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ejaculated Jasper, in high disdain. "Say something better than that,
Tom, if you want to be heard."

"Oh, I don't expect to be heard, or listened to in the slightest," he
said calmly. "Anybody who will trot round with a kodak hanging to his
neck by a villanous strap - can't be - "

"Who's got a villanous strap hanging to his neck?" cried Jasper, while
the rest shouted as he picked at the fern-box thus hanging to Tom.

"Oh, that's quite a different thing," declared Tom, his face growing
red.

"I know; one is a kodak, and the other is a fern-box," said Jasper,
nodding. "I acknowledge they are different," and they all burst out
laughing again.

"Well, at least," said Tom, joining in the laugh, "you must
acknowledge, too, that I go off by myself and pick up my wild flowers
and green things, and I'm not bothering round focussing every living
thing and pointing my little machine at every freak in nature that I
see."

"All right," said Jasper, good-naturedly, "but you have the strap round
your neck all the same, Tom."

And Phronsie wanted to stay at the Riffelberg just as much; and old Mr.
King was on the point of saying, "Well, we'll come up here for a few
days, Phronsie," when he remembered Mrs. Selwyn and her boy, and how
they must get on. Instead, he cleared his throat, and said, "We shall
see it after dinner, child," and Phronsie smiled, well contented.

But when she reached the Corner Grat station, and took Grandpapa's
hand, and began to ascend the bridle path to the hotel, she couldn't
contain herself, and screamed right out, "Oh, Grandpapa, I'd rather
stay here."

"It _is_ beautiful, isn't it?" echoed old Mr. King, feeling twenty
years younger since he started on his travels. "Well, well, child, I'm
glad you like it," looking down into her beaming little face.

"You are very much to be envied, sir. I can't help speaking to you and
telling you so," said a tall, sober-looking gentleman, evidently an
English curate off on his vacation, as he caught up with him on the
ascent, where they had paused at one of the look-offs, "for having that
child as company, and those other young people."

"You say the truth," replied old Mr. King, cordially; "from the depths
of my heart I pity any one who hasn't some children to take along when
going abroad. But then they wouldn't be little Peppers," he added,
under his breath, as he bowed and turned back to the view.

"There's dear Monte Rosa," cried Polly, enthusiastically. "Oh, I just
love her."

"And there's Castor and Pollux," said Jasper.

"And there's the whole of them," said Tom, disposing of the entire
range with a sweep of his hand. "Dear me, what a lot there are, to be
sure. It quite tires one."

"Oh, anybody but a cold-blooded Englishman!" exclaimed Jasper, with a
mischievous glance, "to travel with."

"Anything on earth but a gushing American!" retorted Tom, "to go round
the world with."

"I wish I could sketch a glacier," bemoaned Adela, stopping every
minute or two, as they wound around the bridle path, "but I can't; I've
tried ever so many times."

"Wait till we get to the _Mer de Glace_," advised Tom. "You can sit
down in the middle of it, and sketch away all you want to."

"Well, I'm going to," said Adela, with sudden determination. "I don't
care; you can all laugh if you want to."

"You can sketch us all," suggested Jasper, "for we shall have horrible
old stockings on."

"I sha'n't have horrible old stockings on," said Adela, in a dudgeon,
sticking out her foot. "I wear just the same stockings that I do at
home, at school in Paris, and they are quite nice."

"Oh, I mean you'll have to put on coarse woollen ones that the peasant
women knit on purpose, - we all shall have to do the same, on over our
shoes," explained Jasper.

"O dear me!" cried Adela, in dismay.

"And I think we shall slip and slide a great deal worse with those
things tied on our feet, than to go without any," said Polly, wrinkling
up her brows at the idea.

"'Twouldn't be safe to go without them," said Jasper, shaking his head,
"unless we had nails driven in our shoes."

"I'd much rather have the nails," cried Polly, "oh, much rather,
Jasper."

"Well, we'll see what father is going to let us do," said Jasper.

"Wasn't that fun snowballing - just think - in July," cried Polly,
craning her neck to look back down the path toward the Riffelberg
station.

"Did you pick up some of that snow?" asked Adela.

"Didn't we, though!" exclaimed Jasper. "I got quite a good bit in my
fist."

"My ball was such a little bit of a one," mourned Polly; "I scraped up
all I could, but it wasn't much."

"Well, it did good execution," said Tom; "I got it in my eye."

"Oh, did it hurt you?" cried Polly, in distress, running across the
path to walk by his side.

"Not a bit," said Tom. "I tried to find some to pay you back, and then
we had to fly for the cars."

The plain, quiet face under the English bonnet turned to Mrs. Fisher as
they walked up the path together. "I cannot begin to tell you what
gratitude I am under to you," said Tom's mother, "and to all of you.
When I think of my father, I am full of thankfulness. When I look at my
boy, the goodness of God just overcomes me in leading me to your party.
May I tell you of ourselves some time, when a good opportunity offers
for a quiet talk?"

"I'd like nothing better," said Mother Fisher, heartily. "If there is
one person I like more than another, who isn't of our family, or any of
our home friends, it's Mrs. Selwyn," she had confided to the little
doctor just a few days before. "She hasn't any nonsense about her, if
she is an earl's daughter."

"Earl's daughter," sniffed the little doctor, trying to slip a collar
button into a refractory binding. "Dear me, now that's gone - no,
'tisn't - that's luck," as the button rolled off into a corner of the
bureau-top where it was easily captured.

"Let me do that for you, Adoniram," said Mother Fisher, coming up to
help him.

"I guess you'll have to, wife, if it's done at all," he answered,
resigning himself willingly to her hands; "the thing slips and slides
like all possessed. Well, now, I was going to say that I wouldn't hate
a title so much, if there was a grain of common sense went along with
it. And that Mrs. Selwyn just saves the whole lot of English nobility,
and makes 'em worth speaking to, in my opinion."

And after they had their dinner, and were scattered in groups in the
bright sunshine, sitting on the wooden benches by the long tables, or
taking photographs, or watching through the big glass some mountain
climbers on one of the snowy spurs of the Matterhorn, "the good
opportunity for a quiet talk" came about.

"Now," said Mother Fisher, with a great satisfaction in her voice, "may
we sit down here on this bench, Mrs. Selwyn, and have that talk?"

Tom's mother sat down well pleased, and folding her hands in her lap,
this earl's daughter, mistress of a dozen languages, as well as
mistress of herself on all occasions, began as simply and with as much
directness as a child.

"Well, you know my father. Let me tell you, aside from the
eccentricities, that are mere outside matters, and easily explained, if
you understood the whole of his life, a kinder man never lived, nor a
more reasonable one. But it was a misfortune that he had to be left so
much alone, as since my mother's death a dozen years ago has happened.
It pained me much." A shadow passed over her brow, but it was gone
again, and she smiled, and her eyes regained their old placid look. "I
live in Australia with my husband, where my duty is, putting the boys
as fast as they were old enough, and the little girls as well, into
English schools. But Tom has always been with my father at the
vacations, for he is his favourite, as of course was natural, for he is
the eldest. And though you might not believe it, Mrs. Fisher, my father
was always passionately fond of the boy."

"I do believe it," said Mother Fisher, quietly, and she put her hand
over the folded ones. Mrs. Selwyn unclasped hers, soft and white, to
draw within them the toil-worn one.

"Now, that's comfortable," she said, with another little smile.

"And here is where his eccentricity became the most dangerous to the
peace of mind of our family," continued Mrs. Selwyn. "My father seemed
never able to discover that he was doing the lad harm by all sorts of
indulgence and familiarity with him, a sort of hail-fellow-well-met way
that surprised me more than I can express, when I discovered it on my
last return visit to my old home. My father! who never tolerated
anything but respect from all of us, who were accustomed to despotic
government, I can assure you, was allowing Tom! - well, you were with
him on the steamer," she broke off abruptly. The placid look was gone
again in a flash.

"Yes," said Mother Fisher, her black eyes full of sympathy; "don't let
that trouble you, dear Mrs. Selwyn; Tom was pure gold down
underneath - we saw that - and the rest is past."

"Ah," - the placid look came back as quickly - "that is my only
comfort - that you did. For father told the whole, not sparing himself.
Now he sees things in the right light; he says because your young
people taught it to him. And he was cruelly disappointed because you
couldn't come down to visit him in his home."

"We couldn't," said Mother Fisher, in a sorry voice, at seeing the
other face.

"I understand - quite," said Tom's mother, with a gentle pressure of the
hand she held. "And then the one pleasure he had was in picking out
something for Polly."

"Oh, if the little red leather case _had_ gone back to the poor old
man!" ran through Mother Fisher's mind, possessing it at once.

"I don't think his judgment was good, Mrs. Fisher, in the selection,"
said Mrs. Selwyn, a small pink spot coming on either cheek; "but he
loves Polly, and wanted to show it."

"And he was so good to think of it," cried Mother Fisher, her heart
warming more and more toward the little old earl.

"And as he couldn't be turned from it, and his health is precarious if
he is excited, why, there was nothing to be done about it. And then he
insisted that Tom and I come off for a bit of a run on the Continent,
the other children being with him. And as my big boy" - here a loving
smile went all over the plain face, making it absolutely
beautiful - "had worried down deep in his heart over the past, till I
was more troubled than I can tell you, why, we came. And then God was
good - for then we met you! Oh, Mrs. Fisher!"

She drew her hands by a sudden movement away, and put them on Mother
Fisher's shoulders. And then that British matron, rarely demonstrative
with her own children, even, leaned over and kissed Polly's mother.

"I can't see why it's so warm up here," said Polly, racing over to
their bench, followed by the others. "Dear me, it's fairly hot." And
she pulled off her jacket.

"Don't do that, Polly," said her mother.

"Oh, Mamsie, it's so very hot," said Polly; but she thrust her arms
into the sleeves and pulled it on again.

"I know; but you've been running," said Mrs. Fisher, "and have gotten
all heated up."

"Well, it's perfectly splendid to travel to places where we can run and
race," said Polly, in satisfaction, throwing herself down on the rocks.
The others all doing the same thing, Mr. King and the Parson and Mrs.
Henderson found them, and pretty soon the group was a big one. "Well,
well, we are all here together, no - where is Mrs. Gray?" asked Mr.
King, presently.

"She is resting in the hotel," said Mother Fisher, "fast asleep I think
by this time."

"Yes," said Adela, "she is. I just peeked in on her, and she hasn't
moved where you tucked her up on the lounge."

"Grandpapa," asked Polly, suddenly, from the centre of the group, "what
makes it so very warm up here, when we are all surrounded by snow?"

"You ask me a hard thing," said old Mr. King. "Well, for one thing, we
are very near the Italian border; those peaks over there, you
know, - follow my walking-stick as I point it, - are in sunny Italy."

"Well, it is just like sunny Italy up here," said Polly, "I think,"
blinking, and pulling her little cap over her eyes.

"It's all the Italy you will get in the summer season," said Grandpapa.
"You must wait for cold weather before I take one of you there."




XXIV

THE ROUND ROBIN


"Dear me, how the summer is going!" mourned Polly, as they caught on
the return journey the last glimpse of the roaring, tumbling Visp, and
not all the craning of the necks could compass another view, as the
cars drew them away from the rushing river.

"Never mind, Polly," said Jasper, "there's all next summer; and after
our winter in Dresden, and all our hard work over music, won't it be
fine, though, to jaunt round again?" and his eyes glistened.

"Dresden!" echoed Polly, sitting quite straight with very red
cheeks; - "oh, Jasper!"

The magic word, "Dresden," had unlocked visions of months of future
delight, bringing back every word of dear Herr Bauricke; all the
instruction he had given her, on those happy days at Lucerne, that
Polly felt quite sure were engraven deep on her heart to last forever
and ever.

"And won't I study, though!" exclaimed Polly, to herself, "and make the
professor that Herr Bauricke has engaged for me, glad that he teaches
me, oh, won't I!"

"Well, I'm sorry the summer is going," said Adela, "because then I've
got to leave you at Paris, and go into school."

"But you like your school," said Polly, brightly, "you've said so a
dozen times, Adela."

"Yes, I do," said Adela, "and I've got some sketches to take back, and
Mademoiselle will be glad of that."

"And you'll go on drawing and painting until you get to be a great
artist," ran on Polly, enthusiastically, "and then we'll see something
you've done, in the Louvre, maybe."

"The Louvre!" cried Adela; "O dear me, Polly Pepper."

"I don't care," said Polly, recklessly, pushing back the little rings
of brown hair from her brow, "they'll be good enough, the pictures you
are going to do, to put into the Louvre, anyway, Adela Gray."

Tom Selwyn had been very sober during all this merry chatter; and now
in his seat across the narrow aisle, he drummed his heels impatiently
on the floor. His mother looked over at him, and slipping out of her
seat, went over to him. "Any room here, Tom, for mother?" she said.

"Oh, - ah, - I should say so!" Tom slipped out, gave her the window seat,
then flew back.

"Now, this is comfy," observed Mrs. Selwyn, as the train sped on. "Tom,
see here!"

"What's up, little mother?" asked Tom, in surprise, at her unusual
manner.

"It's just this, Tom. You know we are going to Chamonix and up the _Mer
de Glace_ with Mr. King's party."

Tom bobbed his head, not allowing himself to exclaim, "But that will be
only a short journey, now, and we must soon say 'good-by.'"

"Well, I've been thinking that I should like to go on to Geneva, and to
Paris," continued Mrs. Selwyn, "only you dislike Paris so much, Tom,"
she added.

"Oh, you're the bulliest - I mean - excuse me - you're no end a brick - oh,
I mean - I can't say what I mean," brought up Tom, in despair. And he
ran one long arm around her neck very much to the detriment of her neat
collar.

"Then you can overcome your dislike to Paris enough to go there?" asked
his mother, with a little twinkle in her eye.

"My dislike!" roared Tom, "O dear me!" as everybody looked around.
"Why, I just love Paris!" he finished in an awful whisper, close to the
plain, black bonnet.

When the news was circulated, as it was pretty soon, that the party was
not to be broken into at all till Paris was a completed story, the
jubilation was such as to satisfy even Tom. And as this particular
party had the car entirely to themselves, it wasn't so very dreadful as
it seems, and the elder members allowed indulgent smiles at it all.

That night in the market-place at Martigny, Jasper, who was ahead with
his father, ran back to Polly, and the others lingering behind. "Oh, do
hurry," he begged, "it's the prettiest sight!"

"Oh, what is it?" cried Polly, as they scampered off.

There, in the centre of the market-place, was a ring of little girls,
hand-in-hand, singing a little French song, and going round and round
in a circle. They were of all ages and sizes, the littlest one in a
blue pinafore, being about three years of age, and so chubby she had to
be helped along continually by a big girl, evidently her sister. This
big sister stopped the ring game, every now and then, to kiss the round
face by the side of her gown; an example that was followed by so many
of the other girls, that the game seemed to be never quite finished.
And once in a while, big sister would pick up the chubby, little,
blue-pinafored maiden and carry her through a considerable portion of
the game, then down she would put her on her two chubby feet, and away
they all circled without any break in the proceedings at all.

"Oh! isn't it 'Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley grow'?" cried Polly, as
they watched them intently.

"Ever so much like it," said Tom. "See those boys; now they are going
to make trouble."

"Oh, they sha'n't!" declared Polly. "O dear me!" as one boy drew near,
on the side next to the travellers, and watching his chance, picked at
a flying apron or two. But the ring of girls paid no more attention to
him, than they had to any other outside matters, being wholly absorbed
in the game. So Polly and the others breathed freely again.

But up came another boy. "O dear me!" cried Polly, aghast. When number
three put in an appearance, she gave up all hope at once.

"They're jealous chaps," cried Tom, "and are vexed because they can't
get into the game! Hear them jeer!" And his long arm went out and
picked a jacket-end of an urchin, who, incautiously regarding such
quiet travellers as not worth minding, had hovered too near, while
trying to tease the girls.

"Here, you, sir," cried Tom, with a bit of a shake, and a torrent of
remarkably good French not to be disregarded; then he burst into a
laugh. And the urchin laughed too, thinking this much better fun to
tussle with the tall lad, than to hang around a parcel of girls. And
presently a woman came and took little blue pinafore off, and then the
rest of the girls unclasped their hands, and the ring melted away, and
the game was over.

"I'm glad the girls over here have fun," said Polly, as Grandpapa and
his party moved off. "Isn't it nice to think they do?"

"It isn't much matter where you live, there's a good deal to be gotten
out of life; if you only know how," said the parson, thinking busily of
the little brown house.

Two or three days of rest at Martigny put everybody in good shape, and
gave them all a bit of time to pick up on many little things that were
behindhand. Tom looked over all his floral treasures, with their last
additions made at the Riffelalp, and discarded such as hadn't pressed
well. And Jasper and Polly rushed up to date with their journals, and
wrote letters home; and Adela worked up her studies and sketches.

Tom looked on silently when Polly and Jasper were scraping their pens
in a lively fashion in the little writing room of the hotel. "That's my
third letter, Polly," announced Jasper, on the other side of the table.
"Now, I am going to begin on Joel's."

"One, two," said Polly, counting, "why, I thought I'd written three;
well, this one is most finished, Jasper."

"Yes," said Jasper, glancing over at her, "is that your last page,
Polly?"

"Yes," said Polly, hurrying away. Then she thought of what Mamsie had
said, and slackened her speed.

Tom cleared his throat, and tried to speak, but the words wouldn't come
nicely, so he burst out, "I say, I wish you'd write to my granddaddy,
both of you," and then he stood quite still, and very red in the face.

Polly looked up quickly, her pen dropping from her fingers, and Jasper
deserted his fourth letter and stared.

"Why," said Polly, finding her tongue, "we wouldn't dare, Tom Selwyn."

"Dare!" said Tom, delighted to think that no terrible result had really
ensued from his words, that after they were out, had scared him
mightily. "Oh, if you knew granddaddy!" And he sank into a chair by the
table, and played with the heap of picture postal cards that Polly was
going to address next.

"We might," said Polly, slowly, "write a letter, all of us. A kind of a
Round Robin thing, you know, and send that."

"So we could," cried Jasper; "how would that do, Tom?"

"The very thing!" exclaimed Tom, striking his hand so heavily on the
table, that for a minute it looked as if the ink-bottle hopped.

"Take care, there's no reason you should knock things over because you
are overjoyed," cried Jasper, gaily. "Well, let's leave our letters
to-day, Polly, and set to on the Round Robin."

"All right," said Polly, glad to think there was anything she could
really do to please the little old earl, "but would your mother like
it, Tom?" She stopped slowly in putting her unfinished letter into the
little writing-case, and looked at him.

"If you think there's a shadow of doubt on that score, I'd best run and
ask her now." Tom got himself out of the chair, and himself from the
room, and in an incredibly short space of time, back there he was. "My
mother says, 'Thank Polly for thinking of it; it will do father more
good than anything else could possibly do.'"

"I don't suppose you want any more answer," said Tom, quite radiant,
and looking down at Polly.

"No, only I didn't think first of it," said Polly, in a distressed
little tone.

"Why, Polly Pepper!" exclaimed Tom, "I certainly heard you say 'Round
Robin,' when I'll venture to say not a soul of us had even thought of
it; we certainly hadn't said so."

"Well, you spoke of the letter first," said Polly, unwilling to take
the credit for all the comfort going to the little old earl, "and I
shall tell your mother so, Tom."

"But I didn't say 'Round Robin,'" persisted Tom, "wasn't smart enough
to think of it."

"And let's get to work," cried Jasper, huddling up his three letters.
"I'll post yours, too, Polly; give them here."

"O dear, my stamps are all gone," said Polly, peering into the little
box in one corner of her writing-case.

"I've plenty," said Jasper, hurrying off; "I'll stick on two for you."

"Oh, no, Jasper," cried Polly, after him, "you know Mamsie would not
allow me to borrow."

"It isn't borrowing," said Jasper, turning back slowly. "I'll give them
to you, Polly."

"But Mamsie said when we started I should get my stamps when I needed
them," said Polly. "You know she did, Jasper."

"Yes, she did," said Jasper, uncomfortably. Then his face brightened,
and he said, "And she's right, Polly," while Polly fished a franc out
of Joel's little money-bag that hung at her belt. "Do get the stamps,
please, Jasper, and put them on," as he took up her two letters. And
she gave the bag a little pat for Joel's sake, wishing it was his
stubby black hair that her fingers could touch.

"Dear me, you are dreadfully particular about taking two postage
stamps, seems to me," said Adela, who had taken that time, as she
hadn't any letters to write, to work up one of her studies from memory
of the Visp.

Tom's blue eyes flashed dangerously, then he cleared his throat,
whistled, and walked to the window.

"I don't know where we are going to get nice white paper for our 'Round
Robin,'" said Polly, leaning her elbows on the table, and her chin in
her hands.

"I know!" ejaculated Tom, whirling on his heel, and dashing out. In he
came, swinging three or four goodly sheets. "Filched 'em out of the old
woman's room," he said.

"Oh, Tom!" began Polly.

"I mean, the housekeeper - matron - conciergerie - whatever you call the
gentle lady who runs this house - was fortunately at our desk where she
has the pleasure of making up our bills, and I worked on her feelings
till she parted with 'em," explained Tom.

"Oh!" said Polly; "well, I'm glad she gave them."

"Never you fear but what they'll be in our bills, Polly," said Tom, who
couldn't believe by this time that he hadn't always known Polly Pepper.

"It's dreadfully thin paper," said Adela, critically, getting off from
the sofa to pick at one corner of the sheet Polly was beginning to
divide.

"I'm glad we have any," hummed Polly, happily.

"Thank your stars you have," said Tom, as gaily. And Jasper running in,
the table was soon surrounded by the makers of the Round Robin, Adela
deserting her sketch-book and pulling up a chair.

"And Phronsie must come," said Polly, snipping away to get the paper
the right width. "O dear me, I can't cut it straight. Do you please


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