SARAH JANE IS SAVEDTEDDY, with Sarah Jane in his mouth, had run across the side lawn and was out in the street before the little girls reached the back porch.
“There he is! I see him!” cried Honey Bunch, pointing to the dog who stood in the middle of the sidewalk before the next-door house. “Come on, we can catch him!”
But Teddy had no idea of standing still to be caught. He wagged his tail, to show the children that he was friendly, but what he wanted them to do was to chase him. As soon as Honey Bunch came running toward him, away he darted and up the street he galloped as fast as his four legs would take him. And after him, hair flying, ribbon-bows streaming, ran eight little girls as fast as their legs would carry them.
“Drop it, Teddy! Drop it!” they still shouted, but as Teddy still ran on, in a few moments they were too warm and out of breath to shout any more.
“I can’t run another step!” cried Grace Winters. “Not another step! Oh, my, I’m so hot!” And she sat down on the curbstone and fanned herself with her handkerchief.
They all stopped. Honey Bunch’s socks had come down and were rolled in little wads over her shoes. Cora Williams had lost the circle comb out of her hair and the hair was getting in her eyes. Every one had red cheeks from running and their faces were streaked with perspiration and dust. Altogether, they did not look much like a tea party company.
Teddy stopped, too. He stood a little way off, the rag doll still in his mouth. He was panting, but he wagged his tail encouragingly.
“Come, chase me some more,” he seemed to be saying. “Come on—perhaps you’ll catch me this time.”
“I should think you could get the doll away from him,” said Fannie Graham to Grace.
“He’s your dog. Doesn’t he ever mind you?”
“He belongs to my brother,” explained Grace. “ ’Sides, you can’t make a dog mind when he doesn’t want to; can you, Honey Bunch?”
“I don’t know,” said Honey Bunch. “But maybe I can make Teddy give us the doll.”
All the time she had been jolting over curbs and turning up streets, you see, Honey Bunch had been thinking. And now she was quite sure she knew what to do.
“I don’t believe you can get the doll away from him at all,” said Grace. “If you try to snatch it he may bite you. My mother says you must never snatch anything away from a dog.”
“Well, I know when the baby across the street came to see us,” replied Honey Bunch slowly, “he wanted to play with the little china clock. He had it in his hands and he wouldn’t put it down. His mother was going to slap him, but my mother took my little woolly lamb and held it out to him and he gave her the clock and took that.”
“But Teddy isn’t a baby,” argued Grace.
“And he hasn’t got a china clock in his mouth,” giggled Fannie.
Honey Bunch looked at them. She knew exactly what she wanted to say, but she had to think as she put it into words.
“No, Teddy isn’t a baby, he’s a doggie,” she said. “But don’t you think if we gave him something else he liked, he would drop the doll?” “He likes things to eat,” Grace declared.
“All right, I’ll get him a bone,” said Honey Bunch. “Does he like bones, Grace?”
“He loves ’em,” answered Grace, scrubbing her hands with her handkerchief and leaving the little white square very dirty indeed. “But you haven’t any bone, Honey Bunch.”
“I’ll get one,” Honey Bunch replied, staring at Teddy as though he might help her to think.
“I know where our butcher shop is on our street,” she said, “but Teddy might run away if I went ’way back there. Our butcher gives the man on the corner bones for his dog, and
I guess he would give us one for Teddy. Do you want to wait while I go back and ask him?”
“No, that will take too long,” said Grace. “Look, Honey Bunch, there’s a butcher store down that street; maybe he will give you a bone if you ask him.”
Grace meant the butcher himself, not the butcher shop, might give Honey Bunch a bone. But Honey Bunch was too excited to notice what Grace was saying.
“I wouldn’t go into a strange store and ask them to give me anything,” cried Mary Graham. “Don’t you go, Honey Bunch.”
“I don’t mind,” said Honey Bunch bravely. “That is, not much. I don’t want Teddy to chew up Sarah Jane.”
Then Ida Camp spoke up and said she would go with Honey Bunch. Ida was a little girl who was scared to pieces if a stranger spoke to her and who always blushed bright red and tried to hide behind her teacher if she was called on to recite the golden text in her Sunday school. Ida would not be much help to Honey Bunch, when it came to asking the butcher for a bone, but it was good of her to offer to go and it was brave, too.
“All right, you two go and we’ll wait here and not let Teddy run off,” said Grace, who was very comfortable on the curb.
Honey Bunch and Ida started down the street to the butcher shop and Teddy lay down on the grass, the rag doll beside him. He thought, perhaps, that they were all resting before they began another race.
“What are you going to say?” whispered Ida, as she followed Honey Bunch up the shop steps. “Oh, my, look at the people!”
There were several people in the store, buying meat, and Honey Bunch felt almost as uncomfortable as Ida when she opened the screen door and went in.
There were two long marble counters, one on each side of the shop, and two men back of each counter busy cutting meat for the customers. Far down at one end there was a boy in a white jacket turning some kind of a machine. He had red hair and he looked kind and jolly. Honey Bunch decided he looked like a boy who might be willing to give away a bone.
“We’ll go ’way down here,” Honey Bunch whispered to Ida.
The floor of the store was covered with sawdust and it was fun to scuffle through that as they walked to the end of the shop. Honey Bunch wondered why her mother didn’t have sawdust in the kitchen, at least. She thought it was very nice to have on a floor and it was certainly pleasant to walk in.
The red-haired boy was waiting on a woman when the two little girls reached his end of the counter and they sat down on a soap box to wait. Back of the box Honey Bunch discovered something that made her forget her errand.
“Look, Ida!” she whispered. “A kitty—a black one!”
Sure enough, curled up in the sawdust was the fluffiest of little black kittens, and when Honey Bunch stroked him he rolled over on his back and waved four tiny white feet in the air. Honey Bunch scooped him up and hugged him tightly, while Ida stroked his head. He seemed to like to be petted, and the red-haired boy smiled when he saw Honey Bunch hold him up to her chin.
“What is his name?” asked Honey Bunch shyly.
“We call him Suet,” answered the redhaired boy. “’Cause he is so fat, you know.”
Honey Bunch didn’t know that suet was the pieces of fat the butcher wrapped up with the beef and mutton he sold, but she thought it was a funny name for a cat. I do myself, as far as that goes, and you probably do, too. But then it was a good name for a butcher’s cat, and that makes a difference.
The red-haired boy wrapped up the chopped beef the woman had bought and which he had been cutting in the grinder, and gave her a check which told her how much to pay the butcher. Then the boy moved down to where Honey Bunch and Ida were playing with the cat.
“Well, ladies?” he said gravely.
Honey Bunch put down the cat and stood up. She knew the butcher boy was making fun of her because his eyes were laughing though his face was very solemn. Honey Bunch did not like to be laughed at.
“Have you any bones?” she said most politely.
“Bones?” repeated the red-haired butcher boy. “Well, now, what kind of bones did you want to-day? Do you want a bone to fry, or a bone for stewing? Or, if you would prefer it, we have some good roasting bones just in.”
Honey Bunch felt the red coming up into her cheeks. She looked at Ida, but Ida was playing with the cat and not paying a bit of attention to her friend. Honey Bunch looked back at the red-haired boy.
“I want a dog bone,” she said, her voice shaking a little.
“Well, you shall have a dog bone,” said the boy, and his eyes stopped laughing. “I'll get you the best bone we have in the shop—a regular ten-center.”
Oh, this was dreadful! Honey Bunch glanced at the people standing on either side of her, for more had come in and the store was really crowded. Honey Bunch felt as if every one in the shop was looking at her, but the idea of giving up and going away without the bone never entered her mind. She stood up on tiptoe, so she would be a little taller, and leaned toward the red-haired boy.
“Could I whisper to you?” she asked. “It’s private.”
The butcher boy leaned his red head down to her and Honey Bunch, still standing on tiptoe, looked at the people near her.
“Please excuse me,” said the little girl politely, so that their feelings would not be hurt.
“I haven’t any money,” she whispered to the butcher boy. “And I have to have the bone to give Teddy, Grace’s dog, so he will let me have Sarah Jane, Cora Williams’ rag doll. I’ll bring you the money to-morrow, if you don’t mind waiting a little bit.”
That red-haired butcher boy seemed to understand at once. He popped a bone into a bag, said a word to one of the men at the counter, and then, telling Honey Bunch and Ida to “come ahead,” went with them back to the place where they had left the other girls and the dog and doll.
“Here, you purp,” said the butcher boy, walking over to Teddy, who wagged his tail, “what do you mean acting so—with girls, too? I’m ashamed of you. Here’s a bone for you, and I want you to drop that doll; and don’t ever let me hear of you carrying on like this again.”
He gave Teddy the bone, picked up the doll, which the dog did not offer to touch, and handed Sarah Jane back to her little mother.
“You don’t live around here, do you?” said the butcher boy to Honey Bunch. “I thought I hadn’t seen you before.”
“No, we live on Grove street,” answered Honey Bunch. “We all live on the same street. And I was having a party for the dolls when Teddy ran off with Sarah Jane. How much is the bone, please?”
“Nothing,” said the butcher boy. “Nothing at all. We give bones away every day.
Did you think up the scheme of bribing Teddy with a bone?”
“Yes, she did,” said Ida, speaking for the first time since she had left the shop. “Honey Bunch thinks of lots of things.”
“I knew she did as soon as I saw her,” the butcher boy declared. “Well, I have to go back now and I think Teddy will go home with you and act peaceable. If he steals any more dolls, you let me know, won’t you?” They promised to let him know, and he went back to the butcher shop and the girls walked slowly home. Just as they reached Honey Bunch’s house and were going in to get their dolls before they went to their own homes, quiet little Anna Martin spoke up.
“I think that was an exciting tea party,” she said.