Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue on Grandpa's Farm/20

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CHAPTER XX


THE MISSING CAKE


The tramps had come through the bushes so quickly, and had made such a sudden grab for the lunch basket, that, for a second or two, Bunny Brown did not know what to do. Neither did his sister Sue. Nor were the other children any better off.

They just sat there, looking at the rough men, one of whom had Bunny's basket, and was taking out what was left of the sandwiches, cake and other good things.

"Is there anything to eat in it?" asked the little tramp of the big one, who had Bunny's basket.

"Yes, some," was the answer. "But there are more lunch baskets. Grab one for yourself."

Of course that was not a nice way to talk—not very polite you know. But perhaps tramps are different from other folks. They get so hungry at times that they forget to be polite, I guess.

The smaller tramp, for one was much bigger and taller than the other, looked around to see what he could find. He saw little John Boland holding tightly to a basket. It still had some good things to eat in it, for John had not eaten all his lunch.

"Here, give me that!" cried the tramp.

"No! No!" John exclaimed, and he turned to run away, for he did not like the tramps, any more than did Bunny Brown, or Sue, or any of the others. But, as John turned, his foot caught in a root of a tree, and down he went, striking the ground quite hard. His lunch basket bounced out of his hand, and rolled to one side.

"Ha! That's what I want!" said the tramp. "I don't want you, little boy. All I want is something to eat."

But John, I suppose, thought the tramps might take him away, as some people think Gypsies will take children away (only they won't) and John began to cry.

Now it is a funny thing, but very often if one little boy or girl in a crowd of others begins to cry, why two or three more will do the same thing. And, no sooner had John begun to sob, than Tillie Simpson, Nellie Hadden, Flo Benson, Tommie Jones and Harry Kennedy all began to cry, too. About the only ones who were not crying were Bunny Brown and his sister Sue, and Sue had some tears all ready to let fall out of her eyes.

But Sue watched to see what Bunny would do. She did not want him to call her a "cry-baby" afterward, though Bunny hardly ever called his sister names, except maybe in fun.

"You let us alone! Let my basket alone! Let John's basket alone! Go on away from here!"

The big tramp, who was eating what was left in Bunny's basket, looked up and laughed. "You're a spunky little chap," he said, "but we're not going away until we get something to eat. We're hungry!"

"That's what we are," said the small tramp, who had picked up the basket that had rolled from the hand of John. Out of this the small tramp was eating pieces of cake and sandwiches as fast as he could. John, who had stopped crying now, sat up and looked on, his eyes wide open.

"We haven't had anything to eat all day!" went on the big tramp, who was also eating fast "We're terrible hungry! You children have had enough. We'll take the rest."

"Yes, and then maybe we'll take some of them." said the small tramp, blinking his eyes and looking around. Of course he was only fooling, but the children did not know this, and some if the little girls screamed, and ran away.

But Bunny Brown was not so frightened as were the others. He was older, and then, too, he felt that he must look after his sister. So he cried out again :

"Go on away from here, you—you bad tramps!"

The tramps only laughed. Then Bunny Brown thought of something. Turning around he called, as loudly as he could:

"Here Splash! Come Splash! Come on old dog!"

Then Bunny whistled. He had only just learned how, from Bunker Blue a few days before, and he could not whistle very loudly, but still he did very well for a small boy.

"Come Splash! Come on, old dog!" he cried, and he whistled once more.

The tramps looked at one another.

"He's callin' his dog," said the big one. "Yes," said the little tramp, "we'd better go. Come on. We've had enough to last us for awhile. We'll empty the baskets and run."

The two roughly dressed men, with red handkerchiefs around their neck, in place of collars, quickly emptied into their pockets the sandwiches and cake that were left in some of the baskets which the children had dropped. They mixed the cake and bread and meat all up together; those tramps did. Perhaps they were so hungry they did not mind.

Then off they ran through the bushes the way they had come.

"Oh, I'm so glad they're gone!" exclaimed Sue.

"So am I," said Tommie Jones. "If they hadn't gone your dog would have bit them, Bunny Brown; wouldn't he?"

Bunny Brown laughed.

"My dog isn't here," he said.

"He isn't!" exclaimed Tommie. "Why, he called him, and whistled to him; didn't he?" he asked the others.

"Yep!" said Flo Benson. "He did."

"That was only make-believe," explained Bunny. "I thought maybe if I pretended Splash was here the tramps would be afraid. Tramps are always afraid of dogs. My papa said so. That's why I made believe to call Splash. But he isn't here. We left him back on grandpa's farm with the hired man. Mamma thought he might be in the way at the picnic, so we didn't bring him.

"Oh, that was a fine trick!" exclaimed Sue. "I forgot Splash wasn't here with us. I thought sure he'd come when you whistled, Bunny."

"So did the tramps, I guess," laughed Bunny Brown. "I'm glad I thought of it. And if Splash had been here he would make the tramps go away, anyhow."

"But they took all my lunch!" sobbed John, "And I fell down, and I bumped my nose and—and—"

But that was all the trouble he could think of just then.

"Never mind," said Sue, helping him to stand up, and brushing the dirt from his clothes. "You're not hurt very much, John, and you're not hungry; are you?"

"No, but—but I fell down!"

"Well, never mind. The tramps are gone now. And they won't come back."

But, just as Sue said that some one was heard coming through the woods. The bushes shook, and some of the little girls cried out.

"Oh, there are the tramps again!" shouted John.

But it was not. It was only Bunker Blue, who had come to find Bunny Brown and his sister Sue.

"Well, how are you all?" Bunker asked. "Why, what's the matter?" he went on, for he saw that something had happened.

"It was two bad tramps, with red handkerchiefs on their necks," said Bunny Brown. "But I made believe to whistle for Splash, and they ran away."

"They did?" cried Bunker Blue, much surprised.

"Yep. And next time I'm really going to bring Splash to the picnic, and he can keep the tramps away."

"Maybe it would be a good idea," said Bunker. "But it was a good thing you thought to pretend your dog was near by. A very good trick. I'll see if I can see anything of the bad men."

Bunker went through the bushes where the tramps had gone, but he saw nothing of them. They must have run a long way off. Perhaps they were afraid Bunny's dog, Splash, would chase them.

It was nearly time for the picnic to be over. The children had eaten as much as was good for them, even if they had not had all they wished, and I think most of them did have all they wanted. Bunny and Sue did, anyhow.

Bunny's basket, of course, was emptied by the tramps, as was that of John and some of the others. But the grown folks still had good things left in theirs, and toward evening, when it was time to start for home, the little folks who had not had enough were given a little more.

"I didn't know there were tramps around here," said Mother Brown to grandpa, when he was backing the horses out of the shed, so Bunny and the others could get into the wagon.

"Oh, yes, we have a few tramps in the Summer," said Grandpa Brown. "They don't like to work, but they are always ready to eat. But probably we'll not be bothered with many. These two must have heard of the picnic, and come around to see what they could pick up."

And now the picnic was over. The farmers began driving home. Every one had had a fine time, and there had been no trouble except for the tramps. Oh yes, there had been another little bit of trouble.

A little boy named Sammie Perkins, in trying to catch a frog in a pond, leaned too far over and fell in. But a man pulled Sammie out very quickly, and the little boy only got wet through. Of course he cried, and was frightened. But his mother took off some of his clothes and dried them in the sun. So no great harm was done. And that was all that happened, except that every one had such a fine time that they said they wished there was a picnic every day.

"But that would be too much!" said Grandma Brown. "You would soon get tired of it."

The Brown family drove home, getting there just as the sun was going down.

Splash, who had been chained up by the hired man, so he would not follow the wagon, was now let loose. And oh! how glad he was to see Bunny Brown and his sister Sue!

Splash jumped about, barking and wagging his tail. He even tried to kiss Bunny and Sue with his red tongue.

"Oh, Splash!" cried Bunny. "I wish you had been to the picnic. Then you could have run after the tramps!"

"Well, the tramps ran anyhow, so it was all right," said Papa Brown. "Though the next time you see any rough men. Bunny, you had better come and tell me, or your mother, and not try to drive them away all by yourself."

"All right, I will, Daddy. But we'll take Splash to the next picnic anyhow. He was lonesome without us."

And I think Splash was.

"Well, now we'll have supper," said Grandma Brown. "That is if you children are hungry?"

"Oh, I am!" cried Sue, and Bunny said the same thing. The drive home had given them: good appetites. But then children are very often hungry anyhow, even without picnics.

"Shall we have some of that nice cocoanut custard cake?" asked Bunny.

"Yes," his grandmother told him. "I'll get it from the pantry." But when she went there,' the cupboard was not exactly bare, like Mother Hubbard's, but something had happened. For Grandma Brown cried:

"Oh the cake! The lovely cake is gone! And so are a lot of my pies and crullers! Oh, some one has been in my pantry!"