Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue on Grandpa's Farm/16
LOOKING FOR THE HORSES
Once again the hermit smiled at the children.
"I can give you something to eat," he said, "for I have that, though I do live in the woods. But I do not know whether I can take you to your home. Where do you live?"
"We live in Bellemere, near the ocean," said Sue.
The hermit shook his gray head.
"That is very far from here," he said. "I do not believe I could find the place. I have not been out of these woods for many years, except to go to the village. But how did you get so far from home?"
"Oh, we came to see our grandpa," explained Bunny.
"And what is his name?"
"Grandpa Brown!" exclaimed Sue. "And he's awful nice. Grandma Brown is nice, too, and she gives us cookies and milk. Can you give us cookies and milk, Mr. Hermit?"
"Well, I can give you some milk," answered the old man of the woods. "But I have no cookies. I have bread, though."
"Bread and milk is good," said Bunny with a sigh. He was hungry enough to be glad of even some bread, without the milk. But he was glad the hermit had milk.
"Where is your house?" asked Sue.
"It isn't what you would call a house," said the old man. "It is a sort of log cabin. I built most of it myself. But it is over there through the trees," and he pointed behind him.
"I can't see it," said Sue, standing up and looking through the trees.
"It's there just the same," and the hermit smiled again.
"Please take us there, give us some bread and milk, and then take us to Grandpa Brown's house," said Sue. "We're staying there, and so is our papa and mamma."
"And so is Bunker Blue," put in Bunny. "Do you know Bunker Blue, Mr. Hermit?"
"No, I can't say that I do," and the old man shook his head. "But I know your grandfather, Mr. Brown. I can take you to his farm though it is quite a way off. You must have wandered far."
"We were picking berries, and we got lost," Bunny explained. "But we don't mind now, if you'll give us some bread and milk, and take us to grandpa's."
"Well, I can do that for you," and the old man smiled again at the two children. "Come," he said, and he held out a hand to each of them.
Bunny and Sue toddled along. They were quite happy now. They did not stop to think that their parents and their grandparents might be worried, for it was quite late. Bunny and Sue did not often worry. They just let things happen the way they would.
"Here's my house," said the hermit, after he had gone along a winding path. He pointed to a log cabin amid the trees.
"Oh, that's nice!" exclaimed Bunny.
"It's like a play-house!" cried Sue. "Don't you wish we had that, Bunny?"
"Yes, I do. But we couldn't have it; could we?" and he looked up into the face of the hermit.
"No, I'm afraid not, little boy. I need it to live in, and to keep the rain and snow from me."
"Oh, do you stay here in the winter?" asked Sue, surprised.
"Isn't it cold?"
"Sometimes. But I have a fireplace, and I pile on logs, and make a hot fire. Then I am warm."
"I'd like it here in winter," said Bunny. "Do you slide down hill, Mr. Hermit?"
"No, I'm too old for that, little boy. But come in now, and I'll give you something to eat. Then I'll take you home. I'll try and get you there before dark, so your folks won't be worried. They may be out hunting for you now."
"They always look for us when we get lost," said Sue.
"But we didn't know we were going to get lost this time," added Bunny.
The hermit set out two plates, with some slices of bread on them. Then from down in his spring, where he kept it cool, he brought a pail of milk. Soon Bunny and Sue were eating a nice little supper. It was lighter in the log cabin than it had been in the woods, for the trees were cut down around the hermit's home.
"Oh, Bunny!" exclaimed Sue, as she drank the last of her milk. "Oh, Bunny, we forgot to look for them!"
"Look for what?" Bunny wanted to know, as he crumbled some more bread into his bowl of milk. "What did we forget to look for, Sue?"
"Grandpa's horses. The Gypsies took them and didn't bring them back," she explained, so the hermit would know what she and Bunny were talking about.
"The Gypsies took your grandpa's horses, little girl?"
"Yes. They borrowed them, grandpa says, but they didn't bring them back. I guess maybe the Gypsies got lost. Bunny, and that's why they didn't bring the horses back. But we looked all over, and we coulda't find them, Mr. Hermit"
"I almost found one," said Bunny. "It was a horse walking along the road. But it wasn't grandpa's."
"And a cow tickled Bunker Blue in the ribs, when he was sleeping under our automobile," Sue explained. "I mean Bunker was sleeping, not the cow. The cow was eating grass, she was, and her horns tickled Bunker."
The hermit shook his head.
"You are queer children," he said. "But tell me about your grandpa's horses."
Between them, one telling part, and the other helping, Bunny and Sue told the story of the Gypsies taking Grandpa Brown's best team of horses.
"And we've looked, and looked, but we can't find them," said Sue. "Once Bunny found Aunt Lu's diamond ring that was lost. It was in the lobster claw all the while, and we didn't know it."
"But we forgot to look for the horses today," said Bunny. "You didn't see them; did you, Mr. Hermit?"
"Well, now, I don't know about that," said the old man who lived all alone in the woods. "Come to think of it I did see a camp of Gypsies in the woods, not far from here, the other day. I was out taking a walk, as I often do, and, down in a little valley I saw something shining."
"Oh, I know what it was!" cried Bunny, his eyes bright with eagerness.
"What was it?" asked the hermit.
"You saw the looking glasses, on the Gypsy wagons, shining in the sun."
"That was it, little man. But how did you know?"
"'Cause Sue and I saw it too, once. It was when we came in the big automobile. We went to the Gypsy camp, and we 'most got lost then. But mamma and papa and our dog, Splash, found us."
"What a queer name for a dog," said the hermit.
"We called him that 'cause he splashed into the water and pulled me out when I fell in, the time Bunny and me were shipwrecked," said Sue. "We got shipwrecked on an island."
"Like Robinson Crusoe," added the little boy.
"But we couldn't find Mr. Friday," said Sue. "You could be Mr. Friday, if we ever played Robinson Crusoe; couldn't he, Bunny?" Sue asked. "You look like the pictures of Robinson in the book. You could be him, and Bunny could be Friday—that would be better. Would you like to, Mr. Hermit?"
"Well, I don't know, my dear. I guess my play-days and make-believe days are over."
"You are just like Robinson Crusoe," Sue went on. "It's better to be him, 'cause Mr. Friday is black. You'd have to black up. I did, with black mud, and I was washing it off when I fell in and Splash pulled me out."
"You can tell me about that another time," said the old man. "I think, now, I had better start home with you. And, on the way, we will look in the valley for the Gypsies. Perhaps they are there yet."
"And maybe they have grandpa's horses!" cried Bunny. "Oh, wouldn't that be good, Sue, if we could find them?"
"It would be just lovely!"
"Well, it's possible these may be the same Gypsies," said the old man, "though they may not be, and they may not have your grandpa's horses. But we'll look, anyhow."
So they set out to look for the missing horses. Bunny and Sue were not lost any more, for they felt sure the hermit would take them home to grandpa's house.