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

Chapter XII


Honey Bunch went home to tell her mother about her visit and to ask her what a runway was. She understood at once how the old lady could wheel her chair down the steps when Mrs. Morton explained that the kind of runway she meant was like the “gangplanks.” Honey Bunch had walked across when she went on the ferryboats in New York. Honey Bunch had had a trip on the ferryboat once or twice during her visit to the Turner twins, Bobby and Tess.

Mrs. Lancaster had said that a visit from Honey Bunch did her more good than medicine, so that may have been the reason she appeared bright and early the next morning in her wheel-chair close to the fence behind which was Honey Bunch’s garden. Honey Bunch had often asked her to wheel her chair in at the side gate and see the garden close at hand, but Mrs. Lancaster would never come inside the fence.

This morning Mrs. Morton saw her from the window and waved to her. She had discovered that the old lady would rather talk to Honey Bunch and that she was not comfortable when older people were about. So kind Mrs. Morton always managed to speak to her and say “good morning,” but she did not often come down the walk to the fence.

“I think she is queer,” Norman Clark had once said to Honey Bunch.

Honey Bunch had cried, and that made Norman feel bad and Mrs. Morton had to comfort them both.

“You mustn’t speak unkindly of Honey Bunch’s friends, Norman,” she said to the little boy, “and I’m sure you didn’t mean to. Honey Bunch is sure, too, aren’t you, dear? Mrs. Lancaster is an old lady, and when one has white hair she should never be called ‘queer,’ whatever she may do. You didn’t think she was odd when she made Spot for Honey Bunch, Norman, nor when she told you your sunflowers were taller than any she had ever seen. Just because she doesn’t want to come into the garden is no reason why you should say she is queer. But Honey Bunch isn’t going to cry any more, because she knows you didn’t understand.”

When Mrs. Lancaster saw the snapdragons that had blossomed from the seed she had given Honey Bunch, she did not say a word at first. She nodded her head slowly, several times.

“Just as I thought,” she said at last. “Just as I thought. It is truly magnificent, the finest that grows. You must have what they call the ‘growing touch,’ Honey Bunch. Your whole garden is lovely, but the snapdragon is loveliest of all.”

“What is the ‘growing touch?”’ asked Honey Bunch, looking at her small hands as though she thought it might be something that showed in her strong, brown little fingers.

“Oh, the growing touch is the magic that makes flowers grow for those who love them,” explained Mrs. Lancaster. “Well, I must be going back—my cousin made me promise not to stay out long to-day. How is Spot standing the showers, Honey Bunch?”

“He doesn’t get wet a bit,” answered Honey Bunch. “I feel of him after it stops raining every time and he is just as dry! I love him very much, Mrs. Lancaster.”

The old lady smiled and said she was glad to hear it.

“Norman’s sunflowers are out, too, I see,” she remarked, turning her chair around. “I expect I’ll hear him shout way up to our house, when he finds out what has happened.” She wheeled herself away rapidly and Honey Bunch ran out to meet the postman. There were three post cards for her, all from Uncle Peter.

“He’d be sorry if he knew my forget-me-not locket was lost,” she thought, as she ran upstairs to ask her mother to read the post cards to her. “His picture was in it.”

Honey Bunch missed her pretty locket more than any one suspected. Anna Martin scolded a great deal about her aunt’s pencil and Fannie Graham had cried so much over her lost beads that her daddy had bought her a new string to take their place. But Honey Bunch hardly mentioned her locket. She thought about it, though, and wished for it back.

Uncle Peter had written the three post cards from a suburb of London, the great city in England where he and Uncle Fred, Julie’s daddy, were staying. Each card showed the picture of a garden, and Uncle Peter had told something about the flowers on each card.

“They are making great preparations for a flower show here in a week or two,” he wrote on one card. “Doesn’t Barham hold something like that every year? If they do, be sure you exhibit, Honey Bunch—you may carry off the prize.”

Honey Bunch laughed a little over this message.

“Is there a flower show here, Mother?” she asked. “Could I go in it?”

“Why, darling, I know so little about it, I’m afraid I can’t tell you,” answered Mrs. Morton. “I imagine those who exhibit flowers have large gardens and gardeners to grow their flowers. I hardly think a little girl could enter her flowers in a real flower show. Uncle Peter is teasing.”

Honey Bunch forgot the flower show just then, for she heard a shout from Norman. He had climbed up to his favorite place on the fence and had seen his sunflowers. He was delighted with them.

“Honey Bunch! Honey Bunch!” he was shouting. “Come on out and look at my sunflowers! Bring me a tape measure—I want to measure them.”

Honey Bunch laughed and her mother laughed and Mrs. Farriday, who had heard the commotion and came running to her window, laughed, too.

“They are fine sunflowers, Norman,” said Mrs. Farriday, when she saw them. “I’ll have to get Honey Bunch to help me with my garden next year. My flowers don’t compare with hers. Yesterday afternoon there were two women going by, Honey Bunch, and they saw your snapdragons. I couldn’t help hearing what they said.

“ ‘I never saw such colors in my life,’ said one.

“And the other said she thought they were the largest blossoms ever grown and the most perfect in shape.”

Honey Bunch was very happy. Her first little garden was growing beautifully and giving other people pleasure. And a garden, her mother had told her long ago, is meant to give pleasure.

Something sad and something glad happened to Honey Bunch this same day. Raking her neat paths between the beds of flowers, she found a little dead bumble bee. No one could tell her what had made it die, but Honey Bunch finally decided he had overworked, carrying honey to his family. She rather thought he had tried to carry too much honey at one time and had broken his back. Yes, that was it, she was sure.

Honey Bunch found a nice, little white box in Mother’s sewing basket, an empty box that Mrs. Morton said she might take. Then she put the bumble bee in that and asked her mother to write “Mr. Bumble Bee” on a little white card—this was to be his tombstone, and a very good one it was.

Honey Bunch put the dead bee in the box and dug a little hole under Mrs. Miller’s cabbage rose bush. She put the box in the hole and covered it up and put the card into the ground so that just the name showed. Then she sang, all to herself, “How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour,” which she thought was appropriate. This was the only song Mrs. Miller had ever been heard to sing, and she never sang any more than that. Honey Bunch once asked her how did the little busy bee improve each shining hour? And Mrs. Miller had answered that it gathered honey. That was why Honey Bunch was sure this was the right song to sing for the dead little bee.

She had cried a little tear or two, back of the rose bush where no one would see her, and was just going to finish raking the path when she heard Mrs. Miller calling her. Mrs. Morton had gone downtown and Honey Bunch and Mrs. Miller were the only ones at home.

“Honey Bunch! Honey Bunch!” called Mrs. Miller. “Where are you?”

Honey Bunch wiped her eyes and came out where Mrs. Miller could see her.

“Here’s some one to see you, dearie,” said Mrs. Miller.

Honey Bunch looked, and there was the clerk from the seed store, smiling at her.

“I heard about your garden, Honey Bunch,” he said, “and I had to come to see it. But where on earth did you get snapdragon like that?”

He was staring at the secret flowers Mrs. Lancaster had given Honey Bunch.

“Some one was in the store this morning, and all they could talk about were the snapdragons they had seen,” explained the clerk. “Mr. Anderson, the head of the firm, heard them and he was interested. You know he is president of the Annual Flower Show. This man who was talking about the garden said he had noticed the name-plate on the door of the house—that it was ‘Morton.’ But I never thought that it was your garden till I saw you.”

Honey Bunch took the clerk all around and showed him her flowers. He remembered the seeds and the pansy plants and he remembered the bouquet he had seen her carrying to Mrs. Lancaster. He thought Spot, the scare cat, was wonderful and he insisted on holding Lady Clare up to Spot to see if she wouldn’t be scared. Of course she wasn’t—nothing ever really frightened Lady Clare. She behaved much better about going to sleep on the flowers now—it was really because the plants were too tall for her to lie down on them comfortably, but Honey Bunch hoped it was because Lady Clare had learned that a cat is not supposed to go to sleep on flower beds.

The seed store clerk—his name was Mr. Fredericks—saw all the garden and he thought it lovely and said so. But he kept looking at the snapdragons and praising them, and at last he said:

“Honey Bunch, why don’t you have an exhibit in the flower show? The entries are still open and your snapdragons will be at their best in about two weeks, when the show starts. We have blanks down at the store, and your daddy will fill them out for you. I wanted to stay and see your mother, but I must get back to the store. You’d better go in the show, Honey Bunch—that’s my advice.”

As soon as Mrs. Morton came home, Honey Bunch and Mrs. Miller told her what Mr. Fredericks had said. Mrs. Morton thought that if Honey Bunch wanted to have some flowers in the show, she might, but they must first ask her daddy.

“Could I be in the flower show, Daddy?” asked Honey Bunch, the moment her daddy came up the front steps that night. “The seed store man says to take his advice and go in. And Uncle Peter said maybe I would win a prize.”

Mr. Morton laughed as he looked at Honey Bunch’s mother.

“Our little gardener seems to be getting famous,” he said. “Two men stopped me on the street this evening and asked me where we got the seed for that snapdragon. You know the old-fashioned flowers are being grown again and every one thinks it is the finest specimen they have seen. I begin to think Honey Bunch will have to go in the show and try her luck.”

When Honey Bunch told Norman that she was going to have an entry in the Barham Annual Flower Show, he said he knew his sunflowers would carry off the prize.

“Not show the sunflowers?” he said, when Honey Bunch told him she was planning to enter her snapdragons. “Huh, you’ll be sorry—there won’t be any sunflowers there half the size of these.”

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