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

Chapter I



“HONEY BUNCH,” said Ida Camp suddenly, “there’s an express wagon stopping at your door.”

Honey Bunch was sitting in the swing on Ida’s porch and pretending that she was going to a fire. It was a game she and Ida had learned from watching the boys who lived on their street. If there was one game they played more than another, it was going to a fire. Ida had a porch hammock and a dinner bell—a large, old-fashioned one—and she and Honey Bunch would sit in the hammock and swing and take turns ringing the bell. Sometimes Ida’s mother would come out and say they were making too much noise, and then they would have to stop and play a quieter game.

When Honey Bunch looked across the street and saw the express wagon stopping squarely in front of her own front door, she forgot all about playing fire. You know yourself it is most exciting to have an express wagon come to your house. You know at once that it is bringing something, and you always hope the something may be for you.

“Let’s go and see! Come on, Ida!” cried Honey Bunch, bouncing out of the swing and running down the steps as fast as she could go. “Let’s go and see what has come!”

Ida hurried after Honey Bunch and together they ran across the street, though not so fast that they did not stop and look both ways for automobiles. They were both careful to do that. But after they had made sure that no cars were coming toward them, they ran so fast that they hadn’t much breath left when they reached the express wagon.

They need not have hurried. The driver of the wagon was kneeling on the seat and looking at all the packages piled up in the back. He seemed to be hunting for something.

“Please, are you bringing something to our house?” asked Honey Bunch politely.

Once before she had thought the express wagon had brought a package to her house, but she had found out that the wagon had just stopped there while the driver took a bundle across the street. That was disappointing.

“I have a package here for—let me read the tag again—for Miss Honey Bunch Morton,” said the driver, smiling. “Do you know where she lives?”

Honey Bunch was so excited she gave a bounce. Ida Camp bounced, too. Ida did everything Honey Bunch did because she loved her so much she wanted to be just like her.

“I’m Honey Bunch Morton! Is it for me? What is it, please?” cried Honey Bunch.

The driver jumped down from the wagon, holding a long narrow package in his arms.

“I can’t tell you what it is, for I haven’t opened the bundle,” he answered cheerfully. “It feels a little heavy and yet not so heavy. It doesn’t rattle and I don’t think it is breakable. But you’ll have to guess the rest, for that is all I know about it.”

Honey Bunch was more excited than ever. She had not the slightest idea of what could be in the bundle. How could she guess what might be a little heavy and yet not so heavy? Ida Camp looked surprised, too.

“You can’t sign the slip, can you?” said the driver. “No, of course you can’t—your mother will have to do that for you. I’ll carry in this bundle for you and then you can see what is inside.”

Honey Bunch and Ida ran up the steps of Honey Bunch’s house, and as soon as Honey Bunch had opened the screen door she called “Mother!”

Mrs. Morton came downstairs. She was surprised, too, to see the driver and to hear that he had brought a package for Miss Honey Bunch Morton. She signed the slip for him and he hurried off, after telling Honey Bunch that he hoped she had a new doll. He said he couldn’t wait to see because that might make him late and he knew Honey Bunch wouldn’t want to keep another little girl waiting for her package.

“Oh, no!” said Honey Bunch. “Don’t be late—and hope the other little girl has a doll like mine.”

Mrs. Morton laughed as she took the long, thin package from the hall table where the driver had put it.

“You mustn’t expect to find a doll inside this, dear,” she said. “The driver said that because he thought you might want a doll. He doesn’t know you have nine nice ones upstairs.”

“But what is in it?” asked Ida Camp, pinching the bundle to see if she could feel any thing.

“I think we’ll go out on the back porch to open it,” said Mrs. Morton; “because it feels to me as though it were wrapped in excelsior. We can make as much litter as we want to on the back porch. Honey Bunch, run and get the kitchen scissors and you shall open the package all yourself.”

Honey Bunch ran to the kitchen and snatched the scissors from the hook over the table. Then she rushed out on the back porch where her mother and Ida were waiting with the mysterious bundle.

“Now cut the string and unwrap it carefully,” said Mrs. Morton.

Snip, snip, went the scissors and the strong brown string was in three pieces. Then Honey Bunch began to unwrap the paper. She unrolled it and unrolled it and unrolled it. There didn’t seem to be any end to that paper. Ida watched her breathlessly. Honey Bunch put out her tongue, as she always did when she worked hard, and began to wonder if there really was anything in the parcel.

“Here’s the curly stuff,” said Ida, when at last the paper was unrolled.

The curly stuff was the excelsior, and Honey Bunch pulled that out—wads and wads of it. The little May breeze blew it all over the back porch, but no one minded that. What they wanted to see was under the excelsior.

At last Honey Bunch came to something black and shiny and something bright and shiny, too. She cut one more string and tore off the last scrap of paper and then—

“Garden tools!” shouted Honey Bunch. “Look, Ida—garden tools! Here’s a rake and a hoe and a spade! Look, Mother!” “They are lovely,” said Mrs. Morton, while Ida felt of the rake. “Lovely, dear. And here is a card tied to the handle of the hoe. Guess who sent them to you, Honey Bunch.” “Stub,” guessed Honey Bunch. “She likes farming, and maybe she thinks I’ll come see her this summer and bring them with me. Did Stub send them, Mother?”

Mrs. Morton shook her head.

“No, Stub didn’t send them to you, dear,” she answered. “I knew at once where they came from when I signed the receipt. This card says ‘with love to Honey Bunch from Uncle Peter, who hopes she will have a garden to show him next month.”

“My dear, darling Uncle Peter sent me my garden tools!” sang Honey Bunch, hugging the little hoe and rake and spade as though they were the uncle who had sent them to her. “I wish he would come see us now, Mother, and I could tell him I like them.”

“We’ll write him that,” Mrs. Morton promised. “And he’ll be here next month, perhaps. Well, Honey Bunch, what are you going to do with your tools, now that you have them?”

“Garden,” replied Honey Bunch promptly. “Garden the way you do, Mother. Daddy will tell me what to do and I’ll have flowers to put in your vases in the morning.”

“That will be lovely,” said Mrs. Morton, giving her little girl a kiss. “You and Daddy will have to garden this year, because I don’t want to stand too long on my foot. You’ll pick Mother’s roses for her when they come, won’t you, dear?”

Honey Bunch promised to pick the roses. Her mother had a good many flowers in her garden, but she had hurt her foot in a fall on the ice during the winter, and she did not think she would be able to do as much work in the yard this summer as she had always done before. But, as she said, there would be Honey Bunch and Daddy, and surely they would garden together beautifully.

Honey Bunch and Ida went out and showed the new tools to Norman Clark, whose yard adjoined Honey Bunch’s at the back and was separated from it by a high board fence. Mrs. Miller—who came to wash for Honey Bunch’s mother—said Norman lived on the fence, but Honey Bunch was sure Mrs. Miller was mistaken about that. Norman didn’t live on the fence at all—he had his meals in his house and he slept there, just like any other boy; he only stayed on the fence part of the morning, when it was sunny, and almost all the afternoon, when it was shady. He liked to stay on the fence because he could see up and down the block, into nearly all the other yards and, looking through the wide strip of ground at the side of Honey Bunch’s house, he could see out into the street on which her house faced.

The two little girls found Norman sitting on the fence, whittling a piece of wood. He thought the tools were very nice, “I don’t suppose you want to lend that spade?” he suggested. “I could use a spade. I haven’t anything but a rusty tin shovel that isn’t any good.”

“Are you going to have a garden, Norman?” asked Honey Bunch. “That will be fun. What are you going to plant in it?”

“No, I don’t want any garden,” replied Norman scornfully. “Gardens are for girls. I’m a pirate chief and I need spades to dig for buried treasure. You lend me yours and perhaps I’ll bring you home a gold chest.”

Honey Bunch stared at him. She did not especially want a gold chest.

“I’m making a dagger now,” went on Norman, showing the piece of wood he was whittling. “It goes in my belt and stays there day and night.”

“Don’t you take it out when you go to bed?” asked Ida.

“Not unless it sticks in me,” answered Norman. “A pirate chief should always be armed. Will you lend me the spade, Honey Bunch?”

“I have to garden with it,” replied Honey Bunch. “Maybe when I have my garden all dug, I’ll lend it to you. Where is the buried treasure, Norman?”

“I don’t know till I find it,” said Norman. “You never know where the treasure is before you dig it up. That’s why it is exciting to be a pirate. Maybe there is buried treasure right there, under that rose bush.”

Honey Bunch and Ida turned and stared at the rose bush. Suddenly, a beautiful black cat with a white streak of fur around her neck walked from behind it. This was Lady Clare and her collar was ermine—Daddy Morton said so.

“You’ll have to tie Lady Clare up if you’re going to make a garden,” remarked Norman, cutting slivers of wood from his dagger.

“Cats dig up gardens as fast as you plant ’em, ’less you tie ’em up.”

“Lady Clare won’t dig up my garden,” Honey Bunch declared earnestly. “She likes flowers. I’ll tell her I am going to have flowers like Mother and she’ll walk around the garden. You’ll see, Norman.”

Norman said all right, but he didn’t seem to believe it. However, he patted Lady Clare when she jumped up on the fence beside him and she purred and curled her front paws under herself, ready to take a nap. Lady Clare liked the fence almost as much as Norman did. Perhaps she, too, liked to watch what was going on in the other yards.

Honey Bunch went away thinking of what Norman had said, and then it began to worry her. If she planted a garden, would Lady Clare really try to dig it up?

This page has paths: