SPREADING THE NEWS
"SO you're going off to the country?" said Daddy, as he came whistling down to the dining room, where Mother and Sunny Boy were waiting for him. "Well, I see that I'll have to come up and teach you how to catch a brook trout."
"Did Mother tell you?" asked Sunny Boy, as Daddy swung him into his chair and Harriet brought in the soup to Mrs. Horton. "When did you find out, Daddy? I was watching for you so's I could tell."
"I didn't see any little chap in the hall, so I went right upstairs and found Mother. She said you were going to Brookside, and that the awnings were up, and the screens in, and she hoped to go downtown to-morrow and buy your best shoes," and Daddy looked at Mother and laughed.
"Daddy is teasing me," smiled Mrs. Horton. "We have to tell him our news all in one breath because we see so little of him, don't we, Sunny Boy? I do hope, Harry, that you'll be able to come up this summer and spend a real vacation at your father's."
Mr. Horton was making a little well in the mashed potato on Sunny's plate, and flooding it with the rich brown gravy. That was the way his father had fixed his mashed potato for him when he was a little boy, and Sunny Boy liked his that way, too.
"Oh, I'll come up," promised Mr. Horton, passing the potato to Sunny Boy. "I'll have to come and show you both where I had my garden and teach Sunny how to fool the wise fish."
Sunny Boy put down his fork. He had to wait a minute because his mouth was full and Mother had her own opinion of a little boy who spoke without chewing his food properly and swallowing it. Having swallowed his potato, Sunny Boy was ready to speak.
"Oh, Daddy!" he began eagerly, "were you ever at Brookside? Where was your garden ? Could I drive horses ?"
Then Daddy and Mother said the same thing together, both at once, just as if they were thinking the same thing, as they probably were:
"Why, Sunny Boy!" said Daddy and Mother.
"You can't have forgotten," urged Mrs. Horton, then. "Brookside, you know, dear, is where Daddy lived when he was a little boy. When he was just as old as you are now he used to play there were Indians in the woods. I've told you ever so many times, and now you are going to see the place yourself where Daddy was a little lad like you."
"Oh!" said Sunny Boy again. All during the rest of the dinner he was very busy, thinking. He had forgotten that Daddy had lived at Brookside, or, to be more exact, he had not understood that Grandpa's farm was the same farm on which Daddy had been a little boy. Sunny Boy was only five years old, and he had already moved three times. One lived a long time on a farm it seemed.
Soon after dinner came bed for Sunny Boy, and he dreamed that he had fallen head-first into his drum and that it was very hot and dark inside. He was kicking madly to get out, when Mother came in and found him all wrapped up in the bed-clothes with his head buried in the pillows. When she drew down the covers he woke up, and after she had tucked him in smoothly again and brought him a drink of cool water, he went to sleep. And the next thing that happened was the morning.
After breakfast, Sunny Boy went out into the back yard to play. It wasn't a very large back yard, but it was pretty. There were ferns along one side, and gay spring flowers on the other. At one end were Sunny Boy's swing and sand-box, and the center was in thick, green grass. Mondays the grass belonged to Harriet, who used it to walk on when she hung out the clean clothes, but other days Sunny had the whole yard pretty much to himself.
There was a little gate cut in the fence on one side of the yard. Daddy Horton had made the gate for Sunny Boy and Nelson and Ruth. Nelson and Ruth were a little boy and girl who lived next door, at least Ruth was a little girl—she was only four years old—'but Nelson was seven and went to school. Their last name was Baker, and they and Sunny Boy had very good times playing together. As soon as Sunny Boy came out into his yard this morning, the little gate opened, and in came Ruth, dragging Paulina, her largest doll, by one arm.
"Don't be cross," begged Sunny Boy. "I want to tell you something."
"I'm not cross," said Ruth with dignity. "What made you think I was going to be?"
" 'Cause you're dragging Paulina and you always treat her like that when you're cross," answered Sunny more frankly than tact- fully. "Listen, Ruth—we're going to the country to see Grandpa Horton, and I'm going to drive horses and go fishing, an' help hay, and oh, everything!"
Ruth was interested.
"Can I go fishing?" she wanted to know.
Sunny Boy was troubled. Evidently Ruth thought she was going to the country, too, and it surely wouldn't be very kind to tell her plainly that Grandpa Horton hadn't invited her. To his relief Mrs. Baker called Ruth just then and she went into her own yard, still dragging the unfortunate Paulina by one arm.
"Sunny Boy," called his own mother from an upstairs window, "Harriet is going to the store for me—wouldn't you like to go with her?"
Sunny Boy liked to go with Harriet, and he hurried indoors to get his hat and roller skates. Now Sunny Boy was just learning to skate, and if he didn't have Harriet to hold on to he never could be quite sure what was going to happen to him. He could go much faster on his own two feet, but, as he explained to Harriet, it was most important that he should learn how to skate because when he could skate well he would be able to go to the store much more quickly than he could walk. And Harriet said yes, she understood, and that everybody had to learn how to skate before they could become really expert.
"Did you ever live on a farm, Harriet?" asked Sunny Boy, as they started for the store. His mind was full of the coming visit.
"No," admitted Harriet. "I never lived on a farm. But I've often visited people who did. You'll like it. There'll be brooks to wade in, and little calves and lambs to play with, and chickens and ducks. And you can play outdoors all day long." "When it rains'?" asked Sunny Boy. "When it rains there'll be the barn and the haymow," answered Harriet. "And now here's Mr. Gray's. You'd better wait out here for me and not try to clatter in with those skates."
Sunny Boy saw a basket of apples in the window.
"Will you bring me an apple, Harriet?" he teased. "Mother won't mind. Apples don't hurt you."
Harriet was half way through the door, but she turned.
"It's too early for good apples yet," she said. "You wait till you get to Brookside, Sunny. You'll have more apples then than you can possibly eat."
"Millions and dozens?" called Sunny Boy after Harriet.
"Yes, 'millions and dozens,' " she echoed, laughing, and closed the grocery store door.
The grocer's boy was coming down the steps, and he laughed, too.
"Millions and dozens of what?" he demanded, stopping before Sunny Boy.
"Apples, at my grandpa's farm." The grocer boy had a basket on his arm and he wore a white coat. He looked very clean and cheerful. Sunny Boy had a sudden idea.
"If you're going up to our house, could I hang on back of your wheel?" he said. "I can skate pretty well if I have some one to steer with."
"I don't think Harriet would like it," was the grocer boy's reply. He knew Sunny Boy and Harriet because he often came to their house to bring good things to eat. "I'll tell you, Sunny Boy—you wait till you come back from this visit, and then I'll take you. Or perhaps after you've eaten the millions and dozens of apples you won't have to hang on to any one—you'll be big and strong and able to skate by yourself."
Sunny Boy watched him ride merrily off on his bicycle. Still Harriet didn't come. Sunny suspected there must be a good many people waiting in the store. He might skate down to the corner and back before she had bought all the things on Mother's list.
It was all very well for the first few yards, because there was a convenient iron railing to cling to, and Sunny Boy found himself skating very easily. But the iron railing ended in a stone stoop, and after that there seemed to be nothing but miles and miles of pavement without even a friendly tree to cling to. Sunny Boy's feet began to behave queerly. One went much faster than the other and in an entirely different direction, and he had an idea he'd have to wear those skates the rest of his life because he didn't see how he was ever going to stop to take them off.
Suddenly he found himself headed for an area-way and a flight of stone steps. He clutched desperately at the cellar window, shot past, and down the steps—bing! into a huge basket of clothes a fat colored woman was bringing up. She wars as wide as the basket and the basket took up about all the area-way.
"Land sakes, chile!" she said, as Sunny Boy landed on top of her basket. "Where you goin' ?"
"Skating," said Sunny Boy concisely, glad to find that he wasn't hurt.
The colored woman laughed, a deep, rich, happy laugh.
"You doan seem to be jest sure," she told him. "Stay where you is an' I'll carry you on up."
She did, too, and started him on his uncertain way down the street. In a few minutes his feet began to act strangely again, this time sending him in the general direction of the gutter.
"I spect I'd better go back," said Sunny Boy to himself. But he couldn't turn around.
Then up the street came a familiar gray-uniformed figure. It was the postman, the same merry, kind postman who brought letters to Sunny Boy's house and for whom Harriet was careful to have the number on the front door bright and shining.
"Stop me!" cried Sunny Boy, wobbling more wildly.
"Right—O!" agreed the postman, and proceeded to stop him by letting Sunny Boy skate right into him and his mail bag.
"And that's all right," said the cheerful postman, blowing his whistle and slipping some letters into a mailbox in a doorway as if nothing had happened. "Don' t you want to skate back with me ?"
Sunny Boy, seated on a handy doorstep, was unbuckling the skate straps. He looked up and smiled.
"Thank you very much, but Harriet's waiting for me," he answered politely. "An' I have to carry my skates, 'cause she won't let me hold the eggs less I walk."
On to chapter three
Back to Josephine Lawrence, Children's Books