The Sweet Public Domain: Celebrating Copyright Expiration with the Honey Bunch Series

Chapter XI


      HONEY BUNCH and Stub were very glad when Michael had helped Buffy down the ladder, and they took the dog into Liny’s kitchen and fed him his favorite supper of bread and gravy with a beef bone for dessert. After that Stub, at least, was more thoughtful of her pet and tried not to leave him in places where he couldn’t be comfortable.
     “Honey Bunch,” said Stub, one day not long after the pictures were taken—and by the way, every picture Uncle Rand took came out well and Honey Bunch sent three to her daddy and two to Ida Camp and one to Mrs. Miller—“Honey Bunch,” said Stub, “I have , to take this pattern over to Mrs. Phillips for mother. Don’t you want to come?”
     Of course Honey Bunch wanted to go with her cousin, and as soon as Stub’s mother had put the pattern into a white envelope and fastened it so Stub couldn’t lose it, they started. Mrs. Phillips lived next door to Broad Acres. But next door, in the country, may be rather far away, as Honey Bunch found out.
     “Let’s go down along the potato field,” suggested Stub. “Michael is dusting the plants. Perhaps he’ll whittle us a boat.”
     Michael had promised to make them each a boat “some day,” and Stub was always reminding him.
     “Michael is very neat, isn’t he?” said Honey Bunch, trudging along beside Stub and trying not to step on the ants that would crawl in the dirt and never look to see who might be coming.
     “Yes, of course he is,” replied Stub. “Liny says he is the neatest hired man we ever had. She likes him. She makes the kind of dessert he likes too, and she says he never forgets to wipe his feet on rainy days before he comes into the kitchen.”
     “Does he use an oiled cloth?” asked Honey Bunch, crawling under a fence after Stub, who was making a short cut across the pasture. Stub never followed a road or a path if she could help it.
     “Michael use an oiled cloth, you mean?” said Stub, puzzled. “What for?”
     “My mother says a feather duster isn’t any good,” answered Honey Bunch. “She never lets Mrs. Miller use one. She says it scatters the dust all over a room.”
     Stub stared at her little cousin.
     “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. “Who said anything about feather dusters?”
     “There’s Michael waving to us now,” Honey Bunch replied. “Nobody said anything about feather dusters, but you said Michael was dusting the plants and I just wondered how he did it.”
     Stub’s eyes crinkled with laughter. She shouted so loudly that Michael heard her.
     “Oh, Honey Bunch!” laughed Stub. “I think you are the funniest girl I ever knew! Wait till I tell Michael!”
     And though Honey Bunch begged her to wait and asked her not to tell Michael, Stub began to run. She could run faster than Honey Bunch and she reached Michael first.
     “Oh, Michael!” shouted Stub. “Listen to what Honey Bunch said! She said—she said—” and then Stub was so out of breath from running and laughing that she couldn’t say another word!
     “Here, here, what’s all the excitement about?” asked Michael, as Honey Bunch came running after Stub. “Your faces are as red as peonies. Take your time, children. I have all the morning, and so have you.”
     “Honey Bunch is so funny!” said Stub.
     “I am not!” cried Honey Bunch. “I didn’t know—that’s all.”
     Michael stooped down and lifted Honey Bunch up and sat her on one of the fence posts. Michael wore his overalls and they and the canvas gloves that covered his hands were white with powder.
     “Honey Bunch, is Stub teasing you?” he asked.
     “I told her you were dusting the potato plants, and she asked me if you used an oiled cloth or a feather duster, Michael!” squealed Stub. “She thought you went around and dusted every plant the way Liny does the chairs and the tables. I never knew such a funny girl!”
     Michael looked at Honey Bunch. She felt the least bit like crying, and, in fact, she had tears in her blue eyes. No one likes to be made fun of, and Stub was making fun of her, Honey Bunch was sure.
     But Michael looked at her, and his eyes were so smiling and his smile began to grow and spread and in a minute Honey Bunch found herself laughing, too.
     “That’s much better,” said Michael, patting her shoulder. “Always laugh when you want to cry and you’ve no idea how much better it will make you feel. Stub doesn’t do any dusting at all, so she shouldn’t tease you. I’m surprised at you, Stub, I really am.”
     Stub looked uncomfortable. She was supposed to help her mother a half hour every Saturday morning, but she usually teased to be allowed to go out and play and seldom did her task, which was to dust the furniture in the living room. So Michael knew she would understand what he meant.
     “Now I’ll show you how I dust the potato plants, Honey Bunch,” he said pleasantly. “Then you’ll be able to tell Bobby and Tess when—well some day when you see them.”
     Michael showed Honey Bunch how he dusted the white powder on every plant to keep the potato bug from eating the leaves. Honey Bunch thought it was a lot of work, to get the powder on each plant, and Michael said it was.
     “But when we have a large crop of potatoes ready to dig, we forget the work,” he said cheerfully.
     “Mother wants us to hurry,” Stub whispered to Honey Bunch, and as she said that, poor Stub fell over Michael’s hoe which was lying on the ground.
     Michael picked her up and loaned her his clean handkerchief. Stub needed a handkerchief because she had been crying just a little, and that was the reason she didn’t see the hoe.
     “Everything’s all right, Stub,” Michael told her. “I know you didn’t mean to make Honey Bunch cry, either. Now run along, both of you, or that pattern will be out of style before you get it to Mrs. Phillips.”
     This made both little girls laugh, and they ran almost all the rest of the way to the Phillips’ farm. They half hoped to see the two boys who had eaten the green apples— Honey Bunch especially was anxious to ask them if they had “doubled up”—but Mrs. Phillips said they had gone to the old mill with the hired man.
     “Daddy is going to drive us there some day,” Stub told Honey Bunch, as they walked home. “Every week he says ‘pretty soon.’ There is a water wheel and it goes around and around, and it’s lots of fun to hear it splash.” When they reached home they found the two mothers very busy. They were getting out clean sheets and dusting upstairs and putting fresh flowers into the vases.
     “Is company coming?” asked Stub, who saw the door of the guest room open.
     “Little girls should not ask questions,” said her mother, smiling. “Liny is making butter this morning, dear—don’t you want to take Honey Bunch out in the milk room and let her taste buttermilk?”
     Honey Bunch had never seen Liny make blitter. She did not churn every day, and though she had made butter several times, since Honey Bunch and her mother had come to the farm, she had happened to do it on mornings when Honey Bunch was busy somewhere else.
     “Hello!” said Liny, smiling, when she saw two little faces peeping in at her through the milk-room door. “Come in—the butter is almost here.”
     And Liny lifted the cover of the churn and let Honey Bunch look in.
     “Where is the butter?” asked Honey Bunch, in surprise.
     “That faint yellow patch you see will be butter soon,” answered Liny. “Here, shake the dasher a minute; then you can say you helped to make butter.”
     Honey Bunch dashed the wooden stick up and down a few times and then Liny took it and made it go faster. She lifted the lid again and there were golden lumps of butter, just the kind of butter that Honey Bunch ate on her bread.
     “Is it all done?” asked Honey Bunch, staring into the churn.
     “Dear, no,” answered Liny. “I have to take it out and work it and salt it before it is ready to use. Taste this, Honey Bunch—it is buttermilk.”
     Honey Bunch did not like buttermilk at all. It tasted sour to her.
     “Lots of people can’t drink it,” said Liny, taking a glass for herself. “Stub won’t touch it. But Michael can drink a whole pitcherful for his dinner.”
     “Are we going to have whipped cream for dinner?” asked Stub, who had found a bowl of sweet cream on the table.
     She knew it was sweet, for she had put her finger into it and tasted it when Liny was not looking.
     “Don’t touch that,” said Liny, busily scooping her butter out of the churn. “That is for supper. But I haven’t an egg in the house. Your daddy took the basket with him to town this morning, and now your mother wants two cakes made. Can’t you and Honey Bunch go out and hunt me some eggs?”
     Stub and Honey Bunch were sure they could and they ran off toward the barn. Liny’s hens were supposed to lay their eggs in the hen-house, but there were always three or four hens who insisted on laying their eggs in the barn. Honey Bunch and Stub thought it was much more fun to hunt in the hay for eggs than to go through the hen-house and pick them out of the nests.
     “You begin on that side and I’ll start here,” said Stub, pointing to the side of the barn under the haymow.
     “I’ve found one!” called Honey Bunch in a few moments.
     “So have I!” shouted Stub.
     And presently Honey Bunch found another and so did Stub, and it wasn’t long before they had each found three eggs.
     “You wait here, and I’ll climb up and look in the haymow,” said Stub, running up the ladder like a little squirrel.
     “Look out—you dropped an egg!” cried Honey Bunch, as one slipped from the skirt of Stub’s dress and smashed on the barn floor.
     “Well, that’s only one egg,” replied Stub cheerfully. “I can find another.”
     The shaky ladder began to sway, Stub threw out both hands, and down went the other two eggs and broke into bits on the floor.
     “Silly old eggs!” scolded Stub, as though the eggs were to blame. “Maybe I’ll find three in the haymow to make up for them.”
     But although she hunted a long time and Honey Bunch waited patiently, not an egg could Stub find.
     “You can have mine,” said Honey Bunch, when Stub had climbed down again.
     “No, you keep them,” replied Stub. “There’ll be some more in the hen-house.
     You put your eggs down on the floor and come and help me look under the heavy wagon. If there aren’t any there, we’ll go to the hen-house and hunt.”
     Honey Bunch put her three eggs down carefully, close together, and covered them with a wisp of hay. Then she and Stub crawled under the heavy wagon. Sometimes the hens would go under that and make a nest in the hay and lay their eggs.
     As Honey Bunch and Stub were feeling about in the hay and, at the same time, pretending they were swimming in the ocean, they heard the rattle of wheels and T. Foote whirled the buggy in through the open barn door.
     “Anybody home?” called Uncle Rand loudly.
     “Look out for the eggs!” shouted Stub, wriggling out, flat on her stomach. After her wriggled Honey Bunch, crying:
     “Did he step on the eggs? Did he step on the eggs?”
     And there in the buggy, one on each side of
     Uncle Rand, sat Bobby and Tess Turner, the twins from New York!
     “Daddy,” said Stub seriously, “T. Foote has stepped on the eggs Honey Bunch was saving. Hello, Tess! Bobby, can you play croquet?”

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