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CHAPTER XXV


BACK IN CAMP


Bunny Brown tried to be brave, but when he saw someone come into the cave in the darkness, in such a queer way, the little boy did not know what to do. He thought of Sue, and felt that he must not let her get hurt, no matter what else happened.

"Oh, Bunny!" cried Sue. "Is that one of the robbers? Is it, Bunny? If it is I don't want to stay here! You said there weren't any but picture book robbers in this cave, Bunny Brown!"

Bunny did not answer right away. He did not know what to tell Sue.

But the big boy who had dropped down through the chimney hole straightened up suddenly. Bunny could see him patting Splash on the head.

And that was rather strange, for Splash did not easily make friends with strangers. He would not bite them, but he would bark at them, until some of his friends had said it wae all right, and that he need bark no more.

But, after his bark of surprise this time, Splash seemed to have suddenly made friends with the big boy who had come sliding down the chimney hole of the cave.

"Who—who are you?" asked Bunny again.

Instead of answering the big boy laughed. Then he asked:

"Are you Bunny Brown and his sister Sue?"

"Ye—yes—yes, we are," Bunny said. "But how did you know?"

"Oh, I can tell, all right."

Splash seemed very glad to meet the strange boy. There was still light enough coming down the chimney hole for Bunny to see the dog's wagging tail. And Splash did not wag his tail for persons he did not like. This must be a friend.

"Is—is you a robber?" asked Sue. She had hidden her face in the pile of bags, and was holding closely to her doll.

Again the big boy laughed.

"No, I'm not a robber," he said, "though I did take a piece of your mother's bacon. But I'll pay her back for it. How in the world did you find my cave, and where is your father, or Bunker Blue? And what are you doing out alone in this storm? Are you——"

But Bunny Brown broke in on the questions.

"Oh, I know who you are! I know who you are!" Bunny cried. "You're Tom Vine who ran away from us! Why did you run away? Daddy has been looking for you. You are Tom Vine; aren't you?"

"Yes, Bunny, I am. Wait a minute and I'll light a lantern, and you can see me better. Look out, Splash, so I won't step on you."

So that was why Splash had made such good friends with the big boy who came down the cave chimney hole—Splash knew Tom Vine, of course, even in the darkness.

Tom walked over to one of the boxes, and brought out a lantern. This he lighted. Bunny and Sue blinked their eyes at the sudden light, but they were soon used to it. Then they looked at Tom.

Yes, it was he. But he was even more ragged than when they had first seen him. He was laughing, though, and did not seem sad.

"And to think when I came home, and slid down the chimney of my cave, which I sometimes do, when I don't want to go around to the front door—to think when I did this I should find Bunny Brown and his sister Sue here!" said Tom. "How in the world did, you find me?"

"We weren't looking for you," answered Bunny. "We were in the boat, with Bunker Blue. He went on an island to fish, and we sailed away with the umbrella. We landed here and I found this cave, to get out of the rain. I told Sue it was a make-believe robbers' cave."

"Well, I guess I'm the only robber who ever lived in it," said Tom. "But what are you children going to do? Tell me all about how you got here."

This Bunny and Sue did, from the time they started out with Bunker Blue, until Bunny opened his eyes to see Tom sliding down the grapevine rope.

"And now I'll tell you about myself," said Tom.

"Have you been living here in this cave ever since you went away from our camp?" asked Bunny.

"Yes," answered Tom. "This has been my home. No one knew I was here. I wanted to keep out of sight of Mr. Trimble, for fear he'd make me go back to his farm."

"Oh, he won't make you go back," said Bunny. "He's sorry he was so cross to you. He told daddy so; didn't he, Sue?"

"Yes, he did. I'm glad we found you, Tom," and she put her little hand in his big one.

"And I'm glad I found you and Bunny, Sue. And I'm glad that Mr. Trimble isn't looking for me. I was getting tired of hiding out this way. I want to go back to your camp."

"You can come," said Bunny. "Daddy wants you, I know, for he said he did. Come on back now."

"Wait a minute," said Tom. "First I'll tell you how I came here. And then, I guess, we'll have to stay until morning, as it is storming too bad to leave the cave now."

Tom then told that he had heard Mr. Trimble was looking for him, to make him go back to the farm.

"And, as I was afraid he'd catch me, I ran away from your camp that day when I went for the pail of water," said Tom. "As I was at the spring I saw Mr. Trimble going past behind some bushes. He didn't see me, because I stooped down. And when he got past I ran away. I didn't want him to get me.

"I found this cave, and I've lived in it. I took some old boxes and bags from a barn. They were thrown away, so no one wanted them, I knew. Then I found this lantern and I brought that here."

"How did you get anything to eat?" asked Bunny.

"Well, I took that," said Tom. "In the night I went back to your camp, and took some things. I didn't think your folks would care very much."

"They didn't," said Bunny. "Did you take the pie and the bacon and eggs?"

"Yes," said Tom, "I did. I have earned some money, though, and I'll pay for them."

"And did you knock down the pile of tins?" Bunny asked, "and make the noise in the night?"

"Yes," laughed Tom. "I thought sure your folks would catch me then, but I got safely away. And ever since then I've stayed in this cave. I found it by accident. It made a nice dry place. During the day I would go off to different farms and work enough to earn a little money to buy things to eat. All the while I was afraid Mr. Trimble would find me. He was such a mean man."

"But he's turned good now," declared Bunny, "and he's sorry he was bad to you. He wouldn't even shut you up in a smoke-house," and Bunny told of finding the fox in the little house.

"So then I can go back to your camp, and Mr. Trimble won't try to get me; will he?" asked Tom.

"Nope, he won't hurt you at all," said Bunny. "And please can't we go back to our camp now? Daddy and mother will be so worried about us."

"Why, yes, I guess I can take you," said Tom. "It isn't very far, and there's a good road. I see you have an umbrella. That will keep Sue dry. You and I won't mind getting wet, Bunny; will we?"

"Nope," said the little fellow.

When they went to the entrance of the cave they found that the rain had stopped, and the moon was shining. It was quite light in the woods. Leading Bunny and Sue by the hands, with Splash following after, Tom started for Camp Rest-a-While. He stopped for a moment on top of the cave, to show the children the chimney hole, and how he had slid down it by holding on to a long grapevine, that twined around a tree growing near the hole. The grapevine was like a long rope.

Through the woods went Bunny, Sue and Tom. As they came near the camp they saw lanterns flashing, and voices called:

"Bunny! Bunny Brown! Sue! Sue! Where are you?"

"Here we are. Daddy! Here we are!" cried Bunny and Sue together. "And Tom Vine is with us!" added Bunny.

Those carrying the lantern rushed forward, and soon Bunny and Sue were clasped in their father's and mother's arms, while Uncle Tad and Bunker were shaking hands with Tom, and listening to his story of how he had found the children in the cave where he made his home.

"And to think you two went off in a boat with an umbrella for a sail!" cried Mother Brown to the children. "Don't you ever do it again!"

"We won't!" promised Bunny. "But what happened to you, Bunker?"

"Well, after you left me on the island," said the red-haired boy, "I waited until I saw your father coming after me in a boat. He took me to camp, and I told him I thought you and Sue had drifted down the lake. So we set out to find you, but you got here all right."

"And I don't want to sleep in any more caves," said Sue.

"I like it," Bunny said. "It was nice!"

The children were soon asleep in their cots in the camp tent, and after Tom had told his story to Mr. and Mrs. Brown, he, too, was given his old bed. He had nothing more to fear from Mr. Trimble, and he need not have run away, only he was afraid of the farmer. And for that reason he did not go back to camp, or send any word to Mr. Brown.

But everything came out all right, and Mr. Trimble came over and told Tom how sorry he was for having been so unpleasant as to make him run away.

Bunny Brown and his sister Sue stayed at Camp Rest-a-While all that summer and they had much fun, and many more adventures, but I have no room to tell you about them in this book. Perhaps I may write another volume about them later. As for Tom Vine, he was taken to live in Bellemere, where he worked at Mr. Brown's boat business with Bunker Blue. He did not have to live in a cave any more, and had a good home.

And now, having told all there is to tell, I will let you say good-bye to Bunny Brown and his sister Sue.


THE END