SUNNY BOY IN THE COUNTRY

CHAPTER VIII

A LETTER FROM DADDY



"MY LAND of Goshen!"

Sunny Boy sat on the fence post waiting for the postman. He was great friends now with the postman who came to the farm, almost as great friends as with the cheerful, gray-uniformed letter-carrier in the city, the one who brought letters to the house with the shining numbers that Harriet faithfully polished.

This postman in the country did not wear a uniform, and he came in a little red automobile that one could hear chug-chugging half a mile away. He did not whistle either, as the city postman did, but he put the letters and parcels into a tin box nailed to a post; then he turned up a little tin flag to say that he had been there, and the farm folk came down to the end of the lane and got the mail. The country postman came only once a day, instead of the three times Sunny Boy was used to seeing the city postman, but that really made it more exciting.

"My land of Goshen!" said Sunny Boy again. He was rather proud of that expression, and used it as often as he could.

"I don't think you ought to say that," Araminta had reproved him the first time she heard him.

"But you say it," argued Sunny Boy. "Well, that's no reason why you should," retorted Araminta, who, like many grown- ups, did not always practice what she preached. "Anyway, I'm going to stop saying it when I'm fifteen."

"Maybe I will, too," promised Sunny Boy blithely. And that was the best Araminta could hope from him.

"My land—" began Sunny for the third time, but the red automobile of the postman came to a sliding stop beside the box, and fortunately interrupted him.

"Hello Blue Jeans!" called the postman, who found a new name for Sunny Boy every day. "How do you like farming now? Am I to give the mail to you, or put it in the box?"

This was an every day question. The postman pretended to be very much surprised when Sunny Boy said he would take the mail, and he always handed it out a piece at a time, so that Sunny never knew how much was coming.

"There's two for your grandfather," counted the postman, handing them to his small friend standing on the running board. "And that's for your grandmother. Here's the Cloverways' weekly paper for the whole family. My, my, one—two—three—five seven letters, all for your mother. And a box, too. Is that all? Yep, guess that's all to-day."

Sunny Boy got down from the running board and the postman started his car slowly.

"Oh, Mr. Corntassel!" the postman called suddenly. "Here's another. I declare, I must be getting old, or need glasses, or some- thing. If there isn't a letter addressed to you and I came within one of taking it back to the post-office with me!"

He gave Sunny Boy another letter, and this time drove off without stopping.

"My land of Goshen!" said Sunny Boy, who was using Araminta's pet expression far more often than she did. "Such a heap of letters. Maybe mine's from Daddy."

He found Mrs. Horton in the porch swing, sewing. She had to kiss the seven new freckles on his nose before she could read her mail, and then Sunny Boy had to trudge about and find Grandpa and Grandma and deliver their letters to them. He felt quite like a postman himself, though it is doubtful if real postmen have sugar cookies and peppermints paid to them for each letter they bring. So by the time Sunny Boy got around to having his own letter read to him. Mother had finished hers and had opened her box.

"See what Daddy sent us," she said, holding up the package for him to see. In the box were two balls of pink wool and four of dark blue.

"Now I can make you a sweater," explained Mrs. Horton. "The pink is for a scarf I am finishing for Aunt Bessie. By the way, I had a letter from her, dear, and she sends her love, and so does Harriet."

"All right," agreed Sunny Boy briefly. "Could you read this now, Mother?"

"Why, it's from Daddy!" cried Mother, taking the crumpled envelope Sunny Boy drew from his pocket. "Did you wait till you gave every one else his mail, precious? Well, listen—"

"Dear Sunny Boy," said Daddy's letter. "So you fell into the brook! Don't tell Jimmie, but I did the same when I was just about as tall as you are. Grandma fished me out—only she wasn't Grandma then.

"Don't go fishing till I come up, for you might catch them all and leave none for me. One week from the day you're reading this I'll be at Brookside. Hope you and Jimmie and Peter and Paul will come to meet me. Mother, too, if she likes, and Grandpa and Grandma and Araminta and Bruce, if they're going to be real glad to see me. You seem to have a lot of friends. Brookside always was a mighty fine place for small boys—like you and me.

"Can't write more now because a man wants to talk to me—at least he is ringing my telephone bell and won't stop. Love to you and Mother from—DADDY."

Whenever Sunny Boy was pleased he made a little song to sing. He did so now, skipping out to the garden where Grandpa was generally to be found.

"Daddy's coming! Daddy's coming! Next week! Pretty soon," sang Sunny Boy to a tune of his own. "Jimmie, where's Grandpa? Daddy's coming next week, pretty soon!"

"Well don't walk all over the cabbage plants if he is," said Jimmie, who was busy and did not like to be interrupted. "I think your grandfather is down with Mr. Sites looking at the mowing machine. They're down in the south meadow."

Sunny Boy knew his way about the farm as well as Jimmie by this time. He knew the pretty brown cow, Mrs. Butterball and her long legged calf, Butterette; and he was fast friends with Peter and Paul and the dogs. Sunny had named his puppy Brownie. He knew most of the chickens and ducks by names of his own, and he had held a little squirmy lamb in his arms for a minute, with Jimmie helping. He was going fishing, when Daddy came; and he was going up into the woods the first time some one had a moment to take him. Then he would have been all over the farm.

Still singing to himself, he trotted down to the south meadow and found Grandpa and a strange man talking earnestly together.

"Look out! Stay where you are!" called the strange man suddenly. "Back, Bruce, back!"

Sunny Boy stopped instantly. So did Bruce, who had followed him. Neither the little boy nor the dog could see why they should be shouted at, but they obeyed without question. And in a minute they saw a very good reason why. The stranger talking to Grandpa bent down and lifted a handle on a queer looking machine, and right out of the grass—where no one could have seen it— rose a long ugly thing that looked like a big saw.

"All right, Sunny Boy!" called Grandpa.

"What is it?" asked Sunny, eyeing the long saw curiously.

"It's the mowing machine. We're going to cut hay with it presently," answered Grandpa. "Sites, this is Harry's son."

Mr. Sites shook hands with Sunny Boy, smiling down at him cheerfully.

"You don't say!" he drawled. "Well, youngster, your father and I went to school together. When's he coming up? I'd like to see him again."

"Daddy's coming next week, pretty soon," sang Sunny Boy, capering about the mowing machine joyously. "He wrote me a letter. May I sit on it, Grandpa?"

Sunny meant the seat of the mowing machine, and Grandpa lifted him in and held him while Mr. Sites harnessed up a pair of fat white horses and Mr. Hatch appeared from somewhere. Sunny Boy was acquainted with Mr. Hatch. He was Araminta's father and did most of the farming for Grandpa. The Hatches lived in a yellow house down the road, and Araminta had six little brothers and sisters with whom Sunny sometimes played. So you see he was not lonely.

"Now we'll go over to the fence," said Grandpa, lifting him down, "and watch how the grass is cut. That saw-thing is the knife, and you must never go near a mowing machine unless you can see the knife sticking up. Little boys and dogs, and even men, can be very easily hurt if they are careless and don't watch the knife."

So Grandpa and Mr. Sites and Sunny Boy sat on the fence and Bruce lay down at their feet, while Mr. Hatch rode on the mowing machine round and round the field. The fat white horses did not hurry in the least, but a wide light green path marked where the grass was being cut. Grandpa explained that when the sun had dried this grass it was called hay, and that Peter and Paul liked it to eat and to make their beds of in the winter. He promised Sunny Boy that he should help rake the hay the next afternoon.

Whr-rr! purred the mowing machine as Mr. Hatch turned and the fat white horses came toward them.

"Whoa!" the horses stopped suddenly.

Up came the long saw-knife, and Mr. Hatch jumped down from his seat and bent over, looking at something on the ground.

"He's found something," said Mr. Sites to Grandpa. "Wonder if it is—"

"Hey, Sunny! Sunny Boy! Oh, Sunny Boy!" Mr. Hatch waved his big straw hat wildly. "Come and see what I've got. Make Bruce stay there."

"I'll hold Bruce," said Mr. Sites. "You two go on over. I'll bet a cookie I know what he's found."

Sunny Boy raced over the meadow, dragging Grandpa by the hand. Mr. Hatch had looked very near, but it was a very wide meadow if you tried to run across it.

"Hurry," sputtered Sunny Boy, red in the face with the excitement and heat.

"Am hurrying," grunted Grandpa. "You seem to forget about the bone in my leg!"

But Sunny Boy was too eager to see what Mr. Hatch had found to be sorry even for a grandfather with a bone in his leg.





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