THE SECRET FLOWERS
HONEY BUNCH might have grieved more over her lost locket if something else had not happened almost at once. This something else was most important. The secret flowers bloomed!
“Honey Bunch,” said Mrs. Farriday, leaning out of her kitchen window and staring at the square plot of ground where Honey Bunch had planted the seeds the old lady had given her, “for pity’s sake, what kind of flowers are those?”
Mrs. Lancaster had told Honey Bunch that as soon as the flowers bloomed they would no longer be a secret; she might then tell any one who asked her what the flowers were.
“They’re snapdragons, Mrs. Farriday,” said Honey Bunch proudly. “Aren’t they pretty?”
“Pretty!” repeated Mrs. Farriday. “They’re magnificent. I never saw such flowers in my life, never. They’re twice as large as any snapdragon I ever saw and as for color—well, I never saw such color!”
Honey Bunch could hardly wait for Mrs. Lancaster to come in her wheel-chair that morning. She wanted to show her the flowers and tell her what Mrs. Farriday had said.
But though she waited and waited, Mrs. Lancaster did not come. When it was long past her usual time, Honey Bunch knew that she was not coming.
“Mother,” said Honey Bunch, going up the back porch steps and pressing her little nose against the screen door till it looked like a little plaid nose, “couldn’t I take Mrs. Lancaster a bouquet of flowers? She didn’t come this morning and I want to tell her about the secret flowers.”
Mrs. Morton was working in the kitchen. She had been out in the garden and had seen the beautiful new flowers, and she thought, as Mrs. Farriday did, that they were wonderful. Now she shut the oven door carefully and came out on the porch beside Honey Bunch.
“Do you know where Mrs. Lancaster lives, dear?” she asked thoughtfully.
“Yes, Mother,” said Honey Bunch. “She lives in the yellow brick house on the next block. Her cousin has a boarding house in it, and Mrs. Lancaster lives there They haven’t any garden at all, Mother—just a cement place to hang the clothes in. Mrs. Miller says cement is very bad for your feet —maybe that is why Mrs. Lancaster is lame.”
“Oh, no, dear,” Mrs. Morton said quickly. “I think she must have been lame before she came to live with the cousin. Well, if you want to take her some flowers, I think that will be lovely. You may take a fresh sponge cake, too, and say your mother sent it to her.”
Honey Bunch’s garden was worth looking at now. Gardens pay back all the love and care given them, and Honey Bunch had loved her garden and cared for it faithfully. The nasturtiums were blooming and the sweet peas and the clove pinks, though they had not so many flowers as at first. By and by, her daddy told Honey Bunch, they would stop blooming and rest. Norman’s sunflowers were just about ready to smile at the sun. Norman was watching them every day. He said they were going to be the finest sunflowers on the block and already they were the tallest.
Ida Camp’s red poppies made a beautiful splash of color against the green of the garden, and the scarlet sage that Honey Bunch had planted for her cousin Julie was just as bright a red. Honey Bunch had flowers to pick every day now. She had planted other seeds that her daddy had brought her—sweet alyssum, a pretty white flower; some golden glow, which would not bloom till later in the season when some of the other flowers were resting; and some lovely bluebells that, Daddy said, just matched Honey Bunch’s blue eyes. Then, of course, there were the marigolds she had planted for the Turner twins and the heliotrope. Oh, Honey Bunch had a fragrant garden indeed!
She took her little scissors and began to snip flowers to go into her bouquet for Mrs. Lancaster. She thought it would be nice to put some of each flower in, and she was sorry that Mrs. Miller’s rose bush had no roses on it. It was growing beautifully, was that rose bush—dear me, there was no reason why it shouldn’t, with Honey Bunch and Mrs. Miller both tending to it. Mrs. Miller carried out a pan of soap suds once a week and poured it over her bush. This, she said, kept the bugs away from its glossy green leaves. Honey Bunch carefully picked off any little bugs she found on it during the week, and so the bush thrived and grew and Mr. Morton said they might expect to find roses on it next year.
“What are you doing?” asked Norman Clark, climbing up on the fence to look over at Honey Bunch.
‘‘Picking flowers,” said Honey Bunch.
“I’m going to take a bouquet to Mrs. Lancaster—she didn’t come this morning. Mother!” she called, raising her voice, “Mother, do you care if I cut a piece of your heliotrope?”
“Of course not, Honey Bunch!” Mrs. Morton called back quickly. “It really is your own heliotrope—cut it by all means.”
“Don’t you cut my sunflowers, though,” said Norman. “I guess they’ll be out to-morrow, don’t you, Honey Bunch?”
“Maybe,” replied Honey Bunch, laughing to think of a sunflower in her bouquet.
“What are those flowers?” asked Norman, pointing to the secret flowers. “I never saw those before. Aren’t they the ones Mrs. Lancaster gave you?”
“Yes, they are,” replied Honey Bunch, nodding her head. “They are snapdragons. And Mrs. Farriday said she never saw flowers like them. Aren’t they lovely, Norman?” “They’re pretty,” admitted Norman. “But I like sunflowers better. Sunflowers are my favorite flowers. My goodness, Honey Bunch, are you going to take Mrs. Lancaster all the flowers you have in your garden?”
“I won’t cut any more,” said Honey Bunch, looking with pride at the beautiful bunch she held in her hand. “You didn’t find Anna’s gold pencil, did you, Norman?”
Norman frowned and shook his head.
“I found a pencil in the gutter yesterday and I took it to Anna,” he said, “but she said it wasn’t her aunt’s. Her aunt’s pencil was gold and this one was silver—Anna called it tin. I saved it. Want it, Honey Bunch? I guess you can scour it bright.”
“No, thank you, I don’t need a pencil,” answered Honey Bunch politely, and Norman put the battered tin pencil he had found back in his pocket. He was glad Honey Bunch did not want it, for he thought he could trade it to Teddy Gray for a broken penknife he had.
Honey Bunch left Norman sitting on the fence and went into the kitchen to get the sponge cake. Her mother had it ready for her, a round sponge cake with a hole in the center and wrapped in waxed paper and a white napkin over that. Mrs. Morton tied up the flowers for Honey Bunch with a string and then the little girl was ready.
“Don’t stay long, dear,” said her mother, giving her a kiss, “and be careful when you cross the street.”
Honey Bunch promised to remember and started off. She felt very important, quite as if she were grown up and going calling. She carried the cake in one hand and the flowers in the other.
“Well, how do you do!” said some one, as she stood at the curb, waiting for the automobiles to go by so she could cross the street. There was just one street to cross before she came to the block where Mrs. Lancaster lived, and there were not many automobiles in the section of Barham where Honey Bunch lived. Still, a little girl must be careful if there is only one automobile coming when she wants to cross the street.
“You remember me, don’t you, Honey Bunch?” said the some one who had spoken to her. “Are those flowers from your garden?”
It was the clerk from the seed store, and Honey Bunch remembered him right away. She showed him her flowers and told him about the garden and he said that a bouquet like that was worth all the year’s advertising his store had done. Then he took Honey Bunch across the street—though he didn’t seem to watch the traffic, nothing ran over them—and shook hands with her and went on. He said he had to go to the freight office of the railroad to find out why some seeds his store had shipped had never been delivered.
Without a bit of trouble, Honey Bunch found the yellow brick house where Mrs. Lancaster lived. It was the only brick house on the block, for the others were frame. Honey Bunch marched up the stone steps and punched the bell bravely.
“Is Mrs. Lancaster at home?” she asked, when a tall, thin woman, in a brown apron, came to the door.
The apron had white spots on it and it reminded Honey Bunch of Spot, the oilcloth dog Mrs. Lancaster had made for her garden. Only Spot was white with brown spots and the apron was brown with white spots.
“Yes, Mrs. Lancaster is in,” said the woman kindly. “But she doesn’t feel well to-day. She hasn’t been out this morning. Do you want to see her?”
Honey Bunch said she wanted to see Mrs. Lancaster very much.
“Then you sit down here on this bench, and I’ll go tell her,” said the woman, disappearing into the back hall, which was dark and shadowy.
Honey Bunch sat down and found herself staring directly at Mrs. Lancaster’s wheelchair.
“I wonder how she gets down the steps?” thought the little girl.
Before she could puzzle this out, the woman with the brown apron came back, smiling.
“You’re the little girl with the garden, aren’t you?” she asked.
“Jen—that’s my cousin, Mrs. Lancaster—is always talking about you. If you’ll come with me, I’ll show you her room.”
Honey Bunch followed her down the hall and into a room which, to her surprise, was a bedroom. Honey Bunch had never heard of a bedroom on the first floor of a house. She had supposed that every one went upstairs to sleep.
“Why, Honey Bunch, what a dear little girl you are to come and see me,” cried Mrs. Lancaster joyfully.
She was sitting up in bed and she did not look ill. She explained that she had been lamer than usual that morning and had not felt like going out in her chair. She was delighted with the flowers and the cake, and her cousin, whom she introduced to Honey Bunch as Miss Hastings, brought her a vase of water for the flowers and a plate for the cake. Then she went away.
“Mrs. Lancaster,” said Honey Bunch with shining eyes, “the secret flowers bloomed— the snapdragons, you know.”
“I thought they would this week,” declared the old lady, her black eyes sparkling, too. “And what do you think of them, Honey Bunch?”
“They are lovely,” said Honey Bunch. “So big and such pretty colors. Mrs. Farriday, who lives next door to us, says she never saw flowers like them.”
“And for a very good reason,” announced Mrs. Lancaster. “She never saw flowers like them, because there never were any flowers like them. My husband saved the seed and tended that strain for years. I wish he could see your garden this minute.”
Honey Bunch stayed a little longer and when she said she must go, Mrs. Lancaster; declared that she felt quite well again.
“You do me more good than medicine, Honey Bunch,” she said cheerfully. “I do believe, if you were watching me, that I could wheel my chair down the steps and never bother with the runway one of the boarders built for me. I’ll be around and look at the snapdragons to-morrow, dear. Be sure you thank your mother for the cake.”
“Yes’m, I’ll thank her for you,” replied Honey Bunch. “I can’t forget, for Mother’ll say, ‘Did you have a good time with Mrs. Lancaster, Honey Bunch?’ and I’ll say that I had a good time and then I’ll remember to say that you thank her for the cake.”
Mrs. Lancaster laughed a little, but she looked pleased, and then she and Honey Bunch said good-bye.