Margaret Sidney.

Five Little Peppers Abroad online

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the wall.

And the little old earl worked his way up to her, and he had Grandpapa
on his arm. "Well, I got him here," he said with twinkling eyes, and a
chuckle.

But the next morning - oh, the next morning! - when Polly tried to
compass as much of the thronging attractions as she could, and Jasper
was at his wits' end whenever he was appealed to, to decide what he
wanted to do first - "cricket," or "punting on the river," that ran
through the estate, or "riding through the park, and to the village
owned by his grandfather"? "I always go see the tenantry as soon as I
get home," said Tom, simply.

"Oh, then, let us go there by all means," said Jasper, quickly.

"I mean - oh, I'm no end awkward," exclaimed Tom, breaking off, his face
covered with confusion. "It's not necessary to go at once; we can fetch
up there to-morrow."

"Oh, do let us go, Tom," begged Polly, clasping her hands. "I should
dearly love most of all to see the tenantry and those dear little
cottages." And so that was decided upon.

And Tom had his beloved hunt, several of the gentry being asked. And
Polly rode a special horse selected by the little old earl himself.

"It's perfectly safe; he has an excellent disposition," he declared to
old Mr. King, "and he'll carry her all right."

"I'm not afraid," said Mr. King, "the child rides well."

"So she must - so she must, I was sure of it," cried the little old
earl, with a series of chuckles. And he busied himself especially with
seeing her mounted properly when the party gathered on the lawn in
front of the old hall. The hounds were baying and straining at the
leashes, impatient to be off; the pink hunting-coats gave dashes of
colour as their owners moved about over the broad green sward, - under
the oaks, - and Polly felt her heart beat rapidly with the exhilarating
sights and sounds. It was only when they were off, and Tom riding up by
her side expatiated on the glory of running down the fox and "being in
at the death," that the colour died down on her cheek.

"Oh, Tom!" she said, reining in her horse. If he hadn't been the
possessor of a good disposition, he certainly would have bolted in his
disappointment at being pulled up so abruptly. "It's so cruel to kill
the poor fox in that way."

"Eh - what!" exclaimed Tom, not hearing the words, falling back to her
side, consternation all over his face. "Why, I never knew Meteor to
break in this way before."

"Oh, it isn't his fault," said Polly, hastily, and patting her horse's
neck. "I pulled him up. Oh, Tom, it's all so very cruel."

"Eh?" said Tom, in a puzzled way.

"To kill the fox in this way," said Polly, her heart sinking as she
thought how dreadful it was for her to object, when visiting, to
anything her host might plan. "O dear me!" and she looked so distressed
that Tom turned comforter at once.

"We all do it," he was saying, as Jasper rode up.

"Anything the matter?" he asked in great concern. "What's happened?"

"Nothing," said Tom, "only Polly doesn't like the fox-hunt."

"It's so cruel," cried Polly, turning to Jasper, with a little pink
spot coming in either cheek. "I ought to have thought of it before, but
I didn't; it only seemed so very splendid to be rushing along with the
horses and dogs. But to chase that poor fox to death - O dear me!"

"We'll go back," suggested Tom, in distress; "don't be afraid, Polly,
I'll make it all right with granddaddy." He concealed as best he might
his awful disappointment as the echoes of the horn, the baying of the
dogs, and now and then a scrap of chatter or a peal of laughter was
borne to them on the wind.

"Polly," said Jasper, in a low voice, "it isn't quite right, is it, to
disturb the party now? Just think, Tom will go back with us."

The pink spots died out on Polly's cheek. "No, Jasper," she said, "it
isn't right. Tom, you needn't say one word about going back, for I am
going on." She gave the rein to Meteor and dashed off.

"We'll have a race through the park some day, Polly," called Tom, as he
sped after her, "without any fox."

"Too bad, Polly, you weren't in at the death," said the little old
earl, sympathisingly, when at the hunt-breakfast following, the brush
dangling to a victorious young lady's belt, had been admired as an
extremely fine one. "Never mind; better luck next time, little girl."

But the fête to the tenantry, oh! that was something like, and more to
Polly's taste, when this annual affair, postponed while Tom's mother
and Tom were away, took place. For days before, the preparations had
been making, the stewards up to their eyes in responsibility to carry
out the plans of the little old earl, who meant on this occasion to
outdo all his former efforts, and show his American friends how an
Englishman treats those under his care.

Oh, the big joints of beef, the haunches of venison, the fowls, the
meat pies and the gooseberry tarts, the beer and the ale, and the tea
for the old women, with nuts and sweeties for the children! Oh, Polly
knew about it all, as she went about with the little old earl while he
gave his orders, her hand in his, just as if she were no older than
Phronsie, and not such a tall, big girl.

And Mrs. Selwyn was busy as a bee, and Mother Fisher was just in her
element here, in helping her; for flannel petticoats were to be given
out, and stuff frocks, and pieces of homespun, and boots and shoes, as
prizes for diligent and faithful service; or an order for coals for the
coming winter for some poor cottager, or packages of tea, or some other
little comfort. And before any of them quite realised it, the days flew
by, and in two more of them the King party would be off.

"It's perfectly useless to mention it," said the little old earl, quite
confident in his power to influence old Mr. King to remain when he saw
how happily everything was running on. "My dear sir, you were asked for
a fortnight."

"And I accepted for a week," retorted Mr. King, "and I go when that
time is up. We've had a visit - I can't express it to you, what a fine
time - as near to perfection as it is possible for a visit to be; but
day after to-morrow we surely must leave."

Tom was so despondent, as well as the old earl, that it was necessary
to cheer him up in some way. "Just think what a splendid thing for us
to be in the midst of that fête for the peasantry," exclaimed Polly,
with sparkling eyes. "It's quite too lovely for our last day."

But Tom wasn't to be raised out of his gloom in this way. "We've had
only one game of cricket," he said miserably.

"And one afternoon at tennis, and we've been out punting on the river
three times," said Polly.

"What's that? only a bagatelle," sniffed Tom, "compared to what I meant
to do."

"Well, let's have the race on horseback this afternoon," proposed
Polly, "down through the park, that you said you were going to have,
Tom. Wouldn't that be nice?"

"Do," urged Jasper. "It would be so capital, Tom."

"All right," assented Tom, "if you'd really rather have that than
anything else; but it seems as if I ought to think up something more
for the last afternoon, but the fête; and that doesn't count."

"Oh, nothing could be finer," declared Polly, and Jasper joined. So Tom
rushed off to the stables to give the orders. And Polly on Meteor was
soon flying up and down with the boys, and Elinor and Mary. And the two
small lads trotted after on their Shetland ponies, in and out the
winding roads of the park confines, without any haunting fear of a poor
red fox to be done to death at the end.

And on the morrow, the sun condescended to come out in all his glory,
upon the groups of tenantry scattered over the broad lawns. There were
games in abundance for the men and boys; and others for the children.
There were chairs for the old women, and long benches for those who
desired to sit under the spreading branches of the great oaks to look
on. And there were cups of tea, and thin bread and butter passed around
by the white-capped maids, superintended by the housekeeper and the
butler, quite important in their several functions. This was done to
appease the hunger before the grand collation should take place later.
And there was music by the fiddlers on the upper terrace, and there
was, - dear me, it would take quite too long to tell it all!

And at last, the order was given to fall into line, and march around
the long tables resplendent with their cold joints and hot joints;
their pasties, and tarts, and cakes, and great flagons of ale. And over
all was a wealth of bloom from the big old English gardens in the rear
of the old hall. The posies filled Polly with delight, as she and Tom's
sisters and Phronsie had gathered them under the direction of the
gardeners in the early morning; and then - oh, best of all - Mrs. Selwyn
had allowed her to give the finishing touches to them as they became
the decoration for the feast.

And the little old earl called the large assemblage to order, and the
vicar asked the grace, and the feast was begun!

And then one of the tenants found his feet, and leaning on his staff,
he thanked the Earl of Cavendish for all his goodness, and he hoped
there would be many blessings in store for 'im and 'is, and sank on his
bench again, mopping his face with his big red handkerchief.

And then the little old earl responded in as pretty a speech as could
well be imagined, in which he forgot nothing that he ought to say. And
there were many "God bless 'ims!" to follow it, and then there were
cries of "Master Tom, Master Tom," who appeared to be an immense
favourite; and the earl, well pleased, pulled him forward, saying, "Go
ahead, youngster, and give it to them."

And Tom, extremely red in the face, tried to duck away, but found
himself instead in front of the longest table, with everybody looking
at him. And he mumbled out a few words and bobbed his head. And every
one was just as well pleased. And then they gave cheer on cheer for the
earl, and as many more for his oldest grandson. And then the little old
earl raised his hand and said, "And now, my men, give a rousing good
one for my dear American friends!"

And didn't they do it!

And on the following morning, the old hall, with its towers and its
wings, had only the memory of the happy week to sustain it.

* * * * *

Jasper ran up to Polly on the deck. "We ought to go," he said, "the
order has been given to leave the steamer."

"Yes, Polly," said Mother Fisher, "we must go, child."

"Give my love to dear Grandma Bascom," said Polly, for about the
fiftieth time. "Oh, Mrs. Henderson, and don't forget to take over the
new cap just as soon as you can, will you?"

"I won't forget," promised the parson's wife.

"And take mine to my dear Mrs. Beebe," begged Phronsie, twitching
gently at Mrs. Henderson's sleeve, "and tell her I got pink ribbon
because I know she loves that best."

"I won't forget," said Mrs. Henderson, again.

"Oh, and give the big handkerchief to my dear Mr. Beebe," said
Phronsie, "please, Mrs. Henderson, to tie his throat up in, because,
you know, he says it gets so cold when he goes out."

"I'll remember every single thing," promised the parson's wife. "Don't
you worry, children. Oh, how we hate to leave you, only we are going to
see our boys. We really are, Polly!" And her eyes shone.

"Polly! Polly!" called Jasper.

"All off who aren't going!" roared the order out again.

"Polly!" The little doctor seized one arm and Phronsie's hand. "There
now, here you are!" and whisked them off, amid "good-by - good-by" - and
a flutter of handkerchiefs.

"And give my love to dear Grandma Bascom," piped Phronsie, on the wharf
by old Mr. King's side, as the big steamer slowly pushed from its
moorings.












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