Chapter VIII. "Where is Margy?"
 

Led by Russ, Mrs. Bunker and Norah hurried down to the brook that ran through the green meadow. It was just like the time they ran when Rose called them about Mun's balloon.

"Did you see anything happen, Russ?" asked his mother.

"No'm, I didn't," he answered. "I was making a box to take some of my things to Grandma Bell's, and I heard Vi yell and Laddie asking a riddle."

"Asking a riddle?"

"Well, it sounded like a riddle," Russ answered. "He kept saying: 'What made the boat sink? Oh, Vi, what made the boat sink?'"

"I hope it was only a riddle, and that nothing has happened," said Mrs. Bunker.

"Maybe it'll be no worse than Mun and his balloon," said Norah. "Anyhow, I can see the two children!" and she pointed across the green meadow to the brook. "They seem to be all right."

There, on the grassy bank, was Laddie jumping up and down, and pointing to something in the water. And the something was Vi though she appeared to be out in the middle of the brook, in a part where it was deep enough to come over the knees of Russ.

"What's the matter, Laddie?" asked his mother. "Has anything happened to Vi?"

"She's in the boat, and it's sunk," was the answer. "Oh, what made the boat sink?"

"Silly boy! Stop asking riddles at a time like this!" cried Mrs. Bunker. "What do you mean, Laddie?"

"It isn't a riddle at all," he answered. "The boat did sink and Vi is in it. What made it?"

"A boat! Sure there's no boat on the brook, unless the boy made one himself," said Norah.

"I did make one--out of a box, and Vi was riding in it, but it sank," said Laddie. "What made it sink?"

Then Mrs. Bunker, Norah and Russ came near enough to the shore of the brook to see what had happened. Out in the middle, standing in a soap box, was Violet. The little girl was crying and holding out her hands to Laddie, who seemed quite worried and excited.

"She's sunk! She's sunk!" he said over and over again.

"Be quiet, silly boy!" ordered his mother, who saw that Vi was in no danger. "We'll get her out. Why didn't you wade out to her yourself, and bring her to shore?"

"'Cause I thought maybe something was out there," said Laddie.

"Something out there? What do you mean?" asked his mother.

"I mean something that made the boat sink--something that pulled it down in the water with Vi. A shark maybe, or a whale!"

"Nonsense!" laughed Mrs. Bunker. "There are only little baby fishes in the brook."

"But something made the boat sink!" insisted Laddie.

"We'll see about that when we get Vi to shore," said Mrs. Bunker. "Come on," she called to the little girl. "Wade to shore, Vi. You have your shoes and stockings off, haven't you?"

"Oh, yes, Mother."

"Then wade to shore. You're all right."

So Vi stepped out of the soap box, which Laddie had called the boat, and started for shore. The box floated down the brook, and Russ ran out on a little point of land to catch hold of it when it should float to him.

"Now you're all right," said Mrs. Bunker to her little girl, as Vi came ashore. "But what happened?"

"We were playing sailor," explained Laddie, "and I made the boat out of a box. Then Vi went for a ride, but the boat sank. What made it sink, Vi?"

"'Cause it's full of cracks and holes--that's why!" answered Russ, who had caught the soap box as it floated down to him. "Look! It let in a lot of water, and that's what made it sink," he went on, as he held out the play boat.

The bottom and sides of the box were filled with many holes, from which the water now dripped. Laddie told how he had set it afloat in the brook, with Vi as a passenger. He had pushed her out from shore, hoping to give her a nice ride, but in the middle of the stream the boat went down, and Vi was frightened--or maybe just cross because she was not getting the ride she expected. She screamed. Laddie couldn't understand why the boat sank, and called out to know. That was when Russ heard them.

"But you're all right now," said Mrs. Bunker. "And it's so warm to-day that wading in the brook won't hurt you. Only don't upset and fall in. I don't believe you can ride in your boat, Laddie. It won't float when it leaks so much."

"'Course not," said Russ, who knew something about boats. "You got to stuff up all the cracks and holes with putty, Laddie."

"All right; I'll do that," said the little fellow. "I like a boat. I'll give you a nice ride, Vi, a real long one, after I stuff up the holes."

"No, I guess I don't want to ride in the boat any more," said the little girl, who was wading in the shallow water near shore, "This is more fun."

"Well, I'll go in the boat myself," said Laddie, taking the box from his brother. "Got any putty?" he asked.

"No. But maybe Jerry Simms has," answered Russ. "He was putting a new window glass in the barn yesterday, and he had putty then."

Laddie ran off to beg some putty from the good-natured Jerry, and Vi, after paddling about a little longer in the brook, went back to the house with her mother and Norah.

"I guess I'll make me a boat, too," decided Russ. "I can fix the box for my things to-morrow."

He went to the barn with Laddie, and soon the two boys were building "boats" out of soap boxes, stuffing the cracks and holes with putty which Jerry gave them.

Then they went down to the brook and floated the boxes. They did not sink so quickly as had the one with Vi in it, and Russ and Laddie had lots of fun until supper time.

"I'm so tired I don't know what to do!" said Mrs. Bunker after supper. "I've packed two trunks, and I've helped rescue Mun Bun from a balloon and Vi from a sinking boat that wasn't a riddle after all." And the whole family, including the six little Bunkers, laughed as they thought of the queer things that had happened that day.

"I'll tell you what we can do," said Daddy Bunker. "It's early, and there is a nice moving picture show in town. We'll all go down and see it. That will rest you, Mother."

"Oh, yes! Let's go!" cried Rose.

And so they did.

The show was very nice, and there were some funny pictures. But Mun and Margy fell asleep before the show was over, and might have had to be carried home, only Jerry Simms came along in the automobile, which he had taken down to the shop to be repaired, and they rode to the house in that.

"Are we going to take our automobile with us to Grandma Bell's?" asked Russ.

"No, it's too far," his father answered. "But we can hire one there if we need one. Grandma hasn't one, I believe."

"She doesn't like to ride in them," said Mrs. Bunker. "Mother is old-fashioned. She has a carriage and a big carry-all."

"But we'll have fun there, anyhow, won't we?" asked Russ.

"I'm sure I hope so," his father answered.

The next few days were busy ones. More trunks were packed, Russ finished making his box for his things, and Laddie started to make one also. But he couldn't drive nails very straight, and his box fell apart almost as fast as he made it.

"I don't guess I'll take one," he said. "I'll put my things in your box, Russ."

"No, you can't," said the older boy. "There won't be room. But I'll make you a box for your own self," and this he did, much to Laddie's delight.

The other children brought from the playroom so many toys they wanted taken along that Mrs. Bunker said there would be no room in the trunks for anything else if she took all the youngsters piled up for her. So she picked out a few for each boy and girl, and put their best toys in.

At last the day came when they were to take the train for Grandma Bell's. Daddy Bunker had left one of his men in charge of the real estate office for the time he was to be away.

"And will that man find the red-haired lumber tramp that took your papers in the old coat?" asked Rose.

"I hope so," answered her father.

But it was not to happen that way, as you shall see.

The journey to Grandma Bell's was a long one. To get to Lake Sagatook, in Maine, the Bunkers would have to travel all of one afternoon, all night and part of the next day. They would sleep in the queer little beds on the train.

"And that'll be a lot of fun!" said Russ to Rose.

"Oh, yes, lots!" she agreed.

At the last minute it was found that many things which needed to be taken could not be put in any of the trunks.

"Make a big bundle of them," said Daddy Bunker. "Wrap up all the extra things in a bundle and roll 'em in a blanket. We can express that as we could a trunk."

So this was done.

At last everything was ready. The trunks and the big bundle were set out on the front porch for the expressman, and when he came the six little Bunkers, and their father and mother, watched the things being put on the auto truck.

"And now we'll start ourselves," said Mr. Bunker, when the expressman had started toward the depot. "Jerry will take us all down in the auto."

With final good-byes to Norah and some of the neighbors who gathered to see the party off, Mrs. Bunker started for the car, at the steering wheel of which sat Jerry Simms.

"Are we all here?" asked Daddy Bunker. "Wait until I count noses. Let me see: Russ, Rose, Vi, Laddie, Mun Bun and----"

Just then Mrs. Bunker uttered a cry.

"Why, where is Margy?"

And where was Margy? She was not with the other little Bunkers!