SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COWBOY JACK'S
BY LAURA LEE HOPE
AUTHOR OF "SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDMA BELL'S," "SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT UNCLE FRED'S" "THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES," "THE BUNNY BROWN SERIES," "THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES," ETC.
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
Made in the United States of America
By LAURA LEE HOPE
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
* * * * *
THE SIX LITTLE BUNKERS SERIES
SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDMA BELL'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT AUNT JO'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COUSIN TOM'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDPA FORD'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT UNCLE FRED'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT CAPTAIN BEN'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COWBOY JACK'S
* * * * *
THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES
THE BOBBSEY TWINS THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE SEASHORE THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SCHOOL THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SNOW LODGE THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON A HOUSEBOAT THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT MEADOW BROOK THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT HOME THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN A GREAT CITY THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON BLUEBERRY ISLAND THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN WASHINGTON THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE GREAT WEST THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT CEDAR CAMP
* * * * *
THE BUNNY BROWN SERIES
BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON GRANDPA'S FARM BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE PLAYING CIRCUS BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT AUNT LU'S CITY HOME BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CAMP REST-A-WHILE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE BIG WOODS BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON AN AUTO TOUR BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AND THEIR SHETLAND PONY BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE GIVING A SHOW BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CHRISTMAS TREE COVE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE SUNNY SOUTH
* * * * *
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES
GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
Copyright, 1921, by GROSSET & DUNLAP
* * * * *
Six Little Bunkers at Cowboy Jack's
I. "A THUNDER STROKE" 1
II. VERY EXCITING NEWS 9
III. THE SILVER LINING 18
IV. WHAT WAS STUCK IN THE MUD? 31
V. GOOD-BYE TO GRAND VIEW 39
VI. THE COAL STRIKE 48
VII. THE SOUP JUGGLER 57
VIII. AN ALARM AND A HOLD-UP 68
IX. THE BIG ROCK THAT FELL DOWN 78
X. WHERE ARE THE TWINS? 87
XI. THE MAN WITH THE EARRINGS 97
XII. CAVALLO AT LAST 104
XIII. A SURPRISE COMING 114
XIV. AN INDIAN RAID 126
XV. A PROFOUND MYSTERY 138
XVI. MUN BUN TAKES A NAP 145
XVII. IN CHIEF BLACK BEAR'S WIGWAM 157
XVIII. THE NEW PONIES 167
XIX. RUSS BUNKER GUESSES RIGHT 177
XX. PINKY GOES HOME 185
XXI. THE LAME COYOTE 195
XXII. A PICNIC 207
XXIII. MOVING PICTURE MAGIC 215
XXIV. MUN BUN IN TROUBLE 226
XXV. SOMETHING THAT WAS NOT EXPECTED 235
SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COWBOY JACK'S
"A THUNDER STROKE"
"Whew!" said Russ Bunker, looking out into the driving rain.
"Whew!" repeated Rose, standing beside him.
"Whew!" said Vi, and "Whew!" echoed Laddie, while Margy added "Whew!"
"W'ew!" lisped Mun Bun last of all, standing on tiptoe to see over the high windowsill. Mun Bun could not quite say the letter "h"; that is why he said "W'ew!"
Such a September rain the six little Bunkers had never seen before, for the very good reason that they had never before been at the seashore during what Daddy Bunker and Captain Ben called "the September equinox."
"That is an awful funny word, anyway," Rose Bunker said.
"What's funny?" Violet asked.
"Can I make a riddle out of it?" added Laddie.
"It is a riddle," replied Rose, quite confidently. "For 'equinox' is just a rain and wind storm."
"That isn't a riddle," said Laddie promptly. "That's the answer to a riddle."
And perhaps it was, even if Rose had the equinox and the equinoctial storms a little mixed in her mind. At any rate, this was a most surprising storm to all the little Bunkers—the wind blew so hard, the rain came in such big gusts, flattening the white-capped waves which they could see, both from Captain Ben's bungalow and from this old house to which they had come to play. And now, as all six peered out of the attic window of the old house, there was an unexpected flash of lightning, followed by a grumble of thunder.
"Oh! just like a bad, bad dog," gasped Vi, not a little frightened by the noise. "I—I am afraid of thunder."
"I'm not," declared Laddie, her twin.
But perhaps, because he was a boy, he thought he must claim more courage than he really felt. At any rate, he winced a little, too, and drew back from the window.
"Maybe we'd better go back to Captain Ben's house—and mother," suggested Margy in a wee small voice.
"W'ew!" lisped Mun Bun, the littlest Bunker, once more, but quite as bravely as before. Like Laddie (whose name really was Fillmore), Mun Bun wished to claim all the courage a boy should show.
"I guess we can't go back while it rains like this," said Russ, the oldest of the six.
"And Captain Ben thought it would maybe clear up and not rain any more, so we came," announced Rose. "Oh! There goes another thunder stroke."
The rumble of thunder seemed nearer.
"I guess," Russ said soberly, "that Norah or Jerry Simms would call this the clearing-up shower."
"But Norah and Jerry Simms aren't here," Vi reminded him. "Are they?"
"That doesn't make any difference. It can be the clearing-up shower of this equinox, just the same."
"Can it?" asked Vi.
She was always asking questions, and she asked so many that it was quite impossible to answer them all, so, for the most part, nobody tried to answer her. And this was one of the times when nobody answered Vi.
"We'd better keep on playing," Rose said, very sensibly. "Then we won't bother 'bout the thunder strokes."
"It is lightning," objected Russ. "I don't mind the thunder. Thunder is only a noise."
"I don't care," said Rose, "it's the thunder that scares you—— Oh! Hear it?"
"Does the thunder hit you?" asked Vi.
"Why, nothing is going to hit us," Russ replied bravely, realizing that he must soothe any fears felt by his younger brothers and sisters. Russ was nine, and Daddy Bunker and mother expected him to set a good example to Rose and Laddie and Violet and Margy and Munroe Ford Bunker, who, when he was very little, had named himself "Mun Bun."
"Just the same," whispered Rose in a very small voice, and in Russ's ear, "I wish we hadn't come over from Captain Ben's bungalow this morning when it looked like the rain had all stopped."
"Pooh!" said Russ, still bravely, "it thunders over there just as it does here, Rose Bunker."
Of course that was so, and Rose knew it. But nothing seemed quite so bad when daddy and mother were close at hand.
"Let's play again," she said, with a little sigh.
"What'll we play?" asked Violet. "Haven't we played everything there is?"
"I s'pose we have—some time or other," Rose admitted.
"No, we haven't," interposed Russ, who was of an inventive mind. "There are always new plays to make up."
"Just like making up riddles," agreed Laddie. "I guess I could make up a riddle about this old storm—if only the thunder wouldn't make so much noise. I can't think riddles when it thunders."
The thunder seemed to shake the house. The rain dashed against the windows harder than ever. And there were places in the roof of this attic where the water began to trickle through and drop upon the floor.
"Oh!" cried Mun Bun, on whose head a drop fell. "It's leaking! I don't like a leaky house. Let's go home, Rose."
"Do you want to go home to Pineville, Mun Bun?" shouted Russ, for he could not make his voice heard by the others just then without shouting.
"Well, no. But I'd rather be at that other house where mother is—and daddy," proclaimed the smallest boy when the noise of the thunder had again passed.
"I tell you," said Russ soberly, "we'd better go downstairs and play something till the thunder stops."
"What shall we play?" asked Vi again.
"I'll build an automobile and take you all to ride," said the oldest boy confidently.
"Oh, Russ! You can't!" gasped Rose.
"A real automobile like the one that we rode down here in from Pineville?" asked Laddie, opening his eyes very wide.
"Well, no—not just like that," admitted Russ. "But we'll have some fun with it and we won't bother about the thunder."
Rose looked a bit doubtful over that statement. But she knew it was her duty to help the younger children forget their fears. She started down the steep stairs behind Russ. Laddie and Margy came next, while Vi was helping short-legged little Mun Bun to reach the stairway.
And it was just then that the very awful "thunder stroke" came. It seemed to burst right over the roof, and the flash of lightning that came with it almost blinded the children. There was even a smell of sulphur—just like matches. Only it was a bigger smell than any sulphur match could make.
The children's cries were drowned by the crash outside. The lightning had struck a big old tree that overhung the house. The tree trunk was splintered right down from the top, and before the sound of the thunder died away the broken-off part of that tree fell right across the roof.
How the old house shook! Such a ripping and tearing of shingles as there was! Rose could not stifle her shriek. She and Margy and Laddie came tumbling down the rest of the stairs behind Russ.
"Where's Vi and Mun Bun?" demanded the oldest of the six little Bunkers, staring up the dust-filled stairway.
"Oh! Oh! Help me up!" shrieked Vi from the attic.
"Help me!" cried Mun Bun, very much frightened too. "Somebody is holding me down."
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" cried Rose, wringing her hands and looking at Russ. "That old roof has fallen in and Vi and Mun Bun are caught under it!"
VERY EXCITING NEWS
The old house was still groaning and shaking under the impact of the lightning-smitten tree. It seemed, indeed, as though the whole roof was broken in and that gradually the house must be flattened down into the cellar. Dust and bits of broken wood and plaster were showering down the open stairway.
Although the house might be falling, Russ felt he had to go up those stairs to the aid of the shrieking Vi and Mun Bun. They were both caught under some of the fallen rubbish, and it was Russ Bunker's duty, if nothing more, to aid the younger children.
Russ did not often shirk his duty. Being the oldest of the six Bunker children, he felt his responsibility more than other boys of his age might have done. Anyway, when the others needed help, Russ's first thought was to aid. He was that kind of boy, as all the readers of this series of stories know very well.
Almost always Russ Bunker was not far from a set of carpenter's tools, of which he was very proud, or from other means of "making things." His brothers and sisters thought him quite wonderful when it came to planning new means of amusement and building such things as play automobiles and boats and steam-car trains. It was quite impossible for Russ now, however, to think up any invention that would help his small sister and brother out of their trouble in the attic of the old house. He was quite helpless.
Nine-year-old Russ Bunker was an inventive, cheerful lad, almost always with a merry whistle on his lips, and quite faithful to the trust his parents imposed in him regarding the well-being of his younger brothers and sisters.
With Rose, who was a year younger than Russ, the boy really took much of the care in the daytime of the other little Bunkers. The older ones really had to do this—or else there would have been no fun for any of them. You see, if the older children in a family will not care for the younger, and cheerfully look after them, there can never be so much freedom and fun to enjoy as these six little Bunkers had.
Rose was a particularly helpful little girl, and, being eight years old now, she could assist Mother Bunker a good deal; and she took pride in so doing. That she was afraid of "thunder strokes" must not be counted against her. Ordinarily she made the best of everything and was of a sunny nature.
The twins, Violet and Fillmore, came next in the group of little Bunkers. These two had their own individual natures and could never be overlooked for long in any party. Violet was much given to asking questions, and she asked so many and steadily that scarcely anybody troubled to answer her. Her twin, called Laddie by all, had early made up his mind that the greatest fun in the world was asking and answering riddles.
Margy's real name was Margaret, and, as we have seen, Mun Bun had named himself (just for ordinary purposes) when he was very small. Not that he was very large now, but he could make a tremendous amount of noise when he was—or thought he was—hurt, as he was doing on this very occasion when he and Vi were caught by the crushing-in of the house roof.
After we got acquainted with the Bunker family at home in Pineville, Pennsylvania, they all started on a most wonderful vacation which took them first to the children's mother's mother's house. So, you see, that story is called "Six Little Bunkers at Grandma Bell's."
From that lovely place in Maine the six little Bunkers went to their Aunt Jo's, then to Cousin Tom's, afterward to Grandpa Ford's, then to Uncle Fred's. They had no more than arrived home at Pineville after their fifth series of adventures, than Captain Ben, a distant relative of Mother Bunker's, and recently in the war, came along and took the whole Bunker family down with him to his bungalow at the seashore, the name of that sixth story of the series being "Six Little Bunkers at Captain Ben's."
And the six certainly had had a fine time at Grand View, as the seashore place was called, until this very September day when an equinoctial storm had been blowing for twenty-four hours or more and the lightning-struck tree had fallen upon the roof of the old house in which the six little Bunkers were playing.
But now none of the little Bunkers thought it so much fun—no, indeed! At the rate Vi and Mun Bun were screaming, the accident which held them prisoners in the attic of the old house seemed to threaten dire destruction.
Russ Bunker, when he had recovered his own breath, charged up the dust-filled stairway and reached the attic in a few bounds. But the floor boards were broken at the head of the stairs, and almost the first thing that happened to him when he got up there into the dust and the darkness—yes, and into the rain that drove through the holes in the roof!—was that his head, with an awful "tunk!" came in contact with a broken roof beam.
Russ staggered back, clutching wildly at anything he could lay his hands on, and all but tumbled backwards down the stairs again.
But in clutching for something to break his fall Russ grabbed Vi's curls with one hand. He could not see her in the dark, but he knew those curls very well. And he was bound to recognize Vi when the little girl stammered:
"What's happened? Did the house fall on my legs, Russ? Must you pull my hair off to get me out?"
Mun Bun was bawling all by himself, but near by. He seemed to be quite as immovable as Vi. And perhaps Russ would have been unable to get out either of the unfortunates by himself.
Just then there came a shout of encouragement from outside, and the rapid pounding of feet. The door below burst open and Daddy Bunker's welcome voice cried out:
"Here I am, children! Here I am—and Captain Ben, too! Where are you all?"
In the dusky kitchen it was easy enough to count the three little Bunkers who remained there. But Daddy Bunker was heartily concerned over the absent ones.
"Where are Russ and Vi and Mun Bun?" cried Daddy Bunker.
"They're upstairs—under that old thunder stroke," gasped Margy. "But I guess they're not all dead-ed yet."
"I guess not!" exclaimed Captain Ben, who was a very vigorous young man, being both a soldier and a sailor. "They are all very much alive."
That was proved by the concerted yells of the three in the attic. Both men hurried to mount the stairs. The dust had settled to some degree by this time, and they could see the struggling forms. Russ had almost got Vi loose, and he had not pulled out her hair in doing so.
Daddy Bunker saw that Mun Bun was only caught by his clothing. Captain Ben took Vi from Russ and Daddy Bunker released Mun Bun. Then they all came hurriedly down the stairs.
Mun Bun was still weeping wildly. Laddie looked at him in amazement.
"Why—why," he said, "you're a riddle, Mun Bun."
"I'm not!" sobbed the littlest Bunker.
"Yes, you are," said Laddie. "This is the riddle: Why is Mun Bun like a sprinkling cart?"
"That is too easy!" laughed Captain Ben, setting Vi down on the floor. "It's because Mun Bun scatters water so easily out of his eyes."
They all laughed at that—even Mun Bun himself, only he hiccoughed too. It did not take much to make the children laugh when the danger was over.
"Why did the old thunder stroke have to do that?" asked Vi. "Why did it pin me down across my legs?"
Daddy Bunker hurried them all out of the old house. He was afraid it might fall altogether.
"And then where should we be?" he asked. "I couldn't go away out West to Cowboy Jack's and leave my little Bunkers under that old house, could I?"
At this Russ and Rose immediately began to be excited—only for a reason very different from the effects of the storm. They looked at each other quite knowingly. That was what Daddy Bunker and Mother Bunker were talking about so earnestly the night before!
"Oh, Daddy!" burst out Rose, clinging to his hand, "are you going so far away from us all? Aren't you going to take us to Cowboy Jack's?"
"Why do they call him that?" asked Vi. "Is he part cow and part boy?"
But Daddy Bunker replied to Rose's question quite seriously:
"That is a hard matter to decide. It is a long journey, and you know school will soon begin at Pineville. And you must not miss school."
"But, Daddy," said Russ, very gravely, "you know you take us 'most everywhere you go. It—it wouldn't be fair to Cowboy Jack not to take us to see him, would it?"
Mr. Bunker laughed very much at this suggestion, and hurried them all through the rain toward Captain Ben's bungalow.
THE SILVER LINING
One might think that the accident at the old house would have been excitement enough for the six little Bunkers for one forenoon. But Russ and Rose, at least, and soon all the other children, were bubbling with the thought of Daddy Bunker's going West again to look into a big ranch property to which one of his customers had recently fallen heir.
To travel, to see new things, to meet wonderfully nice and kind people, seemed to be the fate of the six little Bunkers. Russ and Rose were sure that no family of brothers and sisters ever had so much fun traveling and so many adventures at the places they traveled to as they did. Russ and Rose were old enough to read about the adventures of other children—I mean children outside of nursery books—and so far the older young Bunkers quite preferred their own good times to any they had ever read about.
"Why!" Russ had once cried confidently, "we have even more fun than Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday. Of course we do."
"Yes. And they had goats," admitted Rose thoughtfully.
The thought of daddy's going away from them, in any case, would have excited the children. But the opening of their school had been postponed for several weeks already, and Russ and Rose, at least, thought they saw the possibility of their father's taking Mother Bunker and all the children with him to the Southwest.
"Only," Russ said gravely, "I don't much care for the name of that man. He sounds like some kind of a foreign man—and you know how those foreign men were that built the railroad down behind our house in Pineville."
"What makes 'em foreign? Their whiskers?" asked Vi, her curiosity at once aroused. "Do all foreigners have whiskers? What makes whiskers grow, anyway? Daddy doesn't have whiskers. Why do other folks?"
"Mother doesn't have whiskers, either," said Margy gravely.
"Say! Why?" repeated Violet insistently.
"Daddy shaves every morning. That is why he doesn't have whiskers," said Rose, trying to pacify the inquisitive Violet.
"Well, does mother shave, too?" immediately demanded Vi. "I never saw her brush. But I've played with daddy's. I painted the front steps with it."
"And you got punished for it, you know," said Russ, grinning at her. "But we were not talking about whiskers—nor shaving brushes."
"Yes we were," said the determined Vi. "I was asking about them."
"Is that man father is going to see an awful foreigner, Russ?" Rose wanted to know.
"I guess not. Father says he's a nice man. He has met him, he says. But his name—oh, it's awful!"
"What is his name?" asked Vi instantly.
If there was a possible chance of crowding in a question, Vi had it on the tip of her tongue to crowd in. This was an hour after the "thunder stroke" had caused such damage to the old house, and Vi was quite her inquisitive little self again.
"His name——" said Russ.
Then he stopped and began to search his pockets. The others waited, but Violet was not content to wait in silence.
"What's the matter, Russ? Do you itch?"
"No, I don't itch," said the boy, with some irritation.
"Well, you act so," said Vi. "What are you doing then, if you're not itching?"
"She means scratching!" exclaimed Rose, but she stared at Russ, too, in some curiosity.
"Oh! I know!" cried Laddie. "It's a riddle."
"What's a riddle?" asked his twin sister eagerly.
"What Russ is doing," said the little boy. "I know that riddle, but I can't just think how it goes. Let's see: 'I went out to the woodpile and got it; when I got into the house I couldn't find it. What was it?'" and Laddie clapped his hands delightedly to think that he had asked a real riddle.
"Oh, I know! I know!" shouted Margy eagerly.
"You do?" asked Laddie. "What is it, then?"
"My Black Dinah dolly that I lost somewhere and we never could find."
"That isn't the whole of that riddle, Laddie," said Russ. "You ought to say: 'And I had it in my hand all the time.' Then you ask 'What was it?'"
"Well, then," said Laddie, rather disappointed to think he had made a mistake in the riddle after all. "What was it, Russ?"
"It was a splinter," said Russ, now drawing a scrap of paper from one pocket. "And here it is——"
"Not the splinter?" gasped Rose.
"No. It was this piece of paper I was hunting for. I wasn't scratching, either. Here it is. This is that foreign man's name."
"What man's name?" asked Vi, who by this time had forgotten what the main subject of the discussion was.
"Cowboy Jack's name!" cried Rose.
"Has he got more names than that?" asked Vi. "Isn't Cowboy Jack enough name for him?"
"His name," said Russ, reading what he had scribbled down on the paper, "is 'Mr. John Scarbontiskil.' That's foreign."
"Oh!" gasped Rose. "I shouldn't think Daddy Bunker would want to go to see a man with a name like that."
"I don't suppose," said Russ, "that he can help his name being that."
"Couldn't he make his own name—and make it a better one?" demanded Vi. "You know, Mun Bun made his name for himself."
"I could not pronounce that name at all," said Rose to Russ. "I guess, after all, maybe we'd better not go to that place."
"Where daddy is going. To that—that Cowboy Jack's place."
"Why not?" asked Russ, almost as promptly as Vi might have asked it had she heard Rose's speech.
"Because," said Rose, who was a thoughtful girl, "of course they don't call him Cowboy Jack to his face, and I should never be able to say Scar—Scar—Scar—whatever it is to him. Never!"
"Nonsense! You can learn to say anything if you try," declared Russ loftily.
"No," sighed Rose, who knew her limitations, "I can't. I can't even learn to say Con-stan-stan-stan-ple—You know!"
"Con-stan-ti-no-ple!" exclaimed Russ with emphasis.
"Yes. That's it," Rose said. "But, anyway, I can't say it."
"I'd like to know why not?" demanded her brother scornfully.
"'Cause I get lost in the middle of it," declared Rose, shaking her head. "It's too long, Russ."
"Well, 'Mr. John Scarbontiskil' is long," admitted Russ. "But if you practise from now, right on——"
"But what is the use of practising if we are not going there with daddy?"
"But maybe we'll go," said Russ hopefully.
"We have got to go to school. I don't mind," sighed Rose. "Only I do so love to travel about with daddy and mother."
"You can practise saying it on the chance of our going," her brother advised.
But Rose did not really think there was much use in doing that. She said so. She was not of so hopeful a disposition as Russ. He believed that "something would turn up" so that the six little Bunkers would be taken with daddy and mother to the far Southwest. Grandma Bell often spoke of a "silver lining" to every cloud, and Russ was hoping to see the silver lining to this cloud of Daddy Bunker's going away.
At any rate, the fact that Mr. Bunker had to go to Cowboy Jack's (we'll not call him Mr. Scarbontiskil, either, for it is too hard a name) was quite established that very afternoon. Daddy received another letter from his Pineville client, and he at once said to Mother Bunker:
"That settles it, Amy." Mrs. Bunker's name was Amy. "Golden is determined that nobody but me shall do the job for him. He offers such a good commission—plus transportation expenses—that I do not feel that I can refuse."
"Oh, Charles," said Mrs. Bunker, "I don't like to have you go so far away from us. It really is a great way to that town of Cavallo that you say is the nearest to Cowboy Jack's ranch."
"I'll take you all home to Pineville first. Then you will not be quite so far away from me," Daddy Bunker said reflectively.
So daddy and mother were no more happy at the prospect of his being separated from the family than were the children themselves. The six talked about the prospect of daddy's going a good deal. But, of course, they did not spend all their time bewailing this unexpected separation. Not at all! There was something happening to the six little Bunkers almost all the time, and this time was no exception.
The equinoctial storm seemed to have blown itself out by the next morning. As soon as the roads were dried up Daddy Bunker said they would have to leave Captain Ben and start back for Pineville. Meanwhile the children determined to have all the fun possible in the short time remaining to them at Grand View.
Bright and early on this morning appeared Tad Munson. Tad was the "runaway boy" in a previous story, and all those who have read "Six Little Bunkers at Captain Ben's" will remember him. He was a very likable boy, too, and Russ liked Tad particularly.
"They told me you Bunkers were going home soon, so I asked my father to let me come over once more to see you," Tad said, by way of greeting. "There's a lot of things you Bunkers haven't seen about here, I guess. I know you haven't seen Dripping Rock."
"What is Dripping Rock?" Vi promptly wanted to know. "What does it drip?"
"Not milk, anyway, or molasses," laughed Tad.
"It drips water, of course," Russ explained. "I have heard of it. You go up the road past the swamp. I know."
"That's right," said Tad. "It's not far."
"I want to go, too, to D'ipping Wock," Mun Bun declared.
"Of course you do," Rose told him. "And if mother lets us go——"
Mother did. As long as Tad was along and knew the way, she was sure nothing would happen to her little Bunkers. At least, nothing worse than usual. Something was always happening to them, she told daddy, whether they stayed at home or not.
"Don't go into the swamp, that is all," said Mother Bunker.
"Why not?" asked Vi.
"I know a riddle about a swamp," said Laddie eagerly. "Why is a swamp like what we eat for breakfast?"
"Goodness!" cried Rose. "That can't be. I had an egg and two slices of bacon for breakfast, and that couldn't be anything like a swamp."
"But you ate something else," cried Laddie delightedly. "You ate mush. And isn't a swamp just like mush?"
"Huh! You wouldn't think so if you ever tasted swamp mud," said Tad.
"But I guess that is a pretty good riddle after all," Russ told the little boy kindly. "For the mush and the swamp are both soft."
"And—and mushy," said Margy. "I think that's a very nice riddle, Laddie. Why do we eat swamps for breakfast?"
"Goodness! We don't!" exclaimed Rose. "Now, come along. If we are going to the Dripping Rock, we'd better start."
It was not far—not even in the opinion of Mun Bun. They took a road that led right back from the shore, and you really would not have known the sea was near at all when once you got into that path. For there were trees on both sides, and for half the way at least there were no open fields.
"I hear somebody calling," said Russ suddenly, as he led the way with Tad.
"Somebody shouting," said Tad. "I wonder what he wants!"
"I hear it," cried Rose suddenly. "Is he calling for help?"
"Hurry up," advised Tad. "I guess somebody wants something, and he wants it pretty bad."
"Well," said Russ, increasing his pace, but not so much so as to leave Mun Bun and Margy very far behind, "if he wants help, of course he wants it bad. Oh! There's the swamp."
They came to the opening. There were a few trees here on either side of the road, which was now made of logs laid down on the soft ground. Grass grew between the logs. There were pools of water, and other pools of very black mud with only tufts of tall grass growing between them.
"Oh!" cried Rose, who had very bright eyes, "I see him!"
"Who do you see?" demanded Tad, who was turning around and trying to look all ways at once.
"There! Can't you see him?" demanded Rose, with growing excitement. "Oh, the poor thing!"
Just then an unmistakable "bla-a-at!" startled the other children—even Tad Munson. He brought his gaze down from the trees into the branches of which he had been staring.
"Bla-a-at!" was the repeated cry, which at first the children had thought had been "Help!"
"And sure enough," Russ said confidently, "he is saying 'help!' just as near as he can say it."
"The poor thing!" sighed Rose again.
WHAT WAS STUCK IN THE MUD
Russ began to whistle a tune, as he often did when he was puzzled. It was not that he was puzzled about the thing he saw—and which Rose had seen first—but at once Russ felt that he must discover a way to get the blatting object out of the mud.
"What do you know about that!" cried Tad Munson. "That's John Winsome's red calf. See! He's sunk clear to his backbone in the mud."
"Oh, dear me!" cried Rose. "The poor thing!"
She had said that twice before, but everybody was so excited that none of them noticed that Rose was repeating herself. In fact, both Vi and Margy said the very same thing, and in chorus:
"Oh, the poor thing!"
"Is that a red calf, Tad Munson?" asked Laddie. "For if it is, it's a riddle. Its head and its neck and its tail are all splattered with mud."
"It was a red calf when it went into the swamp, all right," said Tad with confidence. "I know that calf, all right. And John Winsome told me only this morning that he had lost it."
"Who put it in that horrid swamp?" Vi demanded.
"I guess it just wandered in," said Tad.
"And it is sinking down right now," Russ tried. "See it?"
Indeed the poor calf—a well grown animal—was in a very serious plight. It was eight or ten feet from the edge of the road where the logs were. And the calf had evidently struggled a good deal and was now quite exhausted. It turned its head to look at the children and blatted again.
"Oh, dear!" said Margy, almost in tears, "it is asking us to help it just as plain as it can."
"I'm going to run and tell John Winsome—right now I am!" shouted Tad, and he turned around and ran back along the road they had come just as fast as he could run.
But Russ stayed where he was. His lips were still puckered in a whistle and he was thinking hard.
"What can we do for the poor calf, Russ?" asked Rose.
She seemed to think that her brother would think up some way of helping the mired creature. No knowing how long Tad would be in finding the owner, and it looked as though the calf was sinking all the time.
Russ Bunker had quite an inventive mind. The other children were helpless in this emergency, but he began to see how he could help the calf stuck in the muddy swamp. He ran to the roadside fence, which was a good deal broken down just at the edge of the open swamp lands. The fence rails were so old and dry that Russ could pull them, one at a time, away from the posts. He dragged the first one to the spot where the calf was blatting so pitifully. Although these cedar rails had been split out of logs many years before, they were still very strong.
"Come on, Rose! You can help drag these rails too," cried Russ, quite excited by the thought that he might be able to save the calf before Tad Munson brought help.
"Oh! what are you going to do? Are you going to burn that poor calf like the Indians used to burn folks?" asked Vi, who remembered something she had heard at Uncle Fred's ranch. "You going to burn the calf at the stake?"
This was a horrifying thought, but even Laddie, who was very tender-hearted, was too much excited to think of this. He said to his twin sister:
"How silly, Vi! You couldn't burn those old rails on that wet place. The fire would go right out."
"Russ won't burn it, or let it drown either," Margy said, with much confidence in their older brother.
Meanwhile Russ and Rose were pulling off fence-rails and dragging them to the edge of the swamp. Then, while Rose brought more, Russ began to lay the rails on the quivering mire, side by side but about a foot apart, the ends of the first row of rails being only a few inches from the side of the calf.
Having made a foundation of four rails upon the soft muck, Russ began to lay the next tier across them, thus building a platform. It was a shaky platform, but he crept out upon it slowly and carefully and the lower rails did not sink much.
"Won't you sink down in the mud, too, if you do that, Russ?" asked Vi curiously. "Won't those old rails get splinters in your hands?"
"Oh!" cried Laddie, jumping up and down in his excitement, "then you'll be the riddle, Russ. 'I went out to the woodpile and got it'—you know."
"Maybe it's a riddle—what I'm going to do for the poor calf when I can reach him," their brother said. "I know I can get to him; but how can I pull him up out of the mud?"
This was a harder question to answer than one of Vi's. The rails did not sink much under Russ's weight, and he believed he could get within reach of the calf. But, having reached the animal, what could the boy do?
"Bla-a-at!" bawled the calf, his smutched head lifted out of the mire.
"Oh, dear! The poor bossy!" gasped Rose, staggering along with another rail. "How you going to help him, Russ?"
"Give me that rail," commanded her brother, standing up gingerly upon the crisscrossed rails. "I bet I can keep him from sinking any farther, anyway. And maybe Tad will find his owner before long."
Russ had just thought of something to do. He balanced himself carefully and took the last rail from Rose.
"Oh, Russ!" cried Vi, "your shoes are getting all muddy."
"Well, I can clean them, can't I?" panted the boy.
"How can you when you haven't any blacking and brush here?" asked Vi.
Russ paid her and her question no attention. He had too much to think of just then. He pointed the rail he held downward and pushed it into the mire just beyond the far end of the platform he had built. The calf bawled again, and struggled some more; but Russ knew he was not hurting the creature, although he could feel the end of the rail scraping down along the calf's side.
He pushed down with all his might until at least half the length of the rail was out of sight. It was poked down right behind the calf's forelegs. Russ thought that if he could pry up the fore-end of the calf, the animal could not drown in the mud.
This is what he tried to do, anyway. And although the calf began to struggle again, being evidently very much frightened, Russ was able to force the end of the rail up, and lifted the calf's head and shoulders.
"Oh, Russ, you're doing it!" cried Rose.
The other children jumped up and down in their delight, and praised him too. All but Mun Bun. He didn't say anything, for the very good reason that he was no longer there to say it!
Nobody had noticed the little boy for the last few minutes. Mun Bun always liked to help, and he had first followed Rose to try to pull a rail off the fence. This was too heavy for Mun Bun, so he had wandered along the road to find a rail or a stick or something that he could drag back to help make Russ Bunker's platform.
None of the others had noticed his absence, and Mun Bun was out of sight when Russ, with the help of Rose, bore down on the end of the fence rail far enough to hoist the calf half way out of the mire.
"Where's Mun Bun?" demanded Rose, looking around.
"Can you save the calf, Russ?" asked Vi.
Russ, however, like Rose, was instantly alarmed by the absence of Mun Bun. A dozen things might happen to the littlest Bunker here in the swamp.
"Where is he?" rejoined Russ. He jumped up and the rail began to tip again, dousing the poor calf into the mire.
"Don't, Russ!" screamed Rose. "He's going down again!"
Russ sat down on the fence rail, and the calf came up, bawling pitifully. It was a very serious problem to decide. If they ran to find Mun Bun, the calf would be lost. What could Russ Bunker do?
GOOD-BYE TO GRAND VIEW
"Didn't you—any of you—see which way he went?" Rose demanded of the other children. "Oh! if Mun Bun gets into the swamp——"
"Of course he won't," said Margy. "He isn't a bossy-calf."
"Of course he won't," added Laddie. "Mother told us not to, and Mun Bun will mind mother."
"Shout for him!" commanded Russ, and raised his own voice to the very top note in calling Mun Bun's name.
The chorus of calls brought no response from Mun Bun. Only an old crow cawed in reply, and of course he knew nothing about Mun Bun or where he had gone.
Russ got off the rail again in his excitement, and down went the calf!
"Oh, you mustn't!" gasped Rose. "You'll drown him."
"But I guess we've got to find Mun Bun," said Vi.
Russ, however, had another idea. He was frightened because of the little boy's disappearance, but he did not want to lose the calf, having already partly saved him from the mud.
"You and Laddie, Vi, come here and help Rose hold down the rail," said Russ.
"But I must go look for Mun Bun, too!" cried Rose.
"Wait a minute," said Russ, "and we'll all go and hunt for him."
Russ had noticed a post of the old fence that had rotted off close to the ground. It was quite a heavy post, but Russ was strong enough to drag it to the side of the miry pool where the calf was fixed. He rolled the post upon the platform, and then on the end of the rail which the other children were holding down.
The post did not stay there very firmly at first. It was not perfectly round and it was gnarled (which means lumpy), and it did not seem to want to stay in place at all. Russ, however, was very persevering. He was anxious too, to keep the poor calf from drowning in the mud. And at length he got the post fixed to suit him.
"Now get up," Russ told them, and Rose and Vi and Laddie stood up.
"That fixes it!" cried Laddie, in great excitement.
"It's all right if the calf doesn't struggle much while we are gone," said Russ doubtfully. "Which way did Mun Bun go?"
"He went on ahead, towards that Dripping Rock we started to see," said Vi. "I saw him start, but I didn't think he was going to run away."
So the five Bunkers started off hurriedly along the log road through the swamp, calling for Mun Bun as they went, and hoping he had not got into real trouble. And he had not come to any harm, although he had wandered some distance from the swampy pool where the calf was.
By and by Mun Bun heard them calling, and he called back. But he was so busy that he did not return. They ran on along the road and at last around a turn, and there was Mun Bun down on his hands and knees in the middle of the road, so much interested in what he was looking at that he did not at first give the others much of his attention.
"What are you doing, Mun Bun?" cried Rose, first to reach the little boy.
"Oh, what's that?" asked Vi, at once curious when she saw the object before Mun Bun.
"I dess it's a box," said Mun Bun, looking over his shoulder. "But sometimes it walks. I'm waiting to see it walk again."
"A walking box!" shouted Laddie. "I can make a riddle out of that, I know. When is a box not a box at all?"
"When it's a turtle!" exclaimed Russ, beginning to laugh.
"No, no!" said Laddie. "That isn't the answer. When it walks. That is the answer to my riddle, Russ."
"That is an awfully funny looking turtle," Rose said. "See how high up it is." None of them had ever seen a wood tortoise before, and the box-like, horny shell was not like that of the little mud-turtles in Rainbow River or the snapping turtle Laddie had found at Uncle Fred's.
The tortoise was so scared (for Mun Bun had been poking it with a stick) that its legs and head were drawn into the shell and it refused to move. Russ did not know but that the tortoise would bite, so he said they had all better go back to the calf. Mun Bun did not like to give up his new-found treasure, but he went back, clinging to Rose's hand and looking back at the tortoise as long as he could see it.
When they came to the place where the calf had been stuck in the mud there was Tad Munson and with him a man. The man had already dragged the calf out to the road and was wiping the mud off with a bunch of grass.
"I declare, you are smart young ones," said John Winsome. "I would not have lost this calf for a good deal. I thank you. I never would have got him out if you hadn't thought of those rails, sonny."
Russ did not much care about being called "sonny." He said that he might as well have been called "moony"—and he didn't go mooning about at all! Older folk were always calling him "young staver" and "chip of the old block," and things like that. They didn't mean any harm; but of course Russ, like other boys, did not fancy being called out of name. And "sonny" did not make the oldest Bunker feel dignified at all.
"Don't mind, Russ," said Rose in a soft little voice when the man had led the staggering calf away. "Don't mind if he did call you sonny. I guess he thinks you are pretty smart just the same. Anyway, we know you are."
"I would have helped you get the rails and build that platform if I had stayed," said Tad Munson. "But I don't know that I would ever have thought of using the rails to save that poor calf. You see, all I could think of was running for John Winsome."
"And I guess that was the first thing to think about," Russ observed, nodding. "Anyway, it's all over now and the calf is safe again. We might as well go on to the Dripping Rock and see what it looks like."
"Oh, yes!" cried Vi. "And find out what it drips."
They trooped along the road, and, coming to the place where Mun Bun had so earnestly studied the wood tortoise, the little Bunkers were surprised to find that the hard-shelled creature had totally disappeared.
"Oh!" mourned Mun Bun. "My turkle is gone. Somebody come and took him."
"No," Rose told the little boy. "He was watching you very slyly, and when he saw you had gone, he ran away just as fast as he could travel."
"He needn't have been so scared," said Mun Bun, in disgust. "I wouldn't have hurt him."
"But you were poking him with a stick, you know, and he prob'ly thought you might poke his eyes out. Come on; let's hurry to the Dripping Rock."
They did this, and Vi, in her curiosity, even got wetted a good deal with the water that dripped from the rock where the spring welled out of the ground and spattered over the lip of the stone basin on top of the big boulder. Ferns grew all about the pool of water below, and Rose and Vi and Margy gathered a lot of these to carry home to Mother Bunker.
"I want to pick ferns, I do!" cried Mun Bun. "I want to take mother the biggest bunch of all."
He worked so hard at pulling the ferns that he tired himself out. And that and the walk to the Dripping Rock and the excitement about the calf in the mud, added to the walk back to Captain Ben's bungalow, made Mun Bun very tired and not a little cross when he got home.
"I want to give these ferns to mother. And I want my face and hands washed. And I want bwead and milk and go to bed right away!" was Mun Bun's declaration.
Although it was only lunch time, they let him have his way, for Mun Bun often took a nap in the early afternoon and mother said it made him as bright as a new penny when he woke up again.
So it was the others, and not Mun Bun, who told their elders about the calf stuck in the mud.
The end of their stay at Captain Ben's bungalow had now come, and although all the little Bunkers were sorry to leave Captain Ben and remembered with delight all the fun they had had here at Grand View, home at Pineville beckoned them.
"Even if we have to go to school," said Russ, "it will seem like visiting at first. Don't you think so? Almost as though our vacation kept on—because we haven't been home much."
"Well," sighed Rose, to whom he spoke, "I sort of like to go to school. But if father goes 'way out West to that Cowboy Jack's, and without us," and she sighed again, "it will seem awfully hard, Russ."
"Maybe something will happen!" cried the oldest little Bunker suddenly.
But just what did happen, even Russ Bunker could not possibly have imagined.
THE COAL STRIKE
Mother, of course, took Mun Bun and Margy back to Pineville by train. It was much too long a journey for them in an automobile. Mr. Bunker, with the four bigger little Bunkers (doesn't that sound funny?) drove in a motor-car and spent one night's sleep on the way at a very pleasant country inn.
They did not have quite so much excitement here as they had at the farmhouse on their way down to the shore. But Rose and Vi had a room all to themselves, and felt themselves quite grown-up travelers. Russ and Laddie were in a second bed in Mr. Bunker's room, and in the night Laddie must have had a very exciting dream because he began to kick about and thrash with his arms and woke up Russ very suddenly.
"Get off me!" cried Russ. "Stop!"
Then he became wide awake, sat up, and saw that it was not a dog jumping all over him, as he had supposed, but his brother.
"Why, Laddie!" he exclaimed, shaking the younger boy. "If you don't stop I'll have to get out and sleep on the floor."
"Oh!" gasped Laddie. "Am I sleeping?"
"Well, you're not now, I guess. But you were sleeping—and kicking, too."
"Oh!" said Laddie again. "I thought that old calf was pulling me down into the mud to take a bath. That—that must be a riddle, Russ."
"What's a riddle?" asked his brother, yawning.
"When is a dream not a dream?" asked Laddie promptly.
"I—ow!—don't know," yawned Russ.
"When you wake up," declared Laddie with conviction.
But Russ did not answer. He had snuggled down into his pillow and was asleep again.
"Well—anyway," muttered Laddie, "I guess that wasn't a very good riddle after all."
They got home to Pineville the next day, and as the automobile rolled into the Bunker yard mother and Norah, the cook, besides Mun Bun and Margy, were in the doorway. The two little folks at once ran screaming into the yard.
"There's a strike!" cried out Margy.
"You tan't go to school!" added Mun Bun.
"What do you mean—strike?" asked Russ wonderingly.
"That old thunder struck us. That's enough," said Rose, harking back to their exciting time in the old house at the seashore.
"Who got struck?" asked Violet. "Did it hurt them—like it did Mun Bun and me when the tree fell on us?"
"It's a coal strike," said Margy. "And the school can't have any coal."
Neither Rose nor Russ just understood this. What had a coal strike to do with their going to school?
But they found out all about it after a time. Something quite exciting had happened in Pineville while they had been down at Grand View. Of course, it happened in quite a number of other places at the same time; but only as the coal strike affected their home town did it matter at all to the six little Bunkers.
Daddy Bunker had plenty of coal in the cellar against the coming of cold weather when the furnace should be started. But everybody was not as fortunate—or as wise—as Daddy Bunker.
And in the school bins no coal had been placed early in the season. Suddenly the delivery of coal in cars to Pineville was stopped. The coal dealers in the town had no coal to deliver, although they had sold a great deal of it for delivery.
Frost had come. Indeed, the flowers and plants in the gardens were already blackened by the touch of Jack Frost's scepter. That meant that soon it would be so cold that little boys and girls could not sit in the big rooms of the schoolhouse unless there were warm fires to send the steam humming through the pipes and radiators.
"Here we are, three weeks late for school already, and no likelihood of coal coming into the town for another month. Of course there will be no school," Mother Bunker said decidedly. "I should not dare let the children go in any case unless the fires were built."
"Quite right," said Daddy Bunker. "And I presume the other people will feel the same about their children. School must be postponed again."
"Oh, bully!" cried Russ.
He shouted it out so loud that the older folks, as well as the children, looked at him in some amazement.
"What is bully?" asked Vi. "Do you mean a coal strike is bully? Why can't we have coal to burn? Who has got our coal?"
Nobody gave her questions much attention, which of course was not unusual. But Daddy Bunker began to laugh.
"I can see what is working in Russ's mind," he said. "You reason from the cause of a lack of coal, to an effect that you need not go to school?"
"I—I don't mind going to school," Rose said, a little doubtfully but looking at her elder brother.
"And I don't mind, either," said Russ promptly. "Only daddy is going to that Cowboy Jack's. And if we can't go to school for a month, why can't we go with daddy? We might as well."
"Oh! Oh!" cried the other children in chorus, seeing very plainly now what Russ had meant by saying the coal strike was "bully."
"Perhaps you are taking too much for granted," Mother Bunker said soberly. "Still, Charles, maybe I had better not unpack our trunks quite yet?"
"I'll see what the outlook is to-morrow morning," said Daddy Bunker quite soberly. "Anyway, I shall not start for the Southwest until day after to-morrow. Will that give you time, if——?"
"Oh, yes," said Mother Bunker, who had become by this time an expert in making quick preparations for leaving home. "Norah and Jerry will get on quite well here."
This was enough to set the six little Bunkers in a ferment. At least, to put their minds in a ferment. They were so excited and so much interested in the possibility of going away again that they could not "settle," as Norah said, to their ordinary pursuits.
Even Rose had by this time decided that she would be able perhaps to pronounce the name of the man Daddy Bunker was going to see—Mr. John Scarbontiskil.
"And, anyway," she told Russ, "maybe I won't have to talk to him much."
"You needn't mind that," said Russ kindly. "Daddy says everybody calls him Cowboy Jack. Daddy has met him and likes him, and he told me that Cowboy Jack likes children, although he has none of his own."
"Why hasn't he?" demanded Vi. "Don't they have little boys and girls down there on the ranch where he lives?"
"He hasn't got any," said Russ. "So he likes other people's children."
Russ and Laddie were very busy getting out their cowboy and Indian suits and having Norah mend them. Of course they would want to dress like other people did in the Southwest.
The coal strike in western Pennsylvania really did send the six little Bunkers off to the Southwest almost as soon as they had returned from the seashore and their visit to Captain Ben.
Daddy came home the next noon and said that coal enough to supply the Pineville school might not arrive before November. At least, there would be four full weeks before school could safely open.
"We might as well make a long holiday of it, Charles," said Mother Bunker, quite complacently.
For she, too, liked to travel, and had, by now, got used to journeying about with the children. Russ and Rose were so helpful, too, that a trip to Cavallo did not seem such a huge undertaking after all.
"Shall we take our bathing suits, Mother?" asked Rose.
"No bathing suits this time, for we are not going to the seashore," declared Mother Bunker.
But in repacking what few things had been unpacked there were two things forgotten. The children really did not have time to "count up" and see if they had all their most precious possessions with them.
It was after they were on the train the following morning, and Pineville station, with Norah and Jerry waving good-bye on the platform, was out of sight, that Rose suddenly discovered a lack that made her cry out in earnest.
"Oh! Oh! I've lost it!" she said.
"What you lost?" asked Vi.
"My watch!" gasped Rose.
"Oh, dear me! Your nice new wrist watch?" asked Mother Bunker admonishingly.
"Yes, ma'am," sighed Rose. "I—I haven't got it."
"Oh, my!" cried Laddie suddenly.
He was fumbling at his scarf and trying to look at it by pulling it out to its full length and squinting down his nose at its pretty pattern.
"And what's the matter with you, Laddie?" asked Daddy Bunker. "What have you lost?"
"Oh, my!" said Laddie, quite as dolefully as Rose had spoken. "I—I don't see my new stick-pin. It isn't here. I—I just guess I have lost it, too."
THE SOUP JUGGLER
Rose was almost in tears when she found that her watch was lost. But although Laddie felt very bad about his missing stick-pin, he would not cry. Just the same, he did not feel as though he could make a riddle out of it.
"Now, Rose, and you, Laddie," said Mother Bunker admonishingly, as she seated them before her in one of the double seats of the Pullman car in which they had their reservations, "I want to know all about how you came to forget the watch and the pin—and just where you forgot them?"
Although Mother Bunker was usually very cheerful and patient with the children, this was a serious matter. Carelessness and inattention were faults that Mother Bunker was always trying to correct. For those two faults, as she pointed out so frequently, led often to much trouble, as in this case. The loss of the wrist watch and the stick-pin could not be passed over lightly.
Laddie shook his head very sorrowfully. "That is a riddle, Mother," he said. "I can forget things so easy that I forget how I forget them."
But Rose was thinking very hard, and she broke out with:
"Maybe I never had it there at all!"
"Where?" asked Mrs. Bunker, while the other children stood in the aisle or knelt on the seat behind to listen at the conference. "Where didn't you have it?"
"At home, Mother. I—I guess I haven't seen that watch since we were at Captain Ben's."
"Oh!" shouted Laddie. "That is just it! I left my stick-pin at the bungalow. I left it sticking in that cushion on the bureau in that room where Russ and Mun Bun and I slept. Of course I did."
"Are you sure, Laddie?" asked Mrs. Bunker. "I remember that I did not go into that room to see if anything was left. I should have done so, but we were in such a hurry."
"My rememberer is all right now," declared Laddie, with conviction. "That is where I left the pin."
"And you, Rose?" asked their mother.
"I—I don't know for sure," admitted Rose. "I can't remember where I had the watch last—or when I wore it last. But I do not believe I had it at all when we came home to Pineville."
"Well, Laddie is positive, and I suspect that you were quite as careless as he was," Mrs. Bunker said. "You should not be, Rose, for you are older."
"Oh, Mother! I am so sorry," cried Rose. "Don't you suppose we'll ever see my watch and Laddie's pin again?"
"We will write a letter to Captain Ben at once," said Mrs. Bunker, getting the writing pad and fountain pen out of her bag. "He has not left Grand View, and he may have already found them both. But, of course, we cannot be sure."
"He would know they belonged to Rose and Laddie, if he found them," said Russ, trying to comfort the others.
"Yes. If he cleans up the house he might find them. But it is likely that he will hire somebody to do that, and we cannot be sure that the person cleaning up is honest."
"Oh, how mean! To steal Rose's watch and Laddie's pin!" cried Russ.
"What makes them steal, Mother?" queried Vi.
"Because they have not been taught that other people's possessions are sacred," said Mrs. Bunker gravely. "You know, I tell all you children not to touch each other's toys or other things without permission."
"Well!" ejaculated Vi, "Laddie took my book."
"I didn't mean to keep it," cried her twin at once. "And, anyway, it wasn't a sacred book. It was just a story book."
"Stealing is an intention to defraud," explained their mother, smiling a little. "But Vi's book was just as sacred, or set apart, to her possession as anything could be."
"I—I thought sacred books were like the Bible and the hymn book," murmured Laddie wonderingly.
Which was of course quite so. It took Laddie some time, he being such a little boy, to understand that it was the fact of possession that was "sacred" rather than the article possessed.
However, Mother Bunker wrote the letter to Captain Ben, asking him to hunt all about the bungalow for both the wrist watch Rose had lost and the stick-pin Laddie was so confident now that he had left sticking in the cushion on the bureau in the bedroom. She also wrote a letter to Norah asking the cook to look for the lost articles.
"Now what will you do with them?" asked Vi, referring to the letters.
"Mail them," replied Mother Bunker.
"How will you mail them? Is there a post-box in the car?"
"No. But we will find a way of getting them into the mails," her mother assured the inquisitive Violet.
"I know!" cried Russ. "I saw the mailsack hanging on the hook at the railroad station down on the coast, and the train came along and grabbed it off with another hook."
"That is getting the mail on to the train," said Vi promptly. "But how do they get it off?"
When Mrs. Bunker had finished writing the letters and had sealed and addressed the envelopes she satisfied Vi's curiosity, as well as that of the other children, by giving the letters and a dime to the colored porter, who promised to mail them at the first station at which the train stopped.
Then they all trooped into the dining car for dinner, where daddy had already secured two tables for his party. They had a waiter all to themselves, and the children thought that he was a very funny man. In the first place, he was very black, and when he smiled (which was almost all the time) he displayed so many and such very white teeth that Mun Bun and Margy could scarcely eat their dinner properly, they looked so often at the waiter.
He was a colored man who liked children too. He said he did, and he laughed loudly when Vi asked him questions, although he couldn't answer all her questions any better than other people could.
"Why is he called a waiter?" Vi wanted to know. "For he doesn't wait at all. He is running back and forth to the kitchen at the end of the car all the time."
"That's a riddle," declared her twin soberly. "'When is a waiter not a waiter?'"
"You'll have to answer that one yourself, Laddie," said Daddy Bunker, laughing.
"When he's a runner," Laddie said promptly. "Isn't that a good riddle?"
"And he juggles dishes almost as good as that juggler we saw at the show," Russ declared.
"He must have almost as much skill as a juggler to serve his customers in this car," said Mrs. Bunker, watching the man coming down the aisle as the train sped around a sharp curve.
"Oh! Look there!" cried Rose, who was likewise facing the right way to see the waiter's approach.
The smiling black man was coming with a soup toureen balanced on one hand while he had other dishes on a tray balanced on his other hand. The car swayed so that the waiter began to stagger as though he were on the deck of a ship in a heavy sea.
"Oh! He's going!" sang out Russ.
The waiter jerked to one side, and almost dropped the soup toureen. Then he pitched the other way and his tray hit against one of the diners at another table.
"Look out what you're doing!" cried the man whom the tray had struck.
"Yes, sah! Yes, sah!" panted the waiter, and he tried to balance his tray.
But there was the soup toureen slipping from his other hand. He had either to drop the tray or the soup. Each needed the grasp of both his hands to secure it, and the waiter, losing his smile at last and uttering a frightened shout, made a last desperate attempt to retain both burdens.
"There he goes!" gasped Russ again.
"I guess he is a soup juggler," declared Laddie, staring with all his might. "He's got it!"
After all, the waiter showed wisdom in making his choice as long as a choice had to be made. Even Daddy Bunker, when he could stop laughing, voiced his approval. The tray and the viands on it flew every-which-way. But the waiter caught the hot soup toureen in both hands. It was so hot that he could only balance it first in one hand and then the other while the train finished rounding that curve.
"My head an' body!" gasped the poor waiter. "I done circulated de celery an' yo' watah glasses, suah 'nough. But I done save mos' of de soup," and he set the toureen down with a thump in front of Daddy Bunker.
The steward came running with a very angry countenance, and the people who had been spattered by the water sputtered a good deal. But Daddy Bunker, when he could recover from his laughter, interceded for the "soup juggler," and the incident was passed off as an accident.
When daddy paid his bill and tipped the very much subdued waiter, Laddie tugged at his father's sleeve and whispered:
"What is it, Son?" asked Mr. Bunker, stooping down to hear what the little boy whispered.
"Ask him if he will juggle the soup again if we come in here to eat?"
But Mr. Bunker only laughed and herded his flock back into the other car. The children, however, thought the incident very funny indeed, and they hoped to see the juggling waiter again when they ate their next meal in the dining car.
Mother Bunker had brought a nicely packed basket for supper (Nora O'Grady had made the sandwiches and the cookies) and she sent daddy into the buffet car for milk and tea.
"The children get just as hungry on the train as they do when they are playing all day long out-of-doors," she told daddy. "But they must not eat too much while we are traveling. And I have to shoo the candy boy away every half hour."
The boy who sold magazines and candy interested Russ and Laddie very much. Russ thought that he might become a "candy butcher" when he grew up, although at first he had decided to be a locomotive engineer.
"It must be lots nicer to sell candy than to work an engine," Laddie said. "You get your hands all oil in an engine."
"Where does the oil come from?" asked Vi, who had not asked a question since she had seen the waiter "juggle" the soup toureen. "What does an engine have oil for? Do they keep it in a cruet, like that cruet on the table in the hotel we stopped at coming up from Grand View?"
And perhaps she asked even more questions, but these are all we have time to repeat right now. For evening had come, and soon the little Bunkers would be put to bed. Although they had two sections of the sleeping car, there was none too much room when the porter let down the berths and hung the curtains for them.
Besides, even after the little folks had all got quiet, peace did not reign for long in that sleeping car. The very strangest thing happened. Even Russ couldn't have invented it.
But I will have to tell you about it in the next chapter.
AN ALARM AND A HOLD-UP
Of course, the six little Bunkers were just ordinary children, although they sometimes had extraordinary adventures. And confinement for only a few hours in a Pullman car had made them very restless. It was impossible for them always to keep quiet, and their running up and down the aisles, and their exclamations about what they saw, sometimes annoyed other passengers just a little.
Most of the passengers in this car were people, fortunately, who liked children and could appreciate how difficult it was for the six to be always on their best behavior. And the passengers could not but admire the way in which Daddy and Mother Bunker controlled the exuberance of the six.
But there was one man who had scowled at the little Bunkers almost from the very moment they had boarded the train at Pineville. That man seemed to say to himself:
"Oh, dear! here is a crowd of children and they are going to annoy me dreadfully."
And, of course, as he expected to be annoyed, there was scarcely anything the Bunkers did or said but what did annoy him. He was a very fat man, and the car was sometimes too warm for him, and he was always complaining to the porter about something or other, and altogether he was a very miserable man indeed on that particular journey.
Maybe he was a nice man at home. But it is doubtful if he had any children of his own, and probably nobody's children would have suited him at all! Mun Bun and Margy made friends with almost everybody in the car but the fat man. He would not even look at Mun Bun when the little fellow staggered along the car, from seat to seat, and looked smilingly up into the fat man's red face.
"Go away!" said the fat man to Mun Bun.
Mun Bun's eyes grew round with wonder at the man's cross speech. He could not understand it at all. He looked at the fat man in a very puzzled way, and then went back to Mother Bunker's seat.
"Muvver," he said soberly, "do you got pep'mint?"
"I think you have eaten all the candy that is good for you now, Mun Bun," said Mother Bunker.
"No," said Mun Bun earnestly. "Not tandy. Pep'mint for ache," and he rubbed himself about midway of his body very suggestively.
"Mun Bun! are you ill?" demanded his mother anxiously. "Are you in pain, you poor baby?"
He explained then that he did not need the "pep'mint"; but knowing that Mother Bunker sometimes gave it to him when he had pain, he said he thought the man up the aisle would like some for the same reason.
"Better ask him," suggested Daddy Bunker, who had noted the unhappy face of the fat man.
Mun Bun did this. He asked the man very politely if he needed "pep'mint." But all the cross passenger said was:
"Go on away! You are a nuisance!"
So Mun Bun went back to daddy and mother in rather a subdued way, for he was not used to being treated so. Mun Bun liked to make friends wherever he went.
Perhaps the fat man was the only person in the car who was glad when the Bunker children went to bed. He went into the smoking room while his own berth was being made up, and when he came back to the berths, daddy and mother, as well as most of the other passengers, had retired. The car was soon after that pretty quiet.
Russ and Laddie were in the upper berth over daddy and Mun Bun. The boys in the upper berth had been asleep for some little time when Russ woke up—oh, quite wide awake!
There was something going on that he could not understand. Whether this mysterious something had awakened him or not, Russ lay straining his ears to catch a repetition of the sound. Then it came—a sound that made the boy "creep" all over it was so shuddery!
"Laddie! Laddie!" he whispered, nudging the boy next to him. "Don't you hear it?"
Laddie was not easily awakened. When Laddie went to sleep it was, as the children say, "for keeps." Russ had to punch him with his elbow more than once before the smaller boy awakened.
"Oh, oh! Is it morning?" murmured Laddie.
"Listen!" hissed Russ right in his ear. "That man's being mur—murdered!"
"Mur—murdered?" quavered Laddie in response. "You—you tell daddy about it, Russ Bunker. Don't you tell me. I don't believe he is, anyway. Who's mur—murderin' him?"
"I don't know who's doing it," admitted Russ, shaking as much as Laddie was.
"How do you know it's—it's being done?" repeated Laddie, his doubt growing as he became more fully awake.
"He says so. He says so himself. And if he says he's being murdered, he ought to know—Oh!"
Again the doleful sound reached their ears, this time Laddie hearing as well as Russ the moaning of a voice which uttered a muffled cry of "Mur-r-rder!"
"There! What did I tell you?" gasped Russ. "I'm—I'm going to tell daddy."
"Wait for me! Wait, Russ Bunker! I'm going with you," Laddie cried. "I don't want to stay here and be mur—murdered, too!"
That was an awful word, anyway. Russ crept over the edge of the berth at the foot and dropped down behind the curtain. Laddie was right behind him, and in fact came down first upon Russ's shoulders and then slipped to the floor of the car.
Before they could get inside daddy's curtain—a place which spelled safety to their disturbed imaginations—they heard the moaning voice again groan:
It was an awful choking cry—just like a hen squawked when Jerry Simms grabbed it by the neck and had his hand on the hen's windpipe!
"He's mur—murderin' him all right," chattered Laddie, tugging at Russ's pajama jacket. "Are—are you going to stop it, Russ?"
Russ had no idea of going himself to the rescue of the victim; he had only thought of waking daddy. But now he put his head outside the curtain and looked into the narrow aisle of the sleeping car. The first thing he saw was the colored porter, his cap on awry, his eyes rolling so that their whites were very prominent, stalking up the aisle in a crouching attitude with the little stool he sometimes sat on in the vestibule gripped by one leg as a weapon.
"It's the porter!" whispered Russ huskily.
"Is—is he being mur—murdered?" stuttered Laddie.
"He—he looks more as though he was going to do the mur-murdering," confessed Russ.
Laddie would not look; but Russ could not take his eyes off the approaching porter. The colored man crept nearer, nearer—and then suddenly he snatched away the curtain almost directly across the aisle from where the two little Bunkers stood.
There was nobody in that lower berth but the fat man before mentioned! He lay on his back with his knees up, his face very red, his eyes tightly closed. Again there issued from his lips the stifled cry of "Mur-r-rder!"
"Fo' de lan's sake!" exclaimed the porter, dropping his stool and grabbing the fat passenger by the shoulder. "I suah 'nough thunk somebody was bein' choked to deaf. Wake up, Mistah White Man! Ain't nobody a-murderin' of yo' but yo'self."
The fat man's eyes opened wide at that and he glared around. He saw the face of the porter at last and blinked his eyes for a moment. Then he sighed.
"I—I guess I was asleep. Must have been dreaming," he stammered gruffly.
"Say, Mistah!" the porter replied, "if yo' sleep like dat always, you bettah have a car by yo'self. For yo' ain't goin' to let nobody else sleep in peace. Turn over! Yo's on your back."
Russ and Laddie could only stare, and some of the other passengers began to open their curtains and ask questions of the porter. The fat man grabbed his own curtain away from the colored man and quickly shut himself in again.
"All right! All right!" said the porter, picking up his stool and going back to his place. "Ain't nobody killed yet. Guess we goin' to have peace now fo' a while."
Daddy Bunker awoke too and sent his little folks back to bed, and Russ and Laddie did not wake up again till broad daylight. They had to tell the other little Bunkers before breakfast about what had happened; but they never saw the fat man again, for he left the train at a station quite early.
There were other things to interest the little Bunkers. In the first place, it began to rain soon after they got up. A rainy day at home was no great cross for the children to bear. There was always the attic to play in. But on the train, with the rain beating against the windows and not much to see as the train hurried on, the children began to grow restless.
It was reported that the heavy rains ahead of them had done some damage to the railroad, and the speed of the train was reduced until, by the middle of the forenoon, it seemed only to creep along. The conductor, who came through the car once in a while, told them that there were "washouts" on the road.
"What's washouts?" demanded Vi. "Is it clothes on clotheslines, like Norah's washlines? Why don't they take the wash in when it rains so?"
She really had to be told what "washout" meant, or she would have given daddy and mother no peace at all. And the other children were interested in the possibility that the train might be halted by a big hole in the ground where the tracks ought to be.
Every time the train slowed down they were eagerly on tiptoe to see if the "washout" had come. They were finally steaming through a deep cut in the wooded hills when, of a sudden, the brakes were applied and the train came to a stop with such a shock that the little Bunkers were all tumbled together—although none of them was hurt.
"Here's the washout! Here's the washout!" cried Laddie eagerly.
"Can we go look out of the door, Mother?" asked Rose.
For some of the passengers were standing in the vestibule and the door was open. Daddy got up and went with the children, all clamorous to see the hole in the ground that had halted the train.
But it was not a hole at all. It was something so different from a hole, or a washout as the children had imagined that to be, that when they saw it they were very much excited and surprised.
THE BIG ROCK THAT FELL DOWN
"Where is it? Let me see it!" was Vi's cry, as she rushed out into the vestibule ahead of Daddy Bunker and her brothers and sisters.
Vi was so curious that she thought she just had to be first. Daddy Bunker tried to restrain her, for he was afraid she would fall down the car steps and out upon the cinder path beside the rails. And although it had now ceased raining, she might easily have been hurt, if not made thoroughly wet.
"Oh, Vi's going to see the washout first!" cried Laddie, who did not like to play second when his twin wanted to be first.
"Now, wait!" commanded daddy. "You shall all see what there is to see——"
"I want to see the wash up on the clotheslines," said Mun Bun, breaking into his father's speech.
"Well, if you will be patient," Mr. Bunker said, smiling, "I think we'll all have a fair view of the wonder. But the 'washup' isn't going to be just what you think it is, Mun Bun."
Nor was it just what any of the six little Bunkers thought it would be—as I said before. Daddy went down the steps first and then turned and "hopped" the children down to the cinder path, one after the other. Only Russ, who came last, jumped down without any assistance.
It was still very wet and all about were shallow puddles. But the rain itself had ceased. In places, especially in the ditches alongside the railroad bed, the water had torn its way through the earth, leaving it red and raw. And big stones had been unearthed in the banks of the ditches and in some cases carried some distance away from where they had formerly lain.
"Why, that isn't a hole in the ground at all!" cried Laddie, first to realize that what had made the train stop was something different from what they had all expected.
"Oh!" shouted Violet. "It's a great, big rock that's fallen down the hill."
"Well," said Russ, soberly, "I guess it's a washout at that. For the rain must have washed it out of the hillside. See! There is the hole up there in the bank."
"You are right, Russ," said Daddy Bunker. "It is a washout, and it will take a long time to get that big rock off of the track so that the train can go on."
The rock that had fallen completely blocked the west-bound track, as daddy said. And a good deal of earth and gravel had fallen with it so that the rails of the east-bound track were likewise buried. There was already a gang of trackmen clearing away this gravel; but, as the children's father had told them, it would take many hours to remove the great boulder.
"Suppose our train had been going by when the rock fell?" suggested Russ to Rose.
"What would the rock have done to us?" asked Vi, who heard her brother say this.
"I guess it would have done something," replied Russ solemnly.
"It would have pushed us right off the track," declared Rose, nodding her head.
"And what would it have done then?" demanded Vi.
"I wish you wouldn't, Vi," complained her twin suddenly.
"Wish I wouldn't what?"
"Ask so many questions."
"Why, I was just thinking of a riddle about that big rock; and now it's all gone," sighed Laddie.
"No, it isn't gone at all," Vi said wonderingly. "Daddy says it will take hours to move it."
"Oh! That old rock!" said Laddie. "I meant my riddle. That's all gone."
"I guess it wasn't a very good riddle, then, if it went so easy," said the critical Vi. "Oh, look there!"
"At what?" exclaimed her twin, following Vi to the fence beside the railroad bed.
"See that path, Laddie? I guess we could climb right up that hill and see down into that hole where the big rock washed out."
"So we could," agreed the boy. "Let's."
Daddy and the other children were some yards away, but in plain sight. Indeed, they would be in sight if Vi and Laddie climbed to the very top of the bank. It did not seem to either of the twins that they needed to ask permission to climb the path when daddy was so near and could see them by just looking up. So they hopped over the low fence and began to climb.
It was an easy path, almost all of stone, and the rain had washed it clean. It was great fun to be so high above the railroad and look down upon the crowd of passengers from the stalled train and upon the workmen. The two explorers could see into the hole washed in the hillside, and it was much deeper than it had looked to be when they stood below. There was a puddle of muddy water in it, too.
"Guess we don't want to fall into that," said Laddie, and Vi did not even ask why not. "Let's go on to the top. We can see farther."
Vi was quite willing to go as far as her twin did. And there really seemed to be no reason why they should not go. It would be hours before that rock could be moved, and of course the train could not go on until that was done.
They reached the top of the bank. Here was a great pasture which sloped away to a piece of woods. Although the ground was wet, it had stopped raining some time before and a strong wind was blowing. This wind had dried the grass and weeds and the twins did not wet their feet. And——
"Oh!" squealed Vi, starting away from the edge of the bank on a run. "See the flowers! Oh, see the flowers, Laddie!"
Laddie saw the flowers quite as soon as she did, but he did not shout about it. He followed his sister, however, with much promptness, and both of them began to pick the flowering weeds that dotted the pasture.
"We'll get a big bunch for mother. Won't she be glad?" went on Vi.
Mother Bunker was supposed to have a broad taste in flowers, and every blossom the children found was brought for her approval. In a minute the twins were so busy gathering the blossoms of wild carrots and other weeds that they forgot the train, and the big rock that had fallen, and even the fact that they had climbed the bank without permission.
At length Laddie stood up to look abroad over the great field. Perhaps he had pulled the blossoms faster than Vi. At any rate, he had already a big handful. Suddenly he caught sight of something that interested him much more than the flowers did.
There was a stone fence near by which divided the fields. And on the fence something flashed into view and ran along a few yards—something that interested the boy immensely.
"Oh, look, Vi!" cried Laddie. "There's a chippy!"
"What chippy? Who's chippy?" demanded Vi excitedly.
"There he goes!" shouted Laddie. "A chipmunk!"
He dropped his bunch of blossoms and started for the stone fence. Vi caught a glimpse of the whisking chipmunk, and she dropped her flowers and ran after her brother.
"Oh, let me catch him! Let me catch him!"
The chipmunk ran along the stone fence a little way, and then looked back at the excited children. He did not seem much frightened. Perhaps he had been chased by children before and knew that he was more than their match in running.
At any rate, that chipmunk drew Laddie and Vi on to the very edge of the woods, and then, with a flirt of its tail, it disappeared into a hole and they could not find him.
Laddie and Vi were breathless by that time, and they had to sit down and rest. They looked back over the field. It was a long way to the brink of the bank from which they could see the train and the passengers.
"I—I guess we'd better go back," said Laddie.
"And mother's flowers!" exclaimed Vi. "Do you know where you dropped them?"
"I dropped mine just where you dropped yours, I guess," returned her brother.
"We'll go pick them up. Come on."
They were both tired when they started to trudge back up the hill. And just as they started they heard a long blast of a whistle, and then two short blasts.
"What do you suppose that is?" asked Vi.
"It's the engine. Oh, Vi! maybe it's going to start without us," and Laddie began to run, tired as he was.
"Wait for me, Laddie! It can't go—you know it can't. The big rock is in the way."
But they were both rather frightened, and they did not stop to find their flowers. The possibility that the train might go off and leave them filled the two children with alarm. They ran on as hard as they could, and Vi fell down and soiled her hands and her dress.
She was beginning to cry a little when Laddie came back for her and took her hand. He was frightened, too; but he would not show it by crying—not then, anyway.
"Come on, Vi," he urged. "If that old train goes on with daddy and mother and the rest, I don't know what we shall do!"
WHERE ARE THE TWINS?
The wrecking crew with their big derrick and other tools had not yet arrived in the cut where the stalled west-bound train, on which rode the Bunker family, had stopped. But the section gang had shoveled away the dirt and gravel from the east-bound track.
Russ and Rose and Margy and Mun Bun had found plenty to interest them in watching the shovelers and in listening to the men passengers talking with daddy and some of the train crew. Finally Mun Bun expressed a desire to go back into the car, and Rose went with him. As they were climbing the steps into the vestibule a brakeman came running forward along the cinder path beside the tracks.
"All aboard! Back into the cars, people!" he shouted. "We're going to steam back. Get aboard!"
Russ and Margy being the only Bunker children in sight, Mr. Bunker "shooed" them back to the Pullman car. He saw Rose and Mun Bun disappearing up the high steps, and he presumed Laddie and Violet were ahead. The train had started and the four children and daddy came to mother's seat before it was discovered that there were two little Bunkers missing.
"Oh, Charles!" gasped Mrs. Bunker. "Where are they?" The train began to move more rapidly. "They are left behind!"
"No, Amy, I don't think so," Mr. Bunker told her soothingly. "I looked all about before I got aboard and there wasn't a chick nor child in sight. I was one of the last passengers to get aboard. The section men had even got upon their handcar and were pumping away up the east-bound track. There is not a soul left at that place."