SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY

CHAPTER IV

OFF FOR BROOKSIDE




PERHAPS the most fun of going on a journey is the fun of starting.

Sunny Boy began to get excited the moment he opened his eyes the next morning, and if he had had his way, they wouldn't have bothered with such an every-day affair as breakfast. One could eat breakfast any morning, but a trip on the train to one's grandfather's farm was much more important.

However, Daddy explained that all experienced travelers ate a good breakfast before they set out, and as Sunny Boy wanted above all things to do as real travelers did, he consented to sit down and be interested for a few moments in his blue oatmeal bowl and its contents.

"You look so nice, Mother," he told Mrs. Horton suddenly.

"So do you," she assured him, smiling. "I think it must be because we are both wearing our new blue serge suits."

"Remember, you're going to take care of my girl," warned Daddy. "Don't let her get too tired, and try to make her comfortable, and don't let any one or anything bother her."

Sunny Boy gravely promised to look after Mother. He felt very proud that Daddy trusted him to take care of her on their first long journey together, and he resolved to wait on her all he could and to save her every possible step.

Harriet, who was not going with them, but who was going to help Aunt Bessie keep house until they came back, was bustling about, pulling down shades and closing and locking doors. The canary had gone, and Sunny Boy had a funny feeling that their house was going on a journey, too. In his trotting around after Harriet, while Mother was telephoning a last good-by to some friend, he found a square white box on the parlor table, neatly tied with red string— one of that mysterious kind that makes your fingers fairly itch to untie the string and look inside. Sunny Boy went in search of Mother.

"Could I open it?" he asked coaxingly. "I'll tie it right up again, Mother. Maybe you have forgotten what is in it."

" 'Deed I haven't!" laughed Mrs. Horton. "Give it to me, dear. It's a surprise for you —we'll open it on the train."

Sunny Boy obediently handed her the package, and in a few minutes he had forgotten all about it.

At last the house was ready to leave, and Harriet kissed him and said good-by. Sunny Boy watched her down the street until she turned the corner. He had a little ache in his throat, but he was too big a boy to cry.

"Precious," said Mother who knew perhaps how he was feeling, "I'm afraid I've left my little coin purse on my bureau. Would you mind going up and getting it for me?"

The house upstairs was very still and hot. Sunny Boy tiptoed softly as he hurried into Mother's room. There on the bureau lay the little silver purse and a clean handkerchief that smelled like a bunch of violets.

"You left your hanky, Mother," he cried, running downstairs. "And you said folks should never, never, begin to go anywhere without a clean hanky, you know."

Mr. Horton, standing on the front step, opened the screen door and put in his head. "Taxi's coming!" he announced. "Ready, Olive? I have the bag right here. Come, son."

Sunny Boy was thrilled at the thought of riding in that orange dragon of an automobile. Mother and Daddy had friends who often took them motoring pleasant afternoons, and sometimes Sunny Boy went with them. But every one knows that is different from having a gay colored car roll up to your front door and wait especially for you.

The young man who drove the car opened the door with a flourish and helped Mrs. Horton in. Then he turned to lift Sunny Boy, but that young person hung back.

"I could ride with you—up front," he suggested.

"Oh, you might tumble out, going around the corner," cried Mrs. Horton.

Daddy, who had been locking the front door, came down to them, carrying the black leather bag that was to go with Sunny Boy and Mother,

"Do you know," said Daddy slowly, "I think the bag will have to go in the front seat, Sunny? I wouldn't like to put it down on Mother's pretty new patent leather pumps. Sometime when we have no bag- gage you shall ride with the chauffeur."

So Sunny Boy climbed in and sat between Mother and Daddy, and the chauffeur just touched his wheel and they shot off up the street. Indeed they started so suddenly that Sunny Boy went over backward and laughed so hard that he quite forgot to be disappointed because he could not sit on the front seat.

"What's in the bag, Mother?" he asked, as they rolled along through the streets.

"Hair-brushes and combs and towels and soap, and your tooth-brush and mine, and the tooth-paste," answered Mrs. Horton. "And pajamas for you and a nightie for me, in case we can't get the trunk to-night."

"But it is going on the train just like us," urged Sunny Boy. "Daddy said so."

"But it will be nearly night before we reach Brookside," explained Mrs. Horton, "and Grandpa will meet us with a horse and surrey most likely. We will have to leave the trunk at the station till some one can go and get it for us in the morning. I have a play suit in the bag for you, though, so trunk or no trunk, you can be real country boy."

Presently the taxi rolled up under a stone arch, and Mr. Horton said they were at the station. They all got out and went into a great space filled with people. Porters were rushing about with suitcases and bags, crowds of men and women were going in several directions at once, and a man running for his train nearly ran right over Sunny Boy.

"I'll get the trunk checked and then give you the tickets," Mr. Horton said to his wife. "You sit down over there by the door where I can find you, and I'll be back in five minutes. We have plenty of time."

Sunny Boy and Mother sat down by the door and watched the people. Opposite them sat a short, fat woman with a baby in her arms and five little children, two girls and three boys, in the seats nearest her. They were each sucking a lolly-pop and took turns giving the baby a taste. Although they were very sticky and not exactly tidy, they seemed to love one another very much and to be having a very good time.

"Where do you suppose they're goings" Sunny Boy asked.

Mrs. Horton did not know. Perhaps, if they watched them, they might see them take the train.

Then Sunny Boy wanted to know where they kept the trains. He could hear them, and nearly every minute a man with a big trumpet—which Mother said was a megaphone—would call out something, and from all over the station people would come rushing to get on the train. But though Sunny Boy watched carefully, he could not see a single smokestack.

"The trains are downstairs—you'll see when we go out," said Mrs. Horton. "I wonder what can be keeping your father?" He has been gone almost fifteen minutes."

"Will there be a piano in the parlor car?" Sunny Boy wanted to know next. Mrs. Horton laughed merrily. "A parlor car is like the rest of the cars in a train, except that the seats are more comfortable," she explained. "Anyway, we have to go in an ordinary coach, because Daddy and I couldn't get a single parlor car seat yesterday. They had all been taken. I don't see what can have happened to Daddy!"

Just then Mr. Horton came up to them. There was a baggage man with him and they both looked rather excited.

"I guess you'll have to come over to the baggage room, Olive," said Mr. Horton in a low voice, "and see what you can do about straightening out this mess. They want to know what you've packed in the trunk."

Sunny Boy clung tightly to Mother's hand while they walked over to a low, broad window on one side of the station wall. This opened into the baggage room, and a perfect ocean of trunks was being tossed about in there. The pink came into Mother's cheeks as she saw the crowd gathered about the window.

"You see, Ma'am," said the big, tall man at the window in a gruff voice that was some- how kind and friendly, too, "it's like this— we figure out something blew up in that trunk of yours about ten o'clock last night, and naturally we want to know something about it. In fact, we can't check the trunk for you until we do. A dozen men heard it, and—"

"But I don't understand," protested Mrs. Horton. "I packed nothing that could possibly blow up, as you say. My sister and I put everything in with our own hands. I even have a list. I can show you that—" she fumbled in her velvet handbag with fingers that trembled.

"Probably an infernal machine," declared a shrill voice in the crowd that was now growing too large for comfort. "With the country in the unsettled state it is now, you can look for anything."

"What's a 'fernal 'chine?" asked Sunny Boy boldly.

"Like a bomb—it goes off with a whang," answered a freckle-faced boy standing near. He reminded Sunny of his friend, the grocery boy.

The words, "Goes off with a whang," reminded Sunny Boy of something, though. He looked up into the friendly blue eyes of the baggage-window man.

"Maybe—" began Sunny Boy, "Maybe, I guess it was the alarm clock I packed I" he finished bravely.

"Well, I'll be hanged!" said the baggage- window man. His blue eyes crinkled.

The crowd had heard, and a ripple of laughter ran through them. As suddenly as they had gathered, they melted away.

"Let me have your tickets," said the baggage-window man. "I guess you can still make the ten-forty-five."



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