Margaret Sidney.

Five Little Peppers Abroad online

. (page 11 of 19)
Online LibraryMargaret SidneyFive Little Peppers Abroad → online text (page 11 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


disconsolate ever since we parted, I assure you."

Polly made some sort of a reply, and greeted Fanny, as of old times, on
the steamer; but Mrs. Vanderburgh went on, all smiles and eagerness - so
rapidly in her friendly intentions, that it boded ill for the future
peace of Mr. King's party. So Mr. King broke into the torrent of words
at once, without any more scruple. "And now, Mrs. Vanderburgh, if you
will excuse us, we are quite tired, and are going to our rooms." And he
bowed himself off, and of course his family followed; the next moment
Fanny and her mother were alone.

"If this is to be the way," said Mrs. Vanderburgh, with a savage little
laugh, "we might much better have stayed in Paris, for I never should
have thought, as you know, Fanny, of coming to this out-of-the-way
place, seeing that I don't care for the music, if I hadn't heard them
say on the steamer that this was their date here."

"Well, I wish that I was at home," declared Fanny, passionately, "and I
never, never will come to Europe, Mamma, again as long as I live. You
are always chasing after people who run away from you, and those who
like me, you won't let me speak to."

"Well, I shall be thankful for the day when you are once in society,"
said her mother, every shred of self-control now gone; "and I shall
sell my tickets for this old Wagner festival, and go back to Paris
to-morrow morning."

At that, Fanny broke into a dismal fit of complaining, which continued
all the time they were dressing for dinner, and getting settled in
their room, and then at intervals through that meal.

Polly looked over at her gloomy face, three tables off, and her own
fell.

"You are not eating anything, child," said Grandpapa, presently, with a
keen glance at her. "Let me order something more."

"Oh, no, Grandpapa," and "yes, I will," she cried, incoherently, making
a great effort to enjoy the nice things he piled on her plate.

Jasper followed her glance as it rested on the Vanderburgh table. "They
will spoil everything," he thought. "And to think it should happen at
Bayreuth."

"Yes, we are going," said Fanny Vanderburgh as they met after dinner in
the corridor. Her eyes were swollen, and she twisted her handkerchief
in her fingers. "And I did - did - did - " here she broke down and
sobbed - "so want to hear the Wagner operas."

"Don't cry," begged Polly, quite shocked. "Oh, Fanny, why can't you
stay? How very dreadful to lose the Wagner music!" Polly could think of
no worse calamity that could befall one.

"Mamma doesn't know anybody here except your party," mumbled Fanny,
"and she's upset, and declares that we must go back to Paris to-morrow.
Oh, Polly Pepper, I hate Paris," she exploded. And then sobbed worse
than ever.

"Wait here," said Polly, "till I come back." Then she ran on light feet
to Grandpapa, just settling behind a newspaper in a corner of the
general reading room.

"Grandpapa, dear, may I speak to you a minute?" asked Polly, with a
woful feeling at her heart. It seemed as if he must hear it beating.

"Why, yes, child, to be sure," said Mr. King, quite surprised at her
manner. "What is it?" and he laid aside his paper and smiled
reassuringly.

But Polly's heart sank worse than ever. "Grandpapa," she began
desperately, "Fanny Vanderburgh is feeling dreadfully."

"And I should think she would with such a mother," exclaimed the old
gentleman, but in a guarded tone. "Well, what of it, Polly?"

"Grandpapa," said Polly, "she says her mother is going to take her back
to Paris tomorrow morning."

"How very fine!" exclaimed Mr. King, approvingly; "that is the best
thing I have heard yet. Always bring me such good news, Polly, and I
will lay down my newspapers willingly any time." And he gave a pleased
little laugh.

"But, Grandpapa - " and Polly's face drooped, and there was such a sad
little note in her voice, that the laugh dropped out of his. "Fanny
wanted above all things to hear the Wagner operas - just think of losing
those!" Polly clasped her hands, and every bit of colour flew from her
cheek.

"Well, what can I do about it?" asked the old gentleman, in a great
state of perturbation. "Speak out, child, and tell me what you want."

"Only if I can be pleasant to Fanny," said Polly, a wave of colour
rushing over her face. "I mean if I may go with her? Can I, Grandpapa,
this very evening, just as if - " she hesitated.

"As if what, Polly?"

"As if we all liked them," finished Polly, feeling as if the words must
be said.

There was an awful pause in which Polly had all she could do to keep
from rushing from the room. Then Grandpapa said, "If you can stand it,
Polly, you may do as you like, but I warn you to keep them away from
me." And he went back to his paper.




XVIII

BAYREUTH AND OLD FRIENDS


Jasper turned around to gaze at the vast audience filing into the
Wagner Opera House before he took his seat. "This makes me think of
Oberammergau, Polly," he said.

"To think you've seen the Passion Play," she cried, with glowing cheeks.

"That was when I was such a little chap," said Jasper, "ages ago, - nine
years, Polly Pepper, - just think; so it will be as good as new next
year. Father is thinking a good deal of taking you there next summer."

"Jasper," cried Polly, her cheeks all in a glow, and regardless of next
neighbours, "what can I ever do to repay your father for being so very
good to me and to all of us?"

"Why, you can keep on making him comfortable, just as you are doing
now, Polly," replied Jasper. "He said yesterday it made him grow
younger every minute to look at you. And you know he's never sick now,
and he was always having those bad attacks. Don't you remember when we
first came to Hingham, Polly?" as they took their seats.

"O dear me, I guess I do, Jasper, and how you saved Phronsie from being
carried off by the big organ man," and she shivered even now at this
lapse of years. "And all the splendid times at Badgertown and the
little brown - "

Just then a long hand came in between the people in the seat back of
them. "I'm no end glad to see you!" exclaimed a voice. It was Tom
Selwyn.

"I'm going over into that vacant seat." Tom forgot his fear of Polly
and his hatred of girls generally, and rushed around the aisle to
plunge awkwardly into the seat just back of Jasper. "I'll stay here
till the person comes." His long arms came in contact with several
obstacles, such as sundry backs and shoulders in his progress, but he
had no time to consider such small things or to notice the black looks
he got in consequence.

"Now, isn't this jolly!" he exclaimed. Jasper was guilty of staring at
him; there seemed such a change in the boy, he could hardly believe it
was really and truly Tom Selwyn.

"My grandfather is well now, and he would have sent some message to you
if he knew I was to run across you," went on Tom, looking at Jasper,
but meaning Polly; "did you get a little trifle he sent you some weeks
ago? He's been in a funk about it because he didn't hear."

Wasn't Polly glad that her little note was on the way, and perhaps in
the old gentleman's hands at this very time!

"Yes," she said, "and he was very kind and - " Tom fumbled his tickets
all the while, and broke in abruptly.

"I didn't know as you'd like it, but it made him sick not to do it, and
so the thing went. Glad it didn't make you mad," he ended suddenly.

"He meant it all right, I'm sure," said Jasper, seeing that Polly
couldn't speak.

"Didn't he though!" exclaimed Tom.

"And it didn't come till the day we left Heidelberg," said Polly,
finding her tongue, and speaking rapidly to explain the delay; "that
was a week ago."

"Whew!" whistled Tom; "oh, beg pardon!" for several people turned
around and stared; so he ducked his head, and was mostly lost to view
for a breathing space. When he thought they had forgotten him, he
bobbed it up. "Why, Grandfather picked it out - had a bushel of things
sent up from London to choose from, you know, weeks and weeks ago, as
soon as he got up to London. That's no end queer."

"No," said Polly, "it didn't come till then. And I wrote to your
grandfather the next morning and thanked him."

"Now you did!" exclaimed Tom, in huge delight, and slapping his knee
with one long hand. "That's no end good of you." He couldn't conceal
how glad he was, and grinned all over his face.

At this moment Mrs. Vanderburgh, who, seeing Fanny so happy again,
concluded to stay on the strength of resurrected hopes of Polly
Pepper's friendship, sailed into the opera house, with her daughter.
And glancing across the aisle, for their seats were at the side, she
caught sight of the party she was looking for, and there was a face she
knew, but wasn't looking for.

"Fanny," she cried, clutching her arm, "there is Tom Selwyn! Well, now
we _are_ in luck!" And Tom saw her, and again he ducked, but for a
different reason. When he raised his head, he glanced cautiously in the
direction he dreaded. "There's that horrible person," he whispered in
Jasper's ear.

"Who?" asked Jasper, in astonishment.

"That woman on the steamer - you knew her - and she was looking straight
at us. Duck for your life, Jasper King!"

"Oh, that," said Jasper, coolly, following the bob of his head. "Yes,
Mrs. Vanderburgh, I know; and she is at our hotel."

"The dickens! And you're alive!" Tom raised his head and regarded him
as a curiosity.

"Very much so," answered Jasper, smothering a laugh; "well, we mustn't
talk any more."

Polly was sitting straight, her hands folded in her lap, with no
thought for audience, or anything but what she was to see and hear on
that wonderful stage. Old Mr. King leaned past Parson Henderson, and
gazed with the greatest satisfaction at her absorbed face.

"I pity anybody," he said to himself, "who hasn't some little Peppers
to take about; I only wish I had the boys, too. But fancy Joel
listening to 'Parsifal'!"

This idea completely overcame him, and he settled back into his seat
with a grim smile.

Polly never knew that Mamsie, with a happy look in her black eyes, was
regarding her intently, too, nor that many a glance was given to the
young girl whose colour came and went in her cheek, nor that Jasper
sometimes spoke a low word or two. She was lost in the entrancing world
of mystery and legend borne upward by the grand music, and she scarcely
moved.

"Well, Polly." Old Mr. King was smiling at her and holding out his
hand. The curtains had closed for the intermission, and all the people
were getting out of their chairs. Polly sat still and drew a long
breath. "Oh, Grandpapa, must we go?"

"Yes, indeed, I hope so," answered Mr. King, with a little laugh. "We
shall have none too much time for our supper, Polly, as it is."

Polly got out of her seat, very much wishing that supper was not one of
the needful things of life.

"It almost seems wicked to think of eating, Jasper," she said, as they
picked up their hats and capes, where he had tucked them under the
seats.

"It would be more wicked not to eat," said Jasper, with a little laugh,
"and I think you'll find some supper tastes good, when we get fairly at
it, Polly."

"I suppose so," said Polly, feeling dreadfully stiff in her feet, and
beginning to wish she could have a good run.

"And what we should do with you if we didn't stop for supper," observed
Jasper, snapping the case to the opera-glasses, "I'm sure I don't know,
Polly. I spoke to you three times, and you didn't hear me once."

"Oh, Jasper!" exclaimed Polly, in horror, pausing as she was pinning on
her big, flowered hat, with the roses all around the brim; "O dear me,
there it goes!" as the hat spun over into the next row.

"I'll get it," cried Tom Selwyn, vaulting over the tops of the seats
before Jasper had a chance to try for it.

Just then Mrs. Vanderburgh, who hadn't heard any more of the opera than
could fit itself into her lively plans for the campaign she laid out to
accomplish in siege of Tom Selwyn, pushed and elbowed herself along.
"Of course the earl isn't here - and the boy is alone, and dreadfully
taken with Jasper King, so I can manage him. And once getting him, I'll
soon have the earl to recognise me as a relation." Then, oh! visions of
the golden dream of bliss when she could visit such titled kin in Old
England, and report it all when at home in New York, filled her head.
And with her mind eaten up with it, she pushed rudely by a plain,
somewhat dowdy-looking woman who obstructed her way.

The woman raised a quiet, yet protesting face; but Mrs. Vanderburgh,
related to an earl, surveyed her haughtily, and pressed on.

"Excuse me," said the plain-looking woman, "but it is impossible for me
to move; the people are coming out this way, Madam, and - "

"And I must get by," answered Mrs. Vanderburgh, interrupting, and
wriggling past as well as she could. But the lace on her flowing sleeve
catching on the umbrella handle of a stout German coming the other way,
she tore it half across. A dark flush of anger rushed over her face,
and she vented all her spite on the plain-looking person in her path.
"If you had moved, this wouldn't have happened!" she exclaimed.

"It was impossible for me to do so," replied the woman, just as quietly
as ever. Just then Tom Selwyn rushed up: "Mother!" to the plain-looking
woman; "well, we _did_ get separated! Oh!" and seeing her companion he
plunged back.

Fanny Vanderburgh, well in the rear, a party of young German girls
impeding the way, felt her mother's grasp, and looked around.

"Oh, you've torn your lace sleeve!" she exclaimed, supposing the black
looks referred to that accident.

"Torn my sleeve!" echoed her mother, irately, "that's a trifle," while
Fanny stared in surprise, knowing, by past experience, that much lesser
accidents had made black days for her; "I'm the unluckiest person
alive. And think of all the money your father has given me to spend,
and it won't do any good. Fanny, I'm going straight back to Paris, as
quickly as possible."

"Why, I'm having a good time now," said Fanny, just beginning to enjoy
herself. "Polly Pepper is real nice to me. I don't want to go home a
bit." All this as they slowly filed out in the throng.

"Well, you're going; and, oh, those Peppers and those Kings, I'm sick
to death of their names," muttered her mother, frowning on her.

"Why can't we wait for Polly?" asked Fanny, not catching the last
words, and pausing to look back.

"Because you can't, that's why. And never say a word about that Polly
Pepper or any of the rest of that crowd," commanded her mother, trying
to hurry on.

"Polly Pepper is the sweetest girl - the very dearest," declared Fanny,
in a passion, over her mother's shoulder, "and you know it, Mamma."

"Well, I won't have you going with her, anyway, nor with any of them,"
answered her mother, shortly.

"Because you can't," echoed Fanny, in her turn, and with a malicious
little laugh. "Don't I know? it's the same old story - those you chase
after, run away from you. You've been chasing, Mamma; you needn't tell
me."

"Oh, Jasper," Polly was saying, "did you really speak to me?"

"Three times," said Jasper, with a laugh, "but you couldn't answer, for
you didn't hear me."

"No," said Polly, "I didn't, Jasper."

"And I shouldn't have spoken, for it isn't, of course, allowed. But I
couldn't help it, Polly, it was so splendid," and his eyes kindled.
"And you didn't seem to breathe or to move."

"I don't feel as if I had done much of either," said Polly, laughing.
"Isn't it good to take a long stretch? And oh, don't you wish we could
run, Jasper?"

He burst into another gay little laugh, as he picked up the rest of the
things. "I thought so, Polly, and you'll want some supper yet. Well,
here is Tom coming back again."

"Indeed I shall, and a big one, Jasper," said Polly, laughing, "for I
am dreadfully hungry."

"Come to supper with us," Jasper said socially over the backs of
several people, in response to Tom Selwyn's furious telegraphing.

"Can't," said Tom, bobbing his head; "must stay with my mother. Thought
you never would turn around." Jasper looked his surprise, and
involuntarily glanced by Tom. "Yes, my mother's here; we've got
separated, she's gone ahead," said Tom, jerking his head toward the
nearest exit. "She says we'll go and see you. Where?"

"Hotel Sonne," said Jasper.

Tom disappeared - rushed off to his mother to jerk himself away to a
convenient waiting-place till the disagreeable woman on the steamer had
melted into space. Then he flew back, and in incoherent sentences made
Mrs. Selwyn comprehend who she was, and the whole situation.

The earl's daughter was a true British matron, and preserved a quiet,
immovable countenance; only a grim smile passed over it now and then.
At last she remarked coolly, as if commenting on the weather, "I don't
believe she will trouble you, my son." Never a word about the lace
episode or the crowding process.

Tom sniffed uneasily. "You haven't crossed on a steamer with her,
mother."

"Never you mind." Mrs. Selwyn gave him a pat on the back. "Tom, let us
talk about those nice people," as they filed slowly out with the crowd.

Not a word did Tom lisp about the invitation to supper, but tucked his
mother's arm loyally within his own. "Sorry I forgot to engage a
table!" he exclaimed, as they entered the restaurant.

"Why, there is Tom!" exclaimed Jasper, craning his neck as his party
were about to sit down. "Father, Tom Selwyn is here with his mother,
and they can't find places, I almost know, and we might have two more
chairs easily at our table," he hurried it all out.

"What is all this about?" demanded old Mr. King; "whom are you talking
about, pray tell, Jasper?"

So Jasper ran around to his father's chair and explained. The end of it
all was, that he soon hurried off, being introduced to Tom's mother, to
whom he presented his father's compliments, and would she do him the
favour to join their party? And in ten minutes, every one felt well
acquainted with the English matron, and entirely forgot that she was an
earl's daughter. And Tom acquitted himself well, and got on famously
with old Mr. King.

But he didn't dare talk to Polly, but edged away whenever there was the
least chance of matters falling out so that he would have to.

And then it came out that the Selwyns thought of going to Munich and
down to Lucerne.

"And the Bernese Alps," put in Jasper, across the table. "How is that,
Tom, for an outing? Can't you do it?" For it transpired that Mrs.
Selwyn had left the other children, two girls and two smaller boys,
with their grandfather, on the English estate. They all called this
place home since the father was in a business in Australia that
required many long visits, and Tom's mother had decided that he should
have a bit of a vacation with her, so they had packed up and off,
taking in the Wagner festival first, and here they were. "Yes," after
she considered a bit, "we can do that. Join the party and then over to
Lucerne, and perhaps take in the Bernese Alps."

Only supposing that Polly's letter hadn't gone to the little old earl,
Jasper kept saying over and over to himself. Just for one minute,
suppose it!

And in the midst of it all, the horn sounded; the intermission was
over, chairs were pushed back hastily, and all flocked off. No one must
be late, and there must be no noisy or bustling entrances into the
opera house.

And if Polly Pepper sat entranced through the rest of the matchless
performance, Tom Selwyn - three seats back and off to the left - was just
as quietly happy. But he wasn't thinking so much of "Parsifal" as might
have been possible. "It's no end fine of the little mother to say
'yes,'" he kept running over and over to himself, with a satisfied
glance at the quiet face under the plain, English bonnet.

"It's funny we don't see Fanny Vanderburgh anywhere," said Polly, as
they went through the corridor and up the hotel stairs that night.

"She and her mother probably came home earlier," said Mrs. Fisher; "you
know we were delayed, waiting for our carriages. You will see her in
the morning, Polly."

But in the morning, it was ten o'clock before Mr. King's party gathered
for breakfast, for Grandpapa always counselled sleeping late when out
the night before. And when Polly did slip into her chair, there was a
little note lying on her plate.

"Fanny Vanderburgh has gone," she said, and turned quite pale.

It was too true. Mrs. Vanderburgh had sold her two tickets to the
"Flying Dutchman," to be presented that evening, and departed from
Bayreuth.

"It's no use, Polly," Fanny's note ran, "trying to make me have a good
time. Mamma says we are to go back to Paris; and go we must. You've
been lovely, and I thank you ever so much, and good-by."

Mother Fisher found Polly, a half-hour later, curled up in a corner of
the old sofa in her room, her face pressed into the cushion.

"Why, Polly," exclaimed her mother, seeing the shaking shoulders, and,
bending over her, she smoothed the brown hair gently, "this isn't
right, child - "

Polly sprang up suddenly and threw her arms around her mother's neck.
Her face was wet with tears, and she sobbed out, "Oh, if I'd done more
for her, Mamsie, or been pleasant to Mrs. Vanderburgh, she might have
stayed."

"You haven't any call to worry, Polly, child," said Mother Fisher,
firmly. "You did all that could be done - and remember one thing, it's
very wrong to trouble others as you certainly will if you give way to
your feelings in this manner."

"Mamsie," exclaimed Polly, suddenly wiping away the trail of tears from
her cheek, "I won't cry a single bit more. You can trust me, Mamsie, I
truly won't."

"Trust you," said Mother Fisher, with a proud look in her black eyes,
"I can trust you ever and always, Polly; and now run to Mr. King and
let him see a bright face, for he's worrying about you, Polly."




XIX

MR. KING HAS A LITTLE PLAN FOR POLLY


"Oh Jasper," exclaimed Polly, clasping her hands, "do you suppose we'll
ever get to a piano where it's all alone, and nobody wants to play on
it - "

"But just you and I," finished Jasper. "I declare I don't know. You see
we don't stay still long enough in any one place to hire a decent one;
and besides, father said, when we started, that it was better for us to
rest and travel about without any practising this summer. You know he
did, Polly."

"I know it," said Polly; "but oh, if we could just play once in a
while," she added mournfully.

"Well, we can't," said Jasper, savagely; "you know we tried that at
Brussels, when we thought everybody had gone off. And those half a
dozen idiots came and stared at us through the glass door."

"And then they came in," added Polly, with a little shiver at the
recollection. "But that big fat man with the black beard was the worst,
Jasper." She glanced around as if she expected to see him coming down
the long parlour.

"Well, he didn't hear much; there didn't any of them," said Jasper;
"that's some small satisfaction, because you hopped off the piano stool
and ran away."

"You ran just as fast, I'm sure, Jasper," said Polly, with a little
laugh.

"Well, perhaps I did," confessed Jasper, bursting into a laugh. "Who
wouldn't run with a lot of staring idiots flying at one?" he brought up
in disgust.

"And we forgot the music," went on Polly, deep in the reminiscence,
"and we wouldn't go back - don't you remember? - until the big fat man
with the dreadful black beard had gone, for he'd picked it up and been
looking at it."

"Yes, I remember all about it," said Jasper; "dear me, what a time we
had! It's enough to make one wish that the summer was all over, and
that we were fairly settled in Dresden," he added gloomily, as he saw
her face.

"Oh, no," exclaimed Polly, quickly, and quite shocked to see the
mischief that she had done.

"We wouldn't have the beautiful summer go a bit faster, Jasper. Why,
that would be too dreadful to think of."

"But you want to get at your music, Polly."

"I'll fly at it when the time comes," cried Polly, with a wise little
nod, "never you fear, Jasper. Now come on; let's get Phronsie and go
out and see the shops."

Old Mr. King in a nook behind the curtain, dropped the newspaper in his
lap and thought a bit. "Best to wait till we get to Lucerne," he said
to himself, nodding his white head; "then, says I, Polly, my child, you
shall have your piano."

And when their party were settling down in the hotel at Lucerne, ending
the beautiful days of travel after leaving Munich, Jasper's father
called him abruptly. "See here, my boy."

"What is it, father?" asked Jasper, wonderingly; "the luggage is all


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryMargaret SidneyFive Little Peppers Abroad → online text (page 11 of 19)