SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY
SUNNY BOY continued to look at the ducks till David could stand it no longer.
"What happened to you?" he asked, jogging Sunny's elbow to make him look at him. ' 'How' d you get down here?"
"Fell down," said Sunny calmly. "Could I have a duck to play with, Jimmie ?"
"How'd you fall down?" persisted David, who usually got what he started after.
Sunny Boy was exceedingly bored by these numerous questions, and he wanted to be allowed to watch the ducks in peace. So he decided the easiest way to get rid of David and the others would be to tell them what they wanted to know.
"I'll show you," he said. "Come on."
He led them out of the dairy into a little cobwebby room, and pointed up to a square opening.
"I slid through that—see?" he demanded.
"Did it hurt?"
"Course not—I fell on the hay."
The floor was thickly covered with old, dusty hay.
"It's the room where we used to throw down hay to feed the cows," explained Jimmie. "They covered it over with loose boards when they put in the hay three or four years ago. But I suppose you youngsters when romping around kicked the boards to one side and the hay with it. Sunny, coasting down the side of the cave, just coasted right on through the hole and landed down here. Lucky there was hay enough on the floor to save him a bump."
"But why didn't you come and tell us?" asked David. "Here we've been looking all over for you. Why didn't you sing out?"
"I was going to," admitted Sunny Boy apologetically. "But when I was hunting for the way into the barn, I found the ducks. Let's go and tell Grandma we saw 'em."
It was noon by this time, so the Hatch children went home and Sunny Boy and Jimmie walked together to the house. It had stopped raining, and the sun felt warm and delightful.
"Of course you may have a duck," said Grandma, when Sunny Boy told her of his find. "That foolish old mother duck marched off with her children one morning and I couldn't for the life of me discover where she had gone. And Grandpa must board over that hole if you are going to play in the haymow. Another time you might hurt yourself, falling like that."
"Where's Mother?" asked Sunny Boy, eager to tell her about the morning's fun.
"I believe she is up in the attic," returned Grandma. "She's been up there for an hour or so. I wish. lambie, you'd run and find her and say dinner will be on the table in half an hour."
Sunny climbed the crooked, steep stairs that led to Grandma's attic, and found Mother bending over an old trunk dragged out to the middle of the floor.
"Mother," he began as soon as he saw her, "we've been sliding on the hay, and I found a duck mother, an' Grandma gave me a duck for my own. What are you doing, Mother?"
Mrs. Horton was sitting on the floor, her lap filled with a bundle of old letters.
"I've been having a delightful morning, too," she said. "Grandma started to go over these old trunks with me, and then some one called her on the telephone and she had to go down. See, precious, here is a picture of Daddy when he was a little boy."
Sunny looked over her shoulder and saw a photograph of a stiff little boy in stiff velvet skirt and jacket, standing by a table, one small hand resting solemnly on a book.
"He doesn't look comfy," objected Sunny. "Is it really Daddy ? And did little boys wear petticoats then, Mother?"
"That isn't a petticoat, it is a kilt," explained Mother. "You know what kilts are, dear—you've seen the Scotch soldiers wear them. Well, when Daddy was a little boy they wore kilts, and trousers underneath. And Grandma was telling me this morning that as soon as Daddy was out of her sight he would take off his kilt and go about in his blouse and trousers. So probably he considered the kilt a petticoat just as you do."
Sunny wandered over to another trunk that stood open and poked an inquiring hand down into its depths.
"What's this, Mother?" he asked, holding up a queer, square little cap.
"Be careful, precious, that is Grandpa's Civil War trunk," warned Mother, coming over to him. "Grandmother meant to put the things out to air to-day and then it rained. See, dear, this is the cap he wore, and the old blue coat, and this is his knapsack. Some day you must ask Grandpa to come up here with you and tell you war stories."
"Where's his sword"?" asked Sunny, fingering the cap with interest. "Where was Daddy then? Was Grandpa shot ?"
"Grandpa didn't have a sword, because he wasn't an officer," explained Mother. "He was only a boy when he enlisted, and it was long before there was any Daddy, dear. And Grandpa was wounded—I'm sure I've told you that before—don't you remember? That's how he met Grandma. She was a little girl and met him in the hospital where her father, who was a physician, was attending Grandpa."
"Olive! Sunny! Dinner's ready!" It was Grandma standing at the foot of the stairs and calling them.
"I forgot to tell you," said Sunny hastily. "Dinner will be on the table in half an hour. Grandma said."
Mrs. Horton smiled.
"I think the half hour has gone by," she declared, closing the lid of Grandpa's trunk. "Come, dear, we must go right down and not keep them waiting."
"Are you going to eat your duck?" asked Grandpa, when they were seated at the dinner table.
"My, no!" answered Sunny Boy, shocked.. He never believed that the chickens and ducks they had for Sunday dinners were the same pretty feathered creatures he saw walking about the farm. Chickens and ducks one ate, thought Sunny Boy, were always the kind he remembered hanging up in the markets at home—-without any feathers or heads. He was sure they grew that way, somewhere.
"He doesn't have to eat his duck," comforted Grandma. "I'm going to make something he likes this afternoon. If you and Olive are going to drive over to town, Sunny and I will be busy in the kitchen."
"Saucer pies!" cried Sunny Boy. "I can help, can't I, Grandma?"
If there was one thing Sunny Boy loved to do, it was to be allowed to watch his grandma bake pies. He could ask a hundred questions and always be sure of an answer, he could taste the contents of every one of the row of little brown spice boxes, and, best of all, there was a special little pie baked for him in a saucer that he could eat the minute it was baked and cool. No wonder Sunny Boy kissed Mother contentedly and watched her drive away with Grandpa for a little shopping in town. He, Sunny Boy, was going to help Grandma bake apple pies.
"Here's your chair, and here's a pound Sweeting for you," Araminta greeted him as he trotted into the kitchen.
Sunny Boy scrambled into his place opposite Grandma at the white table.
"Now this won't be a very good pie," said Grandma, as she began to mix the pie crust.
Dear Grandma always said that about her pies, even the one that won the prize at the big fair.
"These apples are too sweet. But your grandfather can never wait. He has to have an apple pie the minute the first apple ripens."
"So do I," announced Sunny Boy. "What's in this little can. Grandma?"
"Cinnamon, lambie," answered Grandma. "Don't sniff it like that—you'll sneeze."
Sunny Boy munched his apple and watched her as she rolled out the crust.
"How many. Grandma?" he asked.
Araminta, peeling apples over by the window, laughed.
"He's just like his grandfather," she said. "Mr. Horton always says, 'How many pies are you going to make. Mother?' doesn't he?"
"Why does Grandpa call you Mother?" inquired Sunny Boy of Grandma. "You're not his mamma."
"No. But you see I suppose when your daddy was a little chap around the house, and calling me 'Mother' sixty times a day, as you do your mamma, Grandpa got in the habit of saying 'Mother,' too. And habits, you know, Sunny Boy, are the funny little things that stay with us."
"Yes, I know—we had 'em in Sunday school," agreed Sunny absently. "Is that my pie?"
"That's your pie, lambie," declared Grandma, smiling. "One, two, three large ones, and a saucer pie for my own laddie. How much sugar shall I put in for you, Sunny Boy?"
"A bushel," replied Sunny Boy confidently. "Let me shake the brown powder, Grandma."
So Sunny Boy sprinkled in the cinnamon, and Grandma added dots of butter and put on the crust. Then she cut little slits in it "so the apples can breathe" and then that pie was ready for the oven.
"Now I'm going up to change my dress while they're baking," said Grandma, taking off her apron. "If you want to stay here with Araminta, all right, Sunny. I'll be back in time to take the pies out."
Araminta hustled about, washing the table top and putting away the salt and sugar and spice box and all the things Grandma had used for her baking. Sunny Boy ate his apple quietly and waited for Grandma to come back.
"My land of Goshen!" Araminta stopped to peer out of the window over the sink. "Here's company driving in. If it isn't Mrs. Lawyer Alien, and she always stays till supper time! And your Grandma's pies not out of the oven!"
Grandma, too, had seen the gray horse and buggy, and she hurried down in her pretty black and white dress.
"Hook my collar, please, Araminta," she whispered. "And I am sure the pies are done. You can take them out very carefully and set them where they'll cool. You'll be good, won't you, lambie? There goes the door-bell."
Grandma rustled away to meet her company, and Araminta opened the oven door importantly. She was seldom trusted to take the pies from the oven alone, and she felt very grown-up indeed to have Sunny Boy see her do it. She got the three pies out nicely, and the little saucer pie, too, and carried them into the pantry to cool. She set them on a shelf over the flour barrel.
"Grandma puts them on the table," suggested Sunny Boy.
"Well, I put them on the shelf," said Araminta shortly. "I don't believe in leaving pies around where any one can get 'em."
Now Araminta was in a hurry to go home, for it was three o'clock, and every afternoon from three to five she was allowed to spend as she pleased. So, though she made the kitchen nice and neat before she left, in her hurry she forgot to put the lid on the flour barrel, something Grandma always did.
"I'm going," said Araminta, putting on her hat with a jerk. "Mind you don't get into any mischief, and don't go bothering your grandma. Mrs. Lawyer Allen is nervous, and she doesn't like children."
Araminta, you see, had so many brothers and sisters younger than herself that she gave advice to every child she met.
Sunny Boy was perfectly willing to be good, but he was equally determined to have his saucer pie. It was his own pie, made and intended for him, and Araminta had no business to put it on a shelf out of his reach. As soon as the kitchen door closed he got a chair and dragged it into the pantry.
"It's mine," he told himself, as he stood on the chair.
He pushed a white bowl out of the way, for he remembered the yellow custard he had knocked over on his first adventure in
Grandma's pantry. He put his hand on his pie and had it safe when
Bruce began to bark suddenly outside the window. Sunny Boy leaned over to see out the window,
the chair tipped, and with a crash a frightened little boy fell into the flour barrel which the careless
Araminta had left uncovered directly under the shelf.
The noise of the falling chair brought Grandma and her visitor to the pantry.
"What in the world!" cried Mrs. Allen, as a small white-faced figure stared at her over the edge of the barrel. "What is it?"
"It's me," said Sunny Boy forlornly. "There's flour all in me, Grandma!"
Grandma had to laugh.
"All over you," she corrected. "My dear child, are you hurt? And what were you doing to get in the barrel?"
Grandma lifted Sunny Boy out and carried him to the back porch and told him to shake himself as Bruce did after swimming in the brook. Only, instead of water, clouds of flour came out of Sunny Boy's clothes as he tried to shake like a dog.
"I was getting my saucer pie, Grandma," he explained when she came back with a whisk-broom and began to brush him vigorously. "If I had some cinnamon I'd be a pie, wouldn't I?"
On to chapter thirteen
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