Chapter II. Daddy Bunker's Worry
 

"Dear me! What's that? What happened?" called Mother Bunker from the sitting-room downstairs. "Is any one hurt, children? What did you do?" she asked, as she stood, with some sewing in her hands, at the foot of the stairs, listening for some other noise to follow the crash. She expected to hear crying.

"Is any one hurt?" she asked again. She was somewhat used to noises. One could not live in the house with the six little Bunkers and not hear noises.

"No'm, I guess nobody's hurt," answered Russ, as he climbed out from the wreck of the barrel. "Get up," he added to his brother Laddie.

"I can't," answered Laddie. "My leg's all twisted up in the soap-box." And so it was. A box had been put on one of the chairs, and Mun Bun and Margy had been sitting on that. This box had fallen on Laddie's leg, which was twisted up inside it.

"But what happened?" asked Mother Bunker again. "You really mustn't make so much noise when you play."

"We couldn't help it, Mother," said Rose, who, being the oldest girl, was quite a help around the house, though she was only seven years old. "The steamboat turned over and broke all up, Mother," she went on.

"The steamboat?" repeated Mrs. Bunker.

"I made one out of the flour-barrel you let me take," explained Russ. "But Laddie rocked inside it, and it all fell apart, and then the chairs fell on top of us and Mun and Vi and Margy all fell out and--"

"Oh, my dears! Some of you may be hurt!" cried Mrs. Bunker, as she heard a little sob from Mun Bun. "I must come up and see what it is all about," and, dropping her sewing, up the stairs she hurried.

There were six little Bunkers, as you have probably counted by this time. Six little Bunkers, and they were such a jolly bunch of tots and had such good times, even if a make-believe steamboat did upset now and then, that I'm sure you'll like to hear about them.

To begin with, there was Russ Bunker. Russell was his real name, but he was always called Russ. He was eight years old, and was very fond of "making things."

Next came Rose Bunker. She was only seven years old, but she could do some sweeping and lots of dusting, and was quite a little mother's helper. Rose had light hair and eyes, while Russ was just the opposite, being dark.

Violet, or Vi, aged six, was a curly-haired girl, with gray eyes, and, as I have told you, she could ask more questions than her father and mother could answer.

Then there was Laddie, or Fillmore, a twin of Vi's, and, naturally, of the same age. Just how he happened to be so fond of asking riddles no one knew. Perhaps he caught it from Jerry Simms, who had served ten years in the army, and who never tired of telling about it. Jerry was a not-to-be-mistaken Yankee who worked around the Bunker house--ran the automobile, took out the furnace ashes and, when he wasn't doing something like that, sitting in the kitchen talking to Norah O'Grady, the jolly, good-natured Irish cook, who had been in the Bunker family longer than even Russ could remember.

Jerry was a great one for riddles, too, only he asked such hard ones--such as why does the ginger snap, and what makes the board walk?--that none of the children could answer them.

But I haven't finished telling about the children. After Laddie and Violet came Margy, aged five, and then Mun Bun, the youngest and smallest of the six little Bunkers.

Of course there was Daddy Bunker, whose name was Charles, and who had a real estate office on the main street of Pineville. In his office, Mr. Bunker bought and sold houses for his customers, and also sold lumber, bricks and other things of which houses were built. He was an agent for big firms.

Mother Bunker's name was Amy, and sometimes her husband called her "Amy Bell," for her last name had been Bell before she was married.

The six little Bunkers lived in the city of Pineville, which was on the shore of the Rainbow River in Pennsylvania. The river was called Rainbow because, just before it got to Pineville, it bent, or curved, like a bow. And, of course, being wet, like rain, the best name in the world for such a river was "Rainbow." It was a very beautiful stream.

The Bunker house, a large white one with green shutters, stood back from the main street, and was not quite a mile away from Mr. Bunker's real estate office, so it was not too far even for Mun Bun to walk there with his older sister or brother.

The six little Bunkers had many friends and relatives, and perhaps I had better tell you the names of some of these last, so you will know them as we come to them in the stories.

Mr. Bunker's father had died when he was six years old, and his mother, Mrs. Mary Bunker, had married a man named Ford. She and "Grandpa Ford" lived just outside the City of Tarrington, New York. "Great Hedge Estate" was the name of Grandpa Ford's place, so called because at one side of the house was a great, tall hedge, that had been growing for many years.

Grandma Bell was Mrs. Bunker's mother, and lived at Lake Sagatook, Maine. She was a widow, Grandpa Bell having died some years ago. Margy, or Margaret, had been named for Grandma Bell.

Then there was Aunt Josephine Bunker, or Aunt Jo, Mr. Bunker's sister. She had never married, and now lived in a fine house in the Back Bay section of Boston. Uncle Frederick Bell, who was Mother Bunker's brother, lived with his wife, on Three Star Ranch, just outside Moon City in Montana.

And now, when I have mentioned Cousin Tom Bunker, who had recently been married, and who lived with his wife Ruth at Seaview, on the New Jersey coast, I believe you have met the most important of the relatives of the six little Bunkers. You see they had a grandfather, and two grandmothers, some aunts, an uncle and a cousin. Well supplied with nice relatives, were the six little Bunkers, and thus they had many places to visit.

But I'll tell you about that part later on. Just now we must see what happened after the steamboat broke to pieces because Laddie jiggled himself inside the barrel, when Russ was sitting on the outside of it.

"Are you sure none of you is hurt? You look so!" cried Mother Bunker, as she saw the confused mass of children, barrel staves, box, footstool and chairs in the middle of the playroom floor.

"I'm all right," said Laddie, as he pulled his leg out from where it was doubled up in the box, and stood up straight.

"So'm I," added Russ. "Did I fall on you, Laddie?"

"Yep--but it didn't hurt me much."

"My dear Mun Bun!" said his mother, pulling the little boy out from under a chair. "Are you hurt?"

Munroe Bunker was going to cry, but when he saw that Margy had no tears in her eyes, he made up his mind that he could be as brave as his little sister. So he squeezed back his tears and said:

"I just got a bounce on my head."

"Well, as long as it wasn't a bump you're lucky," said Russ with a laugh.

Vi pulled her doll out from under the pile of barrel staves. The doll's bathing-dress was torn, but Rose said that didn't matter because it was an old one anyhow.

"What made it break?" asked Vi as she did this. "Did somebody hit your steamboat, Russ? Or did it just sink?"

"I guess it sank all right," Russ answered, laughing.

"Well, what made it?" went on Vi.

"Oh, my dear! Don't ask so many questions," begged Mrs. Bunker.

"I got a new riddle," announced Laddie, as he rubbed his leg where it had been a little scratched on a box. "It's a riddle about a wheelbarrow and----"

"You told us that!" interrupted Russ.

"Well, then I can make up another," Laddie went on. He was always ready to do that. "This one is going to be about a barrel. When does a barrel feel hungry?"

"Pooh! There can't be any answer to that!" declared Russ. "A barrel can't ever be hungry."

"Yes it can, too!" cried Laddie. "When a barrel takes a roll, isn't it hungry? A roll is what you eat," he explained, "I didn't think that riddle up," he added, for Laddie was quite honest. "Jerry Simms told me. When is a barrel hungry? When it takes a roll before breakfast--that's the whole answer."

"That's a very good riddle," said Mrs. Bunker with a smile. "But I haven't yet heard what happened."

"Didn't you hear the noise?" asked Rose with a laugh. "It made a terrible bang."

"Oh, yes, I heard that," answered Mrs. Bunker. "But what caused it?" she asked anxiously.

Five little Bunkers looked at Russ, as the one best fitted to tell about the upset.

"We had a make-believe steamboat," explained the oldest boy. "Laddie was inside the flour barrel you let me take. He was the fireman. I sat outside the barrel to steer. But Laddie jiggled and wiggled and joggled inside the barrel and----"

"I had to, Mother, 'cause I was making believe the steamer was on the rough ocean where the water is ten miles deep," interrupted Laddie. "So I rolled the barrel and joggled it and----"

"And then it fell in!" added Rose. "I saw it."

"I felt it," remarked Russ, rubbing his back. "But it didn't hurt me much," he added.

"I guess the barrel was so old and dry that it couldn't hold together when you two boys got to playing with it," said Mrs. Bunker. "Well, I'm glad it was no worse. At first it sounded as though the house was coming down. You had better play some other game now."

"Oh, the rain has stopped!" cried Rose, looking out of a window. "We can play out in the yard now."

"Yes, I believe you can," said her mother. "But you must put on your rubbers, for the ground is damp. Run out and play!"

With shouts of glee and laughter the six little Bunkers started to go outdoors. It was a warm day, late in June, and even the rain had not made it too cool for them to be out.

As the six children trooped out on the side porch they saw their father coming up the walk.

"Why, it isn't supper time, and daddy's coming home!" exclaimed Rose.

"What do you s'pose he wants?" asked Russ.

"Maybe he heard the barrel break and came up to see about it," suggested Laddie.

"He couldn't hear the barrel break away down to his office," said Russ.

Just then Mrs. Bunker, from within the house, saw her husband approaching. She went out on the porch to meet him.

"Why, Charlie!" she exclaimed, "has anything happened? What is the matter? You look worried!"

"I am worried," said Mr. Bunker. "I've had quite a loss! It's some valuable real estate papers. They are gone from my office, and I came to see if they were on my desk in the house. Hello, children!" he called to the six little Bunkers. But even Mun Bun seemed to know that something was wrong. Daddy Bunker's voice was not at all jolly.

His loss was worrying him, his wife well knew.