Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sidney
Polly Tries To Help
"Mamsie, what shall we do?" Polly clasped her hands in despair, and looked down on Phronsie, sleeping away as if she meant to take her own time to wake up, regardless of sunrise on the Rigi. "O dear me, and she went to bed so early last night on purpose."
"You go right along, Polly," said Mother Fisher. "Put on your golf cape over your jacket, child, it's dreadfully cold out there. I shall stay with Phronsie, for of course we wouldn't leave her alone with Matilda, and all go off for a nice time."
"No, of course not," cried Polly, in horror at the mere thought.
"And she's in such a nice sleep and so warm, that it's a pity to wake her up," finished Mrs. Fisher.
"O dear me," cried Polly, in distress, "I'd rather stay, Mamsie, and have you go."
"No," said Mrs. Fisher, firmly, "I shall stay, so that is all there is about it, Polly. Now run along, child, and tell Matilda to hurry out too, for she wants to see the sunrise."
Polly still lingered, until her mother looked up in surprise. "Why, Polly," she said, reprovingly.
"O dear me!" exclaimed Polly, "I didn't mean to disobey, Mamsie, I really didn't; I'll go." And setting a kiss on Mother Fisher's black hair, she ran out on unsteady feet, and with all her comfort gone.
When she joined her group it would have been rather hard to distinguish any of them, as everybody was wrapped up in shawls and rugs, if Jasper hadn't been a sort of scout in waiting for her and Mrs. Fisher and Phronsie. And Tom could easily be picked out, for he hung around in Jasper's wake, and besides, he was so very big.
"Where are they?" asked Jasper, looking down the corridor back of her.
"Oh, Mamsie isn't coming, nor Phronsie either, for she's asleep. And Mamsie made me come," finished Polly, dismally.
"O dear me," said Jasper, quite gone in sympathy. Tom Selwyn poked his head forward to hear, but, as it was something quite beyond his powers to help, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and kicked aimlessly on the floor.
"Well, come on, Polly," said Jasper, wishing he could lift the gloom from Polly's face, and feeling quite dismal himself.
Little Dr. Fisher, muffled up in a big plaid shawl so that only his spectacles gleamed in between the folds and his cap, suddenly edged up back of Polly, and dropped the folds away from his ears so that he could hear what was going on. And when the group hurried out of the door, into the cold gray dawn, he was skipping down to his wife's room, in the liveliest way imaginable.
Old Mr. King had gone on ahead with the parson, as he couldn't scramble so fast. And now he met them with, "Well, are you all here--where's Phronsie?"
"Oh, Jasper, I can't tell him," gasped Polly, up on the tiptop bunch of rocks, and trying to be glad of the promise of the beautiful sunrise to come, for everybody agreed that it was apparently to be the best one that had gladdened the hearts of travellers for years. Then she whirled around and stared with all her might, "If there isn't Mamsie coming!"
"As true as you live it is!" cried Jasper, with a good look, and springing down the rocks to help her up. Tom Selwyn plunged after him, getting there first. So in the bustle, nobody answered Mr. King. And he, supposing from the merry chatter that Phronsie was in the midst of it, concluded it best not to interrupt their fun, even if he could make them hear.
"Your father made me come, Polly," said Mrs. Fisher, coming up between the two boys. "But I'd so much rather that he saw it." And her downcast face looked so very much like Polly, that Jasper thought matters hadn't bettered themselves any.
"But, Mamsie," said Polly, creeping up to her with all the comfort she could, "it makes him happy, just as it made you happy to have me go."
"I know it," said Mother Fisher, with a sigh, "but he has so few pleasures, Polly, and he works so hard." And her gaze wandered off to the distant clouds, slowly beginning to break away.
Polly held her breath as they waited and looked, although her heart was sad when the wee little streak of light began to come over in the east.
"Isn't that just beautiful!" exclaimed Jasper, trying to enjoy it as much as he had expected; "see, Polly, the stars seem going out--daylight's coming!"
"I know," said Polly, "so it is." Sure enough, a little strip of gold touched up the leaden sky, and spread slowly.
"See, it's turning pink." Mrs. Selwyn's plain, quiet face glowed. "See, Polly, look at that peak bathed in colour."
Just then a little voice said, "Oh, isn't that beautiful!" And whirling around on her rock, Polly saw little Dr. Fisher staggering along with a big bundle in his arms, out of which was peering Phronsie's face.
Mother Fisher had turned too. "Oh, Adoniram!" was all she said, as Polly sprang off to meet them.
"Give her to me," cried Tom Selwyn, of course reaching there first, before either Polly or Jasper; and before Dr. Fisher quite knew how, Phronsie was perched on the broad shoulder, and Tom was prancing up the rocky path as easily as if a bird had lighted on his arm.
"She woke up, luckily," said little Dr. Fisher, "and she's bundled up so there isn't a chance of her taking cold. Wife, this is grand!" He gained her side, and drew her hand under the big shawl.
"You've come just in time," cried Polly, skipping around on her rock to the imminent danger of falling on her nose, and varying the exercises by cuddling Phronsie's toes, done up in a big bundle.
"I declare if Papa Fisher hasn't tied them up in one of the blankets," she announced merrily.
"A blanket is just as good as anything when the sunrise is waiting for you," said the little doctor, coolly.
"Isn't it!" cried Polly, back at him, happily. "Oh--oh!"
Everybody echoed, "Oh-oh!" then stood hushed to silence. A rosy blush spread from peak to peak, and all the shadows fell away. Everything below, towns, villages, lakes, and forests, stood out in the clear cold dawn, and at last the sun burst forth in all his glory.
"I'm so glad that people don't chatter," said Polly, when at last they turned away, for the swift clouds had shut it all out. "Did you see Phronsie's face, Jasper, when that light burst out?"
"Yes, and father's," answered Jasper. "I expect he'd been looking for her; everybody is so bundled up you can hardly find your best friend. And then he saw her."
"Yes, and she saw him and called him," said Polly, "didn't you hear her?"
"Didn't I, though?" said Jasper; "who could help it? Wasn't father pleased when he got up to us, Tom, to think you had Phronsie in such good shape? Phronsie, you're in luck," pinching as much of her toes as the bundle of blanket would allow; "you've got the best place of any of us, up on that perch."
"I like it," said Phronsie, in grave delight, "very much, indeed," surveying them out of the depths of the shawl, "and I wish it needn't stop."
"Well, it must," said Polly, with a sigh. "Dear me, see those people run."
"Well, it's cold," said Jasper; "let's you and I race to the hotel, Polly."
"And the show is over," said Tom, "why shouldn't they run?" as Jasper and Polly set off, and he strode after, getting there nearly as soon.
An hour later, Polly, who couldn't get to sleep again, for a nap before breakfast, went out to the little balcony window just outside her door, where she might sit and write in her journal, and meantime catch any chance view that the grey scudding clouds might afford. In this way she strove to work off the impatience possessing her for the beautiful hour to come after breakfast. "I can hardly believe it now," she thought, and she gave herself a little pinch to see if she were really awake; "it seems too good to be true to think that the great Professor Bauricke is actually going to tell me how to learn to play well!"
"Say," a voice struck upon her ear, "oh, I'm in the most awful distress."
Polly clapped her book to, and looked up.
"O dear, dear!" It was a tall, spare woman with a face that had something about it like Grandma Bascom's. It must have been the cap-frills flapping around her cheeks.
"What can I do for you?" asked Polly, springing up. "Oh, do take my chair and sit down and tell me about it."
"Oh, will you help me? The land! I couldn't set when I'm in such trouble," declared the old woman. "My senses, I should fly off the handle!" Polly, feeling that she was in the presence of some dreadful calamity, stood quite still. "You see, me and my sister--she's in highstrikes now in there." The old woman tossed her head to indicate a room further down the hall, whereat the cap-frills flapped wilder than ever. "Bein' as it belonged to both of us, she feels as bad as I do, but as I was the one that lost it, why it stands to reason I've got to shake around and get it again. Say, will you help me? You've got a pair of bright eyes as ever I see in a head; and what's the good of 'em if you can't help in trouble like this?"
Polly, feeling that her eyes would never forgive her if she didn't let them help on such an occasion, promised.
"What is it you have lost?" she asked.
"Don't you know?" cried the old woman, impatiently. "Mercy me! how many times shall I tell you? My buzzom pin; it was took of Pa when he was a young man and awful handsome, and I didn't want to leave it in the room when we went out, cause somebody might get in, and they'd be sure to want it, so I pinned it on my nightcap strings and it's gone, and I a-gallivanting round on them rocks, a- looking at the sunrise, and I can see that to home all I want to. I must have been crazy."
"Oh, I see; and you want me to go out and help you look for it," said Polly, her brow clearing.
"Of course," assented the old woman, impatiently. "Land, your intellects ain't as bright as your eyes. My sakes!--how many times do you expect me to tell you? I've been a-looking and a-peeking everywhere, but my eyes are old, and I don't dare to tell any one to help me, for like enough they'd pick it up when I warn't seein', and slip Pa in their pocket, and I never'd see him again."
Polly, feeling, if Pa were slipped in a pocket and carried off, it would be a calamity indeed, said heartily, "I'll get my jacket and cap and come right out."
"She looks honest; I guess I hain't done no harm to tell her about our buzzom pin," said the old woman to herself as Polly disappeared. Mamsie being asleep, Polly could say nothing to her, but feeling that she would allow it if she knew, she threw on her things and ran out to meet the old woman, with a shawl tied over her nightcap and a big long cape on.
"I tell you she's in highstrikes," said the old woman, going down the hall. "That's our room, 37, an' I've seen you an' your folks goin' by, so I feel in some ways acquainted. An' if I don't find Pa, I'll be flabbergasted myself."
"Do let us hurry," said Polly, her mind now only on Pa. So they went down the stairs and out by the door and up the rocky path just where the old woman said she and sister Car'line took when they went out to see the sunrise.
"An' I wish we'd kept in bed," ejaculated Polly's companion. "I most lost my teeth out, they chattered so; and so did Car'line hers. But that wouldn't 'a' been nothin' to losin' Pa, cause we could 'a' got more teeth; but how could we 'a' got him took when he was nineteen and so handsome? There! here we stopped, just at this identical spot!"
"Well, I think we shall find it," said Polly, consolingly. "How did the pin look?" she asked, for the first time remembering to ask, and beginning to poke around in the crevices.
"My land sakes! I never see such a girl for wanting to be told over and over," exclaimed the old woman, irritably, picking up first one ample gaiter and then another to warm her cold toes in her hands. "Haven't I told you he was awful handsome? Well, he had on his blue coat and big brass buttons for one thing, an' his shirt front was ruffled. And--"
"Was it gold around it?" asked Polly, poking away busily.
"Gold? I guess it was; and there was dents in it, where Car'line an' I bit into it when we were babies, 'cause mother give it to us when our teeth was comin'-- 'twas better'n a chicken bone, she said."
"Oh," said Polly.
"Well, now you know," said Car'line's sister, "an' don't for mercy's sakes ask any more useless questions. I'm most sorry I brung you."
"I might go down and get the boys, Jasper and Tom--they'd love to help," said Polly, feeling that she was very much out of place, and there was no hope of finding Pa under the circumstances.
The old woman clutched her arm and held her fast. "Don't you say a single word about any boys," she commanded. "I hate boys," she exploded, "they're the worry of our lives, Car'line and mine,--they get into our garden, and steal all our fruit, and they hang on behind our chaise when we ride out, and keep me a- lookin' round an' slashin' the whip at 'em the whole livelong time; O my-- boys!"
"What in the world is Polly Pepper doing up on those rocks?" cried Jasper, just spying her. "Come on, Tom, and let's see." And they seized their caps, and buttoned their jackets against the wind which had just sprung up, and dashed off to see for themselves.
"Ugh--you go right away!" screamed Car'line's sister, as their heads appeared over the point of rocks, and shaking both hands fiercely at them.
"Whew!" whistled Jasper, with his eyes in surprise on Polly.
"And what old party are you?" demanded Tom, finding it easy to talk to her, as she was by no means a girl. "And do you own this mountain, anyway?"
"Oh, don't," begged Polly. "And Jasper, if you would go away, please, and not ask any questions."
"All right," said Jasper, swallowing his disappointment not to know. "Come on, Tom, Polly doesn't want us here."
"An' I won't have you here," screamed the old woman, harder than ever. "So get away as soon as you can. Why, you are boys!"
"I know it." Tom bobbed his head at her. "We've always been, ma'am."
"An' boys are good for nothing, an' lazy, an' thieves--yes, I wouldn't trust 'em." So she kept on as they hurried back over the rocky path.
"That's a tiger for you!" ejaculated Tom. Then he stopped and looked back a little anxiously. "Aren't you afraid to leave Polly with her?"
"No," said Jasper; "it would trouble Polly to have us stay." Yet he stopped and looked anxious too. "We will wait here."
And after a while, down came the two searchers--the old woman quite beside herself now, and scolding every bit of the way,--"that she didn't see what bright eyes were for when they couldn't find anything--an' now that Pa'd gone sliding down that mountain, they might as well give up, she an' Car'line"--when a sudden turn in the path brought the boys into view waiting behind the rocks. Then all her fury burst upon them.
"See here, now," cried Tom, suddenly squaring up to her and looking at the face between the nodding cap-frills, "we are ready to take a certain amount of abuse, my friend and I, but we won't stand more, I can tell you."
"Oh, don't," began Polly, clasping her hands. "Oh, Tom, please keep still. She doesn't know what she's saying, for she's lost her pin with her father on."
"Hey?" cried Jasper. "Say it again, Polly," while Tom shouted and roared all through Polly's recital.
"Was it an old fright with a long nose in a blue coat and ruffles, and as big as a turnip?" he asked between the shouts. While Polly tried to say, "Yes, I guess so," and Miss Car'line's sister so far overcame her aversion to boys as to seize him by the arm, Tom shook her off like a feather. "See here, old party," he cried, "that ancient pin of yours is reposing in the hotel office at this blessed moment. Jasper and I," indicating his friend, "ran across it on the rocks up there more than an hour ago, and--"
"Oh, Pa's found!" exclaimed the old woman, in a shrill scream of delight, beginning to trot down to the hotel office.
"Yes, it would have been impossible for Pa to have got off this mountain without making a landslide," said Tom, after her.