Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sidney
"Let Us Fly At Those Books"
"Now, Polly, in Antwerp," said Jasper, "we can see Rubens to perfection. Won't we just revel in his paintings, though!"
"Won't we!" ejaculated Polly. "I'm so glad Grandpapa came here to this hotel." She leaned out of the window as she spoke.
"Under the very eaves of the Cathedral, almost, isn't it?" said Jasper, in satisfaction.
The chimes just then pealed out. Indeed, it seemed as if they did nothing but ring, so short were the intervals. But to Polly and Jasper they brought only echoes of delight.
"There are forty of those bells, aren't there?" asked Polly, resting her elbows on the window-sill.
"I believe so," answered Jasper, absently. Polly looked at him curiously.
"Polly," he said abruptly, "do you know what I mean to do?"
"No," said Polly; "tell me, do, Jasper."
"Well, I mean to sit right down and finish my book. I'm ashamed to confess that it's not up to date."
"Neither is mine," confessed Polly.
"Well, now, that won't do," said Jasper, decidedly. "You see if we once let those books get behindhand, we're lost. We never can catch up, in all this world."
"We've had so much to do and to see," began Polly.
"That won't be any excuse that will amount to anything," said Jasper, shaking his head. "Let's fly at them and tackle them now, Polly."
"I say so, too," she cried, and deserting the window, they surrounded the centre-table, and soon had the big journals, photographs, and pictures, of every sort and size, the ink bottle, and library paste, scissors, and all the rest of the paraphernalia, spread out on it.
"It's good that Grandpapa is lying down and doesn't wish to go out," remarked Polly, snipping away at a fearful rate, and pausing only to write down the dates and other bits of information around each picture, as she pasted it in. "Now we'll have all this morning to finish these books up to to-day."
"And none too much for the job," said Jasper, sagely. "I declare I shall feel like enjoying myself twice as well, when once they're up to date. They've been hanging round my conscience every day since I slackened work on them."
"And I am so glad you made me come away from that window, and set to work," said Polly, "or I never would have commenced on mine to-day."
"Oh, yes, you would, I think, Polly," said Jasper. "Well, we are at it now, and that's enough. Now says I, I'm on book No. 2!" And he flapped down the cover of the completed one. "That's done, thank fortune!"
"Oh, Jasper, have you the green one done?" asked Polly. "Why, I have three more pages of mine to do."
"Well, you'll catch up on the red one, I dare say," said Jasper, opening No. 2. "We are getting on famously, aren't we, Polly?" glancing over at her work.
"Yes, and I'm so glad you proposed this way to keep a journal," said Polly, "to have them labelled 'My Notes on My European Journey,' and to have No. 1 green, and No. 2 red, and so on all through the rest of the colours."
"That will help us to find them in a hurry," said Jasper, "and keep them distinct; but I didn't propose it, Polly, about the books. It was your plan as much as mine."
"No." Polly was guilty of contradicting. "I never should have thought of having the books of different colours and labelling them in that way, Jasper."
"Well, you first thought of cutting out pictures and all sorts of items, and then writing the dates and whatever else we wanted to around the pictures," said Jasper. "I'm sure that's more important than the title of the book, Polly."
"Well, won't the boys love to see them," asked Polly, suddenly, with a light in her eyes, ignoring the question as to her claim to the idea, "when we get home, Jasper?"
"Won't they, though!" he responded, falling to work with a will.
And so Antwerp was entered with clear consciences as to journals, and a strict determination not to fall behind again on them.
But Polly slipped in so many of the beautiful photographs of the "Descent from the Cross," and the other two famous pictures by Rubens, that her red book was closed the third day of their stay in the old town of Antwerp; and the photographs had even overflowed into the yellow book, No. 3.
They had a habit, most of their party, of dropping into the Cathedral once a day at least, usually in the morning, and sometimes before service. And then when it was quiet, and before the ordinary throng of sight-seers trailed through, Jasper would hire some chairs of one of the old women who always seem to be part and parcel of European cathedrals; and they would sit down before the painting, its wings spread over the dingy green background, and study what has made so many countless travellers take long and oftentimes wearisome journeys to see.
And Polly always wanted to go after that to see the "Assumption," which is the altar-piece, and then the "Elevation of the Cross," both by Rubens. "And I am sure, Grandpapa," she would always say, "I like them as well as I do the famous painting."
"And so do I, Polly, in a way," Grandpapa would invariably reply. "They are all marvellous, and that is all we can say, for no expressions could give the truth about them."
After the Cathedral, which they loved all the more,--"for being perched under its eaves" (as Polly always said when speaking of the hotel that was for the time being their home),--Polly and Jasper set next in their regard the Musée Plantin-Moretus. They were never tired of running down there to the Marché du Vendredi, until it became a regular question every day at dinner, "Well, what more have you discovered at the Musée Plantin?"
And old Mr. King would often answer, for he was as interested as the young people, "Marvellous things." And then he would expatiate on the antique furniture, the paintings, engravings, and tapestries, till the little doctor, fresh from his hospital visitations, would remark that it was just as good as if he had time to visit the place, to hear Grandpapa tell it all. And Adela would bring out her little sketches, which now she was not averse to showing, since everybody was so kind and sympathising, and there would be some little nook or corner of corridor or court that Polly would fall upon and pronounce, "Just perfect, and how did you get it?"
"Oh, I just drew a bit now and then when you were looking at things," said Adela, carelessly.
"Everything just dances off your pencil," said Polly, wishing she could draw, and wondering if it was any use for her to try to learn.
And every afternoon they would go to drive as usual, very often around the docks, which gave them all a good idea of this wonderful port. They were never tired of watching the hydraulic cranes, of inspecting the dry docks; the intertwining railways by which all the docks, large and small, are connected, and the two basins, Le Petit and Le Grand Bassin.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Jasper, on one of these occasions, "I thought Amsterdam docks were huge affairs, but Antwerp!" And he left his sentence in mid-air, which was more impressive after all.
But Parson Henderson liked the church of St. Jacques best of all things in Antwerp, and he used to steal away mornings to go there again and again. And he asked Polly and Jasper to go there with him one day, and Polly begged to have Adela go too, and they all came home as enthusiastic as he was.
And then suddenly Mr. King would wrench them all off from this delightful study and put his foot down peremptorily. "No more cathedrals for a time," he would declare; "my old head cannot carry any more just yet." And he would propose a little in-letting of fun. And then off they would go a-shopping, or to the Zoological Gardens; and they always had concerts, of course, wherever they were, for Polly and Jasper's sakes, if for no other reason. And by and by somebody announced, one fine morning, that they had been in Antwerp a fortnight.
And then one day Mother Fisher looked into Polly's brown eyes, and finding them tired, she calmly tucked Polly quietly in bed. "Why, Mamsie," declared Polly, "I'm not sick."
"No, and I'm not going to have you be," observed Mrs. Fisher, sensibly. "This running about sight-seeing is more tiresome, child, than you think for, and dreadfully unsettling unless you stop to rest a bit. No, Jasper," as he knocked at the door, "Polly can't go out to-day, at least not this morning. I've put her to bed."
"Is Polly sick, Mrs. Fisher?" called Jasper, in great concern.
"No, not a bit," answered Mrs. Fisher, cheerily, "but she's tired. I've seen it coming on for two or three days back, so I'm going to take it in time."
"And can't she come out, to-day?" asked Jasper, dreadfully disappointed, with a mind full of the host of fine things they had planned to do.
"No, Jasper," said Mother Fisher, firmly, "not to jaunt about." So Jasper took himself off, feeling sure, despite his disappointment, that Polly's mother was right.
And there was another person who wholly agreed with Mother Fisher, and that was old Mr. King. "If you can stop those young folks from killing themselves running about to see everything, you'll do more than I can, Mrs. Fisher," he observed. "It makes no difference how long I plan to stay in a town, so as to do it restfully, if they won't rest."
"That is a fact," said Mother Fisher. "Well, that's my part to see that they do rest."
"I don't envy you the job," said the old gentleman, drily.
Polly fidgeted and turned on her pillow, knowing Mamsie was right, but unable to keep from thinking of the many beautiful plans that Jasper and she had formed for that very morning, till her head spun round and round. "I can't get to sleep," she said at last.
"Don't try to," said her mother, dropping the heavy wool curtains till the room was quite dark; "that's the worst thing in the world to do, if you want to rest. Just lie still and don't try to think of anything."
"But I can't help thinking," said poor Polly, feeling sure that Jasper was dreadfully disappointed at the upsetting of all the plans.
"Never say you can't help anything, Polly," said her mother, coming over to the bedside to lay a cool hand on Polly's hot forehead, and then to drop a kiss there; and somehow the kiss did what all Polly's trying had failed to accomplish.
"That's good, Mamsie," she said gratefully, and drew a long, restful breath.
Mother Fisher went out and closed the door softly.
It was just three o'clock that afternoon when Polly woke up.
"Oh, I'm dreadfully ashamed!" she exclaimed when she found it out. "I've slept almost this whole day!"
Mother Fisher smiled, "And it's the best day's work you've done in one long while, Polly," she said.
"And here's my girl, Polly," cried Grandpapa, when she ran down to him, and holding her at arm's length, he gazed into her bright eyes and on her rosy cheeks. "Well, well, your mother's a clever woman, and no mistake."
So Polly knew if she didn't take care and not get tired again, she would be tucked into bed another fine day.
It was a long summer morning, and they were sailing up the Rhine, with the delights of Brussels and Cologne behind them, and in between the covers of the purple book, No. 4, Polly had been looking at ruined castles and fortresses, at vine-clad terraces, and châlets, until she turned to Grandpapa with a sigh.
"Tired, Polly, little woman?" he said, cuddling her up against him.
"No, not tired, Grandpapa," said Polly, "but, oh, there's so very much of it over here in Europe."
"If you've found that out, you've learned the lesson early," said old Mr. King, with a laugh. "As many times as I've been over here, there's nothing that surprises me so much as the presumption with which we travellers all rush about, expecting to compass all there is."
"But we ought to see everything," said Polly, "oughtn't we, Grandpapa, when we've come so far to see it?" and she looked troubled.
"There's just where you are wrong, Polly, child," said old Mr. King. "And this 'ought to see,' why, it's an old dragon, Polly, lying in wait to destroy. Don't you let it get hold of you, but take my advice and see only what you can make your own and remember. Then you've got it."