A GARDEN FRIEND
“YOU funny little girl,” said the old lady.
“Am I funny?” asked Honey Bunch, her blue eyes still dancing.
“Yes, indeed, you are,” the old lady answered. “You think your cat—what did you say her name is?”
“Lady Clare,” Honey Bunch told her.
“Oh, yes. Well, you think Lady Clare goes to bed on the flower beds because they are beds, don’t you?” the old lady said. “Just as we go to sleep in our beds at night?” Honey Bunch nodded.
“Doesn’t she?” she asked, coming closer to the fence and looking over it at the old lady very earnestly.
“Well, now, perhaps she does,” admitted the old lady more thoughtfully. “Cats are the wisest creatures in the world, and I wouldn’t undertake to say what a cat thinks or how much a cat knows. But doesn’t your cat bother you when you want to work in your garden?”
Honey Bunch hated to say anything unkind about Lady Clare, but she knew that the cat often did bother her.
“You see,” explained Honey Bunch, “she scratches in the dirt and she lies down on the plants and she walks all over everything. But I’m going to invent something to stop her pretty soon.”
“Dear me,” said the old lady, “I didn’t know I was talking to an inventor. Perhaps I’d better tell you my name. I am Mrs. Lancaster and I live in the yellow brick house on the next block.”
“I’m Honey Bunch,” said the little girl. “Honey Bunch Morton. Honey Bunch Morton isn’t my real name—Gertrude Marion Morton is.”
“I like Honey Bunch better,” declared Mrs. Lancaster. “I see you’re looking at my chair, though you are too polite to ask me what kind of a funny contraption it is. I like polite children. This is a wheel-chair, and I can wheel myself all about—to the library and the bakery and around the block and past your garden. It’s handy, isn’t it?”
Honey Bunch looked at the old lady sadly.
“Are you—are you lame?” she asked timidly.
“Can’t walk a step,” Mrs. Lancaster said, but she spoke cheerfully. “Oh, I could—the doctors tell me they could help me out, but it takes money. And money, to spend in that way, is something I haven’t got. So I just go along and try to be thankful I have such a nice chair. I don’t even have to have any one push me around, I do it all myself.”
Honey Bunch still looked sad at the thought that here was some one who could not walk around and go up and down stairs as she could. Honey Bunch was sure that no handy wheel-chair would make up to her for the loss of her two dancing little feet. Still Mrs. Lancaster had her feet—Honey Bunch could see them plainly. How could she be lame when she had two feet the same as other people who were not lame?
“Stop puzzling about my stupid lameness,” said Mrs. Lancaster, just as though she had guessed what Honey Bunch was thinking. “Tell me about your invention. You said you were going to invent something to stop Lady Clare from going to sleep on your flower beds.”
“Yes, I am,” said Honey Bunch confidently. “I’m going to make a scare cat.”
“A what?” asked Mrs. Lancaster, in great surprise.
“A scare cat,” repeated Honey Bunch. “My cousin Stub lives on a farm, and Uncle Rand—that’s Stub’s daddy—puts up scarecrows to keep the crows from eating the corn. So I thought I could make a scare cat and put it in my garden to keep Lady Clare away from the flowers. Of course, I don’t want to scare her much—just a little,” added Honey Bunch.
Mrs. Lancaster’s bright black eyes began to twinkle again.
“I never heard of a scare cat—never,” she announced. “Though that is no reason why one wouldn’t do a world of good. Have you thought how you will make one, Honey Bunch?”
“Uncle Rand dressed a stick up in old clothes,” said Honey Bunch, “but I don’t b’lieve Lady Clare will be afraid of old clothes. She isn’t afraid of anything much, except dogs. I’ll have to make a dog.”
“I’ll make you a dog,” said Mrs. Lancaster. “I’ll cut it out this afternoon and stuff it and sew it up. I’ll bring it to you to-morrow morning; I don’t go out much afternoons, because the sun is too hot.”
“But maybe you will be tired,” Honey Bunch said.
“No, I sha’n’t be tired, I’ll be glad to have something pleasant to do,” declared Mrs. Lancaster. “I suspect I’ll laugh every stitch I take in that dog, but you won’t mind, will you, Honey Bunch?”
“Of course not,” said Honey Bunch.
“What kind of flowers have you in your garden?” asked Mrs. Lancaster next. She did not seem to want to hurry away.
“Sweet peas—they’re over by the side fence,” said Honey Bunch, pointing out the wire where the sweet peas would grow as soon as they were tall enough. “Sweet peas are my Cousin Stub’s favorite flower. And there are clove pinks for Daddy, and red poppies for Ida Camp—she is my best friend. And I have heliotrope for Mother and scarlet sage for Julie—she’s my cousin. The twins, Bobby and Tess (they’re my cousins, too) have marigolds, and that bush is a cabbage rose for Mrs. Miller. She wanted a cabbage, but I couldn’t plant that for her, because this is a flower garden. Those green things next to the fence are sunflowers for Norman Clark— he lives in that house just back of ours. And the pansies are for Uncle Peter.”
“That’s the nicest garden I ever heard of,” said Mrs. Lancaster warmly. “I’ve had beautiful gardens myself—years ago when my husband was living. But I never thought to plant the favorite flowers of my friends. Now each time you look at those green growing things, you remember the one for whom you planted them, don’t you, Honey Bunch?”
“Oh, yes!” Honey Bunch nodded. “That is the way. And when the weeds come, I’ll just say, ‘You can’t spoil Julie’s flowers—get away,’ and I’ll pull them out. It is lots of fun.”
”I don’t doubt it for one minute,” answered Mrs. Lancaster. “But I must go home and start work on the scare cat. That will be ‘lots of fun’ for me.”
She started to turn her chair around, pushing a little wheel at the side, then she stopped as though she had remembered something.
“You didn’t tell me about your favorite flower, Honey Bunch,” she said. “What did you plant to please yourself?”
Honey Bunch thought it very queer that every one should ask her this question, but she answered that she had no favorite flower.
“I see,” Mrs. Lancaster said. “You love them all. Have you any ground left that isn’t planted?”
Honey Bunch explained that she had some garden “left over” and that her daddy had said that by and by she might think of something she wished to plant in it.
“Don’t you say a word about it to any one,” said Mrs. Lancaster, “and I’ll bring you something for your garden. I have some seeds I’ve been saving and no one has anything like them, I’ll be bound.”
“Could I say a word to Mother?” asked Honey Bunch.
“Tell Mother, of course,” said Mrs. Lancaster. “Little girls always tell Mother their secrets. But don’t tell Ida or Norman or Stub; we’ll surprise them.”
Mrs. Lancaster, you see, knew the names of people Honey Bunch knew already. She was that kind of an old lady.
Now she made the little wheels at the side of her chair spin around and she turned it and rolled away up the street, Honey Bunch watching her.
Honey Bunch watched the wheel-chair out of sight and then went into the house to tell Mother about her new friend.
“I’ve seen that old lady wheeling herself around,” said Mrs. Morton as soon as she heard about Mrs. Lancaster. “She must be very lonely—she doesn’t even have some one to talk to as she wheels herself about I’m glad she is interested in your garden.”
Mrs. Morton laughed too, when she heard about the scare cat. She thought that Stub would like to hear of it and promised to put the news in her next letter to Stub’s mother.
Honey Bunch did not work in her garden all the time. Dear me, no. She had a great many other interesting things to do as well as to garden. She helped her mother very often, by running up and down stairs to get her things she needed; she helped set the table and helped to clear it off; she helped Mrs. Miller hang out clothes. Sometimes when Mrs. Miller swept off the porch or the front sidewalk, Honey Bunch swept too. She had a little broom all her own and she had a little carpet sweeper so that, when Mother swept the rugs, she could run her carpet sweeper over them and pick up the little grains of dust that might be left.
When Mrs. Morton baked, Honey Bunch helped her. Sometimes she made a pie. Daddy always ate it, and he said the only fault he had to find with Honey Bunch’s cooking was that she never made a pie large enough.
Honey Bunch could cut out cookies and she could put the currants in the cookie men her mother made for her. The currants were the eyes, you know. No wonder Honey Bunch was always busy when there were so many things she could do.
But she didn’t work all the time, either. Dear me, no. She played with Ida Camp and the two little girls had tea parties for their dolls. These same dolls had to be taken out in their carriages to get the air, too. And Honey Bunch thought paper dolls should have the same treatment until one unlucky day she took a large family of paper dolls out for the air and the wind blew them away and she never found but one of them. That was a little girl paper doll whose name was Nancy.
Sometimes Honey Bunch played with Norman Clark, though not so much as with Ida. Norman liked noisy games, and his favorite game was pirates. He didn’t care for dolls’ tea parties—though once, when he had been invited to a party Honey Bunch gave, he had been glad to come; he had not known many boys to play with then—but he liked to borrow Honey Bunch’s garden tools. He had a large sand box in his yard and he used the tools for building wonderful things in the sand.
“How much did my sunflowers grow last night?” Norman would ask Honey Bunch every morning.
“Oh, ever so much,” she would answer. “You ought to see how fast they grow, Norman.”
There was another tool, or garden helper, Honey Bunch had that Norman liked to borrow. This was her tin watering-pot. But Norman did not use the watering-pot to water flowers with. He, like the mischievous lad he was, thought it a great joke to fill the pot with water and sprinkle Lady Clare as she lay asleep in the sun. When Honey Bunch found this out she would not lend him her watering-pot any more.
One day Norman grew tired of his sand box and climbed the fence with Honey Bunch’s rake in his hand.
“Let me work in your garden,” he said, and without waiting for permission commenced to rake in the dirt.
Honey Bunch wanted Norman to be very careful. She was just going to tell him so when suddenly Norman pulled on the rake and brought up something long and dirty from the loose ground. The something twisted back and forth on the end of the rake.
“It’s a snake!” screamed the boy. “A snake! Look out, or he’ll eat you up!”