Chapter VI. Adrift in a Boat
 

Bunny Brown was a brave little chap, even though he was only a bit over six years old, "going on seven," as he always proudly said. And one of the matters in which he was braver than anything else was about his sister Sue.

His mother had often spoken to him about his sister when he and Sue were allowed to walk up and down in the street, but not to go off the home block.

"Now, Bunny," Mrs. Brown would say, "take good care of little Sue!"

And Bunny would answer:

"I will, Mother!"

Now was a time when he must look after her and take special care of her. The first thing he said to Sue was:

"Don't cry, Sister!" Sometimes he called her that instead of Sue.

"I--I'm not going to cry," Sue answered, but, even then, there were tears in her eyes. "I'm not going to cry, but oh, Bunny, we're locked in, and there's nobody here----"

"I'm here!" said Bunny quickly.

"Yes, of course," answered Sue. "But you can't get the doors open, Bunny, and we can't get out when the doors are shut."

Bunny thought for a moment. What Sue said was very true. One could not go through a locked door.

"If we were only fairies now," said Bunny slowly, "it would be all right."

"How would it be?" Sue asked, opening her eyes wide.

"Why, if we were fairies," Bunny explained, "all we would have to do would be to change ourselves into smoke and we could float right out through the keyhole."

"Oh, but I wouldn't like to be smoke!" cried Sue. "That wouldn't be any fun. Why we couldn't play tag, or eat ice cream cones or--or anything. And the wind would blow us all away, if we were smoke."

"Oh, we wouldn't be smoke all the while," Bunny said. "Only just while we were going through the keyhole. Once we were on the other side we could change back into our own selves again."

"Oh, that would be all right," Sue said. She went up close to the keyhole of the front door and peeped through. Maybe she was trying to wish herself small enough to crawl out of the locked, empty house, without changing into smoke.

But of course Bunny and Sue were not fairies, and of course they could not turn into smoke, so there they had to stay, locked in.

"But, Bunny, what are we going to do?" asked Sue, as they went back and forth from the front to the back door.

"Maybe I can open a window," Bunny said. But he was not tall enough to reach more than past the window sill. The middle of the sash was far away, and he could see that the catch was on. If there had been a chair in the house, perhaps Bunny might have stood on it and opened a window, but there was none.

In one of the rooms Bunny did find an empty box. Moving this up to the window to stand on he found he could reach the middle of the sash, and turn the fastener.

"Now if I can only push up the window, Sue!" he cried.

"I'll help you," the little girl said. "Here's a stick, I can push with that."

So with Bunny standing on the box, and Sue, on the floor, pushing with the stick, they tried to put up the window in order to get out of the empty house.

But the window would not go up, and all of a sudden Sue's stick slipped and banged against the glass.

"Oh! Look out!" cried Bunny. "You nearly broke it."

"I didn't mean to."

"No. But I guess we'd better not try to raise the window. We might break the glass."

Bunny knew a boy who, when playing ball, broke a window, and he had to save up all his pennies for a month to pay for the new glass. Bunny did not want to do that.

So the children went away from the window.

"Say, Sue," said Bunny, after a bit, "we can play we are camping out here. That would be fun, and we can make a bed of the pieces of bags that I fell on off the banister, and--"

"But I'm hungry, and there's nothing to eat!" Sue exclaimed. "When we camp out, or go on a picnic, there are things to eat."

"That's so," agreed Bunny. "This isn't as much fun as I thought it was. I wish I hadn't tried to get any red paint."

"So do I," Sue said, but she was not blaming her brother. She had been just as anxious to go into the vacant house as he had been.

The children did not know what to do. They were both ready to cry, but neither Wanted to. It was getting dark now.

"Let's holler!" exclaimed Sue. "Maybe somebody will hear us and come and let us out."

"All right," said Bunny. They both called together. But the vacant house was not near any other, and none of the neighbors heard the childish voices.

"I--I guess I'd better get the bags and make a bed, for we'll have to stay here all night," said Bunny, when they were quite tired from calling aloud.

"Then make my bed near yours, Bunny," said Sue. "I--I don't want to be alone."

"I'll take care of you," promised the little blue-eyed chap, as he remembered what his mother had told him.

Bunny went to the front hall to get the cloth bags. Sue went with him, for she did not want to be left alone in the room that was now getting quite dark.

But Bunny and Sue did not have to stay all night in the empty house. Just as they were picking up the bags, they heard a noise at the front door and a voice called:

"Bunny! Sue! Are you in there?"

For a moment they did not answer, they were so surprised with joy. Then Bunny cried:

"Oh, it's Uncle Tad! It's Uncle Tad!"

While Sue exclaimed:

"We're here! Yes, we're here, Uncle Tad! Oh, please let us out!"

There was a squeaking noise and the front door was pushed open. In came the old soldier, and Bunny and Sue made a jump for his arms. He caught them up and kissed them.

"Well, little ones, I've found you!" he cried. "I thought maybe you were in here. My, but what a fright you've given your mother and all of us!"

"We came in for some red paint," explained Bunny, "and we got locked in."

"No, the door wasn't locked," Uncle Tad explained. "It was just stuck real hard. You weren't strong enough to pull it open, I suppose. But don't ever do anything like this again."

"We won't," promised Bunny. He was always pretty good at making promises, was Bunny Brown. "We just wanted to get some red paint so I could play Mr. Punch with the lobster claw," he went on.

"And we slid down the banister," added Sue, "and I bumped Bunny off the post."

"But she didn't hurt me," Bunny said.

"How did you find us, Uncle Tad?" asked Sue, as their uncle led them along the now almost dark street toward their home.

"Why, when you didn't come back your mother was worried," the old soldier said. "So your Aunt Lu started out one way after you, and I went the other. As I passed this old house I saw a blue ribbon down by the gate and I thought it looked like yours, Sue. So I thought you might have come in here."

"Oh, did I lose my hair ribbon?" Sue asked, putting her hand to her head. The big, pretty bow was gone, but Uncle Tad had found it.

"It's a good thing you lost it," said Bunny. "If you hadn't, Uncle Tad wouldn't have known where to look for us."

"Oh, I guess I should have found you after a bit," Uncle Tad said, with a smile. "But now we must hurry home, so the folks will know you are all right."

And my, how Bunny and Sue were kissed and cuddled by their mother and Aunt Lu when Uncle Tad brought them back! "I was beginning to be afraid," said Mrs. Brown, "that you had gone down to the boat-dock, after I told you not to, and I was going to have your father and Bunker Blue look for you."

"We didn't mean to get locked in. Mother," explained Bunny. "It was the wind."

"Well, don't go in empty houses again," Aunt Lu said.

"Nope--never!" promised Sue, "But we were looking for your ring, Aunt Lu, though we didn't find it."

"No, I'm afraid it's gone forever," said Miss Baker with a sigh, and a sad look. "But it was very good of you to try to find it for me."

The children sat down to supper, telling the big folks all about the adventure, and how they had become fastened in, and were afraid they would have to make a bed on the bags and stay all night.

"And if we had I'd have taken good care of Sue," Bunny remarked.

"I know you would, my dear," his mother answered, as she kissed him and his sister, before putting them to bed.

For a few days after this Bunny and Sue did nothing to make any trouble. They went on little trips with Aunt Lu, showing her the many wonderful sights at the seaside. With her they watched the fish boats come in, and once they went sailing with her and their mother, Bunker Blue taking charge of the boat. They gathered pretty shells and pebbles on the beach and had many good times.

One day Bunny and Sue played Punch and Judy, Bunny wearing the big red lobster claw on his nose. Aunt Lu laughed at the funny tricks of the children.

"Some day we'll get up a real show, and charge money," said Bunny, as he put away the lobster claw to use another time.

Not far from the Brown's house was a small river that flowed into the bay. Part of the Brown land was right on the edge of this river and at a small dock Mr. Brown kept, tied up, a rowboat which he sometimes used to go fishing in, or to go after crabs, which are something like lobsters, only smaller. They are just as good to eat when they are cooked, and they turn red when you boil them.

One day Bunny and Sue went down to the edge of the river. They asked Aunt Lu to go with them, but she said she had a headache, and wanted to lie down.

"Don't go far away, children," called Mrs. Brown after the two tots, as they wandered down near the little stream.

"We won't," promised Bunny, and he really meant it. But neither he nor Sue knew what was going to happen.

It was quite warm that day, and, as Bunny and Sue sat in the shade of a tree on the bank of the river, the little boy said:

"Oh, Sue, wouldn't it be nice if we could go on the river in the boat?"

"Yes," said his sister, "but mother said we weren't to."

"I guess she meant we weren't to go rowing in a boat--I mean a loose boat--one that isn't tied fast," said Bunny. "I guess it would be all right if we sat in the boat while it was tied fast to shore."

"Maybe," said Sue. She wanted, as much as did Bunny, to sit in the boat, for it was cooler down there.

"Let's do it!" proposed Bunny. "The boat is tied fast, but we can make believe we are rowing. We'll pretend we are taking a long trip."

Neither of the children meant to do wrong, for they thought it would be all right to sit in the boat as long as it was tied fast. So into it they climbed. Then such fun as they had! They took sticks and made believe to row. They tied their handkerchiefs on other sticks and pretended to be sailing. They rocked the boat gently to and fro, and Bunny called this "being out in a storm."

Then they lay down on the broad seats and made believe it was night and that, when they awakened, they would be in a far-off land where coconuts grew on trees and where there were monkeys to toss them down.

And, before they knew it, both children were fast asleep, for the sun was shining warmly down on them. Bunny awoke first. He felt the boat tossing to and fro:

"Don't do that, Sue!" he called. "You'll tip us over."

"Don't do what?" asked Sue, sleepily.

"Don't jiggle the boat," said Bunny. Then he opened his eyes wider and looked all about. The boat was far from shore and was drifting down the river. It had become untied while the children slept.