SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY
GRANDPA hurried up to them, his kind face filled with anxiety.
"I brought my coat," he gasped, for he was out of breath from running. "Wrap him in that, Jimmie. Then hustle for the house."
Jimmie carrying Sunny Boy and Grandpa and Bruce following made quite a little procession. Mrs. Horton, who was down at the gate with Grandma inspecting the garden, was startled.
"Sunny Boy!" she cried, and came running toward them. "What happened? Are you hurt?"
"He's all right," Grandpa assured her cheerfully. "Just fell into the brook and got a little damp, that's all. Mercy, Olive, don't look like that—brooks were made for boys to fall into. Why I'd dragged Harry out a dozen times before he was Arthur's age."
Of course Mother and Grandma were relieved and thankful to find it was nothing more serious than a ducking. But they decided that it was safer to rub Sunny Boy briskly with towels and put him to bed to rest.
"You might take cold and be sick a long time, precious," explained Mrs. Horton, as she popped him 'between the sheets. "You would miss all the Summer fun then. Now close your eyes and Mother will read to you."
And while listening to the adventures of a little Italian boy, Sunny's blue eyes grew heavier and heavier, till he went to sleep.
When he awoke, Mrs. Horton had gone, and the room was empty and quiet. Sunny Boy lay for a time, studying the walls and furniture, for he had been asleep when put to bed the night before and had dressed for breakfast in such a hurry that he had not noticed much of anything. It was a very different room from his blue and white bed- room at home, but a very pleasant, pretty room, too. The wall-paper had gay little pink roses scattered thickly over it, and the furniture was all very large and dark and brightly polished. Sunny Boy did not know it, but the four-posted bed in which he was lying had belonged to his great- grandmother, and would be his own some day.
Presently Sunny Boy tired of lying still and began to be conscious of a funny sensation somewhere down in his ribs. At least he thought it must be his ribs. He remembered that he had had no lunch. Did his grandma expect him to starve at her house?
Sunny Boy got up and found his slippers. The ' 'fernal 'chine' of an alarm clock was ticking steadily away on the bureau where Mrs. Horton had placed it after unpacking, and with a great deal of trouble and much tracing with a wet forefinger, he made out that it was three o'clock—or was it five o'clock? Three o'clock in the afternoon and no lunch! Sunny Boy felt so sorry for himself that he sat down on the floor and wept a little. He was not quite awake yet, you see, and our troubles often look rather large when we first wake up. In just a minute Sunny Boy stopped crying—he had thought what to do.
Naturally his grandmother would not wish him to go without eating all day, so why not go down and try to find a little chocolate cake, or some of those cookies left from last night's supper? Sunny Boy had not the slightest idea where the pantry was, but he was sure there must be one—every house had a pantry with a cake box in it. So, in his slippers and pink pajamas, he crept out into the hall intent on locating the pantry in Grandma Horton's house.
He met no one on his way downstairs, and the first floor of the house seemed deserted, too. He couldn't know that his mother and . Grandma had peeped in at him several times and found him fast asleep, or that now they were on the side porch entertaining a caller. Jimmie and Grandpa were working in the garden again, and Araminta had gone home until it should be time to start supper. This was why Sunny Boy found no one on his path to the pantry. He found it without great trouble, because he kept going until he came to the kitchen, and a kitchen and the pantry are never very far apart.
Grandma's pantry was a beautiful place, shelves and walls and floor a snowy white, and boxes and jars in apple-pie order. There was a large window with a table under it, and there Grandma rolled her cookies and made her pies, but Sunny Boy did not know that yet. He spied a round box that, to his experienced eyes, looked as though it might hold cake.
"I'll get a chair," he said aloud, talking to himself, as he often did. "An' I won't take only a little piece. I wish I was bigger." He meant taller.
He carried in a kitchen chair and scrambled up on it. His eyes were on a level with the shelf, and there sat two beautiful brown pies beside the cake box. Sunny poked a small, fat finger into the nearest one to taste it. It was very good, though he did not "re- member" the taste. My, how soury it was I Grandma had baked two rhubarb pies. But no pie could hold Sunny's attention very long—his heart was set on cake. Standing on his tiptoes, he managed to lift the tin lid of the box when a voice at the door startled him.
"My land of Goshen!" ejaculated Araminta.
Sunny Boy's hand slipped, the lid came down sharply on his fingers, and his other hand swept across the shelf to knock over a brown bowl from which some sticky yellow stuff began to stream.
"Now you've done it!" Araminta told him. "That's the custard pudding for to- morrow's dinner. What in the world are you trying to do, anyway?"
Araminta was not accustomed to finding small boys in pale pink pajamas standing on chairs in her pantry, so no wonder she was surprised. But she was kind, was Araminta, and she helped Sunny Boy down, and did not scold. She got a basin of clean water and a clean cloth and wiped up the pudding and washed Sunny's hands for him.
"I came back an hour earlier than I had to," she told him, " 'cause I thought maybe you'd be up and might like to see the chicken yard. No wonder you're hungry if you didn't have any lunch. Your Grandma has some saved for you on a big plate. I guess they don't know you're up. You go and get dressed, and I'll warm it up for you. And don't say anything about knocking over the custard—let 'em think it was the cat."
Sunny Boy was washed and dressed by the time Mother came up again to see if he was awake. She helped him a bit with his hair and straightened his collar and kissed him three or four times and then went down with him to see him eat. Grandma did not call it lunch—they had dinner and supper on the farm.
Sunny Boy had a queer little feeling all the while he was eating and he was so quiet that his mother thought perhaps he was still tired from his tumble into the brook. He went out with Araminta afterward to see the chicken yard, and he almost, but not quite, forgot the queer feeling in watching the hundreds of white chickens and white ducks busily scratching in the yard and drinking water "upside down," as he told Grandpa that night. A chicken, you know, doesn't drink water as you do, but differently. Araminta gave Sunny Boy a handful of cracked corn to throw to the biddies, and they came flocking about his feet, pushing and scrambling so that he was glad when Araminta shooed them away from him. She showed him the nests, too, and in many of them were pretty white eggs. He could gather them some morning, all himself, Araminta told him.
Coming out of the chicken yard they met Jimmie, whistling merrily. He was glad to find Sunny Boy all right after his wetting, and asked him if he did not want to come out to the stable to see Peter and Paul and "the prettiest little fellows you ever saw." Sunny Boy went gladly, but the queer little feeling went, too.
Peter and Paul, it seemed, lived in a house that was called a barn, and were very comfortable. They had each a little room, "box stalls" Jimmie called them, and all the hay they could eat. For breakfast and dinner and supper they usually had corn and now and then some oats. The barn was a delightful place, and Jimmie pointed out the hay mow when Sunny Boy mentioned that Harriet had said that was the place to play on rainy days.
"Not much hay in it now," announced Jimmie, leading the way into another little room. "We start cutting this year's crop next week. Ever seen any one hay?"
Sunny Boy had not, but he forgot to say so, because he found himself looking down on a gentle-eyed collie dog mother with three of the dearest little blind baby puppies you could wish to see. Jimmie explained that Lassie was Mrs. Bruce, and that the puppies would have their eyes open in a day or two.
"And one of them's to be yours—your Grandpa said so," Jimmie went on.
And in spite of that—and what child would not be pleased to have a puppy for his very own?—the queer little feeling still stayed with Sunny Boy. It was like a small lump of lead right down at the end of his throat.
"I'm going up to the house now for the milk pails," announced Jimmie, when they had finished looking at the puppies. "You can come out and watch me milk if you want to."
In the kitchen they found Mother and Grandma.
"Don't let Topaz in," said Grandma, as Jimmie opened the door. "That wretched cat has eaten half my egg custard, and I won't have him in the house again to-night." Araminta was setting the table in the dining room and did not hear. Sunny Boy gulped a little, but spoke up bravely.
" 'Twasn't Topaz, Grandma. I knocked the custard over, looking for cake. I didn't mean to, but my hand slipped."
Then how he did cry!
But when the whole story had come out, and Grandma had hugged him, and had said not to mind, that she could make another pudding in a minute; after Mother had whispered to him that while it was naughty to help oneself to cake without asking, it was much worse to let the kitty-cat be blamed, and had kissed him and assured him she was sure he would not do it again; after Araminta had given him a pink peppermint— after all this, and Sunny Boy was on his way to the barn with Jimmie to watch the milking, do you know, that queer little feeling had entirely disappeared!
On to chapter eight
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