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    Chapter 12

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    Chapter 12
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    You may think it strange that the man on the taxicab automobile would so quickly help Bunny Brown and his sister up into his machine and give them a ride. And that, without asking for any money.

    But it was not at all strange in New York. There are many children in that big city, and often they go about by themselves, some who are no larger than Bunny and Sue. They get used to looking out for themselves, learn how to make their way about, and they often go in taxicabs alone.

    So the automobile man thought nothing of it when Bunny said he wanted a ride. The automobile man just thought the children's father, or mother, had sent them out to go somewhere.

    "And so you want a long ride," repeated the automobile man, as he closed the door so Bunny or Sue would not fall out when he started. "How about Central Park? Do you want to go there?"

    "Do we want to go to Central Park, Sue?" asked Bunny.

    "Is they elephants there, like a circus?" asked the little girl.

    "Is they?" Bunny asked of the automobile man.

    "Yes, there are some animals in the park. Not as many as up in the Bronx Zoo, but that's a little too far for me to go. I'll take you to Central Park if you say so."

    "Please do," begged Bunny. "We want to see the animals. We were in a circus once, Sue and I were. Our dog was a blue striped tiger, and we had a green painted calf, for a zebra."

    "That must have been some circus!" laughed the automobile man, as he got up on his seat, and took hold of the steering wheel. "Well, here we go!"

    And away went the automobile, taking Sue and Bunny off to Central Park, and their mother and Aunt Lu didn't know a thing about it!

    "Isn't this nice, Sue?" asked Bunny, when they had ridden on for a few blocks.

    "Yes," answered Sue. "I like it. But I wish we had our dog Splash here with us, Bunny."

    "Yes, it would be fine!" Bunny said.

    Speaking of the circus had made Sue think about Splash, who was far away, at home in Bellemere.

    The taxicab wound in and out among other cabs, horses and wagons of all sorts. Now it would have to go slowly, through some crowded street, and again the children were moving swiftly, when there was room to speed.

    "He's a awful nice man to give us a ride like this," said Bunny to Sue.

    "Yes; isn't he?" answered the little girl. "There's lots of people getting rides, Bunny; see!"

    Indeed there were many other taxicabs, and other automobiles on the streets of New York, but Bunny and Sue looked most often at the taxicabs like their own.

    "There must be a awful lot of nice men, like ours, in New York," Bunny went on. And, mind you, neither he nor Sue thought they would have to pay for their automobile ride. They just thought you got in one of the taxicabs, and rode as far as you liked, for nothing.

    Pretty soon they were at Central Park.

    "Now where shall I take you?" asked the man.

    "Down by a elephant," spoke up Sue.

    "Are you sure your mother will let you go?" asked the taxicab man. He felt he must, in a way, look after the children.

    "Oh, yes," said Bunny. "Mother would let us. She likes us to see animals. She lets us have a circus whenever we like."

    Bunny and Sue had on nice clothes, and the chauffeur knew they had come from a street where many rich persons lived, so he was sure if the children did not have with them the money to pay him, that their folks would settle his bill.

    "You can get out here, and walk along that path," he said, stopping his machine on a roadway. "Then you can see the elephant, the lion and the tiger. I'll wait for you here."

    Hand in hand, Bunny and Sue went to the place in Central Park where the animals are kept. It was not far from where the automobile had stopped, out on Fifth Avenue, New York, and Bunny looked back, several times, as he and his sister went down the steps, to make sure he would know the place to find the automobile again, when he wanted to go home.

    "Oh, there's a elephant!" cried Sue, as, walking along, her hand in Bunny's, she saw one of the big animals, just stuffing some hay into his mouth with his trunk. It was a warm day, and the elephant was out in the "back yard" of his cage. In the winter he was kept in the elephant house, where the people could look at him standing behind the heavy iron bars, but in summer he was allowed to go out of doors, though his yard had a fence of big iron bars all around it.

    "I wish we had some peanuts to give him," said Sue.

    "Well, I haven't any money," answered Bunny. "Anyhow, if I had, Sue, I'd rather buy us each a lollypop. The elephant has hay to eat."

    "Yes, I know," said Sue. "But I like to see him pick up peanuts with his trunk."

    However, they had no money, so they could not feed peanuts to the elephant. Some other children, though, had bought bags of the nuts, and these they tossed in to the big animal. There was a sign on his yard, which said no one must feed the animals, but no one stopped the children, so Sue did see, after all, the elephant chewing the roasted nuts.

    For some time Bunny and Sue watched the elephants. There were two of them, and, after a while, a keeper came into the yard, and handed a large mouth organ to the biggest elephant. The wise creature held it in his trunk, and, to the surprise of Sue and her brother, began to blow on the mouth organ, making music, though of course the elephant could not play a regular tune.

    "Oh, isn't he smart, Bunny!" cried Sue.

    "He--he's a regular circus elephant!" Bunny cried. "I like him!"

    The other children, who had come to Central Park, also enjoyed seeing the big elephant eat peanuts, and play a mouth organ.

    "I'd like to see some monkeys," said Bunny, after a bit, when the elephant seemed to have gone to sleep standing up, for elephants do sleep that way.

    "The monkeys are over in that house," a boy told Bunny, pointing to a brown building not far from the elephant's cage and yard.

    "Oh, let's go!" cried Sue.

    Soon she and her brother were watching the monkeys do funny tricks, climb up the sides of their cage, eat peanuts and pull each other's tails and ears.

    Bunny and Sue spent some time in Central Park, looking at the different animals. There was one, almost as big as an elephant, only not so tall. He was called a hippopotamus, and he swam in a tank of water, next door to a pool in which lived some mud turtles and alligators. When the hippopotamus opened his mouth it looked big enough to hold a washtub.

    "Oh!" cried Sue, as she saw this. "I wouldn't like him to bite me, would you, Bunny?"

    "No, I guess not!" said the little boy.

    But there was no danger that the hippopotamus would bite anyone, for he was behind big, strong, iron bars, and could not get out. There was also a baby hippopotamus, swimming around in a tank with the mother.

    Bunny and Sue saw many other animals in Central Park, and then, as he was getting hungry, and as he began to think his mother might be wondering where he was, Bunny said to Sue that they had better go back home.

    "All right," Sue answered. "I'm tired, too."

    They went back to where they had left the automobile taxicab.

    "Well, did you see enough?" the man asked them.

    "Yes," Bunny answered, "and now we want to go home, if you please."

    "All right," said the man. He knew just where to take Bunny and Sue, for he remembered where he had found them, right in front of Aunt Lu's house. So the two children did not get lost this time, though they had gone a good way from home.

    "Thank you very much," said Bunny as he and Sue got out.

    The automobile man laughed, as Bunny and Sue started up the front steps, and then he called to them:

    "Wait a minute, little ones, I must have some money for giving you a ride."

    "Oh!" exclaimed Bunny. "I--I thought you gave folks rides for nothing. Wopsie said you did."

    "Well, I don't know who Wopsie is," said the cab man, "but I can't afford to ride anyone around for nothing. You'd better tell your mother that I must be paid."

    "Oh, I'll tell her," said Sue. "Mother or Aunt Lu will pay you."

    "I'll come up with you I guess," said the automobile man, and he rode up in the elevator with Bunny and Sue.

    And you can guess how surprised Mrs. Brown and Aunt Lu were when the two children came in.

    "Oh, where have you been?" cried Mother Brown. "We've been looking all over for you; up on the roof, down in the basement, out in the street--and Wopsie was just going to ask the policeman on this block if he had seen you. Where have you been?"

    "Riding," answered Bunny.

    "Up in Central Park, to see a elephant," added Sue.

    "And we had a good time," Bunny went on.

    "And now the automobile man wants some money, and we haven't any so you must pay him, Mother," said Sue.

    "We--we thought we were riding for nothing," Bunny explained.

    Mrs. Brown and Aunt Lu looked at the automobile man, who smiled, and told how the children had called to him, and asked him to give them a long ride.

    "Which I did," he said. "I thought their folks had maybe sent them to get the air, as folks often do here, and--"

    "Oh, it isn't your fault," said Mrs. Brown. "I'll pay you for the children's ride, of course. But oh, dear! Bunny, you musn't do this again."

    "No'm, I won't," Bunny said. "But we had a nice ride."

    Mrs. Brown gave the taxicab man some money, and thanked him for having taken good care of the children. Then Wopsie did not have to go to tell the policeman, for Bunny and Sue were safe home again.

    "I wonder what they'll do next?" said Mrs. Brown.

    "No one knows," answered Aunt Lu.

    But, for several days after this, Bunny and Sue did nothing to cause any trouble. They went with their aunt and mother to different places about New York in Aunt Lu's automobile, Wopsie sometimes going with them. Several times Bunny or Sue asked colored persons they met if they were looking for a little lost colored girl, but no one seemed to be.

    "Never mind, Wopsie," Bunny would say. "Some time we'll find your folks."

    "Yes'm, I wishes as how yo' all would," Wopsie would answer.

    Bunny and Sue liked it very much at Aunt Lu's city home. They had many good times. And that reminds me; I must tell you about the time Bunny ordered a queer dinner for himself and Sue.

    The children had been out with Wopsie for a walk, and when they came back to Aunt Lu's house it was such a nice day that Bunny and Sue did not want to go in.

    "Let us stay out a while, Wopsie," Bunny begged.

    "Well, don't go 'way from in front, an' yo' all can stay," Wopsie said. So Bunny and Sue sat on the side of the big stone steps, in front of Aunt Lu's house.

    They really did not intend to go away, but when they saw a fire engine dashing down the street, whistling and purring out black smoke, they just couldn't stand still.

    "Let's go and see the fire!" cried Bunny.

    "Come on!" agreed Sue.

    But it was only a little fire, after all, though quite a crowd gathered. It was upstairs in a store, and it was soon out. Bunny and Sue started back, for they had not come far. They were getting so they knew their way around pretty well now.

    As they passed a restaurant, or place to eat, they saw, in the window, a man baking griddle cakes on a gas stove. He would let the cakes brown on one side, toss them up in the air, making them turn a somersault, catch them on a flat spoon, and then they would brown on the other side.

    "Oh Bunny!" cried Sue. "Wouldn't you like some of those?"

    "I would," said Bunny. "Come on in and we'll have some. I'm hungry!"

    He and Sue went into the restaurant, and sat down at one of the tables. A girl, with a big white apron on over her black dress, brought them each a glass of water and a napkin, and said:

    "Well, children, what do you want?"

    "We want dinner," said Bunny. "We're hungry, and we want some of those cakes the man in the window is baking."
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