IN THE ORCHARD“BUT, Mother,” said Honey Bunch earnestly, “I put it right on top of the sun and moon clock.”
“Then it must have dropped down behind it,” said Mrs. Morton, and she and Aunt Carol moved the clock and everything on the mantel shelf, but there was no picture anywhere to be found.
“I’m just as sorry as I can be, Liny,” said Aunt Carol. “Can’t you get another one?” “It’s the only one they had taken,” sighed poor Liny. “Well, it’s my own fault for not taking better care of it. Don’t you cry, Honey Bunch; you couldn’t help it. Maybe it will turn up again, anyway.”
But although Liny cleaned the living room the next day and swept and shook and beat every rug and curtain and pillow and dusted every vase and bit of woodwork and every ornament on the shelf, she did not find the picture. It seemed to have disappeared “like magic,” Liny said.
“I stood on a chair and I put it on the clock,” said Honey Bunch over and over. “I found the picture on the floor and I meant to save it. I don’t see where it went.”
For as long as a week, Honey Bunch and Liny and Stub hunted for the picture and then they gave it up and said it must be lost. There were so many interesting things to do on the farm that even Honey Bunch couldn’t be expected to stay in the house and hunt for a missing photograph, though she was a persevering little girl and did not like to give up.
“Where are you going, Michael?” asked Honey Bunch, one sunny morning.
She was sitting on the front porch waiting for Stub, and Michael had come whistling around the corner of the house. He carried a roll of wire over his shoulder and had some tools in his hand.
“Going to mend the orchard fence,” answered he, smiling. “The apples are beginning to get ripe and your uncle thinks some of the neighbors’ young pigs have been in rooting for them.”
“But why don’t the pigs stay at home?” asked Honey Bunch. “They mustn’t come over here and eat Uncle Rand’s apples.” “Well, somebody doesn’t mend his fences,” explained Michael. “But that isn’t my fault. I aim to make ours tight, and then we won’t have to worry.”
“We’re coming, Michael,” said Stub, bouncing out of the door and almost falling over Honey Bunch. “Where are you going?” That was just like Stub. She always made up her mind to go before she found out where she was going.
“All right, come along if you want to,” said Michael. “I like company.”
Honey Bunch loved to go to the orchard. She liked the grass and the smell of honeysuckle which grew along the fence. She liked the trees which were so low and easy to climb that a little girl could scramble up into them without a bit of trouble. Oh, the orchard was the nicest place to play, no doubt of that!
This morning they found apples lying on the ground. There had been a shower in the night and the wind had knocked a good many off.
“Now look here,” said Michael, putting down his wire. “You are not to eat a dozen apples and make yourselves sick. They’re hardly ripe enough to be good, you know.”
“But here’s a ripe sweet apple, Michael,” urged Stub. “Look, it’s just as soft! And here’s another for Honey Bunch!”
“You’ll probably find a bad spot in it some- where,” said Michael. “Eat one, then, just one! Will you promise, Stub? And look out for Honey Bunch?”
“Yes, of course,” replied Stub, biting into her apple with her sharp little white teeth. “I guess I know about green apples, Michael.”
“Perhaps you do,” said Michael. “I remember the last time you were sick. Now I’m going to work. Why don’t you pick up the green apples and put them in a pile for Liny? She’ll give us hot apple sauce and biscuits for supper then, perhaps.”
Honey Bunch and Stub thought this was a very good plan. They began to hunt under the trees for fallen apples, and each one they found they carried back to a tree near the piece of fence that Michael was mending.
“What do green apples do to you, Stub?” asked Honey Bunch.
“They double you up,” answered Stub.
“Did you ever eat any?” asked Honey Bunch, looking at a green apple she had found as though it might bite her and double her up on the spot.
“Twice,” answered Stub. “Once when I was little and didn’t know green apples would make you sick, and last year when I thought the apples were ripe and they weren’t.”
“Yes, and who told you they were not ripe and you wouldn’t take his word for it?” said Michael, who had overheard her.
“You did,” admitted Stub. “But I’m much older now and I know a lot more. Green apples make you so sick, Honey Bunch.”
Honey Bunch finished her nice sweet apple and said she wouldn’t eat a green apple, not for anything!
v“There! we’ve picked all the apples there are,” said Stub suddenly. “Let’s climb a tree and play ship.”
Stub loved to play ship. She had taught Honey Bunch the game, too. They each climbed into a tree and sat as far out on a limb as they could climb and then they bounced softly up and down. That, Stub said, was the ship rocking at sea.
“I wonder if Julie goes sailing in real boats,” said Honey Bunch, as she made her apple tree ship rock up and down.
Julie, you know was her cousin—and also Stub’s cousin—who lived at the seashore.
“Of course she does,” replied Stub, though she really didn’t know whether Julie went sailing or not. “I wish I lived at the seashore.”
Bang! Bang! went Michael’s hammer, as he pounded nails into the post to hold the wire.
“Michael!” called Stub. “Oh, Michael, wouldn’t you like to live at the seashore?” “Certainly not,” replied Michael, taking the nails out of his mouth so that he could speak more plainly. “I like to live in the country. That’s why I do. Stub, where’s Buffy?”
“Why—why, he’s shut up in the wagon house,” said Stub. “I forgot to let him out. Are you going to, Michael?”
“I’m going up after more nails, but if you want Buffy out, you’ll have to go and do it,” said Michael. “That’s the second time you’ve forgotten him. I am not going to the wagon house, only to the tool box.”
“You wait for me, Honey Bunch,” said Stub, climbing down from her tree and starting to run.
Stub knew that Michael was not to be coaxed or teased. She always shut Buffy in the wagon house to keep him from barking at the mail carrier, and she was supposed to let the dog out the moment the mail had passed. Alas, Stub sometimes forgot him and he would be shut up in the stuffy wagon house till some one went there and found him. Michael knew that the best way to help Stub remember her pet was to let her go and open the door for him. If Michael did it for her, Stub might never learn to be thoughtful.
So Michael went to get more nails and Stub ran to let out Buffy and Honey Bunch was left alone in the sunny orchard.
As she swung up and down on her branch, she saw something moving near the fence where Michael had been working.
“Are you a little pig?” called Honey Bunch softly, leaning down and trying to see under the honeysuckle vine.
Two red, dirty and indignant small faces peered out at her.
“Don’t you dare call us names!” said a voice that sounded very much like a small boy’s voice. “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself!”
“I didn’t know you were there,” said Honey Bunch. “Excuse me. Michael said little pigs came through the fence and that’s why I thought you were one. The pigs ate our apples before the fence was mended.”
“We were hunting for the hole,” said the boy who had spoken. “Do you live here?” “I’m Honey Bunch,” answered the little girl. “I’m visiting Stub. She’s my cousin. This is Uncle Rand’s farm, you know.”
“I’m Guy and he’s Ted,” the boy replied, beginning to climb over the fence. “We’re boarding at Mr. Phillips’. But he won’t let us in his orchard.”
“Gee, the apples are ripe, aren’t they?” said the other boy, Ted, running over to the tree where Honey Bunch and Stub had piled the apples for Liny to make into apple sauce.
“No, they’re not!” cried Honey Bunch, slipping down from the tree. “They’re green! Michael said so. If you eat them, they’ll double you up.”
“Nothing can double me up,” boasted Guy. “Anyway, these apples are ripe. I can squeeze them.”
“Michael said they’d make us sick,” argued Honey Bunch. “I guess he knows. Stub ate one sweet apple and so did I, but that’s all that were under the sweet apple tree.”
“Then, if these aren’t ripe, what are you saving ’em for?” asked Ted, picking one of the apples up and starting to eat it.
Honey Bunch stared at him. She expected him to double up before her eyes.
“They’re for apple sauce for supper,” she said.
“Well, if apples in apple sauce don’t make you sick, they won’t raw,” declared Guy. “Come on, Ted, fill your pockets.”
“They’re Uncle Rand’s apples!” exclaimed Honey Bunch. “And they will, too, make you sick. See if they don’t.”
But the two boys stuffed their pockets with the apples and filled their caps and then climbed the fence and ran away before Michael and Stub and Buffy came back together to the orchard.
“There were two boys here and they took a lot of apples,” said Honey Bunch. “I think it’s just like stealing. And won’t apples raw make you sick when apple sauce won’t, Michael?”
“Sure,” said Michael. “Might as well say that if a raw potato isn’t good for you, a baked one isn’t, either. Cooking makes all the difference in the world. I’m sorry those kids got away with the green stuff, though it wasn’t stealing, Honey Bunch. Apples that lie on the ground, in the country, are free for the asking, and most times without—to boys.”
That night Aunt Carol was called to the telephone from the supper table. When she came back she smiled at Honey Bunch. She had heard all about the morning in the orchard.
“Mrs. Phillips just telephoned me,” said Aunt Carol, “that those two little boys who are spending the summer with her have been dreadfully sick all the afternoon. They had to send for the doctor, because their mother was so frightened about them. She says she doesn’t think they will take green apples from our orchard again. Mr. Phillips tried to keep them away from his orchard till the fruit should be ripe enough to eat.”
“Aunt Carol,” asked Honey Bunch earnestly, “did they double up?”
“I didn’t ask Mrs. Phillips, but I shouldn’t, be surprised if they did,” replied Aunt Carol, while Uncle Rand leaned back in his chair and laughed till the tears came into his eyes.