XII. At Grandma Bascom's
 

"The land sakes!" exclaimed Grandma Bascom, seeing him first. She was propped up in bed, and Mrs. Pepper was heating some gruel on the stove out in the shed. "What's the matter?" as Joel held his arm out, and the blood was dripping down his little blouse.

"Nothin'," said Joel, shortly; "where's Mamsie?"

"Out in the shed," said Grandma. "Now you show her your arm as soon as you can."

"Tisn't my arm," said Joel, "it's my hand," and he ran into the shed. "Come over home, Mamsie, do," he implored. "That old woman up to the minister's is at our house."

"I can't come," said Mrs. Pepper, not turning around, "till I fix Grandma comfortable. And for shame, Joel, to speak so of Miss Jerusha! Remember how good Parson Henderson is to us; and his wife, too."

"That ain't Miss Jerusha," said Joel, setting his teeth together, and wishing his hand wouldn't ache so; "and she's talking awful, and Ben's sent us all out."

"Then she must be disagreeable," said Mrs. Pepper, beginning to look worried. "Well, I'll soon have this done, then I'll be over. Ben'll have to bear it as best he can," and she sighed.

So Joel turned off and went out of doors, and the little stream of blood kept on trickling.

"Has he cut it bad?" asked Grandma, anxiously, when Mrs. Pepper brought in the cup of steaming gruel a few minutes later.

"Who?" asked Mother Pepper, absently.

"Why--Joel. Hain't you seen it?" screamed Grandma, who, like a great many deaf people, always spoke her loudest, especially when she was excited. "The blood was all runnin' like everything down his arm. I guess he's most cut it off," she added with a groan, for Grandma always had a warm spot in her heart for Joel.

Mrs. Pepper's face grew very pale, and she set the cup of gruel down hastily on the little stand by the bed-head, where Grandma could reach it. Then she hurried to the door. "Joel!" she called, prepared to run over home if he didn't answer.

"What?" said a miserable little voice, as unlike Joel's as possible. There he sat crouching down under the big "laylocks," as Grandma always called them.

It wasn't a moment, then, before Mother Pepper had him in the kitchen and the blood washed off, and as well as she could see, for the little stream that flowed again, she found out where the trouble was, in the long zigzag cut down the fleshy part of Joel's little brown hand.

"Mother'll fix you up all right," she kept saying. And Joel, who didn't mind anything, now that he had Mamsie, watched every movement out of attentive black eyes.

"Has he cut it bad? O dear me!" shouted and groaned Grandma from the bed.

"No," screamed Joel, "'tain't hurt at all."

"Oh, Joey!" reproved Mrs. Pepper, tying up the poor hand in a bit of old cloth. "Now run in and show Grandma, and I'll ask her if she has got any court plaster."

So Joel ran in and sat on the edge of Grandma's bed, on top of the gay patched quilt, and recounted just how it all happened.

"Hey?" exclaimed Grandma, every minute.

"I can't make her hear nothin'," said Joel at last, in despair, turning to his mother. "What gets into folks' ears to make 'em deaf, Mamsie?"

"Oh, it often comes on when they're old," answered Mrs. Pepper, who had been searching all this time in all the cracked bowls and cups for the scraps of court plaster. "It will be such a piece of work to get her to tell me where it is," she said to herself.

"I ain't ever goin' to be deaf when I'm old," declared Joel, in alarm.

"You don't know whether you will or not," said Mrs. Pepper, rummaging away, "so you better use your ears to good advantage now, while you've got 'em."

"I'll always have 'em," said Joel, putting up both hands to feel of these appendages and see if they were there. "I guess they can't get off," and he shook his head smartly.

"How'd you cut it?" asked Grandma, shrilly, for the fiftieth time.

Joel slipped off the gay patched bedquilt, and ran up to his mother, drawing a long breath.

"O dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Pepper, seeing the bandage of old cloth, which was quite red and damp. "Go and sit down and hold your hand still. I must ask Grandma where that court plaster is. I know she has some, because when Polly cut her finger, you know, Grandma gave her a piece."

"You can't make her hear," said Joel, despairingly, and sitting down as his mother bade.

"I must," said Mrs. Pepper, firmly; "and if a thing has to be done, why it has to be, that's all; we've got to have that court plaster."

So she put her ear close to Grandma's cap-border, and after a great deal of explaining on Mother Pepper's part, and as many interruptings on Grandma Bascom's, who wanted everything said over again, at last it was known that the court plaster lay between the leaves of the big Bible, on the stand under the old looking-glass between the windows.

"I put it there so's to have it handy," screamed Grandma, leaning back in great satisfaction against her pillows again.

Mrs. Pepper, feeling quite worn out, got the court plaster and cut off a piece. "Now then, Joel," she said, coming up to him.

"The cloth's all wet and soppy," said Joel, beginning to twitch at the bandage.

"Don't do that, Joey," commanded Mother Pepper, quickly, "you'll make it bleed worse'n ever. Dear me! I should think it was wet!" suppressing a shiver, as she rapidly unwound the old cloth, now very red. "Come here, over the basin." And presently the poor hand was washed off again with warm water, the long cut closed, and the strip of black court plaster stuck firmly over the wound.

"Why don't you put cold water on, Mammy?" asked Joel; "it would feel so good."

"Is it cut bad?" Grandma kept screaming.

"You can go and let her see it, Joey, now that it's all done up nicely. There's no use in trying to tell her," said Mother Pepper, clearing away the traces of the accident. So Joel hopped up on the big bed again and displayed his wounded hand, and Grandma oh-ed and dear me-ed over it, and then she reached over to the little drawer in the stand at the head of the bed.

"Put your hand in, Joel," she said, "and take as many's you want."

Joel's black eyes stuck out as he saw the big peppermint drops, pink ones and white ones, rolling round in the drawer the minute it was pulled open. "Can I have as many as I want, Grandma?" he screamed, hopping off from the bed to hang over the drawer.

"Yes," said Grandma, delighted to think she could do something to help, "'cause you've hurt your hand."

"I'm glad I hurt it!" exclaimed Joel. "O my! what a lot, Grandma!" which Grandma didn't hear, only she knew he was pleased by the sight of his chubby face; so she smiled, too. Mrs. Pepper found them so when she came up to the bed.

"I'm going home now, Grandma," she said. "I'll be over again by and by, or Polly will."

"Hey?" said Grandma. So Mrs. Pepper nodded and smiled and pointed to the door, and Grandma seemed satisfied.

"She told me I might have as many's I wanted," said Joel, with great satisfaction. "I like Grandma ever so much."

"Take care, Joey, you don't take too many," said Mrs. Pepper. "Grandma's good to you, so you must be good to her, and come right home from here. You may stay half an hour," pointing to the old clock. "Miss Jerusha will be gone by that time," she said to herself with a grim smile.

"I'll come right home, Mamsie," said Joel, quite upset in his mind whether to take two white peppermint drops and two pink ones, or if it would do to take three apiece.

"And don't let any cold water get on that hand," charged Mrs. Pepper the last thing.

"Why, Mamsie?" asked Joel, looking up.

"'Cause it would be very bad," said Mother Pepper, shaking her head warningly, "very bad, Joel. Remember, now."

"What would it do to me?" asked Joel.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Pepper; "it might almost kill you to chill it. Maybe you'd have lockjaw, Joel Pepper."

"What's that?" demanded Joel, deserting the peppermint drops for a minute to run to the door and seize his mother's gown. "What's lockjaw, Mammy?"

"I guess you'd find out if you had it," said Mrs. Pepper, grimly. "Why, you can't open your jaws. Let go of my gown, Joel. I must hurry home." And with visions of Miss Jerusha in the little brown house, she hurried off as fast as she could down the lane.

"Huh!" exclaimed Joel, left quite alone staring after her. "I guess I ain't going to have any old lockjaw. And I could open my jaws, too." Thereupon wide apart flew his two sets of white teeth, at such a distance that he seemed to be all mouth. Then he snapped them together again so quickly that it made him wink violently; repeating this operation till he was quite convinced that nothing should ever be the matter with his jaws. "And if they ever do get locked up, I'm goin' to keep the key myself." Then he ran back to his peppermint drops again, quite satisfied. Grandma Bascom was sound asleep.

Joel softly moved two pink peppermint drops over to one side of the drawer, and set two white ones next to them. "They're awful small," he said to himself, and changed the pink ones for two others of the same color. Then the same thought occurring to him in regard to the white ones, those had to go back and two different white ones take their places. Then he drew back, and gazed at them admiringly.

"I don't s'pose Mamsie'd care if I took one more, if 'twas a little one," he presently thought. But the difficulty was, should it be a pink one or a white one? It took Joel so long to decide this, that at last he put one of each over in his collection at the side of the drawer, then hastily pushed the rest of Grandma's into a pile at one end. "There, she's got a lot," he exclaimed. And as he looked at them, the pile seemed to grow bigger yet; so he picked off one, a great pink drop, from the very top.

"Now I must get a white one to match it," he said, fumbling over the pile till he had flattened it quite out. They looked so many more when this was done, that Joel felt quite right in extracting the last two. "It might a' made her sick. P'r'aps she's been eating too many." And as this thought struck him, he pulled out two more, picked up the ones he had set to one side, slammed to the drawer, by this time realizing that Grandma could not hear, and ran out of the bedroom to the "laylock" bushes, where he sat down to enjoy the peppermint drops.

He had demolished the third one, eating as slowly as possible, in a way Phronsie had of nibbling around the edges to make it last as long as possible; and then, with his cut hand, there wasn't anything he could do; when suddenly Mamsie's words, "Be good to Grandma," swept through his mind, with an awful twinge. Joel stopped eating and looked at the heap of pink and white peppermint drops he had laid down on the grass by his side; then turned his back to them, and began his nibbling again. "She's got enough," he said, munching on. "She said, take as many's I wanted. So there now!"

But in a minute he had hopped to his feet, and snatched up the pink and white pile, raced through the kitchen and into the bedroom, and twitching open the drawer to the little stand, he dumped his fistful in, all except one. Then, without trusting himself to look at them, he slammed the drawer quite tight, and leaning over Grandma, he put his mouth close to her cap-border where she lay snoring away. "I put 'em all back, Grandma," he whispered, "except four."

Something made him glance up at the old clock. It was five minutes past the half hour, and Joel, with a dreadful feeling at his heart, for disobedience was a thing Mamsie never overlooked, fled over to the little brown house.