Read CHAPTER XXII - THE RAFT of Bunny Brown and His Sister Sue in the Sunny South , free online book, by Laura Lee Hope, on ReadCentral.com.

Bunny Brown wanted to be called a brave little boy, so when he heard his sister say she was going to run because she thought he had scared up an alligator in the river by throwing stones, Bunny thought it was time to show his bravery.

“Don’t be afraid!” he called to Sue, catching her by the hand before she had time to run very far.  “I won’t let him hurt you!”

“How are you going to stop him?” Sue asked.

“I ­I’ll bang him on the nose with a stick,” Bunny said, and he let go of Sue’s hand as he turned around to search for the proper kind of club with which to beat an alligator.

As he did this Sue looked once more toward the river.  Then she gave a cry of delight.

“Oh, Bunny!” she exclaimed, “it isn’t an alligator at all!”

“What is it?”

“It’s just an old black log floating down,” Sue answered.  And that is what it was.  Either the stones Bunny had thrown or some swirl of the current had loosed from the mud where it was held on the bottom of Squaw River the long black log which was shaped like the snout of an alligator.  Floating half in and half out of the muddy water as it did, the log looked exactly like one of the big, scaly reptiles.

“This is no good!” declared Bunny, who was rather disappointed at not having a chance to do some hunting.  “I’d like to see a real, live alligator.”

“Well, I wouldn’t ­not until mother and daddy are with me,” remarked Sue.  She was no longer afraid and took turns with her brother throwing stones at the floating log.

“Let’s go down a little farther where the river is wider, and maybe we’ll see some alligators,” suggested Bunny.

“All right,” agreed Sue.  “But I’m going to run if I see any.”

She need not have been worried, however, for not an alligator did they see, though Bunny threw many stones into the muddy water.  Nor did they see another log shaped so nearly like one of the reptiles.

But the children had a good time wandering around among the palm trees and smelling the orange blossoms.  They could hardly believe that about a week before they were wearing mittens and playing in the snow.

“We’d better go back now,” Sue said, after a while.  “Mother will be looking for us.”

“Let’s go just a little farther,” proposed Bunny.  “I’d like to see a little alligator.  You wouldn’t be afraid of a baby ’gator, would you, Sue?”

“Not if it was a little baby one, I don’t guess I would,” she answered.

So she followed Bunny down the bank of the slow-flowing river, where it widened out and grew deeper.  And in a place where the bank curved in, making a still pool, or “eddy,” as it is called, Bunny saw something which was the cause of quite an adventure which came to him and Sue a few days later.

Bunny caught sight of some boards and logs piled together on shore, and no sooner had he seen them than he exclaimed: 

“Oh, Sue!  I know what we can do.”

“What?” she asked.

“We can make a raft and go sailing down the river.  Here’s a lot of boards and logs, and I can easy make a raft.  Bunker Blue showed me how, and you and I have been in daddy’s boats lots of times.  Let’s make a raft!”

“Not now,” replied Sue, holding back as Bunny ran forward.  “It’s time we went back.  Mother told us not to stay too long.”

“Well, I’ll just look at the boards and see if I could make a raft of ’em, and then I’ll go back with you,” Bunny said.

On this promise Sue waited, and after looking at the tangled pile of boards, which seemed to have been left on shore by a flood of high water, the little fellow went back to where he had left his sister.

“It’ll make a dandy raft!” Bunny reported.  “To-morrow we’ll make it and go sailing down the river.”

However, this was not to be, for the next day Mr. and Mrs. Brown were taken by Mr. Halliday on an excursion to a distant orange grove, and Bunny and Sue went along.

“We’ll make the raft to-morrow,” Bunny said.

But for one reason or another this fun had to be put off, and it was not until they had been at Orange Beach nearly a week that Bunny got the chance he wanted.

During this time the Brown family had very much enjoyed their stay in Florida.  The weather was lovely, and there was much that was new to visit.  While there was not the variety in an orange grove that there was on the cotton and peanut plantation, still there was much work to be done.

The children saw how the oranges, when brought in from the trees, were sorted over, the best being packed for one class of trade, and those that were not so good for another.  The golden yellow fruit was wrapped in tissue paper and then the thin wooden crates were packed full, to be shipped North.

Sometimes Bunny and Sue were allowed to ride to the railroad freight depot on the load of oranges, and this trip they liked very much.

One night, just before a strange adventure that happened to Bunny and Sue, the children were in the sitting room with their parents and Mr. and Mrs. Halliday.  It was almost bedtime for Bunny and Sue.

“Did you ever hear anything more about that oil stock Bunny found?” asked Mrs. Brown of her husband.

“No, not a word,” he answered.  “The oil company wrote me that they had no notice from any one of the loss of a certificate.  They advised me to hold it until some one claimed it.”

“If you ever get any money ­or a reward for it ­Bunny must have the cash put in a bank for him, to keep until he grows up,” said Mother Brown.

“Yes,” agreed Daddy.  “And I think Bunny ought to share the reward with Sue.  She was with him when the certificate was found.”

“Uncle Tad ought to have some, too!” exclaimed Bunny, rousing up when he heard this talk.  “He gave us the ride in the sleigh.”

“Yes, I think Uncle Tad ought to have his share of the reward ­if we ever get any,” agreed Mr. Brown.  “And if some one doesn’t soon claim the oil stock I shall sell it and put the money in the bank.”

“What’s all this ­about oil stock?” asked Mr. Halliday.

Then Daddy Brown told how the valuable green and gold paper had been thrown out of the Pullman car by the porter in his pan filled with dust.

After breakfast the next morning Bunny called Sue out on the side porch and showed his sister a cloth bag partly filled with pieces of bread, crackers and some chunks of dried cake.

“This is our lunch,” Bunny said to Sue.

“What lunch?” asked the little girl.

“To take on the raft,” Bunny went on.  “I found the things in the pantry.  They’re stale, so I guess Mrs. Halliday won’t mind if we take ’em.  And I picked up this little orange bag.  You carry that and I’ll get the sharp stick.”

“What sharp stick?” asked Sue, as she accepted the bag of dried bread and cake Bunny held out.

“The sharp stick I’m going to jab at alligators if any chase us,” he answered.

Sue dropped the bag of “lunch.”

“No, sir!” she exclaimed.  “I’m not going on that raft with you if you’re going to hunt alligators, so there, Bunny Brown!”

“All right, then I won’t hunt any,” agreed Bunny, who did not want to go voyaging alone.  “But if any come after us you’ll want me to jab ’em with a sharp stick and drive ’em away, won’t you, Sue?”

“Yes ­yes, I guess I will,” she answered.  “But you mustn’t hunt ’em on purpose.”

This Bunny promised not to do, and then he went on to tell Sue what his plans were.

“Daddy is going riding with Mr. Halliday,” said the little fellow, “and I heard mother say she and Mrs. Halliday were going to make orange shortcake to-day, so they won’t want us around.  We can go down and make the raft and have a sail.  Won’t that be fun?”

“It will be if the alligators don’t come,” agreed Sue.

“I don’t b’lieve any will come,” Bunny answered, though in his heart he hoped they would, so he could scare them away with the sharp stick.

So Sue took up the bag of lunch and Bunny ran and got the sharp stick where he had hidden it under the porch.  Bunny also had a hammer and some nails he had taken from the shop where Mr. Halliday’s men put together the orange crates.

“We’ll make a big raft and sail away off,” Bunny said, as he and Sue, telling their mother nothing about their plans, went down to the river.  They found the pile of boards and small logs in the same place they had first seen them, and Bunny, with Sue’s help, began to make a raft.