Five Little Peppers And How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
"It's all right, Prince," the boy added, encouragingly to the big dog who, lifting his noble head, had turned two big eyes steadily on Ben. "He's all right! lie down again!"
Then, flinging himself down on the grass, he told Ben how he came to rescue Phronsie.
"Prince and I were out for a stroll," said he. "I live over in Hingham," pointing to the pretty little town just a short distance before them in the hollow; "that is," laughing, "I do this summer. Well, we were out strolling along about a mile below here on the cross-road; and all of a sudden, just as if they sprung right up out of the ground, I saw a man with an organ, and a monkey, and a little girl, coming along the road. She was crying, and as soon as Prince saw that, he gave a growl, and then the man saw us, and he looked so mean and cringing I knew there must be something wrong, and I inquired of him what he was doing with that little girl, and then she looked up and begged so with her eyes, and all of a sudden broke away from him and ran towards me screaming--'I want Polly!' Well, the man sprang after her; then I tell you"--here the boy forgot his caution about waking Phronsie--"we went for him, Prince and I! Prince is a noble fellow," (here the dog's ears twitched very perceptibly) "and he kept at that man; oh! how he bit him! till he had to run for fear the monkey would get killed."
"Was Phronsie frightened?" asked Ben; "she's never seen strangers."
"Not a bit," said the boy, cheerily; "she just clung to me like everything--I only wish she was my sister," he added impulsively.
"What were you going to do with her if I hadn't come along?" asked Ben.
"Well, I got out on the main road," said the boy, "because I thought anybody who had lost her, would probably come through this way; but if somebody hadn't come, I was going to carry her in to Hingham; and the father and I'd had to contrive some way to do."
"Well," said Ben, as the boy finished and fastened his bright eyes on him, "somebody did come along; and now I must get her home about as fast as I can for poor mammy-- and Polly!"
"Yes," said the boy, "I'll help you lift her; perhaps she won't wake up."
The big dog moved away a step or two, but still kept his eye on Phronsie.
"There," said the boy, brightly, as they laid the child on the wagon seat; "now when you get in you can hold her head; that's it," he added, seeing them both fixed to his satisfaction. But still Ben lingered.
"Thank you," he tried to say.
"I know," laughed the boy; "only it's Prince instead of me," and he pulled forward the big black creature, who had followed faithfully down the hill to see the last of it. "To the front, sir, there! We're coming to see you," he continued, "if you will let us--where do you live?"
"Do come," said Ben, lighting up, for he was just feeling he couldn't bear to look his last on the merry, honest face; "anybody'll tell you where Mrs. Pepper lives."
"Is she a Pepper?" asked the boy, laughing, and pointing to the unconscious little heap in the wagon; "and are you a Pepper?"
"Yes," said Ben, laughing too. "There are five of us besides mother.
"Jolly! that's something like! Good-bye! Come on, Prince!" Then away home to mother! Phronsie never woke up or turned over once till she was put, a little pink sleepy heap, into her mother's arms. Joel was there, crying bitterly at his forlorn search. The testy old gentleman in the seat opposite had relented and ordered the coach about and brought him home in an outburst of grief when all hope was gone. And one after another they all had come back, disheartened, to the distracted mother. Polly alone, clung to hope!
"Ben will bring her, mammy; I know God will let him," she whispered.
But when Ben did bring her, Polly, for the second time in her life, tumbled over with a gasp, into old Mrs. Bascom's lap.
Home and mother! Little Phronsie slept all that night straight through. The neighbors came in softly, and with awestruck visages stole into the bedroom to look at the child; and as they crept out again, thoughts of their own little ones tugging at their hearts, the tears would drop unheeded.