanted."
"But she'd have to roast them, or get them roasted," said Sam. "About the only things unroasted peanuts are good for is to make peanut oil and to feed to horses. We'll take some to the house and roast them. We have a little roaster in the kitchen."
"And can we make some peanut molasses candy?" asked Bunny. "Don't you have molasses down here?"
"Oh, yes, plenty of molasses," said Grace. "We don't raise any sugar cane, which molasses come from, but they do farther South. We'll make some peanut candy."
The prospect of this delighted Bunny and Sue almost as much as did the gathering of the nuts. The children from the North looked curiously at the "goobers" they had pulled up on the vine. As Sam had said, they were not at all good to eat, needing to be dried and roasted before they would be enjoyable.
For several days Bunny and Sue enjoyed themselves on the Southern plantation. One day Mr. Morton took them over a grove where a friend of his was growing pecans. These were nuts which grew on trees, and Bunny and Sue were allowed to gather and eat as many as they wished, for these nuts did not need to be baked or roasted before being eaten.
There were busy times on the cotton plantation. Much work yet remained to finish, and one day, after his business with Mr. Morton was almost at an end, Daddy Brown went with his wife and Bunny and Sue to watch the gathering of cotton by the negroes. Up to now he had not had much time to see this.
"What are they all so jolly about?" he asked Mr. Morton, as they walked through the field, the bushes of which were now almost stripped of their white tufts.
"Oh, they expect to finish work to-night and they're going to have a jubilee dance later on," was the answer. "You must come to it, for it will be great fun for the children."
"Oh, yes, they must see that," said Mother Brown.
Indeed the darkies were much more musical than on the occasion of the first visit of Bunny and Sue. Several banjos were playing and also a mouth organ here and there, while snatches of songs could be heard all about the field.
Suddenly, over in the place where a number of pickers had gathered to empty their baskets into the big bin, whence the cotton was carted to the gin, there arose a great shouting.
"Whoa now! Whoa dere, Sambo! Steady now!" called a man's voice.
Then there was the shrill shrieking of women and girls, and a moment later a big mule hitched to a cart rushed toward Bunny, Sue and their friends, and on the mule's back, clinging for dear life, was a little colored boy, frightened almost out of his wits.
"Oh, look out, Bunny! Sue! Look out for the runaway!" cried Mrs. Brown.
ON TO FLORIDA
The clatter of the mule's hoofs, the rattle of the cart, and the yells of the little colored boy on the animal's back made plenty of excitement in the roadway of the cotton field. But besides all this there were the calls of Mrs. Brown, the shouts and yells of the frightened colored men, women and children, and the screams of Bunny Brown and his sister Sue.
"Good lan' ob massy!" exclaimed one big, fat, colored woman, as she dropped her basket of cotton and rushed for a place of safety. "Dat frisky li'l nigger suah will be splatter-dashed ef he fall offen dat mule's back!"
And indeed it did look bad for the small colored boy.
"Over here, Sue! Come to me, Bunny!" cried Mrs. Brown. "Walter," she called to her husband, "look out for Sam and Grace," for the Morton children were with their friends from the North.
Mr. Brown, with a quick motion, pulled Sam and Grace out of danger as the runaway mule, hauling the load of cotton, came nearer.
"Maybe Sam and I can stop him, Mother!" cried Bunny.
"Indeed and you'll do nothing of the sort!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown, hurrying the children behind a row of cotton plants.
"Hi! Hi! Hi!" was all the little colored boy on the back of the runaway mule could shout. "Hi! Hi!"
"Oh, can't some one save him?" cried Mrs. Brown.
"I'll try," answered her husband, who, having seen to it that Sam and Grace were safe with Bunny and Sue, started out to try to head off the mule. At the same time the shrieks of the colored women had called from a distant part of the field several strong colored men, and one of these ran toward the mule about the same time that Mr. Brown did.
But there was no need of any one getting worried. Before the mule could be caught he stopped, and stopped so suddenly that the colored boy was pitched off the animal's back. Down to the ground the dusky-skinned child slipped, but, luckily enough, there was a pile of cotton here, and it was on top of the fluffy stuff that he landed.
There he sat, a splotch of black in a heap of white, and he presented such a funny picture that Sue and her brother burst out laughing. So did Sam and Grace. And then Jim, the colored boy, finding that he was not hurt, opened his mouth and shrieked in delight.
Some of the colored men came up and took charge of the mule, which they led back to the shed whence he had run away. And one of the fat black women waddled toward Jim on the heap of cotton.
"Look yeah, yo' li'l hunk ob sticky black 'lasses!" she cried. "Whut fo' you want to git on dat mule's back an' scare yo' po' mammy 'most into a conniption fit? Whut fo' you do dat, Jim St. Clair Breckinridge? Whut fo', huh?"
"Ah didn't go fo' to do it, 'deed an' Ah didn't, Mammy!" said Jim, as he arose. "Ah wuz jest leanin' ober to knock a fly often dat mule's back an' Ah slipped an' fell on him. Den he started up, an' Ah couldn't nohow git offen him!"
And this, it appeared, was how it had happened. The little colored boy was playing around the shed where the darkies emptied their baskets of cotton into a bin. There it was piled into the cart to be taken to the gin. The boy had climbed up on a pile of boxes to make himself higher, and in this position had seen a fly on the mule's back. Or at least that is what Jim said.
At any rate, whether he tried to do the mule a kindness, or whether he really intended to use the boxes as a stepping block to get up and take a ride, Jim got on the animal's back, and this so alarmed the mule that it started off, causing much excitement.
But no real harm had resulted, and no one was hurt, for the fluffy cotton was even softer to fall on than a pile of hay. Jim was taken in charge by his mother and made to help pick cotton the rest of the day.
Bunny and Sue liked it so much on the plantation, watching the cotton-pickers and occasionally pulling up a few peanuts for themselves, that I think they would have been willing to spend the rest of the winter in that part of the sunny South.
"But my business here is almost finished," said Mr. Brown to his family one evening as they sat in Mr. Morton's pleasant home. "We will soon go on to Florida."
"And eat oranges!" added Sue, for she had often been thinking of that juicy fruit.
"And catch alligators!" exclaimed Bunny. The chance of at least seeing some of these scaly creatures seemed to give Bunny pleasure.
"Oh, my!" exclaimed his mother. "Now look here!" she went on, as she thought of what might happen. "I don't want you two tots going off by yourselves trying to catch alligators! Mind that!" and she shook a warning finger at them.
In the evening, while the older folks were talking in the sitting room and the children were playing games, Bunny heard his father say:
"There's the oil stock certificate Bunny found, Mr. Morton."
"Oh, yes, your wife was telling us about that," remarked the cotton planter. "Let me see it."
Bunny looked up in time to see his father show Mr. Morton a stiff, crinkly green and gold paper, which the little boy well remembered.
"Didn't you yet find out to whom that oil stock belongs?" asked Mrs. Brown of her husband, while Bunny entertained Sam and Grace by telling them in a low voice how, while they were in the sleigh that day with Uncle Tad, the porter of the Pullman car had tossed the valuable paper out in a pan of dirt.
"No, so far I haven't found the owner," Mr. Brown answered. "I brought the certificate with me, for I thought perhaps the oil company might have been notified by the loser. But they write me that no one has yet notified them of the loss. So I'll have to hold the stock a while longer. It is quite valuable, the oil company says, and I must take good care of it."
He put the temporary certificate back in his pocket, and Bunny and his sister, after telling about the runaway, went on playing games with Sam and Grace.
"Well," said Mr. Brown at last, after he and Mr. Morton had looked over several business books and papers, "I think we'll be traveling on to Florida in a few days."
"We shall miss having you here," Mrs. Morton said. "I'm sure it has done the children good."
"Yes," agreed Mrs. Brown. "They never before saw cotton or peanuts growing, and they have learned something."
"I want to learn about oranges!" exclaimed Sue.
"And maybe I could grow up to be an alligator hunter," added Bunny.
"I hope not that!" his mother exclaimed, laughing. "And I think it is almost time for you children to go to bed."
But just then there came a knock on the door and the colored servant, having answered it, came back to say that the plantation hands were having a sort of jubilee among themselves and had sent to know if the "white folks" didn't want to see the fun.
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Morton, as he heard this message. "I was telling you that at the end of the cotton-picking season the darkies have a great time among themselves, playing and singing songs. They make hoe cakes and if they can get a 'possum they roast that with sweet potatoes. Let's go down for a little while."