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IN A STORM
Mr. Brown hardly knew what to say. It was certainly strange that the dog should be missing as well as the pet pony. Certainly something out of the ordinary had been going on during the night.
"Maybe Splash has just run away for a little while, to play with some other dogs," said Mrs. Brown. "Bunny and Sue, take a look around and see. Call him, and perhaps he'll come."
So Bunny and Sue did this, walking up and down the road and calling for Splash. They went a little way into the meadow, and over toward a clump of trees where, sometimes, the dog played with others.
But there was no sign of Splash or Toby.
"Oh, dear!" sighed Sue. "I wonder where they can be?"
And then, suddenly, Bunny gave a loud cry.
"Oh, do you see him?" eagerly asked Sue. "Do you see Toby and Splash?"
"No," answered Bunny, his eyes shining with eagerness, "but I think I know who took him. Come on, we'll go and tell daddy!"
Sue did not quite understand what Bunny meant, but she trotted after him as fast as her little legs would take her. The children found their father and mother, with Bunker Blue, still looking in and around the stable, for any signs of the person who must have taken Toby away.
"Did you find Splash?" asked Mr. Brown.
"No, Daddy, we didn't," Bunny answered. "We couldn't find our dog anywhere. But I came to tell you I know where Toby is!"
"You do!" cried Mr. Brown, greatly excited. "Did you see Toby under the trees?"
"Oh, I didn't exactly see him," Bunny explained, "but I think I know who took him. I just thought of it."
"Who took him?" asked the little boy's father.
"That gypsy man!" exclaimed Bunny. "Don't you 'member--the one with the funny name? He liked Toby terrible much, and I guess maybe he took him."
"Say!" cried Mr. Brown, "I shouldn't be surprised but what you are right, Bunny. Maybe that gypsy man did come and take Toby, when he found we wouldn't sell him the pony. Gypsies are great for horses and ponies! I must see about this right away."
"What are you going to do?" asked Mrs. Brown.
"I am going over to the gypsy camp, and see if they have Toby," answered Mr. Brown. "That would be just the very place where I'd expect to find him. I'm glad you thought of it, Bunny. How did you do it?"
"It--it just sort of came to me," explained the little boy. "I saw a red flower and a yellow one in the woods when we went to look for Splash, and then I thought red and yellow was the color of the gypsy wagon. And then I thought of the man with the funny name."
"Jaki Kezar was the name," said Mrs. Brown. "I remember, now, hearing the children speak of it. Well, it's too bad if he took the pony, but I'd be glad to find Toby even at the gypsy camp. There's one thing sure, if he did take the pony that man would treat him kindly, for gypsies are good to their horses."
"Well, Bunny," went on Mr. Brown, "we'll see how nearly you have guessed it. I'll go to the gypsy camp."
"May I come?" asked Bunny.
"And I want to come, too," begged Sue.
"Oh, no, I'm afraid you're too little," said the little girl's father. "I'll take Bunny and Bunker Blue. We'll go in the motor boat across the bay, as it's shorter than going around by land."
"We can't bring Toby home in the boat, though, can we?" asked Bunny.
"Well, hardly," answered his father with a smile. "I'm afraid he'd kick overboard. But don't count too much on finding Toby at the gypsy camp, Bunny. He may not be there at all."
"You mean they'll take him away to some other place?" asked the little boy.
"Well, maybe not that so much, as it is that we're not sure this Mr. Jaki Kezar really has taken your pet," answered Mr. Brown. "We'll just hope Toby is at the camp, Bunny, but we mustn't be too sure about it."
"No," said Bunny, "I s'pose not."
"Though perhaps if the pony isn't exactly with the gypsies they may know where he is," said Mrs. Brown. "Will you have that dark man arrested, Daddy, for taking the children's pony?"
"I don't know just what I will do, yet," answered Mr. Brown with a smile. "First I want to find out where Toby is."
"And I'm coming with you in the boat!" cried Bunny.
Sue wanted, very much, to go with her father and brother, but her mother told the little girl there might be a long walk to take in the woods to get to the gypsy camp, and that she would get tired.
"I wouldn't be tired if I could see Toby," she said, tears still in her eyes. "And, anyhow, if I did get tired I could ride on Toby's back."
"That is if they find him," remarked Mrs. Brown. "No, Sue, dear, I think you'd better stay with me. How will you get the pony back if you go in the boat?" she asked her husband.
"Oh, Bunker can walk him back, and Bunny can ride. I'll come back in the boat," said Mr. Brown. "They didn't take the pony cart, did they?"
"No, that's in the barn all right. It will be all ready for Toby when he comes back," said Bunny.
There was nothing more that could be done at the Brown home toward finding the lost or stolen pony, so Mr. Brown, with Bunker Blue and Bunny, after eating a very hasty breakfast, got ready to take a motor boat trip across the bay to Springdale.
This was a town, somewhat smaller than Bellemere, and it could be reached by going around a road that led along the shores of Sandport Bay. But a shorter journey was by water across the bay itself. And it was in this way that Mr. Brown had decided to go this time.
The fish merchant owned a number of boats, some of which had sails, others oars, and some were moved with gasolene engines.
"We'll go in the Spray," said Bunny's father, that being the name of the boat.
"We could go faster in the Wave," said Bunker Blue, naming a smaller boat.
"Yes, but it wouldn't be quite so safe," said Mr. Brown, who was always very careful about the water, especially if any of the children were with him. "There is quite a sea on, and the wind is blowing hard."
"It looks a little like a storm," observed Bunker Blue.
"Yes, it does," agreed Mr. Brown. "And that's another reason we ought to take the Spray."
Bunny Brown did not care much in which boat they went as long as he had a ride and was on the way to find Toby. He was almost sure the Shetland pony would be at the gypsy camp, and he had no doubt but that his father could easily take the little horse away from the bad men who had stolen him.
As they went down to the dock, leaving Sue at home with her mother, Bunny said:
"As soon as I saw the red and yellow flowers, which was just the color of the gypsy wagon, I thought the dark man might have taken Toby."
"And, very likely he did," said Mr. Brown. "Only we must not be too sure."
"Red and yellow are nice colors," said Bunker Blue. "Didn't you tell me, Bunny, that the box of papers Mr. Tallman lost was painted that way?"
"Yes, it was," said the little boy. "It had red and yellow stripes on it. But Mr. Tallman isn't a gypsy."
"Oh, I know that," replied Bunker Blue.
When they reached the dock and were getting ready to go aboard the Spray, Mr. Brown looked across the bay, and, noting the rather high waters and the way the wind blew, said:
"I wonder if, after all, we hadn't better go by land?"
"Oh, no, Daddy!" cried Bunny. "Let's go in the boat! It's nicer, and we'll get to the gypsy camp quicker to find Toby."
"Yes, we'll get there more quickly," said Mr. Brown. "But that isn't saying we'll find the pony, though I hope we shall. Anyhow, I guess we can go and come before the storm breaks. Get aboard, Bunny. Have we plenty of gasolene, Bunker?"
"The tank is full," answered the fish and boat boy.
"Well, then I guess we'll be all right. Ready, Bunny?"
"Yes, Daddy!" and the little boy looked eagerly across the bay toward Springdale, where, in the gypsy camp, he hoped to find Toby.
"All aboard, then!" announced Mr. Brown, and one of his men pushed the Spray away from the dock. Bunker Blue started the gasolene motor, and the boat went out into the bay, with Mr. Brown at the steering wheel.
"Oh, I do hope we'll find Toby! I do hope we will!" said Bunny over and over again to himself.
As the motor boat went out beyond the dock the full force of the wind and waves was felt. The Spray bobbed up and down, but Mr. Brown was a good sailor, and Bunker Blue had lived most of his life on and about salt-water, so he did not mind it. Nor did Bunny, for he, too, had often been on fishing trips with his father, and he did not get seasick even in rough weather.
"Like it, Bunny?" asked his father, as the little boy stood beside him in the cabin, while Mr. Brown turned the steering wheel this way and that.
"Lots, Daddy!" was the answer. "Shall we get there pretty soon?"
"Yes, if the storm doesn't hold us back."
But that is just what the storm seemed going to do. The wind began to blow harder and harder, and the waves, even in the sheltered bay, were quite high. But the Spray was a fairly large boat, and stout; able to meet any weather except the very worst out on the open ocean.
On and on she chugged across the bay toward Springdale, and as they got farther and farther out in the middle, the storm grew much worse.
"I don't know about this, Bunker!" called Mr. Brown to the fish boy, who was looking after the motor. "I don't know whether we can get across or whether we hadn't better turn back for our dock."
"Oh, Daddy! don't go back! You're not going back before you get Toby, are you?" Bunny asked.
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