THE OLD MILLHONEY BUNCH was so surprised to see Bobby and Tess that she forgot about the eggs. “Mother is coming on the next train,” cried Tess, jumping down and kissing both her cousins. “Bobby and I came all alone and Uncle Rand met us at the station. Didn’t you know we were coming?”
“We kept the good news for a surprise,” said Uncle Rand, smiling, while Bobby took a flying leap from the buggy that landed him in the hay in front of T. Foote’s stall.
“Well, that’s the reason Liny has to make two cakes,” said Stub. “And she has to have the eggs to make ’em with. Honey Bunch and I want to look in the hen-house. You can come if you want to, Bobby and Tess.”
“But Tess has her best dress on,” said Honey Bunch.
“I’ll be careful,” promised Tess, and the four children went to hunt for eggs in the henhouse.
Stub made Bobby and Tess stand outside because, as she told them, if an egg did break it would be sure to spatter on Tess’s dress or over Bobby’s clean blouse.
“And eggs,” said Stub, with a sigh, “mostly break when I’m trying to be careful.”
She and Honey Bunch found a dozen eggs and carried them out. Stub let Bobby carry three and Tess three and those twelve eggs reached Liny’s kitchen safely. Yes, and they were made into two beautiful cakes not long after that—and broken eggs are safest in a cake, you know.
The Turner twins’ mother—who was “Aunt Julia” to Honey Bunch and Stub—came on the next train, and Uncle Rand declared he did not know who laughed and chattered more—the three mothers on the front porch or the four children playing croquet after supper.
It was the very next morning that Uncle Rand suggested a trip to the old mill.
“Stub has been teasing me to take Honey Bunch there for the last two weeks,” said this kind uncle. “But I knew if the twins came they would want to go, too, so it seemed wiser to wait till I could make one trip.”
The buggy wouldn’t hold four lively children, of course, and Michael said he thought they would have to go in the “dill-do.”
“What is a dill-do?” asked Honey Bunch. “What is a dill-do, Michael?” asked Bobby and Tess in one breath.
Michael laughed and whittled the hoe handle he was fitting into a sharp, new shining hoe.
“A dill-do,” he said merrily, “is a wagon.” And that must have been the right answer, for when Uncle Rand drove T. Foote out of the yard and tied him to the white hitching post that stood in front of the house, the horse was harnessed to the wagon that was used for taking the milk cans to the creamery every morning. There were two seats in it now though. As a rule, there was only one, for the driver.
Uncle Rand was to drive, and when he came out of the house he found all four youngsters sitting on the front seat waiting for him.
“No one is going to take a chance on being left, that’s certain,” said Uncle Rand. “But how do you expect me to drive?”
“Well, Daddy,” replied Stub, “I said there wasn’t room for every one up here, but no one wants to sit in the back. We all want to ride on the front seat.”
“Can’t be done,” said Uncle Rand, standing by the post and making no move to untie T. Foote. “Two will have to go on the back seat. I must have elbow room, you know.”
Bobby and Tess sat still and so did Stub. But Honey Bunch stood up.
“I’ll sit in the back,” she said. “I guess I almost want to, anyway.”
“That’s my sweet girl!” said Uncle Rand, lifting her over the back of the seat and putting her down on the second seat with a kiss. “There wouldn’t be any quarrels if every one could be a Honey Bunch.”
“Well, I’ll go back, too,” said Stub, scrambling over. “I’m used to riding in front and Bobby and Tess are company.”
Bobby and Tess will change places with you, when we come back,” her daddy promised. “Now then, T. Foote, let’s show the city folks how fast we can travel over country roads.”
Uncle Rand untied the horse and climbed into the wagon beside Bobby and Tess. He turned the wagon around and they started off down the winding white road that Honey Bunch was sure went clear around the world. She had never seen the end of it, or where it began, and neither had Uncle Rand. Honey Bunch knew he had not, because she had asked him.
“What is a mill for?” asked Bobby curiously.
“Well, now, what do you think a mill is for?” asked Uncle Rand, touching T. Foote’s back with the whip to frighten off a fly that was trying to bite him.
“For millers, I guess,” said Tess wisely.
“No,” said Honey Bunch, “mills aren’t for millers. They eat holes in clothes—my mother says so.”
“Those are moth millers,” answered Uncle Rand. “They have nothing to do with the kind of miller who runs a mill. He grinds corn into meal and wheat into flour for us to eat, Bobby.”
Stub, of course, knew about mills, but the other children had a great many questions to ask.
“This old mill we are going to see doesn’t grind any more,” explained Uncle Rand, who could drive and keep Bobby from falling off the seat and catch Tess’s hat for her when the breeze nearly carried it away and still answer questions. “This mill used to be a busy one, but when there was a larger one built to be run by electric power in another town, people gradually stopped going to the mill run by water power. Now it is about in ruins, with nothing but the old wheel to remind us of the busy place it used to be.”
“People come and paint it,” said Stub, bouncing around on the seat like a small rubber ball. “They put it in pictures.”
T. Foote jogged right along and all the talk and laughter in the wagon behind him did not seem to interest him in the least. He never stopped once to listen and he did not turn around to see what was going on. He simply kept going and that, of course, brought him to the old mill as quickly as it was possible for a good horse to get there.
“Isn’t it pretty!” cried Honey Bunch, as her uncle lifted her down.
It was pretty, this old mill, and even Bobby, who liked to explore first and look afterward, stopped for a moment to see the old wheel. The mill itself had been built of stone and the stones were crumbled and broken now. There was no roof and only one side of a wall and you could see directly into the large room where the miller had worked when he ground the wheat and the corn the farmers brought him.
“The wheel is on the other side,” said Stub, catching hold of Honey Bunch by the hand. “Come around and look.”
They heard the sound of rushing water as soon as they went close to the mill. The old wheel was not turning, but the water went through it and fell with a splash into a narrow walled space below that Uncle Rand told them had been the sluice.
“You see,” he explained, holding Honey Bunch up so that she could look into the wheel, “when the mill was grinding, the water struck the wheel and forced it to turn and that turned the great stone grinders inside the mill and the corn and wheat was crushed to powder between them.”
Uncle Rand held each child up to look, even Bobby who wanted to climb up on the wheel and see for himself just how water wheels were made.
“No, sir!” said Uncle Rand, when Bobby suggested this. “Nothing like that. Your mother made me promise that I would keep you a good two feet from the water before she was willing to have you come. There is plenty to be seen without going swimming in the sluice, Bobby.”
So Bobby had to be contented with climbing all over the heaps of stones that had once been walls and peering into the dark comers where little green ferns were growing in place of the big bags of grain that had once stood there.
The floor of the mill was not safe to walk on, and after Uncle Rand had led them around the edge and told them more about the big stones that had ground the com—these stones, he said, had been sold and carried off when the miller closed his mill—he made them promise that they would not go inside the mill again.
“Hello, Morton! What brings you over this way?” cried a jolly-looking fat man, stopping his horse in the road.
Uncle Rand went down to talk to him and that left the twins and Honey Bunch and Stub to amuse themselves.
“It would be fun to cross the brook,” said Stub. “Let’s get a board and make a bridge.”
“Uncle Rand said not to go in the mill,” Honey Bunch reminded her.
“Well, I’m not going in the mill,” retorted Stub. “Here’s a board. Help me carry this, Bobby.”
Stub pointed to an old board that lay in the grass at her feet. It was heavy, and Bobby had all he could do to help her drag it down to the brook. Stub was careful to go on the other side of the mill from the road and she knew enough to go down below the sluice. Stub was a careful little girl, and she had no intention of getting drowned. The water in the sluice was deep enough to drown a boy or a girl, but the brook was not deep.
“Come on,” cried Stub. “Come on, Tess and Honey Bunch. We’re going to have a heap of fun!”
Honey Bunch and Tess followed Stub and Bobby who were almost out of breath when they reached the brook. The board was much heavier than Stub had thought it would be, but she did not give up easily.
“It won’t reach,” said Bobby, after he had put the board down. “It isn’t long enough.”
“Well, put it across as far as it will go,” replied Stub impatiently. “Then we can hop the rest of the way on the stones.”
Bobby dragged the board to the edge of the brook and let it fall so that one end rested on a large stone. The other was on the bank.
“There!” said Stub. “That’s a bridge. I’ll go over first.”
Stub’s dress was torn, because there had been a nail in the board. Stub’s hands and face were streaked with dirt, for the board had been old and dusty. But Stub was having a very good time—Honey Bunch knew it by the way she smiled.
“Here I go!” sang Stub, running down and out on her bridge. “Watch me!”
They all watched her, but Stub was so afraid they might miss seeing something she did that she turned her head and looked back over her shoulder to make sure they were looking.
Alas! Stub’s toe hit a knot-hole in the board, she tripped, lost her balance and fell screaming into the water!
“Uncle Rand!” shouted Honey Bunch. “Uncle Rand, come quick! Stub fell in the brook! Stub fell in the brook!”
Uncle Rand came flying around the mill and the fat man came running after him, but Bobby waded into the brook without waiting for them. The water was not deep, but it was cold, and Stub had tumbled in flat on her face. Bobby pulled her up, but before he could drag her to her feet Uncle Rand had come stepping over the stones and had her in his arms.
“Are you hurt, dear?” he said, holding her tightly. “Don’t be frightened—Daddy has you safe, Stub.”
Stub could not get her breath at first, but when she could speak she opened her mouth as widely as she could and how she roared! Honey Bunch stared at her, and Bobby began to laugh.