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   Chapter 3 A QUEER STORY

Six Little Bunkers at Uncle Fred's By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 9158

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The six little Bunkers, who had been untangled from the mix-up caused when the scooter ran sideways off the ironing-board hill, stood in a half circle and looked at the strange man. He did not seem quite so strange now, and he certainly smiled in a way the children liked.

THE SIX LITTLE BUNKERS STOOD IN A HALF CIRCLE AND LOOKED UP AT THE STRANGE MAN.

"Is he our real uncle?" asked Violet.

"Yes, he is your very own uncle. He is my brother. Frederic is his name-Frederic Bell," went on Mother Bunker. "But you are to call him Uncle Fred."

"Then he isn't a burglar!" stated Rose.

"Of course not!" laughed her mother.

"No, I'm not a burglar," said the visitor, laughing too. "Though I don't blame you for feeling a bit alarmed when I rushed in. I thought some of you might know me, though some of you I've never seen, and Russ and Rose were smaller than they are now the last time I saw them."

"I didn't tell them you were coming," said Mrs. Bunker. "I hardly thought you would get here so soon, and I was planning a surprise, as I say. But we're very glad to see you. How did you get into the house and up here?"

"I walked in. The front door was open and--"

"I left it open to air the house."

"And as soon as I got in I heard a great racket up where I knew the attic must be, so up I rushed. I found the children all in a heap, and I pulled them apart as best I could."

"We were riding on a scooter I made from an older roller skate," explained Russ, "and it went off the ironing-board sideways and it bumped into everybody."

"I should say it did bump!" laughed Uncle Fred.

"But we're not hurt," added Laddie. "We're all right now. Can you answer riddles, Uncle Fred?"

"Well, yes, I think so, if they're not too hard."

"I know lots of riddles," said Laddie. "I have a good one about what goes through--"

"Wait a minute!" cried Vi, elbowing her way to a place in the front ranks of the six little Bunkers. "I want to ask Uncle Fred a question."

"You did ask him one," suggested Rose.

"Well, I want to ask him another," went on Vi. "You said you were going to take us away," she told the visitor. "Are you? And where and when are we all going? And can we have some fun?"

"Oh, hold on! Stop! Whoa! Back up!" exclaimed Uncle Fred. "I thought you said you wanted to ask one question, not half a dozen."

"But you said you were going to take us away. Are you?"

"I am if your mother and father will let me," replied Uncle Fred. "You know I wrote you," he went on to Mother Bunker, "that I'd like to have you all come out to my ranch to stay all summer."

"What's a ranch?" asked Vi.

"I know," interrupted Russ. "It's a place where they have horses and cows and--"

"Indians!" cried Laddie.

"And cowboys!" went on Russ. "That'll be great! We can have a Wild West show!"

"Oh, let's go!" shouted Laddie.

"Children! Children!" murmured Mother Bunker. "Less noise, please! What will Uncle Fred think of you?"

"Oh, I don't mind the noise," replied the Westerner. "I'm used to that. Sometimes, when the cowboys are feeling pretty good, they whoop and yell like Indians."

"Are there any Indians out there?" asked Russ eagerly. "I mean out at your ranch?"

"Yes, a few," answered Uncle Fred.

"And where is your ranch?" Laddie inquired.

All interest in the scooter was lost in Uncle Fred's arrival. And if he planned to take the six little Bunkers somewhere they wanted to hear all about that. So they crowded close around him.

"My ranch," said Uncle Fred, "is out in Montana, near a place called Moon City. The name of my place is Three Star, and--"

"Is there a moon, too?" asked Violet.

"Well, the name of the town, as I said, is Moon City, and I suppose it was named that because the moon looks so beautiful over the mountains. But I am down on the plains, and the reason I call my ranch Three Star is because my cattle are marked with three stars, so I will know them if they should happen to get mixed up with the cattle of another ranch."

"When are we going?" asked Russ. "I have to make a lasso if we go out on a ranch. Maybe I'll lasso an Indian."

"So'll I," put in Laddie. "When can we go, Mother?"

"Oh, not for some little time. Uncle Fred has come to pay us a visit. Haven't you?" she went on to her brother.

"Oh, yes, I'm going to stay East a while," he said. "But I'm desirous of getting back to Three Star," he added. "There's something queer been going on there, and I want to find out what it is. That's one reason I came on East-to try to find out what's wrong at my

place. There certainly is something queer there!"

"Is it a ghost?" asked Violet.

"No, hardly a ghost," answered Uncle Fred with a laugh. "What do you know about ghosts, anyhow?"

"There was one at Grandpa Ford's," explained Rose.

"But we found out what it was," added Russ.

"But first it made terribly queer noises," said Laddie.

"Well, the only queer noises out at Three Star Ranch are made by the cowboys, and sometimes by the Indians," said Uncle Fred. "No, this is something different. But it might almost as well be a ghost for all I can find out about it. It certainly is very queer," he went on to his sister. "I have lost a great many cattle lately, and that and something strange about a spring of water on my place, are two of the reasons why I came on here. I want to talk with some men who know about springs and streams of water, and get some books about it so I can solve this puzzle, if it's possible.

"Another reason I came on," he added, "is to take you all back with me to Moon City, and let the children have fun out on my ranch."

"Do you mean to take us all out West?" asked Rose.

"Yes, every one of you six little Bunkers, and your father and mother, too," returned Uncle Fred.

"Can we go, Mother?" begged Russ.

"I'll see about it," was the answer. "But we'd all better go downstairs now. Uncle Fred must be tired from his long trip, and I want to get him a cup of tea. It is raining hard still, so you children can't go out and play."

"We don't want to," said Vi. "We want to see Uncle Fred."

"I like Uncle Fred!" exclaimed Mun Bun, going up to his mother's brother and clasping his hand. "I like him awful much!"

"And I like you, too," replied Uncle Fred, catching the little fellow up in his arms.

"I like him, too!" exclaimed Margy, who was not going to be left out.

"That's the girl! I knew you wouldn't forget me!" and with a laugh Uncle Fred caught her up also, and danced about the attic, with a child in each arm.

"Is it far out to your ranch?" asked Russ.

"Quite a way, little man," answered Uncle Fred. "It will take us about four days to get there, riding steadily on the train. But we won't start right away. I have some business to do here. But when that is over I hope the weather will be better, and then we can start."

"And stay out there all summer?" asked Laddie.

"Yes, and all winter, too, if you like. We'll be glad to have you."

"We seem to do nothing but visit around of late!" exclaimed Mother Bunker. "We have been to Grandma Bell's, to Aunt Jo's, to Cousin Tom's, to Grandpa Ford's and now maybe we're going to Uncle Fred's."

"I think it's nice," remarked Rose.

"So do I!" added Vi. "I love to go visiting!"

"Could I ask you that riddle now?" inquired Laddie, as Uncle Fred started downstairs, carrying Margy and Mun Bun.

"Yes," was the answer of the children's uncle. "Go ahead."

"What is it that goes through--"

"Oh, don't ask him that one about what goes through a door but doesn't come into the room!" exclaimed Russ.

"I wasn't!" asserted Laddie. "That's an old one, and the answer is a keyhole. I was going to ask him a new one."

"Well, go ahead," said Uncle Fred.

"What is it goes through-- No, that isn't it. Let me see. I almost forgot. Oh, I know! What can you drive without a whip or reins? That's it. What can you drive without a whip or reins?"

"Do you mean an ox?" asked Uncle Fred. "I've seen oxen driven, and the man who drove them didn't use reins as they do on horses, though he did have a goad, which is like a whip."

"No, oxen isn't the answer," said Laddie. "Do you give up?"

"Well, I will, just to see what the answer is," replied Uncle Fred.

"What is it you can drive without a whip or reins?" asked Laddie again. "The answer is a nail. You can drive that with a hammer."

"Ha! Ha! That's a pretty good riddle!" laughed Uncle Fred. "I must try that on some of the cowboys when I get back to Three Star Ranch."

"And now don't you children bother Uncle Fred too much while I'm making him a cup of tea," said Mrs. Bunker, as they reached the first floor.

"Oh, they don't bother me," declared Uncle Fred.

"Tell us about the something queer on your ranch," begged Russ, as his uncle sat down, holding Margy and Mun Bun in his lap.

"All right, I will," promised Mr. Bell. "First I'll tell you about the ranch, and then about the queer things that happened. Now Three Star Ranch is--"

Just then the doorbell rang loudly, and Uncle Fred stopped speaking.

"I wonder who it is," said Rose.

* * *

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