Part 5 out of 5
"There now! and they've gone off somewhere," cried Van in
extreme irritation, and starting up quickly. "I know they have.
Which way did they go, Jane? And how long ago?"
"Oh, I don't know," replied Jane carelessly, "half an hour maybe;
and they didn't go nowhere as I see, at least they were talking at the
door, and I was going up-stairs."
"Right here?" cried Van, and stamping with his foot to point out
the exact place; "at this door, Jane?"
"Yes, yes," said Jane; "at that very door," and then she went into
the dining-room to her work.
"Oh dear me!" cried Van, and flying out on the veranda, he began
to peer wildly up and down the drive. "And they've gone to some
splendid place, I know, and wouldn't tell us. That's just like Percy!"
he added vindictively, "he's always stealing away! don't you see
'em, Joel? oh, do come out and look!"
"'Tisn't any use," said Joel coolly, sitting down on the chair Van
had just vacated, and swinging his feet comfortably; "they're miles
away if they've been gone half an hour. I'm goin' up-stairs," and he
sprang up, and energetically pranced to the stairs.
"They aren't up-stairs!" screamed Van, in scorn, bounding into the
hall. "Don't go; I know that they've gone down to the museum!"
"The what?" exclaimed Joel, nearly at the top, peering over the
railing. "What's that you said--what is it?"
"A museum," shouted Van, "and it's a perfectly elegant place, Joel
Pepper, and Percy knows I like to go; and now he's taken Ben off;
and he'll show him all the things! and they'll all be old when I take
him--and--and--oh! I hope the snakes will bite him!" he addcd,
trying to think of something bad enough.
"Do they have snakes there?" asked Joel, staring.
"Yes, they do," snapped out Van. "They have everything!"
"Well, they shan't bite Ben!" cried Joel in terror. "Oh! do you
suppose they will?" and he turned right straight around on the
stairs, and looked at Van.
"No," said Van, "they won't bite--what's the matter, Joe?"
"Oh, they may," said Joel, his face working, and screwing both
fists into his eyes; at last he burst right out into a torrent of sobs.
"Oh, don't let 'em Van--don't!"
"Why, they can't," said Van in an emphatic voice, running up the
stairs to Joel's side, frightened to death at his tears.
Then he began to shake his jacket sleeve violently to bring him
back to reason, "Wait Joe! oh, do stop! oh, dear, what shall I do! I
tell you, they can't bite," he screamed as loud as he could into his
"You said--you--hoped--they--would,"said Joel's voice in
"Well, they won't anyway," said Van decidedly. "Cause they're all
stuffed--so there now!"
"Ain't they alive--nor anythin'?" asked Joel, bringing one black eye
into sight from behind his chubby hands.
"No," said Van, "they're just as dead as anything, Joel Pepper--been
dead years! and there's old crabs there too, old dead crabs--and
they're just lovely! Oh, such a lots of eggs as they've got! And there
are shells and bugs and stones--and an awful old crocodile, and"----
"Oh, dear!" sighed Joel, perfectly overcome at such a vision, and
sitting down on the stairs to think. "Well, mamsie'll know where
Ben is," he said, springing up. "And then I tell you Van, we'll just
"So she will," cried Van. "Why didn't we think of that before? I
wanted to think."
"I did," said Joel. "That was where I was goin'."
Without any more ado they rushed into Mrs. Pepper's big, sunny
room, there to see, seated at the square table between the two large
windows, the two lost ones bending over what seemed to be an
object of the greatest importance, for Polly was hanging over Ben's
shoulder with intense pride and delight, which she couldn't
possibly conceal, and Davie was crowded as near as he could get
to Percy's elbow.
Phronsie and little Dick were perched comfortably on the corner of
the table, surveying the whole scene in quiet rapture; and Mrs.
Pepper with her big mending basket, was ensconced over by the
deep window seat just on the other side of the room, underneath
Cherry's cage, and looking up between quick energetic stitches,
over at the busy group, with the most placid expression on her
"Oh!--what you doin'?" cried Joel, flying up to them. "Let us see,
"What is it?" exclaimed Van, squeezing in between Percy and Ben.
"Don't"----began Percy. "There, see, you've knocked his elbow and
"Oh no, he hasn't," said Ben, putting down his pencil, and taking
up a piece of rubber. "There, see it all comes out--as good as ever."
"Isn't it just elegant?" said Percy in the most pleased tone, and
wriggling his toes under the table to express his satisfaction,
"Yes," said Van, craning his neck to get a better view of the
picture, now nearly completed, "It's perfectly splendid. How'd you
do it, Ben?"
"I don't know," replied Ben with a smile, carefully shading in a few
last touches. "It just drew itself."
"Tisn't anything to what he can do," said Polly, standing up as tall
as she could, and beaming at Ben, "He used to draw most beautiful
"Better than this?" asked Van, with great respect and taking up the
picture, after some demur on Percy's part, and examining it
critically. "I don't believe it, Polly."
"Phooh; he did!" exclaimed Joel, looking over his shoulder at a
wonderful view of a dog in an extremely excited state of mind
running down an interminable hill to bark at a locomotive and
train of cars whizzing along a curve in the foreground. Lots better'n
that! Ben can do anything!" he added, in an utterly convincing
"Now give it back," cried Percy, holding out his hand in alarm.
"I'm going to ask mamma to have it framed; and then I'm going to
hang it right over my bed," he finished, as Van reluctantly gave up
"Did you draw all the time in the little brown house?" asked Van,
lost in thought. "Howl wish I'd been there!"
"Dear, no!" cried Polly with a little skip, turning away to laugh.
"He didn't have hardly any time, and"----"Why not?" asked Percy.
"Cause there was. things to do," said Polly. "But sometimes when
it rained, and he couldn't go out and work, and there wasn't
anything to do in the house--then we'd have----oh!" and she drew a
long breath at the memory, "such a time, you can't think!"
"Didn't you wish it would always rain?" asked Van, still gazing at
"Dear, no!" began Polly.
"I didn't," broke in Joel, in horror. "I wouldn't a-had it rain for
anything!--~only once in a while," he added, as he thought of the
good times that Polly had spoken of.
"'Twas nice outdoors," said little Davie, reflectively; "and nice
inside, too." And then he glanced over to his mother, who gave
him a smile in return. "And 'twas nice always."
"Well," said Van, returning to the picture, "I do wish you'd tell me
how to draw, Ben. I can't do anything but flowers," he said in a
"Flowers aren't anything," said Percy, pleasantly. "That's girls'
work; but dogs and horses and cars--those are just good!"
"Will you, Ben?" asked Van, looking down into the big blue eyes,
so kindly turned up to his.
"Yes, indeed I will," cried Ben, "that is, all I know; 'tisn't much, but
everything I can, I'll tell you."
"Then I can learn, can't I?" cried Van joyfully.
"Oh, tell me too, Ben," cried Percy, "will you? I want to learn too."
"And me!" cried Dick, bending forward, nearly upsetting Phronsie
as he did so. "Yes, say I may, Ben, do!"
"You're too little," began Percy. But Ben nodded his head at Dick,
which caused him to clap his hands and return to his original
"Well, I guess we're going to, too," said Joel. "Dave an' me; there
isn't anybody goin' to learn without us."
"Of course not," said Polly, "Ben wouldn't leave you out, Joey.
Phronsie sat quite still all this time, on the corner of the table, her
feet tucked up under her, and her hands clasped in her lap, and
never said a word. But Ben looking up, saw the most grieved
expression settling on her face, as the large eyes were fixed in
wonder on the faces before her.
"And there's my pet," he cried in enthusiasm, and reaching over the
table, he caught hold of one of the little fat hands. "Why we
couldn't think of getting along without her! She shall learn to
"Really, Bensie?" said Phronsie, the sunlight breaking all over the
gloomy little visage, and setting the brown eyes to dancing. "Real,
true, splendid pictures?"
"Yes, the splendidest," said Ben, "the very splendidest pictures,
Phronsie Pepper, you ever saw!"
"Oh!" cried Phronsie; and before any one knew what she was
about, she tripped right into the middle of the table, over the
papers and everything, and gave a happy little whirl!
"Dear me, Phronsie!" cried Polly catching her up and hugging her;
"you mustn't dance on the table."
"I'm going to learn," said Phronsie, coming out of Polly's embrace,
"to draw whole pictures, all alone by myself--Ben said so!"
"I know it," said Polly, "and then you shall draw one for mainsie--
"I will," said Phronsie, dreadfully excited; "I'll draw her a cow, and
two chickens, Polly, just like Grandma Bascom's!"
"Yes," whispered Polly, "but don't you tell her yet till you get it
"I won't," said Phronsie in the loudest of tones--but putting her
mouth close to Polly's ear. "And then she'll be so s'prised, Polly!
Just then came Jasper's voice at the door. "Can I come in?"
"Oh, do, Jappy," cried Polly, rushing along with Phronsie in her
arms to open the door. "We're so glad you've got home!"
"So am I," said Jasper, coming in, his face flushed and his eyes
sparkling; "I thought father never would be through downtown,
"We're going to learn to draw," said Percy, over by the table, who
wouldn't on any account leave his seat by Ben, though he was
awfully tired of sitting still so long, for fear somebody else would
hop into it. "Ben's going to teach us."
"Yes, he is," put in Van, bounding up to Jasper and pulling at all
the buttons on his jacket he could reach, to command attention.
"And us," said Joel, coming up too. "You forgot us, Van."
"The whole of us--every single one in this room," said Van
decidedly, "all except Mrs. Pepper."
"Hulloa!" said Jasper, "that is a class! Well, Professor Ben, you've
got to teach me then, for I'm coming too."
"You?" said Ben, turning around his chair, and looking at him; "I
can't teach you anything, Jappy. You know everything already"-.-
"Let him come, anyway," said Polly, hopping up and down.
"Oh, I'm coming, Professor," laughed Jasper. "Never you fear,
Polly; I'll be on hand when the rest of the class comes in!"
"And Van," said Mrs. Pepper, pausing a minute in her work, and
smiling over at him in a lull in the chatter--"I think flowers are
most beautiful!" and she pointed to a little framed picture on the
mantel, of the bunch of buttercups and one huge rose that Van had
with infinite patience drawn, and then colored to suit his fancy.
"Do you?" cried Van, perfectly delighted; and leaving the group he
rushed up to her side. "Do you really think they're nice, Mrs.
"Of course I do," said Mrs. Pepper briskly, and beaming on him; "I
think everything of them, and I shall keep them as long as I live,
"Well, then," said Van, very much pleased, "I shall paint you ever
so many more--just as many as you want!"
"Do!" said Mrs. Pepper, taking up her work again. "And I'll hang
them every one up."
"Yes, I will," said Van; "and I'll go right to work on one
to-morrow. What you mending our jackets for?" he asked abruptly
as a familiar hole caught his attention.
"Because they're torn," said Mrs. Pepper cheerfully, "an' they won't
"Why don't you let Jane?" he persisted. "She always does them."
"Jane's got enough to do," replied Mrs. Pepper, smiling away as
hard as she could, "and I haven't, so rm going to look around and
pick up something to keep my hands out of mischief as much as
Jean, while I'm here."
"Do you ever get into mischief?" asked little Dick, coming up and
looking into Mrs. Pepper's face wonderingly. "Why, you're a big
"Dear me, yes!" said Mrs. Pepper. "The bigger you are, the more
mischief you can get into. You'll find that out, Dickey."
"And then do you have to stand in a corner?" asked Dick,
determined to find out just what were the consequences, and
reverting to his most dreaded punishment.
"No," said Mrs. Pepper laughing. "Corners are for little folks; but
when people who know better, do wrong, there aren't any corners
they can creep into, or they'd get into them pretty quick!"
"I wish," said little Dick, "you'd let me get into your lap. That
would be a nice corner!"
"Do, mamsie," said Polly, coming up, "that's just the way I used to
feel; and I'll finish the mending."
So Mrs. Pepper put down her work, and moved the big basket for
little Dick to clamber up, when he laid his head contentedly back
in her motherly arms with a sigh of happiness. Phronsie regarded
him with a very grave expression. At last she drew near: "I'm tired;
do, mamsie, take me!"
"So mamsie will," said Mrs. Pepper, opening her anns, when
Phronsie immediately crawled up into their protecting shelter, with
a happy little crow.
"Oh, now, tell us a story, Mrs. Pepper," cried Van; "please, please
"No, no;" exclaimed Percy, scuttling out of his chair, and coming
up, "let's talk of the little brown house. Do tell us what you used to
do there--that's best."
"So 'tis!" cried Van; "ALL the nice times you used to have in it!
Wait just a minute, do." And he ran back for a cricket which he
placed at Mrs. Pepper's feet; and then sitting down on it, he leaned
on her comfortable lap, in order to hear better.
"Wait for me too, till I get a chair," called Percy, starting. "Don't
begin till I get there."
"Here, let me, Percy," said Ben; and he drew forward a big
easy-chair that the boy was tugging at with all his might.
"Now I'm ready, too," said Polly, setting small finishing stitches
quickly with a merry little flourish, and drawing her chair nearer
her mother's as she spoke.
"Now begin, please," said Van, "all the nice times you know."
"She couldn't tell all the nice times if she had ten years to tell them
in, could she, Polly?" said Jasper.
"Well, in the first place then," said Mrs. Pepper, clearing her
throat, "the little brown house had got to be, you know, so we
made up our minds to make it just the nicest brown house that ever
"And it was!" declared Jasper, with an emphatic ring to his voice.
"The very nicest place in the whole world!"
"Oh dear," broke in Van enviously; "Jappy's always said so. I wish
we'd been there, too!"
"We didn't want anybody but Jappy," said Joel not very politely.
"Oh Joey, for shame!" cried Polly.
"Jappy used to bake," cried little Davie; "an' we all made pies; an'
then we sat round an' ate 'em, an' then told stories."
"Oh what fun!" cried Percy. "Do tell us!"
So the five little Peppers and Jasper flew off into reminiscences
and accounts of the funny doings, and Mrs. Pepp~r joined in
heartily till the room got very merry with the glee and enthusiasm
called forth; so much so, that nobody heard Mrs. Whitney knock
gently at the door, and nobody answering, she was obliged to come
in by herself.
"Well, well," she cried, merrily, looking at the swarm of little ones
around Mrs. Pepper and the big chair. "You are having a nice time!
May I come and listen?"
"Oh, if you will, sister," cried Jasper, springing off from his arm of
the chair, while Ben flew from the other side, to hurry and get her
Percy and Van rushed too, knocking over so many things that they
didn't help much; and little Dick poked his head out from Mrs.
Pepper's arms when he saw his mamma sitting down to stay and
began to scramble down to get into her lap.
"There now," said Mrs. Whitney, smiling over at Mrs. Pepper, who
was smiling at her. "You have your baby, and I have mine! Now
children, what's it all about? What has Mrs. Pepper been telling
"Oh, the little brown house," cried Dicky, his cheeks all a-flame.
"The dearest little house mamma! I wish I could live in one!
"Twouldn't be the same without the Peppers in it," said Jasper.
"Not a bit of it!"
"And they had such perfectly elegant times," cried Percy,
enviously, drawing up to her side. "Oh, you can't think, mamma!"
"Well now," said his mamma, "do go on, and let me hear some of
the nice times."
So away they launched again, and Mrs. Whitney was soon
enjoying it as hugely as the children, when a heavy step sounded in
the middle of the room, and a voice spoke in such a tone that
"Well, I should like to know what all this means! I've been all over
the house, and not a trace of anybody could I find."
"Oh father!" cried Mrs. Whitney. "Van, dear, get up and get
grandpapa a chair."
"No, no!" said the old gentleman, waving him off impatiently. "I'm
not going to stay; I must go and lie down. My head is in a bad
condition to-day; very bad indeed," he added.
"Oh!" said Phronsie, popping up her head and looking at him. "I
must get right down."
"What's the matter, Phronsie?" asked Mrs. Pepper, trying to hold
"Oh, but I must," said Phronsie, energetically wriggling. "My poor
sick man wants me, he does." And flying out of her mother's arms,
she ran up to Mr. King, and standing on tiptoe, said softly, "I'll rub
your head, grandpa dear, poor sick man; yes I wilL"
"And you're the best child," cried the old gentleman, catching her
up and marching over to the other side of the room where there
was a lounging chair. "There now, you and I, Phronsie, will stay by
ourselves. Then my head will feel better."
And he sat down and drew her into his arms.
"Does it ache very bad?" said Phronsie, in a soft little voice. Then
reaching up she began to pat and smooth it gently with one little
hand, "Very bad, dear grandpa?"
"It won't," said the old gentleman, "if you only keep on taking care
of it, little Phronsie."
"Then," said the child, perfectly delighted, "rm going to take all
care of you, grandpa, always!"
"So you shall, so you shall!" cried Mr. King, no less delighted than
she was. "Mrs. Pepper!"
"Sir?" said Mrs. Pepper, trying to answer, which she couldn't do
very well surrounded as she was by the crowd of little chatterers.
"Yes, Sir; excuse me what is it, sir?"
"We've got to come to an understanding about this thing," said the
old gentleman, "and I can't talk much to-day, because my headache
won't allow it.
Here the worried look came into Phronsie's face again, and she
began to try to smooth his head with both little hands.
"And so I must say it all in as few words as possible," he
"What is it, sir?" again asked Mrs. Pepper, wonderingly. "Well, the
fact is, I've got to have somebody who will keep this house. Now
Marian, not a word!" as he saw symptoms of Mrs. Whitney's
joining in the conversation. "You've been good; just as good as can
be under the circumstances; but Mason will be home in the fall,
and then I suppose you'll have to go with him. "Now 1," said the
old gentleman, forgetting all about his head, and straightening
himself up suddenly in the chair, "am going to get things into
shape, so that the house will be kept for all of us; so that we can
come or go. And how can I do it better than to have the
Peppers--you, Mrs. Pepper, and all your children--come here and
live, and"-- "Oh, father!" cried Jasper, rushing up to him; and
flinging his arms around his neck, he gave him such a hug as he
hadn't received for many a day.
"Goodness, Jasper!" cried his father, feeling of his throat. "How
can you express your feelings so violently! And, besides, you
"Beg pardon, sir," said Jasper, swallowing his excitement, and
trying to control his eagerness.
"Do you say yes, Mrs. Pepper?" queried the old gentleman
impatiently. "I must get this thing fixed up to-day. I'm really too ill
to be worried ma'am."
"Why sir," stammered Mrs. Pepper, "I don't know what to say. I
couldn't think of imposing all my children on you, and"----
"Imposing! Who's talking of imposing!" said Mr. King in a loud
key. "I want my house kept; will you live here and keep it? That is
"But sir," began Mrs. Pepper again, "you don't think"---- "I do
think; I tell you, ma'am, I do think," snapped the old gentleman.
"It's just because I have thought that I've made up my mind. Will
you do it Mrs. Pepper?"
"What you goin' to do, mamsie?" asked Joel quickly.
"I don't know as I'm going to do anything yet," said poor Mrs.
Pepper, who was almost stunned.
"To come here and live!" cried Jasper, unable to keep still any
longer--and springing to the children. "Don't you want to, Joe?"
"To live!" screamed Joel. "Oh whickety, yes! Do ma, do come here
"To live?" echoed Phronsie, over in the old gentleman's lap. "In
this be-yew-ti-ful place? Oh, oh!"
"Oh, mamsie!" that was all Polly could say.
And even Ben had his arms around his mother's neck, whispering
"Do" into her ear, while little Davie got into her lap and teased her
with all his might.
What shall I do! cried the poor woman. Did ever anybody see the
"It's the very best thing you could possibly do," cried the
old gentleman. "Don't you see it's for the children's advantage?
They'll get such educations, Mrs. Pepper, as you want for them.
And it accommodates me immensely. What obstacle can there be
"If I was only sure 'twas best?" said Mrs. Pepper doubtfully.
"Oh, dear Mrs. Pepper," said Mrs. Whitney, laying her hand on
hers. "Can you doubt it?"
"Then," said Mr. King, getting up, but still holding on to Phronsie,
"we'll consider it settled. This is your home, children," he said,
waving his hand at the five little Peppers in a bunch. And having
thus summarily disposed of the whole business, he marched out
with Phronsie on his shoulder.
POLLY'S DISMAL MORNING
Everything had gone wrong with Polly that day. It began with her
Of all things in the world that tried Polly's patience most were the
troublesome little black buttons that originally adorned those
useful parts of her clothing, and that were fondly supposed to be
there when needed. But they never were. The little black things
seemed to be invested with a special spite, for one by one they
would hop off on the slightest provocation, and go rolling over the
floor, just when she was in her most terrible hurry, compelling her
to fly for needle and thread on the instant. For one thing Mrs.
Pepper was very strict about--and that was, Polly should do
nothing else till the buttons were all on again, and the boots
buttoned up firm and snug.
"Oh dear!" said Polly, sitting down on the floor, and pulling on her
stockings. "There now, see that hateful old shoe, mamsie!" And
she thrust out one foot in dismay.
"What's the matter with it?" said Mrs. Pepper straightening the
things on the bureau. "You haven't worn it out already, Polly?"
"Oh no," said Polly, with a little laugh. "I hope not yet, but it's
these dreadful hateful old buttons!" And she twitched the boot off
from her foot with such an impatient little pull, that three or four
more went flying under the bed. "There now--there's a lot more. I
don't care! I wish they'd all go; they might as well!" she cried,
tossing that boot on the floor in intense scorn, while she
investigated the state of the other one.
"Are they all off?" asked Phronsie, pulling herself up out of a little
heap in the middle of the bed, and leaning over the side, where she
viewed Polly sorrowfully. "Every one, Polly?"
"No," said Polly, "but I wish they were, mean old things; when I
was going down to play a duet with Jasper! We should have had a
good long time before breakfast. Oh, mayn't I go just once,
mamsie? Nobody'll see me if I tuck my foot under the piano; and I
can sew 'em on afterwards--there'll be plenty of time. Do, just
"No," said Mrs. Pepper firmly, "there isn't any time but now. And
piano playing isn't very nice when you've got to stick your toes
under it to keep your shoes on."
"Well then," grumbled Polly, hopping around in her stocking-feet,
"where is the work-basket, mamsie? Oh--here it is on the
window-seat." A rattle of spools, scissors and necessary utensils
showed plainly that Polly had found it, followed by a jumble of
words and despairing ejaculations as she groped hurriedly under
chairs and tables to collect the scattered contents.
When she got back with a very red face, she found Phronsie, who
had crawled out of bed, sitting down on the floor in her little
nightgown and examining the boot with profound interest.
"I can sew 'em, Polly," she said, holding up her hand for the big
needle that Polly was trying to thread--"I can now truly; let me,
"Dear no!" said Polly with a little laugh, beginning to be very
much ashamed. "What could you do with your little mites of hands
pulling this big thread through that old leather? There, scamper
into bed again; you'll catch cold out here.
"Tisn't very cold," said Phronsie, tucking up her toes under the
night-gown, but Polly hurried her into bed, where she curled
herself up under the clothes, watching her make a big knot. But the
knot didn't stay; for when Polly drew up the long thread
triumphantly to the end--out it flew, and away the button hopped
again as if glad to be released. And then the thread kinked
horribly, and got all twisted up in disagreeable little snarls that
took all Polly's patience to unravel.
"It's because you're in such a hurry," said Mrs. Pepper, who was
getting Phionsie's clothes. And coming over across the room she
got down on one knee, and looked over Polly's shoulder. "There
now, let mother see what's the matter."
"Oh dear," said Polly, resigning the needle with a big sigh, and
leaning back to take a good stretch, followed by Phronsie's
sympathizing eyes; "they never'll be on! And there goes the first
bell!" as the loud sounds under Jane's vigorous ringing pealed up
over the stairs. "There won't be time anyway, now! I wish there
wasn't such a thing as shoes in the world!" And she gave a flounce
and sat up straight in front of her mother.
"Polly!" said Mrs. Pepper sternly, deftly fastening the little buttons
tightly into place with quick, firm stitches, "better be glad you've
got them to sew at all. There now, here they are. Those won't come
off in a hurry!"
"Oh, mamsie!" cried Polly, ignoring for a moment the delights of
the finished shoe to fling her arms around her mother's neck and
give her a good hug. "You're just the splendidest, goodest mamsie
in all the world. And I'm a hateful, cross old bear, so I am!" she
cried remorsefully, buttoning herself into her boots. Which done,
she flew at the rest of her preparations and tried to make up for
But 'twas all of no use. The day seemed to be always just racing
ahead of her, and turning a corner, before she could catch up to it,
and Ben and the other boys only caught dissolving views of her as
she flitted through halls or over stairs.
"Where's Polly?" said Percy at last, coming with great
dissatisfaction in his voice to the library door. "We've called her, I
guess a million times, and she won't hurry."
"What do you want to have her do?" asked Jasper, looking up from
the sofa where he had flung himself with a book.
"Why, she said she'd make Van and me our sails you know," said
Percy, holding up a rather forlorn looking specimen of a boat, but
which the boys had carved with the greatest enthusiasm, "and we
want her now."
"Can't you let her alone till she's ready to come?" said Jasper
quickly. "You're always teasing her to do something," he added.
"I didn't tease," said Percy indignantly, coming up to the sofa, boat
in hand, to enforce his words. "She said she'd love to do 'em, so
there, Jasper King!"
"Coming! coming!" sang Polly over the stairs, and bobbing into the
library, "Oh--here you are, Percy! I couldn't come before; mamsie
wanted me. Now, says I, for the sails." And she began to~p out a
long white piece of cotton cloth on the table to trim into just the
"That isn't the way," said Percy, crowding up, the brightness that
had flashed over his face at Polly's appearance beginning to fade.
"Hoh! those won't be good for anything-- those ain't sails."
"I haven't finished," said Polly, snipping away vigorously, and
longing to get back to mamsie. "Wait till they're done; then they'll
be good--as good as can be!"
"And it's bad enough to have to make them," put in Jasper, flinging
aside his book and rolling over to watch them, "without having to
be found fault with every second, Percy."
"They're too big," said Percy, surveying them critically, and then
looking at his boat.
"Oh, that corner's coming off," cried Polly cheerfully, giving it a
sharp cut that sent it flying on the floor. "And they won't be too big
when they're done, Percy, all hemmed and everything. There," as
she held one up for inspection, "that's just the way I used to make
Ben's and mine, when we sailed boats."
"Is it?" asked Percy, looking with more respect at the piece of cloth
Polly was waving alluringly before him. "Just exactly like it,
"Yes," said Polly, laying it down again for a pattern--"oh, how does
this go--oh--that's it, there--yes, this is just exactly like Bensie's and
mine--that was when I was ever so little; and then I used to make
Joel's and Davie's afterwards and"-- "And were theirs just like
this?" asked Percy, laying his hand on the sail she had finished
"Pre-cisely," said Polly, with a pin in her mouth. "Just as like as
two peas, Percy Whitney."
"Then I like them," cried Percy, veering round and regarding them
with great satisfaction--as Van bounded in with a torrent of
complaints, and great disappointment in every line of his face.
"Oh now, that's too bad!" he cried, seeing Polly fold up the
remaining bits of cloth, and pick up the scraps on the floor. "And
you've gone and let her cut out every one of 'em, and never told me
a word! You're a mean, old hateful thing, Percy Whitney!"
"Oh don't!" said Polly, on her knees on the floor.
"I forgot--" began Percy, "and she cut 'em so quick--and--"
"And I've been waiting," said Van, in a loud wrathful key, "and
"Never mind, Van," said Jasper consolingly, getting off from the
sofa and coming up to the table.
"They're done and done beautifully, aren't they?" be said, holding
But this only proved fresh fuel for the fire of Van's indignation.
"And you shan't have 'em, so 1" he cried, making a lunge at the one
on the table, "for I made most of the boat, there!"
"Oh no, you didn't!" cried Percy in the greatest alarm, hanging on
to the boat in his hand. "I cut--all the keel--and the bow--and--"
"Oh dear!" said Polly, in extreme dismay, looking at Jasper.
"Come, I'll tell you what I'll do, boys."
"What?" said Van, cooling off a little, and allowing Percy to edge
into a corner with the beloved boat and one sail. "What will you,
"I'll make you another pair of sails," said Polly groaning within
herself as she thought of the wasted minutes, "and then you can see
me cut 'em, Van."
"Will you really," he said, delight coming all over his flushed face.
"Yes, I will," cricd Polly, "wait a minute till I get some more
cloth." And she started for the door.
"Oh now, that's too bad!" said Jasper. "To have to cut more of
those tiresome old things! Van, let her off!"
"Oh no, I won't! I won't!" he cried in the greatest alarm, running up
to her as she stood by the door. "You did say so, Polly! You know
"Of course I did, Vanny," said Polly, smiling down into his eager
face, "and we'll have a splendid pair in just--one----minute!" she
And so the sails were cut out, and the hems turned down and
basted, and tucked away into Polly's little work-basket ready for
the sewing on the morrow. And then Mr. King came in and took
Jasper off with him; and the two Whitney boys went up to mamma
for a story; and Polly sat down in mamsie's room to tackle her
POLLY'S BIG BUNDLE
The room was very quiet; but presently Phronsie strayed in, and
seeing Polly studying, climbed up in a chair by the window to
watch the birds hop over the veranda and pick up worms in the
grass beside the carriage drive. And then came Mrs. Pepper with
the big mending basket, and ensconced herself opposite by the
table; and nothing was to be heard but the "tick, tick" of the clock,
and an occasional dropping of a spool of thread, or scissors, from
the busy hands flying in and out among the stockings.
All of a sudden there was a great rustling in Cherry's cage that
swung in the big window on the other side of the room. And then
he set up a loud and angry chirping, flying up and down, and
opening his mouth as if he wanted to express his mind, but
couldn't, and otherwise acting in a very strange and unaccountable
"Dear me!" said Mrs. Pepper, "what's that?"
"It's Cherry," said Polly, lifting up her head from "Fasquelle,"
"and--oh, dear me!" and flinging down the pile of books in her lap
on a chair, she rushed across the room and flew up to the cage and
began to wildly gesticulate and explain and shower down on him
every endearing name she could think of.
"What is the matter?" asked her mother, turning around in her
chair in perfect astonishment. "What upon earths Polly!" "How
could I!" cried Polly, in accents of despair, not heeding her
mother's question. "Oh, mamsie, will he die, do you think?"
"I guess not," said Mrs. Pepper, laying down her work and coming
up to the cage, while Phronsie scrambled off from her chair and
hurried to the scene. "Why, he does act queer, don't he? P'raps he's
been eating too much?"
"Eating!" said Polly, "oh mamsie, he hasn't had anything." And she
pointed with shame and remorse to the seed-cup with only a few
dried husks in the very bottom.
"Oh, Polly," began Mrs. Pepper; but seeing the look on her face,
she changed her tone for one more cheerful. "Well, hurry and get
him some now; he'll be all right, poor little thing, in a minute.
There, there," she said, nodding persuasively at the cage, "you
pretty creature you! so you sha'n't be starved."
At the word "starved," Polly winced as though a pin had been
pointed at her.
"There isn't any, mamsie, in the house," she stammered; "he had
the last yesterday."
"And you forgot him to-day?" asked Mrs. Pepper, with a look in
her black eyes Polly didn't like.
"Yes'm," said poor Polly in a low voice.
"Well, he must have something right away," said Mrs. Pepper,
decidedly. "That?s certain."
"I'll run right down to Fletcher's and get it," cried Polly.
"Twon't take me but a minute, mamsie; Jasper's gone, and Thomas,
too, so I've got to go," she added, as she saw her mother hesitate.
"If you could wait till Ben gets home," said Mrs. Pepper, slowly.
"I'm most afraid it will rain, Polly."
"Oh, no, mamsie," cried Polly, feeling as if she could fly to the
ends of the earth to atone, and longing beside for the brisk walk
down town. Going up to the window she pointed triumphantly to
the little bit of blue sky still visible. "There, now, see, it can't rain
"Well," said Mrs. Pepper, while Phronsie, standing in a chair with
her face pressed close to the cage, was telling Cherry through the
bars "not to be hungry, please don't!" which he didn't seem to mind
in the least, but went on screaming harder than ever! "And besides,
'tisn't much use to wait for Ben. Nobody knows where he'll get
shoes to fit himself and Joe and Davie, in one afternoon! But be
sure, Polly, to hurry, for it's getting late, and I shall be worried
"Oh, mamsie," said Polly, turning back just a minute, "I know the
way to Fletcher's just as easy as anything. I couldn't get lost."
"I know you do," said Mrs. Pepper, "but it'll be dark early on
account of the shower. Well," she said, pulling out her well-worn
purse from her pocket, "if it does sprinkle, you get into a car,
"Oh, yes, I will," she cried, taking the purse.
"And there's ten cents for your bird seed in that pocket," said Mrs.
Pepper, pointing to a coin racing away into a corner by itself.
"Yes'm," said Polly, wild to be off.
"And there's a five-cent piece in that one for you to ride up with,"
said her mother, tying up the purse carefully. "Remember, for you
to ride up with. Well, I guess you better ride up anyway, Polly,
come to think, and then you'll get home all the quicker."
"Where you going?" asked Phronsie, who on seeing the purse knew
there was some expedition on foot, and beginning to clamber
down out of the chair. "Oh, I want to go too, I do. Take me, Polly!"
"Oh, no, Pet, I can't," cried Polly, "I've got to hurry like
"I can hurry too," cried Phronsie, drawing her small figure to its
utmost height, "oh, so fast, Polly!"
"And it's ever so far," cried Polly, in despair, as she saw the small
under lip of the child begin to quiver. "Oh, dear me, mamsie, what
shall I do!"
"Run right along," said Mrs. Pepper, briskly. "Now, Phronsie, you
and I ought to take care of Cherry, poor thing."
At this Phronsie turned and wiped away two big tears, while she
gazed up at the cage in extreme commiseration.
"I guess I'll give him a piece of bread," said Mrs. Pepper to herself.
At this word "bread," Polly, who was half way down the hall, came
"Oh, mamsie, don't," she said. "It made him sick before, don't you
know it did--so fat and stuffy."
"Well, hurry along then," said Mrs. Pepper, and Polly was off.
Over the ground she sped, only intent on reaching the bird store,
her speed heightened by the dark and rolling bank of cloud that
seemed to shut right down suddenly over her and envelop her
"It's good I've got the money to ride up with," she thought to
herself, hurrying along through the busy streets, filled now with
anxious crowds homeward rushing to avoid the threatening
shower. "Well, here I am," she said with a sigh of relief, as she at
last reached Mr. Fletcher's big bird store.
Here she steadily resisted all temptations to stop and look at the
new arrivals of birds, and to feed the carrier-pigeons who seemed
to be expecting her, and who turned their soft eyes up at her
reproachfully when she failed to pay her respects to them. Even
the cunning blandishments of a very attractive monkey that always
had entertained the children on their numerous visits, failed to
interest her now. Mamsie would be worrying, she knew; and
besides, the sight of so many birds eating their suppers out of
generously full seed-cups, only filled her heart with remorse as she
thought of poor Cherry and his empty one.
So she put down her ten cents silently on the counter, and took up
the little package of seed, and went out.
But what a change! The cloud that had seemed but a cloud when
she went in, was now fast descending in big ominous sprinkles that
told of a heavy shower to follow. Quick and fast they came,
making everybody fly to the nearest shelter.
"I don't care," said Polly to herself, holding fast her little package.
"I'll run and get in the car--then I'll be all right."
So she went on with nimble footsteps, dodging the crowd, and
soon came to the corner. A car was just in sight--that was fine!
Polly put her hand in her pocket for her purse, to have it all
ready--but as quickly drew it out again and stared wildly at the car,
which she allowed to pass by. Her pocket was empty!
"Oh, dear," she said to herself, as a sudden gust of wind blew
around the corner, and warned her to move on, "now what shall I
do! Well, I must hurry. Nothing for it but to run now!"
And secretly glad at the chance for a good hearty run along the
hard pavements, a thing she had been longing to do ever since she
came to the city, Polly gathered her bundle of seed up under her
arm, and set out for a jolly race. She was enjoying it hugely,
when--a sudden turn of the corner brought her up against a
gentleman, who, having his umbrella down to protect his face,
hadn't seen her till it was too late.
Polly never could tell how it was done; but the first thing she knew
she was being helped up from the wet, slippery pavement by a kind
hand; and a gentleman's voice said in the deepest concern:
"I beg your pardon; it was extremely careless in me."
"It's no matter," said Polly, hopping up with a little laugh, and
straightening her hat. "Only--" and she began to look for her parcel
that had been sent spinning.
"What is it?" said the gentleman, bending down and beginning to
explore, too, in the darkness.
"My bundle," began Polly. "Oh, dear!"
No need to ask for it now! There lay the paper wet and torn, down
at their feet. The seed lay all over the pavement, scattered far and
wide even out to the puddles in the street. And not a cent of money
to get any more with! The rain that was falling around them as
they stood there sent with the sound of every drop such a flood of
misery into Polly's heart!
"What was it, child?" asked the gentleman, peering sharply to find
out what the little shiny things were.
"Bird-seed," gasped Polly.
"Is that all?" said the gentleman with a happy laugh. "I'm very
"All!" Polly's heart stood still as she thought of Cherry, stark and
stiff in the bottom of his cage, if he didn't get it soon. "Now," said
the kind tones, briskly, "come, little girl, we'll make this all right
speedily. Let's see--here's a bird store. Now, then."
"But, sir--" began Polly, holding back.
Even Cherry had better die than to do anything her mother
wouldn't like. But the gentleman already had her in the shop, and
was delighting the heart of the shop-keeper by ordering him to do
up a big package of all kinds of seed. And then he added a cunning
arrangement for birds to swing in, and two or three other things
that didn't have anything to do with birds at all. And then they
came out on the wet, slippery street again.
"Now, then, little girl," said the gentleman, tucking the bundle
under his arm, and opening the umbrella; then he took hold of
Polly's hand, who by this time was glad of a protector. "Where do
you live? For I'm going to take you safely home this time where
unbrellas can't run into you."
"Oh!" said Polly, with a little skip. "Thank you sir! It's up to Mr.
"What!" said the gentleman, stopping short in the midst of an
immense puddle, and staring at her, "Mr. Jasper King's?"
"I don't know sir," said Polly, "what his other name is. Yes it must
be Jasper; that's what Jappy's is, anyway," she added with a little
laugh, wishing very much that she could see Jappy at that identical
"Jappy!" said the stranger, still standing as if petrified. "And are
there little Whitney children in the same house!"
"Oh, yes," said Polly, raising her clear, brown eyes up at him. The
gas lighter was just beginning his rounds, and the light from a
neighboring lamp flashed full on Polly's face as she spoke,
showing just how clear and brown the eyes were. "There's Percy,
and Van, and little Dick--oh, he's so cunning!" she cried,
The gentleman's face looked very queer just then; but he merely
"Why, you must be Polly?"
"Yes, sir, I am," said Polly, pleased to think he knew her. And then
she told him how she'd forgotten Cherry's seed, and all about it.
"And oh, sir," she said, and her voice began to tremble, "
Mamsie'll be so frightened if I don't get there soon!
"I'm going up there myself, so that it all happens very nicely," said
the gentleman, commencing to start off briskly, and grasping her
hand tighter. "Now, then, Polly."
So off they went at a very fast pace; she, skipping through the
puddles that his long, even strides carried him safely over,
chattered away by his side under the umbrella, and answered his
many questions, and altogether got so very well acquainted that by
the time they turned in at the old stone gateway, she felt as if she
had known him for years.
And there, the first thing they either of them saw, down in a little
corner back of the tall evergreens, was a small heap that rose as
they splashed up the carriage-drive, and resolved itself into a very
red dress and a very white apron, as it rushed impulsively up and
flung itself into Polly's wet arms:
"And I was so tired waiting, Polly!"
"Oh dear me, Phronsie!" cried Polly, huddling her up from the
dark, wet ground. "You'll catch your death! What will mamsie
The stranger, amazed at this new stage of the proceedings, was
vainly trying to hold the umbrella over both, till the procession
could move on again.
"Oh!" cried Phronsie, shaking her yellow head decidedly, "they're
all looking for you, Polly." She pointed one finger solemnly up to
the big carved door as she spoke. At that Polly gathered her up
close and began to walk with rapid footsteps up the path.
"Do let me carry you, little girl," said Polly's kind friend
persuasively, bending down to the little face on Polly's neck.
"Oh, no, no, no!" said Phronsie, at each syllable grasping Polly
around the throat in perfect terror, and waving him off with a very
crumpled, mangy bit of paper, that had already done duty to wipe
off the copious tears during her anxious watch. "Don't let him,
"There sha'n't anything hurt you," said Polly, kissing her
reassuringly, and stepping briskly off with her burden, just as the
door burst open, and Joel flew out on the veranda steps, followed
by the rest of the troop in the greatest state of excitement.
"Oh, whickety! she's come 1' he shouted, springing up to her over
the puddles, and crowding under the umbrella. "Where'd you get
Phronsie?" he asked, standing quite still at sight of the little feet
tucked up to get out of the rain. And without waiting for an answer
he turned and shot back into the house proclaiming in stentorian
tones, "Ma, Polly's come--an' she's got Phronsie--an' an awful big
man--and they're out by the gate!"
"Phronsie!" said Mrs. Pepper, springing to her feet, "why, I thought
she was up-stairs with Jane."
"Now, somebody," exclaimed old Mr. King, who sat by the library
table vainly trying to read a newspaper, which he now threw down
in extreme irritation as he rose quickly and went to the door to
welcome the wanderers, "somebody ought to watch that poor
child, whose business it is to know where she is! She's, caught her
death-cold, no doubt, no doubt!"
Outside, in the rain, the children revolved around and around Polly
and Phronsie, hugging and kissing them, until nobody could do
much more than breathe, not seeming to notice the stranger, who
stood quietly waiting till such time as he could be heard.
At last, in a lull in the scramble, as they were dragging Polly and
her burden up the steps, each wild for the honor of escorting her
into the house, he cried out in laughing tones:
"Isn't anybody going to kiss me, I wonder!"
The two little Whitneys, who were eagerly clutching Polly's arms,
turned around; and Percy rubbed his eyes in a puzzled way, as Joel
said, stopping a minute to look up at the tall figure:
"We don't ever kiss strangers--mamsie's told us not to."
"For shame, Joey!" cried PoIly, feeling her face grow dreadfully
red in the darkness, "the gentleman's been so kind to me!"
"You're right, my boy," said the stranger, laughing and bending
down to Joel's upturned, sturdy countenance, at the same instant
that Mrs. Pepper flung open the big door, and a bright, warm light
fell straight across his handsome face. And then-- Well, then Percy
gave a violent bound, and upsetting Joel as he did so, wriggled his
way down the steps--at the same time that Van, on Polly's other
side, rushed up to the gentleman:
Polly, half way up the steps, turned around, and then, at the rush of
feeling that gathered at her heart, sat right down on the wet
"Why, Polly Pepper!" exclaimed Joel, not minding his own upset.
"You're right in all the slush--mother won't like it, I tell you!"
"Hush!" cried Polly, catching his arm, "he's come--oh, Joel --he's
"Who?" cried Joel, staring around blindly, "who, Polly?" Polly had
just opened her lips to explain, when Mr. King's portly, handsome
figure appeared in the doorway. "Do come in, children--why--good
"Yes," cried the stranger, lightly, dropping his big bundle and
umbrella as he passed in the door, with his little sons clinging to
him. "Where is Marian?"
"Why didn't you write?" asked the old gentleman, testily. "These
surprises aren't the right sort of things," and he began to feel
vigorously of his heart. "Here, Mrs. Pepper, be so good as to call
"Pepper! Pepper!" repeated Mr. Whitney, perplexedly.
"She's coming--I hear her up-stairs," cried Van Whitney. "Oh, let
me tell her!" He struggled to get down from his father's arms as he
"No, I shall--I heard her first!" cried Percy. "Oh, dear me!
Grandpapa's going to!"
Mr. King advanced to the foot of the staircase as his daughter, all
unconscious, ran down with a light step, and a smile on her face.
"Has Polly come?" she asked, seeing only her father. "Yes," replied
the old gentleman, shortly, "and she's brought a big bundle,
"A big bundle?" she repeated wonderingly, and gazing at him.
"A very big bundle," he said, and taking hold of her shoulders he
turned her around on--her husband.
So Polly and Phronsie crept in unnoticed after all.
"I wish Ben was here," said little Davie, capering around the
Whitney group, "an' Jappy, I do!"
"Where are they!" asked Polly.
"Don't know," said Joel, tugging at his shoe-string. "See-- aren't
these prime!" He held up a shining black shoe, fairly bristling with
newness, for Polly to admire.
"Splendid," she cried heartily; "but where are the boys?"
"They went after you," said Davie, "after we came home with our
"No, they didn't," contradicted Joel, flatly; and sitting down on the
floor he began to tie and untie his new possessions. "When we
came home Ben drew us pictures--lots of 'em--don't you know?"
"Oh, yes," said Davie, nodding his head, "so he did; that was when
we all cried 'cause you weren't home, Polly."
"He drawed me a be-yew-tiful one," cried Phronsie, holding up her
mangy bit; "see, Polly, see!"
"That's the little brown house," said Davie, looking over her
shoulder as Phronsie put it carefully into Polly's hand.
"It's all washed out," said Polly, smoothing it out, "when you staid
out in the rain."
Phronsie's face grew very grave at that.
"Bad, naughty old rain," she said, and then she began to cry as hard
as she could.
"Oh dear, don't!" cried Polly in dismay, trying her best to stop her,
"oh, Phronsie, do stop!" she implored, pointing into the next room
whence the sound of happy voices issued, "they'll all hear you!"
But Phronsie in her grief didn't care, but wailed on steadily.
"Who is it anyway?" cried Joel, tired of admiring his precious
shoes, and getting up to hear them squeak, "that great big man, you
know, Polly, that came in with you?"
"Why, I thought I told you," said Polly, at her wit's end over
Phronsie. "It's Percy and Van's father, Joey!"
"Whockeyl" cried Joel, completely stunned, "really and truly, Polly
"Really and truly," cried Polly, bundling Phronsie up in her arms to
lay the little wet cheek against hers.
"Then I'm going to peek," cried Joel, squeaking across the floor to
carry his threat into execution.
"Oh, you mustn't, Joe!" cried Polly, frightened lest he should.
"Come right back, or I'll tell mamsie!"
"They're all comin' in, anyway," cried little Davie, delightedly, and
scuttling over to Polly's side.
"And here are the little friends I've heard so much about!" cried
Mr. Whitney coming in amongst them. "Oh, you needn't introduce
me to Polly--she brought me home!"
"They're all Pepperses," said Percy, waving his hand, and doing the
business up at one stroke.
"Only the best of 'em isn't here," observed Van, rather ungallantly,
"he draws perfectly elegant, papa!"
"1 like Polly best, I do!" cried little Dick, tumbling after.
"Peppers!" again repeated Mr. Whitney in a puzzled way. "And
here is Mrs. Pepper," said old Mr. King, pompously drawing her
forward, "the children's mother, and--"
But here Mrs. Pepper began to act in a very queer way, rubbing her
eyes and twisting one corner of her black apron in a decidedly
nervous manner that, as the old gentleman looked up, he saw with
astonishment presently communicated itself to the gentleman
"Is it," said Mr. Whitney, putting out his hand and grasping the
hard, toil-worn one in the folds of the apron, "is it cousin Mary?"
"And aren't you cousin John?" she asked, the tears in her bright
"Of all things in this world!" cried the old gentleman, waving his
head helplessly from one to the other. "Will somebody have the
extreme goodness to tell us what all this means?"
At this the little Peppers crowded around their mother, and into all
the vacant places they could find, to get near the fascinating scene.
"Well," said Mr. Whitney, sitting down and drawing his wife to his
side, "it's a long story. You see, when I was a little youngster,
"You were John Whitney then," put in Mrs. Pepper, slyly. "That's
the reason I never knew when they were all talking of Mason
"John Whitney I was," said Mr. Whitney, laughing, "or rather,
Johnny and Jack. But Grandmother Mason, when I grew older,
wanted me called by my middle name to please grandfather. But to
go back--when I was a little shaver, about as big as Percy here--"
"Oh, papa!" began Percy, deprecatingly. To be called "a little
shaver" before all the others!
"He means, dearie," said his mamma, reassuringly, "when he was a
boy like you. Now hear what papa is going to say."
"Well, I was sent up into Vermont to stay at the old place. There
was a little girl there; a bright, black-eyed little girl. She was my
cousin, and her name was Mary Bartlett."
"Who's Mary Bartlett?" asked Joel, interrupting.
"There she is, sir," said Mr. Whitney, pointing to Mrs. Pepper, who
was laughing and crying together.
"Where?" said Joel, utterly bewildered. "I don't see any Mary
Bartlett. What does he mean, Polly?"
"I don't know," said Polly. "Wait, Joey," she whispered, "he's going
to tell us all about it."
"Well, this little cousin and I went to the district school, and had
many good times together. And then my parents sent for me, and I
went to Germany to school; and when I came back I lost sight of
her. All I could find out was that she had married an Englishman
by the name of Pepper."
"Oh!" cried all the children together.
"And I always supposed she had gone to England for despite all
my exertions, I could find no trace of her. Ah, Mary," he said
reproachfully, "why didn't you let me know where you were?"
"I heard," said Mrs. Pepper, "that you'd grown awfully rich, and I
"You always were a proud little thing," he said laughing. "Well,
but," broke in Mr. King, unable to keep silence any longer, "I'd like
to inquire, Mason, why you didn't find all this out before, in
Marian's letters, when she mentioned Mrs. Pepper?"
"She didn't ever mention her," said Mr. Whitney, turning around to
face his questioner, "not as Mrs. Pepper--never once by name. It
was always either 'Polly's mother,' or 'Phronsie's mother.' Just like a
woman," he added, with a mischievous glance at his wife, "not to
"And just like a man," she retorted, with a happy little laugh, "not
to ask for explanations."
"I hear Jappy," cried Polly, in a glad voice, "and Ben--oh, good!" as
a sound of rushing footsteps was heard over the veranda steps, and
down the long hall.
The door was thrown suddenly open, and Jasper plunged in, his
face flushed with excitement, and after him Ben, looking a little as
he did when Phronsie was lost, while Prince squeezed panting in
between the two boys.
"Has Polly got"--began Jasper.
"Oh, yes, I'm here," cried Polly, springing up to them; "oh, Ben!"
"She has," cried Joel, disentangling himself from the group, "don't
you see, Jappy?"
"She's all home," echoed Pbronsie, flying up. "Oh, Ben, do draw
me another little house!"
"And see--see!" cried the little Whitneys, pointing with jubilant
fingers to their papa, "see what she brought!"
Jasper turned around at that--and then rushed forward.
"Oh, brother Mason!"
"Well, Jasper," said Mr. Whitney, a whole wealth of affection
beaming on the boy, "how you have stretched up in six months!"
"Haven't I?" said Jasper, laughing, and drawing himself up to his
"He's a-standin' on tip-toe," said Joel critically, who was hovering
near. "I most know he is!" and he bent down to examine the
position of Jasper's heels.
"Not a bit of it, Joe!" cried Jasper, with a merry laugh, and setting
both feet with a convincing thud on the floor.
"Well, anyway, I'll be just as big," cried Joel, "when I'm thirteen,
Just then a loud and quick rap on the table made all the children
skip, and stopped everybody's tongue. It came from Mr. King.
"Phronsie," said he, "come here, child. I can't do anything without
you," and held out his hand. Phronsie immediately left Ben, who
was hanging over Polly as if he never meant to let her go out of his
sight again, and went directly over to the old gentleman's side.
"Now, then!" He swung her upon his shoulder, where she perched
like a little bird, gravely surveying the whole group. One little
hand stole around the old gentleman's neck, and patted his cheek
softly, which so pleased him that for a minute or two he stood
perfectly still so that everybody might see it.
"Now, Phronsie, yoti must tell all these children so that they'll
understand--say everything just as I tell you, mind!"
"I will," said Phronsie, shaking her small head wisely, "every
"Well, then, now begin--"
"Well, then, now begin," said Phronsie, looking down on the faces
with an air as much like Mr. King's as was possible, and finishing
up with two or three little nods.
"Oh, no, dear, that isn't it," cried the old gentleman, "I'll tell you.
Say, Phronsie, 'you are all cousins--every one.'"
"You are all cousins--every one," repeated little Phronsie, simply,
shaking her yellow head into the very middle of the group.
"Does she mean it, grandpapa? Does she mean it?" cried Percy, in
the greatest excitement.
"As true as everything?" demanded Joel, crowding in between
"As true as--truth!" said the old gentleman solemnly, patting the
child's little fat hand. "So make the most of it."
"Oh!" said Polly, with a long sigh. And then Jasper and she took
hold of hands and had a good spin!
Joel turned around with two big eyes on Percy.
"We're cousins!" he said.
"I know it," said Percy, "and so's Van!"
"Yes," said Van, flying up, "and I'm cousin to Polly, too-- that's
"Can't I be a Cousin?" cried little Dick, crowding up, with two red
cheeks. "Isn't anybody going to be a cousin to me, too?"
"Everybody but Jasper," said the old gentleman, laughing heartily
at them. "You and I, my boy," he turned to his son, "are left out in
At this a scream, loud and terrible to hear, struck upon them all, as
Joel flung himself flat on the floor.
"Isn't Jappy--our---cousin? I--want --Jappy!"
"Goodness!" exclaimed the old gentleman, in the greatest alarm,
"what is the matter with the boy! Do somebody stop him!"
"Joel," said Jasper, leaning over him, and trying to help Polly lift
him up. "I'll tell you how we'll fix it! I'll be your brother .
That's best of all--brother to Polly, and Ben and the whole of
you--then we'll see!"
Joel bolted up at that, and began to smile through the tears running
down the rosy face.
"Will you, really?" he said, "just like Ben--and everything?"
"I can't be as good as Ben," said Jappy, laughing, "but I'll be a real
brother like him."
"Fhoo--phoo! Then I don't care!" cried Joel wiping off the last tear
on the back of his chubby hand. "Now I guess we're better'n you,"
he exclaimed with a triumphant glance over at the little Whitneys,
as he began to make the new shoes skip at a lively pace up and
down the long room.
"Oh, dear!" they both cried in great distress.
"Now, papa, Jappy's going to be Joey's brother--and he isn't
anything but our old uncle! Make him be ours more, papa, do!"
And then Polly sprang up.
"Oh! oh--deary me!" And she rushed out into the hall and began to
tug violently at the big bundle, tossed down in a corner. "Cherry'll
die--Cherry'll die!" she cried, "do somebody help me off with the
But Polly already had it off by the time Jasper's knife was half out
of his pocket, and was kneeling down on the floor scooping out a
big handful of the seed.
"Don't hurry so, Polly," said Jasper, as she jumped up to fly
up-stairs. "He's had some a perfect age--he's all right."
"What!" said Polly, stopping so suddenly that two or three little
seeds flew out of the outstretched hand and went dancing away to
the foot of the stairs by themselves.
"Oh, I heard him scolding away there when I first came home,"
said Jasper, "so I just ran down a block or two, and got him some."
"Is that all there is in that big bundle?" said Joel in a disappointed
tone, who had followed with extreme curiosity to see its contents.
"Phoo!--that's no fun--old bird-seed!"
"I know," said Polly with a gay little laugh, pointing with the
handful of seed into the library, "but I shouldn't have met the other
big bundle if it hadn't have been for this, Joe!"