Chapter X. The Wrong Daddy
 

Mrs. Bunker turned from her paper to look down at what Rose held in her arms. And, to the surprise of the children's mother, she saw that her little girl held, not a doll, that could open and close her eyes, but a real, live baby, which was kicking and squirming in its blankets, and wrinkling up its tiny face, making ready to cry.

"Oh, Rose!" cried Mrs. Bunker. "What have you done?"

"I--I--didn't do anything!" Rose answered. "But my doll turned into a live baby!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Bunker. "You have--you have----"

And just then, down at the other end of the car, a woman's voice cried:

"Oh, my baby! My baby! Where is my baby? This is only a doll!"

At once the car was a scene of great confusion. Mr. Bunker ran to where Rose and her mother sat, Rose still holding the live baby. The other little Bunkers wondered what had happened.

At the other end of the car a woman rushed frantically along, holding out a doll.

"Look! Look!" she cried. "Somebody took my dear baby and left this doll! Oh, conductor, stop the train!"

Daddy Bunker seemed to be the first to understand what had happened. He hurried to Rose, and tenderly lifted up the little baby, which was now crying hard. Perhaps it knew that something had happened, or perhaps it was hungry.

"Here is your baby, madam," said Mr. Bunker to the woman. "And I guess you have my little girl's doll. It's just a mix-up--just a great, big mistake. Here is your baby!"

The woman, whose face showed delight now instead of fear and worry, clasped her baby in her arms, first handing the doll to Mr. Bunker.

"Oh, my baby! My precious!" she crooned, pressing her face close to the child. "I thought some one had taken you!"

"I--I guess I took up your baby for my doll," put in Rose. "I laid my doll down in a seat at the end of the car so she would go to sleep nice and quiet."

"That's just what I did with my baby," said the woman.

"And then I went to get my doll, and I thought she'd come to life," went on Rose.

"The seats where the baby and doll were must have been right next to one another," said Mrs. Bunker. "That's how Rose picked up your little one in mistake for her doll."

"I suppose so," the baby's mother answered with a smile. "Well, it has all come out right, I'm glad to say. But at first I was dreadfully frightened."

"It was a queer mistake," said Mr. Bunker. "Rose put her doll down to sleep in the seat right next to where the live baby was sleeping. And the seats looked so much alike, and Rose's doll was in a white shawl, just like the real baby, so that's how it happened."

"And the baby is such a little one, and Rose's doll is so big, that no wonder she didn't know the difference until she saw the real baby open its eyes," went on Mother Bunker. "Well, it was a funny happening."

The other passengers laughed and talked about it, and so did the six little Bunkers. Then it was time to go into the dining-car for supper, after which the berths would be made up, so those who wished could go to bed.

The children were all sleepy, for they had gotten up early, so they hurried through their supper. They were interested in seeing the colored porter make the beds when they got back to their own coach.

He pulled out the bottom parts of two seats, until they met in the middle. Then he fastened them together, pulled down what seemed to be a big shelf overhead, and from this recess, or closet, he took blankets, curtains, sheets, pillows, cases and everything needed for nice, clean beds.

As Mrs. Bunker was afraid the children might roll out of the upper berths in the night if the train went fast or swayed, they all had lower berths. Soon the children with their heaviest clothing taken off, were stretched out and, a little later, lulled by the clickity-click-clack of the wheels, they were deep in slumber.

The younger children did not awaken all night, but Rose and Russ both said they did once during the hours of darkness.

"And I heard a baby cry," said Rose. "Was it the one I took for my doll?"

"I guess it was, Little Helper," answered her mother, the next morning when Rose told about it.

After breakfast, eaten at little tables in the dining car, the lady brought the baby down for Rose and all the other little Bunkers to see.

"Oh, isn't she cute?" cried Rose, "I wish we could keep her!"

"I'm glad you like her," said the baby's mother, "but I want to keep her for myself."

Once more it was daylight, and as the train rumbled on toward Lake Sagatook, the Bunkers looked from the windows, or looked again at the picture books their father had bought for them.

"When shall we be there?" asked Russ, for perhaps the tenth time. He was getting a bit tired of train travel.

"We'll get in at the station about noon," his father told him, "but we have to drive about five miles in a wagon or an auto to get to Grandma Bell's place. That is on the shore of Lake Sagatook."

"And I hope none of you fall in," said Mrs. Bunker.

"We'll get a boat," said Russ.

"And I hope it won't sink," added Vi, remembering her last boat ride.

"Oh, say! I've thought of a new riddle!" shouted Laddie. "Why don't the tickets get mad when the conductor punches 'em? Why don't they?"

"I don't know--I give up," said Daddy Bunker. "What's the answer?"

"Oh, I haven't thought of a good answer yet," said Laddie with a laugh. "I just thought of the riddle!"

And he sat by the window, murmuring over and over to himself:

"Why don't the tickets get mad when the conductor punches 'em?"

On and on rumbled the train. They were getting near the end of the trip, and the children were counting the time before they would get to the station where they could start to drive to Lake Sagatook and Grandma Bell's house, when the conductor came through the coach and told Mr. Bunker that if he changed cars, and took another train at a junction station, he could save all of an hour.

"We'll do that," decided the children's father. "We'll change at Clearwell, and get on a train there that will take us to Sagatook earlier." The name of the station where they were to start to drive to grandma's was Sagatook. The lake was five miles back in the woods.

They were soon near the junction, where two railroad lines came together, and there the Bunkers were to change. They gathered up their belongings and stood ready to get off the car in which they had been nearly a whole day.

Clearwell was quite a large place, and the station, where the two different railroad trains came in, was a big one. There was quite a crowd getting off the train on which the Bunkers had ridden, and more of a crowd on the platform.

"Follow me!" called Daddy Bunker to his wife and children. "And don't lose any of your bundles."

He was carrying Mun Bun, while Mrs. Bunker had Margy in her arms. Russ, Rose, Laddie and Vi came along behind.

Laddie stopped for a moment to look at some pictures on the magazine covers at the news stand, and then, as he gave a quick glance, and saw the others crossing the platform, and leaving him, he ran on to catch up to them.

He saw a man's hand dangling among others in the crowd, and in another instant, Laddie had grasped it. He thought it was his father's, and he called, above the noise of the crowd:

"Why don't the tickets get mad when the conductor punches 'em?"

"Eh? What's that? Tickets? A conductor? I'm not the conductor!" a voice exclaimed. "Who's this grabbing my hand?"

Laddie looked up.

He had hold of the wrong daddy!