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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSix Little Bunkers At Mammy June's - Chapter 9. Russ's Secret
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Six Little Bunkers At Mammy June's - Chapter 9. Russ's Secret Post by :Tony123 Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :605

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Six Little Bunkers At Mammy June's - Chapter 9. Russ's Secret


Russ Bunker looked very funny--Rose said he did--when he suddenly came back to the raft. Vi and Margy shouted to him that he would be drowned; and Laddie said something more about sharks. But their older brother paid little attention to them.

He had tied the cover down over the lifeboat again and he would not look toward it, not even when Rose asked him what the matter was and if he was going to leave all five of the castaways on the raft to starve and be thirsty until luncheon time.

"I guess this isn't a very good place to play castaway, after all," said Russ gravely. "And, anyway," he added, with sudden animation, "there's the man with the gong. We'll have to run down and get cleaned up before we go to the table."

"Dear me!" complained Laddie, "we never can have any fun. We always have to stop and eat or go to bed, or something. Even on this ship we have to."

Laddie thought that the most important thing in the world was play. Rose watched Russ with a puzzled look. She felt that something had happened that her brother did not want to talk about. Russ had a secret.

The latter did not even look again at the lifeboat as the little party passed it on the way to the staterooms. But Russ Bunker's mind was fixed upon that boat and what he had seen in it, just the same. He really could not decide what to do. He was very much puzzled.

Even his mother and father noticed that Russ was rather silent at the lunch table; but he said he was all right. He had something to think about, he told them. Daddy and Mother Bunker looked at each other and smiled. Russ had a way of thinking over things before he put his small troubles before them, and they suspected that nothing much was the matter.

But Rose whispered to her brother before they left the table.

"I think that isn't very polite, Russ Bunker."

Russ looked startled.

"What isn't polite?" he asked almost angrily.

"I saw you do that," she said, in the same admonishing way.

"Do what?" he demanded boldly.

"Put those rolls and the apple in your pocket. You wouldn't do that at home."

"Well, we're not at home, are we?" he said. "You just keep still, Rose Bunker."

Russ ran away directly after he had been excused from the table and they did not find him again for quite a while. He appeared with his usual cheerful whistle on his lips and made up a fine game of hide and seek on the afterdeck. But it was noticeable, if anybody had thought to notice it at all, that Russ kept them all from going near the lifeboat and the raft, and he would not hear to their playing castaway at all.

"Why not?" asked Vi.

"Oh, that's too old," Russ declared. "We can play that at any time. Let's go and listen to the wireless spark. When we get to that plantation where we are going maybe I can set up a wireless mast and we will send messages."

"To Grandma Bell? And to Aunt Jo?" asked Vi.

"Oh!" cried Laddie, "let's send one to Cowboy Jack. I know he'd be glad to hear from us."

So Russ turned the interest of his brothers and sisters away from the castaway play. All but Rose. She wondered just what it was that was troubling Russ and what the lifeboat had to do with it.

But there were so many new things to be interested in aboard the steamship that even Rose forgot to be puzzled after a while. Their friend, the quartermaster, took them all over the ship. They saw the engines working, and peered down into the stoke hole which was very hot and where the firemen worked in their undershirts and trousers and a great clanging of shovels and furnace doors was going on.

"I guess the steampipes always hum on this boat," remarked Laddie. "It is not like it was at Aunt Jo's before that Sam boy came to make the furnace go."

Whether the steampipes hummed or not, the children found that it was quite balmy on the boat. Although a strong breeze almost always blew, it was a warm one. They had long since entered into the Gulf Stream and the warm current seemed to warm the air more and more as the _Kammerboy sailed southward.

It was only two hours after passing the schooner that was in distress when they "spoke," as the quartermaster called it, the revenue cutter which had been sent to help the disabled vessel, steaming swiftly toward the point of the compass where the schooner was wallowing. Mr. Sparks, as the wireless operator was called, had exchanged messages with the Government vessel and he told the little Bunkers that the lumber schooner would be towed into Hampton Roads, from which the cutter had come.

All this time Russ Bunker stayed away from the covered boat on the hurricane deck. Daddy Bunker, as well as Rose, began to wonder at the boy's odd behavior. When dinner time came, Mr. Bunker watched his oldest son sharply.

"Can I go out on deck again for a while?" asked Russ politely, as he moved back his chair at the end of the meal.

"I don't see why you can't. And Rose too," said their mother. "It is not yet dark. But you other children must come with me."

They had all played so hard that it was no cross for the little ones to prepare for bed. Mun Bun and Margy were already nodding.

When Rose looked about for Russ, he had disappeared again. So had Daddy. They had both slipped out of the saloon cabin without a word.

Russ was hurrying along the runway between the house and the bulwarks, and going forward, when Daddy Bunker came around a corner suddenly and confronted him. Russ was so startled that he almost cried out.

"Let's see what you have in your pockets, Russ," said Mr. Bunker seriously, yet with twinkling eyes. "I noticed that you feared there was going to be a famine aboard this steamer, and that you believe in preparing for it. Let me see the contents of your pockets."

"Oh, Father!" gasped Russ.

"Aren't afraid, are you, Russ?" asked Daddy Bunker. "If you weren't afraid to take the food you needn't be afraid to show it."

"It--it was all mine," said Russ, stammeringly. "I only took what was passed to me."

"I know it," said Daddy. "That is one reason why I want to know the rights of this mystery. I can't have my son starving himself for the sake of feeding a sea-eagle."

"Oh! It isn't the eagle, Daddy."

"What is it, then?"

"It--it isn't an it at all!" exclaimed Russ Bunker and he was so very much worried that he was almost in tears.

"What do you mean?" asked his father.

"I--I can't tell you," Russ faltered. "It isn't about me at all. It's somebody else, and I oughtn't to tell you, Daddy."

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