BROAD ACRES“OH, Honey Bunch! I thought you never were coming!” shouted Stub, flying down the lawn.
She dashed up to the car and tumbled in, hugging Mrs. Morton and Honey Bunch and trying to tell them how glad she was to see them.
“Here, here,” said Mr. Morton, leaning over the back of the seat to kiss her. “Where’s Mother, Stub? And do we drive on in or get out here?”
“Drive on around,” said Stub, climbing over beside Mr. Morton. “Mother is on the porch and Daddy and Michael are out in the barn.”
Mr. Morton followed the cement drive around to the side porch where Stub’s mother came down the steps to meet them.
“There’s a telegram for you, David,” said Stub’s mother, lifting Honey Bunch down and kissing Mrs. Morton. “It came this morning.”
Stub’s mother was “Aunt Carol” to Honey Bunch, and she was as gentle and calm as Stub was hurried and excited. Honey Bunch thought Aunt Carol was very pretty, with her soft, dark hair and blue eyes and she liked to hear her low, even voice.
“I’ll run the car out to the barn and come back,” said Honey Bunch’s daddy. “I’ve an idea what that telegram says. I thought I could get in a week’s vacation, but it seems not.”
“Come on, we’ll go, too,” said Stub, pulling Honey Bunch back into the car. “You haven’t seen the barn yet.”
Mr. Morton laughed and said that Honey Bunch had not seen anything yet.
“But she will know every corner of the farm, with you to show her, Stub,” he said. “Hello, here’s Rand.”
Stub’s daddy stood in the doorway of the bam and beckoned them to drive in.
“Park right here on the barn floor,” he said. “Give the horses something to look at when they’re not working.”
Uncle Rand had a jolly face and eyes that twinkled. Honey Bunch decided that he looked as though he could make up poetry, and she thought she would tell him about Mrs. Miller’s burned fingers as soon as she had a chance.
“Well, Honey Bunch, welcome to the farm,” said Uncle Rand, lifting her out of the car. “Carol tell you about the telegram, David?” he asked, shaking hands with Honey Bunch’s daddy.
“Yes, thanks,” said Mr. Morton. “It means I’ll have to go back to-morrow, I’m afraid. Oh, here is Buffy. Honey Bunch, come and shake bands with Buffy.”
A large Shepherd dog bounced up to them and held out his paw to Honey Bunch very politely. She shook hands with him and patted his head. When Buffy sat down he was as tall as Honey Bunch. That is, his head was on a level with hers.
“Stub,” said Uncle Rand, “we’re going up to the house. Supper will be ready in half an hour. You and Honey Bunch come in when Michael does and you won’t be late.”
“Yes, Daddy,” answered Stub.
The two daddies went away and Stub took Honey Bunch by the hand.
“I’ll show you all the nicest places in the barn,” she said. “But first come and talk to Michael.”
She led Honey Bunch through the bam till they came to another door. This was twice as wide as the one they had driven through and Honey Bunch was surprised to find, when she looked through it, that she was upstairs.
“We didn’t come up any stairs,” she said to Stub. “But this is the second floor, isn’t it?”
“There’s a basement under the barn,” explained Stub. “You don’t see it from the front of the barn. Michael! Michael! here’s my cousin!” she called.
Honey Bunch looked down and into a thin brown face with the merriest smile flashing up at her she had ever seen. She smiled back at once—every one smiled at Michael.
“Hello, Miss Honey Bunch!" said Michael, waving a cornstalk at her. “I’ve heard all kinds of nice things about you.”
“What are you doing, Michael?” asked Stub. “Can we jump down?”
“Certainly not,” said Michael promptly. “It’s soaking wet down here. I'm spreading out dry stalks because your father wants the cows to have a dry place to-night. That was a mighty heavy shower we had.”
“We saw it,” said Honey Bunch.
Then she jumped a little, for a cold nose touched her hand. It was Buffy, who wanted to look through the door, too.
“Come on, we’ll go up in the haymow,” said Stub, who never could stand still a moment. “I’ll show you how I can walk across a beam.” She pulled Honey Bunch up the little shaky ladder that led to the haymow and Buffy sat down on the floor to wait for them. He was too fat to climb ladders, and he knew it.
“Now you sit down and watch me,” said Stub.
She was a year older than Honey Bunch and as strong and sturdy as little girls are who live in the country all the year around and play outdoors in every kind of weather. Her daddy often said that Stub was “built like a little football,” by which he meant that she was not easily hurt and that bumps and knocks did not seem to bother her or discourage her.
“You watch,” said Stub, scrambling up on a heavy beam that ran across the haymow.
Honey Bunch sat down on the slippery hay and watched. She thought that Stub was very brave to walk across the beam so high in the air and she was quite sure that she, Honey Bunch, would never do such a thing. She didn’t even want to try.
“It’s just as easy!” called Stub. “Some day I mean to walk on the beam that is under the cupola—when Michael isn’t around to stop me.”
Alas for Stub’s pride. She had almost reached the end of the beam and was thinking about turning around to walk back when she stubbed her toe—poor Stub, she would stub her toe, no matter how careful she was—and, losing her balance, down she crashed, fortunately into the hay.
“Are you hurt?” cried Honey Bunch, scrambling over to her. “Stub, did you hurt yourself?”
“No, I’m not hurt,” answered Stub, rather breathlessly. “I did come down kind of hard, though, didn’t I? Maybe it’s time for us to go in to supper.”
“Stub!” called some one just at that moment. “Stub! Stubby!”
“That’s Liny,” said Stub, standing up and brushing off her dress. “She’s calling us to supper. Come on, Honey Bunch.”
Down the ladder tumbled Stub and Honey Bunch followed her more carefully. She was ^wondering who “Liny” was, and as they walked over the grass to the house, Stub told her.
“Liny is the hired girl,” she said. “She makes the best turnovers you ever ate.”
That reminded Honey Bunch of the old man and old lady, Mr. and Mrs. Popover, and she told Stub about them. By this time they had reached the house. They went in, to find the grown-ups already seated at the table. Liny, who was a short, fat girl, whisked them into her kitchen and had their faces and hands washed and their hair brushed almost before Honey Bunch knew what she was doing. There was a little room next to the kitchen which had been made over into a bathroom, to save busy folk the trouble of going upstairs to the large bathroom.
“Now run along,” said Liny kindly, giving them a little push when she had finished. “I’m going to prayer meeting to-night and I don’t want to be late with the supper dishes.”
Honey Bunch was so tired from the long drive and the excitement of the day that she hardly knew when Mother took her upstairs to put her into the big, four-posted bed in the square room with five windows which was to be her bedroom. She did not know, either, how long she had been asleep when Daddy woke her up by kissing her.
“Is it morning?” asked Honey Bunch sleepily. “Do I get up right away?”
“No, dear, not time to get up for you,” replied her daddy, hugging her tightly. “Good- by, darling. Daddy will come back as soon as he can.”
“Good-by,” murmured sleepy little Honey Bunch without knowing what she said.
She turned over on the nice cool pillow and went fast asleep again.
By and by she woke up and found Mother had been up and dressed for several hours and Daddy had gone away.
“The telegram called him to New York, dear,” Mother explained, sitting down on the bed by Honey Bunch. “He will go back to Barham in the car and then on to New York by train. And he thinks he’ll come and get us before our six weeks are up.”
Honey Bunch missed her daddy and she was sorry he had to go back to the dusty city. But there was so much to see and do on the farm that she couldn’t be sorry very long. There was sure to be something interesting going on wherever Stub was, and Honey Bunch thought her cousin was a very wonderful little girl.
“She isn’t afraid of anything,” said Honey Bunch to Michael one morning. “I don’t like the white cow, but Stub will pat her right on the nose.”
“Well, Stub has always lived on a farm and she is used to cows,” said Michael kindly. “I dare say there are plenty of things in the city that would surprise her.”
Honey Bunch did not really think that Stub would be surprised at anything. A girl who couldn’t be surprised by a cow, thought Honey Bunch, wouldn’t be surprised at—at— well, not even subway trains.
“Come on,” said Stub, rushing out of the kitchen door. “Hurry up, Honey Bunch. We want to go down to the brook before dinner time. The tax assessor is coming to dinner and Mother says I must keep this dress clean, so we can’t go wading.”
“It’s too cold, anyway, to go wading yet," said Michael, who was painting a flower box for Stub’s mother.
“What’s a tax assessor?” asked Honey Bunch, as the two little girls hurried down to the brook.
“He’s a man,” explained Stub. “Daddy knows him. His name is Mr. Kelly. He always comes to our house for dinner when he is in Elmville. Want to race me to the brook, Honey Bunch?”
Honey Bunch was willing, and away they went, pellmell, down the hill, over the road, and into the tall grass.
“Look out for stones!” panted Stub, and just as she said that she tripped and went tumbling headlong.
“Oh, my! Your dress!” cried Honey Bunch, more worried about Stub’s clean frock than her cousin’s arms or legs. Indeed Stub seldom hurt herself, but she surely did spoil a great many dresses.
“It’s all right,” said Stub hastily, sitting up and rubbing her elbows. “I’ve just pulled some of the gathers out.”
Honey Bunch looked at the dress doubtfully. It touched the ground when Stub stood up because she had pulled the skirt loose from the waist There was a great streak of dirt across the front, too, and Honey Bunch was sure Aunt Carol would not call it a clean dress now.
“I don’t see why I can’t fall backward,” complained the unlucky Stub. “I always tear my dresses in front where they show. But I guess we can mend this before Mother sees it. Come on, Honey Bunch, let’s go up to my room and we’ll sew it up. The dirt will brush off with a wet rag. I know it will.”
They climbed the hill again and went in at the side door and up the back stairs to Stub’s room without meeting any one.