Chapter XX. Splash Runs Away
 

"Where is Bunny?"

"Bunny! Bunny Brown!"

"Come on in! The game is over and Charlie Star is it. He's going to blind next time, you won't have to!"

"Come on in, Bunny Brown!"

Thus called Helen, Sue and the others who were playing the game of hide- and-go-to-seek. For Bunny had not been found, and he had not run up to touch "home," and be "in free."

Helen had not been able to find the little fellow, so well was he hidden.

"I can't think where he is," she said. "I looked all over."

"But you didn't find me!" cried Sue, clapping her hands in fun.

"No, you were so close to me, back of the lilac bush, that I never thought of looking there," said Helen. Sue had run "in free," as soon as Helen's back was turned.

"But where is Bunny?" everyone asked.

"Come on in!" they called.

But Bunny did not come.

"Let's all look for him," suggested Charlie Star. "Maybe he went away off down the street, or maybe he is out in the barn."

There was a barn back of the Brown house, in which Bunny's father kept some horses used in his business. The children often played in the barn, especially on rainy days, when they did not go up to the attic.

"Let's look in the barn," Charlie went on.

"It wasn't fair to hide out there," Helen said. "That is too far away."

"Maybe Bunny didn't," suggested Sue.

"Well, we'll look, anyhow," went on Sadie.

Out to the barn trooped the children, but though they looked in the haymow, and in the empty stalls (for most of the horses were out at work) no Bunny could be found.

Then they went back to look around the house, in some of the nooks and corners near which the others had hidden.

"Bunny! Bunny!" they called. "Why don't you come in, so we can have another game? You won't have to blind."

But Bunny did not answer.

Pretty soon Sue began to get a little frightened, and her playmates, too, thought it queer that they could not find Bunny, and that he did not answer.

"Maybe we'd better tell your mother, Sue," Sadie said.

"Yes, for maybe he fell down a hole, and can't get up," suggested Helen.

They called once more, and looked in many other places, but Bunny was not to be found. Then into the house they went.

"Oh, Mother!" cried Sue, her eyes opening wide, "we can't find Bunny anywhere, and he won't answer us."

"Can't find him!"

"Won't answer you!"

Mother Brown and Aunt Lu spoke thus, one after the other.

"We were playing hide-and-go-to-seek," explained Helen, "and Bunny hid himself in such a queer place that we can't find him."

"Maybe it's just one of his tricks," said Aunt Lu.

"No, it can't be a trick," Charlie Star explained, "because Bunny likes to play the game, and he doesn't have to blind this time. We've hollered that at him, but he won't come in."

Seeing that the children were really worried, Mrs. Brown and Aunt Lu said they would come out and help search. They looked in all the places they could think of, and called Bunny's name, as did the others, but the little fellow was not found.

Even Mrs. Brown was beginning to get a little anxious now, and she was thinking of telephoning for Mr. Brown to come home, when Bunny was suddenly found. And it was the cook who found him.

The cook came out to the back door, near which stood the empty rain- water barrel, into which Bunny had climbed to hide. She took from the open top a large towel which, a little while before, she had thrown over the barrel to dry, and, looking down in, she cried out:

"Why here he is! Here's Bunny now!"

And so he was! Curled up on the bottom of the barrel, in a little round ball, and fast asleep, was Bunny Brown.

"Oh, we never looked in there!" exclaimed Sadie West.

"I thought of it," said Helen, "but I saw the towel spread over the top of the barrel, and I didn't see how Bunny could be under it, so I didn't look"

"Well, he's found, anyhow," said his mother, smiling.

They had all gathered around the barrel to look into it, the littler ones standing up on the box, by which Bunny had climbed in. Then Bunny, suddenly awakened, opened his eyes and saw his mother, his Aunt Lu, the cook and his playmates staring down at him.

"Why--why what's the matter?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.

"Oh, Bunny, we couldn't find you!" cried Sue.

"Why, I was right here all the while," Bunny answered. "I climbed in the barrel to hide."

"And didn't you hear us calling that you could come in free?" asked Sadie.

Bunny shook his head.

"He was asleep," said Aunt Lu. "He must have fallen asleep as soon as he curled up inside the barrel. That's why he didn't hear. Oh, you funny Bunny boy!" and she laughed and hugged Bunny, who was helped out of the barrel by his mother.

"I never saw him down in there when I came to the door a while ago, and threw the cloth over the barrel," explained the cook. "I thought the barrel would be a good place to dry the towel. And to think I covered Bunny up with it!"

"If it hadn't been for the towel we'd have looked in the barrel ourselves," said Charlie Star.

"I guess it was so nice and quiet and warm in the barrel that I went to sleep before I knew it," Bunny remarked.

"I guess you did," laughed his mother.

"Shall we play some more?" asked Helen.

"Oh, yes!" cried Bunny. "And I won't hide in the barrel again."

So the game went on, the children hiding in different places, some of which were easily found, while others were so well hidden that it was a long while before the one who "blinded" discovered them.

"Now let's play tag!" cried Sue, after a while. She liked this game very much, though her legs were so short that she could not run very fast, and she was often "tagged" and made "it."

"No, don't play any more just now," called Aunt Lu, coming down to the yard where the children were. "Come up on the porch. I have a little treat for you."

"Oh, is it ice cream?" asked Bunny eagerly. "I hope it is. I'm so hot!"

"You'll have to wait and see," his aunt answered, with a smile.

"Oh, it's just as good as ice cream!" cried Sue, when she saw where her aunt had spread a little table, on the shady side of the porch.

"Lemonade!" murmured Bunny, as he saw the big pitcher which he and Sue had used at their street stand.

"And tarts--jam tarts and jelly tarts!" added Sue. "Oh! oh! oh!"

And that was the treat Aunt Lu had made for the children. There were two plates of tarts, one with jam coming up through the three little round holes in the top crust, and others in which jelly showed. Both were very good. And the cool lemonade was good also.

"Oh, I just love to come over to your house to play, Sue!" said Sadie West.

"So do I!" chorused the other children.

"We do have such good times!" added Charlie Star.

"And such good things to eat," came from Harry Bentley. "Those tarts are--awful good!" and he sighed.

"Would you like another?" asked Aunt Lu, with a laugh in her eyes and a smile on her lips.

"If you please," answered Harry, as he passed his plate.

Then, after the children had rested, they played more games, until it was time to go home.

One day, when Bunker Blue came to the Brown home, to bring up some fish Mr. Brown had sent, Bunny, who was out in the yard with Splash, the big shaggy dog, said to the red-haired youth:

"Bunker, you know lots of things; don't you?"

"Well, I wouldn't want to say that, Bunny. There's lots and lots of things I don't know."

"But you can sail a boat; can't you?"

"Oh, yes, I can do that,"

"Well, I wish I could. And do you know how to make a dog harness, Bunker? Do you know how to harness up a dog so he could pull an express wagon?"

"Yes, I guess I know how to do that, Bunny."

"Then I wish you'd harness Splash to my wagon," Bunny went on. "I've tried and tried, and I can't do it. The harness breaks all the while, and when I put the handle of the wagon between Splash's legs he falls down--it trips him up."

"Of course," Bunker said. "You ought to have two handles to the wagon, and Splash could stand in between them, just as a horse is hitched to a wagon."

"Oh, could you fix my wagon that way, Bunker?"

"I might, if your mother said it was all right."

"I'll ask her. And will you make me a harness for Splash?"

"I'll try, Bunny."

Mrs. Brown said she did not mind if Bunker fixed the wagon and made a harness so Bunny could hitch Splash to the express wagon, for the big dog was kind and gentle.

"Oh, what fun Sue and I will have!" cried Bunny. "We'll get lots of rides in the wagon."

It did not take Bunker long to make two handles, or "shafts," as they are called, for Bunny's wagon. Then he made a harness for the dog--a harness strong enough not to break. One day, when all was finished, Splash was hitched to the wagon, and Bunny was given the reins. They went around the neck of Splash, for of course you can not put in a dog's mouth an iron bit, as you can in that of a horse.

Bunny found that he could guide his dog from one side to the other by pulling on either the right or left rein. And Splash did not seem to mind pulling the wagon with Bunny in it. He went around the yard very nicely.

"Oh, give me a ride, Bunny!" begged Sue, who came in just then from having been down to Sadie West's house, having a dolls' party.

"Yes, I'll give you a ride, Sue," Bunny said. "Get in! Whoa, Splash!" he called. The dog did not "whoa" very well, but finally he stopped, and Sue got in the wagon, sitting behind Bunny.

They drove around the yard for a while, and then Sue said:

"Oh, Bunny, let's go out on the sidewalk, where it's nice and smooth. It will be easier for Splash to pull us then." Bunny thought this would be fun, so he guided the dog out through the gate. The wagon did go more smoothly on the sidewalk, and Splash trotted a little faster.

"Oh, this is fun!" cried Bunny.

"I like it!" laughed Sue, who had her arms around Bunny's waist, so she would not fall out backwards.

They had not gone very far before Sue cried:

"Oh, Bunny! Look! There's that yellow dog--the one that had the tin can tied to his tail--the one that upset our lemonade stand!"

"So it is!" said Bunny.

And, just at that moment, Splash also saw the yellow dog.

With a bark and a wag of his tail, Splash gave a big jump, nearly throwing Bunny and Sue out of the wagon. Then the big dog began to run after the little one.

"Whoa! Whoa!" cried Bunny, pulling on the reins. But Splash would not stop. Faster and faster he ran. He only wanted to see his little yellow dog friend again, and rub noses with him. But I guess the yellow dog was frightened when he saw the express wagon, with the two children in it, following after Splash.

Maybe the yellow dog thought the wagon was tied to the tail of Splash, as the tin can had once been to his own. And maybe the little yellow dog thought some one would now tie an express wagon to his tail. At any rate he ran on faster and faster, And Splash, who just wanted to speak to him, in dog language, ran on faster too.

"Bumpity-bump-bump!" went the wagon with Bunny and Sue in it.

"Whoa! Whoa!" called Bunny.

But Splash would not stop. He was running away, but he did not mean to. He just wanted to catch up to the little yellow dog who was running on ahead.