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Authors: Lois Gladys Leppard

Mandie Collection, The: 4 (6 page)

BOOK: Mandie Collection, The: 4
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As they waited, Mrs. Taft asked, “Did y’all find the place interesting?”

Mandie held on to the leash and let Snowball roam in the tall grass. “It was the most exciting place I’ve been to in a long time!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, ma’am,” Celia added.

“I thought it was very educational,” Jonathan remarked. “Something I won’t forget for some time.”

“That’s good,” Mrs. Taft replied. “Then I know you’ll enjoy coming back.”

The three young people rolled their eyes at one another when Mrs. Taft glanced away.

Suddenly Snowball pounced, and Mandie wasn’t holding his leash tight enough. He managed to jerk loose and went running across the garden.

Mandie quickly chased him. “Snowball Shaw! You come back here! Right now!” she commanded, as she followed him past a group of people sitting on a wall.

The leash was trailing after him in the grass, and Mandie got close enough to step on the end of it. The kitten jerked to a halt. He looked back at his mistress and meowed meekly.

Mandie stooped and picked him up, wrapping the end of the leash around her wrist. As she straightened up, she looked directly into the face of the strange woman from the ship. Mandie gasped and started toward her. The woman quickly disappeared in the crowd.

Mandie stood there, frustrated. She scanned the people in the park. There were so many people around, it was hard to see very far. She stomped her foot and turned to go back to her friends.

“One of these days I’ll catch up with you!” Mandie muttered under her breath as she walked back.

Mrs. Taft stood up. The senator had secured a carriage, and they were ready to go.

Mandie looked at Jonathan and Celia, and they all followed the adults.

“That strange woman was in the garden back there,” Mandie told her friends in a whisper. “She got away like usual.”

Jonathan shook his head. “We’ll catch her one day,” he promised in a low voice.

“But right now we’ve got to worry about coming back to this terrible place,” Celia moaned.

“Maybe we’ll find more secret places,” Mandie teased as they boarded the carriage.

CHAPTER FIVE

ALL ABOUT ROME

The sidewalk cafe where Senator Morton took the group for the midday meal was different from the ones in Paris.

The tables and chairs were larger, and about half of them were set outside on the marble sidewalk while the other half were under cover of the roof.

Mandie and her friends sat with the adults at a table in the shade and watched and listened. By the way the Italian people greeted one another in such a loud, friendly manner, Mandie felt sure everyone knew everyone else.

“The Italian language sounds so different, doesn’t it?” Mandie remarked.

“Yes,” Senator Morton agreed. “The language sounds higher pitched, while French is more nasal.

Celia raised her head and sniffed the air. “What is that mouth-watering smell?” she asked.

Mrs. Taft smiled. “You must smell the garlic. The Italians use it in almost everything.”

“Garlic?” Mandie asked. “What’s that?”

“A cousin to the onion, I suppose,” her grandmother explained. “It’s strong and often leaves an offensive odor on your breath.”

“The Italian rolls are absolutely delicious,” Jonathan remarked. “I could eat half a dozen with nothing but butter.”

“Italy is also known for their fine cheese,” Senator Morton commented. “They usually serve a variety of cheeses with the meal. Of course olives are a standard item on the table, too.”

“And don’t forget tomatoes,” Mrs. Taft reminded him. “Their tomatoes don’t look or taste exactly like ours, but they are good.” She looked up. “Here’s the waiter. Let’s make our order so we can make more stops today,” she urged.

Since the girls couldn’t read Italian and the adults could barely wade through the menu, the senator finally asked the waiter to bring them chicken and vegetables with pasta.

“Sí, sí, signor
” The waiter bowed and left with the order. “Where else are we going today?” Mandie asked her grandmother.

“I thought y’all might like to see the Capitol and perhaps the Colosseum,” Mrs. Taft suggested.

“Great!” Mandie exclaimed. The others nodded their approval.

Mandie and Celia were so excited that they ate without paying much attention to what it was. They were too hungry to be concerned about the taste, finishing long before the others did. Even Snowball gobbled his food from the saucer under the table.

Jonathan smiled at the girls. “I know you’ll like the Capitol,” he said. “The huge flight of stairs leading up to it was designed by Michelangelo for Charles the Fifth in 1536. He was the Holy Roman Emperor then. Michelangelo also designed the
Piazza del Campidoglio
, the courtyard in front of the Capitol. And wait till you see the statue of Marcus Aurelius! It’s the only bronze equestrian statue that has survived ancient Rome.”

“Oh, Jonathan, I wish I had the knowledge you have about so many things,” Mandie said. “You seem to know something about everything.”

Jonathan laughed. “No, no. I just learned some things in all the private schools I’ve been to. Besides, I’ve had the advantage of living in Europe and taking a lot of school tours. Someday you girls will know more about it all, too.”

“I hope so,” Celia replied.

“Grandmother, do you think the school Celia and I go to will ever go on a tour of Europe?” Mandie asked.

Mrs. Taft smiled. “I doubt that very seriously, dear. I can’t envision Miss Hope or Miss Prudence supervising a group of girls through a foreign country, can you?”

Mandie thought for a moment as she fingered the handle on her tea cup. “I guess not.”

“But you don’t have to worry about that, because I hope we can make more journeys to Europe in the coming years,” her grandmother promised. “Longer ones, too.”

“We will?” Mandie’s blue eyes sparkled. “Oh, thank you, Grandmother!”

“In fact, I’ve even thought of talking to your mother about sending you to school in England or France for a year or so,” Mrs. Taft added, smiling.

Mandie’s blue eyes clouded with hesitation. “But, Grandmother, I wouldn’t want to be gone from home so long... away from all my friends!”

“Perhaps Celia’s mother would agree to send her to the same school,” Mrs. Taft said, turning to the girl.

Celia smiled faintly. “I don’t think I’d want to stay away from my mother for so long.”

“Well, it’s just an idea for you girls to think about,” Mrs. Taft said. “Remember, you are both growing up and can’t stay tied to your mothers’ apron strings forever. You will need a good education for the future, both of you, considering the inheritance due you someday.”

Mandie sighed. With a small quaver in her voice she said, “I know, Grandmother, but I actually count the days at school in Asheville until I can be home again with Mother.”

Her grandmother reached across the table to squeeze Mandie’s hand. “Dear, let’s talk about this when we return home. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Turning to Senator Morton, Mrs. Taft asked, “Shall we go? I believe everyone is ready.”

“To the Capitol!” the senator announced.

Soon the young people were excitedly viewing the Capitol from the carriage that stopped in front of the huge structure. Then alighting, Senator Morton and Mrs. Taft led the way as they slowly climbed the huge flight of stairs Jonathan had told them about.

The adults hurried them through the Capitol, reminding them that if they wanted to see the Colosseum that afternoon, they couldn’t spend
too much time here. The girls had caught a glimpse of the ancient structure in the distance, and they were eager to see it.

When their carriage finally took them to the Colosseum, the young people couldn’t wait to get out.

Mandie and Celia stopped in the middle of the street to stare at the remains of the enormous amphitheater before them.

Mandie gasped. “Oh, it’s so big up close!” she exclaimed. “Can we go inside?”

“That’s what we plan to do, dear,” Mrs. Taft said. She and the senator led the way.

Inside, the girls looked across the vast structure. Senator Morton told them that it was 205 yards in diameter. They walked up and down the old stone steps that were still standing, and sat on the stone wall to look down into the arena.

“The gladiators fought here,” the senator said, as he and Mrs. Taft sat down nearby. “In those days it was customary to fight until one of them died. The Emperor Constantine and his successor tried to stop the fights, but the Romans wouldn’t give up what to them was their greatest form of entertainment.”

“Entertainment? Seeing people killed?” Mandie shivered at the thought as she looked down into the arena of death.

“That was the Romans’ way of thinking,” Senator Morton replied. “Then at the beginning of the fifth century, a monk from the East named Telemachus walked into the arena and tried to stop the fighting. He begged the people to put a end to these horrible shows, but instead the people stoned the monk to death. However, from that day on the fighting ceased.”

The young people silently contemplated what the senator had related.

“He sacrificed himself for the sake of others,” Mandie said to herself. “How could those people kill him?”

Mrs. Taft leaned forward. “Back then people didn’t live or think like we do now,” she said. “The world has become more civilized.”

“I hope I live to see the whole world civilized, and living the way God wants us to live,” Mandie replied, wiping a tear from her eye.

Senator Morton stood up quickly. “Well, shall we go? We must have some dinner before we go see that magician tonight.”

Mandie jumped up. “Is it tonight we are going to see George Rushton perform?”

The senator helped Mrs. Taft to her feet. “Remember, we discussed it last night, and the senator has already bought tickets,” she said.

“That’s right! Thank you, Senator Morton,” Mandie said turning to the silver-haired man.

“Thanks,” Celia and Jonathan added.

The senator smiled and turned to lead the way outside. He and Mrs. Taft moved carefully among the precarious stone steps, and the young people trailed behind.

As they descended one level, Mandie stopped to look down into the arena again. She saw a brown flash behind one of the Roman columns below. “Look!” Mandie said, pointing to the arena. “Someone in a deerskin jacket.” Her voice was filled with excitement.

“A deerskin jacket?” Jonathan questioned as he and Celia looked to see what Mandie was talking about.

“It must be Uncle Ned!” Mandie exclaimed, hurrying down the steps. “It has to be Uncle Ned!”

Her friends followed her.

“How could it be your Uncle Ned here in Italy, Mandie?” Jonathan asked. “You must be mistaken.”

“I didn’t see anything,” Celia remarked.

“Don’t you remember?” Mandie called over her shoulder as she ran toward the arena. “When we saw Uncle Ned in Paris, he told us my mother had sent him over on another ship to look after us while we’re in Europe. And he did say he’d see me later.”

“But, Mandie,” Jonathan argued, trying to keep up with her, “he said he had business to attend to.”

“He only meant he had friends to visit in Europe,” Mandie explained. “He has friends everywhere. Everyone knows Uncle Ned, even the President of the United States! Remember, he was invited to the White House too.” Mandie continued to lead the way.

The adults had taken a longer, safer route. Mrs. Taft glanced back now and then to see that the young people were following.

“Why does Uncle Ned always hide?” Jonathan asked.

“Because some people are afraid of Indians,” Mandie replied, keeping her attention on the exit below. “Besides, he promised my
father he would look after me, and I think he stays hidden so he can keep an eye on other people around me.”

As Mandie reached the bottom step, a low bird whistle greeted her, and Uncle Ned stepped out from behind a column.

“Uncle Ned!” Mandie exclaimed. She ran to embrace the old man. “I knew it was you. And I knew you’d catch up with us after you’d visited your friends.”

The old Indian smiled broadly. “Uncle Ned must be sure Papoose all right,” he said, patting the top of Mandie’s head.

If only Uncle Ned had been with us in the catacombs
, Mandie thought.

Just then Mrs. Taft and Senator Morton joined them.

“Oh, Uncle Ned!” Mrs. Taft said in surprise. “How nice to see you again.”

After greetings were exchanged, Mandie’s grandmother asked, “Will you be staying with us at the hotel?”

“Now and then,” Uncle Ned answered.

“Now and then?” Mrs. Taft looked puzzled. “What do you mean by that?”

“Have room in hotel, but also have friends,” he explained.

“Oh, you have a room in our hotel!” Mandie repeated excitedly. “Can you go sightseeing with us?”

“Maybe,” the old Indian told her.

But the old Indian had other plans for that night. He promised to be in touch again soon. So Senator Morton suggested that they dine in the hotel. He promised to take them to a real Italian restaurant the next night, depending upon how much time they spent sightseeing the next day.

When they returned to their room before dinner, Mandie and Celia discussed their ordeal at the catacombs while they got ready for the evening.

As they relaxed on the big bed in their robes, Celia sighed and said, “Mandie, I dread going back to that place.”

Mandie flopped over on her stomach, being careful not to wake Snowball, who was snoozing at the foot of the bed. “I do, too,” she said, “but Grandmother wants to go back, and I don’t think we should tell her what happened. It’ll just upset her, and she might decide to go home... or at least leave Italy.”

Celia pushed back her long, auburn hair and looked at her friend. “Mandie, do you think that’s the honest thing to do?”

“Well, we aren’t telling a lie, or anything,” Mandie reasoned. “If Grandmother should ask us anything about where we went, I’ll tell her the truth. But she and the senator didn’t even miss us. We must not have been lost for very long.”

“It seemed like ages to me.” Celia sighed again.

“I think that is the scariest place I’ve ever been,” Mandie said. “Here we are in the middle of a foreign country where people can’t even understand what we say.... It’s a wonder we got out. The first monk must have told the other one that we were in that room.”

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