Chapter I. All Upset

"There! It's all done, so I guess we can get on and start off! All aboard! Toot! Toot!" Russ Bunker made a noise like a steamboat whistle. "Get on!" he cried.

"Oh, wait a minute! I forgot to put the broom in the corner," said Rose, his sister. "I was helping mother sweep, and I forgot to put the broom away. Wait for me, Russ! Don't let the boat start without me!"

"I won't," promised the little boy, as he tossed back a lock of dark hair which had straggled down over his eyes. They were dark, too, and, just now, were shining in eagerness as he looked at a queer collection of a barrel, a box, some chairs, a stool and a few boards, piled together in the middle of the playroom floor.

"The steamboat will wait for you, Rose," Russ Bunker went on. "But hurry back," and he began to whistle a merry tune as he moved a footstool over to one side. "That's one of the paddle-wheels," he told his smaller brother Laddie, whose real name was Fillmore, but who was always called Laddie. "That's a paddle-wheel!"

"Why doesn't it go 'round then?" asked Violet, Laddie's twin sister. "Why doesn't it go 'round, Russ? I thought wheels always went around!" Vi, as Violet was usually called, loved to ask questions, and sometimes they were the kind that could not be easily answered. This one seemed to be that kind, for Russ went on whistling and did not reply.

"Why doesn't the footstool go around if it's a wheel?" asked Vi again.

"Oh, 'cause--'cause----" began Russ, holding his head on one side and stopping halfway through his whistled tune. "It doesn't go 'round?"

"Oh, I got a riddle! I got a riddle!" suddenly cried Laddie, who was as fond of asking riddles as Vi was of giving out questions. "What kind of a wheel doesn't go 'round? That's a new riddle! What kind of a wheel doesn't go 'round?"

"All wheels go around," declared Russ, who, now that he had the footstool fixed where he wanted it, had started his whistling again.

"What's the riddle, Laddie?" asked Vi, shaking her curly hair and looking up with her gray eyes at her brother, whose locks were of the same color, though not quite so curly as his twin's.

"There she goes again! Asking more questions!" exclaimed Rose, who had come back from putting away the broom, and was ready to play the steamboat game with her older brother.

"But what is the riddle?" insisted Vi. "I like to guess 'em, Laddie! What is it?"

"What kind of a wheel doesn't go 'round?" asked Laddie again, smiling at his brothers and sisters as though the riddle was a very hard one indeed.

"Pooh! All wheels go around--'ceptin' this one, maybe," said Russ. "And this is only a make-believe wheel. It's the nearest like a steamboat paddle-wheel I could find," and he gave the footstool a little kick. "But all kinds of wheels go around, Laddie."

"No, they don't," exclaimed the little fellow. "That's a riddle! What kind of a wheel doesn't go 'round?"

"Oh, let's give it up," proposed Rose. "Tell us, Laddie, and then we'll get in the make-believe steamboat Russ has made, and we'll have a ride. What kind of a wheel doesn't go around?"

"A wheelbarrow doesn't go 'round!" laughed Laddie.

"Oh, it does so!" cried Rose. "The wheel goes around."

"But the barrow doesn't--that's the part you put things in," went on Laddie. "That doesn't go 'round. You have to push it."

"All right. That's a pretty good riddle," said Russ with a laugh. "Now let's get on the steamboat and we'll have a ride," and he began to whistle a little bit of a new song, something about down on a river where the cotton blossoms grow.

"Where is steamboat?" asked Margy, aged five, whose real name was Margaret, but who, as yet, seemed too little to have all those letters for herself. So she was just called Margy. "Where is steamboat?" she asked. "Is it in the kitchen on the stove?" and she opened wide her dark brown eyes and looked at Russ.

"Oh, you're thinking of a steam teakettle, Margy," he said, as he took hold of her fat, chubby hand. "The teakettle steams on the kitchen stove," went on Russ. "But we're making believe this is a steamboat in here," and he pointed to the barrel, the boxes, the chairs and the footstool, which he and Rose had piled together with such care. For it was a rainy day and the children were having what fun they could in the big playroom.

"I want to go on steamboat," spoke up the sixth member of the Bunker family a moment later.

"Yes, you may have a ride, Mun Bun," said Rose. "You may sit with me in front and see the wheels go around."

Mun Bun, I might say, was the pet name of the youngest member of the family. He was really Munroe Ford Bunker, but it seemed such a big name for such a little chap, that it was nearly always shortened to Mun. And that, added to half his last name, made Mun Bun.

And, really, Munroe Ford Bunker did look a little like a bun--one of the light, golden brown kind, with sugar on top. For Mun, as we shall call him, was small, and had blue eyes and golden hair.

"Come on, Mun Bun!" called Russ, who was the oldest of the family of six little Bunkers, and the leader in all the fun and games. "Come on, everybody! All aboard the steamboat!"

"Oh, wait a minute! Wait a minute!" suddenly called Vi. "Is there any water around your steamboat, Russ?"

"Water? 'Course there is," he answered. "You couldn't make a steamboat go without water."

"Is it deep water?" asked Vi, who seemed started on her favorite game of asking questions.

Russ thought for a minute, looking at the playroom floor.

"'Course it's deep," he answered. "'Bout ten miles deep. What do you ask that for, Vi?"

"'Cause I got to get a bathing-dress for my doll," answered the little girl. "I can't take her on a steamboat where the water is deep lessen I have a bathing-suit for her. Wait a minute. I'll get one," and she ran over to a corner of the room, where she kept her playthings.

"Shall I bring a red dress or a blue one?" Vi turned to ask her sister Rose.

"Oh, bring any one you have and hurry up!" called Russ. "This steamboat won't ever get started. All aboard! Toot! Toot!"

Vi snatched up what she called a bathing-dress from a small trunkful of clothes belonging to her dolls, and ran back to the place where the "steamboat" floated in the "ten-miles-deep water," in the middle of the playroom floor.

"Now I'm all ready, an' so's my doll," said Vi, as she climbed up in one of the chairs behind the big, empty flour barrel that Mother Bunker had let Russ take to make his boat. "Gid-dap, Russ!"

"Gid-dap? What you mean?" asked Russ, stopping his whistling and turning to look at his sister.

"I mean start," answered Vi. "Don't you know what gid-dap means?"

"Sure I know! It's how you talk to a horse. It's what you tell him when you want him to start."

"Well, I'm ready to start now," said Vi, smoothing out her dress, and putting the bathing-suit on her doll.

"Pooh! You don't tell a steamboat to 'gid-dap' when you want that to start!" exclaimed Russ. "You say 'All aboard! Toot! Toot!'"

"All right then. Toot! Toot!" cried Vi, and Margy and Mun, who had climbed up together in a single chair beside Vi, began to laugh.

"I know another riddle," announced Laddie, as he took his place inside the barrel, for he was going to be the fireman, and, of course, they always rode away down inside the steamboat. "I know a nice riddle about a horse," went on Laddie. "What makes a horse's shoes different from ours?" he asked.

"Oh, we haven't time to bother with riddles now, Laddie," said Rose. "You can tell us some other time. We're going to make-believe steamboat a long way across the deep water now."

"A horse's shoes aren't like ours 'cause a horse doesn't wear stockings--that's the answer," went on Laddie.

"All aboard!" cried Russ again.

"All aboard!" repeated Laddie.

"Oh, let's sing!" suddenly said Rose. She was a jolly little girl and had learned many simple songs at school.

"Let's sing about sailing o'er the dark blue sea," went on Rose. "It's an awful nice song, and I know five verses."

"We'll sing it after a while," returned Russ. "We got to get started now. All ready, fireman!" he called to Laddie, who was inside the barrel. "Start the steam going. I'm going to steer the boat," and Russ took his place astride the front end of the barrel, and began twisting on a stick he had stuck down in one of the cracks. The stick, you understand, was the steering-wheel, even if it didn't look like one.

"All aboard! Here we go!" cried Laddie from down inside the barrel, and he began to hiss like steam coming from a pipe. Then he began to rock to and fro, so that the barrel rolled from side to side.

"Here! What're you doing that for?" demanded Russ from up on top. "'You're jiggling me off! Stop it! What're you doing, Laddie?"

"I'm making the steamboat go!" was the answer. "We're out on the rough ocean and the steamboat's got to rock! Look at her rock!" and he swung the barrel to and fro faster than ever.

"Oh! Oh!" cried Rose. "It's all coming apart! Look! Oh, dear! The barrel's all coming apart!"

And that's just what happened! In another moment the barrel on which Russ sat fell apart, and with a clatter and clash of staves he toppled in on Laddie. Then the chairs, behind the barrel, where Rose, Vi and Margy and Mun were sitting, toppled over. In another instant the whole steamboat load of children was all upset in the middle of the playroom floor, having made a crash that sounded throughout the house.