Five Little Peppers And How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
Polly's Big Bundle
The room was very quiet; but presently Phronsie strayed in, and seeing Polly studying, climbed up in a chair by the window to watch the birds hop over the veranda and pick up worms in the grass beside the carriage drive. And then came Mrs. Pepper with the big mending basket, and ensconced herself opposite by the table; and nothing was to be heard but the "tick, tick" of the clock, and an occasional dropping of a spool of thread, or scissors, from the busy hands flying in and out among the stockings.
All of a sudden there was a great rustling in Cherry's cage that swung in the big window on the other side of the room. And then he set up a loud and angry chirping, flying up and down, and opening his mouth as if he wanted to express his mind, but couldn't, and otherwise acting in a very strange and unaccountable manner.
"Dear me!" said Mrs. Pepper, "what's that?"
"It's Cherry," said Polly, lifting up her head from "Fasquelle," "and--oh, dear me!" and flinging down the pile of books in her lap on a chair, she rushed across the room and flew up to the cage and began to wildly gesticulate and explain and shower down on him every endearing name she could think of.
"What is the matter?" asked her mother, turning around in her chair in perfect astonishment. "What upon earths Polly!" "How could I!" cried Polly, in accents of despair, not heeding her mother's question. "Oh, mamsie, will he die, do you think?"
"I guess not," said Mrs. Pepper, laying down her work and coming up to the cage, while Phronsie scrambled off from her chair and hurried to the scene. "Why, he does act queer, don't he? P'raps he's been eating too much?"
"Eating!" said Polly, "oh mamsie, he hasn't had anything." And she pointed with shame and remorse to the seed-cup with only a few dried husks in the very bottom.
"Oh, Polly," began Mrs. Pepper; but seeing the look on her face, she changed her tone for one more cheerful. "Well, hurry and get him some now; he'll be all right, poor little thing, in a minute. There, there," she said, nodding persuasively at the cage, "you pretty creature you! so you sha'n't be starved."
At the word "starved," Polly winced as though a pin had been pointed at her.
"There isn't any, mamsie, in the house," she stammered; "he had the last yesterday."
"And you forgot him to-day?" asked Mrs. Pepper, with a look in her black eyes Polly didn't like.
"Yes'm," said poor Polly in a low voice.
"Well, he must have something right away," said Mrs. Pepper, decidedly. "That?s certain."
"I'll run right down to Fletcher's and get it," cried Polly.
"Twon't take me but a minute, mamsie; Jasper's gone, and Thomas, too, so I've got to go," she added, as she saw her mother hesitate.
"If you could wait till Ben gets home," said Mrs. Pepper, slowly. "I'm most afraid it will rain, Polly."
"Oh, no, mamsie," cried Polly, feeling as if she could fly to the ends of the earth to atone, and longing beside for the brisk walk down town. Going up to the window she pointed triumphantly to the little bit of blue sky still visible. "There, now, see, it can't rain yet awhile."
"Well," said Mrs. Pepper, while Phronsie, standing in a chair with her face pressed close to the cage, was telling Cherry through the bars "not to be hungry, please don't!" which he didn't seem to mind in the least, but went on screaming harder than ever! "And besides, 'tisn't much use to wait for Ben. Nobody knows where he'll get shoes to fit himself and Joe and Davie, in one afternoon! But be sure, Polly, to hurry, for it's getting late, and I shall be worried about you.
"Oh, mamsie," said Polly, turning back just a minute, "I know the way to Fletcher's just as easy as anything. I couldn't get lost."
"I know you do," said Mrs. Pepper, "but it'll be dark early on account of the shower. Well," she said, pulling out her well-worn purse from her pocket, "if it does sprinkle, you get into a car, Polly, remember."
"Oh, yes, I will," she cried, taking the purse.
"And there's ten cents for your bird seed in that pocket," said Mrs. Pepper, pointing to a coin racing away into a corner by itself.
"Yes'm," said Polly, wild to be off.
"And there's a five-cent piece in that one for you to ride up with," said her mother, tying up the purse carefully. "Remember, for you to ride up with. Well, I guess you better ride up anyway, Polly, come to think, and then you'll get home all the quicker."
"Where you going?" asked Phronsie, who on seeing the purse knew there was some expedition on foot, and beginning to clamber down out of the chair. "Oh, I want to go too, I do. Take me, Polly!"
"Oh, no, Pet, I can't," cried Polly, "I've got to hurry like everything!"
"I can hurry too," cried Phronsie, drawing her small figure to its utmost height, "oh, so fast, Polly!"
"And it's ever so far," cried Polly, in despair, as she saw the small under lip of the child begin to quiver. "Oh, dear me, mamsie, what shall I do!"
"Run right along," said Mrs. Pepper, briskly. "Now, Phronsie, you and I ought to take care of Cherry, poor thing."
At this Phronsie turned and wiped away two big tears, while she gazed up at the cage in extreme commiseration.
"I guess I'll give him a piece of bread," said Mrs. Pepper to herself. At this word "bread," Polly, who was half way down the hall, came running back.
"Oh, mamsie, don't," she said. "It made him sick before, don't you know it did--so fat and stuffy."
"Well, hurry along then," said Mrs. Pepper, and Polly was off.
Over the ground she sped, only intent on reaching the bird store, her speed heightened by the dark and rolling bank of cloud that seemed to shut right down suddenly over her and envelop her warningly.
"It's good I've got the money to ride up with," she thought to herself, hurrying along through the busy streets, filled now with anxious crowds homeward rushing to avoid the threatening shower. "Well, here I am," she said with a sigh of relief, as she at last reached Mr. Fletcher's big bird store.
Here she steadily resisted all temptations to stop and look at the new arrivals of birds, and to feed the carrier-pigeons who seemed to be expecting her, and who turned their soft eyes up at her reproachfully when she failed to pay her respects to them. Even the cunning blandishments of a very attractive monkey that always had entertained the children on their numerous visits, failed to interest her now. Mamsie would be worrying, she knew; and besides, the sight of so many birds eating their suppers out of generously full seed-cups, only filled her heart with remorse as she thought of poor Cherry and his empty one.
So she put down her ten cents silently on the counter, and took up the little package of seed, and went out.
But what a change! The cloud that had seemed but a cloud when she went in, was now fast descending in big ominous sprinkles that told of a heavy shower to follow. Quick and fast they came, making everybody fly to the nearest shelter.
"I don't care," said Polly to herself, holding fast her little package. "I'll run and get in the car--then I'll be all right."
So she went on with nimble footsteps, dodging the crowd, and soon came to the corner. A car was just in sight--that was fine! Polly put her hand in her pocket for her purse, to have it all ready--but as quickly drew it out again and stared wildly at the car, which she allowed to pass by. Her pocket was empty!
"Oh, dear," she said to herself, as a sudden gust of wind blew around the corner, and warned her to move on, "now what shall I do! Well, I must hurry. Nothing for it but to run now!"
And secretly glad at the chance for a good hearty run along the hard pavements, a thing she had been longing to do ever since she came to the city, Polly gathered her bundle of seed up under her arm, and set out for a jolly race. She was enjoying it hugely, when--a sudden turn of the corner brought her up against a gentleman, who, having his umbrella down to protect his face, hadn't seen her till it was too late.
Polly never could tell how it was done; but the first thing she knew she was being helped up from the wet, slippery pavement by a kind hand; and a gentleman's voice said in the deepest concern:
"I beg your pardon; it was extremely careless in me."
"It's no matter," said Polly, hopping up with a little laugh, and straightening her hat. "Only--" and she began to look for her parcel that had been sent spinning.
"What is it?" said the gentleman, bending down and beginning to explore, too, in the darkness.
"My bundle," began Polly. "Oh, dear!"
No need to ask for it now! There lay the paper wet and torn, down at their feet. The seed lay all over the pavement, scattered far and wide even out to the puddles in the street. And not a cent of money to get any more with! The rain that was falling around them as they stood there sent with the sound of every drop such a flood of misery into Polly's heart!
"What was it, child?" asked the gentleman, peering sharply to find out what the little shiny things were.
"Bird-seed," gasped Polly.
"Is that all?" said the gentleman with a happy laugh. "I'm very glad."
"All!" Polly's heart stood still as she thought of Cherry, stark and stiff in the bottom of his cage, if he didn't get it soon. "Now," said the kind tones, briskly, "come, little girl, we'll make this all right speedily. Let's see--here's a bird store. Now, then."
"But, sir--" began Polly, holding back.
Even Cherry had better die than to do anything her mother wouldn't like. But the gentleman already had her in the shop, and was delighting the heart of the shop-keeper by ordering him to do up a big package of all kinds of seed. And then he added a cunning arrangement for birds to swing in, and two or three other things that didn't have anything to do with birds at all. And then they came out on the wet, slippery street again.
"Now, then, little girl," said the gentleman, tucking the bundle under his arm, and opening the umbrella; then he took hold of Polly's hand, who by this time was glad of a protector. "Where do you live? For I'm going to take you safely home this time where unbrellas can't run into you."
"Oh!" said Polly, with a little skip. "Thank you sir! It's up to Mr. King's; and--"
"What!" said the gentleman, stopping short in the midst of an immense puddle, and staring at her, "Mr. Jasper King's?"
"I don't know sir," said Polly, "what his other name is. Yes it must be Jasper; that's what Jappy's is, anyway," she added with a little laugh, wishing very much that she could see Jappy at that identical moment.
"Jappy!" said the stranger, still standing as if petrified. "And are there little Whitney children in the same house!"
"Oh, yes," said Polly, raising her clear, brown eyes up at him. The gas lighter was just beginning his rounds, and the light from a neighboring lamp flashed full on Polly's face as she spoke, showing just how clear and brown the eyes were. "There's Percy, and Van, and little Dick--oh, he's so cunning!" she cried, impulsively.
The gentleman's face looked very queer just then; but he merely said:
"Why, you must be Polly?"
"Yes, sir, I am," said Polly, pleased to think he knew her. And then she told him how she'd forgotten Cherry's seed, and all about it. "And oh, sir," she said, and her voice began to tremble, " Mamsie'll be so frightened if I don't get there soon!
"I'm going up there myself, so that it all happens very nicely," said the gentleman, commencing to start off briskly, and grasping her hand tighter. "Now, then, Polly."
So off they went at a very fast pace; she, skipping through the puddles that his long, even strides carried him safely over, chattered away by his side under the umbrella, and answered his many questions, and altogether got so very well acquainted that by the time they turned in at the old stone gateway, she felt as if she had known him for years.
And there, the first thing they either of them saw, down in a little corner back of the tall evergreens, was a small heap that rose as they splashed up the carriage-drive, and resolved itself into a very red dress and a very white apron, as it rushed impulsively up and flung itself into Polly's wet arms:
"And I was so tired waiting, Polly!"
"Oh dear me, Phronsie!" cried Polly, huddling her up from the dark, wet ground. "You'll catch your death! What will mamsie say!"
The stranger, amazed at this new stage of the proceedings, was vainly trying to hold the umbrella over both, till the procession could move on again.
"Oh!" cried Phronsie, shaking her yellow head decidedly, "they're all looking for you, Polly." She pointed one finger solemnly up to the big carved door as she spoke. At that Polly gathered her up close and began to walk with rapid footsteps up the path.
"Do let me carry you, little girl," said Polly's kind friend persuasively, bending down to the little face on Polly's neck.
"Oh, no, no, no!" said Phronsie, at each syllable grasping Polly around the throat in perfect terror, and waving him off with a very crumpled, mangy bit of paper, that had already done duty to wipe off the copious tears during her anxious watch. "Don't let him, Polly, don't!"
"There sha'n't anything hurt you," said Polly, kissing her reassuringly, and stepping briskly off with her burden, just as the door burst open, and Joel flew out on the veranda steps, followed by the rest of the troop in the greatest state of excitement.
"Oh, whickety! she's come 1' he shouted, springing up to her over the puddles, and crowding under the umbrella. "Where'd you get Phronsie?" he asked, standing quite still at sight of the little feet tucked up to get out of the rain. And without waiting for an answer he turned and shot back into the house proclaiming in stentorian tones, "Ma, Polly's come--an' she's got Phronsie--an' an awful big man--and they're out by the gate!"
"Phronsie!" said Mrs. Pepper, springing to her feet, "why, I thought she was up-stairs with Jane."
"Now, somebody," exclaimed old Mr. King, who sat by the library table vainly trying to read a newspaper, which he now threw down in extreme irritation as he rose quickly and went to the door to welcome the wanderers, "somebody ought to watch that poor child, whose business it is to know where she is! She's, caught her death-cold, no doubt, no doubt!"
Outside, in the rain, the children revolved around and around Polly and Phronsie, hugging and kissing them, until nobody could do much more than breathe, not seeming to notice the stranger, who stood quietly waiting till such time as he could be heard.
At last, in a lull in the scramble, as they were dragging Polly and her burden up the steps, each wild for the honor of escorting her into the house, he cried out in laughing tones:
"Isn't anybody going to kiss me, I wonder!"
The two little Whitneys, who were eagerly clutching Polly's arms, turned around; and Percy rubbed his eyes in a puzzled way, as Joel said, stopping a minute to look up at the tall figure:
"We don't ever kiss strangers--mamsie's told us not to."
"For shame, Joey!" cried PoIly, feeling her face grow dreadfully red in the darkness, "the gentleman's been so kind to me!"
"You're right, my boy," said the stranger, laughing and bending down to Joel's upturned, sturdy countenance, at the same instant that Mrs. Pepper flung open the big door, and a bright, warm light fell straight across his handsome face. And then-- Well, then Percy gave a violent bound, and upsetting Joel as he did so, wriggled his way down the steps--at the same time that Van, on Polly's other side, rushed up to the gentleman:
Polly, half way up the steps, turned around, and then, at the rush of feeling that gathered at her heart, sat right down on the wet slippery step.
"Why, Polly Pepper!" exclaimed Joel, not minding his own upset. "You're right in all the slush--mother won't like it, I tell you!"
"Hush!" cried Polly, catching his arm, "he's come--oh, Joel --he's come!"
"Who?" cried Joel, staring around blindly, "who, Polly?" Polly had just opened her lips to explain, when Mr. King's portly, handsome figure appeared in the doorway. "Do come in, children--why--good gracious, Mason!"
"Yes," cried the stranger, lightly, dropping his big bundle and umbrella as he passed in the door, with his little sons clinging to him. "Where is Marian?"
"Why didn't you write?" asked the old gentleman, testily. "These surprises aren't the right sort of things," and he began to feel vigorously of his heart. "Here, Mrs. Pepper, be so good as to call Mrs. Whitney."
"Pepper! Pepper!" repeated Mr. Whitney, perplexedly.
"She's coming--I hear her up-stairs," cried Van Whitney. "Oh, let me tell her!" He struggled to get down from his father's arms as he said this.
"No, I shall--I heard her first!" cried Percy. "Oh, dear me! Grandpapa's going to!"
Mr. King advanced to the foot of the staircase as his daughter, all unconscious, ran down with a light step, and a smile on her face.
"Has Polly come?" she asked, seeing only her father. "Yes," replied the old gentleman, shortly, "and she's brought a big bundle, Marian!"
"A big bundle?" she repeated wonderingly, and gazing at him.
"A very big bundle," he said, and taking hold of her shoulders he turned her around on--her husband.
So Polly and Phronsie crept in unnoticed after all.
"I wish Ben was here," said little Davie, capering around the Whitney group, "an' Jappy, I do!"
"Where are they!" asked Polly.
"Don't know," said Joel, tugging at his shoe-string. "See-- aren't these prime!" He held up a shining black shoe, fairly bristling with newness, for Polly to admire.
"Splendid," she cried heartily; "but where are the boys?"
"They went after you," said Davie, "after we came home with our shoes."
"No, they didn't," contradicted Joel, flatly; and sitting down on the floor he began to tie and untie his new possessions. "When we came home Ben drew us pictures--lots of 'em--don't you know?"
"Oh, yes," said Davie, nodding his head, "so he did; that was when we all cried 'cause you weren't home, Polly."
"He drawed me a be-yew-tiful one," cried Phronsie, holding up her mangy bit; "see, Polly, see!"
"That's the little brown house," said Davie, looking over her shoulder as Phronsie put it carefully into Polly's hand.
"It's all washed out," said Polly, smoothing it out, "when you staid out in the rain."
Phronsie's face grew very grave at that.
"Bad, naughty old rain," she said, and then she began to cry as hard as she could.
"Oh dear, don't!" cried Polly in dismay, trying her best to stop her, "oh, Phronsie, do stop!" she implored, pointing into the next room whence the sound of happy voices issued, "they'll all hear you!"
But Phronsie in her grief didn't care, but wailed on steadily.
"Who is it anyway?" cried Joel, tired of admiring his precious shoes, and getting up to hear them squeak, "that great big man, you know, Polly, that came in with you?"
"Why, I thought I told you," said Polly, at her wit's end over Phronsie. "It's Percy and Van's father, Joey!"
"Whockeyl" cried Joel, completely stunned, "really and truly, Polly Pepper?"
"Really and truly," cried Polly, bundling Phronsie up in her arms to lay the little wet cheek against hers.
"Then I'm going to peek," cried Joel, squeaking across the floor to carry his threat into execution.
"Oh, you mustn't, Joe!" cried Polly, frightened lest he should. "Come right back, or I'll tell mamsie!"
"They're all comin' in, anyway," cried little Davie, delightedly, and scuttling over to Polly's side.
"And here are the little friends I've heard so much about!" cried Mr. Whitney coming in amongst them. "Oh, you needn't introduce me to Polly--she brought me home!"
"They're all Pepperses," said Percy, waving his hand, and doing the business up at one stroke.
"Only the best of 'em isn't here," observed Van, rather ungallantly, "he draws perfectly elegant, papa!"
"1 like Polly best, I do!" cried little Dick, tumbling after. "Peppers!" again repeated Mr. Whitney in a puzzled way. "And here is Mrs. Pepper," said old Mr. King, pompously drawing her forward, "the children's mother, and--"
But here Mrs. Pepper began to act in a very queer way, rubbing her eyes and twisting one corner of her black apron in a decidedly nervous manner that, as the old gentleman looked up, he saw with astonishment presently communicated itself to the gentleman opposite.
"Is it," said Mr. Whitney, putting out his hand and grasping the hard, toil-worn one in the folds of the apron, "is it cousin Mary?"
"And aren't you cousin John?" she asked, the tears in her bright black eyes.
"Of all things in this world!" cried the old gentleman, waving his head helplessly from one to the other. "Will somebody have the extreme goodness to tell us what all this means?"
At this the little Peppers crowded around their mother, and into all the vacant places they could find, to get near the fascinating scene.
"Well," said Mr. Whitney, sitting down and drawing his wife to his side, "it's a long story. You see, when I was a little youngster, and--"
"You were John Whitney then," put in Mrs. Pepper, slyly. "That's the reason I never knew when they were all talking of Mason Whitney."
"John Whitney I was," said Mr. Whitney, laughing, "or rather, Johnny and Jack. But Grandmother Mason, when I grew older, wanted me called by my middle name to please grandfather. But to go back--when I was a little shaver, about as big as Percy here--"
"Oh, papa!" began Percy, deprecatingly. To be called "a little shaver" before all the others!
"He means, dearie," said his mamma, reassuringly, "when he was a boy like you. Now hear what papa is going to say."
"Well, I was sent up into Vermont to stay at the old place. There was a little girl there; a bright, black-eyed little girl. She was my cousin, and her name was Mary Bartlett."
"Who's Mary Bartlett?" asked Joel, interrupting.
"There she is, sir," said Mr. Whitney, pointing to Mrs. Pepper, who was laughing and crying together.
"Where?" said Joel, utterly bewildered. "I don't see any Mary Bartlett. What does he mean, Polly?"
"I don't know," said Polly. "Wait, Joey," she whispered, "he's going to tell us all about it."
"Well, this little cousin and I went to the district school, and had many good times together. And then my parents sent for me, and I went to Germany to school; and when I came back I lost sight of her. All I could find out was that she had married an Englishman by the name of Pepper."
"Oh!" cried all the children together.
"And I always supposed she had gone to England for despite all my exertions, I could find no trace of her. Ah, Mary," he said reproachfully, "why didn't you let me know where you were?"
"I heard," said Mrs. Pepper, "that you'd grown awfully rich, and I couldn't."
"You always were a proud little thing," he said laughing. "Well, but," broke in Mr. King, unable to keep silence any longer, "I'd like to inquire, Mason, why you didn't find all this out before, in Marian's letters, when she mentioned Mrs. Pepper?"
"She didn't ever mention her," said Mr. Whitney, turning around to face his questioner, "not as Mrs. Pepper--never once by name. It was always either 'Polly's mother,' or 'Phronsie's mother.' Just like a woman," he added, with a mischievous glance at his wife, "not to be explicit."
"And just like a man," she retorted, with a happy little laugh, "not to ask for explanations."
"I hear Jappy," cried Polly, in a glad voice, "and Ben--oh, good!" as a sound of rushing footsteps was heard over the veranda steps, and down the long hall.
The door was thrown suddenly open, and Jasper plunged in, his face flushed with excitement, and after him Ben, looking a little as he did when Phronsie was lost, while Prince squeezed panting in between the two boys.
"Has Polly got"--began Jasper.
"Oh, yes, I'm here," cried Polly, springing up to them; "oh, Ben!"
"She has," cried Joel, disentangling himself from the group, "don't you see, Jappy?"
"She's all home," echoed Pbronsie, flying up. "Oh, Ben, do draw me another little house!"
"And see--see!" cried the little Whitneys, pointing with jubilant fingers to their papa, "see what she brought!"
Jasper turned around at that--and then rushed forward.
"Oh, brother Mason!"
"Well, Jasper," said Mr. Whitney, a whole wealth of affection beaming on the boy, "how you have stretched up in six months!"
"Haven't I?" said Jasper, laughing, and drawing himself up to his fullest height.
"He's a-standin' on tip-toe," said Joel critically, who was hovering near. "I most know he is!" and he bent down to examine the position of Jasper's heels.
"Not a bit of it, Joe!" cried Jasper, with a merry laugh, and setting both feet with a convincing thud on the floor.
"Well, anyway, I'll be just as big," cried Joel, "when I'm thirteen, so!"
Just then a loud and quick rap on the table made all the children skip, and stopped everybody's tongue. It came from Mr. King.
"Phronsie," said he, "come here, child. I can't do anything without you," and held out his hand. Phronsie immediately left Ben, who was hanging over Polly as if he never meant to let her go out of his sight again, and went directly over to the old gentleman's side.
"Now, then!" He swung her upon his shoulder, where she perched like a little bird, gravely surveying the whole group. One little hand stole around the old gentleman's neck, and patted his cheek softly, which so pleased him that for a minute or two he stood perfectly still so that everybody might see it.
"Now, Phronsie, yoti must tell all these children so that they'll understand--say everything just as I tell you, mind!"
"I will," said Phronsie, shaking her small head wisely, "every single thing."
"Well, then, now begin--"
"Well, then, now begin," said Phronsie, looking down on the faces with an air as much like Mr. King's as was possible, and finishing up with two or three little nods.
"Oh, no, dear, that isn't it," cried the old gentleman, "I'll tell you. Say, Phronsie, 'you are all cousins--every one.'"
"You are all cousins--every one," repeated little Phronsie, simply, shaking her yellow head into the very middle of the group.
"Does she mean it, grandpapa? Does she mean it?" cried Percy, in the greatest excitement.
"As true as everything?" demanded Joel, crowding in between them.
"As true as--truth!" said the old gentleman solemnly, patting the child's little fat hand. "So make the most of it."
"Oh!" said Polly, with a long sigh. And then Jasper and she took hold of hands and had a good spin!
Joel turned around with two big eyes on Percy.
"We're cousins!" he said.
"I know it," said Percy, "and so's Van!"
"Yes," said Van, flying up, "and I'm cousin to Polly, too-- that's best!"
"Can't I be a Cousin?" cried little Dick, crowding up, with two red cheeks. "Isn't anybody going to be a cousin to me, too?"
"Everybody but Jasper," said the old gentleman, laughing heartily at them. "You and I, my boy," he turned to his son, "are left out in the cold."
At this a scream, loud and terrible to hear, struck upon them all, as Joel flung himself flat on the floor.
"Isn't Jappy--our---cousin? I--want --Jappy!"
"Goodness!" exclaimed the old gentleman, in the greatest alarm, "what is the matter with the boy! Do somebody stop him!"
"Joel," said Jasper, leaning over him, and trying to help Polly lift him up. "I'll tell you how we'll fix it! I'll be your brother . That's best of all--brother to Polly, and Ben and the whole of you--then we'll see!"
Joel bolted up at that, and began to smile through the tears running down the rosy face.
"Will you, really?" he said, "just like Ben--and everything?"
"I can't be as good as Ben," said Jappy, laughing, "but I'll be a real brother like him."
"Fhoo--phoo! Then I don't care!" cried Joel wiping off the last tear on the back of his chubby hand. "Now I guess we're better'n you," he exclaimed with a triumphant glance over at the little Whitneys, as he began to make the new shoes skip at a lively pace up and down the long room.
"Oh, dear!" they both cried in great distress.
"Now, papa, Jappy's going to be Joey's brother--and he isn't anything but our old uncle! Make him be ours more, papa, do!"
And then Polly sprang up.
"Oh! oh--deary me!" And she rushed out into the hall and began to tug violently at the big bundle, tossed down in a corner. "Cherry'll die--Cherry'll die!" she cried, "do somebody help me off with the string!"
But Polly already had it off by the time Jasper's knife was half out of his pocket, and was kneeling down on the floor scooping out a big handful of the seed.
"Don't hurry so, Polly," said Jasper, as she jumped up to fly up-stairs. "He's had some a perfect age--he's all right."
"What!" said Polly, stopping so suddenly that two or three little seeds flew out of the outstretched hand and went dancing away to the foot of the stairs by themselves.
"Oh, I heard him scolding away there when I first came home," said Jasper, "so I just ran down a block or two, and got him some."
"Is that all there is in that big bundle?" said Joel in a disappointed tone, who had followed with extreme curiosity to see its contents. "Phoo!--that's no fun--old bird-seed!"
"I know," said Polly with a gay little laugh, pointing with the handful of seed into the library, "but I shouldn't have met the other big bundle if it hadn't have been for this, Joe!"