SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT MAMMY JUNE'S
BY LAURA LEE HOPE
AUTHOR OF "SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDMA BELL'S," "SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COWBOY JACK'S," "THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES," "THE BUNNY BROWN SERIES," "THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES," ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY WALTER S. ROGERS
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
Made in the United States of America
BOOKS BY LAURA LEE HOPE
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
* * * * *
THE SIX LITTLE BUNKERS SERIES
SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDMA BELL'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT AUNT JO'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COUSIN TOM'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDPA FORD'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT UNCLE FRED'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT CAPTAIN BEN'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COWBOY JACK'S SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT MAMMY JUNE'S
* * * * *
THE BOBBSEY TWINS SERIES
THE BOBBSEY TWINS THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE SEASHORE THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SCHOOL THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SNOW LODGE THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON A HOUSEBOAT THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT MEADOW BROOK THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT HOME THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN A GREAT CITY THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON BLUEBERRY ISLAND THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN WASHINGTON THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE GREAT WEST THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT CEDAR CAMP THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE COUNTY FAIR
* * * * *
THE BUNNY BROWN SERIES
BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON GRANDPA'S FARM BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE PLAYING CIRCUS BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT AUNT LU'S CITY HOME BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CAMP REST-A-WHILE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE BIG WOODS BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON AN AUTO TOUR BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AND THEIR SHETLAND PONY BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE GIVING A SHOW BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CHRISTMAS TREE COVE BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE SUNNY SOUTH BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE KEEPING STORE
* * * * *
THE OUTDOOR GIRLS SERIES
GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
Copyright, 1922, by GROSSET & DUNLAP
Six Little Bunkers at Mammy June's
CHAPTER PAGE I. AN ESKIMO IGLOO 1 II. THE SNOWMAN 12 III. UNCLE SAM'S NEPHEW 21 IV. DADDY'S NEWS 30 V. OFF FOR SUMMER SEAS 41 VI. THE SEA-EAGLE 51 VII. A SIGNAL OF DISTRESS 66 VIII. A GREAT DEAL OF EXCITEMENT 79 IX. RUSS'S SECRET 87 X. CHARLESTON AND THE FLEET 94 XI. THE MEIGGS PLANTATION 105 XII. MAMMY JUNE 117 XIII. THE CATFISH 127 XIV. MAMMY JUNE HELPS 136 XV. WHEN CHRISTMAS IS FOURTH OF JULY 146 XVI. A LETTER AND A BIG LIGHT 156 XVII. MAMMY JUNE IN PERIL 166 XVIII. THE TWINS IN TROUBLE 175 XIX. IN MAMMY JUNE'S ROOM 183 XX. GOOSEY-GOOSEY-GANDER 194 XXI. ROSE HAS AN IDEA 202 XXII. THE STRANGE CRY 210 XXIII. A FOUR-LEGGED GHOST 218 XXIV. AN EXCITING TIME 227 XXV. THAT PIGEON WING 235
SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT MAMMY JUNE'S
AN ESKIMO IGLOO
"How could William get the croup that way?" Violet asked with much emphasis.
Of course, Vi was always asking questions—so many questions, indeed, that it was often impossible for her elders to answer them all; and certainly Rose and Russ Bunker, who were putting together a "cut-up" puzzle on the table, could not be bothered by Vi's insistence.
"I don't see how he could have got the croup that way," repeated the smaller girl. There were six of the little Bunkers, and Vi and Laddie were twins. She said to Laddie, who was looking on at the puzzle making: "Do you know how William did it, Laddie?"
Laddie, whose real name wasn't "Laddie" at all, but Fillmore Bunker, shook his head decidedly.
"I don't know," he told his twin sister. "Not unless it is a riddle: 'How did William get the croup?'"
"He hasn't got the croup," put in Rose, for just a moment giving the twins her attention.
"Why—ee!" cried Vi. "Aunt Jo said he had!"
"She didn't," returned Rose rather shortly and not at all politely.
"She did so!" rejoined Vi instantly, for although she and Rose loved each other very much they were not always in agreement. Vi's gray eyes snapped she was so vexed. "Aunt Jo said that a window got broke in—in the neu-ral-gi-a and William had to drive a long way yesterday and the wind blew on him and he got the croup."
"Was that the way of it?" said Laddie, thoughtfully. "Wait a minute, Vi. I've most got it——"
"You're not going to have the croup!" declared his twin. "You never had it! But I have had the croup, and I didn't catch it the way William did."
"No-o," admitted Laddie. "But—but I'm catching a new riddle if you'd only wait a minute for me to get it straight."
"Pooh!" said Vi. "Who cares anything about your old riddle? Br-r-r! it's cold in this room. Maybe we'll all get the croup if we can't have a better fire."
"It isn't the croup you mean, Vi," put in Rose again, but without stopping to explain to her smaller sister where and how she was wrong about William's illness.
"Say, Russ, why don't the steampipes hum any more?" broke in the voice of Margy, the next to the very littlest Bunker, who was playing with that latter very important person at one of the great windows overlooking the street.
Russ chuckled. He had just put the very last crooked piece of the puzzle into place.
"You don't expect to see humming birds in winter, do you, Margy?" he asked.
"Just the same, winter is the time for steampipes to hum," said Rose, shivering a little. "Oh! See! It's beginning to snow!"
"So 'tis," cried Russ, who was the oldest of the six. "Supposing it should be a blizzard, Rose Bunker?"
"S'posing it should!" repeated his sister, quite as much excited as Russ was at such a prospect.
"Buzzards fly and eat dead things. We saw 'em in Texas at Cowboy Jack's," announced Laddie, forgetting his riddle-making for the moment.
"That is right, Laddie," agreed Rose kindly. "But we're not talking about buzzards, but about blizzards. Blizzards are big snowstorms—bigger than you ever remember, I guess."
"Oh!" said Laddie doubtfully. "Were we talking about—about blizzards?"
"No, we weren't!" exclaimed Vi, almost stamping her foot. "We were talking about William's croup——"
"He hasn't got the croup, I tell you, Vi," Rose said wearily.
"He has. Aunt Jo——"
"In the first place," interrupted Rose quite decidedly, "only children have croup. It isn't a grown-up disease."
This announcement silenced even Violet for the moment. She stared at her older sister, round-eyed.
"Do—do diseases have to grow up, too?" she finally gasped.
"Oh, dear me, Vi Bunker!" exclaimed Rose, "I wish you didn't ask so many questions."
"Why not?" promptly inquired the smaller girl.
"We-ell, it's so hard to answer them," Rose frankly admitted. "Diseases don't grow up, I guess, but folks grow up and leave diseases like croup, and measles, and chicken-pox, behind them."
"And cut fingers and bumps?" asked Laddie, who had almost forgotten the riddle about William's croup that he was striving to make.
But Vi did not forget the croup. One could trust Vi never to forget anything about which she once set out to gather information.
"But how did William catch the croup through a broken window in the neu-ral-gi-a?" she demanded. "When I had croup I got my feet wet first."
"He hasn't got the croup!" Rose cried again, while Russ began to laugh heartily.
"Oh, Vi!" Russ said, "you got it twisted. William caught cold driving Aunt Jo's coupe with the window broken in it. He's got neuralgia from that."
"And isn't there any croup about it?" Laddie demanded rather sadly. "Then I'll have to start making my riddle all over again."
"Will that be awful hard to do, Laddie?" asked his twin. "Why! making riddles must be worse than having neu-ral-gi-a—or croup."
"Well, it's harder," sighed her brother. "It's easy to catch—Oh! Oh! Russ! Rose! I got it!"
"You haven't neuralgia, like poor William," announced Rose with confidence.
"Listen!" announced the glowing Laddie. "What is it that's so easy to catch but nobody runs after?"
"Huh! is that a riddle?" asked Russ.
"Course it's a riddle."
"A wubber ball," guessed Mun Bun, coming from the window against the panes of which the snow was now beating rapidly.
"No," Laddie said.
"A coupe!" exclaimed Violet.
"Huh! No!" said her twin in disdain.
Margy asked if he meant a kittie. She had been chasing one all over the house that morning while Russ and Rose had been to market with their aunt, and she did not think a kitten easy to catch at all.
"'Tisn't anything with a tail or claws," crowed the delighted Laddie.
"I bet it's that neuralgia William's got," laughed Russ.
"No-o. It isn't just that," his smaller brother said.
"And you'd better not say 'bet,' Russ Bunker," advised Rose wisely. "You know Aunt Jo says that's not nice."
"You just said it," Russ rejoined, grinning. "Twice."
"Oh, I never did!" cried his sister.
"Didn't you just say I'd 'better not say bet?'" demanded Russ. "Well, then count 'em! 'Bet' out of 'better' is one, and 'bet' makes two——"
"I never said it the way you did," began Rose, quite put out, when Laddie began to clamor:
"Tell me my riddle! You can't—none of you. 'What is it that's so easy to catch but nobody runs after?'"
"I don't know, Laddie," said Rose.
"I give it up," said Russ.
"Do you all give it up?" cried Laddie, almost dancing in his glee.
"What is it?" asked Vi.
"Why, the thing that's so easy to catch but nobody runs after, is a cold!" announced her twin very proudly.
"And I'm so-o cold," announced Mun Bun, hanging to Rose's skirt while the older ones laughed with Laddie. "Don't Aunt Jo ever have it warm in her house—like it is at home?"
"Of course she does, Mun Bun," said Rose, quickly hugging the little fellow. "But poor William is sick and nobody knows how to tend to the heating plant as well as he does. And so—Why, Russ, Mun Bun is cold! His hands are like ice."
"And so are my hands!" cried Margy, running hastily from the window. "We've been trying to catch the snowflakes through the windowpane."
"No wonder your hands are cold," said Rose admonishingly.
Russ began to cast about in his ingenious mind for some means of getting the younger children's attention off the discomfort of a room the temperature of which was down to sixty. In one corner were two stacks of sectional bookcases which Aunt Jo had just bought, but which had no books in them and no glass fronts. Russ considered them for a moment, and then looked all about the room.
"I tell you what," he said, slowly. "You know when they took us to the Sportsman's Show last week at Mechanic's Hall? Don't you remember about that Eskimo igloo that they had built of ice in the middle of the skating pond? Let's build an igloo like that, and get into it and keep warm."
"O-oo!" gasped Vi, "how can you do that?"
"Where will you get any ice?" Laddie demanded.
"Goodness! it's cold enough in here without bringing in ice," announced Rose with confidence.
"We won't build the igloo of ice blocks," said Russ quite calmly. "But we'll make believe it is ice."
"I'd rather do that," Laddie agreed. "For make-believe ice can't be so wet and cold as real ice, can it?"
"What you going to make your make-believe ice out of, Russ?" demanded Vi, the exceedingly practical.
Russ at once set them all to work, clearing the middle of the room and bringing up hassocks and small benches and some other articles that could be used in the construction of the indoor igloo. He brought the sections of the new bookcase, one piece at a time.
Russ really exhibited some skill in building up the walls of the hut in the middle of the floor. When it was completed it was rather a tight fit for all six of the little Bunkers to squeeze inside, but they did it. And the activities of building the igloo had warmed even Mun Bun.
"You know," said Rose thoughtfully, "Eskimos live in these igloos and eat blubber, and don't go out at all while it is snowing, same as it does now."
"Why don't they go out?" asked Vi.
"Because it is cold," said Russ.
"And why do they eat blubber?"
"Because they are hungry," said Rose.
"What's blubber, anyway?" asked the inquisitive one. "Is it like candy?"
"It's more like candles," answered Russ, laughing.
Just then Laddie kicked excitedly.
"I bet I can make another riddle!" he cried.
"Now, you see, Russ Bunker?" Rose admonished. "Laddie has got that word, too."
"Hey, stop kicking, Laddie!" cried Russ.
But in his excitement the boy twin had put his foot right through the wall of the igloo! At least, he had kicked one of the boxes out of place and the whole structure began to wobble.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" shrieked Vi. "It's falling."
"Get Mun Bun out," gasped Rose, thinking first of all of the littlest Bunker.
But just then the heaped up boxes came down with a crash and the six little Bunkers were buried under the ruins of their "igloo."
A corner of one of the overturned bookcase sections struck Russ Bunker's head with considerable force—actually cutting the skin and bringing blood. Big as he was, the oldest Bunker yelled loudly.
Then, of course, everybody yelled. Quite a panic followed. When Aunt Jo and Mother Bunker came running to the front room where all this had taken place the Eskimo igloo looked very much like a pile of boxes with a young earthquake at work beneath it!
"For the good land's sake!" gasped Aunt Jo, who usually was very particular about her speech, but who on this occasion was startled into an exclamation. "What is happening?"
"Get off my head, Vi!" wailed Laddie, from somewhere under the tottering pile. "It's not to sit on."
"Oh! Oh!" cried Rose. "Russ is all bloody! Oh, dear!"
"I'm not cold any more," cried Mun Bun. "Let me out! I'll be good!"
But Russ Bunker was neither crying nor struggling. He was a good deal of a man, for a nine-and-a-half-year-old boy. Being the oldest of the six little Bunkers there were certain duties which fell to his lot, and he understood that one of them was to keep cool when anything happened to excite or frighten his brothers and sisters.
The whack he had got on the head, and even the trickle of blood down his face, did not cause Russ to lose his head. No, indeed. He, and the other little Bunkers, had been in innumerable scrapes before, and the wreck of the Eskimo igloo was nothing provided Aunt Jo did not make a lot out of it. It just crossed Russ' mind that he ought to have asked his aunt before he used the sectional bookcases for building-blocks.
Naturally of an inventive turn of mind, Russ was constantly building new things—make-believe houses, engines, automobiles, steamboats, and the like—usually with a merry whistle on his lips, too. He was a cheerful boy and almost always considered the safety and pleasure of his brothers and sisters first.
In companionship with Rose, who was a year younger, the boy cared for the other four little Bunkers so successfully that Mother Bunker and Daddy Bunker were seldom troubled in their minds regarding any of the children. Rose was a particularly helpful little girl, and assisted Mother Bunker a good deal. She was a real little housewife.
Vi and Laddie, the twins, were both very active children—active with their tongues as well as their bodies. Violet's inquisitiveness knew no bounds. She wanted to know about every little thing that happened about her. Daddy Bunker said he was sure she must ask questions in her sleep. Laddie was an inveterate riddle-asker. He learned every riddle he heard; and he tried to make up riddles about everything that happened. Sometimes he was successful, and sometimes he was not. But he always tried again, having a persevering temperament.
The smallest Bunkers—Margy, whose real name was Margaret, and Mun Bun, whose real name was Monroe Ford—were quite as anxious to get out from under the heap of boxes as the others. Mother Bunker and Aunt Jo ran to their assistance, and soon the six were on their feet to be hugged and scolded a little by both their mother and aunt.
"But they do get into such mischief all the time," sighed Mother Bunker. "I shall be glad when Daddy gets back and decides what to do for the winter. I don't know whether we shall go right back to Pineville or not."
For it was in Pineville, Pennsylvania, that we first met the six little Bunkers and in the first volume of this series went with them on a nice vacation to Mother Bunker's mother. The book telling of this is called "Six Little Bunkers at Grandma Bell's."
After that lovely visit in Maine the six little Bunkers had gone to stay for a time with each of the following very delightful relatives and friends: To Aunt Jo's in Boston, where they were now for a second visit over the Thanksgiving holidays; to Cousin Tom's; to Grandpa Ford's; to Uncle Fred's; to Captain Ben's; and last of all to Cowboy Jack's.
In that last book, "Six Little Bunkers at Cowboy Jack's," they had enjoyed themselves so much that they were always talking about it. And now, as Vi managed to crawl out from under the wreck of the Eskimo igloo, she announced:
"That iggilyoo isn't half as nice to live in as Chief Black Bear's wigwam was at Cowboy Jack's. You 'member that wigwam, Russ?"
"I remember it, all right," said Russ, rather ruefully touching the cut above his temple and bringing away his finger again to look at the blood upon it. "Say, is it going to keep right on bleeding, Mother?"
"Not for long," declared Mother Bunker. "But I think you were rightly punished, Russ. Suppose the corner of the section had cut Mun Bun's head?"
"I should have been awful sorry," admitted Russ. "I guess I didn't think much, Mother. I was only trying to amuse 'em 'cause they were cold."
"It is cold in here, Amy. Don't scold the boy. See! The storm is getting worse. I don't know what we shall do about the fire. Parker and Annie don't seem to know what to do about the heater and I'm sure I don't. Oh, dear!"
"B-r-rrr!" shivered Mother Bunker. "I am not fond of your New England winters, Jo. I hope we shall go South——"
"Oh, Mother!" cried Rose excitedly. "Shall we really go down South with Daddy? Won't that be glorious?"
"I guess it's warm down there," said Laddie. "Or maybe the steampipes hum."
"Do the steampipes hum down South?" asked Violet.
While the four older children were exceedingly interested in this new proposal for excitement and adventure, Margy and Mun Bun had returned to the great window that overlooked the street and the front steps. They flattened their noses against the cold pane and stared down into the driving snow. Within this short time, since the storm had begun, everything was white and the few people passing in the street were like snowmen, for the white flakes stuck to their coats and other wraps.
"Oh, see that man!" Margy cried to Mun Bun. "He almost fell down."
"He's not a man," said her little brother with confidence. "He's a boy."
"Oh! He's a black boy—a colored boy. That's right, so he is."
The figure in the snow stumbled along the sidewalk, clinging to the iron railings. When he reached the steps of Aunt Jo's house he slipped down upon the second step and seemed unable to get up again. His body sagged against the iron railing post, and soon the snow began to heap on him and about him.
"Oh!" gasped Margy. "He is a reg'lar snowman."
"He's a black snowman," said Mun Bun. "It must be freezing cold out there, Margy."
"Of course it is. He'll turn into a nicicle if he stays there on the steps," declared the little girl, with some anxiety.
"And he hasn't a coat and scarf like you and me," Mun Bun said. "Maybe he hasn't any Grandma Bell to knit scarfs for him."
"I believe we ought to help him, Mun Bun," said Margy, decidedly. "We have plenty of coats."
"And scarfs," agreed Mun Bun. "Let's."
So they immediately left the room quite unnoticed by the older people in it. This is a remarkable fact. Whenever Margy and Mun Bun had mischief in mind they never asked Mother about it. Now, why was that, do you suppose?
The two little ones went swiftly downstairs into the front hall. Both had coats and caps and scarfs hung on pegs in a little dressing-room near the big door. They knew that they should not touch the outer garments belonging to the older children; but they got their own wraps.
"Maybe he's too big for them," murmured Margy. "But I guess he can squeeze into the coats—into one of them, anyway."
"Course he can," said Mun Bun. "Mine's a nawful warm coat. And that black snowman isn't much bigger than I am, Margy."
"I don't know," said his sister slowly, for she was a little wiser than Mun Bun about most things. "Open the door."
Mun Bun could do that. This was the inside door, and they stepped into the vestibule. Pressing his face close to the glass of one of the outer doors, Mun Bun stared down at the "black snowman" on the step.
"He's going to sleep in the snow," said the little boy. "I guess we've got to wake him up, Margy."
He pounded on the glass with his fat fist. He knocked several times before the figure below even moved. Then the colored boy, who was not more than seventeen or eighteen, turned his head and looked up over his shoulder at the faces of the two children in the vestibule.
He was covered with snow. His face, though moderately black as a usual thing, was now gray with the cold. His black eyes, even, seemed faded. He was scantily clad, and his whole body was trembling with the cold.
"Come up here!" cried Mun Bun, beckoning to the strange boy. "Come up here!"
The boy in the snow seemed scarcely to understand. Or else he was so cold and exhausted that he could not immediately get up from the step on which he was sitting.
UNCLE SAM'S NEPHEW
The fluffy, sticky snowflakes gathered very fast upon the colored boy's clothing. As Mun Bun had first announced, he looked like a snowman, only his face was grayish-black.
He was slim, and when he finally stood up at the bottom of the house steps, he seemed to waver just like a slim reed in the fierce wind that drove the snowflakes against him. He hesitated, too. It seemed that he scarcely knew whether it was best to mount the steps to Aunt Jo's front door or not.
"Come up here!" cried Mun Bun again, and continued to beckon to him through the glass of the outer door.
Margy held up her coat and cap, and beckoned to the boy also. He looked much puzzled as he slowly climbed the steps. His lips moved and the children knew he asked:
"What yo' want of me, child'en?"
Mun Bun tugged at the outer door eagerly, and finally it flew open. He shouted in the face of the driving snow:
"Come in here, snowman. Come in here!"
"I ain't no snowman," drawled the colored boy. "But I sure is as cold as a snowman could possibly be."
"It's warmer inside here than it is out there," Margy said. "Although we're not any too warm. Our steampipes don't hum. But you come in."
"Yes," said Mun Bun, grabbing at the colored boy's cold, wet hand. "You come in here. We have some coats and things you can put on so you won't be cold."
"Ma goodness!" murmured the boy, staring at the garments the children held out to him.
"You can wear 'em," said Margy. "We have more."
"You put on my coat," urged Mun Bun. "It's a boy's coat. You won't want Margy's, for she's a girl."
"Ma goodness!" ejaculated the colored boy again, "what yo' child'en s'pose I do wid dem t'ings? 'Less I puts 'em up de spout?"
The two children hadn't the first idea as to what he meant by putting the clothing up the spout. But the colored boy meant that he might pawn them and get some money. He did not offer to take the coats and other things that Margy and Mun Bun tried to put into his hands.
Just at this moment Mother Bunker and Aunt Jo, followed by Russ and Rose, appeared on the stairs. They had missed the two little folks and, as Aunt Jo had said, wrinkling her very pretty nose, that she could "just smell mischief," they had all come downstairs to see what the matter was.
The colored boy spied them. He had evidently been ill used by somebody, for he was very much frightened. He thrust the coats back at the children and turned to get out of the vestibule.
But the door had been sucked to by the wind and it was hard to open again. It was really quite wonderful that Mun Bun had been able to get it open when he and Margy had called the strange colored boy in.
"Don't go!" cried Margy.
"Take my coat, please," urged Mun Bun. "I know it will keep you warm."
And all the time the colored boy was tugging at the handle of the outer door and fairly panting, he was so anxious to get out. Mother Bunker was the first to reach the door into the vestibule, and she opened it instantly.
"Wait!" she commanded the strange boy. "What do you want? What are you doing here?"
But by this time the young fellow had jerked open the outer door, and now he darted out and almost dived down the snowy steps.
"Oh, Mother!" cried Mun Bun, "he's forgot his coat and cap and scarf. I wanted him to wear mine because he was so cold and snowed on."
"And he could have had mine, too," declared Margy quite as earnestly.
"What do these tots mean?" gasped Aunt Jo, holding up both hands.
But Mother Bunker, who understood her little Bunkers very well indeed, in a flash knew all about it. She cried:
"The poor boy! Bring him back! He did look cold and wet."
"Oh, he's just a tramp," objected Aunt Jo.
"He's poor, Josephine, and unfortunate," answered Mother Bunker, as though that settled all question as to what they should do about the colored boy.
Russ Bunker had already got his cap and mackinaw. He darted out of the house, down the steps, and followed the shuffling figure of the colored boy, now all but hidden by the fast-driving snow. How it did snow, to be sure!
"Say! Wait a minute!" Russ called, and caught the strange youth by the elbow.
"What yo' want, little boy?" demanded the other. "I ain't done nothin' to them child'en. No, I ain't. Dey called me up to dat do' or I wouldn't have been there."
"I know that," said Russ, urgently detaining him. "But come back. My mother wants to speak to you, and I guess my Aunt Jo'll treat you nice, too. You're cold and hungry, aren't you?"
"Sure is," groaned the boy.
"Then they will give you something to eat and let you get warm. You'd better come," added Russ very sensibly, "for it looks as if it would be a big storm."
"Sure do," agreed the colored boy again. "Ah don' like dis snow. Don't have nothin' like dis down whar I come f'om. No, suh."
"Now, come on," said Russ eagerly. "My mother's waiting for us."
The negro lad hesitated no longer. Even Russ saw how weary and weak he was as he stumbled on beside him. His shoes were broken, his trousers were very ragged, and his coat that he had buttoned up closely was threadbare. His cap was just the wreck of a cap!
"Yo' sure she ain't goin' to send for no policeman, little boy?" queried the stranger. "I wasn't goin' to take them clo'es. No, suh!"
"She understands," said Russ confidently, and holding to the boy's ragged sleeve led him up the steps of Aunt Jo's pretty house.
Russ saw Mr. North, the nice old gentleman who lived over the way, staring out of his window at this surprising fact: Aunt Jo allowing a beggar to enter at her front door! Still, Mr. North, as well as the rest of the neighbors, had decided before this that almost anything astonishing could happen while the six little Bunkers were visiting their Aunt Jo in Boston's Back Bay district.
"Here he is, Mother," said Russ, entering the hall with the colored boy.
The other children had come downstairs now and all understood just what Margy and Mun Bun had tried to do for the stranger. Mother Bunker smiled kindly upon the wretched lad, even if Aunt Jo did look on a little doubtfully from the background.
"We understand all about it, boy," Mother Bunker said. "The little folks only wanted to help you; and so do we. Do you live in Boston?"
"Me, Ma'am? No, Ma'am! I lives a long way souf of dis place. Dat I do!"
"And have you no friends here?"
"Friends? Whar'd I get friends?" he demanded, complainingly. "Dey ain't no friends for boys like me up Norf yere."
"Oh! What a story!" exclaimed Aunt Jo. "I know people must be just as kind in Boston as they are in the South."
"Mebbe dey is, lady," said the colored boy, looking somewhat frightened because of Aunt Jo's vigorous speech. "Mebbe dey is; but dey hides it better yere. If yo' beg a mess of vittles in dis town dey puts yo' in jail. Down Souf dey axes you is you hongry? Ya-as'm!"
At that Aunt Jo began to bustle about to the great delight of the children. She called down to Parker, the cook, and asked her to put out a nice meal on the end of the kitchen table and to make coffee. And then she said she would go up to the attic where, in a press in which she kept garments belonging to a church society, there were some warm clothes that might fit the colored boy.
Rose and Vi went with Aunt Jo to help, or to look on; but Margy and the three boys stayed with their mother to hear more that the visitor might say.
"My name's Sam," he replied to Mother Bunker's question. "Dat is, it's the name I goes by, for my hones'-to-goodness name is right silly. But I had an Uncle Sam, and I considers I has got a right to be named after him. So I is."
"Does your Uncle Sam wear a tall hat and red-and-white striped pants with straps under the bootsoles and stars on his vest?" asked Laddie, with great interest and eagerness.
"I dunno, little fellow," said Sam. "I ain't never seen my Uncle Sam, but I heard my mammy talk about him."
Russ and his mother were much amused at Laddie's question. Russ said:
"That Uncle Sam you are talking about, Laddie, is a white man. He couldn't be this Sam's uncle."
"Why not?" demanded Laddie, with quite as much curiosity as his twin sister might have shown.
"Very true, why not?" repeated Mrs. Bunker, with some gravity. "You are wrong, Russ. Our Uncle Sam is just as much this Sam's uncle as he is ours. Now go down to the kitchen, Sam. I hear Parker calling for you. Eat your fill. And wait down there, for we shall want to see you again."
Aunt Jo found the garments she meant to give to Sam, the strange colored boy, and she and Rose and Vi came downstairs with them to the room in which the children had been playing at first. Russ and Laddie had set up the sectional bookcase once more and the room looked less like the wreck of an auction room, Mother Bunker said.
She had returned with Margie and the boys. They thought it better—at least, the adults did—to leave Sam in the kitchen with Parker and Annie, the maid.
"But I hate to see that boy go away from here in this storm," said kind-hearted Aunt Jo. "Perhaps what he says about us Boston people in comparison with those where he comes from, is true. The police do arrest people for begging."
"Well, we have tramps at Pineville," Mother Bunker observed. "But the constable doesn't often arrest any. Not if they behave themselves. But a city is different. And this boy did not know how to ask for help, of course. Don't you think you can be of help to him, Jo?"
"I'll see," said Aunt Jo. "Wait until he has had a chance to eat what Parker has fixed for him."
Just then Annie, the parlormaid, tapped on the door.
"Please'm," she said to Aunt Jo, "that colored boy is goin' down in the cellar to fix the furnace."
"To fix the furnace?" cried Aunt Jo.
"Yes'm. He says he has taken care of a furnace before. He's been up North here for 'most two years. But he lost his job last month and couldn't find another."
"The poor boy," murmured Mother Bunker.
"Yes'm," said Annie. "And when he heard that the house was cold because me nor Parker didn't know what to do about the furnace, and the fire was most out, he said he'd fix it. So he's down there now with Parker and Alexis."
"Did Alexis come home?" cried Russ, who was very fond, as were all the Bunker children, of Aunt Jo's great Dane. "Can't we go down and see Alexis?"
"And see Sam again," said Margy. "Me and Mun Bun found him, you know."
It seemed to the little girl as though the colored boy had been quite taken away from her and from Mun Bun. They had what Mother Bunker laughingly called "prior rights" in Sam.
"Well, if he is a handy boy like that," said Aunt Jo, referring to the colored boy, "and can fix the furnace, we shall just have to keep him until William is well again. Has he finished his dinner, Annie?"
"Not yet, Ma'am. And indeed he was hungry. He ate like a wolf. But when he heard about us all being beat by that furnace, down he went. There! He's shaking the grate now. You can hear him. He said the ashes had to be taken out from under the grate or the fire never would burn. Yes'm."
"Well, then," said Mother Bunker, "you children will have to wait to see Sam—and Alexis—until he has finished eating."
"Annie," said Aunt Jo quickly, before the girl could go, "how does Alexis act toward this boy?"
"Oh, Ma'am! Alexis just snuffed of him, and then put his head in his lap. Alexis says he's all right. And for a black person," added the parlormaid, "I do think the boy's all right, Ma'am."
She went out and Aunt Jo and Mother Bunker laughed. The youngsters were suddenly excited at that moment by the stopping of a taxicab at the door. Vi had spied it from the window, for hard as it snowed she could see that.
"Here's Daddy! Here's Daddy!" she cried, dancing up and down.
Mun Bun and Margy joined in the dance, while the other three children entered upon a whirlwind rush down the stairway to meet Mr. Bunker at the front entrance.
He came in, covered with snow, and with his traveling bag. The children's charge upon him would surely have overturned anybody but Daddy Bunker.
"I scarcely dare come home at all," he shouted up the stairway to his wife and Aunt Jo, "because of these young Indians. You would think they were after my very life, if you didn't know that it was my pockets they want to search."
He shook off the clinging snow and the clinging children until he had removed his overcoat. Russ grabbed up the bag, and Rose and Laddie each captured an arm and were fairly carried upstairs by Mr. Bunker. He landed breathless and laughing with them in the middle of the big room which Aunt Jo had given up to the six little Bunkers as their playroom while they visited here in her Back Bay home.
"What is the news, Charles?" asked Mother Bunker, almost as eagerly as the children themselves might have asked the question.
"I've got to see Armatage personally—that is all there is about it, and Frank Armatage cannot come North."
"Then you are going?" said his wife, and the children almost held their several breaths to catch Daddy Bunker's reply.
Their father looked around upon the eager little faces. Then he glanced at his wife and smiled.
"What do you think?" he asked. "Had I better say before so many little pop-eyed, curious folk? I—don't—know——"
"Oh, Daddy!" gasped Rose.
"We want to go with you," breathed Russ.
"I want to go!" cried Vi. "Where is it?"
"If Vi goes, can't I go too?" Margy pleaded.
"I'm not going to stay here, Daddy, if the rest go," declared Laddie.
But Mun Bun just walked gravely over to his father and put up both his arms.
"Mun Bun go with Daddy," he said confidently.
"The blessed baby!" cried Aunt Jo.
"It doesn't look much as though they appreciated your hospitality, Josephine," said Daddy Bunker to his sister, smiling over the top of Mun Bun's head as he held the little fellow.
"Oh!" cried Rose instantly, "we have had an awfully nice time here. We always do have nice times here. But we want to go with Daddy, and so does Mother."
"Two words for yourself and one for me, Rose," laughed her mother. "But if it is going to take some time, Charles, I think we would all like to go along."
"I had Mr. Armatage on the long distance telephone," said Daddy Bunker, smiling. "He was in Savannah. His plantation is some distance from that city. And he has invited us all to spend the Christmas holidays with him at his country home. What do you think of that?"
It was pretty hard for Mother Bunker to say what she thought of it because of the gleeful shouts of the children. It did not much matter to Russ, and Rose, and Violet, and Laddie, and Margy, and Mun Bun where they went with Daddy Bunker. It was just the idea of going to some new place and to have new adventures.
"Well," said the gentleman finally, "the boat sails day after to-morrow. Believing that you would approve, Amy, and knowing Jo couldn't go, I have already secured reservations for us eight Bunkers—two big staterooms. The boat is the Kammerboy, of the Blue Pennant Line."
The six little Bunkers were so delighted by this news and the prospect of a boat journey into warmer waters than those that ebb and flow about Boston, that they almost forgot the colored boy whose entry into the house had been brought about by Margy and Mun Bun.
But the latter, sitting in Daddy's lap, a little later began to prattle about his "black snowman," and so the story of Sam came out.
By that time the steampipes were humming and the whole house was warm and cozy again.
"And we can thank Sam for that, Charles," said Mother Bunker. "William is ill, and you would have had to go down and fight that furnace if this boy had not come along and proved himself so handy."
"Maybe we'd all better go down and thank him," said Rose soberly.
Daddy Bunker laughed. "I guess you want to get better acquainted with this wonderful Sam," he said. "A right nice boy, is he, Mother Bunker?"
"He seems to be," agreed Mother Bunker. "And he certainly needed friends. I think Jo will keep him for a while. At least, as long as William is laid up."
A little later the children all trooped down to the big kitchen. The good-natured cook did not mind their presence. And Alexis, the great Dane, showed plainly that he was delighted to see his young playfellows. Alexis was a very intelligent dog and it was no wonder that the servants and Aunt Jo considered that anybody of whom the dog approved must be "all right." Alexis had approved of Sam.
Sam had recovered from his weariness, and, no longer hungry and his next few meals in prospect, his spirits had rebounded from their low ebb to cheerfulness. The kindness shown him, and the praise the women had heaped upon him because of his mastery of the difficult furnace, delighted Sam.
"I'm sure obliged to you child'en for as'in' me into this yere house," he said, grinning at Margy and Mun Bun. "Dis is sure just as fine folks as we have down Souf. Dey done fed de hongry an' clothed de naked. An' mighty good clo'es, too."
He had on the suit Aunt Jo had found for him and almost new shoes, while an overcoat and a hat which he was to wear when he went out hung behind the cellar door. There was a small room off the kitchen in which Sam was to sleep. To the colored boy's mind he was "right good fixed."
"Let me have dat mouf organ, little boy," said Sam, observing Laddie's harmonica. "I show yo' sumpin'. Now, cl'ar de way. I's goin' to work de mouf organ and dance fo' yo'."
The women stopped in their work to watch him, as well as the children. Sam slid out into the middle of the floor, began to jerk a tune out of the harmonica, and commenced a slow dance—a sort of double shuffle.
But he soon pivoted and slid much faster, all in time with the sounds he drew from the harmonica. Annie and Parker applauded his unexpected steps, and the children began to shriek in delight.
"Now we has it!" exclaimed Sam, removing the instrument from between his lips, and panting from his exertions. "Now we skates down de floor. Now, turn again and back-along. I's a-comin', child'en—I's a-comin'. See me dance Jim Crow! Here I comes and dere I goes! Now, de pigeon-wing——"
He cut a most surprising figure, both hands flapping in the air and his slim body bent and twisted at a curious angle. With a resounding slap of the sole of his shoe on the floor he brought the dance to an end and fell panting into his chair.
"You're some dancer, Sam," cried the eager Annie. "Ain't he, Parker?"
"What do you call that figure?" demanded Parker. "A pigeon-wing?"
"Dat's what it is," breathed Sam, smiling widely. "My own particular invention, dat is. Nobody can't do dat like I can. No, suh!"
Just then their Mother called the six little Bunkers upstairs, and they had to leave the kitchen. But they would all have liked to see Sam cut that pigeon-wing again.
OFF FOR SUMMER SEAS
How busy the six little Bunkers were on the next day you can easily imagine. Such a packing of bags and steamer trunks! Though of course Mother Bunker did most of that, although Rose helped some. And such a running about the bedrooms and upper halls of Aunt Jo's house asking if this thing shouldn't be put in, or that thing shouldn't be left out!
The little people could think of more articles that might be needed down South than ten grown-ups could imagine! Laddie was sure they would need their bathing suits that they had had at Captain Ben's. Mun Bun, who had been playing with Margy in the yard making big snowballs, came in to ask his mother if they couldn't take just one of the biggest snowballs with them in one of the trunks, because Sam, the colored boy, said there wouldn't be any snow down South.
"But, my dear!" exclaimed Mother Bunker, laughing, "we are going down South just to escape the snow and the cold. Why carry it with us?"
"But maybe the little boys and girls down there will want to see some real snow," said Mun Bun, who could almost always find an answer for any question like this.
"Then they will have to come up North to see it," declared his mother decidedly. "We cannot take snow along on the boat, that is sure."
Violet found at least a hundred brand new questions to ask about the preparations for the trip. Mother Bunker finally called her a "chatterbox" and begged her to stop.
"How do you suppose I can attend to a dozen different things at once, Violet, and answer your questions, too?"
"Never mind the things, Mother," Vi replied. "Just tell me——"
"Not another question!" exclaimed Mother Bunker. "Stop it!"
And then she put out her hand for something to put in the trunk she was packing, and actually squealed when her hand unexpectedly met Alexis's cold, damp nose.
"Goodness me!" cried Mother Bunker. "That dog is a nuisance. That is the third time, at least, that I have tried to pack his nose in this trunk. Every time I reach out for something he thinks I want to pet him."
This delighted Margy and Mun Bun very much. The idea of packing the great Dane in a steamer trunk was really quite ridiculous. Violet did not venture any more questions immediately however; but Laddie suddenly broke out with a new riddle.
"Oh, Mother! Mother!" he cried. "Do you know the difference between a dog and an elephant?"
"I should hope so!" Mother Bunker said, chuckling. "But I suppose you want me to give the riddle up so that you can have the pleasure of telling me what the difference is between Alexis and an elephant."
"Not just Alexis; any dog," urged Laddie. "And, of course, it would be real polite of you if you said you didn't know," added the little boy.
"Very well; what is the difference between an elephant and a dog, Laddie?"
"Why," cried Laddie very eagerly, "an elephant owns a trunk of his very own; and a dog only wants to get into a trunk. There now!"
"But all dogs don't want to get into trunks," objected Vi. "Do they? Do they, now, Mother?"
"I am afraid Laddie's riddle is not as good as some he makes up," said Mother Bunker. "For you know, dogs have trunks as well as elephants."
Her eyes twinkled as she said it, for she knew she was going to puzzle her little brood. At once they all broke out with questions and exclamations. How could that be? They had seen, as Vi said, "oceans of dogs" and none of them had had a nose long enough to be called a trunk, like the elephants they had seen at the circus.
"Mother is just puzzling us," Laddie said. "How can a dog have a trunk when his nose is short and blunt? At least, most dogs' noses are short and blunt."
"Each dog has a trunk nevertheless," declared Mother Bunker, laughing. "And so have you, and so have I."
"I have a suitcase," announced Mun Bun gravely. "I don't have a trunk."
Mother Bunker swept Mun Bun into her arms then and kissed his chubby neck.
"Of course you have a trunk, honey-boy," she cried. "All your little body between your shoulders and your legs is your trunk. So you all have trunks, and so do the dogs."
The children laughed delightedly at this, but Laddie suddenly stopped laughing.
"Why!" he cried out in great glee, "then the elephant, Mother, has two trunks. I guess I can make a good riddle out of that, can't I?"
Russ and Rose took Alexis downstairs after that so that he would not be in the way. They wanted to see Sam again, anyway. And they asked him to dance for them.
"I'm going to learn how to cut that pigeon wing," Russ declared. "You do it again, please, Sam. I ought to be able to learn it if I see you do it often enough."
However, Russ did not succeed in this ambition. There really was not time for him to learn the trick, for the next morning, very early, the Bunker family started for the boat. The snowstorm had long since ceased, and the streets had been cleaned. William had recovered from his attack of neuralgia and drove them in the big closed car to the dock where the Kammerboy lay.
It was a great white steamer with three smoke stacks and a wireless mast. There was so much to see when they first went aboard that the six little Bunkers could not possibly observe everything with only two eyes apiece! They wanted to be down in the saloon and in the staterooms that Daddy Bunker had engaged and out on the deck all at the same time. And how were they to do that?
Russ and Rose, however, were allowed to go out on deck and watch the ship get out of the dock and steam down the harbor. But Mother Bunker at first kept the four smaller children close to her side.
"I never knew Boston was so big," said Rose, as they looked back at the smoky city. "I guess Aunt Jo never showed us all of it, did she, Russ?"
"I don't suppose if we lived there a whole year we should be able to see it all," declared her brother wisely. "Maybe we could see it better from an airplane. I'd like to go up in an airplane."
"No, no! Don't do that, Russ! Maybe the engine would get stalled like the motor-car engine does, and then you couldn't get down," said Rose, very much worried by this thought.
"Well, we could see the city better."
"We can see it pretty well from here," said Rose. "And see the islands. There is a lighthouse, Russ. Would you like to live in a lighthouse?"
"Yes, I would, for a while," agreed her brother. "But I'd rather be right on this boat, sailing out into the ocean. Just think, Rose! We've never been away out at sea before."
"There was lots of ocean at Captain Ben's," said the girl. "I suppose the ocean is all the same everywhere. Just water. I hope it stays flat."
"Stays flat?" repeated Russ, opening his eyes very wide.
"Yes," said Rose gravely. "I don't like water when it's bumpy. It makes me feel funny in my stomach when it's that way."
"Oh! It won't be rough," said Russ, with much assurance. "I heard Daddy say we were going to sail into summer seas. And that must be warm and pleasant water. Don't you think so?"
Rose was looking over the rail now. She pointed.
"That doesn't look as though the water was warm," she cried. "See the lumps of ice, Russ? It must be ice water. Where do you suppose the summer seas are?"
"We are going to them," declared her brother with confidence. "Daddy said so. He said we would go out to a place he called the Gulf Stream and that the water would be warm there and the air would be warmer, too."
"What do you think of that?" gasped Rose. "A stream in an ocean? I guess he was joking."
"Oh, no, he wasn't. He said it real serious. He told Aunt Jo about it."
"But how can a stream—that means a river—be running in the ocean? There wouldn't be any banks!" declared the doubtful Rose.
"Let's go and ask him about it," suggested Russ. "And we'll want to keep on the lookout for that Gulf Stream too. I wouldn't want to go past it without seeing it."
They were just about to hunt for Daddy Bunker in the crowd on deck when Laddie came running to them. He was very much excited and he could hardly speak when he reached his older brother and sister.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" gasped the smaller boy.
"What is the matter, Laddie?" demanded Russ.
"If it is another riddle, Laddie, take your time. We'll stop and listen to it."
"It isn't a riddle—Yes, it is, too! I guess it's a sort of riddle, anyway," said Laddie. "Have you seen him?"
"That sounds like a riddle," said Rose. "And of course we haven't seen him. What is the answer?"
"Who is it that you are asking your riddle about?" demanded Russ.
"Mun Bun," declared Laddie, breathing very hard, for he had run all the way from the stateroom.
"Mun Bun isn't a riddle," said his sister. "He can't be."
"Well, he's lost," declared Laddie. "We can't find him. He was there one minute, and just the next he was gone. And Mother can't find him, and Vi's gone to hunt for Daddy, and—and—anyhow, Mun Bun has lost himself and we don't any of us know what has become of him."
Mun Bun was not a very disobedient little boy; but as Daddy Bunker said, he had a better "forgetery" than he had memory. Mun Bun quite forgot that Mother Bunker had told him not to leave the bigger stateroom where she was setting things to rights in her usual careful way. For, as they were to be several days on the steamship, she must have a place for things and everything in its place, or she could not comfortably take care of Daddy and six children.
Then, Mun Bun was so quick! Just as Laddie said: one minute he was there, and the next minute he wasn't. He seemed to glide right out of sight. Cowboy Jack had called Mun Bun a blob of quicksilver; and you know you cannot put your finger on a blob of quicksilver, it runs so fast.
That is what Mun Bun had done. Mother Bunker's back was turned; Russ and Rose were on deck; the other three children, the twins and Margy, were busy prying into every corner of the stateroom to "see what it was meant for," when Mun Bun just stepped out.
How long he had been gone when their mother discovered the little boy's absence, of course she did not know. She sent Laddie and Vi flying for help—the one for Russ and Rose and the other for their father. She dared not leave the staterooms herself for fear Mun Bun would reappear and be frightened if he did not find her.
She called loudly for him, without getting any answer. Other passengers began to take an interest in the loss of the little boy. Stewards began to hurry about, looking for a lost boy in the most unlikely places. Some of these cubbyholes were so tiny that a canary bird could scarcely have hidden in them, while other places where the stewards looked would have hidden a giant.
When Mr. Bunker appeared in haste from the smoking cabin, having been found by Vi, Mrs. Bunker fairly cast herself into his arms.
"Oh, Charles!" she cried. "He's fallen overboard!"
"You would never think of such a thing, Amy," returned her husband, "if the ship wasn't entirely surrounded by water."
"How can you joke, Charles?" she cried.
"I don't joke. Do you know how high the bulwarks are? A little boy like Mun Bun could not have fallen overboard. He could not climb the bulwarks."
"I never thought of that," agreed Mother Bunker more cheerfully.
"He might have fallen into one of the holds; but I don't believe he has done even that. And there are so many officers and men going up and down the ladders that I believe he has not even gone off this deck. For somebody would be sure to see him."
"Of course he didn't go ashore again?" suggested Rose, who with the other children had returned to the staterooms.
"Oh, no. We had started—were well down the harbor in fact—before he disappeared."
"Mun Bun is a reg'lar riddle," said Laddie. "He runs away and we can't find him; and we hunt for him and there he ain't. Then he comes back by himself—sometimes."
"Is that a riddle?" asked his twin scornfully.
"We-ell, maybe it will be when I get it fixed right."
"I don't think much of it," declared Violet. "And I want to find Mun Bun."
"Don't you other children get lost on this big ship," said Mother Bunker. "Don't go off this floor."
"You mean deck, don't you, Mother?" asked Russ politely. "Floors are decks on board ship. Daddy said so."
"You'd better go and look for him, Russ; and you, too, Rose," the anxious woman said, as Daddy Bunker strode away. "But you other three stay right here by me. I thought that traveling on the train with you children was sometimes trying; but living on shipboard is going to be worse."
"Yes, Mother," said Rose gravely. "There are so many more places for Mun Bun to hide in aboard this ship. Come, Russ."
The two older Bunker children did not know where to look for their little brother. But Russ had an idea. He usually did have pretty bright ideas, and Rose admitted this fact.
"You know we got up early this morning," Russ said to his sister, "and we have been awful busy. And here it is noontime. Mun Bun doesn't usually have a nap until after lunch, but I guess he's gone somewhere and hidden away and gone to sleep. And when Mun Bun's asleep it is awful hard to wake him. You know that, Rose Bunker."
"Yes, I know it," admitted Rose. "But where could he have gone?"
Russ thought over that question pretty hard. Daddy Bunker would have said that the little lost boy's older brother was trying to put himself in Mun Bun's place and thinking Mun Bun's thoughts.
Now, if Mun Bun had been very sleepy and had crept away to take a nap, as he often did after lunch when they were at home, without saying anything to Mother Bunker about it, where would he have gone to take that nap on this steamboat?
Mun Bun was a bold little boy. He was seldom afraid of anything or anybody. Had he not instantly made friends with Sam, the strange colored boy, at Aunt Jo's house? So Russ knew he would not be afraid to run right out on the deck among the other passengers.
"But that would not be a nice place to go for a nap," said Russ aloud.
"What wouldn't?" asked Rose, quite surprised by her brother's sudden speech.
"Out here on the deck. No, he didn't come out here at all," said Russ, with confidence.
Russ was an ingenious boy, as we have seen. Once having got the right idea in his head he proceeded to think it out.
"Come on back, Rose," he said suddenly, seizing his sister's hand.
"To find Mun Bun."
"But he isn't with Mother!"
"I bet—No, I don't mean that word," said Russ. "I mean I think he is with Mother, only she doesn't know it."
"Why, Russ Bunker, that sounds awfully silly!"
But she followed after him in much haste. They came running to the two staterooms which Daddy Bunker had engaged. Mother and the other children were the center of a group of sympathetic people in the corridor.
"Oh! did you find him?" Rose cried.
"Of course not," said Vi. "Where should we find him?"
"Here," announced Russ, pushing through the crowd.
"Of course he isn't here, Russ," said Vi. "Can't you count us? Mun Bun is not here."
"Well, let me see," said the boy, and he pushed into the bigger stateroom where his mother had been working when Mun Bun disappeared. Then he opened the door between that room and the other room. It was all quiet in there. He glanced into the two berths. There was nobody in either of them.
"You are mistaken, Russ," whispered Rose, looking in at the door he had left open. "He can't be here. Daddy has just come and says the captain has promised to have the ship searched."
But without making any reply Russ Bunker went down on his knees, looked under the lower berth, and then stretched an arm under and grabbed something with his hand.
A sleepy squeal came from under the berth. Russ, laughing, dragged at the chubby ankle his hand had grasped. Mun Bun's cross, sleepy voice was raised in protest:
"Don't you! Don't you! Let me be!"
Mother and Daddy Bunker came running.
"That blessed baby!" cried his mother.
"That pestiferous youngster!" exclaimed his father.
But he smiled happily, too, when Mun Bun was completely drawn out from under the berth by Russ and was in his mother's arms again. She sat down and rocked him to and fro while he "came awake" and looked around at the others.
"You have begun well," said Daddy Bunker gravely. "Stirring up the whole ship's company before we are out of sight of land! I must hurry and tell the captain to call off his sea-dogs. The lost is found."
"What are sea-dogs?" demanded Vi. "Do they have dogs at sea to hunt for lost children—dogs like Alexis?"
Nobody answered that question, but Rose and Russ, trotting along the deck beside their father, were more fortunate in getting their questions answered.
"Are we really going to sail out of sight of land, Daddy?" asked Rose.
"We certainly are," said Mr. Bunker.
"But there is a lot of land," said the girl, pointing. "We can't lose all that, can we?"
"That is just what we are going to do. You watch. By and by the land will be only a line on the horizon, and then it will fade out of sight entirely."
So Russ and Rose remained on deck to watch the land disappear. Rose expected it to go something like a "fade-out" on the moving picture screen. The disappearance of the land proved to be a very long matter, however, and the two children went below for lunch when the first call came.
The purser had arranged for the Bunker family at a side table where they could be as retired as though they were at home. There were not many other children aboard, and the purser liked children anyway. So between his good offices and that of the colored stewards, the Bunkers were well provided for.
Even the captain—a big, bold-looking man with a gray mustache and lots of glittering buttons on his blue coat—stopped at the Bunker table to ask about Mun Bun.
"So that is the fellow I was going to put about my ship for and go back to Boston to see if he had been left on the dock!" he said very gruffly, but smiling with his eyes at Mun Bun, who smiled back. "He looks like too big a boy to make such a disturbance on a man's ship."
"Oh, I don't think, Captain Briggs, he will do it again," said Mother Bunker.
"I dess wanted to sleep," murmured Mun Bun, holding up his spoon.
"Next time you want your watch below," said Captain Briggs, shaking his head, "you report to me first. Do you hear?"
"Yes, Ma'am," said Mun Bun, quite sure that he had said the right thing although they all laughed at him.
Mother Bunker kept the little fellow close to her thereafter; but Vi and Laddie followed the two older children out on deck. There was a comfortably filled passenger list on the Kammerboy; but the wind was rather heavy that afternoon and many of them remained in the cabins. But the four children had a great game of hide and seek all over the forward deck.
Finally Daddy Bunker appeared from aft to make sure that none of the quartette was lost. He took Laddie and Vi below with him after a time and the two older children were left alone. They found seats in the lee of what the ship's men called "the house" and sat down to rest and talk. But every now and then one of them jumped up to look astern to see if the land had disappeared, as Daddy Bunker said it would.
"It's a long time going," said Rose.
"Well, there is a lot of it to go. Don't you remember," said Russ, "how big the North American continent is in the geography?"
"Oh! Is that it?" cried Rose.
"Yes. We've got to lose the whole top part of North America," her confident brother declared.
There was some sort of officer (he had brass buttons and wore a cap, so Russ and Rose knew he must be an officer) pacing the deck, back and forth, not far from their chairs. Every time he came near he threw a pleasant word to the brother and sister. Russ and Rose began to ask him questions and sometimes trotted beside him as he paced his lookout watch. Violet would have delighted in this man, for he seemed to know almost everything about ships and the sea and was perfectly willing to answer questions.
Rose asked him if, after they had lost the land, they would find the Gulf Stream that Daddy Bunker had told them about.
"Pretty soon thereafter, little lady," said the man.
"And—and does it have banks?" pursued Rose.
"Does what have banks?" the man asked, in surprise. "The Gulf Stream?"
"No," chuckled the sailor. "It's not like a river—not just like one."
"Then how do you know when you come to the Gulf Stream?" demanded Russ. "I should think you'd sail over it without knowing."
But the sailor told them that the stream, or current, was very broad, that the water was much warmer than the surrounding ocean, and that the Gulf Stream was even a different color from the colder ocean.
"Oh, we won't miss it," declared the man, shaking his head.
Just then Rose saw something out over the ocean, sailing low and making a great flapping of black wings. She pointed eagerly:
"There's a buzzard, Russ—like those we saw in Texas."
"Oh, no, little lady, that isn't a buzzard," said the sailor.
"It must be a gull. There were lots of them back in the harbor, you know, Rose," her brother rejoined.
"And it's not a gull," said the man, squinting his eyes to look at the distant bird. "It's too big. I declare! I think that's an eagle."
"Oh! An eagle like those on top of the flagstaffs?" cried Russ.
"And on the gold pieces?" added Rose, for she had a gold piece that had been given her on her last birthday.
"No, not that kind of eagle," said the man. "But he's related. Yes, sir; it's a sea-eagle; some call 'em, I guess rightly, ospreys. They're fishers, but they can't roost on the sea. That one's a long way off shore. Something is the matter with him."
"Do you suppose he's hungry?" asked Rose doubtfully.
"I shouldn't wonder if hunger drove him out here so far from land," said the sailor, smiling. "But he's been hurt. You can see how his left wing droops. Yes, something has happened to that bird."
The bird beat his way heavily toward the ship. First it rose a little way in the air, and then it slid down as though almost helpless, beating its good wing prodigiously to keep from falling into the water.
"He's making bad weather of it," said the sailor. "Poor chap. If he comes aboard——"
"Oh! we'll feed him and mend his wing," cried Rose. "He's just like—Why, Russ Bunker! that poor bird is just what Aunt Jo called poor Sam, a tramp. That is what he is."
"A sea-going tramp, I guess," said the sailor, laughing.
But he watched the coming sea bird quite as interestedly as did the two children. The creature seemed to have selected the steamship as its objective point, and it beat its good wing furiously so as to get into the course of the Kammerboy.
"Can we have the bird if it gets aboard, Mr. Officer?" asked Russ eagerly.
"If I can catch it without killing it—for they are very fierce birds—it shall be yours," promised the man.
At once, therefore, the eagerness and interest of Russ and Rose Bunker were vastly increased. They clung to the rail and watched the approaching bird with anxious eyes. It was coming head on toward the bow of the ship. Would the Kammerboy get past so swiftly that the sea-eagle could not reach it?
The uncertainty of this, and the evident effort of the great bird to fly a little farther, greatly excited the two older of the six little Bunkers.
A SIGNAL OF DISTRESS
The steamship was pursuing her course so swiftly, but so easily, that Russ and Rose Bunker scarcely realized that the chances of the big bird's landing on the craft were very slim. The children raced along the deck toward the bows, believing that the big bird would alight there. Their friend, the lookout officer, however, remained at his post.
The big wings of the great sea-eagle beat the air heavily. They were covered with almost black feathers above while the feathers on the under side of the wings were pearl-gray, a contrast that Rose said was "awfully pretty."
"I don't see anything pretty about that poor, struggling bird," said Russ shortly. "He's hurt bad. I hope he gets here all right, but—Oh! There he goes!"
It was a fact that the big bird almost fell into the sea, being weakened. The bow of the Kammerboy swept past the struggling creature. Russ and Rose lifted a joined complaint:
"Oh, he's drowned! He drowned!"
It was true that the bird was not a water-fowl and, as the officer had told the children, could not "roost" on the sea. It was not web-footed, so could not swim. And with an injured wing it was wonderful that it had kept up as long as it had, for it was now far, far from the shore.
But the bird had wonderful courage. Although plunged into the water and suffering one wave to break and pour over him, the great bird sprang into the air once more. He would not give up the fight! Russ and Rose saw the flashing eyes, the hooked beak parted, and every other evidence of the creature's putting forth a last remaining effort to reach a secure resting place for his feet.
And he made it! He beat his powerful wings for the last time and shot up over the rail of the steamship. The children shouted with delight. Other passengers had been attracted to the place. The officer who had made himself the friend of Russ and Rose was prepared for the bird's coming inboard. He ran with a piece of strong netting in his hands, and as the bird came thumping down on the deck, the man cast this net about the creature.
Then what a flapping and croaking and struggling there was! A sailor ran forward with a boat-stretcher and wanted to hit the bird; but Russ and Rose screamed, and the officer sent the man away.
"We're not going to kill the bird. These little folks want it alive," said the officer. "And so we are going to make a prisoner of it and mend that wing if we can."
"Aye, aye, Quartermaster," said the sailor who had tried to interfere.
"See if you can find a big poultry cage," said the officer. "We had live turkeys aboard for the Thanksgiving run, and what would hold a turkey ought to hold a sea-eagle. Lively now!"
"Aye, aye, sir," said the man, and hurried away.
While they waited for the cage the quartermaster warned the two Bunker children to remain well back from the struggling bird, for it might get away.
"He is certainly a strong bird," said one of the other passengers, looking on, too, from a safe distance. "Don't you think he'd better be killed, Officer?"
"Oh, no! Oh, no!" chorused Russ and Rose.
"Of course not. You're one of those folks, sir, that would kill an American eagle, too—the bird that is supposed to represent the best fighting spirit of this country. No, sir! this bird is going to have his chance. If we can heal his wounds, we will set him free again—hey, little folks?"
"Of course we will," said Russ stoutly.
"Yes, sir! we'll set him free," agreed Rose. "But when you do it I am going down to the stateroom. I think he is pretty savage."
It was quite true. The injured bird was savage. But when Daddy Bunker heard about the capture and saw the sea-eagle in its cage, he pointed out the fact that there was good reason for the bird to be savage if it had a broken wing.
"You would be cross if you had a broken arm, Russ," Daddy Bunker said soberly, "So come away and let the poor bird alone for a while. Maybe it will eat and drink if it is not watched so closely."
It was found that a bullet had passed through the fleshy part of the great bird's wing. The quartermaster declared that, without much doubt, the bird had been shot at from a small boat and by some idle and thoughtless "sportsman."
"It is wrong," Daddy Bunker said, "to call such people 'sportsmen.' There is no real sport in shooting at and laming an inoffensive creature, one that cannot be made use of for food. That excuse does not hold in this case."
"True word, sir," said the quartermaster. "It was a wicked trick, I'll say. But I think the bird will recover very shortly. Perhaps the little folks can see the bird released before we get to Charleston."
"Not me!" cried Rose again. "I am going right downstairs when you open that cage and set him free. He has got such a wicked eye."
And truly, interested as she was in the poor bird, Rose Bunker did not often go near him during the time he was in captivity. She found other things to interest her about the swiftly sailing Kammerboy.
So did all the other Bunkers. For what interested the six little Bunkers was sure to interest Daddy and Mother Bunker. It just had to. As Mother Bunker observed, Mun Bun was not the only one of her flock over whom she must keep pretty close watch.
They were really well behaved children; but mischief seemed to crop up so very easily in their lives. Daddy said that any Bunker could get into more adventures nailed into a wooden cage no bigger than the turkey crate the great sea-eagle was housed in than other children could find in a ten acre lot!
Living at sea on this great steamship was a good deal like living in a hotel. And the little Bunkers had lived in hotels, and liked the fun of it. Traveling by water was even more fun than traveling on a train. The Kammerboy was a fine big ship and there was so much to see and to learn that was new and surprising that that first night none of them really wanted to go to bed.
Although even that was a new experience. The staterooms were different from the berths in a sleeping car. Laddie thought they ought all to be tied into their berths so, if the ship rolled, they would not fall out.
"For I don't like falling out of bed," he said. "I always bump myself."
The steamship did not roll that night, however. At least if it did the little Bunkers did not know it. They slept soundly and were up bright and early in the morning and were all dressed and out on deck in the sunshine long before the first breakfast call came.
They made a call on the captive sea-eagle before breakfast and he seemed to be recovering, for he snapped his beak viciously when they drew near and spread his wings as far as the cage would allow.
"I don't think he's very nice," said Rose. "He doesn't seem to know we were kind to him."
"What are you going to do with him, Rose?" asked Vi.
"Let him go when his wing is well."
"But I guess he doesn't know that," said Laddie. "If he did he'd feel better about it."
"He bites," said Mun Bun reflectively. "I'd rather have Alexis. Alexis doesn't bite."
"Alexis would bite if he thought anybody was going to hurt him," said Russ. "But we can't make this eagle understand."
"Why not?" immediately demanded Vi.
"Because we can't talk bird-talk," replied Rose, giggling.
"When I go to school I'll learn bird-talk," announced Mun Bun. "And I'll learn to talk dog-talk and cat-talk, too. Then they'll all know what I mean."
"That is a splendid idea, dear," Rose said warmly. "You do just that."
"S'posing they don't teach those languages where you go to school, Mun Bun?" suggested Laddie gravely. "I guess they don't in all schools. They don't in the Pineville school, do they, Russ?"
"I'll ask Mother to send me to a school where they do," declared Mun Bun before Russ could reply. "I don't need to learn to talk our kind of talk. I know that already. But birds and dogs and cats are different."
"You talk pretty good, I guess, Mun Bun," said Russ. Mun Bun was quite proud of this. He did not know that he often said "t" for "c" and "w" for "r." "But you will be a long time learning to speak so that this bird could understand."
"Well, I shall try," the littlest Bunker declared confidently.
Anyhow, it was decided that the sea-eagle would have to be released before Mun Bun learned to talk the eagle language. The quartermaster who was Russ and Rose's particular friend, came along with some raw meat scraps for the big bird; but the children had to go to breakfast before the bird gobbled these up. He was very shy.
Later in the forenoon Russ and Rose were walking along the deck near a little house amidships and they heard a funny crackling sound—a crackling and snapping like a fresh wood fire. They stopped and looked all around.
"I don't see any smoke," said Russ. "But there's a fire somewhere."
"What is that mast with the wires up there for, Russ?" asked his sister, looking upward.
"Oh! Daddy told me that was the wireless mast," Russ exclaimed.
"But that can't be," said Rose warmly. "It has wires hitched to it; so it can't be wireless."
"You know, Rose, they talk from ship to ship, and to the shore, by wireless."
"What does that mean?" returned the girl. "A telegraph?"
"That's it!" cried Russ. "And I guess that is what the crackling is. Listen!"
"Isn't it a fire, then, that we hear?" for the crackling sound continued.
"That's the electric spark," said her brother eagerly. "That is what it must be. Let's peep into this room, Rose. It is where the telegraph machine is."
There was a window near by, but as they approached it the two children found a door in the wireless house, too, and that door was open. A man in his shirt-sleeves and with a green shade over his eyes and something that looked like a rubber cap strapped to his head was sitting on a bench in front of some strange looking machinery.
He was writing on a pad and the crackling sound came from an electric spark that flickered back and forth in the machine before him. Russ and Rose gazed in, wide-eyed.
At length the crackling stopped and the spark went out with a sputter. The man stopped writing and wheeled about in his seat. He saw them looking in at the doorway.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed. "If here aren't two of the little Bunkers. Do you want to send a message by wireless?"
"Thank you," said Rose promptly. "I think it would be nice to send word to Aunt Jo that we are all right and that the ship is all right and that we caught an eagle."
"It costs money to send messages," said the wiser Russ.
"Oh! Does it?" asked his sister.
"I am afraid it does," replied the operator, laughing. "You had better ask Mr. Bunker about sending a message to your aunt, after all. Some messages we do not charge for. But the rules demand that all private messages must be paid for in advance."
"Well, then, I guess we'd better write a letter to Aunt Jo," said Rose, who was practical, after all. "That won't cost anything but a two cent stamp."
"Oh, my!" laughed Russ. "Going to mail it in the ocean?"
"We'll mail it when we get to Charleston," said Rose cheerfully. "I guess Aunt Jo won't mind."
Just at this moment there seemed to be some excitement on the deck up forward. Two officers who stood on what the children had learned was called the quarter were talking excitedly to one of the lookout men. They were pointing ahead, and one of the officers put a double-barreled glass to his eyes and stared ahead.
The operator came to the doorway of his cabin and looked forward, too. He could see over the bulwarks and marked what had caused the excitement.
"Ah-ha!" he said. "Come up here, little folks, and you can see it too."
Russ and Rose were quite excited. They stepped up into the doorway beside the wireless operator. They both saw at once the two-masted vessel that was rolling sluggishly in the sea. Her rail seemed almost level with the water and from one of the masts several flags were strung.
"What is it?" cried Russ. "That ship looks as though it was going down."
"I guess you've hit it right. She does look so," said the operator. "She has sprung a leak, sure enough. And she's set distress signals."
"Those flags?" asked Russ. "Do those flags say she is sinking?"
"Those flags ask for help. That schooner doesn't carry a wireless outfit as this vessel does. Few small vessels do. I guess we will have to help her out," said the wireless operator.
A GREAT DEAL OF EXCITEMENT
Russ and Rose Bunker were very much excited by the discovery of the schooner in distress. They were actually afraid that the vessel was going to sink in the ocean right before their eyes!
But the wireless operator reassured them. He said it probably would not sink at all. He seemed to have learned at first glance a lot about that schooner.
"It's lumber laden, from some Maine port. Probably going to Baltimore, or some port down that way. They have jettisoned her deck load, and now she'll just float soggily. But her sails will never carry her to port."
Russ eagerly asked what "jettisoned" meant, and the man explained that the crew had pushed overboard all the deckload of lumber. The hold was filled with the same kind of cargo, and of course lumber would not really sink. But the dirty, torn sails which the children saw did not promise to hold wind enough to propel the water-logged craft.
"She's got to have help," said the wireless operator, and Russ and Rose realized that the Kammerboy was slowing down.
"Are we going to stop?" asked Rose. "Will they take the men off that ship into our small boats? Oh, it's a regular shipwreck, Russ!"
"Not much it isn't, little girl," said the operator. "And this steamer can't stop to do much in the way of rescue. The crew wouldn't want to leave that schooner in good weather, anyway."
"What shall we do, then?" Rose asked again.
Just then their friend, the quartermaster, hurried up with a written paper which he handed to the operator.
"Get that out, Sparks," he said, and the operator turned swiftly to his instrument and fitted on his cap and "earlaps" again. At least, Rose said they were "earlaps."
"Can't we help that schooner?" asked Russ of the quartermaster.
"They don't need us to help them. Only to send a message," was the reply, as the wireless spark began to crackle again. "We are telling the Government about her plight and a revenue cutter will be sent out to tow the schooner into some near port. She has drifted a good way off shore, but the weather is settled and there is nothing to fear."
In a few moments the operator had sent the message and got a reply.
"Right out of the air," breathed Rose wonderingly. "I think that is very funny, Russ. If that mast isn't exactly wireless, it is almost wireless. Anyway, the wires aren't long enough to take much of a message, I should think."
This was a mystery that Russ could not expound, so they went to hunt up Daddy Bunker for further information regarding the wonder of the wireless service. The other four little Bunkers were already greatly interested in the deeply rolling lumber schooner.
After more signals with flags had been exchanged between the steamship the children were on and the schooner, the former picked up speed again. Soon the masts of the schooner were almost out of sight; but the little Bunkers continued to discuss the strange incident.
"I wish we could have put out boats and saved them," said Rose. "Like a regular wreck, I mean."
"The crew of the schooner would be castaways, then," Russ mused. "I like to read stories about castaways."
"Robinson Crusoe had goats," remarked Laddie. "I like goats."
"You wouldn't like goats if they butted you, would you?" asked Vi.
"All goats don't butt," said her twin with assurance.
"Have those men got goats on that wabbly schooner?" Margy demanded. "I didn't see any."
"Of course they haven't," Rose replied.
"Then how could they be castaways?" put in Vi promptly. "If castaways have goats——"
"Oh! you don't understand," declared Russ. "They only get the goats after they get to the desert islands. That is what Laddie means."
"Of course," agreed Laddie.
"Do they eat 'em?" Margy asked.
"Only if they need to," Russ told her, with superior wisdom. "Of course, they most always make pets of them."
"I guess," said Russ, becoming reflective, "that we might play at castaway."
"When we get ashore, do you mean, Russ?" Vi asked.
"No," said Vi. "We'd get our feet wet. We can't play on the ocean, can we?"
"We can play on this deck. The officers won't mind. Now all of you come up on to this life raft. We'll play you are floating around on the sea waiting for somebody to come along in a boat and rescue you."
"Who is going to be the rescuer?" Vi asked.
"Are you sure you can rescue us, Russ?" she demanded. "Where's your boat?"
Russ pointed to a long lifeboat covered with canvas which lay some distance from the life-raft. "That will be my boat," he said eagerly. "Rose, you must be in command of the raft. Of course, you have been drifting about a long time and you are all hungry and thirsty."
"Mun Bun wants bwead and milk," put in the littlest Bunker, on hearing this.
"Well," said Laddie soberly, "you've got to want it a lot before you get rescued, Mun Bun. Castaways have to drink the ocean and eat their shoes before anybody rescues them."
At this Mun Bun set up a wail. It seemed that his shoes were brand new and he was very proud of them. He would not consider eating them for a moment!
"Never mind," said Rose, hugging him. "If you get so very hungry before Russ rescues us, you can chew on your belt. That is what Laddie means."
Mun Bun observed his belt with round eyes. It seemed to him, and he confessed it to Rose, that he would have to be awfully hungry to chew that belt. The others entered into the spirit of the play and when Vi chanced to step off the raft her twin and Margy seized her and screamed.
"You'll be drowned, Vi Bunker!" said Margy.
"You'll more than get your feet wet if you don't stay on the raft," her twin scolded. "And, then, maybe there are sharks."
"Sharks?" put in Margy.
"Yes, big sharks."
"What do they do?" asked Margy, who had not heard so much about this castaway play as the older children.
"Big fish," said Laddie promptly.
"I like fish," Margy announced. "You know, Grandma Bell had goldfish. They were pretty."
"And I like fish to eat," said Vi. "Are sharks good to eat?"
"Maybe they will eat you," warned Laddie, who had entered into the play with all his thought and interest.
"Oh, Laddie Bunker! They wouldn't," cried Vi.
"Well, they might. Anyway, you've got to be afraid of the sharks and not step off the raft."
Meanwhile Russ had gone over to the lifeboat. He had not asked even his friend, the quartermaster, if he could play in that boat. But he saw no reason why he could not, as nobody seemed to be using it.
The canvas cover was tied down with many strings; but the knots slipped very easily and the boy pulled out three of the knots and then laid back a corner of the canvas. It was dark inside the boat, and before Russ crept into it as he intended, he bent over the gunwale and peered in.
Suddenly he gasped, and pulled his head back. He was startled, but Russ Bunker was a courageous boy. He had seen something—or he thought he had seen something—squirming in the brown darkness inside the boat.
He waited a little, and then put his head under the canvas and took a long look. Was there something or somebody there? Russ was determined to find out!
Russ Bunker looked very funny—Rose said he did—when he suddenly came back to the raft. Vi and Margy shouted to him that he would be drowned; and Laddie said something more about sharks. But their older brother paid little attention to them.
He had tied the cover down over the lifeboat again and he would not look toward it, not even when Rose asked him what the matter was and if he was going to leave all five of the castaways on the raft to starve and be thirsty until luncheon time.
"I guess this isn't a very good place to play castaway, after all," said Russ gravely. "And, anyway," he added, with sudden animation, "there's the man with the gong. We'll have to run down and get cleaned up before we go to the table."
"Dear me!" complained Laddie, "we never can have any fun. We always have to stop and eat or go to bed, or something. Even on this ship we have to."
Laddie thought that the most important thing in the world was play. Rose watched Russ with a puzzled look. She felt that something had happened that her brother did not want to talk about. Russ had a secret.
The latter did not even look again at the lifeboat as the little party passed it on the way to the staterooms. But Russ Bunker's mind was fixed upon that boat and what he had seen in it, just the same. He really could not decide what to do. He was very much puzzled.
Even his mother and father noticed that Russ was rather silent at the lunch table; but he said he was all right. He had something to think about, he told them. Daddy and Mother Bunker looked at each other and smiled. Russ had a way of thinking over things before he put his small troubles before them, and they suspected that nothing much was the matter.
But Rose whispered to her brother before they left the table.
"I think that isn't very polite, Russ Bunker."
Russ looked startled.
"What isn't polite?" he asked almost angrily.
"I saw you do that," she said, in the same admonishing way.
"Do what?" he demanded boldly.
"Put those rolls and the apple in your pocket. You wouldn't do that at home."
"Well, we're not at home, are we?" he said. "You just keep still, Rose Bunker."
Russ ran away directly after he had been excused from the table and they did not find him again for quite a while. He appeared with his usual cheerful whistle on his lips and made up a fine game of hide and seek on the afterdeck. But it was noticeable, if anybody had thought to notice it at all, that Russ kept them all from going near the lifeboat and the raft, and he would not hear to their playing castaway at all.
"Why not?" asked Vi.
"Oh, that's too old," Russ declared. "We can play that at any time. Let's go and listen to the wireless spark. When we get to that plantation where we are going maybe I can set up a wireless mast and we will send messages."
"To Grandma Bell? And to Aunt Jo?" asked Vi.
"Oh!" cried Laddie, "let's send one to Cowboy Jack. I know he'd be glad to hear from us."
So Russ turned the interest of his brothers and sisters away from the castaway play. All but Rose. She wondered just what it was that was troubling Russ and what the lifeboat had to do with it.
But there were so many new things to be interested in aboard the steamship that even Rose forgot to be puzzled after a while. Their friend, the quartermaster, took them all over the ship. They saw the engines working, and peered down into the stoke hole which was very hot and where the firemen worked in their undershirts and trousers and a great clanging of shovels and furnace doors was going on.
"I guess the steampipes always hum on this boat," remarked Laddie. "It is not like it was at Aunt Jo's before that Sam boy came to make the furnace go."
Whether the steampipes hummed or not, the children found that it was quite balmy on the boat. Although a strong breeze almost always blew, it was a warm one. They had long since entered into the Gulf Stream and the warm current seemed to warm the air more and more as the Kammerboy sailed southward.
It was only two hours after passing the schooner that was in distress when they "spoke," as the quartermaster called it, the revenue cutter which had been sent to help the disabled vessel, steaming swiftly toward the point of the compass where the schooner was wallowing. Mr. Sparks, as the wireless operator was called, had exchanged messages with the Government vessel and he told the little Bunkers that the lumber schooner would be towed into Hampton Roads, from which the cutter had come.
All this time Russ Bunker stayed away from the covered boat on the hurricane deck. Daddy Bunker, as well as Rose, began to wonder at the boy's odd behavior. When dinner time came, Mr. Bunker watched his oldest son sharply.
"Can I go out on deck again for a while?" asked Russ politely, as he moved back his chair at the end of the meal.
"I don't see why you can't. And Rose too," said their mother. "It is not yet dark. But you other children must come with me."
They had all played so hard that it was no cross for the little ones to prepare for bed. Mun Bun and Margy were already nodding.
When Rose looked about for Russ, he had disappeared again. So had Daddy. They had both slipped out of the saloon cabin without a word.
Russ was hurrying along the runway between the house and the bulwarks, and going forward, when Daddy Bunker came around a corner suddenly and confronted him. Russ was so startled that he almost cried out.