Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sidney
"I Should Make Him Happy," Said Phronsie
Polly got Jasper away into a side corridor by a beseeching little pull on his sleeve. "Oh, just to think," she mourned, "I called that great man such unpleasant things--that he was big and fat, and--oh, oh!"
"Well, he is big and fat," declared Jasper. "We can't say he isn't, Polly."
"But I meant it all against him," said Polly, shaking her head. "You know I did, Jasper," she added remorsefully.
"Yes, we neither of us liked him," said Jasper, "and that's the honest truth, Polly."
"And to think it was that great Herr Bauricke!" exclaimed Polly. Then her feelings overcame her, and she sank down on the cushioned seat in the angle.
Jasper sat down beside her. "I suppose it won't do to say anything about people after this until we know them. Will it, Polly?"
"Jasper," declared Polly, clasping her hands, while the rosy colour flew over her cheek, "I'm never going to say a single--"
Just then the big form of Herr Bauricke loomed up before them, as he turned into the corridor.
Polly shrank up in her corner as small as she could, wishing she was as little as Phronsie, and could hop up and run away.
Herr Bauricke turned his sharp eyes on them for a moment, hesitated, then came directly up, and stopped in front of them. "I meant--I intended to speak to your grandfader first. Dat not seem best now." The great man was really talking to them, and Polly held her breath, not daring to look into his face, but keeping her gaze on his wonderful fingers. "My child," those wonderful fingers seized her own, and clasped them tightly, "you have great promise, mind you, you know only a leedle now, and you must work--work--work." He brought it out so sharply, that the last word was fairly shrill. "But I tink you will," he added kindly, dropping his tone. Then he laid her fingers gently in her lap.
"Oh, she does, sir," exclaimed Jasper, finding his tongue first, for Polly was beyond speaking. "Polly works all the time she can."
"Dat is right." Herr Bauricke bobbed his head in approval, so that his spectacles almost fell off. "I hear dat, in de music she play. No leedle girl play like dat, who doesn't work. I will hear you sometime at de hotel," he added abruptly, "and tell you some tings dat will help you. To-morrow, maybe, when we go down from dis place, eh?"
"Oh, sir," exclaimed Polly, springing off from her cushion before Jasper could stop her. "You are so good--but--but--I cannot," then her breath gave out, and she stood quite still.
"Eh?" exclaimed Herr Bauricke, and pushing up his spectacles to stare into her flushed and troubled face. "Perhaps I not make my meaning clear; I mean I geef you of my time and my best advice. Now you understand--eh?" He included Jasper in his puzzled glance.
"Yes, sir," Jasper made haste to say. "We do understand; and it is so very good of you, and Polly will accept it, sir." "For father will make it all right with him as to the payment," he reflected easily.
"Ah, now," exclaimed Herr Bauricke, joyfully, a light beaming all over his fat face, "dat is someting like--to-morrow, den, we--"
"But, oh, sir," Polly interrupted, "I cannot," and she twisted her hands in distress. "I--I--didn't like you, and I said so." Then she turned very pale, and her head drooped.
Jasper leaned over, and took her hand. "Neither did I, sir," he said. "I was just as bad as Polly."
"You not tink me nice looking--so?" said Herr Bauricke. "Well, I not tink so myself, eeder. And I scare you maybe, wid dis," and he twisted his black beard with his long fingers. "Ah, so; well, we will forget all dis, leedle girl," and he bent down and took Polly's other fingers that hung by her side. "And eef you not let me come to-morrow to your leedle music room, and tell you sometings to help you learn better, I shall know dat you no like me now--eh?"
"Oh, sir," Polly lifted her face, flooded with rosy colour up to her brown hair, "if you only will forgive me?"
"I no forgeef; I not remember at all," said Herr Bauricke, waving his long fingers in the air. "And I go to-morrow to help you, leedle girl," and he strode down the corridor.
Polly and Jasper rushed off, they scarcely knew how, to Grandpapa, to tell him the wonderful news,--to find him in a truly dreadful state of mind. When they had told their story, he was as much worse as could well be imagined.
"Impossible, impossible!" was all he could say, but he brought his hand down on the table before him with so much force that Jasper felt a strange sinking of heart. What could be the matter?
"Why, children, and you all" (for his whole party was before him), exclaimed Mr. King, "Herr Bauricke is that impertinent person who annoyed me this morning, and I called him 'fellow' to his face!"
It was so very much worse than Jasper had dreamed, that he collapsed into the first chair, all Polly's prospects melting off like dew before the sun.
"Hum!" Little Dr. Fisher was the first to speak. He took off his big spectacles and wiped them; then put them on his nose and adjusted them carefully, and glared around the group, his gaze resting on old Mr. King's face.
Polly, who had never seen Jasper give way like this, forgot her own distress, and rushed up to him. "Oh, don't, Jasper," she begged.
"You see I can't allow Herr Bauricke to give any lessons or advice to Polly after this," went on Mr. King, hastily. "Of course he would be paid; but, under the circumstances, it wouldn't do, not in the least. It is quite out of the question," he went on, as if some one had been contradicting him. But no one said a word.
"Why don't some of you speak?" he asked, breaking the pause. "Dr. Fisher, you don't generally keep us waiting for your opinion. Speak out now, man, and let us have it."
"It is an awkward affair, surely," began the little doctor, slowly.
"Awkward? I should say so," frowned Mr. King; "it's awkward to the last degree. Here's a man who bumps into me in a hotel passage,--though, for that matter, I suppose it's really my fault as much as his,--and I offer to pick up his spectacles that were dropped in the encounter. And he tells me that he is glad that we ran up against each other, for it gives him a chance to tell me what is on his mind. As if I cared what was on his mind, or on the mind of any one else, for that matter," he declared, in extreme irritation. "And I told him to his face that he was an impertinent fellow, and to get out of my way. Yes, I did!"
A light began to break on little Dr. Fisher's face, that presently shone through his big spectacles, fairly beaming on them all. Then he burst into a laugh, hearty and long.
"Why, Adoniram!" exclaimed Mother Fisher, in surprise. Polly turned a distressed face at him; and to say that old Mr. King stared would be stating the case very mildly indeed.
"Can't you see, oh, can't you see," exploded the little doctor, mopping up his face with his big handkerchief, "that your big German was trying to tell you of Polly's playing, and to say something, probably pretty much the same that he has said to her and to Jasper? O dear me, I should like to have been there to see you both," ended Dr. Fisher, faintly. Then he went off into another laugh.
"I don't see much cause for amusement," said old Mr. King, grimly, when this idea broke into his mind, "for it's a certain fact that I called him a fellow, and told him to get out of the way."
"Well, he doesn't bear you any malice, apparently," said the little doctor, who, having been requested to speak, saw no reason for withholding any opinion he might chance to have, "for, if he did, he wouldn't have made that handsome offer to Polly."
"That may be; the offer is handsome enough," answered Mr. King, "that is the trouble, it's too handsome. I cannot possibly accept it under the awkward circumstances. No, children," he turned to Polly and Jasper, as if they had been beseeching him all the while, "you needn't ask it, or expect it," and he got out of his chair, and stalked from the room.
Jasper buried his face in his hands, and a deep gloom settled over the whole party, on all but little Dr. Fisher. He pranced over to Polly and Jasper just as merrily as if nothing dreadful had happened. "Don't you be afraid, my boy," he said; "your father is a dreadfully sensible man, and there's no manner of doubt but that he will fix this thing up."
"Oh, you don't know father," groaned Jasper, his head in his hands, "when he thinks the right thing hasn't been done or said. And now Polly will miss it all!" And his head sank lower yet.
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Dr. Fisher. Yet he had a dreadful feeling coming over him, and he turned to Polly imploringly.
"Oh, I do believe it, Jasper," cried Polly, "what Papa-Doctor says. And just look at Mamsie!" she cried, beneath her breath.
And truly Mother Fisher was having a hard time to control herself. That Jasper could see as he lifted his head. And the little doctor also saw, and skipped back across the room to her side. And Phronsie, feeling plunged into the deepest woe by all this dreadful state of affairs, that had come too bewilderingly for her to rally to Grandpapa's side, first began to cry. And then, thinking better of it, went softly out of the door, and no one noticed her when she went--with the tears running down her cheeks.
Down the long corridor she hurried, not knowing which way Grandpapa went, but turning into the little reading room, she spied him sitting by the table. The apartment was otherwise empty. He wasn't reading, not even looking at a paper, but sitting bolt upright, and lost in thought.
"Grandpapa," she said, laying a soft little hand on his arm. "Oh, I'm so glad I found you." And she nestled up to his side.
"Eh? Oh, Phronsie, child." Old Mr. King put his arm around her, and drew her closely to him. "So you came after your old Grand-daddy, did you?"
"Yes, I did," said Phronsie, with a glad little cry, snuggling up tighter to him, while the tears trailed off down his waistcoat, but not before he had seen them.
"Now, Phronsie, you are not to cry any more," he said, with a pang at the sight. "You won't, dear; promise me that."
So Phronsie promised; and he held her hands, and, clearing his throat, he began, "Well, now I suppose they felt pretty badly, back there in the room, your mother and all--eh, Phronsie?"
"Yes, Grandpapa," said Phronsie, her round face falling. Yet she had promised not to cry, and, although she had a hard time of it, every tear was kept back valiantly.
"And Polly, now--" asked old Mr. King, cautiously, "and Jasper--how were they feeling?"
"Grandpapa," Phronsie did not trust herself to reply, but, springing up, she laid her rosy little mouth close to his ear. "What does it all--the dreadful thing mean?" she whispered.
"It means," old Mr. King whispered back, but very distinctly, "that your old Granddaddy is an idiot, Phronsie, and that he has been rude, and let his temper run away with him."
"Oh, no, Grandpapa dear," contradicted Phronsie, falling back from him in horror. "You couldn't ever be that what you say." And she flung both arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.
"What? An idiot? Yes, I have been an idiot of the worst kind," declared Mr. King, "and all the rest just as I say; rude and--why, what is the matter, Phronsie?" for the little arms clutched him so tightly he could hardly breathe.
"Oh, Grandpapa," she wailed, and drawing away a bit to look at him, he saw her face convulsed with the effort not to cry. "Don't say such things. You are never naughty, Grandpapa dear; you can't be," she gasped.
"There, there, there," ejaculated old Mr. King, frightened at the effect of his words and patting her yellow hair, at his wits' end what to say. So he broke out, "Well, now, Phronsie, you must tell me what to do."
Thereupon Phronsie, seeing there was something she could really do to help Grandpapa, came out of her distress enough to sit up quite straight and attentive in his lap. "You see I spoke rudely to a man, and I called him a fellow, and he was a gentleman, Phronsie; you must remember that."
"Yes, I will, Grandpapa," she replied obediently, while her eyes never wandered from his face.
"And I told him to get out of the way and he did," said Mr. King, forcing himself to a repetition of the unpleasant truth. "O dear me, nothing could be worse," he groaned.
"And you are sorry, Grandpapa dear?" Phronsie leaned over and laid her cheek softly against his.
"Yes, I am, Phronsie, awfully sorry," confessed the old gentleman; "but what good will that do now? My temper has made a terrible mess of it all."
"But you can tell the gentleman you are sorry," said Phronsie. "Oh, Grandpapa dear, do go and tell him now, this very minute." She broke away from him again, and sat straight on his knee, while a glad little smile ran all over her face.
"I can't--you don't understand--O dear me!" Mr. King set her abruptly on the floor, and took a few turns up and down the room. Phronsie's eyes followed him with a grieved expression. When she saw the distress on his face, she ran up to him and seized his hand, but didn't speak.
"You see, child,"--he grasped her fingers and held them closely,--"it's just this way: the gentleman wants to do me a favour; that is, to help Polly with her music."
"Does he?" cried Phronsie, and she laughed in delight. "Oh, Grandpapa, how nice! And Polly will be so happy."
"But I cannot possibly accept it," groaned old Mr. King; "don't you see, child, after treating him so? Why, how could I? The idea is too monstrous!" He set off now at such a brisk pace down the room that Phronsie had hard work to keep up with him. But he clung to her hand.
"Won't that make the gentleman sorry?" panted Phronsie, trotting along by his side.
"Eh--oh, what?" exclaimed old Mr. King, coming to a dead stop suddenly. "What's that you say, Phronsie?"
"Won't the gentleman feel sorry?" repeated Phronsie, pushing back the waves of yellow hair that had fallen over her face, to look up at him. "And won't he feel badly then, Grandpapa?"
"Eh--oh, perhaps," assented Mr. King, slowly, and passing a troubled hand across his brow. "Well, now, Phronsie, you come and sit in my lap again, and we'll talk it over, and you tell me what I ought to do."
So the two got into the big chair again, and Phronsie folded her hands in her lap.
"Now begin," said old Mr. King.
"I should make the gentleman happy, Grandpapa," said Phronsie, decidedly.
"You would--no matter what you had to do to bring it about?" asked Grandpapa, with a keen pair of eyes on her face. "Eh? think now, Phronsie."
"I should make the gentleman happy," repeated Phronsie, and she bobbed her head decidedly. "I really should, Grandpapa."
"Then the best way is to have it over with as soon as possible," said old Mr. King; "so come on, child, and you can see that the business is done up in good shape." He gathered her little fingers up in his hand, and setting her once more on the floor, they passed out of the apartment.
The door of the private parlour belonging to Mr. King's rooms was flung wide open, and into the gloomy interior, for Mother Fisher and Jasper were still inconsolable, marched old Mr. King. He was arm in arm, so far as the two could at once compass the doorway, with Herr Bauricke; while Phronsie ducked and scuttled in as she could, for the big German, with ever so many honorary degrees to his name, held her hand fast.
Old Mr. King continued his march up to Mother Fisher. "Allow me to introduce Herr Bauricke, Professor and Doctor of Music, of world-wide distinction," he said, bowing his courtly old head.
And then Mother Fisher, self-controlled as she had always been, astonished him by turning to her husband to supply the answering word.
"Glad to see you!" exclaimed the little doctor, bubbling over with happiness, and wringing the long fingers extended. "My wife is overcome with delight," which the big German understood very well; and he smiled his knowledge of it, as he looked into her black eyes. "She is like to mein Frau," he thought, having no higher praise. And then he turned quickly to Polly and Jasper.