SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY
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BUT though Grandpa and Sunny Boy hunted and hunted and hunted, till it seemed as though they must have covered every inch of the big woods; though they searched the tangled thickets where the briery blackberry bushes grew along the edge of the brook; though they looked up at the trees till their necks ached, hoping perhaps to find the kite caught in the branches; still they had to come home without the precious Liberty Bonds.
"Never mind," said Grandpa, as they made their way toward home over a little pathway of stones tumbled together in the brook to make a bridge, "Never mind, Sunny. If we can't find them, we can't, and there is no use in feeling bad about it any longer. You didn't mean to lose the bonds, we all know that, so we'll just stop crying over spilled milk and cheer up and be happy again."
But it was a very unhappy little boy who went to bed early that night—for the long tramp had tired him—and for several days after the loss of the kite Sunny Boy kept rather closely to the house.
He liked to be in the kitchen with Araminta or on the side porch with Grandma and Mother. Jimmie and Bruce tried to coax him to go with them, but he said politely that he didn't feel like it.
However, as the time drew near for his father's visit Sunny Boy cheered up, and by the morning that Daddy was expected he felt quite like his usually sunny self.
"Are you going to meet Daddy?" he asked Mother that morning, as he brushed his hair after she had parted it for him.
"I don't believe I'll go down," answered Mrs. Horton. "If you and Grandpa go, that will be enough and I'll be at the gate waiting for you."
"Daddy's coming!" Sunny Boy pounded his spoon against his bread and milk bowl.
"Sunny!" said Mother warningly.
"He's most here now!" and Sunny's feet hammered against the table so that the coffee pot danced a jig.
"Sunny Boy!" implored Grandma.
"I'm going to meet him!" This time Sunny Boy upset his glass of water with a wild sweep of his arm.
Grandpa pushed back his chair.
"I think we'd better start," he observed, "before a certain young man goes out of the window. If you're as glad as all this to think that Daddy's coming, what are you going to do when you really see him?"
But Sunny Boy was already out of the room and down at the gate where Jimmie stood holding Peter and Paul already harnessed to the carryall.
"Let me feed 'em sugar," teased Sunny Boy. "Hold me up, Jimmie, I'm not 'fraid of their teeth now."
"You pile in," said Jimmie good-naturedly. "If you're going to meet that train, you want to start in a few minutes. Say, Sunny, what ails you this morning?" for Sunny Boy had gone around to the back of the carriage, scrambled up over the top of the second seat, and was now tumbling head first into the cushions of the front seat.
Grandpa came out in a more leisurely fashion and took the reins.
"All right, Jimmie, we're off. In case anything happens to the team, Sunny has enough push in him this morning to pull the carriage there and back."
Peter and Paul trotted briskly, and Sunny's tongue kept pace with their heels. His shrill little voice was the first thing Mr. Horton heard, for the train had beaten them to the station after all, and as the carriage turned the corner of the street a familiar figure stood on the platform waving to them. Grandpa had to keep one hand on his grandson to prevent him from falling out over the wheels.
"Well, well, Son, isn't this fine!" Daddy had him in his arms almost before the horses stopped. "How brown you are! and yes, you've grown, too. I'll put the suitcase in —don't try to lift it."
Daddy put Sunny Boy down and turned and kissed Grandpa.
"You're his little boy!" Sunny thought out loud. It was the first time he had thought about it at all.
"I'm his daddy," said Grandpa proudly. "Pretty fine boy, all things considered, isn't he?"
Sunny Boy laughed because this was probably a joke. Anyway, Grandpa laughed and so did Daddy. Then they all got into the carriage and Daddy drove Peter and Paul. How Mrs. Horton laughed when she saw them drive up to the gate, all three of them crowded together on the front seat.
"You three big boys!" she teased them. "I suppose you had so much to talk about that you had to be together."
Daddy put one arm around Mother and the other about Grandma.
"Make the most of me," he said gayly. "I can stay only three days."
Then there was a great to-do. Mother and Grandma had counted on having him for three weeks. Three days, as Mother said, was "no vacation at all."
"But better than nothing," Mr. Horton pointed out. "We can do a great deal in three days. And if I can't get up again, at least I'll come up to get you and Sunny when you're ready to go home."
Well, being sensible people and not given to "crying over spilled milk" (which was Grandpa's favorite proverb) they soon decided to enjoy every minute of Daddy's stay and to begin right away.
"Sunny and I are going fishing," announced Daddy firmly. "We'll go to-day —if Araminta can give us a lunch—and Mother is coming with us, if she wants to. Then to-morrow she and I are going for a long drive, and the last day I'm going to be a farmer and help Father with the work. Come on, Sunny, upstairs with you and get on high shoes. We don't go fishing in sandals and socks."
Araminta made them sandwiches and packed a box of lunch, putting in a whole apple pie. Daddy had brought his fishing rod with him, and he promised to make Sunny one as soon as they found a place to fish. Mother thought she would not go, for she was already tired from a long walk the day before. So Sunny Boy and Daddy set off alone for the brook in the woods where the speckled trout lived.
"Shall I catch one?" asked Sunny Boy, scuffling along. He did like to scuffle his feet and Daddy did not seem to care how much noise he made. "Shall I fish ?"
"Sure you'll fish," Daddy assured him. "Likely, you'll catch one, though you never can tell. A good sportsman doesn't growl even if he spends a whole day and doesn't catch one fish. We'll be good sports, sha'n't we?"
"Yes," agreed Sunny Boy. "But I would rather catch a fish."
Daddy laughed and began to whistle.
"Do you know Jimmie?" said Sunny Boy, running to keep up with him. "Do you know Jimmie and Mr. Sites and Araminta and David and Raymond and Juddy and Fred and Sarah and Dorabelle? Do you, Daddy?"
"I went to school with a boy named Jaspar Sites," Daddy stopped whistling to answer. "Guess he's the same. Araminta helps Grandma—I know her, and Jimmie I've met before. But I must say the others haven't the pleasure of my acquaintance— who is Dorabelle, may I ask?"
"They're Araminta's brothers and sisters," explained Sunny Boy. "They live down the road. Let's fish now, Daddy."
"We will," agreed Mr. Horton. "You've picked out a good place. Now first I'll start you in, and then I'll try my luck."
He found a nice long branch for Sunny, and tied a fish-line to it. At the end of the line he fastened a bent pin with a bit of cracker on the point.
"There you are," he told him. "Now you sit out here on the dead roots of this tree that hangs over the bank, and you dangle the cracker in the water and keep very, very still. And perhaps a little fish on his way to the grocery store for his mother will see the cracker and want a bite of lunch. Then you'll catch him."
Sunny Boy sat very still while Daddy halted a sharp thin hook with real bait and threw his line into the water, too. He sat down beside Sunny and together they waited.
"Daddy!" said Sunny Boy after a long while.
Mr. Horton raised a warning finger. "But Daddy?" this after Sunny Boy had waited a longer time.
"You'll scare the fish," Mr. Horton whispered. "What is it?"
"My foot prickles!"
Mr. Horton took his line and whispered to him to get up and run about.
Sunny Boy's foot felt too funny for words, and at first he was sure it had dropped off while he had been sitting on it. He could not feel it at all. After stamping up and down a few minutes the funny feeling went away, and he came back to his father and took his line.
"Your foot was asleep," said Mr. Horton in a low tone. "Don't sit on it again. Feel a nibble?"
Sunny Boy drew his line up and looked at it. There was nothing at all on the pin.
"Percy Perch must have taken that cracker when you weren't looking," said Mr. Horton, putting another cracker on. "Now watch out that Tommy Trout doesn't run off with this."
Sunny Boy waited and waited. A yellow butterfly came and sat down on a blade of grass near him. Sunny looked at it more closely—it was a funny butterfly—a funny butter—
Splash went his rod and line, but he never heard it. Sunny Boy was fast asleep, and Tommy Trout must have run away with the pin and the cracker because they were never heard of again. When Sunny Boy opened his eyes again, his father was folding up his fishing tackle.
"Hello! You're a great fisherman!" Daddy greeted him. "See what we're going to take home to Mother to surprise her."
Sunny Boy rubbed his sleepy eyes. There on the grass lay four pretty little fish.
"Did you catch them?" he asked Daddy, who nodded.
"My land of Goshen!" said Sunny Boy.
"Where' d you pick that up?" demanded Daddy. "Do you think apple pie might help you to feel spryer?"
Sunny Boy was interested in pie, and he helped Daddy to spread the little white cloth on the ground. He had not known a picnic was part of the fun of fishing!
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