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    Chapter 24

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    Chapter 24
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    The gypsy woman sat down in a chair in front of the two children and looked at them. And Bunny and Sue, their hearts beating fast, and not knowing what was going to happen to them, looked at the woman. They did not like her at all. She did not smile as Jaki Kezar had done, and her teeth, instead of being white and shining, were black.

    "If you don't cry nothing will happen to you," she said.

    "We--we're not going to cry!" said Bunny, as bravely as he could. "We--we're not afraid and we want our pony!"

    To tell the truth, Bunny had been on the point of crying, and there were tears in Sue's eyes. But when the little girl heard her brother say that, she just squeezed the tears back again where they belonged--that is all except two, and they "leaked out," as she said afterward.

    As for Bunny, the gypsy woman had hurt him a little when she shoved him down into the chair, and he had been going to cry a bit for that, but, when she told him not to, he just made up his mind that he would not.

    "We--we want to go home and take our pony," said Sue, and she gave a twist as though she was going to get up. "And we want our dog, too," she added.

    "Now, you just sit still where you are!" exclaimed the woman. "If you're good maybe you can have your dog--that is, if I can find him."

    "And our pony, too? Can we have Toby?" asked Bunny eagerly.

    "I don't know anything about your pony," said the woman, in a sort of growling voice. "That wasn't your pony you saw--he belongs to me and my husband. We bought him!"

    "But he is our pony!" said Bunny. "He knows us and we know him, and he's got white spots on, just like Toby."

    "Lots of ponies have white spots," answered the gypsy woman. "That one isn't yours, I tell you."

    "But he knows us," went on Bunny, "and he did the handkerchief trick. We want our pony and we want to go home!" and, for just a moment, Bunny felt very much like crying.

    "You can go home after a bit," said the woman, as she looked out of the tent. "Now be good and don't make a fuss. If you're good you can have a dog. And then I'll let you look at some other ponies, and you can tell which is yours--maybe. Just keep still!"

    There was nothing else for Bunny and Sue to do. The gypsy woman looked so big and tall and so fierce that they were afraid of her. And she sat in front of them so they could not run past her to get out of the tent.

    Something strange seemed to be going on in the gypsy camp. There was the sound of men's voices shouting, and the rattle of wagons and carts could be heard. There was also the sound of pans and dishes being packed up, for all the world, as Bunny said afterward, as though the camp was moving--and it really was.

    For perhaps an hour the woman sat in front of the children in the tent, and then she got up and looked out.

    "I'm going to leave you here awhile," she said. "If you'll promise to be good, and not make a fuss, I won't tie you to your chairs. But if you act bad, I'll tie you up. Now will you be good?"

    Bunny and Sue were nearly always good, and it did not take this threat to make them promise now. They just nodded their heads at the woman. She started out of the tent, but turned to shake her finger at them and say:

    "Now, I'm going to tie the tent flaps shut, and don't you try to come out. If you do I'll see you, or some of us gypsies will, and if we don't the dogs will. So you'd better stay right here. You needn't be afraid, nobody is going to hurt you, and we're only going to keep you here until we can get away. We don't want the police after us. We haven't done anything, but we don't like the police. So don't you dare to run out of this tent. Remember, I'll be watching, and so will the dogs!"

    With that she slipped out, and Bunny and Sue could see her shadow in front. She was tying the flaps as they had often seen their father or mother tie the tent at night in Camp-Rest-a-While.

    Then Bunny and Sue were left to themselves. They looked at one another for a moment and then Bunny said:

    "That is our pony Toby!"

    "I know it is!" exclaimed Sue. "Oh, Bunny, how are we going to take him home?"

    "I--I'll think of a way--maybe," said Bunny. The little boy felt that he must be brave and not let Sue know he was afraid. Really he was not as much afraid as some other boys of his age might have been, because he was thinking so much about Toby. He was so anxious to get his pony and take the pet home that he did not think about himself.

    "Can we get out of here without her seeing us--or the dogs?" asked Sue, after a while.

    "I don't know," answered Bunny, and he whispered, as his sister had done. "I--I'll take a look," he went on.

    Slipping softly from his chair he peeped out through a little crack between the tent flaps.

    "Is she there?" Sue asked.

    "No, but that man is--the one that wouldn't let us take Toby. He's lying on the grass right in front of the tent."

    "Can you see Toby?" asked Sue.

    Bunny peered out a little longer.

    "No, I can't see the pony," he answered. "You come and look, Sue. The crack's big enough for both of us."

    Sue stood beside her brother. She, too, saw the gypsy man stretched on the grass, and near him were some dogs.

    "Splash isn't there," she said.

    "No, maybe he's tied up in the woods," said Bunny. "I wish we could find him. Oh, I wish daddy knew we were here. He'd make the gypsies let us go, and he'd take Toby for us."

    "Maybe he'll come and get us," suggested Sue, hopefully.

    "Maybe," agreed her brother. "Oh, I wish we could see Toby!"

    The children looked out as well as they could between the tent flaps. They dared not make the crack any wider for fear the man in front might see them. They saw gypsy men, women and children hurrying to and fro, and loading wagons. Some tents were being taken down.

    "I guess they're moving," said Sue.

    "They're afraid we'll tell the police on them--that's what the woman said," remarked Bunny. "I guess they did steal our pony, and they're afraid they'll be arrested. Yes, they are moving the camp, Sue."

    And this was just what the gypsies were doing. They were going away in a hurry, too. Every one, except the man on the grass in front of the tent where the children were held prisoners, seemed to be busy.

    "Do you think they'll take us with them when they go?" asked Sue, after a bit.

    "No, they wouldn't take us along," said Bunny.

    "But gypsies do take children," went on Sue. "Don't you 'member that story about the little boy and girl that were tooken by the gypsies and had to live with them a long while, until they looked just like gypsies themselves?"

    "That was in a book!" said Bunny. "They won't take us away. But I'd like to get out of this tent."

    "Maybe we could, without the man seeing us," suggested Sue.

    "If he didn't the dogs might," Bunny answered. "Oh, I wish we were in our pony cart now! We could ride away from the gypsies."

    "I wish so, too!" said Sue, with a sigh.

    Bunny looked out of the crack again.

    "There's a dog with the man now," said the little boy. "But it isn't our Splash. We wouldn't dast go out the front of the tent, Sue. But I could untie the flap ropes; I know I could."

    "Oh, maybe we could go out the back of the tent!" suddenly cried Sue. "There's nobody out there to watch us, maybe, and we could get out that way. Come on, Bunny! Let's do it!"

    "Say! That's right!" Bunny quickly cried. "Come on, we'll try the back of the tent!"

    As in Camp-Rest-a-While, there was a board floor in the gypsy tent, and the canvas sides, as well as the back and front, were fast to nails driven in the edges of the board floor. It was not very hard work for Bunny and Sue to slip off some of the rope loops from the nails. Then the cloth back of the tent could be raised and they could slip out.

    "Come on, Sue!" whispered Bunny, when he had made a place big enough for him and his sister to get through. "Now we can get out and they won't see us!"

    He went first, and Sue followed. But, to the surprise of the children, instead of finding themselves outside the tent, they saw that they were in a little wooden room which was built right against the tent. In fact, it was part of the tent, there being no wooden side against the back of the cloth house. Bunny and Sue had slipped underneath the tent and were in a little slab-sided room which had a door, and through the chinks and cracks of it the sunlight streamed.

    "Why, we didn't get out at all!" said Sue in surprise.

    "No," said Bunny. "We didn't. But maybe we can get out of this cabin."

    "Look out of the door and see if there is a man there, or any dogs," suggested Sue in a whisper.

    Bunny looked through one of the cracks.

    "It's right near the woods," he said. "I guess we can get out if we can open the door."

    He pushed on it, and so did Sue, but, to their disappointment, they found it was locked on the outside.

    "There's a window," Sue said, pointing to one rather high up, on one side of the cabin. "Maybe we can open that and crawl out, Bunny."

    "Yes, we could, if we had something to stand on," said the little boy. "Let's look for something."

    He went over to a pile of blankets in one corner of the cabin and lifted one. As he did so he gave a cry of surprise.

    For there, in plain view, was a small red-and-yellow-striped box, and, at the sight of it, Sue exclaimed:

    "Oh, is that the one Mr. Tallman had? Oh, Bunny, maybe it is!"

    "Maybe!" cried the little boy. "Maybe it is!"

    As he and his sister leaned over it they heard some one at the door of the cabin. There was a rattle of a key in a lock, and a voice said:

    "I'll bring the box out, and then we can hurry away!"

    Who was coming into the place where Bunny and Sue were?
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