Chapter XIX. Down in the Well
 

Russ went out of the kitchen and looked all around the house for his brother Laddie. He did not see the little fellow, but, on the side steps he saw some white grains of sugar, and Russ could follow them a little way. The trail led down across the brook and toward the meadow.

"He went this way," Russ thought to himself, "and he had the sugar with him. Maybe he's going out to the woods to feed the birds. Or maybe he's going to have a play party with Rose and the others. I'll find 'em and have some fun myself."

But Laddie was not with the other little Bunkers, for Russ saw Rose, Vi, Margy and Mun Bun playing under one of the trees.

"Hi, Rose!" called Russ. "Have you found Laddie?"

"No," Rose answered, "I didn't look for him."

"I saw him," said Tom, the hired man. "He went over that way," and he pointed across the brook.

"Do you mean over to Strawberry Hill?" asked Russ, for so they had come to call the place where the wild red berries grew.

"Well, yes, I s'pose you might say towards Strawberry Hill," replied Tom.

Across the brook hurried Russ, and, a little way ahead of him, he saw his brother.

"Hi, Laddie!" he called. "Wait for me! Where are you going?"

Laddie waited, and Russ soon caught up to him. But Laddie did not at once answer his older brother's question. So Russ asked again:

"Where are you going?" Then, before Laddie had a chance to say anything, Russ went on: "I know! You're going to pick wild strawberries, and put sugar on 'em."

"No, I'm not," returned Laddie slowly. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to give some sugar to the sheep."

"Give sugar to the sheep?" cried Russ in surprise. "What're you going to do that for?"

"'Cause they don't like salt, I guess," answered Laddie. "I don't like salt, and I don't guess a sheep does. The farmer said he was going to give salt to the sheep, but they must like sugar better. So I got Jane to give me some, and I'm going to take it to the sheep."

"I'll help you take it," said Russ. "I should think sheep would like sugar better than salt."

Together the two little boys kept on over the meadow until they came to the field where the sheep were grazing. There were quite a number of them.

"What'll we do if the old ram runs at us?" asked Russ, as he and Laddie crawled under the fence.

"He won't run at us," said the smaller boy, who seemed to have thought it all out. "We haven't got anything red on, and he only runs at you if you have red on. Anyhow, if he does, we can give him some sugar and that will make him like us."

"Yes, I guess it will," agreed Russ.

With Laddie holding the bag of sweet stuff, the two boys walked toward the sheep. They were eating grass, but soon some of the woolly creatures noticed the two little fellows and stopped eating to walk toward them.

"Here they come!" exclaimed Russ. "Get the sugar ready, Laddie. And there comes the old ram over from the other side of the field. Save some sugar for him."

"I will," Laddie said. Then he poured some of the sugar out from the bag on the ground, and the sheep began to nibble at it.

I am not sure whether sheep like sugar better than salt or not. I should think they might, and yet salt on some things is better than sugar would be. I wouldn't like my roast chicken with sugar on it, but I do like it with salt. Anyhow, the sheep licked up the sugar that Laddie sprinkled on the grass for them.

"Let me give 'em some!" begged Russ, and he reached for the bag. Just how it happened the boys did not know, but the bag was knocked from Laddie's hand, and the rest of the sugar was spilled out on the ground. More sheep came up and soon all began eating it.

"They like it lots better'n salt!" said Laddie.

"Sure they do!" agreed Russ. "We'll bring more sugar, and we'll tell Mr. Hixon about it. I guess he'd like to give his sheep the things they like best. They like 'em to grow good and fat."

The boys were so interested watching the sheep eat the sugar, that they forgot all about the ram that had seemed so angry because of Margy's red coat. The first they knew was when they heard a loud:

"Baa-a-a-a-a!"

Then they heard a pounding of hoofs on the ground and the ram came running at them.

"Oh, look!" cried Russ. "Here he comes! We'd better get on the other side of the fence! Come on, Laddie!"

"I'm coming!" answered the little fellow. "Hurry!"

"It--it's too bad we didn't save him some sugar," panted Russ, as he and Laddie ran on. "Maybe that's what makes him mad at us."

"Maybe it is," agreed Laddie. "Hurry, Russ!" he shouted, looking over his shoulder. "He's coming closer!"

The ram was, indeed, running faster than the boys, and only that they had a start of him he would have caught them before they got to the fence, and then he might have butted them with his head.

But, as it was, Russ reached the fence first. He turned to wait for Laddie, who was a little behind him.

"And if that old ram had hurt you I'd 'a' thrown stones at him," said Russ afterward. But Laddie, with an extra burst of speed, managed to get to the fence, and Russ helped him through. The ram was so close that his head struck the rails with a bang.

"It's a good thing it wasn't us he hit," said Russ, as they found themselves safe on the other side.

"That's right," agreed Laddie. "He's terrible mad 'cause we didn't save him any sugar. I was going to, but it all spilled."

They stood on the safe side of the fence looking at the ram, which shook its head, stamped its feet, and, now and then, uttered a loud "Baaa-a-a-a-a!"

I don't really believe the ram was angry at Russ and Laddie for not giving him sugar. I think the leader of the flock thought perhaps the boys might be troubling the sheep, and wanted to drive them from the field. That's just what he did, anyhow--drive them from the field.

For a little while the boys stood watching the sheep. Those that had come to eat the sugar seemed to have licked up all there was on the grass, and they came with the others, to stand behind the ram, near the fence. They all looked at the boys.

"I guess they like us," said Laddie.

"All but the ram," said Russ. "And I don't like him."

"Neither do I," agreed his brother.

"Well, come on," said Russ, after a bit. "We can't have any fun here. Let's go and sail the boat I made. I was looking for you when Jane said she gave you the sugar. I couldn't think what you were going to do."

"I thought about the sugar for the sheep when I saw the man going with the salt," explained Laddie. "But I guess I won't do it any more--not while the old ram is in the field. Come on, we'll go and sail your boat."

The boys went back to the house and got the new sailboat Russ had made. Going down to the sandy shore of the lake with it, they found Rose and Violet sitting in the shade, playing with their dolls.

"Oh, I know what we can do!" exclaimed Russ, who was carrying the boat.

"What?" asked his brother.

"We can take the dolls--those Rose and Vi have--and give 'em a ride on the boat."

"Give Rose and Vi a ride on the boat?" asked Laddie, who had not been listening very closely. "It isn't big enough."

"'Course 'tisn't!" agreed Russ. "I don't mean that. I mean give the dolls a ride."

"Oh, yes, we can do that!" cried Laddie. "It'll be fun! Will you let us?" he called to the two little girls.

"Let you what?" asked Rose.

"Let us give your dolls a ride on the boat?"

Russ had taken a board, whittled one end sharp, like the prow, or bow, of a boat, and had rounded the other end for the stern. In the middle he had bored a hole and stuck in this a stick for a mast. On the mast he had tied a bit of cloth for a sail. And when the boat was put in the shallow water of the lake, near shore, the wind blew it along nicely.

"Oh, yes! Let's give our dolls a ride!" cried Vi.

"You can give yours a ride, but I'm not," declared Rose.

"Why?" Russ wanted to know.

"'Cause she might fall off into the water."

"I can put a stone on her so she won't fall off the boat," said Russ.

"Huh! Think I'm going to let you put a stone on my doll? I will not!" Rose exclaimed.

"I could tie her on," suggested Laddie. "I've a piece of string."

"Well, maybe that's all right," Rose agreed, and then she and Violet let Russ and Laddie take the dolls, which they tied on the sailboat. Then along in the little sheltered cove of the lake the boat sailed, giving the dolls a ride.

But, suddenly, there came a strong puff of wind, and the boat tipped to one side. Laddie could not have tied the string on Vi's doll very strong, for she slipped off into the water.

"Oh, your doll will be drowned!" cried Rose.

"No, she can't drown! She's rubber," answered Vi. "I'll just play she had a bath in the lake."

"Well, it's a good thing it was your doll and not mine, that fell in," went on Rose, "'cause my doll's a sawdust one--this one is. But I have a rubber doll up at the house, a nice one.

"Go and get her!" suggested Russ. "Then I can sail the boat in deeper water and it won't hurt if it tips over with two rubber dolls on."

So Rose got her other doll, and then the children had fun sailing the boat with two make-believe passengers, who did not mind how wet they got. If the boat didn't tip over of itself, Russ or Laddie made it, just to see the dolls go splashing into the water.

The children played at this game for some time, and then Jane called them to come to lunch. At the table Laddie and Russ told about taking sugar to the sheep, and how the ram chased them.

"You mustn't do it again," their father said. "Not only that it isn't good to waste sugar by giving it to the sheep, but the old ram might hurt you. Don't do it again."

The boys promised they wouldn't, and then Rose and Vi told of their fun with the rubber dolls and the boat.

In the afternoon, when Mrs. Bunker and Grandma Bell were getting ready to go for a walk with the children, Russ came running up to the house, from down near the barn, crying:

"Oh, Rose! Margy took your rubber doll, and now she's down in the well! She's down in the well!"

"Oh, mercy sakes!" cried Grandma Bell, who heard what Russ said. "Is Margy in the well or the doll?"

But Russ didn't stop to answer. Back toward the well he ran, as fast as he could go, having picked up the rake near the fence of the kitchen garden.