Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sidney
Mr. King Has A Little Plan For Polly
"Oh Jasper," exclaimed Polly, clasping her hands, "do you suppose we'll ever get to a piano where it's all alone, and nobody wants to play on it--"
"But just you and I," finished Jasper. "I declare I don't know. You see we don't stay still long enough in any one place to hire a decent one; and besides, father said, when we started, that it was better for us to rest and travel about without any practising this summer. You know he did, Polly."
"I know it," said Polly; "but oh, if we could just play once in a while," she added mournfully.
"Well, we can't," said Jasper, savagely; "you know we tried that at Brussels, when we thought everybody had gone off. And those half a dozen idiots came and stared at us through the glass door."
"And then they came in," added Polly, with a little shiver at the recollection. "But that big fat man with the black beard was the worst, Jasper." She glanced around as if she expected to see him coming down the long parlour.
"Well, he didn't hear much; there didn't any of them," said Jasper; "that's some small satisfaction, because you hopped off the piano stool and ran away."
"You ran just as fast, I'm sure, Jasper," said Polly, with a little laugh.
"Well, perhaps I did," confessed Jasper, bursting into a laugh. "Who wouldn't run with a lot of staring idiots flying at one?" he brought up in disgust.
"And we forgot the music," went on Polly, deep in the reminiscence, "and we wouldn't go back--don't you remember?--until the big fat man with the dreadful black beard had gone, for he'd picked it up and been looking at it."
"Yes, I remember all about it," said Jasper; "dear me, what a time we had! It's enough to make one wish that the summer was all over, and that we were fairly settled in Dresden," he added gloomily, as he saw her face.
"Oh, no," exclaimed Polly, quickly, and quite shocked to see the mischief that she had done.
"We wouldn't have the beautiful summer go a bit faster, Jasper. Why, that would be too dreadful to think of."
"But you want to get at your music, Polly."
"I'll fly at it when the time comes," cried Polly, with a wise little nod, "never you fear, Jasper. Now come on; let's get Phronsie and go out and see the shops."
Old Mr. King in a nook behind the curtain, dropped the newspaper in his lap and thought a bit. "Best to wait till we get to Lucerne," he said to himself, nodding his white head; "then, says I, Polly, my child, you shall have your piano."
And when their party were settling down in the hotel at Lucerne, ending the beautiful days of travel after leaving Munich, Jasper's father called him abruptly. "See here, my boy."
"What is it, father?" asked Jasper, wonderingly; "the luggage is all right; it's gone up to the rooms--all except the portmanteau, and Francis will go down to the station and straighten that out."
"I'm not in the least troubled in regard to the luggage, Jasper," replied his father, testily; "it's something much more important than the luggage question about which I wish to speak to you."
Jasper stared, well knowing his father's views in regard to the luggage question. "The first thing that you must unpack--the very first," old Mr. King was saying, "is your music. Don't wait a minute, Jasper, but go and get it. And then call Polly, and--"
"Why, father," exclaimed Jasper, "there isn't a single place to play in. You don't know how people stare if we touch the piano. We can't here, father; there's such a crowd in this hotel."
"You do just as I say, Jasper," commanded his father. "And tell Polly to get her music; and then do you two go to the little room out of the big parlour, and play to your hearts' content." And he burst into a hearty laugh at Jasper's face, as he dangled a key at the end of a string, before him.
"Now I do believe, father, that you've got Polly a piano and a little room to play in," cried Jasper, joyfully, and pouncing on the key.
"You go along and do as I tell you," said Mr. King, mightily pleased at the success of his little plan. "And don't you tell Polly Pepper one word until she has taken her music down in the little room," as Jasper bounded off on the wings of the wind.
And in that very hotel was the big fat man with the dreadful black beard, resting after a long season of hard work.
But Polly and Jasper wouldn't have cared had they known it, as long as they had their own delightful little music room to themselves--as they played over and over all the dear old pieces, and Polly revelled in everything that she was so afraid she had forgotten.
"I really haven't lost it, Jasper!" she would exclaim radiantly, after finishing a concerto, and dropping her hands idly on the keys. "And I was so afraid I'd forgotten it entirely. Just think, I haven't played that for three months, Jasper King."
"Well, you haven't forgotten a bit of it," declared Jasper, just as glad as she was. "You didn't make any mistakes, hardly, Polly."
"Oh, yes, I made some," said Polly, honestly, whirling around on the piano stool to look at him.
"Oh, well, only little bits of ones," said Jasper; "those don't signify. I wish father could have heard that concerto. What a pity he went out just before you began it."
But somebody else, on the other side of the partition between the little music room and the big parlour, had heard, and he pulled his black beard thoughtfully with his long fingers, then pricked up his ears to hear more. And it was funny how, almost every day, whenever the first notes on the piano struck up in Mr. King's little music room, the big fat man, who was so tired with his season of hard work, never seemed to think that he could rest as well as in that particular corner up against that partition. And no matter what book or paper he had in his hand, he always dropped it and fell to pulling his black beard with his long fingers, before the music was finished.
And then, "Oh, Polly, come child, you have played long enough," from Mother Fisher on the other side of the partition; or old Mr. King would say, "No more practising to-day, Miss Polly;" or Phronsie would pipe out, "Polly, Grandpapa is going to take us out on the lake; do come, Polly." And then it was funnier yet to see how suddenly the big fat man with the dreadful black beard seemed to find that particular corner by that partition a very tiresome place. And as the piano clicked down its cover, he would yawn, and get up and say something in very rapid German to himself, and off he would go, forgetting all about his book or newspaper, which, very likely, would tumble to the floor, and flap away by itself till somebody came and picked it up and set it on the sofa.
One morning old Mr. King, hurrying along with his batch of English mail to enjoy opening it in the little music room where Jasper and Polly were playing a duet, ran up suddenly against a fat heavy body coming around an opposite angle.
"Oh, I beg your pardon, sir," exclaimed Mr. King in great distress, the more so as he saw that the stranger's glasses were knocked off his nose by the collision. "I do trust they are not broken," he added, in a concerned tone, endeavouring to pick them up.
But the big man was before him. "Not a beet, not a beet," he declared, adjusting them on his nose again. Then he suddenly grasped old Mr. King's hand. "And I be very glad, sir, very glad indeed, dat I haf roon into you."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Mr. King, releasing his hand instantly, and all the concern dropping out of his face.
"Very glad indeed!" repeated the big man, heartily; then he pulled his black beard, and stood quite still a moment.
"If you have nothing more to remark, sir," said Mr. King, haughtily, "perhaps you will be kind enough to stand out of my way, and allow me to pass. And it would be as well for you to observe more care in the future, sir, both in regard to your feet, and your tongue, sir."
"Yes, I am very glad," began the big man again, who hadn't even heard Mr. King's tirade, "for now--" and he gave his black beard a final twitch, and his eyes suddenly lightened with a smile that ran all over his face, "I can speak to you of dis ting dat is in my mind. Your--"
"I want to hear nothing of what is on your mind," declared old Mr. King, now thoroughly angry. "Stand aside, fellow, and let me pass," he commanded, in a towering passion.
The big man stared in astonishment into the angry face, the smile dropping out of his own. "I beg to excuse myself," he said, with a deep bow, and a wave of his long fingers. "Will you pass?" and he moved up as tightly as possible to the wall.
Old Mr. King went into the little music room in a furious rage, and half an hour afterward Polly and Jasper, pausing to look around, saw him tossing and tumbling his letters and newspapers about on the table, fuming to himself all the while.
"Father has had bad news!" exclaimed Jasper, turning pale; "something about his agents, probably."
"O dear me! and here we have been playing," cried Polly in remorse, every vestige of colour flying from her cheek.
"Well, we didn't know," said Jasper, quickly. "But what can we do now, Polly?" he turned to her appealingly.
"I don't know," she was just going to say helplessly, but Jasper's face made her see that something must be done. "Let's go and tell him we are sorry," she said; "that's what Mamsie always liked best if she felt badly."
So the two crept up behind old Mr. King's chair: "Father, I'm so sorry," and "Dear Grandpapa, I'm so sorry," and Polly put both arms around his neck suddenly.
"Eh--what?" cried Mr. King, sitting bolt upright in astonishment. "Oh, bless me, children, I thought you were playing on the piano."
"We were," said Polly, hurrying around to the side of the table, her face quite rosy now, "but we didn't know--" and she stopped short, unable to find another word.
"--that you felt badly," finished Jasper. "Oh, father, we didn't know that you'd got bad news." He laid his hand as he spoke on the pile of tumbled-up letters.
"Bad news!" ejaculated old Mr. King, in perplexity, and looking from one to the other.
"No, we didn't," repeated Polly, clasping her hands. "Dear Grandpapa, we truly didn't, or we wouldn't have kept on playing all this time."
Mr. King put back his head and laughed long and loud, as he hadn't done for many a day, his ill humour dropping off in the midst of it. "The letters are all right," he said, wiping his eyes, "never had better news. It was an impertinent fellow I met out there, that's all."
"Father, who has dared--" began Jasper, with flashing eyes.
"Don't you worry, my boy; it's all right, the fellow got his quietus; besides, he wasn't worth minding," said Mr. King, carelessly. "Why, here is your mother," turning to Polly. "Now then, Mrs. Fisher, what is it; for I see by your eye some plan is on the carpet."
"Yes, there is," said Mrs. Fisher, coming in with a smile, "the doctor is going to take a day off."
"Is that really so?" cried Mr. King, with a little laugh. "What! not even going to visit one of his beloved hospitals?" while Polly exclaimed, radiantly, "Oh, how perfectly elegant! Now we'll have Papa-Doctor for a whole long day!"
Phronsie, who had been close to her mother's gown during the delivery of this important news, clasped her hands in a quiet rapture, while Polly exclaimed, "Now, Grandpapa, can it be the Rigi?" Jasper echoing the cry heartily.
"I suppose it is to be the Rigi," assented old Mr. King, leaning back in his chair to survey them all, "that is, if Mrs. Fisher approves. We'll let you pick out the jaunting place," turning to her, "seeing that it is the doctor's holiday."
"I know that Dr. Fisher wants very much to go up the Rigi," said his wife, in great satisfaction at the turn the plans were taking.
"And we'll stay over night, father," cried Jasper, "won't we?"
"Stay over night?" repeated his father, "I should say so. Why, what would be the good of our going up at all, pray tell, if we didn't devote that much time to it and have a try for a sunrise?"
"We're to go up the Rigi!" exclaimed Polly, giving a little whirl, and beginning to dance around the room, repeating, "We're to go up the Rigi," exactly as if nobody knew it, and she was telling perfectly fresh news.
"Here--that dance looks awfully good--wait for me," cried Jasper. And seizing her hands, they spun round and round, Phronsie scuttling after them, crying, "Take me, too. I want to dance, Polly."
"So you shall," cried Polly and Jasper together; so they made a little ring of three, and away they went, Polly this time crying, "Just think, we're going to have the most beautiful sunrise in all this world."
And on the other side of the partition, in his accustomed nook in the big parlour, the big fat man with the black beard sat. He pulled this same black beard thoughtfully a bit, when Mr. King was telling about the impertinent fellow. Then he smiled and jabbered away to himself very hard in German; and it wasn't till the King party hurried off to get ready for the Rigi trip, that he got up and sauntered off.
And almost the first person that old Mr. King saw on getting his party into a car on the funicular railway, was the "impertinent fellow," also bound for the top of the Rigi.
"Oh, Grandpapa!" Polly got out of her seat and hurried to him with cheeks aflame, when midway up.
"I know--isn't it wonderful!" cried Grandpapa, happy in her pleasure, and finding it all just as marvellous as if he hadn't made the ascent several times.
"Yes, yes!" cried Polly. "It is all perfectly splendid, Grandpapa; but oh, I mean, did you hear what that lady said?" and she dropped her voice, and put her mouth close to Grandpapa's ear.
"I'm sure I didn't," said old Mr. King, carelessly, "and I'm free to confess I'm honestly glad of it. For if there is one thing I detest more than another, Polly, my girl, it is to hear people, especially women, rave and gush over the scenery."
"Oh, she didn't rave and gush," cried Polly, in a whisper, afraid that the lady heard. "She said, Grandpapa, that Herr Bauricke is at Lucerne; just think, Grandpapa, the great Herr Bauricke!"
She took her mouth away from the old gentleman's ear in order to look in his face.
"Polly, Polly," called Jasper from his seat on the farther end, "you are losing all this," as the train rounded a curve. "Do come back."
"Now, I'm glad of that," exclaimed Grandpapa, in a tone of the greatest satisfaction, "for I can ask him about the music masters in Dresden and get his advice, and be all prepared before we go there for the winter to secure the very best."
"And I can see him, and perhaps hear him play," breathed Polly, in an awestruck tone, quite lost to scenery and everything else. Jasper leaned forward and stared at her in amazement. Then he slipped out of his seat, and made his way up to them to find out what it was all about.
"How did she know?" he asked, as Polly told all she knew; "I'm just going to ask her." But the lady, who had caught snatches of the conversation, though she hadn't heard Mr. King's part of it, very obligingly leaned forward in her seat and told all she knew.
And by the time this was done, they all knew that the information was in the American paper printed in Paris, and circulated all over the Continent, and that the lady had read it that very morning just before setting out.
"The only time I missed reading that paper," observed old Mr. King, regretfully.
"And he is staying at our very hotel," finished the lady, "for I have seen you, sir, with your party there."
"Another stroke of good luck," thought old Mr. King, "and quite easy to obtain the information I want as to a master for Polly and Jasper."
"Now then, children," he said to the two hanging on the conversation, "run back to your seats and enjoy the view. This news of ours will keep."
So Polly and Jasper ran back obediently, but every step of the toilsome ascent by which the car pushed its way to the wonderful heights above, Polly saw everything with the words, "Herr Bauricke is at our hotel," ringing through her ears; and she sat as in a maze. Jasper was nearly as bad.
And then everybody was pouring out of the cars and rushing for the hotel on the summit; all but Mr. King's party and a few others, who had their rooms engaged by telegraphing up. When they reached the big central hall there was a knot of Germans all talking together, and on the outside fringe of this knot, people were standing around and staring at the central figure. Suddenly some one darted away from this outer circle and dashed up to them. It was the lady from their hotel.
"I knew you'd want to know," she exclaimed breathlessly; "that's Herr Bauricke himself--he came up on our train--just think of it!--the big man in the middle with the black beard." She pointed an excited finger at the knot of Germans.
Old Mr. King followed the course of the finger, and saw his "impertinent fellow who wasn't worth minding."