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- Five Little Peppers Midway - 1/46 -
FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS MIDWAY
By MARGARET SIDNEY
To 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 22 Joel 23 Of Many Things 24 Away
"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 pie, Jefferson."
"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, is it?"
"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 black."
"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 lesser sphere.
"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 Phronsie.
But she caught the tone and immediately laid down the bit of dough she was moulding.
"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 back."
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 gleeful laugh.
"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 first-rate, and"--
"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 worried way.
"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 him.
"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 at her.
"No," said Phronsie, shaking her yellow head gravely, "it isn't my pie now, Jefferson. You put in the things, and rolled it."
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