THE FIRST SNOWWHEN dinner was over, Honey Bunch whispered to her mother that she would like to go outdoors and play a little while. The three old ladies wanted to sit in the parlor and knit and talk and that, of course, wasn’t very exciting for a little girl.
“Don’t go far away from the house,” said Mother, kissing Honey Bunch and coming out into the hall to help her into her coat. “And if you are cold, come in right away.”
Honey Bunch jumped off the steps, two steps at a time. It was cold and there was no sunshine. The gray clouds seemed pretty close to the ground. Honey Bunch thought that she could have touched one, if she had been just a little taller.
“Oh-hoo, Honey Bunch!” called Ida Camp, waving to her and hurrying across the street.
“We had my aunt from the country for dinner!”
“We had three old ladies,” said Honey Bunch.
“Oh, dear, it’s raining!” cried Ida, as something wet struck her in the eyes. “I think it’s mean to rain.”
“It’s snow!” cried Honey Bunch. “Ida, it’s snowing!”
“It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” children began to shriek up and down the street. “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” they cried, dancing up and down in delight.
You would have thought, from the noise they made, that they had never seen snow before.
“Hurrah! We’re going to have a blizzard!” shouted Elmer Gray, a little boy who lived two or three doors from Honey Bunch. “It’s going to be a blizzard and maybe there won’t be any school the rest of the winter,” he cried.
“That Elmer Gray makes a lot of fuss about everything,” said Ida. “Come on over to my house, Honey Bunch, and let’s make icecream.”
“I told Mother I wouldn’t go away from our house,” replied Honey Bunch. “Can’t we make ice-cream here?”
“I don’t remember how you make it, with out asking,” said Ida, “but we can ask your mother.”
They went in and found Mrs. Miller just putting away the last clean dish in the kitchen.
“Don’t be bothering your mother, Honey Bunch,” she said, when she heard what the two little girls wanted. “I’ll tell you all about snow ice-cream. You take clean snow, a saucerful, and a little sugar and some vanilla and stir it up. And if you eat too much of it you’ll be sick sure.”
“We’ll not eat too much of it, shall we, Ida?” said Honey Bunch. “Will you give us the sugar, Mrs. Miller?”
“If you can find enough ice-cream, bring it in and I’ll help you,” said good-natured Mrs. Miller. “I don’t believe you can find enough snow.”
But the flakes were whirling now and the ground was already white. There was not enough snow to scrape up, that is, clean snow, but Mrs. Miller said she had to do several more things before it was time for her to go home and she thought they could scrape up two saucerfuls of snow before she went. Sure enough, in another half hour, the snow was deep enough to sweep off the steps and Honey Bunch and Ida carefully took off some clean snow from the kitchen window sills.
“Now I’ll pour in a drop of vanilla, like this,” said Mrs. Miller, holding the vanilla bottle first over one saucer and then the other. “And then in goes the powdered sugar, like this—” and she carefully put in the powdered sugar. “Now then, Honey Bunch and Ida, stir away, and don’t make yourselves sick.”
Honey Bunch and Ida carried their saucers out into the yard to eat the ice-cream. It tasted very good, and it was, as Honey Bunch said, “as cold as real ice-cream.”
“I have to go home now,” Ida said, when she had finished her saucer. “My aunt is going away on the train and I have to say good-bye to her.”
After Ida had gone, Honey Bunch made herself a little slide on the walk in front of the house. She was having a very good time, sliding up and down and singing a little song to herself, when some one came sliding in back of her and bumped into her so hard she nearly lost her balance and fell. It was Elmer Gray.
“Who made the slide?” he asked.
“I did,” said Honey Bunch. “Want to slide?”
“It isn’t much of a slide,” replied Elmer. “You ought to see the one I had last year outside the school yard. It was a dandy, only the janitor put ashes on it, because so many people fell on it.”
“I like my own slide,” said Honey Bunch happily.
“Aren’t you glad it is snowing, Elmer?”
“Sure I am. I have a new sled,” answered Elmer. “Had your face washed yet, Honey Bunch?”
Honey Bunch looked at Elmer a little doubtfully. He could be very nice. Once he had climbed a tree and brought Lady Clare down for her when the cat was afraid to come down herself. But Elmer could also tease. Honey Bunch remembered once when he had frightened her very much by showing her a live mouse.
“Have to have your face washed the first time it snows,” said Elmer, scooping up a handful of snow. “Gives you nice red cheeks. Come on, Honey Bunch, let me wash your face for you.”
He came running toward her and Honey Bunch turned and ran. She ran as hard as she could, up the street, and Elmer chased her, calling at every step:
“Let me wash your face, Honey Bunch! Let me wash your face for you!”
Honey Bunch was very sure she did not want her face washed with snow, but Elmer could run much faster than she could and he would surely have caught her if he had not dropped his handful of snow and stopped to scoop up another. Honey Bunch, running, dodged around some one on the walk, but Elmer ran right into the tall figure as he scrambled to his feet with the snow in his hand.
“Here! Where are you bound for?” asked the some one.
“It’s Ned!” cried Honey Bunch.
Ned Camp was Ida’s oldest brother. He was in high school and Honey Bunch thought he must be quite grown up. Almost as old as Daddy Morton, perhaps.
“Honey Bunch, is Elmer teasing you?” asked Ned, holding Elmer by his coat sleeve.
“I wasn’t!” said Elmer.
“No, I guess he isn’t teasing me,” replied Honey Bunch slowly, for she was out of breath from running.
“You thought you’d wash her face with snow, didn’t you?” said Ned, surprising both Elmer and Honey Bunch, who did not see how he could ever have guessed the truth. “Well, Honey Bunch, I’ll hold this young man for you while you wash his face, if you like.” Honey Bunch shook her head.
“I don’t want to,” she said.
“Then I’ll do it for you,” promised Ned, and he grabbed up a handful of snow and, in spite of Elmer’s kicking and wriggling, he rubbed his face thoroughly with the cold, wet flakes.
“This will do you good,” said Ned, rolling Elmer in the snow when he had finished and then standing him upright again and brushing him off. “Now if you want to fight me, Son, go to it!”
But Elmer, who was really a good-tempered lad, if he did like to torment his friends now and then, only laughed.
“I don’t care, Ned Camp!” he cried. “You wait till you want some one to pick up balls for you next spring!”
Ned played baseball on the high school team and Elmer often went to watch them play and brought back the balls when they went out of bounds.
“Don’t threaten me!” said Ned, pretending to be angry and starting for Elmer, who ran off home as fast as he could go, Ned chasing him through the snow.
Honey Bunch ran after them, for she remembered that she was not supposed to go away from the house. She found her daddy out on the steps looking for her and when she told him about Elmer, he understood that she could not help running off.
Not very long after Thanksgiving, early in December, a most important day came. The day was Honey Bunch’s birthday. This year she would be five years old.
“Will I have five candles on my birthday cake, Mother?” she asked, a week or so before her birthday.
“Yes, indeed, dear,” answered Mrs. Morton. “Five candles and that means five birthday wishes.”
“And that isn’t all,” said Daddy Morton who was reading his paper on the other side of the table. “There will be—”
“David! Sh!” cried Mrs. Morton, holding up her finger.
“Is it a secret?” asked Honey Bunch. “Oh, Mother, is it a secret? Is it about my birthday, Mother?”
“Yes, it is a secret,” her mother admitted, laughing. “You and your daddy are just alike, Honey Bunch; you are both bound to let the cat out of the bag. But this is one secret you will not be able to guess before the time comes. I am going to surprise you and you’ll never guess what the surprise is.”
And though Honey Bunch wondered and wondered, when her birthday came she had not been able to guess the secret.