Five Little Peppers And How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
Polly is Comforted
Yes, it must be confessed. Polly was homesick. All her imaginations of her mother's hard work, increased by her absence, loomed up before her, till she was almost ready to fly home without a minute's warning. At night, when no one knew it, the tears would come racing over the poor, forlorn little face, and would not be squeezed back. It got to be noticed finally; and one and all redoubled their exertions to make everything twice as pleasant as ever!
The only place, except in front of the grand piano, where Polly approached a state of comparative happiness, was in the greenhouse.
Here she would stay, comforted and soothed among the lovely plants and rich exotics, rejoicing the heart of Old Turner the gardener, who since Polly's first rapturous entrance, had taken her into his good graces for all time.
Every chance she could steal after practice hours were over, and after the clamorous demands of the boys upon her time were fully satisfied, was seized to fly on the wings of the wind, to the flowers.
But even with the music and flowers the dancing light in the eyes went down a little; and Polly, growing more silent and pale, moved around with a little droop to the small figure that had on1y been wont to fly through the wide halls and spacious rooms with gay and springing step.
"Polly don't like us," at last said Van one day in despair. "Then, dear," said Mrs. Whitney, "you must be kinder to her than ever; think what it would be for one of you to be away from home even among friends."
"I'd like it first rate to be away from Percy," said Van, reflectively; "I wouldn't come back in three, no, six weeks."
"My son," said his mamma, "just stop and think how badly you would feel, if you really couldn't see Percy."
"Well," said Van, and he showed signs of relenting a little at that; "but Percy is perfectly awful, mamma, you don't know; and he feels so smart too," he said vindictively.
"Well," said Mrs. Whitney, softly, "let's think what we can do for Polly; it makes me feel very badly to see her sad little face."
"I don't know," said Van, running over in his mind all the possible ways he could think of for entertaining anybody, "unless she'd like my new book of travels--or my velocipede," he added.
"I'm afraid those wouldn't quite answer the purpose," said his mamma, smiling--"especially the last; yet we must think of something."
But just here Mr. King thought it about time to take matters into his hands. So, with a great many chucklings and shruggings when no one was by, he had departed after breakfast one day, simply saying he shouldn't be back to lunch.
Polly sat in the drawing-room, near the edge of the twilight, practicing away bravely. Somehow, of all the days when the home feeling was the strongest, this day it seemed as if she could bear it no longer. If she could only see Phronsie for just one moment! "I shall have to give up!" she moaned. "I can't bear it!" and over went her head on the music rack.
"Where is she?" said a voice over in front of the piano, in the gathering dusk--unmistakably Mr. King's.
"Oh, she's always at the piano," said Van. "She must be there now, somewhere," and then somebody laughed. Then came in the loudest of whispers from little Dick, "Oh, Jappy, what'll she say?"
"Hush!" said one of the other boys; "do be still, Dick!"
Polly sat up very straight, and whisked off the tears quickly. Up came Mr. King with an enormous bundle in his arms; and he marched up to the piano, pulling with his exertions.
"Here, Polly, hold your arms," he had only strength to gasp. And then he broke out into a loud burst of merriment, in which all the troop joined, until the big room echoed with the sound.
At this, the bundle opened suddenly, and--out popped Phronsie!
"Here lam! I'm here, Polly!"
But Polly couldn't speak; and if Jasper hadn't caught her just in time, she would have tumbled over backward from the stool, Phronsie and all!
"Aren't you glad I've come, Polly?" asked Phronsie, with her little face close to Polly's own.
That brought Polly to. "Oh, Phronsie!" she cried, and strained her to her heart; while the boys crowded around, and plied her with sudden questions.
"Now you'll stay," cried Van; "say, Polly, won't you."
"Weren't you awfully surprised?" cried Percy; "say, Polly, awfully?"
"Is her name Phronsie," put in Dick, unwilling to be left out, and not thinking of anything else to ask.
"Boys," whispered their mother, warningly, "she can't answer you; just look at her face."
And to be sure, our Polly's face was a study to behold. All its old sunniness was as nothing to the joy that now transfigured it.
"Oh!" she cried, coming out of her rapture a little, and springing over to Mr. King with Phronsie still in her arms. "Oh, you are the dearest and best Mr. King I ever saw! but how did you make mammy let her come?"
"Isn't he splendid!" cried Jasper in intense pride, swelling up. "Father knew how to do it."
But Polly's arms were around the old gentleman's neck, so she didn't hear. "There, there," he said soothingly, patting her brown, fuzzy head. Something was going down the old gentleman's neck, that wet his collar, and made him whisper very tenderly in her ear, "don't give way now, Polly; Phronsie'll see you."
"I know," gasped Polly, controlling her sobs; "I won't--only--I can't thank you!"
"Phronsie," said Jasper quickly, "what do you suppose Prince said the other day?"
"What?" asked Phronsie in intense interest slipping down out of Polly's arms, and crowding up close to Jasper's side. "What did he, Japser?"
"Oh-ho, how funny!" laughed Van, while little Dick burst right out, "lapser!"
"Be still," said Jappy warningly, while Phronsie stood surveying them all with grave eyes.
"Well, I asked him, 'Don't you want to see Phronsie Pepper, Prince?' And do you know, he just stood right upon his hind legs, Phronsie, and said: 'Bark! yes, Bark! Barki"
"Did he really, Japser?" cried Phronsie, delighted beyond measure; and clasping her hands in rapture, "all alone by himself?"
"Yes, all alone by himself," asserted Jasper, vehemently,
and winking furiously to the others to stop their laughing; "he did now, truly, Phronsie."
"Then mustn't I go and see him now, Japser? yes, pretty soon now?"
"So you must," cried Jasper, enchanted at his success in amusing; "and I'll go with you."
"Oh, no," cried Phronsie, shaking her yellow head. "Oh no, Japser; I must go by my very own self."
"There Jap, you've caught it," laughed Percy; while the others screamed at the sight of Jasper's face.
"Oh Phronsie!" cried Polly, turning around at the last words; "how could you!"
"Don't mind it, Polly," whispered Jasper; "twasn't her fault."
"Phronsie," said Mrs. Whitney, smilingly, stooping over the child, "would you like to see a little pussy I have for you?"
But the chubby face didn't look up brightly, as usual: and the next moment, without a bit of warning, Phronsie sprang past them all, even Polly, and flung herself into Mr. King's arms, in a perfect torrent of sobs. "Oh! let's go back!" was all they heard!
"Dear me!" ejaculated the old gentleman, in the utmost amazement; "and such a time as I've had to get her here too!" he added, staring around on the astonished group, none of whom had a word to say.
But Polly stood like a statue! All Jasper's frantic efforts at comfort, utterly failed. To think that Phronsie had left her for any one!-- even good Mr. King! The room seemed to buzz, and everything to turn upside down--and just then, she heard another cry--"Oh, I want Polly, I do!"
With a bound, Polly was at Mr. King's side, with her face on his coat, close to the little tear-stained one. The fat, little arms unclasped their hold, and transferred themselves willingly to Polly's neck; and Phronsie hugged up comfortingly to Polly's heart, who poured into her ear all the loving words she had so longed to say.
Just then there was a great rush and a scuffling noise; and something rushed up to Phronsie "Oh!" And then the next minute, she had her arms around Prince's neck, too, who was jumping all over her and trying as hard as he could, to express his overwhelming delight.
"She's the dunningest little thing I ever saw," said Mrs. Whitney, enthusiastically, afterward, aside to Mr. King. "Such lovely yellow hair, and such exquisite brown eyes--the combination is very striking. How did her mother ever let her go?" she asked impulsively, "I didn't believe you could persuade her, father."
"I didn't have any fears, if I worked it rightly," said the old gentleman complacently. "I wasn't coming without her, Marian, if it could possibly be managed. The truth is, that Phronsie had been pining for Polly to such an extent, that there was no other way but for her to have Polly; and her mother was just on the point, although it almost killed her, of sending for Polly--as if we should have let her go!" he cried in high dudgeon; just as if he owned the whole of the Peppers, and could dispose of them all to suit his fancy! "So you see, I was just in time; in the very nick of time, in fact!"
"So her mother was willing?" asked his daughter, curiously. "Oh, she couldn't help it," cried Mr. King, beginning to walk up and down the floor, and beaming as he recalled his successful strategy; "there wasn't the smallest use in thinking of anything else. I told her 'twould just stop Polly from ever being a musician if she broke off now--and so 'twould, you know yourself, Marian, for we should never get the child here again, if we let her go now; and I talked--well, I had to talk some; but, well--the upshot is I did get her, and I did bring her--and here she is!" And the old gentleman was so delighted with his success, that he had to burst out into a series of short, happy bits of laughter, that occupied quite a space of time. At last he came out of them, and wiped his face vigorously.
"And to think how fond the little girl is of you, father!" said Mrs. Whitney, who hadn't yet gotten over her extreme surprise at the old gentleman's complete subjection to the little Peppers: he, whom all children had by instinct always approached so carefully, and whom every one found it necessary to conciliate!
"Well, she's a nice child," he said, "a very nice child; and," straightening himself up to his fullest height, and looking so very handsome, that his daughter could not conceal her admiration, "I shall always take care of Phronsie Pepper, Marian!"
"So I hope," said Mrs. Whitney; "and father, I do believe they'll repay you; for I do think there's good blood there; these children have a look about them that shows them worthy to be trusted."
"So they have: so they have," assented Mr. King, and then the conversation dropped.