THE TEA PARTY
WHO do you suppose was the first guest to arrive the next afternoon?
Why, Norman Clark!
He walked up the steps of Honey Bunch’s house and rang the bell at quarter-past three. He was dressed in a white linen suit and he looked as nice as any little boy who was going to a party could look.
“My land!” whispered Mrs. Miller, who had answered the doorbell and asked him to go into the parlor. “My land, Mrs. Morton, it’s that little Clark boy. I never thought he would come!”
Mrs. Morton laughed and Honey Bunch hopped up and down in excitement.
“The party’s begun, Mother!” she cried. “The party’s begun and my hair-ribbon isn’t tied!”
Mrs. Morton tied the ribbon in just a moment and she and Honey Bunch went downstairs together to see Norman.
“You said there would be dolls,” said Norman, when he had shaken hands with Mrs. Morton. “But I didn’t have any dolls; so I brought this.”
He took a lead soldier out of his pocket and showed it to Honey Bunch.
“Isn’t he nice!” she said. “Uncle Peter used to play with lead soldiers when he was little. He said so.”
In a few minutes the seven little girls came in. They looked surprised to see Norman Clark, but Honey Bunch showed them the lead soldier and then they showed Norman their dolls and presently every one was talking at once and that, you know, is a sign that every one is having a good time. The little girls were Mary and Fannie Graham, Kitty and Cora Williams, Anna Martin, Grace Winters and Ida Camp—Ida was Honey Bunch’s chum.
“We’re going to have the party out in the yard,” said Honey Bunch, who couldn’t help wishing that Stub could be there.
Not that Stub would care for a dolls’ tea- party; she didn’t play with dolls often, but she liked parties.
“It’s so hot to-day,” said Honey Bunch, “that Mother said it would be nicer out in the yard. It’s shady now.”
It was a warm day and Honey Bunch’s yellow hair curled in little tight rings all over her head. Her cheeks were pink but Mrs. Miller’s were red—indeed good-natured Mrs. Miller told every one she met that she was “melted.” There seemed to be a good deal of her left yet, in spite of what she said, and each time she came upstairs with an armful of clean clothes to go in the trunks that Mrs. Morton was packing, the stairs and the floors creaked. The trunks were to go that night to Glenhaven by train and Honey Bunch and her mother and daddy were to go in the automobile the next afternoon. No wonder Honey Bunch said it was an exciting day.
“What a pretty middle!” said Ida Camp, when they went out into the yard and saw the table set for them.
She meant the centerpiece on the table, a low white bowl filled with blue flowers. There was a little blue box at each of the nine places and little blue bows of crepe paper tied to each doll’s chair.
“Your lead soldier can stand on the table,” said Honey Bunch to Norman. “He’s too little to sit in a chair.”
So the lead soldier stood among the blue flowers and behaved, as Mrs. Morton said, “perfectly.” He didn’t step on anything or tip over anything and he never once asked for a bite to eat.
The children had just sat down at the table when out marched Lady Clare. She liked a party as well as any one, she seemed to say, and was there any good reason why she should not be invited to this one?
“Let her sit on the grass and watch,” suggested Norman. “Is she a new cat? Did you have her before you went away?”
Honey Bunch told him about Lady Clare and her ermine collar while she poured the tea—ice-cold milk—out of a real china tea pot. They had bread and butter sandwiches to eat with their tea and little round crackers with chocolate icing on them.
While they were drinking their tea and eating their sandwiches, Mrs. Miller was hurrying down the street to get them some ice-cream cones. Mrs. Morton had offered to telephone for the cones, but, no, Mrs. Miller was sure that the only way to get the right kind was to go after them. She wanted large ones, she said, and she didn’t want the ice-cream too soft—she wanted it just right.
“Let’s open the blue boxes now,” said Grace Winters.
She was a curious little girl and she had been pinching and poking her box ever since she had seen it, trying to find out what was inside.
“Shall we open them, Honey Bunch?” asked Ida.
“Oh, yes, let’s,” said Honey Bunch.
She did not know what was inside the boxes.
Her mother had said that every party should have a little surprise in it and she had put a piece of a surprise in each of the boxes.
“Why, it’s a number!” cried Grace Winters, looking at the slip of blue paper in her box. “Nothing but a number!”
“I’ve hidden nine packages in the yard,” explained Honey Bunch’s mother, who just then came out with the ice-cream cones Mrs. Miller had bought. “You must not touch a package that has not your number on it. When you find one with the same number, that is meant for you. But eat your cones first, before you begin the hunt, for the ice cream will melt.”
The cones were beautiful to see—large and heaped up and white and you would have thought that no child could fail to be pleased with them. But Grace Winters noticed at once that hers did not have a piece of cherry on the top.
“I haven’t any cherry,” she announced. “Every one else has cherry on the top of her cone.”
Honey Bunch had waited till the last to take her cone. She had not touched it yet.
“Take mine, Grace,” she said quickly. “I don’t like cherry—that is, I don’t like a cherry very much.”
“Then, if you honestly don’t mind, I’ll take your cherry,” replied Grace. “You keep your cone, but I’ll take the cherry.”
“That’s because she took the largest cone there was,” whispered Norman Clark to Ida Camp.
Honey Bunch held out her cone to Grace so that she could pick the candied cherry off the top. Alas, for Grace’s eagerness—she tried to hold her own cone and take the cherry at the same time. Down went her cone into the soft grass, and with a flash of four swift feet, Lady Clare leaped gayly upon it. She rolled over and over, hugging the cone, and the children shouted with laughter.
Grace did not laugh, though. She looked ready to cry.
“I haven’t any ice-cream!” she wailed.
“Not a bit! That nasty old cat grabbed my cone and now it’s spoiled!”
Mrs. Morton had gone into the house to help Mrs. Miller—for of course they had ever so many things to do to get ready for the trip to the seashore—or she might have offered to send for another cone for Grace.
“You take mine,” said Honey Bunch bravely. “I don’t mind—I’ll have ice-cream cones down at the seashore.”
Honey Bunch was very fond of ice-cream cones and she had not had many while she was visiting Stub. She could not get a cone there unless some one took her to town. There were no stores near the farm. So Honey Bunch had really looked forward to this treat as much as any of the other children.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Norman. “We’ll each give Grace some of our ice-cream. Then she’ll have some and Honey Bunch will, too.”
And that was what they did. They took the plate that had held the chocolate crackers
and each child put a spoonful of the ice-cream from her cone on the plate. To be sure Grace had no cone to hold and eat, but she had the two crackers that were left over, and that made everything fair.
After the ice-cream was gone, it was time to hunt for the packages with numbers on them. They hunted under the bushes and among the flower beds along the sides of the fence. It was great fun, for at first the numbers did not match at all. Honey Bunch found a box that said 4 when her slip of paper read 8 and Norman found a box marked 7 when his paper had the number 3 on it. As fast as some one found a box with the right number on it, it was opened and every one stopped hunting to look.
“I have a cape for my doll!” cried Ida Camp, when she had found her box.
Ida’s doll was a little china one and the cape was just the right size. Anna Martin found a sash for her doll and Grace Winters’ box contained a pattern for a doll’s dress and pretty pink material to make it.
“They’re all things for dolls!” said Cora Williams, and so they were.
Each little girl had something for her doll and each had found her box before Norman discovered his—tucked behind a crooked branch in a rose bush.
“You haven’t any doll,” said Grace Winters.
“Well, I know I haven’t,” retorted Norman. “If mine is for a doll I’m going to give it to Honey Bunch. She’s always satisfied with what she gets.”
Grace Winters looked as though she wished she had not spoken. She had meant to tease Norman, and she never dreamed he would give his present away.
But, as it happened, Norman did not get something for a doll to wear. When he opened his box there was an envelope in it and inside the envelope a dozen paper soldiers to be cut out.
“I have a cannon that shoots marbles and it will just fit these soldiers,” cried Norman. “Gee, they’re great! Where’s Mrs. Morton? I want to say thank you to her.”
It was really time for the party to be over now, so they all went in to find Mrs. Morton and to say thank you and tell her what a nice time they had had. When all the good-byes had been said and every one had gone, Honey Bunch went downstairs to see Mrs. Miller and talk over the party with her.
“I’m glad Norman didn’t get a girl present,” she said, watching Mrs. Miller putting away her ironing things. “He wouldn’t like a girl present, I know. But how did Mother know he liked soldiers? He didn’t say he was going to bring his lead soldier to the party.”
“Well, you know your mother remembers what your Uncle Peter liked when he was a little boy,” answered Mrs. Miller.
Then Honey Bunch wanted to know if all little boys liked paper soldiers and lead ones, too, and Mrs. Miller said she thought they did.
“You want to say good-bye to Lady Clare now, Honey Bunch,” she told the little girl. “I’m going to take her back with me to-night.
I’ll be around to-morrow to help your mother close the house, but I can’t bring Lady Clare. Just think, this time to-morrow night you’ll be down at the seashore!”
Honey Bunch stooped down and gathered Lady Clare into her loving arms.
“Good-bye, darling Lady Clare,” she whispered to the cat, who seemed to understand. “I’ll try to bring you a nice fish from the seashore.”