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   Chapter 6 POPPY'S PRANKS.

Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag, Vol. 5 / Jimmy's Cruise in the Pinafore, Etc. By Louisa May Alcott Characters: 28819

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

She wasn't a wilfully naughty child, this harum-scarum Poppy, but very thoughtless and very curious. She wanted to see every thing, do every thing, and go every where: she feared nothing, and so was continually getting into scrapes.

Her pranks began early; for, when she was about four, her mamma one day gave her a pair of green shoes with bright buttons. Poppy thought there never was any thing so splendid, and immediately wanted to go to walk. But mamma was busy, and Poppy couldn't go alone any farther than the garden. She showed her shoes to the servants, the cat, the doves, and the flowers; and then opened the gate that the people in the street might see the trim little feet she was so proud of. Now Poppy had been forbidden to go out; but, when she saw Kitty Allen, her neighbor, playing ball down the street, she forgot every thing but the desire to show her new shoes; and away she went marching primly along as vain as a little peacock, as she watched the bright buttons twinkle, and heard the charming creak. Kitty saw her coming; and, being an ill-natured little girl, took no notice, but called out to her brother Jack:

"Ain't some folks grand? If I couldn't have red shoes for my best, I wouldn't have any, would you?"

They both laughed, and this hurt Poppy's feelings dreadfully. She tossed her head, and tried to turn up her nose; but, it was so very small, it couldn't be very scornful. She said nothing, but walked gravely by, as if she was going on an errand, and hadn't heard a word. Round the corner she went, thinking she would wait till Kitty was gone; as she didn't like to pass again, fearing Jack might say something equally trying. An organ-man with a monkey was playing near by; and Poppy was soon so busy listening to the music, and watching the sad-looking monkey, that she forgot home, shoes, and Kitty altogether.

She followed the man a long way; and, when she turned to go back, she took the wrong street, and found herself by the park. Being fond of dandelions, Poppy went in, and gathered her hands full, enjoying herself immensely; for Betsy, the maid, never let her play in the pond, or roll down the hill, or make dirt-pies, and now she did all these things, besides playing with strange children and talking with any one she pleased. If she had not had her luncheon just before she started, she would have been very hungry; for dinner-time came, without her knowing it.

By three o'clock, she began to think it was time to go home, and boldly started off to find it. But poor little Poppy didn't know the way, and went all wrong. She was very tired now, and hot and hungry, and wanted to see mamma, and wondered why she didn't come to the brown house with the white garden-gate. On and on she went, up streets and down, amusing herself with looking in the shop-windows, and sitting to rest on doorsteps. Once she asked a pleasant-faced little girl to show her the way home; but, as she didn't know in what street it was, and said her father's name was "papa," the girl couldn't help her: so she gave her a bun and went away. Poppy ate her bun, and began to wonder what would become of her; for night was coming on, and there didn't seem to be any prospect of finding mamma or home or bed. Her courage was all gone now; and, coming to a quiet place, she sat down on some high steps, and cried till her little "hankchif," as she called it, was all wet.

Nobody minded her: and she felt very forlorn till a big black dog came by, and seemed to understand the matter entirely; for he smelt of her face, licked her hands, and then lay down by her with such a friendly look in his brown eyes that Poppy was quite comforted. She told him her story, patted his big head; and then, being fairly tired out, laid her wet cheek on his soft back, and fell fast asleep.

It was quite dark when she woke; but a lamp was lighted near by, and standing under it was a man ringing a great bell. Poppy sat up, and wondered if anybody's supper was ready. The man had a paper; and, when people stopped at the sound of the bell, he read in a loud voice:

"Lost! a little girl, four years old; curly brown hair, blue eyes; had on a white frock and green shoes; calls herself Poppy."

He got no farther; for a little voice cried out of the dark, in a tone of surprise:

"Why, dats me!"

The people all turned to look; and the big man put his bell in his pocket, took her up very kindly, and said he'd carry her home.

"Is it far away?" asked Poppy, with a little sob.

"Yes, my dear; but I am going to give you some supper fust, along of my little girl. I live close by; and, when we've had a bite, we'll go find your ma."

Poppy was so tired and hungry, she was glad to find herself taken care of, and let the man do as he liked. He took her to a funny little house, and his wife gave her bread and molasses on a new tin plate with letters all round the edge. Poppy thought it very fine, and enjoyed her supper, though the man's little girl stared at her all the time with eyes as blue as her mug.

While she ate, the man sent word to her father that she was found; and, when both papa and mamma came hurrying in all out of breath with joy, there sat Miss Poppy talking merrily, with her face well daubed with molasses, her gown torn, her hands very dirty, and her shoes-ah, the pretty new shoes!-all spoiled with mud and dust, scratched, and half worn out, the buttons dull, and the color quite gone. No one cared for it that night; for little runaway was kissed and petted, and taken home to her own cosey bed as tenderly as if she had done nothing naughty, and never frightened her parents out of their wits in her life.

But the next day,-dear me! what a sad time it was, to be sure! When Poppy woke up, there hung the spoilt shoes over the mantle-piece; and, as soon as she was dressed, papa came in with a long cord, one end of which he tied round Poppy's waist, and the other to the arm of the sofa.

"I'm very sorry to have to tie you up, like a little dog; but I must, or you will forget, and run away again, and make mamma ill."

Then he went away without his morning kiss, and Poppy was so very unhappy she could hardly eat her breakfast. She felt better by and by, and tried to play; but the cord kept pulling her back. She couldn't get to the window; and, when she heard mamma passing the door, she tried to run and meet her, but had to stop halfway, for the cord jerked her over. Cousin Fanny came up, but Poppy was so ashamed to be tied that she crept under the sofa and hid. All day she was a prisoner, and was a very miserable little girl; but at night she was untied, and, when mamma took her in her lap for the first time that day, Poppy held her fast, and sobbed very penitently-

"O mamma! I drefful sorry I runned away. Fordive me one time more, and I never will adain;" and she never did.

Two or three years after this, Poppy went to live in the country, and tried some new pranks. One day she went with her sister Nelly to see a man plough, for that sort of thing was new to her. While the man worked, she saw him take out a piece of something brown, and bite off a bit.

"What's that?" asked Poppy.

"Tobaccer," said the man.

"Is it nice?" asked Poppy.

"Prime," said the man.

"Could you let me taste it?" asked curious Poppy.

"It will make you sick," said the man, laughing.

"It doesn't make you sick. I'd like to try," said Poppy, nothing daunted.

He gave her a piece; and Poppy ate it, though it didn't taste good at all. She did it because Cy, her favorite playfellow, told her she'd die if she did, and tried to frighten her.

"You darsn't eat any more," he said.

"Yes, I dare. See if I don't." And Poppy took another piece, just to show how brave she was. Silly little Poppy!

"I ain't sick, and I shan't die, so now."

And Poppy pranced about as briskly as ever. But the man shook his head, Nelly watched her anxiously, and Cy kept saying:

"Ain't you sick yet, say?"

For a little while Poppy felt all right; but presently she grew rather pale, and began to look rather pensive. She stopped running, and walked slower and slower, while her eyes got dizzy, and her hands and feet very cold.

"Ain't you sick now, say?" repeated Cy; and Poppy tried to answer, "Oh, dear! no;" but a dreadful feeling came over her, and she could only shake her head, and hold on to Nelly.

"Better lay down a spell," said the man, looking a little troubled.

"I don't wish to dirty my clean frock," said Poppy faintly, as she glanced over the wide-ploughed field, and longed for a bit of grass to drop on. She kept on bravely for another turn; but suddenly stopped, and, quite regardless of the clean pink gown, dropped down in a furrow, looking so white and queer that Nelly began to cry. Poppy lay a minute, then turned to Cy, and said very solemnly:

"Cy, run home, and tell my mother I'm dying."

Away rushed Cy in a great fright, and burst upon Poppy's mamma, exclaiming breathlessly:

"O ma'am! Poppy's been and ate a lot of tobacco; and she's sick, layin' in the field; and she says 'Come quick, 'cause she's dyin.'"

"Mercy on us! what will happen to that child next?" cried poor mamma, who was used to Poppy's mishaps. Papa was away, and there was no carriage to bring Poppy home in; so mamma took the little wheelbarrow, and trundled away to get the suffering Poppy.

She couldn't speak when they got to her; and, only stopping to give the man a lecture, mamma picked up her silly little girl, and the procession moved off. First came Cy, as grave as a sexton; then the wheelbarrow with Poppy, white and limp and speechless, all in a bunch; then mamma, looking amused, anxious and angry; then Nelly, weeping as if her tender heart was entirely broken; while the man watched them, with a grin, saying to himself:

"Twarn't my fault. The child was a reg'lar fool to swaller it."

Poppy was dreadfully sick all night, but next day was ready for more adventures and experiments. She swung on the garret stairs, and tumbled down, nearly breaking her neck. She rubbed her eyes with red peppers, to see if it really would make them smart, as Cy said; and was led home quite blind and roaring with pain. She got into the pigsty to catch a young piggy, and was taken out in a sad state of dirt. She slipped into the brook, and was half drowned; broke a window and her own head, swinging a little flat-iron on a string; dropped baby in the coal-hod; buried her doll, and spoilt her; cut off a bit of her finger, chopping wood; and broke a tooth, trying to turn heels over head on a haycock. These are only a few of her pranks, but one was nearly her last.

She wanted to go bare-footed, as the little country boys and girls did; but mamma wasn't willing, and Poppy was much afflicted.

"It doesn't hurt Cy, and it won't hurt me, just for a little while," she said.

"Say no more, Poppy. I never wish to see you barefooted," replied mamma.

"Well, you needn't: I'll go and do it in the barn," muttered Poppy, as she walked away.

Into the barn she went, and played country girl to her heart's content, in spite of Nelly's warnings. Nelly never got into scrapes, being a highly virtuous young lady; but she enjoyed Poppy's pranks, and wept over her misfortunes with sisterly fidelity.

"Now I'll be a bear, and jump at you as you go by," said Poppy, when they were tired of playing steam-engine with the old winnowing machine. So she got up on a beam; and Nelly, with a peck measure on her head for a hat, and a stick for a gun, went bear-hunting, and banged away at the swallows, the barrels, and the hencoops, till the bear was ready to eat her. Presently, with a loud roar, the bear leaped; but Nelly wasn't eaten that time, for Poppy cried out with pain:

"Oh! I jumped on a pitchfork, and it's in my foot! Take it out! take it out!"

Poor little foot! There was a deep purple hole in the sole, and the blood came, and Poppy fainted away, and Nelly screamed, and mamma ran, and the neighbors rushed in, and there was such a flurry. Poppy was soon herself again, and lay on the sofa, with Nelly and Cy to amuse her.

"What did the doctor say to mamma in the other room about me?" whispered Poppy, feeling very important at having such a bustle made on her account. Nelly sniffed, but said nothing; Cy, however, spoke up briskly:

"He says you might have lockjaw."

"Is that bad?" asked Poppy gravely.

"Oh, ain't it, though! Your mouth shuts up, and you can't open it; and you have fits and die."

"Always?" said Poppy, looking scared, and feeling of her mouth.

"'Most always, I guess. That's why your ma cried, and Nelly keeps kissin' you."

Cy felt sorry, but rather enjoyed the excitement, and was sure, that, if any one ever could escape dying, it would be Poppy, for she always "came alive" again after her worst mishaps. She looked very solemn for a few minutes, and kept opening and shutting her mouth to see if it wasn't stiff. Presently she said, in a serious tone and with a pensive air:

"Nelly, I'll give you my bead-ring: I shan't want it any more. And Cy may have the little horse: he lost his tail; but I put on the lamb's tail, and he is as good as ever. I wish to give away my things 'fore I die; and, Nelly, won't you bring me the scissors?"

"What for?" said Nelly, sniffing more than ever.

"To cut off my hair for mamma. She'll want it, and I like to cut things."

Nelly got the scissors; and Poppy cut away all she could reach, giving directions about her property while she snipped.

"I wish papa to have my pictures and my piece of poetry I made. Give baby my dolly and the quacking duck. Tell Billy, if he wants my collection of bright buttons, he can have 'em; and give Hattie the yellow plaster dog, with my love."

Here mamma came in with a poultice, and couldn't help laughing, though tears stood in her eyes, as she saw Poppy's cropped head and heard her last wishes.

"I don't think I shall lose my little girl yet, so we won't talk of it. But Poppy must keep quiet, and let Nelly wait on her for a few days."

"Are fits bad, mamma? and does it hurt much to die?" asked Poppy thoughtfully.

"If people are good while they live, it is not hard to die, dear," said mamma, with a kiss; and Poppy hugged her, saying softly:

"Then I'll be very good; so I won't mind, if the jawlock does come."


d Poppy was good,-oh, dreadfully good! for a week. Quite an angel was Poppy; so meek and gentle, so generous and obedient, you really wouldn't have known her. She loved everybody, forgave her playmates all their sins against her, let Nelly take such of her precious treasures as she liked, and pensively hoped baby would remember her when she was gone. She hopped about with a crutch, and felt as if she was an object of public interest; for all the old ladies sent to know how she was, the children looked at her with respectful awe as one set apart and doomed to fits, and Cy continually begged to know if her mouth was stiff.

Poppy didn't die, though she got all ready for it; and felt rather disappointed when the foot healed, the jaws remained as active as ever, and the fits didn't come. I think it did her good; for she never forgot that week, and, though she was near dying several times after, she never was so fit to go as she was then.

"Burney's making jelly: let's go and get our scrapings," said Poppy to Nellie once, when mamma was away.

But Burney was busy and cross, and cooks are not as patient as mothers; so when the children appeared, each armed with a spoon, and demanded their usual feast, she wouldn't hear of it, and ordered them off.

"But we only want the scrapings of the pan, Burney: mamma always lets us have them, when we help her make jelly; don't she, Nelly?" said Poppy, trying to explain the case.

"Yes; and makes us our little potful too," added Nelly, persuasively.

"I don't want your help; so be off. Your ma can fuss with your pot, if she chooses. I've no time."

"I think Burney's the crossest woman in the world. It's mean to eat all the scrapings herself; isn't it Nelly?" said Poppy, very loud, as the cook shut the door in their faces. "Never mind: I know how to pay her," she added, in a whisper, as they sat on the stairs bewailing their wrongs. "She'll put her old jelly in the big closet, and lock the door; but we can climb the plum tree, and get in at the window, when she takes her nap."

"Should we dare to eat any?" asked Nelly, timid, but longing for the forbidden fruit.

"I should; just as much as ever I like. It's mamma's jelly, and she won't mind. I don't care for old cross Burney," said Poppy, sliding down the banisters by way of soothing her ruffled spirit.

So when Burney went to her room after dinner, the two rogues climbed in at the window; and, each taking a jar, sat on the shelf, dipping in their fingers and revelling rapturously. But Burney wasn't asleep, and, hearing a noise below, crept down to see what mischief was going on. Pausing in the entry to listen, she heard whispering, clattering of glasses, and smacking of lips in the big closet; and in a moment knew that her jelly was lost. She tried the door with her key; but sly Poppy had bolted it on the inside, and, feeling quite safe, defied Burney from among the jelly-pots, entirely reckless of consequences. Short-sighted Poppy! she forgot Cy; but Burney didn't, and sent him to climb in at the window, and undo the door. Feeling hurt that the young ladies hadn't asked him to the feast, Cy hardened his heart against them, and delivered them up to the enemy, regardless of Poppy's threats and Nelly's prayers.

"Poppy proposed it, she broke the jar, and I didn't eat much. O Burney! don't hurt her, please, but let me 'splain it to mamma when she comes," sobbed Nelly, as Burney seized Poppy, and gave her a good shaking.

"You go wash your face, Miss Nelly, and leave this naughty, naughty child to me," said Burney; and took Poppy, kicking and screaming, into the little library, where she-oh, dreadful to relate!-gave her a good spanking, and locked her up.

Mamma never whipped, and Poppy was in a great rage at such an indignity. The minute she was left alone, she looked about to see how she could be revenged. A solar lamp stood on the table; and Poppy coolly tipped it over, with a fine smash, calling out to Burney that she'd have to pay for it, that mamma would be very angry, and that she, Poppy, was going to spoil every thing in the room. But Burney was gone, and no one came near her. She kicked the paint off the door, rattled the latch, called Burney a "pig," and Cy "a badder boy than the man who smothered the little princes in the Tower." Poppy was very fond of that story, and often played it with Nelly and the dolls. Having relieved her feelings in this way, Poppy rested, and then set about amusing herself. Observing that the spilt oil made the table shine, she took her handkerchief and polished up the furniture, as she had seen the maids do.

"Now, that looks nice; and I know mamma will be pleased 'cause I'm so tidy," she said, surveying her work with pride, when she had thoroughly greased every table, chair, picture-frame, book-back, and ornament in the room. Plenty of oil still remained; and Poppy finished off by oiling her hair, till it shone finely, and smelt-dear me, how it did smell! If she had been a young whale, it couldn't have been worse. Poppy wasn't particular about smells; but she got some in her mouth, and didn't like the taste. There was no water to wash in; and her hands, face, and pinafore were in a high state of grease. She was rather lonely too; for, though mamma had got home, she didn't come to let Poppy out: so the young rebel thought it was about time to surrender. She could write pretty well, and was fond of sending penitent notes to mamma, after being naughty: for mamma always answered them so kindly, and was so forgiving, that Poppy's naughtiest mood was conquered by them sooner than by any punishment; and Poppy kept the notes carefully in a little cover, even after she was grown up. There was pen, ink, and paper in the room; so, after various trials, Poppy wrote her note:-

"dear Mamma.

"i am sorry i Took bernys gelli. i have braked The lamP. The oyl maks A bad smel. i tHink i wil Bee sik iF i stay HeRe anny More. i LoVe yoU-your Trying To Bee GooD


When she had finished, she lowered her note by a string, and bobbed it up and down before the parlor window till Nelly saw and took it in. Every one laughed over it; for, besides the bad spelling and the funny periods, it was covered with oil-spots, blots, and tear marks; for Poppy got tender-hearted toward the end, and cried a few very repentant tears when she said, "I love you; your trying-to-be-good Poppy."

Mamma went up at once, and ordered no further punishment, but a thorough scrubbing; which Poppy underwent very meekly, though Betsey put soap in her eyes, pulled her hair, and scolded all the time. They were not allowed any jelly for a long while; and Cy teased Poppy about her hair-oil till the joke was quite worn out, and even cross Burney was satisfied with the atonement.

When Poppy was eight, she got so very wild that no one could manage her but mamma, and she was ill; so Poppy was sent away to grandpa's for a visit. Now, grandpa was a very stately old gentleman, and every one treated him with great respect; but Poppy wasn't at all afraid, and asked all manner of impolite questions.

"Grandpa, why don't you have any hair on the top of your head?"-"O grandpa! you do snore so loud when you take naps!"-"What makes you turn out your feet so, when you walk?" and such things.

If grandpa hadn't been the best-natured old gentleman in the world, he wouldn't have liked this: but he only laughed at Poppy, especially when she spoke of his legs; for he was rather proud of them, and always wore long black silk stockings, and told every one that the legs were so handsome an artist put them in a picture of General Washington; which was quite true, as any one may see when they look at the famous picture in Boston.

Well, Poppy behaved herself respectably for a day or two; but the house was rather dull, she missed Nelly, wanted to run in the street, and longed to see mamma. She amused herself as well as she could with picture-books, patchwork, and the old cat; but, not being a quiet, proper, little Rosamond sort of a child, she got tired of hemming neat pocket-handkerchiefs, and putting her needle carefully away when she had done. She wanted to romp and shout, and slide down the banisters, and riot about; so, when she couldn't be quiet another minute, she went up into a great empty room at the top of the house, and cut up all sorts of capers. Her great delight was to lean out of the window as far as she could, and look at the people in the street, with her head upside down. It was very dangerous, for a fall would have killed her; but the danger was the fun, and Poppy hung out till her hands touched the ledge below, and her face was as red as any real poppy's.

She was enjoying herself in this way one day, when an old gentleman, who lived near, came home to dinner, and saw her.

"What in the world is that hanging out of the colonel's upper window?" said he, putting on his spectacles. "Bless my soul! that child will kill herself. Hallo, there! little girl; get in this minute!" he called to Poppy, flourishing his hat to make her see him.

"What for?" answered Poppy, staring at him without moving an inch.

"You'll fall, and break your neck!" screamed the old gentleman.

"Oh, no, I shan't!" returned Poppy, much flattered by his interest, and hanging out still further.

"Stop that, instantly, or I'll go in and inform the colonel!" roared the old gentleman, getting angry.

"I don't care," shouted Poppy; and she didn't, for she knew grandpa wasn't at home.

"Little gipsy! I'll settle her," muttered the old man, bustling up to the steps, and ringing the bell, as if the house was on fire.

No one was in but the servants; and, when he'd told old Emily what the matter was, she went up to "settle" Poppy. But Poppy was already settled, demurely playing with her doll, and looking quite innocent. Emily scolded; and Poppy promised never to do it again, if she might stay and play in the big room. Being busy about dinner, Emily was glad to be rid of her, and left her, to go and tell the old gentleman it was all right.

"Ain't they crosspatches?" said Poppy to her doll. "Never mind, dear: you shall hang out, if I can't. I guess the old man won't order you in, any way."

Full of this idea, Poppy took her long-suffering dolly, and, tying a string to her neck, danced her out of the window. Now this dolly had been through a great deal. Her head had been cut off (and put on again); she had been washed, buried, burnt, torn, soiled, and banged about till she was a mournful object. Poppy loved her very much; for she was two feet tall, and had once been very handsome: so her trials only endeared her to her little mamma. Away she went, skipping and prancing like mad,-a funny sight, for Poppy had taken off her clothes, and she hadn't a hair on her head.

Poppy went to another window of the room for this performance, because in the opposite house lived five or six children, and she thought they would enjoy the fun.

So they did, and so did the other people; for it was a boarding-house, and all the people were at home for dinner. They came to the windows, and looked and laughed at dolly's capers, and Poppy was in high feather at the success of her entertainment.

All of a sudden she saw grandpa coming down the street, hands behind his back, feet turned out, gold-headed cane under his arm, and the handsome legs in the black silk stockings marching along in the most stately manner. Poppy whisked dolly in before grandpa saw her, and dodged down as he went by. This made the people laugh again, and grandpa wondered what the joke was. The minute he went in out flew dolly, dancing more frantically than ever; and the children shouted so loud that grandpa went to see what the matter was. The street was empty; yet there stood the people, staring out and laughing. Yes; they were actually looking and laughing at his house; and he didn't see what there was to laugh at in that highly respectable mansion.

He didn't like it; and, clapping on his hat, he went out to learn what the matter was. He looked over at the house, up at the sky, down at the ground, and through the street; but nothing funny appeared, for Poppy and dolly were hidden again, and the old gentleman was puzzled. He went in and sat down to watch, feeling rather disturbed. Presently the fun began again: the children clapped their hands, the people laughed, and every one looked over at the house, in what he thought a very impertinent way. This made him angry; and out he rushed a second time, saying, as he marched across the street:

"If those saucy young fellows are making game of me, I'll soon stop it."

Up to the door he went, gave a great pull at the bell, and, when the servant came, he demanded why every one was laughing at his house. One of the young men came and told him, and asked him to come in and see the fun. Poppy didn't see grandpa go in, for she hid, and when she looked out he was gone: so she boldly began the dancing; but, in the midst of a lively caper, dolly went bounce into the garden below, for the string fell from Poppy's hand when she suddenly saw grandpa at the window opposite, laughing as heartily as any one at her prank.

She stared at him in a great fright, and looked so amazed that every one enjoyed that joke better than the other; and poor Poppy didn't hear the last of it for a long time.

Her next performance was to fall into the pond on the Common. She was driving hoop down the hill, and went so fast she couldn't stop herself; so splashed into the water, hoop and all. How dreadful it was to feel the cold waves go over her head, shutting out the sun and air! The ground was gone, and she could find no place for her feet, and could only struggle and choke, and go down, down, with a loud roaring sound in her ears. That would have been the end of Poppy, if a little black boy hadn't jumped in and pulled her out. She was sick and dizzy, and looked like a drowned kitten; but a kind lady took her home in a carriage. After that mishap grandpa thought he wouldn't keep her any longer, for fear she should come to some worse harm. So Miss Poppy was sent home, much to her delight and much to mamma's also; for no matter where she went, or how naughty she was, mamma was always glad to see the little wanderer back, and to forgive and forget all Poppy's pranks.

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