Hard Days for Polly continued…
(start the audio where part 1 left off)
“Well, they were all fighting over a grasshopper–yes, ten of them.”
“Which one got it?” asked Polly in intense interest; “oh! I hope the white one did!”
“Well, he looked as much like winning as any of them,” said the lady, laughing.
“Bless her!” thought Mrs. Pepper to herself out in the kitchen, finishing the sack Polly had left; “she’s a parson’s wife, I say!”
And then the minister came down from Ben’s room, and went into the bedroom; and Mrs. Henderson went up-stairs into the loft.
“So,” he said kindly, as after patting Phronsie’s head he came over and sat down by Polly, “this is the little girl who came to see me when I was sick.”
“Oh, sir,” said Polly, “I’m so glad you wasn’t!”
“Well, when I come again,” said Mr. Henderson, rising after a merry chat, “I see I shall have to slip a book into my pocket, and read for those poor eyes.”
“Oh, thank you!” cried Polly; and then she stopped and blushed.
“Well, what is it?” asked the minister, encouragingly.
“Ben loves to hear reading,” said Polly.
“Does he? well, by that time, my little girl, I guess Ben will be down-stairs; he’s all right, Polly; don’t you worry about him–and I’ll sit in the kitchen, by the bedroom door, and you can hear nicely.”
So the Hendersons went away. But somehow, before they went, a good many things found their way out of the old-fashioned chaise into the Peppers’ little kitchen.
But Polly’s eyes didn’t get any better, with all the care; and the lines of worry on Mrs. Pepper’s face grew deeper and deeper. At last, she just confronted Dr. Fisher in the kitchen, one day after his visit to Polly, and boldly asked him if they ever could be cured. “I know she’s–and there isn’t any use keeping it from me,” said the poor woman–“she’s going to be stone-blind!”
“My good woman”–Dr. Fisher’s voice was very gentle; and he took the hard, brown hand in his own–“your little girl will not be blind; I tell you the truth; but it will take some time to make her eyes quite strong–time, and rest. She has strained them in some way, but she will come out of it.”
“Praise the Lord!” cried Mrs. Pepper, throwing her apron over her head; and then she sobbed on, “and thank you, sir–I can’t ever thank you–for–for–if Polly was blind, we might as well give up!”
The next day, Phronsie, who had the doctor’s permission to sit up, only she was to be kept from taking cold, scampered around in stocking-feet in search of her shoes, which she hadn’t seen since she was first taken sick.
“Oh, I want on my very best shoes,” she cried; “can’t I, mammy?”
“Oh, no, Phronsie; you must keep them nice,” remonstrated her mother; “you can’t wear ’em every-day, you know.”
“‘Tisn’t every-day,” said Phronsie, slowly; it’s only one day.”
“Well, and then you’ll want ’em on again tomorrow,” said her mother.
“Oh, no, I won’t!” cried Phronsie; “never, no more to-morrow, if I can have ’em to-day; please, mammy dear!”
Mrs. Pepper went to the lowest drawer in the high bureau, and took there from a small parcel done up in white tissue paper. Slowly unrolling this before the delighted eyes of the child, who stood patiently waiting, she disclosed the precious red-topped shoes which Phronsie immediately clasped to her bosom.
“My own, very own shoes! whole mine!” she cried, and trudged out into the kitchen to put them on herself.
“Hulloa!” cried Dr. Fisher, coming in about a quarter of an hour later to find her tugging laboriously at the buttons– “new shoes! I declare!”
“My own!” cried Phronsie, sticking out one foot for inspection, where every button was in the wrong button-hole, “and they’ve got red tops, too!”
“So they have,” said the doctor, getting down on the floor beside her; “beautiful red tops, aren’t they?”
“Be-yew-ti-ful,” sang the child delightedly.
“Does Polly have new shoes every day?” asked the doctor in a low voice, pretending to examine the other foot.
Phronsie opened her eyes very wide at this.
“Oh, no, she don’t have anything, Polly don’t.”
“And what does Polly want most of all–do you know? see if you can tell me.” And the doctor put on the most alluring expression that he could muster.
“Oh, I know!” cried Phronsie, with a very wise look. “There now,” cried the doctor, “you’re the girl for me! to think you know! so, what is it?”
Phronsie got up very gravely, and with one shoe half on, she leaned over and whispered in the doctor’s ear:
“A what?” said the doctor, looking at her, and then at the old, black thing in the corner, that looked as if it were ashamed of itself; “why, she’s got one.”
“Oh,” said the child, “it won’t burn; and sometimes Polly cries, she does, when she’s all alone–and I see her.”
“Now,” said the doctor, very sympathetically, “that’s too bad; that is! and then what does she do?”
“Oh, Ben stuffs it up,” said the child, laughing; “and so does Polly too, with paper; and then it all tumbles out quick; oh! just as quick!” And Phronsie shook her yellow head at the dismal remembrance.
“Do you suppose,” said the doctor, getting up, “that you know of any smart little girl around here, about four years old and that knows how to button on her own red-topped shoes, that would like to go to ride to-morrow morning in my carriage with me?
“Oh, I do!” cried Phronsie, hopping on one toe; “it’s me!”
“Very well, then,” said Dr. Fisher, going to the bedroom door, “we’ll lookout for to-morrow, then.”
To poor Polly, lying in the darkened room, or sitting up in the big rocking-chair–for Polly wasn’t really very sick in other respects, the disease having all gone into the merry brown eyes–the time seemed interminable. Not to do anything! The very idea at any time would have filled her active, wide-awake little body with horror; and now, here she was!
“Oh, dear, I can’t bear it!” she said, when she knew by the noise in the kitchen that everybody was out there; so nobody heard, except a fat, old black spider in the corner, and he didn’t tell anyone!
“I know it’s a week,” she said, “since dinnertime! If Ben were only well, to talk to me.”
“Oh, I say, Polly,” screamed Joel at that moment running in, “Ben’s a-comin’ down the stairs!”
“Stop, Joe,” said Mrs. Pepper; “you shouldn’t have told; he wanted to surprise Polly.”
“Oh, is he!” cried Polly, clasping her hands in rapture; “mammy, can’t I take off this horrid bandage, and see him?”
“Dear me, no!” said Mrs. Pepper, springing forward; “not for the world, Polly! Dr. Fisher’d have our ears off!”
“Well, I can hear, any way,” said Polly, resigning herself to the remaining comfort; “here he is! oh, Ben!”
“There,” said Ben, grasping Polly, bandage and all; “now we’re all right; and! say, Polly, you’re a brick!”
“Mammy told me not to say that the other day,” said Joel, with a very virtuous air.
“Can’t help it,” said Ben, who was a little wild over Polly, and besides, he had been sick himself, and had borne a good deal too.
“Now,” said Mrs. Pepper, after the first excitement was over, “you’re so comfortable together, and Phronsie don’t want me now, I’ll go to the store; I must get some more work if Mr. Atkins’ll give it to me.”
“I’ll be all right now, mammy, that Ben’s here,” cried Polly, settling back into her chair, with Phronsie on the stool at her feet.
“I’m goin’ to tell her stories, ma,” cried Ben, “so you needn’t worry about us.”
“Isn’t it funny, Ben,” said Polly, as the gate clicked after the mother, “to be sitting still, and telling stories in the daytime?”
“Rather funny!” replied Ben.
“Well, do go on,” said Joel, as usual, rolling on the floor, in a dreadful hurry for the story to begin. Little David looked up quietly, as he sat on Ben’s other side, his hands clasped tight together, just as eager, though he said nothing.
“Well; once upon a time,” began Ben delightfully, and launched into one of the stories that the children thought perfectly lovely.
“Oh, Bensie,” cried Polly, entranced, as they listened with bated breath, “however do you think of such nice things!”
“I’ve had time enough to think, the last week,” said Ben, laughing, “to last a life-time!”
“Do go on,” put in Joel, impatient at the delay.
“Don’t hurry him so,” said Polly, reprovingly; “he isn’t strong.”
“Ben,” said David, drawing a long breath, his eyes very big–.”did he really see a bear?”
“No,” said Ben; “oh! where was I?”
“Why, you said Tommy heard a noise,” said Polly, “and he thought it was a bear.”
“Oh, yes,” said Ben; “I remember; ’twasn’t a–”
“Oh, make it a bear, Ben!” cried Joel, terribly disappointed; “don’t let it be not a bear.”
“Why, I can’t,” said Ben; “twouldn’t sound true.”
“Never mind, make it sound true,” insisted Joel; “you can make anything true.”
“Very well,” said Ben, laughing; “I suppose I must.”
“Make it two bears, Ben,” begged little Phronsie.
“Oh, no, Phronsie, that’s too much,” cried Joel; “that’ll spoil it; but make it a big bear, do Ben, and have him bite him somewhere, and most kill him.”
“Oh, Joel!” cried Polly, while David’s eyes got bigger than ever.
So Ben drew upon his powers as story-teller, to suit his exacting audience, and was making his bear work havoc upon poor Tommy in a way captivating to all, even Joel, when—- “Well, I declare,” sounded Mrs. Pepper’s cheery voice coming in upon them, “if this isn’t comfortable!”
“Oh, mammy!” cried Phronsie, jumping out of Polly’s arms, whither she had taken refuge during the thrilling tale, and running to her mother who gathered her baby up, “we’ve had a bear! a real, live bear, we have! Ben made him!”
“Have you!” said Mrs. Pepper, taking off her shawl, and laying her parcel of work down on the table, “now, that’s nice!”
“Oh, mammy!” cried Polly, “it does seem so good to be all together again!”
“And I thank the Lord!” said Mrs. Pepper, looking down on her happy little group; and the tears were in her eyes– “and children, we ought to be very good and please Him, for He’s been so good to us.”