RED CROSS MONEY
Surely enough, in front of the Brown house was a wagon, painted red and yellow, and, as little Sadie West had said, it had on the sides many bright pieces of looking glass, which glittered in the sun.
"I wonder what it's for?" asked Bunny.
"It makes your eyes hurt," added Sue, shading hers with her hand as she looked at the bright wagon.
"Maybe it's your grandpa or your Aunt Lu come to see you," suggested Sadie, for she had heard Bunny and Sue tell about their relations.
"They wouldn't come in a wagon like that!" Bunny exclaimed.
"But who is in it?" asked Sue.
"Maybe it's a circus!" ventured Sadie.
"Nope! 'Tisn't a circus," Bunny said. "'Cause if it was a circus there'd be an elephant or a camel, and you don't see any of them, do you?"
"No," said Sue, "I don't."
"I don't, either," agreed Sadie.
Just then a tall, dark man, whose face looked like that of Tony, the bootblack down at the cigar store, came from the wagon, the back of which opened with a little door, and from which a flight of three steps could be let down.
"Oh, I know what it is!" cried Bunny.
"What?" asked Sue.
"It's gypsies," Bunny went on, as the tall, dark man, who had a red handkerchief around his neck, walked slowly toward the Brown home. "That's a gypsy wagon!"
"How do you know?" Sadie questioned.
"'Cause I see the earrings."
"A wagon hasn't got earrings!" exclaimed Sue.
"I didn't mean the wagon, I mean the man--that man that looks as dark as Tony the bootblack," said Bunny. "See 'em!"
Then, indeed, the two little girls noticed the shiny rings of gold in the man's ears. And when he smiled, which he did at the children, they saw his white teeth glisten in the sun.
"That wagon's red and yellow," said Sue in a whisper. "It's just like Mr. Tallman's box, isn't it, Bunny?"
"What box?" asked Sadie West.
"The one he lost with all his money in," explained Sue. "No, it wasn't money, it was--it was--oh, well, he lost something, anyhow," she said, "and he had to sell Toby to us."
"Yes, and I'm glad he did," said Bunny. "Yes, his box was red and yellow, I 'member he said so. Maybe it's some relation to this gypsy wagon."
"Are you sure it's a gypsy cart?" asked Sadie, as the dark man kept on walking from his gaily painted wagon toward the Brown front gate.
"Sure, it's a gypsy wagon," said Bunny. "Charlie Star, or one of the boys, I forget who, told me some gypsies were camping over by the pond at Springdale, and maybe this is some of them."
"I'm not afraid," said Sue.
"Pooh! Course not! Nobody need be skeered of gypsies," said Bunny in a low voice, so the dark man could not hear him. But perhaps it was because he was in his own yard that Bunny was so brave.
The dark man--he really was a gypsy, as Bunny and Sue learned later--came up to the fence, and touched his cap, almost as a soldier might salute. He smiled at the children, showing his white teeth, and asked:
"Excuse me, but has your father, maybe, some horses he wants to sell?"
"My father doesn't sell horses, he sells fish, and he rents boats," said Bunny.
"Oh, yes, I saw the fish dock," went on the gypsy. "And you must be the Brown children."
"Yes, I'm Bunny, and this is my Sister Sue," said the little boy. "And her name's Sadie West," he added, pointing to their playmate.
"How'd he know your name was Brown?" asked Sadie in a whisper of Sue.
"He saw it painted on my father's boat house," said Bunny. "Everybody knows our name--I mean our last name," and this was true, at least of the folks in Bellemere. They all knew Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue.
"I know your father does not sell horses for a business," went on the gypsy with the gold rings in his ears; "but perhaps, maybe, he has a horse he drives, and would like to get another for it, or sell it. We gypsies, you know, buy and sell horses as your father buys and sells boats and catches fish."
"Do you ever catch any horses?" asked Sue. "And do you catch them in a net?"
"Well, no, not exactly," and the gypsy smiled at her. "We get them in different ways--we trade for them. Perhaps your father has a horse he wants to trade."
"No, he hasn't any horse, except the one that pulls the fish wagon down to the depot," said Bunny, for Mr. Brown did own a slow, old horse, that took the iced fish to the train. "But I don't guess he'd sell him," Bunny went on.
"All right, I ask next door," said the gypsy, and he was turning away when, back in the yard, sounded the ringing of a bell. The gypsy turned quickly, and looked at the children.
"Oh, that's Toby, and he's ringing for us to come back and play with him!" cried Sue.
"Is Toby your brother?" asked the gypsy.
"No, he isn't our brother," Bunny answered, and he was laughing at the funny idea when Toby, the Shetland pony himself, came walking around the corner of the house.
"This is Toby--he's our pony!" explained Sue, as she put her arms around her pet, who came up to her, rubbing his velvety nose against her sleeve, as though asking for a lump of sugar or a bit of sweet cracker.
"Oh, ho! So that is Toby!" cried the gypsy, and his eyes seemed to grow brighter. "Ah, he is a fine little horse. Perhaps you will want to sell him?"
"Sell Toby? I guess not!" cried Bunny.
"Not for anything!" added Sue.
"He can ring a bell," remarked Sadie, for she felt that she wanted to say something about the pet pony.
"Oh, ho! So he can ring a bell, can he?" asked the gypsy. "Well, that's nice. And did he ring the bell I just heard?"
"That's who it was," said Bunny, a bit proud of his pony. "And he can stand on his hind legs and he can pick up a handkerchief."
"Ah, he is one fine trick pony then," the gypsy said. "Of course, you do not want to sell him then. But, if you ever do, come to me and I will give you good money for him. My name is Jaki Kezar, and I have my tent over at a place called Springdale. Bring me the trick pony there if ever you sell him."
"We will never sell him," declared Bunny.
"Never!" added Sue.
"Well, good-bye!" said the gypsy, and with another touch of his cap, like a soldier saluting, he turned back to his red-and-yellow wagon, and drove off.
"Wasn't he nice?" asked Bunny. "I'd like to be a gypsy and live in a wagon like that."
"He wasn't nice to want our pony," declared Sue.
"It was funny to see a man with rings in his ears," remarked Sadie. "I thought only ladies wore them."
"Gypsies are different," said Bunny. "Anyhow, he can't have our Toby."
"Never!" cried Sue.
They watched the gypsy wagon driving down the street. Mrs. Brown saw the children in the front yard with Toby, and she came to the door of the house.
"Haven't I told you children," she began, "that you mustn't bring Toby around here? He might trample on my flower beds."
"We didn't bring him, Mother," said Bunny. "We ran out to look at the gypsy wagon, and Toby came out himself."
"Was there a gypsy wagon here?" asked Mrs. Brown quickly.
"Yes. And he wanted to buy Toby--I mean the gypsy man did," explained Bunny. "But we wouldn't sell him."
"And he can do a new trick, Mother!" cried Sue. "I mean our pony can. He can ring a bell, and he rang it and the gypsy man heard it, and then Toby came running around to find us."
"Well, better take him around back where there aren't any flower beds," said Mrs. Brown.
By this time the red-and-yellow wagon, which was painted the same colors as was the box Mr. Tallman had lost, had been driven out of sight around the corner of the street. And, having nothing more to look at, Bunny, Sue and Sadie went back to their play-tent with Toby.
That evening, after Daddy Brown had been told about the call of the gypsy, he said to his children:
"Have you two youngsters thought anything about earning any money for the Red Cross?"
"Money for the Red Cross? What do you mean, Daddy?" asked Bunny.
"Well, you know we are going to raise a lot of money here in Bellemere for the Red Cross. It's to help our soldiers, and the men and women in charge want boys and girls, as well as grown-ups, to help. And they want boys and girls to give their own money--not the pennies or dollars they might get from their fathers or mothers."
"But we haven't any money, 'ceptin' what's in our savings banks," said Sue.
"No, they don't want you to take that," said her father with a smile. "The Red Cross wants some money--it needn't be much--from every boy and girl in Bellemere, and they want the boys and girls to earn that money. Now, can you two think of a way to earn money for the Red Cross?"
Bunny looked at Sue and Sue looked at Bunny. Then the little boy exclaimed:
"Oh, Sue! I know a dandy way to earn Red Cross money!"
"How?" asked his sister.
And what do you suppose Bunny told her?