HELPING MRS. MILLER
HONEY BUNCH was very glad indeed that Mrs. Miller and Lady Clare were there for her to talk to that morning. She would have felt lonely when Uncle Peter went away if there had been no jolly Mrs. Miller to listen to her and no Lady Clare to purr when she was tickled under her ermine collar.
“I’ll come down to see you and Julie—sure!” promised Uncle Peter, kissing Honey Bunch good-bye.
And she clung to him until he had to run to catch the car at the corner.
“Well, now, Honey Bunch, what kind of a visit did you have with Stub?” asked Mrs. Miller, the moment Honey Bunch put her yellow head inside the laundry door.
How could Honey Bunch feel sorry for one instant when she had so much to explain to Mrs. Miller?
The most important thing was, of course, the poetry.
“Oh, Mrs. Miller!” Honey Bunch climbed up on a chair to get nearer to Mrs. Miller, who was rubbing away at the clothes in the tubs. “Oh, Mrs. Miller, I brought home some poetry for you!”
Mrs. Miller’s round red face beamed.
“Good land, what do you think of that?” she cried. “More poetry, Honey Bunch? Your mother sent me some in a letter, you know.”
Honey Bunch nodded. She knew all about that. She had asked her Uncle Rand, who was Stub’s daddy, to write her a verse for Mrs. Miller to say when that good woman burned her thumb. Uncle Rand, you must know, was famous for writing rhymes for people to say to make them forget their troubles. He had taught Stub a verse to say when she stubbed her toe—she was always stubbing her toe, and that is why she was called “Stub” instead of by her own name, “Mary”; and Mrs. Miller burned her thumb so many times that Honey Bunch had been sure she would like a verse to say when that happened. Uncle Rand had written one for her and Mrs. Morton had sent it to her. But Mrs. Miller did not know that Honey Bunch had coaxed her uncle to make up another rhyme especially for her.
“I learned it all by heart, Mrs. Miller,” announced Honey Bunch earnestly. “It is for you to say when it rains on wash days.”
“Well, now, that’s what I call thoughtful,” declared Mrs. Miller, rubbing away at a white apron that belonged to Honey Bunch. “If there is one thing I cannot bear calmly, it is a rainy wash day. Give me a nice, clear, sunshiny day, say I, and enough wind to dry the clothes, but not enough to tear them, and I’m a satisfied woman.”
“Uncle Rand says it has to rain some of the time to please the farmers,” said Honey Bunch, rubbing the cake of yellow
Honey Bunch herself thought this would be a very good plan, but before she could think it over Mrs. Miller asked her for the poetry.
“Did you write it down, or can you tell it to me?” the washerwoman asked.
“I can say it,” Honey Bunch assured her proudly. “I have to think just once, then I’ll tell you.”
So Honey Bunch thought “just once” and she was ready.
“This is the way it goes, Mrs. Miller,” she said.
“ ‘Though it be rainy, what care I?
There’s lots of time for wash to dry;
The clouds were dirty, I suppose,
And asked the rain to wash their clothes.’ ”
“There!” exclaimed Honey Bunch. “Don’t you like that, Mrs. Miller? Uncle Rand said he was sure if you’d say that whenever it rained on wash day, you’d feel ever so much better.”
“Of course I will!” answered Mrs. Miller, letting fresh water run into her tub. “That kind of poetry will cheer a body up quicker than medicine. Now I have two verses to keep me happy, haven’t I, Honey Bunch?”
“Yes, you have,” replied Honey Bunch. “Two nice ones. Have you burned your thumb while I was away, Mrs. Miller?”
Mrs. Miller shook her head.
“I didn’t burn my thumb, but I pounded it with the tack hammer,” she replied. “I was aiming to drive a nail and I hit the wrong place. But it didn’t bother me only for a minute.”
“Oh me, oh my! Sometimes you burn your thumb, and sometimes you pound it!”
Honey Bunch thought that Mrs. Miller’s thumb gave her a great deal of trouble. As a matter of fact, it did. But it was because she was always using it.
“What did Lady Clare do while I was up at the farm?” Honey Bunch wanted to know.
She scrambled down from her chair to pick up the beautiful black cat that came marching into the laundry at that moment. Lady Clare had been over the house to see if any mice had come to live there in her absence. She had not found any, but she was still suspicious.
“Oh, Lady Clare acted as though she liked to live with me,” replied Mrs. Miller, bluing the clean water in the tub by swishing a rag around in it and squeezing it so that the dark bluing ran out and colored the water blue. “Every morning, as soon as she had her breakfast, she sat down on the kitchen windowsill, beside my best pink geranium, and washed her face. Then she jumped into my rocking chair with the cushion in it and took a long nap. No one ever disturbed her. In the afternoon she usually went out and played in the yard.”
“Do you suppose she missed me?” asked Honey Bunch, tickling Lady Clare till she purred sleepily.
“Why, of course she missed you,” Mrs. Miller replied, turning the wringer so fast she was almost out of breath. “Of course she did! But I told her where you were, and, like a sensible cat, she tried to be contented and good till you came home.”
“Maybe she won’t like me to go and see Julie,” suggested Honey Bunch. “Mother says we can’t take her with us, because cats don’t like the ocean. It’s too wet.”
“Lady Clare is used to my house now and she won’t mind staying a few more weeks,” said Mrs. Miller comfortably. “She’s cleared my pantry of mice, and I’m mighty glad to have her around. Nights she sits opposite me while I knit and we have real comfortable, cozy times together.”
Honey Bunch was glad to hear this. She had often wondered, during her visit to Stub, whether Lady Clare was happy.
Talking about Lady Clare reminded her of the family of kittens she had seen in a farmhouse where her daddy drove into the barn to escape a thunder shower. By the time she had told Mrs. Miller about these kittens, the basket was filled with clean clothes ready to be hung out in the yard.
“I’ll help you,” offered Honey Bunch, who often held the clothespin bag while Mrs. Miller fastened the clothes on the line.
The grass had been cut in the yard, but the bushes and flowers looked strange to Honey Bunch. They were much taller—they had been growing all the while she was at the farm. So had Honey Bunch. But flowers and bushes grow much faster than little girls, as she explained to her daddy later.
“Hello!” some one called, as she followed Mrs. Miller into the yard.
Honey Bunch looked. There on the fence sat Norman Clark, a little boy who lived next door. That is, his yard was next door to Honey Bunch’s yard, but his house faced on another street. The Clarks had moved in a week or so before Honey Bunch and her mother went to the farm, so she had not really had time to become very well acquainted with Norman.
“Hello,” answered Honey Bunch, a little shyly.
“You’ve been away, haven’t you?” went on Norman.
“I’ve been visiting my cousin Stub,” Honey Bunch told him. “She lives on a farm. Her name is Stub.”
“Is it nice on a farm?” asked Norman.
You cannot answer that kind of question without explaining what makes a farm nice, and Honey Bunch was so busy telling Norman about Broad Acres that Mrs. Miller had all the clothes hung out and they were beginning to dry in the sun before the little girl had finished.
“And I’m going to visit another cousin, day after to-morrow,” said Honey Bunch, when she had told Norman about the farm. “Julie lives at the seashore. I’ve never been to the seashore before.”
“I have,” declared Norman. “Lots of times. But we’re not going anywhere this year. I’ll be glad when school opens. I’m big enough to go. This is a lonesome town, isn’t it? Do you know any boys who live around here?”
“I know Elmer Gray—he’s a little boy. And I know Ned Camp—he’s Ida Camp’s brother and he goes to high school,” said Honey Bunch. “But I know ever so many girls. They’re coming to my party to-morrow. I’m going round to invite them this afternoon.”
As soon as Honey Bunch said that, she looked quickly at Norman. She thought it sounded rather selfish to talk about giving a party to Norman when he wasn’t invited. And then kind little Honey Bunch had another thought.
“I don’t suppose you like dolls,” she said, a bit timidly. “Do you? This is going to be a dolls’ party. But if you don’t mind the dolls coming, you could come, too. We’re going to have ice-cream cones—Mother said so.”
Now Norman did not like dolls at all and he did not like to play with girls. But he was a very lonely small boy and he was tired of playing by himself. A party was a party, after all, even if girls and dolls were to be there.
“I’ll come,” he said, as much to his surprise as to Mrs. Miller’s, who was listening. “What time does it begin? Shall I bring a present?”
“Oh, my, no!” cried Honey Bunch hastily. “ ’Tisn’t a birthday party. And come at half-past three in the afternoon.” she added politely.
Norman scrambled off the fence and ran in to tell his mother that he was invited to a party, and Honey Bunch helped Mrs. Miller carry back the empty basket to the laundry. Then she went upstairs to tell
her mother that she had asked Norman to come to the party.
“I’m glad you did, dear,” said Mrs. Morton. “He’ll be lonely till he goes to school this fall and makes new friends. I’m glad my little girl tries to be hospitable.”
That afternoon, as soon as lunch was over, Honey Bunch started out to ask her seven little girl friends to come to the party the next afternoon. They all lived on the same street that Honey Bunch did and it did not take her long to ask them. They were all at home and each said she would come and bring her doll with her.