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Six Little Bunkers at Aunt Jo's By Laura Lee Hope Characters: 11622

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Out on the porch Mrs. Bunker found her six children, for Rose had followed her mother out of the house, finally running ahead of her to see if any one had yet guessed Laddie's latest riddle.

"What have you there, Sonny?" asked Laddie's mother, as she saw him standing in front of Russ, Rose and the others, with something under his coat.

"He says it's a riddle," explained Russ.

"It is, sort of!" declared Laddie. "Yet 'tisn't zactly a riddle. I just told 'em to guess what I had under my coat."

"Where'd you get it?" asked Aunt Jo, who came out to see what the fun was about.

"I got it with the peanuts I had in my pocket," the little boy answered.

"Oh, then it's a squirrel!" guessed Rose.

"No, it isn't a squirrel," said Laddie, shaking his head.

"It's got a tail! I can see it!" cried Vi, as she stooped down and looked under her brother's coat. "I can see it sticking out. It's brown."

"Yes, it's got a tail," admitted Laddie.

"Is it a kite?" asked Russ, for he had not yet finished the one he was making.

"Nope! 'Tisn't a kite!" Laddie answered. "It's alive, and kites aren't that way!"

"They wiggle around as if they were alive, sometimes," said Rose.

"Oh, I heard it squeak!" cried Mun Bun. "Is it a little kittie?"

Again Laddie shook his head.

"Nope," he answered, "'tisn't a kittie. But it's got fur on. Now I'll give you each one more guess for my riddle, and--"

But Laddie's "riddle" seemed to think the fun had gone on long enough, and it didn't want to be guessed about any more. All at once the little boy began to wiggle and try to hold something still beneath his coat-something which seemed very much alive indeed.

"Oh! Oh! Oh, dear!" cried Laddie, but he was laughing.

"What's the matter?" asked his mother.

"It-it's tickling me!" he exclaimed. "Oh-there it is!"

As he spoke a funny little wrinkled black face, followed by a little brown furry body and a long tail, scrambled out from under Laddie's buttoned coat and sat on his shoulder.

"Oh, look!" cried Rose.

"It's a black pussy with a long tail!" cried Violet.

"No, it isn't!" Russ exclaimed. "It's a monkey! That's what it is! A monkey!"

"A monkey!" repeated Mrs. Bunker. "Why, so it is. Oh, Laddie boy! where did you get a monkey?"

Laddie put up his hand to stroke the funny little creature, which seemed to like it, crouching down on Laddie's shoulder and nestling close to him. The monkey was not much larger than a cat.

"Where'd you get it?" repeated the children's mother.

"Have they got any more? Can I get one?" cried Russ. "I'll go and find some peanuts!"

"Don't let him wind his tail on me!" begged Mun Bun, hiding behind his mother's skirts.

"Can he play a hand-organ?" asked Violet.

The children were laughing so hard, and asking so many questions as they crowded around Laddie, that their mother exclaimed:

"Oh, my dear six little Bunkers! please be quiet a minute until I can hear what Laddie has to say. Tell us where you got such a cute little riddle!"

"I got him with peanuts," Laddie said. "He was up in a tree and I saw him, and I held out some peanuts in my hand and he came down and sat on my shoulder and ate 'em and then I put him under my coat and he liked it and I brought him home."

"But where did you find him?" asked Aunt Jo. "In what tree?"

"Oh, just down by the corner at the end of this street," answered Laddie with a wave of his hand.

"Mercy," gasped Aunt Jo, "are monkeys beginning to make their homes in the trees of the Boston streets?" and she and Mother Bunker laughed.

"But was he up a tree?" asked Russ.

"Yes, he was," Laddie went on. "First I thought it was a cat, but when I saw him hang by his tail I knew it wasn't a cat."

"Oh, we're finding lots of things!" cried Rose. "I found a pocketbook, and now Laddie finds a monkey."

"And I'm going to keep it and get a hand-organ and then I'm going around and take in pennies," said the little boy, on whose shoulder the monkey was still perched, looking here and there at the other children, and wrinkling up his funny black face.

"I know where it came from," said Russ, after thinking a moment.

"Where?" asked Vi. "Do you mean out of a circus?"

"No," answered Russ. "But it must have got away from a hand-organ man."

"I think that's just what happened," said Aunt Jo. "Hand-organ men, with monkeys fast to the ends of long strings, often come up this way, and play what they call music, and they let the funny little animals go after the pennies. One of these Italians must have been around here with his music-machine, and his monkey must have run away from him and hidden up in a tree where you saw him, Laddie."

"But I found him, and he's mine. I want to keep him," said the little boy. "He's awful soft and fuzzy, and he likes me."

Indeed the monkey was a nice, clean little chap, and he seemed to like Laddie. And he seemed to like to have the other children pet him, also. He wore a funny little red jacket and a green cap, and every now and then he would take off his cap and hold it out, as he had been taught to do, for pennies.

Mun Bun, who had been afraid the monkey would wind its long tail around him, came out from behind his mother's skirts, and even dared to pet Laddie's "riddle," as they called it.

"He's awful nice!" said Mun Bun.

"He'd make a lovely doll," observed Rose. "I wish I had a doll that was alive."

"I'll let you play with him sometimes," promised Laddie. "I'm going to call him. 'Peanuts' 'cause he likes 'em so."

"Well, that would be a nice name for a monkey," said Mrs. Bunker. "But don't get your heart set on keeping this one, Laddie."

"Why not, Mother? Can't I have him?"

"I'm afraid not. In the first place Aunt Jo has no place in her Boston home for a m

onkey, and, in the second place, Alexis, the big dog, might bark at Peanuts and scare him."

Alexis was not there just then, or he would have seen the monkey, and surely would have barked, as he always did when he saw anything new or strange.

"Another reason why you can't keep him," said Mother Bunker, "is that the Italian hand-organ grinder will want his monkey himself. That is how he makes his living-by having the monkey collect pennies for him."

"But can I keep him until the organ man comes?" asked Laddie, as he cuddled his "riddle" in his arms.

"Oh, yes, I guess you can keep him until then," said Mrs. Bunker. "We couldn't turn the poor little monkey loose, anyhow, or dogs would chase him. We'll see what your father says when he comes home."

"And we can have some fun now, with Peanuts," added Russ. "We can tie a string to his collar and make-believe we have a circus."

"Maybe he'll bite," said Margy.

"He didn't bite me," Laddie explained, "and I carried him under my coat from down the street. He tickled me though, when he wanted to get out."

Mrs. Bunker and Aunt Jo said the children could play with the monkey awhile on the side porch, fastening it by a string attached to the collar around its neck, so it could not get away.

"The Italian may be along pretty soon looking for it," said William, the chauffeur, who had been called from the garage to see Laddie's new pet.

"Peanuts," as the six little Bunkers called the monkey, seemed to enjoy being with them. He climbed about the porch, and came down when they held out in their hands bread, bits of crackers or cake, which the monkey liked to eat.

The children were having lots of fun with their funny little pet, and they were talking over and over again their wish that they might keep him, when, from out in front, came the sound of a hand-organ. It played rather a sad and doleful tune, and, at the sound of it, the monkey seemed to prick up his ears, much as a dog might do.

"Oh, dear!" sighed Rose. "Maybe that's the hand-organ man that owns this monkey."

"If it is I'd better see about it," said Aunt Jo. "I want you children to have all the fun you can, but we don't want to keep a poor man's monkey, any more than we do the poor woman's purse, though she hasn't come for that yet."

William, the chauffeur, who also heard the hand-organ tune, went out in front, and came back to tell Aunt Jo that the Italian had indeed lost his monkey, and was looking everywhere for it.

"Tell him to come in," said Miss Bunker.

And a little later, walking along and grinding out the doleful tune, the Italian came into the yard.

"Is this your monkey?" asked Aunt Jo, pointing to the one that Laddie had coaxed down out of the tree with peanuts.

"Oh, Petro! Petro!" cried the Italian, leaning his hand-organ up against a tree and rushing to the porch. "Ah, Petro! I have found you again, my baby!" and he held out his arms. The monkey made a jump for them, and sat up on the man's shoulder, chattering and taking off and putting on his green cap so often that, as Russ said, he looked like a moving picture.

"Ah, Petro! Petro!" cried the hand-organ man, and then he began to talk to the monkey in Italian, which the little creature seemed to understand, for he chattered back, though of course he spoke monkey talk, or, maybe, jungle talk.

"Is that your animal?" asked William.

"Sure, he mine!" exclaimed the Italian. "His name Petro! I make-a de music down de street, an' a big dog chase after Petro! He break-a de string an' jump oop de tree. I no can find! Now I have him back! Ah, my Petro!"

"Well, the children will be sorry to lose their pet," said Aunt Jo, "but I'm glad you have him back."

"I glad. Vera mooch-a glad, too!" said the Italian, taking off his hat, and bowing to Aunt Jo and Mrs. Bunker. "Petro bring me in pennies. I play for you, but I no want-a pennies. No take pennies-you find my Petro."

"This little boy found him," said William, pointing to Laddie.

"I gave him peanuts," said Laddie. "He was up a tree."

"Mooch 'bliged," said the Italian. "I make-a de music for you. Petro do tricks."

Then he fastened the long cord he had in his pocket to Petro's collar, and began to grind out what he called "music." He also made the monkey do several tricks, such as turning somersaults or climbing trees and jumping from one branch to another.

Then, with more thanks, and promising to come and play again for them, and not to let Petro take any pennies, the Italian went on his way with the monkey and the hand-organ.

Laddie and the others were sorry to lose their pet, but, as Daddy Bunker said afterward, the monkey and Alexis might not have been good friends.

"Well, I found a monkey, and somebody came for it," said Laddie that night. "But nobody has come for the pocketbook yet."

"And, if they don't, I'm going to have the money," said Rose. "Anyhow, I can have some of it, daddy says. And I'm going to buy a pair of new roller skates, 'cause my old ones are 'most worn out."

However, Rose could still skate on them, and speaking of them as she did, made her think of them the next day. So, when she had put her dolls to "sleep," the little girl went out roller-skating on the sidewalk in front of Aunt Jo's house.

Rose had not been skating long before her mother heard her crying.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" Rose was saying.

"What's the matter?" asked her mother, hurrying out to the porch. "Did you fall and hurt yourself, Rose, my dear?"

"No. But I struck my foot against the curbstone, and now one of my roller skates is broken, and I can't have any fun!"

Rose held up one foot. The skate that had been on it was now in two pieces, and Mrs. Bunker saw that it could not easily be fixed again. It was too bad!

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