Chapter XII. Russ Couldn't Stop
 

"Mercy me!" cried Grandma Bell as she heard the strange voice. "What is that?"

As if in answer the call came again:

"Take me out! Don't leave me here! I want to go! Take me! Oh, my eye, give me some pie!"

"It's in the automobile!" said Daddy Bunker.

"But who can it be?" asked his wife.

"You must have forgotten and left one of the children under a robe, though goodness knows it's hot enough without any covering to-day," said Grandma Bell. "Are all the children here?"

Once more she counted them, naming each one in turn: Russ, Rose, Vi, Laddie, Margy and Mun Bun--six little Bunkers.

"All here--every one," said Grandma Bell. "Unless you bought a little baby on the way up."

"Oh, I almost had one!" exclaimed Rose. "I laid my doll down in a seat, and when I picked her up she was alive, but it was a lady's baby and----"

Once more the voice called from the auto:

"Take me out! Don't leave me here! Oh my eye, give me some pie!"

"There is a child in there!" said Grandma Bell "Who is it?" she asked of Mr. Mead, who had been taking some of the Bunkers' baggage into the house, and who came out just then.

"Who is what?" asked the man who had so kindly given the children a ride over from the station.

"What child is hidden in that auto?" asked Grandma Bell. "It isn't one of the six little Bunkers, for they're all here. But there is some child in that auto."

"Why no, there isn't," said Mr. Mead. "There's nobody in my machine but----"

"Let me out! Oh, let me out!" cried the voice again.

"There!" exclaimed Grandma Bell.

A queer look came over Mr. Mead's face. Then he laughed. Once more the voice sounded.

"Let me out! Let me out!"

"Who is it?" asked Grandma Bell.

"Why that's Bill Hixon's parrot!" said the owner of the big auto. "I've got him in a cage in the back of my car. He's doing that yelling. I forgot all about him!"

"Are you sure it's a parrot and not a child in there?" asked Grandma Bell.

"Oh, sure!" answered Mr. Mead. "There he goes again. Listen!"

Again came the cry:

"Let me out! Let me out! Take me with you! Oh my eye, give me some pie!"

And this time it could be told that the voice was that of a parrot, though, at first, it had sounded like a little child crying.

"Now you keep still there, Polly," said Mr. Mead.

"Polly wants a cracker! Give Polly a cracker!" shrieked the parrot.

"I'll give you a fire-cracker if you don't keep still," said Mr. Mead with a laugh.

"Well, I do declare!" said Grandma Bell. "How did Bill Hixon's parrot get in your auto, Mr. Mead?"

"Oh, Bill's sending him over to his mother's to keep for him while he's off in the woods lumbering," said Mr. Mead. "He knew I was coming up this way, Bill Hixon did, so he asked me to bring his parrot along. I put the bird in his cage under the back-seat of the auto, and I forgot all about him, or her, whichever it is. I guess Polly has been asleep all the while until just now."

"Oh, let us see the parrot!" begged Rose. "I love to hear them talk," and she tucked her doll under her arm and walked toward the auto.

"Be careful, he might bite!" said Mother Bunker.

"Oh, he's in a cage--he or she--whichever it is," said Mr. Mead. "Bill said the parrot was a good one, and likes children. I guess it won't hurt any to let the tots see the bird."

Mr. Mead opened a sort of little cupboard under the back seat of his auto, and brought out a parrot's cage. In it was a green bird, which, as soon as it came out into the sunlight, began preening its feathers and moving about, climbing up on the wires, partly by its claw feet and partly by its strong beak.

"Polly wants a cracker! A sweet cracker!" squawked the parrot. "Lovely day! How are you? Here, Rover, sic the cats!" and the parrot whistled as well as Russ himself could have done.

"Oh, what a nice parrot!"

"Could we keep him?"

"Doesn't he talk plain?"

"Listen to that whistle!"

"Oh, isn't she nice!"

These were some of the things the six little Bunkers said as they listened to Bill Hixon's parrot, as it moved about in the cage on the back seat of Mr. Mead's auto.

"Couldn't we keep it, Mother?" asked Rose. "I'd like it almost as much as my doll!"

"Oh, mercy no, child! We couldn't keep Mr. Hixon's parrot!" said Mrs. Bunker.

"Have you one, Grandma Bell?" asked Russ.

"No, I'm thankful to say I haven't," said Mrs. Bell with a laugh. "I like children, and I love to hear them talk and laugh; but I don't like parrots. I have a dog and a cat; so I think we'll let Mr. Hixon have his own parrot."

"I don't care for 'em myself," said Mr. Mead. "Well, I'll be getting along with this one now. I guess I've got out all your baggage."

"Yes, and thank you very much," said Mr. Bunker.

"Come on! Gid-dap! Go 'long, horses!" cried the parrot. "Give me a cracker! Go long, horses!"

"He thinks you're driving horses," said Russ.

"I don't know what he thinks," said Mr. Mead. "He talks a lot, that's sure. I won't be lonesome for the rest of the way. I'll let the parrot ride outside with me, I guess. He'll be sort of company for me."

"Pretty Poll! Give me a cracker! Let me out and give me a cracker!" cried the green bird.

"Here's one!" said Laddie, holding out a bit of cracker which he had left from a package his mother had bought for him on the train.

"Look out! He might bite you!" said Laddie's father.

"Bill said his bird was gentle, but, still, maybe the little boy had better be careful," said Mr. Mead. "Here, I guess I had better feed him."

He held out the bit of cracker to Polly, who took it in one black claw, and then began to bite off pieces, saying, meanwhile:

"That's the way to do it! That's the way I do it!"

"Oh, he's awful cute!" said Rose. "I wish we had one!"

"But if grandma's got a dog and a cat, maybe the parrot wouldn't like 'em," put in Russ.

"Have you a dog and a cat, grandma?" asked Rose, as Mr. Mead drove off in his auto with the parrot.

"Yes, I have, my dear."

"Oh, where are they?"

"Zip, my dog, is out in the barn, I imagine. He generally goes out there when Tom is working around."

"Who's Tom?" asked Laddie. "Is he the cat?"

"No, Tom is the hired man. Thomas Hardy is his name."

"And where's the cat?" asked Vi, looking around the front yard, as if she might see the pussy under some flower bush.

"Oh, Muffin is in the house, I presume," said Grandma Bell. "And that's where we'd better go. I guess you're all hungry after your trip, aren't you? My, but I'm glad to see you--every one!" and she smiled at the six little Bunkers through her glasses.

"And I guess they're glad, to be here--I know we are," said Mrs. Bunker. "They've talked of nothing but Grandma Bell's ever since we got your letter inviting us to come here."

"Well, I hope they'll like it," said the dear old lady.

"We like it already," said Russ. "Please, may I go out and see the dog?"

"I want to go, too," put in Laddie.

"And I want to see the cat," added Rose, "Is her name Muffin?"

"That's her name," said Grandma Bell. "And I call my dog Zip because he runs around so much. But you'd better rest a bit first, and eat. Then you can go out and see things."

"I want to see the lake!" exclaimed Laddie. "Can we sail boats on it?"

"Now, first of all," said Mr. Bunker, and he spoke seriously, "I don't want any of you children to go near that lake unless some of us older folk are with you. Mind! Don't go too close unless we are with you, or until you have been here a little while and know your way about. You must be careful of the water."

The children promised they would; and then, when Grandma Bell's hired girl had set out a lunch, and it had been eaten, and the children had put on old clothes, out they ran--all six of them--to have fun.

"Will they be all right?" asked Mother Bunker.

"Oh, yes. They can't come to any harm if they keep away from the lake, and that isn't deep near the shore. Don't worry about them. Let them have a good time."

And this the children seemed bent on having. They raced around, shouting and laughing. A big maltese cat came out on the porch to see what all the noise was about, and did not run away, even when all six of the little Bunkers charged down on her at once.

"Oh, isn't she just too lovely!" cried Rose, as she caught the cat up in her arms. "She's almost as big as my doll!"

Muffin seemed to like children, and did not mind being petted. Rose, Vi and Margy as well as Mun Bun, stroked the soft fur, but Russ and Laddie soon tired of this.

"Come on, let's go out to the barn and find the dog," said Russ to his brother.

"That's what we will!" said Laddie, and away they went, Russ whistling a merry tune.

Grandma Bell's house was built on the edge of a patch of woods, with fields at the back and the lake to one side. There were some farms in that part of Maine, and about five miles from grandma's home was the village of Sagatook. It was a smaller place than Pineville.

The barn was back of the house. Once the place had been a big farm, but when Grandpa Bell died his widow sold off most of the land to other farmers, keeping the house, barn, a field or two and a patch of woods for her home. It was a lovely place, just the nicest spot in the whole world for the six little Bunkers.

"I hear a dog barking," said Laddie, as he and Russ drew near the barn.

"So do I," said Russ. "I guess that's Zip."

They went on a little farther, and saw a man standing in the barn door with a dog beside him. The dog barked, but wagged his tail, to show that he was friendly.

Russ and Laddie came to a halt, but the man waved his hand to them and asked:

"Are you some of the six little Bunkers?"

"Yes, we're two of 'em," answered Russ.

"Well, that leaves four. They're in the house, I suppose. Mrs. Bell told me you were coming to-day."

"Are you the hired man?" asked Laddie. "And is that Zip?"

"That's who I am, and that's who he is. Come and meet Zip. He's a fine dog and loves boys and girls."

Zip soon made friends with Laddie and Russ, and the boys, who felt sure they would like Tom Hardy, the hired man, ran about the barn, seeing all sorts of chances in it to have good times.

"Oh, I know we'll like it here!" said Russ.

"'Course we will," agreed Laddie.

Zip followed the boys about the barn as they poked into all the nooks and corners. Tom, as every one called the hired man, was busy about his work and paid little attention to Laddie and Russ.

It was about half an hour after the boys had gone out to the barn, and Mrs. Bunker was wondering if they were all right, when Laddie came running to Grandma Bell's house, very much excited and out of breath, crying:

"Oh, come quick! Come quick!"

"Mercy me! what's the matter now?" asked Mrs. Bunker.

"Russ can't stop! Russ is going and he can't stop!" panted Laddie.