THE CAR COMESHONEY BUNCH was so little that even when she stood on tiptoe Mrs. Miller had to bend down or she couldn’t hear her whisper.
“Norman Clark,” whispered Honey Bunch, “went to a party last week. And he told me he—he ate a lady’s fingers! Yes, he did. And he likes them!”
Honey Bunch was sure Mrs. Miller would be surprised. She might even be frightened. Honey Bunch had been at first, and now every time she saw Norman Clark she put her hands in her sweater pockets, or if she didn’t have her sweater on, she put her hands behind her.
But Mrs. Miller didn’t say a word at first. She stared at Honey Bunch. Then she began to laugh. She laughed and laughed and finally she had to sit down in the little rocking chair—Mrs. Miller was so large that you couldn’t see the chair at all when she was in it—and wiped her eyes with her apron.
“My dear lamb!” cried Mrs. Miller, “don’t you know what lady fingers are? They are little sponge cakes!”
“Are they?” asked Honey Bunch doubtfully. “Why do they call them a lady’s fingers then?”
“I think myself it is a silly name,” said Mrs. Miller. “But I suppose some one called them that because they are long and narrow. Dear me, I must tell your mother and she will buy some for you and then you won’t be thinking poor Norman Clark goes around eating up real ladies’ fingers.”
Mrs. Miller went on to finish cleaning the laundry and then she went upstairs in the kitchen to get lunch ready. Honey Bunch stayed down, curled up in the chair, thinking about Norman. She wasn’t sure yet that he had not eaten a lady’s fingers and she meant to keep her own ten pink fingers safely out of his reach till she was sure. Then she thought about Stub and the farm and the new auto-mobile.
While Honey Bunch is waiting for her lunch, will be a good time to ask you if you know her. Do you? If you have read the first book about her, called “Honey Bunch: just a Little Girl,” then you know that she was the kind of friend you would like to have live next door to you. Any little girl whose daddy and mother call her “Honey Bunch” because every time they look at her they are reminded of “sweet things”—as Honey Bunch’s daddy said—is pretty sure to be a lovely small neighbor. Don’t you think so? Of course this little Honey Bunch had another name, in fact she had two names beside her last one. Her real name was Gertrude Marion Morton, and sometimes an invitation to a birthday party came addressed to her like that.
In this first book about Honey Bunch, you’ve been told of the good times she had with her friends and Lady Clare, the black cat who wore a white fur collar that looked like ermine around her neck. Honey Bunch was busy, too, and she didn’t play all the time. She helped her mother and she fed the birds and she watched the painters paint the house and even did some painting herself.
Honey Bunch was a lucky little girl, because she had plenty of cousins. There were the Turner twins, Bobby and Tess, who lived in New York; and Stub, the cousin who lived on a farm; and Julie, another cousin who lived at the seashore. In the second book about Honey Bunch (the title of that book is “Honey Bunch: Her First Visit to the City”) you may read of the visit she and her mother made to the Turners in New York. Uncle Paul and Aunt Julia were very glad to see Honey Bunch and her mother, and Bobby and Tess were delighted. New York City made Honey Bunch open her blue eyes wide and often, but she had a beautiful time and had some exciting adventures.
Almost as soon as Daddy Morton brought his little girl and her mother back to Barham, where they lived, Honey Bunch began to hear about the visit to the farm. She was eager to go and visit her cousin Stub, for Stub had come to her birthday party and had told her something of the fun that could be found on a farm.
So that is the reason we find her curled up in a chair in the laundry, thinking about Stub and wishing summer would hurry and come.
“Lunch is ready, Honey Bunch!” called Mrs. Miller. “And your mother’s come!” Honey Bunch ran upstairs. She was very glad to see her mother, and while they had lunch together Honey Bunch told her all about helping Mrs. Miller hang out the clothes and handing her the clothespins.
“I’ve been busy, too,” said Mrs. Morton, smiling. “I’ve been buying dresses for a little girl to wear this summer.”
“Is it time to pack?” asked Honey Bunch. She bounced around in her chair and nearly knocked a biscuit off the table. Honey Bunch was always excited about packing. When she went to New York she came near packing her father’s birthday cake in the trunk. That shows how going traveling stirred her up.
“Not yet,” replied Mrs. Morton. “Daddy’s car hasn’t come, you know. Now, dear, if you have finished, run out and play a little while. I want to tell Mrs. Miller about the cleaning this afternoon.”
Honey Bunch folded up her napkin. She said “Excuse me” and slipped down from her chair. Then she kissed her mother and went out on the front steps.
“Hello!” called Ida Camp, a little girl about her own age who lived on the same street. “Come over on our porch and let’s play farm.”
There were several little girls on Ida’s porch and they were all eager to play farm. Ever since Honey Bunch had told them she was going to visit Stub, they had had great fun with this play. None of them had ever been on a farm, so if they made mistakes not one of them could scold.
“Let me feed the chickens this time,” begged Cora Williams, as Honey Bunch ran up the steps. “Grace always feeds the chickens.”
“Yes, it is Cora’s turn to feed the chickens,” said Honey Bunch.
So Mary and Fannie Graham and Kitty Williams, who was Cora’s sister, and Anna Martin and Grace Winters and Ida and Honey Bunch sat down in a row on the steps and Cora pretended she was the mother bird and they were the little ones.
“I’m coming with a nice worm,” chirped Cora. “Open your mouths.”
All the little girls opened their mouths and chirped:
“I’m hungry! I’m so hungry!”
“What on earth are you doing?” called Ned Camp, coming up the walk and laughing as he saw the seven little mouths wide open and Cora dancing up and down, running from one to the other.
“Cora is feeding the chickens,” explained Ned’s sister, Ida. “She is the mother chicken.”
“But that isn’t the way chickens are fed,” said Ned, looking so merry and kind that they did not care if he was laughing at them.
Ned was in high school and Ida thought he was the best brother who ever lived. Honey Bunch liked Ned, too. He often brought her catnip for Lady Clare when he went camping where it grew and once he had climbed a tree and rescued the cat when Lady Clare had climbed up so far she was afraid to come down.
“That’s the way the mother robin feeds the little robins,” said Cora firmly. “I watched the birds that had their nest in our maple tree last summer.”
“How do you feed chickens?” asked Honey Bunch.
“Oh, you scatter corn and they come and pick it up themselves,” explained Ned. “You’ll find out when you visit at the farm, Honey Bunch, and then you can come back and give us all lessons in farming.”
Honk! Honk! went an automobile horn so suddenly that every one jumped.
“There’s Daddy!” cried Honey Bunch. “Look! The automobile has come!”
Sure enough, a shiny automobile had stopped at the curb and Mr. Morton sat behind the wheel. He waved to them and beckoned.
“Are there any little girls around here who want to ride around the park and back with me?” he called.
Pellmell down the path ran the children, forgetting the farm game.
“Is it new? Can you drive it? Will you really take us?” seven little voices shouted.
Honey Bunch didn’t say anything and Ned opened the door and swung her up on the seat beside her daddy.
“Give me the girl who doesn’t try to see how loud she can talk,” said Ned. “Shall I ship these other passengers, sir?”
“Well, if they’ll ask permission first,” answered Mr. Morton, “I’ll be very glad to take them. And you, too, Ned. It won’t take a minute to ask your mothers, and I’ll wait for you.”
“My mother won’t care,” said Grace Winters.
“No little girl rides in my car who doesn’t ask Mother first,” said Mr. Morton; so Grace ran off to find her mother and was back in a moment so out of breath that she could hardly say:
“She says ‘all right.’”
“Can you make it go, Daddy?” asked Honey Bunch, while they were waiting for the others to come.
“Why, yes, dear,” said her daddy. “I’ve driven cars before, you know. I have had my driver’s license for a couple of years. But I wanted to get used to this kind of car before I took you and mother on a real trip. This car is a bit different from any I’ve ever driven. I promise not to spill you out, Honey Bunch.”
Honey Bunch laughed. She knew her daddy wouldn’t spill her out. He had never tipped her off her sled or dropped her when he was carrying her down the steep stairs.
“Here we are—everybody here?” said Mr. Morton, when all the little girls had come running back and Ned had lifted them into the tonneau, one by one. “Coming, Ned?”
“I’d like to, sir,” answered Ned, “but I’m due at baseball practice in fifteen minutes.”
“I’ll take you out to the grounds. The field is this side of the park, isn’t it?” said Mr. Morton. “Hop in.”
So Ned stepped in and took Honey Bunch on his lap and away rolled that beautiful shiny car with the spotless new white tires as silently as—as—Honey Bunch tried to think what it reminded her of and at first she couldn’t.
“I know!” she said so suddenly that Ned jumped a little. “That’s the way Lady Clare goes creeping after a mouse. She runs so still!”
Mr. Morton stopped when they came to the ball field and Ned got out. He played on the high-school ball team.
“Now we’ll go through the park and see how near the summer has come to us,” said Mr. Morton, smiling at the happy little faces in the back of the car and the happy little face beside him.
“Has it pretty near come?” asked Honey Bunch, when they reached the park.
“Yes, it has,” cried Grace Winters. “The leaves are out and the grass is just as green!
And the yellow flowers are out and the sun is warm. It is summer, isn’t it?”
“Almost summer,” replied Mr. Morton. “A few more weeks and we’ll have June roses.”
He drove them through the little park and over the new boulevard home again and each little girl said, “Thank you,” and hopped out as he stopped the car before her house. Honey Bunch had a “little extra ride,” as she said, because she rode with her daddy to the garage where he kept the car. Then they walked home together.
“Well, dear,” he said, as they went in to tell Mother where they had been, “I think next week we’ll be off to the farm.”
“And I’ll feed the chickens,” cried Honey Bunch joyfully.