Chapter IV. The Empty House
 

Bunny Brown and his sister Sue hardly knew what to do. They just stood there, looking at the monkey pulling and tugging on the rather thin hair of Miss Winkler, and she, poor lady, could not reach up high enough to get hold of Wango, who was perched quite high up, on the window pole.

"Oh, Bunny!" cried Sue. "We must do something--but what?"

Sue felt that her brother, as he was a whole year older than she, ought to know what to do.

"I--I'll get him down!" cried Bunny, who, as had Sue, had, some time before, made friends with the old sailor's queer pet.

"How can you get him down?" Sue wanted to know.

"I--I can stand on a chair and reach up to him," went on the small, blue-eyed boy, looking around for one to step on.

"No, no!" exclaimed Miss Winkler, as she heard what Bunny said. "You musn't go near him, Bunny. He might bite or scratch you. He is very bad and ugly to-day. I don't know what ails him. Stop it, Wango!" she ordered. "Stop it at once! Come down from there, and stop pulling my hair!"

But the monkey did nothing of the sort. He neither came down, nor did he stop pulling the lady's hair, as Sue and Bunny could easily tell. For they could see Wango give it a yank now and then, and, when he did, poor Miss Winkler would cry out in pain.

"Oh, go for my brother! He's down on the fish dock I think," Miss Winkler begged.

"No, we can't go there," replied Bunny slowly. "Our mother told us not to go there unless Bunker Blue or Aunt Lu was with us."

"Then the monkey will never let go of my hair," sighed Miss Winkler.

"Yes, he will," Bunny said. "I'll make him."

"How?" Sue wanted to know.

"This way!" exclaimed her brother, as he held out some of the peanuts he had bought at Miss Redden's store. "Here, Wango!" he called. "Come and get some peanuts!"

"And I'll give him some caramels," cried Sue, as she held out some of her candy.

I do not know whether or not Wango understood what Bunny and Sue said, but I am sure he knew that the candy and peanuts were good to eat. For, with a chatter of delight, he suddenly let go of Miss Winkler's hair and scrambled down to the floor near Bunny.

"Look out that he doesn't bite you," Miss Winkler said. "Be careful, Sue!"

"I'm not afraid," said Bunny Brown.

"Nor I," added Sue.

Wango was very tame, however. The way he acted, after he saw the good things to eat, would have made anyone think he was always kind and gentle. For he carefully took the peanuts from Bunny in one paw, and a caramel from Sue in another, and then, making a bow, as the old sailor had taught him, the mischievous monkey scrambled into his cage in one corner of the room.

The next minute Miss Winkler had shut the cage door and fastened it.

"There!" she exclaimed, "the next time I let you out of your cage you'll know it, Wango!"

"What happened?" asked Bunny.

"I don't know, child," the elderly lady answered, as she began to coil up her hair. "He is usually good, though he minds my brother better than he does me. When Jed was here, a while ago, he was playing with Wango out in the room, and, I suppose, when he put the saucy creature back in the cage, the door did not fasten well.

"Anyhow, when I was making some cookies awhile ago I suddenly felt something behind me, and, as I tumid around, I saw the monkey. He made a grab for a cookie, and I had to slap his paws for I won't have him doing tricks like that.

"Then he got mad, snatched my comb out of my hair, and, when I ran after him, he got up on the window pole, grabbed my hair and stayed up there where I couldn't reach him. Oh, what a time I've had!"

"It's too bad," said Sue kindly.

"I don't know what I would have done if you children hadn't come along," went on Miss Winkler, "for I had called and called, and no one heard me. I'll make Jed put a good lock on the monkey-cage after this. Now come out to the kitchen and I'll give you each a cookie."

Wango seemed to want a cookie also, for he chattered and made queer faces as he shook the door of his cage.

"No, indeed! You sha'n't have a bit!" scolded Miss Winkler. "You were very bad."

Wango chattered louder than ever. Perhaps he was saying he was sorry for what he had done, but he got no cookie.

Bunny and Sue each had a nice brown one, though, with a raisin in the centre, and, after Miss Winkler had thanked them again, they kept on with their walk down the street.

"Wasn't Wango funny?" asked Sue, as she nibbled her cookie.

"That's what he was," Bunny said. "'Member the time when he pulled the cat's tail?"

"Yes," agreed Sue. "And when he sat down in the fly paper! That was funnier than this time."

"I guess Miss Winkler didn't think this was funny," commented Bunny. "I guess the monkey doesn't like her."

"But he minds Mr. Winkler," Sue said. "I've seen him make the monkey stand on his head."

The old sailor, who had brought Wango home, after one of his many ocean voyages, had taught the furry little creature many tricks. But though Wango minded Mr. Winkler very well, he did not always do what Miss Winkler told him to do.

As Sue walked on, still nibbling her cookie, she kept looking down at the ground, until at last Bunny asked her:

"What are you looking at Sue--trying not to step on ants?" For this was a game the children often played.

"Not this time," Sue answered. "I was looking to see if I could find Aunt Lu's ring."

"Why, she didn't lose it down here!" Bunny said, in surprise.

"Maybe she did," returned Sue. "She thought she lost it around our house, but she looked, and we all looked, and we didn't find it, so maybe it was lost down here. I'm going to look, and if we find it we'll get a present."

"I'll help you look," said Bunny kindly, "but I don't believe it's down here."

The two children walked along a little farther, with their eyes searching the ground, but they saw no golden ring.

"Oh, I tell you what let's do!" suddenly exclaimed Bunny.

"What?" asked Sue, eager to have some fun.

"Let's go back home, and I'll put the lobster claw on my nose, and we'll play Punch and Judy. We haven't done that yet."

"All right, we'll do it!" Sue agreed. "And I'll let you take my sawdust doll. You have to hit her with a stick you know, if you're Mr. Punch, and it won't hurt a sawdust doll."

"All right," Bunny cried. "And when I hit her I'll call out, the way Mr. Punch does: 'That's the way to do it! That's the way I do it!'"

He said this in the funny, squeaky voice which is always heard at Punch and Judy shows, and Sue laughed. She thought her brother was very funny.

Bunny and Sue were about to turn around and go back home, but, as they came to a stop in front of the last house on their block Bunny said:

"Oh, Sue, look! They're painting this house, and maybe we can get some red or blue paint, to put on my face, when I play Mr. Punch."

"Oh, Bunny Brown! You wouldn't put paint on your face; would you?" demanded Sue.

"Just a little," said Bunny. "Why not?"

"S'posin' you couldn't get it off again?" Sue wanted to know.

"Oh, I could wash it off when I got through playing," Bunny replied. "Come on in, and we'll see if the men will give us a little paint; red, or blue or green."

Outside the house, in front of which the children then stood, were a number of pots of differently colored paint, and some ladders. But there was no paint yet on the outside of the house.

"I guess they're painting inside," Bunny said. "I don't see any of the men out here. Come on, we'll go in; the door is open, Sue."

The front door was open a little way, as the two children could see as they went up the walk. Bunny and Sue knew every house in that part of town, and also knew the persons who lived in them. All the neighbors knew the children, making them welcome every time they saw them.

"There's no one in this house, I 'member now," Sue said. "Miss Duncan used to live here, but she moved away."

"Then I guess the men are painting it over all nice inside to get it ready for someone else to live in," remarked Bunny. "There isn't anyone here, Sue," he added, as his voice echoed through the empty house. "Even the painters have gone."

"We'd better go out," said Sue. "Maybe they wouldn't like us to be in here."

"Pooh! Nobody will care!" exclaimed Bunny, who was rather a daring little fellow. "Besides, I want to get some paint. Come on, we'll go upstairs. Maybe they're painting up there, or pasting new paper on the walls."

Bunny started up the front hall stairs, and, as Sue did not want to be left alone on the first floor of the empty house, and as she did not want to go out, and leave Bunny there, she followed him.

Their footsteps sounded loud and queer in the big, vacant rooms. As they reached the top of the stairs they heard behind them a loud banging noise.

"What--what was that?" asked Sue, looking quickly over her shoulder.

"I--I guess the front door blew shut," said Bunny. "Never mind, we can open it again. I want to get some red paint for my face, so I can play Mr. Punch."

But if Bunny and Sue knew what had happened when that banging noise sounded, they would not have felt like walking on through the empty rooms, even to get red paint.