Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Chapter 22 – Part 3

Getting Ready for Mamsie and the Boys  continued…
(start the audio where part 2 left off)


“I shall give Ben one of my kitties–the littlest and the best!” he said, with heroic self-sacrifice.

A perfect shout greeted this announcement.

“Fancy Ben going round with one of those awful little things,” whispered Jappy to Polly, who shook at the very thought.

“Don’t laugh! oh, it’s dreadful to laugh at him, Jappy,” she said, when she could get voice enough.

“No, I sha’n’t tell,” said Percy, when the fun had subsided; who, finding that no one teased him to divulge his wonderful plan, kept trying to harrow up their feelings by parading it.

“You needn’t then,” screamed Van, who was nearly dying to know. “I don’t believe it’s so very dreadful much, anyway.”

“What’s yours, Jappy?” asked Polly, “I know yours will be just splendid.”

“Oh, no, it isn’t,” said Jasper, smiling brightly, “but as I didn’t know what better I could do, I’m going to get a little stand, and then beg some flowers of Turner to fill it, and–”

“Why, that’s mine!” screamed Percy, in the greatest disappointment. “That’s just what I was going to do!”

“Hoh, hoh!” shouted Van; “I thought you wouldn’t tell, Mr. Percy! hoh, hoh!”

“Hoh, hoh!” echoed Dick.

“Hush,” said Jappy. “Why, Percy, I didn’t know as you had thought of that,” he said kindly. “Well, then, you do it, and I’ll take something else. I don’t care as long as Mrs. Pepper gets ’em.”

“I didn’t exactly mean that,” began Percy; “mine was roots and little flowers growing.”

“He means what he gets in the woods,” said Polly, explaining; “don’t you, Percy?”

“Yes,” said the boy. “And then I was going to put stones and things in among them to make them look pretty.”

“And they will,” cried Jasper. “Go ahead, Percy, they’ll look real pretty, and then Turner will give you some flowers for the stand, I know; I’ll ask him to-morrow.”

“Will you?” cried Percy, “that’ll be fine!”

“Mine is the best,” said Van, just at this juncture; but it was said a little anxiously, as he saw how things were prospering with Percy; “for my flowers in the picture will always be there, and your old roots and things will die.”

“What will yours be, then, Jappy?” asked Polly very soberly. “The stand of flowers would have been just lovely! and you do fix them so nice,” she added sorrowfully.

“Oh, I’ll find something else,” said Jappy, cheerfully, who had quite set his heart on giving the flowers. “Let me see–I might carve her a bracket.”

“Do,” cried Polly, clapping her hands enthusiastically. “And do carve a little bird, like the one you did on your father’s.”

“I will,” said Jasper, “just exactly like it. Now, we’ve got something to do, before we welcome the ‘little brown house’ people–so let’s fly at it, and the time won’t seem so long.”

And at last the day came when they could all say–To-morrow they’ll be here!

Well, the vines were all up; and pots of lovely climbing ferns, and all manner of pretty green things had been arranged and re-arranged a dozen times till everything was pronounced perfect; and a big green “Welcome” over the library door, made of laurel leaves, by the patient fingers of all the children, stared down into their admiring eyes as much as to say, “I’ll do my part!”

“Oh, dear,” said Phronsie, when evening came, and the children were, as usual, assembled on the rug before the fire, their tongues running wild with anticipation and excitement, “I don’t mean to go to bed at all, Polly; I don’t truly.”

“Oh, yes, you do,” said Polly laughing; “then you’ll be all fresh and rested to see mammy when she does come.”

“Oh, no,” said Phronsie, shaking her head soberly, and speaking in an injured tone. “I’m not one bit tired, Polly; not one bit.”

“You needn’t go yet, Phronsie,” said Polly. “You can sit up half an hour yet, if you want to.”

“But I don’t want to go to bed at all,” said the child anxiously, “for then I may be asleep when mamsie comes, Polly.”

“She’s afraid she won’t wake up,” said Percy, laughing. “Oh, there’ll be oceans of time before they come, Phronsie.”

“What is oceans,” asked Phronsie, coming up and looking at him, doubtfully.

“He means mamsie won’t get here till afternoon,” said Polly, catching her up and kissing her; “then I guess you’ll be awake, Phronsie, pet.”

So Phronsie allowed herself to be persuaded, at the proper time, to be carried off and inducted into her little nightgown. And when Polly went up to bed, she found the little pin-cushion, with its hieroglyphics, that she had insisted on taking to bed with her, still tightly grasped in the little fat hand.

“She’ll roll over and muss it,” thought Polly; “and then she’ll feel bad in the morning. I guess I’d better lay it on the bureau.”

So she drew it carefully away, without awaking the little sleeper, and placed it where she knew Phronsie’s eyes would rest on it the first thing in the morning.

It was going on towards the middle of the night when Phronsie, whose exciting dreams of mamsie and the boys wouldn’t let her rest quietly, woke up; and in the very first flash she thought of her cushion.

“Why, where–” she said, in the softest little tones, only half awake, “why, Polly, where is it?” and she began to feel all around her pillow to see if it had fallen down there.

But Polly’s brown head with its crowd of anticipations and busy plans was away off in dreamland, and she breathed on and on perfectly motionless.

“I guess I better,” said Phronsie to herself, now thoroughly awake, and sitting up in bed, “not wake her up. Poor Polly’s tired; I can find it myself, I know I can.”

So she slipped out of bed, and prowling around on the floor, felt all about for the little cushion.

“‘Tisn’t here, oh, no, it isn’t,” she sighed at last, and getting up, she stood still a moment, lost in thought. “Maybe Jane’s put it out in the hall,” she said, as a bright thought struck her. “I can get it there,” and out she pattered over the soft carpet to the table at the end of the long hail, where Jane often placed the children’s playthings over night. As she was coming back after her fruitless search, she stopped to peep over the balustrade down the fascinating flight of stairs, now so long and dark. Just then a little faint ray of light shot up from below, and met her eyes.

“Why!” she said in gentle surprise, “they’re all downstairs! I guess they’re making something for mamsie–I’m going to see.”

So, carefully picking her way over the stairs with her little bare feet, and holding on to the balustrade at every step, she went slowly down, guided by the light, which, as she neared the bottom of the flight, she saw came from the library door.

“Oh, isn’t it funny!” and she gave a little happy laugh. “They won’t know I’m comin’!” and now the soft little feet went pattering over the thick carpet, until she stood just within the door. There she stopped perfectly still.

Two dark figures, big and powerful, were bending over something that Phronsie couldn’t see, between the two big windows. A lantern on the floor flung its rays over them as they were busily occupied; and the firelight from the dying coals made the whole stand out distinctly to the gaze of the motionless little figure.

“Why! what are you doing with my grandpa’s things?”

The soft, clear notes fell like a thunderbolt upon the men. With a start they brought themselves up, and stared–only to see a little white-robed figure, with its astonished eyes uplifted with childlike, earnest gaze, as she waited for her answer.

For an instant they were powerless to move; and stood as if frozen to the spot, till Phronsie, moving one step forward, piped forth:

“Naughty men, to touch my dear grandpa’s things!”

With a smothered cry one of them started forward with arm uplifted; but the other sprang like a cat and intercepted the blow.

“Stop!” was all he said. A noise above the stairs–a rushing sound through the hail! Something will save Phronsie, for the household is aroused! The two men sprang through the window, having no time to catch the lantern or their tools, as Polly, followed by one and another, rushed in and surrounded the child.

“What!” gasped Polly, and got no further.

Stop, thief!” roared Mr. King, hurrying over the stairs. The children, frightened at the strange noises, began to cry and scream, as they came running through the halls to the spot. Jasper rushed for the men-servants.

And there stood Phronsie, surrounded by the pale group. “Twas two naughty men,” she said, lifting her little face with the grieved, astonished look still in the big brown eyes, “and they were touching my grandpa’s things, Polly!”

“I should think they were,” said Jasper, running over amongst the few scattered tools and the lantern, to the windows, where, on the floor, was a large table cover hastily caught up by the corners, into which a vast variety of silver, jewelry, and quantities of costly articles were gathered ready for flight. “They’ve broken open your safe, father!” he cried in excitement, “see!”

“And they put up their hand–one man did,” went on Phronsie. “And the other said ‘Stop!’–oh, Polly, you hurt me!” she cried, as Polly, unable to bear the strain any longer, held her so tightly she could hardly breathe.

“Go on,” said Jasper, “how did they look?”

“All black,” said the child, pushing back her wavy hair and looking at him, “very all black, Japser.”

“And their faces, Phronsie?” said Mr. King, getting down on his old knees on the floor beside her. “Bless me! somebody else ask her, I can’t talk!”

“How did their faces look, Phronsie, dear?” asked Jasper, taking one of the cold hands in his. “Can’t you think?”

“Oh!” said Phronsie–and then she gave a funny little laugh, “two big holes, Japser, that’s all they had!”

“She means they were masked,” whispered Jasper.

“What did you get up for?” Mrs. Whitney asked. “Dear child, what made you get out of bed?”

“Why, my cushion-pin,” said Phronsie looking worried at once. “I couldn’t find it, and–”

But just at this, without a bit of warning, Polly tumbled over in a dead faint.

And then it was all confusion again.

And so, on the following afternoon, it turned out that the Peppers, about whose coming there had been so many plans and expectations, just walked in as if they had always lived there. The greater excitement completely swallowed up the less!

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