Five Little Peppers And How They Grew by Margaret Sidney
"Well"--Mrs. Pepper's tone was unusually blithe as she stepped into the kitchen--"you've had a nice time, I suppose--what in the world!" and she stopped at the bedroom door.
"Oh, mammy, if you'd been here!" said Joel, while Polly sat still, only holding on to her eyes as if they were going to fly out; "there's been a big woman here; she came right in--and she talked awfully! and Polly's been a-cryin', and her eyes ache dreadfully--and"-- "Been crying!" repeated Mrs. Pepper, coming up to poor
Polly. "Polly been crying!" she still repeated.
"Oh, mammy, I couldn't help it," said Polly; "she said"-- and in spite of all she could do, the rain of tears began again, which bade fair to be as uncontrolled as before. But Mrs. Pepper took her up firmly in her arms, as if she were Phronsie, and sat down in the old rocking-chair and just patted her back.
"There, there," she whispered, soothingly, "don't think of it, Polly; mother's got home."
"Oh, mammy," said Polly, crawling up to the comfortable neck for protection, "I ought not to mind; but 'twas Miss Jerusha Henderson; and she said--"
"What did she say?" asked Mrs. Pepper, thinking perhaps it to be the wiser thing to let Polly free her mind.
"Oh, she said that we ought to be doing something; and I ought to knit, and"-- "Go on," said her mother.
"And then Joel got naughty; oh, mammy, he never did so before; and I couldn't stop him," cried Polly, in great distress; "I really couldn't, mammy--and he talked to her; and he told her she wasn't ever coming here again."
"Joel shouldn't have said that," said Mrs. Pepper, and under her breath something was added that Polly even failed to hear--"but no more she isn't!"
"And, mammy," cried Polly--and she flung her arms around her mother's neck and gave her a grasp that nearly choked Mrs. Pepper, "ain't I helpin' you some, mammy? Oh! I wish I could do something big for you? Ain't you happy, mammy?"
"For the land's sakes!" cried Mrs. Pepper, straining Polly to her heart, "whatever has that woman--whatever could she have said to you? Such a girl as you are, too!" cried Mrs. Pepper, hugging Polly, and covering her with kisses so tender, that Polly, warmed and cuddled up to her heart's content, was comforted to the full.
"Well," said Mrs. Pepper, when at last she thought she had formed between Polly and Joel about the right idea of the visit, "well, now we won't think of it, ever any more; 'tisn't worth it, Polly, you know."
But poor Polly! and poor mother! They both were obliged to think of it. Nothing could avert the suffering of the next few days, caused by that long flow of burning tears.
"Nothing feels good on 'em, mammy," said Polly, at last, twisting her hands in the vain attempt to keep from rubbing the aching, inflamed eyes that drove her nearly wild with their itching, "there isn't any use in trying anything."
"There will be use," energetically protested Mrs. Pepper, bringing another cool bandage, "as long as you've got an eye in your head, Polly Pepper!"
Dr. Fisher's face, when he first saw the change that the fateful visit had wrought, and heard the accounts, was very grave indeed. Everything had been so encouraging on his last visit, that he had come very near promising Polly speedy freedom from the hateful bandage.
But the little Pepper household soon had something else to think of more important even than Polly's eyes, for now the heartiest, the jolliest of all the little group was down-- Joel. How he fell sick, they scarcely knew, it all came so suddenly. The poor, bewildered family had hardly time to think, before delirium and, perhaps, death stared them in the face.
When Polly first heard it, by Phronsie's pattering downstairs and screaming: "Oh, Polly, Joey's dre-ad-ful sick, he is!" she jumped right up, and tore off the bandage.
"Now, I will help mother! I will, so there!" and in another minute she would have been up in the sick room. But the first thing she knew, a gentle but firm hand was laid upon hers; and she found herself back again in the old rocking-chair, and listening to the Doctor's words which were quite stern and decisive.
"Now, I tell you," he said, "you must not take off that bandage again; do you know the consequences? You will be blind! and then you will be a care to your mother all your life!"
"I shall be blind, anyway," said Polly, despairingly; "so 'twon't make any difference."
"No; your eyes will come out of it all right, only I did hope"--and the good doctor's face fell--"that the other two boys would escape; but"--and he brightened up at sight of Polly's forlorn visage--"see you do your part by keeping still."
But there came a day soon when everything was still around the once happy little brown house--when oniy whispers were heard from white lips; and thoughts were fearfully left unuttered.
On the morning of one of these days, when Mrs. Pepper felt she could not exist an hour longer without sleep, kind Mrs. Beebe came to stay until things were either better or worse.
Still the cloud hovered, dark and forbidding. At last, one afternoon, when Polly was all alone, she could endure it no longer. She flung herself down by the side of the old bed, and buried her face in the gay patched bed-quilt.
"Dear God," she said, "make me willing to have anything"--she hesitated--"yes, anything happen; to be blind forever, and to have Joey sick, only make me good."
How long she staid there she never knew; for she fell asleep--the first sleep she had had since Joey was taken sick. And little Mrs. Beebe coming in found her thus.
"Polly," the good woman said, leaning over her, "you poor, pretty creeter, you; I'm goin' to tell you somethin'--there, there, just to think! Joel's goin' to get well!"
"Oh, Mrs. Beebe!" cried Polly, tumbling over in a heap on the floor, her face, as much as could be seen under the bandage, in a perfect glow, "Is he, really?"
"Yes, to be sure; the danger's all over now," said the little old lady, inwardly thinking--"If I hadn't a-come!"
"Well, then, the Lord wants him to," cried Polly, in rapture; "don't he, Mrs. Beebe?"
"To be sure--to be sure," repeated the kind friend, only half understanding.
"Well, I don't care about my eyes, then," cried Polly; and to Mrs. Beebe's intense astonishment and dismay, she spun round and round in the middle of the floor.
"Oh, Polly, Polly!" the little old lady cried, running up to her, "do stop! the doctor wouldn't let you! he wouldn't really, you know! it'll all go to your eyes."
"I don't care," repeated Polly, in the middle of a spin; but she stopped obediently; "seems as if I just as soon be blind as not; it's so beautiful Joey's going to get well!"