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´╗┐Title: Sonny Boy
Author: Swett, Sophie Miriam, 1858-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sonny Boy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



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[Illustration: Sonny Boy]

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SONNY BOY

By
Sophie Swett

Author of "Mary Augusta's Price," etc.

Illustrated

Philadelphia
HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY

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By the Same Author

MARY AUGUSTA'S PRICE
Price, Fifty Cents

Copyright, 1904, by Henry Altemus

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CONTENTS


CHAPTER I
A Great Surprise for the Plummers                13

CHAPTER II
Sonny Boy Goes on a Journey and Makes Friends    27

CHAPTER III
Sonny Boy Goes in Search of His White Mice       43

CHAPTER IV
Sonny Boy Finds a Crookeder Boy                  57

CHAPTER V
Sonny Boy Becomes a Scholar                      71

CHAPTER VI
Who Was Captain of the Company?                  89

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ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             PAGE
Sonny Boy                                            Frontispiece
"'Aunt Kate wants Sonny Boy,' she said."                       21
"Sonny Boy went into the car."                                 29
"He told her which were Spaniards."                            33
"The coachman used his fists to clear the way."                39
"'Are you his brother?' asked the man."                        43
"'Let me show you what they will do.'"                         49
"'Just think! He never has had one good time.'"                53
"'I'll give you twenty dollars for the parrot.'"               61
"'How quickly you have learned,' said Aunt Kate."              67
"Otto had his one good time."                                  73
"Captain Sonny Boy Plummer."                                   79

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A GREAT SURPRISE FOR THE PLUMMERS

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SONNY BOY

CHAPTER I

A GREAT SURPRISE FOR THE PLUMMERS


Mamma Plummer read a letter at the dinner-table before she touched her
soup. She had been having visitors and had not had time to look at it
before. And she was always in a hurry to hear from Aunt Kate.

Aunt Kate! All seven of the young Plummers pricked up their ears.

Aunt Kate was "the right kind," as Tom Plummer said. She remembered all
the young Plummers' birthdays, and even when she was in Europe sent home
beautiful presents that arrived in Poppleton on the very day. A present is
so much better on the very day.

"Aunt Kate is lonesome, in her new house, without any young people," said
Mamma Plummer, at last. "She wants to borrow one of you children for six
months."

There was a chorus of delight from the young Plummers. Mamma Plummer
sighed a little. People were always saying, "How many there are of the
Plummers," but Mamma Plummer never thought there were too many.

"Probably she wants one of us," whispered Dorothy, who was sixteen, to
Polly, who was eighteen.

Sydney, who was fifteen, waited eagerly. He thought Aunt Kate might have
heard of the picture on the barn door and mean to give him a chance to
become a great artist. Any one could see that the picture meant a man on
horseback, with a pipe in his mouth, and that the man was Michael, their
gardener, even if Tom did pretend to think it was the town pump.

Oliver stood up on a round of his chair; he was short, and he had such a
little, squeaky voice that he had to get up high to make people notice
him.

"She _may_ want one of the youngsters," said Polly doubtfully. "She said
Trixie was a quaint child."

"I'm not a quaint child," said Trixie, as if her feelings were hurt. "And
I'm not the one who can leave home just as well as not. So many things
disagree with Bevis, and the Bantam rooster pecks my chicks."

"You sha'n't go," said Papa Plummer, patting her head. They all knew that
Trixie was a home body. Once, when she tried to stay at Aunt Sarah's, they
had to bring her home in the middle of the night.

"If she wants me," said Tom, "I'm her man." But Tom was eating his dinner
just as if nothing had happened.

Tom was twelve, and had learned that you can't have everything you want in
this world, and that the things you get sometimes turn out better than the
things you want and can't get.

Another one of the Plummers was quietly eating his dinner. That was
because he was sure that Aunt Kate didn't want him. None of the others had
even thought of Sonny Boy. It was a matter of course, they would have
said, that Aunt Kate didn't want Sonny Boy.

Sonny Boy was ten. His name was Peter, but Mamma thought that too large a
name for a small boy. Besides, there was another Peter Plummer--his
cousin--who lived on Pippin Hill. Both Peters were named for Grandpa
Plummer.

All the other Plummers were handsome, but Sonny Boy was snub-nosed and
freckled and a trifle cross-eyed, and his curly hair was so red that the
boys pretended to warm their hands and light matches by it. He had
stooping shoulders, too, and perhaps his legs bowed a little.

And he was not very bright at his lessons, while all the other Plummers
_were_ bright.

So, except his mother and grandmother, people didn't think so very highly
of Sonny Boy, though they liked him well enough, and he was very often
left out of good times.

Sonny Boy ate his dinner and only thought that the one who was borrowed by
Aunt Kate would be pretty lucky. He thought it would be Polly, and he
rather hoped so, for Polly always thought he would better be sent to bed
early when there was company.

"Mamma Plummer! Please decide who is to go and not keep us waiting!" cried
Polly eagerly.

"Your Aunt Kate has decided which one she wants," said Mamma Plummer. And
then her glance wandered down the long table and rested wonderingly,
although lovingly, just where one would have least expected.

"Aunt Kate wants Sonny Boy," she said.

"Sonny Boy!" echoed all the young Plummers in a chorus of astonishment.
Every one of them could see plenty of reasons why Aunt Kate should want
him or her, but not a single reason why she should want Sonny Boy to stay
with her six months.

Sonny Boy blushed red with surprise, and then he blushed redder with
delight, and then reddest of all because everybody was looking at him.

And then he stole a glance at Mamma and at Grandma. The first thing is,
you know, to be sure that those you love best are glad with you. Then
Sonny Boy whispered to Tom.

"If you wanted to go, Tom, I'd stay," he said.

"Naw-w," said Tom, with the contempt of one who has not been invited.

"Or if you thought they'd let me belong to the Company, I'd rather stay
home and belong than to go to Aunt Kate's," added Sonny Boy.

Tom was one of the boys who were getting up a company of soldiers, but
Sonny Boy had never dared to say before that he wanted to join it.

Tom laughed aloud. "A great soldier you'd make, Sonny Boy! The fellows
wouldn't want you to belong," he said.

Tom didn't mean to be unkind, but he thought that when a boy was rather
bow-legged and never had got out of the small school, he ought to know
that he wasn't cut out for a soldier.

"It's well enough for him to go and visit his Aunt Kate," thought Tom.

[Illustration: "'AUNT KATE WANTS SONNY BOY,' SHE SAID."]

"You must remember not to give Bevis pound-cake when I'm gone," said Sonny
Boy, looking very cross-eyed indeed at Trixie, as he always did when he
had a good deal on his mind. And surely to go away from home, suddenly,
for six months, is a good deal for any person to have on his mind!

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SONNY BOY GOES ON A JOURNEY AND MAKES FRIENDS

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CHAPTER II

SONNY BOY GOES ON A JOURNEY AND MAKES FRIENDS


Sonny Boy set out, all alone, for the city in which Aunt Kate lived. Papa
Plummer thought that any kind of a boy of ten ought to be able to make a
little journey like that alone.

The whole Plummer family went with Sonny Boy to the Poppleton station and
gave him charges, while they waited for the train. "Write every day," said
Mamma Plummer, "and learn to spell, and don't touch Aunt Kate's scissors
to your curls."

"Say your prayers," whispered Grandma Plummer, "and change your wet
feet."

"Don't lose your money," said Papa Plummer.

"Eat your soup from the side of the spoon, and don't say 'ain't' nor 'is
that so,'" said Polly, in a severe tone.

"Don't scuff nor speak through your nose, and don't say 'No-sir-ee' to
Aunt Kate," said Dorothy.

"If you go to the circus that was here last summer, find out whether the
Wild Man is truly wild," said Tom, "and see what a big drum costs--big
enough for the Company."

"Go to a dog-man and find out what is good for Bevis' dyspepsia, and
whether he may eat cookies," said Trixie.

And then the train came whizzing along, and, with his cage of white mice
under his arm, and his turtle sticking its head out of his jacket pocket,
Sonny Boy went into the car.

As the train moved off Sonny Boy shut his teeth tight together. In his
heart he was afraid he should be homesick, like Trixie.

He took the paper off the cage to give his white mice the air, and a woman
in the seat behind jumped and screamed.

"Oh, take them away! Take them away! They'll get out!" she cried. "Anyway,
they'll frighten my baby into fits!"

Then immediately the conductor came along and angrily told Sonny Boy that
that wasn't a menagerie car, and he must either throw those things away or
carry them into the baggage-car. He said some people with a screeching
parrot were out in the baggage-car. They would not trust their parrot
there alone, and people in the cars wouldn't hear it screech.

Sonny Boy, with a very red face, followed the conductor to the
baggage-car.

On a trunk a little girl was sitting, with her nurse, a rather
cross-looking woman, beside her. Between them was a large cage. "If you
want to leave your live stock here, you can go back to the car. I guess
'twill be safe enough," said the conductor. But Sonny Boy shook his head
firmly.

"Oh, what lovely little dears!" cried the little girl. She was about as
old a little girl as Trixie, but she had a bright, grown-up manner that
made Sonny Boy feel bashful.

"Pussy? Pussy? Scat!" shrieked the parrot from the little girl's cage.

[Illustration: "SONNY BOY WENT INTO THE CAR."]

"Isn't Polly wonderful to know that they are mice?" cried the little girl
to Sonny Boy.

But the mice, not being used to pussies, did not mind hearing her call a
cat in the least.

Some were quietly nibbling at a lump of sugar which Trixie had put into
the cage for them, and some were trying to thrust their heads through the
wires to see the world.

"Polly is a gray African parrot," said the little girl. "She knows a lot,
and she's worth a hundred dollars. We are carrying her to Otto, at the
hospital, but we are a little afraid they won't let him keep her there,
for some don't like her voice."

"I like it," said Sonny Boy, politely and truthfully.

"So do I like your mice," said the little girl as politely.

And then they felt they had known each other for a long time.

They sat down on a large trunk, with the cage of mice between them, and
Sonny Boy told the little girl that the mice with black spots on them were
Spaniards, and showed her just which of the white ones were Dewey and
Sampson, and told her that the dashing little fellow that led all the
others in daring swings and leaps was Hobson.

"Oh, if Otto could only see them!" cried the little girl. "He loves
soldiers. He wants to be one, and only think! he isn't like other boys.
His back isn't straight and he is lame, and though he is eleven you
wouldn't think him more than eight."

To be lame was worse than to be bow-legged, and Sonny Boy felt a thrill of
pity for Otto. He hoped Otto wasn't cross-eyed, and he quite longed to ask
if fractions and spelling came hard to him.

When it was nearly dark the nurse said that the next stopping-place would
be their station, and she put a newspaper over the parrot's cage and made
ready to leave the car.

The train would reach the city soon after it left their station, she said,
so Sonny Boy covered his mouse-cage with a newspaper, too, and prepared to
say good-bye to his new friend.

There was great hurry and bustle when Lena and her nurse reached their
station, but Lena ran back after she had gone down the car steps to tell
Sonny Boy that he was one of the nicest boys she had ever seen, and had
been beautifully kind all the afternoon to her and to her nurse. Sonny Boy
wished that Polly could have heard her!

In the great city station Aunt Kate's big, pompous coachman came shouting
through the crowd for "Master Peter Plummer." And Sonny Boy had to stop to
think who it was he meant, for in Poppleton he was never called anything
but Sonny Boy.

"Take your things, sir?" said the pompous footman, just as if Sonny Boy
were grown up!

"I'll take this, please," said Sonny Boy, keeping hold of the cage. "It's
full of white mice."

"Dewey! Sampson! Hobson! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Pussy! Pussy! Scat! Polly
wants a cracker!" cried a shrill voice from the cage. And the pompous
coachman stared in amazement.

[Illustration: "HE TOLD HER WHICH WERE SPANIARDS."]

"It's Lena's parrot! We must have changed cages! Oh, and she's got my
white mice!" cried Sonny Boy.

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SONNY BOY GOES IN SEARCH OF HIS WHITE MICE

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CHAPTER III

SONNY BOY GOES IN SEARCH OF HIS WHITE MICE


"My dear Sonny Boy!" Aunt Kate leaned out of her carriage, ready to take
him, big cage and all, into her arms.

"Cock-a-doodle-doo! Remember the Maine! Dewey! Sampson! Hobson!" screamed
the parrot again. And the crowd following Sonny Boy and the coachman
cheered and cheered.

Sonny Boy was afraid they would tear the cage from his arms. And they
might have, had not the coachman used his fists to clear the way.

"Get us out of this, Jarvis!" said Aunt Kate.

Jarvis made the horses plunge forward, but Sonny Boy could hear the shouts
following them along the street.

"She--she's a remarkable parrot," said Sonny Boy faintly.

"I should think so!" said Aunt Kate.

"I didn't exactly bring the parrot. She belongs to another fel--another
girl," explained Sonny Boy, a little confused.

"I'm so glad!" said Aunt Kate heartily.

"I had my white mice in a cage just about as large as this. You ought to
see them! Trixie and I have drilled them into two armies, American and
Spanish, and we've got the commanders on both sides--and, oh, I don't know
where they are now! I changed cages with a girl!"

[Illustration: "THE COACHMAN USED HIS FISTS TO CLEAR THE WAY."]

"Oh, we'll find them, never fear! And the girl shall have her parrot,"
said Aunt Kate, growing suddenly very cheerful.

When they reached Aunt Kate's house a beautiful Angora cat ran into the
hall to meet her mistress. "Scat! Scat!" screamed the parrot. She had torn
the newspaper off the cage with her sharp beak and was taking a look
around her.

Off whisked the cat in terror, and hid, so that no one could find her.
Then Aunt Kate's little poodle waddled up to the cage. "Bow-wow!" barked
the parrot. And they couldn't drag the poodle out of the coal-cellar that
night!

Sonny Boy lay awake that night longer than he had ever lain awake a night
in his life, planning how to rid himself of that parrot and get his white
mice again.

In the morning Aunt Kate sent out for all the daily papers, but there was
no advertisement of a lost parrot in them. The parrot, with her cage
muffled, was shut up in the back attic, but Aunt Kate had a nervous
headache.

Sonny Boy felt sure that she was wishing she had borrowed some other one
of the Plummers who wouldn't have brought a parrot, and he was very
unhappy. When Aunt Kate sat down at her desk to write an advertisement for
a girl who changed a parrot for a cage of white mice, Sonny Boy stole up
to the attic and got the parrot, and slipped out at the front door. He did
not know the name of the station where Lena and her nurse had stopped, but
he knew that it was the next station to the city, and that there was a
children's hospital there.

When Aunt Kate had said they couldn't find the little girl without
advertising, as they did not know her last name, Sonny Boy had been too
bashful to tell her he thought he could.

But of course any little Poppleton boy knew what tongues were made for,
and Sonny Boy felt he could make things come out right if that parrot
would only keep still!

He had learned the way to the station and was hurrying on when a newsboy's
cry about the war aroused Polly.

She shouted all her war-cries, and such a crowd gathered that Sonny Boy
was forced to turn into a side street and run.

But fortunately the side street led to the station, and once on board the
train Polly became quiet.

He got out at the station where Lena had left him, the day before, and
inquired for the children's hospital.

There was no children's hospital, he was told, but there was a children's
ward in the big general hospital on the hill, which the station-agent
pointed out to him.

He rang timidly at the great door of the hospital, then waited a long
time.

"Hurry up! Hurry up!" shrieked Polly. And a man, looking very much
astonished, opened the door.

"I want to see a boy named Otto," said Sonny Boy. "I want to give him his
parrot and--"

"Are you his brother?" asked the man. "Only relatives admitted." And when
Sonny Boy shook his head he shut the door.

[Illustration: "'ARE YOU HIS BROTHER?' ASKED THE MAN."]

"Cock-a-doodle! Remember the Maine!" screamed Polly.

The man opened the door enough to look at the parrot.

"Please won't you see if Otto has my white mice?" urged Sonny Boy.

"His sister is here. You might send for her to come out," said a boy in
buttons at the man's elbow.

The great door was closed again, but in a few moments it opened and Lena's
startled face appeared.

"I didn't do it on purpose," she said, her cheeks growing very red. "But I
did hope you would like her better, for Otto is just wild over the mice!"

"I don't like her better!" said Sonny Boy stoutly.

"We think Otto ought to have everything. When you see him you'll think so,
too," said Lena.

"I sha'n't think he ought to have my white mice," said Sonny Boy firmly.

The girl opened wide the big door, as if it belonged to her.

"Come!" she said, beckoning to Sonny Boy.

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SONNY BOY FINDS A CROOKEDER BOY

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CHAPTER IV

SONNY BOY FINDS A CROOKEDER BOY


Sonny Boy followed Lena through the great door.

The doorkeeper said if he was a friend of hers he might go in for a little
while, but the parrot must be kept outside; she was too noisy.

The boy in buttons seemed very willing to take care of Polly. He said he
would carry her out upon the grounds and give her an airing.

Lena led Sonny Boy into a large, long room, which she said was the "almost
well" room of the children's ward.

"But we're afraid Otto never will be well," she whispered, turning a sad
little face toward Sonny Boy, as she opened the door.

"Otto, the mice boy has come to see you!" she said to a white-faced,
humpbacked boy, who sat propped up in a chair, at a table, with the cage
of mice before him.

The boy drew the cage towards him and placed his thin white hands over
it.

"Have you come for them?" he asked, with a sob in his throat.

"Let me show you what they will do!" said Sonny Boy, and sat down opposite
him at the table.

Those mice had been trained before Sonny Boy had them, and for two years
he and Tom and Trixie had been teaching them. When either of the young
Plummers had the mumps or the measles, or there was a long storm, it meant
several new tricks for the white mice! and they could now do really
wonderful things.

[Illustration: "'LET ME SHOW YOU WHAT THEY WILL DO.'"]

Since the war with Spain had begun, they were taught soldier tricks
altogether. And it was so fortunate that some had black spots, for those
could be Spaniards!

All the children in the ward who could walk crowded around the table, and
the matron and the nurses, too.

It was such a good time that many an ache and pain was forgotten for many
minutes. When Sonny Boy let the mice out of the cage and they scampered
all over the table, then the children scampered, too--every one who could.
Even the matron and the nurses uttered little screams.

But Sonny Boy whistled, and into the cage marched those mice like
soldiers! It was really a wonderful sight to see.

And the worn and tired looks were gone from so many children's faces!

Otto's poor, shrunken, misshaped body shook with laughter. "I want to know
how you trained them!" he said. "I want to train them! I want to do
everything that well boys do--that you do! And I'm going to learn! Lena is
only a girl, and I never had a brother. I think I could even learn
spelling and fractions if you would show me how!"

Sonny Boy blushed. He began to say that he was not much for spelling and
fractions himself, but Lena touched his foot.

"Spelling and fractions are nothing! I'll show you how to do them," said
Sonny Boy stoutly.

"And you'll show me how to straighten my legs, so I can be a soldier,
won't you?" said Otto.

Sonny Boy moved about uneasily on his bow-legs. "It's queer! I want to be
a soldier, too," he said. "Yes, I'll show you, Otto."

"You're what I've been wanting--a well boy!" said Otto, with a happy sigh.
"You're very bright and clever, aren't you?"

"Oh, no," began Sonny Boy, but Lena touched his foot again.

"The Plummers are called a smart family," said Sonny Boy firmly, although
his cheeks burned. "My brother Tom and my sister Trixie are very clever."

"Of course you couldn't have trained those mice if you hadn't been very
clever," said Otto.

"Those mice have done him good. I've never seen him so bright," whispered
the matron. "They've done all the children good!"

"And although I went away off to Uncle Fritz's to get the parrot for him,
he says he doesn't like a parrot," whispered Lena.

"You like a parrot, don't you?" said Otto, eagerly, to Sonny Boy.

"I never was very well acquainted with one before. I think this one has a
fine voice," said Sonny Boy politely.

"You like her better than you do the mice, don't you? You'll swap, won't
you?" said Otto.

Now this, thought Sonny Boy, was hard! And what would they say at home?
Trixie herself had trained the big mouse with the black spots on his ears
that they called Admiral Cervera, and Tom would never be willing that
Hobson should go out of the family!

[Illustration: "'JUST THINK! HE NEVER HAS HAD ONE GOOD TIME.'"]

But Sonny Boy's heart ached with pity for the poor, humpbacked, shrunken
fellow, whose face looked like a little old man's. And Lena leaned over
Sonny Boy's shoulder and whispered:

"Just think! He never has had one good time!" she said.

"You can have them!" said Sonny Boy, although he had to swallow a great
lump in his throat.

He got away as soon as he could then, for fear he should cry, Otto making
him promise that he would come again just as soon as he could.

The delightful little glow at Sonny Boy's heart, such as you always feel
when you have made any one happy, was queerly mixed with the grief of
losing his white mice.

When he got to the entrance door he found that Polly had been shut up in a
dark closet, because she whooped and shouted so that the boy in buttons
had not been able to keep her out upon the grounds.

When Sonny Boy took her again into his arms and started to go back, just
as he had come away, he almost wished that Aunt Kate had borrowed some
other one of the Plummers!

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SONNY BOY BECOMES A SCHOLAR

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CHAPTER V

SONNY BOY BECOMES A SCHOLAR


Polly was so lively on the way back to the city that Sonny Boy didn't dare
to take her into a passenger-car. The smoking-car happened to be almost
empty, and the conductor said he would better go in there.

Polly didn't like the empty smoking-car. She wished to be where there were
plenty of people to admire her, and she showed her displeasure by making a
dreadful noise. She barked and miaowed and cackled and crowed, and
squealed and lowed and whinneyed and brayed and squawked and roared and
growled, until one would have thought the smoking-car was nothing less
than Noah's Ark. A crowd of people came rushing into the car, and among
them was a man who looked like a sailor, who insisted upon taking the
covering from Polly's cage and holding her up to the light.

"Belong to you?" he said. "Don't want to sell her, do you?"

Sonny Boy's heart gave a great leap. He was himself so very tired of
Polly's voice, and he had so dreaded to take her back to Aunt Kate, that
it did not seem to him possible that any one could want her.

"She's a handsome bird," continued the man, "and hasn't she got a voice!
She isn't exactly the bird for a home pet, but at a show she'd draw. And I
belong to a show."

The man seated himself beside Sonny Boy and spoke in a low tone. "'The
Wonder of the World'--that's the name of the show that I belong to," he
said.

That was the very circus that had been at Poppleton the summer before, the
one that Tom had been so much interested in!

"Oh, then, perhaps you know all about the Wild Man of Borneo!" cried Sonny
Boy eagerly. "Have you ever seen him _near to_?"

The sailor looked confused, and there was a queer twinkle in his eye.

"I am some acquainted with the Wild Man," he said slowly.

"Did he really come from Borneo? And is he truly wild?" asked Sonny Boy
with eager curiosity.

"He is just about as wild as they make them," said the man, wagging his
head solemnly. And Sonny Boy's heart thrilled with fear and wonder.

"We tried to play Wild Man in our barn," he said to the man. "But none of
the fellows knew how to be wild. Tom wanted me to find out how."

The sailor drew near to Sonny Boy and lowered his voice to a whisper. "It
wouldn't do to let everybody know it, but if you and I are going to make a
bargain about that parrot I don't care if I tell you that I'm the Wild Man
of Borneo, and I'll show you just how I do it! I'll give you twenty
dollars for the parrot, and I'll throw in the Wild Man business! I'll do
more than that--I'll get you a chance to ride on the buffalo, in the
procession, when the show comes to Bolton, this summer!"

Bolton was the town where the hospital was--the town they had just left.
It would be easy to get to Bolton to the show.

[Illustration: "'I'LL GIVE YOU TWENTY DOLLARS FOR THE PARROT.'"]

Twenty dollars might be a small price for the parrot, but the secret of
being a Wild Man and the chance to ride on a buffalo were extras that a
boy could not easily resist! The parrot changed hands, and so did two
ten-dollar bills. And the man gave Sonny Boy his address so that he might
find him when the show came to Bolton.

"Aren't you stuck up? Scat!" screamed Polly after Sonny Boy, by way of
good-bye, when they parted at the city station.

Sonny Boy was very penitent when he found, on reaching home, that his
absence had made Aunt Kate very anxious. She said a dreadful thing; she
said that she never could trust Sonny Boy again!

But Sonny Boy knew she would find out that he wasn't the kind of a boy
that runs away. He thought it was enough to make any boy lose his mind to
change his white mice for that parrot!

Aunt Kate thought that twenty dollars was a plenty for the parrot! She
said she would see about the extras. She didn't seem to understand the
advantages of learning to be a Wild Man or of riding on a buffalo.

But she said she thought of taking a house at Bolton for the summer, while
her husband was away at the war; it was seashore, and it was also near the
city, where she could hear the war-news soon.

And then Sonny Boy felt sure that he should not miss his extra pay for the
parrot.

His sister Polly would not think that a boy ought to want to ride on a
buffalo; she would say that none of the Plummers had ever done such a
thing. But Aunt Kate was different.

"There are other things I want, Aunt Kate," said Sonny Boy suddenly, and
he stood as tall as he could before his aunt--so tall that his shoulders
scarcely stooped and his bow-legs were almost straight. "I've got to have
them!" Sonny Boy's red cheeks grew quite pale and his voice was gruff with
feeling.

"Why, Sonny Boy dear, what can the things be that you want so much!" said
Aunt Kate wonderingly.

"Spelling and fractions," said Sonny Boy firmly.

"You dear boy! I never heard of a boy who thought so much of his lessons
as that!" exclaimed Aunt Kate.

"It's to show another fellow--stupider than I am," said Sonny Boy. "And
crookeder. I've got to get straight and be a soldier, too, to show him
how." And he told her about Otto.

Aunt Kate hugged him and laughed a little and cried a little. And she said
it was a beautiful idea and he should have a tutor so that he could learn
spelling and fractions very fast. And he should go to a gymnasium and
straighten his shoulders and his legs. And his uncle would take him to
camp to see the soldiers drill.

And she would buy him some more white mice. But that last offer Sonny Boy
declined. He wanted no white mice but those! And he didn't want those,
because he liked better to have Otto and the poor invalid children have
them.

It was quite wonderful to see how Sonny Boy learned spelling and
fractions. The tutor was surprised, and what the Poppleton schoolmistress
would have thought no one can even guess! For Sonny Boy had been dull at
his lessons.

And presently he straightened himself out in the most surprising way, and
learned to drill soldiers like a major. He had a fine military company, in
the "almost well" room of the children's ward at the hospital. The
officers sent word to Aunt Kate that he was a very welcome visitor and did
the children great good.

He bought a drum and fife with the parrot money, and sent them to the
Poppleton Guards, the company to which "the fellows didn't want him to
belong." And he wrote a letter to the Guards, telling them about the
military tactics that he had learned at the camp, where his uncle had
taken him.

"How quickly you have learned!" said Aunt Kate one day. "You are the very
brightest one of the Plummers."

But Sonny Boy shook his head. "I never could learn until 'twas for another
fellow," he said.

"Anyway, you're the dearest one of the Plummers!" said Aunt Kate, with a
hug. By this time they were at Bolton for the summer, and they awoke one
morning to find the place gay with show-bills and huge placards.

The "Wonder of the World" was coming to town. Among the attractions were
the "Wild Man of Borneo," fresh from his native jungles, and "The Monster
Tuscarora," the greatest buffalo in the world.

[Illustration: "'HOW QUICKLY YOU HAVE LEARNED,' SAID AUNT KATE."]

That was the buffalo that he was to ride in the procession! Sonny Boy felt
that even Polly ought to understand that this was a very great honor to
come to one of the Plummers!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHO WAS CAPTAIN OF THE COMPANY?

-------------------------------------------------------------------------



CHAPTER VI

WHO WAS CAPTAIN OF THE COMPANY?


The great show, the "Wonder of the World," had come to town. It came in
the night and packed itself away in the big tents on Lawton's field.

A "monster street procession" was announced for the next morning, and the
Bolton boys and girls lay awake as if it were the Fourth of July.

Sonny Boy had received a large square ticket, marked "Season," and
"Complimentary," and in the same envelope was a slip of paper on which was
written, "_Ask for J. Simpkins at the door._"

J. Simpkins was, of course, Sonny Boy's friend, the Wild Man.

Aunt Kate said she felt doubtful about "that Wild Man business," and she
wrote to her husband about it.

"It won't do him any harm to learn to be a Wild Man." That was Uncle
William's answer; and Sonny Boy thought he was a very sensible man.

Aunt Kate also wrote to Mamma Plummer about the Wild Man and the buffalo,
although she didn't tell Sonny Boy of that. And Mamma Plummer answered,
"Sonny Boy could never learn to be a wild man; the dear boy is so quiet.
And he would be scared to death at the sight of a buffalo."

Mamma Plummer did not quite understand her Sonny Boy.

[Illustration: "OTTO HAD HIS ONE GOOD TIME."]

Sonny Boy asked for J. Simpkins at the tent door, showing his bit of
paper, and he was told to follow a porter straight to the cage of the most
ferocious-looking Wild Man that ever was seen!

He had horns, and he had tusks, and a mane like a horse, and yet when he
laughed, Sonny Boy could see, as plainly as could be, that he was only the
sailor who had bought the parrot!

If one could only be a Wild Man like that, in their barn at Poppleton,
thought Sonny Boy, what fun it would be!

But there was no time to take a lesson in being a Wild Man this morning,
as the procession was to start soon. And it happened that the boy who rode
the buffalo was ill with the mumps, so they really needed another boy.

And the buffalo boy's scarlet and gold-laced tunic and trousers were an
exact fit for Sonny Boy, who looked quite straight and handsome in them!

That buffalo was such a huge beast that Sonny Boy had to mount him by
means of a step-ladder. He was bigger than any geography buffalo you ever
saw. And he tossed his horned head and pawed the ground with his great
hoofs in a way that made Sonny Boy's heart go pit-a-pat.

But there was no outward sign that Sonny Boy's heart was going pit-a-pat.
He was not going to miss the proudest moment of his life because he was
afraid! When he rode out into the crowded street, the huge buffalo
following after the troops of tiny Shetland ponies, the better to show his
size, and the crowd shouted and cheered, if Sonny Boy did for a little
while forget even Otto it was not strange!

But Otto did not allow himself to be forgotten. He wanted to see that
procession with his own eyes. He had lain awake all night thinking about
it. When the hospital supply-wagon was at the gate in the morning he
watched his chance to slip out unobserved, and climbed into the back of
the wagon!

It hurt him so that his white face grew whiter and there were drops on his
forehead. He broke one of his crutches, too, and the other fell out of the
wagon. But he was not found out! The driver was in a hurry, perhaps
because he wished to see the procession himself. He jumped into the front
of the wagon, without a glance at the back, and off down the hill rattled
the wagon, with Otto in the back, in his dressing-gown, with a hospital
blanket pinned over his shoulders.

Just as the hospital wagon reached the procession the band struck up and
the horse was frightened and jumped. It gave the wagon just enough of a
jerk to throw Otto out. He was tossed into the little space between the
ponies and the buffalo. The beast's great hoofs were almost upon him!

There was a wild cry from the crowd, but it was Sonny Boy who slipped from
his high perch and, not an instant too soon, drew his friend out of the
danger.

Sonny Boy lost his own footing; the buffalo's hoof grazed his arm and tore
the gold lace of his tunic.

Friendly hands were ready to lift him again to his seat, while the crowd
cheered him until it was hoarse.

"Otto first! Lift him up here and I will hold him on. It's his first good
time." The marshal of the procession made no objection, since it was
something that pleased the crowd.

Up went Otto, in his blanket, to the front place, frightened, but not
hurt, and Sonny Boy held him securely, and the crowd went wild!

Above all its noise a shrill voice suddenly came to Sonny Boy's ears.

"Cock-a-doodle-doo! Aren't you stuck up?"

And if there wasn't Polly, in a great gilt cage, swinging high above the
Fat Lady's chariot!

Polly had been calling out the names of all the wonders in the show, as
she had been taught, but when she saw Sonny Boy she remembered old times.
She shouted out all the patriotism she knew, and the band played Yankee
Doodle, and the people said that the best was what was not down in the
bills.

Otto had his one good time! One would scarcely have known him, his face
was so bright and rosy.

It was almost a miracle that he had not been killed under the buffalo's
hoofs, but the ride did not hurt him in the least. And he is still telling
the hospital children, over and over again, all the wonders of that
procession in which he rode to the end of the route on the buffalo, and
then back to the tent in the Fat Lady's chariot! For Sonny Boy found the
Wild Man both a kind and influential friend.

He has learned to be a Wild Man himself; there was a show in the Plummers'
barn, at Poppleton, in the fall, that many people thought equal to a
grown-up circus, and the Wild Man was the chief attraction.

[Illustration: "CAPTAIN SONNY BOY PLUMMER."]

But none of the Plummers were so much surprised that Sonny Boy had learned
to be a Wild Man as they were that he had learned spelling and fractions
and straightened out his stooping shoulders and his bow-legs!

Sonny Boy explained that he had done it to help a slower and a crookeder
boy than himself. And when Otto came down to Poppleton to pay Sonny Boy a
visit they understood a little better.

Lena came, too, and they brought the white mice, and those skillful
performers took part in the barn show.

Sonny Boy and Otto still think there was nothing in the "Wonder of the
World" to beat those white mice.

Within a week after he returned to Poppleton, Tom told Sonny Boy that if
he would only join the Guards as the fellows wanted him to he would surely
be chosen captain!

"It would sound well--'Captain Sonny Boy Plummer, of the Poppleton
Guards,'" said Tom. And when I last heard from Poppleton that was what
Sonny Boy was called--Captain Sonny Boy Plummer, of the Poppleton Guards!

And every one of the Plummers was wishing to be the one that Aunt Kate
would borrow next.

And in a little while none of them remembered that they had ever thought
it queer that Aunt Kate wanted to borrow Sonny Boy!

[THE END]





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