A Letter to Jasper continued…
(start the audio where part 1 left off)
“Read it, Polly,” said Mrs. Pepper, in pride.
So Polly began: “Dear Mister Jasper we were all dreadfully sorry that you didn’t come and so we baked you some cakes.’–You didn’t say anything about his being sick, Ben.”
“I forgot it,” said Ben, “but I put it in farther down–you’ll see if you read on.”
“Baked you some cakes–that is, Polly did, for this is Ben that’s writing.”
“You needn’t said that, Ben,” said Polly, dissatisfied; “we all baked ’em, I’m sure. And just as soon as you get well we do want you to come over and have the baking. We’re real sorry you’re sick–boneset’s good for colds.”
“Oh, Ben!” said Mrs. Pepper, “I guess his father knows what to give him.”
“And oh! the bitter stuff!” cried Polly, with a wry face. “Well, it’s hard work to write,” said Ben, yawning. “I’d rather chop wood.”
“I wish I knew how,” exclaimed Joel, longingly.
“Just you try every day; Ben’ll teach you, Joe,” said his mother, eagerly, “and then I’ll let you write.”
“I will!” cried Joe; “then, Dave, you’ll see how I’ll write– I tell you!”
“And I’m goin’ to–ma, can’t I?” said Davie, unwilling to be outdone.
“Yes, you may, be sure,” said Mrs. Pepper, delighted; “that’ll make a man of you fast.”
“Oh, boys,” said Polly, lifting a very red face, “you joggle the table so I can’t do anything.”
“I wasn’t jogglin’,” said Joel; “the old thing tipped. Look!” he whispered to Davie, “see Polly, she’s writing crooked.”
So while the others hung around her and looked over her shoulder while they made their various comments, Polly finished her part, and also held it up for inspection.
“Let us see,” said Ben, taking it up.
“It’s after, ‘boneset’s good for colds,'” said Polly, puckering up her face again at the thought.
“We most of us knew you were sick–I’m Polly now–because you didn’t come; and we liked your letter telling us so, — “Oh, Polly! we weren’t glad to hear he was sick!” cried Ben, in horror.
“I didn’t say so!” cried Polly, starting up. “Why, Ben Pepper, I never said so!” and she looked ready to cry.
“It sounds something like it, don’t it, mammy?” said Ben, unwilling to give her pain, but appealing to Mrs. Pepper.
“Polly didn’t mean it,” said her mother consolingly; “but if I were you, I’d say something to explain it.”
“I can’t put anything in now,” said poor Polly; “there isn’t any room nor any more paper either–what shall I do! I told you, Ben, I couldn’t write.” And Polly looked helplessly from one to the other for comfort.
“Yes, you can,” said Ben; “there, now I’ll show you: write it fine, Polly–you write so big–little bits of letters, like these.”
So Polly took the pen again with a sigh. “Now he won’t think so, I guess,” she said, much relieved, as Ben began to read again.
“I’ll begin yours again,” Ben said: “We most of us knew you were sick because you didn’t come, and we liked your letter telling us so because we’d all felt so badly, and Phronsie cried herself to sleep’– (that’s good, I’m sure.) ‘The “gingerbread boy” is for your father–please excuse it, but Phronsie would make it for him because he is sick. There isn’t any more to write, and besides I can’t write good, and Ben’s tired. From all of us.'”
“Why, how’s he to know?” cried Ben. “That won’t do to sign it.”
“Well, let’s say from Ben and Polly then,” said Polly; “only all the others want to be in the letter.”
“Well, they can’t write,” said Ben.
“We might sign their names for ’em,” suggested Polly.
“Here’s mine,” said Ben, putting under the “From all of us” a big, bold “Ben.”
“And here’s mine,” echoed Polly, setting a slightly crooked “Polly” by its side.
“Now Joe, you better let Ben hold your hand,” said Polly, warningly. But Joel declaring he could write had already begun, so there was no hope for it; and a big drop of ink falling from the pen, he spattered the “J” so that no one could tell what it was. The children looked at each other in despair.
“Can we ever get it out, mammy?” said Polly, running to Mrs. Pepper with it.
“I don’t know,” said her mother. “How could you try it, Joe?”
“I didn’t mean to,” said Joel, looking very downcast and ashamed. “The ugly old pen did it!”
“Well,” said Polly, “it’s got to go; we can’t help it.” But she looked so sorrowful over it that half the pleasure was gone for Ben; for Polly wanted everything just right, and was very particular about things.
“Now, Dave.” Ben held his hand, and “David” went down next to Joel.
But when it was Phronsie’s turn, she protested that Polly, and no one else, must hold her hand.
“It’s a dreadful hard name to write–Phronsie is,” said Polly, as she guided Phronsie’s fat little hand that clung faithfully to the stubby old pen. “There, it’s over now,” she cried; “and I’m thankful! I wouldn’t write another for anything!”
“Read it all over now, Ben,” cried Mrs. Pepper, “and don’t speak, children, till he gets through.”
“Don’t it sound elegant!” said Polly, clasping her hands, when he had finished. “I didn’t think we ever could do it so nice, did you, Ben?”
“No, indeed, I didn’t,” replied Ben, in a highly ecstatic frame of mind. “Now–oh! what’ll we do for an envelope?” he asked in dismay.
“You’ll have to do without that,” said Mrs. Pepper, “for there isn’t any in the house–but see here, children,” she added, as she saw the sorry faces before her–“you just fold up the letter, and put it inside the parcel; that’ll be just as good.”
“Oh dear,” said Polly; “but it would have been splendid the other way, mammy–just like other folks!”
“You must make believe this is like other folks,” said Mrs. Pepper, cheerily, “when you can’t do any other way.”
“Yes,” said Ben, “that’s so, Polly; tie ’em up quick’s you can, and I’ll take ’em over to Deacon Blodgett’s, for he’s goin’ to start early in the morning.”
So after another last look all around, Polly put the cakes in the paper, and tied it with four or five strong knots, to avoid all danger of its undoing.
“He never’ll untie it, Polly,” said Ben; “that’s just like a girl’s knots!”
“Why didn’t you tie it then?” said Polly; “I’m sure it’s as good as a boy’s knots, and they always muss up a parcel so.” And she gave a loving, approving little pat to the top of the package, which, despite its multitude of knots, was certainly very neat indeed.
Ben, grasping the pen again, “here goes for the direction.”
“Deary, yes!” said Polly. “I forgot all about that; I thought ’twas done.”
“How’d you s’pose he’d get it?” asked Ben, coolly beginning the “M.”
“I don’t know,” replied Polly, looking over his shoulder; “s’pose anybody else had eaten ’em up, Ben!” And she turned pale at the very thought.
“There,” said Ben, at last, after a good many flourishes, “now ’tis done! you can’t think of another thing to do to it, Polly!”
“Mamsie, see!” cried Polly, running with it to Mrs. Pepper, “isn’t that fine! ‘Mr. Jasper E. King, at the Hotel Hingham.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Pepper, admiringly, to the content of all the children, “I should think it was!”
“Let me take it in my hand,” screamed Joel, reaching eagerly up for the tempting brown parcel.
“Be careful then, Joe,” said Polly, with an important air. So Joel took a comfortable feel, and then Davie must have the same privilege. At last it was off, and with intense satisfaction the children watched Ben disappear with it down the long hill to Deacon Blodgett’s.
The next day Ben came running in from his work at the deacon’s.
“Oh, Polly, you had ’em!” he screamed, all out of breath. “You had ’em!”
“Had what?” asked Polly in astonishment. “Oh, Bensie, what do you mean?”
“Your flowers,” he panted. “You sent some flowers to Jasper.”
“Flowers to Jasper!” repeated Polly, afraid Ben had gone out of his wits.
“Yes,” said Ben; “I’ll begin at the beginning. You see, Polly, when I went down this morning, Betsey was to set me to work. Deacon Blodgett and Mrs. Blodgett had started early, you know; and while I was a-cleanin’ up the woodshed, as she told me, all of a sudden she said, as she stood in the door looking on, ‘Oh, Ben, Mis’ Blodgett took some posies along with your parcel.’ ‘What?’ said I; I didn’t know as I’d heard straight. ‘Posies, I said,’ says Betsey; ‘beautiful ones they were, too, the best in the garden. I heard her tell Mr. Blodgett it would be a pity if that sick boy couldn’t have some flowers, and she knew the Pepper children were crazy about ’em, so she twisted ’em in the string around the parcel, and there they stood up and looked fine, I tell you, as they drove away.’ So, Polly!”
“Bensie Pepper!” cried Polly, taking hold of his jacket, and spinning him round, “I told you so! I told you so!”
“I know you did,” said Ben, as she gave him a parting whirl, “an’ I wish you’d say so about other things, Polly, if you can get ’em so easy.”