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    Chapter 23

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    Chapter 23
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    PRISONERS

    Their eyes shining bright in anticipation and hope, Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue walked down the grassy hillside to the little glen, in which was the gypsy camp. The nearer they came to where they saw the pony grazing the more sure were they that it was Toby himself.

    "Oh, we've found him! We've found him!" cried Sue.

    "Yes, it is him!" added Bunny. "Won't daddy be s'prised when he sees us coming home with Toby?"

    "And maybe Splash, too," went on Sue. "Do you see him anywhere, Bunny?"

    "No," answered her brother, "I don't."

    Bunny did not look around very carefully for Splash. He loved the dog, of course, but, just then, he was more interested in Toby.

    At first the children did not see any of the gypsies themselves--the men, women or boys and girls. But there were the groups of horses, and with them a pony--their pony, they hoped.

    And, when they were within a short distance of the little horse, Bunny gave a cry of delight.

    "Oh, Sue!" he exclaimed. "It is Toby! It is! I can see his one white foot!"

    "And I can see the white spot on his head," added the little girl. "It is our Toby!"

    And then they ran up to the Shetland pony and threw their arms around its neck, and Sue even kissed Toby, while Bunny patted his glossy neck.

    "Oh, Toby! we've found you! We've found you!" said Bunny in delight.

    "And we're never going to let you be tooken away again!" added Sue.

    As for Toby--and it really was the children's pet--he seemed as glad to see them as they were to see him. He rubbed his velvety nose first on Bunny and then against Sue's dress, and whinnied in delight.

    "Now, we'll take you right home!" declared Bunny.

    "But we'll find Splash first," added his sister.

    "Oh, yes, we want our dog, too," said Bunny.

    He was trying to loosen the knot in the rope by which Toby was tied to a stake in the ground, and Sue was helping, when a shadow on the grass told the children that some one was walking toward them. They looked up quickly, to see a ragged gypsy man, with a straggly black moustache, scowling at them. In his hand he held a knotted stick.

    "Here! What you young'uns doin' with that pony?" he fairly growled.

    "If you please," answered Bunny politely, "he's our pony, and we're taking him home. His name is Toby and he was in our stable, but some one took him away. Now we've found him, and we're going to take him home again."

    "Oh, you are, are you?" asked the man, and his voice was not very pleasant. "Well, you just let that pony alone; do you hear?"

    "But he's ours!" said Sue, not understanding why they could not take their own pet.

    "He's my pony--that's whose he is!" growled the gypsy man, who was not at all nice like Jaki Kezar. "Let him alone, I tell you!" and he spoke in such a fierce voice that Bunny and Sue shrank back in fright.

    Just then the barking of some dogs was heard, and Bunny took heart. Perhaps Splash was coming, and might drive away the bad gypsy man as he once had driven off a tramp.

    "This is our pony," said Bunny again, "and we want to take him. He isn't yours. Our father bought him from Mr. Tallman for us. Mr. Tallman's red-and-yellow box was stolen and he got poor so he had to sell the pony."

    "What was stolen?" asked the gypsy quickly.

    "Mr. Tallman's red-and-yellow box," repeated Bunny. "It didn't have money in it, but it had papers, like money. And it made Mr. Tallman poor. But this is our pony. His name is Toby and he can do tricks."

    "And we're a dog named Splash," added Sue. "Is he here?"

    "I don't know anything about your dog," growled the man. "And I don't know anything about a red-and-yellow box, either," and as he said this he looked around, as though in fear lest some one would hear what he was saying.

    "But this is our Toby pony," insisted Bunny. "We want him."

    "What makes you think he's your pony?" growled the gypsy, and as he turned to look back toward the tents and wagons Bunny and Sue saw a gypsy woman coming toward them.

    "I know he's our pony, 'cause he's got a white spot on his head," answered Sue.

    "And he's got one white foot," added Bunny. "And he can do tricks. If I had a handkerchief I'd show you how he can pick it up."

    "Here's my handkerchief!" offered Sue.

    Bunny took it and dropped it on the grass near Toby. At once the little Shetland pony picked it up and held it out to Bunny, as he had been taught to do.

    "And here's a lump of sugar for you!" cried Bunny, as he gave Toby a piece, for the little boy had lately always carried some in his pocket, hoping Toby might be found.

    "See!" went on Bunny. "He is our pony, and he can do more tricks than this. He can ring a bell."

    By this time the gypsy woman had come up. She did not smile as she asked the man:

    "What's the matter here?"

    "Oh, these children think this is their pony," he said, and he laughed, but it was not a nice laugh.

    "Their pony! Why, the very idea!" cried the woman. "This is my pony, and I'm going to keep him."

    "But he's our Toby!" exclaimed Sue. "Our daddy bought him from Mr. Tallman."

    The man and woman talked in a low voice. What they said Bunny and Sue could not hear, but soon the woman remarked:

    "Perhaps this may look like your pony, my dears, but he can't be, because he's mine. Lots of ponies look alike, even with white feet and white marks on their heads. This one isn't yours. Now you run along home. Maybe your pony will be in your stable when you get there."

    "No, this is our pony!" said Bunny in a brave voice, "and we're going to take him with us. A boy showed us where your camp was, and he's going to stop for us on his way back and help us take Toby home. This is our pony and we're going to have him."

    "And we want Splash, our dog," added Bunny's Sister Sue. "And if you don't let us take Toby maybe Splash will bite you!"

    Nothing could have made Bunny and Sue braver than to think they were not going to have their pony after they had found him. They did not feel at all afraid of the scowling gypsies.

    And the gypsies were scowling now, and seemed angry. Again they talked together in low voices. Bunny walked close to Toby once more, and took hold of the rope that tied him.

    "Here! what are you doing?" cried the gypsy.

    "I'm going to take our pony," said the little boy. "He's ours, and you can't have him! Did you take him out of our stable? If you did my daddy will send the police after you. He wrote to some policemen to find our pony, but we've found him ourselves and we want him!"

    Suddenly the gypsy woman smiled at the children. She said something quickly to the man--what it was Bunny and Sue could not hear--and then she spoke to the little boy and girl.

    "Well, perhaps this is your pony," she said. "But, of course, you may be wrong. We have some other ponies back of the tents. Will you come and look at them? Maybe one of them is yours."

    "No, I'm sure this is our Toby," said Bunny.

    "Oh, well, come and look at the other ponies," said the woman, and her voice seemed much kinder in tone now. "This pony may look like yours, and you may find another that looks more like your Toby. Come and see," she invited.

    And, though Bunny and Sue were sure this pony was theirs, still the gypsy woman spoke so nicely, and seemed so kind, they did not know just what to do.

    "Come on," she invited, holding out her hands to Bunny and Sue. "I'll show you the other ponies, and the dogs, too. Maybe you can find your dog."

    "Oh, I hope we can!" cried Sue. "Come on, Bunny!"

    "But I'm sure this is Toby," said the little boy. "We'll go and look at the other ponies," he agreed, "but we'll come back to this one, for he's Toby."

    "All right--you can come back," said the woman, and she made a sign with her head at the gypsy man, who turned away.

    "Come," urged the woman, and Bunny and Sue walked with her.

    "We'll come back to you, Toby!" promised Bunny.

    The pony looked after them as the children walked away, as though wondering why they left him. Through the woods, under the trees of which were tents and wagons, the gypsy woman led the children. Other gypsies came out to look at them, and none seemed very friendly.

    "Where are the other ponies?" asked Bunny. "I don't see any."

    "Oh, just over here," answered the woman. "Here, come through this tent with me. They're just beyond here!"

    Before Bunny and Sue knew what was happening they had followed the dark-faced woman inside a tent. It was like the ones at Jaki Kezar's camp.

    "There! Sit down!" said the woman, and she suddenly pushed Bunny and Sue into some chairs. "Sit down here awhile!"

    "Where are the ponies?" asked Bunny. "We don't want to sit down. We want to see the other ponies, but I'm sure the first one was Toby."

    "Never mind about the other ponies!" growled the woman, and her voice suddenly changed and was ugly and harsh again. "You'll just stay here for a while!"

    Bunny and Sue did not know what to make of it. They had felt so sure they could take Toby and go home with their pony. And now to be all alone in a tent with a gypsy woman! It was too bad!

    "I--I don't want to stay here!" said Sue, almost ready to cry.

    "Well, you've got to stay whether you want to or not!" snapped the gypsy woman. "We can't let you go to bring the police after us. You'll have to stay here! We'll just keep you prisoners awhile until we can pack up and move! Now don't be afraid, for I won't hurt you! You'll just have to stay until we can get away, that's all!"

    What was going to happen to Bunny and his Sister Sue?
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    Chapter 23
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