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

Chapter II


“DADDY,” said Honey Bunch at dinner that night, “could I make a garden in the morning?”

“Well, dear, it is early yet to start a garden,” her daddy answered. “Jack Frost might come and nip your seeds, and then think how sorry you would feel.”

“Oh, Daddy, Jack Frost went away ever so long ago!” cried Honey Bunch. “I have on my summer dress, Daddy. In winter I have to wear a winter dress. This is summer now, isn’t it, Mother?”

“Spring,” replied Mrs. Morton, smiling.

“Jack Frost has a trick of coming back in the night to surprise gardens,” explained Daddy Morton. “He goes away and stays several weeks, until he thinks we have forgotten about him. Then the winds tell him that the gardens are planted and some little green plants have come up and that the fruit trees are ready to shower out their beautiful blossoms.

“ ‘I’ll show them,’ says Jack Frost, and he hops on board the North Wind express and comes back. All night long he goes about and with his cold, cold fingers he pinches the little green stalks and freezes the brown earth where the little seeds are hidden and nips the fruit tree blossoms.

“ ‘Now they may plant their gardens all over again,’ he says, when he has done this; and away he goes and the warm weather comes back again.

“Sometimes Jack Frost will do this three times in a single month and sometimes once and sometimes not at all. But wise people do not trust him, and they save their little brown seeds until they are sure there is no danger of a return visit from Jack Frost.”

“I wouldn’t want Jack Frost to freeze my garden,” said Honey Bunch earnestly, “but it would be fun to use the tools Uncle Peter sent me.”

“Oh, you can do that,” her daddy answered quickly. “There are a great many things to be done to a garden, Honey Bunch, before it is ready for seeds and plants. I’ll draw you a picture of your garden after dinner, and then to-morrow you and I will go out and begin to work in it.”

And that, of course, was just what Honey Bunch wanted. As soon as dinner was over she ran and got a pencil and paper and then waited quietly while her daddy talked to some one on the telephone. She was as patient and sunny as a little girl with a name like hers ought to be. You see, she had another name—yes, indeed. Her “truly” name was Gertrude Marion Morton, but her daddy said he thought she was a bunch of sweetness and as he couldn’t say that every time he called to her, why not call her Honey Bunch?

So he did, and her mother soon did, too, and then Mrs. Miller, the washerwoman, and Uncle Peter and Stub and Julie and the Turner twins—who were Honey Bunch’s cousins —all began to say “Honey Bunch” whenever they spoke to her.

Ida Camp and the other little girls who lived in the neighborhood said Honey Bunch, too, and presently Honey Bunch might have forgotten that she had any other name if it had not been for the Christmas presents and the birthday party invitations and the letters that came to her addressed “Miss Gertrude Marion Morton.”

But Uncle Peter would never write that long name out. When he sent her presents —like the garden tools—he always addressed them to “Miss Honey Bunch Morton.” “Now I’ll show you how your garden will be,” said Daddy Morton, when he had finished talking over the telephone. “I think that long narrow piece of ground at the side of the house will be just right for you. It is sunny, and the back yard is already planted with Mother’s rose bushes and her tulip bulbs.”

“And Mrs. Miller has to have some grass to put the clothes on,” Honey Bunch pointed out. “She has to have grass to bleach the new tablecloth on. She says that rose bushes are all right for handkerchiefs, Daddy, but give her a piece of grass for a tablecloth!”

Mr. and Mrs. Morton laughed. Honey Bunch was very fond of Mrs. Miller and liked to listen to her talk. Sometimes Honey Bunch listened so eagerly and so carefully that she herself talked just like Mrs. Miller. That always made her daddy and mother laugh. Honey Bunch did not mind. She liked people to laugh, even when they laughed at her.

“Well, Mrs. Miller shall have her grass for the tablecloth,” said Daddy Morton, “and you shall have the side yard for your garden, Honey Bunch. What do you want to plant in it?”

“Tulips,” replied Honey Bunch right away. “Red and pink ones, like Mother’s.”

“Oh, dearest, I planted those last fall. You helped me, don’t you remember?” her mother reminded her. “You and I spent a whole afternoon planting the bulbs and I told you that they would sleep snug and warm all winter in the nice, warm earth and wake up this spring. You can’t plant bulbs in May, Honey Bunch; they wouldn’t flower.”

Honey Bunch thought a minute. She was disappointed about the bulbs, but she wasn’t going to let that spoil her garden.

“What are those little low flowers, Daddy?” she asked. “Norman Clark has a picture of some he painted in school before he moved to Barham. You know—Mother had some last summer. All colors.”

“Nasturtiums?” suggested Mr. Morton. “Yes,” replied Honey Bunch, nodding her head. “It’s a long name, isn’t it?” she added. “Could I have some of those, Daddy?”

“You may, if you’ll try to say the name,” her daddy said. “Try, Honey Bunch. Say ‘nasturtium.’ ”

Honey Bunch tried her best, and the third time she said it quite nicely. Her daddy said she would find it was easier each time she said it, and Honey Bunch and he decided that a gardener must be able to pronounce the name of any flower he planted in his garden.

“You have a long fence on one side of your garden that will be a support for tall or climbing flowers,” Daddy Morton said, when Honey Bunch had pronounced “nasturtium” plainly.

“What kinds of tall flowers are there, Daddy?” Honey Bunch asked eagerly.

“Well, larkspur is tall,” replied Mr. Morton. “Do you know what larkspur is, dear?”

“Aunt Carol had larkspur in her garden,” said Honey Bunch. “Blue flowers and, oh! so pretty.”

“Hollyhocks are tall, too,” said Mr. Morton. “I like hollyhocks myself, though some people think they are a stiff flower.”

“Hollyhocks and larkspur take two years to blossom,” objected Mrs. Morton. “I don’t think it is quite fair to ask so much patience from a little girl who is going to plant her first garden.”

“I’d forgotten that,” said Mr. Morton. “No, Honey Bunch, this year we’ll have only flowers in your garden that will bloom for you before the summer is over. No little gardener should be asked to cultivate patience her first season.”

Then he said they would go shopping for their flower seeds the next week.

“This is the way your garden will look, then, Honey Bunch,” he told her. “That is, if we don’t change our minds.”

Honey Bunch looked. She saw a long, narrow frame drawn on the paper. This frame was marked off into neat little spaces and in these spaces the flower seeds were to go, her daddy said.

“I wish I could plant the favorite flower of every one,” said Honey Bunch earnestly. “Then, when it grew, I could pick it for them and put it in a vase in their house.”

“So you shall, darling,” Mrs. Morton told her. “You shall plant a flower to please every one—if your garden is large enough. You’ll have plenty of time to ask and find out what the favorite flowers are, before the ground is ready for planting.”

“And if a little girl I know is in bed and fast asleep within the next fifteen minutes,” added Daddy Morton, “I’ll bring her home something to-morrow night to use in the garden.”

You may be sure Honey Bunch scurried off to bed at that. And though she meant to dream of her garden, she didn’t. She didn’t dream at all.

In the morning Daddy Morton went downtown to his office, promising to come home an hour earlier than usual that afternoon and help Honey Bunch with her garden.

“I’ll go and ask Mrs. Miller what her favorite flower is,” said Honey Bunch to herself, when she had carried the bread tray out to the kitchen for her mother and brushed the crumbs off the table like the helpful little girl she was.

Mrs. Miller had come to iron that morning and her cheerful red face was bending over the ironing board in the laundry when Honey Bunch took her new garden tools downstairs to show her.

“Uncle Peter sent them to me,” explained Honey Bunch proudly, “and Daddy is going to help me this afternoon; we’re going to make a garden. I’m not going to put the seeds in the ground till it is too late for Jack Frost to come back and spoil them.”

“They’re grand tools,” declared Mrs. Miller. “Just grand. ’Tis a fine garden you should be having, Honey Bunch, with tools like that to work for you.”

“I’ll plant something for you,” said Honey Bunch. “What is your favorite, Mrs. Miller, to grow in the garden?”

Honey Bunch meant a flower, but Mrs. Miller did not know that. She put her hot iron back on the stove and looked at the little girl with great earnestness.

“Cabbage,” she said solemnly. “Honey Bunch, if there is one thing I do admire in a garden, ’tis cabbage. The bigger the better, to my way of thinking.”

Honey Bunch stared at the good-natured washerwoman.

“But, Mrs. Miller,” she answered, “this is a flower garden. I want to pick flowers and put them in vases, you know. You can’t put a cabbage in a vase and look at it, can you?”

“No, that’s true,” agreed Mrs. Miller. “Though you can put it in the pot and have a fine dinner with it. But, of course, I would be the last one to ask you to mix vegetables with posies. I tell you, Honey Bunch! How about a cabbage rose? That’s a grand flower now.”

“Is it?” asked Honey Bunch doubtfully. “Are you sure it is a flower, Mrs. Miller?”

Mrs. Miller was quite sure.

“Is it your favorite flower?” persisted Honey Bunch. “I want to plant your favorite flower.”

Mrs. Miller said she thought it was the prettiest rose that grew, and Honey Bunch promised to plant a cabbage rose for her. Daddy, she thought, would know about cabbage roses.

“Now I’ll go ask Ida Camp her favorite flower,” said Honey Bunch, climbing down from the chair in which she had been sitting to talk to Mrs. Miller. “I wonder what flower Ida will want me to plant for her?”

Ida knew at once what she wanted. She said she liked red poppies, the reddest red poppies there were, and could she have those in Honey Bunch’s garden?

“Of course,” answered Honey Bunch. “Mother will write it down for me and Daddy and I will go shopping and buy the seeds.”

“I think,” said Ida happily, “that your garden is going to be just lovely, Honey Bunch.”

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