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finish it, Jasper."

"That's all right," said Jasper, squinting at it critically,
"only - just this edge wants a little bit of trimming, Polly." And he
snipped off the offending points.

"I'll fetch Phronsie," cried Tom, springing off.

"And hurry," cried Polly and Jasper, together, after him.

"Polly," said Phronsie, as Tom came careering in with her on his
shoulder. "I want to write, too, I do," she cried, very much excited.

"Of course, you shall, Pet. That's just what we want you for," cried
Polly, clearing a place on the table; "there, do pull up a chair,

"Now, Phronsie, I think you would better begin, for you are the
littlest," and she flapped the long strip down in front of her.

"Oh, Polly, you begin," begged Tom.

"No, I think Phronsie ought to," said Polly, shaking her head.

"I want Polly to," said Phronsie, wriggling away from the pen that
Polly held out alluringly.

"But Polly wants you to," said Jasper. "I really would, Phronsie dear,
to please her."

To please Polly, being what Phronsie longed for next to pleasing
Mamsie, she gave a small sigh and took the pen in unsteady fingers.

"Wait a minute, Phronsie!" exclaimed Polly, in dismay, "I believe we've
made a mistake, Jasper, and got the wrong sheet." And Polly turned off
with him to examine the rest of the paper.

Phronsie, who hadn't heard what Polly said, her small head being full
of the responsibility of beginning the important letter, and
considering, since it was to be done, it was best to have it over with
as soon as possible, fell to scribbling the letters as fast as she
could, all of them running down hill.

"Well, I'm glad to see that we haven't made any mistake," cried Polly,
turning back in relief. "Oh, Phronsie, you haven't begun!"

She spoke so sharply that Phronsie started, and a little drop of ink
trembling on the point of her pen concluded to hop off. So it did and
jumped down on the clean white paper to stare up at them all like a
very bad black eye.

"Oh, see what she's written!" cried Polly, quite aghast, and tumbling
into her chair, she pointed at the top.

"Deer Mister Erl," scrawled clear across the top.

"I didn't - mean - oh, you said do it, Polly." Phronsie threw herself out
of her chair, and over into Polly's lap, burrowing and wailing

"O dear me, how could I say anything?" cried Polly, overcome with
remorse and patting Phronsie's yellow hair; "but it is so very
dreadful. O dear me! Phronsie, there, there, don't cry. O dear me!"

Tom's mouth trembled. "It's all right. Granddaddy'll like it," he said.

"Oh, Tom Selwyn," gasped Polly, looking up over Phronsie's head, "you
don't suppose we'd let that letter go."

"I would," said Tom, coolly, running his hands in his pockets. "I tell
you, you don't know my granddaddy. He's got lots of fun in him," he

"Phronsie," said Jasper, rushing around the table, "you are making
Polly sick. Just look at her face."

Phronsie lifted her head where she had burrowed it under Polly's arm.
When she saw that Polly's round cheeks were really quite pale, she
stopped crying at once. "Are you sick, Polly?" she asked, in great

"I sha'n't be," said Polly, "if you won't cry any more, Phronsie."

"I won't cry any more," declared Phronsie, wiping off the last tear
trailing down her nose. "Then you will be all well, Polly?"

"Then I shall be all as well as ever," said Polly, kissing the wet
little face.

When they got ready to begin on the letter again, it was nowhere to be
found, and Tom had disappeared as well.

"He took it out," said Adela, for the first time finding her tongue. "I
saw him while you were all talking."

While they were wondering over this and were plunged further yet in
dismay, Tom came dancing in, waving the unlucky sheet of the Round
Robin over his head. "My mother says," he announced in triumph, "that
father will get no end of fun over that if you let it go. It will cheer
him up."

So that ended the matter, although Polly, who dearly loved to be
elegant, had many a twinge whenever her eye fell on the letter at which
Phronsie was now labouring afresh.

"We must put in little pictures," said Polly, trying to make herself
cheery as the work went busily on.

"Polly, you always do think of the best things!" exclaimed Jasper,
beaming at her, which made her try harder than ever to smile. "I
wouldn't feel so badly, Polly," he managed to whisper, when Phronsie
was absorbed with her work; "he'll like it probably just as father did
the gingerbread boy."

"But that was different," groaned Polly.

"Pictures!" Tom Selwyn was saying, "oh, there's where I can come in
fine with assistance. I'm no good in a letter." And again he rushed
from the room.

"That's three times that boy has gone out," announced Adela, "and he
joggles the table awfully when he starts. And he made me cut clear into
that edge. See, Polly." She was trimming the third strip of paper, for
the Round Robin was to be pasted together and rolled up when it was all

"He seems to accomplish something every time he goes," observed Jasper,
drily. "Halloo, just look at him now!"

In came Tom with a rush, and turned a small box he held in his hand
upside down on the table.

"O dear me!" exclaimed Adela, as her scissors slipped, "now you've
joggled the table again!" Then she caught Polly's eye. "Aren't those
pictures pretty?" she burst out awkwardly.

"Aren't they so!" cried Tom, in satisfaction, while Polly oh-ed and
ah-ed, and Phronsie dropped her pen suddenly making a second blot; only
as good fortune would have it, it was so near the edge that they all on
anxious examination decided to trim the paper down, and thus get rid of

"I don't see how you got so many," said Jasper, in admiration, his
fingers busy with the heap.

"Oh, I've picked 'em up here and there," said Tom. "I began because I
thought the kids at home might like 'em. And then it struck me I'd make
a book like yours."

"Well, do save them now," said Jasper, "and we'll give some of our
pictures, though the prettiest ones are in our books," he added

"Rather not - much obliged," Tom bobbed his thanks. "I want to donate
something to granddaddy, and I tell you I'm something awful at a

"All right, seeing you wish it so," said Jasper, with a keen look at
him, "and these are beauties and no mistake; we couldn't begin to equal

When the letter was finally unrolled and read to Grandpapa, who strayed
into the reading room to see what Phronsie was doing, it certainly was
a beauty. Picture after picture, cut from railroad guide books,
illustrated papers, and it seemed to Jasper gathered as if by magic,
with cunning little photographs, broke up the letter, and wound in and
out with funny and charming detail of some of their journey.

"I wrote that all myself," hummed Phronsie, smoothing her gown, in
great satisfaction, pointing to the opening of the letter.

"O dear me!" exclaimed Polly, softly, for she couldn't even yet get
over that dreadful beginning.

"The rest of it is nice," whispered Jasper, "and I venture to say,
he'll like that the best of all."

Mr. King thought so, too, and he beamed at Phronsie. "So you did," he
cried; "now that's fine. I wish you'd write me a letter sometime."

"I'm going to write you one now," declared Phronsie. Since Grandpapa
wanted anything, it was never too soon to begin work on it.

"Do," cried old Mr. King, in great satisfaction. So he put down the
Round Robin, Adela crying out that she wanted her grandmother to see
it; and Polly saying that Mamsie, and Papa-Doctor, and the Parson and
Mrs. Henderson must see it; "and most important of all," said Jasper,
breaking into the conversation, "Mrs. Selwyn must say if it is all
right to go."

At that Polly began to have little "creeps" as she always called the
shivers. "O dear me!" she exclaimed again, and turned quite pale.

"You don't know my mother," exclaimed Tom, "if you think she won't like
that. She's got lots of fun in her, and she always sees the sense of a

"But she's so nice," breathed Polly, who greatly admired Mrs. Selwyn,
"and so elegant."

Tom bobbed his head and accepted this as a matter of course. "That's
the very reason she understands things like a shot - and knows how to
take 'em," he said; "and I tell you, Polly," he declared with a burst
of confidence that utterly surprised him, "I'd rather have my mother
than any other company I know of; she's awful good fun!"

"I know it," said Polly, brightly, with a little answering smile.
"Well, I hope she'll like it."

"Never you fear," cried Tom, seizing the Round Robin; and waving it
over his head, it trailed off back of him like a very long and broad
ribbon. "Come on, now, all fall into line!"

"Take care!" cried Jasper, as he ran after with Polly and Adela, "if
you dare to tear that, sir!" while Phronsie at the big table laboured
away on her letter, Grandpapa sitting by to watch the proceedings, with
the greatest interest.

And one look at Mrs. Selwyn's face, as she read that Round Robin, was
enough for Polly! And then to post it.

"Dear me," said Polly, when that important matter was concluded,
"suppose anything should happen to it now, before it gets there!"



"Well, we can't all get into one carriage," said Polly, on the little
brick-paved veranda of the hotel, "so what is the use of fussing,

"I don't care," said Adela, "I'm going to ride in the same carriage
with you, Polly Pepper, so there!" and she ran her arm in Polly's, and
held it fast.

Jasper kicked his heel impatiently against one of the pillars where the
sweetbrier ran; then he remembered, and stopped suddenly, hoping nobody
had heard. "The best way to fix it is to go where we are put," he said
at last, trying to speak pleasantly.

"No, I'm going with Polly," declared Adela, perversely, holding Polly
tighter than ever.

"I'm going with you, Polly," cried Phronsie, running up gleefully,
"Grandpapa says I may."

"Well, so am I," announced Adela, loudly.

Tom Selwyn gave a low whistle, and thrust his hands in his pockets, his
great and only comfort on times like these.

"Anything but a greedy girl," he sniffed in lofty contempt.

Meanwhile the horses were being put in the carriages, the stable men
were running hither and thither to look to buckle and strap, and a lot
of bustle was going on that at any other time would have claimed the
boys. Now it fell flat, as a matter of interest.

"Halloo - k-lup!" The drivers gave the queer call clear down in their
throats, and hopped to their places on the three conveyances, and with
a rattle and a flourish the horses now spun around the fountain in the
little courtyard to come up with a swing to the veranda.

"Now, then," said Grandpapa, who had been overseeing every detail,
"here we are," running his eyes over his party; "that's right," in
great satisfaction. "I never saw such a family as I have for being
prompt on all occasions. Well then, the first thing I have to do is to
get you settled in these carriages the right way."

Adela, at that, snuggled up closer than ever to Polly, and gripped her

"Now, Mrs. Fisher," said old Mr. King, "you'll ride with Mrs. Selwyn in
the first carriage, and you must take two of the young folks in with

"Oh, let Polly and me go in there!" cried Adela, forgetting her
wholesome fear of the stately old gentleman in her anxiety to get her
own way.

"Polly is going with me and Phronsie," said Mr. King. "Hop in, Adela,
child, and one of you boys."

Tom ducked off the veranda, while Adela, not daring to say another
syllable, slowly withdrew her arm from Polly's and mounted the carriage
step, with a miserable face.

"Come on, one of you boys," cried Mr. King, impatiently. "We should
have started a quarter of an hour ago - I don't care which one, only

"I can't!" declared Tom, flatly, grinding his heel into the pebbles,
and looking into Jasper's face.

"Very well," - Jasper drew a long breath, - "I must, then." And without
more ado, he got into the first carriage and they rattled off to wait
outside the big gate till the procession was ready to start.

Old Mrs. Gray, the parson's wife and the parson, and little Dr. Fisher
made the next load, and then Grandpapa, perfectly delighted that he had
arranged it all so nicely, with Polly and Phronsie, climbed into the
third and last carriage, while Tom swung himself up as a fourth.

"They say it is a difficult thing to arrange carriage parties with
success," observed Mr. King. "I don't find it so in the least," he
added, complacently, just on the point of telling the driver to give
the horses their heads. "But that is because I've such a fine party on
my hands, where each one is willing to oblige, and - "

"Ugh!" exclaimed Tom Selwyn, with a snort that made the old gentleman
start. "I'm going to get out a minute - excuse me - can't explain." And
he vaulted over the wheel.

"Bless me, what's come to the boy!" exclaimed Mr. King; "now he's
forgotten something. I hope he won't be long."

But Tom didn't go into the hotel. Instead, he dashed up to carriage
number one. "Get out," he was saying to Jasper, and presenting a very
red face to view. "I'm going in here."

"Oh, no," said Jasper; "it's all fixed, and I'm going to stay here."
And despite all Tom could say, this was the sole reply he got. So back
he went, and climbed into old Mr. King's carriage again, with a very
rueful face.

Old Mr. King viewed him with cold displeasure as the driver smacked his
whip and off they went to join the rest of the party.

"You must go first," sang out the little doctor, as Grandpapa's
carriage drove up; "you are the leader, and we'll all follow you."

"Yes, yes," shouted the parson, like a boy.

And the occupants of carriage number one saying the same thing,
Grandpapa's conveyance bowled ahead; and he, well pleased to head the
procession, felt some of his displeasure at the boy sitting opposite to
him dropping off with each revolution of the wheels.

But Tom couldn't keep still. "I didn't want to come in this carriage,
sir!" he burst out.

"Eh! what?" Old Mr. King brought his gaze again to bear upon Tom's face.

"Well, you are here now," he said, only half comprehending.

"Because Jasper won't take the place," cried Tom, setting his teeth
together in distress. "That's what I got out for."

"Oh, I see," said Mr. King, a light beginning to break through.

Tom wilted miserably under the gaze that still seemed to go through and
through him, and Polly looked off at her side of the carriage, wishing
the drive over the _Tête Noire_ was all ended. Old Mr. King turned to
Phronsie at his side.

"Well, now," he said, taking her hand, "we are in a predicament,
Phronsie, for it evidently isn't going to be such an overwhelming
success as I thought."

"What is a predicament?" asked Phronsie, wrenching her gaze from the
lovely vine-clad hills, which she had been viewing with great
satisfaction, to look at once into his face.

"Oh, a mix-up; a mess generally," answered Grandpapa, not pausing to
choose words. "Well, what's to be done, now, - that is the question?"

Tom groaned at sight of the face under the white hair, from which all
prospect of pleasure had fled. "I was a beastly cad," he muttered to

Phronsie leaned over Mr. King's knee. "Tell me," she begged, "what is
it, Grandpapa?"

"Oh, nothing, child," said Grandpapa, with a glance at Polly's face,
"that you can help, at least."

Polly drew a long breath. "Something must be done," she decided. "Oh, I
know. Why, Grandpapa, we can change before we get to the halfway
place," she cried suddenly, glad to think of something to say. "Can't
we? And then we can all have different places."

"The very thing!" exclaimed Mr. King, his countenance lightening.
"Come, Tom, my boy, cheer up. I'll put Jasper and every one else in the
right place soon. Here you, stop a bit, will you?" - to the driver.

"K-lup!" cried the driver, thinking it a call to increase speed; so the
horses bounded on smartly for several paces, and no one could speak to

"Make him hold up, Tom!" commanded Mr. King, sharply. And Tom knowing
quite well how to accomplish this, Grandpapa soon stood up in the
carriage and announced, "In half an hour, or thereabout, if we come to
a good stopping-place, I shall change some of you twelve people about
in the carriages. Pass the word along."

But Adela didn't ride with Polly. For rushing and pushing as the change
about was effected, to get her way and be with Polly, she felt her arm
taken in a very light but firm grasp.

"No, no, my dear," - it was old Mr. King, - "not that way. Here is your
place. When a little girl pushes, she doesn't get as much as if she
waits to be asked."

"It had to be done," he said to himself, "for the poor child has had no
mother to teach her, and it will do her good." But he felt sorry for
himself to be the one to teach the lesson. And so they went over the
_Tête Noire_ to catch the first sight of Mont Blanc.

* * * * *

"I'm going to have a donkey for my very own," confided Phronsie,
excitedly, the next morning, to Jasper, whom she met in the little

"No!" cried Jasper, pretending to be much amazed, "you don't say so,

"Yes, I am," she cried, bobbing her yellow head. "Grandpapa said so; he
really did, Jasper. And I'm going to ride up that long, big mountain on
my donkey." She pointed up and off, but in the wrong direction.

"Oh, no, Phronsie, that isn't the way we are going. The Montanvert is
over here, child," corrected Jasper.

"And I'm going to ride my donkey," repeated Phronsie, caring little
which way she was going, since all roads must of course lead to
fairy-land, "and we're going to see the water that's frozen, and
Grandpapa says we are to walk over it; but I'd rather ride my donkey,
Jasper," confided Phronsie, in a burst of confidence.

"I guess you'll be glad enough to get off from your donkey by the time
you reach the top of Montanvert," observed Jasper, wisely.

"Well, now, Phronsie, we are not going for a day or two, you know, for
father doesn't wish us to be tired."

"I'm not a bit tired, Jasper," said Phronsie, "and I do so very much
wish we could go to-day."

"O dear me!" exclaimed Jasper, with a little laugh, "why, we've only
just come, Phronsie! It won't be so very long before we'll be off.
Goodness! the time flies so here, it seems to me we sha'n't hardly turn
around before those donkeys will be coming into this yard after us to
get on their backs."

But Phronsie thought the time had never dragged so in all her small
life; and, although she went about hanging to Grandpapa's hand as sweet
and patient as ever, all her mind was on the donkeys; and whenever she
saw one, - and the street was full, especially at morning and in the
late afternoon, of the little beasts of burden, clattering up the stony
roads, - she would beg to just go and pat one of the noses, if by chance
one of the beasts should stand still long enough to admit of such

"Oh, no, Phronsie," expostulated old Mr. King, when this pleasing
little performance had been indulged in for a half a dozen times. "You
can't pat them all; goodness me, child, the woods are full of them," he
brought up in dismay.

"Do they live in the woods?" asked Phronsie, in astonishment.

"I mean, the place - this whole valley of Chamonix is full of donkeys,"
said Grandpapa, "so you see, child, it's next to impossible to pat all
their noses."

"I hope I'm going to have that dear, sweet little one," cried Phronsie,
giving up all her mind, since the soft noses couldn't be patted, to
happy thoughts of to-morrow's bliss. "See, Grandpapa," she pulled his
hand gently, "to ride up the mountain on."

"Well, you'll have a good one, that is, as good as can be obtained,"
said the old gentleman; "but as for any particular one, why, they're
all alike to me as two peas, Phronsie."

But Phronsie had her own ideas on the subject, and though on every
other occasion agreeing with Grandpapa, she saw good and sufficient
reason why every donkey should be entirely different from every other
donkey. And when, on the next morning, their procession of donkeys
filed solemnly into the hotel yard, she screamed out, "Oh, Grandpapa,
here he is, the very one I wanted! Oh, may I have him? Put me up, do!"

"He's the worst one of the whole lot," groaned Grandpapa, his eye
running over the file, "I know by the way he puts his vicious old feet
down. Phronsie, here is a cunning little fellow," he added, artfully
trying to lead her to one a few degrees better, he fondly hoped. But
Phronsie already had her arms up by her particular donkey's neck, and
her cheek laid against his nose, and she was telling him that he was
her donkey, for she thought Grandpapa would say "Yes." So what else
could he do, pray tell, but say "Yes"? And she mounted the steps, and
was seated, her little brown gown pulled out straight, and the saddle
girth tightened, and all the other delightful and important details
attended to, and then the reins were put in her overjoyed hands.

She never knew how it was all done, seeing nothing, hearing nothing of
the confusion and chatter, of the mounting of the others, her gaze
fixed on the long ears before her, and only conscious that her very own
donkey was really there, and that she was on his back. And it was not
until they started and the guide who held her bridle loped off into an
easy pace, by the animal's head, that she aroused from her dream of
bliss as a sudden thought struck her. "What is my donkey's name?" she
asked softly.

The man loped on, not hearing, and he wouldn't have understood had he

"I don't believe he has any name," said old Mr. King just behind.
"Phronsie, is your saddle all right? Do you like it, child?" all in one

"I like it very much," answered Phronsie, trying to turn around.

"Don't do that, child," said Grandpapa, hastily. "Sit perfectly still,
and on no account turn around or move in the saddle."

"I won't, Grandpapa," she promised, obediently, and presently she began
again, "I want to know his name, Grandpapa, so that I can tell my pony
when I get home."

"Oh, well, we'll find out," said Grandpapa. "Here you, can't you tell
the name of that donkey?" he cried to the guide holding Phronsie's
bridle. "Oh, I forgot, he doesn't understand English," and he tried it
in French.

But this was not much better, for old Mr. King, preferring to use none
but the best of French when he employed any, was only succeeding in
mystifying the poor man so that he couldn't find his tongue at all, but
stared like a clod till the old gentleman's patience was exhausted.

At last Jasper, hearing what the trouble was, shouted out something
from his position in the rear, that carried the meaning along with it,
and Phronsie the next minute was delighted to hear "Boolah," as the
guide turned and smiled and showed all his teeth at her, his pleasure
was so great at discovering that he could really understand.

"Why, that's the name of my donkey," said Polly, patting the beast's
rough neck. "He told me so when he helped me to mount."

"So it is mine," announced Jasper, bursting into a laugh. "I guess they
only have one name for the whole lot."

"Well, don't let us tell Phronsie so," said Polly, "and I shall call
mine 'Greybeard' because he's got such a funny old stiff beard and it
is grey."

"And I shall christen mine 'Boneyard,'" declared Jasper, "for he's got
such a very big lot of bones, and they aren't funny, I can tell you."

And so with fun and nonsense and laughter, as soon as they wound around
by the little English church and across the meadows, and struck into
the pine wood, the whole party of twelve, Grandpapa and all, began to
sing snatches from the newest operas down to college songs. For
Grandpapa hadn't forgotten his college days when he had sung with the
best, and he had the parson on this occasion to keep him company, and
the young people, of course, knew all the songs by heart, as what young
person doesn't, pray tell! So the bits and snatches rolled out with a
gusto, and seemed to echo along the whole mountain side as the
procession of sure-footed animals climbed the steep curves.

"Oh, Polly, your donkey is going over," exclaimed Adela, who rode the
second in the rear after Polly; "he flirts his hind legs right over the
precipice every time you go round a curve."

"Well, he brings them round all right," said Polly, composedly; and,

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Online LibraryMargaret SidneyFive Little Peppers Abroad → online text (page 16 of 19)