Bayreuth And Old Friends
 

Jasper turned around to gaze at the vast audience filing into the Wagner Opera House before he took his seat. "This makes me think of Oberammergau, Polly," he said.

"To think you've seen the Passion Play," she cried, with glowing cheeks.

"That was when I was such a little chap," said Jasper, "ages ago,--nine years, Polly Pepper,--just think; so it will be as good as new next year. Father is thinking a good deal of taking you there next summer."

"Jasper," cried Polly, her cheeks all in a glow, and regardless of next neighbours, "what can I ever do to repay your father for being so very good to me and to all of us?"

"Why, you can keep on making him comfortable, just as you are doing now, Polly," replied Jasper. "He said yesterday it made him grow younger every minute to look at you. And you know he's never sick now, and he was always having those bad attacks. Don't you remember when we first came to Hingham, Polly?" as they took their seats.

"O dear me, I guess I do, Jasper, and how you saved Phronsie from being carried off by the big organ man," and she shivered even now at this lapse of years. "And all the splendid times at Badgertown and the little brown--"

Just then a long hand came in between the people in the seat back of them. "I'm no end glad to see you!" exclaimed a voice. It was Tom Selwyn.

"I'm going over into that vacant seat." Tom forgot his fear of Polly and his hatred of girls generally, and rushed around the aisle to plunge awkwardly into the seat just back of Jasper. "I'll stay here till the person comes." His long arms came in contact with several obstacles, such as sundry backs and shoulders in his progress, but he had no time to consider such small things or to notice the black looks he got in consequence.

"Now, isn't this jolly!" he exclaimed. Jasper was guilty of staring at him; there seemed such a change in the boy, he could hardly believe it was really and truly Tom Selwyn.

"My grandfather is well now, and he would have sent some message to you if he knew I was to run across you," went on Tom, looking at Jasper, but meaning Polly; "did you get a little trifle he sent you some weeks ago? He's been in a funk about it because he didn't hear."

Wasn't Polly glad that her little note was on the way, and perhaps in the old gentleman's hands at this very time!

"Yes," she said, "and he was very kind and--" Tom fumbled his tickets all the while, and broke in abruptly.

"I didn't know as you'd like it, but it made him sick not to do it, and so the thing went. Glad it didn't make you mad," he ended suddenly.

"He meant it all right, I'm sure," said Jasper, seeing that Polly couldn't speak.

"Didn't he though!" exclaimed Tom.

"And it didn't come till the day we left Heidelberg," said Polly, finding her tongue, and speaking rapidly to explain the delay; "that was a week ago."

"Whew!" whistled Tom; "oh, beg pardon!" for several people turned around and stared; so he ducked his head, and was mostly lost to view for a breathing space. When he thought they had forgotten him, he bobbed it up. "Why, Grandfather picked it out--had a bushel of things sent up from London to choose from, you know, weeks and weeks ago, as soon as he got up to London. That's no end queer."

"No," said Polly, "it didn't come till then. And I wrote to your grandfather the next morning and thanked him."

"Now you did!" exclaimed Tom, in huge delight, and slapping his knee with one long hand. "That's no end good of you." He couldn't conceal how glad he was, and grinned all over his face.

At this moment Mrs. Vanderburgh, who, seeing Fanny so happy again, concluded to stay on the strength of resurrected hopes of Polly Pepper's friendship, sailed into the opera house, with her daughter. And glancing across the aisle, for their seats were at the side, she caught sight of the party she was looking for, and there was a face she knew, but wasn't looking for.

"Fanny," she cried, clutching her arm, "there is Tom Selwyn! Well, now we are in luck!" And Tom saw her, and again he ducked, but for a different reason. When he raised his head, he glanced cautiously in the direction he dreaded. "There's that horrible person," he whispered in Jasper's ear.

"Who?" asked Jasper, in astonishment.

"That woman on the steamer--you knew her--and she was looking straight at us. Duck for your life, Jasper King!"

"Oh, that," said Jasper, coolly, following the bob of his head. "Yes, Mrs. Vanderburgh, I know; and she is at our hotel."

"The dickens! And you're alive!" Tom raised his head and regarded him as a curiosity.

"Very much so," answered Jasper, smothering a laugh; "well, we mustn't talk any more."

Polly was sitting straight, her hands folded in her lap, with no thought for audience, or anything but what she was to see and hear on that wonderful stage. Old Mr. King leaned past Parson Henderson, and gazed with the greatest satisfaction at her absorbed face.

"I pity anybody," he said to himself, "who hasn't some little Peppers to take about; I only wish I had the boys, too. But fancy Joel listening to 'Parsifal'!"

This idea completely overcame him, and he settled back into his seat with a grim smile.

Polly never knew that Mamsie, with a happy look in her black eyes, was regarding her intently, too, nor that many a glance was given to the young girl whose colour came and went in her cheek, nor that Jasper sometimes spoke a low word or two. She was lost in the entrancing world of mystery and legend borne upward by the grand music, and she scarcely moved.

"Well, Polly." Old Mr. King was smiling at her and holding out his hand. The curtains had closed for the intermission, and all the people were getting out of their chairs. Polly sat still and drew a long breath. "Oh, Grandpapa, must we go?"

"Yes, indeed, I hope so," answered Mr. King, with a little laugh. "We shall have none too much time for our supper, Polly, as it is."

Polly got out of her seat, very much wishing that supper was not one of the needful things of life.

"It almost seems wicked to think of eating, Jasper," she said, as they picked up their hats and capes, where he had tucked them under the seats.

"It would be more wicked not to eat," said Jasper, with a little laugh, "and I think you'll find some supper tastes good, when we get fairly at it, Polly."

"I suppose so," said Polly, feeling dreadfully stiff in her feet, and beginning to wish she could have a good run.

"And what we should do with you if we didn't stop for supper," observed Jasper, snapping the case to the opera-glasses, "I'm sure I don't know, Polly. I spoke to you three times, and you didn't hear me once."

"Oh, Jasper!" exclaimed Polly, in horror, pausing as she was pinning on her big, flowered hat, with the roses all around the brim; "O dear me, there it goes!" as the hat spun over into the next row.

"I'll get it," cried Tom Selwyn, vaulting over the tops of the seats before Jasper had a chance to try for it.

Just then Mrs. Vanderburgh, who hadn't heard any more of the opera than could fit itself into her lively plans for the campaign she laid out to accomplish in siege of Tom Selwyn, pushed and elbowed herself along. "Of course the earl isn't here--and the boy is alone, and dreadfully taken with Jasper King, so I can manage him. And once getting him, I'll soon have the earl to recognise me as a relation." Then, oh! visions of the golden dream of bliss when she could visit such titled kin in Old England, and report it all when at home in New York, filled her head. And with her mind eaten up with it, she pushed rudely by a plain, somewhat dowdy-looking woman who obstructed her way.

The woman raised a quiet, yet protesting face; but Mrs. Vanderburgh, related to an earl, surveyed her haughtily, and pressed on.

"Excuse me," said the plain-looking woman, "but it is impossible for me to move; the people are coming out this way, Madam, and--"

"And I must get by," answered Mrs. Vanderburgh, interrupting, and wriggling past as well as she could. But the lace on her flowing sleeve catching on the umbrella handle of a stout German coming the other way, she tore it half across. A dark flush of anger rushed over her face, and she vented all her spite on the plain-looking person in her path. "If you had moved, this wouldn't have happened!" she exclaimed.

"It was impossible for me to do so," replied the woman, just as quietly as ever. Just then Tom Selwyn rushed up: "Mother!" to the plain-looking woman; "well, we did get separated! Oh!" and seeing her companion he plunged back.

Fanny Vanderburgh, well in the rear, a party of young German girls impeding the way, felt her mother's grasp, and looked around.

"Oh, you've torn your lace sleeve!" she exclaimed, supposing the black looks referred to that accident.

"Torn my sleeve!" echoed her mother, irately, "that's a trifle," while Fanny stared in surprise, knowing, by past experience, that much lesser accidents had made black days for her; "I'm the unluckiest person alive. And think of all the money your father has given me to spend, and it won't do any good. Fanny, I'm going straight back to Paris, as quickly as possible."

"Why, I'm having a good time now," said Fanny, just beginning to enjoy herself. "Polly Pepper is real nice to me. I don't want to go home a bit." All this as they slowly filed out in the throng.

"Well, you're going; and, oh, those Peppers and those Kings, I'm sick to death of their names," muttered her mother, frowning on her.

"Why can't we wait for Polly?" asked Fanny, not catching the last words, and pausing to look back.

"Because you can't, that's why. And never say a word about that Polly Pepper or any of the rest of that crowd," commanded her mother, trying to hurry on.

"Polly Pepper is the sweetest girl--the very dearest," declared Fanny, in a passion, over her mother's shoulder, "and you know it, Mamma."

"Well, I won't have you going with her, anyway, nor with any of them," answered her mother, shortly.

"Because you can't," echoed Fanny, in her turn, and with a malicious little laugh. "Don't I know? it's the same old story--those you chase after, run away from you. You've been chasing, Mamma; you needn't tell me."

"Oh, Jasper," Polly was saying, "did you really speak to me?"

"Three times," said Jasper, with a laugh, "but you couldn't answer, for you didn't hear me."

"No," said Polly, "I didn't, Jasper."

"And I shouldn't have spoken, for it isn't, of course, allowed. But I couldn't help it, Polly, it was so splendid," and his eyes kindled. "And you didn't seem to breathe or to move."

"I don't feel as if I had done much of either," said Polly, laughing. "Isn't it good to take a long stretch? And oh, don't you wish we could run, Jasper?"

He burst into another gay little laugh, as he picked up the rest of the things. "I thought so, Polly, and you'll want some supper yet. Well, here is Tom coming back again."

"Indeed I shall, and a big one, Jasper," said Polly, laughing, "for I am dreadfully hungry."

"Come to supper with us," Jasper said socially over the backs of several people, in response to Tom Selwyn's furious telegraphing.

"Can't," said Tom, bobbing his head; "must stay with my mother. Thought you never would turn around." Jasper looked his surprise, and involuntarily glanced by Tom. "Yes, my mother's here; we've got separated, she's gone ahead," said Tom, jerking his head toward the nearest exit. "She says we'll go and see you. Where?"

"Hotel Sonne," said Jasper.

Tom disappeared--rushed off to his mother to jerk himself away to a convenient waiting-place till the disagreeable woman on the steamer had melted into space. Then he flew back, and in incoherent sentences made Mrs. Selwyn comprehend who she was, and the whole situation.

The earl's daughter was a true British matron, and preserved a quiet, immovable countenance; only a grim smile passed over it now and then. At last she remarked coolly, as if commenting on the weather, "I don't believe she will trouble you, my son." Never a word about the lace episode or the crowding process.

Tom sniffed uneasily. "You haven't crossed on a steamer with her, mother."

"Never you mind." Mrs. Selwyn gave him a pat on the back. "Tom, let us talk about those nice people," as they filed slowly out with the crowd.

Not a word did Tom lisp about the invitation to supper, but tucked his mother's arm loyally within his own. "Sorry I forgot to engage a table!" he exclaimed, as they entered the restaurant.

"Why, there is Tom!" exclaimed Jasper, craning his neck as his party were about to sit down. "Father, Tom Selwyn is here with his mother, and they can't find places, I almost know, and we might have two more chairs easily at our table," he hurried it all out.

"What is all this about?" demanded old Mr. King; "whom are you talking about, pray tell, Jasper?"

So Jasper ran around to his father's chair and explained. The end of it all was, that he soon hurried off, being introduced to Tom's mother, to whom he presented his father's compliments, and would she do him the favour to join their party? And in ten minutes, every one felt well acquainted with the English matron, and entirely forgot that she was an earl's daughter. And Tom acquitted himself well, and got on famously with old Mr. King.

But he didn't dare talk to Polly, but edged away whenever there was the least chance of matters falling out so that he would have to.

And then it came out that the Selwyns thought of going to Munich and down to Lucerne.

"And the Bernese Alps," put in Jasper, across the table. "How is that, Tom, for an outing? Can't you do it?" For it transpired that Mrs. Selwyn had left the other children, two girls and two smaller boys, with their grandfather, on the English estate. They all called this place home since the father was in a business in Australia that required many long visits, and Tom's mother had decided that he should have a bit of a vacation with her, so they had packed up and off, taking in the Wagner festival first, and here they were. "Yes," after she considered a bit, "we can do that. Join the party and then over to Lucerne, and perhaps take in the Bernese Alps."

Only supposing that Polly's letter hadn't gone to the little old earl, Jasper kept saying over and over to himself. Just for one minute, suppose it!

And in the midst of it all, the horn sounded; the intermission was over, chairs were pushed back hastily, and all flocked off. No one must be late, and there must be no noisy or bustling entrances into the opera house.

And if Polly Pepper sat entranced through the rest of the matchless performance, Tom Selwyn--three seats back and off to the left--was just as quietly happy. But he wasn't thinking so much of "Parsifal" as might have been possible. "It's no end fine of the little mother to say 'yes,'" he kept running over and over to himself, with a satisfied glance at the quiet face under the plain, English bonnet.

"It's funny we don't see Fanny Vanderburgh anywhere," said Polly, as they went through the corridor and up the hotel stairs that night.

"She and her mother probably came home earlier," said Mrs. Fisher; "you know we were delayed, waiting for our carriages. You will see her in the morning, Polly."

But in the morning, it was ten o'clock before Mr. King's party gathered for breakfast, for Grandpapa always counselled sleeping late when out the night before. And when Polly did slip into her chair, there was a little note lying on her plate.

"Fanny Vanderburgh has gone," she said, and turned quite pale.

It was too true. Mrs. Vanderburgh had sold her two tickets to the "Flying Dutchman," to be presented that evening, and departed from Bayreuth.

"It's no use, Polly," Fanny's note ran, "trying to make me have a good time. Mamma says we are to go back to Paris; and go we must. You've been lovely, and I thank you ever so much, and good-by."

Mother Fisher found Polly, a half-hour later, curled up in a corner of the old sofa in her room, her face pressed into the cushion.

"Why, Polly," exclaimed her mother, seeing the shaking shoulders, and, bending over her, she smoothed the brown hair gently, "this isn't right, child--"

Polly sprang up suddenly and threw her arms around her mother's neck. Her face was wet with tears, and she sobbed out, "Oh, if I'd done more for her, Mamsie, or been pleasant to Mrs. Vanderburgh, she might have stayed."

"You haven't any call to worry, Polly, child," said Mother Fisher, firmly. "You did all that could be done--and remember one thing, it's very wrong to trouble others as you certainly will if you give way to your feelings in this manner."

"Mamsie," exclaimed Polly, suddenly wiping away the trail of tears from her cheek, "I won't cry a single bit more. You can trust me, Mamsie, I truly won't."

"Trust you," said Mother Fisher, with a proud look in her black eyes, "I can trust you ever and always, Polly; and now run to Mr. King and let him see a bright face, for he's worrying about you, Polly."