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A Little Lost Girl
Her First Visit to the City, Chapter VIII
A LOST LITTLE GIRL
Alas, in the morning the snow was quite gone! Honey Bunch heard the sad news before she was out of bed, for Bobby was pattering about the hall in his bedroom slippers, wailing:
"I told you so! I knew it would be this way! There isn't one bit of snow left to play in!"
However, Bobby didn't feel bad very long and when he found there were hot cakes and maple syrup for breakfast he quite forgot the snow. He and Tess went happiiy off to school and they were hardly out of the door when Mrs. Morton said:
"Well, Honey Bunch, you and I are going shopping this morning."
Aunt Julia was putting on her hat even then, so Honey Bunch put on hers and stood up on a chair and put the little hairpin in Mother's veil just where she liked it to go. Honey Bunch often helped Mother get ready to go out.
"We're going shopping, Dorry," said Honey Bunch, as they stepped into the elevator. Dorry thought Honey Bunch was the nicest little girl who had ever come to the apartment house. He told Tess so and she felt very proud of her little cousin. Of course Honey Bunch didn't know what Dorry thought, but she liked him and she always had something to tell him whenever she rode in his elevator.
"You-all going to see the toys?" asked Dorry now.
"Are we, Mother?" said Honey Bunch, and when Mrs. Morton smiled and said she thought they would look at the toys first, Dorry smiled as merrily as Honey Bunch herself.
"Then you-all will have a good time," he said kindly. They walked to the corner again to wait for a bus, and this time when Honey Bunch saw one coming, she held up her hand and the great, wide bus drove in to the curb and stopped for them. There was one man riding on top, but he looked so cold and his nose was so red that Honey Bunch felt sorry for him. She was glad that her mother and aunt didn't want to ride outside.
Aunt Julia gave her the money and let her put it in the funny little box the conductor held out, and later she told her when to press the button that would stop the bus. Honey Bunch thought that Aunt Julia seemed to know exactly what a little girl would like to do.
"I s'pose it is because Tess is a little girl," Honey Bunch thought, poking her small thumb right into the middle of that black button.
They got out of the bus and had to cross the street to reach the large shop where Aunt Julia was taking them. The stream of automobiles went whizzing past and Honey Bunch hung back even when the whistle sounded and the traffic policeman held up his hand to keep the automobiles back.
"Come, dear," said Mrs. Morton. "The policeman says it is all right for us to cross. Nothing will hit us now."
But Honey Bunch stood still on the curb.
"Wait a minute," she begged. "Don't go yet, Mother."
Then that tall, straight policeman looked over and saw Honey Bunch trying to pull her mother and aunt back. All the automobiles, drawn up in a long line said "ha-ha-ha!" and Honey Bunch was sure that they would make a jump forward in just a minute. The traffic policeman didn't care how much the cars said ha-ha-ha! He walked across the street and came close to the curb.
"All right now," he said. "Come ahead."
Well, of course, it was all right then. Honey Bunch and her mother and her aunt walked straight over that crossing, in front of all those impatient automobiles and even a trolley car, and reached the other side without a bit of trouble. And the moment they were on the other curb, Toot! went the policeman's whistle, and every car jumped ahead.
It was a very large store into which Aunt Julia took them, and, goodness, every one else went, too. It was like the railroad terminal, Honey Bunch told Mother that night.
"Let's take the escalator," said Aunt Julia. Honey Bunch thought she was talking about some kind of animal, but no, the escalator was moving stairs!
"Oh, Mother!" cried Honey Bunch, when she saw the stairs going up and up and people riding along on them without taking a step. "Oh, Mother, how can you slide down the banisters?"
"You don't," said Mrs. Morton, smiling. "Now, dear, be careful—don't try to walk; just keep your feet still."
Honey Bunch put out one foot, something bumped under her shoes and there she was, standing on a step and moving smoothly along like any one else.
"Isn't it nice?" she said, and the lady ahead of her heard and turned and smiled.
At the top of the stairs a pretty girl put out her hand and pulled Honey Bunch off. That was lucky, because the floor felt queer.
"I didn't know the floor was coming," said Honey Bunch, when to her surprise she found that she was off the stairway and standing on her own two feet on a red velvet carpet she had never seen before.
The toy department was on the fourth floor, and Honey Bunch had three lovely rides on the moving stairway before they came to the rows of dolls and the counters and counters of trains and games and tin wagons and other toys.
"What do you want to see first, Honey Bunch?" asked Aunt Julia.
"Dolls," said Honey Bunch. "All the dolls, Auntie, please."
There were big dolls and little dolls and dolls with party dresses and dolls all ready for kindergarten in dresses of gingham. Honey Bunch thought they were all beautiful.
"This is Anna Marie," said the clerk, taking a doll out of the show case and coming out from behind the counter to show her to Honey Bunch.
Anna Marie was almost as tall as Honey Bunch. The doll had long golden curls down to her waist, real eyelashes and a white pique frock with a patent leather belt exactly like the one that Honey Bunch wore.
"Ma-ma!" said Anna Marie. "Ma-ma!"
"Oh, Mother!" cried Honey Bunch. "Listen! What would Eleanor say?"
Eleanor, you know, was Honey Bunch's doll at home.
"She would like to take a little walk, I think," said the clerk, smiling. "You take her hand and I'll take the other and we'll give her a little walk around the floor."
Mrs. Morton slipped off Honey Bunch's coat, for the store was warm, and Honey Bunch took the doll's hand. And Anna Marie walked! She did indeed. She lifted up one foot in its patent leather slipper and pink silk sock and put it down and lifted up the other foot. And every time she lifted her foot, she took a step, just as Honey Bunch did.
"Look, Mother, look!" cried Honey Bunch.
"She can walk!"
"Anna Marie can dance, too," said the clerk proudly. "Here, I'll play for you, and you dance a little with her."
The clerk sat down at a little toy piano and began a tinkly tune. Honey Bunch danced round and round with the big doll and Anna Marie kicked out her little feet and seemed to enjoy the fun. When the dance music stopped she stopped, too, and so did Honey Bunch.
"She is alive!" said the little girl, as she shook hands with Anna Marie and the clerk put her back in the glass case. "She must be alive, Mother! She can walk and talk the same as I do! Wouldn't it be fun to have a real, live doll to play with?"
They saw all the other toys before they went downstairs. Honey Bunch liked the doll houses and the dolls' furniture next to Anna Marie. But when her mother and aunt said they had shopping to do and took the elevator downstairs and began to look at net to make curtains for windows, Honey Bunch was very good and patient. She wasn't interested in net, but she sat quietly in a chair and waited for her mother and aunt to look at the curtains.
"I must get those pillow cases this morning," said Aunt Julia, when the net had been bought. "The linen department is on the next floor."
Down again they went and into the linen department where great stacks of sheets and pillow cases and tablecloths and napkins rose from the tables almost up to the ceiling.
There were no chairs to sit in here, so Honey Bunch walked around the tables as she waited for her mother and aunt to buy the pillow cases. She found she could walk under some of the tables, and that was fun.
"I'm in a cave, a big lion's cave," said Honey Bunch, walking under one of the tables. "If a little girl comes along I'll growl at her."
But no little girl came past, and after Honey Bunch had crawled under several tables and walked around others, she thought she would go back and see if Aunt Julia was not through buying pillow cases.
Out from under the last table came Honey Bunch, but no mother and Aunt Julia were there. She was not in the linen department now, but another place, a place she had not seen before. There were beautiful soft, fur scarfs and muffs on the low tables and fur coats on the waxed figures standing around.
"Where's Mother?" said Honey Bunch softly. "I want my mother."
She went back to the tables and walked around them again, but she could not see her mother anywhere, or Aunt Julia, either. And no matter how many times she walked around the tables, she always came out at the same place, where the fur coats and scarfs were.
"Maybe Mother's lost," said Honey Bunch at last.
She sat down on the little platform where a wax lady stood and because she was only five years old and a pretty little girl to be all alone in a big department store in a big city, the tears began to trickle down her pink cheeks and splash into her lap.
"For goodness' sake, child, what's the matter?" asked an old lady, stopping suddenly. "Are you lost?"
"I can't—I can't find my mother!" sobbed Honey Bunch.
"Well, don't cry another drop," said the old lady kindly. "We'll see that you find your mother. You just come along with me."
Honey Bunch stood up and put her hand into the soft, wrinkled one the old lady held out to her. Straight up to a tall, dark-haired man the old lady walked and Honey Bunch with her.
"This child is lost," said the old lady. "Her mother's somewhere in the store. Will you look after her? I have to meet my daughter or I'd take care of her myself."
"We'll find your mother, little girl," said the floorwalker. "We'll go up to the next floor and wait there; she'll come after you before very long."
Honey Bunch did not say anything. She trotted along beside the tall man and followed him into the elevator and out again, trying to keep up with the long steps he took. He led her into a quiet room with a great many green velvet chairs and sofas and ladies sitting and reading in some of them. There were little desks there, too, and some of the ladies were seated at these writing letters.
There was another old lady in this room, sitting at a table. She had curly white hair and did not wear a hat.
"She must live here," said Honey Bunch to herself.
"This little lady," said the floorwalker to the old lady, "can't find her mother. Will you look after her for a bit, Mrs. Bates?"
"Certainly I will," said Mrs. Bates, and she lifted Honey Bunch into a big chair near her. The floorwalker went away and Honey Bunch tried to smile at Mrs. Bates who opened her table drawer and took out three red gumdrops and gave them to her.
"Now all you have to do," said Mrs. Bates comfortably, "is to sit here and rest and by and by your mother will come."
"How will she know I am here?" asked Honey Bunch.
"All the lost children are brought here, and the first person your mother asks will tell her that," explained Mrs. Bates.