Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue on Grandpa's Farm/15

CHAPTER XV


THE OLD HERMIT


Bunny Brown and his sister Sue had been lost before, several times. Maybe that is why Sue was not so frightened now, when Bunny spoke as he did. As for the little boy, he seemed more tired than worried.

"Yes, Sue,*' he said again. "I guess we're lost. I've looked all over, and I can't see the hill where we picked the strawberries, nor the field where we got the raspberries."

"I can't either," said Sue. "And I wish we had some berries. Bunny."

"Why?"

"'Cause I'm hungry right now again."

"Well, you can eat these, Sue. I don't want 'em."

Bunny Brown was hungry himself, and he did want some of the berries very much. But there were, now, only a few left in the pail, and Bunny remembered that his mother had said to him that he must always look after Sue when she went walking with him.

And the best way he could look after her, this time, he thought, like the brave little fellow he tried to be, was to give her all the berries.

"Are you sure you don't want 'em. Bunny?" asked his sister.

"Sure I" he said. "Anyhow, we'll find more when I get hungry."

"All right," and Sue began eating the berries. She was very hungry.

After a while Bunny said:

"Now I'm going to look for the field again. If we find the field we can find the hill, and then we'll be almost home."

"All right," replied Sue, putting the last of the berries into her mouth. "Do I have to wash again, Bunny?" she asked, as she looked at her stained hands. Her mouth was stained, too, but she could not see that.

"I don't know where the spring of water is," Bunny said, "so I don't see how you can wash."

"All right" Sue did not much mind. She was not very fond of washing in cold spring water, anyhow.

Once more the children went on. But though they followed many paths through the woods they did not get on the one that led out and to the field and hill.

"Oh, dear!" said Sue, in a sad little voice.

"What's the matter?" asked Bunny, stopping and turning around, for he had walked on ahead.

"I'm so tired. Bunny!"

"Well, we'll rest a while."

They sat down on a log, Bunny looking through the trees, here and there, thinking he might see some path that led out of the woods. But he saw none.

"Are you rested now, Sue?" he asked, after a while.

"A little," she answered. "I can walk some more."

So they went on again. It was getting late afternoon now, for the children had not started to pick berries until after dinner. The sun was going down, and of course it was darker in the woods, with all the trees around, than it was out in the open fields.

Bunny Brown and his sister Sue were surely lost in the woods, and they did not know how to get home. As I have told you, this was not the first time this had happened to them, and they were not as frightened as they had been other times. But still it was no fun.

Through the woods were many paths. Some had been made by cows, or horses, perhaps, while others were those taken by persons who walked among the trees. But there were no persons now in the woods; that is Bunny and Sue could see none.

All at once Bunny gave a yell.

"Hoo-oo! Hoo-oo! Hoo-oo!" he cried, as loudly as he could.

"Oh!" cried Sue. "What's the matter, Bunny? Did a snake bite you; or a mud turtle?"

"Nope. I was just hollerin' so some one would hear me."

"What for?" Sue wanted to know.

"So they would come and take us out of the woods."

"Oh," and Sue laughed then. "I'll holler too," she said.

So she did. Then Bunny called again, and he and Sue called together, as loudly as they could.

But no one answered them.

All they could hear was an echo—the sound of their own voices coming back to them, "bouncing" like a rubber ball. They had heard that before, so they knew what an echo was. But an echo only repeats the same things that are said. It does not help to find the way out of the woods, and Bunny and Sue were still lost.

They went on farther, but they did not know whether they were going toward home, or away from it. Sue, in spite of brave little Bunny, was beginning to get frightened now. Tears came into her eyes, though they did not fall.

"I—I'm so tired, Bunny," she said. "I want to go home!"

"So do I, Sue. But we've got to get on the right path, and I can't find it."

"Let's try this one," said the little girl, as they came to a place where there were two paths through the woods. One went off toward the left side, and the other to the right.

"I'll take one path," said Bunny, "and you can take the other, Sue."

"Oh, no!"

"Why not?"

"'Cause then we'd both be lost."

"Well, we're both lost now."

"Yes," said Sue, "I know. But now we're both lost together, but if we were lost all alone I'd be scareder than I am now. Don't go away, Bunny."

"I won't. But which path shall we take?"

Sue thought for a minute. Then she tried a little game that the children sometimes played.

Shutting her eyes, Sue pointed her fat little hand first at one path, and then the other, while she said:

"My-mother-told-me-to-take-this-one!"

And she moved her hand back and forth, pointing first at one path and then at the other. When she said the last word—"one"—her hand was pointing at the left hand path.

"We'll take this one, Bunny," she said.

"All right, Sue. Maybe this one will take us home."

So they walked on and on. But Sue's guess had not been a very good one, even though she had played her queer little game. She and Bunny were deeper in the woods than ever.

"Oh, dear!" cried the little girl. "I've just got to sit down. Bunny. My legs is so tired!"

"Mine is too," Bunny said, too weary to speak more properly. "We'll both rest, Sue, and then we'll holler some more."

"And what will we do if nobody comes to get us?"

"We'll go back and take the other path, Sue. Maybe we came on the wrong one."

"Maybe we did." Sue was glad to have the other path to think about Perhaps that might be the one that would lead them home. She and Bunny sat on a log to rest, and then, once more, Bunny gave a loud shout.

"Hello! Hello!" he cried. "We're lost! Somebody come and find us!"

Sue joined in, crying in her shrill little voice. But, for a while, no one answered.

"Well, we'll go back and take the other path," said Bunny. He was getting very hungry! and he wished he would come to another place where strawberries or raspberries grew.

Before starting back, however, Bunny gave one more shout.

"Hello! Hello!" he cried.

To the surprise of himself and Sue there was an answer.

"Hello! Hello!"

Bunny and Sue looked at one another.

"Did—did you hear that?" asked Bunny in a whisper.

"Yes," answered Sue. "It was the echo!"

But, as they waited the call came again.

"Hello! Hello! Who are you? Where are you? What do you want?"

"That wasn't any echo," said Bunny, "'cause we didn't speak. It's somebody after us, Sue."

"Oh, I'm so glad!"

"So'm I!"

There was a crackling of the bushes, and through the trees came walking an old man, with long, white hair and a beard. He had a kind face, and Bunny and Sue liked him at once.

"Oh, did you come for us?" asked Bunny.

"Well, no, not exactly," the man answered with a smile. "I heard you calling, though. What is the matter?"

"We're lost," replied Sue. "Will you please take us home?"

"I would if I knew where your home was, little girl."

"Do you live in the woods?" Bunny asked. The man looked as though his home might be in some hollow tree, or woodland cave.

"Yes, boy, I live here."

"All alone?" asked Sue, looking around.

"All alone, yes, little girl. I'm a sort of hermit, I suppose. At least folks call me that, and hermits always live alone, you know." The man smiled very kindly at the children.

"Well, Mr. Hermit," said Sue, "please take us home, and give me and Bunny something to eat. We're awful hungry."