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

Chapter VII


      STUB had a little workbasket of her own, with needles and thread and a shining pair of blunt-pointed scissors in it. She did not like to sew, but her mother said that perhaps if she had her own basket she might use it instead of pulling all the spools out of the large mending basket and tangling up the tape measure with the darning cotton.
     “Can you mend it without taking it off?” asked Honey Bunch, watching Stub as she threaded a needle with black thread.
     Stub’s dress was pink, but she thought black thread was stronger than any other kind, so she used that.
     “I can’t sew it, but you can,” said Stub. “Here, take this and don’t stick it in me.”
     Poor Honey Bunch stuck out her tongue as she always did when she was trying to do her best, and took the large needle Stub handed her. She didn’t know how the dress ought to be mended, but Stub did.
     “You run the needle along and kind of pick up all the gathers,” she directed. “Then you sew it fast to the waist.”
     Honey Bunch ran the needle in and out, in and out, and when she had all the gingham bunched up she took one long stitch to fasten it to the waist.
     “Ow! Ouch!” screamed Stub, dancing up and down. “Ouch! Oh, you ran that right into me!”
     “I—I didn’t mean to,” said Honey Bunch. “Did it hurt you very much, Stub?”
     “Yes, it did,” answered Stub. “But go on. I’ll hold my breath in and maybe you won’t do it again.”
     Though Honey Bunch hurried as fast as she could, Stub was quite purple in the face from holding her breath before she had finished.
     “I don’t think it looks very good,” said Stub, snipping the thread with her scissors. “But it will do, I guess. Now I’ll wash the dirt off with a wet cloth and then we’ll go down. Liny must have dinner ’most ready.”
     Stub took one of the towels in the bathroom and soaked one end of it in warm water. Then she scrubbed her dress with it. The more she scrubbed, the darker the streak of dirt grew.
     “You’ll get the whole dress wet,” said Honey Bunch. “I don’t believe you can get it off, Stub.”
     “I don’t believe I can, either,” sighed Stub. “Maybe Liny will lend me an apron. A nice, clean apron will be all right, even if the tax assessor is coming.”
     The two little girls ran downstairs and peeped out on the front porch. There sat a stout, red-faced man, talking to Stub’s father.
     “That’s Mr. Kelly,” said Stub. “Come on. Liny’s in the kitchen.”
     Liny was in the kitchen. She was putting pretty green lettuce leaves on a plate and talking to Michael, who sat on the back steps with Buffy.
     “My land!” said Liny, when she saw Stub and Honey Bunch. “Dinner will be on the table in five minutes, and look at you!”
     “Will you lend me an apron, Liny?” said Stub, coaxingly. “This dress isn’t very clean.”
     “Michael,” said Liny, “I ask you to look at these children.”
     “What’s the matter with them?” asked Michael, standing up to look in through the screen door.
     “Matter?” repeated Liny. “Why, Stub’s dress is a sight! It’s wet and dirty and sewed up with black thread in stitches you could see a mile away. And her face is black and Honey Bunch has a streak of dirt across her nose and I never saw such hands in my life! And company to dinner, too!”
     Honey Bunch was surprised to hear she had a dirty face. She had been so busy helping Stub that she had forgotten to wash her own face and hands.
     “Michael, you chop me some ice,” said Liny, drying her hands on a clean towel. “I won’t be a minute.”
     And in hardly more than a minute, Liny had Honey Bunch soaking her hands in the little bathroom off the kitchen while she hustled Stub into a clean blue dress that had been ironed that very morning and was lying on top of the clothes basket ready to be carried upstairs. Then Liny brushed Stub’s hair and washed her face and tied Honey Bunch’s ribbon again and dusted off their sandals and gave them each a clean pocket handkerchief from the basket of clean clothes.
     “Now then go out and sit down in a rocking chair and don’t let me hear a word from you till dinner is on the table,” said Liny, hurrying back to her kitchen.
     So Honey Bunch and Stub went out and spoke to Mr. Kelly, and no one would ever have thought that two such clean, cool, neat little girls could ever have been the least bit untidy.
     It was a very good dinner—at Broad Acres they had dinner in the middle of the day instead of at night, as most people did in Barham—but neither Honey Bunch nor Stub could talk very much. Mr. Kelly talked a great deal and Stub’s daddy talked to him and her mother did, too, and Honey Bunch’s Mother. Honey Bunch and Stub talked to each other a little, and they were glad when they were excused after the dessert had been served.
     They went out to the swing and stayed there till they saw Mr. Kelly ride away in his little red automobile. Then they went around to see if Liny would play croquet with them. Stub had been delighted with the croquet set. Michael had set it out, and sometimes he and Liny would play when they were not too busy.
     Both Honey Bunch and Stub liked Michael and Liny very much. They were always cheerful and they seemed to have a good time, though they did a great deal of work. Sunday afternoons Michael took Liny driving in a runabout. Stub told Honey Bunch that was the name of the shiny wagon harnessed to the shiny black horse.
     “Michael is saving money to buy an auto mobile,” said Stub. “But Daddy won’t have a car; he likes to drive horses.”
     This afternoon when Honey Bunch and Stub went around to ask Liny to come out and play croquet, they found her reading a letter. She was putting away the silver with one hand and holding the letter in the other and she laughed when she saw Honey Bunch’s blue eyes staring at her.
     “I ought not to try to do two things at once,” said Liny, “and I’ll put the rest of the dishes in place before I read this letter again. Would you like to see a picture of my brothers, Honey Bunch?”
     “Oh, yes!” said Honey Bunch, and Stub, who had heard of Liny’s brothers, came close to see the photographs, too.
     Honey Bunch looked at the picture Liny gave her. She saw two young men standing very straight and very tall. They looked serious. The taller one had his hand on the shoulder of the other and they were staring out of the picture straight into the eyes of whoever should be looking at them.
     “The tall one is Walter,” said Liny proudly. “And the shorter one—though he is almost six feet high—is George.”
     “Will they come to dinner?” asked Honey Bunch, who thought that if a tax assessor came, any one was likely to come to one of Liny’s good dinners.
     “Oh, ho!” laughed Stub. “They couldn’t come, could they, Liny? They live in South America!”
     “But Liny lives here,” said Honey Bunch. “Uncle Peter is Mother’s brother—Mother told me so—and he doesn’t live in South America. Brothers and sisters live near each other. Don’t they, Liny?”
     “Not always, dearie,” said Liny. “Walter and George went to South America over two years ago. I don’t expect them home before another two years are up. They are trying to make money and save it. Then, perhaps, we’ll have a home together some day.”
     Liny stared at the picture a moment, then put it down on the table. She folded up the letter and placed that in her apron pocket and began to carry the clean dishes into the dining room and to put them away in the china cup-board.
     “Liny, will you play one game of croquet?” asked Stub. “Just one before you go upstairs to rest your bones?”
     Liny had a few hours to herself every after-noon, and she had once told Stub that she “rested her bones” in that interval.
     “All right, I will if you’ll get Michael to hammer on the head of that orange mallet,” said Liny. “I can’t abide a mallet that comes off when you’re playing with it. Tell him to hammer it hard.”
     Stub ran away to get Michael to mend the orange mallet—orange was Liny’s favorite color and she always chose it when she played croquet—and Honey Bunch wandered into the living room to look at the sun and moon clock while she waited for the game.
     The sun and moon clock fascinated Honey Bunch. It was a very, very old clock and Uncle Rand said it had belonged to her great great grandmother. It was short and fat and dark and it had a sun and moon and little stars sprinkled over the square patch of glass above the clock face and sometimes it told when the moon changed. It didn’t always, for it was such an old clock it didn’t always work. Uncle Rand said that clocks grew tired of working just as people did, and when they were old they liked plenty of rest.
     “Liny!” Honey Bunch heard Stub come running into the kitchen. “Liny, Michael has found the white hen’s nest! It’s up in the haymow and he says there are seven eggs there.”
     “I’m coming!” answered Liny, and Honey Bunch heard the screen door slam as she ran after Stub.
     Honey Bunch ran out into the kitchen, in-tending to follow Liny and see the white hen’s nest, too; but as soon as she went into the kitchen she saw the photograph of Liny’s brothers lying on the floor. Liny had brushed it off with her apron as she ran out of the door.
     “Where’ll I put it?” said Honey Bunch to herself, picking it up. “Liny won’t want to lose it. I know! I’ll put it on top of the sun and moon clock.”
     Into the living room she trotted and dragged a chair over to the mantel. She had to stand on her tiptoes to reach the clock, but she did manage to put the picture on the top. Then she climbed down and raced out to the barn where she found Michael and Liny and Stub and one indignant white hen very much put out because her nest had been found and her seven round eggs she had thought to keep a secret.
     By the time Michael had shut up the hen in the hen-house and Liny had put away the eggs in her egg basket and one game of croquet to satisfy Stub had been played, it was time for Liny to think about putting on a clean dress and getting supper.
     “I’ll go down and pick up enough green apples for apple sauce first,” she decided. “Do you two want to come along?”
     Stub and Honey Bunch did want to go, and they helped Liny gather the apples and then followed her back to the house. Just as Liny was going upstairs, she remembered her photograph.
     “What did I do with Walter and George’s picture?” she said. “Don’t tell me I left it in my apron pocket, for if I did, it’s dropped out.”
     “It was on the floor,” cried Honey Bunch eagerly. “I found it and I put it on top of the sun and moon clock for you.”
     Liny hurried into the living room.
     “Your mother must have taken it off,” she said, glancing at the mantel. “It isn’t there.”
     But neither Honey Bunch’s mother nor Stub’s mother had seen the picture. When Liny asked them, they said they had not touched it. They did not know Liny had received a photograph from South America.

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