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   Chapter 1 A QUEER HUNT

Six Little Bunkers at Aunt Jo's By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 9401

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


"Let me count noses now, to see if you're all here," said Mother Bunker with a laugh, as her flock of children gathered around her.

"Don't you want some help?" asked Grandma Bell. "Can you count so many boys and girls all alone, Amy?"

"Oh, I think so," answered Mother Bunker. "You see I am used to it. I count them every time we come to the woods, and each time I start for home, to be sure none has been left behind. Now then, children! Attention! as the soldier captain says."

Six little Bunkers, who were getting ready to run off into the woods to frolic and have a good time at a good-bye picnic, laughed and shouted and finally stood still long enough for their mother to "count noses," as she called it.

"And I'll help," said Grandma Bell, at whose country home in Maine, near Lake Sagatook, the six little Bunkers were spending part of their summer vacation.

"Russ and Rose!" called Mother Bunker.

"Here we are!" answered Russ, and he pointed to his sister.

"Vi and Laddie!" went on Mrs. Bunker.

"We're here, but we're going to run now," said Laddie. "I'm going to think of a riddle to guess when we get to the woods."

"Where are you going to run to?" asked Vi, or Violet, which was her right name, though she was more often called Vi. "Where you going to run to, Laddie?" she asked again. But Laddie, her twin brother, did not stop to answer the question. Indeed it would take a great deal of time to reply to the questions Vi asked, and no one ever stopped to answer them all, any more than they tried to answer all the riddles-real and make-believe-that Laddie asked.

"Well, that's four of them," said Grandma Bell with a laugh.

"Yes," said Mother Bunker. "And now for the last. Margy and Mun!"

"We's here!" said Margy, who, as you may easily guess, was, more properly, Margaret. "Come on, Mun Bun!" she called. "Now we can have some fun."

And for fear you might be wondering what sort of creature Mun Bun was, I'll say right here that he was Margy's little brother, and his right name was Munroe Ford Bunker; but he was called Mun Bun for short.

"They're all here," said Grandma Bell, with a smile.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Bunker, as she saw the six children running across the field toward the woods. "They're all here now, and I hope they'll all be here when we start back."

"Oh, I think they will," said Grandma Bell with a smile. "I'm sorry this is your last picnic with me. I certainly have enjoyed your visit here-yours and the children's."

The two women walked slowly over the field and toward the woods, in which the six little Bunkers were already running about and having fun. The woods were on the edge of Lake Sagatook, and not far from Grandma Bell's house.

"Come on, Rose!" called Russ to his sister. "We'll have a last ride on the steamboat."

"I want to come, too!" shouted Laddie, dropping a bundle of pine cones he had picked up.

"So do I," added Vi. "I want a ride."

"Say, we can't all get on the steamboat at once!" Russ cried. "It'll sink if we do."

"Then we can play shipwreck," proposed Rose.

"Yes, we could do that," Russ agreed. "But if the steamboat sinks it'll be on the bottom of the lake, and it won't move and we can't have rides. That'll be no fun!" And the boy began to whistle, which he almost always did when he was thinking hard, as he was just now.

"Well, what can we do?" asked Rose. "I want a ride on the steamboat."

It wasn't really a steamboat at all, being only some fence rails and boards nailed roughly together. It was more of a raft than a boat, but it would float in the shallow water of the lake near the shore, and the children could stand on it in their bare feet and paddle about in a small cove that a bend in the shore-line of the lake made. The reason they had to take off their shoes and stockings was because the water came up over the top of the raft, and splashed on the children's feet. Anyhow, it was more fun to go barefooted, and no sooner had the six little Bunkers reached the shore of the lake in the midst of the woods, than off came their shoes and stockings.

"I want to ride on the steamer, too," said Mun Bun.

"No, we don't want to do that," put in Margy, who was standing near him.

"Why?" he asked.

"'Cause."

"But why?"

"Don't you 'member? We're goin' to roll downhill where the pine needles make it so slippery."

"Oh, yes," agreed Mun Bun. "We'll roll downhill, and then we'll ride on the steamer."

"But I want a ride now!" insisted Violet.

"So do I," added Laddie.

"I asked first," cried Rose. "But I s'pose mother'll make me give in to you two, 'cause I'm older'n you; but I don't want to," she added.

"My! what'

s all this about?" asked Mother Bunker, as she came along with Grandma Bell, the two women having walked more slowly than the children. "Has anything happened?" She could tell by the faces of the little ones that everything was not just right.

"Oh, they all want to ride on the steamboat at once, and it isn't big enough," explained Russ.

"Then you must take turns," said Mother Bunker quickly. "That's the only way to do. Rose, dear, you are the oldest; you will let Laddie and Violet have the first ride, will you not?"

"There! I knew you'd ask me to do that!" cried Rose, and her voice was not just as pleasant as it might have been.

"Never mind, Rose," whispered Russ to her. "I'll give you a longer ride than I give them. Anyway, they'll soon get tired of the raft, and then you and I can play sailor, and steamboat around as much as we like."

"And will you let me help push with the pole?" asked Rose.

"Yes, you can do that, of course," Russ agreed.

"All right," assented Rose. "I'll wait. Go on, Violet and Laddie. You may have your ride first."

With shouts of glee the twins ran down to the edge of the lake where the raft, or, as Russ called it, the "steamboat," was tied by a rope to an old stump. Russ, with the help of Tom Hardy, the hired man, had made the raft, and on it the children had had lots of fun.

Russ now took his place in the middle, holding a long pole by which he pushed the raft about in the shallow cove of the lake. The water here was not deep-hardly over the children's knees.

"All aboard!" cried Russ, and Laddie and Violet got on the raft. Mother Bunker and Grandma Bell sat down in the shade to watch, while Mun Bun and Margy ran over to a little hill, covered with dry, slippery pine needles, and there they started to roll over and over down the slope, tumbling about in the soft grass at the foot, laughing and giggling.

Up and down, and around and around the little cove of Lake Sagatook Russ pushed his little twin brother and sister. The raft was just about large enough for three children of the size of those who were on it, but any more would have made it sink to the sandy bottom of the lake. Then, though they might have played "shipwreck," it would not be as much fun, Russ thought.

"Toot! Toot!" cried Russ, making believe he was the steamboat's whistle. Then he ding-donged the bell and hissed, to let off steam. Violet and Laddie laughed, and did the same thing, pretending they were part of the engine of the boat.

"Well, I think you have ridden on the steamboat long enough now, Laddie and Vi!" called Mother Bunker, after a bit. "Give Rose a turn."

"Just one more ride!" pleaded Laddie.

"All right-just one more. But that's the last," said Russ.

So he poled the raft across the cove again, and then his little brother and sister got off while Rose waded out in her bare feet and got on board, carrying a pole so she could help push the raft; for it had no sails like a sailboat, and no motor like a motor-boat, and to make it go it had to be pushed.

"Come on, Vi. Let's go over and roll downhill with Margy and Mun Bun," said Laddie, after watching Rose and Russ a bit. "They're having lots of fun."

The two smallest of the six little Bunkers did, indeed, appear to be having a good time. Over and over they rolled down the clean, slippery hill covered with the brown pine needles.

Soon Laddie and Vi joined in the fun, and their shouts and laughter could be heard by Mother Bunker and Grandma Bell, where they were sitting in the shade of the trees.

All at once Laddie, who had rolled to the bottom of the hill, ending with a somersault in the soft grass, stood up and called:

"Listen! What's that?"

Vi, Margy and Mun Bun listened.

"I don't hear anything," said Vi.

"I do," went on Laddie. "It's some one hollering!"

And, as the children became quiet and listened more intently, they did, indeed, hear a voice calling:

"Come and get me! Come and get me!"

"Oh, it's somebody lost in the woods!" said Violet.

"A little boy, maybe!" exclaimed Laddie.

"Or a little girl," added Mun Bun, his eyes big with wonder.

"Let's go and hunt for 'em," proposed Laddie. "If we were lost, we'd like some one to hunt for us. Come on!"

The other children did not stop to think whether or not this was right. Laddie was the oldest of the four, except Violet, who was just as old, except maybe a minute or two, and Mun Bun and Margy thought what Laddie said must be right.

"Come and get me! Come and get me!" cried the voice again, and to the four little Bunkers it seemed to be a sad one.

"Come on!" exclaimed Laddie. And the children started on a queer hunt.

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