Margaret Sidney.

Five Little Peppers Abroad online

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England. I really do, sir, upon me word." There was no mistaking his
earnestness as he thrust out one thin, long-fingered hand. With the
other, he set a card within Mr. King's fingers.

"Arthur Selwyn, The Earl of Cavendish," met Mr. King's eyes.

"I had a fancy to do this thing," said the little old gentleman, "to
run across from America in simple fashion, and it pleased the boy, who
hates a fuss. And we've gotten rid of all sorts of nuisances by it;
interviews, and tiresome people. And I've enjoyed it mightily." He
chuckled away till it seemed as if he were never going to stop. Old Mr.
King burst out laughing, too; and the pair were so very jolly that the
passengers, grouped together waiting for the Liverpool landing, turned
to stare at them.

"Just see how intimate Mr. King is with that tiresome, common, old Mr.
Selwyn!" exclaimed Mrs. Vanderburgh to her daughter. "I never was so
surprised at anything in all my life, to see that he keeps it up now,
for I thought that aristocratic Horatio King was the most fastidious
being alive."

"The Kings have awfully nice times," grumbled Fanny, picking her gloves
discontentedly. "And you keep me mewed up, and won't let me speak to
anybody whose grandfather wasn't born in our set, and I hate and loathe
it all."

"You'll be glad when you are a few years older, and I bring you out in
society, that I always have been so particular," observed Mrs.
Vanderburgh, complacently, lifting her head in its dainty bonnet,
higher than ever.

"I want some nice times and a little fun now," whined Fanny, with an
envious glance over at Polly and Jasper with the dreadful Selwyn boy
between them, and Phronsie running up to join them, and everybody in
their party just bubbling over with happiness.

"I wish Mr. King and his party would go to Paris now," said her mother,
suddenly.

"Oh, don't I just wish it!" cried Fanny, in a burst. "Did you ask him,
Mamma?"

"Yes, indeed; I talked for fully half an hour yesterday, but it was no
use. And he doesn't seem to know how long he is going to stay in
England; 'only a few days,' he said, vaguely, then they go to Holland."

"Oh, why couldn't we go to Holland!" exclaimed Fanny, impulsively, and
her eyes brightened; "splendid Holland, that would be something like,
Mamma!"

"You forget the Van Dykes are to be in Paris awaiting us."

"Oh, those stupid Van Dykes!" exploded Fanny. "Mamma, don't go there
now. Do change, and let us go to Holland with the Kings. Do, Mamma,"
she implored.

"Why, Fanny Vanderburgh!" exclaimed her mother, sharply, "what is the
matter with you? You know it was settled long ago, that we should meet
Mrs. Van Dyke and Eleanor in Paris at just this very time. It would
never do to offend them, particularly when Eleanor is going to marry
into the Howard set."

"And I'll have the most stupid time imaginable," cried Fanny,
passionately, "dragging around while you and the Van Dykes are buying
that trousseau."

"Yes, that's one thing that I wanted the Kings to go to Paris for,"
said Mrs. Vanderburgh; "you could be with them. And really they are
much more important than any one to get in with. And I'd keep up the
friendship with the Van Dykes. But that Mr. King is so obstinate, you
can't do anything with him." A frown settled all across her pretty
face, and she beat her foot impatiently on the deck.

"You spoil everything, Mamma, with your sets and your stupid people,"
declared Fanny, her passion by no means cooled. "When I come out in
society I'm going to choose my own friends," she muttered to herself,
and set her lips tightly together.

Mr. King was saying, "Thank you, so much, Mr. Selwyn, for I really
think I'd prefer to call you so, as I knew you so first."

"So you shall," cried the little Earl, glancing around on the groups,
"and it's better just here, at all events," and he chuckled again.
"Then you really will come?" and he actually seized Mr. King's hand and
wrung it heartily.

"No, I was about to say it is quite impossible."

The Earl of Cavendish stared blankly up out of his sharp little black
eyes in utter amazement into the other's face. "My stay in London is
short, only a few days," Mr. King was saying, "and then we go directly
to Holland. I thank you all the same - believe me, I appreciate it. It
is good of you to ask us," he cordially added.

The little Earl of Cavendish broke away from him, and took a few hasty
steps down the deck to get this new idea fairly into his brain that his
invitation had not been accepted. Then he hurried back. "My dear sir,"
he said, laying his hand on Mr. King's arm, "will you do me the favour
to try to come at some future time - to consider your plans before you
return to America, and see if you can't manage to give me this great
pleasure of welcoming you to my home? Think of it, I beg, and drop me a
line; if at home, I shall always be most glad to have you with me. I
should esteem it a privilege." The Earl of Cavendish was astonished to
find himself beseeching the American gentleman without a title. And
then they awaked to the fact that the groups of passengers were merging
into a solid mass, and a slow procession was beginning to form for the
stairway, and the landing episode was well under way.

Mrs. Vanderburgh, determined not to bid good-by on the steamer but to
be with the Kings till the last moment, rushed up to them on the wharf,
followed by Fanny.

"Oh, we are _so_ sorry you are not going to Paris with us," cried Mrs.
Vanderburgh, while Fanny flew at Polly Pepper and engrossed her
hungrily. "Can't you reconsider it now?" she asked, with a pretty
earnestness.

"No, it is impossible," answered Mr. King, for about the fiftieth time.
"Our plans will not allow it. I hope you and your daughter will have
the best of times," he remarked politely.

"Yes, we shall; we meet old friends there, and Paris is always
delightful." Mrs. Vanderburgh bit her lip in her vexation. "I was going
to see you and beg you even now to change your plans, while we were on
the steamer waiting to land," she went on hurriedly, "but you were
bored - I quite pitied you - by that tiresome, common, old Mr. Selwyn."

"Yes, I was talking with him," said Mr. King, "but excuse me, I was not
bored. He is peculiar, but not at all common, and he has many good
qualities as a man; and I like the boy immensely."

"How can you?" Mrs. Vanderburgh gave a little high-bred laugh. "They
are so insufferably common, Mr. King, those Selwyns are."

"Excuse me," said Mr. King, "that was the Earl of Cavendish; it will do
no harm to mention it now, as they have gone."

"Who - who?" demanded Mrs. Vanderburgh in a bewildered way.

"I did not know it till this morning," Mr. King was explaining, "but
our fellow-passenger, Mr. Selwyn, chose to cross over keeping his real
identity unknown, and I must say I admire his taste in the matter; and
anyway it was his affair and not mine." It was a long speech, and at
its conclusion Mrs. Vanderburgh was still demanding, "Who - who?" in as
much of a puzzle as ever.

"The Earl of Cavendish," repeated Mr. King; "Mr. Selwyn is the Earl of
Cavendish. As I say, he did not wish it known, and - "

"Fanny - Fanny!" called her mother, sitting helplessly on the first
thing that presented itself, a box of merchandise by no means clean.
"Fan-ny! the - the Earl of Cavendish!" She could get no further.

Little Dr. Fisher, who administered restoratives and waited on Mrs.
Vanderburgh and her daughter to their London train, came skipping back
to the Liverpool hotel.

"I hope, wife, I sha'n't grow uncharitable," - he actually glared
through his big spectacles, - "but Heaven defend us on our travels from
any further specimens like that woman."

"We shall meet all sorts, probably, Adoniram," said his wife, calmly;
"it really doesn't matter with our party of eight; we can take solid
comfort together."

The little doctor came out of his ill temper, but he said ruefully,
"That's all very well, wife, for you and the Hendersons; for you
steered pretty clear, I noticed, of that woman. Well, she's gone." And
he smiled cheerfully. "Now for dinner, for I suppose Mr. King has
ordered it."

"Yes, he has," said his wife. "And you have a quarter of an hour. I've
put your clothes out all ready."

"All right." The little doctor was already plunging here and there,
tearing off his coat and necktie and boots; and exactly at the time
set, he joined the party, with a bright and shining face, as if no Mrs.
Vanderburgh, or any one in the least resembling her, had ever crossed
his path.

"Jasper," cried Polly, as they hurried along out of the Harwich train
to the steamer that was to take them to the Hook of Holland, "can you
really believe we are almost there?"

* * * * *

"No, I can't," said Jasper, "for I've wanted to see Holland for such a
time."

"Wasn't it good of Grandpapa," cried Polly, "to take us here the first
thing after London?"

"Father always does seem to plan things rightly," answered Jasper, with
a good degree of pride. "And then 'it's prime,'" "as Joel used to say,"
he was going to add, but thought better of it, as any reference to the
boys always set Polly to longing for them.

"Indeed, he does," exclaimed Polly, in her most earnest fashion; "he's
ever and always the most splendid Grandpapa. Oh, I wish I could do
things for him, Jasper," she mourned; "he's so good to us."

"You do things for him all the while, Polly," Jasper made haste to say,
as they ran along to keep up with the Parson and Mrs. Henderson's
comfortable figures just before them; "you are all the while doing
something for him."

"Oh, no, I don't," said Polly, "there isn't anything I can do for him.
Don't you suppose there ever will be, Jasper?" she asked imploringly.

"Yes, indeed," said Jasper; "there always are things that hop up to be
done when people keep their eyes open. But don't you worry about your
not doing anything for him, Polly. Promise me that." Jasper took her
hand and stopped just a minute to look into her face.

"I'll try not to," promised Polly, "but, oh, Jasper, I do so very much
wish there might be something that I could do. I do, indeed, Jasper."

"It was only yesterday," said Jasper, as they began to hurry on once
more, "that father said 'you can't begin to think, Jasper, what a
comfort Polly Pepper is to me.'"

"Did he, Jasper?" cried Polly, well pleased, the colour flying over her
cheek, "that was nice of him, because there isn't anything much I can
really do for him. O dear! there is Grandpapa beckoning to us to
hurry." So on they sped, having no breath for words. And presently they
were on the boat, and little Dr. Fisher and Mr. Henderson went forward
into the saloon, where the rooms reserved beforehand were to be given
out, and the rest of the party waited and watched the stream of people
of all ages and sizes and nationalities who desired to reach Holland
the next morning.

To Polly it was a world of delight, and to Jasper, who watched her
keenly, it was a revelation to see how nothing escaped her, no matter
how noisy and dirty or turbulent the crowd, or how annoying the
detention, - it was all a marvel of happiness from beginning to end. And
Jasper looking back over the two times he had been before to Europe
with his father, although he had never seen Holland, remembered only a
sort of dreary drifting about with many pleasant episodes and
experiences, it is true, still with the feeling on the whole of the
most distinct gladness when their faces were turned homeward and the
journeying was over.

"Mamsie," cried Polly, poking her head out from the upper berth of the
stuffy little state-room assigned to Mrs. Fisher, Mrs. Henderson,
Phronsie, and herself; "was anything ever so delicious as this
boat? - and to think, Mamsie," - here Polly paused to add as impressively
as if the idea had never been voiced before, - "that we are really to
see Holland to-morrow."

"You'd better go to sleep now, then," said Mrs. Fisher, wisely, "if you
want to be bright and ready really to see much of Holland in the
morning, Polly."

"That's so," answered Polly, ducking back her head to its pillow, and
wriggling her toes in satisfaction; "Phronsie is asleep already, isn't
she, Mamsie?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Fisher, "she dropped off as soon as her head touched
the pillow. Good night, Polly, you would better do the same."

"Good night, Mamsie," said Polly, with a sleepy little yawn, "and good
night, dear Mrs. Henderson," she added, already almost in dreamland.




VII

OFF FOR HOLLAND


It seemed to Polly as if she had only breathed twice, and had not
turned over once, when there was Mamsie's voice calling her, and there
was Mamsie's face looking into hers over the edge of the berth. "Wake
up, Polly, child, you have only about ten minutes to dress in."

"O dear me! what - where?" exclaimed Polly, springing to a sitting
position, thereby giving her brown head a smart thump on the ceiling of
the berth, "where are we, Mamsie? why, it is the middle of the night,
isn't it?" she cried, not stopping to pity her poor head.

"We are almost at the Hook of Holland," said Mrs. Fisher, busily
buttoning Phronsie's shoes. Phronsie sat on the lower berth, her sleepy
little legs dangling over the edge, and her sleepy little head going
nid-nodding, despite all her efforts to keep herself awake.

"O dear me!" cried Polly, remorsefully, when she saw that. "I ought to
have dressed Phronsie. Why didn't you wake me up earlier, Mamsie?"

"Because I wanted you to sleep all you could," said Mrs. Fisher, "and
now if you'll only dress Polly Pepper as quickly as possible, that's
all I ask."

"I will dress Polly Pepper in a twinkling, Mamsie," declared Polly,
laughing merrily; "O dear me, where _is_ my other stocking?" She stuck
out one black foot ready for its boot. "Is it down there, Mamsie?" All
the while she was shaking the bedclothes violently for any chance
glimpse of it in the berth.

"Where did you put it last night when you took it off, Polly?" asked
Mrs. Fisher, buttoning away for dear life on Phronsie's shoes. "There
now, Pet, those are done; hop out now, and fly into your clothes."

"I thought I put 'em both in the corner here," cried poor Polly,
twitching everything loose. Thereupon her big hat, hung carefully upon
a high hook, slipped off and fell to the floor.

"Take care, Polly," warned her mother, "haste only makes matters worse."

"But I can't go with only one stocking on," said Polly, quite gone in
despair now. "Oh, dear Mrs. Henderson, don't you see it on the floor?"
For that good woman had dropped to her knees, and was busily prowling
around among the accumulation of bags and clothing.

"That's what I'm hoping to do," she answered, "but I don't see it as
yet, Polly."

"I'll help Polly to find it," cried Phronsie, now thoroughly awake and
dropping her small skirts to get down on the floor by Mrs. Henderson's
side. "Don't feel badly, Polly; I'll find your stocking for you."

"No, Phronsie," said her mother, "you must get into your own clothes.
And then Mrs. Henderson is nearly all ready, and you can go out with
her, and that will leave more room, so that Polly and I can search more
carefully. And the stocking has got to come, for it couldn't walk off
of itself," she added cheerily as she saw Polly's face. "Why - what?" as
she happened to look upward. And then Polly looked, too, and there was
her stocking dangling from the very high hook where the big hat had
been.

"You tossed it up there, I suppose, when you shook up the bedclothes so
quickly," said Mrs. Fisher. "Well, now," as Polly pounced on the
stocking, "see how fast you can hop into your clothes, daughter." Then
she began to put the things for the bags into their places, and
Matilda, coming in, finished the work; and Polly flew around, buttoning
and tying and patting herself into shape, and by the time that little
Dr. Fisher's voice called at the door, "Well, wife, are you ready?"
there they all were, trim and tidy as ever for a start.

"Where is it, Grandpapa?" asked Phronsie, peering around on either
side, - Dr. Fisher and Jasper had gone off to attend to the examination
of the luggage by the customs inspectors, - and then coming up gently to
pull his arm. "I don't see it anywhere."

"What, child?" answered Grandpapa, looking down at her. "See here, wait
a minute," to the others who were ahead, "Phronsie has lost something."

"Oh, no, Grandpapa, I haven't," began Phronsie, in gentle protestation,
"all my things are in here." She patted her little bag that hung on her
arm, a gift of old Mr. King's for her to carry her very own things in,
that yielded her immense satisfaction every time she looked at it,
which was very often.

"Didn't you say you wanted to find something, dear?" he asked, quite
puzzled, while the others surrounded them wonderingly.

"No," said Phronsie, "only where is the hook, Grandpapa? I don't see
it." She lifted her little face and gazed up at him confident that he
knew everything.

"She has lost her button-hook!" exclaimed Polly, "the cunning little
silver one Auntie Whitney gave her Christmas. I'll run back and get it;
it must be in the state-room."

"Stay, Polly," commanded Mr. King. And, "Oh, no, I haven't," piped
Phronsie, as Polly was flying off. "It's here in my bag," patting
Grandpapa's gift hanging on her arm. "I couldn't lose that, Polly," she
cried in horror at the thought, as Polly hurried back.

"Well, what is it, then, you've lost?" demanded Polly, breathlessly.

"I haven't lost anything," reiterated Phronsie, pushing back the yellow
hair from her face. "Grandpapa, tell them, please, I haven't lost
anything," she kept repeating, appealing to him.

"She says she hasn't lost anything, so we won't say that again," echoed
old Mr. King. "Now, Phronsie, child, tell me what it is you mean; what
hook you want."

"The hook," said Phronsie; "here, Grandpapa," and she looked all around
in a troubled way, "they said it was here; I don't see it, Grandpapa."

"She means the Hook of Holland," burst out Polly, "don't you, Phronsie
pet?" And she threw her arms around her while Mr. Henderson exclaimed,
"Of course, why didn't we think of it, to be sure?"

"Yes, Polly." Phronsie gave a glad little cry, and wriggled in great
satisfaction in her arms. "Grandpapa, where is it, - the Hook of
Holland?"

"Oh, bless me, child!" exclaimed Mr. King, "that is the name of the
place; at least, to be accurate, it is Hoek van Holland. Now, just as
soon as we get fairly started on our way to Rotterdam, I'll tell you
all about it, or Polly shall, since she was clever enough to find out
what you meant."

"Oh, no, Grandpapa," cried Polly, "I'd so much rather you told
her - please do, dear Grandfather?"

"And so I will," he promised, very much pleased, for Mr. King dearly
loved to be the one to relate the history and anecdotes about the
places along which they travelled. And so, when they were steaming off
toward Rotterdam, as he sat in the centre of the compartment he had
reserved for their use, Phronsie next to him, and Polly and Jasper
opposite, he told the whole story. The others tucked themselves in the
remaining four seats, and did not lose a word. Matilda and Mr. King's
valet, in a second-class compartment, took charge of the luggage.

"I like it very much," declared Phronsie, when the story was all
finished, and smoothing down her little brown gown in satisfaction.

"I like it very much, Grandpapa's telling it," said Polly, "but the
Hook of Holland isn't anything to what we shall see at Rotterdam,
while, as for The Hague and Amsterdam - oh, Grandpapa!"

That "oh, Grandpapa" just won his heart, and Mr. King beamed at her as
her glowing face was turned first to one window and then to the other,
that she might not lose anything as the train rumbled on.

"Just wait till we get to Marken," broke in Jasper, gaily, "then if you
want to see the Dutch beat the Dutch - well, you may!" he ended with a
laugh.

"Oh, Jasper, do they really beat each other?" cried Phronsie, quite
horrified, and slipping away from Grandpapa to regard him closely.

"Oh, no! I mean - they go ahead of everything that is most Dutch,"
Jasper hastened to say; "I haven't explained it very well."

"No, I should think not," laughed his father, in high good humour.
"Well, Phronsie, I think you will like the folks on the Island of
Marken, for they dress in funny quaint costumes, just as their
ancestors did, years upon years ago."

"Are there any little children there?" asked Phronsie, slipping back
into her place again, and nestling close to his side.

"Hundreds of them, I suppose," replied Mr. King, with his arm around
her and drawing her up to him, "and they wear wooden shoes or sabots,
or klompen as they call them, and - "

"Wooden shoes!" cried Phronsie; "oh, Grandpapa," clasping her hands,
"how do they stay on?"

"Well, that's what I've always wondered myself when I've been in
Holland. A good many have left off the sabots, I believe, and wear
leather shoes made just like other people's."

"Oh, Grandpapa," cried Phronsie, leaning forward to peer into his face,
"don't let them leave off the wooden shoes, please."

"I can't make them wear anything but what they want to," said old Mr.
King, with a laugh; "but don't be troubled, child, you'll see all the
wooden shoes you desire, in Rotterdam, and The Hague, too, for that
matter."

"Shall I?" cried Phronsie, nestling back again quite pleased.
"Grandpapa, I wish I could wear wooden shoes," she whispered presently
in a burst of confidence, sticking out her toes to look at them.

"Bless me! you couldn't keep them on," said Mr. King.

"Don't the little Dutch children keep them on?" asked Phronsie. "Oh,
Grandpapa, I think I could; I really think I could," she added
earnestly.

"Yes, they do, because they are born and brought up to it, although,
for the life of me, I don't see how they do it; but you couldn't,
child, you'd fall the first minute and break your nose, most likely."

Phronsie gave a sigh. "Should I, Grandpapa?"

"Yes, quite likely; but I'll tell you what I will do. I will buy you a
pair, and we will take them home. That will be fine, won't it, dear?"

"Yes," said Phronsie, wriggling in delight. Then she sat quite still.

"Grandpapa," she said, reaching up to whisper again, "I'm afraid it
will make Araminta feel badly to see me with my beautiful wooden shoes
on, when she can't have any. Do you suppose there are little teenty
ones, Grandpapa dear, and I might get her a pair?"

"Yes, indeed," cried Grandpapa, nodding his white head in delight,
"there are shoals of them, Phronsie, of all sizes."

"What are shoals?" queried Phronsie.

"Oh, numbers and numbers - so many we can't count them," answered Mr.
King, recklessly.

Phronsie slid down into her place again, and sat quite still lost in
thought. So many wooden shoes she couldn't count them was quite beyond
her. But Grandpapa's voice roused her. "And I'll buy a bushel of them,
Phronsie, and send them home, so that all your dolls at home can each
have a pair. Would that suit you, Pet?"

Phronsie screamed with delight and clapped her hands. Polly and Jasper
who had changed places, as Dr. Fisher and Mr. Henderson had made them
take theirs by one window, now whirled around. "What is it?" cried
Polly of Phronsie. "What is it?"

"I'm going to have wooden shoes," announced Phronsie, in a burst of
confidence that included everybody in the compartment, "for my very own
self, and Araminta is going to have a pair, and every single one of my
children at home, too. Grandpapa said so."

"Whew!" whistled Jasper. "Oh, what fun," sighed Polly.

"And you shall have a pair, too, if you want them, Polly," Grandpapa
telegraphed over to her in the corner.

"And Jasper can, too, can't he, Grandpapa? And, oh, thank you _so
much,_" cried Polly, all in one breath.

"I guess it's as well I shall be on hand to set the broken bones," said
little Dr. Fisher, "with all you children capering around in those
wooden abominations."

"Oh, Dr. Fisher, we are not going to fall!" exclaimed Jasper, in
disdain, at the very thought. And "No, indeed," came merrily from
Polly. And then they all fell to work admiring the numberless windmills
past which their train was speeding toward Rotterdam.

"To think it is only six o'clock!" exclaimed Polly, looking at her
little travelling watch that Grandpapa had given her. "Now, what a fine
long day we are going to have, Jasper, for sightseeing in Rotterdam."

As the train came to a standstill, the guards threw open compartment
doors, and all the people poured out calling for porters to see to


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Online LibraryMargaret SidneyFive Little Peppers Abroad → online text (page 4 of 19)