DADDY'S VISITORWHEN Honey Bunch reached the top of the back stairs she heard voices in the parlor. Mother had already answered the doorbell. She was talking to some one.
Honey Bunch tiptoed down the hall and peeped between the green curtains. Mother was sitting in one of the chairs that stood in the bay window and a strange man was sitting opposite to her.
“Perhaps it is the carpet man,’" said Honey Bunch to herself.
The carpet man had come one day to measure the stairs for new carpet. Honey Bunch remembered him very well. He had carried the nicest little ruler with brass hinges, a little ruler that folded up and folded up till Honey Bunch was seriously afraid there would be no ruler left.
But the carpet man said it was just small enough, when he had it all folded, to go in his vest pocket and he let Honey Bunch take it and open it up and fold it together again. Honey Bunch hoped it was the carpet man who had rung the doorbell.
“But he looks different,” whispered the little girl to herself. “The carpet man didn’t wear glasses. This must be somebody else.” She was so anxious to find out who the caller was that she poked her yellow head further in among the green curtains and the stranger saw her.
“Hello!” he said pleasantly.
And Honey Bunch’s mother saw her and smiled.
“Come in, dear,” said Mother. “Mr. Subways, this is my little daughter, Gertrude.” Mr. Subways held out his hand, taking both of Honey Bunch’s small hands at once.
“Now I’m sure—” he said, patting the little hands gently. “I’m as sure as can be that they do not call you Gertrude.”
Honey Bunch was sometimes a bit afraid of strange people. Not exactly afraid, perhaps, but a little shy. You know how you feel when some one you have never seen before speaks to you; for a minute or two you can’t remember anything to say. That was the way Honey Bunch often felt.
But Mr. Subways didn’t seem strange after he had shaken hands with her. He reminded her of her daddy and of her Uncle Peter who came to see them every year. Honey Bunch decided that she liked Mr. Subways very much and when he asked her a question she answered him as though she had known him a long time.
“Tell me, truly,” said Mr. Subways, “is Gertrude the only name you have?”
“I’m Honey Bunch,” replied that small person at once. “Every one calls me Honey Bunch. But my really name is Gertrude Marion Morton.”
“I knew it!” said Mr. Subways, smiling as though something pleased him. “I knew you had a happy name. Would you like to know my little girl’s happy name?”
And Honey Bunch was so interested she pressed closer to Mr. Subways. Mother was smiling, too, and listening.
“Have you a little girl?” asked Honey Bunch eagerly. “What is a happy name?” Mr. Subways took off his glasses and placed them on his knee. Then he took a piece of pink cloth out of a little leather case he had in his pocket and began to polish his glasses carefully. He gave Honey Bunch the case to hold. It had a little snap that opened and closed the cover and Honey Bunch found that it she just touched the tip of her finger to the cover it would fly open.
“A happy name,” said Mr. Subways, rubbing away with the pink cloth, “is the one people give you when they love you very much and you love them. My little girl’s ‘really’ name, as you would say, is Lulu. But her mother and I call her ‘Roses.’”
Honey Bunch asked why the little girl was called Roses and Mr. Subways said it was because she was as sweet and lovely as the flowers. Then he turned to Mrs. Morton.
“I’m so sorry Mr. Morton isn’t at home,” he said. “I had quite counted on seeing him. These cases drag out forever if something isn’t done.”
Honey Bunch stood quietly playing with the eyeglass case while her mother talked to the stranger. She could be a very quiet little girl when older people were busy. She never interrupted or asked questions when her mother or her daddy was talking to visitors. That was one reason why she was so often allowed to stay in the room when quite important matters were being talked over. “As still as a little mouse” Daddy told her she was, proudly.
“I’m sorry, too, Mr. Morton isn’t at home,” said Mrs. Morton. “Ordinarily I could reach him at his office by telephone for you. But to-day he has gone down to the State capital to take some special evidence. I do not expect him back till late to-night.”
“I wish you would ask him to get in touch with me,” said the stranger, putting on his glasses and drawing another leather case from another pocket. Honey Bunch wished she could have as many pockets in her dresses. She would put something different in each pocket, she thought.
“Here’s my card,” said Mr. Subways, busily writing something on a slip of pasteboard with a silver pencil. “That address will reach me, and I’m adding my ’phone number, in case he wants to give me a ring. Your husband knows my connection with this case, Mrs. Morton, and I think he and I can serve each other to mutual advantage.”
Honey Bunch did not understand all these long words, but she liked the way the man smiled when he gave the card to her mother. He rose to go the next moment and Honey Bunch gave him back his little leather case. Mrs. Morton rose, too, and Mr. Subways shook hands with her, patted Honey Bunch on the head, and said he meant to tell his little girl all about her.
Mrs. Morton followed him to the door, but Honey Bunch ran down the back stairs to the laundry. She found Mrs. Miller just ready to take out another basket of clothes.
“Your wash is about dry, Honey Bunch,” the good-natured washerwoman told the little girl. “Are you going to iron the things today?”
“Well, I thought I would,” answered Honey Bunch. “I told Eleanor I would give her a tea party this afternoon and Mother is coming.”
“What’s Mother going to do, darling?” asked Mrs. Morton, coming into the laundry, a yellow envelope in her hand.
“You said you’d come to my dolls’ tea party,” explained Honey Bunch. “You said you’d be lonely this afternoon, ’cause Daddy wouldn’t be coming home for dinner, and you’d visit with me.”
“Daddy won’t be home for two or three days, dear,” said Mrs. Morton. “A boy brought me this telegram while I was standing at the door talking to
Mr.—Mr.—Oh, what was that man’s name? Anyway, the man who wanted to see Daddy. You and I will be alone for nearly a week, Honey
“Where’s Mr. Morton going, ma’am?” asked Mrs. Miller, putting down the heavy clothes basket again, so that she might listen more comfortably.
“To Washington,” said Honey Bunch’s mother, pulling a sheet of yellow paper from the yellow envelope and reading it. “He says he’s found it necessary to go to Washington and he’s going right from Paxton. He thinks he will be able to get back home by Friday.”
“Well, he’s a busy man,” declared Mrs. Miller, picking up her basket and moving slowly toward the door. “I s’pose he doesn’t think any more of going to Washington than I do of going down to Paxton to the State Fair; and that’s more traveling than I care to do as a rule, I’ll say right out.”
Mrs. Morton went upstairs—she said it was time to begin to think about getting lunch —and Honey Bunch trotted out into the yard after Mrs. Miller.
“Will you make my iron get hot?” she coaxed.
“Bless your heart, child, I’ll fix you up in a jiffy,” replied Mrs. Miller, pinning clean napkins on the line almost as fast as she talked. “Let me get this basketful pinned out and I’ll see that you have everything you want.”
Lady Clare was sitting on the fence, and though she opened her eyes when Honey Bunch called to her, she would not come down. Her fur was nearly dry and Mrs. Miller was sure she had forgotten all about the overturned basin of water.
“I don’t think she has,” said Honey Bunch, following the washerwoman back into the house. “Do you know what I think, Mrs. Miller? I think Lady Clare is sorry it is Monday.”
Mrs. Miller said “Perhaps” and bustled around to fix a place for Honey Bunch to iron her doll’s clothes. She spread a piece of blanket on the table and put a clean piece of muslin over that. Then she placed a chair and helped Honey Bunch up. When the little girl kneeled down, she was just the right height to iron comfortably.
Honey Bunch had a little toy iron her daddy had brought her and Mrs. Miller heated this on the laundry stove. She didn’t let it get too hot, because she said an iron that was too hot was very bad for clothes.
“There is nothing, Honey Bunch,” said Mrs. Miller seriously, “that looks worse than a scorched spot on nice, clean clothes. You mustn’t have your iron too hot, or you’ll scorch that pretty dress you want Eleanor to wear to the tea party this afternoon.”
“Maybe this is too hot,” said Honey Bunch anxiously, pointing to the iron Mrs. Miller had brought to her and put on the little nickel stand.
“It isn’t too hot if it doesn’t burn your finger,” Mrs. Miller explained. “Put your finger on the iron, Honey Bunch. Is that too hot?”
“No, it’s just right,” said Honey Bunch, holding her fat little finger against the tip of the tiny iron. “Just exactly right. And now I’ll iron my washing all nice.”
She had finished the last piece and was climbing down from the chair when Mother called that lunch was ready and had any one seen a hungry little girl?
“Me!” cried Honey Bunch, running eagerly upstairs. “I’m the hungry little girl, Mother!”
Daddy Morton seldom came home to lunch, so it was natural for Honey Bunch and her mother to eat without him in the pretty dining room. As soon as she had finished her rice pudding and Mother said she might be excused, Honey Bunch hurried up to her room to dress her dolls and get ready for the party.
Eleanor had her clean dress to wear, of course, and the other dolls had new ribbons or traded hats or did something to “look like a party,” Honey Bunch said. She very often dressed them in each other’s clothes, which certainly made them look different.
“There now, you’re all fixed, and I hope you’ll be good till I come back,” said Honey Bunch, when she had the dolls dressed and each was sitting stiffly up in a chair. “I’m going down to invite Mother.”
Honey Bunch ran downstairs and found her mother sitting in the parlor.
“How do you do,” said the little girl, who knew exactly what to do, for her mother often played tea party with her. “Will you come to my dolls’ tea party this afternoon?”
“I should like to come very much,” replied Mrs. Morton; “but I have no dollie to bring with me.”
“Then I’m afraid you’ll have to bring cookies,” said Honey Bunch, trying not to smile. “Have you any cookies?”
“Oh, yes, I have cookies,” Mrs. Morton said. “Cookies and milk.”
“I’ll carry the milk pitcher,” promised Honey Bunch, and then she had to laugh because Mother’s eyes were twinkling so merrily.