FEEDING THE BIRDSHoney Bunch looked up. She waved her scissors.
“They’re all cut,” she cried. “Wait a minute, Daddy. They’re all cut, only I have to tie them.”
She stooped down and gathered up her flowers. They were beautiful and no wonder Honey Bunch felt proud. She was sure the little lame boy would like them.
“I cut the longest stems I could,” she told Daddy, holding them out for him to tie with a piece of cord Mother brought him.
“They’re magnificent!” said Daddy, kissing Honey Bunch. “That boy will be tickled to pieces, or I miss my guess. If he could run around, I’d take him a ball and bat instead of flowers, but I know he would rather have these. Good-by, sweetness.”
Daddy Morton was half way down the block when he heard some one calling him.
“David!” cried Honey Bunch. “Oh, David, come back; you’ve forgotten your brief Case.”
“Why, Honey Bunch!” Mother laughed. “Honey Bunch! what are you calling Daddy?”
“David,” said Honey Bunch. “You call him David. Isn’t that all right?”
Daddy, who had run back, caught up his brief case and kissed Honey Bunch again.
“If any one tries to tell what you are going to do next,” he said, dashing down the steps, for he wanted to make the next car, “you tell them there is no one in the world who can do that, Honey Bunch!”
Mrs. Miller, who had come to clean, had heard Honey Bunch call to her daddy, and now she came out to sweep the porch, looking rather surprised.
“Little girls don’t call their fathers by their first names. Honey Bunch,” she said seriously.
“Mother calls Daddy David, don’t you, Mother?” asked Honey Bunch.
“Yes. But you call him Daddy, dear,” said Mother.
“But you call him Daddy, too,” Honey Bunch declared.
“That’s all right,” said Mrs. Miller, making her broom go into all the corners. “Your mother can call your father anything she wants to. But little girls don’t call their fathers by their first names.”
Honey Bunch sat down on the top step to think this over.
“What is Daddy’s second name?” she asked in a few moments.
Mother laughed again. She had gone into the garden to look at her larkspur.
“Daddy’s whole name is David Anthony Morton, Honey Bunch,” she said. “But Daddy is much the nicest name he ever had; he will tell you so if you ask him. And now, dear, don’t you want to feed the birds? I don’t believe there are many worms this morning for them.”
That reminded Honey Bunch of the worm Mr. Redbreast had lost when Lady Clare frightened him away and she told Mother about that.
“Put Lady Clare down cellar for a little while and scatter bread for the birds,” said Mother. “I like to have you begin feeding them while it is still warm and perhaps they will come and eat in our garden this winter.”
“But Daddy says they go down South where it doesn’t snow and it’s warm,” said Honey Bunch.
“Many birds do, but not all,” Mother explained. “And perhaps those that go will tell those that stay of the garden where a nice little girl scatters sweet bread crumbs for them every day. Then, when there is snow on the ground, you will have little feathered friends come to see you. You would like that, wouldn’t you, Honey Bunch?”
Honey Bunch was sure she would, and she stooped down and picked up Lady Clare and carried her down cellar. She kissed her asshe carried her in and explained to her that she would have to stay in the cellar just a little while, until the birds had finished their breakfast. Lady Clare didn’t seem to mind. She was sleepy and had had her nice breakfast. She wasn’t worried about her dinner either. She knew some one would feed her. She would not have to go out and hunt for something to eat as the birds did.
When Honey Bunch had put Lady Clare in the cellar and closed the door of the stairway, she went into the kitchen and found Mother had a small pan of bread all ready for her.
“Don’t birds like butter on their bread?” the little girl asked.
“No, I don’t believe they do,” replied her mother. “I never heard of any one buttering bread for the birds. This winter we will hang out pieces of suet for them; they will like that. But they do not need it in warm weather.”
“Suet” reminded Honey Bunch of the cat in the butcher shop and the time Teddy, the dog, had run away with the rag doll in his mouth.
“Mother,” said Honey Bunch, “isn’t it funny how one thing makes you think of another thing?” “Yes, indeed, dearie,” replied her mother. “One thing makes us think of another thing and that is called remembering.”
“I remember—” said Honey Bunch suddenly.
“What do you remember, darling?” Mother smiled as she asked her, for Honey Bunch stood on tiptoe as though she were reaching for the something she had remembered.
“I thought I remembered,” said Honey Bunch, looking disappointed. “I almost did, Mother. I was just going to remember the name of the man who came to see us when Daddy was away.”
But though Honey Bunch tried her best, she could not, as she said, “remember the remember” again. So she took the pan of bread and went out into the garden to feed the birds.
She threw the bread as Mother had shown her, tossing it as far from her feet as she could, for birds are timid and will not come close to a person to eat unless they have learned to know that person very well.
A little sparrow came first. He stood with his head on one side, looking at a piece of bread. Then, suddenly, he snatched it and flew away.
Either the other birds saw him with the bread in his mouth, or else, as Honey Bunch thought, he was kind enough to tell them about it, for presently the garden was full of birds, pecking and chattering and some, I am sorry to say, fighting with each other for the same piece of bread. But then, I do not think their mothers were there or they would never have acted so badly.
“Hello, Honey Bunch!” called Mrs. Perkins, coming to her back door. She lived next door to Honey Bunch, you know. “What are you doing?”
“Feeding the birds,” answered Honey Bunch, holding up her pan, which was empty now. “They were just as hungry!”
“Birds always are,” Mrs. Perkins told her. “I wonder if you wouldn’t like to feed them that box of bird seed I had left when my canary died; would you, Honey Bunch?”
“But these are sparrows and robins, and I guess there’s a blue jay in the apple tree,” said Honey
Bunch. “How can they eat canary seed?”
“Bless you, bird seed is bird seed,” replied Mrs. Perkins. “I’ll get you the box, Honey Bunch, and you can have a good time scattering it around.”
Mrs. Perkins went to get the bird seed and came back in a few moments with a pasteboard box nearly filled with seed. Her canary bird had died the month before and this was seed she had bought for him to eat.
“I tell you what you do, Honey Bunch,” said Mrs. Perkins. “Feed the birds most of the seed, but plant a little in a bowl. It will grow quickly and you’ll have something pretty for the middle of the table.”
So Honey Bunch threw most of the seed to the birds. They liked it very much and pecked at it as it lay scattered on the ground for a long time. But she saved a handful and this she planted in a little flower pot that was, her own.
“I won’t say a single word to anybody,” said Honey Bunch, pressing down the earth with both little hands. “It will be a s’prise for Mother.”
For nearly a week Honey Bunch watched the little earthen pot, and by and by something feathery and green began to show. In two or three days more the green was longer and Honey Bunch carried her little pot into the house and put it on the breakfast table, right in the center where her mother always had a bowl or vase of flowers.
“Why, Honey Bunch, how pretty!” cried Mother, when she came in from the kitchen and saw the new centerpiece.
“What pretty green stuff! Where did it come from?”
“I planted it,” said Honey Bunch proudly.
“Is it to eat?” asked Daddy Morton anxiously. “I think it is a salad, Mother; but I never eat salad for breakfast.”
“Oh, Daddy, you don’t eat it!” cried Honey Bunch, afraid her daddy would cut the pretty green plant and put salt and pepper on it, perhaps. “That’s bird seed. Daddy.”
“Bird seed!” repeated Daddy. “Well, I never! Where are the birds?”
“Daddy is teasing you, dear,” said Honey Bunch’s mother. “I used to plant bird seed when I was a little girl. It makes a very pretty bit of green. Come, Daddy, eat your cereal, and don’t be asking about birds. Honey Bunch gave that centerpiece to me— I know exactly what it is.”
Daddy Morton came home to lunch that noon and when Honey Bunch, who had been planting in the garden, came in to wash her hands, she peeped into the dining room on her way to the bathroom.
There, among the feathery green sprays of the sprouted bird seed, sat a very small yellow canary.
“Oh, my!” whispered Honey Bunch. “It’s a live bird! I s’pose it knew that was bird seed. I wonder if Daddy saw it. I’ll go call him!”
But some one else was watching the little yellow bird. Lady Clare, coming into the dining room from the hall, caught sight of the little creature among the green, and Lady Clare decided that the bird was surely meant for her. Before Honey Bunch knew what was happening, the cat sprang to the table and slapped her great paw squarely across the bird’s body.
“Daddy! Daddy!” screamed Honey Bunch. “Oh, Daddy, come quick! Lady Clare is killing the little bird!”
Daddy and Mother came running and Honey Bunch began to cry. By the time Daddy reached her, she was sobbing as though her heart was broken.
“Honey Bunch! My dear little girl!” Daddy took her in his arms and laid his face against hers. “What is the matter, dearest?”
“The little bird—the canary!” cried Honey Bunch. “Lady Clare killed him!”
“Oh, Honey Bunch! That isn’t a real bird!” said Daddy, pulling out his lovely big handkerchief to dry her eyes. “That is a little toy bird I brought home for you. I stuck him there to surprise you. See, dear, he is only painted wood.”
Honey Bunch took the bird in her hand and looked at it. It was wood, as Daddy had said.
“David,” laughed Mother, “you tried to play a joke on Honey Bunch, but I think the joke has been played on you.”
“No,” laughed Daddy, “the joke has been played on Lady Clare. Look how silly she seems to feel.”
The cat sat under the table, washing her face. She was pretending, you see, that she had caught and eaten the bird.
“I like wooden birds,” said Honey Bunch, slipping down from Daddy’s lap to put her bird back again in the flower pot. “Lady Clare can’t scare them, can she, Mother?”