Then she hopped away from Polly and made a little cheese right on the sidewalk.
It was quite impossible that the detailed records presented through the later Pepper books, of the doings and sayings of the “Little Brown House” family, should omit Ben. He, the eldest-born of Mother Pepper’s brood, and her mainstay after the father died, the quiet, “steady-as-a-rock boy,” as the Badgertown people all called him, with lots of fun in him too, because he could not help it, being a Pepper, was worthy of a book to himself.
So the hosts of readers of the Pepper Series decided, and many of them accordingly be-sought the author to give Ben a chance to be better known. He was always so ready to efface himself, that it was Margaret Sidney’s responsibility, after all, to bring him more to the front, to be understood by all who loved his life in the earlier records.
So Margaret Sidney, despite Ben’s wishes, has written this latest volume. To do it, Polly and Joel and David and Phronsie have told her most lovingly the facts with which it is strewn. Most of all, Mother Pepper-Fisher contributed to the new book, out of a heart full of gratitude and love for her Ben.
“Oh, yes, the children can go as long as Ben and Polly are with them,” said Mother Fisher, with pride. “I’ll trust them anywhere,” her face said as plainly as if she had put it all into words.
“I wish I could go with them.” Mrs. Whitney took her gaze from the busy fingers sorting the pile of small stockings Jane had brought up from the laundry, and went abruptly over to the window with a troubled face.
“But you can’t,” said Mrs. Fisher, cheerfully, nowise dismayed at the number of holes staring up at her, “so don’t let us think any more of it. And Ben’s big enough to take them anywhere, I’m sure. And Polly can look after their manners,” she thought, but didn’t finish aloud.
“You see father didn’t know about this picture exhibit till Mr. Cabot’s note came a half hour ago, begging him not to miss it. And if I told him of the children’s plans, he’d give the whole thing up and stay at home rather than have them disappointed. He mustn’t do that.”
“Indeed he mustn’t!” echoed Mrs. Fisher, in her most decided fashion, and putting the last stocking into place on top of the big pile on the table. “Hush! Here comes Polly!”
“Oh, Mamsie!” Polly rushed up to the work-table. “Just think what splendid fun!” She threw her arms around Mrs. Fisher’s neck and gave her a big hug. “Isn’t Aunty Whitney too lovely for anything to take us out to buy our Christmas presents? Dear me! What richness!”
“Polly, see here, child,” Mother Fisher brought her face around to look into the rosy one; “Mrs. Whitney cannot — ”
Polly tore herself away with a gasp, and stood quite still, her brown eyes fixed on Mother Fisher’s face, and the color dying out of her cheek. “Do you mean we are not to go, Mamsie?” she cried, her hands working nervously; “we must!” she brought up passionately.