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protesting that she wanted to do her duty, - she was sure she always
did, - the hardest part was over, and old Mr. King chuckled to himself
triumphantly.

"And now," cried Polly, in a transport, when the first surprise was
over, and everybody had settled down to the quiet enjoyment of it all,
"we've really and truly got a celebrated artist all to ourselves," and
she drew herself up in pride.

"I'm not celebrated yet," said Adela, with two little red spots on her
cheeks, and with happy eyes on her grandmother. "You had better wait
till I am."

"Oh, well; you will be," said Polly, confidently, "sometime, and then
we can say 'yes, we knew her when she was a girl,' and we'll go to
picture-galleries the same as we do here, and see your name stuck up in
the corners of the very best ones, Adela."




XVI

"LET US FLY AT THOSE BOOKS"


"Now, Polly, in Antwerp," said Jasper, "we can see Rubens to
perfection. Won't we just revel in his paintings, though!"

"Won't we!" ejaculated Polly. "I'm so glad Grandpapa came here to this
hotel." She leaned out of the window as she spoke.

"Under the very eaves of the Cathedral, almost, isn't it?" said Jasper,
in satisfaction.

The chimes just then pealed out. Indeed, it seemed as if they did
nothing but ring, so short were the intervals. But to Polly and Jasper
they brought only echoes of delight.

"There are forty of those bells, aren't there?" asked Polly, resting
her elbows on the window-sill.

"I believe so," answered Jasper, absently. Polly looked at him
curiously.

"Polly," he said abruptly, "do you know what I mean to do?"

"No," said Polly; "tell me, do, Jasper."

"Well, I mean to sit right down and finish my book. I'm ashamed to
confess that it's not up to date."

"Neither is mine," confessed Polly.

"Well, now, that won't do," said Jasper, decidedly. "You see if we once
let those books get behindhand, we're lost. We never can catch up, in
all this world."

"We've had so much to do and to see," began Polly.

"That won't be any excuse that will amount to anything," said Jasper,
shaking his head. "Let's fly at them and tackle them now, Polly."

"I say so, too," she cried, and deserting the window, they surrounded
the centre-table, and soon had the big journals, photographs, and
pictures, of every sort and size, the ink bottle, and library paste,
scissors, and all the rest of the paraphernalia, spread out on it.

"It's good that Grandpapa is lying down and doesn't wish to go out,"
remarked Polly, snipping away at a fearful rate, and pausing only to
write down the dates and other bits of information around each picture,
as she pasted it in. "Now we'll have all this morning to finish these
books up to to-day."

"And none too much for the job," said Jasper, sagely. "I declare I
shall feel like enjoying myself twice as well, when once they're up to
date. They've been hanging round my conscience every day since I
slackened work on them."

"And I am so glad you made me come away from that window, and set to
work," said Polly, "or I never would have commenced on mine to-day."

"Oh, yes, you would, I think, Polly," said Jasper. "Well, we are at it
now, and that's enough. Now says I, I'm on book No. 2!" And he flapped
down the cover of the completed one. "That's done, thank fortune!"

"Oh, Jasper, have you the green one done?" asked Polly. "Why, I have
three more pages of mine to do."

"Well, you'll catch up on the red one, I dare say," said Jasper,
opening No. 2. "We are getting on famously, aren't we, Polly?" glancing
over at her work.

"Yes, and I'm so glad you proposed this way to keep a journal," said
Polly, "to have them labelled 'My Notes on My European Journey,' and to
have No. 1 green, and No. 2 red, and so on all through the rest of the
colours."

"That will help us to find them in a hurry," said Jasper, "and keep
them distinct; but I didn't propose it, Polly, about the books. It was
your plan as much as mine."

"No." Polly was guilty of contradicting. "I never should have thought
of having the books of different colours and labelling them in that
way, Jasper."

"Well, you first thought of cutting out pictures and all sorts of
items, and then writing the dates and whatever else we wanted to around
the pictures," said Jasper. "I'm sure that's more important than the
title of the book, Polly."

"Well, won't the boys love to see them," asked Polly, suddenly, with a
light in her eyes, ignoring the question as to her claim to the idea,
"when we get home, Jasper?"

"Won't they, though!" he responded, falling to work with a will.

And so Antwerp was entered with clear consciences as to journals, and a
strict determination not to fall behind again on them.

But Polly slipped in so many of the beautiful photographs of the
"Descent from the Cross," and the other two famous pictures by Rubens,
that her red book was closed the third day of their stay in the old
town of Antwerp; and the photographs had even overflowed into the
yellow book, No. 3.

They had a habit, most of their party, of dropping into the Cathedral
once a day at least, usually in the morning, and sometimes before
service. And then when it was quiet, and before the ordinary throng of
sight-seers trailed through, Jasper would hire some chairs of one of
the old women who always seem to be part and parcel of European
cathedrals; and they would sit down before the painting, its wings
spread over the dingy green background, and study what has made so many
countless travellers take long and oftentimes wearisome journeys to see.

And Polly always wanted to go after that to see the "Assumption," which
is the altar-piece, and then the "Elevation of the Cross," both by
Rubens. "And I am sure, Grandpapa," she would always say, "I like them
as well as I do the famous painting."

"And so do I, Polly, in a way," Grandpapa would invariably reply. "They
are all marvellous, and that is all we can say, for no expressions
could give the truth about them."

After the Cathedral, which they loved all the more, - "for being perched
under its eaves" (as Polly always said when speaking of the hotel that
was for the time being their home), - Polly and Jasper set next in their
regard the Musée Plantin-Moretus. They were never tired of running down
there to the Marché du Vendredi, until it became a regular question
every day at dinner, "Well, what more have you discovered at the Musée
Plantin?"

And old Mr. King would often answer, for he was as interested as the
young people, "Marvellous things." And then he would expatiate on the
antique furniture, the paintings, engravings, and tapestries, till the
little doctor, fresh from his hospital visitations, would remark that
it was just as good as if he had time to visit the place, to hear
Grandpapa tell it all. And Adela would bring out her little sketches,
which now she was not averse to showing, since everybody was so kind
and sympathising, and there would be some little nook or corner of
corridor or court that Polly would fall upon and pronounce, "Just
perfect, and how did you get it?"

"Oh, I just drew a bit now and then when you were looking at things,"
said Adela, carelessly.

"Everything just dances off your pencil," said Polly, wishing she could
draw, and wondering if it was any use for her to try to learn.

And every afternoon they would go to drive as usual, very often around
the docks, which gave them all a good idea of this wonderful port. They
were never tired of watching the hydraulic cranes, of inspecting the
dry docks; the intertwining railways by which all the docks, large and
small, are connected, and the two basins, Le Petit and Le Grand Bassin.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Jasper, on one of these occasions, "I thought
Amsterdam docks were huge affairs, but Antwerp!" And he left his
sentence in mid-air, which was more impressive after all.

But Parson Henderson liked the church of St. Jacques best of all things
in Antwerp, and he used to steal away mornings to go there again and
again. And he asked Polly and Jasper to go there with him one day, and
Polly begged to have Adela go too, and they all came home as
enthusiastic as he was.

And then suddenly Mr. King would wrench them all off from this
delightful study and put his foot down peremptorily. "No more
cathedrals for a time," he would declare; "my old head cannot carry any
more just yet." And he would propose a little in-letting of fun. And
then off they would go a-shopping, or to the Zoological Gardens; and
they always had concerts, of course, wherever they were, for Polly and
Jasper's sakes, if for no other reason. And by and by somebody
announced, one fine morning, that they had been in Antwerp a fortnight.

And then one day Mother Fisher looked into Polly's brown eyes, and
finding them tired, she calmly tucked Polly quietly in bed. "Why,
Mamsie," declared Polly, "I'm not sick."

"No, and I'm not going to have you be," observed Mrs. Fisher, sensibly.
"This running about sight-seeing is more tiresome, child, than you
think for, and dreadfully unsettling unless you stop to rest a bit. No,
Jasper," as he knocked at the door, "Polly can't go out to-day, at
least not this morning. I've put her to bed."

"Is Polly sick, Mrs. Fisher?" called Jasper, in great concern.

"No, not a bit," answered Mrs. Fisher, cheerily, "but she's tired. I've
seen it coming on for two or three days back, so I'm going to take it
in time."

"And can't she come out, to-day?" asked Jasper, dreadfully
disappointed, with a mind full of the host of fine things they had
planned to do.

"No, Jasper," said Mother Fisher, firmly, "not to jaunt about." So
Jasper took himself off, feeling sure, despite his disappointment, that
Polly's mother was right.

And there was another person who wholly agreed with Mother Fisher, and
that was old Mr. King. "If you can stop those young folks from killing
themselves running about to see everything, you'll do more than I can,
Mrs. Fisher," he observed. "It makes no difference how long I plan to
stay in a town, so as to do it restfully, if they won't rest."

"That is a fact," said Mother Fisher. "Well, that's my part to see that
they do rest."

"I don't envy you the job," said the old gentleman, drily.

Polly fidgeted and turned on her pillow, knowing Mamsie was right, but
unable to keep from thinking of the many beautiful plans that Jasper
and she had formed for that very morning, till her head spun round and
round. "I can't get to sleep," she said at last.

"Don't try to," said her mother, dropping the heavy wool curtains till
the room was quite dark; "that's the worst thing in the world to do, if
you want to rest. Just lie still and don't try to think of anything."

"But I can't help thinking," said poor Polly, feeling sure that Jasper
was dreadfully disappointed at the upsetting of all the plans.

"Never say you can't help anything, Polly," said her mother, coming
over to the bedside to lay a cool hand on Polly's hot forehead, and
then to drop a kiss there; and somehow the kiss did what all Polly's
trying had failed to accomplish.

"That's good, Mamsie," she said gratefully, and drew a long, restful
breath.

Mother Fisher went out and closed the door softly.

It was just three o'clock that afternoon when Polly woke up.

"Oh, I'm dreadfully ashamed!" she exclaimed when she found it out.
"I've slept almost this whole day!"

Mother Fisher smiled, "And it's the best day's work you've done in one
long while, Polly," she said.

"And here's my girl, Polly," cried Grandpapa, when she ran down to him,
and holding her at arm's length, he gazed into her bright eyes and on
her rosy cheeks. "Well, well, your mother's a clever woman, and no
mistake."

So Polly knew if she didn't take care and not get tired again, she
would be tucked into bed another fine day.

It was a long summer morning, and they were sailing up the Rhine, with
the delights of Brussels and Cologne behind them, and in between the
covers of the purple book, No. 4, Polly had been looking at ruined
castles and fortresses, at vine-clad terraces, and châlets, until she
turned to Grandpapa with a sigh.

"Tired, Polly, little woman?" he said, cuddling her up against him.

"No, not tired, Grandpapa," said Polly, "but, oh, there's so very much
of it over here in Europe."

"If you've found that out, you've learned the lesson early," said old
Mr. King, with a laugh. "As many times as I've been over here, there's
nothing that surprises me so much as the presumption with which we
travellers all rush about, expecting to compass all there is."

"But we ought to see everything," said Polly, "oughtn't we, Grandpapa,
when we've come so far to see it?" and she looked troubled.

"There's just where you are wrong, Polly, child," said old Mr. King.
"And this 'ought to see,' why, it's an old dragon, Polly, lying in wait
to destroy. Don't you let it get hold of you, but take my advice and
see only what you can make your own and remember. Then you've got it."




XVII

POLLY WROTE A NICE LITTLE NOTE


"Polly," said Jasper, running down the stairs after her, on her way to
the little garden on the terrace at Heidelberg, "here's something for
you; just came in the mail."

"For me," said Polly, as he put a little parcel in her hand.

"Yes," said Jasper, "father just gave it to me."

"What can it be!" cried Polly, wonderingly; "oh, something from Alexia
or one of the other girls, most likely," and she tore off the outer
wrapper.

"It is registered," said Jasper, "and Mr. Henderson got it out for you,
father said; that can't be from one of the girls, Polly," as the next
layer of paper dropping off, disclosed the name of one of the biggest
of big London jewellers across a wooden box.

"What can it be!" gasped Polly, tugging at the cover.

"Here - let me." Jasper essayed to open it, but it stuck fast in the
slide. Another pull, and a little red leather case appeared in view.

"What in the world - " began Polly; "oh, it can't be for me!" and she
stood staring at it, without any attempt to take it out.

"It must be for you, Polly," said Jasper. "There couldn't be any other
Miss Mary Pepper, and besides it is addressed to father's care, and
comes through our bankers, - see here." He stooped, and picked up the
outer wrapper; it was torn almost in two, but the name and address was
all there.

So Polly lifted out the little red leather case, still feeling very
much as if she were opening a parcel belonging to some one else, and
touching a spring at the end, the top flew up, and there on a white
satin bed lay a little green enamelled watch set with diamonds.

"O dear me!" exclaimed Polly, tumbling back in the utmost distress,
"now I _have_ got some one else's box, Jasper. How very dreadful!"

"Let us go to father," said Jasper, feeling this quite beyond him.
"Shut the box up tight, Polly; it might tumble out on the way."

"You carry it, do, Jasper," begged Polly, with an eye askance at the
little case; and snapping the cover down, she set it in his hand.

"All right, now, then," said Jasper. "We must carry these papers, and
wooden box, and the whole business. Don't worry, Polly," seeing her
face, "father will straighten it out."

"Give me the wrapper, Jasper, and the wooden box, if only you'll take
the other," said Polly, feeling very much depressed at coming into
possession of other people's property; and Jasper followed with the
little enamelled watch.

And Grandpapa was just as much astounded as was Polly herself; and all
the family congregating in Mother Fisher's room, the little watch was
handed about from one to the other, and everybody stared at everybody
else, and the mystery thickened every moment. And the strangest thing
about it was that no one opened the little back cover where any one
might have read: -

"Polly Pepper, from her grateful friend, Arthur Selwyn."

- until the middle of the night, when Jasper was awakened by a noise as
if some one were prowling around in his father's room. He started up
and listened.

"It's I," said old Mr. King's voice. So Jasper threw on his wrapper,
and hurried in. There sat his father, in dressing-gown and slippers, by
the table, with the little enamelled watch in his hand.

"Of all the idiots, Jasper," he exclaimed, "your father is the very
worst. I've only just this moment thought to look in here." He flashed
the little watch around in Jasper's face; it was now opened at the back.

"Dear me!" cried Jasper, for want of anything better to say, as he read
the inscription. Then he looked helplessly at his father.

"Earl or no earl, this piece of foolishness goes back," fumed old Mr.
King, getting out of his chair, and beginning to march back and forth
across the floor as he always did when irritated. "Yes, sir, the very
first thing in the morning," he repeated, as vehemently as if Jasper
had contradicted him.

"But, father - " began the boy.

"Yes, sir, it goes back, I tell you," repeated his father, now well
wrought up to a passion. "What right has he to send such a piece of
foolishness to my Polly Pepper? I can give her all the watches she
needs. And this trumpery," pointing to the jewelled gift still lying in
Jasper's hand, "is utterly unfit for a schoolgirl. You know that
yourself, Jasper."

"But Polly was kind to him," began Jasper, again.

"Kind to him!" snorted his father, "don't I know that? Of course she
was. Polly Pepper would be kind to any one. But that's no reason why
the old idiot should presume to give her such a silly and expensive
present as that. The man doesn't know anything who would do such a
thing. And this one is queerer than the average."

"As you say, he is eccentric," observed Jasper, seeing here a loophole
by which to get in a soothing word.

"Eccentric? That's a mild way to put it," fumed his father. "He's odder
than Dick's hatband. Heaven save Old England if many of her earls are
like him. Well, I shall just write the fellow a decent sort of a note,
and then I'll pack the box off to him, and that'll be the end of the
matter."

"I'm afraid Polly will be sorry," said Jasper, feeling at a standstill
so far as finding the right word was concerned, for everything he
uttered only seemed to make matters worse. So he said the best thing he
could think of, and stopped short.

"Sorry?" Old Mr. King came to a dead stop and glared at him. "You can't
mean that Polly Pepper would like me to keep that watch. It's the last
thing on earth that she would want, such a gewgaw as that. Why, the
child hates the sight of it already as much as I do."

"I don't think Polly would want the watch," said Jasper, quickly. "I
know she doesn't like it, and I'm sure I wish I could smash it myself,"
he added in a burst.

"That's the most sensible thing you've said yet, Jasper," said his
father, with a grim smile.

"But she would feel dreadfully for you to send it back, for don't you
see, father, that would hurt his feelings? And Polly would worry
awfully to have that happen."

Old Mr. King turned uneasily, took a few steps, then came back to throw
himself into his chair again.

"And this old gentleman has such ill attacks," said Jasper, pursuing
his advantage, "that it might be the very thing to bring one on if he
should get that watch back."

"Say no more, say no more, Jasper," said his father, shortly; "put this
thing up for tonight, and then get back to bed again." And Jasper knew
that was the end of it.

And the next day Polly wrote a nice little note, thanking the old earl
for his gift, and hoping that he was quite well; and with so many other
pleasant things in it, that if she could have seen him when he received
it, she would have been glad indeed. And then she handed the little red
leather case to Mr. King. "Keep it for me, Grandpapa," she said simply.

"All right, Polly, my child," he said. And then everybody forgot all
about the episode and proceeded to enjoy Heidelberg.

"I'm so sorry for people who are not going to Bayreuth, Adela!"
exclaimed Polly, looking out of the compartment window, as the train
steamed rapidly on from Nuremberg where they had passed several days of
delight revelling in the old town.

Adela, with her mind more on those past delights, had less attention
for thoughts of music, so she answered absently, "Yes. Oh, Polly,
wasn't that Pentagonal Tower fine? What is it they call it in German?"

But Polly didn't hear, being absorbed in the Wagner festival of which
her mind was full, so Jasper answered for her. "Alt-Nuenberg, you mean,
the oldest building of all Nuremberg."

"Yes," said Adela, "well, I got two or three sketches of that tower."

"Did you?" cried Jasper, "now that's good."

"And I got that horrible old robber-knight, - what's his name? - sitting
inside his cell, you know."

"Eppelein von Gallingen," supplied Jasper. "Well, he was a
horrible-looking customer, and that's a fact."

"Oh, I liked him," said Adela, who rejoiced in ugly things if only
picturesque, "and I got into one corner of the cell opposite him, so as
to sketch it all as well as I could in such a dark place, and a lady
came down the little stairs; you remember them."

"I rather think I do," said Jasper, grimly. "I was trying to get out of
the way of a huge party of tourists, and I nearly broke my neck."

"Well, this lady came down the stairs. I could see her where I sat, but
she couldn't see me, it was so dark in the cell; and she called to her
husband - I guess he was her husband, because he looked so _triste_."
Adela often fell into French, from being so long at the Paris school,
and not from affectation in the least. "And she said, 'Come, Henry, let
us see what is in there.' And she took one step in, and peered into
that robber-knight's face; you know how he is sitting on a little
stool, his black hair all round his face, staring at one."

"Yes, I do," said Jasper; "he was uncanny enough, and in the darkness,
his wax features, or whatever they were made of, were unpleasantly
natural to the last degree."

"Well," said Adela, "the lady gave a little squeal, and tumbled right
back into her husband's arms. And I guess she stepped on his toes, for
he squealed, too, though in a different way, and he gave her a little
push and told her not to be a goose, that the man had been dead a
thousand years more or less and couldn't hurt her. So then she stepped
back, awfully scared though, I could see that, and then she caught
sight of me, and she squealed again and jumped, and she screamed right
out, 'Oh, there's another in there, in the corner, and it glared at
me.' And I didn't glare at all," finished Adela, in disdain. "And then
I guess he was scared, too, for he said, 'That old cell isn't worth
seeing, anyway, and I'm going down into the torture chamber,' and they
hurried off."

"That torture chamber!" exclaimed Jasper; "how any one can hang over
those things, I don't see; for my part, I'd rather have my time
somewhere else."

"Oh, I like them," said Adela, in great satisfaction, "and I've got a
picture of the 'Iron Virgin.'"

"That was a good idea, to put the old scold into that wooden tub
concern," said Jasper; "there was some sense in that. I took a picture
of it, and the old tower itself. I got a splendid photograph of it, if
it will only develop well," he added. "Oh, but the buildings - was ever
anything so fine as those old Nuremberg houses, with their high-peaked
gables! I have quantities of them - thanks to my kodak."

"What's this station, I wonder?" asked Polly, as the train slowed up.

Two ladies on the platform made a sudden dash at their compartment.
"All full," said the guard, waving them off.

"That was Fanny Vanderburgh," gasped Polly.

"And her mother," added Jasper.

"Who was it?" demanded old Mr. King.

His consternation, when they told him, was so great, that Jasper racked
his brains some way to avoid the meeting.

"If once we were at Bayreuth, it's possible that we might not come
across them, father, for we could easily be lost in the crowd."

"No such good luck," groaned old Mr. King, which was proved true. For
the first persons who walked into the hotel, as the manager was giving
directions that the rooms reserved for their party should be shown
them, were Mrs. Vanderburgh and her daughter.

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Vanderburgh, as if her dearest friends were before
her, "how glad I am to see you again, dear Mr. King, and you all." She
swept Mrs. Fisher and Mrs. Henderson lightly in her glance as if
toleration only were to be observed toward them. "We have been
perfectly _désolée_ without you, Polly, my dear," she went on, with a
charming smile. "Fanny will be happy once more. She has been


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Online LibraryMargaret SidneyFive Little Peppers Abroad → online text (page 10 of 19)