The Sweet Public Domain: Celebrating Copyright Expiration with the Honey Bunch Series

Chapter III


         THE cookies and the milk were ready on the dining-room table—Mother had known she was to be invited to a tea party, you see—and Honey Bunch carried the pitcher up to her room without spilling a drop.
         Honey Bunch had a pretty little room all to herself. The woodwork was white and the furniture was painted white, too. She had a low box in which she kept her toys and that was covered with a cloth material having blue and white and black figures woven in it. Some of the figures were little boys and some were little girls. Honey Bunch could tell you how many there were, for she had counted them with Mother’s help. There were twenty little boys and eight little girls.
         Honey Bunch had her own white bureau and her own white bed and she was very proud of them. But she liked best the white goatskin rug Daddy had given her on her last birthday. She was so fond of this rug that whenever she gave the dolls a party she dragged it out on the screened porch where it would be sure to be seen.
         The screened porch opened from the room that was Honey Bunch’s bedroom. It was a small, square porch and had screens to keep the flies out, and awnings to keep the sun off, and long blinds to pull down when Honey Bunch slept outdoors, as she often did on warm nights. From this porch you could look right into the trees, and Honey Bunch said she thought it was as nice as the little house her mother had had in an apple tree when she was a little girl.
          “The party’s all ready,” said Honey Bunch to her mother, as they reached her room. “The dolls are waiting for you.”
         Sure enough, the dolls were just as Honey Bunch had left them; not one had jumped down and gone to playing and mussed her best frock. They were very good children and Honey Bunch told them so.
          “The table’s all set, too,” said Honey Bunch, leading Mother out on the porch and showing her the little table with the blue and white china neatly in place.
         The goatskin rug was under the rocker where Mother was to sit, for Honey Bunch always wanted her company to have the nicest things.
         Mother sat down in the rocker and Honey Bunch put the cookies and the milk on the table. She brought out the dolls and put them all in one chair.

Then it was time for the party to begin.
         And at that very moment the strangest things began to happen. Honey Bunch did not think them strange; dear no, she was used to having them happen!
         What were these strange things? Well, the milk, for one thing, turned into hot tea. Hot tea with cream and sugar in it, as Mother and Daddy had it every Sunday night, Honey Bunch knew. And the cookies turned into charlotte russe cream puffs—at least that was what Honey Bunch said they were and she ought to know.
But stranger than this was the way Mother, Honey Bunch’s own Mother Morton, became Mrs. Simpson. And Honey Bunch herself was Mrs.
          “Will you have cream and sugar in your tea, Mrs. Simpson?” asked Honey Bunch of Mother politely.
          “Yes, thank you,” answered Mother. “Do you allow your little girls to have tea, Mrs. Hatchett?”
         Honey Bunch shook her head. She loved to be called Mrs. Hatchett. She thought that when she grew up she would like to be called Mrs. Hatchett all the time.
          “No, I never let any of my children drink tea,” said Honey Bunch, or Mrs. Hatchett, as she would want us to call her. “I think tea is bad for children. They have bread and butter. But I wish you would try one of my charlotte russe cream puffs, Mrs. Simpson.”
         Mrs. Simpson took a cookie and said it was the best charlotte russe cream puff she had ever eaten.
          “This tea is pretty hot,” declared little Mrs. Hatchett. “But then strong, hot tea puts life into me.”
         Mrs. Simpson, who was Mrs. Morton really, you know, laughed at that.
          “You’ve heard Mrs. Miller say that, Honey Bunch—I mean, Mrs. Hatchett,” she said. “It seems to me one of your children is missing; didn’t the china doll come to the party with us?”
          “I guess she fell off the chair,” said the china doll’s mother. “Yes, there she is down on the rug. She’s a careless girl. Did you know her nose was chipped in one place, Mother? Excuse me, Mrs. Simpson?”
          “Her nose broken? Why, when did the china doll break her nose, dear?” Honey Bunch’s mother asked.
         Honey Bunch poured a little more “tea” into her blue and white cup.
          “Her nose isn’t broken—just chipped in one place,” she explained. “It happened to her ’cause she is so careless. She fell out of the window.”
          “Fell out of the window! Why, Mrs. Hatchett, how dreadful!” cried Honey Bunch’s mother.
          “Yes, isn’t it? My dear Mrs. Simpson, you ought to have seen her fall out!” exclaimed the china doll’s mother. “I put her on the window sill to dry after I’d given her a bath and then I knocked her off with my elbow.”
         The visitor agreed that this was very careless, and then, as all the charlotte russe cream puffs were gone and the tea pot was quite dry, Honey Bunch announced that the party was over and that she wasn’t Mrs. Hatchett any more. She trotted downstairs after Mother and said good-by to Mrs. Miller, who was going home to her own family. Honey Bunch helped Mother get dinner a little later, and that night she slept with her because they both felt lonely without Daddy Morton.
         They were very glad indeed to see him when Friday came. Mother was upstairs sewing and Honey Bunch was reading aloud to her. Honey Bunch couldn’t read, not really read, of course, for she was not five years old. But she loved to pretend and she often took a newspaper or a book and read aloud to Mother. Honey Bunch made up the story as she went along and it was very interesting. Her mother said it was.
          “The little girl went downtown,” read Honey Bunch this Friday afternoon. “She thought she would buy her mother a birthday present. But all the stores were closed because it was Christopher day.”
          “What day, dear?” asked Mother curiously.
          “Christopher day,” repeated Honey Bunch, looking over the top of her book. “That’s what it says, Mother.”
          “Are you sure it doesn’t say ‘Christopher Columbus Day’?” suggested Mother. “Don’t you remember I told you about Christopher Columbus last week?”
         Honey Bunch looked at the book again. “Perhaps it does mean Christopher Columbus,” she said. And just then she and Mother heard a little click of the hall door downstairs.
          “Daddy!” shrieked Honey Bunch, dropping the book and flying out into the hall. “Daddy’s come!”
The little click had been his latch key in the lock.
Honey Bunch knew the sound. She rushed downstairs. Daddy stood in the hall, his heavy bag at his feet.
         “Well, Honey Bunch!” he said, picking his little girl up and hugging her tightly. “Miss Daddy, dear? Where’s Mother?”
         Mother was just behind Honey Bunch and Daddy had them both in his arms at once for a moment. Then they all went upstairs together and Daddy unpacked his bag and told Mother about his trip and answered Honey Bunch’s questions and asked what they had been doing while he had been gone.
          “Did you see any little girls?” asked Honey Bunch, watching Daddy smooth out his ties.
          “I saw two little girls on the train,” said Daddy Morton. “Most of the time they were very good but they cried for nearly an hour once and that wasn’t pleasant.”
          “Oh, my!” said Honey Bunch, much shocked. “Did every one see them cry? Did their mother scold them?”
          “Well, no, I don’t think she did,” answered Daddy Morton, handing a little pile of clean handkerchiefs to Mother, who put them in his top drawer. “They had different mothers, you know; there were two little girls and two mothers.”
          “What made them cry?” insisted Honey Bunch.
         Daddy put his bag away in the closet and said he didn’t know.
          “But I never cry for an hour!” said Honey Bunch. “Why didn’t their mothers make them stop, Daddy?”
          “Well, you see, Honey Bunch, they were pretty young,” explained Daddy Morton, smiling at Mother. “I don’t think they were much over four months old.”
          “Babies!” said Honey Bunch. “They weren’t little girls, Daddy; those are babies.”
          “You don’t tell me!” answered her daddy, pretending to be surprised. “Well, they were the only little girls I saw; I know they were little girls, because they had girl names; they were Marie and Jessie.”
         When Honey Bunch slipped into her seat at the table that night she found a little package there. Her daddy had brought her a present from
Washington. It was a cut-out set, just the gift Honey Bunch liked best. She had her own blunt-pointed scissors and she loved to cut out things. There were several sheets in this set and Honey Bunch was so interested in looking at them that she did not hear what her daddy and mother were saying until her mother mentioned letters.
          “You found your letters on the hall table, didn’t you, David?” she asked.
          “Yes, everything all right,” Daddy Morton replied. “Has any one called, Edith?” “Why, yes,” said Honey Bunch’s mother. “I meant to tell you at once, David. There was a man here to see you—he said he wanted to see you very much about some case; I think it was the Thompson case—is that right?” “I thought it was about time they tried to get some one interested,” Daddy Morton said, a little excitedly.
          “Who was the man, Edith—did he leave a card?”
         Honey Bunch’s mother jumped up from the table and went into the parlor to get the card. She was gone several minutes.
          “I can’t find it!” she said when she came back. “I know I put it in that little silver tray, and now it isn’t there. It was such an odd name I thought I’d be sure to remember it, but I saved the card to be sure. Oh, David, I’m so sorry! Is it very important? I recall he told me he was going West, but he said you could get in touch with him.”
         Honey Bunch looked up from her cut-outs, surprised. Her mother sounded as though something was bothering her.
          “Honey Bunch, you saw the man; you remember him, don’t you, dear?” her mother said eagerly.
          “What was his name? You tell Daddy.”
Honey Bunch shut her blue eyes tight and tried to think. What was the name of the man who had told her his little girl’s “happy name”? She had liked him very much.
          “I don’t remember his name,” said Honey Bunch slowly, opening her eyes. “But he has a little girl and her name is Lulu.”
          “Honey Bunch! Do try to think!” urged her mother. “You remember that man. You know how he looked. He gave Mother a card with his name on and now she has lost it. Can’t you remember what I told you his name was?”

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