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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSix Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 8. An Alarm And A Hold-Up
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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 8. An Alarm And A Hold-Up Post by :stevesandman Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :2553

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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 8. An Alarm And A Hold-Up


Of course, the six little Bunkers were just ordinary children, although they sometimes had extraordinary adventures. And confinement for only a few hours in a Pullman car had made them very restless. It was impossible for them always to keep quiet, and their running up and down the aisles, and their exclamations about what they saw, sometimes annoyed other passengers just a little.

Most of the passengers in this car were people, fortunately, who liked children and could appreciate how difficult it was for the six to be always on their best behavior. And the passengers could not but admire the way in which Daddy and Mother Bunker controlled the exuberance of the six.

But there was one man who had scowled at the little Bunkers almost from the very moment they had boarded the train at Pineville. That man seemed to say to himself:

"Oh, dear! here is a crowd of children and they are going to annoy me dreadfully."

And, of course, as he expected to be annoyed, there was scarcely anything the Bunkers did or said but what did annoy him. He was a very fat man, and the car was sometimes too warm for him, and he was always complaining to the porter about something or other, and altogether he was a very miserable man indeed on that particular journey.

Maybe he was a nice man at home. But it is doubtful if he had any children of his own, and probably nobody's children would have suited him at all! Mun Bun and Margy made friends with almost everybody in the car but the fat man. He would not even look at Mun Bun when the little fellow staggered along the car, from seat to seat, and looked smilingly up into the fat man's red face.

"Go away!" said the fat man to Mun Bun.

Mun Bun's eyes grew round with wonder at the man's cross speech. He could not understand it at all. He looked at the fat man in a very puzzled way, and then went back to Mother Bunker's seat.

"Muvver," he said soberly, "do you got pep'mint?"

"I think you have eaten all the candy that is good for you now, Mun Bun," said Mother Bunker.

"No," said Mun Bun earnestly. "Not tandy. Pep'mint for ache," and he rubbed himself about midway of his body very suggestively.

"Mun Bun! are you ill?" demanded his mother anxiously. "Are you in pain, you poor baby?"

He explained then that he did not need the "pep'mint"; but knowing that Mother Bunker sometimes gave it to him when he had pain, he said he thought the man up the aisle would like some for the same reason.

"Better ask him," suggested Daddy Bunker, who had noted the unhappy face of the fat man.

Mun Bun did this. He asked the man very politely if he needed "pep'mint." But all the cross passenger said was:

"Go on away! You are a nuisance!"

So Mun Bun went back to daddy and mother in rather a subdued way, for he was not used to being treated so. Mun Bun liked to make friends wherever he went.

Perhaps the fat man was the only person in the car who was glad when the Bunker children went to bed. He went into the smoking room while his own berth was being made up, and when he came back to the berths, daddy and mother, as well as most of the other passengers, had retired. The car was soon after that pretty quiet.

Russ and Laddie were in the upper berth over daddy and Mun Bun. The boys in the upper berth had been asleep for some little time when Russ woke up--oh, quite wide awake!

There was something going on that he could not understand. Whether this mysterious something had awakened him or not, Russ lay straining his ears to catch a repetition of the sound. Then it came--a sound that made the boy "creep" all over it was so shuddery!

"Laddie! Laddie!" he whispered, nudging the boy next to him. "Don't you hear it?"

Laddie was not easily awakened. When Laddie went to sleep it was, as the children say, "for keeps." Russ had to punch him with his elbow more than once before the smaller boy awakened.

"Oh, oh! Is it morning?" murmured Laddie.

"Listen!" hissed Russ right in his ear. "That man's being mur--murdered!"

"Mur--murdered?" quavered Laddie in response. "You--you tell daddy about it, Russ Bunker. Don't you tell me. I don't believe he is, anyway. Who's mur--murderin' him?"

"I don't know who's doing it," admitted Russ, shaking as much as Laddie was.

"How do you know it's--it's being done?" repeated Laddie, his doubt growing as he became more fully awake.

"He says so. He says so himself. And if he says he's being murdered, he ought to know--Oh!"

Again the doleful sound reached their ears, this time Laddie hearing as well as Russ the moaning of a voice which uttered a muffled cry of "Mur-r-rder!"

"There! What did I tell you?" gasped Russ. "I'm--I'm going to tell daddy."

"Wait for me! Wait, Russ Bunker! I'm going with you," Laddie cried. "I don't want to stay here and be mur--murdered, too!"

That was an awful word, anyway. Russ crept over the edge of the berth at the foot and dropped down behind the curtain. Laddie was right behind him, and in fact came down first upon Russ's shoulders and then slipped to the floor of the car.

Before they could get inside daddy's curtain--a place which spelled safety to their disturbed imaginations--they heard the moaning voice again groan:


It was an awful choking cry--just like a hen squawked when Jerry Simms grabbed it by the neck and had his hand on the hen's windpipe!

"He's mur--murderin' him all right," chattered Laddie, tugging at Russ's pajama jacket. "Are--are you going to stop it, Russ?"

Russ had no idea of going himself to the rescue of the victim; he had only thought of waking daddy. But now he put his head outside the curtain and looked into the narrow aisle of the sleeping car. The first thing he saw was the colored porter, his cap on awry, his eyes rolling so that their whites were very prominent, stalking up the aisle in a crouching attitude with the little stool he sometimes sat on in the vestibule gripped by one leg as a weapon.

"It's the porter!" whispered Russ huskily.

"Is--is he being mur--murdered?" stuttered Laddie.

"He--he looks more as though he was going to do the mur-murdering," confessed Russ.

Laddie would not look; but Russ could not take his eyes off the approaching porter. The colored man crept nearer, nearer--and then suddenly he snatched away the curtain almost directly across the aisle from where the two little Bunkers stood.

There was nobody in that lower berth but the fat man before mentioned! He lay on his back with his knees up, his face very red, his eyes tightly closed. Again there issued from his lips the stifled cry of "Mur-r-rder!"

"Fo' de lan's sake!" exclaimed the porter, dropping his stool and grabbing the fat passenger by the shoulder. "I suah 'nough thunk somebody was bein' choked to deaf. Wake up, Mistah White Man! Ain't nobody a-murderin' of yo' but yo'self."

The fat man's eyes opened wide at that and he glared around. He saw the face of the porter at last and blinked his eyes for a moment. Then he sighed.

"I--I guess I was asleep. Must have been dreaming," he stammered gruffly.

"Say, Mistah!" the porter replied, "if yo' sleep like dat always, you bettah have a car by yo'self. For yo' ain't goin' to let nobody else sleep in peace. Turn over! Yo's on your back."

Russ and Laddie could only stare, and some of the other passengers began to open their curtains and ask questions of the porter. The fat man grabbed his own curtain away from the colored man and quickly shut himself in again.

"All right! All right!" said the porter, picking up his stool and going back to his place. "Ain't nobody killed yet. Guess we goin' to have peace now fo' a while."

Daddy Bunker awoke too and sent his little folks back to bed, and Russ and Laddie did not wake up again till broad daylight. They had to tell the other little Bunkers before breakfast about what had happened; but they never saw the fat man again, for he left the train at a station quite early.

There were other things to interest the little Bunkers. In the first place, it began to rain soon after they got up. A rainy day at home was no great cross for the children to bear. There was always the attic to play in. But on the train, with the rain beating against the windows and not much to see as the train hurried on, the children began to grow restless.

It was reported that the heavy rains ahead of them had done some damage to the railroad, and the speed of the train was reduced until, by the middle of the forenoon, it seemed only to creep along. The conductor, who came through the car once in a while, told them that there were "washouts" on the road.

"What's washouts?" demanded Vi. "Is it clothes on clotheslines, like Norah's washlines? Why don't they take the wash in when it rains so?"

She really had to be told what "washout" meant, or she would have given daddy and mother no peace at all. And the other children were interested in the possibility that the train might be halted by a big hole in the ground where the tracks ought to be.

Every time the train slowed down they were eagerly on tiptoe to see if the "washout" had come. They were finally steaming through a deep cut in the wooded hills when, of a sudden, the brakes were applied and the train came to a stop with such a shock that the little Bunkers were all tumbled together--although none of them was hurt.

"Here's the washout! Here's the washout!" cried Laddie eagerly.

"Can we go look out of the door, Mother?" asked Rose.

For some of the passengers were standing in the vestibule and the door was open. Daddy got up and went with the children, all clamorous to see the hole in the ground that had halted the train.

But it was not a hole at all. It was something so different from a hole, or a washout as the children had imagined that to be, that when they saw it they were very much excited and surprised.

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