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CHAPTER VIII


THE RAGGED BOY


Daddy Brown was used to being suddenly aroused in the night by either Bunny or Sue, At home the children often awakened, and called out. Sometimes they would be dreaming, or perhaps they would want a drink of water. So Daddy Brown and Mrs. Brown were used to answering when they heard the children call out.

But it was something new to hear Bunny calling about a big, black bear. He had never done that before, though one time, when he ate too much bread and jam for supper, he screamed that there was an elephant in his room, and there wasn't at all. He had only dreamed it.

But this time Daddy Brown had plainly heard his little boy say:

"Oh, it's a bear! It's a bear!"

Mr. Brown awakened, and sat up in his cot He looked over toward Bunny's bed, but could see nothing of the little fellow, for as I have told you. Bunny was covered up under the blankets and quilt. Even his head was covered.

Then Mr. Brown looked toward the entrance, or front door of the tent. And, to his surprise, he saw just what Bunny had seen, a big, shaggy, hairy animal, standing on its hind legs, with its black nose up in the air, sniffing and snuffing.

"Why—why!" exclaimed Mr. Brown, rubbing his eyes to make sure that he was wide awake, and that he was not dreaming, as he thought Bunny might have been. "Why—why! It is a bear!"

"Sniff! Snuff!" went the big, shaggy creature.

"Daddy—Daddy!" cried Bunny, his voice sounding faint and far off, because his head was under the covers. "Daddy, is—is he gone?"

"No, not yet," answered Mr. Brown.

"What is it? What's the matter?" called Mrs. Brown, from behind the curtain, where she slept.

"Why," said Mr. Brown slowly. "It—it seems to be a—"

Then he stopped. He did not want to scare his wife or Sue, by telling them there was a bear in the tent, and yet there was.

"Oh, what is it?" cried Mrs. Brown again. "I heard Bunny crying! Is anything the matter with him?"

"No, he's all right," answered Bunny's papa. That was true enough. There was really nothing the matter with the little boy. He was just a bit frightened, that was all.

"But something is the matter," said Mrs. Brown, "I know there is! Why don't you tell me what it is?"

Daddy Brown did not know just what to do. He sat up in bed, thinking and looking first at the bear and then at Bunny. All Mr. Brown could see of Bunny was a heap under the bedclothes. But the bear was in plain sight, standing in the doorway of the tent, sniffing and snuffing near the lighted lantern.

Mr. Brown did not want to speak about the bear. He thought the big, shaggy creature looked quite gentle, and perhaps it would go away if no one harmed it. Perhaps it was just looking for something to eat, and as it couldn't find anything in the bedroom tent it might go to the one where the cooking was done.

Bunker Blue was still sound asleep, and so was Uncle Tad. Nor had Sue, sleeping next to her mother, in the other part of the tent, been awakened. Just Bunny Brown, and his father and mother were wide awake. Oh, yes, of course the bear was not asleep. I forgot about that. His little black eyes blinked, and opened and shut, and he wrinkled up his rubber-like nose as he snififed the air.

"Well, aren't you going to tell me what it is? What's the matter in there? What happened?" asked Mother Brown. "If you don't tell me——"

By this time Bunny Brown made up his mind that he would be brave. He uncovered one eye and peered out from beneath the bed clothes. His first sight was of the bear, who was still there.

"Oh! Oh!" cried Bunny. "It is a bear! It's a big, black bear! I didn't dream it! It's real! a real, big, black bear!"

Mrs. Brown heard what her little boy said.

"Oh, Walter!" she cried to her husband. "Throw something at it. Here's my shoe—throw that. I've got two shoes, but I can only find one. Throw that at the bear and make him go away!"

Mrs. Brown threw over the curtain, that divided the tent into two parts, one of her shoes.

She really had two shoes, but when she felt under her cot in the dark, she could only find one. You know how it is when you try to find anything in the dark, even if it's a drink of water in the chair at the head of our bed. You move your hand all over, and you think some one must have come in and taken the water away. And when you get a light you find that, all the while, your hand was about an inch away from the glass. It was that way with Mrs. Brown's other shoe.

But she threw one over the curtain, calling out again:

"Hit him with that, Walter! Hit the bear with my shoe!"

But there was no need for Mr. Brown to do anything. The shoe thrown by Bunny's mother sailed through the tent. Straight at the bear it went, and before the shaggy creature could get out of the way, the shoe hit him on the end of the nose.

"Bunk!" went the shoe.

"Wuff!" grunted the bear.

Now you know a bear's nose is his most tender part. You could hit him on his head, or on his back, or on his paw—that is if you were brave enough to hit a bear at all—but you would not hurt him, hardly any, unless you hit him right on the end of his soft and tender nose. That's the best place to hit a bear if you want to drive him away, out of your tent, or anything like that. Hit him on the nose.

"Whack!" went Mrs. Brown's shoe on the end of the bear's nose.

"Wuff!" grunted the bear, and down he dropped on all four paws.

Now Mrs. Brown really did not mean to hit the bear. She was just tossing her shoe over the curtain so her husband might have something to throw at the bear, and, as it happened, she hit the bear by accident.

Of course it might have been better if one of Mr. Brown's shoes had hit the bear. I mean it would have been better for the Brown family, but worse for the bear. Because Mr. Brown's shoes were larger and heavier than his wife's. But then, it turned out all right anyhow.

For, no sooner did the bear feel Mrs. Brown's shoe hit him on the nose, than he cried out:

"Wuff!"

Then he turned quickly around, and ran out of the tent.

"Did you throw my shoe at him? Did you make him go away?" asked Mrs. Brown. "Because if you didn't, Walter, I've found my other shoe now, and I'll throw that to you."

"You won't need to, my dear," said Mr. Brown with a laugh. "One shoe was enough. You hit the bear yourself!"

"I did?"

"Yes, and he's gone. It's all right, Bunny. You can put your head out now. The bear is gone."

Bunny peeped with one eye, and when he saw that the big, shaggy creature was no longer there, he put his whole head out. Then, with a bound he jumped out of bed, and ran toward the back part of the tent, where his mother and sister were sleeping.

"Where you going. Bunny?" asked his father. "There's no more danger; the bear has gone."

"I—I'm just going in here to get my pop gun, so if the bear comes back—" Bunny said, "My pop gun is in here."

"Oh," said Mr. Brown, "I thought you were going to crawl in bed with your mother."

"Oh, no—no!" Bunny quickly answered, shaking his head. "I—I just want my pop gun. But," he went on, "if mother wants me to get in bed with her, and keep the bear away, why I will. Don't be afraid. I'll get in bed with you, Mother!"

"Oh, I guess the bear won't come back," said Mr. Brown with a laugh.

"Well, I'll get in bed with mother anyhow," said Bunny. "I'll have my pop gun all ready."

By this time Uncle Tad, Bunker Blue and Sue had been awakened by the talk. Outside the tent Splash could be heard barking, and there was a noise among the trees and bushes that told that the bear was running away.

"I—I hope he doesn't bite our dog," said Bunny.

"Oh, I guess Splash will know enough to keep away from the bear," replied Mr, Brown. "Besides, I think the bear was only a tame one, anyhow."

"A tame bear?" asked Uncle Tad, as he was told all that had happened.

"Yes. He didn't act at all like a wild one. Besides, there aren't any wild bears in this part of the country. This was a tame one all right."

"Where did it come from?" asked Mrs. Brown.

"Oh, I think it got away from some man who goes about the country making the bear do tricks. Probably in the morning we'll see the man looking for his bear," answered her husband.

And that is just what happened. There was no more trouble that night. Everyone went to sleep again, Bunny in the cot with his mother; though when he was asleep and slumbering soundly, she carried him back to his own little bed near his father.

Soon after breakfast the next morning, when they were talking about the bear scare in the night, along came a man, who looked like an Italian organ-grinder. He said he had a pet, tame bear, who had broken away from where he was tied, in the night.

And it was this bear who had wandered into the tent where Bunny was sleeping. Where the bear was now no one knew, but the Italian said he would walk off through the woods, and see if he could not find his pet, which he had trained to do many tricks.

Two or three days later, Mr. Brown heard that the bear was safely found, so there was no more need to worry about his coming into the tent at night.

That day Daddy Brown, with the help of Uncle Tad and Bunker Blue printed a big cloth sign which they hung up between two trees. The sign read:

CAMP REST-A-WHILE

"There," said Daddy Brown, "now the postman will know where to find us when he comes with letters."

"Oh, do they have mail up here?" asked Sue.

"No, daddy is only joking," said her mother. "I guess we'll have to go to the post office for letters."

One day, when they had been in camp about a week. Bunny and Sue, with the others, returned from a walk in the woods. As they came near the "dining-room tent," as they called it, they saw a ragged boy spring up from the table with some pieces of bread and meat, and dash into the bushes.

"Hold on there! Who are you? What do you want?" cried Daddy Brown. But the ragged boy did not stop running. He wanted to hide in the bushes.