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

 Making Happiness for Mamsie   continued…

(start the audio where part 1 left off)
 “Maybe ’tis there,” said Mrs. Bascom, slowly; “you might try; sometimes I do put things away, so’s to have ’em safe.”

So Polly got an old wooden chair, according to direction, and then mounted up on it, with grandma below to direct, she handed down bowl after bowl, interspersed at the right intervals with cracked teacups and handleless pitchers. But at the end of these explorations, “Mirandy’s wedding cake” was further off than ever.

“Tain’t a mite o’ use,” at last said the old lady, sinking down in despair, while Polly perched on the top of the chair and looked at her; “I must a-give it away.”

“Can’t I have the next best one, then?” asked Polly, despairingly, feeling sure that “Mirandy’s wedding cake” would have celebrated the day just right; “and I must hurry right home, please,” she added, getting down from the chair, and tying on her hood; “or Phronsie won’t know what to do.”

So another “receet” was looked over, and selected; and with many charges, and bits of advice not to let the oven get too hot, etc., etc., Polly took the precious bit in her hand, and flew over home.

“Now, we’ve got to–” she began, bounding in merrily, with dancing eyes; but her delight had a sudden stop, as she brought up so suddenly at the sight within, that she couldn’t utter another word. Phronsie was crouching, a miserable little heap of woe, in one corner of the mother’s big calico-covered rocking-chair, and crying bitterly, while Joel hung over her in the utmost concern.

“What’s the matter?” gasped Polly. Flinging the “receet” on the table, she rushed up to the old chair and was down on her knees before it, her arms around the little figure. Phronsie turned, and threw herself into Polly’s protecting arms, who gathered her up, and sitting down in the depths of the chair, comforted her as only she could.

“What is it?” she asked of Joel, who was nervously begging Phronsie not to cry; “now, tell me all that’s happened.”

“I was a-nailing,” began Joel; “oh dear! don’t cry, Phronsie! do stop her, Polly.”

“Go on,” said Polly, hoarsely.

“I was a-nailing,” began Joel, slowly; “and–and–Davie’s gone to get the peppermint,” he added, brightening up.

“Tell me, Joe,” said Polly, “all that’s been going on,” and she looked sternly into his face; “or I’ll get Davie to,” as little Davie came running back, with a bottle of castor oil, which in his flurry he had mistaken for peppermint. This he presented with a flourish to Polly, who was too excited to see it.

“Oh, no!” cried Joel, in intense alarm; “Davie isn’t going to! I’ll tell, Polly; I will truly.”

“Go on, then,” said Polly; “tell at once;” (feeling as if somebody didn’t tell pretty quick, she should tumble over.)

“Well,” said Joel, gathering himself up with a fresh effort, “the old hammer was a-shaking and Phronsie stuck her foot in the way–and–I couldn’t help it, Polly–no, I just couldn’t, Polly.”

Quick as a flash, Polly tore off the little old shoe, and well-worn stocking, and brought to light Phronsie’s fat little foot. Tenderly taking hold of the white toes, the boys clustering around in the greatest anxiety, she worked them back and forth, and up and down. “Nothing’s broken,” she said at last, and drew a long breath.

“It’s there,” said Phronsie, through a rain of tears; “and it hurts, Polly;” and she began to wiggle the big toe, where around the nail was settling a small black spot.

“Poor little toe,” began Polly, cuddling up the suffering foot. Just then, a small and peculiar noise struck her ear; and looking up she saw Joel, with a very distorted face, making violent efforts to keep from bursting out into a loud cry. All his attempts, however, failed; and he flung himself into Polly’s lap in a perfect torrent of tears. “I didn’t–mean to–Polly,” he cried; “’twas the–ugly, old hammer! oh dear!”

“There, there, Joey, dear,” said Polly, gathering him up in the other corner of the old chair, close to her side; “don’t feel bad; I know you didn’t mean to,” and she dropped a kiss on his stubby black hair.

When Phronsie saw that anybody else could cry, she stopped immediately, and leaning over Polly, put one little fat hand on Joel’s neck. “Don’t cry,” she said; “does your toe ache?”

At this, Joel screamed louder than ever; and Polly was at her wit’s end to know what to do; for the boy’s heart was almost broken. That he should have hurt Phronsie! the baby, the pet of the whole house, upon whom all their hearts centered–it was too much. So for the next few moments, Polly had all she could do by way of comforting and consoling him. Just as she had succeeded, the door opened, and Grandma Bascom walked in.

“Settin’ down?” said she; “I hope your cake ain’t in, Polly,” looking anxiously at the stove, “for I’ve found it;” and she waved a small piece of paper triumphantly towards the rocking-chair as she spoke.

“Do tell her,” said Polly to little David, “what’s happened; for I can’t get up.”

So little Davie went up to the old lady, and standing on tiptoe, screamed into her ear all the particulars he could think of, concerning the accident that had just happened.

“Hey?” said grandma, in a perfect bewilderment; “what’s he a-sayin’, Polly–I can’t make it out.”

“You’ll have to go all over it again, David,” said Polly, despairingly; “she didn’t hear one word, I don’t believe.”

So David tried again; this time with better success. And then he got down from his tiptoes, and escorted grandma to Phronsie, in flushed triumph.

“Land alive!” said the old lady, sitting down in the chair which he brought her; “you got pounded, did you?” looking at Phronsie, as she took the little foot in her ample hand.

“Yes’m,” said Polly, quickly; “twasn’t any one’s fault; what’ll we do for it, grandma?”

“Wormwood,” said the old lady, adjusting her spectacles in extreme deliberation, and then examining the little black and blue spot, which was spreading rapidly, “is the very best thing; and I’ve got some to home–you run right over,” she said, turning round on David, quickly, “an’ get it; it’s a-hang-in’ by the chimbley.”

“Let me; let me!” cried Joel, springing out of the old chair, so suddenly that grandma’s spectacles nearly dropped off in fright; “oh! I want to do it for Phronsie!”

“Yes, let Joel, please,” put in Polly; “he’ll find it, grandma.” So Joel departed with great speed; and presently returned, with a bunch of dry herbs, which dangled comfortingly by his side, as he came in.

“Now I’ll fix it,” said Mrs. Bascom, getting up and taking off her shawl; “there’s a few raisins for you, Polly; I don’t want ’em, and they’ll make your cake go better,” and she placed a little parcel on the table as she spoke. “Yes, I’ll put it to steep; an’ after it’s put on real strong, and tied up in an old cloth, Phronsie won’t know as she’s got any toes!” and grandma broke up a generous supply of the herb, and put it into an old tin cup, which she covered up with a saucer, and placed on the stove.

“Oh!” said Polly; “I can’t thank you! for the raisins and all–you’re so good!”

“They’re awful hard,” said Joel, investigating into the bundle with Davie, which, however, luckily the old lady didn’t hear.

“There, don’t try,” she said cheerily; “an’ I found cousin Mirandy’s weddin’ cake receet, for–”

“Did you?” cried Polly; “oh! I’m so glad!” feeling as if that were comfort enough for a good deal.

“Yes, ’twas in my Bible,” said Mrs. Bascom; “I remember now; I put it there to be ready to give John’s folks when they come in; they wanted it; so you’ll go all straight now; and I must get home, for I left some meat a-boilin’.” So grandma put on her shawl, and waddled off, leaving a great deal of comfort behind her.

“Now, says I,” said Polly to Phronsie, when the little foot was snugly tied up in the wet wormwood, “you’ve got to have one of mamsie’s old slippers.”

“Oh, ho,” laughed Phronsie; “won’t that be funny, Polly!”

“I should think it would,” laughed Polly, back again, pulling on the big cloth slipper, which Joel produced from the bedroom, the two boys joining uproariously, as the old black thing flapped dismally up and down, and showed strong symptoms of flying off. “We shall have to tie it on.”

“It looks like a pudding bag,” said Joel, as Polly tied it securely through the middle with a bit of twine; “an old black pudding bag!” he finished.

“Old black pudding bag!” echoed Phronsie, with a merry little crow; and then all of a sudden she grew very sober, and looked intently at the foot thrust out straight before her, as she still sat in the chair.

“What is it, Phronsie?” asked Polly, who was bustling around, making preparations for the cake-making.

“Can I ever wear my new shoes again?” asked the child, gravely, looking dismally at the black bundle before her.

“Oh, yes; my goodness, yes!” cried Polly; “as quick again as ever; you’ll be around again as smart as a cricket in a week –see if you aren’t!”

“Will it go on?” asked Phronsie, still looking incredulously at the bundle, “and button up?”

“Yes, indeed!” cried Polly, again; “button into every one of the little holes, Phronsie Pepper; just as elegant as ever!”

“Oh!” said Phronsie; and then she gave a sigh of relief, and thought no more of it, because Polly had said that all would be right.


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