Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue on Grandpa's Farm/21

CHAPTER XXI


BUNNY'S BIG IDEA


Bunny Brown ran to the pantry where his grandmother had gone. Sue followed. The two children saw Grandma Brown looking at some empty shelves. On one shelf, before they had started for the picnic, had stood the big cocoanut-custard cake, that was too large to go in any of the baskets. That was why it had been left at home for supper.

"Oh, is it really gone?" asked Bunny sadly.

"It isn't here," said Grandma Brown.

"Could the hired man have taken it?" asked Bunny's mother.

"Oh, no! He wouldn't do such a thing as that," replied Grandma Brown. "I left his dinner in the kitchen, as I always do when we go away. No, some one must have gotten in the house, while we were gone, and taken the cake, besides some of my pies and other things."

"Was it—was they burglars?" asked Sue. She had often heard, at home, of burglars getting into houses and taking money and other things.

"No, I don't believe it was burglars," said Grandma Brown. "But I see how they got in. I left the pantry window open, though the shutters were closed. They opened the shutters and climbed in. The shutters were tied with a string, and the string has been cut—see!"

She showed Bunny and Sue, also Mother Brown, where the cut string hung dangling from the edge of one shutter.

"They climbed in that window and took the cake," went on Grandma Brown.

"Oh, my lovely cake!" exclaimed Sue. "And I wanted some for supper!"

"So did I!" said Bunny Brown. "Is there any other kind of cake, Grandma?"

"Oh, yes, I can give you cookies. But I would like to know who it was got in my pantry. We don't generally trouble to lock our doors and windows around here in the day time," she went on, "for none of us was ever robbed before. But if this is going to happen I'll have to be more careful."

She pushed open the shutters, which were partly closed, and looked out. Then she called:

"Oh, here's a box they stepped on to get in the window. Look, children, they brought a box from the barn, stepped up on it, and crawled in the window. And see! One of them dropped his handkerchief!"

Bunny and Sue, looking under Grandma Brown's arms, one on each side of her, saw, down on the ground, a red handkerchief. At the sight of it Bunny Brown cried:

"Oh it was the tramps! It was the tramps that took our cake. Grandma!"

"How do you know, Bunny?"

"Because the tramps that scared us had red handkerchiefs on their necks just like that one down there. I'm sure they were the same tramps, Grandma."

The two children, grandma and Mother Brown went outside, under the pantry window. There lay the red handkerchief on the ground, and it was twisted up in just the way a handkerchief would be twisted if it had been around any one's neck.

"Those tramps didn't get enough to eat out of our baskets," said Bunny Brown, "so they came here and took grandma's things. Let's go after 'em! I'll get Splash and-"

Bunny Brown started to run after his dog, that had gone out to the barn with Bunker Blue. But his mother caught the little boy by the arm.

"You had better stay right here," she said. You are too small to go chasing off after tramps, even with Splash. We'll let Papa Brown and grandpa find the bad men, if they are still here."

Daddy Brown and grandpa came back from the barn, where they had been putting away the horses, and they were told of the missing cake, pies and crullers. Then they looked at the red handkerchief, lying where one of the tramps must have dropped it.

"Yes, I should not be surprised if the same tramps who scared the children came here and took your things. Mother," said Papa Brown. "They must have been frightened, and have run off in a hurry, to have dropped their handkerchief this way. We'll ask the hired man."

But the hired man had been working in the garden, some distance away from the house, and he had seen nothing of any tramps. He had come in to his dinner, and he said he had looked in the pantry then, and had noticed that the big cake was all right.

"Then the tramps came here after dinner, and after they were at the picnic grounds," said Grandpa Brown. "I must look around. They may be hiding in my barn, and sometimes tramps smoke in the hay, and set it on fire. We'll look for them."

But no tramps were found.

"Maybe they heard Splash barking, and ran away in such a hurry that they dropped their handkerchief," said Bunny.

"Maybe," agreed his mother. "Well, it's better to have them take the crullers, the pie and the cake instead of a cow or a horse."

"Indeed it is!" said Grandpa Brown. "I don't want to lose any more horses."

"I can bake you another cocoanut-custard cake, children," said Grandma Brown, "I'll make it to-morrow. To-night you will have to eat cookies with your milk."

And the cookies were very good, as was everything Grandma Brown made, so Bunny and Sue were not hungry after all.

That night Grandpa Brown went all around the house, to make sure that all the doors and windows were locked.

"For we don't want any tramps coming here in the middle of the night, waking us up from our sleep," he said.

And nothing happened. Probably the tramps ran a good way off with the fine big cocoanut-custard cake. They must have had a good feast on that, and on the pies and crullers.

For two or three days after the picnic Bunny Brown and his sister Sue had good times at grandpa's farm. One day it rained, but the children played a part of the time in the barn, and the rest of the time in the big attic of grandpa's house.

This attic had in it even more things, to have a good time with, than did the attic at Bunny's home.

There were big fur rugs that Grandpa Brown put in the sled when it was winter There were strings of sleigh bells that jingled when they were touched. And there was a spinning wheel, like the one in Mother Brown's attic, only it was larger.

Then, too, there were piles of old clothes, old picture-papers, trunks with many strange things in them, and so many other things that Bunny and Sue did not get tired of playing all day long.

But the attic was only nice to play in on rainy days. On days when the sun shone down hot on the roof it was too warm up there. So the next day, when the storm was over, Bunny and Sue looked for something else to do to have a good time.

"Come on, and we'll play ball," said Bunny.

He and Sue did not exactly play ball the way big boys did. But Bunny would throw the ball, and when Sue had caught it she would toss it back. They went out behind the house to play this game.

Back and forth they tossed the ball, until Sue missed it when Bunny threw it to her. The ball rolled under a currant bush, but when Sue ran to pick it up, the little girl suddenly stopped, and stood looking at the bush.

"What's the matter?" asked Bunny. "Why don't you pick the ball up, and throw it to me, Sue?"

"I—I can't," she answered

"Why not?"

"'Cause a hen's got it."

"A hen's got my ball?" asked Bunny, much surprised.

"Yep," said Sue, shaking her head up and down to make Bunny understand. "The ball is right by the hen, and she's got her bill on it. I dassn't pick it up, 'cause she'll peck me."

Bunny ran to where Sue stood. Surely enough, the ball had rolled under the edge of the currant bush, close to where a big hen was all cuddled up in a heap. And the hen did have her bill on the ball with which the children had been playing.

"Why—why that hen is on a nest!" exclaimed Bunny. "I guess grandma doesn't know there's a hen's nest out here. We'll go and tell her."

"But aren't you going to take your ball?" asked Sue. "Maybe the hen will eat it if you don't."

"Hen's can't eat balls," said Bunny. "The ball is too big for them to swaller."

"Well, anyhow, they could pick holes in it, and then we couldn't play with it any more."

"That's so," agreed Bunny. "I'll see if I can get it away from her."

But when Bunny crept under the currant bush, and reached for his ball, the hen made a funny clucking noise, ruffled up her feathers and looked so angry, that Bunny was afraid.

"Maybe she's got little chickens in her nest," said Sue. "If she has she'll peck you if you go close to her—grandma said so."

"Maybe she has," agreed Bunny. "But I'll get a long stick and poke my ball out. Then she can't peck me."

But it was not easy to make the ball roll out of the way of the hen. The stick would slip off it when Bunny reached for it, and whenever the stick came near the hen she would peck at it Once she almost knocked it from Bunny's hand.

And, all the while, the hen made that queer clucking noise, and fluffed up her feathers so that she looked twice as big as she really was.

"Oh, come away! Come away!" begged Sue, "She'll bite you, Bunny!"

Bunny Brown was a little afraid of the hen. And when he found he could not roll the ball out of her way he ran to the house, with Sue, and told his mother and grandmother what had happened.

"Why, that must be the old gray hen, sitting on her nest that she went off and made by herself," said Grandma Brown. "I wondered where she was hiding, but I never thought to look under the currant bush. I'm glad you found her, Bunny. I'll get your ball for you."

The hen did not seem to mind when Grandma Brown went close to her. Very carefully Grandma reached for Bunny's ball. Then she gently lifted up one of the hen's wings, and showed the children the eggs under her feathers.

"Soon some little chickens will hatch out of the eggs," said grandma. "Some of the shells are already cracked, and the chickies may be out to-morrow."

"Oh, I'll just love to see them!" cried Sue.

Now that they had their ball again, Bunny and Sue could play once more. And the next day the little chickens did hatch. Up to the house came the old mother hen with eleven little, fluffy, yellow balls, almost as round as Bunny's ball, but of course not so big.

"Peep! Peep!" went the little chickens, as they followed the hen-mother around.

"Cluck-cluck!" said the hen-mother.

"Oh, aren't they cute!" cried Sue.

Every one thought they were, and I think the hen mother was very proud of them, for if any one went too near she would make a queer noise, and ruffle up her feathers, just as she had when Bunny reached for his ball near her.

It was two or three days after this that Bunny Brown and his sister Sue awakened one morning, and saw something queer out on the side of grandpa's barn.

"Oh, look!" exclaimed Sue, who saw it first. "What a big picture, Bunny!"

Indeed it was a large one, brightly colored, showing elephants, lions, tigers and horses, all in a big ring. And there were men and ladies jumping from the top of a tent, into nets underneath.

"Oh, it's a circus picture!" cried Bunny. "How did it get there. Grandpa?"

"A man came along early this morning, and pasted it up," said Grandpa Brown.

Bunny and Sue ran out to look at the circus picture. It was a fine, big one, and the more they looked at it the more the children liked it. Finally Bunny said:

"Sue, I've got an idea! Such a big idea!"

"Oh, what is it," asked Sue. "What's an idea? Is it good to eat?"

Bunny did not exactly know what an idea was, but he had heard his mother and father say that word.

"Sue!" exclaimed Bunny in a sort of whisper, "if that circus is coming to town we'll go—you and me. We'll go to the circus!"

"Oh, Bunny!" cried Sue, clapping her hands. "That will be just fine! But how can we go?"