JUST A LITTLE GIRL"Mother," said Honey Bunch, "here's the rabbit picture."
"Mrs. Morton was bending over an open trunk in her room. She turned and stared at her little girl.
"Why, Honey Bunch!" she cried, "What in the world do you expect me to do with the rabbit picture? And how did you get it down from over the table, dear?"
Honey Bunch was so little that the pretty picture of two white rabbits, in a white and gold frame, was almost as long as she was. She held on to it tightly with both hands. It was her own picture, one her daddy had given her for Christmas, and it hung in her own bedroom—or had till she had taken it down.
"I stood up on a chair," Honey Bunch explained. "Don't you want it, Mother?"
"Dearest, we can't take pictures with us," answered her mother. "There isn't going to be room in the trunk for anything we don't really need. You won't need pictures at Aunt Julia's, Honey Bunch; we'll see the most wonderful pictures in the art galleries." Honey Bunch put the picture down on Mother's bed and stared at it.
"But, Mother," she said, "Mrs. Farriday brought all her pictures with her. She wrapped them in tissue paper and put them in her trunks. She said so. She said they wouldn't break that way."
"Oh, Honey Bunch, you must be mistaken," said Mrs. Morton. "Think, dear. I'm sure that when Mrs. Farriday went to Colorado to visit her daughter, she didn't take a single picture in her trunk." Honey Bunch shook her head. She wanted to explain so much that the words tumbled out of her little red mouth and she stuttered—almost.
"But, Mother!" Honey Bunch cried. "Mother, I don't mean when Mrs. Farriday went to visit her little girl. I mean when they moved next door."
Mrs. Farriday, you see, lived next door to Honey Bunch. Her "little girl," as Honey Bunch called the daughter who lived in Colorado, was grown up and married and had a little girl of her own.
Honey Bunch's mother smiled a little and pulled her own little girl into her lap.
"Are you talking about the time the Farridays moved into the house next door, dear?" she asked. "Well, then, I don't doubt Mrs. Farriday brought pictures in her trunk. But we are not moving, you know, Honey Bunch; we are not going to take down our pretty curtains and pull up the rugs and move away from our house. You and I are going on a visit, to see Aunt Julia, and by and by we'll come home again. So we do not need to take anything with us except things to wear."
"Oh!" said Honey Bunch. "I—I never went visiting before, did I, Mother?"
"No, you never did," agreed her mother, kissing her. "And isn't it lovely that your very first visit is going to be to the largest American city? Why, Honey Bunch, if I had seen New York when I was a little girl like you, I don't know what I should have thought or said."
"Didn't you go to New York when you were a little girl?" asked Honey Bunch.
"No, indeed," said her mother. "I never saw New York till Daddy took me there when we were married. And now, dear, Mother has a great deal of packing to do, and she can't sit here and talk any longer. Don't you want to run upstairs and bring me those shoe-bags hanging on the door in the store-room? But first put the rabbit picture back in your room; don't stand on a chair again, though. Daddy will hang it up again to-night."
Honey Bunch slipped out of Mother's lap and trotted away, carrying the picture carefully. Upstairs she went after the shoe-bags, and on the way down she thought of an important question.
"Mother!" she said, coming back into her mother's room and handing her the shoe-bags," could Eleanor go visiting?"
Mrs. Morton was stuffing tissue paper into a pretty dark blue blouse. She put it into the trunk and sat down in her low rocking chair before she answered.
"Honey Bunch," she said then, "do you want to take Eleanor with you very much?"
Honey Bunch sat down on the floor and thought for a moment.
"I s'pose a doll would like to see New York," she said. "And maybe she would like to ride on the train. But she is lots of trouble sometimes, Mother. Her shoes come off and I might forget her and then her feelings would be hurt." "I wouldn't take her, if I were you," said Mrs. Morton. "A long trip really isn't very good for a doll. Then Eleanor is heavy to carry, too, and there will be so many things for you to see on the train and in the city that I'm almost sure you will sometimes find Eleanor in the way."
"But I love her," Honey Bunch said. "I love all my dolls."
"Of course you do, dear," Mrs. Morton declared. "You love Eleanor, and when you come home you will have ever so many things to tell her. I think she will be happier here with the other dolls; you couldn't carry her everywhere you go in New York, and she might be lonesome."
So Honey Bunch decided that Eleanor should stay at home. Eleanor did not seem a bit disappointed when she heard this. She smiled and smiled and when Honey Bunch put her in her crib she closed her eyes and went right to sleep and didn't wake up till Honey Bunch came home from New York. Dolls are like that, you know—they are always as good as gold.
Honey Bunch helped her mother a great deal with the packing. The trunk was a large one and when Honey Bunch first saw it she thought they would never be able to fill it up. But when Mother's pretty dresses went in and her shoes and all her pretty, frilly things, and Honey Bunch's best petticoats and her nicest frocks and every one of her patent leather belts and her white kid shoes and her socks—when all these things were in the trunk, why, it didn't look so deep. Honey Bunch began to think that she and Mother might get it full to the brim, after all.
"Oh, Mother, what will Lady Clare do?" asked Honey Bunch as she saw her mother putting her new winter coat on a hanger. Honey Bunch's new coat had a cunning little fur collar and it was this collar that reminded her of Lady Clare, the beautiful black cat who wore an ermine collar. Lady Clare's fur collar was not sewed on, it grew fluffily around her throat and Honey Bunch thought she was the nicest cat any little girl ever had.
"Didn't I tell you?" said Mrs. Morton. "Mrs. Farriday is going to take care of Lady Clare for us. Daddy offered to feed her, but it isn't fair to expect him to remember all the time. Mrs. Farriday will keep Lady Clare in her house. She is over there so much, anyway, I think she will feel quite at home."
"Yes, I s'pect she will," Honey Bunch agreed. "She ate Mrs. Farriday's canary-bird hat, so she must think it is her house."
Alas, this was the beautiful Lady Clare's one fault. She could not see any kind of bird, even a stuffed bird on a hat, without wanting to eat it. Mrs. Farriday had had a very pretty hat with little yellow feathers on it— Honey Bunch called it a canary-bird hat, but of course Mrs. Farriday would not wear canary birds on her head—and Lady Clare had found it on the bed one day and torn it into bits. Mrs. Farriday said it was her fault for leaving the hat out of the box and she seemed just as fond of Lady Clare after that as before. Perhaps, Honey Bunch said, she liked cats better than she did hats. Honey Bunch had been trotting up and down stairs, bringing Mother things to put in the trunk most of the afternoon, when the doorbell rang. She and Mother were on the third floor.
"I'll go, Mother!" cried Honey Bunch, who loved to answer the doorbell.
"Put this in the trunk on your way down, dear," said Mrs. Morton. "Make your head serve your heels."
Honey Bunch thought this was funny and she made a little song of it as she took the round, white package her mother gave her and ran downstairs.
"Make your head serve your heels," sang Honey Bunch. "Make your head serve your heels! Make your head serve your heels!" She was so interested in her song that she never stopped on the second floor where the trunk was, but ran down to the front door still singing about her head and her heels.
"Oh!" said Honey Bunch, when she opened the door.
"Hello!" replied the boy who stood there. "Does Mrs. Morton live here?"
"She's Mother," answered Honey Bunch, staring at the round, white package the boy held out to her.
"Take it," he said. "It's from Gaston's bakery." He pushed the package into Honey Bunch's arms, on top of the other package she still held, and shut the door for her.
"What was it, Honey Bunch?" called Mother from upstairs.
"He said it was for you from the bakery," answered Honey Bunch, putting her packages down on the hall table.
"That's Daddy's birthday cake, then, but you mustn't tell him," said Mrs. Morton, leaning over the banisters. "Don't open it, dear. I want to put it away till he comes home."
"Lady Clare wants to come in, Mother," said Honey Bunch, poking her fat little finger against the cake box to see if it felt like a birthday cake. "May I let her in, Mother?"
Mrs. Morton said Lady Clare might come in, so Honey Bunch ran to the kitchen door and opened it for the cat. She was playing with her when she heard her mother calling.
"Honey Bunch, I wish you'd come up and take these magazines down to the first floor for me," called Mrs. Morton. "I want to give them away before we go."
"Oh, my, I didn't put that in the trunk!" said the little girl to herself, as she ran through the hall and saw the two packages still sitting on the table.
She took the round, white package up with her and put it carefully in an empty corner of the trunk. Then she carried down the magazines for Mother and put her clean handkerchiefs in the right box and counted her pairs of socks—Honey Bunch counted by colors, not numbers; she wasn't old enough to count numbers, but she could say, "white, blue, tan, black"—and helped her mother so much that Mrs. Morton said she didn't know what she should do without her.
"And now I'm going downstairs to get supper," said Mrs. Morton at last.
Honey Bunch was hungry after working so hard, and when she heard her mother coming upstairs again she thought she was coming to tell her to wash her face and hands and get ready for supper.
But Mrs. Morton did not say that at all. She looked worried.
"Honey Bunch," she said, "did you do anything with Daddy's birthday cake?"
"I don't see where that cake could go!" worried Mrs. Morton. "Honey Bunch, where did you put it when the boy gave it to you?"
"On the hall table, Mother," answered the little girl. "I'll show you."