FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS MIDWAY
FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS MIDWAY
MY LITTLE MARGARET
Who Is Phronsie Pepper to All
Who Know Her
This Book Is Lovingly Inscribed
1 Phronsie's Pie
2 Cousin Eunice Chatterton
3 The Rehearsal
4 Welcome Home!
5 After the Play
6 The Little Brown House
7 Old Times Again
8 Some Badgertown Calls
9 A Sudden Blow
10 The Party Separates
11 Poor Polly!
12 New Work for Polly
13 A Piece of News
14 Mamsie's Wedding
15 Mrs. Chatterton Has a New Plan
16 Where Is Phronsie?
17 Phronsie Is Found
18 The Girls Have Polly Again
19 Phronsie Is Well Again
20 The Secret
21 The Whitneys' Little Plan
23 Of Many Things
"Jefferson" said Phronsie with a grave uplifting of her eyebrows "I
think I will go down into the kitchen and bake a pie; a very little
"Bless you Miss" replied the cook showing his white teeth in glee
"it is the making of the kitchen when you come it."
"Yes Jefferson" said Phronsie slowly "I think I will go down make
one. It must be very very full of plums you know" looking up at him
anxiously "for Polly dearly loves plums."
"It shall be that plummy" said Jefferson convincingly "that you'd
think you never saw such a one for richness. Oh my! what a pie that
shall be!" exclaimed the cook shutting up one eye to look through the
other in a spasm of delight at an imaginary pie; "so it's for Miss Mary
"Yes" said Phronsie "it is. Oh Jefferson I'm so glad you like to
have me make one" she clasped her hands in silent rapture and sat down
on the lowest stair to think it over a bit Jefferson looking at her
forgetful that the under cook was fuming in the deserted domains over
his delay to return. At last he said bowing respectfully "If you
please Miss it's about time to begin. Such a pie ain't done without a
deal of care and we'd best have it a-baking as soon as may be."
"Yes" said Phronsie getting off from her stair and surrendering her
hand to his big black palm "we ought to go right this very minute. But
I must get my apron on;" she stopped and looked down at her red dress.
"Oh! you can take one of my aprons" said the cook "they're as fine
and big and white and I'll just put you in one of 'em and tie you up
as snug; you'll come out as clean and sweet when we're through as you
are now Miss."
"Tie me up?" laughed Phronsie in glee. "Oh! how nice Jefferson. Do you
know I love you very much Jefferson you're so very good to me?"
The big fellow drew a long breath. "No Miss I'm big and black and
just fit to stay downstairs" he managed to say.
"But I love you better because you are black Jefferson" insisted
Phronsie "a great deal better. You are not like everybody else but you
are just yourself" clinging to his hand.
"Well Miss I ain't just fit for a lily to touch and that's the truth"
looking down at his palm that the small white hand grasped closely.
"It's clean Miss" he added with pardonable pride "but it's awful
"I like it better black Jefferson" said Phronsie again "really and
truly I do because then it's your very very own" in a tone that
thrilled him much as if a queen had knighted him on the spot.
This important declaration over the two set forth on their way toward
the kitchen Phronsie clinging to his hand and chatting merrily over
the particular pie in prospect with varied remarks on pies in general
that by and by would be ventured upon if this present one were a
success--and very soon tied up in one of the cook's whitest aprons she
was seated with due solemnity at the end of the baking table the proper
utensils and materials in delightful confusion before her and the lower
order of kitchen satellites revolving around her and Jefferson the
"Now all go back to your work" said that functionary when he considered
the staring and muttered admiration had been indulged in long enough
"and leave us."
"I want you" said his assistant touching his elbow.
"Clear out" said Jefferson angrily his face turned quite from
But she caught the tone and immediately laid down the bit of dough she
"Do go" she begged "and come back quickly" smiling up into his face.
"See I'm going to pat and pat and pat oh! ever so much before you come
So Jefferson followed the under cook the scullery boy went back to
cleaning the knives Susan the parlor maid who was going through the
kitchen with her dustpan and broom hurried off with a backward glance
or two and Phronsie was left quite alone to hum her way along in her
blissful culinary attempt.
"Bless me!" exclaimed a voice close to her small ear as she was
attempting for the fifth time to roll out the paste quite as thin as she
had seen Jefferson do "what is this? Bless my soul! it's Phronsie!"
Phronsie set down the heavy rolling-pin and turned in her chair with a
"Dear dear Grandpapa!" she cried clasping her floury hands "oh! I'm
so glad you've come to see me make a pie all by myself. It's for Polly
and it's to be full of plums; Jefferson let me make it."
"Jefferson? And where is he pray?" cried Mr. King irately. "Pretty
fellow to bring you down to these apartments and then go off and
forget you. Jefferson!" he called sharply "here where are you?"
"Oh Grandpapa!" exclaimed Phronsie in dire distress "I sent him;
Jefferson didn't want to go Grandpapa dear really and truly he went
because I asked him."
"If you please sir" began Jefferson hurrying up "I only stepped off
a bit to the cellar. Bassett sent down a lot of turnips they ain't
"All right" said Mr. King cutting him short with a wave of his hand
"if Miss Phronsie sent you off it's all right; I don't want to hear any
more elaborate explanations."
"Little Miss hasn't been alone but a few minutes" said Jefferson in a
"And see" said Phronsie turning back to her efforts while one hand
grasped the old gentleman's palm "I've almost got it to look like
Jefferson's. Almost haven't I?" she asked regarding it anxiously.
"It will be the most beautiful pie" cried Mr. King a hearty enthusiasm
succeeding his irritability "that ever was baked. I wish you'd make me
one sometime Phronsie."
"Do you?" she cried in a tremor of delight "and will you really have it
on the table and cut it with Aunt Whitney's big silver knife?"
"That I will" declared Mr. King solemnly.
"Then some day I'll come down here again Jefferson" cried Phronsie in
a transport "and bake one for my dear Grandpapa. That is if this one
is good. Oh! you do suppose it will be good don't you?" appealingly at
"It shall" said Jefferson stoutly and seizing the rolling-pin with
extreme determination. "You want a bit more butter worked in here" a
dab with skillful fingers and a little manipulation with the flour a
roll now and then most deftly and the paste was laid out before
Phronsie. "Now Miss you can put it in the dish."
"But is isn't my pie" said Phronsie and big girl as she felt herself
to be she sat back in her chair her lower lip quivering.
"Not your pie?" repeated the cook bringing himself up straight to gaze
"No" said Phronsie shaking her yellow head gravely "it isn't my pie
now Jefferson. You put in the things and rolled it."
"Leave your fingers off from it can't you?" cried Mr. King sharply.
"Goodness! this pie isn't to have a professional touch about it. Get
some more flour and stuff whatever it is you make a pie of and let her
begin again. There I'll sit down and watch you; then there'll be some
chance of having things straight." So he drew up a chair to the side of
the table first calling off Pete the scullery boy from his knives to
come and wipe it off for him and Mrs. Tucker who was in kitchen dialect
"Tucker" to see that the boy did his work well.
"Lor' bless you sir" said Tucker bestowing a final polish with her
apron "'twas like satin before sir--not a wisp of dust."
"I don't want any observations from you" said the old gentleman
depositing himself in the chair. "There you can go back to your work
Mrs. Tucker and you too Pete. Now I'll see that this pie is to your
But Phronsie still sat back in her chair thoughtfully surveying
"Grandpapa" she said at last slowly "I think I'd rather have the first
pie I really would Grandpapa may I?" She brought her yellow head
forward by a sudden movement and looked deep into his keen eyes.
"Bless my soul! Rather have the first pie?" repeated the old gentleman
in astonishment "why I thought you wanted to make one all yourself."
"I think I'd rather do part of it" said Phronsie with great
deliberateness "then Polly'll like it and eat it and I'll do yours
Grandpapa dear just as Jefferson fixed mine all alone. Please let me."
She held him fast with her eyes and waited for his answer.
"So you shall!" cried Mr. King in great satisfaction "make mine all
alone. This one would better go as it is. Put away the flour and things
Jefferson; Miss Phronsie doesn't want them."
Phronsie gave a relieved little sigh. "And Jefferson if you hadn't
showed me how I couldn't ever in all this world make Grandpapa's. Now
give me the little plate do."
"Here 'tis Miss" said the cook all his tremor over the blunder he had
made disappearing since after all things were quite satisfactory.
And the little plate forthcoming Phronsie tucked away the paste
lovingly in its depths and began the important work of concocting the
mixture with which the pie was to be filled Mr. King sitting by with
the gravity of a statue even to the deliberate placing of each plum.
"Where's Phronsie?" called a voice above in one of the upper halls.
"Oh! she's coming Polly is!" cried Phronsie deserting a plum thrust in
endwise in the middle of the pie to throw her little sticky fingers
around Jefferson's neck; "oh! do take off my apron; and let me go.
She'll see my pie!"
"Stop!" cried Mr. King getting up somewhat stiffly to his feet "I'll
take off the apron myself. There Phronsie there you are. Whew! how hot
you keep your kitchen Jefferson" and he wiped his face.
"Now we'll run" said Phronsie softly "and not make a bit of noise
Grandpapa dear and Jefferson please put on my top to the pie and
don't let it burn and I'll come down very very soon again and bake
one all alone by myself for Grandpapa."
The old gentleman kept up very well with the soft patter of her feet
till they reached the foot of the staircase. "There there child" he
said "there's not the least need of hurry now."
"But she will come down" said Phronsie in gentle haste pulling at his
hand "then if she should see it Grandpapa!"
"To be sure; that would indeed be dreadful" said Mr. King getting over
the stairs very creditably. "There here we are now. Whew! it's terribly
warm in this house!"
But there was no danger from Polly; she was at this very instant not
being able to find Phronsie hurrying off toward the library in search
of Mrs. Whitney.
"We want to do the very loveliest thing!" she cried rushing in her
cheeks aflame. "Oh! pray excuse me." She stopped short blushing
"Don't feel badly Polly dear" said Mrs. Whitney over in the dim
light where the divan was drawn up in the east window and she held out
her hand and smiled; the other lady whose tete-a-tete was thus summarily
disturbed was elderly and very tall and angular. She put up her eyeglass
at the intrusion and murmured "Ah?"
"This is Polly Pepper" said Mrs. Whitney as Polly feeling unusually
awkward and shy stumbled across the library to get within the kind arms
"One of the children that your kindness received in this house?" said
the tall lady making good use of the eyeglass. The color mounted
steadily on Polly's already rosy cheek at the scrutiny now going on
with the greatest freedom.
"One of the dear children who make this house a sunny place for us all."
said Mrs. Whitney distinctly.
"Ah? I see. You are extremely good to put it in that way." A low well-
bred laugh followed this speech. Its sound irritated the young girl's
ear unspeakably and the brown eyes flashed and though there was really
no occasion to feel what was not addressed to her Polly was quite sure
she utterly disliked the lady before her.
"My dear Mrs. Chatterton" said Mrs. Whitney in the gentlest of accents
"you do not comprehend; it is not possible for you to understand how
very happy we all are here. The house is quite another place I assure
you from the abode you saw last before you went abroad."
Mrs. Chatterton gave another low unpleasant laugh and this time
shrugged her shoulders.
"Polly dear" said Mrs. Whitney with a smile "say good-morning to Mrs.
Chatterton and then run away. I will hear your wonderful plan by and
by. I shall be glad to child" she was guilty of whispering in the
"Good-morning Mrs. Chatterton" said Polly slowly the brown eyes
looking steadily into the traveled and somewhat seamed countenance
"Good-morning" and Polly found herself once more across the floor and
safely out in the hall the door closed between them.
"Who is she?" she cried in an indignant spasm to Jasper who ran up and
she lifted her eyes brimming over with something quite new to him. He
"Who?" he cried. "Oh Polly! what has happened?"
"Mrs. Chatterton. And she looked at me--oh! I can't tell you how she
looked; as if I were a bug or a hateful worm beneath her" cried Polly
quite as much aghast at herself. "It makes me feel horridly Jasper--you
can't think." Oh! that old"--He stopped pulling himself up with quite
an effort. "Has she come back--what brought her pray tell so soon?"
"I don't know I am sure" said Polly laughing at his face. "I was only
in the room a moment I think but it seemed an age with that eyeglass
and that hateful little laugh."
"Oh! she always sticks up that thing in her eye" said Jasper coolly
"and she's everlastingly ventilating that laugh on everybody. She thinks
it high-bred and elegant but it makes people want to kill her for it."
He looked and spoke annoyed. "To think you fell into her clutches!" he
"Well who is she?" cried Polly smoothing down her ruffled feathers
when she saw the effect of her news on him. "I should dearly love to
"Cousin Algernon's wife" said Jasper briefly.
"And who is he?" cried Polly again experiencing a shock that this
dreadful person was a relative to whom due respect must be shown.
"Oh! a cousin of father's" said Jasper. "He was nice but he's dead."
"Oh!" said Polly.
"She's been abroad for a good half-dozen years and why she doesn't stay
there when everybody supposed she was going to astonishes me" said
Jasper after a moment. "Well it will not be for long I presume that
we shall have the honor; she'll be easily tired of America and take
herself off again."
"She doesn't stay in this house does she Jasper?" cried Polly in a
tone of horror.
"No; that is unless she chooses to then we can't turn her off. She's a
relative you know."
"Hasn't she any home?" asked Polly "or any children?"
"Home? Yes an estate down in Bedford County?-Dunraven Lodge; but it's
all shut up and in the hands of agents who have been trying for the
half-dozen years she was abroad to sell it for her. She may have come
back to settle down there again there's no telling what she will do. In
the meantime I fancy she'll make her headquarters here" he said
"Oh Jasper!" exclaimed Polly seizing his arm feeling that here was
need of comfort indeed "how very dreadful! Don't you suppose something
will happen to take her away?"
"I don't see what can" said Jasper prolonging the gloom to feel the
comfort it brought. "You see she has nobody who wants her to step in
and relieve us. She has two nephews but oh! you ought to see them
"Fight?" repeated Polly aghast.
"Yes; you can't dignify their skirmishes by any other name" said
Jasper in disgust. "So you see our chances for keeping her as long as
she condescends to stay are really very good."
Polly clung to his arm in speechless dismay. Meanwhile conversation fast
and brisk was going on between the two shut up in the library.
"It is greatly to your discredit Marian" said Mrs. Chatterton in a
high cold voice "that you didn't stop all this nonsense on your
father's part before the thing got to such a pass as to install them in
"On the contrary" said Mrs. Whitney with a little laugh "I did
everything I could to further the plan that father wisely made."
"Wisely!" cried Mrs. Chatterton in scorn. "Oh you silly child! don't
you see what it will all tend to?"
"I see that it has made us all very happy for five years" said Mrs.
Whitney preserving her composure "so I presume the future doesn't hold
much to dread on that score."
"The future is all you have to dread" declared Mrs. Chatterton harshly.
"The present may be well enough; though I should think existence with
that low underbred family here would be a"?
"You may pause just where you are Mrs. Chatterton" said Marian still
with the gentlest of accents but with a determination that made the
other look down at her in astonishment "not another word shall you
utter in that strain nor will I listen to it." And with fine temper
undisturbed in her blue eyes she regarded her relative.
"Dear me Marian! I begin to notice your age more now. You shouldn't fly
into such rages; they wear on one fearfully; and especially for a
stranger too and against your own people--how can you?"
Mrs. Chatterton drew out a vinaigrette then a fan from a silken bag
with clasps that she was always glad to reflect were heirlooms. "It's
trying I must confess" she declared alternately applying the
invigorating salts and waving the combination of gauze and sandalwood
"to come home to such a reception. But" and a heavy sigh "I must bear
"You ought to see father" cried Mrs. Whitney rising. "I must go at
once and tell him of your arrival."
"Oh! I don't know that I care about seeing Cousin Horatio yet" said
Mrs. Chatterton carelessly. "He will probably fall into one of his
rages and my nerves have been upset quite enough by you. I think I'll
go directly to my apartments." She rose also.
"Father must at once be informed of your arrival" repeated Marian
quietly. "I'll send him in to see you."
"And I shall go to my apartments" declared Mrs. Chatterton
"Hoity-toity!" exclaimed Mr. King's voice and in he came with