Five Little Peppers And How They Grew
Margaret Sidney

Part 4 out of 5

retreating figure, "to give Ben learning?"

"Yes, he was," replied Mrs. Pepper, enthusiastically. "We've got a
parson, if anybody has in this world!"

"And Ben's learning," said Polly, swelling with pride, as she sat
down by her mother, and began to sew rapidly, "so that he'll be a
big man right off! Oh, dear," as a thought made her needle pause a
minute in its quick flying in and out.

"What is it, Polly?" Mrs. Pepper looked keenly at the troubled face
and downcast eyes.

"Why--" began Polly, and then she finished very slowly, "I sha n t
know anything, and Ben 11 be ashamed of me.

"Yes, you will!" cried Mrs. Pepper, energetically, "you keep on
trying, and the Lord'll send some way; don't you go to bothering
your head about it now, Polly--it'll come when it's time."

"Will it?" asked Polly, doubtfully, taking up her needle again.

"Yes, indeed!" cried Mrs. Pepper, briskly; "come fly at your
sewing; that's your learning now."

"So 'tis," said Polly, with a little laugh. "Now let's see which'll get
their seam done first, mamsie?"

And now letters flew thick and fast from the city to the little brown
house, and back again, warming Jasper's heart, and filling the
tedious months of that winter with more of jollity and fun than the
lad ever enjoyed before; and never was fun and jollity more
needed than now; for Mr. King, having nothing to do, and each
year finding himself less inclined to exercise any thoughtful energy
for others, began to look at life something in the light of a serious
bore, and accordingly made it decidedly disagreeable for all
around him, and particularly for Jasper who was his constant
companion. But the boy was looking forward to summer, and so
held on bravely.

"I do verily believe, Polly," he wrote, "that Badgertown'll see the
gayest times it ever knew! Sister Marian wants to go, so that's all
right. Now, hurrah for a good time--it's surely coming!"

But alas! for Jasper! as spring advanced, his father took a decided
aversion to Hingham, Badgertown, and all other places that could
be mentioned in that vicinity.

"It's a wretched climate," he asserted, over and over; "and the
foundation of all my ill feelings this winter was laid, I'm
convinced, in Hingham last summer."

No use to urge the contrary; and all Jasper's pleadings were equally
vain. At last, sister Marian, who was kind-hearted to a fault, sorry
to see her brother's dismay and disappointment said, one day,
"Why not have one of the children come here? I should like it very
much--do invite Ben."

"I don't want Ben," said Jasper gloomily, "I want Polly." He added
this in much the same tone as Phronsie's when she had rushed up
to him the day she was lost, declaring, "I want Polly!"

"Very well, then," said sister Marian, laughing, "I'm sure I didn't
mean to dictate which one; let it be Polly then; yes, I should prefer
Polly myself, I think, as we've enough boys now," smiling to think
of her own brood of wide awake youngsters.

"If you only will, father, I'll try to be ever so good!" said Jasper,
turning suddenly to his father.

"Jasper needs some change," said sister Marian kindly, "he really
has grown very pale and thin."

"Hey!" said Mr. King, sharply, looking at him over his eyeglasses.
"The boy's well enough; well enough!" But he twisted uneasily in
his chair, all the same. At last he flung down his paper, twitched
his fingers through his hair two or three times, and then burst out--
"Well, why don't you send for her? I'm sure I don't care-- I'll write
myself, and I had better do it now. Tell Thomas to be ready to take
it right down; it must get into this mail."

When Mr. King had made up his mind to do anything, everybody
else must immediately give up their individual plans, and stand out
of the way for him to execute his at just that particular moment!
Accordingly Thomas was dragged from his work to post the letter,
while the old gentleman occupied the time in pulling out his watch
every third second until the slightly-out-of-breath Thomas reported
on his return that the letter did get in. Then Mr. King settled down
satisfied, and everything went on smoothly as before.

But Polly didn't come! A grateful, appreciative letter, expressed in
Mrs. Pepper's own stiff way, plainly showed the determination of
that good woman not to accept what was such a favor to her child.

In vain Mr. King stormed, and fretted, and begged, offering every
advantage possible--Polly should have the best foundation for a
musical education that the city could afford; also lessons in the
schoolroom under the boys' private tutor-- it was all of no avail. In
vain sister Marian sent a gentle appeal, fully showing her heart
was in it; nothing broke down Mrs. Pepper's resolve, until, at last,
the old gentleman wrote one day that Jasper, being in such failing
health, really depended on Polly to cheer him up. That removed
the last straw that made it "putting one's self under an obligation,"
which to Mrs. Pepper's independent soul, had seemed

And now, it was decided that Polly was really to go! and pretty
soon all Badgertown knew that Polly Pepper was going to the big
city. And there wasn't a man, woman, or child but what greatly
rejoiced that a sunny time was coming to one of the chicks in the
little brown house. With many warm words, and some substantial
gifts, kind friends helped forward the "outing." Only one person
doubted that this delightful chance should be grasped at once--and
that one was Polly herself!

"I can't," she said, and stood quite pale and still, when the
Hendersons advised her mother's approval, and even Grandma
Bascom said, "Go." "I can't go and leave mammy to do all the

"But don't you see, Polly," said Mrs. Henderson, drawing her to her
side, "that you will help your mother twice as much as you
possibly could here, by getting a good education? Think what your
music will be; only think, Polly!"

Polly drew a long breath at this and turned away.

"Oh, Polly!" cried Ben, though his voice choked, "if you give this
up, there never'll be another chance," and the boy put his arm
around her, and whispered something in her ear.

"I know," said Polly quietly--and then she burst out, "oh, but I
can't! 'tisn't right."

"Polly," said Mrs. Pepper--and never in all their lives had the
children seen such a look in mamsie's eyes as met them then; "it
does seem as if my heart would be broken if you didn't go!" And
then she burst out crying, right before them all!

"Oh mammy," cried Polly, breaking away from everybody, and
flinging herself into her arms. "I'll go--if you think I ought to. But
it's too good! don't cry--don't, mammy dear," and Polly stroked the
careworn face lovingly, and patted the smooth hair that was still so

"And, Polly," said Mrs. Pepper, smiling through her tears, "just
think what a comfort you'll be to me, and us all," she added, taking
in the children who were crowding around Polly as the centre of
attraction. "Why, you'll be the making of us," she added hopefully.

"I'll do something," said Polly, her brown eyes kindling, "or I shan't
be worthy of you, mammy."

"O, you'll do it," said Mrs. Pepper, confidently, "now that you're

But when Polly stepped into the stage, with her little hair trunk
strapped on behind, containing her one brown merino that Mrs.
Henderson had made over for her out of one of her own, and her
two new ginghams, her courage failed again, and she astonished
everybody, and nearly upset a mild-faced old lady who was in the
corner placidly eating doughnuts, by springing out and rushing up
through the little brown gate, past all the family, drawn up to see
her off. She flew over the old flat door-stone, and into the
bedroom, where she flung herself down between the old bed and
Phronsie's crib, in a sudden torrent of tears. "I can't go!" she
sobbed--"oh I can't!"

"Why, Polly!" cried Mrs. Pepper, hurrying in, followed by Joel and
the rest of the troops at his heels. "What are you thinking of!"

"Think of by-and-by, Polly," put in Ben, patting her on the back
with an unsteady hand, while Joel varied the proceedings by
running back and forth, screaming at the top of his lungs, "The
stage's going! your trunk'll be taken!"

"Dear me!" ejaculated Mrs. Pepper, "do stop it somebody! there,
Polly, come now! Do as mother says!"

"I'll try again," said poor Polly, choking back her sobs, and getting
on her feet.

Then Polly's tears were wiped away, her hat straightened, after
which she was kissed all round again by the whole family,
Phronsie waiting for the last two, and then was helped again into
the stage, the bags and parcels, and a box for Jappy, which, as it
wouldn't go into the trunk, Joel had insisted Polly should carry in
her hand, were again piled around her, and Mr. Tisbett mounted to
his seat, and with a crack of the whip, bore her safely off this time.

The doughnut lady, viewing poor Polly with extreme sympathy,
immediately forced upon her acceptance three of the largest and

"Twill do you good," she said, falling to, herself, on another with
good zeal. "I always eat 'em, and then there ain't any room for

And away, and away, and away they rumbled and jumbled to the

Here Mr. Tisbett put Polly and her numerous bundles under the
care of the conductor, with manifold charges and explicit
directions, to see her safely into Mr. King's own hands. He left her
sitting straight up among her parcels, her sturdy little figure drawn
up to its full height, and the clear brown eyes regaining a little of
their dancing light; for although a dreadful feeling tugged at her
heart, as she thought of the little brown house she was fast flying
away from, there was something else; our Polly had begun to
realize that now she was going to "help mother."

And now they neared the big city, and everybody began to bustle
around, and get ready to jump out, and the minute the train
stopped, the crowd poured out from the cars, making way for the
crowd pouring in, for this was a through train.

"All aboard!" sang the conductor. "Oh my senses!" springing to
Polly; "I forgot you--here!"

But as quick as a flash he was pushed aside, and a bright, boyish
figure dashed up.

"Oh, Polly!" he said in such a ringing voice! and in another second,
Polly and her bag, and the bundle of cakes and apples that
Grandma Bascom had put up for her, and Joel's box, were one and
all bundled out upon the platform, and the train whizzed on, and
there Mr. King was fuming up and down, berating the departing
conductor, and speaking his mind in regard to all the railroad
officials he could think of. He pulled himself up long enough to
give Polly a hearty welcome; and then away again he flew in
righteous indignation, while Jasper rushed off into the baggage
room with Polly's check.

However, every now and then, turning to look down into the little
rosy face beside him, the old gentleman would burst forth, "Bless
me, child! I'm glad you're here, Polly!--how could the fellow forget
when"-- "Oh well, you know," said Polly, with a happy little
wriggle under her brown coat, "I'm here now."

"So you are! so you are!" laughed the old gentleman suddenly;
"where can Jasper be so long."

"They're all in the carriage," answered the boy skipping back.
"Now, father! now Polly!"

He was fairly bubbling over with joy and Mr. King forgot his
dudgeon and joined in the general glee, which soon became so
great that travellers gave many a glance at the merry trio who
bundled away to Thomas and the waiting grays.

"You're sure you've got the right check?" asked Mr. King,
nervously, getting into a handsome coach lined with dark green
satin, and settling down among its ample cushions with a sigh of

"Oh yes," laughed Jasper; "Polly didn't have any one else's check, I

Over through the heart of the city, down narrow, noisy business
streets, out into wide avenues, with handsome stately mansions on
either side--they flew along.

"Oh," said Polly; and then she stopped, and blushed very hard.

"What is it, my dear?" asked Mr. King, kindly.

Polly couldn't speak at first, but when Jasper stopped his merry
chat and begged to know what it was, she turned on him, and burst
out, "You live here?"

"Why, yes," laughed the boy; "why not?"

"Oh!" said Polly again, her cheeks as red as two roses, "it's so

And then the carriage turned in at a brown stone gateway, and
winding up among some fine old trees, stopped before a large,
stately residence that in Polly's eyes seemed like one of the castles
of Ben's famous stories. And then Mr. King got out, and gallantly
escorted Polly out, and up the steps, while Jasper followed with
Polly's bag which he couldn't be persuaded to resign to Thomas. A
stiff waiter held the door open--and then, the rest was only a
pleasant, confused jumble of kind welcoming words, smiling
faces, with a background of high spacious walls, bright pictures,
and soft elegant hangings, everything and all inextricably
mixed--till Polly herself seemed floating--away--away, fast to the
Fairyland of her dreams; now, Mr. King was handing her around,
like a precious parcel, from one to the other--now Jasper was
bobbing in and out everywhere, introducing her on all sides, and
then Prince was jumping up and trying to lick her face every
minute--but best of all was, when a lovely face looked down into
hers, and Jasper's sister bent to kiss her.

"I am very glad to have you here, little Polly." The words were
simple, but Polly, lifting up her clear brown eyes, looked straight
into the heart of the speaker, and from that moment never ceased
to love her.

"It was a good inspiraton," thought Mrs. Whitney to herself; "this
little girl is going to be a comfort, I know." And then she set
herself to conduct successfully her three boys into friendliness and
good fellowship with Polly, for each of them was following his
own sweet will in the capacity of host, and besides staring at her
with all his might, was determined to do the whole of the
entertaining, a state of things which might become unpleasant.
However, Polly stood it like a veteran.

"This little girl must be very tired," said Mrs. Whitney, at last with
a bright smile. "Besides I am going to have her to myself now."

"Oh, no, no," cried little Dick in alarm; "why, she's just come; we
want to see her."

"For shame, Dick!" said Percy, the eldest, a boy of ten years, who
took every opportunity to reprove Dick in public; "she's come a
great ways, so she ought to rest, you know."

"You wanted her to come out to the greenhouse yourself, you
know you did," put in Van, the next to Percy, who never would be
reproved or patronized, "only she wouldn't go."

"You'll come down to dinner," said Percy, politely, ignoring Van.
"Then you won't be tired, perhaps."

"Oh, I'm not very tired now," said Polly, brightly, with a merry
little laugh, "only I've never been in the cars before, and"-- "Never
been in the cars before!" exclaimed Van, crowding up, while Percy
made a big round 0 with his mouth, and little Dick's eyes stretched
to their widest extent.

"No," said Polly simply, "never in all my life."

"Come, dear," said sister Marian, rising quickly, and taking Polly's
hand; while Jasper, showing unmistakable symptoms of pitching
into all the three boys, followed with the bag.

Up the broad oak staircase they went, Polly holding by Mrs.
Whitney's soft hand, as if for dear life, and Jasper tripping up two
steps at a time, in front of them. They turned after reaching the
top, down a hall soft to the foot and brightly lighted.

"Now, Polly," said sister Marian, "rm going to have you here, right
next to my dressing room; this is your nest, little bird, and I hope
you'll be very happy in it."

And here Mrs. Whitney turned up the gas, and then, just because
she couldn't help it, gathered Polly up in her arms without another
word. Jasper set down the bag on a chair, and came and stood by
his sister's side, looking down at her as she stroked the brown
wavy hair on her bosom.

"It's so nice to have Polly here, sister," he said, and he put his hand
on Mrs. Whitney's neck; and then with the other hand took hold of
both of Polly's chubby ones, who looked up and smiled; and in that
smile the little brown house seemed to hop right out, and bring
back in a flash all the nice times those eight happy weeks had
brought him.

"Oh, 'twas so perfectly splendid, sister Marian," he cried, ffinging
himself down on the floor by her chair. "You don't know what
good times we had--does she, Polly?" and then he launched out
into a perfect shower of "Don't you remember this?" or "Oh, Polly!
you surely haven't forgotten that!" Mrs. Whitney good naturedly
entering into it and enjoying it all with them, until, warned by the
lateness of the hour, she laughingly reminded Jasper of dinner, and
dismissed him to prepare for it.

When the three boys saw Polly coming in again, they welcomed
her with a cordial shout, for one and all, after careful measurement
of her, had succumbed entirely to Polly; and each was unwilling
that the others should get ahead of him in her regard.

"This is your seat, Polly," said sister Marian, touching the chair
next to her own.

Thereupon a small fight ensued between the little Whitneys, while
Jasper looked decidedly discornfited.

"Let Polly sit next to me," said Van, as if a seat next to him was of
all things most to be desired.

"Oh, no, I want her," said little Dick.

"Pshaw, Dick! you're too young," put in Percy. "You'd spill the
bread and butter all over her."

"I wouldn't either," said little Dick, indignantly, and beginning to
crawl into his seat; "I don't spill bread and butter, now Percy, you

"See here," said Jasper, decidedly, "she's coming up here by father
and me; that is, sister Marian," he finished more politely, "if you're

All this while Polly had stood quietly watching the group, the big,
handsome table, the bright lights, and the well-trained servants
with a curious feeling at her heart--what were the little-brown-
house-people doing?

"Polly shall decide it," said sister Marian, laughing. "Now, where
will you sit, dear?" she added, looking down on the little quiet
figure beside her.

"Oh, by Jappy, please," said Polly, quickly, as if there could be no
doubt; "and kind Mr. King," she added, smiling at him.

"That's right; that's right, my dear," cried the old gentleman,
pleased beyond measure at her honest choice. And he pulled out
her chair, and waited upon her into it so handsomely that Polly was
happy at once; while Jasper, with a proud toss of his dark, wavy
hair, marched up delightedly, and took the chair on her other side.

And now, in two or three minutes it seemed as if Polly had always
been there; it was the most natural thing in the world that sister
Marian should smile down the table at the bright-faced narrator,
who answered all their numerous questions, and entertained them
all with accounts of Ben's skill, of Phronsie's cunning ways, of the
boys who made fun for all, and above everything else of the dear
mother whom they all longed to help, and of all the sayings and
doings in the little brown house. No wonder that the little boys
forgot to eat; and for once never thought of the attractions of the
table. And when, as they left the table at last, little Dick rushed
impulsively up to Polly, and flinging himself into her arms,
declared-- "I love you!--and you're my sister!" Nothing more was
needed to make Polly feel at home.

"Yes," said Mrs. Whitney, and nodded to herself in the saying, "it
was a good thing; and a comfort, I believe, has come to this house
this day!"


And on the very first morrow came Polly's music teacher!

The big drawing-room, with its shaded light and draped furniture,
with its thick soft carpet, on which no foot-fall could be heard,
with all its beauty and loveliness on every side was nothing to
Polly's eyes, only the room that contained the piano!

That was all she saw! And when the teacher came he was simply
the Fairy (an ugly little one, it is true, but still a most powerful
being) who was to unlock its mysteries, and conduct her into
Fairyland itself. He was a homely little Frenchman, with a long,
curved nose, and an enormous black moustache, magnificently
waxed, who bowed elaborately, and called her "Mademoiselle
Fep-paire;" but he had music in his soul, and Polly couldn't
reverence him too much.

And now the big piano gave out new sounds; sounds that told of a
strong purpose and steady patience. Every note was struck for
mother and the home brood. Monsieur Tourtelotte, after watching
her keenly out of his little black eyes, would nod to himself like a
mandarin, and the nod would be followed by showers of extra
politeness, as his appreciation of her patient energy and attention.

Every chance she could get, Polly would steal away into the
drawing-room from Jappy and the three boys and all the attractions
they could offer, and laboriously work away over and over at the
tedious scales and exercises that were to be stepping-stones to so
much that was glorious beyond. Never had she sat still for so long
a time in her active little life; and now, with her arms at just such
an angle, with the stiff, chubby fingers kept under training and
restraint--well, Polly realized, years after, that only her love of the
little brown house could ever have kept her from flying up and
spinning around in perfect despair.

"She likes it!" said Percy, in absolute astonishment, one day, when
Polly had refused to go out driving with all the other children in
the park, and had gone resolutely, instead, into the drawing-room
and shut the door. "She likes those hateful old exercises and she
don't like anything else."

"Much you know about it," said Jappy; "she's perfectly aching to
go, now Percy Whitney!"

"Well, why don't she then?" said Percy, opening his eyes to their
widest extent.

"Cause," said Jasper, stopping on his way to the door to look him
full in the face, "she's commenced to learn to play, and there won't
anything stop her."

"I'm going to try," said Percy, gleefully. "I know lots of ways I can
do to try, anyway."

"See here, now," said Jasper, turning back, "you let her alone! Do
you hear?" he added, and there must have been something in his
eye to command attention, for Percy instantly signified his
intention not to tease this young music student in the least.

"Come on then, old fellow," and Jasper swung his cap on his head,
"Thomas will be like forty bears if we keep him waiting much

And Polly kept at it steadily day after day; getting through with the
lessons in the schoolroom as quickly as possible to rush to her
music, until presently the little Frenchman waxed enthusiastic to
that degree that, as day after day progressed and swelled into
weeks, and each lesson came to an end, he would skip away on the
tips of his toes, his nose in the air, and the waxed ends of his
moustache, fairly trembling with delight-- "Ah, such patience as
Mademoiselle Pep-paire has! I know no other such little

"I think," said Jasper one evening after dinner, when all the
children were assembled as usual in their favorite place on the big
rug in front of the fire in the library, Prince in the middle of the
group, his head on his paws, watching everything in infinite
satisfaction, "that Polly's getting on in music as I never saw anyone
do; and that's a fact!"

"I mean to begin," said Van, ambitiously, sitting up straight and
staring at the glowing coals. "I guess I will to-morrow," which
announcement was received with a perfect shout--Van's taste
being anything rather than of a musical nature.

"If you do," said Jappy, when the merriment had a little subsided,
"I shall go out of the house at every lesson; there won't anyone stay
in it, Van."

"I can bang all I want to, then," said Van, noways disturbed by the
reflection, and pulling one of Prince's long ears, "you think you're
so big, Jappy, just because you're thirteen."

"He's only three ahead of me, Van," bristled Percy, who never
could forgive Jappy for being his uncle, much less the still greater
sin of having been born three years earlier than himself.

"Three's just as bad as four," said Van.

"Let's tell stories," began Polly, who never could remember such
goings on in the little brown house; "we must each tell one," she
added with the greatest enthusiasm, "and see which will be the
biggest and the best."

"Oh, no," said Van, who perfectly revelled in Polly's stories, und
who now forgot his trials in the prospcct of one, "You tell,
Polly--you tell alone."

"Yes, do, Polly," said Jasper; "we'd rather."

So Polly launched out into one of her gayest and finest; and soon
they were in such a peal of laughter, and had reached such heights
of enjoyment, that Mr. King popped his head in at the door, and
then came in, and took a seat in a big rocking-chair in the corner to
hear the fun go on.

"Oh, dear," said Van, leaning back with a long sigh, and wiping his
flushed face as Polly wound up with a triumphant flourish, 'how
ever do you think of such things, Polly Pepper?

"That isn't anything," said Jappy, bringing his handsome face out
into the strong light; "why, it's just nothing to what she has told
time and again in the little brown house in Badgertown;" and then
he caught sight of Polly's face, which turned a little pale in the
firelight as he spoke; and the brown eyes had such a pathetic droop
in them that it went to the boy's very heart.

Was Polly homesick? and so soon!


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

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

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,

"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,

"Oh-ho, how funny!" laughed Van, while little Dick burst right out,

"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

"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

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

"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

"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.


Phronsie was toiling up and down the long, oak staircase the
next morning; slowly going from one step to the other, drawing
each little fat foot into place laboriously, but with a pleased
expression on her face that only gave some small idea of the
rapture within. Up and down she had been going for a long time,
perfectly fascinated; seeming to care for nothing else in the world
but to work her way up to the top of the long flight, only to turn
and come down again. She had been going on so for some time, till
at last, Polly, who was afraid she would tire herself all out, sat
down at the foot and begged and implored the little girl, who had
nearly reached the top, to stop and rest.

"You'll be tired to death, Phronsie!" she said, looking up at the
small figure on its toilsome journey. "Why you must have gone up
a million times! Do sit down, pet; we're all going out riding,
Phronsie, this afternoon; and you can't go if yon're all tired out."

"I won't be tired, Polly," said Phronsie, turning around and looking
at her, "do let me go just once more!"

"Well," said Polly, who never could refuse her anything, "just
once, Phronsie, and then you must stop."

So Phronsie kept on her way rejoicing, while Polly still sat on the
lowest stair, and drummed impatiently on the stair above her,
waiting for her to get through.

Jappy came through the hail and found them thus. "Halloa, Polly!"
he said, stopping suddenly; "what's the matter?"

"Oh, Phronsie's been going so," said Polly, looking up at the little
figure above them, which had nearly reached the top in delight,
"that I can't stop her. She has really, Jappy, almost all the morning;
you can't think how crazy she is over it."

"Is that so?" said Jasper, with a little laugh. "Hulloa, Phronsie, is it
nice?" and he tossed a kiss to the little girl, and then sat down by

"Oh," said Phronsie, turning to come down, "it's the beyew-tifiest
place I ever saw, Japser! the very be-yew-tiflest!"

"I wish she could have her picture painted," whispered Jasper,
enthusiastically. "Look at her now, Polly, quick!"

"Yes," said Polly, "isn't she sweet!"

"Sweetr' said Jasper. "I should think she was!"

The sunlight through an oriel window fell on the childish face and
figure, glinting the yellow hair, and lighting up the radiant face,
that yet had a tender, loving glance for the two who waited for her
below. One little foot was poised, just in the act of stepping down
to the next lower stair, and the fat hand grasped the polished
railing, expressive of just enough caution to make it truly childish.
In after years Jasper never thought of Phronsie without bringing up
this picture on that April morning, when Polly and he sat at the
foot of the stairs, and looked up and saw it.

"Where's Jap?" called one of the boys; and then there was a clatter
out into the hall.

"What are you doing?" and Van came to a full stop of amazement
and stared at them.

"Resting," said Jappy, concisely, "what do you want, Van?"

"I want you," said Van, "we can't do anything without you, Jappy;
you know that."

"Very well," said Jasper, getting up. "Come on, Polly, we must go."

"And Phronsie," said Van, anxiously, looking up to Phronsie, who
had nearly reached them by this time, "we want her, too."

"Of course," said Polly, running up arid meeting her to give her a
hug; "I don't go unless she does."

"Where are we going, Polly?" asked Phronsie, looking back
longingly to her beloved stairs as she was borne off.

"To the greenhouse, chick!" said Jasper, "to help Turner; and it'll
be good fun, won't it, Polly?"

"What is a greenhouse?" asked the child, wonderingly. "All green,

"Oh, dear me," said Van, doubling up, "do you suppose she thinks
it's painted green?"

"It's green inside, Phronsie, dear," said Jasper, kindly, "and that's
the best of all."

When Phronsie was really let loose in the greenhouse she thought
it decidedly best of all; and she went into nearly as much of a
rapture as Polly did on her first visit to it.

In a few moments she was cooing and jumping among the plants,
while old Turner, staid and particular as he was, laughed to see her

"She's your sister, Miss Mary, ain't she?" at last he asked, as
Phronsie bent lovingly over a little pot of heath, and just touched
one little leaf carefully with her finger.

"Yes," said Polly, "but she don't look like me."

"She is like you," said Turner, respectfully, "if she don't look like
you; and the flowers know it, too," he added, "and they'll love to
see her coming, just as they do you."

For Polly had won the old gardener's heart completely by her
passionate love for flowers, and nearly every morning a little
nosegay, fresh and beautiful, came up to the house for "Miss

And now nobody liked to think of the time, or to look back to it,
when Phronsie hadn't been in the house. When the little feet went
pattering through halls and over stairs, it seemed to bring sunshine
and happiness into every one's heart just to hear the sounds. Polly
and the boys in the schoolroom would look up from their books
and nod away brightly to each other, and then fall to faster than
ever on their lessons, to get through the quicker to be with her

One thing Phronsie always insisted on, and kept to it
pertinaciously--and that was to go into the drawing-room with
Polly when she went to practice, and there, with one of her
numerous family of dolls, to sit down quietly in some corner and
wait till she got through.

Day after day she did it, until Polly, who was worried to think how
tedious it must be for her, would look around and say-- "Oh,
childie, do run out and play."

"I want to stay," Phronsie would beg in an injured tone; "please let
me, Polly."

So Polly would jump and give her a kiss, and then, delighted to
know that she was there, would go at her practicing with twice the
vigor and enthusiasm.

But Phronsie's chief occupation, at least when she wasn't with
Polly, was the entertainment and amusement of Mr. King. And
never was she very long absent from his side, which so pleased the
old gentleman that he could scarcely contain himself, as with a
gravity befitting the importance of her office, she would follow
him around in a happy contented way, that took with him
immensely. And now-a-days, no one ever saw the old gentleman
going out of a morning, when Jasper was busy with his lessons,
without Phronsie by his side, and many people turned to see the
portly figure with the handsome head bent to catch the prattle of a
little sunny-haired child, who trotted along, clasping his hand
confidingly. And nearly all of them stopped to gaze the second
time before they could convince themselves that it was really that
queer, stiff old Mr. King of whom they had heard so much.

And now the accumulation of dolls in the house became something
alarming, for Mr. King, observing Phronsie's devotion to her
family, thought there couldn't possibly be too many of them; so he
scarcely ever went out without bringing home one at least to add to
them, until Phronsie had such a remarkable collection as would
have driven almost any other child nearly crazy with delight. She,
however, regarded them something in the light of a grave
responsibility, to be taken care of tenderly, to be watched over
carefully as to just the right kind of bringing up; and to have small
morals and manners taught in just the right way.

Phronsie was playing in the corner of Mrs. Whitney's little
boudoir, engaged in sending out invitations for an elaborate
tea-party to be given by one of the dolls, when Polly rushed in with
consternation in her tones, and dismay written all over her

"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. Whitney, looking up from her

"Why," said Polly, "how could I! I don't see--but I've forgotten to
write to mamsie to-day; it's Wednesday, you know, and there's
Monsieur coming." And poor Polly looked out in despair to see the
lively little music teacher advancing towards the house at an
alanning rate of speed.

"That is because you were helping Van so long last evening over
his lessons," said Mrs. Whitney; "I am so sorry."

"Oh, no," cried Polly honestly, "I had plenty of time--but I forgot
'twas mamsie's day. What will she do!"

"You will have to let it go now till the afternoon, dear; there's no
other way; it can go in the early morning mail."

"Oh, dear," sighed Polly, "I suppose I must." And she went down to
meet Monsieur with a very distressed little heart.

Phronsie laid down the note of invitation she was scribbling, and
stopped to think; and a moment or two after, at a summons from a
caller, Mrs. Whitney left the room.

"I know I ought to," said Phronsie to herself and the dolls, "yes, I
know I had; mamsie will feel, oh! so bad, when she don't get
Polly's letter; and I know the way, I do, truly."

She got up and went to the window, where she thought a minute;
and then, coming back, she took up her little stubby pencil, and
bending over a small bit of paper, she commenced to trace with
laborious efforts and much hard breathing, some very queer
hieroglyphics that to her seemed to be admirable, as at last she
held them up with great satisfaction.

"Good-bye," she said then, getting up and bowing to the dolls who
sat among the interrupted invitations, "I won't be gone but a little
bit of one minute," and she went out determinedly and shut the

Nobody saw the little figure going down the carriage drive, so of
course nobody could stop her. When Phronsie got to the gateway
she looked up and down the street carefully, either way.

"Yes," she said, at last, "it was down here, I'm very sure, I went
with grandpa," and immediately turned down the wrong way, and
went on and on, grasping carefully her small, and by this time
rather soiled bit of paper.

At last she reached the business streets; and although she didn't
come to the Post Office, she comforted herself by the thought--"it
must be coming soon. I guess it's round this corner."

She kept turning corner after corner, until, at last, a little anxious
feeling began to tug at her heart; and she began to think--"I wish I
could see Polly"---- And now, she had all she could do to get out of
the way of the crowds of people who were pouring up and down
the thoroughfare. Everybody jostled against her, and gave her a
push. "Oh dear!" thought Phronsie, "there's such a many big
people!" and then there was no time for anything else but to
stumble in and out, to keep from being crushed completely
beneath their feet. At last, an old huckster woman, in passing
along, knocked off her bonnet with the end of her big basket,
which flew around and struck Phronsie's head. Not stopping to
look into the piteous brown eyes, she strode on without a word.
Phronsie turned in perfect despair to go down a street that looked
as if there might be room enough for her in it. Thoroughly
frightened, she plunged over the crossing, to reach it!

"Look out!" cried a ringing voice. "Stop!"

"The little girl'll be killed!" said others with bated breath, as a
powerful pair of horses whose driver could not pull them up in
time, dashed along just in front of her! With one cry, Phronsie
sprang between their feet, and reached the opposite curbstone in

The plunge brought her up against a knot of gentlemen who were
standing talking on the corner.

"What's this!" asked one, whose back being next to the street,
hadn't seen the commotion, as the small object dashed into their
midst, and fell up against him.

"Didn't you see that narrow escape?" asked a second, whose face
had paled in witnessing it. "This little girl was nearly killed a
moment ago--careless driving enough!" And he put out his hand to
catch the child.

"Bless me!" cried a third, whirling around suddenly, "Bless me!
you don't say so! why"---- With a small cry, but gladsome and
distinct in its utterance, Phronsie gave one look--"Oh, grandpa!"
was all she could say.

"Oh! where"--Mr. King couldn't possibly have uttered another
word, for then his breath gave out entirely, as he caught the small

"I went to the Post Office," said the child, clinging to him in
delight, her tangled hair waving over the little white face, into
which a faint pink color was quickly coming back. "Only it
wouldn't come; and I walked and walked--where is it, grandpa?"
And Phronsie gazed up anxiously into the old gentleman's face.

"She went to the Post Officel' turning around on the others fiercely,
as if they had contradicted him--"Why, my child, what were you
going to do?"

"Mamsie's letter," said Phronsie, holding up for inspection the
precious bit, which by this time, was decidedly forlorn-- "Polly
couldn't write; and Mamsie'd feel so bad not to get one--she would
really" said the child, shaking her head very soberly, "for Polly said

"And you've been--oh! I can't think of it," said Mr. King, tenderly
taking her up on his shoulder, "well, we must get home now, or I
don't know what Polly will do!" And without stopping to say a
word to his friends, he hailed a passing carriage, and putting
Phronsie in, he commanded the driver to get them as quickly as
possible to their destination.

In a few moments they were home. Mr. King pushed into the
house with his burden. "Don't anybody know," he burst out,
puffing up the stairs, and scolding furiously at every step, "enough
to take better care of this child, than to have such goings On!"

"What is the matter, father?" asked Mrs. Whitney, coming up the
stairs, after him. "What has happened out of the way?"

"Out of the way!" roared the old gentleman, irascibly, "well, if you
want Phronsie racing off to the Post Office by herself, and nearly
getting killed, poor child! yes, Marian, I say nearly killed!" he

"What do you mean?" gasped Mrs. Whitney.

"Why, where have you been?" asked the old gentleman, who
wouldn't let Phronsie get down out of his arms, under any
circumstances; so there she lay, poking up her head like a little
bird, and trying to say she wasn't in the least hurt, "where's
everybody been not to know she'd gone?" he exclaimed, "where's
Polly--and Jasper--and all of 'em?"

"Polly's taking her music lesson," said Mrs. Whitney. "Oh,
Phronsie darling!" and she bent over the child in her father's arms,
and nearly smothered her with kisses.

"Twas a naughty horse," said Phronsie, sitting up straight and
looking at her, "or I should have found the Post Office; and I lost
off my bonnet, too," she added, for the first time realizing her loss,
putting her hand to her head; "a bad old woman knocked it off
with a basket--and now mamsie won't get her letter!" and she
waved the bit, which she still grasped firmly between her thumb
and finger, sadly towards Mrs. Whitney.

"Oh, dear," groaned that lady, "how could we talk before her! But
who would have thought it! Darling," and she took the little girl
from her father's arms, who at last let her go, "don't think of your
mamma's letter; we'll tell her how it was," and she sat down in the
first chair that she could reach; while Phronsie put her tumbled
little head down on the kind shoulder and gave a weary little sigh.

"It was so long," she said, "and my shoes hurt," and she thrust out
the dusty little boots, that spoke pathetically of the long and
unaccustomed tramp.

"Poor little lamb!" said Mr. King, getting down to unbutton them.
"What a shame!" he mumbled pulling off half of the buttons in his
frantic endeavors to get them off quickly.

But Phronsie never heard the last of his objurgations, for in a
minute she was fast asleep. The tangled hair fell off from the tired
little face; the breathing came peaceful and regular, and with her
little hand fast clasped in Mrs. Whitney's she slept on and on.

Polly came flying up-stairs, two or three at a time, and humming a
scrap of her last piece that she had just conquered.

"Phronsie," she called, with a merry little laugh, "where"-- "Hush!"
said Mr. King, warningly, and then just because he couldn't explain
there without waking Phronsie up, he took hold of Polly's two
shoulders and marched her into the iiext room, where he carefully
closed the door, and told her the whole thing, using his own
discretion about the very narrow escape she had passed through.
He told enough, however, for Polly to see what had been so near
them; and she stood there so quietly, alternately paling and
flushing as he proceeded, till at last, when he finished, Mr. King
was frightened almost to death at the sight of her face.

"Oh, goodness me, Polly!" he said, striding up to her, and then
fumbling around on the table to find a glass of water, "you are not
going to faint, are you? Phronsie's all well now, she isn't hurt in the
least, I assure you; I assure you--where i.s a glass of water! Marian
ought to see that there's some here--that stupid Jane!" and in utter
bewilderment he was fussing here and there, knocking down so
many things in general, that the noise soon brought Polly to, with a
little gasp.

"Oh, don't mind me, dear Mr. King--I'm---all well."

"So you are," said the old gentleman, setting up a toilet bottle that
he had knocked over, "so you are; I didn't think you'd go and
tumble over, Polly, I really didn't," and he beamed admiringly
down on her.

And then Polly crept away to Mrs. Whitney's side where she threw
herself down on the floor, to watch the little sleeping figure. Her
hand was gathered up, into the kind one that held Phronsie's; and
there they watched and watched and waited.

"Oh, dear," said Phronsie, suddenly, turning over with a little sigh,
and bobbing up her head to look at Polly; "I'm so hungry! I haven't
had anything to eat in over an' ever so long, Polly!" and she gazed
at her with a very injured countenance.

"So you must be," said Mrs. Whitney, kissing the flushed little
face. "Polly must ring the bell for Jane to bring this little bird some

"Can I have a great many?" asked Phronsie, lifting her eyes, with
the dewy look of sleep hill lingering in them, "as many as two

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Whitney, laughing; "I think as many as three
little birdies could eat, Phronsie."

"Oh," said Phronsie, and leaned back satisfied, while Polly gave
the order, which was presently followed by Jane with a well-filled

"Now," said Jappy, when he heard the account of the adventure, "I
say that letter ought to go to your mother, Polly."

"Oh," said Polly, "it would scare mamsie most to death, Jappy!"

"Don't tell her the whole," said Jasper, quickly, "I didn't mean
that--about the horses and all that--but only enough to let her see
how Phronsie tried to get it to her."

"And I'm going to write to your brother Joel," said Van, drawing
up to the library table; "I'll scare him, Polly, I guess; he won't tell
your mother."

"Your crow-tracks'II scare him enough without anything else," said
Percy, pleasantly, who really could write very nicely, while Polly
broke out in an agony:

"Oh, no, Van, you mustn't! you mustn't!"

"If Van does," said Jasper, decidedly, "it'll be the last time he'll
write to the 'browii house,' I can tell him; and besides, he'll go to
Coventry." This had the desired effect.

"Let's all write," said Polly.

So a space on the table was cleared, and the children gathered
around it, when there was great scratching of pens, and clearing of
ideas; which presently resulted in a respectable budget of letters,
into which Phronsie's was lovingly tucked in the centre; and then
they all filed out to put it into the letterbox in the hall, for Thomas
to mail with the rest in the morning.


"And I'll tell you, Marian, what I am going to do."

Mr. King's voice was pitched on a higher key than usual; and
extreme determination was expressed in every line of his face. He
had met Mrs. Whitney at the foot of the staircase, dressed for
paying visits. "Oh, are you going out?" he said, glancing
impatiently at her attire. "And I'd just started to speak to you on a
matter of great importance! Of the greatest importance indeed!" he
repeated irritably, as he stood with one gloved hand resting on the

"Oh, it's no matter, father," she replied pleasantly; "if it's really
important, I can postpone going for another day, and--"

"Really important!" repeated the old gentleman irascibly. "Haven't
I just told you it's of the greatest importance? There's no time to be
lost; and with my state of health too, it's of the utmost consequence
that I shouldn't be troubled. It's very bad for me; I should think you
would realize that, Marian."

"I'll tell Thomas to take the carriage directly back," said Mrs.
Whitney stepping to the door. "Or stay, father; I'll just run up and
send the children out for a little drive. The horses ought to be used
too, you know," she said lightly, preparing to run up to carry out
the changed plan.

"Never mind that now," said Mr. King abruptly. "I want you to give
me your attention directly." And walking towards the library door,
getting a fresh accession of impatience with every step, he
beckoned her to follow.

But his progress was somewhat impeded by little Dick--or rather,
little Dick and Prince, who were standing at the top of the stairs to
see Mrs. Whitney off. When he saw his mother retrace her steps,
supposing her yielding to the urgent entreaties that he was sending
after her to stay at home, the child suddenly changed his
"Good-byes" to vociferous howls of delight, and speedily began to
plunge down the stairs to wclcome her.

But the staircase was long, and little Dick was in a hurry, and
besides, Prince was in the way. The consequence was, nobody
knew just how, that a bumping noise struck into the conversation
that made the two below in the hall look up quickly, to see the
child and dog come rolling over the stairs at a rapid rate.

"Zounds!" cried the old gentleman. "Here, Thomas, Thomas!" But
as that individual was waiting patiently outside the door on the
carriage box, there was small hope of his being in time to catch the
boy, who was already in his mother's arms, not quite clear by the
suddenness of the whole thing, as to how he came there.

"Oh! oh! Dicky's hurt!" cried somebody up ahove--followed by
every one within hearing distance, and all came rushing to th~ spot
to ask a thousand questions all in the same minute.

There sat Mrs. Whitney in one of the big carved chairs, with little
Dick in her lap, and Prince walking gravely around and around
him with the greatest expression of concern on his noble face. Mr.
King was storming up and down, and calling on everybody to bring
a "bowl of water, and some brown paper; and be quick!"
interpolated with showers of blame on Prince for sitting on the
stairs, and tripping people up! while Dick meanwhile was laughing
and chatting, and enjoying the distinction of making so many
people run, and of otherwise being the object of so much attention!

"I don't think he was sitting on the stairs, father," said Jasper, who,
when he saw that Dicky was really unhurt, began to vindicate his
dog. "He never does that; do you Sir?" he said patting the head that
was lifted up to him, as if to be defended.

"And I expect we shall all be killed some day, Jasper," said Mr.
King, warming with his subject; and forgetting all about the brown
paper and water which he had ordered, and which was now
waiting for him at his elbow, "just by that creature."

"He's the noblest"--began Jasper, throwing his arms around his
neck; an example which was immediately followed by the
Whitney boys, and the two little Peppers. When Dick saw this, he
began to struggle to get down to add himself to the number.

"Where's the brown paper?" began Mr. King, seeing this and
whirling around suddenly. "Hasn't any body brought it yet?"

"Here 'tis sir," said Jane, handing him a generous supply. "Oh, I
don't want to," cried little Dick in dismay, seeing his grandfather
advance with an enormous piece of paper, which previously wet in
the bowl of water, was now unpleasantly clammy and wet--"oh,
no, I don't want to be all stuck up with old horrid wet paper!"

"Hush, dear!" said his mamma, soothingly. "Grandpapa wants to
put it on--there"--as Mr. King dropped it scientifically on his head,
and then proceeded to paste another one over his left eye.

"And I hope they'll all drop off," cried Dick, savagely, shaking his
head to facilitate matters. "Yes, I do, every single one of 'em!" he
added, with an expression that seen under the brown bits was
anything but benign.

"Was Prince on the stairs, Dick?" asked Jasper, coming up and
peering under his several adornments. "Tell us how you fell!"

"No," said little Dick, crossly, and giving his head another shake.
"He was up in the hall--oh, dear, I want to get down," and he began
to stretch his legs and to struggle with so much energy, that two or
three pieces fell off, and landed on the floor to his intense delight.

"And how did you fall then?" said Jasper, perseveringly. "Can't you
remember, Dicky, boy?"

"I pushed Princey," said Dick, feeling, with freedom from some of
his encumbrances, more disposed for conversation, "and made him
go ahead--and then I fell on top of him-- that's all."

"I guess Prince has saved him, father," cried Jasper, turning around
with eyes full of pride and love on the dog, who was trying as hard
as he could to tell all the children how much he enjoyed their

And so it all came about that the consultation so summarily
interrupted was never held. For, as Mrs. Whitney was about
retiring that evening, Mr. King rapped at her door, on his way to

"Oh," he said popping in his head, in response to her invitation to
come in, "it's nothing--only I thought I'd just tell you a word or two
about what I've decided to do."

"Do you mean what you wanted to see me about this afternoon?"
asked Mrs. Whitney, who hadn't thought of it since. "Do come in,

"It's no consequence," said the old gentleman; "no consequence at
all," he repeated, waving his hand emphatically, "because I've
made up my mind and arranged all my plans-- it's only about the

"The Peppers?" repeated Mrs. Whitney.

"Yes. Well, the fact of it is, I'm going to have them here for a
visit--the whole of them, you understand; that's all there is to it.
And I shall go down to see about all the arrangements-- Jasper and
I--day after to-morrow," said the old gentleman, as if he owned the
whole Pepper family inclusive, and was the only responsible
person to be consulted about their movements.

"Will they come?" asked Mrs. Whitney, doubtfully.

"Come? of course," said Mr. King, sharply, "there isn't any other
way; or else Mrs. Pepper will be sending for her children--and of
course you know, Marian, we couldn't allow that----well, that's all;
so good night," and the door closed on his retreating footsteps.

And so Polly and Phronsie soon knew that mamsie and the boys
were to be invited! And then the grand house, big as it was, didn't
seem large enough to contain them.

"I declare," said Jasper, next day, when they had been laughing and
planning till they were all as merry as grigs, "if this old dungeon
don't begin to seem a little like 'the little brown house,' Polly."

"Twon't," answered Polly, hopping around on one toe, followed by
Phronsie, "till mamsie and the boys get here, Jasper King!"

"Well, they'll be here soon," said Jappy, pleased at Polly's
exultation over it, "for we're going to-morrow to do the inviting."

"And Polly's to write a note to slip into Marian's," said Mr. King,
putting his head in at the door. "And if you want your mother to
come, child, why, you'd better mention it as strong as you can."

"I'm going to write," said Phronsie, pulling up after a prolonged
skip, all out of breath. "I'm going to write, and beg mamsie dear.
Then she'll come, I guess."

"I guess she will," said Mr. King, looking at her. "You go on,
Phronsie, and write; and that letter shall go straight in my coat
pocket alone by itself."

"Shall it?" asked Phronsie, coming up to him, "and nobody will
take it out till you give it to mamsie?"

"No, nobody shall touch it," said the old gentleman, stooping to
kiss the upturned face, "till I put it into her own hand."

"Then," said Phronsie, in the greatest satisfaction, "I'm going to
write this very one minute!" and she marched away to carry her
resolve into immediate execution.

Before they got through they had quite a bundle of invitations and
pleadings; for each of the three boys insisted on doing his part, so
that when they were finally done up in an enormous envelope and
put into Mr. King's hands, he told them with a laugh that there was
no use for Jappy and himself

to go, as those were strong enough to win almost anybody's

However, the next morning they set off, happy in their hopes, and
bearing the countless messages, which the children would come up
every now and then to intrust to them, declaring that they had
forgotten to put them in the letters.

"You'd had to have had an express wagon to carry the letters if you
had put them all in," at last cried Jasper. "You've given us a bushel
of things to remember."

"And oh! don't forget to ask Ben to bring Cherry," cried Polly, the
last minute as they were driving off although she had put it in her
letter at least a dozen times; "and oh, dear! of course the flowers
can't come."

"We've got plenty here," said Jasper. "You would not know what to
do with them, Polly."

"Well, I do wish mamsie would give some to kind Mrs. Henderson,
then," said Polly, on the steps, clasping her hands anxiously, while
Jasper told Thomas to wait till he heard the rest of the message,
"and to grandma--you know Grandma Bascom; she was so good to
us," she said impulsively. "And, oh! don't let her forget to carry
some to dear, dear Dr. Fisher; and don't forget to give him our
love, Jappy; don't forget that!" and Polly ran down the steps to the
carriage door, where she gazed up imploringly to the boy's face.

"I guess I won't," cried Jasper, "when I think how he saved your
eyes, Polly! He's the best fellow I know!" he finished in an
impulsive burst.

"And don't let marnsie forget to carry some in to good old Mr. and
Mrs. Beebe in town--where Phronsie got her shoes, you know; that
is, if mamsie can," she added, remembering how very busy her
mother would be.

"I'll carry them myself," said Jasper; "we're going to stay over till
the next day, you know."

"O!" cried Polly, radiant as a rose, "will you, really, Jappy? you're
so good!"

"Yes, I will," said Jasper, "everything you want done, Polly;
anything else?" he asked, quickly, as Mr. King, impatient to be off,
showed unmistakable symptoms of hurrying up Thomas.

"Oh, no," said Polly, "only do look at the little brown house,
Jasper, as much as you can," and Polly left the rest unfinished.
Jasper seemed to understand, however, for he smiled brightly as he
said, looking into the brown eyes, "I'll do it all, Polly; every single
thing." And then they were off.

Mamsie and the boys! could Polly ever wait till the next afternoon
that would bring the decision?

Long before it was possibly time for the carriage to come back
from the depot, Polly, with Phronsie and the three boys, who,
improving Jasper's absence, had waited upon her with the grace
and persistence of cavaliers of the olden time, were drawn up at
the old stone gateway.

"Oh, dear," said Van with an impatient fling; "they never will

"Won't they, Polly?" asked Phronsie, anxiously, and standing quite

"Dear me, yes," said Polly, with a little laugh, "Van only means
they'll be a good while, Phronsie. They're sure to come some time."

"Oh!" said Phronsie, quite relieved; and she commenced her
capering again in extreme enjoyment.

"I'm going," said little Dick, "to run down and meet them."
Accordingly off he went, and was immediately followed by Percy,
who started with the laudable desire of bringing him back; but
finding it so very enjoyable, he stayed himself and frolicked with
Dick, till the others, hearing the fun, all took hold of hands and
flew off to join them.

"Now," said Polly, when they recovered their breath a little, "let's
all turn our backs to the road; and the minute we hear the carriage
we must whirl round; and the one who sees 'em first can ask first
'Is mamsie coming?"

"All right," cried the boys.

"Turn round, Dick," said Percy, with a little shove, for Dick was
staring with all his might right down the road. And so they all flew
around till they looked like five statues set up to grace the

"Suppose a big dog should come," suggested Van, pleasantly, "and
snap at our backs!"

At this little Dick gave a small howl, and turned around in a fright.

"There isn't any dog coming," said Pofly. "What does make you say
such awful things, Van?"

"I hear a noise," said Phronsie; and so they all whirled around in
expectation. But it proved to be only a market wagon coming at a
furious pace down the road, with somebody's belated dinner. So
they all had to whirl back again as before. The consequence was
that when the carriage did come, nobody heard it.

Jasper, looking out, was considerably astonished to see, drawn up
in solemn array with their backs to the road, five children, who
stood as if completely petrified.

"What in the world!" he began, and called to Thomas to stop,
whose energetic "Whoa!" reaching the ears of the frozen line,
caused it to break ranks, and spring into life at an alarming rate.

"Oh, is she coming Jappy? Is she? Is she?" they all screamed
together, swarming up to the carriage door, and over the wheels.

"Yes," said Jasper looking at Polly.

At that, Phronsie made a little cheese and sat right down on the
pavement in an ecstasy.

"Get in here, all of you;" said Jasper merrily; "help Polly in first.
For shame Dick! don't scramble so."

"Dick always shoves," said Percy, escorting Polly up with quite an

"I don't either," said Dick; "you pushed me awful, just a little while
ago," he added indignantly.

"Do say awfully," corrected Van, crowding up to get in. "You
leave off your lys so," he finished critically.

"I don't know anything about any lees," said little Dick, who,
usually so good natured, was now thoroughly out of temper; "I
want to get in and go home," and he showed evident symptoms of
breaking into a perfect roar.

"There," said Polly, lilting him up, "there he goes! now-- one, two,
three!" arid little Dick was spun in so merrily that the tears
changed into a happy laugh.

"Now then, bundle in, all the rest of you," put in Mr. King, who
seemed to be in the best of spirits. "That's it; go on, Thomas!"

"When are they coming?" Polly found time to ask in the general

"In three weeks from to-morrow," said Jasper. "And everything's
all right, Polly! and the whole of them, Cherry and all, will be here

"Oh!" said Polly.

"Here we are!" cried Van, jumping out almost before the carriage
door was open. "Mamma; mamma," he shouted to Mrs. Whitney in
the doorway, "the Peppers are coming, and the little brown house
too!--everything and everybody!"

"They are!" said Percy, as wild as his brother; "and everything's
just splendid! Jappy said so."

"Everything's coming," said little Dick, tumbling up the steps--"and
the bird--and--and--"

"And mamsie!" finished Phronsie, impatient to add her part --while
Polly didn't say anything--only looked.

Three weeks! "I can't wait!" thought Polly at first, in counting over
the many hours before the happy day would come. But on Jasper's
suggesting that they should all do something to get ready for the
visitors, and have a general trimming up with vines and flowers
beside--the time passed away much more rapidly than was feared.

Polly chose a new and more difficult piece of music to learn to
surprise mamsie. Phronsie had aspired to an elaborate pin-cushion,
that was nearly done, made of bits of worsted and canvas, over
whose surface she had wandered according to her own sweet
will, in a way charming to behold.

"I don't know what to do," said Van in despair, "cause I don't know
what she'd like."

"Can't you draw her a little picture?" asked Polly. "She'd like that."

"Does she like pictures?" asked Van with the greatest interest.

"Yes indeed!" said Polly, "I guess you'd think so if you could see

"I know what I shall do," with a dignified air said Percy, who
couldn't draw, and therefore looked down on all Van's attempts
with the greatest scorn. "And it won't be any old pictures either,"
he added.

"What is it, old fellow?" asked Jasper, "tell on, now, your grand

"No, I'm not going to tell," said Percy, with the greatest secrecy,
"until the very day."

"What will you do, sir?" asked Jasper, pulling one of Dick's ears,
who stood waiting to speak, as if his mind was made up, and
wouldn't be changed for anyone!

"I shall give Ben one of my kitties--the littlest and the best!" he
said, with heroic self-sacrifice.

A perfect shout greeted this announcement.

"Fancy Ben going round with one of those awful little things,"
whispered Jappy to Polly, who shook at the very thought.

"Don't laugh! oh, it's dreadful to laugh at him, Jappy," she said,
when she could get voice enough.

"No, I sha'n't tell," said Percy, when the fun had subsided; who,
finding that no one teased him to divulge his wonderful plan, kept
trying to harrow up their feelings by parading it.

"You needn't then," screamed Van, who was nearly dying to know.
"I don't believe it's so very dreadful much, anyway."

"What's yours, Jappy?" asked Polly, "I know yours will be just

"Oh, no, it isn't," said Jasper, smiling brightly, "but as I didn't know
what better I could do, I'm going to get a little stand, and then beg
some flowers of Turner to fill it, and--"

"Why, that's mine!" screamed Percy, in the greatest
disappointment. "That's just what I was going to do!"

"Hoh, hoh!" shouted Van; "I thought you wouldn't tell, Mr. Percy!
hoh, hoh!"

"Hoh, hoh!" echoed Dick.

"Hush," said Jappy. "Why, Percy, I didn't know as you had thought
of that," he said kindly. "Well, then, you do it, and I'll take
something else. I don't care as long as Mrs. Pepper gets 'em."

"I didn't exactly mean that," began Percy; "mine was roots and
little flowers growing."

"He means what he gets in the woods," said Polly, explaining;
"don't you, Percy?"

"Yes," said the boy. "And then I was going to put stones and things
in among them to make them look pretty."

"And they will," cried Jasper. "Go ahead, Percy, they'll look real
pretty, and then Turner will give you some flowers for the stand, I
know; I'll ask him to-morrow."

"Will you?" cried Percy, "that'll be fine!"

"Mine is the best," said Van, just at this juncture; but it was said a
little anxiously, as he saw how things were prospering with Percy;
"for my flowers in the picture will always be there, and your old
roots and things will die."

"What will yours be, then, Jappy?" asked Polly very soberly. "The
stand of flowers would have been just lovely! and you do fix them
so nice," she added sorrowfully.

"Oh, I'll find something else," said Jappy, cheerfully, who had
quite set his heart on giving the flowers. "Let me see--I might
carve her a bracket."

"Do," cried Polly, clapping her hands enthusiastically. "And do
carve a little bird, like the one you did on your father's."

"I will," said Jasper, "just exactly like it. Now, we've got something
to do, before we welcome the 'little brown house' people--so let's
fly at it, and the time won't seem so long."

And at last the day came when they could all say--To-morrow
they'll be here!

Well, the vines were all up; and pots of lovely climbing ferns, and
all manner of pretty green things had been arranged and
re-arranged a dozen times till everything was pronounced perfect;
and a big green "Welcome" over the library door, made of laurel
leaves, by the patient fingers of all the children, stared down into
their admiring eyes as much as to say, "I'll do my part!"

"Oh, dear," said Phronsie, when evening came, and the children
were, as usual, assembled on the rug before the fire, their tongues
running wild with anticipation and excitement, "I don't mean to go
to bed at all, Polly; I don't truly."

"Oh, yes, you do," said Polly laughing; "then you'll be all fresh and
rested to see mammy when she does come."

"Oh, no," said Phronsie, shaking her head soberly, and speaking in
an injured tone. "I'm not one bit tired, Polly; not one bit."

"You needn't go yet, Phronsie," said Polly. "You can sit up half an
hour yet, if you want to."

"But I don't want to go to bed at all," said the child anxiously, "for
then I may be asleep when mamsie comes, Polly."

"She's afraid she won't wake up," said Fercy, laughing. "Oh, there'll
be oceans of time before they come, Phronsie."

"What is oceans," asked Phronsie, coming up and looking at him,

"He means mamsie won't get here till afternoon," said Polly,
catching her up and kissing her; "then I guess you'll be awake,
Phronsie, pet."

So Phronsie allowed herself to be persuaded, at the proper time, to
be carried off and inducted into her little nightgown. And when
Polly went up to bed, she found the little pin-cushion, with its
hieroglyphics, that she had insisted on taking to bed with her, still
tightly grasped in the little fat hand.

"She'll roll over and muss it," thought Polly; "and then she'll feel
bad in the morning. I guess I'd better lay it on the bureau."

So she drew it carefully away, without awaking the little sleeper,
and placed it where she knew Phronsie's eyes would rest on it the
first thing in the morning.

It was going on towards the middle of the night when Phronsie,
whose exciting dreams of mamsie and the boys wouldn't let her
rest quietly, woke up; and in the very first flash she thought of her

"Why, where--" she said, in the softest little tones, only half awake,
"why, Polly, where is it?" and she began to feel all around her
pillow to see if it had fallen down there.

But Polly's brown head with its crowd of anticipations and busy
plans was away off in dreamland, and she breathed on and on
perfectly motionless.

"I guess I better," said Phronsie to herself, now thoroughly awake,
and sitting up in bed, "not wake her up. Poor Polly's tired; I can
find it myself, I know I can."

So she slipped out of bed, and prowling around on the floor, felt
all about for the little cushion.

"'Tisn't here, oh, no, it isn't," she sighed at last, and getting up, she
stood still a moment, lost in thought. "Maybe Jane's put it out in
the hail," she said, as a bright thought struck her. "I can get it
there," and out she pattered over the soft carpet to the table at the
end of the long hail, where Jane often placed the children's
playthings over night. As she was coming back after her fruitless
search, she stopped to peep over the balustrade down the
fascinating ffight of stairs, now so long and dark. Just then a little
faint ray of light shot up from below, and met her eyes.

"Why!" she said in gentle surprise, "they're all down-stairs! I guess
they're making something for mamsie--I'm going to see."

So, carefully picking her way over the stairs with her little bare
feet, and holding on to the balustrade at every step, she went
slowly down, guided by the light, which, as she neared the bottom
of the flight, she saw came from the library door.

"Oh, isn't it funny!" and she gave a little happy laugh. "They won't
know I'm comin'!" and now the soft little feet went pattering over
the thick carpet, until she stood just within the door. There she
stopped perfectly still.

Two dark figures, big and powerful, were bending over something
that Phronsie couldn't see, between the two big windows. A lantern
on the floor flung its rays over them as they were busily occupied;
and the firelight from the dying coals made the whole stand out
distinctly to the gaze of the motionless little figure.

"Why! what are you doing with my grandpa's things?"

The soft, clear notes fell like a thunderbolt upon the men. With a
start they brought themselves up, and stared--only to see a little
white-robed figure, with its astonished eyes uplifted with childlike,
earnest gaze, as she waited for her answer.

For an instant they were powerless to move; and stood as if frozen
to the spot, till Phronsie, moving one step forward, piped forth:

"Naughty men, to touch my dear grandpa's things!"

With a smothered cry one of them started forward with arm
uplifted; but the other sprang like a cat and intercepted the blow.

"Stop!" was all he said. A noise above the stairs--a rushing sound
through the hail! Something will save Phronsie, for the household
is aroused! The two men sprang through the window, having no
time to catch the lantern or their tools, as Polly, followed by one
and another, rushed in and surrounded the child.

"What!" gasped Polly, and got no further.

"STOP, THIEF!" roared Mr. King, hurrying over the stairs. The
children, frightened at the strange noises, began to cry and scream,
as they came running through the halls to the spot. Jasper rushed
for the men-servants.

And there stood Phronsie, surrounded by the pale group. "Twas
two naughty men," she said, lifting her little face with the grieved,
astonished look still in the big brown eyes, "and they were
touching my grandpa's things, Polly!"

"I should think they were," said Jasper, running over amongst the
few scattered tools and the lantern, to the windows, where, on the
floor, was a large table cover hastily caught up by the corners, into
which a vast variety of silver, jewelry, and quantities of costly
articles were gathered ready for flight. "They've broken open your
safe, father!" he cried in excitement, "see!"

"And they put up their hand--one man did," went on Phronsie.
"And the other said 'Stop!'--oh, Polly, you hurt me!" she cried, as
Polly, unable to bear the strain any longer, held her so tightly she
could hardly breathe.

"Go on," said Jasper, "how did they look?"

"All black," said the child, pushing back her wavy hair and looking
at him, "very all black, Japser."

"And their faces, Phronsie?" said Mr. King, getting down on his
old knees on the floor beside her. "Bless me! somebody else ask
her, I can't talk!"

"How did their faces look, Phronsie, dear?" asked Jasper, taking
one of the cold hands in his. "Can't you think?"

"Oh!" said Phronsie--and then she gave a funny little laugh, "two
big holes, Japser, that's all they had!"

"She means they were masked," whispered Jasper.

"What did you get up for?" Mrs. Whitney asked. "Dear child, what
made you get out of bed?"

"Why, my cushion-pin," said Phronsie looking worried at once. "I
couldn't find it, and--"

But just at this, without a bit of warning, Polly tumbled over in a
dead faint.

And then it was all confusion again.

And so, on the following afternoon, it turned out that the Peppers,
about whose coming there had been so many plans and
expectations, just walked in as if they had always lived there. The
greater excitement completely swallowed up the less!


"Phooh!" said Joel a few mornings after the emptying of the little
brown house into the big one, when he and Van were rehearsing
for the fiftieth time all the points of the eventful night, "phooh! if
I'd been here they wouldn't got away, I guess!"

"What would you have done?" asked Van, bristling up at this
reflection on their courage, and squaring up to him. "What would
you have done, Joel Pepper?"

"I'd a-pitched right into 'em--like--everything!" said Joel valiantly;
"and a-caught 'em! Yes, every single one of the Bunglers!"

"The what?" said Van, bursting into a loud laugh.

"The Bunglers," said Joel with a red face. "That's what you said
they were, anyway," he added positively.

"I said Burglars," said Van, doubling up with amusement, while
Joel stood, a little sturdy figure, regarding him with anything but a
sweet countenance.

"Well anyway, I'd a-caught 'em, so there!" he said, as Van at last
showed signs of coming out of his fit of laughter, and got up and
wiped his eyes.

"How'd you caught 'em?" asked Van, scornfully surveying the
square little country figure before him. "You can't hit any.

"Can't?" said Joel, the black eyes flashing volumes, and coming up
in front of Van. "You better believe I can, Van Whitney!"

"Come out in the back yard and try then," said Van hospitably,
perfectly delighted at the prospect, and flying alone towards the
door. "Come right out and try."

"All right!" said Joel, following sturdily, equally delighted to show
his skill.

"There," said Van, taking off his jacket, and ffinging it on the
grass, while Joel immediately followed suit with his little
homespun one. "Now we can begin perfectly splendid! I won't hit
hard," he added patronizingly, as both boys stood ready.

"Hit as hard as you've a-mind to," said Joel, "I'm a-going to."

"Oh, you may," said Van politely, "because you're company. All

So at it they went. Before very many minutes were over, Van
relinquished all ideas of treating his company with extra
consideration, and was only thinking how he could possibly hold
his own with the valiant little country lad. Oh, if he could only be
called to his lessons--anything that would summon him into the
house! Just then a window above their heads was suddenly thrown
up, and his mamma's voice in natural surprise and distress called
quickly: "Children what are you doing? Oh, Van, how could you!"

Both contestants turned around suddenly. Joel looked up steadily.
"We're a-hitting, ma'am; he said I couldn't, and so we came out

"Oh, Vanny," said Mrs. Whitney reproachfully, "to treat a little
guest in this way!"

"I wanted to," said Joel cheerfully; "twas great fun. Let's begin
again, Van!"

"We mustn't," said Van, readily giving up the charming prospect,
and beginning to edge quickly towards the house. "Mamma
wouldn't like it you know. He hits splendidly, mamma," he added
generously, looking up. "He does really."

"And so does Van," cried Joel, his face glowing at the praise.
"We'll come out every day," he added slipping into his jacket, and
turning enthusiastically back to Van.

"And perhaps he could have pitched into the Burglars," finished
Van, ignoring the invitation, and tumbling into his jacket with
alarming speed.

"I know I could!" cried Joel, scampering after him into the house.
"If I'd only a-been here!"

"Where's Ben?" said Van, bounding into the hail, and flinging
himself down on one of the chairs. "Oh dear, I'm so hot! Say, Joe,
where do you s'pose Ben is?"

"I don't know," replied Joel, who didn't even puff.

"I saw him a little while ago with master Percy," said Jane, who
was going through the hall.


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