Visiting the Fish
VISITING THE FISH
Honey Bunch sat in the big green velvet chair and thought very hard. She wondered if other little lost girls had sat in that chair and if they felt as bad as she did. She wondered what would happen to her if her mother never came. How could she ever get home to Barham all by herself?
Then Honey Bunch wondered what happened to little girls whose mothers didn't come for them and who didn't know where they lived. There must be little girls, she thought, who couldn't even say "Barham" if asked where they lived. Honey Bunch knew a little girl who didn't talk plainly, though she was four years old.
"Maybe the policemen know where everybody lives," said Honey Bunch, at last.
She remembered the traffic officer who had made the automobiles stand still while she crossed the street with Mother and Aunt Julia. Honey Bunch decided to ask him what to do if Mother didn't come and find her before Mrs. Bates had to go home and maybe leave her sitting there in the green velvet chair all night.
But Mother did come! She saw Honey Bunch first and ran—she didn't care how many people saw her—to the little girl sitting in the big chair.
"Oh, Mother!" cried Honey Bunch. "Mother! Where were you? I looked and I looked and I looked! I thought you were lost!"
"Lost, dearest!" said Mrs. Morton, hugging Honey Bunch at each word. "Why, you were lost, darling. My own little girl all alone in this great store! No wonder Mother was nearly frantic."
"We missed you in the linen department," Aunt Julia said, smiling at Honey Bunch.
"We looked everywhere and we asked each clerk and no one had seen you. Your mother was afraid you had gone off to try the moving stairs again."
"Now, you see?" asked Mrs. Bates, smiling happily. "I told you if you waited here your, mother would come. All lost little girls get found after a bit."
Honey Bunch was very glad to hear this and she shook hands with Mrs. Bates and said good-bye politely.
"But I would rather not be lost again," she said, as she and Mother and Aunt Julia were walking toward the elevator. "Even if you do get found."
"Lost again!" said Mrs. Morton. "You must never be lost again, sweetheart. Keep hold of Mother's hand and never, never try to go anywhere alone while we are in New York."
Well, you may be sure that Honey Bunch had plenty to tell Bobby and Tess and Uncle Paul that night. She had had lunch in the restaurant in the store with her mother and aunt, and they had gone to a concert afterward where Honey Bunch had had two little short naps when no one was looking. She did not see Bobby and Tess till nearly dinner time. They thought it would be fun to be lost, Bobby, especially.
"Nothing like that ever happens to me," he said almost sadly.
"I'm glad it doesn't," replied his mother, putting mashed potato on his plate. "It isn't fun to be lost, is it, Honey Bunch? And certainly no mother wants her little boy or girl lost."
"Do you think you will be too tired to go out to-morrow?" asked Mr. Turner. "Will Honey Bunch want to stay in bed and rest?"
Honey Bunch smiled. What a funny thing to say! She never wanted to stay in bed!
"I like to go out, Uncle Paul," she said. "Don't I, Mother?"
"I think you do," answered her mother, smiling.
"I thought perhaps you might like to come to see me, to-morrow," said Uncle Paul. "I can show you how New York looks when you are twenty-one stories above the automobiles and trolley cars."
"Oh, yes," cried Tess. "It's ever so much fun to go to Daddy's office. Come on, Bobby, we can skip geography to-morrow."
Every one laughed. Tess was so ready to "skip" geography and a day in school. Honey Bunch wished she were old enough to go to school, but Tess would rather play. She said so.
"You and Bobby are going with Honey Bunch to the matinee Saturday and that will have to make up to you for to-morrow," said Mr. Turner firmly. "I don't know what your mother plans for the morning, but I should like to take my niece to lunch about half-past one."
"We'll meet you at your office at one o'clock," planned Aunt Julia. "I want to take Honey Bunch down to the Aquarium in the morning and then we'll come right up."
"Oh, Mother! You said you wouldn't take Honey Bunch on the subway till we could go," cried Bobby. "We want to see her ride first, Mother. She was so sure the subways were a man! Don't you remember, Mother?"
Mrs. Turner laughed. She remembered what Tess and Bobby had told her when they came home from Honey Bunch's birthday party. Mr. Subways was the name of a man who came to see the daddy of Honey Bunch and no amount of talking could make the little girl understand that "subways" were underground railroads.
"All right, to please you, Bobby," said Mrs. Turner, "I'll go to Daddy's office on the elevated. The surface cars are out of the question, they're so slow. You and Tess shall go along when we first take Honey Bunch in the subway."
Honey Bunch was so excited at all this talk that she was sure she needn't go to bed. She could sit up and play soldiers with Bobby and Tess till breakfast time, she knew she could. But her mother said no, she must go to bed like a good girl, and, dear me, she was asleep the moment she put her yellow head on her pillow.
"Tess and I have to work all the time," sighed Bobby, the next morning.
"When you were five years old you were doing just what Honey Bunch is doing now," said his mother, kissing him. "I took you and Tess and we went visiting and you didn't go to school but played all day long. When Honey Bunch is as old as you are, she will go to school every day and study hard, too. Won't you, dear?"
"Yes, I will," replied Honey Bunch, nodding her head vigorously. "I'm going to learn to play the piano like Tess and have arithmetic book like Bobby's."
The twins went off to school as soon as breakfast was over, and Uncle Paul went to his office, first telling Honey Bunch not to forget she was to come to see him.
"Don't let your mother or Aunt Julia get so interested in pink leather shoes they forget to bring you," he said solemnly.
"We're going to the Aquarium, not shopping," Aunt Julia said. "Honey Bunch must see the queer fish."
It was a beautiful day, clear and cold and sunny. Aunt Julia said, as soon as she sniffed that nice fresh air when she and Honey Bunch and Mrs. Morton left the apartment house, that she thought they would all enjoy the ride down to the Battery on the surface cars.
"Oh, yes, let's ride on the surface cars," said Honey Bunch. "I never rode on any."
But after all, the surface cars were trolley cars! They were not exactly like trolley cars Honey Bunch had seen and they opened in the middle—which was fun because it was just like walking into a room—and when you sat down you could look into the wagons and automobiles that were passing.
"Only they're trolley cars," said Honey Bunch, to herself. "I'll tell Ida Camp they say 'surface cars' when they mean trolley cars in New York."
They had to change cars twice, but at last they came to the Battery. Honey Bunch was delighted to see the water, though such a cold wind came blowing across it that Aunt Julia hurried them into the Aquarium as fast as she could.
"Is this the house where the fish live?" asked Honey Bunch.
Mother had told her a little about the fish and that the building where she was to see them had once been an old fort, and then a concert hall. Honey Bunch had been quite sure that she would see the fish housekeeping. She thought perhaps a fish in a white apron and cap, like Teresa's, would open the door for them.
She thought she knew exactly how a fish would look running a carpet sweeper and she would not have been in the least surprised to see a Daddy fish walking out of the door with his hat and coat on to go to his office, or a Doctor fish coming in with his black bag to give the fish children pills to make them well again.
But Honey Bunch forgot to be disappointed when she saw the curious fish swimming lazily around in their tanks. Some of them were beautiful colors—like a rainbow—and some were as flat as pancakes and others so fat they looked as though they might burst.
"He's solid gold, isn't he, Mother?" said Honey Bunch, pointing to one lovely gold fish that had a tank all to himself. It wasn't solid gold, but it was the color of solid gold and Honey Bunch liked to look at the pretty thing.
The tanks in which these fish lived were of glass and set into the wall so that people could look at them as they would at pictures hanging on the wall. Upstairs, besides the tanks of fish, there were glass cases of lovely corals and anemones and crabs and odd growing things. Honey Bunch had to be lifted up to look at these things and she said she liked the fish better.
"Now I am sure we have seen every single fish there is," announced Aunt Julia at last, "and if we are going to get uptown and meet Paul, we should start now."
The ride uptown—well, that was exciting. First they climbed so many iron stairs that Honey Bunch was sure even Bobby couldn't count them, and Bobby said he could count as high as any boy in his school. Then they went through a little clicking gate and came out on a platform away above the street.
"This must be as high up as Uncle Paul's office," said Honey Bunch, looking down at the people walking on the pavement.
"Oh, this isn't far up," answered Aunt Julia. "Come, dear, here is our train. We must hurry."
In the train Honey Bunch stared out of the window every minute of the ride. No wonder—she was seeing into people's houses! She saw a little girl having her hair brushed in one house and a little boy eating out of a bowl in another house and a woman leaning so far out of a window a little further along that Honey Bunch was sure she would tumble out in a minute—but Aunt Julia said no, she would be careful.
Honey Bunch saw pink and green and blue dresses hung up to dry; she saw men painting a large sign, on the roof of a house; she saw people sewing and hammering and making things—she looked at it all through their front windows high above the street.
"I like the high-up railroad," she told Mother, as they got out at the right station and followed Aunt Julia down the steep iron stairs.