CHAPTER XV "We can walk on the edge of the ice," said Bobby, "Come on—I'll hold your hand, Honey Bunch, and you can slide."
A GRAND SURPRISE
"Don't go out too far," said Honey Bunch's mother. "Some of the skaters might skate into you, Bobby."
"We'll be careful," promised Bobby. "Tess, want to slide? You can hang on to my belt."
Tess took hold of the belt of her brother's overcoat and Honey Bunch took his hand and Mrs. Morton waved to them as they started slowly to slide.
"This ice," said Honey Bunch, as she almost fell down, "is very slippery, isn't it?"
"Central Park ice is always slippery," boasted Bobby. "I guess more people fall down on this lake than anywhere else." Honey Bunch kept on sliding, but her hands were cold and by and by her feet didn't feel right, either.
"I can't feel my feet when I walk on them, Bobby," she explained.
"You're cold," said Bobby, looking at his little cousin and noticing how red her small nose was. "Your feet are cold, too. I tell you what we'll do; we'll go up in the house and get warm. Tess will go and tell Aunt Edith, won't you, Tess? Tell her Honey Bunch was cold and I took her up to the house to let her get warm. We'll meet you over by the elephants."
"The house" Bobby spoke of was a building where the skaters went to thaw out when they were too cold to skate another step. There was a fire and many people were walking up and down the room, stamping to warm their cold feet. Honey Bunch stamped, too.
She was just going to ask Bobby if she could go up to the fire and hold her hands out to the blaze when suddenly someone outside shouted and every one began to run for the door.
"Someone fell in!" shouted a boy, pulling open the door. "Gee, I'll bet he drowns!"
"I'll be right back! You stay here!" said Bobby to Honey Bunch, and away he ran with the others.
Honey Bunch was left all alone. She walked over to the fire and warmed her hands, then she looked out of each window, and still Bobby didn't come back! By standing on one of the seats she could see the crowd around the lake.
"I hope no one drowns," said Honey Bunch aloud. "It must take a large hole to fall through the ice."
She meant that it must take a large hole to let a person fall through the ice. Honey Bunch did not know that sometimes the ice is much thinner in one place than in another and that a skater may skate right through and land in the icy water before he knows it.
"I'll go find Bobby," said Honey Bunch, when several more minutes had gone and no Bobby came.
She pulled back the heavy door—and she had to use both hands to do it—and stepped out into the snow. She looked down the hill to the lake, but she couldn't see any black and red checked cap like the one Bobby wore.
"I think I'll go down this path," decided Honey Bunch. "Maybe I'll meet Bobby coming up."
Honey Bunch didn't like the idea of trying to find Bobby in the crowd around the lake. She was the least little bit shy of many strange people and she hoped her cousin would find her before she had to ask any one where he was. But though the path she was following turned and twisted and went around behind bushes and out again, she didn't meet Bobby on it.
"That looks like the monkey house!" said Honey Bunch in surprise, when she found herself standing in front of a building she thought she remembered.
It was the monkey house, and Honey Bunch went in. Perhaps Bobby had stopped to look again at the monkeys. Instead of Bobby, the first person she saw was Lester Morris!
"Hello!" he said to her. "Where did you come from?"
"I'm looking for Bobby," replied Honey Bunch politely. "Have you seen him?"
"Did you and Bobby come all alone to the Park?" asked Lester, holding a peanut out to a monkey and pulling it back as the animal grabbed for it.
"No, Mother and Tess and Bobby and I came," explained Honey Bunch. "Bobby and I went to get warm, and then he ran out to see who was drowned and he hasn't come back yet."
"He won't come back," said Lester, shelling another peanut. "I saw him going home. Your mother and Tess, too. They said they were tired and they thought they'd go home and rest."
Honey Bunch stared at him.
"But—but I'm here!" she said. "They wouldn't go home and leave me."
"Huh, wouldn't they?" Lester said disagreeably. "You might as well make up your mind not to see any of your folks again. Lots of people leave their children in the monkey house and the keeper puts 'm in cages and after a while you'd never know them from the monkeys."
Poor Honey Bunch! She didn't know whether to believe Lester or not. He seemed to be telling the truth, but surely Mother wouldn't go home and leave her little girl alone in Central Park. And her daddy wouldn't like it at all if she were put in a cage like a monkey!
"This monkey was a little girl once," said Lester, who was as bad as he could be, and that was pretty bad, you may have guessed. Lester told the biggest fibs and none of his friends could ever believe him. If Honey Bunch had only known him a little longer, she would have known at once that he wasn't telling a word of truth.
"Yes, sir, this monkey's name was Gladys," said Lester, holding out a peanut and then putting it in his own mouth as the monkey tried to take it.
Honey Bunch stared at him while he shelled another peanut. Her eyes were so full of tears that she didn't see him hold it out to the monkey, but she heard him scream.
"Ow! He's killing me! Come quick, somebody, the monkey is killing me!" screamed Lester.
He had gone too close to the cage and the monkey had grabbed his ear and was pulling it almost as hard as Lester sometimes pulled the tails of the monkeys.
Honey Bunch saw the keeper come running and the monkey saw him, too. He let go of Lester's ear and jumped to the top of the cage where he sat chattering with rage and telling every monkey in the house what he thought of such a bad boy.
Lester started to run as soon as the monkey let go his ear, and he was in such a hurry to get away that he never watched where he was going, but tumbled, Plop! into a tub of water by the door.
"And right it serves you!" scolded the keeper, fishing him out. "This isn't the first time I've seen you teasing the monkeys. If I had caught you first I should have warmed your jacket for you. If I ever see you teasing one of the monkeys again, I'm going to send for a policeman and let him take care of you."
A number of people had gathered around, for they had heard Lester screaming. One of the men offered now to take the boy up to the engine room and dry him off and the keeper said that it was much too good for him.
"Still, he looks cold now and I wouldn't be wishing my worst enemy a fit of sickness," went on the keeper, frowning at Lester, whose teeth were chattering like the monkey's, although Lester's teeth chattered because the water into which he had fallen was ice-cold. "Take him out of my sight, do, and while you're drying him off, teach him some manners."
The man took Lester away and Honey Bunch stepped up and pulled the keeper's coat sleeve.
"Please," she said, "where do you keep lost folks in this park?"
"Are you lost?" asked the keeper, smiling until you wouldn't think he was the same man who had scolded Lester.
"No—o, I'm not lost," declared Honey Bunch. "But Bobby is. And my mother and Tess. They won't know where—why, here they are! That's Mother!"
Honey Bunch had seen Bobby coming through the door and her mother and Tess following him.
"I told you we'd find her here!" cried Tess, as Honey Bunch ducked under an old gentleman's cane and jumped straight into her mother's arms. "I knew she'd gone back to see the monkeys."
Well, the keeper and everyone else who had heard Honey Bunch ask about her lost people were very glad that they had all found each other. Bobby said it was really Honey Bunch's fault because she hadn't stayed where he had told her to stay. No one had been drowned, after all, and as soon as he had found that out he had hurried back.
"Another time, Bobby, don't leave a little girl, even to find out what is happening somewhere else," said Mrs. Morton gravely.
"When you are taking care of a girl in a crowd, you mustn't leave her to look after herself. But when you are a little older, dear, you'll understand this better."
As they had all had enough of the ice that day, they went to see the elephants and Honey Bunch thought they were as large as Uncle Paul's office building.
"Well, they're almost as tall," she argued, when Bobby laughed and said an elephant wasn't so tall if you didn't think so. Honey Bunch liked the squirrels, too, and so did Tess.
"Stub says she can see squirrels any day," said Tess. "I suppose they like to live in the country."
"Yes, squirrels do live in the woods," answered Mrs. Morton. "And if Honey Bunch goes to visit Stub this summer, she will see these same kind of pretty squirrels, but living happily outdoors. You would like that, wouldn't you, dear?"
Honey Bunch thought she would like it very much. Her cousin Mary, whom they all called "Stub," lived on a farm and Honey Bunch had never seen a farm. Whether she did see squirrels living in the woods and what she and Stub found to do the summer weeks they spent together, must be left for another book. You'll find Honey Bunch's farm adventures in the story called "Honey Bunch: Her First Days on the Farm."
Going home from Central Park, Honey Bunch found a great surprise waiting for her. Bobby and Tess were surprised, too, but Honey Bunch's mother and her Aunt Julia and Uncle Paul did not seem to feel surprised.
"You-all have company," Dorry said, smiling, as he took them up in the elevator.
Honey Bunch went in first. There sat a gentleman, talking to her Uncle Paul.
"Daddy!" cried Honey Bunch. "Oh, Daddy, when did you come? Mother, here's Daddy!"
And Daddy Morton kissed Honey Bunch and her mother at the same time and asked them if they were ready to go home with him.
"All right—let's," said Honey Bunch. "I would like to see Lady Clare."
But they couldn't go that night, of course, and Daddy Morton stayed in New York several days. Then they went back to Barham and Honey Bunch found that home was a pretty nice place. She thought she would never want to go away again, but she did. The very next summer she went to see Stub. So, you see, little girls sometimes change their minds.