NORMAN was frightened and ran quickly toward the house, almost knocking Honey Bunch over as he did so.
“Run! Run!” he shrieked. “He’ll eat you up, or sting you, or something!”
Honey Bunch was scared too—just for a moment. She stared with wide open eyes at the thing on the tines of the rake. It did not move. She felt dimly that if it was a snake it ought to wriggle around. Almost against her will she took a step closer and looked sharply at the object. Then she tilted her nose and looked at the lad, now at a safe distance.
“A snake!” she scoffed. “Oh, Norman, how silly you are! It’s not a snake at all. It’s only an old piece of washline, all covered with dirt.”
“A washline,” faltered Norman, and came back looking very sheepish. “Well, it looked like a snake, anyway,” he mumbled. Then, afraid of being teased, he climbed the high fence and went home.
The first thing Honey Bunch thought of when she woke up the morning after her talk with Mrs. Lancaster was the scare cat. She wondered if the old lady had made a scare cat and what it would look like and when she would bring it to her for the garden.
“I wouldn’t want it to scare Lady Clare too much,” said Honey Bunch to herself, as she ate her cereal.
But when she went out into her garden and found Lady Clare had dug a little hole under the cabbage rose bush and was lying cozily in it, Honey Bunch decided she wouldn’t care if the scare cat did frighten Lady Clare.
Honey Bunch was putting the dirt back in the hole again when she heard some one calling to her. She looked up, and there was the wheel-chair, drawn close to the fence, and Mrs. Lancaster sitting in it. The old lady waved her hand.
“Good morning,” she called to Honey Bunch. “You see, I’ve remembered my promise. Come and tell me what you think of your invention.”
Honey Bunch dropped her rake and ran over to the fence. Mrs. Lancaster held a sharp-pointed stick out to her—that is, it was sharp-pointed at one end; the other held the funniest-looking stuffed animal you ever saw. Honey Bunch giggled in delight when she saw it.
It was a dog—but such a queer dog! He was white with neat brown dots all over him and he was so fatly stuffed that he looked as though one more inch of cotton would have burst his seams. But it was his mane and tail that made Honey Bunch laugh. They were made of the brown and white dotted stuff cut in very narrow strips, and when the wind blew this mane and tail fluttered in the breeze like so many narrow ribbons.
“I think he is a lovely dog,” said Honey Bunch, hugging the stuffed dog, stick and all. “I would like to call him ‘Spot.’ ”
“That is a good name,” Mrs. Lancaster agreed. “I made Spot from oilcloth, so he will be all right out in the rain. I’m glad you like him, Honey Bunch, and I hope he will keep Lady Clare and her friends out of your garden.”
“I’ll stick the stick in the ground,” said Honey Bunch happily, “and then I’ll get Lady Clare and bring her to look at Spot.”
She stuck the sharp end of the stick in the ground and Spot’s mane and tail began to flutter in the breeze.
Lady Clare sat on the fence and watched her, but Honey Bunch went back to the front fence to speak to Mrs. Lancaster.
“I forgot to say ‘thank you very much,’ ” she said shyly.
“Bless your heart, dearie, you don’t have to thank me,” replied Mrs. Lancaster. “You invented the scare cat, you know, and I had a good chuckle carrying out your idea. I wonder what Lady Clare thinks about it?”
“I’ll go see,” said Honey Bunch, and she ran over to Lady Clare.
“Here, kitty, kitty,” she called, and Lady Clare jumped down from the fence and let Honey Bunch pick her up. The stuffed dog was in the middle of the clove pink bed—a favorite spot of the cat’s for a nap—and Honey Bunch pointed it out to Lady Clare.
“That’s Spot,” she said.
Lady Clare looked at Spot. She didn’t seem to be frightened at all.
“Well,” said Honey Bunch hopefully, “at least she can’t lie down where I put him.”
“No, she can’t,” said Mrs. Lancaster. “And if Spot doesn’t do any more good than to make us laugh, he will have been useful. And now come and see what else I have brought you.”
Honey Bunch peeped over the fence and Mrs. Lancaster held out a square brown envelope to her.
“Seeds,” she said mysteriously. “Our secret seeds. Remember, you are not to tell any one except your mother.”
Honey Bunch took the envelope and opened it. The seeds looked just like other seeds she had already planted.
“That square plot of ground will be fine for them, if you have nothing planted there,” Mrs. Lancaster said.
Honey Bunch had nothing planted there, and so, while Mrs. Lancaster watched her, she divided the square plot of ground into smaller squares, like a checker board. Then she put the seeds in carefully and patted the earth down over them.
“I’ll sprinkle the water on them to-night,” she explained. “Because Daddy says if you water gardens when it is sunny the sun dries all the water up and the plants are just as thirsty as ever.”
“That is true,” said Mrs. Lancaster. “The very best time to water a garden is after dinner. I always did mine, then.”
“What kind of flowers are they?” coaxed Honey Bunch. “The ones you gave me?”
“Bend down and I’ll whisper,” said Mrs. Lancaster.
Honey Bunch put her yellow head close down to the old lady’s white hair and Mrs. Lancaster whispered the name of the seeds to her. Of course that made the secret all the more exciting.
“I never saw any, did I?” asked Honey Bunch, her eyes shining.
“I don’t know, my dear,” said Mrs. Lancaster. “But even if you have, I doubt if you have seen any like these. My husband spent years working over them; he saved the seed and planted it and cultivated and watched and labeled the plants—and then he died before he could test these. I hope you’ll have some beautiful flowers from them, Honey Bunch.”
“I’ll pick them for you,” promised Honey Bunch.”
Mrs. Lancaster stayed a little while longer, talking about flowers and gardens while Honey Bunch pulled the little green weeds that were beginning to fill up the spaces in the rows of nasturtiums. Then the old lady wheeled herself away in her chair, saying she would see Honey Bunch again soon.
She did come again soon, and after that hardly a morning passed that she did not wheel her chair up to the fence and talk to Honey Bunch while the little girl worked in the garden. She told Honey Bunch about the gardens she had had and told her what to do when things went wrong in the little new garden, for instance, when the pansy plants looked a little wilted. They needed more earth around the roots, Mrs. Lancaster said. She told Honey Bunch to lift up the leaves and see if the rich brown earth had not been washed away. Sure enough, it had—some of the roots were “sticking straight up out of the ground,” Honey Bunch reported.
Spot, the brown and white dog, really didn’t frighten Lady Clare at all, but he certainly made people laugh.
“Ha—ha!” you could hear them chuckle when they went past the house and looked in the side yard. “Ha—ha! What in the world is that? A weather vane?”
“No, it isn’t a weather vane,” Honey Bunch would explain earnestly if she happened to be outdoors. She knew what a weather vane was, for there had been one on the barn at Broad Acres. “That isn’t a weather vane,” Honey Bunch would say. “That’s a scare cat, and his name is Spot.”
Then the people who had laughed usually wanted to know what a scare cat was, and Honey Bunch had to tell them about Lady Clare.
It wasn’t long before the seeds Mrs. Lancaster had given her sprouted and sent up little tiny green leaves.
“What are those?” asked Ida Camp, when she saw them.
“Sh—they’re a secret,” answered Honey Bunch. “I promised not to tell.”
“What are those things planted in the square?” asked Norman Clark, when he climbed over the fence to see how well his sunflowers were growing and stopped to look at the rest of the garden.
“They’re a secret,” said Honey Bunch patiently.
“Don’t you know what they are?” asked Norman, staring at the plants as though he could tell what they were if only he looked long enough.
“I know the name of them,” answered Honey Bunch. “But I don’t know how they’re going to look,” she admitted.
“Doesn’t any one know?” persisted Norman, who was curious.
“Somebody does, but she said not to tell any one about the seeds,” replied Honey Bunch, who found it hard to keep a secret when so many questions were asked her. “Mother knows, for I told her; but you wait and see, Norman. You’ll be surprised.” “No, I won’t,” contradicted Norman. “Nothing ever surprises me. When will there be a rose on Mrs. Miller’s bush?”
“Not till next year,” replied Honey Bunch. “It only has flowers on it in June, and Daddy says this was such a little bush we’ll have to wait till next year. But Mrs. Miller doesn’t care; she says she would rather wait a year for a cabbage rose than have a dozen different roses now.”
“I wouldn’t,” said Norman. “I’d rather have ’em now. What color is a cabbage rose, Honey Bunch?”
“Pink,” the patient Honey Bunch told him. “Lovely pink. And Mrs. Miller says it smells sweeter than any other rose she ever smelled.”
“I don’t think cabbages smell very sweet,” commented Norman frankly. “Wonder why they call it a cabbage rose?”
“I’ll ask Daddy,” said Honey Bunch, who always asked him the questions she couldn’t answer.
And that night, when she asked him why a cabbage rose was called that, he told her he thought it was because once upon a time some one had thought it looked like a cabbage.
“You look at a cabbage head the next time you go to market with Mother, Honey Bunch,” Mr. Morton said, “and see if you don’t think it looks something like a rose.”
Honey Bunch remembered this, and the next morning, when she and Mother went out to buy good things to eat, she took great pains to look carefully at a green cabbage on the grocer’s stand. It did look like a rose, it really did!
“That is,” said Honey Bunch that night, when she was telling her daddy how the cabbage looked, “the leaves are folded up like rose leaves. But it isn’t the color of a rose and it doesn’t smell like a rose. And, Daddy?”
“Yes, dear, what is it?” he asked.
“If there are cabbage roses, why aren’t there rose cabbages? I asked Mr. Edmonds and he said he never heard of any.”
Mr. Edmonds was the grocer. Honey Bunch’s daddy said that he would have to think this over.
“I suppose,” said Honey Bunch, who had been thinking it over all the afternoon, “the reason is, because there just isn’t.”
“Don’t think any more about cabbage roses, Honey Bunch,” urged Mrs. Morton, taking a letter from the table. “I have something nice to tell you.”
Honey Bunch’s quick blue eyes had seen the brown lettering on the envelope. She knew what that meant.
“Uncle Peter!” she cried. “A letter from Uncle Peter! Is he coming to see us, Mother? I’m so glad I didn’t pick his pansies to-day.”
Mrs. Morton smiled and drew out the letter to read it aloud to Honey Bunch. It told them that Uncle Peter would come to visit them “the day after to-morrow.”