SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY
WHEN Grandma finally had Sunny Boy all dusted free from flour, she asked him if he thought he could keep out of mischief till supper time.
He was sure he could, and ran off to find Jimmie while Grandma and Mrs. Alien went back to finish their interrupted visit.
"Hello, Sunny," Jimmie greeted him. Jimmie was mending a piece of the orchard fence. "What are you eating—pie?"
For Grandma had seen to it that Sunny had his saucer pie—grandmas are like that, you know.
"Want a bite?" asked Sunny.
But Jimmie, it seemed, had been eating apples all the afternoon and he did not care for apple pie.
"Let me help," urged Sunny. "I can hold the fence up, Jimmie."
"You can stay around and talk, if you want to," conceded Jimmie. "It's kind of lonesome working all alone. But, Sunny, honestly I can't mend this fence if you are going to sit on it and wiggle."
Sunny slid down hastily.
"I didn't know I was wiggling," he apologized. "Do you learn to mend fence at agri—agri—"
"Agricultural college," supplied Jimmie. "No, I guess that comes natural. Will you hand me one of those long nails, please?"
Sunny handed the nail absently. He was thinking of other things.
"Are you a farmer like Grandpa, Jimmie?" he asked.
Jimmie finished pounding in his nail before he answered.
"Seems like I tinker up this section of fence every other week," he confided. "Am I a farmer like your grandpa? Well, no, not yet, but I aim to be. You thinking of farming, too?"
Sunny considered this gravely.
"I might be a farmer," he admitted. "Only I think I would rather be a postman. Could I, Jimmie?"
"Of course," encouraged Jimmie. "Nothing to stop you. And if, when you grow up, you find you would rather be something else, why, there's no harm done. I've heard that your father wanted to drive a hansom cab for a life job when he was your age. And now, instead, he drives his own automobile."
"I think," announced Sunny thoughtfully, "it's a good plan to think about what you want to be when you grow up and then you won't be s'prised when you find out what you are."
Jimmie's mouth was too full of nails for him to answer, but he nodded.
"You'll swallow a nail," worried Sunny. "Our dressmaker did, once. Only it was a pin. What is this for, Jimmie?"
"Wire clippers," explained Jimmie briefly. "Cut wires with 'em, you know. Leave them right there, Sunny."
Jimmie was wrestling with a bit of wire that was hard to stretch into place. Sunny picked up the wire clippers and studied them carefully.
"I wonder how they work?" he said to himself. "Like Mother's scissors'? If I only had a piece of wire I could see."
Now the only wires, as Sunny very well knew, were those stretched between the posts. He did so wonder if the wire clippers really could cut that thick wire! Jimmie's back was toward him. Sunny rested the clippers on the top wire. He wouldn't really press them, just pretend to. Snip! the heavy strand of wire parted as though it had been a string.
"Give me those clippers!" Jimmie bore down upon him crossly. "I told you to leave 'em alone. Now see what you've done! Look here, Sunny, can't you keep out of trouble long enough for me to finish this fence?"
Sunny yielded the clippers reluctantly. He had not known they were so sharp. Jimmie need not have been so cross, he thought.
"I want to do something different," Sunny complained.
Jimmie wisely decided to give him something to do.
"Couldn't you drive that mother duck and her ducklings up to the chicken yard?" he asked, pointing to the same ducks Sunny had discovered in the dairy. "I know your grandmother wants to shut them up to-night and that mother duck is just working her way down to the brook. I want to finish this fence before I call it a day, so if you want to be useful, here's your chance."
Of course Sunny Boy wanted to be useful, and he started after Mother Duck and her family. If you have ever tried to argue with a duck you will know that it does no good to tell her where she should go—ducks are like some people, they like to have their own way. This mother duck had made up her mind that she was going to take her family down to the brook, and Sunny Boy had to race up and down the orchard and "shoo" her from behind trees and be patient a long time before he could get her started in the direction of the chicken yard. Then, once out of the orchard, she caught a glimpse of Araminta, who had come back—for it was five o'clock—and was scattering cracked corn for the chickens. The duck mother was hungry, and she started to run toward the chicken yard. Sunny Boy could scarcely keep up with her, and the poor little baby ducks were left away behind.
"Let 'em be—they'll follow her!" cried Araminta, and she scattered a little corn in an empty coop.
The duck mother waddled right inside, and Araminta put up a bar that fastened her in.
"I think she has too many duck babies," said Sunny Boy, watching as the ducklings came up to the coop and began to hunt for corn.
"Yes, she has," agreed Araminta. "But she can keep them all warm, I guess."
"I know what I can do," suggested Sunny Boy, but Araminta was hurrying to the house after bread and milk to feed the duck babies and she did not ask him what he could do.
Mrs. Allen stayed to supper, and very soon after Mrs. Horton said that Sunny Boy looked sleepy and must go to bed. He seldom took a nap any more, and as he woke up early in the mornings, his mother said it was certain that he must go to bed earlier to make up for it.
All the time Mother was helping him undress, Sunny Boy was very quiet, and after she had kissed him and tucked him in bed he did not ask her for a story as he usually did.
"You've been playing too hard, I think," said Mrs. Horton. "Good night and pleasant dreams, dearest."
Sunny Boy waited till she had closed the door. Then he hopped out of bed and pattered over to another door that led into Grandma's room. When he came back he had two baby ducks in his hands.
"There now, you can sleep in my bed," he told them, putting them down under the sheet.
But the baby ducks did not like the soft, clean bed. They made funny little peeping noises, and as soon as Sunny Boy climbed into bed, one of them fell out and ran across the floor. Sunny Boy chased it under the bureau, and then he heard Mother calling.
He opened the door a crack.
"I hear you running around up there. You don't want Mother to have to come up and punish you, do you? Go back to bed and go to sleep like a good boy."
"Yes'm," said Sunny.
He might have explained that he was good, but the ducks were certainly as bad as they could be. It was still light enough in the room for him to see the furniture, but try as he might he could not get that foolish, obstinate frightened little duck to come out from behind the bureau. Finally he gave it up and went to bed to take care of the other one, and that fell or jumped out on the other side of the bed and poor Sunny had to get up again and try to find it. The foolish thing let him chase it under the bed, and he was half way under and half way out when Grandpa opened the bedroom door.
"Look here, Sunny, what are you up to now?" began Grandpa. "Your mother is tired and she sent me up to settle you. My soul, boy! what are you doing under the bed?"
Sunny Boy wriggled out and turned a flushed face to Grandpa.
"Nothing," he said, beginning to climb into bed.
Grandpa was helping him smooth the tangled covers when one of the ducks began to peep.
"What's that?" said he sharply. "Sunny, what have you got in here? What's that noise?"
"It's a duck," confessed Sunny Boy reluctantly.
Grandpa sat down on the bed.
"A duck? Up here?" he gasped.
"Why, how on earth did a duck get in the house?"
"I did it," admitted Sunny. "The duck mother had too many children, and I was going to take care of some of 'em for her. But they wouldn't stay in bed. I could sail 'em in the bath-tub in the mornings."
Grandpa began to laugh, and then he could not stop. He laughed till the tears came, and Mrs. Horton heard him and came up to scold them both. Grandma followed, and there they all sat on the bed. Grandpa and Mother and Grandma, all laughing as hard as they could.
Sunny Boy did not think it was funny a bit, and when he found that Grandpa was going to take his ducks back to their own mother that night he began to cry.
"By and by they would like it here," he sobbed. "I haven't my woolly dog, and I need a duck. Can't I have one, Grandpa?" Sunny Boy was far from being a cry-baby, but he was sleepy and that made him feel unhappy, though he thought it was the ducks. That's a trick of the sandman's— making you cry easily when you're sleepy. However this time Grandpa was firm, and he managed to get the duck under the bed and the one back of the bureau and carry them down to their mother. And very glad they were to get there, we may believe. Sunny Boy went to sleep in five minutes, and long before morning had forgotten he ever wanted baby ducks to spend the night with him.
One morning, a week or more later, he was playing on the shady side porch when he heard Grandpa saying something to Mother about bonds. Ever since Sunny Boy had lost his kite and Grandpa's bonds with it, he always noticed when any one used that word. No one ever spoke to him about the lost money, and he often forgot about it, with so many wonderful things to do every day. And then, a word or two would make him remember again.
"I lie awake at night worrying over those bonds, Father," Mrs. Horton was saying. "Harry may be able to make it up to you some day, but he's having a hard time this summer. I've been out and looked and looked—some one must have picked them up."
"Yes, I suppose they have," said Grandpa. "I advertised, and the Bonds were numbered. Still, as you say, some one must have found them. Don't let it spoil your Summer, Olive, I've only myself to blame. At my age carelessness is nothing short of a crime."
"But at your age a thousand dollars is a great deal to lose," protested Mrs. Horton. "And I know you meant to take a trip South this Winter, and Harry tells me you've given that up."
Sunny Boy could hear tears in Mother's soft voice, and he was sure she had tears in her lovely brown eyes. He made up his mind what to do.
He trotted through the wide hall, into the sitting-room. There sat Grandpa figuring at his desk and close beside him was Mother with her knitting. There were bright drops on the dark blue wool. She had been crying, though she smiled at Sunny as he stood in the doorway.
"Grandpa, listen!" Sunny Boy cried. "You can have all the money in my bank at home. I've been saving it for, oh, ever so long. There's a thousand dollars, I guess. An' you can have it all—every bit. Daddy will send it to you if I ask him. An' then you won't care 'bout the Lib'ty Bonds!"
Sunny Boy was surprised at the way his offer was received. He had thought Grandpa would be pleased and his mother, too. And here sat Grandpa blowing his nose, and as for his mother—Sunny Boy looked at her and her eyes were quite brimming over.
"Don't you like me to?" he cried. "I was going to buy another drum, but Grandpa can have the money. It's a pink pig, Grandpa, and you shake it an' the pennies drop out. Harriet gave it to me." Sunny Boy's lip began to quiver.
"My dear little son!" Mother held out her arms and Sunny Boy ran to her. "My generous little man!" she whispered. "Your pennies wouldn't be enough, precious. But I'm proud to have you offer them to Grandpa to try to make up his loss. That's like your father."
Sunny Boy sat up and stopped crying. To be like his father was the highest praise his mother could give him.
"Thank you very much, Sunny," said Grandpa gravely. "I couldn't take your bank. For one reason, we're not sure yet the bonds are really lost. But I tell you what I will do—if I ever get out of cash, entirely out, mind you, and have to borrow from my friends, I'll come to you. There are very few I'd bring myself to borrow from, but perhaps it's different with a grandson. You save your pennies, and maybe some day I'll ask you to lend me some. Shall we shake hands on it?"
And Sunny Boy and Grandpa shook hands solemnly, like two business men.
On to chapter fourteen
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