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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 17
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    THE DARK MAN

    Even though Bunny had said he was not going to sell Toby to the gypsies--who Sue knew were in the woods--the little girl could not be sure but what her brother was going to do something strange. He had a queer look on his face--as though he had been thinking up something to do quite different from anything he had done before, and was going to carry it through. Bunny was sometimes this way.

    Sue looked around, up at the trees and down at the green moss, which was on both sides of the woodland path along which Bunny was driving Toby.

    "How are you going to get any Red Cross money here, Bunny?" she asked. "There aren't any children to take five-cent rides."

    "You just wait and see," said Bunny with a laugh.

    Sue did not quite know what to make of it. Bunny was acting very strangely.

    Suddenly, through the quiet forest, where, up to this time had only been heard the chirping of the birds, sounded another noise. It was the shouting and laughter of children.

    "What's that, Bunny?" asked Sue in surprise.

    "That's a Sunday-school picnic," answered her brother.

    "What Sunday school?" Sue wanted to know.

    "The Methodist Church," Bunny went on. "They're having their picnic to-day. Our picnic is next Saturday. Harry Bentley told me about this one--he goes to the Methodist Church--and he said if we came here with Toby we could maybe make a lot of money for the Red Cross, giving rides in the woods."

    Then Sue knew what Bunny's plan was.

    "Oh, that's fine!" she cried. "I guess we can make a lot of money. But is there a smooth place where you can drive Toby? It's kinder rough in the woods, if there's a lot of children in the cart."

    "There's a smooth path around the place where you eat the picnic lunch," said Bunny. And then Sue remembered. The woods, in which she and her brother were now riding along in the pony cart, were the ones where all the Sunday-school picnics of Bellemere were held. In the middle of the woods was a little lake, and near the shore of it was a large open-sided building where there were tables and benches, and where the people ate the lunches they brought in boxes and baskets.

    Around this building ran a smooth path, and it was on this path that Bunny was going to drive Toby, giving rides to the children so he could make Red Cross money.

    As Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue drove along under the trees the shouting and laughter of the children sounded more plainly. Then some of them could be seen, running back and forth over the dried leaves and green moss.

    Soon the pony cart was near the picnic ground, and some of the laughing, playing boys and girls saw it.

    "Oh, look!" they cried.

    "Give us a ride!" others shouted.

    "Rides are five cents apiece!" said Bunny. "I'd give you all rides for nothing," he added, for Bunny was never stingy, "only I'm making money for the Red Cross, and so is Sue. Five cents apiece for a Red Cross ride!"

    Some of the children turned away, on hearing that pony rides cost money, but others ran to find their fathers or mothers, or uncles or aunts, to beg the nickel from them.

    "Well, you came, just as I told you to, didn't you, Bunny?" said Harry Bentley.

    "Yep, we're here," said Bunny.

    "Well, I'll take a ride with you," Harry went on. "I got five cents on purpose to have a pony ride."

    He got into the basket cart, and so did another boy and a girl.

    "That's all we can take now," said Bunny. "This road isn't as smooth as the one in town."

    He did not want to tire his pony, you see.

    "I'll get out," offered Sue. "That'll make room for one more, Bunny. I don't want a ride very much, and I see Sadie West. I can go over and play with her."

    "All right," agreed Bunny. "You can get out and wait for me, Sue. That'll make room for one more."

    And as Sue got out another girl got in, so there were four besides Bunny in the cart, and this meant twenty cents for the Red Cross.

    Around the woodland path Bunny drove his Shetland pony, and the boys and girls, who had each paid five cents, had a good time. They laughed and shouted, and that made others inquire what was going on, so that soon quite a number were ready to take their turn riding.

    Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue had done well to come to the Sunday-school picnic in the woods to make money. They made more than if they had gone up and down the streets, looking for passengers.

    Toby did not seem to mind how many times he went around the pavilion where the picnic lunches were to be eaten. It was cool and shady in the woods, and though the path was not particularly smooth, it was not up hill. And Toby didn't mind anything so much as he did hills.

    Bunny did not drive the pony too fast, and several times he let him rest and have a drink of water from the lake. Some of the boys and girls had bits of sweet crackers or cookies which they fed to Toby, and he liked them very much.

    When noon-time came Bunny and Sue were going home to dinner, for they had not brought a lunch. But one of the Sunday-school teachers said:

    "It will take you quite a while, Bunny, to go home and come back. And it will tire your pony, too. I like to see you and Sue earn money for the Red Cross, so you stay and I'll give you part of my lunch. I have more than I need. My little nephew and niece were coming, but, at the last minute, they had to stay at home."

    "Is there enough for Sue to have some lunch?" asked Bunny.

    "Oh, of course," answered the Sunday-school teacher. "Tie Toby in a shady place, and come and have lunch with me."

    There was grass for the pony to eat, and soon he was enjoying his meal, while Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue were having a nice one with the teacher.

    "After dinner you can give our boys and girls more rides," she said, "and earn more money for the soldiers."

    Bunny liked this very much. At first he was afraid his mother would be worried because he and Sue did not come back home. But the man who brought the ice-cream to the picnic said he would stop when he went back, and tell Mrs. Brown where her children were, and that Miss Seaman, the teacher, was looking out for them and seeing that they were well fed. So Mrs. Brown did not worry, knowing where they were.

    The lunch was almost over, and Bunny was thinking about putting the bridle back on Toby and starting his riding business again, when some boys and girls, who had gone over to a little spring in the woods, came running back, very much excited.

    "Oh! Oh!" one of the girls cried. "We saw him! We saw him!"

    "Whom did you see?" asked a teacher. "Be quiet and tell us what it was."

    "Was it a snake?" asked one excited little girl.

    "No, it wasn't a snake," said a boy somewhat older than Bunny. "It was a great big man--awful dark-looking--and he had a red handkerchief on his neck, and gold rings in his ears, and he was asleep by the spring."

    I wonder who the man was?
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