Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Chapter 16 – Part 2

Getting a Christmas for the Little Ones   continued…
(Start the audio where Part 1 left off)

So after that, when nightfall first began to make its appearance, Polly would hint mildly about bedtime.

“You hustle us so!” said Joel, after he had been sent off to bed for two or three nights unusually early.

“Oh, Joey, it’s good for you to get to bed,” said Polly, coaxingly; “it’ll make you grow, you know, real fast,”

“Well, I don’t grow a-bed,” grumbled Joel, who thought something was in the wind. “You and Ben are going to talk, I know, and wink your eyes, as soon as we’re gone.”

“Well, go along, Joe, that’s a good boy,” said Polly, laughing, “and you’ll know some day.”

“What’ll you give me?” asked Joel, seeing a bargain, his foot on the lowest stair leading to the loft, “say, Polly?”

“Oh, I haven’t got much to give,” she said, cheerily; “but I’ll tell you what, Joey–I’ll tell you a story every day that you go to bed.”

“Will you?” cried Joe, hopping back into the room. “Begin now, Polly, begin now!”

“Why, you haven’t been to bed yet,” said Polly, “so I can’t till to-morrow.”

“Yes, I have–you’ve made us go for three–no, I guess fourteen nights,” said Joel, indignantly.

“Well, you were made to go,” laughed Polly. “I said if you’d go good, you know; so run along, Joe, and I’ll tell you a nice one to-morrow.”

“It’s got to be long,” shouted Joel, when he saw he could get no more, making good time up to the loft.

To say that Polly, in the following days, was Master Joel’s slave, was stating the case lightly. However, she thought by her story-telling she got off easily, as each evening saw the boys drag their unwilling feet to bed, and leave Ben and herself in peace to plan and work undisturbed. There they would sit by the little old table, around the one tallow candle, while Mrs. Pepper sewed away busily, looking up to smile or to give some bits of advice; keeping her own secret meanwhile, which made her blood leap fast, as the happy thoughts nestled in her heart of her little ones and their coming glee. And Polly made the loveliest of paper dolls for Phronsie out of the rest of the bits of bright paper; and Ben made windmills and whistles for the boys; and a funny little carved basket with a handle, for Phronsie, out of a hickory nut shell; and a new pink calico dress for Seraphina peered out from the top drawer of the old bureau in the bedroom, whenever anyone opened it–for Mrs. Pepper kindly let the children lock up their treasures there as fast as completed.

“I’ll make Seraphina a bonnet,” said Mrs. Pepper, “for there’s that old bonnet-string in the bag, you know, Polly, that’ll make it beautiful.”

“Oh, do, mother,” cried Polly, “she’s been wanting a new one awfully.”

“And I’m going to knit some mittens for Joel and David,” continued Mrs. Pepper; “cause I can get the yarn cheap now. I saw some down at the store yesterday I could have at half price.”

“I don’t believe anybody’ll have as good a Christmas as we shall,” cried Polly, pasting on a bit of trimming to the gayest doll’s dress; “no, not even Jappy.”

An odd little smile played around Mrs. Pepper’s mouth, but she said not a word, and so the fun and the work went on.

The tree was to be set up in the Provision Room; that was finally decided, as Mrs. Pepper showed the children how utterly useless it would be to try having it in the kitchen.

“I’ll find the key, children,” she said, “I think I know where ’tis, and then we can keep them out.”

“Well, but it looks so,” said Polly, demurring at the prospect.

“Oh, no, Polly,” said her mother; “at any rate it’s clean.”

“Polly,” said Ben, “we can put evergreen around, you know,

“So we can,” said Polly, brightly; “oh, Ben, you do think of the best things; we couldn’t have had them in the kitchen.”

“And don’t let’s hang the presents on the tree,” continued Ben; “let’s have the children hang up their stockings; they want to, awfully–for I heard David tell Joel this morning before we got up–they thought I was asleep, but I wasn’t–that he did so wish they could, but, says he, ‘Don’t tell mammy, ’cause that’ll make her feel bad.”

“The little dears!” said Mrs. Pepper, impulsively; “they shall have their stockings, too.”

“And we’ll make the tree pretty enough,” said Polly, enthusiastically; “we shan’t want the presents to hang on; we’ve got so many things. And then we’ll have hickory nuts to eat; and perhaps mammy’ll let us make some molasses candy the day before,” she said, with a sly look at her mother.

“You may,” said Mrs. Pepper, smiling.

“Oh, goody!” they both cried, hugging each other ecstatically.

“And we’ll have a frolic in the Provision Room afterwards,” finished Polly; “oh! ooh!”

And so the weeks flew by–one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! till only the three days remained, and to think the fun that Polly and Ben had had already!

“It’s better’n a Christmas,” they told their mother, “to get ready for it!”

“It’s too bad you can’t hang up your stockings,” said Mrs. Pepper, looking keenly at their flushed faces and bright eyes; “you’ve never hung ’em up.”

“That isn’t any matter, mamsie,” they both said, cheerily; “it’s a great deal better to have the children have a nice time–oh, won’t it be elegant! p’r’aps we’ll have ours next year!”

For two days before, the house was turned upside down for Joel to find the biggest stocking he could; but on Polly telling him it must be his own, he stopped his search, and bringing down his well- worn one, hung it by the corner of the chimney to be ready.

“You put yours up the other side, Dave,” he advised.

“There isn’t any nail,” cried David, investigating.

“I’ll drive one,” said Joel, so he ran out to the tool-house, as one corner of the wood-shed was called, and brought in the hammer and one or two nails.

“Phronsie’s a-goin’ in the middle,” he said, with a nail in his mouth.

“Yes, I’m a-goin’ to hang up my stockin’,” cried the child, hopping from one toe to the other.

“Run get it, Phronsie,” said Joel, “and I’ll hang it up for you.

“Why, it’s two days before Christmas yet,” said Polly, laughing; “how they’ll look hanging there so long.”

“I don’t care,” said Joel, giving a last thump to the nail; “we’re a-goin’ to be ready. Oh, dear! I wish ’twas to-night!”

“Can’t Seraphina hang up her stocking?” asked Phronsie, coming up to Polly’s side; “and Baby, too?”

“Oh, let her have part of yours,” said Polly, “that’ll be best– Seraphina and Baby, and you have one stocking together.”

“Oh, yes,” cried Phronsie, easily pleased; “that’ll be best.” So for the next two days, they were almost distracted; the youngest ones asking countless questions about Santa Claus, and how he possibly could get down the chimney, Joel running his head up as far as he dared, to see if it was big enough.

“I guess he can,” he said, coming back in a sooty state, looking very much excited and delighted.

“Will he be black like Joey?” asked Phronsie, pointing to his grimy face.

“No,” said Polly; “he don’t ever get black.”

“Why?” they all asked; and then, over and over, they wanted the delightful mystery explained.

“We never’ll get through this day,” said Polly in despair, as the last one arrived. “I wish ’twas to-night, for we’re all ready,”

“Santy’s coming! Santy’s coming!” sang Phronsie, as the bright afternoon sunlight went down over the fresh, crisp snow, “for it’s night now.”

“Yes, Santa is coming!” sang Polly; and “Santa Claus is acoming,” rang back and forth through the old kitchen, till it seemed as if the three little old stockings would hop down and join in the dance going on so merrily.

“I’m glad mine is red,” said Phronsie, at last, stopping in the wild jig, and going up to see if it was all safe, “cause then Santy’ll know it’s mine, won’t he, Polly?”

“Yes, dear,” cried Polly, catching her up. “Oh, Phronsie! you are going to have a Christmas!”

16.2 going to have a Christmas

“Well, I wish,” said Joel, “I had my name on mine! I know Dave’ll get some of my things.”

“Oh, no, Joe,” said Mrs. Pepper, “Santa Claus is smart; he’ll know yours is in the left-hand corner.”

“Will he?” asked Joel, still a little fearful.

“Oh, yes, indeed,” said Mrs. Pepper, confidently. “I never knew him to make a mistake.”

“Now,” said Ben, when they had all made a pretence of eating supper, for there was such an excitement prevailing that no one sat still long enough to eat much, “you must every one fly off to bed as quick as ever can be.”

“Will Santa Claus come faster then?” asked Joel.

“Yes,” said Ben, “just twice as fast.”

“I’m going, then,” said Joel; “but I ain’t going to sleep, ’cause I mean to hear him come over the roof; then I’m going to get up, for I do so want a squint at the reindeer!”

“I am, too,” cried Davie, excitedly. “Oh, do come, Joe!” and he began to mount the stairs.

“Good night,” said Phronsie, going up to the centre of the chimney-piece, where the little red stocking dangled limply, “lift me up, Polly, do.”

“What you want to do?” asked Polly, running and giving her a jump. “What you goin’ to do, Phronsie?”

“I want to kiss it good night,” said the child, with eyes big with anticipation and happiness, hugging the well worn toe of the little old stocking affectionately. “I wish I had something to give Santa, Polly, I do!” she cried, as she held her fast in her arms.

“Never mind, Pet,” said Polly, nearly smothering her with kisses; “if you’re a good girl, Phronsie, that pleases Santa the most of anything.”

“Does it?” cried Phronsie, delighted beyond measure, as Polly carried her into the bedroom, “then I’ll be good always,

I will!”

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