HONEY BUNCH had both her hands outstretched, and what did that big green toad do but land right on the back of one hand!
“Oh! oh!” screamed the little girl, and threw up both hands. But the toad had already taken another hop, this time to the ground, and now it went on hopping until it disappeared under a stone of the back porch.
“What was the trouble?” asked Uncle Peter when he came back. After Honey Bunch had told him he merely smiled.
“The hoptoad wouldn’t hurt you,” he said. “I guess he was just as much scared as you were. Hoptoads are very useful in a garden, for they eat up many insects that hurt the plants.”
“Well, if he doesn’t scare me any more I won’t scare him,” said Honey Bunch.
Of course Honey Bunch did not tell her uncle about the secret flowers. When he saw the plants which had grown from the seeds Mrs. Lancaster had given Honey Bunch, Uncle Peter looked interested.
“Those flowers are a secret,” explained Honey Bunch hastily. “I can’t tell you ’bout them at all. Not even the name.”
“I think I know the name,” said Uncle Peter, smiling.
“Whisper it,” commanded Honey Bunch, “and if it is right I’ll say ‘yes,’ but you mustn’t ask where they came from or anything like that.”
Uncle Peter promised not to ask a single question and then he stooped down and whispered something in Honey Bunch’s ear.
“Oh, yes!” she said quickly. “They are! But how did you know?”
“I recognized the leaf,” answered Uncle Peter. “Grandmother used to raise them in her garden—I’m sure your mother remembers.”
“I told her,” said Honey Bunch. “I always tell Mother my secrets. But Norman doesn’t know, nor Ida, and maybe Daddy doesn’t.”
Uncle Peter declared that he thought secrets were exciting, and then he offered to give Honey Bunch a ride in her new wheelbarrow. They went out on the front walk, which was of cement, for the ride and Ida Camp saw them and Anna Martin and Grace Winters—little girls who lived on the same street. Uncle Peter gave each of them a ride around the block and by the time each had had her turn it was nearly half-past five and Mr. Morton came home and asked if he could have his clove pink to wear in his buttonhole, now that Uncle Peter had seen the garden.
It really was too bad that Uncle Peter had to go away the next morning, because every one loved to have him in the house. He put Honey Bunch to bed and told her stories of England, where he was going with Julie’s daddy, and promised to bring her something when he came back in the fall. He made them all laugh at breakfast the next morning, but when he saw that Mrs. Morton felt bad because he could not stay longer, he suggested that she go with him on the train and see Julie’s mother.
“I can’t stay away from home over night,” said Mrs. Morton, “and I don’t want to take Honey Bunch down to Glenhaven. Norma will be busy getting you off.”
“Then ride a few stations with me. I’ll take a local to the junction and catch the express there,” suggested Uncle Peter.
“I’ll take you both down in the car,” offered Mr. Morton. “I can stop at Paxton and get some papers signed on the way back, so you need not feel that I am losing time. We’ll be back to-night, Edith,” he added to Honey Bunch’s mother.
So it was decided that Uncle Peter and Honey Bunch’s daddy and mother were to motor to Glenhaven and that Honey Bunch and Mrs. Miller—who had come bright and early to finish her cleaning—should keep house for that day. Honey Bunch kissed Uncle Peter an extra kiss because he was going away across the ocean and then she waved good-bye till the car had turned the corner.
“Honey Bunch!” called Mrs. Miller, “I do believe that cat is on your flowers again.” Honey Bunch rushed out to her garden and chased Lady Clare away from the nasturtiums. She chased her so hard that she was out of breath, and when she looked up and saw Mrs. Lancaster sitting in her wheel-chair by the fence she had no breath to use in talking for a moment or two.
“I couldn’t stay away, you see,” said the old lady. “Was that your uncle in the car that passed me this morning? Your mother leaned out and bowed and I thought your uncle must be sitting on the front seat with your father. So, I thought, I’ll go and see my little friend and her garden and ask her what he said about her garden.
Honey Bunch had felt just the least bit lonely when the three people she loved so dearly had driven away and left her on the front step, but she forgot that unhappy feeling at once now.
“Uncle Peter brought me a wheelbarrow!” she said. “And he thinks Spot is lovely. He says my garden is the nicest garden he was ever in!”
“And his pansies?” asked Mrs. Lancaster. “Did he like his pansies?”
“Oh, yes!” replied Honey Bunch. “He said they were like faces and he talked to them all. I picked them to have in the house and he wore five of them in his buttonhole this morning. I’m going to press some of the prettiest ones for him in a book.”
“That will be lovely,” Mrs. Lancaster declared.
“And he knew the name of the secret flowers—I didn’t tell him a single thing!” said Honey Bunch. “He said he would whisper it to me, and he guessed right. He said his grandma used to have them growing in her garden. You don’t care if Uncle Peter knew the name of the flowers, do you, Mrs. Lancaster?”
“No, indeed,” Mrs. Lancaster assured her. “Of course not. As soon as they bloom—and they are almost ready—many people will recognize the flower. But I am hoping they may be larger and more magnificent in color than the ordinary variety.”
Honey Bunch picked her nasturtiums that morning and she gave away her first bouquet. That is always a lovely garden experience— to give away your first bouquet. Of course Honey Bunch gave hers to Mrs. Lancaster and the little old lady said that she would take the flowers home and put them in water and make them last as long as possible.
“Haven’t you any garden at all?” asked Honey Bunch. “Just a little one?”
“No garden at all,” replied the old lady sadly. “This is the first year I can remember that I haven’t had a piece of ground to do with as I liked. Well, never mind, I’ll come and look at your garden. This is the first garden you’ve ever had, so we rather even things up.”
Honey Bunch and Mrs. Miller had lunch together, and very good it was. They had charlotte russe for dessert. Mrs. Morton had stopped at the baker’s and asked him to send them some charlottes as a surprise.
“And now what are you going to do this afternoon?” asked Mrs. Miller, when lunch was over. “I want to wash the upstairs windows. Can you amuse yourself without going out into the street?”
“I’ll go out in the yard and see if Norman will come over and play with my new wheelbarrow,” said Honey Bunch. “If Ida’s mother doesn’t take her downtown, she is coming, too.”
“That will be nice,” declared busy Mrs. Miller, filling her pail with hot water at the kitchen sink. “I won’t have to worry about you as long as you stay quietly in the yard.”
“Could I help you wash windows?” asked Honey Bunch helpfully. “Maybe I could put them up and down for you while you wash them.”
“No, thank you,” returned Mrs. Miller politely. “Two people can’t wash windows very well. You run along and play, Honey Bunch, and I’ll be through before you know it.”
Honey Bunch found Norman on the fence when she went out into the yard. But he wasn’t alone. There were five other boys with him, and it was lucky that fence was strongly built. Six lively boys can “bend” a fence as Honey Bunch said, when she saw them.
“Don’t bend the fence,” she begged them. “Lady Clare likes to sit on it. She can’t sit on the iron fences because they haven’t any railings.”
“We won’t bend the fence,” promised Norman. “What we ought to do is dig it up and carry it away; we’re pirates and we need a plank for our enemies to walk. But this fence would be pretty heavy to tear down,” he added.
Honey Bunch was relieved to find that he didn’t mean to take the fence down and use it for planks.
“Are you playing pirates again?” she asked Norman. “Who’s chief?”
“I am,” he informed her. “And we’re out for loot. Have you any loot? Hand it over!” and he tried to look as fierce as the pictures of pirates he had seen.
“I—I haven’t any loot,” stammered Honey Bunch. “Oh, here come Ida and the girls!” There were seven little girls coming in at the side gate—Ida Camp, of course; Anna Martin, Grace Winters, Mary and Fannie Graham and Kitty and Cora Williams.
“Hello, Honey Bunch!” was their greeting. “We met Ida and she said she was coming to see you. What nice flowers you have!”
“Oh, don’t bother looking at the garden,” said Norman, who had been over earlier in the day to measure the stalks of his sunflowers. They were very tall and he measured them nearly every morning.
“We’re pirates,” he informed the girls, “and we need some treasure. Haven’t you some treasure we could take, just for fun?”
“What kind of treasure?” demanded Cora Williams.
“Well, like that pin you have on,” said Norman, pointing to a little gold pin Cora wore in her white blouse. “Pirates always take pins and things.”
“You’d lose it,” retorted Cora.
“No, we wouldn’t,” said Norman earnestly. “Listen—here’s how we’ll play: We are pirates and we come over into the yard and seize your treasures. The yard is another ship. Then we drop overboard and swim away and after we’re through playing we give the treasure back to you. Come on and play, will you?”
“How are you going to drop overboard?” asked the practical Cora, who was more interested in the details of the game than in the actual playing. “How are you going to drop overboard, Norman, when you are in a yard?”
“You’re just like a girl!” cried Norman. “The fence is the side of the ship, silly! We jump over the fence and the ocean is in my yard. Will you play? Come on, we won’t lose a thing,”
The eight little girls were not very enthusiastic about playing this game, but after the pirates had solemnly promised to give back every bit of treasure they took, they finally consented.
“You just sit down on the grass and pretend you don’t know we are around,” directed Norman. “And don’t yell when we do. Pirates can make all the noise they want to, but Mrs. Farriday might tell us to keep quiet if we all yelled at once.”
The girls sat down and pretended that they had no idea of the six pirates lurking so near at hand. To be sure Cora Williams shrieked when she saw a head peeping over the fence, but Cora was easily excited always.
“Come on, men!” suddenly shouted Norman, scrambling over the fence. “Up and at ’em!”
The pirates scrambled and climbed and fell over the fence, one of them, a boy named Teddy Gray, having a terrible time to get over. He was a fat little boy and couldn’t climb as well as the others. Norman had to go back and help him over at last, and, dear me, didn’t he scold the unlucky pirate!
“Treasure!” croaked Norman, leading his men up to the girls seated in a circle on the grass. “Hand over your treasure or take the consequences—What are you laughing at?” he asked them fiercely.
“You look so funny!” giggled Cora Williams, handing him her gold pin. “I never saw a pirate chief look the way you do.”
“Never mind my looks,” said the pirate chief, with a frown. “Hand over your treasure or take the consequences!”