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

Chapter I


HONEY BUNCH held out two very small black overshoes. These were her “rubbers” and she wore them when she went out on rainy days.

“I’ll need these, Mother,” she said.

“I suppose it may storm while we are at the shore,” Mrs. Morton answered; “but I don’t believe you’ll wear them many times, Honey Bunch.”

“Oh, yes, Mother,” said Honey Bunch seriously. “I spect I’ll need my rubbers every day; to walk in the water with, you know.”

Mrs. Morton smiled. She was sitting in a low rocking chair before her bed on which were piled neat little heaps of clothing.

There were socks for Honey Bunch, and belts and ties and gay-colored dresses and orderly piles of petticoats and bloomers and waists. Honey Bunch was always surprised to find how many clothes she had when they were all put out on Mother’s bed.

“Honey Bunch,” asked Mrs. Morton, hunting through the rolls of socks for a white one with a plaid border to match the one she held in her hand, “do you plan to wear your rubbers when you go wading in the ocean?”

Honey Bunch nodded her yellow head. She began to hunt for the missing sock, too.

“Why, yes,” she said, “I’ll wear my rubbers and my rain cape and then I won’t get wet.”

“But that is just the reason people go in the ocean,” her mother explained. “To get wet. They like the big, salty waves to dash over them. So will you.”

“Shall I?” asked Honey Bunch. “Does Julie?”

“Yes, indeed,” replied Mrs. Morton. “Julie is a regular little fish. Daddy will help you get acquainted with the ocean, Honey Bunch; and after you find what fun wading is, you won’t want your rubbers.”

Honey Bunch got down on her hands and knees to see if the missing sock could have dropped under the bed. She did not understand why, if she could not play in the rain puddles without her overshoes, it seemed to be all right to go wading in the ocean—which was surely larger than the biggest rain puddle—without rubbers or rain cape. However, if Mother said it was all right and Daddy was going to be there, there was nothing for Honey Bunch to worry about. She sensibly decided to wait and see what Julie, her cousin, did.

“Here’s the sock, Mother!” cried Honey Bunch happily. “I found it under the edge of the bed; shall I put it in the wash?”

“No, indeed,” replied Mrs. Morton, rolling it up with its mate into a neat ball. “That sock is spandy clean, Honey Bunch, and Mrs. Miller has all the clothes she can attend to without being asked to wash clean ones; we brought home a big wash from the farm for her.”

“Mrs. Miller likes big washes,” declared Honey Bunch, scrambling up on the footboard of the bed. “She says so. Is she coming tomorrow, Mother? And will she bring Lady Clare?”

“She is coming to-morrow morning,” answered Mrs. Morton, moving a pink organdy dress to a safer place in case Honey Bunch should topple over, “and we must be up early and have breakfast over before she comes. We have not much time, and there is a great deal to be done before we are ready to go”

“I think we go a great deal,” said Honey Bunch soberly. She had heard some one say that.

Mrs. Morton laughed. She was a very pretty mother and she laughed often. Honey Bunch liked to hear her.

“You and I have been great travelers this year, Honey Bunch,” she said gayly. “But we have had lovely times, haven’t we?”

“Yes, we have,” agreed Honey Bunch. “I like going visiting and I like coming home. I like to see Mrs. Miller and Lady Clare and Ida Camp and Grace Winters. I like to go riding with Daddy in the automobile and I like helping to pack trunks. I like to—”

Honey Bunch had been making a little song of the things she liked and she was so interested in singing it that she forgot she was sitting on the footboard of the bed. Suddenly she lost her balance and fell down, landing on the soft mattress and bouncing a little with the springs.

“I like everything!” announced Honey Bunch, sitting up and smiling.

And she did. She was that kind of little girl.

“Honey Bunch,” said her mother, lifting her down from the bed and giving her what they called an “extra special kiss”—Honey Bunch divided Mother’s kisses into good-morning and good-night kisses and extra special kisses—“Honey Bunch, don’t you want to run upstairs and bring me the list that is hanging on the wall outside the storeroom? I think you can reach the nail.”

Honey Bunch trotted off and found the printed list hanging on the nail beside the storeroom door. She knew the list told what was put away in that close, dark room where the trunks and winter clothes were kept. She had to stand on her tiptoes to unfasten the string, but she did it and was coming downstairs again when she remembered her dolls.

“I’d better not ’sturb them,” she said aloud. “Mrs. Miller says it is upsetting to have people running in on you. But I’ll tell Mother.” Honey Bunch meant she would tell her mother of the thought that had just popped into her little head. Honey Bunch was used to thinking aloud, and she often borrowed words she had heard grown-up people use.

“Mother,” she said seriously, handing the list to her mother, “I didn’t run in on my dolls, but I think they miss me.”

“Why didn’t you run in on them, darling?” asked Mrs. Morton, opening her desk and beginning to look for a pencil.

“It’s upsetting,” explained Honey Bunch. “Mrs. Miller said so. She says it puts her out to have folks drop in to surprise her. She likes to be surprised, but she wants to know about it in time.”

“And you think the dolls wouldn’t want to be surprised?” asked Mrs. Morton.

Honey Bunch sat down on the floor. She could think better sitting on the rug than she could in a chair and much better than standing up.

“I don’t think they would mind being surprised, Mother,” she said slowly; “but they might think I meant to stay at home all summer, and when they found we were going away again, I think they might—some of them—cry.”

“I see,” Mrs. Morton replied. “Do you know, Honey Bunch, I have a little plan: To-morrow I shall be very busy with Mrs. Miller, but the day after that will be easier. I think it would be nice if you gave a little party to a few of your small friends and your dolls—you won’t see them again this summer.

That would please the dolls, wouldn’t it?”

Honey Bunch thought it would. She was delighted with the idea of giving a party, and she said she knew her dolls would be contented the rest of the summer if they were invited.

“Show me on the calendar, Mother, please,” she begged.

So Mrs. Morton took her pretty desk calendar and marked the days with pencil for Honey Bunch.

“This is to-day,” she said, pointing to a square marked “Tuesday.” “To-morrow Mrs. Miller comes to wash and we’ll be, oh, so busy. The day after that she will finish the ironing and help me in the morning and in the afternoon you may have your party. And the day after that we start for the seashore to visit Aunt Norma and Julie!”

“Maybe I’d better go and tell the girls to come to the party,” said Honey Bunch, feeling more excited every minute. “Shall I, Mother?”

“Yes, you may tell them,” answered Mrs. Morton. “Ask them to come about half-past three, Honey Bunch, and to bring their dolls. Goodness, there’s the doorbell. Who can that be?”

She hurried out into the hall and after her went Honey Bunch. She hoped it was her daddy, home earlier than usual. But then, he would not ring the bell. He had his key. It must be some one else.

Mrs. Morton ran downstairs and Honey Bunch followed more slowly. She liked to go downstairs with one hand on the banisters.

“Peter!” she heard her mother cry, as she opened the screen door. “Peter, dear! Where did you come from?”

“Uncle Peter! Uncle Peter!” shouted Honey Bunch, forgetting the banister rail and tumbling downstairs as fast as her little legs would carry her. “You darling Uncle Peter!”

She ran toward the tall young man who stood smiling in the hall, and he caught her up and tossed her so high that her head almost touched the ceiling. Almost, but not quite; there was no one more gentle or careful than this same Uncle Peter, and it would never have entered Honey Bunch’s head to be afraid if he had tossed her up into the white clouds in the sky. She knew he would catch her safely when she came sailing down.

“Are you glad to see me, sweetheart?” he asked her, putting her down on the floor, but keeping one of the little hands fast in his own.

Honey Bunch looked up at him and her blue eyes danced.

“You ran in on us,” she said.

How Uncle Peter laughed! He picked Honey Bunch up again and carried her upstairs, following Mrs. Morton into the pleasant front room that served as a living room. Honey Bunch lived in a rather small, cozy house and Uncle Peter was so slim and tall that he could easily pretend to knock his head against the doorways when he passed through. But he was only pretending. He was not as tall as that.

“This seemed to be my only chance, Edie,” he said, sitting down on the cushioned window seat with Honey Bunch on his lap. “I’d about decided that you were never going to spend any time at home. This invitation came for me to visit one of the fellows before college opens. I had to come through Barham, and I called up David and he said you were at home for a few days. So here I am.”

Uncle Peter was Mrs. Morton’s younger brother. He went to a big school that was called a college and he worked very hard. That is, part of the time he worked very hard. But he seemed to find time to have much fun, too, and whenever he came to see his sister and her husband—who, of course, was Honey Bunch’s daddy—he had a great deal more to tell them about the fun than about the hard work. Honey Bunch loved Uncle Peter dearly and he loved her. He said she was the only little niece he had.

“If you’ll tell me all you’ve been doing since I saw you last, Honey Bunch,” said Uncle Peter now, “I’ll give you something I have downstairs in a package.”

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