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Five Little Peppers Abroad online

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"They want some stuivers," cried Jasper. "Come, Polly and Phronsie, let
us toss them some."

Whiz - spin - went the coins, to fall into the thick stubby grass on the
bank. The children, stopping their song in mid-air, scrambled and
sprawled all over each other in their efforts to secure the coveted
money. So Jasper and Polly threw the bits next time in the other
direction. Then there was a shout and a rush, and the same thing was
repeated till only a tangle of arms and legs could be seen. But some
one of them always got the money.

"Dear me! they've eyes just like birds!" exclaimed Parson Henderson;
"to think of finding anything in that thick grass."

"Let them alone for that," laughed old Mr. King; "their wits are
sharpened by practice."

"Look out, Phronsie!" exclaimed Jasper. "Your stuivers went into the
water. Here, I'll hold you up, then you can throw it farther. There you
go," swinging her to his shoulder. "Now, then" - he guided her hand, and
away spun the coin.

"It did, it did," crowed Phronsie, from her high perch. "It did,
Jasper, go right straight down in the grass just like yours and
Polly's."

"So it did, Pet. Well, now, here is another."

"There's a little girl back there and she hasn't any," mourned
Phronsie. "Oh, dear, I want to give her some."

"To be sure," said Jasper. "Well, we must give her some, and that's a
fact." The small girl kept on at a dog-trot along the bank, her eyes
fixed on the wonderful people who tossed out such magic wealth, and
holding out her arms and singing her shrill song. But when the money
was thrown, she was always a bit too late, and the other children,
scrambling and scuffling, had pounced upon it, and had made off with it.

"Here, you boys, keep away; you've had enough; we're going to give this
to the little girl," Jasper shouted to them as they threw coin after
coin.

"They don't know what you are saying, my boy," said old Mr. King,
laughing heartily at the performance, "and they wouldn't mind you in
the least if they did."

"I suppose not," said Jasper in chagrin. "Oh, the mean little beggars!"

"Hold up your apron," screamed Polly to the little girl.

"That's a good idea," said Jasper. "Why didn't we think of it before?"

"She won't understand any better than the boys," said old Mr. King.
"You forget, children, that these youngsters don't know our language."

"What a bother," exclaimed Jasper, "it is to have so many different
languages, anyway!"

"And she hasn't any apron, Polly," corrected her mother; "that is her
brown gown."

Polly was already going through the motions of holding up an imaginary
apron. And at last the little girl understood by gestures what she
could not possibly get into her head by words, so she picked up the
skirt of her gown in her sturdy little fists, and one, two, three
clinking coins fell safely into it. But the boys racing along in
advance soon discovered this successful trick, and completely swarmed
around her, howling dreadfully, so she hastened off, happy in her
prize, which she huddled up in her gown as she ran.

"Isn't this just richness?" exclaimed Polly, gazing all about her in an
ecstasy. "Oh, Jasper, what pictures we'll take - and do see that woman's
cap! and those pot-hooks of hair over her eyes, and that funny, long
dangling curl!"

"Take care, Polly, you almost stepped off backward down the bank,"
warned Adela, pulling her back, as they got off the steamboat and
stopped a bit to look around.

"Dear me, did I?" said Polly. "Well, it's enough to make any one step
backward to see such funny clothes; and they are hay-making, Adela
Gray, as sure as you live."

"Didn't you suppose they would be?" answered Adela, composedly. "Why,
that's one of the things I specially wanted to see."

"Yes, so did I," said Polly. "Well, it's too, too splendid for
anything. I'm going to begin to take pictures right straight off." Then
she stopped and looked at Adela. "You may first," she said.

"No, I'm not going to," declared Adela.

"Yes, yes," said Polly, "I'd rather you did first; I truly had, Adela."
She ran after her, for Adela had retreated down the bank, and made as
if she were going to follow the party. "Now, Adela, be good and listen
to reason."

But Adela ran off.

"Now that's too bad," mourned Polly, "for I'm afraid she'll keep away
from me all the while we're on this island, and then I can't get a
chance to give her my kodak at all."

"She had it at the 'Model Farm,'" said Jasper, by way of comfort, for
Polly's face fell.

"Oh, that was nothing," said Polly, "such a little bit of a while
doesn't count."

"Well, let us take pictures as fast as we can," suggested Jasper, "and
then when we do come up with Adela, why you'll have yours done."

So Polly roused out of her dejection and set to work, and presently the
hay-makers, and the Marken boys and girls, the funny little houses that
looked as if they dropped down pellmell from the clouds and settled
where they had dropped - the high ridges along which the men and boys,
walking in their full baggy trousers, looked as if they were blown up,
and formed a Dutch perspective perfectly awful - all these queer,
delightful things were presently imprisoned in the two kodaks.

Jasper looked up. "There, that's my last picture," he declared. "At any
rate, for now."

"Oh, one more! I must get a good picture of those girls raking hay."
Polly ran off a few steps and sat down on a log to focus. The Marken
girls happened to look up, and immediately whirled around and presented
their backs to her.

"Oh, dear, how hateful!" she exclaimed; "that would have been a
splendid picture."

"Never mind," said Jasper; "you can catch them unawares, and have
another try at them."

"Not so good as that," said Polly, sorrowfully. "Well, it can't be
helped." So she was just going to get up from her log, when the girls,
thinking from her attitude that she had given up the idea of taking a
picture of them, turned back to their work. As quick as a flash Polly
focussed again, and was just touching the button, when a hand came in
front of her kodak, and she saw the grinning face of a Marken girl
under its pot-hook of hair and with the long, dangling curl on one
side, close to her own.

"Too late!" exclaimed Polly. "And don't you ever do that again." And
the hand was withdrawn, and the girl clattered off as fast as she could
run in her wooden shoes.

"I got them," said Polly, running back in triumph to Jasper.

"Yes, and I took a picture of the saucy girl while she was trying to
stop yours," said Jasper. "So she didn't do much harm, after all. Oh,
here is a splendid group! See them standing by that old tumble-down
house, Polly," he added excitedly.

"I thought you had taken your last picture, Jasper," said Polly,
bursting into a laugh.

"Well, I had then, but I've begun again," said Jasper, recklessly. He
walked up to the group and held out his hand, then pointed to his
kodak. They smiled and nodded, showing all their teeth, and the mother
took the littlest baby, for there seemed to be a very generous number
of the smaller members of the family, and sat down with it in her lap
on the rickety step. Then they all drew up stiff as sticks, and didn't
even wink.

"That's capital," said Jasper, in huge satisfaction, pouring the coins
into the mother's lap, where they rolled underneath the fat baby. Polly
and he hurried on.

"Oh, Polly, I'm so very glad you've come," said Phronsie, as Polly and
Jasper ran up to a doorway through which they could see their party.
Phronsie stood just inside, and appeared to be watching for them.
"There's a woman here who's been showing us things." There was Mrs.
Fisher up by the tiny window, bending over an old woman who had spread
out in her lap some white embroidered garments, while a young woman
hovered near, smiling and blushing, and very happy at all this notice.
And the rest of the party crowded up as close as they could.

"They are her daughter's wedding clothes," said Mrs. Fisher, "I do
believe." For, the old woman was working fearfully hard to make them
understand, and pointing first to the white garments and then to the
young woman. "Wedding clothes?" asked Mrs. Fisher, speaking very slowly.

The old woman seemed to understand the one word "wedding," for she
nodded furiously and smiled well pleased; and then devoted her whole
time and energy to the display of the garments. And she even laughed
aloud when old Mr. King put some coins in her hard hand.

Polly took the time to study her headgear. "I think there is a round
board under the cap," she confided to Jasper when once out of doors;
"how else could they be pulled so tight? And they look as hard as a
drum."

"I didn't investigate," he said, laughing. "I'll leave that to you,
Polly."

"Well, it's funny anyway," she said, "that all the women and girls
dress alike in those queer gowns in two parts, and those embroidered
jackets over their waists, and those caps and horrible pot-hooks and
long curls."

"It's well that we've got so many pictures, for the people at home
would never believe our stories without them."

"And these houses," continued Polly, squinting up at a crooked row,
"all colours - green stripes and black stripes - and, O dear me! Jasper
King, just look at Phronsie!"

Jasper followed the direction of Polly's finger. There sat Phronsie on
a grassy bank a little above them, with one of the fattest Marken
babies in her lap. A variegated group of natives was near by, watching
her intently. But Phronsie didn't appear to notice them.

"Polly, I wish we had a baby just like this," sighed Phronsie, giving
motherly pats to the stout little legs dangling down from her lap.

"Come, children," - Grandpapa emerged from the little old house, - "we
must hurry on, else we sha'n't get through this island. Come,
Phronsie - goodness me!" as he saw how she was occupied.

"May I carry her?" begged Phronsie, staggering to her feet - "she's
mine" - and dragging the Marken baby up with her.

"Goodness me! no, child!" exclaimed Grandpapa, in horror. "Put her
down, Phronsie; she's ever so much too heavy for you, dear." He put
forth a protesting hand, but the tears ran down Phronsie's cheeks and
fell on the baby's stiff white cap. At that old Mr. King was quite gone
in despair.

"Phronsie," Polly bent over and whispered close to the wet little
cheek, "don't you see Grandpapa is feeling badly? I'm afraid he will be
sick, Phronsie, if he is unhappy."

Phronsie dropped the pudgy little hand, and threw herself into old Mr.
King's arms. "Don't be sick, Grandpapa," she wailed, struggling with
her tears. "I'd rather not have my baby, please; I don't want her.
Please be all well, Grandpapa, dear."




XV

MR. KING DOES HIS DUTY


Polly's face appeared over Adela's shoulder. "Don't!" said Adela,
shrinking away into the corner of the big sofa, and putting her hands
over something she held in her lap.

"Excuse me!" exclaimed Polly, tumbling back in amazement. "I wasn't
looking. I don't want to see. I only meant to surprise you." She kept
backing off toward the door, the colour all over her round cheek.

"You mustn't get mad, Polly," cried Adela, flying up straight to look
at her, but still keeping her lap well covered.

Jasper, running in, heard the words. "Polly never gets mad," he said
slowly, standing quite still.

"Well, she is now - just as mad as can be," said Adela, in a fretful
little voice; "look at her."

"Oh, I'm not mad, Adela," began Polly, "only sorry. And it's my fault,
Jasper," seeing his face darken, "for I looked over her shoulder. I
only wanted to surprise her; and Adela, of course, thought I wanted to
see what she was doing."

"Yes," said Adela, "I did think so, Polly Pepper, and I don't want
anybody to see it." With that she huddled the thing, whatever it was,
down by her side, and ran out of the room as fast as she could go.

"A disagreeable creature," began Jasper, hotly; "and she's been a
perfect nuisance all along to take her everywhere. Now we drop her,
Polly." He looked more like his father at this moment than Polly had
ever seen him before.

"Oh, no, Jasper," she remonstrated in dismay.

"Yes, we drop her like a hot cake," said Jasper, decidedly; "that would
be my opinion, Polly."

"But we can't, she's so alone," went on Polly; "and, besides, she's
troubled about something. That's what makes her feel so."

"It's a queer way to bear trouble, I should think, to abuse you," said
Jasper, "when you've been bothering yourself about her all this time."

"Oh, I don't mind," said Polly, brightening up, "if only you won't talk
of our dropping her, Jasper."

Jasper turned on his heel, and walked to the window. When he looked
back, the annoyance had dropped out of his face, and he was just
saying, "All right, Polly, it ought to be as you say, I'm sure," when
Adela Gray rushed into the room and up to Polly, and flung her arms
around her neck. "There, and there, and there!" and something tumbled
into Polly's hands.

"I didn't want anybody to see it," mumbled Adela, "for I've spoiled it;
and I was trying to rub out the spots when you came in, and I made it
worse than ever. But I'll give it to you now, Polly; and please tear it
up, and I'll make you another."

When this long speech was all mumbled out, Polly was looking at a
little sketch of Phronsie holding the fat Marken baby, and the Marken
people looking on.

"Oh, Jasper!" screamed Polly, "do come here! Oh, Adela, did you draw
this? And oh! how perfectly beautiful!" all in one breath.

"It _is_ a good thing," said Jasper, taking the drawing from Polly's
hand and examining it critically, while Polly threw her arms around
Adela, and oh-ed and ah-ed her delight at finding that she could draw
and sketch so beautifully; and now to think of having this lovely
picture of Phronsie!

"But, you must tear it up," said Adela, in alarm, "else I'm sorry I
gave it to you, Polly."

"Tear it up!" repeated Polly, in astonishment; "tear up this lovely
picture of Phronsie! What do you mean, Adela Gray?"

"Oh, I've a copy, of course," said Adela, carelessly; "and I'm going to
do you another better one."

"Where did you learn to draw so well?" asked Jasper, in admiration of
the bold, accurate lines, and the graceful curves.

"In school, at Paris," said Adela, quietly.

Polly looked over Jasper's arm, and scanned the sketch. "I never saw
anything so lovely!" she exclaimed. "And it's just alive! Isn't it,
Jasper?"

"Yes, it is splendid," he said enthusiastically; "and that's the best
part of it - it's alive, Polly, as you say."

"I'd give anything in all this world, Adela, if I could draw like
that," mourned Polly.

"I'd rather play on the piano," said Adela, "than do all the drawing in
the world. But I can't learn; the music master said there was something
the matter with my ear, and I never could tell one note from another by
the sound. I do so wish I could play on the piano, Polly Pepper!" she
added discontentedly.

"Well, Jasper can do both, - play on the piano, and draw, too," said
Polly.

"I can't draw like this," said Jasper, holding the sketch off at arm's
length to view it again. "I couldn't if I were to try a thousand years."

"Oh, Jasper!" exclaimed Polly, who couldn't bear to think there was
anything that he could not do.

"Well, I can't," said Jasper.

"Let me see some of your sketches," begged Adela. "It's so nice to find
some one else who can draw. Do show me some."

"Oh, no," protested Jasper, in dismay, "not after this," pointing to
Adela's drawing.

"Do, Jasper," begged Polly, imploringly, "get your portfolio."

"Oh, I couldn't bring them all in," said Jasper. "I wouldn't show those
old things for the world, Polly."

"Well, bring some of them, do," she begged, while Adela said, "I showed
mine, and I didn't want to, I'm sure." So Jasper ran up to his room,
and pretty soon he came back with his portfolio.

"You did bring it, after all," exclaimed Polly, in satisfaction,
patting the brown leather cover. "Oh, how nice of you, Jasper," as they
ran over and ensconced themselves in a cosey corner.

"I took out the worst ones," said Jasper, with a laugh. "And I'm
awfully sorry I didn't leave behind more of the others."

"I hope you brought that woman with a basket of vegetables we saw at
the market the other day," said Polly, as he opened the portfolio. "Do
tell me, Jasper, you did bring that, didn't you?" beginning to fumble
through the pile.

"Yes, I did, Polly," said Jasper; "she's in there all safe and sound."

So for the next hour, there was great turning over and comparing of
sketches, and much talk about vertical lines and graceful curves, and
shading and perspective, and expression, and dear knows what all, as
the three heads bent over the portfolio. So intent were they all, that
no one heard Grandpapa come in, and he sat there in a farther corner,
for a good quarter of an hour. At last Polly looked up and saw him.

"Oh, Grandpapa!" she cried, flying off from the group, and carrying
Adela's sketch in her hand. "Just see what a perfectly beautiful
picture of Phronsie! Adela Gray made it. She draws splendidly,
Grandpapa."

Old Mr. King took the little sketch and fairly beamed at it.

"It's very like, - it is excellent," he declared, caring nothing for its
merits as a drawing, but only seeing Phronsie as she sat with the big
Marken baby in her lap on the stubbly bank.

"Isn't it, Grandpapa?" cried Polly, overflowing with happiness; "and
she has given it to me, Grandpapa. Oh, isn't she good!"

"She is, indeed," assented old Mr. King, just as well pleased as Polly.
"A very good girl, indeed. Come here, Adela."

Adela, whose sharp ears had caught most of this dialogue at the other
end of the room, - although Jasper was keeping a steady fire of talk to
drown it if possible, - was looking in dismay at him.

"O dear me, I wish they'd stop," she breathed in distress.

"I thought you said you had no ear," said Jasper, laughing at her face.

"I can't tell music notes," she said, "but I can hear things."

"Yes, I should think you could," he said. And then came old Mr. King's
"Come here, Adela," so she had to go across the room, shaking every
step of the way, and stand in front of him.

"I didn't know we had such a good little artist among us," said
Grandpapa, wonderfully well pleased and smiling kindly at her.

"That is nothing," said Adela, in despair at ever stopping the flow of
praise. "I spoiled it, and I'm going to do Polly a better one."

"Nothing could be better, my dear," said Grandpapa, blandly; "it is a
fine likeness of Phronsie." And then he questioned her as to her
training in the art, and what she meant to do in the future, and where
she intended to study and all that, getting an immense amount of
information so artfully that Adela never for an instant suspected his
reason. All the time he was holding the sketch of Phronsie in his hand,
and intently gazing on it most of the time.

"Well," he said at last, "I won't keep you young people any
longer," - for Jasper had thrown down the portfolio and joined the
group, - "so run back to your own corner. Dear me," pulling out his
watch, "it's only twenty minutes to luncheon. How time does fly, to be
sure! To-morrow morning, remember, we are off for Antwerp."

"O dear, dear!" exclaimed Polly, as they ran back and bent over the
portfolio again, "we haven't half seen Amsterdam, Jasper."

"No, and you wouldn't if you stayed a year," observed Jasper, wisely.

"We must go over to the Ryks Museum once more," said Polly.

"Yes, let us go there directly after luncheon," proposed Jasper. "I
know what you want to do, Polly, - sit in front of 'The Night Watch'
again."

"Yes, I do," said Polly. "I couldn't go away without seeing that
picture once more, Jasper."

"I don't like that 'Night Watch,'" said Adela, "it's too dark and too
smutty. I don't see why people like it so much."

"Well, I do like it very much," reiterated Polly. "I know it's
dreadfully dark, but the people in front seem to be stepping right out
of the shadows, and to be alive. It seems to me they are just going to
come right up toward me, as I sit there."

"And that, after all, I suppose is the best thing one can say of a
picture," said Jasper. "And it is always the finest time to look at
that picture in the afternoon, you know, so we will go there, Polly,
after luncheon."

"And then Phronsie will want to see that picture of a woman with a cat,
I suppose," said Polly. "Dear me, who was it that painted that, Jasper?
I never can remember the artists' names."

"Metsu was it - Jan - no, Gabriel - Metsu," answered Jasper, wrinkling his
brows. "Neither can I remember all those fellows' names. Yes, indeed,
you'll find Phronsie won't let us go there without paying respects to
her special picture."

"And then I suppose Grandpapa will take us for a last drive in Vondel
Park. Oh, what nice times we have had, Jasper King!" exclaimed Polly,
leaning back against the sofa, and clasping her hands restfully. "I
just love Amsterdam! And I hate to leave it!"

"So you said about The Hague, Polly," observed Jasper, turning to her
with a little laugh.

"Well, wasn't it perfectly beautiful?" asked Polly, flying up straight
again. "Just think of that dear 'House in the Wood,' Jasper."

"I know it; you wanted to go there day after day," laughed Jasper.

"Why, we only went there three times," said Polly, "I'm sure, Jasper.
And the picture-gallery - "

"That is in the Maurit - rit, whatever is the rest of it? Oh, I know,"
said Jasper, guilty of interrupting, "Mauritshuis, that is where the
picture-gallery is, Polly."

"Yes, that's it," echoed Polly; "it's fine - Paul Potter's 'Bull' is
there."

"Oh, I want to see that picture very much!" exclaimed Adela. "I've
never been to The Hague."

"Well, you'll go, perhaps, sometime," said Polly, with an uncomfortable
feeling that she ought not to enjoy the things that Adela hadn't seen.
"And you are going to Antwerp with us to-morrow, anyway," she added,
brightening up.

"Yes," said Adela, "Grandmamma is really going there. But that's all;
for we go straight over to England then, and I sha'n't see you ever
again, Polly Pepper," she finished gloomily.

And that evening Grandpapa sat down by little old Mrs. Gray in the
parlour after dinner, and though he began about something as far
distant as possible, before long he was talking about Adela, and her
wonderful talent. And the most surprising thing about it all was, that
the little old lady, not intending to do it in the least, nor really
comprehending how much she was telling, soon had him informed on all
that he had set his heart on learning - how Adela had just been taken
from the Paris school, because the little fortune her father had left,
had somehow shrunk up, and there was no more money to keep her there.
"I can't tell how it is, sir," she mourned, raising her faded eyes
under the widow's cap to the kind old face above her, "I thought there
was enough to educate my grandchild; it wasn't a big sum, but I
supposed it was quite sufficient; but now it appears to be almost gone,
and I have only just enough to keep me." She didn't add that the
curate, her husband, when he crept into his grave, in the English
churchyard, had left her nothing but the memory of his good name, her
small means coming as a legacy from some of his grateful friends, they,
too, long since dead.

Old Mr. King made no comment, only passed on with a few little leading
remarks when the information seemed to be on the wane. And then he said
he thought he would like a game of backgammon, and he challenged the
parson to come on and be beaten. And at an early hour the party broke
up. "For remember," said Grandpapa, for about the fiftieth time that
day, "it's Antwerp to-morrow!"

So it was at Antwerp that the whole splendid business was concluded.
And when the story of it came out, there was a regular jubilee all
around. For were not Adela and Adela's grandmother going with the King
party around a bit more on the continent, and then off to Paris again,
and back to the beloved school - Grandpapa's gift to the girl with the
talent, to keep it alive!

And the little widow, stunned at first by the magnitude of the gift,
could do nothing but feebly protest, "Oh, no, sir!" and put up both
shaking hands to ward off the benefaction.

"It's your duty, Madam," said Mr. King, sternly, at which she shrank
down farther in her chair. "Who knows what such talent will do in the
world? and it's my duty to see that it is kept alive, - nothing more nor
less than a question of duty."

He stamped up and down the room vehemently, and the little old lady


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