In the middle of the night Polly woke up with a start.
“What in the world!” said she, and she bobbed up her head and looked over at her mother, who was still peacefully sleeping, and was just going to lie down again, when a second noise out in the kitchen made her pause and lean on her elbow to listen. At this moment she thought she heard a faint whisper, and springing out of bed she ran to Phronsie’s crib– it was empty! As quick as a flash she sped out into the kitchen. There, in front of the chimney, were two figures. One was Joel, and the other, unmistakably, was Phronsie!
“What are you doing?” gasped Polly, holding on to a chair.
The two little night-gowns turned around at this.
“Why, I thought it was morning,” said Joel, “and I wanted my stocking. Oh!” as he felt the toe, which was generously stuffed, “give it to me, Polly Pepper, and I’ll run right back to bed again!”
“Dear me!” said Polly; “and you, too, Phronsie! Why, it’s the middle of the night! Did I ever!” and she had to pinch her mouth together tight to keep from bursting out into a loud laugh. “Oh, dear, I shall laugh! don’t look so scared, Phronsie, there won’t anything hurt you.” For Phronsie who, on hearing Joel fumbling around the precious stockings, had been quite willing to hop out of bed and join him, had now, on Polly’s saying the dire words “in the middle of the night,” scuttled over to her protecting side like a frightened rabbit.
“It never’ll be morning,” said Joel taking up first one cold toe and then the other; “you might let us have ’em now, Polly,
“No,” said Polly sobering down; “you can’t have yours till Davie wakes up, too. Scamper off to bed, Joey, dear, and forget all about ’em–and it’ll be morning before you know it.”
“Oh, I’d rather go to bed,” said Phronsie, trying to tuck up her feet in the little flannel night-gown, which was rather short, “but I don’t know the way back, Polly. Take me, Polly, do,” and she put up her arms to be carried.
“Oh, I ain’t a-goin’ back alone, either,” whimpered Joel, coming up to Polly, too.
“Why, you came down alone, didn’t you?” whispered Polly, with a little laugh.
“Yes, but I thought ’twas morning,” said Joel, his teeth chattering with something beside the cold.
“Well, you must think of the morning that’s coming,” said Polly, cheerily. “I’ll tell you–you wait till I put Phronsie into the crib, and then I’ll come back and go half-way up the stairs with you.”
“I won’t never come down till it’s mornin’ again,” said Joel, bouncing along the stairs, when Polly was ready to go with him, at a great rate.
“Better not,” laughed Polly, softly. “Be careful and not wake Davie nor Ben.”
“I’m in,” announced Joel, in a loud whisper; and Polly could hear him snuggle down among the warm bedclothes. “Call us when ’tis mornin’, Polly.”
“Yes,” said Polly, “I will; go to sleep.”
Phronsie had forgotten stockings and everything else on Polly’s return, and was fast asleep in the old crib. The result of it was that the children slept over, when morning did really come; and Polly had to keep her promise, and go to the foot of the stairs and call– “Merry Christmas! oh, Ben! and Joel! and Davie!”
“Oh!–oh!–oo-h!” and then the sounds that answered her, as with smothered whoops of expectation they one and all flew into their clothes!
Quick as a flash Joel and Davie were down and dancing around the chimney.
“Mammy! mammy!” screamed Phronsie, hugging her stocking, which Ben lifted her up to unhook from the big nail, “Santy did come, he did!” and then she spun around in the middle of the floor, not stopping to look in it.
“Well, open it, Phronsie,” called Davie, deep in the exploring of his own; “oh! isn’t that a splendid wind-mill, Joe?”
“Yes,” said that individual, who, having found a big piece of molasses candy, was so engaged in enjoying a huge bite that, regardless alike of his other gifts or of the smearing his face was getting, he gave himself wholly up to its delights.
“Oh, Joey,” cried Polly, laughingly, “molasses candy for breakfast!”
“That’s prime!” cried Joel, swallowing the last morsel. “Now I’m going to see
what’s this–oh, Dave, see here! see here!” he cried in intense excitement, pulling out a nice little parcel which, unrolled, proved to be a bright pair of stout mittens. “See if you’ve got some–look quick!”
“Yes, I have,” said David, picking up a parcel about as big. “No, that’s molasses candy.”
“Just the same as I had,” said Joel; “do look for the mittens. P’r’aps Santa Claus thought you had some–oh, dear!”
“Here they are!” screamed Davie. “I have got some, Joe, just exactly like yours! See, Joe!”
“Goody!” said Joel, immensely relieved; for now he could quite enjoy his to see a pair on Davie’s hands, also. “Look at Phron,” he cried, “she hasn’t got only half of her things out!”
To tell the truth, Phronsie was so bewildered by her riches that she sat on the floor with the little red stocking in her lap, laughing and cooing to herself amid the few things she had drawn out. When she came to Seraphina’s bonnet she was quite overcome. She turned it over and over, and smoothed out the little white feather that had once adorned one of Grandma Bascom’s chickens, until the two boys~ with their stockings, and the others sitting around in a group on the floor watching them, laughed in glee to see her enjoyment.
“Oh, dear,” said Joel, at last, shaking his stocking; “I’ve got all there is. I wish there were forty Christmases coming!”
“I haven’t!” screamed Davie; “there’s some thing in the toe.”
“It’s an apple, I guess,” said Joel; “turn it up, Dave.”
“‘Tisn’t an apple,” exclaimed Davie, “tisn’t round–it’s long and thin; here ’tis.” And he pulled out a splendid long whistle on which he blew a blast long and terrible, and Joel immediately following, all quiet was broken up, and the wildest hilarity reigned.
“I don’t know as you’ll want any breakfast,” at last said Mrs. Pepper, when she had got Phronsie a little sobered down.
“I do, I do!” cried Joel.
“Dear me! after your candy?” said Polly.
“That’s all gone,” said Joel, tooting around the table on his whistle. “What are we going to have for breakfast?”
“Same as ever,” said his mother; “it can’t be Christmas all the time.”
“I wish ’twas,” said little Davie; “forever and ever!”
“Forever an’ ever,” echoed little Phronsie, flying up, her cheeks like two pinks, and Seraphina in her arms with her bonnet on upside down.
“Dear, dear,” said Polly, pinching Ben to keep still as they tumbled down the little rickety steps to the Provision Room, after breakfast. The children, content in their treasures, were holding high carnival in the kitchen. “Suppose they should find it out now–I declare I should feel most awfully. Isn’t it elegant?” she asked, in a subdued whisper, going all around and around the tree, magnificent in its dress of bright red and yellow balls, white festoons, and little candle-ends all ready for lighting. “Oh, Ben, did you lock the door?”
“Yes,” he said. “That’s a mouse,” he added, as a little rustling noise made Polly stop where she stood back of the tree and prick up her ears in great distress of mind. “‘Tis elegant,” he said, turning around in admiration, and taking in the tree which, as Polly said, was quite “gorgeous,” and the evergreen branches twisted up on the beams and rafters, and all the other festive arrangements. “Even Jappy’s isn’t better, I don’t believe!”
“I wish Jappy was here,” said Polly with a small sigh.
“Well, he isn’t,” said Ben; “come, we must go back into the kitchen, or all the children will be out here. Look your last, Polly; ‘twon’t do to come again till it’s time to light up.”
“Mammy says she’d rather do the lighting up,” said Polly. “Had she?” said Ben, in surprise; “oh, I suppose she’s afraid we’ll set somethin’ a-fire. Well, then, we shan’t come in till we have it.”
“I can’t bear to go,” said Polly, turning reluctantly away; “it’s most beautiful–oh, Ben,” and she faced him for the five-hundredth time with the question, “is your Santa Claus dress all safe?”
“Yes,” said Ben, “I’ll warrant they won’t find that in one hurry! Such a time as we’ve had to make it!”
“I know it,” laughed Polly; “don’t that cotton wool look just like bits of fur, Ben?”
“Yes,” said Ben, “and when the flour’s shaken over me it’ll be Santa himself.”
“We’ve got to put back the hair into mamsie’s cushion the first thing to-morrow,” whispered Polly anxiously, “and we mustn’t forget it, Bensie.”
“I want to keep the wig awfully,” said Ben. “You did make that just magnificent, Polly!”