Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sidney
Over The Ocean
"Dear me," said Polly, "I don't see wherever she can be, Jasper. I've searched just everywhere for her." And she gave a little sigh, and pushed up the brown rings of hair under her sailor cap.
"Don't worry, Polly," said Jasper, with a reassuring smile. "She's with Matilda, of course. Come, Polly, let's you and I have a try at the shuffle-board by ourselves, down on the lower deck."
"No, we can't," said Polly, with a dreadful longing at her heart for the charms of a game; "that is, until we've found Phronsie." And she ran down the deck. "Perhaps she is in one of the library corners, though I thought I looked over them all."
"How do you know she isn't with Matilda, Polly?" cried Jasper, racing after, to see Polly's little blue jacket whisking ahead of him up the companion-way.
"Because"--Polly stopped at the top and looked over her shoulder at him-- "Matilda's in her berth. She's awfully seasick. I was to stay with Phronsie, and now I've lost her!" And the brown head drooped, and Polly clasped her hands tightly together.
"Oh, no, she can't be lost, Polly," said Jasper, cheerfully, as he bounded up the stairs and gained her side; "why, she couldn't be!"
"Well, anyway, we can't find her, Jasper," said Polly, running on. "And it's all my fault, for I forgot, and left her in the library, and went with Fanny Vanderburgh down to her state-room. O dear me!" as she sped on.
"Well, she's in the library now, most likely," said Jasper, cheerfully, hurrying after, "curled up asleep in a corner." And they both ran in, expecting to see Phronsie's yellow head snuggled into one of the pillows.
But there was no one there except a little old gentleman on one of the sofas back of a table, who held his paper upside down, his big spectacles on the end of his nose, almost tumbling off as he nodded drowsily with the motion of the steamer.
"O dear me!" exclaimed Polly; "now we shall wake him up," as they tiptoed around, peering in every cosey corner and behind all the tables for a glimpse of Phronsie's little brown gown.
"No danger," said Jasper, with a glance over at the old gentleman; "he's just as fast asleep as can be. Here, Polly, I think she's probably tucked up in here." And he hurried over to the farther side, where the sofa made a generous angle.
Just then in stalked a tall boy, who rushed up to the little old gentleman. "Here, Granddad, wake up." And he shook his arm smartly. "You're losing your glasses, and then there'll be a beastly row to pay."
"O dear me!" cried Polly aghast, as she and Jasper whirled around.
"Hey--what--what!" exclaimed the old gentleman, clutching his paper as he started forward. "Oh,--why, I haven't been asleep, Tom."
"Ha! Ha! tell that to the marines," cried Tom, loudly, dancing in derision, "You've been sleeping like a log. You'd much better go down and get into your state-room. But give me a sovereign first." He held out his hand as he spoke. "Hurry up, Granddad!" he added impatiently.
The old gentleman put his hand to his head, and then rubbed his eyes.
"Bustle up," cried the boy, with a laugh, "or else I'll run my fist in your pocket and help myself."
"Indeed, you won't," declared the old gentleman, now thoroughly awake.
"Ha! Ha!" laughed the boy. "You see if I won't, Granddad." Yet he dropped his imperious tone, and waited, though impatiently, while the big pocket-book was drawn out.
"What do you want with money on board the boat?" demanded the old gentleman.
"Give me a sovereign, Granddad," cried Tom, controlling his impatience as best he might, with many a cross look at the wrinkled old face under the white hair.
His Grandfather slowly drew out the coin, and Tom twitched it eagerly from the long, thin fingers.
"I don't see how you can need money on board the boat," repeated the old gentleman.
"Never you mind what I want it for, Grand-daddy," said Tom, laughing loudly and shaking the sovereign at him as he ran off; "that's my business, and not yours."
Polly had not taken her eyes off their faces. Now she turned toward Jasper. "Oh, how very dreadful!" she gasped--then would have given everything if she had kept still, for the old gentleman whirled around and saw them for the first time.
"Hey--who are you--and what are you listening there for--hey?" he demanded sharply. He had little black eyes, and they now snapped in a truly dreadful way at them.
"We came to find her little sister," said Jasper, politely, for Polly was quite beyond speaking.
"Sister? I don't know anything about your sister," said the old gentleman, irascibly. "And this room isn't a place for children, I can tell you," he added, as if he owned the library and the whole ship.
Jasper made no reply.
"Phronsie isn't here." Polly clasped her hands again tighter than ever. "And, oh, Jasper!" and she looked at the angry old face before them with pitying eyes.
"What I say to my grandson, Tom, and what he says to me, is our own business!" exclaimed the old gentleman in a passion, thumping the table with his clenched hand. "And no one else has a right to hear it."
"I am so very sorry we heard it," said Polly, the colour which had quite gone from her cheek now rushing back. "And we are going right away, sir."
"You would much better," said the old man, nodding angrily. "And you, boy, too; I suppose you think yourself better than my Tom. But you are not--not a bit of it!" And suddenly he tried to start to his feet, but lurched heavily against the table instead.
Polly and Jasper rushed over to him. "Lean on me, sir," said Jasper, putting both arms around him, while Polly ran to his other side, he was shaking so dreadfully.
The old gentleman essayed to wave them off. "Let me alone," he said feebly; "I'm going after my grandson, Tom." His voice sank to a whisper, and his head dropped to his breast. "He's got money--he's always getting it, and I'm going to see what he's doing with it."
"Polly," said Jasper, "you help me put him back on the sofa; there, that's it," as the old man sank feebly down against the cushions; "and then I'll run and find his grandson."
It was just the time when everybody seemed to be in the state-rooms, or out on deck in steamer chairs, so Polly sat there at the old man's head, feeling as if every minute were an hour, and he kept gurgling, "Tom's a bad boy--he gets money all the time, and I'm going to see what he's doing with it," with feeble waves of his legs, that put Polly in a fright lest he should roll off the sofa at every lurch of the steamer.
"Tom is coming," at last she said, putting her hand on the hot forehead. "Please stay still, sir; you will be sick."
"But I don't want Tom to come," cried the old gentleman, irritably. "Who said I wanted him to come? Hey?" He turned up his head and looked at her, and Polly's hand shook worse than ever when the little snapping eyes were full on her face, and she had all she could do to keep from running out of the room and up on deck where she could breathe freely.
"I am so sorry," she managed to gasp, feeling if she didn't say something, she should surely run. "Does your head feel better?" And she smoothed his hot forehead gently just as Phronsie always did Grandpapa's when it ached. And when she thought of Phronsie, then it was all she could do to keep the tears back. Where could she be? And would Jasper never come back?
And just then in ran Tom with a great clatter, complaining noisily every step of the way. "I told you you'd much better get off to your stateroom, Granddad!" he exclaimed. "Here, I'll help you down there." And he laid a hasty hand on the feeble old arm.
"I think he is sick," said Polly, gently. Jasper came hurrying in. "Phronsie is all right," he had time to whisper to Polly.
"Oh, Jasper!" the colour rushed into her cheek that had turned quite white. "I am so glad."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Tom, abruptly. "It's only one of his crotchets. You don't know; he gets up plenty of 'em on occasion."
"What did you want a sovereign for?" asked the old gentleman, querulously, taking his sharp little eyes off Polly to fasten them on his grandson's face. "Say, I will know."
"And I say no matter," retorted Tom, roughly. "And you ought to come down to your state-room where you belong. Come, Granddad!" And he tried again to lay hold of his arm. But the little old gentleman sank back, and looked up at Polly again. "I think I'll stay here," he said.
"I say," began the boy, in an embarrassed way, "this is dreadfully rough on you," and then he looked away from Polly to Jasper. "And if you knew him as well as I do," nodding his head at his Grandfather, "you wouldn't get in such a funk."
Polly was busy smoothing the hot forehead under the white hair, and appeared not to notice a word he said.
"Your Grandfather really appears ill," said Jasper. "And the doctor might give him something to help him."
Tom burst into a short laugh and kicked his heel against the table. "Hoh! hoh! I say, you don't know him; oh, what muffs you are! He's well enough, only he's determined not to go to his state-room where he belongs, but to kick up a row here."
"Very well," said Jasper, coolly, "since you are determined to do nothing for his relief, I shall take it upon myself to summon the doctor." He stepped to a table a bit further off, and touched the electric button back of it.
"Here, don't do that," remonstrated Tom, springing forward. But it was too late, and the steward who attended to calls on the library stepped in.
"It isn't the hour for giving out books," he began.
Tom was stamping his foot impatiently, and scowling at Jasper, alternately casting longing glances out the nearest port-hole.
"It isn't books we want," said Jasper, quickly, "but this old gentleman"--whose head was now heavily sunken on his breast, and whose cheek was quite white-- "appears to be very ill, and to need the doctor."
"Is that so?" The steward leaned over and peered into the old face. "Well, he doesn't look just right, and that's a fact. Is he your father?"
"Oh, no," said Jasper, quickly, "I don't know who he is. But, do hurry, for he's sick, and needs the doctor at once."
"I'll get Dr. Jones." Off ran the steward toward the surgeon's cabin.
"See what you've done," cried Tom, in a towering passion. "Kicked up a pretty mess--when I tell you I've seen my Grandfather just as bad a hundred times."
Jasper made no reply, and Polly continued to stroke gently the poor head.
"Well--well--well!" exclaimed Mr. King, coming in, "to be sure, it's very stupid in me not to think of looking in the library for both of you before. O dear me-- bless me!" And he came to a dead stop of astonishment.
"Father," cried Jasper, "this poor man seems very ill."
"Oh, yes," breathed Polly, pitifully, "he really is, Grandpapa." And she put out her hand to seize one of Mr. King's. "And Jasper has sent for the doctor."
"And none too soon, I should say," remarked Mr. King, grimly, with a keen glance into the old man's face. "Raise his feet a little higher, Jasper; put a pillow under them; there, that's it. Well, the doctor should be hurried up." He glanced quickly around. "Here, you boy," seeing Tom, "run as you never have run before, and tell the doctor to come quickly."
"There isn't any need," began Tom.
"Do you go!" commanded Mr. King, pointing to the door. And Tom went.
"Father, that boy is his grandson," said Jasper, pointing to the sick man.
Mr. King stared into Jasper's face, unable to make a reply.
"He is," declared Polly. "Oh, Grandpapa, he really is!" Then she buried her flushed face up against Mr. King's arm.
"There is no need to waste words," said Mr. King, finding his tongue. "There, there, Polly, child," fondling her brown head, "don't feel badly. I'm sure you've done all you could."
"'Twas Jasper; he did it all--I couldn't do anything," said Polly.
"Oh, Polly, you did everything," protested Jasper.
"Yes, yes, I know, you both did," said Mr. King. "Well, here's the doctor, thank the Lord!"
And then when nobody wanted them, the library seemed to be full of people, and the news spreading out to the decks, many of the passengers got out of their steamer chairs, and tried to swarm into the two doorways.
Tom, who never knew how he summoned Dr. Jones, being chiefly occupied in astonishment at finding that he obeyed a command from a perfect stranger, did not come back to the library, but kept himself with the same amazed expression on his face, idly kicking his heels in a quiet corner of the deck near by. He never thought of such a thing as being worried over his Grandfather, for he couldn't remember when the old gentleman hadn't been subject to nervous attacks; but somehow since "a row," as he expressed it, "had been kicked up," it was just as well to stay in the vicinity and see the end of it. But he wasn't going inside --no, not he!
After awhile, Tom was just beginning to yawn, and to feel that no one could expect him to waste time like that, and probably his Grandfather was going to sleep it out on the sofa, and the stupid doctor would find that there was nothing the matter, only the old man was nervous. "And I'm going back to the fellows," decided Tom, shaking his long legs.
"Oh, here you are!" cried Jasper, running up to him. "Come quickly," seizing his arm.
"Hey, here, what are you about?" roared Tom at him, shaking off the hand.
"You must excuse me for wasting no ceremony," said Jasper, sternly. It struck Tom that he looked very much like the old gentleman who had told him to go! "Your Grandfather is very ill; something is the matter with his heart, and the doctor has sent me for you. He says he may not live an hour." It was necessary to tell the whole of the dreadful truth, for Tom was still staring at him in defiance.