Chapter IV. Fourth of July
 

Daddy Bunker looked at his little boy and girl. And, on their part, Russ and Rose looked at daddy. They were thinking of two things--the letter from Grandma Bell and Mr. Bunker's real estate papers that the tramp lumberman had carried off in the old coat. Russ and Rose didn't know much about real estate--except that it meant houses and barns and fields and city lots. And they didn't know much about valuable real estate papers, but they did know their father was worried about something, and this made them feel sad.

"Has grandma got your papers?" asked Russ again.

"Oh, no, little Whistler," answered Mr. Bunker with a laugh. "She doesn't even know I have lost them."

"But what's the letter about?" asked Rose.

"It's a letter from Grandma Bell inviting us all up to her home at Lake Sagatook, in Maine, to spend part of the summer," answered Mr. Bunker. "Grandma Bell wants us to come up to Maine, and have a good time."

"Oh, can we go?" cried Russ, and, for the moment, he forgot all about his father's lost papers.

"Oh, won't it be fun!" cried Rose. "I love Grandma Bell!"

"Yes, I guess every one who knows her does," said Mr. Bunker, for he was as fond of his wife's mother as he was of his own, who was the children's Grandma Ford.

"When can we go?" asked Russ.

"Oh, it's too soon to settle that part," answered his father. "We'll have to take this letter home and talk it over with mother. Then I must see if I can't get the police to find this red-haired tramp lumberman who is carrying those valuable papers around in my old coat. It's queer I never thought that I put them in the pocket. Very queer!"

"Maybe the tramp will bring them back," said Rose after a bit. "Lots of times, when people find things, they bring them back."

"Yes, that's so, he might do it, if he is honest," said Mr. Bunker. "But perhaps he isn't, and maybe he has not yet looked in the pockets of the coat. But I'll just telephone to the police, and see if any of them have seen the tramp that came to my office."

There were not many policemen in Pineville, and most of them knew Mr. Bunker. He telephoned from his office to the chief, or head policeman, and asked him to be on the watch for a red-haired tramp lumberman wearing an old coat.

"Get me back the papers. I don't care about the coat--he may have that," said Mr. Bunker.

The chief promised that he and his men would do what they could, and some of the policemen at once began looking about Pineville for the tramp.

"But I guess maybe he has traveled on from here," said Mr. Bunker, as he came away from the telephone. "I'm afraid I'll never see my valuable papers again."

"Will you be so poor we can't go to Grandma Bell's?" asked Russ. That would be very dreadful, he thought.

"Oh, no, I won't be as poor as that," answered Daddy Bunker with a smile. "We'll go to see Grandma Bell all right. But I would like to get those papers."

He told the clerks in his office and some friends of his about his loss, and they promised to be on the lookout for the tramp. Then Daddy Bunker took Rose and Russ back home with him, along Main Street, in Pineville.

"Did you find them?" asked Mrs. Bunker anxiously, as she saw her husband coming up the walk toward the house. "Did you get your papers?"

"No," he answered. "I forgot that I had given the old coat to a tramp, and the papers were in one of the pockets," and he told his wife what had happened at the real estate office.

"And we got a letter from Grandma Bell!" exclaimed Rose as soon as she had a chance to speak.

"And we're going to see her--up to Lake Sagatook, in Maine," added Russ.

"No? Really?" cried Mrs. Bunker in delight. "Did you get a letter from mother?" she asked her husband.

"Yes, it came to me at the office," he answered, giving it to his wife.

"Do you think we can go?" she asked, when she had read the letter.

"Why, yes, I guess so," slowly answered Mr. Bunker. "It will do you good and the children good, too. We'll go to Grandma Bell's!"

"Oh, goody!" cried Russ, and he began to whistle a merry tune. Rose started to sing a little song, and then she said:

"Oh, but I must go in and help set the table!" for she often did that, as Norah had so much else to do at meal-time.

"All right, Little Helper!" said Mother Bunker with a smile. "We can talk about the trip to grandma's when we are eating supper."

Some of the other children heard the good news--the loss of the real estate papers did not bother them, for they were too little to worry; but they loved to hear about Grandma Bell.

"And I'm going to take some fire-to'pedos!" exclaimed Laddie. "I'm going to shoot 'em off for Fourth of July at grandma's."

Daddy Bunker shook his head.

"I think we'd better have our Fourth of July at home here, before we go," he said. "That will be next week, and we can go to Maine soon afterward. Grandma Bell doesn't like fire-crackers, anyhow. We'll shoot them off before we go."

"Goody!" cried Laddie again. Anything suited him as long as he could have fun. "We'll shoot sky-rockets, too. What makes 'em be called sky-rockets?" he asked, "Do they go up to the sky?"

"You go and ask Jerry Simms about that," suggested Mr. Bunker. "Jerry can tell you how they shot signaling rockets in the army. Trot along!"

Laddie was glad to do this. He liked to hear Jerry talk.

"Maybe he'll tell me a riddle about sky-rockets," said the little fellow.

Russ sat down on the porch and began whittling some bits of wood with his knife.

"What are you making now, Russ?" asked his father, while Mrs. Bunker went in to see that Rose was setting the table right, and that Norah had started to get the meal.

"I'm making a wooden cannon to shoot fire-crackers," the boy answered. "You can put a fire-cracker in it and light it, and then it can't hurt anybody."

"That's a good idea," said Mr. Bunker, "You can't be too careful about Fourth of July things. I'll be at home with you and the other children on that day, to see that you don't get hurt."

"Are you sure Grandma Bell wouldn't like to have us bring some shooting things down to her?" asked Russ.

"Oh, yes, I am very sure," answered his father with a laugh. "Grandma Bell doesn't like much noise. We'll have our Fourth before we go."

"That'll be fun!" said Russ, and he went on whittling at his cannon. His father did not really believe the little boy could make one, but Russ was always doing something; either whistling or making some toy.

At supper they talked about the fun they would have at Grandma Bell's. It was quite a long trip in the train, and they would be all night in the cars.

"And that'll be fun!" cried Russ. "We can all of us sleep when the train is going along."

"Can we, Daddy?" asked Laddie. "Really?"

"Oh, yes, they have sleeping-cars," said Mr. Bunker.

"Do the cars sleep?" asked Laddie, his eyes opening wide in surprise. "Oh, that's funny--a sleeping-car. And--and----Say! maybe I can think up a riddle about a sleeping-car," he added.

"You'd better think about drinking your milk, and getting good and fat, with rosy cheeks, so Grandma Bell will like to kiss them," said Mother Bunker with a laugh. "Don't think so much about riddles or sleeping-cars."

"Maybe I can think of a riddle with a sleeping-car in it and some milk, too," said Laddie.

"Perhaps you can!" laughed Daddy Bunker. "A cow in a sleeping-car would do for that."

After the children had gone to bed--each one eager to dream about Grandma Bell--Mr. and Mrs. Bunker sat up and talked about what was to be done.

"It's too bad about those papers the tramp took in the old coat," said Mrs. Bunker.

"Yes, I am sorry to lose them," said her husband. "But perhaps the tramp may be found, and I may get them back."

Russ, Rose, and all the rest of the six little Bunkers got up early next morning.

"Is It Fourth of July yet?" asked Munroe.

"No, not yet, Mun Bun," answered Rose with a laugh. "But it soon will be--in a few days."

"I'm going to finish my cannon," said Russ.

"Come on!" called Laddie to his twin sister Vi. "Let's go down and dig a hole in the sand pile."

"What for?" she asked. Violet hardly ever did anything without first asking a question about it.

"Huh?"

"What for we dig a hole?"

"To put fire-crackers in," answered Laddie. "And when they shoot off--'Bang!'--they'll make the sand go up in the air."

"Like a sky-rocket?" asked Vi.

"Yes, I guess maybe like a sky-rocket," answered Laddie.

So down to the sand pile he and his sister went. Mun Bun and Margy played in the grass in the side yard, Russ whittled away at his wooden cannon, whistling the while, and Rose, after she had done a little dusting, made a new dress for her doll.

"'Cause I want her to look nice for Grandma Bell," said the little girl.

And thus they played at these and other things, and had a good time.

A few mornings after this Russ was suddenly awakened by hearing a loud noise under his window.

"What's that?" he cried. "Thunder?"

"It's Fourth of July!" answered his father. "Some boy must have shot off a big early fire-cracker! Get up, children! It's Fourth of July, and we are going to have some fun! Get up!"

"Hurray!" cried Russ. "Hurray for the Fourth of July!"