"Well, be careful you don't get hurt," said their grandpa.
"And can we have the green-striped calf for a zebra?" Bunny wanted to know.
"Oh, I guess so; yes. The stripes haven't worn off him yet, and they won't for some time. So you might as well play with him."
"We don't want to play with him," Bunny explained. "He—he jumps about too much. We just want to put him in a cage and make believe he is a wild animal."
"Like a ockstritch," added Sue. The ostrich seemed to be her favorite.
"An ostrich isn't an animal," carefully explained Bunny. "It's a big bird, and it hides its head in the sand, and they pull out its tail feathers for ladies' hats."
"Well, it's wild, anyhow," said Sue.
"Yes, it's wild," admitted Bunny.
Grandpa Brown showed the children two tame roosters, that would let Bunny and Sue stroke their glossy feathers.
"You may put them in a box, and make believe they are any sort of wild bird or animal you like," said the farmer.
The children promised to be kind to the roosters. They did not put them in cages that day, as it was too soon.
That afternoon Tom White, Nellie Bruce, Jimmie Kenny, Sallie Smith and Ned Johnson came over to see Bunny and Sue. They all went out to the barn, and there they got ready for the circus. Bunny and Sue, as well as the other children, were to be dressed up in funny clothes, which their mothers said they would make for them.
Bunny was to do some "acts" on the trapeze, and fall down in the hay. Then he and Sue were to do part of a little Punch and Judy show they had once given, though Bunny, this time, had no big lobster claw to put on his nose.
"All ready now!" called Bunny, when his friends were in the barn. "All ready to practise for the circus!"
THE LITTLE CIRCUS
"Bunny! Bunny Brown! What am I going to be in the circus? I want to be a clown!"
"Yes, I want to be a clown, too, and throw water over another clown, like I saw in a circus once!"
"Well, you're not going to throw any water on me!"
"Yes I can if Bunny Brown says so! It's his circus!"
Tom White, Jimmie Kenny and Ned Johnson were talking together in one corner of the barn. Ned wanted to be a clown, and throw water on some one else. Jimmie did not want to be the one to get wet, nor did Tom White.
"Bunny, can't I be a clown?" asked Ned.
"I'm going to be a wild animal trainer—make-believe!" exclaimed Sue, "and I'm going to be near the cage where the blue-striped tiger is. I'm going to make him roar."
Sallie Smith looked a bit scared.
"Oh, it's only make-believe," Sue explained.
"Yes, I know," said Sallie. "But—Oh, dear! a blue-striped tiger!"
"Oh, it's only our big dog Splash," went on Sue. "First I was only going to let Bunny stripe his half of Splash. But a half a blue-striped tiger would look funny, so I said he could make my half of Splash striped too. It will wash off, for it's only bluing, like mother puts on the clothes."
"And we're going to have a striped zebra, too," said Bunny.
"Oh, let's see it!" begged the three boys.
"It's only one of grandpa's calves," cried Sue, "but it really has green stripes on it. Bunny put them on, and they're green paint, and they won't come off 'till they wear off, grandpa says, and the calf ran away, and kicked Bunny over and——"
"Oh, Sue, don't tell everything!" cried Bunny. "You'll spoil the show."
"Let's see the striped calf!" begged the three boys.
"No, we've got to practise for the circus," Bunny insisted. "Now I'll do my trapeze act," and he climbed up to the bar that hung by the long ropes from the beam in the barn.
"I want to do a trapeze act, too!" cried Tom White.
"Say, we can't all do the same thing!" Bunny said. "That isn't like a real circus. It's got to be different acts."
"Oh, say!" cried Ned Johnson. "I know what I can do! I can ride you in a wheelbarrow, Tom, and upset you. That will make 'em all laugh."
"It won't make me laugh, if you upset me too hard!" declared Tom.
"I'll spread some hay on the floor, like the time I did when Bunny fell," said Sue. "Then you won't be hurt. It doesn't hurt to fall on hay; does it, Bunny?"
"All right. Ned can upset me out of the wheelbarrow if he does it on the hay," agreed Tom.
So those two boys began to practise this part of the circus, while Bunny swung from the trapeze. Jimmie Kenny said he would climb up as high as he could and slide down a rope, like a sailor.
"I'll have some hay under me, too, so if I slip I won't be hurt," he said.
Indeed, if it had not been for the big piles of soft hay in grandpa's barn I don't know what the little circus performers would have done.
While the boys were practising the things they were going to do, Sue and her little girl friends made up a little act of their own.
Each one had a doll, and they practised a little song which they had sung in school. It was about putting the dollies to sleep in a cat's cradle, and a little mouse came in and awakened them, and then they went out to gather flowers for the honey bees.
Just a simple little song, but Sue and her friends sung it very nicely.
"And I know something else you can do, Sue, besides being a keeper of wild animals," said Bunny.
"What?" asked his sister.
"You can ride in the wheelbarrow and drive Ned and Tom for your horses—make-believe, you know."
"But I don't want to be upset, even on the hay!" Sue said.
"No, we won't upset you," promised Ned.
Then they practised that little act with Sue.
"When we give our real circus," said Bunny, "we can cover the wheelbarrow with flowers, and nobody will know what it is you're riding in, Sue."
"That will be nice!"
As the days went on, Bunny and Sue found they would have to have more children in their little circus, so others were invited. One boy brought an old rocking horse, and another had one almost like it, so they gave a "pretend" horse race around the barn floor.
Bunker Blue made a big sea-saw for the children, and every one who came to the show was to have a free ride on this.
"We ought to have a merry-go-'round," said Bunny one day.
"I'll make you one," offered Ben Hall, the strange boy, who was still working on grandpa's farm.
"Oh, will you! How?" asked Bunny.
Ben took some planks and nailed them together, criss-cross, like an X. Then he put them on a box, and on the ends of the planks that stuck out he fastened some wagon wheels. When four children sat down on the planks, and some one pushed them, they went around and around as nicely as you please, getting a fine ride around the middle of the barn floor.
"But we ought to have music," said Sue.
"I'll play my mouth organ," offered Bunker Blue.
At last the day of the little circus came. Bunny and Sue had decided that it was to be free, as they did not want pins, and none of the country children had any money to spend. So the circus was free to old folks and young folks alike.
"You'll come; won't you, Mother?" asked Bunny the morning of the circus.
"Oh, yes, of course."
"And will you, Daddy?" Sue wanted to know.
"Yes, little girl. I want to see you ride in your chariot, as you call it." For Bunny had named the wheelbarrow that was to be covered with flowers, a chariot, which is what they use to race with in a real circus.
Splash had been most beautifully striped with blue, and, though he did not like being shut up in a box, with slats nailed in front to serve as iron bars, still the big dog knew it was all in fun, so he stayed quietly where Bunny put him.
The striped calf was in another cage, and he was given a nice pail full of milk to keep him quiet, so he would not kick his way out. Calves like milk, you know.
The two roosters, which Sue said were the wild "ockstritches," behaved very nicely, picking up the corn in their cage as though they had been in a circus many times before. Grandpa also let the children take the old turkey gobbler and put him in a box.
"What shall we call him?" asked Sue, just before the show was about to begin.
"Oh, he'll be the elephant," said Bunny. "See, he's got something hanging down in front like an elephant's trunk. And we didn't get time to dress the pig up like an elephant."
"But a elephant has four legs, Bunny, and the turkey has only two."
"Oh, well, we can pretend he was in a railroad wreck, and lost two of his legs. Circuses do get wrecked sometimes."
"All right, Bunny."
All the children who were to take part in Bunny's and Sue's show were in the barn, waiting for the curtain to be pulled back. For grandmother and Mother Brown had made a calico curtain for the children. Bunker Blue and Ben said they would stand, one on either side, to pull the curtain back when the show started.
Bunker was going to play his mouth organ, while Ben said he would make what music he could by whistling and blowing on a piece of paper folded over a comb. You can make pretty good music that way, only, as Ben said, it tickles your lips, and you have to stop every once in a while.
Many children from nearby farms came to the little circus in the barn, and some of their fathers and mothers also came. It was a fine day for the show.
"Are you all ready, Bunny?" asked Bunker, who, with Ben, stood behind the curtain.
"All ready," answered the little boy.
"Here we go!" cried Bunker. Then he played on his mouth organ, Ben tooted on the comb and the curtain slid back on the wires by which it was stretched across the stage, or platform, in the barn.
"Welcome to our show!" cried Bunny Brown, making a bow to the audience which was seated on boxes and boards out in front. "We will now begin!" he went on. "And after the show you are all invited to stay and see the wild animals. We have a blue-striped tiger, a wild zebra and an——"
"An elephant, only he lost two legs in a accident," said Sue in a shrill whisper, fearing Bunny was going to forget about the turkey.
THE WILD ANIMALS
Everyone laughed when Sue said that, and Sue herself blushed as red as the ribbon on her hair, and the sash her mother had pinned around her waist.
"Does your elephant eat peanuts?" asked Daddy Brown, smiling.
"No, I don't guess so," answered Sue. "He likes corn better."
"Now the show's going to begin!" cried Bunny Brown. "Get ready everybody. The first will be a grand trapeze act! Come on, boys! Play some music, please, Bunker!"
Bunker played a new tune on his mouth organ. Then Bunny, Ned Johnson and Tom White got on the trapezes, for Bunny had decided that his one act, like this, was not enough. It would look more like a real circus with three performers.
Back and forth on the flying trapezes swung Bunny and his two friends. Of course such little fellows could not do many tricks, but they did very well, so all the grown folks said. They hung by their hands, and by their legs, and Ned Johnson, who was quite strong for his age, "turned himself inside out," as he called it, by pulling up his legs and putting them over his head, and under the trapeze bar.
Suddenly Bunny Brown gave a call.
"All ready now for our big swing!"
"I'm ready!" answered Tom.
"So am I," added Ned.
The three boys swung back and forth. All at once Bunny cried:
Away they sailed through the air.
"Oh, they'll be hurt! They'll fall and be hurt!" cried Grandma Brown.
"No, this is only part of the show," said Mother Brown.
And so it was. For Bunny, Ned and Tom landed safely on a big pile of hay, having jumped into the mow when they let go of the trapeze bars.
"How was that?" cried Bunny, laughing while Bunker and Ben played the music.
"Fine!" cried Daddy Brown.
"It's almost as good a show as the one I paid real money to see," laughed grandpa.
"What's next?" asked Jimmie Kenny's mother, who had come with her neighbor, Mrs. Smith.
"It's your turn now, Sue," whispered Bunny to his sister. "Do your act."
So Sue, and her little girl chums, sang their doll song. It was very much liked, too, and the people clapped so that the little girls had to sing it over again.
The curtain was now pulled across the stage while Ned and Tom got ready for one of the clown acts. They were dressed in queer, calico suits, almost like those worn by real clowns in a circus, and the boys had whitened their faces with chalk, and stuck on red rose leaves to make red dots.
Ned came out in front, with Tom in a wheelbarrow, for they had decided this between themselves. Ned wheeled Tom about, at the same time singing a funny song, and then, out from behind a barrel, rushed Jimmie Kenny. Jimmie had a pail, and he began crying:
"Fire! Fire! Fire!"
So loudly did he shout, and so much in earnest did he seem, that some of the farmers began to look about as though they were afraid Grandpa Brown's barn was on fire.
"Don't worry! It's only in fun," said grandpa.
Ned and Tom did not seem to know what to make of Jimmie's act. He was not supposed to come out when they did.
"Now this is where I upset you, Tom," said Ned in a low voice.
"Well, as long as you turn me over on the soft hay I don't mind," answered the other boy, for they had made this up between them.
Over went the wheelbarrow, and Tom was spilled out.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" cried Jimmie again, and then dashed a pail of water over Tom and Ned.
"Waugh! Ouch! Stop that!" spluttered Ned. "Stop it!"
"That—that wasn't in the show!" stammered Tom, for some of the water went in his mouth.
"I know it wasn't in it," laughed Jimmie, "but I thought I'd put it in!"
At first Tom and Ned were a little angry, but when each looked at the other, and saw how funny he was, with half the white and red spots washed off his face, each one had to laugh.
The audience laughed, too. The water did no harm, for it was a hot day, and the boys had on old clothes. So they did not mind. But Tom and Ned decided to play a little trick on Jimmie. So, while he was laughing at what he had done to them, they suddenly ran at him, caught him, and put him in the wheelbarrow. Before he could get out they began wheeling him around the barn floor.
"Now dump him!" suddenly cried Tom, and out shot Jimmie on a pile of hay. Before he could get up Tom had dashed some water on him.
"Now we're even!" cried Ned. "You're wet, too!"
It was all in fun, and no one minded getting wet. Then the circus went on. Sue was ridden in the flower-covered wheelbarrow, driving Ned and Tom. The boys acted like very nice horses indeed, and went slowly or fast, just as Sue called to them. She had a wreath of daisies on her hair, and looked like a little flower queen.
After that Bunker Blue and Ben Hall played some music on the mouth organ and comb, while Bunny and Sue were getting ready to give their little Punch and Judy show, which they had played once before, back home.
"Why don't you do some of your tricks, Ben?" asked Bunker of the new boy, when Bunny and Sue were almost ready.
"Oh, I can't do any tricks," said Ben, turning away.
"Yes you can! I guess you know more about a circus than you are willing to tell; don't you?"
But Ben did not answer, and then the curtain had to be pulled back to let Bunny and Sue be seen.
I will not tell you about the Punch and Judy show here, as I have written about it in the first book. Besides, it was not as well done by Bunny and Sue as was the first one.
Bunny forgot some of the things he should have said, and so did Sue. Besides, Bunny had no big, red, hollow lobster claw to put over his nose, to make himself look like Mr. Punch. But, for all that, the show was very much enjoyed by all, especially the children.
The race on the two rocking horses was lots of fun, and toward the end one of the boys rocked his horse so much that he fell over, but there was some straw for him to fall on, so he was not hurt. Up he jumped, on to the back of his horse again, and away he rode. But the other boy won the race.
Then Bunny and Sue jumped from some carpenter horses, through hoops that were covered with paper pasted over them, just like in a real circus.
"Crack!" went the paper as Bunny and Sue jumped through.
"Oh, it's just like real; isn't it, Mother?" called a little girl in the audience. It was very still when she said this, and everyone laughed so loudly that Bunny Brown looked around. And, as he did not look where he was jumping, he tumbled and fell off the saw-horse.
But Bunny fell in a soft place, and as a saw-horse is only made of wood, like a rocking horse, it did not kick, or step on, the little boy. So everything was all right.
The performing part of the circus came to an end with a "grand concert." Bunny, Sue and all the others stood in line and sang a song, while Bunker Blue played on the mouth organ, and Ben on the paper-covered comb.
"And now you are all invited to come and see the wild animals!" called Bunny. "Senorita Mozara will show you the blue striped tiger that does tricks. Senorita Mozara is my sister Sue," he explained, "but wild animal trainers all have fancy names, so I made that one up for her."
Everyone laughed at that.
"Right this way, ladies and gentlemen, to see the wild animals!" cried Sue. Ben Hall had told her what the circus men said, and Sue tried, in her childish voice, to do it as nearly like them as possible. "Right this way!" she cried. "You will see the blue-striped tiger—of course it's only our dog Splash, and he won't hurt you," said Sue quickly, as she saw some of the little children hanging back.
"He will eat meat from my hand, and stand up on his hind legs. He will lie down and roll over. This way, everybody!"
Splash did look funny, all striped with bluing as he was. But he did the tricks for Sue, and everyone thought it was a very nice part of the circus.
"Over this way is the striped zebra," went on Sue, as she led the way to where the green-painted calf was shut in a little pen. The men, women and children were laughing at the queer animal, when something happened.
Splash got out of his cage. Either some one opened the door, or Splash pushed it open. And as Splash bounded out he knocked over the cage where the turkey gobbler "elephant" was kept.
"Gobble-obble-obble!" went the turkey, as it flew across the barn. Children screamed, and some of them backed up against the cage of roosters, so it broke open and the crowing roosters were loose.
"Baaa-a-a-a!" went the green striped calf, and giving a big jump, out of the box it came, and began running around, upsetting both Bunny and Sue.
"Oh, the wild animals are loose! The wild animals are loose!" cried a little girl, while the big folks laughed so hard that they had to sit down on boxes, wheelbarrows, boards or whatever they could find. It was very funny.
BUNNY AND SUE GO SAILING
Certainly all the animals in the circus which Bunny and Sue had gotten up, were loose, though of course they were not exactly "wild" animals. The green-striped calf was wild enough when it came to running around and kicking up its heels, but then calves do that anyhow, whether they are striped like a zebra or not, so that doesn't count.
"Look out! Look out, everybody!" cried Bunny Brown. For, just then, the calf, having run to one end of the barn and finding the doors there closed, had run back again, and was heading straight for the place where they were all standing.
"Somebody catch him!" cried Ben Hall.
"It would take a cowboy to do that," spoke up Bunker Blue. "A cowboy with a lasso!"
"I'll catch him! I'll get him!" cried Bunny. "I had a lasso that I was trying to catch the old rooster with. I'll lasso the calf!"
"No, little man. You'll not do anything of the sort!" exclaimed Mr. Brown, catching his son up in his arms. "You'd better stay away from that calf. It would not mean to hurt you, perhaps, but it might knock you down and step on you."
The calf was now running back and forth, bleating and looking for some place where it could get out of the barn. For it did not like being in a circus, though, at first, it had been quiet enough.
Splash thought it was great fun. He ran here and there, barking loudly, and racing after the calf. The two roosters were crowing as loudly as they could, fluttering here, there, everywhere. One nearly perched on top of Grandma Brown's head.
The horses could be heard neighing and stamping about in their stalls. Perhaps they, too, wanted to join in the fun.
"Oh, dear!" cried Sue. "I don't like this. Let's go out, Bunny."
But with the calf running back and forth in the barn, crossing this way and that, it was not easy for Bunny, Sue and the others to keep out of its way.
"I guess I'll have to take a hand in this," said Grandpa Brown. He knew how to handle cows, horses and calves you see. But there was no need for him to do anything.
Just then the hired man, who had been milking some of the cows, opened the barn door to see what all the noise meant. He had a pail of milk in his hand, and, no sooner had the calf seen this, than the striped creature made a rush for the hired man.
"Look out!" cried Grandpa Brown.
"Come back here!" cried Sue, to the calf.
Perhaps she thought the calf would mind her, since Sue had been the make-believe wild animal trainer in the circus. But all the green-striped calf thought of just then was the pail of milk it saw.
Right at the hired man it rushed, almost knocking him down.
"Here! Here! Look out! Stop it! That milk isn't for you!" cried the hired man, trying to push the calf to one side.
But the calf was hungry, and it had made up its little mind that it was going to have that milk. And it did. Before the hired man could stop it, the calf had its nose down in the pail of nice, warm, fresh milk.
"Let him have it," said Grandpa Brown, with a laugh. "The milk will keep him quiet, and we folks can get out. The circus is over; isn't it, Bunny?"
"Oh, yes, Grandpa. But we didn't think the wild animals were going to get loose. How did you like it?"
"Do you mean how did I like the wild animals getting loose?" asked Grandpa Brown, with a laugh.
"No, the circus," answered Bunny. "Was it good?"
"It certainly was!" cried his grandfather. "I liked it very much!"
"And so did I," said grandma. "But I was afraid you would be hurt when you jumped that time, Bunny."
"Oh, that's just a circus trick," Bunny said. "You ought to see Ben jump. Go on, Ben, show 'em how you can turn over in the air."
"Not now, Bunny. I haven't time. I'm going to help Bunker clean up the barn."
There were many things to be put away after the circus, for Grandpa Brown had said if the children used his barn they must leave it neat and clean when they finished.
By this time the grown people who had come to the circus, and the boys and girls, too, began to leave. The calf was now standing still, drinking the milk from the pail. Splash had stopped barking. The two roosters had gotten out of the barn, and everything was quiet once more.
The circus was over, and everyone said he had had a good time. Some of the little folks wanted to see it all over again, but Bunny said that could not be done. The grown folks said Bunny Brown and his sister Sue were very clever to get up such a nice little show.
"But of course we didn't do it all," explained Bunny, who like to have others share in the praise. "We never could have done it if grandpa hadn't let us take his barn, or if Bunker and Ben hadn't helped us. It was as much their show as it was ours."
"Yes, Bunker and Ben were very good to help you," said Bunny's mother. "And now I think it is time for you and Sue to wash and get ready for supper."
"I'd like to have a bigger show, in a tent Some day," said Bunny.
"Yes, that would be nice," agreed Sue.
"Well, if I'd known you wanted a tent instead of my barn, I could have given you one," said Grandpa Brown.
"Oh, have you really a tent?" asked Bunny, eagerly.
"Yes, it's an old army tent. Not very big, though. When I used to go camping with some old soldier friends of mine we took it with us. It's up in the attic now, I guess. But your circus is over, so you won't want a tent now."
"Maybe we'll have another circus some day," suggested Bunny. "Then could we take your army tent?"
"Oh, I guess so."
And when Bunny, Sue and the children and the grown folks had left the barn, Bunker Blue said to Ben Hall:
"Say, it wouldn't be such a bad idea to get up a circus among us big boys; would it?"
"Yes, it might be fun."
"If Mr. Brown has a tent we could use that, and we might borrow another. Would you like to do that, Ben?"
"Say, look here!" exclaimed Bunker, "why don't you tell us more about yourself? You know something about a real circus."
"What makes you think so?" Ben asked.
"Oh, because I do. Were you ever in one?"
Instead of answering Ben cried:
"Look out! That plank is going to fall on your foot!"
Ben and Bunker were putting away the boxes and boards that had been used for seats in the circus. And, as Ben spoke, one of the boards slipped off a box. Bunker pulled his foot away, but not in time to prevent being struck by the board.
"Ouch!" he cried, and then he forgot that he had asked Ben about that boy's having been in a circus. Ben was glad he did not have to answer that question.
When Bunker and Ben had made the barn look as neat as it was before the little circus was held, and when the blue stripes had been washed off Splash, the two big boys sat and talked until supper was ready.
"What do you think about getting up a larger circus?" asked Bunker.
"Why, I guess we could do it," said Ben.
"Are there some big boys around here?"
"Lots of 'em. I've met some since I came here with Bunny, Sue and their family. We could get the big fellows together, and give a real show, in a tent."
"Would we have any little folks in it?"
"Well, we'd have Bunny and Sue, of course, because they started this circus idea. They're real cute; don't you think?"
"They certainly are," agreed Ben. "I like 'em very much. Well, we'll think about another circus. We'll need a larger tent than the one Mr. Brown has. Can we get one?"
"I think so. The folks around here used to have a county fair in a tent, and we might get that. We could charge money, too, if we gave a good show."
"That would be nice," said Ben, with a laugh. "I'd like to earn some money."
That night after supper, when Bunny and Sue were getting ready for bed, after having talked the circus all over again, they heard their grandfather saying to Daddy Brown:
"I can't make out what sort of boy that Ben Hall is."
"Why, isn't he a good boy?" asked Bunny's father.
"Oh, yes, he's a very good boy. I wouldn't ask a better. He does his work on the farm here very well. But there is something strange about him. He has some secret, and I can't find out what it is."
That was all Bunny heard. Sue did not stop to listen to that much. But Bunny wondered, as he was falling asleep, what Ben's secret was. It was some time before he found out.
"What are we going to do to-day, Bunny?" asked Sue, as she and her brother went outdoors, after breakfast next morning.
Bunny did not answer at first. He walked slowly down to the edge of the little pond where the ducks swam, and there he saw an old barn door that had been laid down so Grandma Brown would not have to step in a wet and muddy place when it rained.
"What can we do to have some fun, Bunny?"
Still Bunny did not answer. He went closer to the old door, and then he suddenly said:
"Sue, we're going sailing!"
"Yep. This will be our ship. All we'll have to do will be to put a sail on it and we'll sail across the duck pond. Come on."
Bunny found an old bag that had held corn for the chickens. He nailed this bag to a stick, and fastened the stick up straight in a crack in the barn door, which lay down flat on the ground. Then he and Sue managed to get the door in the duck pond, on the edge of which it had been placed over a mud puddle.
"There!" cried Bunny. "Get on the boat, Sue."
Bunny and Sue, who had taken off their shoes and stockings, stood up on the big door. It floated nicely with them. A little wind blew out the bag sail, and away they went.
SPLASH IS LOST
"Bunny! Oh, Bunny! We're sailing! We're sailing!" joyfully cried Sue, as she felt the barn-door raft moving through the water.
"Of course we're sailing," Bunny answered, as he stood up near the mast, which is what the stick that holds the sail is called. The mast Bunny had made was only a piece of a lima bean pole, and the sail was only an old bag. But the children had just as much fun as though they were in one of their father's big sail boats.
The duck pond was not very wide, but it was quite long, and when Bunny and Sue had sailed across it to the other side, they turned around to go to the upper end.
Bunny had found a piece of board, which he had nailed to another short length of bean pole, and this made a sort of oar. This he put in the water at the back of the raft to steer with.
Bunny Brown knew something about steering a boat, for he had often been out with his father or Bunker Blue. And Bunny was quick to learn, though he was not much more than six years old.
Harder blew the wind on the bag-sail, and faster and faster went Bunny and Sue to the upper end of the pond. There were many ducks swimming on the water, or putting their heads down below, into the mud, to get the weeds that grew there. Sometimes they found snails, which some ducks like very much.
But when the ducks saw the barn-door raft sailing among them, they were afraid, and, quacking loudly, they paddled out of the way.
"Oh, Bunny!" cried Sue, as they sailed along, "there's the little ducks that were hatched out by the hen mother."
"So they are!" exclaimed the little boy. The little ducks were swimming in the water, and the hen mother was clucking along shore. She would not go in the water herself, but stayed as near to it as she dared, on shore. Perhaps she wanted to make sure the little ducks would not drown. Of course they would not, unless a big fish pulled them under water, for ducks are made on purpose to swim. And there were no big fish in the pond, only little minnows, about half as big as a lollypop stick.
"Oh, Bunny!" cried Sue, as she saw the hen mother watching the little ducks paddle about, "Oh, Bunny, I know what we can do."
"We can give the hen mamma a ride on our boat. Poor thing! She never can go paddling or swimming with her family. Let's take her on our boat, and she can sail with her little ducks then, and not get wet."
"That's what we'll do!" Bunny cried. "I'm glad you thought of it, Sue. We'll give the old hen a sail, and the ducks can paddle around with us."
Bunny steered the raft over to the shore where the hen was clucking away, calling to her ducklings to come to dry land. Perhaps she thought they had been in bathing long enough.
"Can we catch her?" asked Sue. "You know it's hard work to catch a chicken. You couldn't catch the old rooster."
"Oh, this is easier," Bunny said. "The hen mother won't run away from her little ducks."
And, for a wonder, Bunny was right. But then, as Grandma Brown told him afterward, the old hen was a very tame one, and was used to being picked up and petted.
So when Bunny and Sue reached the shore the hen did not run away. She let Bunny pick her up, and she only clucked a little when he set her down in a dry place on the door raft.
"Now we'll go sailing again," Bunny said, as he pushed off from the shore.
The old hen clucked and fluttered her wings. She was calling to her little ducks. And they came right up on to the raft, too. Perhaps they wanted to see what sailing was like, and then, too, they may have had enough of swimming and paddling for a time. At any rate, there the old mother hen and her little ducks were on the raft, with the two children.
"Now we'll give them a fine ride!" cried Sue. "Aren't they cute, Bunny?"
"Yes," said Bunny. He steered the raft, while Sue picked up one of the little ducks and petted it in her hand.
"Oh, you dear, cute, sweet little thing!" murmured Sue. "I wish I had you for a doll!"
On and on sailed Bunny and Sue, and I think it was the first time the old hen mother ever went sailing with her family of ducks. She seemed to like it, too, Bunny and Sue thought.
Finally, when the raft was in the middle of the pond, the little ducks gave some quacks, a sort of whistle and into the water they fluttered one after the other.
"Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!" went the hen mamma, fluttering her wings. "Cluckity-cluck-cluck!"
I suppose that meant, in hen talk:
"Come back! Come back! Stay on the boat and have a nice ride!"
But the little ducks wanted to swim in the water. And they did.
"Never mind," said Sue. "We'll keep on sailing, Bunny, and we'll sail right after the little ducks, so the hen mamma can watch them."
And this the children did. The little ducks paddled around in the water at the edge of the raft, and on the middle of it, in a dry place, perched the hen mother. It was great fun, and Bunny and Sue liked it very much.
"She is just like a trained hen," said Bunny. "If we have another and bigger circus, Sue, we can have this hen in it."
"Are we going to have another circus?"
"Maybe—a big one, in two tents. Bunker Blue and Ben are talking about it."
"Oh, that would be fun!" cried Sue, clapping her hands.
And then, all at once, as soon as Sue did this, the little ducks took fright, and hurried toward the shore. Perhaps they thought Sue was shooing them away, as her grandmother sometimes shooed the hens out of the garden.
Anyhow, the little ducks, half swimming and half flying, rushed for the shore, and no sooner had the hen mother seen them go, than with a loud cluck she raised herself up in the air, and flew to shore also. She had had enough of sailing, and she wanted to be with her little duck family.
"Oh, I didn't mean to scare them," said Sue.
"Never mind," Bunny comforted her. "I guess they had ride enough. Now we'll sail down to the other end of the pond."
But the wind was quite strong now. It blew very hard on the bag-sail, and the raft went swiftly through the water.
All at once there was a cracking sound, and the raft turned to one side.
"Oh, dear!" cried Sue. "What's the matter?"
Something flew down over her head, covering her eyes, and she could see nothing.
"Stop! Stop!" cried the little girl. "Is that you, Bunny?"
But Bunny did not answer. Sue pulled the thing off her head. When she could see she noticed that it was the bag sail. The beanpole mast had broken off close to where it was stuck in a crack in the barn door, and the sail had fallen on Sue.
But where was Bunny Brown?
Sue looked all around and then saw her brother, off the raft, standing up in the water behind her.
"What—what's the matter, Bunny?" asked Sue. "Don't you want to sail any more? What makes you be in the water? Oh, you're all wet!" she cried, as she saw that he had fallen in, right over his head.
"I—I couldn't help it," said Bunny. "I slipped in when the wind broke the sail. I—I fell on my back, and a lot of water got in my nose and mouth, but—but I got on my feet, and I'm all right now, Sue."
Bunny's father had taught him a little about swimming, and Bunny knew that the first thing to do, when you fall in water, is to hold your breath. Then, when your head bobs up, as it surely will, you can take a breath, and stand up, if the water isn't too deep.
So Bunny stood up, with the muddy water dripping from him, looking at Sue who was still on the raft, all alone.
"Oh, Bunny!" cried the little girl. "What shall I do? I—I'm afraid!"
"You're all right," Bunny answered bravely. "I'll come and push you to shore. I'm all wet so I might as well stay wading now."
The duck pond was not very deep, and Bunny was soon wading behind the raft, pushing it, with Sue on it, toward shore. So his sister did not get more than her feet wet, and, as she had on no shoes or stockings, that did not matter.
"Oh, Bunny! What happened?" asked his mother, when she saw how wet he was, as, a little later, the two children came to the farmhouse. "What happened, Bunny?"
"Oh, Mamma. We gave the old hen a ride, so she could be with her little ducks," said Sue, "and the wind broke our sail, and it fell on me, and the ducks flew away and so did the hen mother, and Bunny fell in. That's what happened!"
"Mercy me, sakes alive! I should think that was enough!" cried Grandma Brown.
"Yes, perhaps you had better keep away from the duck pond after this," said Mother Brown. "Now I'll have to change all your clothes, Bunny."
Bunny was sorry his mother had so much work to do for him, but, as he said, he could not help it.
Washed and clean, Bunny and Sue, a little later, went down the road to the house of Nellie Bruce.
"We'll take Splash with us," said Bunny. "Where is he? Here, Splash! Splash!" he called.
"I didn't see him all to-day," said Sue. "Maybe he didn't like being a blue-striped tiger in a circus, and he's gone back to our home by the ocean."
"He wouldn't go that far," said Bunny. "Besides, he liked being in the circus. He wagged his tail 'most all the while, and when he does that he's happy. Here, Splash!" he called again.
But Splash did not come, even when Sue called, and the two children went off to play without him. For a time they did not think about their dog, as they had such fun at the home of Nellie Bruce. They played tag, and hide-and-go-seek, as well as teeter-tauter, and bean-bag.
Then Mrs. Bruce gave them some cookies and milk, and they had a little play-party. But, when it came time for Bunny and Sue to go home, they thought of Splash again.
"I wonder if he'll be there waiting for us," said Sue, as they came within sight of their Grandpa Brown's house.
"I hope so," said Bunny.
But no Splash was there, and he had not been seen since early morning, before Bunny and Sue went sailing on the duck pond.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Sue. "Splash has run away. He's lost!"
"Dogs can't get lost!" Bunny declared.
"Yes, he is too lost," and tears came into Sue's eyes.
GETTING THE TENTS
Bunny Brown himself thought it was strange that Splash was not about to greet him and his sister as they came home from play. The big shaggy dog, that had once pulled Sue from the water, was very fond of the children, and if he did not go with them (which he did nearly every time) he was always waiting for them to come back.
But this time Splash was not to be seen. Bunny went about the yard, whistling, while Sue called:
"Splash! Here, Splash! I want you! Come here, Splash!"
But the joyful bark of Splash was not heard, nor did he come bounding around the side of the house, to play with Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, when they called.
"It is queer," said Mother Brown. "I saw him early this morning, when I gave him his breakfast, and I thought he went with you, Bunny, when you and Sue went down to the duck pond."
"No, Splash didn't go with us," said Bunny. And this was rather strange, too, for the dog loved water, and played near it whenever he could, dashing in to bring out sticks that Bunny or Sue would throw in for him.
"And didn't he go down to Nellie Bruce's with you?" asked Grandma Brown. She was as fond of Splash as anyone.
"No, he didn't follow us," Sue answered. "We wanted him, too. But we thought sure he'd be here waiting for us. But he isn't," and again the little girl's eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, we'll find him," said Bunny.
But that was easier said than done. All about the house and barns in the farmyard, down through the meadows and over the pasture they looked for Splash. Mother and Grandmother Brown helped search, but Bunny and Sue, with Bunker Blue and Ben Hall, went farther off to look. It was nearly time for supper, but Bunny and Sue did not want to wash and get clean ready for the meal until they had found Splash.
But Splash, it seemed, was not to the found.
"We'll have to ask some of the neighbors if they've seen him," said Bunker. "We'll go down the road a way and ask everyone we meet."
Splash, by this time, was pretty well known at the houses along the road where Grandpa Brown lived, for the dog made friends with everyone, and was fond of children.
But Bunker, Ben, Bunny and Sue had to ask at a number of places before they found anyone who had seen Splash.
"Your dog lost; eh?" exclaimed Mr. Black, who lived about a mile from Grandpa Brown's house. "Why, yes, I saw Splash this morning. He was running over the fields back of my house. I called to him, thinking you children might be with him, and there's an old ram, over in my back pasture, that I didn't want to get after you.
"But Splash wouldn't come when I called to him, and when I saw you two youngsters weren't with him, I didn't worry about the ram. I knew Splash could look out for himself."
"Did you see him come back?" asked Bunker.
"No. I didn't notice. I was too busy."
"Then we'll go over and look for him," said Ben. "Maybe the old ram got him after all."
"Well, maybe he did," said the farmer, "but I guess a dog like Splash can run faster than a ram. Anyhow we'll have a look."
"Are you going, Bunny?" asked Sue.
"Sure. Aren't you? Don't you want to find Splash?"
"Yes—but—but I don't want a old ram to hook me with his horns."
"I'll take care of you, Sue," said Farmer Black. "I'll take a big stick with me, and the ram is afraid of that. We'll find Splash for you."
They all went over the field where Mr. Black had seen Splash trotting early that morning. They saw the ram, who, at first, seemed about to run toward them. But when Mr. Black shook the stick at him the ram turned away and nibbled grass.
"No sign of Splash here," said the farmer, as he stood on the fence and looked across the field.
"Then he's just lost," said Bunny. He was glad the ram had not hurt his dog. But where could Splash be?
They went on a little farther, and Sue called:
"Splash! Splash! Where are you?"
But there was no answer. Then they went on a little farther, and Bunny called:
"Splash! Ho, Splash!"
Hark! What was that?
They all listened.
From somewhere, a good way off, the faint barking of a dog could be heard.
"There he is!" cried Bunker Blue. "That's Splash!"
"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried Sue.
"But why doesn't he come to us?" Bunny asked. "Splash always comes when you call him. Why doesn't he come?"
No one could answer this. They listened and waited. They could hear the dog barking, but the sound was as far off as ever.
"Maybe he can't come," said Ben. "Maybe he's caught, or hurt, and can't walk. We'll have to go to him."
"I guess that's right," said Farmer Black. "We'll find that dog of yours after all."
They listened in order to tell where the barking came from, and then started off toward a little grove of trees. It seemed that Splash was there. And, as they came nearer the barking sounded more plainly.
"Oh, Splash! Splash!" cried Sue.
The dog barked and whined now.
"He's hurt!" said Bunker Blue. "He must be caught in a trap!"
And it was there they found poor Splash.
He had stepped with one paw into a trap that was hidden under the leaves, and there he was, held fast. For the trap, which was a string spring one, was fastened by a chain to a heavy log. And as Splash could not pull the log and trap too, he had had to stay where he was caught.
"Oh, you poor, dear Splash!" cried Sue, putting her arms around the dog's neck. Splash licked her face with his red tongue, and whined. Bunny, too, put his arms around his pet.
"Some boy must have set that trap here to catch musk rats," said Farmer Black. "I've told 'em not to, but they won't mind. Let me see now if I can't set Splash loose."
This was soon done. The trap was not a sharp one, with teeth, as some are made, and though one of the dog's paws was pinched and bruised, no bones were broken, nor was the skin cut. But poor Splash was quite lame, and could only walk on three legs.
"Splash, what made you run away from home?" asked Bunny.
Of course the dog could not answer. But he may have found some other dog to play with, and run off to have some fun. Then he had stepped into the trap, and there he was held until his little friends came to find him.
"And it's a good thing you looked for him," said Bunker Blue, "or he might have been out here all night, caught in the trap."
"Poor Splash!" said Sue, as she hugged him again.
As Splash could not walk along very well, on three legs, Mr. Black said he would hitch up a wagon and take the dog, and everyone else, to grandpa's place. And, a little later, this was done.
Grandpa Brown put some liniment on the sore leg, and bound it up in soft cloths. Then Splash went to sleep in the kitchen.
"Oh, I'm so glad he isn't lost!" sighed Sue, as she and Bunny went to bed that night.
"So am I," echoed her brother.
For several days Splash had to go about on three legs, holding the lame one, with the cloth on, up in the air. Then the pain and bruise of the trap passed away, and he could run around the same as before, on four legs, though he limped a little. Soon he was over that, and as well as ever.
"And you must keep out of traps," said Bunny, shaking a finger at his pet.
"Bow-wow!" barked Splash, and I guess that he meant he would.
It was about a week after this that Bunny Brown and his sister Sue saw Bunker Blue and Ben Hall out in a field with a big pile of white cloth.
"Oh, maybe they're going to send up a balloon!" exclaimed Bunny, for he had once seen this done at a park.
"Let's go watch!" cried Sue.
They found the two big boys stretching out the white cloth, to which was fastened many ropes.
"Is it a balloon?" asked Bunny.
"No," answered Bunker. "It's a tent."
"A tent! What a big one!"
"It's the army tent your grandfather used to sleep in when he went to camp. He let us take it. We're going to put it up and see how many it will hold."
"What for?" Bunny wanted to know. "Are you going camping? Can Sue and I come?"
"No, we're not going camping," answered Ben. "But we want this tent, and perhaps another one, bigger, for the circus we are going to give."
"Oh, are you going to have a circus?" asked Bunny.
"Well, we big boys are thinking of it," said Bunker. "You young ones gave such a good one, that we want to see if we can't come up to you. That's why we're going to put up this tent."
"We'll help," said Bunny. Then he and Sue began pulling on ropes and hauling on the ends of the white canvas, of which the tent was made. The children thought they were helping, but I guess Bunker and Ben could have done better if left alone. Still they liked the children, and did not want to send them away.
But Bunny, who had gone away from Sue, soon grew tired of pulling on the heavy ropes.
"I guess I'll come back when you have the tent up," said the little fellow. "Come on, Sue," and he looked around for his sister.
But she was not in sight.
"Sue! Sue!" called Bunny. "Where are you?"
"Maybe she's gone home," said Ben.
"No, she wouldn't go without me," Bunny declared. "Oh, maybe she's lost; or caught in a trap, just like Splash was!" and Bunny began to cry.
BUNNY AND THE BALLOONS
Bunker Blue, Ben, and some of the large boys from nearby farms, who had been invited to come over and help put up the big tent, stopped pulling on the ropes, or driving in stakes, and gathered around Bunny Brown.
"What's the matter?" asked one big boy, who had a snub nose.
"My—my little sister is lost," Bunny explained, half crying.
"Who is your sister?" the big boy asked. He came from a farm a good way off, and was somewhat of a stranger.
"She's Sue—that's my sister," Bunny explained. "She was here a little while ago, but now she's lost!"
"This is Bunny Brown," explained Bunker to the other boys. "He and his sister Sue are staying at Grandpa Brown's farm. Their grandfather let us take this tent," he said.
"Oh, I see!" exclaimed the big boy. "Well, we'll help you hunt for your sister, Bunny."
They began looking all around the big tent, which was spread out on the ground and not yet up on the poles, as it would be later, so the people could come in it to see the show of the big boys. But Sue was not in sight. Nor could she be seen anywhere in the field where the tent was to be put up.
"Are you sure she didn't go back to the house, Bunny?" asked Ben.
"I'm sure she didn't," said the little boy. "She was here with me a little while ago. If she'd gone she'd have told me so, and Splash would have gone with her. He goes with her more than he does with me. And see, here is Splash!"
This was true. The big dog lay in the shade, watching what Bunny and the others were doing, and wondering, I suppose, why people were so foolish as to work in hot weather, when they could just as well lie down in the shade, and stick out their tongues to keep cool—for that is what dogs do.
"Maybe Splash can find Sue," said Bunker.
"Hi there, Splash!" he called. "Where's Sue? Find her!"
Splash jumped up with a bark, and ran to Bunny.
"You tell him what to do," said Bunker. "He'll mind you better than he will me."
"Find Sue, Splash! Find Sue!" said Bunny.
Splash barked again, looked up into Bunny's face, as if to make sure what was wanted, and then, with a bark he ran to where a big pile of the white canvas was gathered in a heap. It was a part of the tent the boys had not yet unfolded, or straightened out.
Splash stood near this and barked. Then he began poking in it with his sharp nose.
"He—he's found something," said Ben.
"Maybe it's Sue," cried Bunker. "Come on!"
Taking hold of Bunny's hand, Bunker ran with him toward the pile of canvas. The other boys ran too. But before they got there Sue was sitting up in the middle of it, and Splash was standing near her, barking and jumping about now and then, as if he felt very happy.
"Why—why, Sue!" Bunny cried. "Were you there all the while?"
"How long is all the while?" asked Sue, rubbing her sleepy eyes. "I was playing house here, Bunny, and I pulled a bed spread over me, and went to sleep. Splash put his cold nose on me and woke me up. What are you all lookin' at me for?" Sue asked, as she saw the circle of boys, her brother among them, staring at her.
"We—we thought you were lost, Sue," said Bunny. "And we came to find you."
"I—I wasn't losted at all!" Sue protested. "I was here all the while! I just went to sleep!"
And that was what had happened. When Bunny was busy helping Ben and Bunker pull on some of the tent ropes, Sue had slipped off by herself, and had lain down on the pile of canvas.
Feeling sleepy, she had pulled a part of the tent over her. She made believe it was a white spread, such as was on her bed in her Grandpa Brown's house. This covered Sue from sight, so Bunny and none of the others could see her. And there she had slept, while the others looked. And had not Splash known where to find the little girl, she might have slept a great deal longer, and Bunny and the boys might not have found her until dark.
"But I've slept long enough, now," said Sue. "Is the tent ready for the big circus?"
"Not yet," answered Bunker Blue. "We've got to use the piece of canvas you were sleeping on, so it's a good thing you woke up. But we'll soon have the tent ready, and then we'll go and get the bigger one."
"Oh, are you going to have two?" asked Sue.
"Yes," answered Ben. "Oh, we're going to give a fine show! And we want you and your sister Sue in it, too, Bunny," went on the strange boy who had come to Grandpa Brown's so hungry that night. "You'll be in the big circus; won't you?"
"To give the Punch and Judy show?" asked Sue.
"Well, maybe that, and maybe some of the things you did in your own little circus," Bunker said. "There's time enough to get up something new if you want."
"All right. That's what we'll do," said Bunny. "Come on, Sue, and we'll practise a new act for the big boys' circus."
The little circus, gotten up by Bunny and Sue, had made quite a jolly time for the people in the country where Grandpa Brown lived. It was talked of in many a farmhouse, and it was this talk of the little circus that had made Bunker, Ben and the other big boys want to give a larger show of their own.
Some of the boys were quite strong, and they could do tricks on the trapeze that Bunny and his little friends did not dare try. Then, too, one of the boys had a trained dog, that had once been in a real city theatre show, and another had some white mice that could do little tricks, and even fire a toy cannon that shot a paper cap.
"Oh, it's going to be a real circus all right, in real tents," said Bunker Blue.
As I have told you, Grandpa Brown let the boys take his old army tent, and they were to have another, and larger one, that had once been used at a county fair.
Leaving Bunker, Ben and the other big boys to put up their tent, Bunny and Sue, with Splash, their dog, went back to the farmhouse.
"What trick can we do, Bunny?" asked Sue. "What can we do in the circus?"
"Oh, we'll make up a surprise, so they'll all laugh," he said. "I wish I had another big lobster claw, so I could put it on my nose, and look funny."
"Maybe you could find something else to put on your nose," said the little girl. "Oh, Bunny, I know!" she suddenly cried. "I've just thought of something fine!"
"What?" asked Bunny.
Sue looked all around, to make sure no one was listening, and then she whispered to Bunny. And what it was she told him I'm not allowed to tell you just now, though I will when the right time comes.
Anyhow, Bunny and Sue were very busy the rest of the day. They were making something out in the barn, and they kept the doors closed so no one could see what they were doing.
It was the day after this that Bunny and Sue were asked by their grandma to go on a little errand for her. It was about half a mile down the safe country road, to a neighbor's house, and as the two children had been there before, they knew the way very well.
Hand in hand they set off, with Splash following after them. They walked slowly, for there was no hurry. Now and then they stopped to pick some pretty flowers, or get a drink at a wayside spring. Once in a while they saw a red, yellow or blue bird, and they stopped to watch the pretty creatures fly to their nests, where their little ones were waiting to be fed.
"Oh, isn't it just lovely in the country," said Sue. "Don't you just love it, Bunny?"
"Yes," he answered. "I do. And won't we have fun at our circus, Sue, when I dress up like a——"
"Hush!" exclaimed the little girl. "Don't tell anyone! It's a secret you know."
"Pooh! There's nobody here to tell!" laughed Bunny.
In a little while they were at the house of the neighbor to whom Grandma Brown had sent them. They gave in the little note grandma had written, and then Mrs. Wilson, to whom it was sent, after writing an answer, gave Bunny and Sue each a cookie, and a cool glass of milk.
"Sit down in the shade, on the porch, and eat and drink," said Mrs. Wilson. "Then you will feel better when going home."
Bunny and Sue liked the cookies and milk very much. They were just eating the last crumbs of the cookies, and drinking the last drops of milk, when Bunny, looking out toward the road, saw, going past, a man with a large number of balloons, tied to strings, floating over his head. There were red balloons, and blue ones; green, yellow, purple, white and pink ones.
"Oh, look, Sue!" cried Bunny. "The balloons! That's just what we want for our circus."
"What do we want of balloons?" asked the little girl.
"I mean we ought to have somebody sell them outside the tents," Bunny went on. "It won't look like a real circus without toy balloons."
"That's so," agreed Sue. "But how can we get 'em?"
"We'll ask the balloon man," said Bunny. He was not a bit bashful about speaking to strangers.
Setting down his empty milk glass, Bunny ran down the front path toward the road, where the balloon man was walking along through the dust. Sue ran after her brother.
"Hey! Hi there!" called Bunny.
The man stopped and turned around. Seeing the two children, he smiled.
"You wanta de balloon?" he asked, for he was an Italian, just like the one who had a hand organ, and whose monkey ran away, as I have told you in the book before this one.
"We want lots of balloons," said Bunny.
"Oh, sure!" said the man, smiling more than ever.
"We want all the balloons for our circus," Bunny explained.
"Circus? Circus?" repeated the balloon man, and he did not seem to know what Bunny meant. "What is circus?" he asked.
"We're going to have a circus," Bunny explained. "My sister Sue says we must have toy balloons. You come to our circus and you can sell a lot. You know—a show in a tent."
"Oh, sure! I know!" The Italian smiled again. He had often sold balloons at fairs and circuses. "Where your circus?" he asked.
"Come on, we'll show you," promised Bunny. Then he and Sue started back toward Grandpa Brown's house, followed by the man with the balloons floating over his head—red balloons, green, blue, purple, yellow, white and pink ones.
"Bunny! Won't it be just grand!" whispered Sue to her brother, as they walked along ahead of the balloon man.
"Fine!" said Bunny. "We'll have him stand outside the tent, and sell his balloons. It'll look just like a real circus then. It wouldn't without the balloons; would it, Sue?"
"No. And, oh, Bunny! I've thought of something else."
"What is it?"
"Yes, we'll have the balloon man sell that, and peanuts. Then it will be more than ever like a real circus."
"But how can he sell pink lemonade and peanuts and balloons?" Bunny wanted to know.
"Oh, he can do it," said Sue, who seemed to think it was very easy. "He can tie his bunch of balloons to the lemonade and peanut stand, and when anybody wants one they can take it and put down the five cents. Then the balloon man will have one hand to dish out the hot peanuts, and the other to pour out the pink lemonade."
"Yes, I guess he could do that," said Bunny. "We'll ask him, anyhow. Maybe he won't want to."
Bunny and Sue stopped and waited for the balloon man to catch up with them. The man, seeing the children waiting for him, hurried forward, and stopped to see what was wanted.
"Well?" he asked, looking at his balloons to make sure none of them would break away, and float up to the clouds.
"Can you sell pink lemonade?" asked Bunny.
"Penk leemonade," repeated the Italian, saying the words in a funny way. "Whata you calla dat? Penk leemonade?"
"You know—what they always have at a circus," said Bunny. "This color," and he pointed to a pink balloon. "You drink it you know, out of a glass—five cents."
"No can drinka de balloon!" the man exclaimed. "You put your teeth on heem and he go—pop! so—no good!"
"No, I don't mean that!" cried Bunny, laughing at the Italian, who made funny faces, and waved his hands in the air. "I mean can you sell pink lemonade—to drink—at our circus?"
"And peanuts?" added Sue.
"Yes, we'd want you to sell peanuts, too," went on the little boy.
"Ha! Peanuts? No! I used to pusha de peanut cart—make de whistle blow—hot peanuts. No more! I sella de balloon!" exclaimed the Italian. "No more makea de hot peanuts!"
"Oh, dear!" sighed Sue. "He won't do it! We'll have to get some one else, Bunny."
"Well, we can easy do that," said Bunny. "Maybe the hired man will sell peanuts and lemonade for us. I asked him if he would like to be in the big circus, and he said he would. I asked him if he could do any acts."
"What'd he say?" Sue wanted to know, while the Italian balloon peddler stood looking at the two children, as if wondering what they would do next.
"Well, the hired man said all he could do was milk a cow, and plow up the ground. He wanted to know if they were circus acts, and I said I guessed not," replied Bunny. "So maybe he'd be glad to sell lemonade and peanuts."
"I think he would," said Sue. "You needn't do anything except blow up your balloons and sell 'em," she went on to the Italian. "Never mind about the peanuts and the pink lemonade."
"Alla right," said the man, with a smile that showed what nice white teeth he had. "Me sella de balloon!"
He and the children walked on a little longer. Then the man turned to Bunny and asked:
"How much farder now—to de circus?"
"Not far now," said Bunny. "The circus isn't quite ready yet, but you can stay at our grandpa's house until it is. You see we don't get many balloon peddlers out this way. You're the first one we've seen, so you'd better stay. It won't be more than a week, or maybe two weeks."
"Circus last all dat time?" asked the Italian. "Sella lot de balloons. Buy more in New York—sella dem! Mucha de money!"
"We've an aunt in New York," said Sue. "Her name is Aunt Lu. If you sell all these balloons she'll buy some more for you in New York, so you won't have to go away."
"Yes," said Bunny, "that would be best. We'll get Aunt Lu to send you more balloons. And when you haven't any to sell, while you're waiting, you could help the hired man sell pink lemonade and peanuts. 'Cause, anyhow, maybe the hired man sometimes would have to go to milk the cows, and you could take his place."
The Italian shook his head. He did not quite know what Bunny and Sue were talking about. All he thought of was that he was being taken to a circus, where he might sell all his balloons, and make money enough to buy more to sell.
"There's grandpa's house now," said Sue, as they went around a turn in the road.
"Where de circus—where de tents?" the Italian wanted to know.
"Oh, they're not all up yet," said Bunny. "The big boys are doing that. You just come with us."
And so Bunny Brown and his sister Sue walked up the front path, followed by the Italian with the many-colored balloons floating over his head.
"Mercy me! What's all this?" cried Mother Brown, when she saw the little procession. "What does this mean, Bunny—Sue?"
"It's balloons, for the circus," explained Bunny. "We saw this man down the road, and we invited him to come with us. He's going to stay here until it's time for the circus, next week, and then he's going to sell balloons outside the tent."
"We wanted him to sell pink lemonade and peanuts," said Sue, "but he wouldn't. So the hired man can do that. Now, Grandma," went on the little girl, "maybe this balloon man is hungry. We're not, 'cause we had some cookies and milk; didn't we, Bunny?"
"But he didn't have any," Sue went on. "And he'll have to have a place to sleep, 'cause he's going to stay to the circus, and sell balloons. And if he sells them all Aunt Lu will send him more from New York and he can sell them. Won't it be nice, Mother?"
Mrs. Brown did not know what to say. Neither did Grandma Brown. They just looked at one another, and then at the Italian, and next at Bunny and Sue.
"Me sella de balloon!" explained the Italian, as best he could in his queer English. "Little boy—little gal—say circus. Me likea de circus. But me no see any tents. Where circus tents?"
"Oh these children!" cried Mrs. Brown. "What in the world are we to do with this Italian and his balloons?"
"Me sella de balloons!" said the dark-skinned man.
"Yes, I know," sighed Mrs. Brown. "But the circus is only a make-believe one, and it isn't ready yet, and—Oh, I don't know what to do!" she cried. "Bunny—Sue—you shouldn't have invited the balloon man to come here!"
"But you can't have a circus without balloons," said Bunny.
"Yes, my dear, I know, but——"
"What's all the trouble?" asked Papa Brown, coming out on the porch just then.
Bunny and Sue, their mother and the Italian, told the story after a while.
"Well," said Mr. Brown, to the Italian, after he had listened carefully, "I'm sorry you had your trip for nothing. But of course the children did not know any better. It is only a little circus, and you would not sell many balloons. But, as long as you came away back here, I guess we can give you something to eat, and we'll buy some balloons of you for the children."
"Thanka you. Mucha de 'bliged," said the Italian with a smile.
He seemed happy now, and after Grandma Brown had given him some bread and meat, and a big piece of pie, out on the side porch, he started off down the road again, smiling and happy. Bunny and Sue were each given a balloon by their father, who bought them from the Italian.
"And don't invite any more peddlers to your circus, children," said Mr. Brown.
"We won't," promised Bunny. "But we thought the balloons would be nice."
"We can have the hired man sell pink lemonade and peanuts; can't we?" Sue wanted to know.
"Yes, I guess so—if he wants to," laughed Grandpa Brown.
"Well, we have some balloons ourselves, anyhow," said Bunny to his sister that night.
The children had much fun with their balloons next day. They tied long threads to them, and let them float high in the air. Once Sue's nearly got away, but Bunny ran after the thread, which was dragging on the ground, and caught it.
The big boys had not forgotten about the circus, all this while. Bunker, Ben and their friends had put up the tent Grandpa Brown let them take, and Bunny and Sue went inside.
"My! It's terrible big!" said Sue, looking about the white canvas house. It was not so very large, but it seemed so to Sue.
"Just wait until you see the other," said Bunker. "The fair tent is three times as big as this."
And so it was. When that was put up in the meadow, near the army tent of Grandpa Brown's, the place began to look like a real circus ground.
"When are you going to have the show?" asked Bunny of Ben.
"Oh, in a few days now. Have you and Sue made up what you are going to do?"
"Yes, but it's a secret," Sue answered.
"So much the better!" laughed Ben. "You'll surprise the people."
The two tents were put up, and the big boys were getting ready for the circus. One night, about four days before it was to be held, Bunker Blue and Ben came in from where they had been, down near the tents, and looked anxiously at the sky.
"What's the matter," asked Bunny.
"Well," said Bunker, "it looks as if we would have a big rain storm. And if we do, and the meadow brook gets too full of water, it may wash the tents away."
"Oh, I guess that won't happen," said Ben.
But in the night it began to rain very hard. It thundered and lightened, and Bunny and Sue woke up, frightened. Sue began to cry.
"Why, you mustn't cry just because it rains," said Mother Brown.
"But I'm afraid!" sobbed Sue. "And it will wash away our circus tents!" and she sat up in bed, and shivered every time it thundered. "Oh, Mother! It will wash away all the nice circus tents!"
Mrs. Brown did not quite understand what Sue said about the storm washing away the circus tents. So she asked the little girl to explain.
"Why, Bunker Blue said," Sue told her mother, "that if the storm was too hard, the brook would get full of water, and wash away our circus tents. And I don't want that, 'cause me and Bunny is going to do an act, only it's a secret and I can't tell you. Only—Oh, dear!" cried Sue, as she saw a very bright flash of lightning. "It's going to bang again!"
"But you musn't be afraid of the storm," said Mother Brown. "See, Bunny isn't afraid!"
"Yes, I is afraid too!" cried the little boy, who slept in the next room. "I is afraid, but I wasn't goin' to tell!"
"Well, that's being brave—not to show that you are afraid," said Mother Brown. "Come now, Sue, you be brave, like Bunny."
"But I can't, Mother! I don't want the circus to be spoiled!"
"Oh, I guess the tents are good and strong," said Mr. Brown, who had gotten up to see what Sue was crying for. "They won't blow away."
It was about eleven o'clock at night, and quite dark, except when the lightning came. Then the loud thunder would sound, "just like circus wagons rumbling over a bridge," as Bunny told Sue, to try and make his little sister feel less afraid.
But all Sue could talk of was the circus tents, that might be blown over by the strong wind, which was now rattling the shutters and windows of the farmhouse. Or else the white canvas houses might be washed away by the high water.
While Mr. and Mrs. Brown sat up, trying to comfort Sue, by telling her and Bunny a fairy story, there were sounds heard in another part of the house.
"I guess that's Grandpa Brown getting up to see if his cows and horses are all right," said mother. "The cows and horses are not afraid in a storm, Sue."
"Maybe they are, but they can't talk and tell us about it," said Sue, who was not quite so frightened now.
Grandpa Brown could be heard speaking to some one in the hall.
"Hello, Bunker Blue," he called, "is that you getting up?"
"Yes, Mr. Brown," was the answer the children heard.
"And who is that with you?"
"What are you going to do?" Bunny Brown heard his grandpa ask.
"We're going down to see about our circus tents," said Bunker. "We're afraid they may be carried away in the storm."
"Well, perhaps they may," said Grandpa Brown. "It's a bad storm all right, but we'll be safe and comfortable in the house. Take a lantern with you, if you're going out, and be careful."
"We will," promised Bunker.
Bunny put on his slippers and bath robe and went to the bedroom door. It was open a little way, and out in the hall he could see Bunker Blue and Ben Hall. The two big boys had on rubber boots and rubber coats, for it was raining hard.
"Oh, Bunker!" called Bunny. "May I go with you?"
"What, little shaver! Are you awake?" Bunker asked. "You'd better get back to bed. It's raining cats and dogs!"
"Really?" called Sue, from her father's lap, where she was sitting all "cuddled up." "Is it really raining cats and dogs? Is it raining my dog Splash? If it is I want to see it!"
"No, I didn't exactly mean that," answered Bunker with a laugh. "I meant it was raining such big drops that they are almost as large as little baby cats and dogs. But it is storming too hard for you two youngsters to come out. Ben and I will see about the tents."
"Don't let them blow away!" begged Bunny.
"Or wash down the brook," added Sue.
"We won't!" promised the big boys.
Then they went out into the storm. The wind was blowing so hard they could not carry umbrellas, for if they had taken them the umbrellas would have been blown inside out in a minute. But with rubber hats, coats and boots Bunker and Ben could not get very wet.
Bunny and Sue, looking from their windows, saw the flicker of the lantern, as Bunker and Ben walked with it toward the circus tents.
Harder rumbled the thunder, and brighter flashed the lightning. The rain pounded on the roof as though it would punch holes in it, and come through to wet Bunny and Sue. But nothing like that happened, and soon the two children began to feel sleepy again, even though the storm still kept up.
"I—I guess I'll go to bed," said Sue. "Will you stay by me a little while, Daddy?"
"Yes," answered her father. "I'll sit right by your little bed."
"And hold my hand until I get to sleep?"
"Yes, I'll hold your hand, Sue."
"All right. Then I won't be scared any more. You can hold Bunny's hand, Mother."
"Pooh, I'm not afraid!" said Bunny. "But I like you to hold my hand, Mother!" he added quickly, for fear his mother would go away and leave him.
"All right, I'll sit by you," she said, with a smile.
Bunny and Sue soon fell asleep again. The thunder was not quite so loud, nor the lightning so bright, but it rained harder than ever, and as Bunny felt his eyes growing heavy, so that he was almost asleep, he again thought of what might happen to the circus tents.
"If they wash away down the brook, we can't have any show," he thought. "But maybe it won't happen."
Bunny roused up a little later, when some one came into the farmhouse. The little boy thought it was Bunker and Ben, but he was too sleepy to get up and ask. He heard some one, that sounded like his grandpa, ask:
"Did they wash away?"
Then Bunker's voice answered:
"Yes, they both washed away. It's a regular flood down in the meadow. Everything is spoiled!"
"I wonder—I wonder if he means the circus?" thought Bunny, but he was too sleepy to do anything more, just then, than wonder.
In the morning, however, when the storm had passed, Bunny Brown and his sister Sue heard some bad news. After breakfast Bunker and Ben came in and Bunker said:
"Well, little folks, I guess we can't have any circus!"
"No circus!" cried Bunny, and he was so surprised that he dropped his fork with a clatter on his plate, waking up Splash, the big dog, who was asleep in one corner of the room.
"Why can't we have a circus?" asked Sue. She and Bunny had almost forgotten about the storm the night before.
"We can't have a circus," explained Bunker, "because both our tents were washed away during the night. The brook, that is generally so small that you can wade across it, was so filled with rain water that it was almost turned into a river. It flooded the meadow, the water washed out the tent poles and pegs, and down the tents fell, flat. Then the water rose higher and washed them away."
"Where did it wash them?" asked Bunny.
"Oh, away down toward the river, I guess. I'm afraid we'll never get 'em back."
"It's too bad," said Ben. "Just when we were all ready for the nice circus. But, Bunker, we won't give up yet. We'll look for those tents, and maybe we can put them up again."
"Well, maybe we can do it," said the red-haired boy. "But I'm afraid everything is spoiled."
"We'll help you look for the tents," said Bunny. "Won't we, Sue?"
"If—if the water isn't too deep," said Sue. She was always afraid of deep water, though she, like Bunny, was learning to swim.
"Oh, the water isn't deep now," Bunker assured her. "It was a regular flood in the night when Ben and I went out to look at it, but it has all gone down now, since the rain stopped."
"Was it deep when you were out last night?" Bunny wanted to know.
"It surely was," answered Bunker. "It was almost over our boots. We couldn't get near the tents, and we had to watch them be knocked down by the flood, and carried away on the big waves. Then we came back to the house."
"We couldn't do anything in the dark, anyhow," remarked Ben. "But now that it's daylight maybe we can find the tents."
"We'll help—come on!" exclaimed Bunny to his sister.
They finished their breakfast, and, after promising to keep out of mischief, Bunny and Sue were allowed to go with Bunker and Ben to look for the missing tents.
First they went down to the meadow where the white canvas houses had been first put up. The brook was higher than Bunny or Sue had ever seen it before, and the bent-over, twisted and muddy grass showed how high up in the meadow the water had come. There were some wooden pegs still left in the ground, to show where the tents had stood.
"And now they're gone," said Bunny sadly.
"Yes. Carried away in the flood," remarked Bunker.
"But maybe we'll find them," said Ben hopefully.
They walked along the bank of the brook. About a mile farther on it flowed into a small river.
"And if our tents have floated down the river we may never get them back," said Bunker. "Now everybody look, and whoever first sees the white tents, caught on a stone or on a log, tell us, and we'll try to get them," said Bunker.
You may be sure Bunny and Sue kept their eyes wide open, and were very desirous to be the first to see the tents. It was Sue who had the first good look.
As she and Bunny, with Ben, Bunker and some other big boys who had come to help, went around a turn in the brook, Sue, who had run on ahead, saw something white bobbing up and down in the water.
"Oh, there's a tent—maybe!" she cried.
The others ran to her side.
"So it is!" shouted Bunker. "That's the small tent, caught fast on a rock in the brook. We'll get that out first!"
He and the other boys took off their shoes and stockings, and waded out to the tent. It was hard work to get it to shore, but they finally managed to do it. The tent was wet and muddy, and torn in two places, but it could be dried out, mended and used.
"And now for the big tent—see if you can find that, Bunny!" called Ben.
But Bunny was not as lucky as was his sister Sue. After they had walked on half a mile farther, it was Bunker himself who saw the big tent, caught on a sunken tree, just where the brook flowed into the river.
"Now if we get that we'll be all right," he said.
"Yes, but it isn't going to be as easy to get that as it was the little one," commented Ben Hall. "We'll have to work very hard to get that tent to shore."
"I'll help," offered Bunny Brown, and the other boys laughed. Bunny was so little to offer to help get the big tent on shore.
THE MISSING MICE
The big tent, once used at the fair, but which the boys had now borrowed for their circus, was all tangled up in the water. The ropes and cloth were twisted and wound around among the sticks and stones, where the tent had drifted, after the flood of the night before had carried it away.
"Oh, we'll never get that out so we can use it," said Charlie Tenny, one of the boys who was helping Ben, Bunker and the others.
"Yes, we'll get it out," said Ben. "We've got Bunny Brown to help us you know."
Some of the boys laughed, and Bunny's face grew red.
"Now I mean just what I say!" cried Ben. "Bunny Brown is a brave little chap, and if it hadn't been for him and his sister Sue we big fellows wouldn't have thought of getting up a circus show. So it's a good thing to have a chap like him with us, even if he is small."
Bunny felt better after this, and he thought Ben was very kind to speak as he had done.
"Splash is here, too," said Bunny. "He can get hold of a rope and pull like anything."
"That's right," said Bunker Blue. "Maybe Splash can help us. He is a strong dog."
"It's a good thing the tent didn't go all the way down to the river," said Charlie. "Otherwise we might never have found it."
"Yes," put in Bunker. "And now let's see if we can get it to shore. It's not going to be easy."
The boys worked hard, and Bunny helped. He could wade out, where the water was not too deep, and pull on the ropes. There were a great many of these ropes to hold the tent together, but now they were all tangled.
But Ben Hall seemed to know how to untangle them, and soon the work of getting the tent to shore began to look easier. Splash did his share of work, too. He pulled on the ropes Bunker Blue handed him, shutting his strong, white teeth on them, and straining and tugging until you would have thought that Splash, all alone, would pull the tent ashore.
And, finally, with all the boys and the dog and Bunny Brown pulling and tugging, they got the tent out of the water. It was still all twisted and tangled, but now that it was on shore it was easier to make smooth.
"We'll have to get a wagon to haul it back to the meadow where we are going to set it up again," said Bunker.
"My grandpa will let us take a horse and wagon," said Bunny. "He wants to see the circus."
"I guess we'll have to give him a free ticket if he lets us take a horse and wagon to haul the tent," said Ben with a laugh. "You've a good grandpa, Bunny Brown."
"Yep. I like him, and so does Sue," said the little fellow.
Grandpa Brown very kindly said he would go down to the river himself, in his wagon, and help the boys bring up the tent. He did this, and he also helped them set it up again. This time they put the two circus tents farther back from the brook.
"Then if it rains again, and the water gets high and makes a flood, it won't wash away the tents," said Bunker Blue.
"When is the show going to be?" asked Sue. She was anxious to see it, and she and Bunny were waiting for the time when they could let their secret become known. For they had told no one yet.
"Oh, we'll have to wait a few days now, before having the circus," said Ben. "The tents are all wet, and we want them to dry out. Then we've got to make the seats all over again, because the flood carried them away. I guess we can't have the show until next week."
There was much more work to be done because the flood had come and spoiled everything. But, after all, it did not matter much, and the boys set to work with jolly laughs to get the circus ready again.
Bunny and Sue helped all they could, and the older boys were glad to have the children with them, because both Bunny and Sue were so good-natured, and said such funny things, at times, that it made the others laugh.
The seats for the circus were made of boards, laid across boxes, just as Bunny and Sue had made theirs when they gave their first Punch and Judy show in their barn at home.
There were seats all around the outer edge inside the big fair tent. It was in this one that the real "show" was to be given. Here the big boys would swing on trapezes, have foot and wheelbarrow races, ride horses and do all sorts of tricks.
"The people will sit here and watch us do our funny things," said Ben. "We're going to have clowns, and everything."
"And what's going to be in the little tent—the army one grandpa let you take?" asked Bunny.
"Oh, that's for the wild animals," said Bunker Blue.
"Are you going to have our dog Splash striped like a blue tiger again?" asked Sue.
"No, I think we'll have some different wild animals this time," said Ben. "There'll be some surprises at our show."
"Oh, I wish it were time now!" cried Sue.
"We've got a surprise too; haven't we, Bunny?"
"Yep!" answered her brother. "Come on out to the barn, Sue and we'll practise it again."
What it was Bunny and Sue were going to do, none of the big boys could guess. And they did not try very hard, for they had too much to do themselves, getting ready for the "big" circus as they called it, for the first one, gotten up by Bunny and Sue, was only a little one.
So the smaller tent was made ready for the "wild" animals, though of course there would really be no elephants, tigers or anything like that. You couldn't have them in a boys' circus, and I guess the boys didn't really want them. "Make-believe" was as much fun to them as it was to Bunny and Sue.
There was nice, clear weather after the storm and flood, and soon the circus tents were dried out again. The boards were once more put across the boxes for seats.
One day Bunker and Ben went into the big tent. There they saw Bunny and Sue tying some pieces of old carpet on to some of the planks down near the front sawdust ring. For there was a real sawdust ring, the sawdust having come from grandpa's ice-house.
"What are you putting carpet on the planks for?" asked Ben, of the two children.
"To make preserved seats," answered Sue.
"Reserved seats, Sue. Reserved—not preserved seats, Sue," corrected Bunny.
"Well, it's just the same, 'most," said Sue, as she went on tying her bit of carpet to a board. "We're making some nice, soft reserved seats for grandpa and grandma, and mother and daddy."
"Oh, I see!" laughed Bunker. "That's a good idea. We can make soft seats for the ladies, Ben. We'll get some more pieces of old carpet and have a lot of reserved seats."
And this the big boys did. Bunny and Sue, little as they were, had given them a good idea.
And now began the real work of getting ready for the circus. That is the boys began taking into the smaller tent queer looking boxes and crates. These boxes and crates were covered with cloth or paper, so no one could see what was in them.
"What are they?" asked Sue, as she and Bunny stood outside the smaller tent, for Bunker would not let them go inside.
"Oh, those are some of the wild animals," said the red-haired boy.
"Really?" asked Sue, her eyes opening wide.
"Well—really-make-believe," laughed Bunker.
"And are the white mice there?" asked Bunny.
"Yes, the white mice are in the tent," said Bunker.
One of the country boys, who had a lot of white mice had promised to lend them to the circus. He had taught them to do some little tricks, and this was to be a part of the show.
"Oh, I can hardly wait!" cried Sue. "I want to see the circus."
"Well you can now, in a day or so," said Bunker. "Hi there! What have you?" he asked of a boy who came up to the tent with a box on a wheelbarrow.