SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY
ON THE TRAIN
Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her
Josephine Lawrence website;
please do not use on other sites without permission
WELL, though, as Mr. Horton expressed it, they "had to hustle," they did make the ten-forty-five. They went down in an elevator to board the train and the ticket man at the gate would not let Mr. Horton through.
Daddy hugged his little boy tight before he let him go, and Mother had diamonds in her pretty brown eyes as she turned from saying good-by to him. But when they looked back to wave to him, there was Daddy smiling gayly at them and waving his hat.
"Have a fine time," he called. "Take care of Mother, Sunny Boy. And look for me exactly three weeks from to-day."
Sunny Boy and Mother found a seat after they had walked through a number of cars that were filled, and, though it was rather dark, Sunny Boy could make out the people near them.
"Look, Mother," he whispered, "there's the woman with the baby and the other children we saw in the station. Isn't it funny they took our train ?"
Sure enough, there they were, a little further down the aisle on the other side of the car, lolly-pops and all.
Mrs. Horton took off her hat and Sunny Boy's and put them in a large paper bag she took from her bag.
"That will keep them clean," she said, "and we shall be cooler and more comfortable without them. We may have to shut the window when we get out of the tunnel, but we need the air now. Now we're off! Hear the conductor calling ?"
"All a-bo-ard," Sunny Boy heard some one crying. "All a-bo-ard!" and soon the train began to move.
Slowly they rumbled out of the dark gray of the train shed, past so many snorting, sniffing black iron engines that Sunny Boy did not see why they did not run into each other, past a crew of men working on the railroad tracks, past red and green lights, into a tunnel without a roof, but walled high on either side with smooth concrete walls. Just as Sunny Boy grew tired of looking at this wall, it stopped, and the train was merrily rushing along through open streets. Sunny Boy looked at Mother and smiled.
"Isn't it fun?" she said.
For a long time Sunny Boy amused himself by watching the country through which they were riding. They passed one or two little stations without stopping, and at the crossings Sunny Boy saw children waving to the train. He waved to them and hoped that they saw him.
"Tickets!" The conductor had reached their car.
Mrs. Horton took a ticket from her bag and gave it to her son. He held it out and the conductor punched it and passed on.
"Do you want me to keep it?" he asked.
"I'll put it in my purse so it can't be lost," Mother answered. "But when the conductor asks for it again you may give it to him. He won't come again for ever so long."
As Sunny Boy was watching an automobile racing with the train on a road that ran alongside the tracks, a white-aproned colored man came into their car.
"First call for lunch!" he shouted. "First call for lunch!"
Sunny Boy felt suddenly hungry. Down the aisle the woman with all the children had opened a pasteboard box and they were having a picnic right there. Other people were eating sandwiches.
"We'll go and get our lunch," decided Mrs. Horton. "Be careful going down the aisle, dear, and don't bump into people any more than you can help."
They had to go through a parlor car to reach the dining car, and Sunny Boy saw for himself that there was no piano, nothing but chairs on either side of the aisle. A colored waiter helped him into his seat at a little table in the dining car, and he thought it great fun to eat chicken broth while looking out of the window at the telegraph poles galloping by. The poles seemed to be moving instead of the train, but Sunny Boy knew the train really moved.
"Will there be another call for lunch ?" he asked, remembering what the man had shouted, as he ate his mashed potato and peas.
"Oh yes, but we won't come," said Mrs. Horton. "That will be for the people who weren't hungry when we were."
A man at the table across from theirs picked up the menu card.
"Now what on earth shall I order for dessert"?" he frowned. "If the doctor won't let me have meat, I suppose I have to eat something."
"Chocolate ice-cream," suggested Sunny Boy helpfully, feeling sorry for any one who did not know that it was the finest dessert in the world.
The frown slid away from the man's face and he grinned cheerfully at the small boy.
"Is that what you are going to have?' he demanded. "All right then, I will, too."
And when it came, a neat little mountain of it, he and Sunny smiled again at each other before they buried their silver spoons in the beautiful dark iciness of it.
Back in their seat in their car, Sunny was restless. To Mother's suggestion that he take a nap, he said that he didn't feel sleepy.
He wished he had something to do—he was tired of looking at trees and things.
"I hoped you would take a little nap, but I suppose there is too much excitement," said Mrs. Horton. "Well, then, how would you like to see the surprise now?"
"The surprise?" repeated Sunny Boy. "Oh, Mother—is that the box?"
For answer Mrs. Horton opened the leather bag and took out the box neatly wrapped in white paper that Sunny Boy had seen on the parlor table at home. She put it in his lap and then took up the magazine she was reading.
"Oh my!" said Sunny Boy, when he had pulled off string and paper and lifted the lid. Inside the box were six little packages, each wrapped in white paper and tied with pink string. It was like Christmas. Sunny Boy unwrapped them all, one after another, and underneath he found two long thin boxes, also wrapped and tied.
In the first package he found a box of colored crayons; in another, a little pad of drawing paper; another held an envelope stamped and addressed and a sheet of writing paper. In another was a lead pencil; the fifth was a cake of sweet chocolate, and the sixth package was a little lump of modeling wax. The two long thin packages proved to be boxes of animal crackers.
Sunny Boy was chiefly interested in the envelope, because he could not read the writing on it.
"Who's it to, Mother?" he urged. "Your writing runs into letters so I can't read it."
Mrs. Horton explained that the envelope was addressed to Daddy, and that she thought she and Sunny Boy might write a little note to him and that he would have it in the morning.
"Is there a mail-box on the train?" asked Sunny, in surprise.
"No, dear. But we will give it to the conductor and he will see that it is mailed at the next station where we stop. You print on one side of the sheet, and I will write a little message on the other."
So, taking great pains and holding the pencil very tightly because the motion of the train made it wobble in his fingers, Sunny Boy printed this:
DEER DADDY: I LOV YOU. WE ARE HAVING A NICE TIME ON THE TRANE. I AM TAKING CARE OF MOTHER. YOUR LOVING SUN, SUNNY BOY.
Then Mother wrote her note, and they folded it up and sealed the letter and Sunny gave it to the conductor when he next came through.
After that he drew pictures and colored them with the crayons and nibbled at his chocolate and modeled dogs and cats and horses with the wax. He opened the cracker boxes, too, and played Noah's ark with them. The children down the aisle watched him and nudged each other. Their mother would not let them out into the aisle, or very likely they would have come closer to see what that boy was doing with so many nice things.
"I'd like, Mother," announced Sunny Boy suddenly, "to pass my crackers to the little boy with the green tie—-he looks like Nelson Baker. Would that be all right?"
"Why, of course," agreed Mrs. Horton. "Ask their mother if she is willing for them to have some, and give some to each child, dear. And don't stay too long, because I shall miss you."
Sunny Boy went down the aisle to the seats where the children were. The lolly-pops had disappeared long ago, and so had the picnic sandwiches. They were all stickier than ever, were those children. The heavy baby was asleep in his mother's lap, and she smiled when Sunny asked her if she were willing he should pass his crackers.
"Thank you, they'd like 'em first-rate," she said, speaking low so as not to wake the baby. "Mamie, Ellen, Jamie, Fred, George —say thank you, and don't grab."
Sunny Boy stayed a little while, talking to them all, and they told him they were going to another state far away. They would be all night on the train. Sunny Boy was a bit disappointed that he must get off at Cloverways, the nearest station to Grandpa's farm, for he had never stayed all night on a train in his life. He hurried back to Mother to tell her of the fortunate family who were to spend the night on the train.
"That poor woman!" Mother, to his astonishment, exclaimed. "She'll be worn out before she gets all those children safely somewhere. Think of sitting up all night with that fretful baby! I'll tell you, Sunny Boy—we get off in about half an hour now; wouldn't you like to leave your surprise package to amuse those children who are going farther than we are? I'll help you tie them up again, and I have two more cakes of chocolate in the bag. You are so careful with your things they are not hurt at all, and it will keep them busy for an hour or two, playing with them."
Sunny Boy thought this a fine plan, and he hardly had all the packages tied up and in the box again when Mrs. Horton pinned on her hat and gave him his, saying that the next station was theirs. She went down the aisle with him and they gave the surprise box to the five youngsters who were delighted to have something new to look at. And then the train stopped, and the brakeman lifted Sunny Boy down, and he found an old gentleman was kissing Mother.
On to chapter six
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