Six Little Bunkers at Grandma Bell's by Laura Lee Hope
Chapter V. The Tramp
Such fun as the six little Bunkers had! Daddy Bunker was up before any of them, to see that little fingers were not burned by pieces of punk or stray ends of fire-crackers, and before breakfast Russ and Laddie had made enough noise, their mother said, to last all day.
"It's a good thing we decided not to go to Grandma Bell's until after the Fourth;" she said. "Dear mother never could have stood this racket."
"We like it," said Russ.
He and Laddie did, and Mun Bun did not mind it very much, though he did shut his eyes and jump when a big cracker went off.
Rose, Margy and Vi didn't like the fire-crackers at all, though they didn't mind tossing torpedoes down on the sidewalk, to hear them go off with a little bang.
Mrs. Bunker was afraid some of the children might get burned or hurt with the fireworks, and she wished they hadn't had any; but Daddy Bunker promised to stay with the little folk all day, and see that they got into no danger. And he did, firing off the big fire-crackers himself.
The wooden cannon Russ made didn't work very well. The first fire-cracker that was shot off in it burst the wooden affair all to pieces.
"But I don't care," said Russ with a jolly whistle. "It made one awfully good noise, anyhow."
"To-night we'll go down to the Square and see the big fireworks," said Daddy Bunker, for the town of Pineville was old-fashioned enough to have a Fourth-of-July celebration.
"And you said we could have ice cream and cake this afternoon," said Rose to her mother.
"Yes, I did," agreed Mrs. Bunker. "Norah is freezing the cream now, and she made the cake yesterday."
"Oh, goody!" cried Laddie, clapping his hands. "Ice cream and cake. Is it chocolate cake, Mother?" he asked.
"I don't know--you'll have to ask Norah," was the answer.
"Come on, let's!" said Rose, and they ran around to the kitchen door, looking in where the good-natured cook was busy with pots and pans.
"Chocolate cake is it? Sure it's both kinds," Norah answered with a laugh. "It's regular thunder-and-lightning cake--you wait an' see!"
"Thunder-and-lightning cake! Oh, what kind is that?" asked Rose.
"Maybe it's a riddle," suggested Laddie.
"Oh, you're always thinking about riddles!" exclaimed Russ. "Come on, let's go out to the barn and have some fun in the hay," for Mr. Bunker kept a horse for driving customers about to look at real estate.
"What kind of fun can we have?" asked Vi.
"Come on, and you'll see," returned Russ.
By this time most of their fireworks had been shot off, though Daddy Bunker had insisted that they save a few for afternoon. And, making sure that the children did not have smoldering pieces of punk, which might set the barn on fire, Mrs. Bunker watched the six little tots run out there to have fun.
"Have you heard anything about the papers the tramp carried away in your old coat?" she asked her husband, who did not go to the office that day.
"No, the police couldn't find the man," answered Mr. Bunker. "I guess my papers are gone for good. But I mustn't worry about them; nor must you. I want you and the children to have a good time at Grandma Bell's."
"Oh, we always have good times there," said his wife. "I'll be glad to go. It is lovely in Maine at this time of year."
Out in the barn the children could be heard laughing and shouting.
"I hope they don't try to make any more steamboats out of old barrels, and get caught in the ruins," said Mrs. Bunker with a laugh, as she thought of the funny accident that had happened in the playroom.
"Oh, I guess they'll be all right," said Mr. Bunker. "It's quiet now, so I'll lie down and have a nap, to get ready to take them to the fireworks to-night."
The six little Bunkers had played some games in the barn--sliding down the hay, pretending an old wagon was a stage coach and that the Indians captured it--games like that--when they heard Norah calling loudly to them.
"What's she saying?" asked Laddie, who had found a hen's nest in the hay and was wondering whether he had better take in the eggs or let them stay to be hatched into little chickens. "What's Norah want, Russ? Have we got to come in?"
"She says come and get the thunder-and-lightning cake," said Russ, who was listening at the barn door.
"And ice cream! She said ice cream, too!" added Vi. "I heard her!"
"Yes, I guess she did say ice cream," admitted Russ. "Come on!" and he set out on a run toward the house.
"Wait for me! Wait for me!" begged Mun Bun, whose short legs could not go as fast as could those of Russ.
"I'll wait for you, Mun," said Rose kindly, and she turned back and took the little fellow's hand.
"Maybe all the cream'll melt if we don't run," said Mun, as he toddled along beside Rose.
"Oh, no, I guess not. Norah will save some for us," said the little girl, humming a song.
And Rose was right. Norah made all the children sit down on the side porch, and she waited until Mun and Rose--the last to arrive--reached the place, before she dished out the cream. Daddy and Mother Bunker were there, too, with their dishes, and so was Jerry Simms.
"This is better than bein' in the army," said the old soldier.
"Didn't you ever have ice cream there?" asked Russ.
"Oh, once in a while. But it wasn't at all the kind Norah can make. Sure she's a wonder at ice cream!"
"And we're going to have thunder-and-lightning cake, too!" added Rose.
"Well, I don't know what kind that is, but it sounds good on a Fourth of July," said Jerry with a laugh. "I hope it doesn't explode when I eat it, though, like a ham sandwich did once."
"Did a ham sandwich explode?" asked Russ, who always liked to hear the old soldier tell army stories.
"Well, sort of," answered Jerry. "It was over in the Philippines. I was eating my sandwich, and some of the soldiers were firing at the enemy, and the enemy was firing at us. And a shell came pretty close to where I was sitting. It went off with a bang, and a piece of the shell hit the sandwich I was just going to bite."
"It's a mercy the shell didn't hit you," said Mrs. Bunker.
"Part of it did--my hand that held the meat and bread," explained Jerry. "But it's good I wasn't biting the sandwich at the time, or I might have lost my head. However, here comes the thunder-and-lightning cake. Now we can see what it is."
Norah came out of the kitchen with two heaping plates, and, at the sight of them, the six little Bunkers said:
"Oh! Ah! Oh!"
There were six "Ohs" and six "Ahs!" as you can imagine; one for each boy and girl.
"Is this thunder-and-lightning cake?" asked Russ.
"That's what it is," answered Norah. "It's the first time I've made it in a long while. I hope you'll like it."
"Sure they can't help it if you made it!" chuckled Jerry, who was exceedingly fond of Norah.
"Go 'long with you!" she told him, laughing.
"It does look just like thunder, it's so dark!" said Russ, biting into a slice of the cake.
"And where's the lightning?" asked Rose.
"That's the pink part," answered the cook. "You see I take some chocolate-cake dough, and mix it up with white-cake dough, and then I put in some dough that I've colored pink, and mix that through in lines and streaks, and that's the lightning," explained Norah.
And when the cake had been baked in this way, and cut, each slice showed a white part, a dark brown part and a pink, jagged streak here and there, as lightning is sometimes seen to streak through the dark clouds.
"Oh, it's awful good!" cried Laddie, as he took a second slice to eat with the home-made ice cream.
"Will it make a noise like a fire-cracker?" asked Vi, who always had some sort of question ready.
"It won't make a noise unless you drop it, darlin'," said Jerry with a laugh. "Then it'll go 'thump!'"
"Don't you dare talk that way about my cake!" said Norah. "The idea of sayin' it would make a noise if it fell."
"I was only joking" rejoined the former soldier. "The cake is so light, Norah, that I'll have to tie strings to it to keep it from goin' up to the sky like a balloon!"
"Go 'long with you!" laughed Norah, but she seemed pleased all the same.
"We're going to see balloons to-night at the fireworks," remarked Rose. "Did you ever see any, Jerry?"
"Yes, we had 'em in the army."
"Did you ever go up in one?" asked Russ eagerly.
"Once," said the former soldier.
"Oh, tell us about it!" begged Laddie, and Jerry did, while the six little Bunkers sat about him, finishing the last of their cream and cake.
Then Jerry had to go to get some gasolene for the automobile, as Mr. Bunker kept a machine, as well as a horse and carriage, and the children were left to themselves. They were thinking about the fireworks they were to see in the evening, and talking about the fun they would have at Grandma Bell's, when Russ, who got up to go down on the grass and turn a somersault, suddenly stopped and looked at a man coming up the side path.
The man was a very ragged one, and he shuffled along in shoes that seemed about to drop off his feet. He had on a battered hat, and was not at all nice-looking.
"Oh, look!" whispered Rose, who saw the ragged man almost as soon as Russ did.
"I see him!" Russ answered. "That's a tramp! I guess it's the one daddy gave his coat to with the papers in. Maybe he's come to give 'em back. Oh, wouldn't that be good!"