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Six Little Bunkers at Cowboy Jack's By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 10448

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03

Rose was almost in tears when she found that her watch was lost. But although Laddie felt very bad about his missing stick-pin, he would not cry. Just the same, he did not feel as though he could make a riddle out of it.

"Now, Rose, and you, Laddie," said Mother Bunker admonishingly, as she seated them before her in one of the double seats of the Pullman car in which they had their reservations, "I want to know all about how you came to forget the watch and the pin-and just where you forgot them?"

Although Mother Bunker was usually very cheerful and patient with the children, this was a serious matter. Carelessness and inattention were faults that Mother Bunker was always trying to correct. For those two faults, as she pointed out so frequently, led often to much trouble, as in this case. The loss of the wrist watch and the stick-pin could not be passed over lightly.

Laddie shook his head very sorrowfully. "That is a riddle, Mother," he said. "I can forget things so easy that I forget how I forget them."

But Rose was thinking very hard, and she broke out with:

"Maybe I never had it there at all!"

"Where?" asked Mrs. Bunker, while the other children stood in the aisle or knelt on the seat behind to listen at the conference. "Where didn't you have it?"

"At home, Mother. I-I guess I haven't seen that watch since we were at Captain Ben's."

"Oh!" shouted Laddie. "That is just it! I left my stick-pin at the bungalow. I left it sticking in that cushion on the bureau in that room where Russ and Mun Bun and I slept. Of course I did."

"Are you sure, Laddie?" asked Mrs. Bunker. "I remember that I did not go into that room to see if anything was left. I should have done so, but we were in such a hurry."

"My rememberer is all right now," declared Laddie, with conviction. "That is where I left the pin."

"And you, Rose?" asked their mother.

"I-I don't know for sure," admitted Rose. "I can't remember where I had the watch last-or when I wore it last. But I do not believe I had it at all when we came home to Pineville."

"Well, Laddie is positive, and I suspect that you were quite as careless as he was," Mrs. Bunker said. "You should not be, Rose, for you are older."

"Oh, Mother! I am so sorry," cried Rose. "Don't you suppose we'll ever see my watch and Laddie's pin again?"

"We will write a letter to Captain Ben at once," said Mrs. Bunker, getting the writing pad and fountain pen out of her bag. "He has not left Grand View, and he may have already found them both. But, of course, we cannot be sure."

"He would know they belonged to Rose and Laddie, if he found them," said Russ, trying to comfort the others.

"Yes. If he cleans up the house he might find them. But it is likely that he will hire somebody to do that, and we cannot be sure that the person cleaning up is honest."

"Oh, how mean! To steal Rose's watch and Laddie's pin!" cried Russ.

"What makes them steal, Mother?" queried Vi.

"Because they have not been taught that other people's possessions are sacred," said Mrs. Bunker gravely. "You know, I tell all you children not to touch each other's toys or other things without permission."

"Well!" ejaculated Vi, "Laddie took my book."

"I didn't mean to keep it," cried her twin at once. "And, anyway, it wasn't a sacred book. It was just a story book."

"Stealing is an intention to defraud," explained their mother, smiling a little. "But Vi's book was just as sacred, or set apart, to her possession as anything could be."

"I-I thought sacred books were like the Bible and the hymn book," murmured Laddie wonderingly.

Which was of course quite so. It took Laddie some time, he being such a little boy, to understand that it was the fact of possession that was "sacred" rather than the article possessed.

However, Mother Bunker wrote the letter to Captain Ben, asking him to hunt all about the bungalow for both the wrist watch Rose had lost and the stick-pin Laddie was so confident now that he had left sticking in the cushion on the bureau in the bedroom. She also wrote a letter to Norah asking the cook to look for the lost articles.

"Now what will you do with them?" asked Vi, referring to the letters.

"Mail them," replied Mother Bunker.

"How will you mail them? Is there a post-box in the car?"

"No. But we will find a way of getting them into the mails," her mother assured the inquisitive Violet.

"I know!" cried Russ. "I saw the mailsack hanging on the hook at the railroad station down on the coast, and the train came along and grabbed it off with another hook."

"That is getting the mail on to the train," said Vi promptly. "But how do they get it off?"

When Mrs. Bunker had finished writing the letters and had sealed and addressed the envelopes she satisfied Vi's curiosity, as well as that of the other children, by giving the letters and a dime to the colored porter, who promised to mail them at the first station at which the train stopped.

Then they all trooped into the dining car for dinner, where daddy had already secured two tables for his party. They had a waiter all to themselves, and the children thought that he was a very funny man. In the first place

, he was very black, and when he smiled (which was almost all the time) he displayed so many and such very white teeth that Mun Bun and Margy could scarcely eat their dinner properly, they looked so often at the waiter.

He was a colored man who liked children too. He said he did, and he laughed loudly when Vi asked him questions, although he couldn't answer all her questions any better than other people could.

"Why is he called a waiter?" Vi wanted to know. "For he doesn't wait at all. He is running back and forth to the kitchen at the end of the car all the time."

"That's a riddle," declared her twin soberly. "'When is a waiter not a waiter?'"

"You'll have to answer that one yourself, Laddie," said Daddy Bunker, laughing.

"When he's a runner," Laddie said promptly. "Isn't that a good riddle?"

"And he juggles dishes almost as good as that juggler we saw at the show," Russ declared.

"He must have almost as much skill as a juggler to serve his customers in this car," said Mrs. Bunker, watching the man coming down the aisle as the train sped around a sharp curve.

"Oh! Look there!" cried Rose, who was likewise facing the right way to see the waiter's approach.

The smiling black man was coming with a soup toureen balanced on one hand while he had other dishes on a tray balanced on his other hand. The car swayed so that the waiter began to stagger as though he were on the deck of a ship in a heavy sea.

"Oh! He's going!" sang out Russ.

The waiter jerked to one side, and almost dropped the soup toureen. Then he pitched the other way and his tray hit against one of the diners at another table.

"Look out what you're doing!" cried the man whom the tray had struck.

"Yes, sah! Yes, sah!" panted the waiter, and he tried to balance his tray.

But there was the soup toureen slipping from his other hand. He had either to drop the tray or the soup. Each needed the grasp of both his hands to secure it, and the waiter, losing his smile at last and uttering a frightened shout, made a last desperate attempt to retain both burdens.

"There he goes!" gasped Russ again.

"I guess he is a soup juggler," declared Laddie, staring with all his might. "He's got it!"

After all, the waiter showed wisdom in making his choice as long as a choice had to be made. Even Daddy Bunker, when he could stop laughing, voiced his approval. The tray and the viands on it flew every-which-way. But the waiter caught the hot soup toureen in both hands. It was so hot that he could only balance it first in one hand and then the other while the train finished rounding that curve.

"My head an' body!" gasped the poor waiter. "I done circulated de celery an' yo' watah glasses, suah 'nough. But I done save mos' of de soup," and he set the toureen down with a thump in front of Daddy Bunker.

The steward came running with a very angry countenance, and the people who had been spattered by the water sputtered a good deal. But Daddy Bunker, when he could recover from his laughter, interceded for the "soup juggler," and the incident was passed off as an accident.

When daddy paid his bill and tipped the very much subdued waiter, Laddie tugged at his father's sleeve and whispered:

"What is it, Son?" asked Mr. Bunker, stooping down to hear what the little boy whispered.

"Ask him if he will juggle the soup again if we come in here to eat?"

But Mr. Bunker only laughed and herded his flock back into the other car. The children, however, thought the incident very funny indeed, and they hoped to see the juggling waiter again when they ate their next meal in the dining car.

Mother Bunker had brought a nicely packed basket for supper (Nora O'Grady had made the sandwiches and the cookies) and she sent daddy into the buffet car for milk and tea.

"The children get just as hungry on the train as they do when they are playing all day long out-of-doors," she told daddy. "But they must not eat too much while we are traveling. And I have to shoo the candy boy away every half hour."

The boy who sold magazines and candy interested Russ and Laddie very much. Russ thought that he might become a "candy butcher" when he grew up, although at first he had decided to be a locomotive engineer.

"It must be lots nicer to sell candy than to work an engine," Laddie said. "You get your hands all oil in an engine."

"Where does the oil come from?" asked Vi, who had not asked a question since she had seen the waiter "juggle" the soup toureen. "What does an engine have oil for? Do they keep it in a cruet, like that cruet on the table in the hotel we stopped at coming up from Grand View?"

And perhaps she asked even more questions, but these are all we have time to repeat right now. For evening had come, and soon the little Bunkers would be put to bed. Although they had two sections of the sleeping car, there was none too much room when the porter let down the berths and hung the curtains for them.

Besides, even after the little folks had all got quiet, peace did not reign for long in that sleeping car. The very strangest thing happened. Even Russ couldn't have invented it.

But I will have to tell you about it in the next chapter.

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