Five Little Peppers And How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
Polly's Dismal Morning
Everything had gone wrong with Polly that day. It began with her boots.
Of all things in the world that tried Polly's patience most were the troublesome little black buttons that originally adorned those useful parts of her clothing, and that were fondly supposed to be there when needed. But they never were. The little black things seemed to be invested with a special spite, for one by one they would hop off on the slightest provocation, and go rolling over the floor, just when she was in her most terrible hurry, compelling her to fly for needle and thread on the instant. For one thing Mrs. Pepper was very strict about--and that was, Polly should do nothing else till the buttons were all on again, and the boots buttoned up firm and snug.
"Oh dear!" said Polly, sitting down on the floor, and pulling on her stockings. "There now, see that hateful old shoe, mamsie!" And she thrust out one foot in dismay.
"What's the matter with it?" said Mrs. Pepper straightening the things on the bureau. "You haven't worn it out already, Polly?"
"Oh no," said Polly, with a little laugh. "I hope not yet, but it's these dreadful hateful old buttons!" And she twitched the boot off from her foot with such an impatient little pull, that three or four more went flying under the bed. "There now--there's a lot more. I don't care! I wish they'd all go; they might as well!" she cried, tossing that boot on the floor in intense scorn, while she investigated the state of the other one.
"Are they all off?" asked Phronsie, pulling herself up out of a little heap in the middle of the bed, and leaning over the side, where she viewed Polly sorrowfully. "Every one, Polly?"
"No," said Polly, "but I wish they were, mean old things; when I was going down to play a duet with Jasper! We should have had a good long time before breakfast. Oh, mayn't I go just once, mamsie? Nobody'll see me if I tuck my foot under the piano; and I can sew 'em on afterwards--there'll be plenty of time. Do, just once, mamsie!"
"No," said Mrs. Pepper firmly, "there isn't any time but now. And piano playing isn't very nice when you've got to stick your toes under it to keep your shoes on."
"Well then," grumbled Polly, hopping around in her stocking-feet, "where is the work-basket, mamsie? Oh--here it is on the window-seat." A rattle of spools, scissors and necessary utensils showed plainly that Polly had found it, followed by a jumble of words and despairing ejaculations as she groped hurriedly under chairs and tables to collect the scattered contents.
When she got back with a very red face, she found Phronsie, who had crawled out of bed, sitting down on the floor in her little nightgown and examining the boot with profound interest.
"I can sew 'em, Polly," she said, holding up her hand for the big needle that Polly was trying to thread--"I can now truly; let me, Polly, do!"
"Dear no!" said Polly with a little laugh, beginning to be very much ashamed. "What could you do with your little mites of hands pulling this big thread through that old leather? There, scamper into bed again; you'll catch cold out here.
"Tisn't very cold," said Phronsie, tucking up her toes under the night-gown, but Polly hurried her into bed, where she curled herself up under the clothes, watching her make a big knot. But the knot didn't stay; for when Polly drew up the long thread triumphantly to the end--out it flew, and away the button hopped again as if glad to be released. And then the thread kinked horribly, and got all twisted up in disagreeable little snarls that took all Polly's patience to unravel.
"It's because you're in such a hurry," said Mrs. Pepper, who was getting Phionsie's clothes. And coming over across the room she got down on one knee, and looked over Polly's shoulder. "There now, let mother see what's the matter."
"Oh dear," said Polly, resigning the needle with a big sigh, and leaning back to take a good stretch, followed by Phronsie's sympathizing eyes; "they never'll be on! And there goes the first bell!" as the loud sounds under Jane's vigorous ringing pealed up over the stairs. "There won't be time anyway, now! I wish there wasn't such a thing as shoes in the world!" And she gave a flounce and sat up straight in front of her mother.
"Polly!" said Mrs. Pepper sternly, deftly fastening the little buttons tightly into place with quick, firm stitches, "better be glad you've got them to sew at all. There now, here they are. Those won't come off in a hurry!"
"Oh, mamsie!" cried Polly, ignoring for a moment the delights of the finished shoe to fling her arms around her mother's neck and give her a good hug. "You're just the splendidest, goodest mamsie in all the world. And I'm a hateful, cross old bear, so I am!" she cried remorsefully, buttoning herself into her boots. Which done, she flew at the rest of her preparations and tried to make up for lost time.
But 'twas all of no use. The day seemed to be always just racing ahead of her, and turning a corner, before she could catch up to it, and Ben and the other boys only caught dissolving views of her as she flitted through halls or over stairs.
"Where's Polly?" said Percy at last, coming with great dissatisfaction in his voice to the library door. "We've called her, I guess a million times, and she won't hurry."
"What do you want to have her do?" asked Jasper, looking up from the sofa where he had flung himself with a book.
"Why, she said she'd make Van and me our sails you know," said Percy, holding up a rather forlorn looking specimen of a boat, but which the boys had carved with the greatest enthusiasm, "and we want her now."
"Can't you let her alone till she's ready to come?" said Jasper quickly. "You're always teasing her to do something," he added.
"I didn't tease," said Percy indignantly, coming up to the sofa, boat in hand, to enforce his words. "She said she'd love to do 'em, so there, Jasper King!"
"Coming! coming!" sang Polly over the stairs, and bobbing into the library, "Oh--here you are, Percy! I couldn't come before; mamsie wanted me. Now, says I, for the sails." And she began to~p out a long white piece of cotton cloth on the table to trim into just the desired shape.
"That isn't the way," said Percy, crowding up, the brightness that had flashed over his face at Polly's appearance beginning to fade. "Hoh! those won't be good for anything-- those ain't sails."
"I haven't finished," said Polly, snipping away vigorously, and longing to get back to mamsie. "Wait till they're done; then they'll be good--as good as can be!"
"And it's bad enough to have to make them," put in Jasper, flinging aside his book and rolling over to watch them, "without having to be found fault with every second, Percy."
"They're too big," said Percy, surveying them critically, and then looking at his boat.
"Oh, that corner's coming off," cried Polly cheerfully, giving it a sharp cut that sent it flying on the floor. "And they won't be too big when they're done, Percy, all hemmed and everything. There," as she held one up for inspection, "that's just the way I used to make Ben's and mine, when we sailed boats."
"Is it?" asked Percy, looking with more respect at the piece of cloth Polly was waving alluringly before him. "Just exactly like it, Polly?"
"Yes," said Polly, laying it down again for a pattern--"oh, how does this go--oh--that's it, there--yes, this is just exactly like Bensie's and mine--that was when I was ever so little; and then I used to make Joel's and Davie's afterwards and"-- "And were theirs just like this?" asked Percy, laying his hand on the sail she had finished cutting out.
"Pre-cisely," said Polly, with a pin in her mouth. "Just as like as two peas, Percy Whitney."
"Then I like them," cried Percy, veering round and regarding them with great satisfaction--as Van bounded in with a torrent of complaints, and great disappointment in every line of his face.
"Oh now, that's too bad!" he cried, seeing Polly fold up the remaining bits of cloth, and pick up the scraps on the floor. "And you've gone and let her cut out every one of 'em, and never told me a word! You're a mean, old hateful thing, Percy Whitney!"
"Oh don't!" said Polly, on her knees on the floor.
"I forgot--" began Percy, "and she cut 'em so quick--and--"
"And I've been waiting," said Van, in a loud wrathful key, "and waiting--and waiting!"
"Never mind, Van," said Jasper consolingly, getting off from the sofa and coming up to the table.
"They're done and done beautifully, aren't they?" be said, holding up one.
But this only proved fresh fuel for the fire of Van's indignation.
"And you shan't have 'em, so 1" he cried, making a lunge at the one on the table, "for I made most of the boat, there!"
"Oh no, you didn't!" cried Percy in the greatest alarm, hanging on to the boat in his hand. "I cut--all the keel--and the bow--and--"
"Oh dear!" said Polly, in extreme dismay, looking at Jasper. "Come, I'll tell you what I'll do, boys."
"What?" said Van, cooling off a little, and allowing Percy to edge into a corner with the beloved boat and one sail. "What will you, Polly?"
"I'll make you another pair of sails," said Polly groaning within herself as she thought of the wasted minutes, "and then you can see me cut 'em, Van."
"Will you really," he said, delight coming all over his flushed face.
"Yes, I will," cricd Polly, "wait a minute till I get some more cloth." And she started for the door.
"Oh now, that's too bad!" said Jasper. "To have to cut more of those tiresome old things! Van, let her off!"
"Oh no, I won't! I won't!" he cried in the greatest alarm, running up to her as she stood by the door. "You did say so, Polly! You know you did!"
"Of course I did, Vanny," said Polly, smiling down into his eager face, "and we'll have a splendid pair in just--one----minute!" she sang.
And so the sails were cut out, and the hems turned down and basted, and tucked away into Polly's little work-basket ready for the sewing on the morrow. And then Mr. King came in and took Jasper off with him; and the two Whitney boys went up to mamma for a story; and Polly sat down in mamsie's room to tackle her French exercise.