HONEY BUNCH, PAINTER“BUT I don’t see how Lady Clare got out of the coal room,” said Honey Bunch.
She was eating her ice-cream cone—it was chocolate—and Lady Clare was curled up on the cushion in the rocking chair.
“Why, dear,” said Mrs. Morton, “the cat jumped when the first shovelful of coal came down the chute. You thought the coal buried her out of sight, but she ran off and you never saw her go. I’m so sorry you spent all that time in the cellar and worked so hard.”
“I don’t mind,” Honey Bunch answered. “I don’t mind one bit, Mother; because, if Lady Clare had been there, I would want to dig her out. And I thought she was there, so I had to dig, anyway.”
“I see,” said Mother. “And now Daddy has turned the corner and if you want to run down and meet him, you may.”
Mrs. Morton had said that she supposed after the coal was put in the cellar, the painters would come. But Honey Bunch didn’t pay any attention to this, so she was much surprised to hear a noise on the back porch one morning while she was eating her breakfast and to see two strange men with ropes and ladders walking about.
“Oh, my!” cried Honey Bunch in dismay. “They’re from the soda fountain!”
“The soda fountain!” repeated Daddy Morton. “What makes you say that, Honey Bunch?”
“Their coats, you know,” said Honey Bunch. “The soda fountain men wear ’em. And Grace Winters says a little girl ran off with one of their spoons and the man is going to every house on this block and asking if any one has his spoon.”
The soda fountain Honey Bunch meant was in the drug store at the corner of the street where the Mortons lived. But, of course, the drug store man was not going to every house to ask for his missing spoon. Grace Winters was a little girl who rather liked to make up stories to astonish other children with.
“Those are not soda fountain men, Honey Bunch,” explained Daddy Morton. “They are the painters. We are going to have the house painted.”
“Are we?” said Honey Bunch. “Won’t that be fun!”
Her eyes sparkled and, as she had finished breakfast, Mother said she might be excused, so she ran out on the porch to see the painters. They wore white overalls and jackets, so it really was no wonder that Honey Bunch had supposed them to be from the soda fountain.
“Hello!” said one of the painters, smiling at the little girl as she stepped out on the porch.
“Hello!” replied Honey Bunch. “Could I watch you paint our house?”
The other painter turned around and laughed.
He was short and fat and he had pleasant blue eyes that twinkled under his funny, peaked cap.
“I guess we’ll have company, Ray,” he said to the painter who had said “Hello” to Honey Bunch. He was a tall, thin painter and Honey Bunch thought he looked like the redhaired boy in the butcher shop.
“Well, we like company,” said the painter called Ray. “Toss me that brush, will you, Clem?”
So then Honey Bunch knew the fat painter’s name was Clem.
“What’s your name?” the fat painter asked, stirring something in a tin pail.
“My whole name?” asked Honey Bunch doubtfully, “or the one they call me?” The fat painter laughed again.
“Why, how many names have you?” he asked. “You’re not such a very big girl, you know.”
“I’m Gertrude Marion Morton,” Honey Bunch told him, “but everybody calls me Honey Bunch.” “That’s the nicest name I ever did hear,” said the fat painter, stirring away. “We’ll have to paint the house extra nice for a girl with that name, won’t we, Ray?”
Daddy called Honey Bunch just then to say good-by to her and he told her not to ask the painters too many questions and to be sure and not get in their way while they were working. Then he kissed her good-by and went away to his office where he worked so hard. Mother said, to buy them pretty dresses to wear and good food to eat.
Honey Bunch went back to the porch. She found the painter called Ray trying some paint on a slab of wood.
“Think you’ll like this color for your house?” he asked her.
Honey Bunch thought it was a very pretty color. It was yellow, she thought, but the painter called it “cream.” He had other colors in his paint pots—green and red and brown and white. He stirred them all with a stick, one after another, and Honey Bunch wanted to do it, too. “Why do you stir it?” she asked, bending over the pail of green paint and almost putting her small nose into it, so eager was she to look at the smelly stuff.
The fat painter pulled her back.
“Don’t fall in, Sister,” he said seriously. “You wouldn’t look pretty with green hair, would you? I have to stir the paint to make it smooth.”
“Did you ever see a girl with green hair?” asked Honey Bunch, sitting down on the steps.
“Well, once,” replied the fat painter. “Once Ray and I worked at a place where there was a little girl. She was older than you are. I think she must have been about eight or nine. And that girl wouldn’t let a thing alone. One day she climbed up on our ladder while Ray and I were off at noon hour, and when she heard us coming back it frightened her so she jumped and her elbow struck a can of paint—bright green paint it was; it poured over her as she tumbled down the ladder and I just wish you could have seen that girl! She had green hair if a child ever had.”
Honey Bunch sat quietly, thinking about the little girl who had upset the paint, while the men tied the long ropes they had brought to their ladders and pulled them up to the top of the house. They began at the top of the house and painted down, they said. Honey Bunch, if she had been painting, would have started at the first floor and gone up, ending with the roof, because she could “leave off” on the roof and no one would see where she had stopped. But then Honey Bunch had never painted a house.
Long before the painters had finished their first day, the little girl tired of watching them. They worked for hours, standing on the ladder held up by the ropes, painting the cornices and the window frames. Honey Bunch had thought it would be exciting, but it wasn’t.
The second and the third days they did almost the same things, but the fourth morning it was much better. They worked at the first floor, the porches and the porch rails and the steps. And Honey Bunch could see everything they did and follow them around and could ask them questions without shouting.
“Can’t go up your front steps to-day,” said the fat painter to Honey Bunch as soon as he saw her that morning.
“Why can’t I?” asked Honey Bunch, smiling. She was pretty sure the fat man was playing a joke on her.
“This says so,” the painter answered, holding up a large white card.
It had big black letters on it, but Honey Bunch, although she knew most of her alphabet, could not read words without some one to help her.
“Please, what does it say?” she begged.
“Ray, can you read this?” called the fat painter.
Ray was busily mixing paint, but he turned around and looked at the card
. “It says ‘No little girls allowed on these steps,’ ” he read aloud.
Honey Bunch looked puzzled. She stared at the card.
“How can it say all that?” she said slowly. “There aren’t enough letters.”
“That’s the trouble with Ray,” grumbled the fat painter. “He doesn’t take time to read properly. I’ll tell you what the card says, Sister. It says ‘Wet paint.’ And you tell your cat that it means she isn’t to go walking across the floor I finished last night.”
So the painter put the “Wet paint” card up on the steps and he put two pieces of wood across them, too, in case, he said, a person came who couldn’t read the card. Then the fat painter and the thin painter went to work and painted every one of the little pieces of wood in the porch railings, on the front porch and the back porch, too.
“It looks so easy,” said Honey Bunch to herself. “I just know I could do it. Maybe they would let me, if I asked them.”
But the more she thought about it, the surer she was that they wouldn’t let her paint.
“I could surprise them,” said Honey Bunch, who felt that if she didn’t paint something pretty soon she would have to cry. “I wonder if they would like me to paint the back steps?”
Now, although Honey Bunch didn’t know it, the back steps were to be left to the very last. The painters were not going to paint them till the front steps were quite dry, for there had to be one dry place for people to walk over to get into the house. Honey Bunch did not know this and she decided to paint the back steps and surprise the painters.
Both men were painting the front cellar window when the little girl trotted around to the back of the house. She knew where to find the pots of paint and the brushes. She thought that the back steps of her house ought to look very nice indeed and what better way to make them look nice than to paint every step a different color? Oh, this was a lovely plan, thought Honey Bunch.
She carefully carried five heavy pails of paint over to the steps and took one of the soft, fat brushes. She had watched the painters long enough to know how they dipped their brushes in and squeezed them against the sides of the pails. Honey Bunch dipped her brush into the yellow paint and began on the top step.
“Just as nice,” she said, looking at it when she had been all over the top.
The yellow paint ran down and some got on her shoes, but that did not bother her. She dipped the brush into the green paint and painted the second step.
When she had finished that, there was a great dash of green paint on the front of her pink gingham frock. But even that couldn’t bother Honey Bunch.
She painted the third step white and the fourth step red and she was working away, using black paint on the last step when she heard some one come whistling around the corner of the house. It was the Ray painter!
“What are you doing?” he asked her, in great surprise.
“I’m painting,” answered Honey Bunch, rubbing her hand across her forehead and leaving a smudge of black paint there. “Doesn’t it look nice?”
“Well, as long as we have to paint it over anyway, I don’t see that much harm is done,” said the Ray painter, looking from the steps to the little girl and from the little girl back to the steps. “But I don’t think that dress you have on will ever be the same, Sister.”
“I can keep it to paint in,” said Honey Bunch comfortably. “Mother has a dress she uses to paint in, ’cause it has paint spots on it, from the time she painted the screens. Now I have a painting dress, too.”
“Well, if you are going into the business, I’ll retire,” said the painter, beginning to pick up the pots of paint and carry them back. “I never could use as many colors as you do all at once—it wouldn’t be any use for me to try.”