Chapter XVIII. Laddie and the Sugar
 

"Oh! Oh, Margy!" cried Mrs. Bunker.

"Oh, the poor little dear!" exclaimed Grandma Bell. "The old ram has seen her red coat and doesn't like it! I must get her away."

"I'll help!" cried Mother Bunker. Meanwhile they were both running toward Margy, where she stood with her back turned toward the ram, picking flowers.

"You had better leave the old ram to me. I know how to drive him off," said Grandma Bell. "You take the children, Amy, and get on the other side of the fence. It isn't far," and she pointed to the fence ahead of them.

"Won't the ram hurt you?" asked Rose, who had taken Mun Bun and Violet by their hands to lead them along.

"No, I'm not afraid of him," said Grandma Bell. "I've seen him before. You see he's like a bull--or a turkey gobbler--they don't any of 'em like the sight of red colors. Run, children! Amy, you look after them," she said to Mrs. Bunker. "I'll get Margy."

Mrs. Bunker knew that Grandma Bell knew a lot about farm animals. So, calling to Violet, Mun Bun and Rose, and seeing that Russ and Laddie were on the way to the fence, Mrs. Bunker followed the two boys.

"I could throw stones at the ram," said Russ.

"So could I," added his brother. "Let's go do it!"

"No. You do as grandma told you, and get on the other side of the fence," said his mother. "Grandma Bell can take care of the ram."

The ram, which had big, curving horns, walked toward Margy, now and then stopping to stamp his foot or give a loud:

"Baa-a-a-a!"

"What's he saying?" asked Vi.

"Never mind what he's saying," said Mrs. Bunker. "Run! Don't stop to ask questions."

"I guess the ram's saying he doesn't like red coats," put in Russ.

They were soon at the fence and out of any danger from the ram. Grandma Bell was now close to Margy, who had stopped picking flowers, and was looking at the animal with his shaggy coat of wool and his big, curved horns.

"Come to me, Margy!" cried her grandmother, and Margy ran, and was soon clasped in Mrs. Bell's arms.

"Baa-a-a-a!" bleated the old ram, again stamping his foot, as he shook his lowered head.

"Oh, he's going to bunk right into Grandma Bell!" cried Laddie, on the safe side of the fence.

"I'll go back and help her drive the ram off," said Mother Bunker. "You children stay here."

"Will the old ram-sheep come and get us?" asked Vi.

"No, he can't get through the fence," her mother answered after a look around. "Don't be afraid."

By this time Margy's grandmother had caught the little girl up in her arms, and was walking away from the ram.

"I must cover your red coat up with my apron, and then the ram can't see it," said Grandma Bell. "It's the red color he doesn't like."

"'Cause why?" asked Margy.

"I don't know why--any more than I know why turkey gobblers and bulls don't like red," answered her grandmother. "But we had better get out of this meadow. I didn't know the ram was so saucy, or we should have gone around another way."

"Will he bite us?" Margy went on.

"Oh, no. He may try to hit us with his head. But that won't hurt much, as his horns are curved, and not sharp. Go on back, Bunko!" called Grandma Bell to the ram, Bunko was his name. "Go on back!"

But Bunko evidently did not want to go back. He bleated some more, stamped his feet, and shook his head. Margy's red coat was almost all covered now by her grandmother's big apron that she wore when she want to pick wild strawberries. But still the ram came on.

"Go on, Mother!" called Mrs. Bunker to Grandma Bell. "You take Margy to the fence and I'll throw clumps of dirt at the ram."

This she did, hitting the ram on the head with soft clods of earth, while Grandma Bell hurried to the fence with Margy.

"There we are!" cried the grandmother, as she set the little girl safely down on the far side, away from the ram. "Now Bunko can't get us."

"Baa-a-a-a!" bleated Bunko. He shook his big, curved horns at Mrs. Bunker, but he did not try to run at her and strike her with his head. Perhaps he felt that, as long as the little girl with the red coat had gone out of his meadow, everything was quite all right again.

"Well, that was quite an adventure," said Mother Bunker, as they were all together again, and on their way to the strawberry hill. "Did the ram ever chase you before, Mother?"

"Oh, no, but he often comes up to sniff at my dress when I take a short cut through the pasture. But I'm not afraid of him, and he knows it. I suppose he wondered what sort of new red flower Margy was."

"I picked some flowers," said the little girl, "but I dropped 'em when you carried me, Grandma."

"Never mind. We can get more," returned Mrs. Bell.

On they went to the place where the wild strawberries grew. They brushed aside the green leaves, and saw the fruit gleaming red underneath. They filled little baskets with the berries, though I think the children ate more than they put in the baskets.

"The old ram wouldn't like it here," said Russ, as he popped a berry into his own mouth.

"Why not?" asked Vi.

"'Cause there's so much red here. He wouldn't like it at all."

"Oh, I think he wouldn't mind strawberries," said Grandma Bell with a laugh. "However, the next time we won't go through the ram's meadow. We can go back another way. Now let's see who will get the most berries. We'll take some home to Daddy Bunker!"

The children had lots of fun on the warm, sunny hillside, picking the sweet, red, wild strawberries, but if Daddy Bunker had had to depend on the six little Bunkers to bring him home some of the fruit he would have got very few berries, I'm afraid. For the children ate more than they picked. But then, one could hardly blame them, as the strawberries were good.

However, Grandma Bell and Mother Bunker saved some for daddy, so he had a chance to taste them, and he ate them at supper that night as he listened to the story of the ram and Margy's red coat.

The next day, as Laddie, Russ and Rose were out in front of Grandma Bell's house, playing under the trees, they saw a farmer going down the road with a box under his arm.

"Do you suppose he's going after strawberries?" asked Rose.

"If he is we'd better tell him to look out for the old ram," remarked Laddie.

"I will," said Russ. And then he called out loudly:

"Hey, Mr. Parker!" for that was the farmer's name. "Hey, Mr. Parker, you'd better look out!"

"Look out for what?"

"For the old ram. He chased my grandma and my sister Margy yesterday," went on Russ. "But Margy had a red coat on."

"Well, I haven't anything red on," the farmer said with a laugh. "But I'm much obliged to you for telling me. And, as it happens, I'm going right where that old ram is."

"Oh, aren't you 'fraid?" asked Laddie.

"No," answered the farmer. "The ram will be glad to see me. You see, I'm taking him and the sheep some salt," and he showed the children that he had salt in the box under his arm. "I'm going to give my cattle some salt," went on the farmer, "and Mr. Hixon, who owns the sheep, asked me to salt them, too. So I'm going to. The ram will be so glad to see me with the salt that he won't hurt me at all."

"It's funny sheep like salt," said Laddie.

"It is. But they do," said the farmer, as he went on down the road.

It was a little later that afternoon that Russ, who had been making a toy sailboat, whistling merrily the while, wanted to go down to the lake to sail it.

"Come on, Laddie!" he called. "Let's go to the lake to sail the boat."

"Laddie went in the house," said Rose. "I'll find him then," returned Russ, and into the house he went, calling:

"Laddie! Laddie! Where are you? Come on and help me sail the boat!"

"Laddie was here a minute ago," said Jane, the hired girl, when Russ reached the kitchen in his search. "He asked me to give him some sugar in a cup."

"What'd he want of sugar?" asked Russ.

"I don't know," answered Jane. "But I gave him some and he went out in a hurry."

"Maybe he's going to make candy," said Russ.

"No, I don't believe so. He'd have to cook sugar on a fire to make candy, and you know your grandmother or your mother wouldn't let you play with fire."

"That's so," agreed Russ. "I wonder what Laddie wanted of the sugar. I've got to find him."