SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDPA FORD'S
LAURA LEE HOPE
Author of "The Bunny Brown Series," "The Bobbsey Twins Series," "The Outdoor Girls Series," Etc.
New York Grosset & Dunlap Publishers Made in the United States of America
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By LAURA LEE HOPE
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12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. 50 cents per volume
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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
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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
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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
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THE OUTDOOR GIRL SERIES
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS OF DEEPDALE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT RAINBOW LAKE THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A MOTOR CAR THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN A WINTER CAMP THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN FLORIDA THE OUTDOOR GIRLS AT OCEAN VIEW THE OUTDOOR GIRLS ON PINE ISLAND THE OUTDOOR GIRLS IN ARMY SERVICE
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GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
Copyright, 1918, by GROSSET & DUNLAP
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Six Little Bunkers at Grandpa Ford's
I. THE MAN ON THE PORCH 1
II. GRANDPA FORD 13
III. SOMETHING QUEER 23
IV. RUSS MAKES A BALLOON 31
V. THE BIG BANG NOISE 44
VI. OFF TO GREAT HEDGE 54
VII. MUN BUN TAKES SOMETHING 63
VIII. A BIG STORM 73
IX. AT TARRINGTON 85
X. GREAT HEDGE AT LAST 95
XI. THE NIGHT NOISE 105
XII. UP IN THE ATTIC 113
XIII. THE OLD SPINNING WHEEL 125
XIV. COASTING FUN 137
XV. JINGLING BELLS 145
XVI. THANKSGIVING FUN 153
XVII. RUSS MAKES SNOWSHOES 163
XVIII. ON SKATES 172
XIX. THE ICE BOAT 182
XX. ANOTHER NIGHT SCARE 192
XXI. MR. WHITE 200
XXII. AN UPSET 208
XXIII. IN THE CABIN 219
XXIV. CHRISTMAS JOYS 227
XXV. THE GHOST AT LAST 237
SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDPA FORD'S
THE MAN ON THE PORCH
"Oh, Daddy, come and take him off! He's a terrible big one, and he's winkin' one of his claws at me! Come and take him off!"
"All right, Mun Bun. I'll be there in just a second. Hold him under water so he won't let go, and I'll get him for you."
Daddy Bunker, who had been reading the paper on the porch of Cousin Tom's bungalow at Seaview, hurried down to the little pier that was built out into Clam River. On the end of the pier stood a little boy, who was called Mun Bun, but whose real name was Munroe Ford Bunker. However, he was almost always called Mun Bun.
"Come quick, Daddy, or he'll get away!" cried Mun Bun, and he leaned a little way over the edge of the pier to look at something which was on the end of a line he held. The something was down under water.
"Be careful, Mun Bun! Don't fall in!" cried his father, who, having caught up a long-handled net, was now running down a little hill to the pier. "Be careful!" he repeated.
"I will," answered the little boy, shaking his golden hair out of his blue eyes, as he tried to get a better view of what he had caught. "Oh, but he's a big one, and he winks his claws at me!"
"Well, as long as the crab doesn't pinch you you'll be all right," said Daddy Bunker.
There! I meant to tell you before that Mun Bun was catching crabs, and not fish, as you might have supposed at first. He had a long string, with a piece of meat on the end, and he had been dangling this in the water of Clam River, from Cousin Tom's boat pier.
Then a big crab had come along and, catching hold of the chunk of meat in one claw, had tried to swim away with it to eat it in some hole on the bottom of the inlet.
But the string, to which the meat was tied, did not let him. Mun Bun held on to the string and as he slowly pulled it up he caught sight of the crab. As the little fellow had said, it was a big one, and one of the claws was "winkin'" at him. By that Mun Bun meant the crab was opening and closing his claw as one opens and closes an eye.
"Hold him under water, Mun Bun, or he'll let go and drop off," called Daddy Bunker.
"I will," answered the golden-haired boy, and he leaned still farther over the edge of the pier to make sure the crab was still holding to the piece of meat.
"Be careful, Mun Bun!" shouted his father. "Be careful! Oh, there you go!"
And there Mun Bun did go! Right off the pier he fell with a big splash into Clam River. Under the water he went, but he soon came up again, and, having held his breath, as his father had taught him to do whenever his head went under water, Mun Bun, after a gasp or two, was able to cry:
"Oh, Daddy, Daddy, don't let him get me! Don't let the crab pinch me!"
Daddy Bunker did not answer for a moment. He was too busy to talk, for he dropped the long-handled crab net, ran down to the pier and, jumping off himself, grabbed Mun Bun.
Luckily the water was not deep—hardly over Mun Bun's head—and his father soon lifted the little fellow up out of danger.
"There!" cried Daddy Bunker, laughing to show Mun Bun that there was no more danger. "Now the crab can't get you!"
Mun Bun looked around to make sure, and then, seeing that he was sitting on the pier, where his father had placed him, he looked around again.
"Did you—did you get the crab?" he asked, his voice was a little choky.
"No, indeed I didn't!" laughed Mr. Bunker. "I was only trying to get you. I told you to be careful and not lean too far over."
"Well, I—I wanted to see my crab!"
"And the crab came near getting you. Well, it can't be helped now. You are soaking wet. I'll take you up to the bungalow and your mother can put dry clothes on you. Come along."
"But I want to get my crab, Daddy!"
"Oh, he's gone, Mun Bun. No crab would stay near the pier after all the splashing I made when I jumped in to get you out."
"Maybe he's on my string yet," insisted the little fellow. "I tied my string to the pier. Please, Daddy, pull it up and see if it has a crab on it."
"Well, I will," said Mun Bun's father, as he jumped up on the pier from the water, after having lifted out his little boy. "I'll pull up the string, but I'm sure the crab has swum back into the ocean."
Both Mun Bun and his father were soaking wet, but as it was a hot day in October they did not mind. Mr. Bunker slowly pulled on the string, the end of which, as Mun Bun had said, was tied to a post on the pier. Slowly Mr. Bunker pulled in, not to scare away the crab, if there was one, and a moment later he cried:
"Oh, there is a big one, Mun Bun! It didn't go away with all the splashing! Run and get me the net and I'll catch it for you!"
Mun Bun ran up on shore and came back with the long-handled net Mr. Bunker had dropped. Then, holding the string, with the chunk of meat on it, in one hand, the meat being just under water, Mun Bun's father carefully dipped the net into the water and thrust it under the bait and the crab.
A moment later he quickly lifted the net, and in it was a great, big crab—one of the largest Mr. Bunker had ever seen, and there were some big ones in Clam River.
"Oh, you got him, didn't you!" cried Mun Bun, capering about. "You caught my terrible crab, didn't you, Daddy?"
"Well, I rather guess we did, Mun Bun!" exclaimed Mr. Bunker. "He is a big one, too."
Mr. Bunker turned the net over a peach basket, and the crab, slashing and snapping his claws, dropped into it. Then Mun Bun looked down at him.
"I got you, I did!" said the little boy. "My daddy and I got you, we did."
"But it took a lot of work, Mun Bun!" laughed Mr. Bunker. "If I had to jump in and pull you out every time you wanted to catch a crab I wouldn't like it. But he surely is a big one."
Mun Bun and his father were looking at the crab in the peach basket, when a voice called:
"Oh, what has happened to you? You are all wet!"
Mun Bun's mother came down to the pier.
"What happened?" she repeated.
"Look at the big crab I caught!" cried the little fellow. "Daddy pulled him out for me."
"Yes, and it looks as if Daddy had pulled out something more than a crab," said Mrs. Bunker. "Did you fall in, Mun Bun?"
"No, I didn't zactly fall in. I—I just slipped."
"Oh," said Mrs. Bunker. "I thought maybe you'd say the crab pulled you in."
"Well, he pretty nearly did," said the little fellow.
"He leaned too far over the water," explained Mr. Bunker to his wife. "But I soon got him out. He's all right."
"Yes, but I'll have to change his clothes. However, it isn't the first time. I'm getting used to it."
Well might Mrs. Bunker say that, for, since coming to Cousin Tom's bungalow at Seaview one or more of the children had gotten wet nearly every day, not always from falling off the pier, but from wading, from going too near the high waves at the beach, or from playing in the boats.
"Oh, look at Mun Bun!" cried another voice, as a little girl ran down the slope from the bungalow to the pier. "He's all wet!"
"Did he fall in?" asked another little boy excitedly.
"Oh, look at the big crab!" exclaimed a girl, who, though older than Mun Bun, had the same light hair and blue eyes.
"Did you catch him, Mun Bun?" asked a boy, who seemed older than any of the six children now gathered on the pier. "Did you catch him?"
"Daddy helped me," answered Mun Bun. "And I fell in, I did!"
"That's easy to see!" laughed his mother. "Oh, did the mail come?" she asked, for she saw that the oldest boy had some letters in his hand.
"Yes, Mother," was the answer. "Oh, look at the crab trying to get out!" and with a stick Russ, the oldest of the six little Bunkers, thrust the creature back into the basket.
There were six of the Bunker children. I might have told you that at the start, but I was so excited about Mun Bun falling off the pier that I forgot about it. Anyhow now you have time to count them.
There was Russ, aged eight years; Rose, a year younger; and then came Laddie and Violet, who was called Vi for short.
Laddie and Vi were twins. They were six years old and both had curly hair and gray eyes.
You could tell them apart, even if they were twins, for one was a girl and the other was a boy. But there was another way, for Vi was always asking questions and Laddie was very fond of making up queer little riddles. So in case you forget who is which, that will help you to know.
Then came Margy, or Margaret, who was five years old. She had dark hair and eyes, and next to her was the one I have already told you about—Mun Bun. He was four years old.
While the six little Bunkers were gathered around the basket, in which the big crab Mun Bun had caught was crawling about, Daddy Bunker and his wife were reading the letters Russ had handed them.
"Then we'll have to go back home at once," Mrs. Bunker said.
"Yes, I think so," agreed her husband. "We were going at the end of the week, anyhow, but, since getting this letter, I think we had better start at once, or by to-morrow, anyhow."
"Oh, are we going home?" cried Rose.
"Yes, dear. Daddy thinks we had better. He just had a letter—— Be careful, Mun Bun! Do you want to fall in again?" she cried, for the little fellow, still wet from his first bath, had nearly slipped off the edge of the pier once more, as he jumped back when the big crab again climbed to the top of the peach basket.
"Come! I must take you up to the house and get dry clothes on you," said Mun Bun's mother to him. "Then we must begin to pack and get ready to go home. Our visit to Cousin Tom is at an end."
"Oh, dear!" cried the six little Bunkers.
But children, especially as young as they were, are seldom unhappy for very long over anything.
"We can have a lot of fun at home," said Russ to Rose.
"Oh, yes, so we can. It won't be like the seashore, but we can have fun!"
There was much excitement in Cousin Tom's bungalow at Seaview the next day, for the Bunkers were packing to go back to their home in Pineville, Pennsylvania.
"We are very sorry to see you go," said Cousin Tom.
"Indeed we are," agreed his pretty wife, Ruth. "You must come to see us next summer."
"We will," promised Mr. Bunker. "But just now we must hurry back home. I hope we shall be in time."
Russ and Rose, who heard this, wondered at the reason for it. But they did not have time to ask for, just then, along came the automobile that was to take them from Cousin Tom's house to the railroad station.
Good-byes were said, there was much laughter and shouting; and finally the six little Bunkers and their father and mother were on their way home.
It was a long trip, but finally they reached Pineville and took a carriage from the depot to their house.
"How funny everything looks!" exclaimed Russ, for they had been away from home visiting around, for some time.
"Yes, it does look funny," agreed Rose. "Oh, I see our house!" she called, pointing down the street. "There's our house!"
"Yes," answered Russ. "And oh, look! Daddy! Mother! There's a man on our porch! There's a man asleep on our porch!"
The six little Bunkers, and Daddy and Mother Bunker looked. There was, indeed, an elderly man asleep in a rocking-chair on the porch.
Who could he be?
Eagerly peering from the carriage in which they had ridden from the Pineville station, the six little Bunkers looked to see who the man was on their porch. He seemed to be asleep, for he sat very still in the rocking-chair, which had been forgotten and left on the porch when the family had gone away.
"Do you know him, Daddy?" asked Rose.
"Maybe he is from your office," said Laddie.
"Maybe he's the old tramp lumberman that had your papers in the old coat, Daddy," suggested Russ.
Mr. Bunker hurried down from the carriage, and walked up the steps.
As he did so the old man on the porch woke suddenly from his nap. He sat up, looked at the Bunker family, now crowding up on the steps, and a kind smile spread over his face.
"Well, well!" he exclaimed. "I got here ahead of you, I see!"
"Why, Father!" cried Mr. Bunker.
"Oh, it's Grandpa Ford!" exclaimed Rose.
"Grandpa Ford!" fairly shouted Russ, dropping the valise he was carrying, and hurrying to be clasped in the old gentleman's arms.
"Grandpa Ford!" cried Laddie and Vi together, just as twins often do.
"Yes, I'm Grandpa Ford!" said the old gentleman, smiling and kissing the children one after the other. "You didn't expect to see me, did you?"
"Hardly so soon," said Mrs. Bunker. "But we are glad! Have you been here long?"
"No, not very. I came on a day sooner than I expected, and as I knew from your letters that you would be home to-day, I came here to wait for you."
"I'll get the house open right away and make you a cup of tea," said Mrs. Bunker. "You must be tired."
"Oh, no, not very. I had a nice little nap in the chair on your shady porch. Well, how are you all?"
"Fine," answered Mr. Bunker. "You look well, Father!"
"I am well."
"Do you know any riddles?" asked Laddie.
"Do I know any riddles, little man? Well, I don't know. I might think of one."
"I know one," went on Laddie, not stopping to hear what his grandfather might say. "It's about which would you rather be, a door or a window?"
"Which would I rather be, a door or a window?" asked Grandpa Ford with a laugh. "Well, I don't know that there is much difference, Laddie."
"Oh, yes, there is!" exclaimed the little fellow. "I'd rather be a door, 'cause a window always has a pane in it! Ha! Ha!"
"Well, that's pretty good," said Grandpa Ford with a smile. "I see you haven't forgotten your riddles, Laddie."
"Now you ask me one," said the little boy. "I like to guess riddles."
"Wait until Grandpa has had a cup of tea," said Mrs. Bunker, who had opened the front door that had been locked so long. "And then you can tell us, Father," she went on, "why you had to come away from Great Hedge. Is it something important?"
"Well, it's something queer," said Grandpa Ford. "But I'll tell you about it after a while."
And while the Bunker home is being opened, after having been closed for a long vacation, I will explain to my new readers who the children are, and something about the other books in this series.
First, however, I'll tell you why Daddy Bunker called Grandpa Ford "Father." You see Daddy Bunker's real father had died many years before, and this was his stepfather. Mr. Bunker's mother had married a gentleman named Munroe Ford.
So, of course, after that her name was Mrs. Ford, though Daddy Bunker kept his own name and called his step-parent "Father."
Grandpa Ford was as kind as any real father could be; and he also loved the six little Bunkers as much as if he had been their real grandfather, which they really thought him to be.
Now to go back to the beginning. There were six little Bunkers, as I have told you, Russ, Rose, Laddie, Vi, Margy, and Mun Bun. I have told you their ages and how they looked.
They lived in the town of Pineville on Rainbow River, and Daddy Bunker's real estate office was about a mile from his home. Besides the family of the six little Bunkers and their father and mother, there was Norah O'Grady, the cook, and there was also Jerry Simms, the man who cut the grass, cleaned the automobile, and sprinkled the lawn in summer and took ashes out of the furnace in winter.
The first book of this series is called "Six Little Bunkers at Grandma Bell's." In that I told of the visit of the children to Lake Sagatook, in Maine, where Mrs. Bunker's mother, Grandma Bell, lived. There the whole family had fine times, and they also solved a real mystery.
After that the children were taken to visit another relative, and in the second book, "Six Little Bunkers at Aunt Jo's," you may find out all that happened when they reached Boston—how Rose found a pocketbook, and how, after many weeks, it was learned to whom it belonged.
Next comes the book just ahead of this one, "Six Little Bunkers at Cousin Tom's." The children came from there to find Grandpa Ford on their porch.
Cousin Tom Bunker was Daddy Bunker's nephew, being the son of a dead brother, Ralph. Cousin Tom had not been married very long, and soon after he and his wife, Ruth, started housekeeping in a bungalow at Seaview, on the New Jersey coast, he invited the Bunkers to visit him.
They went there from Aunt Jo's, and many wonderful things happened at the seashore. Rose lost her gold locket and chain, a queer box was washed up on the beach, Mun Bun and Margy were marooned on an island, and there were many more adventures.
"Did you know Grandpa Ford was coming to visit us when we got home?" asked Rose of her mother, as she helped set the table.
"Yes, that was what he told us in the letter that came the day Mun Bun fell off the pier. It was Grandpa Ford's letter that made us hurry home, for he said he would meet us here. But he came on sooner than we expected, and got here ahead of us," said Mrs. Bunker.
By this time the house had been opened and aired, Norah had come from where she had been staying all summer, and so had Jerry Simms, so the Bunkers were really at home again. Grandpa Ford had been shown to his room, and was getting washed and brushed up ready for tea. The six little Bunkers, having changed into their old clothes, were running about the yard, getting acquainted with the premises all over again.
"Now I guess we're all ready to sit down," said Mother Bunker, for, with the help of Rose and Norah, the table had been set, tea made and a meal gotten ready in quick time. Norah and Jerry had been told, by telegraph, to come back to help get the house in order.
"I'm terrible glad you came, Grandpa Ford," said Mun Bun, as he sat opposite the old gentleman at the table.
"So'm I," said Margy. "Are you going to live with us always?"
"Oh, no, little Toddlekins," laughed Grandpa Ford. "I wish I were. But I shall soon have to go back to Great Hedge. Though I may not go back alone."
"Is that a riddle?" asked Laddie eagerly.
"No, not exactly," said Grandpa Ford with a laugh.
"I know another riddle," went on Laddie. "It's about how do the tickets feel when the conductor punches them. But I never could find an answer."
"I don't believe there is any," said Grandpa Ford.
"Don't you know any riddles?" asked Laddie.
"Well, I might think of one, if I tried real hard," said the old gentleman. "Let me think, now. Here is one we used to ask one another when I was a boy. See if you can guess it. 'A house full and a hole full, but you can't catch a bowlful.' What is that, Laddie?"
"'A house full and a hole full, but you can't catch a bowlful,'" repeated Laddie.
"Is it crabs?" asked Mun Bun. "I helped catch a basketful of crabs, once."
"No, it isn't crabs," laughed Grandpa Ford.
"I give up. What is it?" asked Laddie, anxious to hear the answer.
"It's smoke!" said Grandpa Ford with a laugh. "A house full and a hole full of smoke, but, no matter how hard you try, you can't catch a bowlful. For, if you try to catch smoke it just rolls away from you."
"A house full and a hole full—but you can't catch a bowlful," repeated Laddie slowly. "That's a good riddle!" he announced, after thinking it over, and I guess he ought to know, as he asked a great many of them.
They had a jolly time at the meal, even if it was gotten up in a hurry, and then, just as the children were going out to play again, Daddy Bunker remarked:
"You haven't yet told us, Father, what brought you away from Great Hedge."
"No, I haven't, but I will," said Grandpa Ford.
Great Hedge, I might say, was the name of a large estate Grandpa Ford had bought to live on not a great while before. It was just outside the city of Tarrington, in New York State, and was a fine, big country estate.
Grandpa Ford looked around the room. He saw Russ and Rose over by the sideboard, each taking a cookie to eat out in the yard. The other little Bunkers had already run out, for it was not yet dark.
"As soon as they go I'll tell you why I came away from Great Hedge," said Grandpa Ford in a low voice to Mr. and Mrs. Bunker. "It's something of a mystery, and I don't want the children to become frightened, especially as they may go up there," he went on. "I'll tell you when they go out."
Russ Bunker took a cookie from the dish on the sideboard, handed one to Rose, and then the two children went out on the porch. Rose was just going to run along to find Vi, who had taken her Japanese doll to play with, when Russ caught his sister by her dress.
"Wait a minute, Rose."
"What for?" she asked.
"Hush!" went on Russ. "Not so loud. Didn't you hear what Grandpa Ford said?"
"I didn't listen," admitted Rose. "I wanted to see if there were any molasses cookies, but they're all sugar. What was it?" and Rose, too, talked very low.
They were now out on the side porch, under the dining-room windows, which were open, for, as I have said, it was warm October weather.
"He said there was something queer about Great Hedge, where he lives with Grandma," went on Russ. "He didn't want us to hear, 'cause I heard him tell Daddy and Mother so. But we can hear out here if we listen. Let's keep still, and maybe we can tell what it is."
"But that won't be nice," protested Rose. "Mother said we shouldn't peep through keyholes, or listen behind doors."
"There isn't any keyhole here," said Russ. "And we're not behind a door, either."
"Well, but——" But Rose could think of nothing else to say. Besides, just then, she heard her grandfather's voice. He was speaking to Mr. and Mrs. Bunker, and saying:
"Yes, it certainly is very strange. It's quite a puzzle to me—a riddle, I suppose Laddie would call it. But I don't want the children to know anything about it."
"There, you see!" exclaimed Russ in a whisper. "It's only a riddle he is going to tell. We can listen to it, and have some fun. We won't tell what the answer is when he asks us. We'll make believe we don't know."
"Well, if it's only a riddle, I guess it's all right to listen to it," agreed Rose.
So the two eldest Bunker children crouched down on the side porch, under the dining-room windows, and listened to the talk that was going on inside. Of course this was not right, but they did not know any better, especially after Grandpa Ford spoke about a "riddle."
And so it came about that Rose and Russ heard what it was not intended they should hear.
"You know," went on Grandpa Ford, as Russ and Rose listened outside, "that I bought Great Hedge Estate from a Mr. James Ripley, who lives near here."
"Yes, I know that," said Daddy Bunker. "Well, you like it, don't you, Father?"
"Quite well. Your mother likes it, too. It is a large farm, as you know, and there is a big stretch of woods, as well as land where I can raise fruits and vegetables. There are meadows for grazing, and fields for corn, hay and oats. Great Hedge is a fine place, and your mother and I like it there very much.
"We were a bit lonesome, at first, as it is large, but we hope to get over that part in a little while.
"What brought me down here is to see Mr. Ripley, and find out something about the place he sold me. I must find out something about Great Hedge."
"Here is where the riddle comes in," said Russ in a whisper to his sister. "We must listen hard now."
"What do you want to find out about Great Hedge, Father?" asked Daddy Bunker. "Do you think you paid too much for it?"
"No, I got it very cheap. But there is something queer about it, and I want to find out if Mr. Ripley can tell me what it is."
"Something queer?" repeated Mrs. Bunker.
"Yes, a sort of mystery," went on Grandpa Ford. "It's a puzzle to me. A riddle I should call it if I were Laddie. By the way, I hope the children don't hear me tell this, or they might be frightened."
"No, they have all gone out to play," said Mrs. Bunker. "They can not hear you."
"So there is something wrong about Great Hedge, is there?" asked Daddy Bunker. "By the way," he went on, "I have never been there, but I suppose it is called that because it has a big hedge around it."
"That is it," said Grandpa Ford. "All around the house, enclosing it like a fence, is a big, thick hedge. It is green and pretty in summer, but bare and brown in the winter. However, it keeps off the north wind, so I rather like it. In the summer it shades the house and makes it cool. Yes, the hedge gives the name to the place.
"But now I must tell you what is queer about it—the mystery or the puzzle. And I don't want you or the children to be alarmed."
"Why should we?" asked Mrs. Bunker.
"Well, most persons are frightened by ghosts," said Grandpa Ford with a laugh.
"Father, you don't mean to tell me you believe in ghosts!" cried Daddy Bunker.
"Of course not!" answered his stepfather. "There aren't any such things as ghosts, and, naturally, I don't believe in them. But I know that some people do, and children might be frightened if they heard the name."
"Do you hear what he says?" whispered Rose to her brother.
"Yes. But I'm not frightened. Are you?"
"Nope. What's a ghost, anyhow, Russ?"
"Oh, it's something white that comes in the dark and scares you."
"Well, it isn't dark now," went on the little girl, "so we're all right. And at night, when it is dark, we go to bed, so I don't guess we'll see any ghost."
"No, I guess not. But listen!"
Grandpa Ford was speaking again.
"Of course I don't believe in ghosts," he said, "and I only use that name, speaking about the queer things at Great Hedge, because I don't know what else to call them. Your mother," he went on to Daddy Bunker, "calls it the same thing. We say the 'ghost' did this or that. In fact we laugh over it and make fun of it. But, all the same, it is very strange and queer, and I should like to have it stopped, or explained."
"Do you think Mr. Ripley can stop it or explain it?" asked Daddy Bunker.
"I should think he could," said Grandpa Ford. "Mr. Ripley owned Great Hedge a long while before he sold it to me. He ought to know all about the queer, big old house, and why there are so many strange noises in it."
"Is the noise the ghost?" asked Mrs. Bunker.
"That's part of it."
"What's the other part?" Daddy Bunker queried.
"Well, it mostly is queer noises," said his stepfather. "I'll tell you how it happened from the very beginning—the first night your mother and I stayed at Great Hedge. It has been going on for some time, and at last I thought I would come on here, see you, have a talk with Mr. Ripley, and then see if we could not clear up the mystery. In fact, I hope you'll go back with me and help me solve the riddle.
"You and your wife and the six little Bunkers. I want you all to come up to Grandpa Ford's. But now I'll finish telling you about the ghost."
"Please do," begged Mother Bunker with a laugh. "I have always liked ghost stories. It is very jolly when one finds out what caused the queer noises and sights. Let's hear about the ghost!"
"All right," went on Grandpa Ford. "I'll tell you about our first night at Great Hedge. It was just about twelve o'clock—midnight—when, all of a sudden——"
At that instant a crash sounded out on the porch.
"Mercy!" cried Mother Bunker. "What can that be?"
She and Daddy Bunker rushed from the room, Grandpa Ford following more slowly.
RUSS MAKES A BALLOON
"What is it? What's the matter?" cried Mother Bunker as she opened a door leading on to the porch, where she had heard the crashing noise. Those were the first things the mother of the six little Bunkers always asked whenever anything unusual happened.
"What is the matter?" she cried.
Then she saw. Lying on the porch, under the hammock, was Russ. He was huddled in a heap, and he was doing his best not to cry. Mrs. Bunker could tell that by the way his face was wrinkled up. Near him stood Rose, and she looked startled.
"What's the matter?" repeated Mrs. Bunker. "Are you hurt, Russ?"
"No'm—that is, not very much. I—I fell out of the hammock."
"Yes, I see you did. What made you? Did you swing too high? I've told you not to do that."
"What does it all mean?" asked Daddy Bunker, while Grandpa Ford looked on. "Were you trying to do some circus tricks in the hammock, Russ?"
"No. I—I was just climbing up, like a sailor when he goes up a rope, you know, and——"
"I call that a circus trick!" interrupted Mr. Bunker. "I wouldn't try those, if I were you, Russ. You aren't hurt much this time, I guess, but you might be another time. Don't try any tricks until you get older."
"Well, it wasn't exactly a trick," explained Russ, and then he saw Rose looking at him in a queer way and he stopped.
"As long as you're all right it's a blessing," said his mother.
"I thought the house was falling down," remarked Grandpa Ford with a laugh.
"Oh, you'll get used to all sorts of noises like that, Father, if you're very long around the six little Bunkers," said his stepson. "As soon as we hear a louder noise than common we rush out. But we have been very lucky so far. None of the children has been badly hurt."
"I hope they'll be as lucky as that when they come to my place at Great Hedge," said Grandpa Ford.
"Oh, are we going to stay with you, Grandpa Ford?" cried Russ, forgetting all about his pains and bruises, now that there was a prospect of a new place to go to.
"Oh, what fun!" exclaimed Rose. "I'm going to tell Laddie and Vi!"
"No, don't, please, Rose," said her mother. "It isn't settled yet. We haven't really decided to go."
"Oh, but you must come if I have to come down with my big hay wagon and cart you up!" said Grandpa Ford. "But we'll talk about that later. I'm glad neither of you two children was hurt. Now here is five cents each. Run down and buy a lollypop. I imagine they must be five cents apiece now, with the way everything has gone up."
"No, they're only a penny apiece, but sometimes you used to get two for a cent," explained Russ, as he took one coin and Rose the other. "Thank you," he went on. "We'll get something, and give Mun Bun and Margy a bit."
"And Violet and Laddie, too," added Rose.
Russ looked at the five-cent piece in his hand as if wondering if it would stretch that far.
"Send the other children to me, and I'll give them each five cents," said Grandpa Ford with a laugh.
"Then we can all go to the store!" said Rose, clapping her hands. "They have lovely five-cent grab-bags down at Henderson's store."
"Well, don't eat too much trash," said Mrs. Bunker. Then, turning to Grandpa Ford, she said: "Now we can go back in the house and you can finish what you were telling us when Russ fell out of the hammock."
"I didn't zactly fall out of it," the little boy explained. "I wasn't in it. I was climbing up on one side, and I—I——"
"Well, you fell, anyhow," said his father. "Please don't do it again. Now we'll go in, Father."
Russ and Rose were left standing on the porch, each holding a five-cent piece. Russ looked at Rose, and Rose looked at Russ.
"We didn't hear what the ghost was at Great Hedge," said the little girl.
"No," agreed Russ. "He was saying that, 'all of a sudden,' just like in a story, you know, when——"
"When you fell all of a sudden!" interrupted Rose.
"I couldn't help it," declared Russ. "If you'd had the mat, I wouldn't 'a' made any noise."
"Oh, well, let's go and spend our five cents," suggested Rose. "And we can tell Laddie and Vi and Margy and Mun Bun to go for theirs. We'll have to wait for them to go to the store with us, anyhow. Mun Bun and Margy can't go alone."
"All right, you go and tell 'em," returned Russ. "Shall I go and listen some more at the window?"
"No, I guess not," said Rose. "They might see you."
For it was in listening at the window that Russ had fallen. As he had partly explained, he had climbed up the hammock, as a sailor climbs a rope.
The hammock swung on the side porch, but when it was not in use it hung by one hook, rather high up, and by twisting it together it could be made into a sort of rope. Russ and Rose, as I have told you, had been listening under the porch window to what Grandpa Ford had been telling about the queer happenings at Great Hedge Estate.
Just as he reached the point where he was going to tell about the strange noise at midnight, Russ decided he could hear better if he were higher up, and nearer the window.
The hammock had been left hanging by one hook, after Laddie and Vi had finished swinging in it a little while before, and up this Russ climbed.
But his hands slipped, and down he fell, making a good deal of noise. Of course if Rose had put the mat under him, as he had told her to do, there would not have been such a racket.
"And now we sha'n't ever know about the ghost," said Russ, just before his sister hurried off to tell the others that Grandpa Ford had a treat for them.
"Yes, we shall," said the little girl.
"We'll wait till we get there. We're all going, 'cause Grandpa Ford said so. When we get to Great Hedge we can find the ghost for ourselves."
"Yes, maybe we can," agreed Russ. "Anyhow, I'm not going to climb up any more hammocks. It hurts too much when you fall." And he walked from the porch, limping.
Then, after Russ and Rose had gone away, Grandpa Ford told Mr. and Mrs. Bunker more about the strange doings at his house, which was surrounded by the great hedge. And the old gentleman ended with:
"And now I want you all to come out there with me and help solve the mystery. I want you, Son," and he turned with a kindly look to Mr. Bunker, "and I want your wife and the six little Bunkers."
"Maybe the children will be afraid of the ghost," said their mother.
"We won't tell them anything about it," said Grandpa Ford with a laugh. "They'll never know a thing about it."
If he had only seen Russ and Rose listening on the porch under the window!
"Well, as long as they don't know about it, I don't see that they can be frightened," said Mr. Bunker. "As you say, it is queer, but maybe Mr. Ripley can explain the queer noises and other things."
"Maybe he can," agreed Grandpa Ford. "That's what I came on to see about, and I'll take you all back with me."
"But it will soon be cold weather," objected Mother Bunker.
"All the better!" laughed Grandpa Ford. "There is no nicer place in the world in winter than Great Hedge. The big hedge made of what are almost trees, keeps off the cold north wind. We always have plenty of snow up in New York state, and the children will have no end of good times. You must all arrange to come back with me."
"Well, I suppose we'll have to," said Mrs. Bunker. "But we won't say anything to the children about the ghost."
"Unless they find it out for themselves," remarked Daddy Bunker. "And if they do I don't believe it will frighten them much. Laddie will, most likely, make up a riddle about it."
"He certainly is good at them," said Grandpa Ford with a chuckle.
Meanwhile Russ and Rose had told the good news to the other little Bunkers—that is, the news about the five-cent pieces.
"Oh, come on down to the store! I know what I'm going to buy!" exclaimed Laddie, when they all had their money.
"What?" asked Vi. "Some candy? Oh, let's all buy candy and then we can have a play-party with it!"
"I'm not going to buy candy!" exclaimed Laddie.
"What are you going to get?" Rose asked.
"A toy balloon," Laddie answered. "I'm going to see how far up I can make it go."
"How are you going to get it back?" asked Russ.
"I'll tie a string to it. I know how to do it. And if your doll wants a ride, Vi, I'll give her one in my balloon. I can tie a basket to the balloon and put your doll in it—in the basket, I mean."
"Oh, no!" cried Vi. "Rose's doll went up into the air in a balloon like that once, when we were at Aunt Jo's, and it was a good while before she got her back. I'm not going to lose my doll."
"Well, I'll send my balloon up, anyhow," said Laddie.
"I guess I'll get a balloon, too," said Russ. "Then we can have a race."
"Aren't you going to get any candy?" asked Rose.
"No, I don't guess so," answered Russ. "Maybe Grandpa Ford will give us more money for candy to-morrow."
"I'll give you a little of mine if you let me hold your balloon," said Vi to Laddie.
"Then I will."
"So will I," said Rose to Russ.
Down to the toy and candy store they went, and while four of the six little Bunkers got sweets, Russ and Laddie each bought a five-cent balloon, that would float high in the air. They had lots of fun playing with them, and Rose and Violet kept their words about giving their brothers some candy in exchange for the treat of holding the balloon strings part of the time.
After a bit Mun Bun and Margy went back to the house with Vi and Rose. Laddie and Russ remained in the side yard, flying their balloons.
"I know what we can do!" suddenly exclaimed Russ.
"What?" asked his smaller brother.
"We can make a big balloon."
"I'll show you. Come on."
Russ, letting his toy balloon float over his head, while Laddie did the same, went out to the barn back of the house. It was not really a barn any longer, as Daddy Bunker kept his automobile in it, but it looked like a barn, so I will call it that instead of a garage.
"How are you going to make a balloon?" asked Laddie as he saw Russ tie his toy to a picket of the fence.
"You wait, I'll show you. First you go in and get the big clothes basket. Don't let Norah see you, or she might stop you. Bring me out the clothes basket."
Laddie did as he was told. As he came back with the basket, which was a large, round one, Laddie said:
"Do you think we can fasten our two balloons to this and go up in it?"
"No, I'm not going to make my balloon that way," Russ answered. "You'll see. Come on into the barn. We have to go upstairs."
Overhead in the barn was a place where hay had once been kept for the horse. There was a little door in the peak of the second story, to which the hay could be hoisted up from the wagon on the ground below. The hay was hoisted by a rope running around a wheel, or pulley, and this rope and pulley were still in place, though they had not been used in some time.
Into the rather dark loft of the barn went Russ and Laddie. They had climbed up the ladder, as they had done oftentimes before.
"It's dark!" Laddie exclaimed.
"I'll make it light," announced Russ.
He opened the little door in the front of the barn, and then he and Laddie could look down to the ground below. Russ loosened the pulley rope and let one end fall to the ground.
"That's how we'll make our balloon," he said. "We'll fasten the rope to the clothes basket, and pull it up like a balloon. Won't that be fun?"
"Lots of fun!" agreed Laddie.
It was about half an hour after this that, as Mother Bunker was beginning to think about supper, she heard, from the direction of the barn, a shrill yell for help.
"Oh, I can't get him down! I can't get him down!" was the cry.
"Dear me! Something else has happened!" cried Mother Bunker. "Come on, Norah. We must see what it is!"
THE BIG BANG NOISE
It did not take Mrs. Bunker long to see what the matter was this time. As she came in sight of the barn she beheld the clothes basket dangling about half-way to the roof, swinging this way and that from one end of a rope.
On the other end of the rope Russ and Laddie were pulling, while in the clothes basket, his little face peering over the side, was Mun Bun.
"What are you doing? Let him down!" cried Mother Bunker, for Mun Bun was crying.
"We can't get him down!" shouted Russ. "The balloon won't come down!"
"Balloon? I don't see any balloon!" cried Mrs. Bunker. She thought, perhaps, as sometimes did happen, a balloonist from a neighboring fairground might have gone up, giving an exhibition as was often the case in the Fall. But all the balloons she saw were the toys Russ and Laddie had tied to the fence.
"Where is the balloon, and what do you mean by pulling Mun Bun up in the basket that way?" she asked.
"Mun Bun's in the balloon!" cried Russ.
"We got him up, but we can't get him down," added Laddie. "The rope's stuck."
And that is just what had happened. I think you can guess the kind of game Russ and Laddie had been playing when the accident happened? They had tied the clothes basket to the rope running over the wheel. The pulley had been used when Mr. Bunker kept a horse, for pulling the hay up from the ground to the second story of the barn.
Then, with the basket tied to the rope, Laddie and Russ had taken turns pulling one another up. The rope went around several pulleys, or wheels, instead of one, and this made it easy for even a small boy, by pulling on the loose end, to lift up quite a weight. So it was not hard for Russ to pull Laddie in the basket up to the little door of the hay-loft. Laddie could not have pulled Russ up, if Russ, himself, had not taken hold of the rope and pulled also. But they had lots of good times, and they pretended they were going up and down in a balloon.
Then along came Mun Bun.
"I want to play, too!" he cried.
"We'll pull him up!" said Russ. "He's light and little, and we can pull him up fast!"
So Mun Bun got into the clothes basket, and Russ and Laddie, hauling on the rope, pulled him up and let him come down quite swiftly.
"Oh, it's fun!" laughed Mun Bun. "I like the balloon!"
And it was fun, until the accident happened. Then, in some way, the rope became caught in one of the wheels, and when Mun Bun was half-way between the ground and the second story of the barn, there he stuck!
"We'd better holler for mother!" said Laddie, as Mun Bun, looking over the edge of the basket, began to cry.
"Maybe we can get him down ourselves," said Russ. "Pull some more."
He and Laddie pulled as hard as they could. But still Mun Bun was stuck in the "balloon."
"I want to get down! I want to get down!" he cried.
Then Laddie and Russ became frightened and shouted for their mother.
"Oh, you poor, dear little boy!" said Mrs. Bunker, as she saw what the matter was. "Don't be afraid now. I'll soon get you down."
She looked at the rope, saw where it was twisted so it would not run easily over the pulley wheels. Then she untwisted it, and the basket could come down, with Mun Bun in it.
"I don't like that old balloon!" he said, tears in his eyes.
"Well, Laddie and Russ mustn't put you in again," said his mother. "Don't cry any more. You're all right."
And, as soon as he saw that he was safe on the ground, and that the clothes basket balloon wasn't going to take him up again, the little chap dried his tears.
"What made you think of that game to play?" asked Mrs. Bunker of Russ and Laddie, when she had seen to it that they took the clothes basket off the rope.
"Oh, we thought of it when we saw our toy balloons go up in the air," said Russ. "We had a race with 'em, and Laddie's went higher than mine. Then he said wouldn't it be fun to have a real balloon. And I said yes, and then I thought of the rope at the barn and Norah's clothes basket and we made a hoister balloon, and Mun Bun wanted to go up in it, he did."
"And we pulled him, we did, and he got stuck," added Laddie. "I guess I could make up a pretty good riddle about it, if I thought real hard."
"Well, please think hard and don't get your little brother into a fix like that again," said Mrs. Bunker.
Of course Russ and Laddie promised that they wouldn't play that game any more, but this was not saying they wouldn't do something else just as risky. They were not bad boys, but they liked to have fun, and they did not always stop to think what might happen when they had it.
"What'll we do next?" asked Laddie, as they carried the clothes basket back to Norah's laundry.
"Well, we could——" began Russ.
Just then the supper bell rang.
"We'll eat!" cried Laddie. "That'll be lots of fun."
And after supper the six little Bunkers were too tired and sleepy to do anything except go to bed.
"But we'll have lots of fun at Grandpa Ford's," murmured Rose as she went up to her room.
"Yes," agreed Russ. "We'll have lots of fun, and we'll hunt around and find——"
Rose gave her brother a queer look and cried:
"That's a secret!"
"Oh, yes, so it is! That's a secret!" agreed Russ.
"What's a secret?" asked Vi, not too sleepy to put a question, if it was the last thing she did that day.
"Oh, we can't tell!" laughed Russ. "Wait until we all get to Great Hedge, and then we'll all hunt for it."
"Hunt for the secret?" asked Vi.
"Yes," answered Rose.
"Mother, Russ and Rose have a secret and they won't tell me!" exclaimed the little questioning girl. "Please make 'em!"
"Not to-night, my dear," said Mrs. Bunker. "Besides, if it is their secret it wouldn't be fair for you to know."
"But I want to, Mother!"
"We're not going to tell!" exclaimed Russ.
"Come now! Go to bed, all of you!" cried Daddy Bunker. "You'll have plenty of fun, and secrets, too, if you go to Great Hedge."
"Oh, then we must be going!" cried Rose, and Vi was so excited about this that she forgot to ask any more about the secret.
Mrs. Bunker thought it was only some little joke between her two older children. If she had known what they had heard out on the porch that afternoon she might have talked to them before they went to sleep. But Russ and Rose hid in their hearts what they had heard about the ghost of Great Hedge.
It was fully decided on the next day that the six little Bunkers and Daddy and Mother would go, shortly, with Grandpa Ford to his big estate in the country, just outside of Tarrington, in New York state. Russ and Rose listened carefully to see if they could hear any more about the ghost, but neither Mr. Ford nor Mr. Bunker mentioned it. And Mother Bunker was so busy, with Norah, getting the things ready for another trip, that she did not speak of it, either.
"My!" exclaimed Norah, as she helped sort out the clean clothes, "these six little Bunkers are getting to be great travelers. First they go to Grandma Bell's, then to Aunt Jo's and then to Cousin Tom's, and now to Grandpa Ford's. I wonder where they'll go next?"
"There's no telling," said Mrs. Bunker. "But we must take plenty of warm clothes along for them this time, as it will soon be cold weather and winter."
"I love to be in the country in the winter," said Rose, who was helping her mother. "You can have such fun snowballing."
"And making snow men and snow forts," added Russ, who came in to get a piece of string for something he was making. He went out whistling, and soon he and Laddie were heard pounding away on the back porch.
Russ was not happy unless he was whistling, or unless he was making something, just as Laddie was very fond of asking riddles.
"I guess maybe I got a riddle, now," said the little chap who was Violet's twin.
"Is it about Mun Bun and the balloon basket?" asked Russ.
"No, it's about why is a cat like a kite."
"It isn't," said Russ. "A cat isn't anything like a kite."
"Yes, it is, too!" declared Laddie. "They both have tails."
"Oh, well. But some kites don't have any tails," said Russ. "I know a boy, and he knows how to make kites that go up without any tails. So that riddle's no good!"
"Yes, it is!" insisted Laddie.
"Why is it?"
"'Cause some cats haven't got tails either."
"Oh, there are not any cats without tails."
"Yes, there are! You go and ask Mother. She showed me a picture of one the other day. I think it's called a Banks cat, 'cause maybe it lives in a bank, and it doesn't have any tail so it can't get caught in the door. You go and ask Mother if a kite isn't like a cat 'cause they both have tails, and some kites have no tails and so haven't some cats."
"I will!" exclaimed Russ. "I'll go and ask Mother if there's ever a cat without a tail!"
Away the two boys started, but they had not reached the house before, out in the street in front, they heard a loud bang, a most awfully loud bang. At the same time they heard their Grandpa Ford crying:
"Whoa! Whoa there! Don't run away!"
"Oh, what's that?" asked Laddie.
"We'll go and see!" exclaimed Russ; and the two boys set off on a run.
OFF TO GREAT HEDGE
Russ and Laddie saw Grandpa Ford holding the bridle of a horse harnessed to a light carriage, in which sat a pretty young lady. The horse was trying to rise up on its hind legs, and Grandpa Ford was doing his best to make the animal stand still.
Not far away was a large automobile, and smoke was coming from the back of this, while a man, who seemed to have just gotten out of the car, was hurrying toward the prancing horse.
"I guess he's all right now, Miss," said Grandpa Ford. "When that automobile back-fired, and made such a bang, it scared your horse."
"I never knew him to be afraid of an auto before," said the young lady. "But then I never heard one, before, make such a loud bang."
"Nor I," returned Grandpa Ford. "It was enough to scare any horse."
"And I am very sorry it happened," said the man who had gotten out of the car. "My machine is a new one, and it does not run just right, but this is the first time it ever made such a racket. I thought I was going to be blown up, and I guess your horse did too, Miss. I'm very sorry for the fright I caused you. I'll not start my auto again until you drive on. Then, if it should happen to back-fire again, your horse will not mind it so much."
"Thank you," the young lady said. "But I do not want to drive on right away. I came to see you," she announced to Grandpa Ford.
"To see me?" and Mr. Ford was quite surprised. "You drove up here to see me?"
"Yes, if you are Mr. Munroe Ford." And the young lady smiled pleasantly.
"Yes, that's my name," said Mr. Bunker's stepfather. "And if you don't believe me you can ask these boys," and he pointed to Russ and Laddie, who were staring at the pretty young lady. "Only," went on the old gentleman, "they would probably say I was 'Grandpa Ford,' and so I am, to them."
"That's who he is," declared Russ.
"He's grandpa to all us six little Bunkers," added Laddie. "We thought it was a big cannon," he went on, speaking about the noise.
"I seem to have stirred up some excitement," remarked the man who owned the new automobile. "I had better get away from here before I have the police after me," and he laughed, to show he was only joking. Of course it was not his fault that the automobile made so much noise.
"If you are not going to drive on, to get out of the way of my machine, where your horse won't hear any more explosions, I think I had better drive on myself. I'll go as quietly as I can," he said.
"And I'll hold her horse," offered Grandpa Ford. "As long as she has come to see me, and is going to stay, I'll see that her horse doesn't run away."
"You know how to manage horses," said the automobile man. "I don't. But I can run an auto."
"Yes, I've been among horses for a number of years," replied Grandpa Ford. "I have three or four on my place, Great Hedge. I'd rather drive a horse than an auto. But won't you get down and come in, if you want to see me?" asked Grandpa Ford of the young lady.
"Thank you, no. I'm only going to stay a few minutes, Mr. Ford," she answered. "I feel almost like calling you Grandpa Ford myself," she added. "You look just like a grandfather I used to have."
"Call me that as much as you please," laughed Grandpa Ford. "But what shall I call you? I don't remember meeting you before." And he led her horse to a hitching post, where he tied the animal fast. By this time the loud-banging new automobile had rolled around the corner into the next street, luckily without making any great noise.
"I am Mabel Ripley," said the young lady. "You called to see my father, the other day, about the Great Hedge place he sold you, but Daddy was out. However, he got the message you left, and he sent me over to-day with an answer. It's about the gh——"
"Ahem!" loudly and suddenly exclaimed Grandpa Ford. "I rather think, Miss Ripley, you had better come into the house where you can talk to me alone," he said, with a quick glance at Russ and Laddie. "Little pitchers have big ears, you know."
"Oh, yes, I understand!" exclaimed the pretty young lady. She, too, looked at Russ and Laddie in a strange way, smiling the while. "You don't want the little pitchers to know anything about it?" she asked.
"Not yet," answered Grandpa Ford. "It's a sort of secret, you know. I think it will all be easily explained, but I wanted to ask your father about it, since, as he sold me Great Hedge, he would know more about the house than I do, he having lived there so long."
"I lived there, too," said Miss Ripley with a smile. "Well, as long as the banging auto is gone, I think my horse will stand all right, so I'll come in and tell you all I know, and all my father knows, about the place, and the strange things you heard. I'll go in where the little pitchers can't be filled up," and again she smiled at the two boys.
"Is that a riddle, Grandpa Ford?" asked Laddie, as Miss Ripley started toward the front porch.
"Is what a riddle, Laddie boy?"
"About little pitchers and big ears."
"Oh! No, not exactly a riddle. I'll tell you about it some other time. Here is five cents each, for you and Russ. Run along now while I take Miss Ripley into the house."
"Will you tell me one thing before you go in?" asked Laddie, as he slipped into his pocket the nickel his grandfather had given him, while Russ did the same.
"If your question isn't a hard riddle I'll try to answer it," said Grandpa Ford. "Let me hear it."
"It's about kites and tails and cats," explained Laddie. "Isn't there a cat that hasn't a tail, and isn't it a Banks cat?" asked Laddie. "I made up a riddle why is a cat like a kite because it has a tail. And some kites haven't any tails, Russ says. But mother showed me a picture of a Banks cat. And don't they call 'em that because maybe they live in banks and haven't any tails so they won't get shut in a door? Will you answer that question, Grandpa?"
"Really, Laddie boy, I should say there were almost a dozen questions there!" laughed Grandpa Ford. "But I'll answer only one now. About the cats. There is a kind called Manx, and that sounds like banks, I suppose. Manx is an island, near England, and cats that come from there have no tails—or at least they have only little short ones that you can hardly see. I guess when your mother told you about the Manx cats you thought she said 'banks.' But now run along and have some fun."
Grandpa Ford turned up the walk with Miss Ripley, and Laddie and Russ heard her say:
"Father sent me over to tell you not to be alarmed, as he doesn't believe it is anything. He'll come out and help you look for whatever it may be, if you want him to."
"Oh, the six little Bunkers and their father and mother are coming with me," said Mr. Ford. "The six little Bunkers don't know about the strange goings on, as yet, but their father and mother will help me hunt for the——"
That was all Russ and Laddie heard, for their grandfather turned a corner in the path then, and his voice was not so loud.
"I wonder if they're talking about a riddle," said Laddie.
"I don't guess so," returned Russ. He knew, or thought he knew, what Miss Ripley and Grandpa Ford were talking about. It was the "secret" about which he and Rose had heard something.
But it was not yet time to tell Laddie anything about it. Russ wished Rose had been with him to hear what Miss Ripley said. Rose might know what it all meant.
"But we'll wait until we get to Great Hedge," thought Russ. Then to Laddie he said: "Come on, we'll go and spend our nickels."
"All right," agreed the little boy. "But I was pretty near right about the Banks cat; wasn't I?"
"Pretty near," agreed Russ.
When Russ and Laddie reached home again, after a trip to the store, they found Miss Ripley had gone. And then, for a time, Russ, as well as Rose, forgot about the "secret," as the whole family, six little Bunkers and all, were so busy packing up to go away.
At last, after some weeks, the day came. The trunks and valises had been packed, the house in Pineville had been shut for the winter, the water being turned off so it would not freeze, and everything was all ready for the winter visit to Grandpa Ford at Great Hedge.
"Good-bye, Norah! Good-bye, Jerry Simms!" called the six little Bunkers, waving their hands to the cook and man. "Good-bye!"
"Good-bye!" answered Jerry and Norah. "Come back as soon as you can!"
And so they started for Grandpa Ford's. And not even Russ and Rose, who guessed a little of the "secret," knew all the strange things that were to happen at Great Hedge.
MUN BUN TAKES SOMETHING
The trip to Grandpa Ford's was to last all day. The six little Bunkers, with their father and mother, had taken the railroad train about nine o'clock in the morning, and they would reach Tarrington, in New York State, about five in the evening.
"And one of my men will be at the depot to meet us with a carriage," said Grandpa Ford. "We'll drive over with horses, though I have an auto on my place. But I like horses better."
"Will there be room enough for all of us in the carriage?" asked Russ.
"Oh, yes. I sent word to bring the biggest carriage I have. It has four seats, and I guess I can pack you all in."
Having found out this much Russ was satisfied. He looked at Rose and nodded, as they sat together in the railroad train. Russ had feared that, as there were so many of them, some might be left behind after Tarrington was reached. And he wanted to get to Great Hedge as soon as he could, to begin to find out why there was something strange in or about the big house.
"Well, now we can settle down for a long ride," said Mrs. Bunker, as she "counted noses," to make sure all her children were with her and her husband.
It was quite cold, but the car was warm and the six little Bunkers looked out of the windows, and enjoyed the trip. They always liked to travel.
"It looks like snow," said Grandpa Ford to the conductor, when it was time to collect the tickets.
"Yes, I came down from New York State the other night," said the railroad man, "and we were having quite a flurry then. Shouldn't be surprised if we ran into a big blizzard before we reached Tarrington."
"Oh, I hope not," said Grandpa Ford. "I don't want any big blizzard until I get the six little Bunkers safely home at Great Hedge. Then it can snow as much as it likes."
"I hope it snows a lot," said Mun Bun. "I like snow."
"So do I, when I'm at home in my warm house," said Grandpa Ford. "But too much snow isn't any fun. Can you make a snow man, Mun Bun?"
"A little one," he answered. "If you helped me I could make a big one."
"I will!" promised his grandfather with a laugh. "We'll make a big snow man and a snow house and have all sorts of good times."
"What's snow made of?" asked Violet, who had been pressing her nose against the car window, looking out at the telegraph poles that seemed to whiz past so quickly.
"It's frozen rain," said Daddy Bunker.
"Who freezes it?" went on Violet. "Does the ice-cream man freeze the rain to make snow?"
"No, it freezes up in the air—in the clouds," her father explained.
"Well, what makes it come down?" went on Violet. "Rain comes down 'cause it's heavy. Once a raindrop splashed in my eye and it felt terrible heavy. But snow isn't heavy at all. It's light like a feather. What makes snow and feathers fall when they aren't heavy, Daddy?"
"Oh, now, my little girl is asking too many questions," said Daddy Bunker with a laugh. "Some time, when you are a little older, I'll tell you why it is that things fall, whether they are heavy or light. Things even lighter than snowflakes fall as easily as a chunk of lead, but, as you say, a snowflake is like a feather. It falls from side to side, like a leaf, and not as fast as a drop of rain. But I do believe we shall have snow soon," he went on. "The storm clouds are beginning to gather," and he looked up at the sky.
"I don't mind traveling in the snow, but I don't like it in the rain," said Mother Bunker. "And we must expect snow, as it will soon be winter."
The six little Bunkers amused themselves in different ways in the car, as the train puffed on, over hills and through valleys, to Grandpa Ford's home at Great Hedge. As Daddy Bunker had said, the clouds were gathering, and they seemed to hold snow, which might soon come down with a flurry.
"But it can't hurt us," said Mun Bun, "'cause we're in the train."
"I have a new riddle," announced Laddie, after a while.
"Have you?" asked Grandpa Ford. "Well, let's hear it. I'll try to guess it."
"Why is a train like a boy?" asked the little fellow.
"That's a funny riddle!" exclaimed Russ. "A train isn't like a boy at all. It's too big and it isn't alive."
"Well, it goes," said Laddie; "and anything that goes is almost alive, anyhow."
"Is that why you made a riddle about a train and boy?" asked Grandpa Ford. "A train is like a boy because it goes. Is that it, Laddie?"
"Nope! It's 'cause a train can whistle and so can a boy," said the little chap with a laugh. "Isn't that a good riddle?"
"A train doesn't whistle," declared Russ. "It's only the engine that whistles. Isn't that so, Grandpa?"
"Well, the engine whistles, of course. But the engine is the main part of the train. If it wasn't for the engine there wouldn't be any train, so I guess Laddie's riddle is all right there. A train-engine is like a boy, because it whistles. There it goes now."
As he spoke the engine gave several loud, shrill blasts.
"What makes it do that?" asked Violet. "What makes the engine whistle? Was it 'cause Laddie asked that riddle?"
"You children will make Grandpa Ford sleepy with your questions and riddles," observed Mrs. Bunker to Laddie and Violet. "Please be quiet now, and let him rest."
"Oh, I don't mind," said the old gentleman. "I love the children, and I like Laddie's riddles and Vi's questions. Only don't ask me such hard ones that I can't answer," he went on.
Margy was in the seat with her mother, playing with one of the Japanese dolls that had come ashore on the beach at Cousin Tom's, as I have told you in the book just before this one.
"My doll wants a drink," suddenly announced the little girl. "She's awful thirsty."
"You probably mean you are," laughed her mother. "Rose, will you take Margy to the water tank and get her a drink? Be careful, and hold on to the arms of the seats so you don't fall down. It isn't far."
"I wants a drink, too," announced Mun Bun. "I'm going to drink it myself, too," he announced, "and not give it to any doll."
"Well, Rose can take both of you," said Mrs. Bunker. Rose was a real "mother's helper," and often looked after the two smaller children in such things as getting them drinks of water. The tank was at the end of the car, not far from where the Bunkers were sitting.
Mr. Bunker bought a picture book for Laddie, from the train boy who came through the car every half hour or so, and the little riddle-chap curled up in his seat to look at this.
Russ, with some bits of string, some little sticks he had in his pocket and some paper, was making "something," though just what it was not even he seemed to know. Violet got in the seat with Laddie to look at his picture book. At the same time she may have been thinking up more questions to ask, for all I know.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunker sat together now, near Grandpa Ford, and they talked together in low voices. Russ was too busy with his string and sticks to listen, though, if he had, he might have heard something more about the queer secret.
As for Rose, who shared part of the secret with him, she was taking Margy and Mun Bun to get a drink.
"Ladies first," said Rose to her little brother, when he would have reached for the cup she filled. "Ladies first, Mun Bun. Let Margy have a drink before you."
"Does her doll have to drink, too?" asked Mun Bun. "Is she a lady?"
"She just makes believe drink," said Margy. "I'll give you the cup as soon as I take some, Munny Bunny." Sometimes Margy called her little brother that for fun.
Margy was very thirsty, and wanted two cups of water. But then the cup was not a very large one. Next Mun Bun had to have some, and he tried to drink three cupfuls. But the last one was a little too much for him, and he spilled part of it on himself.
"But I don't care," he said. "It's only like when it rains, or when the water splashes on you when you go in bathing. Only this water isn't salt, like that down in the ocean at Cousin Tom's," he added.
"It's a good thing it isn't salt, or you couldn't drink it," said Rose, as she wiped the water drops off Mun Bun with her handkerchief. "Now come on back to your seats," she went on. "I guess I'd better take you alone first, Margy. Then I'll come back for you, Mun Bun. The train is so jiggily I can't lead you both."
The cars were indeed swaying, for the train was going faster now, and around curves, which always makes it hard to walk along inside a railway coach.
"Stay here, by the water tank, Mun Bun," said Rose. "I'll take Margy to her seat, and then come back for you."
"All right," agreed the little boy. "I'll wait for you."
Now at this end of the car the train boy had left his basket, in which were a number of toys, that he walked up and down the aisles with, selling. He had left the basket there, in a vacant seat, while he went back into the baggage-car to get a magazine for which a lady had asked him.
Mun Bun saw the basket of toys. There were picture books, little dolls, prettily colored boxes, jumping-jacks—things that fathers and mothers might like to buy to amuse their children with on a long railway journey.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mun Bun, as he turned and saw the train boy's basket of toys. "Oh, my! I'm going to have something!"
Then Mun Bun, reaching in his hand, which was, of course, not right to do, took something from the basket, slipped it around behind him, as he saw Rose coming, and toddled up the aisle to meet her.
A BIG STORM
"Why didn't you wait for me, Mun Bun?" asked Rose, as she caught her little brother just as he was about to topple over in the aisle, from the swaying of the train. "I told you to wait for me. You might be hurt coming up by yourself!"
"I was in a hurry," explained Mun Bun. He gave one hand to Rose, but the other he held behind his back. In it was the thing he had taken from the train boy's basket.
Once more the six little Bunkers were in their seats, looking out of the windows. The train was puffing along, bringing them nearer and nearer to Grandpa Ford's, though it would still be some hours before they reached Tarrington.
"There!" Russ suddenly exclaimed. "I have it all done!" and he whistled a merry tune, as he turned in his seat and held up something for the others to see.
"What is it?" asked his father.
"It's a buzzy-buzzer," answered the boy. "Look, it goes around this way."
He put the loops of two strings over his thumbs, and pulled his hands apart. Then two pieces of cardboard, strung on the strings, began to whirl about very fast.
"Why, that's like a pin-wheel!" exclaimed Grandpa Ford.
"I call it a buzzy-buzzer," laughed Russ. "I was going to make a wind-mill, but I didn't have enough things here in the train. I'll make you a wind-mill when we get to Great Hedge, Grandpa."
After a while a colored man, dressed in a spotless white suit, came through the car, calling:
"First call for dinner in the dining-car! First call for dinner!"
"What does he mean—first call?" asked Violet, who, as usual, was the one who asked the first question.
"He means that dinner is now ready in the dining-car," said Mr. Bunker. "You see the car is rather small, and every one can't eat at once. So they take turns, so to speak."
"I wish we could eat first," sighed Vi. "I'm terrible hungry!"
"So'm I," said Margy.
"Me, too," added Mun Bun. He had gone back to his seat, after taking something from the train boy's basket, and he had cuddled up by himself. What he had he showed to no one, and now, when he heard that dinner was ready, he stuffed something down between the edge of the seat and the side of the car next the window.
"This is my seat," Mun Bun announced, "and please don't any one take it when we come back! I got something hid here."
No one paid much attention to him, as it had been decided that they would all go into the dining-car at the first call, and they thought every one else was thinking of that, too.
So the Bunkers and Grandpa Ford walked out of the coach in which they had been riding, to the second car ahead, where dinner was being served at little tables. It took more than two tables to seat the six little Bunkers, their father, their mother, and Grandpa Ford, but soon they were all settled, and the colored waiter, in spotless white, just like the one who had called out that dinner was ready, began to serve the hungry folks.
You may be sure the six little Bunkers were hungry. In fact, they were always that way, except, perhaps, just after a meal, or when they were asleep. Though it was not the first time these little travelers had eaten in dining-cars, and on boats, they always liked the fun it was to sit and eat, and see the trees, fences, and telegraph poles seemingly go whizzing past the windows.
"Have you had enough?" asked Daddy Bunker in about half an hour, as he looked around at his boys and girls. "Anybody want any more?"
"Could I have more pie?" asked Russ.
"Well, a small piece, yes," answered his mother.
"I want a piece, too," declared Laddie. "I didn't have hardly any. Mun Bun reached over and took half of mine."
"I'll have the waiter divide a piece between Russ and Laddie," said Mr. Bunker. And when this had been done, even the two hungry boys announced that they were satisfied. Then back to the other car the Bunkers and Grandpa Ford went.
Now at home, almost always after dinner, the two youngest of the six little Bunkers went to sleep. Mother Bunker called it taking a "nap," and almost always Mun Bun and Margy, and sometimes Laddie and Violet had one.
In a little while Mrs. Bunker noticed that the heads of Margy and Mun Bun were nodding as they sat in their seats.
"I'm going to have those children lie down," she said. "Mun Bun, come over and sit with me. I'll cuddle you to sleep. Margy, you can go with Daddy."
"I want to stay here," said Mun Bun. "I've got something in my seat, and I don't want anybody to take it."
"I want to stay too!" exclaimed Margy. "I want to see what Mun Bun has."
Mr. Bunker turned the seat in front of the two smaller children over so a sort of bed could be made for them with a pile of coats and valises. Soon Mun Bun and Margy, side by side, were having a fine sleep, and the train rumbled on.
Margy's doll was perched up on the seat in front of her, and Margy said her doll was "sleeping" too. But this doll slept with her eyes open.
Violet was looking at the picture book Laddie had finished with, and Laddie was trying to make a buzzer, as Russ had done. For Laddie had broken the one his brother had made for him.
Rose and Russ were sitting together, and for the first time in some days, they had a chance to talk about the ghost at Great Hedge.
"What kind do you s'pose it'll be?" asked Rose.
"Oh, the regular, scary kind," Russ answered.
"I hope it won't be too scary," said Rose.
"I'll be with you when we try to find out what it is," went on Russ. "Boys are never afraid of ghosts or—or anything."
"Oh, I won't be afraid—not if you're with me, anyway. Isn't it fun to have a secret? And they don't know we heard about it!" Rose added. "Won't they be s'prised if we find the ghost?"
"I guess they will," agreed Russ. "Maybe they're talking about it now," he went on, for his father and mother, with Grandpa Ford, several seats back, were talking earnestly together, as Russ could see. Just what they were saying the two oldest Bunker children did not know.
But, as a story-teller, or a writer of books, can sometimes be in two places at once, and listen to all sorts of talk, without the people who are talking knowing anything about it, I will tell you, as a special favor, that Mr. and Mrs. Bunker and Grandpa Ford really were talking about the "ghost," at Great Hedge.
"So neither Mr. Ripley nor his daughter, whose horse nearly ran away when she came to see you, could tell what all the queer doings meant at Great Hedge, could they?" asked Daddy Bunker.
"No. They said they never heard any queer noises when they lived at the place before they sold it to me," answered Grandpa Ford. "But your mother and I have heard many strange noises, and we can't account for them.
"Of course," went on Grandpa Ford, "I don't believe in ghosts. But I know we hear the strange noises, and we don't know what they mean. Your mother is annoyed by them. She has an idea, too, that perhaps there is a secret way for some one to get into our house, and that perhaps some persons go in at night, after we are in bed, and make noises."
"But why would any one do that?" asked Mrs. Bunker.
"Well, it may be some folks who would like to scare me away so they could buy Great Hedge for themselves," said Grandpa Ford. "The place is valuable, and Mr. Ripley sold it to me very reasonably, because his wife and little boy died there and he did not like to stay in the place that reminded him of them so much. So he sold."
"So he never heard the queer noises," said Mr. Bunker musingly.
"He says not. And neither did his daughter, Mabel. But Grandmother Ford and I hear them often enough, and so I thought I'd come down, and get all you Bunkers, to have you help me either find out what it is, or drive the ghost away," and Grandpa Ford smiled.
"Tell us, over again, what sort of noises they are," said Mother Bunker. "I have been so busy the last few days, getting ready to travel, that I hardly remember what you said. Were the noises like yells or groans? Or were they just hangings?"
"Well," began Grandpa Ford, "on some nights the noises are like——"
And just then there came a sudden pop, as of a pistol, and a loud cry from Margy. She sat up in her seat and fairly shouted:
"Now you stop, Mun Bun! Stop shooting my doll! Mother, make Mun Bun stop!" cried the little girl. "He's got a gun, and he shot my doll, and he knocked her off the seat, and maybe she's killed."
"Mun Bun with a gun! What do you mean?" cried Daddy Bunker, jumping up from his seat. "What are you doing, Munroe?" he asked, a bit sternly.
The two youngest children had awakened while Grandpa Ford was telling about the ghost at Great Hedge. Of course they did not hear about it, nor did Rose and Russ.
"I have a popgun, and it shoots a cork," explained Mun Bun, as he held up what he had aimed at Margy's doll. "It didn't hurt, 'cause it only shoots a cork," he said.
"But you shooted my doll, and knocked her over, and maybe she's broken!" sobbed Margy.
By this time Mrs. Bunker had reached the seat where the little girl and her brother had been sleeping. The mother picked the Japanese doll up from where it had fallen to the floor of the car, and said:
"Don't cry any more, Margy. Your doll isn't hurt a bit. But Mun Bun mustn't shoot at her any more, with corks or anything else. Munroe Ford Bunker! where did you get the popgun?" his mother asked, as she saw that he really did have a small one.
"Out of the basket," he answered. "When Margy and I went to get a drink of water I saw the popgun in the train boy's basket, and I took it out. I thought maybe I'd want to shoot at a snow man me and Grandpa are going to make, so I kept the gun. Daddy can give the train boy a penny for it. I hid it in the seat. Then I saw Margy's doll on the seat in front, and she was asleep—Margy was—and I shot at the doll, but I didn't mean to make her fall."
"Oh, dear! Such a boy!" cried Mrs. Bunker. "To take the gun without asking! Here comes the boy now. You must give it back."
"Oh, let him keep it," said Grandpa Ford. "I'll buy it for him. We may want to shoot the snow man," he said with a laugh.
So Mun Bun got his popgun after all, though, of course, he did not do right in taking it from the train boy's basket. Nor was it quite right, I suppose, to shoot Margy's doll. But Mun Bun was a very little boy.
However, the train boy was paid, some other toys were bought, and then, as Grandpa Ford, some time later, looked from the train window, he exclaimed:
"Ha! Here comes the snow! I think we are in for a big storm!"
And with great suddenness the train was, almost at once, shut in by a cloud of white snowflakes, like a fog. The swirling white crystals were blown all about, and tapped against the glass of the windows, as if they wanted to come in where the six little Bunkers were. But the glass kept them out.
"How is it out—cold?" asked Grandpa Ford of a brakeman who came in an hour or so later, covered with white flakes.
"Very cold, sir, and growing more so. I'm afraid we'll run into a bad storm before we reach Tarrington. It's snowing worse all the while."
And so it was.
"Is this the blizzard?" asked Violet.
"Pretty close to it," answered Grandpa Ford.
Just then the train gave a sudden jerk, rattling every one in his seat, and came to a stop.
"Are we there?" cried Laddie, as he slid out of his seat and turned to Grandpa Ford. "Are we at Great Hedge?"
"Well, if we are, the train must have run into it, and got stuck fast," answered the old gentleman with a smile.
"What made it bump so?" asked Violet.
"I think we must have hit a snow bank, or else some of the rails and switches are stopped up with snow," answered Daddy Bunker.
It was getting quite dark, because of the snow clouds outside, and the electric lights of the train had been switched on. Every one in the car where the Bunkers rode, and, I suppose, in each of the other cars of the train, had been well shaken up when it stopped so suddenly. But no one had really been hurt.
"Perhaps we had better see what it is," said Daddy Bunker to his stepfather. "Perhaps the train can't go any farther, and we can't get to Tarrington."
"Oh, can't we go to Grandpa's?" asked Rose, looking as if she could not bear to have such a dreadful thing happen. "I want to go!"
"If the train can't go we can get out and walk," suggested Russ. "I like to walk in the snow. If I had some lawn tennis rackets I could make snowshoes for all of us, and we could walk on them."
"But you haven't any tennis rackets," observed Laddie. "And you can't get any on the train, lessen maybe the boy that had Mun Bun's popgun has some."
"They don't play lawn tennis in winter," said Rose.
"Hush, children, dear," begged Mrs. Bunker, for they were raising their voices as they talked. "We want to hear what the trainman says."
"What happened that made us stop so quickly, and with such a bump?" asked Grandpa Ford, as the railroad man came in covered with the white flakes. "Was there an accident?"
"A little one," the man answered. "But we'll soon be all right. The snow clogged and stopped up a switch, and the engineer was afraid he would get on the wrong track, so he put on the brakes quickly and made a short and sudden stop. But we are going to dig away the snow, and then, I think, we can go on again."
"We want to go to Grandpa Ford's," spoke up Violet, as she stood close to the trainman. "Will the train take us there?"
"It will if the snow will let us, little girl," was the answer, and many passengers in the train laughed at Vi's funny question.
The brakeman hurried out, and some of the men passengers, putting on their heavy overcoats, went with him. It was too dark outside for any of the six little Bunkers to see anything that was going on. But by placing their faces close against the windows of the car and holding a hand on either side of the face to shut out the light in the car, they could see a little way into the darkness outside.
"It's snowing hard," reported Russ.
"I like it," said Rose. "We can have some sleigh rides, and coast downhill."
"And build snow men," added Violet, giving a little wriggle of pleasure.
"And snow forts, and have snowball fights!" exclaimed Laddie.
Mun Bun and Margy were eating some cookies their mother had saved for them, so they didn't say anything, just then.
"Could you ever make a snow man that would talk?" asked Vi, when she and the others had tired of looking out at the swirling flakes.
"'Course not!" exclaimed Laddie. "That would be like a riddle."
"I could make a snow man talk," declared Russ.
"You could not! How could you?" asked Laddie.
"I could scoop out a hollow place in his back and put a phonograph inside, and when I wound it up the snow man would talk."
"The phonograph would freeze inside a snow man," said Laddie.
"No, it wouldn't. If it did I could build a little fire and melt it," Russ went on. "Maybe I'll do it, too; that is, if I can find a phonograph."
"But if you built a fire to thaw out the phonograph it would melt the snow man," said Rose.
Russ seemed to be puzzled by this.
"Well, I'd do it somehow," he declared. "I'd just build a little fire, and that wouldn't melt the snow man very much."
Back into the car came trooping some of the men who had gone out to see the switch and rails clogged with the snow.
"Are we able to go on?" asked Grandpa Ford of one of these men.
"I think so," was the answer. "The snow has been shoveled away from the switch, and the engineer is going to try again. But it is a bad storm, and I doubt if we get through to-night."
"Won't we get home to your place, Grandpa?" asked Laddie.
"It's hard to tell," answered the old gentleman. "But, if worst comes to worst, we can stay on the train all night. We can sleep here and eat here, but perhaps we can get almost to Tarrington, and drive in a big sled the rest of the way."
"Where can you get a sled?" asked Violet, always ready with a question.
"Oh, I can hire one, if I can't get my own," said Grandpa Ford. "I told one of my men to meet us at the depot with a big carriage. But when he sees it snowing, as it is now up at Great Hedge, he'll take out the sled, I'm sure."
"I like to ride in a sled," said Rose. "It's such fun to cuddle down in the fur robes."
"Have you got fur robes, Grandpa?" Vi inquired.
"Oh, yes, plenty of them," he answered. "But I hope we'll get to Tarrington," he added in a low voice to Mr. and Mrs. Bunker. "I would not want to drive in an open sled through this cold storm with the children."
"They wouldn't mind it," said Daddy Bunker. "If they were well-wrapped they would like it."
"I suppose I should have waited until warmer weather to bring you to Great Hedge," went on Grandpa Ford. "But I wanted to have the children with me, and so did their grandmother. She hasn't seen them all together for some time. So I just thought I'd bring you in the winter, and not wait for summer."
"And I'm glad you did," said Mother Bunker. "We'll be all right, once we get there."
"Another reason why I wanted you at Great Hedge," went on Grandpa Ford, "is that I want you to help me find out about those queer noises, and what makes them. If there's a——"
But just then Grandpa Ford saw Rose and Russ looking at him in a queer and interested way and as if they wanted to hear what was being said, so he stopped with:
"Well, you know what I mean."
"Yes," said Daddy Bunker. "We know."
"I know what they were talking about," said Russ in a whisper to Rose, a little later.
"About the ghost. Grandpa has a ghost at Great Hedge, and he wants to find it. We'll find it for him, Rose."
"Yes, but we mustn't tell any one else about it," and Rose nodded toward Mun Bun and the others.
"No, we won't tell them," agreed Russ. "We'll hunt all by ourselves, and s'prise Grandpa and Grandma."
The passengers were now settled in their seats again, and pretty soon the train started off once more. It did not go as fast as at first, because there was so much snow on the tracks. But there were no more sudden stops, and soon a brakeman came through the coach and said he thought everything would be all right.
"Will we get to Tarrington?" asked Daddy Bunker.
"Yes, I am pretty sure we shall," was the answer.
The train did get to Tarrington, though not without some trouble and one or two more stops to clear snow out of the switches. And when Tarrington was reached it was quite late. It was dark, and cold, and snowing hard.
"I don't know about going on to my place to-night," said Grandpa Ford with a shake of his head as he looked at the six little Bunkers. "I'm afraid it will be a long, cold drive for them."
"Wrap them up in robes and we'll try it," said Daddy Bunker. "Is your sled here?"
"Yes, my man is here with a strong team of horses and the big bob sled. He says the roads are pretty good, but it is very cold. Well, we'll try. And, if we can't make it, we'll come back and stay at the hotel here all night."
They were in the Tarrington station now, where it was nice and warm and light. Outside it was dark and cold and snowing hard. But the children did not mind.
"We'll soon be at Grandpa's!" chanted Laddie.
"And have some bread and jam!" added Violet. "What's jam made of?" she asked quickly. "Has it got honey in to make it sweet?"
"No time for questions now," said Mother Bunker. "Save them until we get to Grandpa's."
"I'm hungry!" wailed Margy. "I want something to eat!"
"So do I!" added Mun Bun.
"There's a lunch counter in this station," said Grandpa Ford. "If you want to we can get the children something to eat here, and perhaps we'd better, before we start on the long, cold drive. It may be late before we get to Great Hedge."
"Yes, I think it best to get something," agreed Daddy Bunker. "I'll go and see what there is to eat."
Daddy Bunker started toward the lunch counter, but at that moment there was a loud crash, a breaking of glass, and a voice cried:
"Now you've gone and done it! You busted it, an' spilled 'em all!"
GREAT HEDGE AT LAST
"Oh, what has happened now?" exclaimed Mother Bunker as she looked around the depot to see if any of the children was in mischief. She noticed Rose and Russ, Laddie and Vi, and Margy. But Mun Bun was not in sight.
"Did he fall out of a window?" asked Violet.
"Mercy! I hope not," cried Mrs. Bunker.
Then they all heard Mun Bun's voice saying, rather tearfully:
"I—I didn't mean to do it. I only wanted a cake!"
"Well, you busted it, an' now somebody's got to pay for it!" came another voice, and one that was rather angry.
Daddy Bunker hurried around to the other side of the ticket office, and the others, including Grandpa Ford, followed. There, standing near the lunch counter, with a broken bowl at his feet, and cakes scattered around him, stood Mun Bun. In front of him was the young man who had charge of the station lunch counter.
"Oh, Mun Bun!" sighed his mother.
"Why, Mun Bun! what happened?" asked his father.
"He happened—that!" exclaimed the young man. "He pulled it over, off the counter, and it smashed. And look at the cakes—all spoiled."
"Not all spoiled," said Mun Bun. "I can eat 'em, an' so can Margy. We're both hungry!"
"Did you pull over the bowl of cakes?" asked Mr. Bunker.
"Yes," admitted Mun Bun, "I did. I reached up to get one, and the bowl tipped over on me and they all spilled."
"And the bowl broke," said the lunch-counter young man.
"I'll pay for it, Tom," said Grandpa Ford, who seemed to know the young man. "That'll be all right. I'll pay for the bowl and the cakes, too. Some of them are all right. They fell on this newspaper."
And this was true. Mun Bun had reached up, standing on his tip-toes, to get a cake out of the bowl. As he said, he was hungry, and while Daddy Bunker and Grandpa Ford were talking about getting the children something to eat, Mun Bun had wandered off by himself, found the lunch counter, and started to help himself. But he was not quite tall enough, and the glass bowl had fallen with a crash.
The cakes had scattered out, but, as Grandpa Ford had said, some of them had fallen on a clean newspaper which some one had dropped on the depot floor just before the accident.
Grandpa Ford, Daddy Bunker and Tom, the lunchman, picked up the clean cakes and put them in another bowl. The broken pieces of the smashed bowl and the cakes that had gone on the floor were also picked up.
"Well, now that we're all here, we might as well get the children something to eat," said Grandpa Ford. "Tom can give them hot milk and cakes, and we grown-folks can have some hot coffee to get us ready for the ride out to Great Hedge. Tom, can you take care of this big family?"
"Oh, I guess so," was the answer, and the lunchman was not angry now, for he saw he would lose nothing by what Mun Bun had done.
The six little Bunkers ate well, for the other five, as well as Mun Bun, were hungry. Then, when the grown-ups had been fed, and the broken bowl paid for, Grandpa Ford went out into the storm to tell his man, who was in charge of the horses and sled, that the party was ready to start. The horses had been kept waiting under a shed so they would be out of the storm.
"Oh, that sounds just like Santa Claus!" cried Margy, as the sound of jingling bells was heard outside the depot.
It seemed rather hard to leave the cosy, bright, warm station at that hour of the night and start out into the darkness and storm. But the children did not mind it. They were too eager to get to Great Hedge and see Grandma Ford. That is, most of them were. Perhaps Mun Bun and Margy were a bit too sleepy to care much what happened.
"But we can cuddle them down in the straw in the bottom of the sled, cover them with blankets and let them go to sleep," said Grandpa Ford, as he noted the blinking eyes of the two youngest Bunkers. "They'll go to sleep and be at Great Hedge before they know it."
"How can you find it in the dark?" asked Vi.
"Oh, the horses know the way," answered the old gentleman. "Come on."
"I'm going to make up a riddle about a horse," began Laddie. "I have it almost made up. It's about what kind of a tree would you like to drive."
"You can't drive a tree!" exclaimed Russ. "All you can do is to climb it, or cut it down. So there!"
"Yes, you can!" insisted Laddie. "You can drive my riddle kind of tree."
"You can not! Can you, Mother?" appealed Russ. "You can climb a tree and cut it down, and that's all you can do to it, isn't it?"
"You can sit in the shade of it," said Rose.
"Oh, yes, well, but that doesn't count!" said Russ.
"Anyhow it's a riddle," went on Laddie. "What kind of a tree would you like to drive?"
"We haven't any time for riddles now," said Mother Bunker. "Come along, children, Grandpa is waiting!"
And, with Laddie's riddle still unanswered, they went out into the darkness and the storm.
At first it rather took away the breath of the children—that is, of the four oldest. Mun Bun was carried by his mother, while Daddy Bunker took Margy in his arms. Thus they were cuddled up so the cold wind and snow could not blow on them. Grandpa Ford wanted to carry Violet from the depot out to the waiting sled, but she said she was big enough to walk.
The sled stood near the depot platform, and the lights from the station shone on it, so it was easy to tuck the children in. Down in the warm straw, and under the warm blankets, the six little Bunkers were placed, until no cold wind nor snow could get at them.
"Well, I guess we're all ready, Dick," said Grandpa Ford to his hired man, who was to drive. "Think we can make it?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Ford," was the answer. "The horses are anxious to get home, and the roads aren't as bad as they'll be in the morning."
"Well, when we get to Great Hedge we can stay there a long time," said Grandpa Ford. "Go ahead, Dick."
"Go 'long, horses!" called Dick, at the same time cracking his whip. Of course he did not hit the horses with it. He just snapped it in the air over their backs.
Away they sprang, with a jingle of bells, their feet making no noise in the soft snow. Away they went, and on down the road which was white with the crystal flakes that sparkled in the light of a lantern that was hung underneath the big sled.
"How long a drive is it?" asked Mrs. Bunker.
"Oh, about half an hour," answered Grandpa Ford. "We'll be there before you know it. It's downhill, and the horses are anxious to get to their warm stable."
And this seemed to be true, for the animals, with the jingling bells around them, raced bravely along. Mun Bun and Margy fell asleep almost at once, it was so warm and cosy in Grandpa's sled. But the other children peered out now and then from beneath the robes. However, they were soon glad to pull their heads in again, for it was very cold.