Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue on Grandpa's Farm/17

CHAPTER XVII


IN THE STORM


"Say, Mr. Hermit," said Bunny, as he and his sister Sue walked along with the nice, but strange man, who lived in the log cabin in the woods, "is it far to where grandpa's horses are, Mr. Hermit?"

"Well, little man, I'm not sure we can find your grandfather's horses," said the aged man with a smile at the two children, "All I know is that I saw some Gypsies camped over in the valley. It may be that they are the ones your grandfather is looking for. Would you know the horses if you saw them?"

"I would!" exclaimed Sue. "One of 'em has an awful nice long tail."

The hermit laughed.

"I fear that wouldn't be a very good way of telling your grandfather's horses from any others," said the old man. "Many horses have long tails. But if there are some Gypsies camping in the valley you can tell your folks, and your grandfather can come and see if they have his horses."

"Is it very far?" asked Bunny again. He was not as tired as before he had eaten the bread and milk, but still he did not want to walk any more than he had to. Sue, also, looked weary.

"Oh, no, it isn't far," the hermit said. "It's only a little way to the valley, but it is quite a long way to your grandfather's house. I don't know whether you can walk it or not."

"I'm tired," said Sue. "I want to ride."

"I'm sorry I haven't anything to give you a ride on," returned the old man. "I can carry you, though, little girl, if your brother can walk."

"I can walk!" said Bunny. His fat little legs were tired, but he was not going to say so.

"All right. Then I'll carry your sister."

"Piggy-back?" Sue asked. "Will you give me a piggy-back? That's the way my papa carries me."

"Yes, I'll take you pickaback," said the hermit, and he almost whispered. Bunny, who was looking at him, was sure he saw tears in the old man's eyes. Or was it a drop of rain? For there were clouds in the sky now, and it seemed as if it was going to storm.

The old man looked around. He saw a flat stump not far away, and up on this he lifted Sue.

"Now you can get up on my back from there," he said, "and I will carry you so you won't be tired any more, little girl."

"That's good," murmured Sue, rather sleepily, as she cuddled her head down on the hermit's shoulder. "You know how to make a nice piggy-back," she went on. Did you ever ride your little girl this way?"

"Yes," said the old man. "Once I had a little girl, just like you, and I used to ride her this way."

"Where is your little girl?" Sue asked.

"She is up—there," and the old man pointed to the sky. This time Bunny was sure the hermit had tears in his eyes. But, a little later Bunny was not quite sure, for he felt a drop of something wet on his own cheek.

"Why, it's raining!" he exclaimed. "It's raining water!"

"So it is, I do believe 1" said the hermit He stopped, still holding Sue on his back, and lifted up his face. He felt several drops from the clouds, and then there came a pattering on the leaves of the trees. It was getting quite dark now. There were many clouds in the sky, and, every now and then, a flash of lightning could be seen. Off in the west there was a rumble of thunder.

"Oh!" cried Sue. "I want to go home. I don't want to be out in the storm."

"I like the rain," said Bunny, "but I don't like the thunder and lightning; do you, Mr. Hermit?"

"I don't mind them very much," answered the old man. "But if you are afraid I'll take you back to my cabin, and leave you there, while I go to your house and get them to come for you in a carriage."

"I like to ride in a carriage," said Sue, "though you gave me a nice piggy-back, too. But I like a carriage and horses."

"Well, then that's what I'll do. I think it is going to rain hard soon, and if I carried you through it you'd get wet. So we'll go back, and I'll see about the horse and carriage."

"But can't we go and get grandpa's horses from the Gypsies?" asked Bunny.

"I'm afraid not this time," answered the old man. "If the Gypsies are in the valley they will stay all night, anyhow, and we can look for the horses in the morning, when it has stopped raining. We'll go back to my house now."

By this time the rain was coming down quite hard. But, as they walked along under the trees. Bunny and Sue did not get very wet, nor did the hermit. Sue was almost asleep, she was so tired, and Bunny was glad they did not have to walk all the way back to grandpa's farm.

It was nearly night, and Bunny thought his father and mother, as well as the others, might be worrying about him and Sue. But then the hermit would soon go and tell them that the children were safe in his log cabin.

Back through the woods they went. Now it lightened very often, and it thundered so loudly that Sue awakened on the back of the hermit, and began to cry.

"I want to go home!" she sobbed. "I want my mamma!"

"I'll get her as soon as I can," said the old man. "Don't cry little girl. The thunder is only a big noise, like Fourth of July, and the lightning is only a great big firefly—that is make-believe you know."

"Oh, yes, let's pretend that way!" cried Bunny, for he was not as frightened at the storm as was Sue.

She stopped crying. Sue always liked anything make-believe, even if it had to do with thunder and lightning.

"And will you get a carriage and ride me and Bunny home?" she asked.

"Yes," answered the hermit.

"All right. Then I won't be 'fraid."

Once more she cuddled her head down on the hermit's shoulder. In a little while they were back at his cabin. The aged man went in, and lighted a lamp, for it was quite dark. It was now raining hard, and the stormy wind was blowing the tree branches all about.

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IN THE HERMIT’S CABIN–“MAYBE IT’S A WOLF, BUNNY!”–Page 169.

"Now you stay right here until I come back with your father, or grandfather," said the hermit, as he put on an old coat to go out in the rain.

"Aren't you got an umbrella?" asked Sue.

"I don't need one, little girl. Umbrellas aren't much good in the woods. They catch on the trees. I'll be all right. I don't mind getting wet. Now don't you go away. I can't take you with me, or I would, but you'll be all right here."

"We're not afraid," said Bunny bravely. "Once we got locked in an empty house; didn't we, Sue?"

"Yep. And we slided down the banister rail. It was fun."

"Well, I haven't any banister here for you to slide down," said the hermit "But you may go to sleep if you like."

He went out, shutting the door after him, first having put the lamp on a high shelf where it could not be knocked over, if Bunny and Sue happened to be playing about the cabin.

But Bunny and Sue did not feel much like playing. They were not so frightened by the storm just now, but they were tired and sleepy. Sue saw, in one corner of the room, a sort of bed, or bunk, with blankets and pillows spread out on it.

"Oh, Bunny!" cried the little girl. "There's a bed just like those in our automobile. I'm going to sleep!"

"All right," answered Bunny. "You go to sleep, and I'll sit up and be on guard like the soldiers do in camp. I'll pretend I'm a soldier."

"That will be fun!" exclaimed Sue.

She climbed up in the hermit's bed, and put her head down on the pillow. It was a nice, clean bunk, as clean as those her mother had made in the traveling automobile.

Bunny curled up in a chair near Sue. His eyes were wide open, and he tried to feel just as he thought a soldier on guard would feel. His mother had read him stories about soldiers staying awake all night.

Bunny was not sure he could do this.

"But I won't go to sleep until the hermit man comes back with papa, or Grandpa Brown," he thought. "Then Sue and I can go to sleep in the carriage." The rain came pattering down on the log cabin roof. Bunny could not see the lightning now, because of the lamp which the hermit had lighted. But he could hear the thunder. It did not frighten him, though. Sometimes, when it sounded very loud, the little boy pretended it was a big circus wagon rumbling over a bridge—the tank-wagon, with water in it, where the big hippopotamus splashed about. That circus wagon, Bunny was sure, would make the most noise. So he "made-believe."

Sue was curled up on the bed. Once she roused up enough to say:

"Bunny!"

"Yes, Sue?" he answered. "What do you want?"

"Are you there. Bunny?" she asked, sleepily.

"Yes, Sue. I'm right here." He reached over and touched her hand. "What do you want. Sue?"

"I—I just wanted to know are you there," and with that Sue turned over again, and soon was fast, fast asleep.

Several times Bunny felt himself nodding. His head would bob down and his eyes slowly go shut. Then he would rouse up, and say to himself:

"Soldiers mustn't sleep when they are guarding the camp! I'm a make-believe soldier, and I mustn't sleep!"

Then he would be wide awake for a little while. But soon his head would nod again. And finally Bunny slept, just as Sue was doing, only he was asleep in the chair, and she was in the hermit's bed.

Just how long he slept Bunny did not know. But, all at once, he was awakened by a noise at the door. At first he thought it was the hermit, who had come back with his papa or mamma.

But then, instead of a knock, a scratching sound was heard. Then Sue awoke, and heard it too.

"Scratch!" went something on the door.

"Oh, Bunny, what is it?" asked Sue, sitting up in bed. "What is it, Bunny?"