A Brand-New Penny
They called him Penny. His name wasn't Penn or Penrose or Penrod or anything that would make you think of Penny. His real name was William.
Before Penny came to live with his daddy and mother, his daddy had said, "When we get our little boy, let's name him William. Then we can call him Bill."
"Not Billy?" asked Mother.
"Not Billy, nor Willy, nor anything else that ends in ee. Just plain Bill," said Daddy.
"Very well!" replied Mother. "Plain Bill it shall be."
But this is how he happened to be called Penny.
Long before Penny arrived, his mother and daddy decided that more than anything else in the world they wanted a little boy.
"A little red-haired boy," his mother used to say.
"With freckles on his nose," Daddy would add. And then Mother and Daddy would look at each other and laugh, just because they had said it so many times.
One day Daddy received a telegram from the head of a big hospital. It said that they had some babies that needed fathers and mothers, so Mother and Daddy got right on the train and went to see the babies.
They looked at the babies, one by one. They were all sweet and cuddly. There was one with black hair and one with hair like a fuzzy peach and there was one with no hair at all.
"Maybe it will be red when he gets it," said Daddy.
"No," replied Mother, "we have to be sure."
And then she spied Penny. He was sound asleep in his little basket. He was the color of a ripe apricot and his head was covered with red gold ringlets.
"Here he is!" whispered Mother. "Here's our little boy!"
Daddy looked at him very carefully. "Is that a freckle on his nose?" he asked.
Mother leaned over and looked at the tiny button of a nose. "I think it will be, by the time he is six," she replied.
Mother picked him up and the sunlight fell on the baby's head.
"My goodness!" said Daddy. "He looks like a brand-new copper penny."
Mother cradled the baby in her arms. He opened his eyes and stretched his mouth into a funny toothless grin. "He's just a dear, precious little penny," she said.
And so they named him William. But they called him Penny.
Now, Penny was six years old with freckles on his nose. He was in the first grade and he loved to go to school.
Patsy, the little girl next door, was in the first grade, too. Every morning Penny would stand on his toes and lift the brass knocker on Patsy's front door. Then he would hear Patsy's feet pattering, and in a moment she would
pop out of the door. Then off to school they tramped.
One morning Penny was full of excitement. "I'm going to get a kitten," he said, the moment Patsy appeared.
"How do you know you are?" asked Patsy.
"My mother said I could get one," replied Penny. "He's going to be a black kitten, with a white nose and white paws."
"How do you know?" asked Patsy.
"'Cause that's the kind I want," said Penny.
"Well, you can't always get kittens just the way you want 'em," said Patsy. "You have to take 'em the way they come."
"Who said so?" asked Penny.
"My mommy said so," replied Patsy.
"Well, anyway, my kitten's going to be a black kitten, with a white nose and white paws," said Penny.
"I wish I could have a kitten," said Patsy.
"Why don't you get one?" asked Penny.
"My mommy won't let me have one," answered Patsy. "She says she doesn't like cats."
"I'll let you play with mine sometimes," said Penny.
"I want one of my own," said Patsy, kicking a pebble. "I think it's mean of you to get a kitten when I can't have one."
Patsy pouted and there were tears in her eyes. After a while she said, "Well, anyway, I'm my mommy and daddy's real little girl."
Penny didn't know what that had to do with kittens, so he didn't say anything.
Patsy stood still and looked at Penny. "I said, 'I'm my mommy and daddy's real little girl,'" she said in a very loud voice.
Penny just looked at Patsy. He didn't know what he was supposed to say, so he just said, "Uh-huh."
"But you're not your mommy and daddy's real little boy," shouted Patsy.
Penny felt his cheeks grow hot. "I am so Mother and Daddy's real little boy," he replied.
"Oh, no you're not!" cried Patsy. "You're just 'dopted."
"I know I'm 'dopted," said Penny. "My mother told me so. But I'm her real little boy."
"No, you're not," said Patsy. "You can't be. Not really truly."
Penny turned away from Patsy and ran. He wanted to get away from her as fast as he could.
"Not really truly!" cried Patsy. "Not really truly!"
Penny ran faster. Patsy was way behind him now but he could still hear her calling, "Not really truly!"
Penny's little legs flew. His cheeks were hot and his ears were bright red. He never looked back to see where Patsy was.
When he reached the school, he went right into his classroom. He didn't even stop to say good morning to Miss Roberts, his teacher. He went right to his desk and took out his scrapbook. He made believe that he was very busy. He was really blinking his eyes to keep back the tears. He had to bite his lip to keep it from trembling.
When Patsy came in, Penny didn't look at her. He didn't look at her once all morning. Over and over in his head he could hear her calling, "Not really truly! Not really truly!"
Once Miss Roberts said, "What is the matter with Penny today? He doesn't look very shiny."
Penny didn't look up. He just hammered a nail very hard. He was building a bed for Judy, the big doll that belonged to the first grade.
He could hardly wait for school to be over. He wanted to go home to Mother. He wanted her very, very badly.
At last the bell rang. Penny was the first one out of the door. He didn't wait for Patsy. He ran faster and faster and faster all the way home.
The back door was open. Penny dashed in. Minnie, the cook, was baking cookies. "Land sakes!" she cried. "You look ready to burst."
"Where's Mother?" gasped Penny.
"Upstairs," said Minnie.
Penny stomped up the stairs. "Mother," he called. "Mother, where are you?"
Mother was sitting in the study, darning Daddy's socks. When she saw Penny's face, she dropped the sock. Penny threw himself into his mother's arms. The tears that he had kept back all morning rolled down his cheeks. His mother's arms held him tight. "There, there," she murmured. "Tell Mother what's the matter."
It was a long time before Penny could speak. He just cried and cried and the tears made his mother's neck all wet. She held him close and said in a very soft voice, "Tell Mother, Penny. Tell Mother what it is."
At last Penny seemed to run out of tears. "Patsy says I'm not your really truly little boy," he gulped.
"Patsy is mistaken," said his mother, wiping his eyes.
"She says when you're 'dopted you can't be really truly," said Penny.
"Nonsense!" said Mother. "There is only one thing that makes a little boy 'really truly.'"
Penny sat up and looked at his mother. His blue eyes were big and round. Teardrops still hung on his eyelashes. "What does, Mother?" he said.
"Why, his mother's love for him," said Mother. "His mother's love for him makes him her really truly little boy."
"And does his daddy's love for him make him his really truly little boy?" asked Penny.
"It certainly does," replied Mother.
Then his mother told him how she and Daddy had talked about him long before he arrived. How they looked for just the little boy they wanted, with red hair and freckles on his nose.
Penny snuggled into his mother's neck. "Did you look at other little boys?" he asked.
"Indeed, yes," said Mother.