Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Chapter 2

 Making Happiness for Mamsie


And so, the minute her mother had departed for the minister’s house next morning, and Ben had gone to his day’s work, chopping wood for Deacon Blodgett, Polly assembled her force around the old stove, and proceeded to business. She and the children had been up early that morning to get through with the work; and now, as they glanced around with a look of pride on the neatly swept floor, the dishes all done, and everything in order, the moment their mother’s back was turned they began to implore Polly to hurry and begin.

“It’s most ‘leven o’clock,” said Joel, who, having no work to do outside, that day, was prancing around, wild to help along the festivities; “it’s most ‘leven o’clock, Polly Pepper! you won’t have it done.”

“Oh, no; ’tisn’t either, Joe;” said Polly, with a very flushed face, and her arms full of kindlings, glancing up at the old clock as she spoke; “tisn’t but quarter of nine; there, take care, Phronsie! you can’t lift off the cover; do help her, Davie.”

“No; let me!” cried Joel, springing forward; “it’s my turn; Dave got the shingles; it’s my turn, Polly.”

“So ’tis,” said Polly; “I forgot; there,” as she flung in the wood, and poked it all up in a nice little heap coaxingly. “It can’t help but burn; what a cake we’ll have for mamsie!”

“It’ll be so big,” cried Phronsie, hopping around on one set of toes, “that mamsie won’t know what to do, will she, Polly?”

“No, I don’t believe she will,” said Polly, gayly, stuffing in more wood; “Oh, dear! there goes Ben’s putty; it’s all come out!”

“So it has,” said Joel, going around back of the stove to explore; and then he added cheerfully, “it’s bigger’n ever; oh! it’s an awful big hole, Polly!”

“Now, whatever shall we do!” said Polly, in great distress; “that hateful old crack! and Ben’s clear off to Deacon Blodgett’s!”

“I’ll run and get him,” cried Joel, briskly; “I’ll bring him right home in ten minutes.”

“Oh, no, you must not, Joe,” cried Polly in alarm; “it wouldn’t ever be right to take him off from his work; mamsie wouldn’t like it.”

“What will you do, then?” asked Joel, pausing on his way to the door.

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Polly, getting down on her knees to examine the crack; “I shall have to stuff it with paper, I s’pose.”

“‘Twon’t stay in,” said Joel, scornfully; “don’t you know you stuffed it before, last week?”

“I know,” said Polly, with a small sigh; and sitting down on the floor, she remained quite still for a minute, with her two black hands thrust out straight before her.

“Can’t you fix it?” asked Davie, soberly, coming up; “then we can’t have the cake.”

“Dear me!” exclaimed Polly, springing up quickly; “don’t be afraid; we’re going to have that cake! There, you ugly old thing, you!” (this to the stove) “see what you’ve done!” as two big tears flew out of Phronsie’s brown eyes at the direful prospect; and the sorrowful faces of the two boys looked up into Polly’s own, for comfort. “I can fix it, I most know; do get some paper, Joe, as quick as you can.”

“Don’t know where there is any,” said Joel, rummaging around; “it’s all tore up; ‘xcept the almanac; can’t I take that?”

“Oh dear, no!” cried Polly; “put it right back, Joe; I guess there’s some in the wood-shed.”

“There isn’t either,” said little Davie, quickly; “Joel and I took it to make kites with.”

“Oh dear,” groaned Polly; “I don’t know what we shall do; unless,” as a bright thought struck her, “you let me have the kites, boys.”

“Can’t,” said Joel; “they’re all flew away; and torn up.”

“Well, now, children,” said Polly, turning round impressively upon them, the effect of which was heightened by the extremely crocky appearance she had gained in her explorations, “we must have some paper, or something to stop up that old hole with–some way, there!”

“I know,” said little Davie, “where we’ll get it; it’s upstairs;” and without another word he flew out of the room, and in another minute he put into Polly’s hand an old leather boottop, one of his most treasured possessions. “You can chip it,” he said, “real fine, and then ’twill go in.”

“So we can,” said Polly; “and you’re a real good boy, Davie, to give it; that’s a splendid present to help celebrate for mamsie!”

“I’d a-given a boot-top,” said Joel, looking grimly at the precious bit of leather which Polly was rapidly stripping into little bits, “if I’d a-had it; I don’t have anything!”

“I know you would, Joey,” said Polly, kindly; “there now, you’ll stay, I guess!” as with the united efforts of the two boys, cheered on by Phronsie’s enthusiastic little crow of delight, the leather was crowded into place, and the fire began to burn.

“Now, boys,” said Polly, getting up, and drawing a long breath, “I’m going over to Grandma Bascom’s to get her to tell me how to make the cake; and you must stay and keep house.”

“I’m going to nail,” said Joel; “I’ve got lots to do.”

“All right,” said Polly, tying on her hood; “Phronsie’ll love to watch you; I won’t be gone long,” and she was off.

“Grandma Bascom,” wasn’t really the children’s grandmother; only everybody in the village called her so by courtesy. Her cottage was over across the lane, and just a bit around the corner; and Polly flew along and up to the door, fully knowing that now she would be helped out of her difficulty. She didn’t stop to knock, as the old lady was so deaf she knew she wouldn’t hear her, but opened the door and walked in. Grandma was sweeping up the floor, already as neat as a pin; when she saw Polly coming, she stopped, and leaned on her broom.

“How’s your ma?” she asked, when Polly had said “good morning,” and then hesitated.

“Oh, mammy’s pretty well,” shouted Polly into the old lady’s ear; “and to-morrow’s her birthday!”

“Tomorrow’ll be a bad day!” said grandma. “Oh, don’t never say that. You mustn’t borrow trouble, child.”

“I didn’t,” said Polly; “I mean–it’s her birthday, grandma!” this last so loud that grandma’s cap-border vibrated perceptibly.

“The land’s sakes ’tis!” cried Mrs. Bascom, delightedly; “you don’t say so!”

“Yes,” said Polly, skipping around the old lady, and giving her a small hug; “and we’re going to give her a surprise.”

“What is the matter with her eyes?” asked grandma, sharply, turning around and facing her; “she’s been a-sewin’ too stiddy, hain’t she?”

“A surprise!” shouted Polly, standing upon tiptoe, to bring her mouth on a level with the old lady’s ear; “a cake, grandma, a big one!”

“A cake!” exclaimed grandma, dropping the broom to settle her cap, which Polly in her extreme endeavors to carry on the conversation, had knocked slightly awry; “well, that’ll be fine.”

“Yes,” said Polly, picking up the broom, and flinging off her hood at the same time; “and, oh! won’t you please tell me how to make it, grandma!”

“To be sure; to be sure;” cried the old lady, delighted beyond measure to give advice; “I’ve got splendid receets; I’ll go get ’em right off,” and she ambled to the door of the pantry.

“And I’ll finish sweeping up,” said Polly, which grandma didn’t hear; so she took up the broom, and sent it energetically, and merrily flying away to the tune of her own happy thoughts.

“Yes, they’re right in here,” said grandma, waddling back with an old tin teapot in her hand;–“goodness, child! what a dust you’ve kicked up! that ain’t the way to sweep.” And she took the broom out of Polly’s hand, who stood quite still in mortification.

“There,” she said, drawing it mildly over the few bits she could scrape together, and gently coaxing them into a little heap; “that’s the way; and then they don’t go all over the room.

“I’m sorry,” began poor Polly.

“‘Tain’t any matter,” said Mrs. Bascom kindly, catching sight of Polly’s discomfited face; “tain’t a mite of matter; you’ll sweep better next time; now let’s go to the cake;” and putting the broom into the corner, she waddled back again to the table, followed by Polly, and proceeded to turn out the contents of the teapot, in search of just the right “receet.”

But the right one didn’t seem to appear; not even after the teapot was turned upside down and shaken by both grandma’s and Polly’s anxious hands. Every other “receet” seemed to tumble out gladly, and stare them in the face–little dingy rolls of yellow paper, with an ancient odor of spice still clinging to them; but all efforts to find this particular one failed utterly.

“Won’t some other one do?” asked Polly, in the interval of fruitless searching, when grandma bewailed and lamented, and wondered, “where I could a put it!”

“No, no, child,” answered the old lady; “now, where do you s’pose ’tis!” and she clapped both hands to her head, to see if she could possibly remember; “no, no, child,” she repeated. “Why, they had it down to my niece Mirandy’s weddin’–’twas just elegant! light as a feather; and ‘twan’t rich either,” she added; “no eggs, nor”– “Oh, I couldn’t have eggs;” cried Polly, in amazement at the thought of such luxury; “and we’ve only brown flour, grandma, you know.”

“Well, you can make it of brown,” said Mrs. Bascom, kindly; “when the raisins is in ’twill look quite nice.”

“Oh, we haven’t any raisins,” answered Polly.

“Haven’t any raisins!” echoed grandma, looking at her over her spectacles; “what are you goin’ to put in?”

“Oh–cinnamon,” said Polly, briskly; “we’ve got plenty of that, and–it’ll be good, I guess, grandma!” she finished, anxiously; “anyway, we must have a cake; there isn’t any other way to celebrate mamsie’s birthday.”

“Well, now,” said grandma, bustling around; “I shouldn’t be surprised if you had

2.1 bustling aroundreal good luck, Polly. And your ma’ll set ever so much by it; now, if we only could find that receet!” and returning to the charge she commenced to fumble among her bits of paper again; “I never shall forget how they eat on it; why, there wasn’t a crumb left, Polly!”

“Oh, dear,” said Polly, to whom “Mirandy’s wedding cake” now became the height of her desires; “if you only can find it! can’t I climb up and look on the pantry shelves?”

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