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

Chapter XV


      As Uncle Rand said, a week was not very long, but then it was much better than no visit at all from his brother.
      “I didn’t know you were Uncle Rand’s brother,” said Honey Bunch to her daddy one afternoon when she found them laughing in the barn while Mr. Morton tinkered with the car.
      Mr. Morton had explained that they were laughing at the recollection of something that had happened when they were boys.
      “Oh, Honey Bunch, you’ve forgotten!” said her daddy. “I’ve often told you how Uncle Rand and I went to school together and how I used to do his arithmetic for him and he used to draw my maps for me. Why, dear, you knew Uncle Rand was Daddy’s brother. You’ve forgotten, that’s all.”
      “I knew he was your brother when you were a little boy," said Honey Bunch. “But I thought it was different when folks were grown up.”
      Daddy Morton explained that brothers were always brothers and that Honey Bunch’s mother was a sister of the Uncle Peter who came to see them every year.
      “They were brother and sister when they were a little boy and girl and they always will be,” said Mr. Morton. “Aunt Julia is Daddy’s sister, too, you know. But don’t bother your head about brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts. Let me see you slide down the hay. Stub tells me you can slide now without shutting your eyes.”
      Honey Bunch at first had shut her eyes tight whenever she slid down a pile of hay, but she didn’t do that any more. She could slide as well as Stub and she thought, did Honey Bunch, that when she grew up she would have a farm of her own and have Michael and Liny and Buffy and Stub come and live on it with her.
      “Honey Bunch,” said Uncle Rand, a morning or two after Honey Bunch’s daddy had come, “I don’t believe you have seen my bees, have you?”
      “No, she hasn’t,” said Aunt Carol quickly. “I have been too busy to take her, and Stub can’t go near the hives. If she ever stubbed her toe and fell into one, all the poetry in the world couldn’t make her feel comfortable. And now, since the twins came, I told the children they must stay away from the beehives. I don’t honestly know what effect Bobby would have on bees,” added Aunt Carol, “but I don’t want to risk a visit from him to them.”
      Aunt Julia laughed. She said she thought it would be just as well if Bobby and Tess didn’t go calling on Uncle Rand’s bees.
      “I want Honey Bunch to see them before she goes home,” said Uncle Rand. “She is such a quiet little girl, I know they will like her. We’ll go after breakfast.”
      Now, Honey Bunch was sure she didn’t like bees. She knew they could sting, and whenever she saw one humming around above a pink clover flower, she always left that pink clover flower strictly alone.
      But Honey Bunch was a polite little girl, as well as a quiet one, and she did not want to hurt her uncle’s feelings. So after breakfast she took the hand he held out to her and they went away together to visit the bees.
      Back of the house was a flower garden, filled with the sweetest flowers Honey Bunch had ever seen. Uncle Rand told her, as they walked down the red brick path of this garden, that it was partly for the bees that all the flowers were planted.
      “Of course Aunt Carol couldn’t be happy without her flowers,” said Uncle Rand. “But while fields of clover and buckwheat please the bees, they like flowers, too. They make honey from the yellow dust you find in the heart of a flower, and as I don’t want my bees to go too far from home, I take pains to plant the flowers they like.”
      Honey Bunch pressed a little closer to her uncle when they came to the houses where the bees lived.
      “I’ll wait here,” she said. “They—they might not know who I am.”
      Uncle Rand laughed, but softly.
      “I’ll tell them,” he answered. “Bees like quiet folk, Honey Bunch, and they’re only rude and noisy when frightened or annoyed. You watch me. I’ll tell the bees you are here.”
      Honey Bunch watched. She saw Uncle Rand walk up to one of the hives and put his hand inside. When he drew it out, there were black bees walking about on his fingers.
      “Bees,” said her uncle, walking carefully over to the old tree stump where Honey Bunch sat, “this is my dear little niece. She lives in Barham. Her name is Honey Bunch. And she loves sweet honey on her bread and butter in the winter time. What do you say to that?”
      He bent down his head and listened.
      “The bees say that they will be glad to make sweet honey for a little girl whose name is Honey Bunch,” said Uncle Rand, smiling at Honey Bunch, who was too interested to smile back. “They say all the time you are at the seashore, they’ll be busy getting honey from the flowers and storing it up for you.” “Really and truly?” asked Honey Bunch. “Really and truly, Uncle Rand?”
      “Really and truly,” said her uncle. “Next winter you may expect a comb of honey, ad-dressed to you and sent you by the bees. You see if you don’t get it.”
      “Then thank you very much, dear bees,” said Honey Bunch, standing on tiptoe to look down at the bees walking about on Uncle Rand’s hand. “I think you are very good to work so hard.”
      Uncle Rand put the bees back, and then he and Honey Bunch walked down to the mail box together where they found Stub and the twins waiting for them.
      “Did the bees sting you?” asked Bobby, “No, of course not,” said Honey Bunch, who felt as though she knew the bees well by this time. “Bees are just like other folks, Bobby.”
      Bobby did not think they were, but the mail carrier brought the mail just then and there was a race to see who could reach the house first.
      “This letter is from Julie’s mother,” said Honey Bunch’s mother, opening the letter her little girl brought her. “Dear, would you like to visit Julie next week?”
      “At the seashore?” cried Honey Bunch. “Oh, Uncle Rand said the bees would make honey for me to eat while I was at the seashore, so he must have known. But, Mother, what will we do without Stub and Bobby and Tess and Aunt Julia and Aunt Carol and Uncle Rand and Michael and Liny?”
      Everybody laughed at this long list, and Honey Bunch’s mother said that perhaps Stub and the twins would visit Julie while Honey Bunch was there.
      “Daddy says he will take us, before he has to make another long trip,” explained Mrs. Morton. “We’ll have to go home, first, but Glenhaven isn’t hard to reach and the trip will not be too far to make in the car.” “Honey Bunch hasn’t seen the ocean, but we have,” said the twins. “We’ve been to the seashore lots of times.”
      “I’ll tell Michael to hurry up and whittle those boats,” promised Stub. “If I go to see Julie, I’ll need a boat.”
      And that very afternoon the four children played “seashore” in Stub’s sand box which she had under a tree and hardly ever played in at all. What happened to Honey Bunch at the real seashore I’ll tell you in another book, to be called, “Honey Bunch: Her First Visit to the Seashore.” She was a very little girl to pay a visit to the very big ocean, and she found so much to do and see that it is no wonder it takes a whole book to tell it.
      “I am so hot,” declared Tess, after they had been playing in the sand box an hour or two. “Let’s go where it is cooler.”
      “We’ll go down cellar,” suggested Stub. Stub could always think of something to do or somewhere to go, her daddy said. “It’s cool down there. Liny has the doors open, to air it.”
      The cellar doors were open and the four children walked down the short stone steps into the cool, light cellar. It was in perfect order, for Liny was as neat as a pin—Honey Bunch had heard Aunt Carol say so.
      “Let’s play three-cornered tag,” suggested Tess, forgetting that she was warm. “I’ll be it. Choose your corners.”
      Honey Bunch took her place behind one of the whitewashed pillars. Tess said that would count as a corner. Stub couldn’t make up her mind where she wanted to go, and while she was waiting Honey Bunch looked down at the floor and saw something gray against the wall.
      “It’s a piece of pasteboard,” she said to her-self. “I wonder what’s on the other side.”
      She stooped down and picked it up and turned it over.
      “I’ve found it!” she shrieked, running for the stairs that led to the kitchen. “Stub! Liny! I’ve found it!”
      The other children did not know what Honey Bunch had found, but they ran after her and four pairs of shoes clattered up the stairs and four pairs of hands burst open the kitchen door and four voices cried:
      “Liny! Liny!”
      No wonder Liny, who was mixing potato salad for supper, was so surprised she dropped the potato knife. But when she saw what Honey Bunch had in her hand, Liny almost smothered Honey Bunch in one big hug.
      “What is it?” Stub kept asking. “What did she find? Show us, Liny.”
      “It’s the photograph!” cried Honey Bunch, when she had wriggled out of Liny’s arms. “Look, Walter and George! Look, Bobby!” The three mothers had heard the noise, and they came to see what the matter was. When they saw the picture, of course they asked who had found it and where it had been found. Every one went downstairs to look at the spot where Honey Bunch had found it, and Aunt Carol said it must have slipped down behind the mantel and worked its way down to the cellar. And that was what had happened.
      “This house is so old the cracks are wide and deep,” said Aunt Carol. “Well, Honey Bunch, if ever I lose anything, I shall send for you to come and find it.”
      “I knew I put it on top of the sun and moon clock,” said Honey Bunch happily.
      Liny thought that Honey Bunch was the most wonderful little girl she ever knew, because she had found the long-lost picture, and when it came time for the Mortons to start for home, Liny packed a basket of lunch that Daddy Morton said would have lasted them all the way to Japan.
      “Good-by, darling,” whispered Liny, standing on the step of the car to kiss Honey Bunch. “I hope you’ll come to Broad Acres again very soon.”
      They all crowded around to say good-by, and Michael even brought out T. Foote and W. Vane and let them stand at the big gate of the barnyard to watch the car start off. The twins and Stub and Buffy had to be taken off the running boards at least a dozen times, and finally Mr. Morton had to make the start while Stub was in the middle of a sentence.
      “Good-by!” they all called. “Good-by— don’t forget to write.”
      Honey Bunch stood up and held on to her mother’s hand, waving until a turn in the road hid the farmhouse from her sight.”
      “I feel—I feel funny,” said Honey Bunch, sitting down.
      “Do you know that we are going to stop and see Mr. and Mrs. Popover?” asked Mr. Morton. “Well, we are, and you’d better begin to think what you want to tell them, for they’ll have many questions to ask you.” Honey Bunch began to think and she did not feel “funny” any more. So we’ll leave her thinking pleasant thoughts to tell Mrs. Popover and you may remember her as a smiling little Honey Bunch.



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