THE TRAVELERS STARTHoney Bunch ran downstairs ahead of Mother, eager to show her the cake box she had left on the hall table. But no cake box was there! Honey Bunch stared.
"I left it right there," she said. "I put it right on the table, Mother."
"And you didn't open it, dear?" asked her mother.
"No, I didn't even pull the string," said Honey Bunch earnestly. "You said not to open it, Mother, and I never touched it. Did somebody take it?"
Mrs. Morton sat down on the lowest stair step to think.
"No one could take it," she said. "No one has come to the house since the boy brought it. Oh, Honey Bunch, that was Daddy's birthday cake, and now it's gone. And I thought we could surprise him at supper!"
Honey Bunch squeezed herself in between Mother and the stair rail. She put her fluffy yellow head down on her mother's shoulder.
"Don't you care, Mother darling," she said. "Maybe we'll find it when Daddy comes; he can look on all the top shelves." Honey Bunch's mother said she was a comfort. And she was. You may have heard of this little girl before, in the first book about her which is called "Honey Bunch: Just a Little Girl." If you have read that book you know that Honey Bunch was five years old and that her real name was Gertrude Marion Morton. Her daddy and her mother, you see, called her Honey Bunch because—well, her daddy said it was because she was so sweet he couldn't help it. Honey Bunch was a short way, he declared, of saying "bunch of sweetness." In the first book about her you will read how Honey Bunch had a tea party and what happened to the rag doll and about the pie, too. That poor pie! Honey Bunch made it and Daddy sat on it, and oh, dear, for a few minutes it looked as though there would be no pie at all.
Honey Bunch met Mr. Subways, too, in that book. And when his card was lost neither she nor Mother could remember his name. And Daddy was anxious to have them remember, but that all came out right after a bit. Then, in December, when Honey Bunch had her fifth birthday, her cousins came to visit her and it was two of these cousins, Bobby and Tess Turner, who lived in New York. Honey Bunch's "Aunt Julia" was Bobby and Tess's mother, and Honey Bunch and her mother were packing the trunk to go to see them. And that brings us back to Honey Bunch on the stairs.
"Maybe Daddy will find the cake," said Honey Bunch again.
"Oh, we must find it before he comes," said Mrs. Morton. "I wonder—Honey Bunch, I do believe I know where it is!"
Up jumped Mother and ran upstairs as fast as she could go. After her ran Honey Bunch, as fast as she could go. Mrs. Morton ran into her own room and knelt down by the trunk. She put in her arm and pulled out a round, white package.
"Here it is!" she cried. "Isn't it lovely, dear, we have Daddy's cake before he gets here?"
"How did the cake get in the trunk?" asked Honey Bunch, staring in great surprise at the package.
"Why, dear, don't you see?" asked Mrs. Morton. "There were two packages on the hall table; one I gave you to put in the trunk and the other was the cake. I suppose something took your attention for a minute, and you took the wrong package and put it in the trunk."
Honey Bunch nodded her yellow head. She began to understand.
"I went out to the kitchen to let Lady Clare in," she explained.
"Yes, that was it," said Mrs. Morton. "And when I went downstairs to get supper, I saw the package of collars and frills I had given you to put in the trunk for me and I thought you had forgotten it; so I brought it upstairs and put it in the trunk myself."
"Then was everything in the trunk?" Honey Bunch asked.
Mrs. Morton laughed. She put her arm around Honey Bunch and hugged her.
"You and I together put almost everything into the trunk," she said gaily. "And now let's go down and put the cake on the table before it gets packed again."
That cake for Honey Bunch's daddy was a beautiful cake. It was round and smooth and the icing was rich and brown with white-icing letters on the brown icing. Honey Bunch could not read what the white icing said, but Mother read it to her.
"It says, 'David Anthony Morton, January 4,' " read Mrs. Morton. "And, Honey Bunch, if you will be very careful, you may help me put the candles on."
Honey Bunch was delighted to help with the candles and she was very careful not to break the shiny icing when she stuck in the little pink rose cups that were to hold the candles.
"Daddy has lots more candles on his cake than I had," said Honey Bunch, standing back to view her work. "I guess he has a hundred."
"Why, Honey Bunch!" laughed her mother. "I'm surprised at you! Poor Daddy isn't a hundred years old! How many candles do you really think I have here for him?"
"Sixty-two," said Honey Bunch wisely.
Mrs. Morton laughed again. Then she put the last candle in its pretty cup and stood off to admire the cake.
"There are just thirty-three candles," she said. "There goes the bell! Run and let Daddy in, dear, while I light the candles."
You should have seen that beautiful cake when Honey Bunch and her daddy came into the dining-room. Thirty-three little pink candles all blazing at once looked very merry, and Daddy Morton was so delighted that he said he would have to kiss Mother thirty-three times and Honey Bunch, too.
"Blow them out and wish, Daddy," said Honey Bunch eagerly, so Daddy made his wishes and blew out his candles and then they sat down to supper.
Of course Mother and Honey Bunch had to tell him how his birthday cake was packed in the trunk by mistake and Daddy pretended to be alarmed and wondered if he ought to go upstairs and look for his favorite slippers and his best neckties.
"How do I know you haven't packed those?" he said. "I've heard that when people are getting ready to go to New York for a visit they are sometimes so excited they pack the shoes and hats they want to wear on the train."
Honey Bunch giggled, for she knew her daddy was trying to tease her. Didn't she have the prettiest new tan shoes to wear on the train and the prettiest new brown hat with a little beaver crown and a new brown coat with a beaver collar that buttoned up tight under her little round chin? Of course she did, and she didn't mean to pack them in the trunk, either. She meant to wear them.
The birthday cake was so good that Daddy had to have two pieces. He said it might be a whole year before he had any cake again. But of course he didn't mean that. Mother often baked cake and Honey Bunch helped her.
"Maybe Mother will bake you a cake at Aunt Julia's," said Honey Bunch, when she climbed into Daddy's lap after supper to kiss him good-night.
"But I shall not be there," answered Mr. Morton.
"Oh, aren't you going to New York?" asked Honey Bunch. "Does Mother know that?"
"Daddy will have to get along without cake until we come back," said Mrs. Morton, smiling a little. "He's coming to New York to bring us home. Aren't you, Daddy?"
Mr. Morton said "yes," and that made Honey Bunch feel better. She didn't know whether she would like to go visiting without her daddy but, of course, if he came after them, that would make everything all right.
The day after Mr. Morton's birthday was a busy day for Honey Bunch and her mother. Honey Bunch had to go and say good-bye to Ida Camp, who was her best friend. Ida loved Honey Bunch dearly and she said she would miss her very much while she was away.
"I'll bring you something nice, and I'll send you post cards to put in your book," Honey Bunch promised.
There were several little girls who lived on the same street as Honey Bunch, and they had all heard that she was going to New York. Honey Bunch had to say good-bye to each of them and they asked her so many questions that she couldn't answer them all.
"My cousin lives in New York," said Grace Winters. "Maybe you'll see her."
"How does she look?" asked Honey Bunch.
"Oh, she has lovely long black hair," answered Grace. "And she's in high school."
Honey Bunch didn't see why Grace should think she would meet her cousin, but then, she thought, most anything might happen in New York. Mary and Fannie Graham wanted post cards to put in their collections, and Kitty and Cora Williams asked Honey Bunch to bring them a little monkey, if she could.
"They're in the Zoo," explained Kitty. "It would be such fun to play with a monkey. Perhaps they give real little ones away."
Honey Bunch promised to bring a "real little" monkey if they did give them away at the Zoo. Then her mother called her and she had to go in, but not before Anna Martin had told her to be careful about strange dogs.
"One followed my big brother home once in New York," said Anna. "And he wouldn't go away and he wouldn't go away. He sat on the steps all night and a policeman had to come and get him in the morning!"
When Honey Bunch went into the house she found that the trunk was all packed and that Mother wanted to shampoo her hair. The expressman came for the trunk while Mrs. Morton was washing Honey Bunch's hair and the little girl had to sit very still with her head over the basin and never open her eyes once—lest soap get into them and make them smart—while Mrs. Morton went to tell the man where to get the trunk.
Bump! Bump! sounded the trunk as the expressman took it downstairs on his strong back. Bump! Bump!
"Oh, my!" whispered Honey Bunch into the soft warm towel spread under her face.
"Oh, my! The trunk is going to New York and I'm going to New York and Mother's going to New York!"
And the very next day, Honey Bunch and her mother started for New York. Mr. Morton took Lady Clare over to Mrs. Farriday, who promised to take good care of her, and hardly had Honey Bunch said good-bye to Lady Clare when a green motor car rolled up to the house and Daddy hurried her and Mother down to the curb and helped them in it. In two more minutes—or so it seemed to Honey Bunch—they were at the station.
"Well, that was pretty close!" said Mr. Morton, as he lifted Honey Bunch out and put her on the platform. "That's the smoke of your train now. Kiss Daddy, dear."
Honey Bunch put her arms around her daddy's neck and hugged him so hard she knocked her new brown hat over one ear. Then she held tightly to his hand while he kissed Mother, and in another moment, with a great snorting and roaring swish, up swept a long train and stopped just as Honey Bunch had decided that it had forgotten where the station was.