"There you are," he finally said. "I guess they won't show now."
"And my dress is nearly dry!" exclaimed Sue. "Oh, I'm so glad. Mother won't know until I tell her. And of course I'll tell her," she quickly added.
Sue was as good as her word. After she got into her room and the boys had climbed down the ladder to go back and play with Bunny's little ship, Sue changed into dry clothes.
Then, after the company had gone, she told her mother all that had happened.
"I suppose it couldn't be helped," said Mrs. Brown with a smile. "I mean about falling into the brook. But it would have been just as well to come and tell me at once, Sue, instead of climbing the ladder. You might have fallen."
"I didn't want the company to know about it, Mother!"
"That was thoughtful of you. But if you had fallen off the ladder the company would have known about that, and it would have been much worse than just being seen in a wet and muddy dress."
"Oh, I couldn't fall with Bunny and Charlie to help me!" declared Sue.
That evening, just before supper, after Charlie Star had gone home and Bunny and Sue were playing out in the side yard, Mary called to them, asking:
"Do you children want to run to the store for me?"
"Yes," answered Bunny, and Sue inquired:
"What do you want?"
"A little pepper," was the answer. "I forgot that we were out and didn't order any when the grocery boy called to-day."
"We'll get it at Mrs. Golden's corner store!" said Bunny. "She keeps pepper."
"All right," Mary agreed. "Wait and I'll get you the money. We don't charge things at her store."
A little later Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, hand in hand, entered Mrs. Golden's little store.
"Well, my dears, what is it to-day?" asked the old lady, with a smile.
"Some pepper, if you please," answered Sue.
"Red or black?" asked Mrs. Golden.
Bunny and Sue looked at one another. This was something they had not thought about. Which did Mary want—red or black?
Seeing that the children were puzzled, Mrs. Golden said:
"What is your mother going to use it for, my dears?"
"Mother didn't tell us to get it," replied Bunny. "It was Mary, our cook, who sent us after it, 'cause she forgot to get any for supper."
"Oh, then it's black pepper she wants, I suppose," said Mrs. Golden. "She wouldn't want red pepper unless she were putting up pickles or something like that. I'll give you black pepper."
She started to rise from her chair, for she had been seated near the back of the store, but seemed so old and feeble that Bunny and Sue felt very sorry for her. When ladies got as old as Mrs. Golden seemed to be they ought always to rest in easy chairs, Bunny thought, and not have to get up to wait on a store.
Mrs. Golden grunted and groaned a little as she pushed herself up from the arms of the big chair.
"Are you terrible old?" asked Sue.
"I'm pretty old, yes, my dear," said Mrs. Golden. "But I don't mind that. It's the stiffness and the rheumatism. It's hard for me to get about, and the black pepper's on a high shelf, too. If my son Philip was only here he'd reach it down for me."
"Where is Philip?" asked Sue.
"Oh, he's gone to the city on business. He hopes to get a little legacy."
"What's a leg-legacy?" asked Bunny. "Is it something to sell in the store?"
"Bless your heart, no!" laughed Mrs. Golden. "A legacy is money, or property, or something like that which is left to you. If some of your rich relations die they leave money in the bank, or a house and lot, and it comes to you. That's a legacy."
"Did some of your rich relations die?" asked Sue.
"Well, an old man, who wasn't a very close relation, died," said the storekeeper. "There was some talk that he might leave me something, and Philip went to the city to see about it.
"But, dear, me! things are so uncertain in this world that I don't believe I'll get anything. There's no use thinking about it. I don't want to be disappointed, but I would like to get some money!"
Poor old lady! She seemed very sad and feeble, and the children felt sorry for her.
"Let me see now," went on Mrs. Golden. "Was it salt you said you wanted, Bunny?"
"No'm, pepper—black pepper."
"Oh, yes, black pepper! And it's on a high shelf, too. I wish Philip was back. He'd reach it down for me. I don't believe he'll get that legacy after all. Let me see now—pepper—black pepper——"
"Let me get it!" begged Bunny. "I can climb up on a high shelf!"
"So can I!" cried Sue. "I went up on a ladder, after I fell in the brook, and I got red paint on my dress!"
"My, what a lot of things to happen!" murmured Mrs. Golden, as slowly and feebly she made her way around the store to the side where she kept the groceries.
"Let me get the pepper!" begged Bunny, as he saw the old woman looking toward a top shelf. "I can climb up."
"Well, my dear, if you're sure you won't fall, you may get it," said Mrs. Golden. "I've got some sort of a thing to reach down packages and boxes from the high shelf. My boy Philip got it for me. But I can hardly ever find it when I want it. Be careful now, Bunny."
"I will," said the little fellow, as he began to climb.
Sue watched her brother, thinking over what Mrs. Golden had told them about a legacy.
"If she got a lot of money," mused Sue, "she could get a big store, all spread out flat and she wouldn't have to have any high shelves. I hope she gets her legacy."
Bunny was just reaching for the box of pepper when there was a sudden barking of dogs outside the store and something black and furry, with a long tail, rushed in, leaped up on the counter, and thence to the top shelf, knocking down a lot of boxes and cans.
"Oh! Oh!" screamed Sue. "Look out, Bunny!"
THE LAST DAY
Mrs. Golden was too surprised to do or say anything. She just stood still, looking up at Bunny. As for the little boy, he had been so startled that he almost let go his hold on one of the upright pieces of wood that held up the shelves. But he did not quite unclasp his hand, and so he clung there. Sue was dancing up and down in her excitement.
Then into the store rushed a big dog, barking and leaping about, his eyes fixed on that scrambling object in brown fur which had sprung to the highest shelf.
"Mercy me! What's that?" cried Mrs. Golden.
"It's Wango, Mr. Winkler's monkey," Sue answered.
And that is what it was.
Wango had got loose—nothing new for him—and had wandered out into the street. There a strange dog, catching sight of the animal, had chased him. Bunny and Sue knew it was a strange dog, for their own dog, Splash, and most other dogs in the neighborhood, were used to Wango and liked him. They seldom ran after him or barked at him. But this was a strange dog.
"Go on out of here!" Sue ordered this dog. The animal stood looking from her to Wango on the high shelf, barking loudly now and then. "Go on out and let Wango alone!" Sue ordered.
The dog did not seem to want to go, however, and Mrs. Golden was getting a bit worried. She feared the monkey would leap about and knock down many things from her shelves.
"Wait a minute," called Bunny Brown. "I've got the pepper. I'll come down there and make the dog sneeze with it if he doesn't go out."
Bunny started to climb down, but there was no need for him to sprinkle pepper on the dog's nose to make him sneeze. For just as Bunny reached the floor in came Jed Winkler himself, looking for his pet monkey. Mr. Winkler drove out the strange dog, closed the door, and then coaxed Wango down from the high shelf.
"Did he do any damage, Mrs. Golden?" asked the old sailor. "If my monkey did any damage I'll pay for it."
"No, he didn't do any harm," she answered. "He just startled us all a little."
"Wango's a good monkey, but he will run away," said Mr. Winkler, petting his furry companion. "I'm glad he didn't do any damage. My sister said he'd be sure to this time, but I'm glad he didn't."
"He's a good climber," said Sue. "If you had a monkey, Mrs. Golden, he could reach things down from the high shelves for you, when your son goes off after leg-legacies."
"I'm afraid, dearie, that a monkey would be more bother than he was worth to me, just to lift things down off high shelves," laughed the old lady. "Wango is a lively chap, though."
"What's this about a legacy?" asked Mr. Winkler, for he was an old friend of Mrs. Golden.
"I don't count much on it," she answered. "Philip has gone to see about it. I got word that an uncle of mine had died and left some money and property. We may get a share of it and we may not."
"I hope you do!" exclaimed Mr. Winkler. "I most certainly hope you do!"
So did Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, for they were getting quite fond of Mrs. Golden, and liked to buy things at her store.
When the children were on their way home with the pepper, Mr. Winkler walking with them part of the way carrying Wango on his shoulder, Bunny said:
"When I keep a store like that I'm going to have a monkey to reach things down off the high shelves for me."
"He might get the wrong things," Sue objected.
"Maybe he would first," said Bunny. "But I'd train him. It would be fun to have a monkey in a store, wouldn't it, Sue?"
"Lots of fun!" agreed Sue.
"My goodness, children!" laughed Mary, as they entered the kitchen with the pepper, "it took you quite a while, and I was in a hurry. Didn't Mrs. Golden have any pepper?"
"Yes, but Wango got in the store," explained Bunny. "When I keep a store I'm going to keep a monkey, too!"
"Bless and save us, what does the child mean?" murmured Mary, but she did not stop for an answer, as she was in a hurry to get the supper on the table.
Some days after this, during which time Bunny Brown and his sister Sue had had much fun with their playmates keeping store and doing other things, the two children came down dressed to go to school. But they were singing and laughing in a way they seldom did unless something different was happening, or going to happen.
"Bless and save us!" exclaimed Mary, as she saw Bunny and Sue start out of the house hand in hand. "You're very joyful this morning. What's going on?"
"It's the last day of school!" explained Bunny, laughing still more.
"We'll have hardly any lessons," Sue added. "And when we come home to-day we don't have to go back to school for a long, long while. It'll be vacation!"
"Oh, so that's the reason!" laughed Mary. "No wonder you feel so pert and chipper—no school! Well, have a good time when you're young."
Bunny and Sue certainly had good times if ever children did.
As Sue had said, there were hardly any lessons at school that day. Reports were to be given out, little gifts were to be made to the teachers, and there were to be "exercises." That is, the pupils would recite or sing in their different classrooms.
Bunny and Sue were each to "speak a piece," and they had been preparing for some time, going over their recitations each night at home to make sure they would not forget and stumble and halt when they stood on the platform.
Miss Bradley was such a great favorite with her children that many had brought her little gifts.
These were placed on her desk, and then, after a few lessons, which no one took very seriously, Miss Bradley read the class a story. Then came the speaking of "pieces."
This was always one of the things that took place on the "last day," and was much enjoyed. No one had to recite unless he or she wanted to, and so no one was nervous or afraid, except about forgetting the lines.
Sadie West recited a verse about bees and flowers, and very pretty it was, too. Sue had picked out a funny verse about a little mouse, a trap, and a piece of cheese. I think most of you know it, so I'll not tell you about it.
Then came the turn of fat Bobbie Boomer. Bobbie was funny just to look at, and he was funnier when he got up to recite. He had picked out as his recitation that old, old poem about Mary and her lamb, for it was easy for him to remember that.
Now Bobbie had been very sure that he would not forget any of the verses when he got up on the platform. He had practiced his "piece" at home over and over until he knew it "by heart," and could almost say it in his sleep, his father remarked.
But when Bobbie got up on the platform and after he had made a funny, jerky, fat, little bow, all of a sudden every word of that poem seemed to slip from his mind! He stood there, looking around the room, now up at the ceiling and now down at the floor. His face grew red, and he began pulling at the buttons on his coat.
Miss Bradley felt sorry for him, and she laid her finger over her lips when she heard some of the children beginning to laugh.
"What is the name of your selection, Bobbie?" the teacher asked kindly.
"It—it's about Ma—Mary and her—her little lamb!"
"That's a cute little poem. Don't be afraid. I'll start you off, and then perhaps you can remember the rest. Now begin," and Miss Bradley said the first line.
This helped Bobbie very much, and he got along all right until he came to the verse about the lamb following Mary to school. Bobbie got as far as, "It followed her to school one day which was——"
And there poor Bobbie "stuck." He couldn't think what came next.
"It followed her to school one day—school one day—one day," he said slowly.
"Yes," said Miss Bradley kindly. "And what comes next, Bobbie? Was it right for the lamb to follow Mary to school?"
Miss Bradley wanted Bobbie to say, "which was against the rule," but Bobbie couldn't just then remember that. Suddenly his eyes opened wide. He pointed to the back of the room, where a clattering sound was heard, and cried:
"Look! Look what's coming in!"
WATERING THE GARDEN
Instantly all the children turned around to look at what Bobbie Boomer was pointing to. And gasps of surprise came from Bunny Brown and Sue, as well as from the other pupils and the teacher.
For, standing in the doorway of the classroom, which was on the ground floor, was Toby, the Brown's Shetland pony. He stood there looking in, the wind blowing his fluffy mane and forelock, and his bright eyes looking around the classroom as if for a sight of Bunny and his sister.
"Oh, Toby!" cried Bunny. He had spoken out loud in school, but as it was the last day it did not so much matter.
"He came to school, just like Mary's lamb!" exclaimed Charlie Star.
Fat Bobbie Boomer seemed to be forgotten, but the sight of the pony appeared to have brought back to the little boy's mind the line he had missed.
"Which was against the rule!" he suddenly exclaimed.
Every one laughed, even Miss Bradley, and she added:
"Yes, it was against the rule for the lamb to follow Mary to school, and I suppose it's just as much against the rule for the pony to follow Bunny Brown and his sister Sue."
"Please, Teacher, he didn't follow me!" said Bunny.
"Nor me!" added Sue. "We didn't know he was coming! He was in the stable when we came from home."
This was very true, and they were all wondering how it had happened that Toby had followed the children. It was something he had never done before, and, though he was a great pet, he was not exactly Mary's lamb—he did not follow Bunny and Sue everywhere they went.
"Suppose, Bunny, you take Toby out of the room," suggested Miss Bradley, for the Shetland pony did not seem to want to go of his own accord. "Can you manage him?" the teacher asked.
"Oh, yes, I can ride home on his back, if you'll let me," said the little boy.
"School is almost over for the day, and also for the term," said the teacher with a smile. "You may be excused."
But Bunny did not have to leave. For just then in came Bunker Blue, the young man who worked for Mr. Brown at the fish and boat dock.
"Oh, you're in here, are you?" asked Bunker, speaking to Toby and taking hold of the thick mane of the little horse.
"Did he run away?" asked Bunny of Bunker. "Did he get out of his stall?"
"Not exactly," explained the tall young helper. "I was taking him down to the blacksmith shop to have new shoes put on him. I left him in front of the hardware store while I went in to get something for your father, Bunny, and when I came out Toby had slipped from his halter. I didn't know where he was until some one said they saw him come into the schoolhouse."
"He hasn't done any harm," remarked Miss Bradley.
"How did he get loose from the pony cart?" Sue asked.
"He wasn't hitched to the pony cart," answered Bunker Blue. "I was just leading him by the halter, but I guess I didn't have it strapped tight enough. Come along, Toby," he added. "I guess you've said your lessons," and the whole class, teacher and all, joined in the laugh which Bunker Blue started.
Toby whinnied, which was his way of laughing, I suppose, and then Bunker Blue led him forth from the classroom. So Bunny didn't have to leave school to ride his pet home, though I believe the little boy would have been very glad to do so—as would, in fact, any boy in the class.
"Well, now we will go on with our exercises," said Miss Bradley. "Can you remember your recitation now, Bobbie?"
The appearance of Toby seemed to have had a good effect, for Bobbie began again about Mary and her lamb, and gave all the verses, without forgetting a single line. Every one clapped his or her hands when he finished and made his bow.
In turn the other children recited. Then came the singing of some songs in which the whole school joined in the big assembly hall, and the "last day," ended.
"Now for the long vacation!" cried Bunny Brown, as he raced out of the schoolyard with the other boys.
"And lots of fun!" added Charlie Star.
"We'll go camping!" said George Watson.
"And sail boats!" added Harry Bentley.
The girls, too, were no less joyful. They talked of what they would do, of the play parties they would have and of picnics in the woods.
"Will you play store any more?" asked Mary Watson of Sue.
"Oh, I guess so," was the answer. "Bunny and I like that fun. Bunny wants to keep a real store when he grows up. Sometimes he lifts things down from the shelves for Mrs. Golden in her store."
Laughing, shouting, tagging each other, and running away, talking of what they would do during the long vacation, the school children ran on through the streets of Lakeport.
"Let's have a race!" cried Bunny.
"I can beat you!" declared Charlie Star.
Off they ran, feet fast flying, and Bunny was first to reach the hitching post in front of his house, this being the end of the race course for that particular time.
"Did Bunker Blue come back with Toby?" asked Bunny of his mother, after he had been given a piece of bread and sugar by Mary.
"No," was the answer. "But how did you know Bunker had Toby out? He didn't come for him until after you went to school," said Mrs. Brown.
"Oh, Toby came to school!" explained Sue, laughing.
"Toby came to school?" repeated her mother.
And then the story was told amid much laughter.
Just before supper Bunker Blue came back with Toby, and the children were allowed to hitch the Shetland pony to the basket cart.
"Do you want anything from the store?" asked Bunny, as he took his seat beside Sue and grasped the pony's reins.
"Better ask Mary," was the reply.
And, as it happened, Mary wanted some sugar.
"We'll get it at Mrs. Golden's," called Bunny, as he drove out of the yard.
"My, the children are getting fond of that old lady store keeper," mused Mary, as she went back to her kitchen work.
"I'm glad to have them," said Mrs. Brown. "It does children good to learn to be kind and thoughtful toward others. And, from what I hear, Mrs. Golden needs help. Her son works, but does not earn much, and she can't make a very good living from so small a store. We must buy what we can from her."
"Trust the children for that!" laughed Mary. "They'd run there all the while if we'd let them. Bunny was telling me Mrs. Golden had something the matter with one of her legs."
"Oh, no. He said she expected a legacy," explained Mrs. Brown. "That means she hopes to get a little property or some money from a relative who has died."
"Oh, I thought it was her legs, poor old lady!" said Mary. "Rheumatism, or something like that."
"Mrs. Golden isn't very well able to get around," admitted Mrs. Brown. "But that has nothing to do with a legacy."
Bunny and Sue drove up to the door of the little corner store.
"My, but you're coming in style!" exclaimed Mrs. Golden, when she saw them. "Are you going to buy me out?"
"No, we just want some sugar," said Bunny. "We're going to get five pounds, 'cause we can carry it in the pony cart."
"Yes, if it wasn't for the cart I'd be a bit afraid to give you so much as five pounds," said Mrs. Golden, as she went slowly behind the counter to weigh out the sweet stuff. "You might drop it. But it'll be safe in the pony cart. You'll be like a regular grocery delivery."
"Do you deliver things?" asked Sue.
"No, dearie. I can't afford to have a delivery wagon and a horse, to say nothing of one of those automobiles. And it wouldn't pay me to hire a boy, even when Philip is away. Sometimes he takes heavy things that are ordered, but mostly folks carry away what they buy. Let's see, now, how many pounds did you say, Bunny?"
"Five, Mrs. Golden. And please may I scoop it out of the barrel?"
"Well, yes, maybe; if you don't spill it."
"I won't spill any!" promised Bunny eagerly. "And may I put it on the scales? You see I'm going to keep a store when I grow up," he went on, "and I'll want to know how to weigh things on the scales."
"I hope you make more money than I do," sighed Mrs. Golden. "Now be careful of the scoop, dearie!"
Bunny felt quite proud of himself as he leaned down in the sugar barrel and dipped up the sweet, sparkling grains. Mrs. Golden guided his hands as he poured the sugar into the scoop of the scale, and of course she watched to make sure the weight was right, for Bunny was hardly old enough to know that.
But he did it nearly all himself, and he told his father so that evening after supper.
"My! I'll have to be on the lookout for a vacant place to rent so you and Sue can keep a store during vacation," replied Mr. Brown, laughing.
"Oh, we don't want to start a store unless Mrs. Golden gets her legacy so she'll be rich," declared Sue. "If we had a store she wouldn't sell so much and she'd be sorry."
"Well, maybe that's so," agreed her father, with a smile. "We'll wait until we find out about the legacy before we start you and Bunny in the store business. When will Mrs. Golden know about it?"
"When her son Philip comes back. He's gone to see about the legacy," said Bunny.
When they went to bed that night Bunny and Sue talked of what they would do during the long vacation. On account of some business matters, Mr. Brown could not take his family away that summer until about the middle of August. This left them with a good part of the vacation to spend in Bellemere, and the two children were beginning to plan for their fun.
One of the first things Bunny found to do the next morning—the first morning of the vacation—was to water the garden.
"May I take the hose and sprinkle?" he asked.
"If you don't get yourself wet through," his mother answered.
"I'll be careful," Bunny promised.
There was a vegetable garden at the side of the house, a garden which Uncle Tad had made and of which he was very proud. As there had been no rain for some days the garden was in need of water.
The hose was attached to the faucet, for Uncle Tad had been watering the garden the night before, and he had gone away, leaving word that if any one had time to spray more water on the vegetables they should do so, as the ground was very dry.
"I like to water the garden," said Bunny, and he took great delight in directing the stream from the hose over the cabbages, beets and potatoes which were coming up.
After watering for some time Bunny began to feel hungry, as he often did, and started in to ask Mary for some bread and jam. He laid the hose down, with the water still running, but he turned the stream so it would spray on the grass and not on the garden, so it would not wash out any of the growing things.
Bunny was coming out again, with a large slice of bread and jam, when from the front street he heard a man's voice crying:
"Here! Look out what you're doing! Be careful with that hose! You're soaking me!"
"Oh, oh!" cried Bunny Brown. "Sue must have picked up the hose that I left and squirted water on somebody!"
HELPING MRS. GOLDEN
Almost dropping his slice of bread and jam, so excited was he, Bunny Brown ran toward the hose. Before he reached it, for it was around the corner of the house, he heard the man's voice again calling out:
"Here! Stop that I say! Can't people go along the street without being wet with water from a hose? Pull your hose farther back!"
"Sue! Sue! Don't do that! Be careful! You're wetting some one," cried Bunny, as he ran along, not yet seeing the hose. But he could guess what had happened.
Sue, coming along and seeing the hose turned on, with the water spurting out, had picked up the nozzle end and was watering the garden. Only she held the hose so high that the water shot over the high front hedge and was wetting some man passing in the street.
That is what Bunny thought. But that is not what had happened.
Just before he turned the corner of the house he heard the man's voice once more saying:
"Say, isn't it enough to wet me once? What are you keeping it up for? I am trying to get out of the way, but you follow me. I'm coming in and see about this!"
Something very like trouble seemed about to happen.
"Sue! Sue!" cried Bunny, still thinking his sister was to blame. "Let that hose alone!"
But when he turned the corner of the house and could see the garden, Sue was not in sight. And, stranger still, no one was at the hose. There it lay, still spurting water out on the thick, green grass.
Who had picked up the nozzle and sprayed the unseen man in the street? If it was Sue where had she gone?
"Sue! Sue!" called Bunny. "Were you playing with the hose?"
Sue's head was thrust out of the window of her room upstairs.
"What's the matter, Bunny?" she asked.
"Oh, you're up there, are you?" exclaimed the little boy, much surprised. "Were you down here at the hose?"
"No. I'm getting dressed. I haven't been down in the yard at all yet."
"Then who did it?" thought Bunny. "I wonder——"
But just then a man, who seemed to have been out in a rain storm without an umbrella, came hurrying around the side path. He caught sight of Bunny standing near the hose.
"Look here, my little boy," said the man, trying not to speak angrily, though he was rightfully provoked, "you must be more careful with your hose. You have wet me very much. Does your mother know you are doing this?"
"She—she knows I'm watering the garden," Bunny answered.
"Does she know you were watering me?" asked the man, with a half smile.
"No—no, sir," replied the small boy. "I didn't wet you!"
"You didn't! Then who did?"
"I—I don't know," stammered Bunny. "I left the hose here while I went in to get some bread and jam. Here's some of it now," and he held out what was left of his slice. "I heard you calling, and I thought maybe it was my sister Sue. Course she wouldn't 'a' done it on purpose. But it wasn't Sue. She hasn't been downstairs yet."
"Then who was it?" insisted the man. "Surely the hose didn't wet me all by itself."
"No," admitted Bunny. "But it might have been Mr. Winkler's monkey."
"Who's Mr. Winkler's monkey, and how could he wet me with a hose?" demanded the man.
"His name is Wango—I mean the monkey's is," explained Bunny. "Sometimes he gets away and does things. He climbed up on Mrs. Golden's shelves—she keeps a store. Maybe Wango got loose and came over here and picked up the hose to get a drink or something, and so wet you."
"Well, that's possible," admitted the man. "And if that's the case I beg your pardon. Do you see Wango around here?" he went on, while Sue, looking from her upper window, wondered who the stranger could be.
"No, I don't see Wango," replied Bunny, looking about. "But I'll look for him. Maybe he's hiding."
"Maybe he is," and the man now laughed. "I'll help you search. For if the monkey is up to tricks like that he ought to be stopped. He may wet some one else if you go away and leave the water turned on."
"That's right," agreed Bunny.
He left the hose, still spurting, on the grass, and, followed by the man, walked around the yard, looking for Wango. But the mischievous monkey was not in sight, nor did he come when Bunny called, though Mr. Winkler's pet nearly always did this.
"I guess he isn't here," said Bunny at length. "But I didn't wet you with the hose."
"Then who——" began the man, but he stopped short to point and cry: "Look at that!"
As Bunny and the stranger were walking back toward the hose, Splash, the big dog, ran out from under the back porch and took hold of the hose in his teeth. He began to shake it as he often shook things with which he played.
"There!" laughed the man. "That's how I was sprayed! Your dog picked up the hose after you left it, and raised it high, so the water shot over the hedge and on me! Now the mystery is explained! It was the dog that did it!"
And so it was.
"Splash!" cried Bunny. "Drop that hose!"
Splash dropped it, and with a bark came running up to be petted. He did not know he had done wrong.
"I'm very sorry," said Bunny. "Splash, you're a bad dog!" he declared, and Splash drooped his tail between his legs.
"Oh, don't scold him," the man begged. "I like dogs, and I know they don't like to be scolded any more than we do—or than boys or girls do. It wasn't his fault. He thought the hose was left there for him to play with."
"Is anything wrong?" asked Mrs. Brown. Sue had told her mother about a strange man, all wet, in the yard talking to Bunny, and Mrs. Brown had come down to see about it.
"Just a little accident," explained the stranger. "I was passing in the street when it suddenly began to rain—or at least I thought at first it was rain. Then I knew it was some one using a hose and spraying me. I called to them, but that did no good, and I came in. I saw this little boy and the hose, and naturally thought he had wet me by accident. But it seems it was his dog," and he explained how it had happened.
"I am very sorry," apologized Mrs. Brown. "If there is anything I can do——"
"Oh, I will soon dry in the sun!" laughed the man. "I wasn't really angry, only I know children will get careless when they have a hose, and I was going to tell them to be more careful. But I don't suppose I can make Splash understand," and he patted the dog, whose tail was now wagging again.
"I'm glad you are so kind about it," said Mrs. Brown. "Bunny generally is careful when he waters the garden. If you will come in and get dry——"
"Oh, no, thank you! I'll dry better in the sun. Clean water will hurt no one, and I might just as well have been caught in a shower. Good-bye!" he called, and hurried away.
"After this, Bunny," advised his mother, as he kept on wetting the garden, "it will be best to turn off the water if you leave the hose."
"Yes, Mother, I will," he promised.
So that little happening passed off all right, and later Bunny and the gentleman—who was a newcomer in town, Mr. Halsted by name—became good friends.
One day, about a week after vacation had started, during which time Bunny and Sue had had much fun, the two children went to the little corner store kept by Mrs. Golden. Bunny and Sue each had two cents to spend, and they were allowed to get some candy.
As they entered the store they saw Mrs. Golden trying to sweep, but the way in which the old woman used the broom showed that she was in pain. As the children entered she stopped, held her hand to her side, and tried to stand up.
"Oh!" she murmured, in a low voice.
"Is it your rheumatism?" asked Bunny.
"That, or something worse," replied the old lady, with a sigh. "I get a pain in my side every time I sweep."
"Let me do it!" begged Sue. "I love to sweep, and I'd like to help you."
"So would I!" exclaimed Bunny. "I can sweep, too. Please let me!"
Almost before she realized it, Mrs. Golden had given up the broom to Sue, and the little girl was sweeping the store, while Bunny waited for his turn.
Suddenly the doorway was darkened, and a big man with a bushy black beard came stalking in.
"Where's Mrs. Golden?" he asked, looking at some papers in his hand. "I want to see Mrs. Golden," and his voice was cross.
"I'm Mrs. Golden," answered the old lady. "What can I do for you?"
"The best thing you can do is to pay that money!" snapped the man.
THE CROSS MAN
Bunny and Sue had at first paid no attention to the big man with the black beard who entered the little corner grocery store so suddenly. The children thought he was a customer come to buy some groceries.
But when the man, in that cross voice, said Mrs. Golden had better pay him some money, Bunny and Sue looked sharply at him, Sue holding on to the broom.
"'Cause I thought maybe he was a robber coming after Mrs. Golden's money," she explained later.
"What would you have done if he had been a robber?" asked Uncle Tad.
"I'd 'a' hit him with the broom," Sue replied.
"And I'd have helped her!" exclaimed Bunny.
But this was afterward. The man, however, as the children looked at him, did not appear to be a robber. He was big, and not very pleasant to look at, and his black beard was as bristling as some of those worn by moving-picture pirates. But he did not seem to be going to take any money from the cash drawer.
From the way poor Mrs. Golden looked, though, the children were sure the man had frightened her. She sank down in a chair, and stared silently at the man.
"Well!" exclaimed the cross man more crossly than at first, "I'm Mr. Flynt of the Grocery Supply Company. If you're Mrs. Golden, I want to know why you don't pay me that money?"
"I—I wish I could, Mr. Flynt," murmured the old lady store keeper. "I really thought I'd have it for you last week."
"But you didn't!" snapped out the man. "You told our agent who called two weeks ago that you'd have it last week. But you didn't pay it. Then you said you'd send it this week, and you didn't. Now I've come for it. You can't fool me!"
Truly, thought Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, no one could fool this man, nor play with him nor do anything with him except dislike him.
"Come, come, Mrs. Golden!" went on Mr. Flynt. "You owe us this money, you know, and you'll have to pay it!"
"If you'll only wait until my son Philip comes back," murmured the old lady, "he'll pay you some, I'm sure. He's gone away to get a little legacy, and if he gets it I'll have enough to pay you all I owe and more!"
"Yes, if he gets it!" sneered the cross man. "I've heard those stories before. But if your son doesn't get that legacy what then?"
"Oh, I'm sure he'll get it!" said Mrs. Golden, trying to smile. "But if—if he doesn't, why, I'll just have to owe you the money, that's all!"
"That isn't all!" exclaimed Mr. Flynt. "We've got to have money. We've been as easy on you as we could be. We've let your bill run a good deal longer than we do most folks' bills. You've got to pay your debts, just as we have to pay ours. Come now, I want some money!"
Bunny and Sue looked at each other. Both had the same thought. Sue dropped the broom and began feeling in her pocket beneath her handkerchief. Sue had only one pocket, and she was lucky, being a girl, to have that. Bunny had any number of pockets, and he was going through first one and then the other, finding different things in each—a top, pieces of string, his knife, odd bits of stone, a very black piece of licorice, and some nails. Bunny never knew when he might want some of these things.
"Here, Mrs. Golden!" exclaimed Sue, she being the first to get what she was after in her pocket. "Here's two cents I was going to spend for candy. You can have it to give to the man!"
"Bless your heart, dearie!" murmured Mrs. Golden, "I can't take your money."
"And here's my two cents!" exclaimed Bunny. "You can keep it. And you don't need to give us any candy either."
"No!" added Sue, though she had a catch in her breath as she said it, for she really wanted a bit of sweet stuff that day.
"No, no, my dear," said Mrs. Golden, trying to smile, though there were tears in her eyes. "Keep your money. I'll sell you some candy if you want it, but you mustn't give your pennies away. Anyhow, I must pay Mr. Flynt a great deal more than that."
"I should say so!" exclaimed the black-bearded man, though, somehow or other, his voice was not quite so cross as before. "Four cents wouldn't pay postage on the bills we have sent you!
"But now, Mrs. Golden," he went on, "I don't want to be any harder on you than I have to. If you're going to get some money in, or your son is, and you can pay us what you owe we won't sell you out."
"Sell me out!" cried the old lady. "Were you thinking of doing that?"
"We'll have to if you don't pay," was the answer. "You bought a lot of goods of us, and you must pay for them. If you don't we'll have to take these things away," and he looked around at the shelves of the store.
"If you take things away from her how can she sell them?" asked Bunny Brown.
"She can't," said Mr. Flynt. "But she must pay. Everybody must pay what they owe or be sold out. Now I'll give you a little more time," he went on. "I'll tell them, back at the office, that you expect a legacy, and when that comes you must pay."
"Yes, yes! I'll pay!" promised Mrs. Golden. "Only give me a little more time and I'll pay."
"Well, see that you do!" grumbled the black-bearded man, who appeared to be crosser than ever now. "When I come again I want money!"
He stalked out of the store with a scowl on his face, and Bunny and Sue looked first at each other and then at poor Mrs. Golden.
"I don't like that man!" declared Sue, as she picked up the broom.
"I don't, either!" said Bunny. "What makes him so cross, Mrs. Golden?"
"Maybe he can't help it, dearie. Going around making people pay up is a cross sort of work, I guess."
"But what makes him want you to give him money?" asked Sue. "I thought a store was a place where people paid you money. I didn't think you had to pay money out. Bunny's going to keep a store when he grows up. Will he have to pay out money?"
"No, I'm not going to!" cried the little boy. "People have got to pay me money, but I don't pay any."
"You have lots to learn about a store, little man!" said Mrs. Golden. "It isn't all fun, as you and Sue suppose. Do you see all these things on my shelves?" she asked.
The children looked around at them and nodded their heads.
"To get them I have to buy them from other people—from the wholesalers, as they are called," explained Mrs. Golden. "The Grocery Supply Company is one of them. I buy barrels of sugar, barrels of flour, big boxes of prunes, and so on, from this company. Then I sell a few pounds of sugar, flour or prunes at a time and make a little money each time I sell. You see I don't pay as much for the flour and sugar as I sell it for. The difference in price comes to me, and is what I live on, and sometimes it's little enough.
"And now the trouble is I have bought a great many things from this Mr. Flynt's company, and I haven't the money to pay for them. That's why he's cross. He has a right to his money, but I haven't it to give him."
"Why not?" Bunny asked.
"Well, because I don't sell very much in my little store. If I sold more I'd have the money to pay my bills."
"Oh, Bunny, I know what we can do!" cried Sue. "We can tell mother to buy everything here—all her groceries and things—and then Mrs. Golden will have money to pay the cross man."
"Your mother is very kind as it is," said the old lady. "I'd like to have her trade here, but of course I don't keep the best of everything. I have to sell cheap goods. But of course if I sold more of them I'd have more money and then I could pay my bills.
"But there, my dears, this isn't any fun for you. You came to get your pennies' worth of candy, and I'll pick it out for you. An old woman's troubles aren't for little ones like you."
"My father had troubles once," said Bunny, "and we hugged him and kissed him; didn't we, Sue? That was when there was a fire on his boat dock."
"Yes, we were sorry a lot," Sue replied. "And we're sorry for you now, Mrs. Golden, and I'm going to tell mother to buy all her things here."
"That's very kind of you," said the woman. "But if Philip only gets that legacy I'll have money enough to pay all my debts and a little left over. Now don't worry about me. Try to have a good time. I'll get your candy!"
"And I'll finish this sweeping," laughed Sue.
"I'll help," said Bunny Brown, and then, in spite of the cross man, there seemed to be a little bit of sunshine in Mrs. Golden's store.
THE BROKEN WINDOW
"Daddy," said Bunny Brown that night, as the family were in the pleasant living room, "have you much money in the bank?"
"I have a little, Bunny, yes. But why do you ask?" Mr. Brown wanted to know.
"I have some in my bank!" cried Sue, before her brother could answer. "I guess maybe I have a hundred and seventy dollars!"
"Pennies you mean, dear! Pennies! Not dollars!" laughed her mother, for the children each had a penny bank.
"Well, pennies, then," agreed Sue. "But aren't a hundred and seventy pennies 'most the same as a hundred dollars?"
"Pooh! No!" said Bunny. "It takes a hundred pennies to make even one dollar!"
"Oh—o—o—! Does it?" exclaimed Sue. "What a terrible lot of money!"
"Yes, it does seem a lot," laughed Mr. Brown. "But why are you talking about money?" and he looked at his little son. "Why did you ask if I had any money in the bank?"
"I was wondering if Mrs. Golden had any in her bank," said Bunny.
"I don't believe she has very much," said Mr. Brown. "I was past her store to-day. It's a very small one. I don't see how she makes a living there."
"We were in there to-day," went on Bunny, "and a man came in and wanted a lot of money. He said Mrs. Golden owed him. He was from the grocery company."
"Yes, the wholesale house, I presume," remarked Mr. Brown. "Well, Bunny, did Mrs. Golden pay her bills?"
"No," said Bunny, a bit sadly, "she didn't. And Mr. Flynt was cross. I was thinking maybe if you had a lot of money in the bank you could take some out and give it to Mrs. Golden, and then she wouldn't have to cry when cross men came in. And she could pay you back when she got her leg—her legacy!" and Bunny brought the last word out with a jerk, for it was rather hard for him to remember.
"What's all this about?" asked Mr. Brown, looking at his wife in some surprise.
"I don't know," answered the children's mother. "It's the first I've heard of it. Bunny and Sue often go to the little corner store. It's handy when Mary wants something in a hurry."
"Tell me more about Mrs. Golden, Bunny," asked his father.
Thereupon the story of the cross man and the money the old lady owed to the grocery company was told as well as the children could tell it.
"It's too bad!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "I want you children to be as kind as you possibly can to Mrs. Golden. Help her all you can, Bunny and Sue."
"And will you buy things there?" asked Sue.
"Why, yes," agreed her mother. "We will trade there all we can. Mr. Gordon, the big grocer, can afford to lose a little of our custom."
"Do you think you could give her any money out of your bank, Daddy?" asked Bunny. "And she could give it back after she got her legacy."
"I'll see about it," was the smiling answer. "I know some of the men in the Grocery Supply Company," went on Mr. Brown, "and I'll ask them to be a bit easy with the old lady. But you didn't tell us about this legacy, Bunny. You told us about the cross man, but not about the legacy."
"The children have spoken of it to me several times," said Mrs. Brown. "It seems some relative of Mrs. Golden has died, and her son has gone to see about some money or property that may come to his mother."
"She'll have plenty of money when she gets her legacy," remarked Bunny. "She told me so."
"Then let us hope that she gets it," said Mr. Brown. "And now don't you children worry any more about it," he told Bunny and Sue. "I'll help Mrs. Golden if she really needs it."
"And we'll help her, too," said Bunny to his sister, as they went to bed that night.
"Hey, Bunny! Hi, Bunny Brown!" called a voice under Bunny's window early the next morning.
"Hello! Who's down there?" Bunny asked, jumping out of bed.
"Come on down!" cried Charlie Star. "We're going to have a ball game! We're waiting for you! Bobbie Boomer, Harry Bentley, George Watson, and all the fellows are over in the lots waiting. Come on have a ball game!"
"I didn't know it was so late!" murmured Bunny, rubbing his eyes. "I'll be right down!"
He had, indeed, slept later than usual, and as this was vacation time, his mother had not called him, though Sue had got up and had gone off to play with some of the girls.
Bunny had his breakfast and then he ran over to the big lots with Charlie. A number of boys were tossing and batting balls, and when Bunny arrived there were enough to make up two "sides" and have a game. Bunny was captain of one team and Charlie Star of the other.
"Now, fellows, we want to beat!" cried Bunny, as he took his place to pitch the first ball of the game.
"Yes! Ho! Ho! I'd like to see your side win!" laughed Charlie. "We won't let you get a single run!"
It was all jolly good fun, and though each side tried to win it was in good-nature, which is how all games should be played. First Bunny's team was ahead, and then Charlie's, until it came close to noon, when the boys knew they would have to stop playing and go home to dinner.
"Now, fellows," said Bunny Brown, as it was his turn to bat, "I'm going to knock a home run and that will win the game for us!"
"Pooh! You can't knock a home run!" laughed Charlie, who was pitching for his side.
Bunny swung hard at the ball which Charlie pitched to him. And Bunny himself was a little surprised when his bat struck it squarely and the ball sailed away, much farther than he had ever knocked a ball before.
"Run, everybody! Run!" cried Bunny Brown, dropping the bat and starting for first base himself. Two of his side were on the other bases, and if they could all get in on his home run it would mean that his side would win.
Higher and higher and farther and farther sailed the ball Bunny had knocked, away over the head of fat Bobbie Boomer, who was playing out in center field. It surely was going to be a home run.
"Oh, look where that ball's going!" cried Charlie Star, turning to watch it. "Oh, it's going to break one of Mr. Morrison's windows!" Mr. Morrison was a rather crabbed, cross old man who had a house on the edge of the vacant lots where the boys played ball.
Bunny was too excited over his home run to pay much attention to where the ball went, and Tom Case and Jerry Bond, who were running "home," thought only of how fast they could run. But the others watched the ball, and a moment later saw it crash through one of Mr. Morrison's windows.
By this time Bunny was at third base. He did not stop there, but ran on in, touched home plate, and sank down to rest, very tired but happy because he was sure his side would now win the ball game.
Out in the field, near the fence that was around Mr. Morrison's house, Bobbie Boomer was calling:
"I can't get the ball! I can't get the ball! It's in Mr. Morrison's house!"
And, surely enough, that's where it was—right in the house. It had gone through the window.
"I—I made the home run all right!" panted Bunny Brown. "I told you I would, Charlie Star!"
Bunny had run so fast that he had not heard the tinkle of the breaking glass, nor had he seen where his ball went.
"Yes, you made a home run all right!" yelled Charlie. "And now we'd better all run home or Old Morrison will be after us for busting his window. Come on, fellows! Let's run home!"
The game was practically over, and a number of the boys, fearing the anger of Mr. Morrison, started after Charlie, running away from the lots. But this was not Bunny Brown's way.
"Did I—did the ball I batted break a window?" he asked.
"You ought to 'a' heard the crash!" panted Bobbie Boomer, running in from center field. "Old Morrison will be here in a minute! You'd better run, Bunny!"
Surely enough, a moment or two later Mr. Morrison came out on his back porch, from which he could look into the lots. He saw the boys, some of them running away. In his hand he held the baseball that had crashed through his window.
"Hi, there!" he cried. "Who did this?"
One or two boys, seeing that Bunny was not going to run, had stayed with him.
"Who did this?" cried Mr. Morrison again.
Up spoke Bunny Brown, walking toward the angry man.
"I—I knocked the ball," he said.
"Well, you broke my window, young man, and you've got to pay for it!"
"I—I will!" faltered Bunny. "I have some money in my bank, and if you come home with me I'll take it out and pay you."
Mr. Morrison seemed surprised at this. In times past when his windows were broken the boys had run away, or, if they had not, they had been saucy to him and had refused to pay for any glass. This was something new.
"What's your name?" asked Mr. Morrison.
"Bunny Brown," was the answer.
"Does your father keep the boat dock where Bunker Blue works?"
"Oh," said Mr. Morrison, not so angry now. "Well, of course this window has to be paid for, but I know your father, Bunny Brown. He and I do business together. And Bunker Blue does me favors once in a while. I guess there won't be any hurry about paying for this glass. You can pay me five cents a week if you want to. And I should think the other boys ought to chip in and help you pay for it. That's what we used to do when I played ball. If a window was broken we all helped pay for it."
"I'll help," offered one boy.
"So will I!" said another.
By this time Charlie Star and the boys who had started to run away began straggling back. They wondered why Bunny and his companions were not being chased by Mr. Morrison. And when Charlie and his chums heard about the offer to pay shares for the broken glass Charlie said:
"I'll pay my part, too!"
"So will I!" cried his players.
"That's more like it," chuckled Mr. Morrison, and, somehow or other, the boys began wondering why they had ever called him cross. Certainly he seemed quite different now. Perhaps it was the way Bunny had acted, so bravely, that made the change.
"Now look here, boys," went on the uncross Mr. Morrison. "I know you have to play ball, and this isn't the first time you have broken my windows. But it's the first time any of you have had the nerve to stay here and offer to pay. I like that. And now that you all offer to chip in and pay for it, it'll not be too hard for any one boy. It's the right spirit. And I want to say that if you always do that there'll not be any trouble.
"Not that I want any more windows broken," he added, with a laugh. "But if they are smashed, chip in and pay for them. And now I'll have the pane of glass put in and you can take up a collection among yourselves and pay me later on. I'm in no hurry as long as you act fair.
"And now if you'll come in here I think maybe I can find something that you boys would like to have," he added. "Don't be afraid, come on in," he invited, opening a gate in his side fence.
The boys hesitated a moment, and then, led by Bunny Brown, they entered. What could Mr. Morrison have in mind?
They soon found out. He led them down into the cellar and showed them some old baseballs, some bats, some gloves, and, best of all, a good catcher's mask.
"Here are some old baseball things," said Mr. Morrison. "I got them in a lot of junk I bought a year ago, and I've been wondering what to do with them. I like the way you boys acted—especially some of you," and he looked at Bunny. "I'm going to let you have these things for your team," he said. "But try not to break any more of my windows!" he laughed.
"We won't!" promised Bunny Brown. "Or, if we do, we'll pay for 'em!"
"Crackie! What dandy stuff!" cried Bobbie Boomer.
"Now we can have regular league games!" exclaimed Charlie Star, who was perhaps the best player of all the boys.
"And a real mask, like the Pirates have!" cried Harry Bentley.
"Take 'em along," said Mr. Morrison. "They're only cluttering up my cellar. I'm glad to get rid of 'em, and especially to good boys."
"We—we were afraid of you at first," said Charlie.
"Well, you needn't be any more," chuckled Mr. Morrison. "Just pay for my window, when you get the money together, and we'll call it square!"
Talking, laughing gleefully, and wondering at their good fortune, the boys hurried from the cellar. And they had another game that same afternoon, with the balls, bats, gloves and mask that Mr. Morrison had given them. Only Bunny knocked no more home runs, and Charlie's team won, which was, perhaps, as it ought to be. And, best of all, no more windows were broken.
It was quite an adventure for Bunny Brown, but it was not the last he and his sister Sue were to have, for many good times were ahead of them for the long vacation.
"Here, Bunny! Here, Sue!" called Mrs. Brown, one bright, sunny morning. "Where are you?"
"We're coming, Mother!" answered Bunny.
He and his sister were playing in the yard down near the brook. Bunny had carried to the brook a little boat, and Sue had with her one of her very small dolls which was having a voyage on the small vessel. She had picked out a celluloid doll.
"'Cause then if she falls off into the water it won't hurt if she gets wet," said Sue.
"That's right!" agreed Bunny.
But now the children left their play and ran to see what their mother wanted.
Before doing so, however, Bunny made fast the little boat to a tree on the bank of the brook, tying it by a long string. And Sue took the celluloid doll off the deck and laid her on the grass in the shade.
"'Cause she might go off sailing by herself," Sue explained.
"Pooh! She couldn't sail my boat!" laughed Bunny.
"Well, she might," said Sue.
Then they ran to their mother—who was waiting for them on the back steps.
"What do you want, Mother?" asked Sue.
"Is it time to eat?" is what Bunny Brown asked. Bunny, like many children, was always ready for this.
"No, it isn't time for lunch," laughed Mrs. Brown. "But I want you to bring some things from the store so Mary can get lunch ready. And this is a chance for you to help your friend Mrs. Golden."
"What do you mean—help her?" asked Bunny. "Is daddy going to give her some money out of his bank so she can pay the cross man?"
"I don't know about that," replied Mrs. Brown. "But I mean you can help her now by getting some groceries from her. The more we buy and the more other families buy, the more money she will make, and then she can pay her bills."
"That's so!" exclaimed Bunny. "I'm going to ask all the fellows to buy their things of Mrs. Golden instead of going to Gordon's."
"And I'll ask the girls!" exclaimed Sue.
"We mustn't desert Mr. Gordon altogether," said Mrs. Brown. "He wants to do business, too. But Mrs. Golden needs our trade most, I guess, so get these things of her. I've written them down on a paper so you'll not forget, and as there are a number of them you had better take a basket, Bunny."
"I will," he said. "Do we have to hurry back, Mother?" he asked.
"Oh, there is no special hurry," his mother answered. "But what did you want to do? Play another game of ball and break another window?" and she smiled at Bunny, for she had heard the story. Mr. Morrison's window had been paid for by all the boys "chipping in," or clubbing together.
"I'm not going to play ball," said Bunny. "But Sue and I might stay with Mrs. Golden a little while and help her in the store if you weren't in a hurry."
"No, I'm not in a hurry," Mrs. Brown said. "Help Mrs. Golden all you can, poor old lady!"
Together Bunny and Sue went around the corner to the little grocery and notion store. They were talking of what they might do to help the storekeeper, and they were planning what fun they could have with the little boat and doll when they reached home again. By this time they were at the store, but, to their surprise, the front door was closed, though this was summer, and it generally stood wide open.
And in one corner of the door was a piece of paper on which something was written. Bunny and Sue saw this notice and they at once guessed that something had happened.
"Maybe she's gone away with her son Philip to get the leg-legacy!" exclaimed Bunny.
"Maybe," said Sue. "Go on, Bunny, you can read better'n I can. Read what it says."
Slowly Bunny read the little notice on the front door. It said:
"Please come to the side door."
Wonderingly the children went along the path to the side door, for the grocery of Mrs. Golden was in an old-fashioned house which had been built over so she could sell things in it. The side door was almost closed, but, though open a small crack, Bunny and Sue did not want to push it open further and go in. Instead they knocked.
"Yes? What is it? Who's there?" called the voice of Mrs. Golden. It was a weak, quavering old voice.
"We're here," answered the little boy. "Bunny Brown and his sister Sue!"
"Oh, my dears! I'm glad it's you and not Mr. Flynt!" said Mrs. Golden. "Push the door open and come in. I have such a dreadful headache that I couldn't keep the store open. I had to come to my room back here and lie down. I just had to close the store!"
The children entered to see their friend lying on a sofa in the room back of the store. She had her head tied in a rag.
"Are you very sick?" asked Sue.
"'Cause if you are I'll go for the doctor," offered Bunny.
"Oh, no, thank you, my dears, I'm not ill enough for that," answered Mrs. Golden. "Just a bad sick-headache. I'll be better to-morrow. But I couldn't keep the store open to-day."
"That's too bad," said Bunny. "We came to get some things," and he took out the list his mother had written for him.
"Well, I want to sell things, but I am too ill to get up and wait on you," said the storekeeper. "I put that sign in the front door so if any wholesale wagons came to leave stuff they could find me. But, really, I don't feel able to get up."
Then Bunny had an idea.
"Couldn't Sue and I wait on ourselves?" he asked eagerly. "We want to get these things here, and if you told me where to find them—though I know where to find some myself—and if you told me how much they were, I could pay you, and it would be all right. I have the money."
"Yes, you might do that," said Mrs. Golden. "It would be fine if you could. Now let me see what you want, and then see if you can get it from the shelves."
"I can climb like anything!" said Bunny gleefully.
"Well, don't fall!" cautioned Mrs. Golden. Together, with the help of their friend, Bunny and Sue picked out from the closed store the things their mother had written on the list for them to get. Mrs. Golden told them where certain groceries were kept, and the price.
"Why, you are regular little storekeepers!" declared Mrs. Golden, trying not to think of her aching head. "You have waited on yourselves as well as I could have done."
"I wish we could wait on some regular customers!" boldly exclaimed Bunny.
"Wouldn't it be fun!" laughed Sue.
There came a knock on the side door, and a woman's voice called:
"Are you there, Mrs. Golden? I want a few things. May I come in?"
"Oh, yes, come in, Mrs. Clark," replied the storekeeper, as she recognized the voice of one of her customers. "If I can't wait on you you can help yourself, as Bunny and Sue did."
A woman came in the side door.
"Let us wait on you, please!" begged Bunny. "My sister and I can get what you want."
"Why, yes, I guess you can!" agreed Mrs. Clark, with a laugh. "I want a yeast cake and some sugar. It's too bad you two children couldn't stay and help Mrs. Golden," she added, as Bunny and Sue brought what she wanted and she was giving the money to the store owner.
"We'd love to stay!" cried Bunny.
"And we can, for a while," added Sue. "Mother said we didn't have to hurry."
"Oh, could we open the front door and tend store for you really?" asked Bunny, his eyes sparkling in delight.
Mrs. Golden thought it over for a minute. Really, with her head aching as it did, she was in almost too much pain to think, but she felt that something must be done. She needed all the money she could take in, and if customers were turned away from her store, because the door was closed, she would lose trade. Not many would come around to the side as Mrs. Clark had done.
"Couldn't we tend store for you—a little while?" asked Bunny again, as he saw Mrs. Golden thinking, as his mother sometimes thought, when he or Sue asked her if they might do something.
"We could ask you where things are that we don't know about," added Sue, "and we wouldn't talk loud or make a noise."
"Bless your hearts, dearies!" sighed Mrs. Golden. "You are very kind; but I'm sure I don't know what to say."
"Then let me say it," advised Mrs. Clark. "I say let the children tend store for you, Mrs. Golden. Bunny and Sue are a lot smarter for their age than most children. You let them tend store for you, and I'll run over once in a while to see if everything is all right."
"Very well," said Mrs. Golden. "You may keep store for me, Bunny and Sue."
"Goodie!" exclaimed Sue, clapping her hands. Then she happened to remember that she must not make too much noise, and she grew quieter.
"I'll open the front door and take down the sign," said Bunny. "We'll wait on the customers for you, Mrs. Golden."
Bunny felt quite like a grown man as he removed the card and turned the lock in the front door, swinging it open. The shades had been pulled down over the show windows, and Bunny and Sue now ran these up.
"I'll run along now," said Mrs. Clark, going out the front door and nodding in friendly fashion at the children. "I guess you'll make out all right, and I'll be back in a little while. If she gets any worse, or anything happens, just come and tell me—you know where I live," she said in a low voice, so Mrs. Golden, in the back room, would not hear.
Sue nodded and Bunny smiled. They were rather anxious for Mrs. Clark to go, so they would be left in charge of the store. And when this happened, when really, for the first time, Bunny Brown and his sister Sue were truly storekeepers you can hardly imagine how pleased they were.
"You go to sleep now, Mrs. Golden," said Sue, going on tiptoe to the rear room, to look at the old woman lying on the couch. "You go to sleep. Bunny and I will tend store."
Then she went back to Bunny, who sat on a stool behind the grocery counter. He had decided he would sell things from that side of the store, while Sue could wait on the dry-goods and notions side.
"All we want now is some customers," remarked the little boy.
"Yes," agreed Sue. "We want to sell things."
They waited some little time, for the corner store was not in a busy part of town. Several times, as footsteps were heard outside, Bunny and Sue hardly breathed, hoping some one would come in to buy. But each time they were disappointed.
Finally, however, just when they were about to give up, thinking they would have to go home, a woman came in and looked around, not at first seeing any one.
"What can I do for you to-day, lady?" asked Bunny Brown, as he had often heard Mr. Gordon say.
"Oh, are you tending store?" the lady asked. She was a stranger to Bunny and Sue.
"Yes'm, I and my sister—I mean my sister and I—are keeping store for Mrs. Golden. She's sick," said Bunny. "I can get you anything you want."
"All I want is a loaf of bread," the lady answered.
Bunny knew where to get this, and also the kind the lady wanted, as it was the same sort of loaf his mother often sent him for. He put it in a paper bag and took the money. The lady gave the right change, so Bunny did not have to trouble Mrs. Golden.
All this while Sue stood on her side of the Store, rather anxiously waiting. She wished the customer would buy of her.
"You are rather small to be in a store, aren't you?" asked the lady, as she started to leave with the bread.
"Oh, we know lots about stores," said Bunny. "We often play keep one, but this is the first time we ever did it regular."
"I know how to keep store, too," said Sue, unable to keep still any longer. "Would you like some needles and thread?"
"Yes, now that you speak of it, I remember I do need some thread, my dear," the lady answered, with a smile. "Can you get me the kind I want?"
"I—I guess so," Sue answered, yet she was a bit doubtful, as there were so many things among the notions.
"Well, perhaps I can help you," said the lady. "I see the tray of spools of silk right behind you, and if you'll pull it out I'll pick the shade I want. I have a sample of dress goods here."
Sue had often been with her mother when Mrs. Brown matched sewing silk in this way, and the little girl pulled out the shallow drawer of small spools. She saw the sample and knew the lady needed red sewing silk; so she at once pulled out the right drawer. Then she helped the customer match her sample until she had what she wanted.
"How much is it?" asked the lady, taking out her purse.
Here was Sue's trouble—she did not know exactly, and she did not want to go ask Mrs. Golden, for the storekeeper might be sleeping. To call her might make her head suddenly ache worse.
"I generally pay ten cents a spool," said the customer, "and I suppose that's what it is here. If it's any more I can stop in the next time I pass. That is, unless you can find out for sure."
"Oh, I guess ten cents is all right," said Sue, and she found out later that it was.
Then the lady left with her bread and thread. The children had waited on their first customer all alone.
In the next hour, during which the children remained in the store, they waited on several customers, and did it very well, too, not having to ask Mrs. Golden about anything, for which they were glad. Of course the things they sold were simple articles, easy to find, and of such small price that the men or women who bought them had the right change all ready.
Once a boy came in, and you should have seen how surprised he was when Bunny waited on him. He was Tommy Shadder, a boy Bunny knew slightly.
"Huh! you workin' here?" asked Tommy, as he took the sugar Bunny put in a bag, not having spilled very much.
"Sure, I'm working here!" declared Bunny. "That is, for a while," he added, for he knew he would soon have to go home.
"Huh!" said Tommy again, as he went out. "Huh!"
"Mail!" suddenly called a voice, and the postman entered the store. "Where's Mrs. Golden?" he asked, as he saw Bunny and Sue, whom he knew.
"She's got a headache, and we're tending store," Sue answered proudly.
"Oh, all right. Here's a couple of letters for her. She's been asking me for letters all week, and I didn't have any for her. Now here are two."
He tossed them on the counter and went out into the sunlit street. Bunny looked at the two letters.
"Oh!" he exclaimed. "One's from Mrs. Golden's son Philip. Maybe it's about the legacy!" Bunny had seen the name Philip Golden in the corner of the envelope.
"Who's the other from?" asked Sue.
"The Grocery Supply Company," read the little boy from the other envelope.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Sue.
"What's the matter?" asked Bunny.
"Maybe that's a bill," Sue said, for she had often been in her father's office on the dock when the mail came in, and when he received a thin letter Mr. Brown would hold it up to the light, laugh, and say:
"I guess this is a bill."
Sue knew what bills were, all right, and she seemed to feel that bills coming to Mrs. Golden, who had little money, would be worse than those which came to her father's office, for Mr. Brown never seemed to worry about the bills.
As the children looked at the letters on the counter, wondering whether or not to take them in to Mrs. Golden, she herself came out of the back room. She looked at the children and then at the letters.
"Oh, some mail!" she exclaimed. "I hope it's from Philip about the legacy! If it is, I'm sure it will completely cure my headache, which is much better."
Eagerly Bunny and Sue watched to see Mrs. Golden open the letters.
BUNNY HAS AN IDEA
Mrs. Golden read first the letter from her son, sent to her from the distant city. But if Bunny and Sue thought to see a look of joy spread over the store owner's face they were disappointed.
"Did he—did your son send you the legacy?" asked Bunny, as the letter was folded and put back in the envelope.
"Well, no, not exactly," was the answer. "It seems there is some trouble about it. I hoped Philip could come home to help me, but he can't, and it will be some time before we'll get any money from that legacy—if we ever get it. Oh, dear! So many troubles!"
Mrs. Golden sighed and opened the other letter. Her troubles seemed to be more now, for she sighed again as she laid this letter aside. Sue could not help asking:
"Is it a bill?"
"Something like that, yes," answered the old lady. "It's from Mr. Flynt's grocery company. It says if I don't pay soon I'll be sold out."
Mrs. Golden sighed again. The children did not know exactly what it was all about, but they knew there was trouble of some kind and they wanted to help. But they felt, too, that it was time they went home.
Mrs. Golden must have seen the worried looks on their faces, for she tried to smile through the clouds of her own trouble as she said:
"Never mind, my dears! Run along now, for I'm sure your mother will be getting anxious about you. You have been a great help to me. I guess I'll find some way out of my troubles—I hope so, anyhow. Run along now! It was good of you to help me."
So Bunny and Sue, taking the things they had bought, started out of the store.
"If she could only sell more things she'd have more money and then she could pay that grocery bill," said Bunny to his sister.
"Yes," agreed Sue. "We'll tell daddy about it and see what he says. Daddy has lots of money."
"But maybe he needs it," suggested Bunny. And very likely Mr. Brown did.
However, children of the ages of Bunny and Sue are not unhappy for very long at a time, and trouble seems to roll away from them like water off a duck's back. On the way home they met some of their playmates, and in talking over a picnic that was to be held in a few days Bunny and Sue forgot about Mrs. Golden for a while.
"You stayed rather a long time," said Mrs. Brown, when Bunny and Sue finally reached home with the groceries she had sent them for.
"You said we could stay," said Bunny.
"And we helped Mrs. Golden by tending store," added Sue.
"Did you really tend store?" Uncle Tad asked, and he was much surprised when the children told what they had done.
"I guess she doesn't do much business," remarked Uncle Tad. "She has a store on a corner, which is the best place for one, as people on two streets pass it. But I'm afraid she isn't enough of a hustler."
"What's a hustler?" asked Bunny, wondering if Mrs. Golden might be made into one.
"A hustler," said Uncle Tad, "is a person that does things in a hurry. Some storekeepers are hustlers for business. If business doesn't come to them they go after it. That's how they sell things."
"How could Mrs. Golden sell more things?" Bunny questioned. "She's got lots of things in her store—heaps and packs of 'em—but she doesn't sell much."
"That's the trouble!" said Uncle Tad. "She doesn't advertise, and she doesn't make any window display."
"What's a window display?" Sue inquired.
"I saw you looking at one the other day," replied the old soldier. "Do you remember when I passed you and Bunny while you were looking in the drug store window on Main Street?"
"Oh, yes! Where the rubber bags were!" cried Bunny.
"A little doll was making believe swim in a rubber bag," said Sue, "and there was a big crowd looking at it."
"That's it!" exclaimed Uncle Tad. "That drug store man got a big crowd in front of his store by putting something in the window that made people stop and look. That's advertising."
"Maybe Mrs. Golden could fix up her windows so a crowd would stop in front!" exclaimed Sue.
"What good would that do?" Bunny asked. "She wants people to come inside her store and buy things."
"That's it," agreed Uncle Tad. "But if you get a crowd outside a store, because there's something to look at in the windows, some of that crowd will go inside and buy something."
"Only Mrs. Golden hasn't any rubber bags," went on Bunny. "But I guess Sue could lend her a doll if she wanted it to take a swim."
"Mrs. Golden doesn't need to put rubber bags in her window," said Uncle Tad. "That wouldn't be the thing for a grocery and notion store. She should put in something that people would stop to look at, or have a special sale or something like that. And another thing I've noticed, when I've been past her place is that the windows are very dirty. You can hardly see what's inside. If her windows were cleaned and she had something in them, a crowd would stop and more people would go in and buy than go in now. Mrs. Golden needs to advertise in that way."
Uncle Tad went out. Mrs. Brown busied herself about the house, and Bunny Brown motioned to his sister Sue to come to the side porch.
"What you want?" asked Sue.
Bunny put his finger over his lips.
"I've got an idea!" he said. "I know how we can help Mrs. Golden get a crowd in front of her store."
THE WINDOW DISPLAY
Bunny Brown and his sister Sue spent much time during the next few days out in their barn—that is when they were not going to the store for their mother. Every chance they had, however, they bought things of Mrs. Golden, to help her as much as they could by trading at her store.
"And we ought to get the other boys and girls to go there," Sue said.
"We will, after a while," agreed Bunny. "Just now we have to do something else."
And the something else had to do with his idea and the time he and Sue spent in the barn. With them, most of the time, was Splash, their dog, and Charlie Star often came over with a covered basket.
"What do you think the children are doing?" asked Mrs. Brown of Mary, the cook, one day.
"Oh, I guess they're getting up some kind of a show," Mary answered. "I can hear Splash barking now and then, and there's a cat mewing."
"Cat!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "We haven't a cat!"
"I guess it's Charlie Star's," went on the cook. "He brings it over every day in a basket and takes it home again. I guess they're getting ready for a show."
"Bunny and Sue did have a show once," observed Mrs. Brown. "I hardly believe they would get up another. I must see what they are up to."
However, as company came just then and Mrs. Brown had to entertain them, she forgot all about her two children. Meanwhile things were happening out in the barn.
But Bunny and Sue kept it a secret, in which only Charlie Star had a share, and Charlie did not tell. When Mrs. Brown's company had left some one telephoned to her and she forgot all about her plan to ask Bunny what was going on.
It was a few days after this that Bunny and Sue were again sent to the store for their mother, and you may easily guess to which store they went—the little corner one, of course.
Mrs. Golden was sitting in her usual easy chair, and there were no other customers in the place.
"How's business?" asked Bunny, as he had often heard men ask his father.
"It might be better and not hurt itself," was Mrs. Golden's answer. "Customers are few and far between."
"Mrs. Golden," said Bunny, "my Uncle Tad says you ought to have a special sale. Did you ever have one?"
"Oh, yes, years ago," she answered. "I had a sale of notions, and a number of women came in to get things to make dresses with. But I haven't had a special sale for a long while."
"Why don't you, then?" asked Bunny eagerly. "I think a special grocery sale would be good. You could put a lot of things in your window and mark the prices on them, and people would come in to buy."
"Yes, I suppose I could do that," agreed Mrs. Golden slowly. "I have a big stock of a new kind of oatmeal on hand. Some new concern sold it to me, but it didn't take very well. Lately I got a letter from them saying I could sell it at a special price. I suppose that would bring in some trade. I never thought of it. I'm getting too old, I guess, and worrying too much. When my son Philip comes home I'll have a special sale."
"No, don't wait!" cried Bunny Brown eagerly. "Let's have it now! Where are those oatmeal things?"
Mrs. Golden smiled at his eager, bustling air.
"They're in the storeroom," she said. "Some of the cases aren't open yet."
"We'll open 'em for you!" cried Bunny. "Then we'll stack the oatmeal in the window, and we'll make a sign saying it's awful cheap and you'll sell a lot, Mrs. Golden."
"Well, maybe I will, dearie. I'm sure I hope so. And it's good of you to help me. Let me see now, I'll put 'em in the left window, I guess. That has less in it," and she looked toward the window she meant. So did Bunny and Sue, and Sue's first idea was made plain when she said:
"Could I wash that window, Mrs. Golden?"
"Wash the window? Why, yes, I suppose so," answered the storekeeper. "It is pretty dirty," she added. "I don't very often look at 'em, and that's a fact. I declare! you can hardly see what I have in my windows, can you? Dear me, I am getting old. If Philip was here he'd wash 'em for me."
"I'll do it!" offered Sue. "I often wash the low windows for mother. She lets me. Have you got any of that white stuff that makes 'em shine?"
"Oh, yes, I know what you mean," said Mrs. Golden. "Yes, you can take a cake from the grocery shelf. My, I never thought of a special sale and having windows washed. It may bring me trade!"
"Uncle Tad says it will!" exclaimed Bunny. In a measure it was Uncle Tad's idea that Bunny and Sue were carrying out.
"You wash the window," he told his sister, "and I'll open the oatmeal."
Soon there was a busy time in Mrs. Golden's store. Bunny was hammering and pounding away opening the oatmeal cases, and Sue was washing the window, having first taken out the few things Mrs. Golden had on display there—not that you could see them very well from the outside, however.
"Could I wash the other window, too?" asked Sue, when she had finished the first.
"Are you going to put oatmeal in both windows?" asked Mrs. Golden. "Seems to me that will be too much. Wash the other window if you want to, dearie, but two of them filled with oatmeal——"
"Oh, we aren't going to put oatmeal in both!" exclaimed Bunny, with a queer look at his sister. "We're going to fix up the second window to make people come in and buy."
Mrs. Golden did not seem to understand exactly. She shook her head in a puzzled way and murmured that she was getting old.
And as the postman came along just then with a letter from Philip, she was soon so busy reading it that she paid little attention to what Bunny and Sue were doing.
The children worked hard and faithfully all morning, and promised to come back in the afternoon. When they left to go home to lunch, both windows were brightly shining, though there were a few streaks here and there where Sue had forgotten to wipe off the white, cleaning powder. But they didn't matter.
"I'll pull the shades down," said Bunny, as he was leaving. "We don't want people looking in the windows until we get 'em all fixed up, and then we'll surprise 'em."
"Just as you like, dearie. Just as you like," said Mrs. Golden, in a dreamy tone. She was thinking of what her son had said in his letter.
Hurrying through their lunch as quickly as their mother would let them, Bunny and Sue hastened back to Mrs. Golden's store. They told something of their plans at home, and Uncle Tad said:
"That's a fine idea! I'll stop down there later and see how it looks."
"Come on, Splash!" called Bunny to his dog, as he and his sister started back. "We want you!"
"And we must stop at Charlie's house and tell him," said Sue.
"Yes, we will," Bunny agreed, and Charlie, when he heard the news, said:
"I'll be at the store in about half an hour."
Certainly things were getting ready to happen.
Bunny and Sue found Mrs. Golden lying down on her couch in the back room when they reached the store again.
"I'm afraid I have another of my bad headaches coming on," she said.
"You lie down," said Sue kindly. "Bunny and I will tend store again, and we'll start the special sale."
The windows were now dry and clean. All the old goods had been taken out, and Bunny and his sister were ready to put in the special display of oatmeal which was to be sold at a low price. Mrs. Golden told Bunny where to find some price cards to put in the window telling of the special sale. These cards were of a sort that most grocers keep on hand.
With the help of Sue, Bunny piled the boxes of oatmeal in the window. They were stacked up as nearly like a fort as he could make them, and he knew how to do this, for he had often helped the boys build forts of snow. Here and there he left holes in the piled-up wall of oatmeal boxes.
"Oh, if you only had something like little cannons to put in the holes it would look more like a real fort!" said Sue.
Bunny thought this was a good idea, and looked around for something to use. He saw some round pasteboard boxes, the top covers of which were a dull black.
"They'll look just like cannons," he said, as he fitted them in the holes of the oatmeal box fort. The window shades being down, no one could see from the street what was going on. Splash, the big dog, was content to sleep in the store while the children were there.
"Now for the other window," said Bunny to Sue, when the oatmeal was all in place, with the low price plainly marked on cards stuck here and there.
"We have to wait for Charlie," Sue said.
"He's coming now," observed Bunny, looking from the door. No customers had come in while the children were busy fixing the window, and they were just as well satisfied. They hoped for a rush of trade when the shades were raised.
Charlie came in with the covered basket, and the next fifteen minutes were busy ones for the children. Mrs. Golden had fallen asleep and did not come out of the back room to see what they were doing.
"Well, we're all ready now," said Bunny, at last. "Pull up the shades!"
He and Charlie did this. The sun shone in through the newly cleaned windows and lit up such a display as never before had been seen in Mrs. Golden's store.
IN THE FLOUR BARREL
Slowly the heavy green shades, which hid what was in the cleaned windows from the sight of persons in the street, rolled up. Bunny Brown, his sister Sue, and Charlie Star waited for what was to happen next. They looked first at one of the windows in which they had made a display, and then at the other.
In one was the pile of oatmeal packages built up like a small fort, with holes here and there through which stuck round boxes, with black covers so that they seemed to be small cannon.
In the other window—but I can best tell you what was in that by telling you what happened.
The curtains had not been up very long, and the children were feeling rather proud of what they had done, especially Sue in making the glass so clean, when a boy who was passing along the street stopped to look in one of the windows.
And the window he looked at was not the one where the oatmeal boxes were piled. It was at the other. This boy was soon joined by a second. Then a girl who had been running, as if in a hurry, came to a stop, and she stood near the two boys, looking in.
"The crowd is beginning to come!" remarked Charlie Star.
"But they aren't buying any of the oatmeal," objected Sue.
"Never mind," Charlie went on. "These kids wouldn't buy anything anyhow; they haven't any money. Wait till the big folks come." Charlie spoke of the "kids" as if he were about twenty years old himself. He seemed to have become much bigger and more important since helping Bunny and Sue fix up Mrs. Golden's windows.
And, surely enough, a few minutes later men and women began to stop to look at the windows of the little corner store. And the men and women at first looked not at the oatmeal but at the other window.
"It's making a big hit!" said Bunny Brown. He had learned this saying at the time when he and his sister Sue gave a show.
By this time quite a crowd had gathered in the street outside, and there was some talk and laughter which was heard inside the store. It was even heard in the back room where Mrs. Golden had gone to lie down, and it aroused her from her doze.
"Well, children," she said, as she came slowly out, "have you got the windows washed, and the special sale of oatmeal started?"
"Yes, everything is all ready," answered Bunny, with a sly look at his sister and Charlie.
Then Mrs. Golden saw the crowd outside.
"My goodness!" she exclaimed. "I never knew oatmeal to be so popular. I can sell it all, maybe!" Then she noticed that the crowd was mostly looking at the other window.
"What have you in there, Bunny Brown?" she asked.
"Take a look and see," invited Sue.
Mrs. Golden peered over the wooden partition that fenced the show window off from the remainder of the store. And in the window she saw—what do you think? Well, I imagine you must have guessed by this time.
Yes, it was Splash, the big dog, and asleep on his back was Charlie Star's little white kitten! It made the cutest picture you can imagine, for Splash kept very still, as if he did not want to wake up the sleeping puss, and the little cat was curled up just as if on a silken cushion.
It was this that Bunny and Charlie had been planning in the barn for several days. At first Splash would have nothing to do with the white kitten, and the kitten fluffed up her tail and made funny noises at Splash.
But finally the boys and Sue had trained the two to be friends, so that Splash would lie down and allow the kitten to go to sleep on his back. And it was this that Bunny and Sue, together with Charlie Star, had planned to attract attention to Mrs. Golden's poor little store.