Part 2 out of 5
"Taken!" repeated the old lady, "what is it--a fit?"
"No," said Mrs. Pepper; "the same as Ben's got; and Phronsie; the
"The measles, has she?" said grandma; "well, that's bad; and Ben's
away, you say."
"No, he isn't either," screamed Mrs. Pepper, "he's got them, too!"
"Got two what?" asked grandma.
"Measles! he's got the measles too," repeated Mrs. Pepper, loud as
she could; so loud that the old lady's cap trembled at the noise.
"Oh! the dreadful!" said grandma; "and this girl too?" laying her
hand on Phronsie's head.
"Yes," said Mrs. Pepper, feeling it a little relief to tell over her
miseries; "all three of them!"
"I haven't," said Joel, coming in in hopes that grandma had a stray
peppermint or two in her pocket, as she sometimes did; "and I'm
not going to, either."
"Oh, dear," groaned his mother; "that's what Polly said; and she's
got 'em bad. It's her eyes," she screamed to grandma, who looked
"Her eyes, is it?" asked Mrs. Bascom; "well, I've got a receet that
cousin Samanthy's folks had when John's children had 'em; and I'll
run right along home and get it," and she started to go.
"No, you needn't," screamed Mrs. Pepper; "thank you, Mrs.
Bascom; but Dr. Fisher's been here; and he put something on
Polly's eyes; and he said it mustn't be touched."
"Hey?" said the old lady; so Mrs. Pepper had to go all over it again,
till at last she made her understand that Polly's eyes were taken
care of, and they must wait for time to do the rest.
"You come along of me," whispered grandma, when at last her call
was done, to Joel who stood by the door. "I've got some
peppermints to home; I forgot to bring 'em."
"Yes'm," said Joel, brightening up.
"Where you going, Joe?" asked Mrs. Pepper, seeing him move off
with Mrs. Bascom; "I may want you."
"Oh, I've got to go over to grandma's," said Joel briskly; "she wants
"Well, don't be gone long then," replied his mother.
"There," said grandma, going into her "keeping-room" to an
old-fashioned chest of drawers; opening one, she took therefrom a
paper, from which she shook out before Joe's delighted eyes some
red and white peppermint drops. "There now, you take these home;
you may have some, but be sure you give the most to the sick ones;
and Polly--let Polly have the biggest."
"She won't take 'em," said Joel, wishing he had the measles. "Well,
you try her," said grandma; "run along now." But it was useless to
tell Joel that, for he was half-way home already. He carried out
grandma's wishes, and distributed conscientiously the precious
drops. But when he came to Polly, she didn't answer; and looking
at her in surprise he saw two big tears rolling out under the
bandage and wetting the pillow.
"I don't want 'em, Joe," said Polly, when he made her understand
that "twas peppermints, real peppermints;" "you may have 'em."
"Try one, Polly; they're real good," said Joel, who had an
wish to comfort; "there, open your mouth."
So Polly opened her mouth, and Joel put one in with satisfaction.
"Isn't it good?" he asked, watching her crunch it.
"Yes," said Polly, "real good; where'd you get 'em?"
"Over to Grandma Bascom's," said Joel; "she gave me lots for all
of us; have another, Polly?"
"No," said Polly, "not yet; you put two on my pillow where I can
reach 'em; and then you keep the rest, Joel."
"I'll put three," said Joel, counting out one red and two white ones,
and laying them on the pillow; "there!"
"And I want another, Joey, I do," said Phronsie from the other side
of the bed.
"Well, you may have one," said Joel; "a red one, Phronsie; yes, you
may have two. Now come on, Dave; we'll have the rest out by the
How they ever got through that day, I don't know. But late in the
afternoon carriage wheels were heard; and then they stopped right
at the Peppers' little brown gate.
"Polly," said Mrs. Pepper, running to the bedroom door, "it's Mrs.
"Is it?" said Polly, from the darkened room, "oh! I'm so glad! is
Miss Jerushy with her?" she asked, fearfully.
"No," said Mrs. Pepper, going back to ascertain; "why, it's the
parson himself! Deary! how we look!"
"Never mind, mammy," called back Polly, longing to spring out of
bed and fix up a bit.
"I'm sorry to hear the children are sick," said Mrs. Henderson,
coming in, in her sweet, gentle way.
"We didn't know it," said the minister, "until this morning--can we
"Oh yes, sir," said Mrs. Pepper; "Ben's upstairs; and Polly and
Phronsie are in here."
"Poor little things!" said Mrs. Henderson, compassionately; "hadn't
you better," turning to the minister, "go up and see Ben first, while
I will visit the little girls?"
So the minister mounted the crooked stairs; and Mrs. Henderson
went straight up to Polly's side; and the first thing Polly knew, a
cool, gentle hand was laid on her hot head, and a voice said, "I've
come to see my little chicken now I"
"Oh, ma'am," said Polly, bursting into a sob, "I don't care about my
eyes--only maminy--" and she broke right down.
"I know," said the minister's wife, soothingly; "but it's for you to
bear patiently, Polly--what do you suppose the chicks were doing
when I came away?" And Mrs. Henderson, while she held Polly's
hand, smiled and nodded encouragingly to Phronsie, who was
staring at her from the other side of the bed.
"I don't know, ma'am," said Polly; "please tell us."
"Well, they were all fighting over a grasshopper--yes, ten of them."
"Which one got it?" asked Polly in intense interest; "oh! I hope the
white one did!"
"Well, he looked as much like winning as any of them," said the
"Bless her!" thought Mrs. Pepper to herself out in the kitchen,
finishing the sack Polly had left; "she's a parson's wife, I say!"
And then the minister came down from Ben's room, and went into
the bedroom; and Mrs. Henderson went up-stairs into the loft.
"So," he said kindly, as after patting Phronsie's head he came over
and sat down by Polly, "this is the little girl who came to see me
when I was sick."
"Oh, sir," said Polly, "I'm so glad you wasn't!"
"Well, when I come again," said Mr. Henderson, rising after a
merry chat, "I see I shall have to slip a book into my pocket, and
read for those poor eyes."
"Oh, thank you!" cried Polly; and then she stopped and blushed.
"Well, what is it?" asked the minister, encouragingly.
"Ben loves to hear reading," said Polly.
"Does he? well, by that time, my little girl, I guess Ben will be
down-stairs; he's all right, Polly; don't you worry about him--and
I'll sit in the kitchen, by the bedroom door, and you can hear
So the Hendersons went away. But somehow, before they went, a
good many things found their way out of the old-fashioned chaise
into the Peppers' little kitchen.
But Polly's eyes didn't get any better, with all the care; and the
lines of worry on Mrs. Pepper's face grew deeper and deeper. At
last, she just confronted Dr. Fisher in the kitchen, one day after his
visit to Polly, and boldly asked him if they ever could be cured. "I
know she's--and there isn't any use keeping it from me," said the
poor woman--"she's going to be stone-blind!"
"My good woman"--Dr. Fisher's voice was very gentle; and he took
the hard, brown hand in his own--"your little girl will not be blind;
I tell you the truth; but it will take some time to make her eyes
quite strong--time, and rest. She has strained them in some way,
but she will come out of it."
"Praise the Lord!" cried Mrs. Pepper, throwing her apron over her
head; and then she sobbed on, "and thank you, sir--I can't ever
thank you--for--for--if Polly was blind, we might as well give up!"
The next day, Phronsie, who had the doctor's permission to sit up,
only she was to be kept from taking cold, scampered around in
stocking-feet in search of her shoes, which she hadn't seen since
she was first taken sick.
"Oh, I want on my very best shoes," she cried; "can't I, mammy?"
"Oh, no, Phronsie; you must keep them nice," remonstrated her
mother; "you can't wear 'em every-day, you know."
"'Tisn't every-day," said Phronsie, slowly; it's only one day."
"Well, and then you'll want 'em on again tomorrow," said her
"Oh, no, I won't!" cried Phronsie; "never, no more to-morrow, if I
can have 'em to-day; please, mammy dear!"
Mrs. Pepper went to the lowest drawer in the high bureau, and
took therefrom a small parcel done up in white tissue paper.
Slowly unrolling this before the delighted eyes of the child, who
stood patiently waiting, she disclosed the precious red-topped
shoes which Phronsie immediately clasped to her bosom.
"My own, very own shoes! whole mine!" she cried, and trudged out
into the kitchen to put them on herself.
"Hulloa!" cried Dr. Fisher, coming in about a quarter of an hour
later to find her tugging laboriously at the buttons-- "new shoes! I
"My own!" cried Phronsie, sticking out one foot for inspection,
where every button was in the wrong button-hole, "and they've got
red tops, too!"
"So they have," said the doctor, getting down on the floor beside
her; "beautiful red tops, aren't they?"
"Be-yew-ti-ful," sang the child delightedly.
"Does Polly have new shoes every day?" asked the doctor in a iow
voice, pretending to examine the other foot.
Phronsie opened her eyes very wide at this.
"Oh, no, she don't have anything, Polly don't."
"And what does Polly want most of all--do you know? see if you
can tell me." And the doctor put on the most alluring expression
that he could muster.
"Oh, I know!" cried Phronsie, with a very wise look. "There now,"
cried the doctor, "you're the girl for me! to think you know! so,
what is it?"
Phronsie got up very gravely, and with one shoe half on, she
leaned over and whispered in the doctor's ear:
"A what?" said the doctor, looking at her, and then at the old, black
thing in the corner, that looked as if it were ashamed of itself;
"why, she's got one."
"Oh," said the child, "it won't burn; and sometimes Polly cries, she
does, when she's all alone--and I see her."
"Now," said the doctor, very sympathetically, "that's too bad; that
is! and then what does she do?"
"Oh, Ben stuffs it up," said the child, laughing; "and so does Polly
too, with paper; and then it all tumbles out quick; oh! just as
quick!" And Phronsie shook her yellow head at the dismal
"Do you suppose," said the doctor, getting up, "that you know of
any smart little girl around here, about four years old and that
knows how to button on her own red-topped shoes, that would like
to go to ride to-morrow morning in my carriage with me?
"Oh, I do!" cried Phronsie, hopping on one toe; "it's me!"
"Very well, then," said Dr. Fisher, going to the bedroom door,
"we'll lookout for to-morrow, then."
To poor Polly, lying in the darkened room, or sitting up in the big
rocking-chair--for Polly wasn't really very sick in other respects,
the disease having all gone into the merry brown eyes--the time
seemed interminable. Not to do anything! The very idea at any
time would have filled her active, wide-awake little body with
horror; and now, here she was!
"Oh, dear, I can't bear it!" she said, when she knew by the noise in
the kitchen that everybody was out there; so nobody heard, except
a fat, old black spider in the corner, and he didn't tell anyone!
"I know it's a week," she said, "since dinnertime! If Ben were only
well, to talk to me."
"Oh, I say, Polly," screamed Joel at that moment running in, "Ben's
a-comin' down the stairs!"
"Stop, Joe," said Mrs. Pepper; "you shouldn't have told; he wanted
to surprise Polly."
"Oh, is he!" cried Polly, clasping her hands in rapture; "mainmy,
can't! take off this horrid bandage, and see him?"
"Dear me, no!" said Mrs. Pepper, springing forward; "not for the
world, Polly! Dr. Fisher'd have our ears off!"
"Well, I can hear, any way," said Polly, resigning herself to the
remaining comfort; "here he is! oh, Ben!"
"There," said Ben, grasping Polly, bandage and all; "now we're all
right; and! say, Polly, you're a brick!"
"Mammy told me not to say that the other day," said Joel, with a
very virtuous air.
"Can't help it," said Ben, who was a little wild over Polly, and
besides, he had been sick himself, and had borne a good deal too.
"Now," said Mrs. Pepper, after the first excitement was over,
"you're so comfortable together, and Phronsie don't want me now,
I'll go to the store; I must get some more work if Mr. Atkins'll give
it to me."
"I'll be all right now, mammy, that Ben's here," cried Polly, settling
back into her chair, with Phronsie on the stool at her feet.
"I'm goin' to tell her stories, ma," cried Ben, "so you needn't worry
"Isn't it funny, Ben," said Polly, as the gate clicked after the
mother, "to be sitting still, and telling stories in the daytime?"
"Rather funny!" replied Ben.
"Well, do go on," said Joel, as usual, rolling on the floor, in a
dreadful hurry for the story to begin. Little David looked up
quietly, as he sat on Ben's other side, his hands clasped tight
together, just as eager, though he said nothing.
"Well; once upon a time," began Ben delightfully, and launched
into one of the stories that the children thought perfectly lovely.
"Oh, Bensie," cried Polly, entranced, as they listened with bated
breath, "however do you think of such nice things!"
"I've had time enough to think, the last week," said Ben, laughing,
"to last a life-time!"
"Do go on," put in Joel, impatient at the delay.
"Don't hurry him so," said Polly, reprovingly; "he isn't strong."
"Ben," said David, drawing a long breath, his eyes very big--."did
he really see a bear?"
"No," said Ben; "oh! where was I?"
"Why, you said Tommy heard a noise," said Polly, "and he thought
it was a bear."
"Oh, yes," said Ben; "I remember; 'twasn't a--"
"Oh, make it a bear, Ben!" cried Joel, terribly disappointed; "don't
let it be not a bear."
"Why, I can't," said Ben; "twouldn't sound true."
"Never mind, make it sound true," insisted Joel; "you can make
"Very well," said Ben, laughing; "I suppose I must."
"Make it two bears, Ben," begged little Phronsie.
"Oh, no, Phronsie, that's too much," cried Joel; "that'll spoil it; but
make it a big bear, do Ben, and have him bite him somewhere, and
most kill him."
"Oh, Joel!" cried Polly, while David's eyes got bigger than ever.
So Ben drew upon his powers as story-teller, to suit his exacting
audience, and was making his bear work havoc upon poor Tommy
in a way captivating to all, even Joel, when---- "Well, I declare,"
sounded Mrs. Pepper's cheery voice coming in upon them, "if this
"Oh, mammy!" cried Phronsie, jumping out of Polly's arms,
whither she had taken refuge during the thrilling tale, and running
to her mother who gathered her baby up, "we've had a bear! a real,
live bear, we have! Ben made him!"
"Have you!" said Mrs. Pepper, taking off her shawl, and laying her
parcel of work down on the table, "now, that's nice!"
"Oh, mammy!" cried Polly, "it does seem so good to be all together
"And I thank the Lord!" said Mrs. Pepper, looking down on her
happy little group; and the tears were in her eyes-- "and children,
we ought to be very good and please Him, for He's been so good to
THE CLOUD OVER THE LITTLE BROWN HOUSE
When Phronsie, with many crows of delight, and much chattering,
had gotten fairly started the following morning on her
much-anticipated drive with the doctor, the whole family
excepting Polly drawn up around the door to see them off, Mrs.
Pepper resolved to snatch the time and run down for an hour or
two to one of her customers who had long been waiting for a little
"tailoring" to be done for her boys.
"Now, Joel," she said, putting on her bonnet before the cracked
looking-glass, "you stay along of Polly; Ben must go up to bed, the
doctor said; and Davie's going to the store for some molasses; so
you and Polly must keep house."
"Yes'm," said Joel; "may I have somethin' to eat, ma?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Pepper; "but don't you eat the new bread; you may
have as much as you want of the old."
"Isn't there any molasses, mammy?" asked Joel, as she bade Polly
good-bye! and gave her numberless charges "to be careful of your
eyes," and "not to let a crack of light in through the curtain," as the
old green paper shade was called.
"No; if you're very hungry, you can eat bread," said Mrs. Pepper,
"Joel," said Polly, after the mother had gone, "I do wish you could
read to me."
"Well, I can't," said Joel, glad he didn't know how; "I thought the
minister was comin'."
"Well, he was," said Polly, "but mammy said he had to go out of
town to a consequence."
"A what!" asked Joel, very much impressed.
"A con--" repeated Polly. "Well, it began with a con--and I am
sure--yes, very sure it was consequence."
"That must be splendid," said Joel, coming up to her chair, and
slowly drawing a string he held in his hand back and forth, "to go
to consequences, and everything! When I'm a man, Polly Pepper,
I'm going to be a minister, and have a nice time, and go--just
"Oh, Joel!" exclaimed Polly, quite shocked; "you couldn't be one;
you aren't good enough."
"I don't care," said Joel, not at all dashed by her plainness, "I'll be
good then--when I'm a big man; don't you suppose, Polly," as a
new idea struck him, "that Mr. Henderson ever is naughty?"
"No," said Polly, very decidedly; "never, never, never!"
"Then, I don't want to be one," said Joel, veering round with a sigh
of relief, "and besides I'd rather have a pair of horses like Mr.
Slocum's, and then I could go everywheres, I guess!"
"And sell tin?" asked Polly, "just like Mr. Slocum?"
"Yes," said Joel; "this is the way I'd go--Gee-whop! gee-whoa!"
and Joel pranced with his imaginary steeds all around the room,
making about as much noise as any other four boys, as he brought
up occasionally against the four-poster or the high old bureau.
"Well!" said a voice close up by Polly's chair, that made her skip
with apprehension, it was so like Miss Jerusha Henderson's--Joel
was whooping away behind the bedstead to his horses that had
become seriously entangled, so he didn't hear anything. But when
Polly said, bashfully, "I can't see anything, ma'am," he came up red
and shining to the surface, and stared with all his might.
"I came to see you, little girl," said Miss Jerusha severely, seating
herself stiffly by Polly's side.
"Thank you, ma'am," said Polly, faintly.
"Who's this boy?" asked the lady, turning around squarely on Joel,
and eying him from head to foot.
"He's my brother Joel," said Polly.
Joel still stared.
"Which brother?" pursued Miss Jerusha, like a census-taker.
"He is next to me," said Polly, wishing her mother was home; "he's
nine, Joel is."
"He's big enough to do something to help his mother," said Miss
Jerusha, looking him through and through. "Don't you think you
might do something, when the others are sick, and your poor
mother is working so hard?" she continued, in a cold voice.
"I do something," blurted out Joel, sturdily, "lots and lots!"
"You shouldn't say 'lots," reproved Miss Jerusha, with a sharp look
over her spectacles, "tisn't proper for boys to talk so; what do you
do all day long?" she asked, turning back to Polly, after a withering
glance at Joel, who still stared.
"I can't do anything, ma'am," replied Polly, sadly, "I can't see to do
"Well, you might knit, I should think," said her visitor, "it's
dreadful for a girl as big as you are to sit all day idle; I had sore
eyes once when I was a little girl--how old are you?" she asked,
"Eleven last month," said Polly.
"Well, I wasn't only nine when I knit a stocking; and I had sore
eyes, too; you see I was a very little girl, and--"
"Was you ever little?" interrupted Joel, in extreme incredulity,
drawing near, and looking over the big square figure.
"Hey?" said Miss Jerusha; so Joel repeated his question before
Polly could stop him.
"Of course," answered Miss Jerusha; and then she added, tartly,
"little boys shouldn't speak unless they're spoken to. Now," and she
turned back to Polly again, "didn't you ever knit a stocking?"
"No, ma'am," said Polly, "not a whole one."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Miss Jerusha; "did I ever!" And she raised
her black mitts in intense disdain. "A big girl like you never to knit
a stocking! to think your mother should bring you up so! and--"
"She didn't bring us up," screamed Joel, in indignation, facing her
with blazing eyes.
"Joel," said Polly, "be still."
"And you're very impertinent, too," said Miss Jerusha; "a good
child never is impertinent."
Polly sat quite still; and Miss Jerusha continued:
"Now, I hope you will learn to be industrious; and when I come
again, I will see what you have done."
"You aren't ever coming again," said Joel, defiantly; "no, never!"
"Joel!" implored Polly, and in her distress she pulled up her
bandage as she looked at him; "you know mammy'll be so sorry at
you! Oh, ma'am, and" she turned to Miss Jerusha, who was now
thoroughly aroused to the duty she saw before her of doing these
children good, "I don't know what is the reason, ma'am; Joel never
talks so; he's real good; and--"
"It only shows," said the lady, seeing her way quite clear for a little
exhortation, "that you've all had your own way from infancy; and
that you don't do what you might to make your mother's life a
"Oh, ma'am," cried Polly, and she burst into a flood of tears,
"please, please don't say that!"
"And I say," screamed Joel, stamping his small foot, "if you make
Polly cry you'll kill her! Don't Polly, don't!" and the boy put both
arms around her neck, and soothed and comforted her in every way
he could think of. And Miss Jerusha, seeing no way to make
herself heard, disappeared feeling pity for children who would turn
away from good advice.
But still Polly cried On; all the pent-up feelings that had been so
long controlled had free vent now. She really couldn't stop! Joel,
frightened to death, at last said, "I'm going to wake up Ben."
That brought Polly to; and she sobbed out, "Oh, no, Jo--ey--I'll
"I will," said Joel, seeing his advantage; "I'm going, Polly," and he
started to the foot of the stairs.
"No, I'm done now, Joe," said Polly, wiping her eyes, and choking
back her thoughts--"oh, Joe! I must scream! my eyes aches so!"
and poor Polly fairly writhed all over the chair.
"What'll I do?" said Joel, at his wits' end, running back, "do you
want some water?"
"Oh, no," gasped Polly; "doctor wouldn't let me; oh! I wish
"I'll go and look for her," suggested Joel, feeling as if he must do
something; and he'd rather be out at the gate, than to see Polly
"That won't bring her," said Polly; trying to keep still; "I'll try to
"Here she is now!" cried Joel, peeping out of the window; "oh!
"Well"--Mrs. Pepper's tone was unusually blithe as she stepped
into the kitchen--"you've had a nice time, I suppose--what in the
world!" and she stopped at the bedroom door.
"Oh, mammy, if you'd been here!" said Joel, while Polly sat still,
only holding on to her eyes as if they were going to fly out; "there's
been a big woman here; she came right in--and she talked awfully!
and Polly's been a-cryin', and her eyes ache dreadfully--and"--
"Been crying!" repeated Mrs. Pepper, coming up to poor
Polly. "Polly been crying!" she still repeated.
"Oh, mammy, I couldn't help it," said Polly; "she said"-- and in
spite of all she could do, the rain of tears began again, which bade
fair to be as uncontrolled as before. But Mrs. Pepper took her up
firmly in her arms, as if she were Phronsie, and sat down in the old
rocking-chair and just patted her back.
"There, there," she whispered, soothingly, "don't think of it, Polly;
mother's got home."
"Oh, mammy," said Polly, crawling up to the comfortable neck for
protection, "I ought not to mind; but 'twas Miss Jerusha
Henderson; and she said--"
"What did she say?" asked Mrs. Pepper, thinking perhaps it to be
the wiser thing to let Polly free her mind.
"Oh, she said that we ought to be doing something; and I ought to
knit, and"-- "Go on," said her mother.
"And then Joel got naughty; oh, mammy, he never did so before;
and I couldn't stop him," cried Polly, in great distress; "I really
couldn't, mammy--and he talked to her; and he told her she wasn't
ever coming here again."
"Joel shouldn't have said that," said Mrs. Pepper, and under her
breath something was added that Polly even failed to hear--"but no
more she isn't!"
"And, mammy," cried Polly--and she flung her arms around her
mother's neck and gave her a grasp that nearly choked Mrs.
Pepper, "ain't I helpin' you some, mammy? Oh! I wish I could do
something big for you? Ain't you happy, mammy?"
"For the land's sakes!" cried Mrs. Pepper, straining Polly to her
heart, "whatever has that woman--whatever could she have said to
you? Such a girl as you are, too!" cried Mrs. Pepper, hugging Polly,
and covering her with kisses so tender, that Polly, warmed and
cuddled up to her heart's content, was comforted to the full.
"Well," said Mrs. Pepper, when at last she thought she had formed
between Polly and Joel about the right idea of the visit, "well, now
we won't think of it, ever any more; 'tisn't worth it, Polly, you
But poor Polly! and poor mother! They both were obliged to think
of it. Nothing could avert the suffering of the next few days,
caused by that long flow of burning tears.
"Nothing feels good on 'em, mammy," said Polly, at last, twisting
her hands in the vain attempt to keep from rubbing the aching,
inflamed eyes that drove her nearly wild with their itching, "there
isn't any use in trying anything."
"There will be use," energetically protested Mrs. Pepper, bringing
another cool bandage, "as long as you've got an eye in your head,
Dr. Fisher's face, when he first saw the change that the fateful visit
had wrought, and heard the accounts, was very grave indeed.
Everything had been so encouraging on his last visit, that he had
come very near promising Polly speedy freedom from the hateful
But the little Pepper household soon had something else to think of
more important even than Polly's eyes, for now the heartiest, the
jolliest of all the little group was down-- Joel. How he fell sick,
they scarcely knew, it all came so suddenly. The poor, bewildered
family had hardly time to think, before delirium and, perhaps,
death stared them in the face.
When Polly first heard it, by Phronsie's pattering downstairs and
screaming: "Oh, Polly, Joey's dre-ad-ful sick, he is!" she jumped
right up, and tore off the bandage.
"Now, I will help mother! I will, so there!" and in another minute
she would have been up in the sick room. But the first thing she
knew, a gentle but firm hand was laid upon hers; and she found
herself back again in the old rocking-chair, and listening to the
Doctor's words which were quite stern and decisive.
"Now, I tell you," he said, "you must not take off that bandage
again; do you know the consequences? You will be blind! and then
you will be a care to your mother all your life!"
"I shall be blind, anyway," said Polly, despairingly; "so 'twon't
make any difference."
"No; your eyes will come out of it all right, only I did hope"--and
the good doctor's face fell--"that the other two boys would escape;
but"--and he brightened up at sight of Polly's forlorn visage--"see
you do your part by keeping still."
But there came a day soon when everything was still around the
once happy little brown house--when oniy whispers were heard
from white lips; and thoughts were fearfully left unuttered.
On the morning of one of these days, when Mrs. Pepper felt she
could not exist an hour longer without sleep, kind Mrs. Beebe
came to stay until things were either better or worse.
Still the cloud hovered, dark and forbidding. At last, one
afternoon, when Polly was all alone, she could endure it no longer.
She flung herself down by the side of the old bed, and buried her
face in the gay patched bed-quilt.
"Dear God," she said, "make me willing to have anything"--she
hesitated--"yes, anything happen; to be blind forever, and to have
Joey sick, only make me good."
How long she staid there she never knew; for she fell asleep--the
first sleep she had had since Joey was taken sick. And little Mrs.
Beebe coming in found her thus.
"Polly," the good woman said, leaning over her, "you poor, pretty
creeter, you; I'm goin' to tell you somethin'--there, there, just to
think! Joel's goin' to get well!"
"Oh, Mrs. Beebe!" cried Polly, tumbling over in a heap on the
floor, her face, as much as could be seen under the bandage, in a
perfect glow, "Is he, really?"
"Yes, to be sure; the danger's all over now," said the little old lady,
inwardly thinking--"If I hadn't a-come!"
"Well, then, the Lord wants him to," cried Polly, in rapture; "don't
he, Mrs. Beebe?"
"To be sure--to be sure," repeated the kind friend, only half
"Well, I don't care about my eyes, then," cried Polly; and to Mrs.
Beebe's intense astonishment and dismay, she spun round and
round in the middle of the floor.
"Oh, Polly, Polly!" the little old lady cried, running up to her, "do
stop! the doctor wouldn't let you! he wouldn't really, you know! it'll
all go to your eyes."
"I don't care," repeated Polly, in the middle of a spin; but she
stopped obediently; "seems as if I just as soon be blind as not; it's
so beautiful Joey's going to get well!"
But as Joel was smitten down suddenly, so he came up quickly,
and his hearty nature asserted itself by rapid strides toward
returning health; and one morning he astonished them all by
turning over suddenly and exclaiming:
"I want something to eat!"
"Bless the Lord!" cried Mrs. Pepper, "now he's going to live!"
"But he mustn't eat," protested Mrs. Beebe, in great alarm, trotting
for the cup of gruel. "Here, you pretty creeter you, here's
something nice." And she temptingly held the spoon over Joel's
mouth; but with a grimace he turned away.
"Oh, I want something to eat! some gingerbread or some bread and
"Dear me!" ejaculated Mrs. Beebe. "Gingerbread!" Poor Mrs.
Pepper saw the hardest part of her trouble now before her, as she
realized that the returning appetite must be fed only on
strengthening food; for where it was to come from she couldn't
"The Lord only knows where we'll get it," she groaned within
Yes, He knew. A rap at the door, and little David ran down to find
"Oh, mammy," he said, "Mrs. Henderson sent it--see! see!" And in
the greatest excitement he placed in her lap a basket that smelt
savory and nice even before it was opened. When it was opened,
there lay a little bird delicately roasted, and folded in a clean
napkin; also a glass of jelly, crimson and clear.
"Oh, Joey," cried Mrs. Pepper, almost overwhelmed with joy, "see
what Mrs. Henderson sent you! now you can eat fit for a king!"
That little bird certainly performed its mission in life; for as Mrs.
Beebe said, "It just touched the spot!" and from that very moment
Joel improved so rapidly they could hardly believe their eyes.
"Hoh! I haven't been sick!" he cried on the third day, true to his
nature. "Mammy, I want to get up."
"Oh, dear, no! you mustn't, Joel," cried Mrs. Pepper in a fright,
running up to him as he was preparing to give the bedclothes a
lusty kick; "you'll send 'em in."
"Send what in?" asked Joel, looking up at his mother in terror, as
the dreadful thought made him pause.
"Why, the measles, Joey; they'll all go in if you get out."
"How they goin' to get in again, I'd like to know?" asked Joel,
looking at the little red spots on his hands in incredulity; say, ma!
"Well, they will," said his mother, "as you'll find to your sorrow if
you get out of bed."
"Oh, dear," said Joel, beginning to whimper, as he drew into bed
again, "when can I get up, mammy!"
"Oh, in a day or two," responded Mrs. Pepper, cheerfully; "you're
getting on so finely you'll be as smart as a cricket! Shouldn't you
say he might get up in a day or two, Mrs. Beebe?" she appealed to
that individual who was knitting away cheerily in the corner.
"Well, if he keeps on as he's begun, I shouldn't know what to
think," replied Mrs. Beebe. "It beats all how quick he's picked up. I
never see anything like it, I'm sure!"
And as Mrs. Beebe was a great authority in sickness, the old, sunny
cheeriness began to creep into the brown house once more, and to
bubble over as of yore.
"Seems as if 'twas just good to live," said Mrs. Pepper, thankfully
once, when her thoughts were too much for her. "I don't believe I
shall ever care how poor we are," she continued, "as long as we're
"And that's just what the Lord meant, maybe," replied good Mrs.
Beebe, who was preparing to go home.
Joel kept the house in a perfect uproar all through his getting well.
Mrs. Pepper observed one day, when he had been more turbulent
than usual, that she was "almost worn to a thread."
"Twasn't anything to take care of you, Joe," she added, "when you
were real sick, because then I knew where you were; but--well,
you won't ever have the measles again, I s'pose, and that's some
Little David, who had been nearly stunned by the sickness that had
laid aside his almost constant companion, could express his
satisfaction and joy in no other way than by running every third
minute and begging to do something for him. And Joel, who loved
dearly to be waited on, improved every opportunity that offered;
which Mrs. Pepper observing, soon put a stop to.
"You'll run his legs off, Joel," at last she said, when he sent David
the third time down to the wood-pile for a stick of just the exact
thickness, and which the little messenger declared wasn't to be
found. "Haven't you any mercy? You've kept him going all day,
too," she added, glancing at David's pale face.
"Oh, mammy," panted David, "don't; I love to go. Here Joe, is the
best I could find," handing him a nice smooth stick.
"I know you do," said his mother; "but Joe's getting better now, and
he must learn to spare you."
"I don't want to spare folks," grumbled Joel, whittling away with
energy; "I've been sick--real sick," he added, lifting his chubby
face to his mother to impress the fact.
"I know you have," she cried, running to kiss her boy; "but now,
Joe, you're most well. To-morrow I'm going to let you go
down-stairs; what do you think of that!"
"Hooray!" screamed Joel, throwing away the stick and clapping his
hands, forgetting all about his serious illness, "that'll be prime!"
"Aren't you too sick to go, Joey?" asked Mrs. Pepper,
"No, I'm not sick," cried Joel, in the greatest alarm, fearful his
mother meant to take back the promise; "I've never been sick. Oh,
mammy! you know you'll let me go, won't your?"
"I guess so," laughed his mother.
"Come on, Fhron," cried Joel, giving her a whirl.
David, who was too tired for active sport, sat on the floor and
watched them frolic in great delight.
"Mammy," said he, edging up to her side as the sport went on, "do
you know, I think it's just good--it's--oh, it's so frisky since Joe got
well, isn't it, mammy?"
"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Pepper, giving him a radiant look in
return for his; "and when Polly's around again with her two eyes all
right--well, I don't know what we shall do, I declare!"
"Boo!" cried a voice, next morning, close to Polly's elbow,
"Oh, Joel Pepper!" she cried, whirling around, "is that really you!"
"Yes," cried that individual, confidently, "it's I; oh, I say, Polly, I've
had fun up-stairs, I tell you what!"
"Poor boy!" said Polly, compassionately.
"I wasn't a poor boy," cried Joel, indignantly; "I had splendid
things to eat; oh, my!" and he closed one eye and smacked his lips
in the delightful memory.
"I know it," said Polly, "and I'm so glad, Joel."
"I don't suppose I'll ever get so many again," observed Joel,
reflectively, after a minute's pause, as one and another of the
wondrous delicacies rose before his mind's eye; "not unless I have
the measles again--say, Polly, can't I have 'em again?"
"Mercy, no!" cried Polly, in intense alarm, "I hope not."
"Well, I don't," said Joel, "I wish I could have 'em sixty--no--two
hundred times, so there!"
"Well, mammy couldn't take care of you," said Ben; "you don't
know what you're sayin', Joe."
"Well, then, I wish I could have the things without the measles,"
said Joel, willing to accommodate; "only folks won't send 'em," he
added, in an injured tone.
"Polly's had the hardest time of all," said her mother, affectionately
patting the bandage.
"I think so too," put in Ben; "if my eyes were hurt I'd give up.',
"So would I," said David; and Joel, to be in the fashion, cried also,
"I know I would;" while little Phronsie squeezed up to Polly's side,
"And I, too."
"Would what, Puss?" asked Ben, tossing her up high. "Have good
things," cried the child, in delight at understanding the others, "I
would really, Ben," she cried, gravely, when they all screamed.
"Well, I hope so," said Ben, tossing her higher yet. "Don't laugh at
her, boys," put in Polly; "we're all going to have good times now,
Phronsie, now we've got well."
"Yes," laughed the child from her high perch; "we aren't ever goin'
to be sick again, ever--any more," she added impressively.
The good times were coming for Polly--coming pretty near, and
she didn't know it! All the children were in the secret; for as Mrs.
Pepper declared, "They'd have to know it; and if they were let into
the secret they'd keep it better."
So they had individually and collectively been intrusted with the
precious secret, and charged with the extreme importance of
"never letting any one know," and they had been nearly bursting
ever since with the wild desire to impart their knowledge.
'Tm afraid I shall tell," said David, running to his mother at last;
"oh, mammy, I don't dare stay near Polly, I do want to tell so bad ."
"Oh, no, you won't, David," said his mother encouragingly, "when
you know mother don't want you to; and besides, think how Polly'll
look when she sees it."
"I know," cried David in the greatest rapture, "I wouldn't tell for all
the world! I guess she'll look nice, don't you mother?" and he
laughed in glee at the thought.
"Poor child! I guess she will!" and then Mrs. Pepper laughed too,
till the little old kitchen rang with delight at the accustomed sound,
The children all had to play "clap in and clap out" in the bedroom
while it came; and "stage coach," too--"anything to make a noise,"
Ben said. And then after they got nicely started in the game, he
would be missing to help about the mysterious thing in the kitchen,
which was safe since Polly couldn't see him go on account of her
bandage. So she didn't suspect in the least. And although the rest
were almost dying to be out in the kitchen, they conscientiously
stuck to their bargain to keep Polly occupied. Only Joel would
open the door and peep once; and then Phronsie behind him
began-- "Oh, I see the sto--" but David swooped down on her in a
twinkling, and smothered the rest by tickling her.
Once they came very near having the whole thing pop out.
"Whatever is that noise in the kitchen?" asked Polly, as they all
stopped to take breath after the scuffle of "stage coach." "It sounds
just like grating."
"I'll go and see," cried Joel, promptly; and then he flew out where
his mother and Ben and two men were at work on a big, black
thing in the corner. The old stove, strange to say, was nowhere to
be seen! Something else stood in its place, a shiny, black affair,
with a generous supply of oven doors, and altogether such a
comfortable, home-like look about it, as if it would say--"I'm going
to make sunshine in this house!"
"Oh, Joel," cried his mother, turning around on him with very
black hands, "you haven't told!"
"No," said Joel, "but she's hearin' the noise, Polly is."
"Hush!" said Ben, to one of the men.
"We can't put it up without some noise," the man replied, "but we'll
be as still as we can."
"Isn't it a big one, ma?" asked Joel, in the loudest of stage
whispers, that Polly on the other side of the door couldn't have
failed to hear if Phronsie hadn't laughed just then.
"Go back, Joe, do," said Ben, "play tag--anything," he implored,
"we'll be through in a few minutes."
"It takes forever!" said Joel, disappearing within the bedroom door.
Luckily for the secret, Phronsie just then ran a pin sticking up on
the arm of the old chair, into her finger; and Polly, while
comforting her, forgot to question Joel. And then the mother came
in, and though she had ill-concealed hilarity in her voice, she kept
chattering and bustling around with Polly's supper to such an
extent that there was no chance for a word to be got in.
Next morning it seemed as if the "little brown house," would turn
inside out with joy.
"Oh, mammy!" cried Polly, jumping into her anns the first thing, as
Dr. Fisher untied the bandage, "my eyes are new! just the same as
if I'd just got 'em! Don't they look different?" she asked, earnestly,
running to the cracked glass to see for herself.
"No," said Ben, "I hope not; the same brown ones, Polly."
"Well," said Polly, hugging first one and then another, "everybody
looks different through them, anyway."
"Oh," cried Joel, "come out into the kitchen, Polly; it's a great deal
better out there."
"May I?" asked Polly, who was in such a twitter looking at
everything that she didn't know which way to turn.
"Yes," said the doctor, smiling at her.
"Well, then," sang Polly, "come mammy, we'll go first; isn't it just
lovely--oh, MAMMY!"--and Polly turned so very pale, and looked
as if she were going to tumble right over, that Mrs. Pepper grasped
her arm in dismay.
"What is it?" she asked, pointing to the corner, while all the
children stood round in the greatest excitement.
"Why," cried Phronsie, "it's a stove--don't you know, Polly?" But
Polly gave one plunge across the room, and before anybody could
think, she was down on her knees with her arms flung right around
the big, black thing, and laughing and crying over it, all in the
And then they all took hold of hands and danced around it like
wild little things; while Dr. Fisher stole out silently-- and Mrs.
Pepper laughed till she wiped her eyes to see them ' go.
"We aren't ever goin' to have any more burnt bread," sang Polly, all
out of breath.
"Nor your back isn't goin' to break any more," panted Ben, with a
very red face.
"Hooray!" screamed Joel and David, to fill any pause that might
occur, while Phronsie gurgled and laughed at everything just as it
came along. And then they all danced and capered again; all but
Polly, who was down before the precious stove examining and
exploring into ovens and everything that belonged to it.
"Oh, ma," she announced, coming up to Mrs. Pepper, who had
been obliged to fly to her sewing again, and exhibiting a very
crocky face and a pair of extremely smutty hands, "it's most all
ovens, and it's just splendid!"
"I know it," answered her mother, delighted in the joy of her child.
"My! how black you are, Polly!"
"Oh, I wish," cried Polly, as the thought struck her, "that Dr. Fisher
could see it! Where did he go to, ma?"
"I guess Dr. Fisher has seen it before," said Mrs. Pepper, and then
she began to laugh. "You haven't ever asked where the stove came
And to be sure, Polly had been so overwhelmed that if the stove
had really dropped from the clouds it would have been small
matter of astonishment to her, as long as it had come; that was the
"Mammy," said Polly, turning around slowly, with the stove-lifter
in her hand, "did Dr. Fisher bring that stove?"
"He didn't exactly bring it," answered her mother, "but I guess he
knew something about it."
"Oh, he's the splendidest, goodest man!" cried Polly, "that ever
breathed! Did he really get us that stove?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Pepper, "he would; I couldn't stop him. I don't
know how he found out you wanted one so bad; but he said it must
be kept as a surprise when your eyes got well."
"And he saved my eyes!" cried Polly, full of gratitude. "I've got a
stove and two new eyes, mammy, just to think!"
"We ought to be good after all our mercies," said Mrs. Pepper
thankfully, looking around on her little group. Joel was engaged in
the pleasing occupation of seeing how far he could run his head
into the biggest oven, and then pulling it out to exhibit its
blackness, thus engrossing the others in a perfect hubbub.
"I'm going to bake my doctor some little cakes," declared Polly,
when there was comparative quiet.
"Do, Polly," cried Joel, "and then leave one or two over."
"No," said Polly; "we can't have any, because these must be very
nice. Mammy, can't I have some white on top, just once?" she
"I don't know," dubiously replied Mrs. Pepper; ~eggs are dreadful
"I don't care," said Polly, recklessly; "I must just once for Dr.
"I tell you, Polly," said Mrs. Pepper, "what you might do; you
might make him some little apple tarts--most every one likes them,
"Well," said Polly, with a sigh, "I s'pose they'll have to do; but
some time, mammy, I'm going to bake him a big cake, so there!"
A THREATENED BLOW
One day, a few weeks after, Mrs. Pepper and Polly were busy in
the kitchen. Phronsie was out in the "orchard," as the one scraggy
apple-tree was called by courtesy, singing her rag doll to sleep
under its sheltering branches. But "Baby" was cross and wouldn't
go to sleep, and Phronsie was on the point of giving up, and
returning to the house, when a strain of music made her pause with
dolly in her apron. There she stood with her finger in her mouth, in
utter astonishment, wondering where the sweet sounds came from.
"Oh, Phronsie!" screamed Polly, from the back door, "where
are--oh, here, come quick! it's the beau-ti-fullest!"
"What is it?" eagerly asked the little one, hopping over the stubby
grass, leaving poor, discarded "Baby" on its snubby nose where it
dropped in her hurry.
"Oh, a monkey!" cried Polly; "do hurry! the sweetest little monkey
you ever saw!"
"What is a monkey?" asked Phronsie, skurrying after Polly to the
gate where her mother was waiting for them.
"Why, a monkey's--a--monkey," explained Polly, "I don't know any
better'n that. Here he is! Isn't he splendid!" and she lifted Phronsie
up to the big post where she could see finely.
"O-oh! ow!" screamed little Phronsie, "see him, Polly! just see
A man with an organ was standing in the middle of the road
playing away with all his might, and at the end of a long rope was
a lively little monkey in a bright red coat and a smart cocked hat.
The little creature pulled off his hat, and with one long jump
coming on the fence, he made Phronsie a most magnificent bow.
Strange to say, the child wasn't in the least frightened, but put out
her little fat hand, speaking in gentle tones, "Poor little monkey!
come here, poor little monkey!"
Turning up his little wrinkled face, and glancing fearfully at his
master, Jocko began to grimace and beg for something to eat. The
man pulled the string and struck up a merry tune, and in a minute
the monkey spun around and around at such a lively pace, and put
in so many queer antics that the little audience were fairly
convulsed with laughter.
"I can't pay you," said Mrs. Pepper, wiping her eyes, when at last
the man pulled up the strap whistling to Jocko to jump up, "but I'll
give you something to eat; and the monkey, too, he shall have
something for his pains in amusing my children."
The man looked very cross when she brought him out only brown
bread and two cold potatoes.
"Haven't you got nothin' better'n that?"
"It's as good as we have," answered Mrs. Pepper.
The man threw down the bread in the road. But Jocko thankfully
ate his share, Polly and Phronsie busily feeding him; and then he
turned and snapped up the portion his master had left in the dusty
Then they moved on, Mrs. Pepper and Polly going back to their
work in the kitchen. A little down the road the man struck up
another tune. Phronsie who had started merrily to tell "Baby" all
about it, stopped a minute to hear, and--she didn't go back to the
About two hours after, Polly said merrily:
"I'm going to call Phronsie in, mammy; she must be awfully tired
and hungry by this time."
She sang gayly on the way, "I'm coming, Phronsie, coming--why,
where!--" peeping under the tree.
"Baby" lay on its face disconsolately on the ground--and the
orchard was empty! Phronsie was gone!
"It's no use," said Ben, to the distracted household and such of the
neighbors as the news had brought hurriedly to the scene, "to look
any more around here--but somebody must go toward Hingham;
he'd be likely to go that way."
"No one could tell where he would go," cried Polly, wringing her
"But he'd change, Ben, if he thought folks would think he'd gone
there," said Mrs. Pepper.
"We must go all roads," said Ben, firmly; "one must take the stage
to Boxville, and I'll take Deacon Brown's wagon on the Hingham
road, and somebody else must go to Toad Hollow."
"I'll go in the stage," screamed Joel, who could scarcely see out of
his eyes, he had cried so; "I'll find--find her--I know.
"Be spry, then, Joe, and catch it at the corner!"
Everybody soon knew that little Phronsie Pepper had gone off with
"a cross organ man and an awful monkey!" and in the course of an
hour dozens of people were out on the hot, dusty roads in search.
"What's the matter?" asked a testy old gentleman in the stage, of
Joel who, in his anxiety to see both sides of the road at once,
bobbed the old gentleman in the face so often as the stage lurched,
that at last he knocked his hat over his eyes.
"My sister's gone off with a monkey," explained Joel, bobbing over
to the other side, as he thought he caught sight of something pink
that he felt sure must be Phronsie's apron. "Stop! stop! there she
is!" he roared, and the driver, who had his instructions and was
fully in sympathy, pulled up so suddenly that the old gentleman
flew over into the opposite seat.
But when they got up to it Joel saw that it was only a bit of pink
calico flapping on a clothes-line; so he climbed back and away
they rumbled again.
The others were having the same luck. No trace could be found of
the child. To Ben, who took the Hingham road, the minutes
seemed like hours.
"I won't go back," he muttered, "until I take her. I can't see
But the ten miles were nearly traversed; almost the last hope was
gone. Into every thicket and lurking place by the road-side had he
peered--but no Phronsie! Deacon Brown's horse began to lag.
"Go on!" said Ben hoarsely; "oh, dear Lord, make me find her!"
The hot sun poured down on the boy's face, and he had no cap.
What cared he for that? On and on he went. Suddenly the horse
stopped. Ben doubled up the reins to give him a cut, when
"WHOA!" he roared so loud that the horse in very astonishment
gave a lurch that nearly flung him headlong. But he was over the
wheel in a twinkling, and up with a bound to a small thicket of
scrubby bushes on a high hill by the road-side. Here lay a little
bundle on the ground, and close by it a big, black dog; and over the
whole, standing guard, was a boy a little bigger than Ben, with
honest gray eyes. And the bundle was Phronsie!
"Don't wake her up," said the boy, warningly, as Ben, with a
hungry look in his eyes, leaped up the hill, "she's tired to death!"
"She's my sister!" cried Ben, "our Phronsie!"
"I know it," said the boy kindly; "but I wouldn't wake her up yet if I
were you. I'll tell you all about it," and he took Ben's hand which
was as cold as ice.
"It's all right, Prince," the boy added, encouragingly to the big dog
who, lifting his noble head, had turned two big eyes steadily on
Ben. "He's all right! lie down again!"
Then, flinging himself down on the grass, he told Ben how he
came to rescue Phronsie.
"Prince and I were out for a stroll," said he. "I live over in
Hingham," pointing to the pretty little town just a short distance
before them in the hollow; "that is," laughing, "I do this summer.
Well, we were out strolling along about a mile below here on the
cross-road; and all of a sudden, just as if they sprung right up out
of the ground, I saw a man with an organ, and a monkey, and a
little girl, coming along the road. She was crying, and as soon as
Prince saw that, he gave a growl, and then the man saw us, and he
looked so mean and cringing I knew there must be something
wrong, and I inquired of him what he was doing with that little
girl, and then she looked up and begged so with her eyes, and all of
a sudden broke away from him and ran towards me screaming--'I
want Polly!' Well, the man sprang after her; then I tell you"--here
the boy forgot his caution about waking Phronsie--"we went for
him, Prince and I! Prince is a noble fellow," (here the dog's ears
twitched very perceptibly) "and he kept at that man; oh! how he bit
him! till he had to run for fear the monkey would get killed."
"Was Phronsie frightened?" asked Ben; "she's never seen
"Not a bit," said the boy, cheerily; "she just clung to me like
everything--I only wish she was my sister," he added impulsively.
"What were you going to do with her if I hadn't come along?"
"Well, I got out on the main road," said the boy, "because I thought
anybody who had lost her, would probably come through this way;
but if somebody hadn't come, I was going to carry her in to
Hingham; and the father and I'd had to contrive some way to do."
"Well," said Ben, as the boy finished and fastened his bright eyes
on him, "somebody did come along; and now I must get her home
about as fast as I can for poor mammy-- and Polly!"
"Yes," said the boy, "I'll help you lift her; perhaps she won't wake
The big dog moved away a step or two, but still kept his eye on
"There," said the boy, brightly, as they laid the child on the wagon
seat; "now when you get in you can hold her head; that's it," he
added, seeing them both fixed to his satisfaction. But still Ben
"Thank you," he tried to say.
"I know," laughed the boy; "only it's Prince instead of me," and he
pulled forward the big black creature, who had followed faithfully
down the hill to see the last of it. "To the front, sir, there! We're
coming to see you," he continued, "if you will let us--where do you
"Do come," said Ben, lighting up, for he was just feeling he
couldn't bear to look his last on the merry, honest face; "anybody'll
tell you where Mrs. Pepper lives."
"Is she a Pepper?" asked the boy, laughing, and pointing to the
unconscious little heap in the wagon; "and are you a Pepper?"
"Yes," said Ben, laughing too. "There are five of us besides
"Jolly! that's something like! Good-bye! Come on, Prince!" Then
away home to mother! Phronsie never woke up or turned over once
till she was put, a little pink sleepy heap, into her mother's arms.
Joel was there, crying bitterly at his forlorn search. The testy old
gentleman in the seat opposite had relented and ordered the coach
about and brought him home in an outburst of grief when all hope
was gone. And one after another they all had come back,
disheartened, to the distracted mother. Polly alone, clung to hope!
"Ben will bring her, mammy; I know God will let him," she
But when Ben did bring her, Polly, for the second time in her life,
tumbled over with a gasp, into old Mrs. Bascom's lap.
Home and mother! Little Phronsie slept all that night straight
through. The neighbors came in softly, and with awestruck visages
stole into the bedroom to look at the child; and as they crept out
again, thoughts of their own little ones tugging at their hearts, the
tears would drop unheeded.
Up the stairs of the hotel, two steps at a time, ran a boy with a big,
black dog at his heels. "Come on, Prince; soft, now," as they
neared a door at the end of the corridors
It opened into a corner room overlooking "the Park," as the small
open space in front of the hotel was called. Within the room there
was sunshine and comfort, it being the most luxurious one in the
house, which the proprietor bad placed at the disposal of thi5 most
exacting guest. He didn't look very happy, however--the gentleman
who sat in an easy chair by the window; a large, handsome old
gentleman, whose whole bearing showed plainly that personal
comfort had always been his, and was, therefore, neither a matter
of surprise nor thankfulness.
"Where have you been?" he asked, turning around to greet the boy
who came in, followed by Prince.
"Oh, such a long story, father!" he cried, flushed; his eyes
sparkling as he flung back the dark hair from his forehead. "You
can't even guess!"
"Never mind now," said the old gentleman, testily; "your stories
are always long; the paper hasn't come--strange, indeed, that one
must needs be so annoyed! do ring that bell again.
So the bell was pulled; and a porter popped in his head.
"What is it, sir?"
"The paper," said the old gentleman, irritably; "hasn't it come yet?"
"No, sir," said the man; and then he repeated, "taint in yet, please,
"Very well--you said so once; that's all," waving his hand; then as
the door closed, he said to his son, "That pays one for coming to
such an out-of-the-way country place as this, away from papers--I
never will do it again."
As the old gentleman, against the advice of many friends who
knew his dependence on externals, had determined to come to this
very place, the boy was not much startled at the decisive words. He
stood very quietly, however, until his father finished. Then he said:
"It's too bad, father! supposing I tell you my story? Perhaps you'll
enjoy hearing it while you wait--it's really quite newspaperish."
"Well, you might as well tell it now, I suppose," said the old
gentleman; "but it is a great shame about that paper! to advertise
that morning papers are to be obtained--it's a swindle, Jasper! a
complete swindle!" and the old gentleman looked so very irate that
the boy exerted himself to soothe him.
"I know," he said; "but they can't help the trains being late."
"They shouldn't have the trains late," said his father, unreasounbly.
"There's no necessity for all this prating about 'trains late.' I'm
convinced it's because they forgot to send down for the papers till
they were all sold."
"I don't believe that's it, father," said the boy, trying to change the
subject; "but you don't know how splendid Frince has been, nor"--
"And then such a breakfast!" continued the old gentleman.
"My liver certainly will be in a dreadful state if these things
continue!" And he got up, and going to the corner of the room,
opened his medicine chest, and taking a box of pills therefrom, he
swallowed two, which done, he came back with a somewhat easier
expression to his favorite chair.
"He was just splendid, father," began the boy; "he went for him, I
"I hope, Jasper, your dog has not been doing anything violent,"
said the old gentleman. "I must caution you; he'll get you into
trouble some day; and then there'll be a heavy bill to pay; he grows
more irritable every day."
"Irritable!" cried the boy, flinging his arms around the dog's neck,
who was looking up at the old gentleman in high disdain. "He's
done the most splendid thing you ever saw! Why, he saved a little
girl, father, from a cross old organ-man, and he drove that
man--oh! you ought to have seen him run!"
And now that it was over, Jasper put back his head and laughed
long and loud as he remembered the rapid transit of the musical
"Well, how do you know she wasn't the man's daughter?" asked his
father, determined to find fault someway. "You haven't any
business to go around the country setting your dog on people. I
shall have an awful bill to pay some day, Jasper--an awful bill!" he
continued, getting up and commencing to pace up and down the
floor in extreme irritation.
"Father," cried the boy, half laughing, half vexed, springing to his
side, and keeping step with him, "we found her brother; he came
along when we were by the side of the road. We couldn't go any
further, for the poor little thing was all tired out. And don't you
think they live over in Badgertown, and"-- "Well," said the old
gentleman, pausing in his walk, and taking out his watch to
wonder if that paper would ever come, "she had probably followed
the organ-man; so it served her right after all."
"Well, but father," and the boy's dark eyes glowed, "she was such a
cunning little thing! she wasn't more than four years old; and she
had such a pretty little yellow head; and she said so funny--'I want
"Did she?" said the old gentleman, getting interested in spite of
himself; "what then?"
"Why, then, sir," said Jasper, delighted at his success in diverting
his thoughts, "Prince and I waited--and waited; and I was just
going to bring her here to ask you what we should do, when"--
"Dear me!" said the old gentleman, instinctively starting back as if
he actually saw the forlorn little damsel, "you needn't ever bring
such people here, Jasper! I don't know what to do with them, I'm
"Well," said the boy, laughing, "we didn't have to, did we, Prince?"
stroking the big head of the dog who was slowly following the two
as they paced up and down, but keeping carefully on the side of his
master; "for just as we really didn't know what to do, don't you
think there was a big wagon came along, drawn by the ricketiest
old horse, and a boy in the wagon looking both sides of the road,
and into every bush, just as wild as he could be, and before I could
think, hardly, he spied us, and if he didn't jump! I thought he'd
broken his leg"--
"And I suppose he just abused you for what you had done,"
observed the old gentleman, petulantly; "that's about all the
gratitude there is in this world."
"He didn't seem to see me at all," said the boy. "I thought he'd eat
the little girl up."
"Ought to have looked out for her better then," grumbled the old
gentleman, determined to find fault with somebody.
"And he's a splendid fellow, I just know," cried Jasper, waxing
enthusiastic; "and his name is Pepper."
"Pepper!" repeated his father; "no nice family ever had the name of
"Well, I don't care," and Jasper's laugh was loud and merry; "he's
nice anyway,--I know; and the little thing's nice; and I'm going to
see them--can't I, father?"
"Dear me!" said his father; "how can you, Jasper? You do have the
strangest tastes I ever saw!"
"It's dreadful dull here," pleaded the boy, touching the right string;
"you know that yourself, father, and I don't know any boys around
here; and Prince and I are so lonely on our walks--do permit me,
The old gentleman, who really cared very little about it, turned
away, muttering, "Well, I'm sure I don't care; go where you like,"
when a knock was heard at the door, and the paper was handed in,
which broke up the conversation, and restored good humor.
The next day but one, Ben was out by the wood-pile, trying to
break up some kindlings for Polly who was washing up the dishes,
and otherwise preparing for the delights of baking day.
"Hulloa!" said a voice bethought he knew.
He turned around to see the merry-faced boy, and the big, black
dog who immediately began to wag his tail as if willing to
"You see I thought you'd never look round," said the boy with a
laugh. "How's the little girl?"
"Oh! you have come, really," cried Ben, springing over the
wood-pile with a beaming face. "Polly!"
But Polly was already by the door, with dish-cloth in hand. "This is
my sister, Polly," began Ben--and then stopped, not knowing the
"I'm Jasper King," said the boy, stepping upon the flat stone by
Polly's side; and taking off his cap, he put out his hand. "And this
is Prince," he added.
Polly put her hand in his, and received a hearty shake; and then she
sprang over the big stove, dish-cloth and all, and just flung her
arms around the dog's neck.
"Oh, you splendid fellow, you!" said she. "Don't you know we all
think you're as good as gold?"
The dog submitted to the astonishing proceeding as if he liked it,
while Jasper, delighted with Polly's appreciation, beamed down on
them, and struck up friendship with her on the instant.
"Now, I must call Phronsie," said Polly, getting up, her face as red
as a rose.
"Is her name Phronsie?" asked the boy with interest. "No, it's
Sophronia," said Polly, "but we call her Phronsie." "What a very
funny name," said Jasper, "Sophronia is, for such a little thing--and
yours is Polly, is it not?" he asked, turning around suddenly on her.
"Yes," said Polly; "no, not truly Polly; it's Mary, my real name
is--but I've always been Polly."
"I like Polly best, too," declared Jasper, "it sounds so nice."
"And his name is Ben," said Polly.
"Ebenezer, you mean," said Ben, correcting her.
"Well, we call him Ben," said Polly; "it don't ever seem as if there
was any Ebenezer about it."
"I should think not," laughed Jasper.
"Well, I must get Phronsie," again said Polly, running back into the
bedroom, where that small damsel was busily engaged in washing
"Baby" in the basin of water that she had with extreme difficulty
succeeded in getting down on the floor. She had then, by means of
a handful of soft soap, taken from Polly's soap-bowl during the
dish-washing, and a bit of old cotton, plastered both herself and
"Baby" to a comfortable degree of stickiness.
"Phronsie," said Polly--"dear me! what you doing? the big dog's out
there, you know, that scared the naughty organ-man; and the
boy"--but before the words were half out, Phronsie had slipped
from under her hands, and to Polly's extreme dismay, clattered out
into the kitchen.
"Here she is!" cried Jasper, meeting her at the door. The little
soapy hands were grasped, and kissing her--"Ugh!" he said, as the
soft soap plentifully spread on her face met his mouth.
"Oh, Phronsie! you shouldn't," cried Polly, and then they all burst
out into a peal of laughter at Jasper's funny grimaces.
"She's been washing 'Baby," explained Polly, wiping her eyes, and
looking at Phronsie who was hanging over Prince in extreme
affection. Evidently Prince still regarded her as his especial
"Have you got a baby?" asked Jasper. "I thought she was the baby,"
pointing to Phronsie.
"Oh, I mean her littlest dolly; she always calls her 'Baby," said
Polly. "Come, Phronsie, and have your face washed, and a clean
When Phronsie could be fairly persuaded that Prince would not
run away during her absence, she allowed herself to be taken off;
and soon re-appeared, her own, dainty little self. Ben, in the
meantime, had been initiating Jasper into the mysteries of cutting
the wood, the tool-house, and all the surroundings of the "little
brown house." They had received a re-inforcement in the advent of
Joel and David, who stared delightedly at Phronsie's protector,
made friends with the dog, and altogether had had such a
thoroughly good time, that Phronsie, coming back, clapped her
hands in glee to hear them.
"I wish mammy was home," said Polly, polishing up the last cup
"Let me put it up," said Jasper, taking it from her, "it goes up here,
don't it, with the rest?" reaching up to the upper-shelf of the old
"Yes," said Polly.
"Oh, I should think you'd have real good times!" said the boy,
enviously. "I haven't a single sister or brother."
"Haven't you?" said Polly, looking at him in extreme pity. "Yes, we
do have real fun," she added, answering his questioning look; "the
house is just brimful sometimes, even if we are poor."
"We aren't poor," said Joel, who never could bear to be pitied.
Then, with a very proud air, he said in a grand way-- "At any rate,
we aren't going to be, long, for something's coming!"
"What do you mean, Joey?" asked Ben, while the rest looked
"Our ships," said Joel confidently, as if they were right before their
eyes; at which they all screamed!
"See Polly's stove!" cried Phronsie, wishing to entertain in her turn.
"Here 'tis," running up to it, and pointing with her fat little finger.
"Yes, I see," cried Jasper, pretending to be greatly surprised; "it's
new, isn't it?"
"Yes," said the child; "it's very all new; four yesterdays ago!"
And then Polly stopped in sweeping up and related, with many
additions and explanations from the others, the history of the
stove, and good Dr. Fisher (upon whom they all dilated at great
length), and the dreadful measles, and everything. And Jasper
sympathized, and rejoiced with them to their hearts content, and
altogether got so very home-like, that they all felt as if they had
known him for a year. Ben neglected his work a little, but then
visitors didn't come every day to the Peppers; so while Polly
worked away at her bread, which she was "going to make like
biscuits," she said, the audience gathered in the little old kitchen
was in the merriest mood, and enjoyed everything to the fullest
"Do put in another stick, Bensie dear," said Polly; "this bread won't
befit for anything!"
"Isn't this fun, though!" cried Jasper, running up to try the oven; "I
wish I could ever bake," and he looked longingly at the little
brown biscuits waiting their turn out on the table.
"You come out some day," said Polly, sociably, "and we'll all try
baking--mammy'd like to have you, I know," feeling sure that
nothing would be too much for Mrs. Pepper to do for the protector
of little Phronsie.
"I will!" cried Jasper, perfectly delighted. "You can't think how
awfully dull it is out in Hingham!"
"Don't you live there?" asked Polly, with a gasp, almost dropping a
tin full of little brown lumps of dough she was carrying to the
"Live there!" cried Jasper; and then he burst out into a merry laugh.
"No, indeed! I hope not! Why, we're only spending the summer
there, father and I, in the hotel."
"Where's your mother?" asked Joel, squeezing in between Jasper
and his audience. And then they all felt instinctively that a very
wrong question had been asked.
"I haven't any mother," said the boy, in a low voice.
They all stood quite still for a moment; then Polly said, "I wish
you'd come out sometime; and you may bake--or anything else,"
she added; and there was a kinder ring to her voice than ever.
No mother! Polly for her life, couldn't imagine how anybody could
feel without a mother, but the very words alone smote her heart;
and there was nothing she wouldn't have done to give pleasure to
one who had done so much for them.
"I wish you could see our mother," she said, gently. "Why, here she
comes now! oh, mamsie, dear," she cried. "Do, Joe, run and take
Mrs. Pepper stopped a minute to kiss Phronsie--her baby was
dearer than ever to her now. Then her eye fell on Jasper, who stood
respectfully waiting and watching her with great interest.
"Is this," she asked, taking it all in at the first glance--the boy with
the honest eyes as Ben had described him--and the big, black
dog--"is this the boy who saved my little girl?"
"Oh, ma'am," cried Jasper, "1 didn't do much; 'twas Prince."
"I guess you never'll know how much you did do," said Mrs.
Pepper. Then looking with a long, keen gaze into the boy's eyes
that met her own so frankly and kindly: "I'll trust him," she said to
herself; "a boy with those eyes can't help but be good."
"Her eyes are just the same as Polly's," thought Jasper, "just such
laughing ones, only Polly's are brown," and he liked her on the
And then, somehow, the hubbub ceased. Polly went on with her
work, and the others separated, and Mrs. Pepper and Jasper had a
long talk. When the mother's eyes fell on Phronsie playing around
on the floor, she gave the boy a grateful smile that he thought was
"Well, I declare," said Jasper, at last, looking up at the old clock in
the corner by the side of the cupboard, "I'm afraid I'll miss the
stage, and then father never'll let me come again. Come, Prince."
"Oh, don't go," cried Phronsie, wailing. "Let doggie stay! Oh, make
him stay, mammy!"
"I can't, Phronsie," said Mrs. Pepper, smiling, "if he thinks he
ought to go."
"I'll come again," said Jasper, eagerly, "if I may, ma'am."
He looked up at Mrs. Pepper as he stood cap in hand, waiting for
"I'm sure we should be glad if your father'll be willing," she added;
thinking, proudly, "My children are an honor to anybody, I'm sure,"
as she glanced around on the bright little group she could call her
own. "But be sure, Jasper," and she laid her hand on his arm as she
looked down into his eyes, "that you father is willing, that's all."
"Oh, yes, ma'am," said the boy; "but he will be, I guess, if he feels
"Then come on Thursday," said Polly; "and can't we bake
something then, mammy?"
"I'm sure I don't care," laughed Mrs. Pepper; "but you won't find
much but brown flour and meal to bake with."
"Well, we can pretend," said Polly; "and we can cut the cakes with
the heart-shape, and they II do for anything.
"Oh, I'll come," laughed Jasper, ready for such lovely fun in the old
kitchen; "look out for me on Thursday, Ben!"
So Jasper and Prince took their leave, all the children
accompanying them to the gate; and then after seeing him fairly
started on a smart run to catch the stage, Prince scampering at his
heels, they all began to sing his praises and to wish for Thursday to
But Jasper didn't come! Thursday came and went; a beautiful,
bright, sunny day, but with no signs of the merry boy whom all had
begun to love, nor of the big black dog. The children had made all
the needful preparations with much ostentation and bustle, and
were in a state of excited happiness, ready for any gale. But the
last hope had to be given up, as the old clock ticked away hour
after hour. And at last Polly had to put Phronsie to bed, who
wouldn't stop crying enough to eat her supper at the dreadful
"He couldn't come, I know," said both Ben and Polly, standing
staunchly up for their new friend; but Joel and David felt that he
had broken his word.
"He promised," said Joel, vindictively.
"I don't believe his father'd let him," said Polly, wiping away a sly
tear; "I know Jasper'd come, if he could."
Mrs. Pepper wisely kept her own counsel, simply giving them a
"Don't you go to judging him, children, till you know."
"Well, he promised," said Joel, as a settler.
"Aren't you ashamed, Joel," said his mother, "to talk about any one
whose back is turned? Wait till he tells you the reason himself."
Joel hung his head, and then began to tease David in the corner, to
make up for his disappointment.
The next morning Ben had to go to the store after some more meal.
As he was going out rather dismally, the storekeeper, who was also
postmaster, called out, "Oh, halloa, there!"
"What is it?" asked Ben, turning back, thinking perhaps Mr. Atkins
hadn't given him the right change.
"Here," said Mr. Atkins, stepping up to the Post-office department,
quite smart with its array of boxes and official notices, where Ben
had always lingered, wishing there might be sometime a letter for
him--or some of them. "You've got a sister Polly, haven't you?"
"Yes," said Ben, wondering what was coming next.
"Well, she's got a letter," said the postmaster, holding up a nice big
envelope, looking just like those that Ben had so many times
wished for. That magic piece of white paper danced before the
boy's eyes for a minute; then he said-- "It can't be for her, Mr.
Atkins; why, she's never had one." "Well, she's got one now, sure
enough," said Mr. Atkins; "here 'tis, plain enough," and he read
what he had no need to study much as it had already passed
examination by his own and his wife's faithful eyes: "Miss Polly
Pepper, near the Turnpike, Badgertown'--that's her, isn't it?" he
added, laying it down before Ben's eyes. "Must be a first time for
everything, you know, my boy!" and he laughed long over his own
joke; "so take it and run along home." For Ben still stood looking
at it, and not offering to stir.
"If you say so," said the boy, as if Mr. Atkins had given him
something out of his own pocket; "but I'm afraid 'tisn't for Polly."
Then buttoning up the precious letter in his jacket, he spun along
home as never before.
"Polly! Polly!" he screamed. "Where is she, mother?"
"I don't know," said Mrs. Pepper, coming out of the bedroom.
"Dear me! is anybody hurt, Ben?"
"I don't know," said Ben, in a state to believe anything, "but Polly's
got a letter."
"Polly got a letter!" cried Mrs. Pepper; "what do you mean, Ben?"
"I don't know," repeated the boy, still holding out the precious
letter; "but Mr. Atkins gave it to me; where is Polly?"
"I know where she is," said Joel; "she's up-stairs." And he flew out
in a twinkling, and just as soon reappeared with Polly scampering
after him in the wildest excitement.
And then the kitchen was in an uproar as the precious missive was
put into Polly's hand; and they all gathered around her, wondering
and examining, till Ben thought he would go wild with the delay.
"I wonder where it did come from," said Polly, in the greatest
anxiety, examining again the address.
"Where does the postmark say?" asked Mrs. Pepper, looking over
"It's all rubbed out," said Polly, peering at it "you can't see
"Do open it," said Ben, "and then you'll find out."
"But p'raps 'tisn't for me," said Polly, timidly.
"Well, Mr. Atkins says 'tis," said Ben, impatiently; "here, I'll open
it for you, Polly."
"No, let her open it for herself, Ben," protested his mother.
"But she won't," said Ben; "do tear it open, Polly."
"No, I'm goin' to get a knife," she said.
"I'll get one," cried Joel, running up to the table drawer; "here's
"Oh, dear," groaned Ben; "you never'll get it open at this rate!"
But at last it was cut; and they all holding their breath, gazed
awe-struck, while Polly drew out the mysterious missive.
"What does it say?" gasped Mrs. Pepper.
"Dear Miss Polly," began both Ben and Polly in a breath. "Let
Polly read," said Joel, who couldn't hear in the confusion.
"Well, go on Polly," said Ben; "hurry!"
"Dear Miss Polly, I was so sorry I couldn't come on Thursday' "--
"Oh, it's Jasper! it's Jasper!" cried all the children in a breath.
"I told you so!" cried Ben and Polly, perfectly delighted to find
their friend vindicated fully--"there! Joey Pepper!"
"Well, I don't care," cried Joe, nothing daunted, "he didn't come,
anyway--do go on, Polly."
"I was so sorry I couldn't come' "--began Polly.
"You read that," said Joel.
"I know it," said Polly, "but it's just lovely; 'on Thursday; but my
father was sick, and I couldn't leave him. If you don't mind I'll
come again--I mean I'll come some other day, if it's just as
convenient for you, for I do so want the baking, and the nice time.
I forgot to say that I had a cold, to,' (here Jasper had evidently had
a struggle in his mind whether there should be two 0's or one, and
he had at last decided it, by crossing out one) but my father is
willing I should come when I get well. Give my love to all, and
especially remember me respectfully to your mother. Your friend,
JASPER ELYOT KING."
"Oh, lovely! lovely!" cried Polly, flying around with the letter in
her hand; "so he is coming!"
Ben was just as wild as she was, for no one knew but Polly just
how the new friend had stepped into his heart. Phronsie went to
sleep happy, hugging "Baby."
"And don't you think, Baby, dear," she whispered sleepily, and
Polly heard her say as she was tucking her in, "that Japser is really
comin'; really--and the big, be-you-ti-ful doggie, too!"
PHRONSIE PAYS A DEBT OF GRATITUDE
"And now I tell you," said Polly, the next day, "let's make Jasper
something; can't we, ma?"
"Oh, do! do!" cried all the other children, "let's; but what'll it be,
"I don't know about this," interrupted Mrs. Pepper; "I don't see how
you could get anything to him if you could make it."
"Oh, we could, mamsie," said Polly, eagerly, running up to her;
"for Ben knows; and he says we can do it."
"Oh, well, if Ben and you have had your heads together, I suppose