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   Chapter 1 A THUNDER STROKE

Six Little Bunkers at Cowboy Jack's By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 6988

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


"Whew!" said Russ Bunker, looking out into the driving rain.

"Whew!" repeated Rose, standing beside him.

"Whew!" said Vi, and "Whew!" echoed Laddie, while Margy added "Whew!"

"W'ew!" lisped Mun Bun last of all, standing on tiptoe to see over the high windowsill. Mun Bun could not quite say the letter "h"; that is why he said "W'ew!"

Such a September rain the six little Bunkers had never seen before, for the very good reason that they had never before been at the seashore during what Daddy Bunker and Captain Ben called "the September equinox."

"That is an awful funny word, anyway," Rose Bunker said.

"What's funny?" Violet asked.

"Can I make a riddle out of it?" added Laddie.

"It is a riddle," replied Rose, quite confidently. "For 'equinox' is just a rain and wind storm."

"That isn't a riddle," said Laddie promptly. "That's the answer to a riddle."

And perhaps it was, even if Rose had the equinox and the equinoctial storms a little mixed in her mind. At any rate, this was a most surprising storm to all the little Bunkers-the wind blew so hard, the rain came in such big gusts, flattening the white-capped waves which they could see, both from Captain Ben's bungalow and from this old house to which they had come to play. And now, as all six peered out of the attic window of the old house, there was an unexpected flash of lightning, followed by a grumble of thunder.

"Oh! just like a bad, bad dog," gasped Vi, not a little frightened by the noise. "I-I am afraid of thunder."

"I'm not," declared Laddie, her twin.

But perhaps, because he was a boy, he thought he must claim more courage than he really felt. At any rate, he winced a little, too, and drew back from the window.

"Maybe we'd better go back to Captain Ben's house-and mother," suggested Margy in a wee small voice.

"W'ew!" lisped Mun Bun, the littlest Bunker, once more, but quite as bravely as before. Like Laddie (whose name really was Fillmore), Mun Bun wished to claim all the courage a boy should show.

"I guess we can't go back while it rains like this," said Russ, the oldest of the six.

"And Captain Ben thought it would maybe clear up and not rain any more, so we came," announced Rose. "Oh! There goes another thunder stroke."

The rumble of thunder seemed nearer.

"I guess," Russ said soberly, "that Norah or Jerry Simms would call this the clearing-up shower."

"But Norah and Jerry Simms aren't here," Vi reminded him. "Are they?"

"That doesn't make any difference. It can be the clearing-up shower of this equinox, just the same."

"Can it?" asked Vi.

She was always asking questions, and she asked so many that it was quite impossible to answer them all, so, for the most part, nobody tried to answer her. And this was one of the times when nobody answered Vi.

"We'd better keep on playing," Rose said, very sensibly. "Then we won't bother 'bout the thunder strokes."

"It is lightning," objected Russ. "I don't mind the thunder. Thunder is only a noise."

"I don't care," said Rose, "it's the thunder that scares you-- Oh! Hear it?"

"Does the thunder hit you?" asked Vi.

"Why, nothing is going to hit us," Russ replied bravely, realizing that he must soothe any fears felt by his younger brothers and sisters. Russ was nine, and Daddy Bunker and mother expected him to set a good example to Rose and Laddie and Violet and Margy and Munroe Ford Bunker, who, when he was very little, had named himself "Mun Bun."

"Just

the same," whispered Rose in a very small voice, and in Russ's ear, "I wish we hadn't come over from Captain Ben's bungalow this morning when it looked like the rain had all stopped."

"Pooh!" said Russ, still bravely, "it thunders over there just as it does here, Rose Bunker."

Of course that was so, and Rose knew it. But nothing seemed quite so bad when daddy and mother were close at hand.

"Let's play again," she said, with a little sigh.

"What'll we play?" asked Violet. "Haven't we played everything there is?"

"I s'pose we have-some time or other," Rose admitted.

"No, we haven't," interposed Russ, who was of an inventive mind. "There are always new plays to make up."

"Just like making up riddles," agreed Laddie. "I guess I could make up a riddle about this old storm-if only the thunder wouldn't make so much noise. I can't think riddles when it thunders."

The thunder seemed to shake the house. The rain dashed against the windows harder than ever. And there were places in the roof of this attic where the water began to trickle through and drop upon the floor.

"Oh!" cried Mun Bun, on whose head a drop fell. "It's leaking! I don't like a leaky house. Let's go home, Rose."

"Do you want to go home to Pineville, Mun Bun?" shouted Russ, for he could not make his voice heard by the others just then without shouting.

"Well, no. But I'd rather be at that other house where mother is-and daddy," proclaimed the smallest boy when the noise of the thunder had again passed.

"I tell you," said Russ soberly, "we'd better go downstairs and play something till the thunder stops."

"What shall we play?" asked Vi again.

"I'll build an automobile and take you all to ride," said the oldest boy confidently.

"Oh, Russ! You can't!" gasped Rose.

"A real automobile like the one that we rode down here in from Pineville?" asked Laddie, opening his eyes very wide.

"Well, no-not just like that," admitted Russ. "But we'll have some fun with it and we won't bother about the thunder."

Rose looked a bit doubtful over that statement. But she knew it was her duty to help the younger children forget their fears. She started down the steep stairs behind Russ. Laddie and Margy came next, while Vi was helping short-legged little Mun Bun to reach the stairway.

And it was just then that the very awful "thunder stroke" came. It seemed to burst right over the roof, and the flash of lightning that came with it almost blinded the children. There was even a smell of sulphur-just like matches. Only it was a bigger smell than any sulphur match could make.

The children's cries were drowned by the crash outside. The lightning had struck a big old tree that overhung the house. The tree trunk was splintered right down from the top, and before the sound of the thunder died away the broken-off part of that tree fell right across the roof.

How the old house shook! Such a ripping and tearing of shingles as there was! Rose could not stifle her shriek. She and Margy and Laddie came tumbling down the rest of the stairs behind Russ.

"Where's Vi and Mun Bun?" demanded the oldest of the six little Bunkers, staring up the dust-filled stairway.

"Oh! Oh! Help me up!" shrieked Vi from the attic.

"Help me!" cried Mun Bun, very much frightened too. "Somebody is holding me down."

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" cried Rose, wringing her hands and looking at Russ. "That old roof has fallen in and Vi and Mun Bun are caught under it!"

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