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Title: Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (Illustrated)
Author: Carroll, Lewis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            SYLVIE AND BRUNO
                               CONCLUDED


                                   BY
                             LEWIS CARROLL

                     _WITH FORTY-SIX ILLUSTRATIONS
                                   BY
                             HARRY FURNISS_


                               _New York_
                           MACMILLAN AND CO.
                               AND LONDON
                                  1894
        _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved_


  Dreams, that elude the Waker’s frenzied grasp—
  Hands, stark and still, on a dead Mother’s breast,
  Which nevermore shall render clasp for clasp,
  Or deftly soothe a weeping Child to rest—
  In suchlike forms me listeth to portray
  My Tale, here ended. Thou delicious Fay—
  The guardian of a Sprite that lives to tease thee—
  Loving in earnest, chiding but in play
  The merry mocking Bruno! Who, that sees thee,
  Can fail to love thee, Darling, even as I?—
  My sweetest Sylvie, we must say ‘Good-bye!’



                                PREFACE.


I must begin with the same announcement as in the previous Volume (which
I shall henceforward refer to as “Vol. I.,” calling the present Volume
“Vol. II.”), viz. that the Locket, at p. 405, was drawn by ‘Miss Alice
Havers.’ And my reason, for not stating this on the title-page—that it
seems only due, to the artist of these wonderful pictures, that his name
should stand there alone—has, I think, even greater weight in Vol. II.
than it had in Vol. I. Let me call especial attention to the three
“Little Birds” borders, at pp. 365, 371, 377. The way, in which he has
managed to introduce the most minute details of the stanzas to be
illustrated, seems to me a triumph of artistic ingenuity.


Let me here express my sincere gratitude to the many Reviewers who have
noticed, whether favorably or unfavorably, the previous Volume. Their
unfavorable remarks were, most probably, well-deserved; the favorable
ones less probably so. Both kinds have no doubt served to make the book
known, and have helped the reading Public to form their opinions of it.
Let me also here assure them that it is not from any want of respect for
their criticisms, that I have carefully forborne from reading _any_ of
them. I am strongly of opinion that an author had far better _not_ read
any reviews of his books: the unfavorable ones are almost certain to
make him cross, and the favorable ones conceited; and _neither_ of these
results is desirable.

Criticisms have, however, reached me from private sources, to some of
which I propose to offer a reply.

One such critic complains that Arthur’s strictures, on sermons and on
choristers, are too severe. Let me say, in reply, that I do _not_ hold
myself responsible for _any_ of the opinions expressed by the characters
in my book. They are simply opinions which, it seemed to me, might
probably be held by the persons into whose mouths I put them, and which
were worth consideration.

Other critics have objected to certain innovations in spelling, such as
“ca’n’t,” “wo’n’t,” “traveler.” In reply, I can only plead my firm
conviction that the popular usage is _wrong_. As to “ca’n’t,” it will
not be disputed that, in all _other_ words ending in “n’t,” these
letters are an abbreviation of “not”; and it is surely absurd to suppose
that, in this solitary instance, “not” is represented by “’t”! In fact
“can’t” is the _proper_ abbreviation for “can it,” just as “is’t” is for
“is it.” Again, in “wo’n’t,” the first apostrophe is needed, because the
word “would” is here _abridged_ into “wo”: but I hold it proper to spell
“don’t” with only _one_ apostrophe, because the word “do” is here
_complete_. As to such words as “traveler,” I hold the correct principle
to be, to _double_ the consonant when the accent falls on that syllable;
otherwise to leave it _single_. This rule is observed in most cases
(e.g. we double the “r” in “preferred,” but leave it single in
“offered”), so that I am only extending, to other cases, an existing
rule. I admit, however, that I do not spell “parallel,” as the rule
would have it; but here we are constrained, by the etymology, to insert
the double “l”.


In the Preface to Vol. I. were two puzzles, on which my readers might
exercise their ingenuity. One was, to detect the 3 lines of “padding,”
which I had found it necessary to supply in the passage extending from
the top of p. 35 to the middle of p. 38. They are the 14th, 15th, and
16th lines of p. 37. The other puzzle was, to determine which (if any)
of the 8 stanzas of the Gardener’s Song (see pp. 65, 78, 83, 90, 106,
116, 164, 168) were adapted to the context, and which (if any) had the
context adapted to them. The last of them is the only one that was
adapted to the context, the “Garden-Door that opened with a key” having
been substituted for some creature (a Cormorant, I think) “that nestled
in a tree.” At pp. 78, 106, and 164, the context was adapted to the
stanza. At p. 90, neither stanza nor context was altered: the connection
between them was simply a piece of good luck.

In the Preface to Vol. I., at pp. ix., x., I gave an account of the
making-up of the story of “Sylvie and Bruno.” A few more details may
perhaps be acceptable to my Readers.

It was in 1873, as I _now_ believe, that the idea first occurred to me
that a little fairy-tale (written, in 1867, for “Aunt Judy’s Magazine,”
under the title “Bruno’s Revenge”) might serve as the nucleus of a
longer story. This I surmise, from having found the original draft of
the last paragraph of Vol. II., dated 1873. So that this paragraph has
been waiting 20 years for its chance of emerging into print—more than
twice the period so cautiously recommended by Horace for ‘repressing’
one’s literary efforts!

It was in February, 1885, that I entered into negotiations, with Mr.
Harry Furniss, for illustrating the book. Most of the substance of
_both_ Volumes was then in existence in manuscript: and my original
intention was to publish the _whole_ story at once. In September, 1885,
I received from Mr. Furniss the first set of drawings—the four which
illustrate “Peter and Paul” (see I. pp. 144, 147, 150, 154): in
November, 1886, I received the second set—the three which illustrate the
Professor’s song about the “little man” who had “a little gun” (Vol. II.
pp. 265, 266, 267): and in January, 1887, I received the third set—the
four which illustrate the “Pig-Tale.”

So we went on, illustrating first one bit of the story, and then
another, without any idea of sequence. And it was not till March, 1889,
that, having calculated the number of pages the story would occupy, I
decided on dividing it into _two_ portions, and publishing it half at a
time. This necessitated the writing of a _sort_ of conclusion for the
first Volume: and _most_ of my Readers, I fancy, regarded this as the
_actual_ conclusion, when that Volume appeared in December, 1889. At any
rate, among all the letters I received about it, there was only _one_
which expressed _any_ suspicion that it was not a _final_ conclusion.
This letter was from a child. She wrote “we were so glad, when we came
to the end of the book, to find that there was no ending-up, for that
shows us that you are going to write a sequel.”

It may interest some of my Readers to know the _theory_ on which this
story is constructed. It is an attempt to show what might _possibly_
happen, supposing that Fairies really existed; and that they were
sometimes visible to us, and we to them; and that they were sometimes
able to assume human form: and supposing, also, that human beings might
sometimes become conscious of what goes on in the Fairy-world—by actual
transference of their immaterial essence, such as we meet with in
‘Esoteric Buddhism.’

I have supposed a Human being to be capable of various psychical states,
with varying degrees of consciousness, as follows:—

(_a_) the ordinary state, with no consciousness of the presence of
Fairies;

(_b_) the ‘eerie’ state, in which, while conscious of actual
surroundings, he is _also_ conscious of the presence of Fairies;

(_c_) a form of trance, in which, while _un_conscious of actual
surroundings, and apparently asleep, he (i.e. his immaterial essence)
migrates to other scenes, in the actual world, or in Fairyland, and is
conscious of the presence of Fairies.

I have also supposed a Fairy to be capable of migrating from Fairyland
into the actual world, and of assuming, at pleasure, a Human form; and
also to be capable of various psychical states, viz.

(_a_) the ordinary state, with no consciousness of the presence of Human
beings;

(_b_) a sort of ‘eerie’ state, in which he is conscious, if in the
actual world, of the presence of actual Human beings; if in Fairyland,
of the presence of the immaterial essences of Human beings.

I will here tabulate the passages, in both Volumes, where abnormal
states occur.

  Historian’s Locality and State.                  Other characters.
   Vol. I.
  pp. 1-16 In train                         _c_    Chancellor (_b_) p. 2.
     33-55 do.                              _c_
     65-79 do.                              _c_
     83-99 At lodgings                      _c_
   105-117 On beach                         _c_
   119-183 At lodgings                      _c_    S. and B. (_b_) pp. 158-163.
                                                   Professor (_b_) p. 169.
   190-221 In wood                    _b_          Bruno (_b_) pp. 198-220.
   225-233 do. sleep-walking                _c_    S. and B. (_b_).
   247-253 Among ruins                      _c_    do. (_b_).
  262, 263 do. dreaming         _a_
   263-269 do. sleep-walking                _c_    S. B. and Professor in Human
                                                   form.
       270 In street                  _b_
   279-294 At station, &c.            _b_          S. and B. (_b_).
   304-323 In garden                        _c_    S. B. and Professor (_b_).
   329-344 On road, &c.         _a_                S. and B. in Human form.
   345-356 In street, &c.       _a_
   361-382 In wood                    _b_          S. and B. (_b_).
  Vol. II.
  pp. 4-18 In garden                  _b_          S. and B (_b_).
     47-52 On road                    _b_          do. (_b_).
     53-78 do.                        _b_          do. in Human form.
     79-92 do                         _b_          do. (_b_).
   152-211 In drawing-room      _a_                do. in Human form.
   212-246 do.                              _c_    do. (_b_).
   262-270 In smoking-room                  _c_    do. (_b_).
   304-309 In wood                    _b_          do. (_a_); Lady Muriel (_b_).
   311-345 At lodgings                      _c_
   351-399 do.                              _c_
  407-end. do.                        _b_

In the Preface to Vol. I., at p. x., I gave an account of the
_origination_ of some of the ideas embodied in the book. A few more such
details may perhaps interest my Readers:—

I. p. 203. The very peculiar use, here made of a dead mouse, comes from
real life. I once found two very small boys, in a garden, playing a
microscopic game of ‘Single-Wicket.’ The bat was, I think, about the
size of a table-spoon; and the utmost distance attained by the ball, in
its most daring flights, was some 4 or 5 yards. The _exact_ length was
of course a matter of _supreme_ importance; and it was always carefully
measured out (the batsman and the bowler amicably sharing the toil) with
a dead mouse!

I. p. 259. The two quasi-mathematical Axioms, quoted by Arthur at p. 259
of Vol. I., (“Things that are greater than the same are greater than one
another,” and “All angles are equal”) were actually enunciated, in all
seriousness, by undergraduates at a University situated not 100 miles
from Ely.

II. p. 10. Bruno’s remark (“I can, if I like, &c.”) was actually made by
a little boy.

II. p. 12. So also was his remark (“I know what it _doesn’t_ spell.”)
And his remark (“I just twiddled my eyes, &c.”) I heard from the lips of
a little girl, who had just solved a puzzle I had set her.

II. p. 57. Bruno’s soliloquy (“For its father, &c.”) was actually spoken
by a little girl, looking out of the window of a railway-carriage.

II. p. 138. The remark, made by a guest at the dinner-party, when asking
for a dish of fruit (“I’ve been wishing for them, &c.”) I heard made by
the great Poet-Laureate, whose loss the whole reading-world has so
lately had to deplore.

II. p. 163. Bruno’s speech, on the subject of the age of ‘Mein Herr,’
embodies the reply of a little girl to the question “Is your grandmother
an _old_ lady?” “I don’t know if she’s an _old_ lady,” said this
cautious young person; “she’s _eighty-three_.”

II. p. 203. The speech about ‘Obstruction’ is no mere creature of my
imagination! It is copied _verbatim_ from the columns of the Standard,
and was spoken by Sir William Harcourt, who was, at the time, a member
of the ‘Opposition,’ at the ‘National Liberal Club,’ on July the 16th,
1890.

II. p. 329. The Professor’s remark, about a dog’s tail, that “it doesn’t
bite at _that_ end,” was actually made by a child, when warned of the
danger he was incurring by pulling the dog’s tail.

II. p. 374. The dialogue between Sylvie and Bruno, which occupies lines
6 to 15, is a _verbatim_ report (merely substituting “cake” for “penny”)
of a dialogue overheard between two children.


One story in this Volume—‘Bruno’s Picnic’—I can vouch for as suitable
for telling to children, having tested it again and again; and, whether
my audience has been a dozen little girls in a village-school, or some
thirty or forty in a London drawing-room, or a hundred in a High School,
I have always found them earnestly attentive, and keenly appreciative of
such fun as the story supplied.

May I take this opportunity of calling attention to what I flatter
myself was a successful piece of name-coining, at p. 42 of Vol. I. Does
not the name ‘Sibimet’ fairly embody the character of the Sub-Warden?
The gentle Reader has no doubt observed what a singularly useless
article in a house a brazen trumpet is, if you simply leave it lying
about, and never blow it!

Readers of the first Volume, who have amused themselves by trying to
solve the two puzzles propounded at pp. xi., xii. of the Preface, may
perhaps like to exercise their ingenuity in discovering which (if any)
of the following parallelisms were intentional, and which (if any)
accidental.

  “Little Birds.”  Events, and Persons.
  Stanza       1.  Banquet.
               2.  Chancellor.
               3.  Empress and Spinach (II. 325).
               4.  Warden’s Return.
               5.  Professor’s Lecture (II. 339).
               6.  Other Professor’s song (I. 138).
               7.  Petting of Uggug.
               8.  Baron Doppelgeist.
               9.  Jester and Bear (I. 119). Little Foxes.
              10.  Bruno’s Dinner-Bell; Little Foxes.

I will publish the answer to this puzzle in the Preface to a little book
of “Original Games and Puzzles,” now in course of preparation.

I have reserved, for the last, one or two rather more serious topics.


I had intended, in this Preface, to discuss more fully, than I had done
in the previous Volume, the ‘Morality of Sport’, with special reference
to letters I have received from lovers of Sport, in which they point out
the many great advantages which men get from it, and try to prove that
the suffering, which it inflicts on animals, is too trivial to be
regarded.

But, when I came to think the subject out, and to arrange the whole of
the arguments ‘pro’ and ‘con’, I found it much too large for treatment
here. Some day, I hope to publish an essay on this subject. At present,
I will content myself with stating the net result I have arrived at.

It is, that God has given to Man an absolute right to take the _lives_
of other animals, for _any_ reasonable cause, such as the supply of
food: but that He has _not_ given to Man the right to inflict _pain_,
unless when _necessary_: that mere pleasure, or advantage, does not
constitute such a necessity: and, consequently, that pain, inflicted for
the purposes of _Sport_, is cruel, and therefore wrong. But I find it a
far more complex question than I had supposed; and that the ‘case’, on
the side of the Sportsman, is a much stronger one than I had supposed.
So, for the present, I say no more about it.


Objections have been raised to the severe language I have put into the
mouth of ‘Arthur’, at p. 277, on the subject of ‘Sermons,’ and at pp.
273, 274, on the subjects of Choral Services and ‘Choristers.’

I have already protested against the assumption that I am ready to
endorse the opinions of characters in my story. But, in these two
instances, I admit that I am much in sympathy with ‘Arthur.’ In my
opinion, far too many sermons are expected from our preachers; and, as a
consequence, a great many are preached, which are not worth listening
to; and, as a consequence of _that_, we are very apt _not_ to listen.
The reader of this paragraph probably heard a sermon last Sunday
morning? Well, let him, if he can, name the text, and state how the
preacher treated it!

Then, as to ‘Choristers,’ and all the other accessories—of music,
vestments, processions, &c.,—which have come, along with them, into
fashion—while freely admitting that the ‘Ritual’ movement was sorely
needed, and that it has effected a vast improvement in our
Church-Services, which had become dead and dry to the last degree, I
hold that, like many other desirable movements, it has gone too far in
the opposite direction, and has introduced many new dangers.

For the Congregation this new movement involves the danger of learning
to think that the Services are done _for_ them; and that their bodily
_presence_ is all they need contribute. And, for Clergy and Congregation
alike, it involves the danger of regarding these elaborate Services as
_ends in themselves_, and of forgetting that they are simply _means_,
and the very hollowest of mockeries, unless they bear fruit in our
_lives_.

For the Choristers it seems to involve the danger of self-conceit, as
described at p. 274, the danger of regarding those parts of the Service,
where their help is not required, as not worth attending to, the danger
of coming to regard the Service as a mere outward form—a series of
postures to be assumed, and of words to be said or sung, while the
_thoughts_ are elsewhere—and the danger of ‘familiarity’ breeding
‘contempt’ for sacred things.

Let me illustrate these last two forms of danger, from my own
experience. Not long ago, I attended a Cathedral-Service, and was placed
immediately behind a row of men, members of the Choir; and I could not
help noticing that they treated the _Lessons_ as a part of the Service
to which they needed not to give _any_ attention, and as affording them
a convenient opportunity for arranging music-books, &c., &c. Also I have
frequently seen a row of little choristers, after marching in procession
to their places, kneel down, as if about to pray, and rise from their
knees after a minute spent in looking about them, it being but too
evident that the attitude was a mere mockery. Surely it is very
dangerous, for these children, to thus accustom them to _pretend_ to
pray? As an instance of irreverent treatment of holy things, I will
mention a custom, which no doubt many of my readers have noticed in
Churches where the Clergy and Choir enter in procession, viz. that, at
the end of the private devotions, which are carried on in the vestry,
and which are of course inaudible to the Congregation, the final “Amen”
is _shouted_, loud enough to be heard all through the Church. This
serves as a signal, to the Congregation, to prepare to rise when the
procession appears: and it admits of no dispute that it is for this
purpose that it is thus shouted. When we remember to Whom that “Amen” is
_really_ addressed, and consider that it is here _used_ for the same
purpose as one of the Church-bells, we must surely admit that it is a
piece of gross irreverence? To _me_ it is much as if I were to see a
Bible used as a footstool.

As an instance of the dangers, for the Clergy themselves, introduced by
this new movement, let me mention the fact that, according to _my_
experience, Clergymen of this school are _specially_ apt to retail comic
anecdotes, in which the most sacred names and words—sometimes actual
texts from the Bible—are used as themes for jesting. Many such things
are repeated as having been originally said by _children_, whose utter
ignorance of evil must no doubt acquit _them_, in the sight of God, of
all blame; but it must be otherwise for those who _consciously_ use such
innocent utterances as material for their unholy mirth.

Let me add, however, _most_ earnestly, that I fully believe that this
profanity is, in many cases, _un_conscious: the ‘environment’ (as I have
tried to explain at p. 123) makes all the difference between man and
man; and I rejoice to think that many of these profane stories—which _I_
find so painful to listen to, and should feel it a sin to repeat—give to
_their_ ears no pain, and to _their_ consciences no shock; and that
_they_ can utter, not less sincerely than myself, the two prayers,
“_Hallowed be Thy Name_” and “_from hardness of heart, and contempt of
Thy Word and Commandment, Good Lord, deliver us!_” To which I would
desire to add, for their sake and for my own, Keble’s beautiful
petition, “_help us, this and every day, To live more nearly as we
pray!_” It is, in fact, for its _consequences_—for the grave dangers,
both to speaker and to hearer, which it involves—rather than for what it
is _in itself_, that I mourn over this clerical habit of profanity in
social talk. To the _believing_ hearer it brings the danger of loss of
reverence for holy things, by the mere act of listening to, and
enjoying, such jests; and also the temptation to retail them for the
amusement of others. To the _unbelieving_ hearer it brings a welcome
confirmation of his theory that religion is a fable, in the spectacle of
its accredited champions thus betraying their trust. And to the speaker
himself it must surely bring the danger of _loss of faith_. For surely
such jests, if uttered with no consciousness of harm, must necessarily
be also uttered with no consciousness, at the moment, of the _reality_
of God, as a _living being_, who hears all we say. And he, who allows
himself the habit of thus uttering holy words, with no thought of their
meaning, is but too likely to find that, for him, God has become a myth,
and heaven a poetic fancy—that, for him, the light of life is gone, and
that he is at heart an atheist, lost in “_a darkness that may be felt_.”

There is, I fear, at the present time, an increasing tendency to
irreverent treatment of the name of God and of subjects connected with
religion. Some of our theatres are helping this downward movement by the
gross caricatures of clergymen which they put upon the stage: some of
our clergy are themselves helping it, by showing that they can lay aside
the spirit of reverence, along with their surplices, and can treat as
jests, when _outside_ their churches, names and things to which they pay
an almost superstitious veneration when _inside_: the “Salvation Army”
has, I fear, with the best intentions, done much to help it, by the
coarse familiarity with which they treat holy things: and surely every
one, who desires to _live_ in the spirit of the prayer “_Hallowed be thy
Name_,” ought to do what he can, however little that may be, to check
it. So I have gladly taken this unique opportunity, however unfit the
topic may seem for the Preface to a book of this kind, to express some
thoughts which have weighed on my mind for a long time. I did not
expect, when I wrote the Preface to Vol. I, that it would be read to any
appreciable extent: but I rejoice to believe, from evidence that has
reached me, that it _has_ been read by many, and to hope that this
Preface will also be so: and I think that, among them, some will be
found ready to sympathise with the views I have put forwards, and ready
to help, with their prayers and their example, the revival, in Society,
of the waning spirit of reverence.

                                                      _Christmas_, 1893.



                               CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                                            PAGE
  I. BRUNO’S LESSONS                                                    1
  II. LOVE’S CURFEW                                                    20
  III. STREAKS OF DAWN                                                 36
  IV. THE DOG-KING                                                     52
  V. MATILDA JANE                                                      67
  VI. WILLIE’S WIFE                                                    82
  VII. FORTUNATUS’ PURSE                                               96
  VIII. IN A SHADY PLACE                                              110
  IX. THE FAREWELL-PARTY                                              128
  X. JABBERING AND JAM                                                147
  XI. THE MAN IN THE MOON                                             162
  XII. FAIRY-MUSIC                                                    175
  XIII. WHAT TOTTLES MEANT                                            194
  XIV. BRUNO’S PICNIC                                                 212
  XV. THE LITTLE FOXES                                                233
  XVI. BEYOND THESE VOICES                                            247
  XVII. TO THE RESCUE!                                                262
  XVIII. A NEWSPAPER-CUTTING                                          282
  XIX. A FAIRY-DUET                                                   287
  XX. GAMMON AND SPINACH                                              310
  XXI. THE PROFESSOR’S LECTURE                                        329
  XXII. THE BANQUET                                                   346
  XXIII. THE PIG-TALE                                                 363
  XXIV. THE BEGGAR’S RETURN                                           381
  XXV. LIFE OUT OF DEATH                                              400
  General Index                                                       413
  List of Works                                                       426



                        ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. I.


                                                                     PAGE
  THE MARCH-UP                                                          3
  VISITING THE PROFESSOR                                               11
  BOOTS FOR HORIZONTAL WEATHER                                         15
  A PORTABLE PLUNGE-BATH                                               24
  REMOVAL OF UGGUG                                                     41
  ‘WHAT A GAME!’                                                       48
  ‘DRINK THIS!’                                                        53
  ‘COME, YOU BE OFF!’                                                  62
  THE GARDENER                                                         66
  A BEGGAR’S PALACE                                                    72
  THE CRIMSON LOCKET                                                   77
  ‘HE THOUGHT HE SAW A BUFFALO’                                        79
  ‘IT WAS A HIPPOPOTAMUS’                                              91
  THE MAP OF FAIRYLAND                                                 96
  ‘HE THOUGHT HE SAW A KANGAROO’                                      106
  THE MOUSE-LION                                                      108
  ‘HAMMER IT IN!’                                                     115
  A BEAR WITHOUT A HEAD                                               117
  ‘COME UP, BRUIN!’                                                   123
  THE OTHER PROFESSOR                                                 135
  ‘HOW CHEERFULLY THE BOND HE SIGNED!’                                144
  ‘POOR PETER SHUDDERED IN DESPAIR’                                   147
  ‘SUCH BOOTS AS THESE YOU SELDOM SEE’                                150
  ‘I WILL LEND YOU FIFTY MORE!’                                       154
  ‘HE THOUGHT HE SAW AN ALBATROSS’                                    165
  THE MASTIFF-SENTINEL                                                172
  THE DOG-KING                                                        176
  FAIRY-SYLVIE                                                        193
  BRUNO’S REVENGE                                                     213
  FAIRIES RESTING                                                     226
  A CHANGED CROCODILE                                                 229
  A LECTURE ON ART                                                    240
  ‘THREE BADGERS ON A MOSSY STONE’                                    247
  ‘THE FATHER-BADGER, WRITHING IN A CAVE’                             249
  ‘THOSE AGED ONES WAXED GAY’                                         252
  ‘HOW PERFECTLY ISOCHRONOUS!’                                        268
  THE LAME CHILD                                                      280
  ‘IT WENT IN TWO HALVES’                                             285
  FIVE O’CLOCK TEA                                                    296
  ‘WHAT’S THE MATTER, DARLING?’                                       307
  THE DEAD HARE                                                       321
  CROSSING THE LINE                                                   341
  ‘THE PUG-DOG SAT UP’                                                351
  THE QUEEN’S BABY                                                    363
  THE FROGS’ BIRTHDAY-TREAT                                           373
  ‘HE WRENCHED OUT THAT CROCODILE’S TOOF!’                            380
  ‘LOOK EASTWARD!’                                                    395



                       ILLUSTRATIONS TO VOL. II.


                                                                     PAGE
  SYLVIE’S TRUANT-PUPIL                                                 8
  KING FISHER’S WOOING                                                 15
  ‘SPEND IT ALL FOR MINNIE’                                            22
  ‘ARE NOT THOSE ORCHISES?’                                            50
  A ROYAL THIEF-TAKER                                                  62
  ‘SUMMAT WRONG WI’ MY SPECTACLES!’                                    64
  BESSIE’S SONG                                                        75
  THE RESCUE OF WILLIE                                                 83
  WILLIE’S WIFE                                                        88
  FORTUNATUS’ PURSE                                                   103
  ‘I AM SITTING AT YOUR FEET’                                         119
  MEIN HERR’S FAIRY-FRIENDS                                           163
  ‘HOW CALL YOU THE OPERA?’                                           178
  SCHOLAR-HUNTING: THE PURSUED                                        188
  SCHOLAR-HUNTING: THE PURSUERS                                       189
  THE EGG-MERCHANT                                                    197
  STARTING FOR BRUNO’S PICNIC                                         230
  ‘ENTER THE LION’                                                    236
  ‘WHIHUAUCH! WHIHUAUCH!’                                             242
  ‘NEVER!’ YELLED TOTTLES                                             248
  BRUNO’S BED-TIME                                                    265
  ‘LONG CEREMONIOUS CALLS’                                            266
  THE VOICES                                                          267
  ‘HIS SOUL SHALL BE SAD FOR THE SPIDER’                              268
  LORDS OF THE CREATION                                               271
  ‘WILL YOU NOT SPARE ME?’                                            277
  IN THE CHURCH-YARD                                                  291
  A FAIRY-DUET                                                        304
  THE OTHER PROFESSOR FOUND                                           317
  ‘HER IMPERIAL HIGHNESS IS SURPRISED!’                               326
  ‘HE THOUGHT HE SAW AN ELEPHANT’                                     335
  AN EXPLOSION                                                        345
  ‘A CANNOT SHAK’ HANDS WI’ THEE!’                                    350
  THE OTHER PROFESSOR’S FALL                                          352
  ‘TEACHING TIGRESSES TO SMILE’                                       365
  ‘HORRID WAS THAT PIG’S DESPAIR!’                                    367
  THE FATAL JUMP                                                      369
  ‘BATHING CROCODILES IN CREAM’                                       371
  ‘THAT PIG LAY STILL AS ANY STONE’                                   372
  ‘STILL HE SITS IN MISERIE’                                          373
  ‘BLESSED BY HAPPY STAGS’                                            377
  THE OLD BEGGAR’S RETURN                                             382
  ‘PORCUPINE!’                                                        388
  ‘GOOD-NIGHT, PROFESSOR!’                                            398
  ‘HIS WIFE KNELT DOWN AT HIS SIDE’                                   404
  THE BLUE LOCKET                                                     409
  ‘IT IS LOVE!’                                                       411



                            SYLVIE AND BRUNO
                               CONCLUDED.



                               CHAPTER I.
                            BRUNO’S LESSONS.


During the next month or two my solitary town-life seemed, by contrast,
unusually dull and tedious. I missed the pleasant friends I had left
behind at Elveston—the genial interchange of thought—the sympathy which
gave to one’s ideas a new and vivid reality: but, perhaps more than all,
I missed the companionship of the two Fairies—or Dream-Children, for I
had not yet solved the problem as to who or what they were—whose sweet
playfulness had shed a magic radiance over my life.

In office-hours—which I suppose reduce most men to the mental condition
of a coffee-mill or a mangle—time sped along much as usual: it was in
the pauses of life, the desolate hours when books and newspapers palled
on the sated appetite, and when, thrown back upon one’s own dreary
musings, one strove—all in vain—to people the vacant air with the dear
faces of absent friends, that the real bitterness of solitude made
itself felt.

One evening, feeling my life a little more wearisome than usual, I
strolled down to my Club, not so much with the hope of meeting any
friend there, for London was now ‘out of town,’ as with the feeling that
here, at least, I should hear ‘sweet words of human speech,’ and come
into contact with human thought.

However, almost the first face I saw there _was_ that of a friend. Eric
Lindon was lounging, with rather a ‘bored’ expression of face, over a
newspaper; and we fell into conversation with a mutual satisfaction
which neither of us tried to conceal.

After a while I ventured to introduce what was just then the main
subject of my thoughts. “And so the Doctor” (a name we had adopted by a
tacit agreement, as a convenient compromise between the formality of
‘Doctor Forester’ and the intimacy—to which Eric Lindon hardly seemed
entitled—of ‘Arthur’) “has gone abroad by this time, I suppose? Can you
give me his present address?”

“He is still at Elveston—I believe,” was the reply. “But I have not been
there since I last met you.”

I did not know which part of this intelligence to wonder at most. “And
might I ask—if it isn’t taking too much of a liberty—when your
wedding-bells are to—or perhaps they _have_ rung, already?”

“No,” said Eric, in a steady voice, which betrayed scarcely a trace of
emotion: “_that_ engagement is at an end. I am still ‘Benedick the
_un_married man.’”

After this, the thick-coming fancies—all radiant with new possibilities
of happiness for Arthur—were far too bewildering to admit of any further
conversation, and I was only too glad to avail myself of the first
decent excuse, that offered itself, for retiring into silence.

The next day I wrote to Arthur, with as much of a reprimand for his long
silence as I could bring myself to put into words, begging him to tell
me how the world went with him.

Needs must that three or four days—possibly more—should elapse before I
could receive his reply; and never had I known days drag their slow
length along with a more tedious indolence.

To while away the time, I strolled, one afternoon, into Kensington
Gardens, and, wandering aimlessly along any path that presented itself,
I soon became aware that I had somehow strayed into one that was wholly
new to me. Still, my elfish experiences seemed to have so completely
faded out of my life that nothing was further from my thoughts than the
idea of again meeting my fairy-friends, when I chanced to notice a small
creature, moving among the grass that fringed the path, that did not
seem to be an insect, or a frog, or any other living thing that I could
think of. Cautiously kneeling down, and making an _ex tempore_ cage of
my two hands, I imprisoned the little wanderer, and felt a sudden thrill
of surprise and delight on discovering that my prisoner was no other
than _Bruno_ himself!

Bruno took the matter _very_ coolly, and, when I had replaced him on the
ground, where he would be within easy conversational distance, he began
talking, just as if it were only a few minutes since last we had met.

“Doos oo know what the _Rule_ is,” he enquired, “when oo catches a
Fairy, withouten its having tolded oo where it was?” (Bruno’s notions of
English Grammar had certainly _not_ improved since our last meeting.)

“No,” I said. “I didn’t know there was any Rule about it.”

“I _think_ oo’ve got a right to _eat_ me,” said the little fellow,
looking up into my face with a winning smile. “But I’m not pruffickly
sure. Oo’d better not do it wizout asking.”

It did indeed seem reasonable not to take so irrevocable a step as
_that_, without due enquiry. “I’ll certainly _ask_ about it, first,” I
said. “Besides, I don’t know yet whether you would be _worth_ eating!”

“I guess I’m _deliciously_ good to eat,” Bruno remarked in a satisfied
tone, as if it were something to be rather proud of.

“And what are you doing here, Bruno?”

“_That’s_ not my name!” said my cunning little friend. “Don’t oo know my
name’s ‘Oh Bruno!’? That’s what Sylvie always calls me, when I says mine
lessons.”

“Well then, what are you doing here, oh Bruno?”

“Doing mine lessons, a-course!” With that roguish twinkle in his eye,
that always came when he knew he was talking nonsense.

“Oh, _that’s_ the way you do your lessons, is it? And do you remember
them well?”

“Always can ’member _mine_ lessons,” said Bruno. “It’s _Sylvie’s_
lessons that’s so _dreffully_ hard to ’member!” He frowned, as if in
agonies of thought, and tapped his forehead with his knuckles. “I
_ca’n’t_ think enough to understand them!” he said despairingly. “It
wants _double_ thinking, I believe!”

“But where’s Sylvie gone?”

“That’s just what _I_ want to know!” said Bruno disconsolately. “What
ever’s the good of setting me lessons, when she isn’t here to ’splain
the hard bits?”

“_I’ll_ find her for you!” I volunteered; and, getting up, I wandered
round the tree under whose shade I had been reclining, looking on all
sides for Sylvie. In another minute I _again_ noticed some strange thing
moving among the grass, and, kneeling down, was immediately confronted
with Sylvie’s innocent face, lighted up with a joyful surprise at seeing
me, and was accosted, in the sweet voice I knew so well, with what
seemed to be the _end_ of a sentence whose beginning I had failed to
catch.

“—and I think he ought to have _finished_ them by this time. So I’m
going back to him. Will you come too? It’s only just round at the other
side of this tree.”

It was but a few steps for _me_; but it was a great many for Sylvie; and
I had to be very careful to walk slowly, in order not to leave the
little creature so far behind as to lose sight of her.

To find Bruno’s _lessons_ was easy enough: they appeared to be neatly
written out on large smooth ivy-leaves, which were scattered in some
confusion over a little patch of ground where the grass had been worn
away; but the pale student, who ought by rights to have been bending
over them, was nowhere to be seen: we looked in all directions, for some
time, in vain; but at last Sylvie’s sharp eyes detected him, swinging on
a tendril of ivy, and Sylvie’s stern voice commanded his instant return
to _terra firma_ and to the business of Life.

[Illustration: SYLVIE’S TRUANT-PUPIL]

“Pleasure first and business afterwards” seemed to be the motto of these
tiny folk, so many hugs and kisses had to be interchanged before
anything else could be done.

“Now, Bruno,” Sylvie said reproachfully, “didn’t I tell you you were to
go on with your lessons, unless you heard to the contrary?”

“But I _did_ heard to the contrary!” Bruno insisted, with a mischievous
twinkle in his eye.

“_What_ did you hear, you wicked boy?”

“It were a sort of noise in the air,” said Bruno: “a sort of a
scrambling noise. Didn’t _oo_ hear it, Mister Sir?”

“Well, anyhow, you needn’t go to _sleep_ over them, you lazy-lazy!” For
Bruno had curled himself up, on the largest ‘lesson,’ and was arranging
another as a pillow.

“I _wasn’t_ asleep!” said Bruno, in a deeply-injured tone. “When I shuts
mine eyes, it’s to show that I’m _awake_!”

“Well, how much have you learned, then?”

“I’ve learned a little tiny bit,” said Bruno, modestly, being evidently
afraid of overstating his achievement. “_Ca’n’t_ learn no more!”

“Oh Bruno! You know you _can_, if you like.”

“Course I can, if I _like_,” the pale student replied; “but I ca’n’t if
I _don’t_ like!”

Sylvie had a way—which I could not too highly admire—of evading Bruno’s
logical perplexities by suddenly striking into a new line of thought;
and this masterly stratagem she now adopted.

“Well, I must say _one_ thing——”

“Did oo know, Mister Sir,” Bruno thoughtfully remarked, “that Sylvie
ca’n’t count? Whenever she says ‘I must say _one_ thing,’ I _know_ quite
well she’ll say _two_ things! And she always doos.”

“Two heads are better than one, Bruno,” I said, but with no very
distinct idea as to what I meant by it.

“I shouldn’t mind having two _heads_,” Bruno said softly to himself:
“one head to eat mine dinner, and one head to argue wiz Sylvie—doos oo
think oo’d look prettier if oo’d got _two_ heads, Mister Sir?”

The case did not, I assured him, admit of a doubt.

“The reason why Sylvie’s so cross——” Bruno went on very seriously,
almost sadly.

Sylvie’s eyes grew large and round with surprise at this new line of
enquiry—her rosy face being perfectly radiant with good humour. But she
said nothing.

“Wouldn’t it be better to tell me after the lessons are over?” I
suggested.

“Very well,” Bruno said with a resigned air: “only she wo’n’t be cross
then.”

“There’s only three lessons to do,” said Sylvie. “Spelling, and
Geography, and Singing.”

“Not _Arithmetic_?” I said.

“No, he hasn’t a head for Arithmetic——”

“Course I haven’t!” said Bruno. “Mine head’s for _hair_. I haven’t got a
_lot_ of heads!”

“—and he ca’n’t learn his Multiplication-table——”

“I like _History_ ever so much better,” Bruno remarked. “Oo has to
_repeat_ that Muddlecome table——”

“Well, and you have to repeat——”

“No, oo hasn’t!” Bruno interrupted. “History repeats itself. The
Professor said so!”

Sylvie was arranging some letters on a board——E—V—I—L. “Now, Bruno,” she
said, “what does _that_ spell?”

Bruno looked at it, in solemn silence, for a minute. “I knows what it
_doosn’t_ spell!” he said at last.

“That’s no good,” said Sylvie. “What _does_ it spell?”

Bruno took another look at the mysterious letters. “Why, it’s ‘LIVE,’
backwards!” he exclaimed. (I thought it was, indeed.)

“How _did_ you manage to see that?” said Sylvie.

“I just twiddled my eyes,” said Bruno, “and then I saw it directly. Now
may I sing the King-fisher Song?”

“Geography next,” said Sylvie. “Don’t you know the Rules?”

“I thinks there oughtn’t to be such a lot of Rules, Sylvie! I thinks——”

“Yes, there _ought_ to be such a lot of Rules, you wicked, wicked boy!
And how dare you _think_ at all about it? And shut up that mouth
directly!”

So, as ‘that mouth’ didn’t seem inclined to shut up of itself, Sylvie
shut it for him—with both hands—and sealed it with a kiss, just as you
would fasten up a letter.

“Now that Bruno is fastened up from talking,” she went on, turning to
me, “I’ll show you the Map he does his lessons on.”

And there it was, a large Map of the World, spread out on the ground. It
was so large that Bruno had to crawl about on it, to point out the
places named in the ‘King-fisher Lesson.’

“When a King-fisher sees a Lady-bird flying away, he says ‘_Ceylon_, if
you _Candia_!’ And when he catches it, he says ‘Come to _Media_! And if
you’re _Hungary_ or thirsty, I’ll give you some _Nubia_!’ When he takes
it in his claws, he says ‘_Europe!_’ When he puts it into his beak, he
says ‘_India!_’ When he’s swallowed it, he says ‘_Eton!_’ That’s all.”

“That’s _quite_ perfect,” said Sylvie. “Now you may sing the King-fisher
Song.”

“Will _oo_ sing the chorus?” Bruno said to me.

I was just beginning to say “I’m afraid I don’t know the _words_,” when
Sylvie silently turned the map over, and I found the words were all
written on the back. In one respect it was a _very_ peculiar song: the
chorus to each verse came in the _middle_, instead of at the _end_ of
it. However, the tune was so easy that I soon picked it up, and managed
the chorus as well, perhaps, as it is possible for _one_ person to
manage such a thing. It was in vain that I signed to Sylvie to help me:
she only smiled sweetly and shook her head.

  “King Fisher courted Lady Bird—
  _Sing Beans, sing Bones, sing Butterflies!_
    ‘Find me my match,’ he said,
    ‘With such a noble head—
  With such a beard, as white as curd—
    With such expressive eyes!’

  “‘Yet pins have heads,’ said Lady Bird—
  _Sing Prunes, sing Prawns, sing Primrose-Hill!_
    ‘And, where you stick them in,
    They stay, and thus a pin
  Is very much to be preferred
    To one that’s never still!’

  “‘Oysters have beards,’ said Lady Bird—
  _Sing Flies, sing Frogs, sing Fiddle-strings!_
    ‘I love them, for I know
    _They_ never chatter so:
  They would not say one single word—
    Not if you crowned them Kings!’

  “‘Needles have eyes,’ said Lady Bird—
  _Sing Cats, sing Corks, sing Cowslip-tea!_
      ‘And they are sharp—just what
      Your Majesty is _not:_
  So get you gone—’tis too absurd
      To come a-courting _me_!’”

[Illustration: KING FISHER’S WOOING]

“So he went away,” Bruno added as a kind of postscript, when the last
note of the song had died away. “Just like he always did.”

“Oh, my _dear_ Bruno!” Sylvie exclaimed, with her hands over her ears.
“You shouldn’t say ‘like’: you should say ‘_what_.’”

To which Bruno replied, doggedly, “I only says ‘what!’ when oo doosn’t
speak loud, so as I can hear oo.”

“Where did he go to?” I asked, hoping to prevent an argument.

“He went more far than he’d never been before,” said Bruno.

“You should never say ‘more far,’” Sylvie corrected him: “you should say
‘_farther_.’”

“Then _oo_ shouldn’t say ‘more broth,’ when we’re at dinner,” Bruno
retorted: “oo should say ‘_brother_’!”

This time Sylvie evaded an argument by turning away, and beginning to
roll up the Map. “Lessons are over!” she proclaimed in her sweetest
tones.

“And has there been no _crying_ over them?” I enquired. “Little boys
_always_ cry over their lessons, don’t they?”

“I never cries after twelve o’clock,” said Bruno: “’cause then it’s
getting so near to dinner-time.”

“Sometimes, in the morning,” Sylvie said in a low voice; “when it’s
Geography-day, and when he’s been disobe——”

“_What_ a fellow you are to talk, Sylvie!” Bruno hastily interposed.
“Doos oo think the world was _made_ for oo to talk in?”

“Why, where would you _have_ me talk, then?” Sylvie said, evidently
quite ready for an argument.

But Bruno answered resolutely. “I’m not going to argue about it, ’cause
it’s getting late, and there wo’n’t be time—but oo’s as ’ong as ever oo
can be!” And he rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes, in which
tears were beginning to glitter.

_Sylvie’s_ eyes filled with tears in a moment. “I didn’t mean it, Bruno,
_darling_!” she whispered; and the rest of the argument was lost ‘amid
the tangles of Neæra’s hair,’ while the two disputants hugged and kissed
each other.

But this new form of argument was brought to a sudden end by a flash of
lightning, which was closely followed by a peal of thunder, and by a
torrent of rain-drops, which came hissing and spitting, almost like live
creatures, through the leaves of the tree that sheltered us.

“Why, it’s raining cats and dogs!” I said.

“And all the _dogs_ has come down _first_,” said Bruno: “there’s nothing
but _cats_ coming down now!”

In another minute the pattering ceased, as suddenly as it had begun. I
stepped out from under the tree, and found that the storm was over; but
I looked in vain, on my return, for my tiny companions. They had
vanished with the storm, and there was nothing for it but to make the
best of my way home.

On the table lay, awaiting my return, an envelope of that peculiar
yellow tint which always announces a telegram, and which must be, in the
memories of so many of us, inseparably linked with some great and sudden
sorrow—something that has cast a shadow, never in this world to be
wholly lifted off, on the brightness of Life. No doubt it has _also_
heralded—for many of us—some sudden news of joy; but this, I think, is
less common: human life seems, on the whole, to contain more of sorrow
than of joy. And yet the world goes on. Who knows why?

This time, however, there was no shock of sorrow to be faced: in fact,
the few words it contained (“Could not bring myself to write. Come soon.
Always welcome. A letter follows this. Arthur.”) seemed so like Arthur
himself speaking, that it gave me quite a thrill of pleasure, and I at
once began the preparations needed for the journey.



                              CHAPTER II.
                             LOVE’S CURFEW.


“Fayfield Junction! Change for Elveston!”

What subtle memory could there be, linked to these commonplace words,
that caused such a flood of happy thoughts to fill my brain? I
dismounted from the carriage in a state of joyful excitement for which I
could not at first account. True, I had taken this very journey, and at
the same hour of the day, six months ago; but many things had happened
since then, and an old man’s memory has but a slender hold on recent
events: I sought ‘the missing link’ in vain. Suddenly I caught sight of
a bench—the only one provided on the cheerless platform—with a lady
seated on it, and the whole forgotten scene flashed upon me as vividly
as if it were happening over again.

“Yes,” I thought. “This bare platform is, for me, rich with the memory
of a dear friend! She was sitting on that very bench, and invited me to
share it, with some quotation from Shakespeare—I forget what. I’ll try
the Earl’s plan for the Dramatisation of Life, and fancy that figure to
be Lady Muriel; and I won’t undeceive myself too soon!”

So I strolled along the platform, resolutely ‘making-believe’ (as
children say) that the casual passenger, seated on that bench, was the
Lady Muriel I remembered so well. She was facing away from me, which
aided the elaborate cheatery I was practising on myself: but, though I
was careful, in passing the spot, to look the other way, in order to
prolong the pleasant illusion, it was inevitable that, when I turned to
walk back again, I should see who it was. It was Lady Muriel herself!

[Illustration: ‘SPEND IT ALL FOR MINNIE’]

The whole scene now returned vividly to my memory; and, to make this
repetition of it stranger still, there was the same old man, whom I
remembered seeing so roughly ordered off, by the Station-Master, to make
room for his titled passenger. The same, but ‘with a difference’: no
longer tottering feebly along the platform, but actually seated at Lady
Muriel’s side, and in conversation with her! “Yes, put it in your
purse,” she was saying, “and remember you’re to spend it all for
_Minnie_. And mind you bring her something nice, that’ll do her real
good! And give her my love!” So intent was she on saying these words,
that, although the sound of my footstep had made her lift her head and
look at me, she did not at first recognise me.

I raised my hat as I approached, and then there flashed across her face
a genuine look of joy, which so exactly recalled the sweet face of
Sylvie, when last we met in Kensington Gardens, that I felt quite
bewildered.

Rather than disturb the poor old man at her side, she rose from her
seat, and joined me in my walk up and down the platform, and for a
minute or two our conversation was as utterly trivial and commonplace as
if we were merely two casual guests in a London drawing-room. Each of us
seemed to shrink, just at first, from touching on the deeper interests
which linked our lives together.

The Elveston train had drawn up at the platform, while we talked; and,
in obedience to the Station-Master’s obsequious hint of “This way, my
Lady! Time’s up!”, we were making the best of our way towards the end
which contained the sole first-class carriage, and were just passing the
now-empty bench, when Lady Muriel noticed, lying on it, the purse in
which her gift had just been so carefully bestowed, the owner of which,
all unconscious of his loss, was being helped into a carriage at the
other end of the train. She pounced on it instantly. “Poor old man!” she
cried. “He mustn’t go off, and think he’s lost it!”

“Let _me_ run with it! I can go quicker than you!” I said. But she was
already half-way down the platform, flying (‘running’ is much too
mundane a word for such fairy-like motion) at a pace that left all
possible efforts of _mine_ hopelessly in the rear.

She was back again before I had well completed my audacious boast of
speed in running, and was saying, quite demurely, as we entered our
carriage, “and you really think _you_ could have done it quicker?”

“No indeed!” I replied. “I plead ‘Guilty’ of gross exaggeration, and
throw myself on the mercy of the Court!”

“The Court will overlook it—for this once!” Then her manner suddenly
changed from playfulness to an anxious gravity.

“You are not looking your best!” she said with an anxious glance. “In
fact, I think you look _more_ of an invalid than when you left us. I
very much doubt if London agrees with you?”

“It _may_ be the London air,” I said, “or it may be the hard work—or my
rather lonely life: anyhow, I’ve _not_ been feeling very well, lately.
But Elveston will soon set me up again. Arthur’s prescription—he’s my
doctor, you know, and I heard from him this morning—is ‘plenty of ozone,
and new milk, and _pleasant society_’!”

“Pleasant society?” said Lady Muriel, with a pretty make-believe of
considering the question. “Well, really I don’t know where we can find
_that_ for you! We have so few neighbours. But new milk we _can_ manage.
Do get it of my old friend Mrs. Hunter, up there, on the hill-side. You
may rely upon the _quality_. And her little Bessie comes to school every
day, and passes your lodgings. So it would be very easy to send it.”

“I’ll follow your advice, with pleasure,” I said; “and I’ll go and
arrange about it tomorrow. I know Arthur will want a walk.”

“You’ll find it quite an easy walk—under three miles, I think.”

“Well, now that we’ve settled that point, let me retort your own remark
upon yourself. I don’t think _you’re_ looking quite your best!”

“I daresay not,” she replied in a low voice; and a sudden shadow seemed
to overspread her face. “I’ve had some troubles lately. It’s a matter
about which I’ve been long wishing to consult you, but I couldn’t easily
write about it. I’m _so_ glad to have this opportunity!”

“Do you think,” she began again, after a minute’s silence, and with a
visible embarrassment of manner most unusual in her, “that a promise,
deliberately and solemnly given, is _always_ binding—except, of course,
where its fulfilment would involve some actual _sin_?”

“I ca’n’t think of any other exception at this moment,” I said. “That
branch of casuistry is usually, I believe, treated as a question of
truth and untruth——”

“Surely that _is_ the principle?” she eagerly interrupted. “I always
thought the Bible-teaching about it consisted of such texts as ‘_lie not
one to another_’?”

“I have thought about that point,” I replied; “and it seems to me that
the essence of _lying_ is the intention of _deceiving_. If you give a
promise, fully _intending_ to fulfil it, you are certainly acting
truthfully _then_; and, if you afterwards break it, that does not
involve any _deception_. I cannot call it _untruthful_.”

Another pause of silence ensued. Lady Muriel’s face was hard to read:
she looked pleased, I thought, but also puzzled; and I felt curious to
know whether her question had, as I began to suspect, some bearing on
the breaking off of her engagement with Captain (now Major) Lindon.

“You have relieved me from a great fear,” she said; “but the thing is of
course _wrong_, somehow. What texts would _you_ quote, to prove it
wrong?”

“Any that enforce the payment of _debts_. If _A_ promises something to
_B_, _B_ has a claim upon _A_. And _A_’s sin, if he breaks his promise,
seems to me more analogous to _stealing_ than to _lying_.”

“It’s a new way of looking at it—to me,” she said; “but it seems a
_true_ way, also. However, I won’t deal in generalities, with an old
friend like you! For we _are_ old friends, somehow. Do you know, I think
we _began_ as old friends?” she said with a playfulness of tone that ill
accorded with the tears that glistened in her eyes.

“Thank you very much for saying so,” I replied. “I like to think of you
as an _old_ friend,” (“—though you don’t look it!” would have been the
almost necessary sequence, with any other lady; but she and I seemed to
have long passed out of the time when compliments, or any such
trivialities, were possible.)

Here the train paused at a station, where two or three passengers
entered the carriage; so no more was said till we had reached our
journey’s end.

On our arrival at Elveston, she readily adopted my suggestion that we
should walk up together; so, as soon as our luggage had been duly taken
charge of—hers by the servant who met her at the station, and mine by
one of the porters—we set out together along the familiar lanes, now
linked in my memory with so many delightful associations. Lady Muriel at
once recommenced the conversation at the point where it had been
interrupted.

“You knew of my engagement to my cousin Eric. Did you also hear——”

“Yes,” I interrupted, anxious to spare her the pain of giving any
details. “I heard it had all come to an end.”

“I would like to tell you how it happened,” she said; “as that is the
very point I want your advice about. I had long realised that we were
not in sympathy in religious belief. His ideas of Christianity are very
shadowy; and even as to the existence of a God he lives in a sort of
dreamland. But it has not affected his life! I feel sure, now, that the
most absolute Atheist _may_ be leading, though walking blindfold, a pure
and noble life. And if you knew half the good deeds——” she broke off
suddenly, and turned away her head.

“I entirely agree with you,” I said. “And have we not our Saviour’s own
promise that such a life shall surely lead to the light?”

“Yes, I know it,” she said in a broken voice, still keeping her head
turned away. “And so I told him. He said he would believe, for _my_
sake, if he could. And he wished, for _my_ sake, he could see things as
I did. But that is all wrong!” she went on passionately. “God _cannot_
approve such low motives as that! Still it was not _I_ that broke it
off. I knew he loved me; and I had _promised_; and——”

“Then it was _he_ that broke it off?”

“He released me unconditionally.” She faced me again now, having quite
recovered her usual calmness of manner.

“Then what difficulty remains?”

“It is _this_, that I don’t believe he did it of his own free will. Now,
supposing he did it _against_ his will, merely to satisfy my scruples,
would not his claim on me remain just as strong as ever? And would not
my promise be as binding as ever? My father says ‘no’; but I ca’n’t help
fearing he is biased by his love for me. And I’ve asked no one else. I
have many friends—friends for the bright sunny weather; not friends for
the clouds and storms of life; not _old_ friends like you!”

“Let me think a little,” I said: and for some minutes we walked on in
silence, while, pained to the heart at seeing the bitter trial that had
come upon this pure and gentle soul, I strove in vain to see my way
through the tangled skein of conflicting motives.

“If she loves him truly,” (I seemed at last to grasp the clue to the
problem) “is not _that_, for her, the voice of God? May she not hope
that she is sent to him, even as Ananias was sent to Saul in his
blindness, that he may receive his sight?” Once more I seemed to hear
Arthur whispering “_What knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save
thy husband?_” and I broke the silence with the words “If you still love
him truly——”

“I do _not_!” she hastily interrupted. “At least—not in _that_ way. I
_believe_ I loved him when I promised; but I was very young: it is hard
to know. But, whatever the feeling was, it is dead _now_. The motive on
_his_ side is Love: on _mine_ it is—Duty!”

Again there was a long silence. The whole skein of thought was tangled
worse than ever. This time _she_ broke the silence. “Don’t misunderstand
me!” she said. “When I said my heart was not _his_, I did not mean it
was any one else’s! At present I feel bound to _him_; and, till I know I
am absolutely free, in the sight of God, to love any other than him,
I’ll never even _think_ of any one else—in _that_ way, I mean. I would
die sooner!” I had never imagined my gentle friend capable of such
passionate utterances.

I ventured on no further remark until we had nearly arrived at the
Hall-gate; but, the longer I reflected, the clearer it became to me that
no call of Duty demanded the sacrifice—possibly of the happiness of a
life—which she seemed ready to make. I tried to make this clear to _her_
also, adding some warnings on the dangers that surely awaited a union in
which mutual love was wanting. “The only argument for it, worth
considering,” I said in conclusion, “seems to be his supposed
_reluctance_ in releasing you from your promise. I have tried to give to
that argument its _full_ weight, and my conclusion is that it does _not_
affect the rights of the case, or invalidate the release he has given
you. My belief is that you are _entirely_ free to act as _now_ seems
right.”

“I am _very_ grateful to you,” she said earnestly. “Believe it, please!
I ca’n’t put it into proper words!” and the subject was dropped by
mutual consent: and I only learned, long afterwards, that our discussion
had really served to dispel the doubts that had harassed her so long.

We parted at the Hall-gate, and I found Arthur eagerly awaiting my
arrival; and, before we parted for the night, I had heard the whole
story—how he had put off his journey from day to day, feeling that he
_could_ not go away from the place till his fate had been irrevocably
settled by the wedding taking place: how the preparations for the
wedding, and the excitement in the neighbourhood, had suddenly come to
an end, and he had learned (from Major Lindon, who called to wish him
good-bye) that the engagement had been broken off by mutual consent: how
he had instantly abandoned all his plans for going abroad, and had
decided to stay on at Elveston, for a year or two at any rate, till his
newly-awakened hopes should prove true or false; and how, since that
memorable day, he had avoided all meetings with Lady Muriel, fearing to
betray his feelings before he had had any sufficient evidence as to how
she regarded him. “But it is nearly six weeks since all that happened,”
he said in conclusion, “and we can meet in the ordinary way, now, with
no need for any painful allusions. I would have written to tell you all
this: only I kept hoping from day to day, that—that there would be
_more_ to tell!”

“And how should there be _more_, you foolish fellow,” I fondly urged,
“if you never even go near her? Do you expect the offer to come from
_her_?”

Arthur was betrayed into a smile. “No,” he said, “I hardly expect
_that_. But I’m a desperate coward. There’s no doubt about it!”

“And what _reasons_ have you heard of for breaking off the engagement?”

“A good many,” Arthur replied, and proceeded to count them on his
fingers. “First, it was found that she was dying of—something; so _he_
broke it off. Then it was found that _he_ was dying of—some other thing;
so _she_ broke it off. Then the Major turned out to be a confirmed
gamester; so the _Earl_ broke it off. Then the Earl insulted him; so the
_Major_ broke it off. It got a good deal broken off, all things
considered!”

“You have all this on the very best authority, of course?”

“Oh, certainly! And communicated in the strictest confidence! Whatever
defects Elveston society suffers from, _want of information_ isn’t one
of them!”

“Nor _reticence_, either, it seems. But, seriously, do you know the real
reason?”

“No, I’m quite in the dark.”

I did not feel that I had any right to enlighten him; so I changed the
subject, to the less engrossing one of “new milk,” and we agreed that I
should walk over, next day, to Hunter’s farm, Arthur undertaking to set
me part of the way, after which he had to return to keep a
business-engagement.



                              CHAPTER III.
                            STREAKS OF DAWN.


Next day proved warm and sunny, and we started early, to enjoy the
luxury of a good long chat before he would be obliged to leave me.

“This neighbourhood has more than its due proportion of the _very_
poor,” I remarked, as we passed a group of hovels, too dilapidated to
deserve the name of “cottages.”

“But the few rich,” Arthur replied, “give more than their due proportion
of help in charity. So the balance is kept.”

“I suppose the _Earl_ does a good deal?”

“He _gives_ liberally; but he has not the health or strength to do more.
Lady Muriel does more in the way of school-teaching and cottage-visiting
than she would like me to reveal.”

“Then _she_, at least, is not one of the ‘idle mouths’ one so often
meets with among the upper classes. I have sometimes thought they would
have a hard time of it, if suddenly called on to give their _raison
d’être_, and to show cause why they should be allowed to live any
longer!”

“The whole subject,” said Arthur, “of what we may call ‘idle mouths’ (I
mean persons who absorb some of the material _wealth_ of a community—in
the form of food, clothes, and so on—without contributing its equivalent
in the form of productive _labour_) is a complicated one, no doubt. I’ve
tried to think it out. And it seemed to me that the simplest form of the
problem, to start with, is a community without _money_, who buy and sell
by _barter_ only; and it makes it yet simpler to suppose the food and
other things to be capable of _keeping_ for many years without
spoiling.”

“Yours is an excellent plan,” I said. “What is your solution of the
problem?”

“The commonest type of ‘idle mouths,’” said Arthur, “is no doubt due to
money being left by parents to their own children. So I imagined a
man—either exceptionally clever, or exceptionally strong and
industrious—who had contributed so much valuable labour to the needs of
the community that its equivalent, in clothes, &c., was (say) five times
as much as he needed for himself. We cannot deny his _absolute_ right to
give the superfluous wealth as he chooses. So, if he leaves _four_
children behind him (say two sons and two daughters), with enough of all
the necessaries of life to last them a life-time, I cannot see that the
_community_ is in any way wronged if they choose to do nothing in life
but to ‘eat, drink, and be merry.’ Most certainly, the community could
not fairly say, in reference to _them_, ‘_if a man will not work,
neither let him eat_.’ Their reply would be crushing. ‘The labour has
already been _done_, which is a fair equivalent for the food we are
eating; and you have had the benefit of it. On what principle of justice
can you demand _two_ quotas of work for _one_ quota of food?’”

“Yet surely,” I said, “there is something wrong _somewhere_, if these
four people are well able to do useful work, and if that work is
actually _needed_ by the community, and they elect to sit idle?”

“I think there _is_,” said Arthur: “but it seems to me to arise from a
Law of God—that every one shall do as much as he can to help others—and
not from any _rights_, on the part of the community, to exact labour as
an equivalent for food that has already been fairly earned.”

“I suppose the _second_ form of the problem is where the ‘idle mouths’
possess _money_ instead of _material_ wealth?”

“Yes,” replied Arthur: “and I think the simplest case is that of
_paper_-money. _Gold_ is itself a form of material wealth; but a
bank-note is merely a _promise_ to hand over so much _material_ wealth
when called upon to do so. The father of these four ‘idle mouths,’ had
done (let us say) five thousand pounds’ worth of useful work for the
community. In return for this, the community had given him what amounted
to a written promise to hand over, whenever called upon to do so, five
thousand pounds’ worth of food, &c. Then, if he only uses _one_ thousand
pounds’ worth himself, and leaves the rest of the notes to his children,
surely they have a full right to _present_ these written promises, and
to say ‘hand over the food, for which the equivalent labour has been
already done.’ Now I think _this_ case well worth stating, publicly and
clearly. I should like to drive it into the heads of those Socialists
who are priming our ignorant paupers with such sentiments as ‘Look at
them bloated haristocrats! Doing not a stroke o’ work for theirselves,
and living on the sweat of _our_ brows!’ I should like to _force_ them
to see that the _money_, which those ‘haristocrats’ are spending,
represents so much labour _already done_ for the community, and whose
equivalent, in _material_ wealth, is _due from the community_.”

“Might not the Socialists reply ‘Much of this money does not represent
_honest_ labour _at all_. If you could trace it back, from owner to
owner, though you might begin with several legitimate steps, such as
gift, or bequeathing by will, or ‘value received,’ you would soon reach
an owner who had no moral right to it, but had got it by fraud or other
crimes; and of course his successors in the line would have no better
right to it than _he_ had.”

“No doubt, no doubt,” Arthur replied. “But surely that involves the
logical fallacy of _proving too much_? It is _quite_ as applicable to
_material_ wealth, as it is to _money_. If we once begin to go back
beyond the fact that the _present_ owner of certain property came by it
honestly, and to ask whether any previous owner, in past ages, got it by
fraud, would _any_ property be secure?”

After a minute’s thought, I felt obliged to admit the truth of this.

“My general conclusion,” Arthur continued, “from the mere standpoint of
human _rights_, man against man, was this—that if some wealthy ‘idle
mouth,’ who has come by his money in a lawful way, even though not one
atom of the labour it represents has been his own doing, chooses to
spend it on his own needs, without contributing any labour to the
community from whom he buys his food and clothes, that community has no
_right_ to interfere with him. But it’s quite another thing, when we
come to consider the _divine_ law. Measured by _that_ standard, such a
man is undoubtedly doing wrong, if he fails to use, for the good of
those in need, the strength or the skill, that God has given him. That
strength and skill do _not_ belong to the community, to be paid to
_them_ as a _debt_: they do _not_ belong to the man _himself_, to be
used for his _own_ enjoyment: they _do_ belong to God, to be used
according to _His_ will; and we are not left in doubt as to what that
will is. ‘_Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again._’”

“Anyhow,” I said, “an ‘idle mouth’ very often gives away a great deal in
charity.”

“In _so-called_ ‘charity,’” he corrected me. “Excuse me if I seem to
speak _un_charitably. I would not dream of _applying_ the term to any
_individual_. But I would say, _generally_, that a man who gratifies
every fancy that occurs to him—denying himself in _nothing_—and merely
gives to the poor some part, or even _all_, of his _superfluous_ wealth,
is only deceiving himself if he calls it _charity_.”

“But, even in giving away _superfluous_ wealth, he _may_ be denying
himself the miser’s pleasure in hoarding?”

“I grant you that, gladly,” said Arthur. “Given that he _has_ that
morbid craving, he is doing a good deed in restraining it.”

“But, even in spending on _himself_,” I persisted, “our typical rich man
often does good, by employing people who would otherwise be out of work:
and that is often better than pauperising them by _giving_ the money.”

“I’m glad you’ve said that!” said Arthur. “I would not like to quit the
subject without exposing the _two_ fallacies of that statement—which
have gone so long uncontradicted that Society now accepts it as an
axiom!”

“What are they?” I said. “I don’t even see _one_, myself.”

“One is merely the fallacy of _ambiguity_—the assumption that ‘_doing
good_’ (that is, benefiting somebody) is necessarily _a good thing to
do_ (that is, a _right_ thing). The other is the assumption that, if one
of two specified acts is _better_ than another, it is necessarily a
_good_ act in itself. I should like to call this the fallacy of
_comparison_—meaning that it assumes that what is _comparatively_ good
is therefore _positively_ good.”

“Then what is _your_ test of a good act?”

“That it shall be _our best_,” Arthur confidently replied. “And even
_then_ ‘_we are unprofitable servants_.’ But let me illustrate the two
fallacies. Nothing illustrates a fallacy so well as an extreme case,
which fairly comes under it. Suppose I find two children drowning in a
pond. I rush in, and save one of the children, and then walk away,
leaving the other to drown. Clearly I have ‘_done good_,’ in saving a
child’s life? But——. Again, supposing I meet an inoffensive stranger,
and knock him down, and walk on. Clearly that is ‘_better_’ than if I
had proceeded to jump upon him and break his ribs? But——”

“Those ‘buts’ are quite unanswerable,” I said. “But I should like an
instance from _real_ life.”

“Well, let us take one of those abominations of modern Society, a
Charity-Bazaar. It’s an interesting question to think out—how much of
the money, that reaches the object in view, is _genuine_ charity; and
whether even _that_ is spent in the _best_ way. But the subject needs
regular classification, and analysis, to understand it properly.”

“I should be glad to _have_ it analysed,” I said: “it has often puzzled
me.”

“Well, if I am really not boring you. Let us suppose our Charity-Bazaar
to have been organised to aid the funds of some Hospital: and that A, B,
C _give_ their services in making articles to sell, and in acting as
salesmen, while X, Y, Z buy the articles, and the money so paid goes to
the Hospital.

“There are two distinct species of such Bazaars: one, where the payment
exacted is merely the _market-value_ of the goods supplied, that is,
exactly what you would have to pay at a shop: the other, where
_fancy-prices_ are asked. We must take these separately.

“First, the ‘market-value’ case. Here A, B, C are exactly in the same
position as ordinary shopkeepers; the only difference being that they
give the proceeds to the Hospital. Practically, they are _giving their
skilled labour_ for the benefit of the Hospital. This seems to me to be
genuine charity. And I don’t see how they could use it better. But X, Y,
Z, are exactly in the same position as any ordinary purchasers of goods.
To talk of ‘charity’ in connection with _their_ share of the business,
is sheer nonsense. Yet they are very likely to do so.

“Secondly, the case of ‘fancy-prices.’ Here I think the simplest plan is
to divide the payment into two parts, the ‘market-value’ and the excess
over that. The ‘market-value’ part is on the same footing as in the
first case: the _excess_ is all we have to consider. Well, A, B, C do
not _earn_ it; so we may put _them_ out of the question: it is a _gift_,
from X, Y, Z, to the Hospital. And my opinion is that it is not given in
the best way: far better buy what they choose to _buy_, and give what
they choose to _give_, as two _separate_ transactions: then there is
_some_ chance that their motive in giving may be real charity, instead
of a mixed motive—half charity, half self-pleasing. ‘The trail of the
serpent is over it all.’ And _therefore_ it is that I hold all such
spurious ‘Charities’ in _utter_ abomination!” He ended with unusual
energy, and savagely beheaded, with his stick, a tall thistle at the
road-side, behind which I was startled to see Sylvie and Bruno standing.
I caught at his arm, but too late to stop him. Whether the stick reached
them, or not, I could not feel sure: at any rate they took not the
smallest notice of it, but smiled gaily, and nodded to me; and I saw at
once that they were only visible to _me_: the ‘eerie’ influence had not
reached to _Arthur_.

“Why did you try to save it?” he said. “_That’s_ not the wheedling
Secretary of a Charity-Bazaar! I only wish it were!” he added grimly.

“Doos oo know, that stick went right froo my head!” said Bruno. (They
had run round to me by this time, and each had secured a hand.) “Just
under my chin! I _are_ glad I aren’t a thistle!”

“Well, we’ve threshed _that_ subject out, anyhow!” Arthur resumed. “I’m
afraid I’ve been talking too much, for _your_ patience and for my
strength. I must be turning soon. This is about the end of my tether.”

  “Take, O boatman, thrice thy fee;
  Take, I give it willingly;
  For, invisible to thee,
  Spirits twain have crossed with me!”

I quoted, involuntarily.

“For utterly inappropriate and irrelevant quotations,” laughed Arthur,
“you are ‘ekalled by few, and excelled by none’!” And we strolled on.

As we passed the head of the lane that led down to the beach, I noticed
a single figure, moving slowly along it, seawards. She was a good way
off, and had her back to us: but it was Lady Muriel, unmistakably.
Knowing that Arthur had not seen her, as he had been looking, in the
other direction, at a gathering rain-cloud, I made no remark, but tried
to think of some plausible pretext for sending him back by the sea.

The opportunity instantly presented itself. “I’m getting tired,” he
said. “I don’t think it would be prudent to go further. I had better
turn here.”

I turned with him, for a few steps, and as we again approached the head
of the lane, I said, as carelessly as I could, “Don’t go back by the
road. It’s too hot and dusty. Down this lane, and along the beach, is
nearly as short; and you’ll get a breeze off the sea.”

“Yes, I think I will,” Arthur began; but at that moment we came into
sight of Lady Muriel, and he checked himself. “No, it’s too far round.
Yet it certainly _would_ be cooler——” He stood, hesitating, looking
first one way and then the other—a melancholy picture of utter infirmity
of purpose!

How long this humiliating scene would have continued, if _I_ had been
the only external influence, it is impossible to say; for at this moment
Sylvie, with a swift decision worthy of Napoleon himself, took the
matter into her own hands. “You go and drive _her_, up this way,” she
said to Bruno. “I’ll get _him_ along!” And she took hold of the stick
that Arthur was carrying, and gently pulled him down the lane.

He was totally unconscious that any will but his own was acting on the
stick, and appeared to think it had taken a horizontal position simply
because he was pointing with it. “Are not those _orchises_ under the
hedge there?” he said. “I think that decides me. I’ll gather some as I
go along.”

[Illustration: ‘ARE NOT THOSE ORCHISES?’]

Meanwhile Bruno had run on beyond Lady Muriel, and, with much jumping
about and shouting (shouts audible to no one but Sylvie and myself),
much as if he were driving sheep, he managed to turn her round and make
her walk, with eyes demurely cast upon the ground, in our direction.

The victory was ours! And, since it was evident that the lovers, thus
urged together, _must_ meet in another minute, I turned and walked on,
hoping that Sylvie and Bruno would follow my example, as I felt sure
that the fewer the spectators the better it would be for Arthur and his
good angel.

“And what sort of meeting was it?” I wondered, as I paced dreamily on.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                             THE DOG-KING.


“They shooked hands,” said Bruno, who was trotting at my side, in answer
to the unspoken question.

“And they looked _ever_ so pleased!” Sylvie added from the other side.

“Well, we must get on, now, as quick as we can,” I said. “If only I knew
the best way to Hunter’s farm!”

“They’ll be sure to know in this cottage,” said Sylvie.

“Yes, I suppose they will. Bruno, would you run in and ask?”

Sylvie stopped him, laughingly, as he ran off. “Wait a minute,” she
said. “I must make you _visible_ first, you know.”

“And _audible_ too, I suppose?” I said, as she took the jewel, that hung
round her neck, and waved it over his head, and touched his eyes and
lips with it.

“Yes,” said Sylvie: “and _once_, do you know, I made him _audible_, and
forgot to make him _visible_! And he went to buy some sweeties in a
shop. And the man _was_ so frightened! A voice seemed to come out of the
air, ‘Please, I want two ounces of barley-sugar drops!’ And a shilling
came _bang_ down upon the counter! And the man said ‘I ca’n’t _see_
you!’ And Bruno said ‘It doosn’t sinnify seeing _me_, so long as oo can
see the _shilling_!’ But the man said he never sold barley-sugar drops
to people he couldn’t _see_. So we had to—_Now_, Bruno, you’re ready!”
And away he trotted.

Sylvie spent the time, while we were waiting for him, in making
_herself_ visible also. “It’s rather awkward, you know,” she explained
to me, “when we meet people, and they can see _one_ of us, and ca’n’t
see the _other_!”

In a minute or two Bruno returned, looking rather disconsolate. “He’d
got friends with him, and he were _cross_!” he said. “He asked me who I
were. And I said ‘I’m Bruno: who is _these_ peoples?’ And he said ‘One’s
my half-brother, and t’other’s my half-sister: and I don’t want no more
company! Go along with yer!’ And I said ‘I ca’n’t go along _wizout_ mine
self!’ And I said ‘Oo shouldn’t have _bits_ of peoples lying about like
that! It’s welly untidy!’ And he said ‘Oh, don’t talk to _me_!’ And he
pushted me outside! And he shutted the door!”

“And you never asked where Hunter’s farm was?” queried Sylvie.

“Hadn’t room for any questions,” said Bruno. “The room were so crowded.”

“Three people _couldn’t_ crowd a room,” said Sylvie.

“They _did_, though,” Bruno persisted. “_He_ crowded it most. He’s such
a welly _thick_ man—so as oo couldn’t knock him down.”

I failed to see the drift of Bruno’s argument. “Surely _anybody_ could
be knocked down,” I said: “thick or thin wouldn’t matter.”

“Oo couldn’t knock _him_ down,” said Bruno. “He’s more wider than he’s
high: so, when he’s lying down, he’s more higher than when he’s
standing: so a-course oo couldn’t knock him _down_!”

“Here’s another cottage,” I said: “_I’ll_ ask the way, _this_ time.”

There was no need to go in, this time, as the woman was standing in the
doorway, with a baby in her arms, talking to a respectably dressed man—a
farmer, as I guessed—who seemed to be on his way to the town.

“—and when there’s _drink_ to be had,” he was saying, “he’s just the
worst o’ the lot, is your Willie. So they tell me. He gets fairly mad
wi’ it!”

“I’d have given ’em the lie to their faces, a twelvemonth back!” the
woman said in a broken voice. “But a’ canna noo! A’ canna noo!” She
checked herself, on catching sight of us, and hastily retreated into the
house, shutting the door after her.

“Perhaps you can tell me where Hunter’s farm is?” I said to the man, as
he turned away from the house.

“I can _that_, Sir!” he replied with a smile. “I’m John Hunter hissel,
at your sarvice. It’s nobbut half a mile further—the only house in
sight, when you get round bend o’ the road yonder. You’ll find my good
woman within, if so be you’ve business wi’ _her_. Or mebbe I’ll do as
well?”

“Thanks,” I said. “I want to order some milk. Perhaps I had better
arrange it with your wife?”

“Aye,” said the man. “_She_ minds all _that_. Good day t’ye, Master—and
to your bonnie childer, as well!” And he trudged on.

“He should have said ‘_child_,’ not ‘_childer_’,” said Bruno. “Sylvie’s
not a _childer_!”

“He meant _both_ of us,” said Sylvie.

“No, he didn’t!” Bruno persisted. “’cause he said ‘bonnie’, oo know!”

“Well, at any rate he _looked_ at us both,” Sylvie maintained.

“Well, then he _must_ have seen we’re not _both_ bonnie!” Bruno
retorted. “A-_course_ I’m much uglier than _oo_! Didn’t he mean
_Sylvie_, Mister Sir?” he shouted over his shoulder, as he ran off.

But there was no use in replying, as he had already vanished round the
bend of the road. When we overtook him he was climbing a gate, and was
gazing earnestly into the field, where a horse, a cow, and a kid were
browsing amicably together. “For its father, a _Horse_,” he murmured to
himself. “For its mother, a _Cow_. For their dear little child, a
_little_ Goat, is the most curiousest thing I ever seen in my world!”

“Bruno’s World!” I pondered. “Yes, I suppose every child has a world of
his own—and every man, too, for the matter of that. I wonder if _that’s_
the cause for all the misunderstanding there is in Life?”

“That _must_ be Hunter’s farm!” said Sylvie, pointing to a house on the
brow of the hill, led up to by a cart-road. “There’s no other farm in
sight, _this_ way; and you _said_ we must be nearly there by this time.”

I had _thought_ it, while Bruno was climbing the gate, but I couldn’t
remember having _said_ it. However, Sylvie was evidently in the right.
“Get down, Bruno,” I said, “and open the gate for us.”

“It’s a good thing we’s with oo, _isn’t_ it, Mister Sir?” said Bruno, as
we entered the field. “That big dog might have bited oo, if oo’d been
alone! Oo needn’t be _flightened_ of it!” he whispered, clinging tight
to my hand to encourage me. “It aren’t fierce!”

“Fierce!” Sylvie scornfully echoed, as the dog—a magnificent
Newfoundland—that had come galloping down the field to meet us, began
curveting round us, in gambols full of graceful beauty, and welcoming us
with short joyful barks. “Fierce! Why, it’s as gentle as a lamb!
It’s—why, Bruno, don’t you know it? It’s——”

“So it _are_!” cried Bruno, rushing forwards and throwing his arms round
its neck. “Oh, you _dear_ dog!” And it seemed as if the two children
would never have done hugging and stroking it.

“And how _ever_ did he get _here_?” said Bruno. “Ask him, Sylvie. I
doosn’t know how.”

And then began an eager talk in Doggee, which of course was lost upon
_me_; and I could only _guess_, when the beautiful creature, with a sly
glance at me, whispered something in Sylvie’s ear, that _I_ was now the
subject of conversation. Sylvie looked round laughingly.

“He asked me who you are,” she explained. “And I said ‘He’s our
_friend_.’ And he said ‘What’s his name?’ And I said ‘It’s _Mister
Sir_.’ And he said ‘Bosh!’”

“What is ‘Bosh!’ in Doggee?” I enquired.

“It’s the same as in English,” said Sylvie. “Only, when a _dog_ says it,
it’s a sort of a whisper, that’s half a _cough_ and half a _bark_. Nero,
say ‘_Bosh!_’”

And Nero, who had now begun gamboling round us again, said “_Bosh!_”
several times; and I found that Sylvie’s description of the sound was
perfectly accurate.

“I wonder what’s behind this long wall?” I said, as we walked on.

“It’s the _Orchard_,” Sylvie replied, after a consultation with Nero.
“See, there’s a boy getting down off the wall, at that far corner. And
now he’s running away across the field. I do believe he’s been stealing
the apples!”

Bruno set off after him, but returned to us in a few moments, as he had
evidently no chance of overtaking the young rascal.

“I couldn’t catch him!” he said. “I wiss I’d started a little sooner.
His pockets _was_ full of apples!”

The Dog-King looked up at Sylvie, and said something in Doggee.

“Why, of _course_ you can!” Sylvie exclaimed. “How stupid not to think
of it! _Nero_’ll hold him for us, Bruno! But I’d better make him
invisible, first.” And she hastily got out the Magic Jewel, and began
waving it over Nero’s head, and down along his back.

“That’ll do!” cried Bruno, impatiently. “After him, good Doggie!”

“Oh, Bruno!” Sylvie exclaimed reproachfully. “You shouldn’t have sent
him off so quick! I hadn’t done the tail!”

Meanwhile Nero was coursing like a greyhound down the field: so at least
I concluded from all _I_ could see of him—the long feathery tail, which
floated like a meteor through the air—and in a very few seconds he had
come up with the little thief.

“He’s got him safe, by one foot!” cried Sylvie, who was eagerly watching
the chase. “Now there’s no hurry, Bruno!”

So we walked, quite leisurely, down the field, to where the frightened
lad stood. A more curious sight I had seldom seen, in all my ‘eerie’
experiences. Every bit of him was in violent action, except the left
foot, which was apparently glued to the ground—there being nothing
visibly holding it: while, at some little distance, the long feathery
tail was waving gracefully from side to side, showing that Nero, at
least, regarded the whole affair as nothing but a magnificent game of
play.

“What’s the matter with you?” I said, as gravely as I could.

“Got the crahmp in me ahnkle!” the thief groaned in reply. “An’ me fut’s
gone to sleep!” And he began to blubber aloud.

“Now, look here!” Bruno said in a commanding tone, getting in front of
him. “Oo’ve got to give up those apples!”

The lad glanced at me, but didn’t seem to reckon _my_ interference as
worth anything. Then he glanced at Sylvie: _she_ clearly didn’t count
for very much, either. Then he took courage. “It’ll take a better man
than any of _yer_ to get ’em!” he retorted defiantly.

[Illustration: A ROYAL THIEF-TAKER]

Sylvie stooped and patted the invisible Nero. “A _little_ tighter!” she
whispered. And a sharp yell from the ragged boy showed how promptly the
Dog-King had taken the hint.

“What’s the matter _now_?” I said. “Is your ankle worse?”

“And it’ll get worse, and worse, and worse,” Bruno solemnly assured him,
“till oo gives up those apples!”

Apparently the thief was convinced of this at last, and he sulkily began
emptying his pockets of the apples. The children watched from a little
distance, Bruno dancing with delight at every fresh yell extracted from
Nero’s terrified prisoner.

“That’s all,” the boy said at last.

“It _isn’t_ all!” cried Bruno. “There’s three more in that pocket!”

Another hint from Sylvie to the Dog-King—another sharp yell from the
thief, now convicted of lying also—and the remaining three apples were
surrendered.

“Let him go, please,” Sylvie said in Doggee, and the lad limped away at
a great pace, stooping now and then to rub the ailing ankle, in fear,
seemingly, that the ‘crahmp’ might attack it again.

[Illustration: ‘SUMMAT WRONG WI’ MY SPECTACLES!’]

Bruno ran back, with his booty, to the orchard wall, and pitched the
apples over it one by one. “I’s welly afraid _some_ of them’s gone under
the wrong trees!” he panted, on overtaking us again.

“The _wrong_ trees!” laughed Sylvie. “Trees _ca’n’t_ do wrong! There’s
no such things as _wrong_ trees!”

“Then there’s no such things as _right_ trees, neither!” cried Bruno.
And Sylvie gave up the point.

“Wait a minute, please!” she said to me. “I must make Nero _visible_,
you know!”

“No, _please_ don’t!” cried Bruno, who had by this time mounted on the
Royal back, and was twisting the Royal hair into a bridle. “It’ll be
_such_ fun to have him like this!”

“Well, it _does_ look funny,” Sylvie admitted, and led the way to the
farm-house, where the farmer’s wife stood, evidently much perplexed at
the weird procession now approaching her. “It’s summat gone wrong wi’ my
spectacles, I doubt!” she murmured, as she took them off, and began
diligently rubbing them with a corner of her apron.

Meanwhile Sylvie had hastily pulled Bruno down from his steed, and had
just time to make His Majesty wholly visible before the spectacles were
resumed.

All was natural, now; but the good woman still looked a little uneasy
about it. “My eyesight’s getting bad,” she said, “but I see you _now_,
my darlings! You’ll give me a kiss, wo’n’t you?”

Bruno got behind me, in a moment: however Sylvie put up _her_ face, to
be kissed, as representative of _both_, and we all went in together.



                               CHAPTER V.
                             MATILDA JANE.


“Come to me, my little gentleman,” said our hostess, lifting Bruno into
her lap, “and tell me everything.”

“I ca’n’t,” said Bruno. “There wouldn’t be time. Besides, I don’t _know_
everything.”

The good woman looked a little puzzled, and turned to Sylvie for help.
“Does he like _riding_?” she asked.

“Yes, I _think_ so,” Sylvie gently replied. “He’s just had a ride on
_Nero_.”

“Ah, Nero’s a grand dog, isn’t he? Were you ever outside a _horse_, my
little man?”

“_Always!_” Bruno said with great decision. “Never was _inside_ one. Was
_oo_?”

Here I thought it well to interpose, and to mention the business on
which we had come, and so relieved her, for a few minutes, from Bruno’s
perplexing questions.

“And those dear children will like a bit of cake, _I’ll_ warrant!” said
the farmer’s hospitable wife, when the business was concluded, as she
opened her cupboard, and brought out a cake. “And don’t you waste the
crust, little gentleman!” she added, as she handed a good slice of it to
Bruno. “You know what the poetry-book says about wilful waste?”

“No, I don’t,” said Bruno. “What doos he say about it?”

“Tell him, Bessie!” And the mother looked down, proudly and lovingly, on
a rosy little maiden, who had just crept shyly into the room, and was
leaning against her knee. “What’s that your poetry-book says about
wilful waste?”

“_For wilful waste makes woeful want_,” Bessie recited, in an almost
inaudible whisper: “_and you may live to say ‘How much I wish I had the
crust that then I threw away!’_”

“Now try if _you_ can say it, my dear! _For wilful_——”

“_For wifful_—sumfinoruvver—” Bruno began, readily enough; and then
there came a dead pause. “Ca’n’t remember no more!”

“Well, what do you _learn_ from it, then? You can tell us _that_, at any
rate?”

Bruno ate a little more cake, and considered: but the moral did not seem
to him to be a very obvious one.

“Always to——” Sylvie prompted him in a whisper.

“Always to——” Bruno softly repeated: and then, with sudden inspiration,
“always to look where it goes to!”

“Where _what_ goes to, darling?”

“Why the _crust_, a course!” said Bruno. “Then, if I lived to say ‘_How
much I wiss I had the crust_—’ (and all that), I’d know where I frew it
to!”

This new interpretation quite puzzled the good woman. She returned to
the subject of ‘Bessie.’ “Wouldn’t you like to see Bessie’s doll, my
dears! Bessie, take the little lady and gentleman to see Matilda Jane!”

Bessie’s shyness thawed away in a moment. “Matilda Jane has just woke
up,” she stated, confidentially, to Sylvie. “Wo’n’t you help me on with
her frock? Them strings _is_ such a bother to tie!”

“I can tie _strings_,” we heard, in Sylvie’s gentle voice, as the two
little girls left the room together. Bruno ignored the whole proceeding,
and strolled to the window, quite with the air of a fashionable
gentleman. Little girls, and dolls, were not at all in his line.

And forthwith the fond mother proceeded to tell me (as what mother is
not ready to do?) of all Bessie’s virtues (and vices too, for the matter
of that) and of the many fearful maladies which, notwithstanding those
ruddy cheeks and that plump little figure, had nearly, time and again,
swept her from the face of the earth.

When the full stream of loving memories had nearly run itself out, I
began to question her about the working men of that neighbourhood, and
specially the ‘Willie,’ whom we had heard of at his cottage. “He was a
good fellow once,” said my kind hostess: “but it’s the drink has ruined
him! Not that I’d rob them of the drink—it’s good for the most of
them—but there’s some as is too weak to stand agin’ temptations: it’s a
thousand pities, for _them_, as they ever built the Golden Lion at the
corner there!”

“The Golden Lion?” I repeated.

“It’s the new Public,” my hostess explained. “And it stands right in the
way, and handy for the workmen, as they come back from the brickfields,
as it might be to-day, with their week’s wages. A deal of money gets
wasted that way. And some of ’em gets drunk.”

“If only they could have it in their own houses—” I mused, hardly
knowing I had said the words out loud.

“That’s it!” she eagerly exclaimed. It was evidently a solution, of the
problem, that she had already thought out. “If only you could manage,
so’s each man to have his own little barrel in his own house—there’d
hardly be a drunken man in the length and breadth of the land!”

And then I told her the old story—about a certain cottager who bought
himself a little barrel of beer, and installed his wife as bar-keeper:
and how, every time he wanted his mug of beer, he regularly paid her
over the counter for it: and how she never would let him go on ‘tick,’
and was a perfectly inflexible bar-keeper in never letting him have more
than his proper allowance: and how, every time the barrel needed
refilling, she had plenty to do it with, and something over for her
money-box: and how, at the end of the year, he not only found himself in
first-rate health and spirits, with that undefinable but quite
unmistakeable air which always distinguishes the sober man from the one
who takes ‘a drop too much,’ but had quite a box full of money, all
saved out of his own pence!

“If only they’d all do like that!” said the good woman, wiping her eyes,
which were overflowing with kindly sympathy. “Drink hadn’t need to be
the curse it is to some——”

“Only a _curse_,” I said, “when it is used wrongly. Any of God’s gifts
may be turned into a curse, unless we use it wisely. But we must be
getting home. Would you call the little girls? Matilda Jane has seen
enough of company, for _one_ day, I’m sure!”

“I’ll find ’em in a minute,” said my hostess, as she rose to leave the
room. “Maybe that young gentleman saw which way they went?”

“Where are they, Bruno?” I said.

“They ain’t in the field,” was Bruno’s rather evasive reply, “’cause
there’s nothing but _pigs_ there, and Sylvie isn’t a pig. Now don’t
imperrupt me any more, ’cause I’m telling a story to this fly; and it
won’t attend!”

“They’re among the apples, I’ll warrant ’em!” said the Farmer’s wife. So
we left Bruno to finish his story, and went out into the orchard, where
we soon came upon the children, walking sedately side by side, Sylvie
carrying the doll, while little Bess carefully shaded its face, with a
large cabbage-leaf for a parasol.

As soon as they caught sight of us, little Bess dropped her cabbage-leaf
and came running to meet us, Sylvie following more slowly, as her
precious charge evidently needed great care and attention.

“I’m its Mamma, and Sylvie’s the Head-Nurse,” Bessie explained: “and
Sylvie’s taught me ever such a pretty song, for me to sing to Matilda
Jane!”

“Let’s hear it once more, Sylvie,” I said, delighted at getting the
chance I had long wished for, of hearing her sing. But Sylvie turned shy
and frightened in a moment. “No, _please_ not!” she said, in an earnest
‘aside’ to me. “Bessie knows it quite perfect now. Bessie can sing it!”

“Aye, aye! Let Bessie sing it!” said the proud mother. “Bessie has a
bonny voice of her own,” (this again was an ‘aside’ to me) “though I say
it as shouldn’t!”

Bessie was only too happy to accept the ‘encore.’ So the plump little
Mamma sat down at our feet, with her hideous daughter reclining stiffly
across her lap (it was one of a kind that wo’n’t sit down, under _any_
amount of persuasion), and, with a face simply beaming with delight,
began the lullaby, in a shout that _ought_ to have frightened the poor
baby into fits. The Head-Nurse crouched down behind her, keeping herself
respectfully in the back-ground, with her hands on the shoulders of her
little mistress, so as to be ready to act as Prompter, if required, and
to supply ‘_each gap in faithless memory void_.’

[Illustration: BESSIE’S SONG]

The shout, with which she began, proved to be only a momentary effort.
After a very few notes, Bessie toned down, and sang on in a small but
very sweet voice. At first her great black eyes were fixed on her
mother, but soon her gaze wandered upwards, among the apples, and she
seemed to have quite forgotten that she had any other audience than her
Baby, and her Head-Nurse, who once or twice supplied, almost inaudibly,
the right note, when the singer was getting a little ‘flat.’

  “Matilda Jane, you never look
  At any toy or picture-book:
  I show you pretty things in vain—
  You must be blind, Matilda Jane!

  “I ask you riddles, tell you tales,
  But _all_ our conversation fails:
  You _never_ answer me again—
  I fear you’re dumb, Matilda Jane!

  “Matilda, darling, when I call,
  You never seem to hear at all:
  I shout with all my might and main—
  But you’re _so_ deaf, Matilda Jane!

  “Matilda Jane, you needn’t mind;
  For, though you’re deaf, and dumb, and blind,
  There’s _some one_ loves you, it is plain—
  And that is _me,_ Matilda Jane!”

She sang three of the verses in a rather perfunctory style, but the last
stanza evidently excited the little maiden. Her voice rose, ever clearer
and louder: she had a rapt look on her face, as if suddenly inspired,
and, as she sang the last few words, she clasped to her heart the
inattentive Matilda Jane.

“Kiss it now!” prompted the Head-Nurse. And in a moment the simpering
meaningless face of the Baby was covered with a shower of passionate
kisses.

“What a bonny song!” cried the Farmer’s wife. “Who made the words,
dearie?”

“I—I think I’ll look for Bruno,” Sylvie said demurely, and left us
hastily. The curious child seemed always afraid of being praised, or
even noticed.

“Sylvie planned the words,” Bessie informed us, proud of her superior
information: “and Bruno planned the music—and _I_ sang it!” (this last
circumstance, by the way, we did not need to be told).

So we followed Sylvie, and all entered the parlour together. Bruno was
still standing at the window, with his elbows on the sill. He had,
apparently, finished the story that he was telling to the fly, and had
found a new occupation. “Don’t imperrupt!” he said as we came in. “I’m
counting the Pigs in the field!”

“How many are there?” I enquired.

“About a thousand and four,” said Bruno.

“You mean ‘about a thousand,’” Sylvie corrected him. “There’s no good
saying ‘_and four_’: you _ca’n’t_ be sure about the four!”

“And you’re as wrong as ever!” Bruno exclaimed triumphantly. “It’s just
the _four_ I _can_ be sure about; ’cause they’re here, grubbling under
the window! It’s the _thousand_ I isn’t pruffickly sure about!”

“But some of them have gone into the sty,” Sylvie said, leaning over him
to look out of the window.

“Yes,” said Bruno; “but they went so slowly and so fewly, I didn’t care
to count _them_.”

“We must be going, children,” I said. “Wish Bessie good-bye.” Sylvie
flung her arms round the little maiden’s neck, and kissed her: but Bruno
stood aloof, looking unusually shy. (“I never kiss _nobody_ but Sylvie!”
he explained to me afterwards.) The farmer’s wife showed us out: and we
were soon on our way back to Elveston.

“And that’s the new public-house that we were talking about, I suppose?”
I said, as we came in sight of a long low building, with the words ‘The
Golden Lion’ over the door.

“Yes, that’s it,” said Sylvie. “I wonder if _her_ Willie’s inside? Run
in, Bruno, and see if he’s there.”

I interposed, feeling that Bruno was, in a sort of way, in _my_ care.
“That’s not a place to send a child into.” For already the revelers were
getting noisy: and a wild discord of singing, shouting, and meaningless
laughter came to us through the open windows.

“They wo’n’t _see_ him, you know,” Sylvie explained. “Wait a minute,
Bruno!” She clasped the jewel, that always hung round her neck, between
the palms of her hands, and muttered a few words to herself. What they
were I could not at all make out, but some mysterious change seemed
instantly to pass over us. My feet seemed to me no longer to press the
ground, and the dream-like feeling came upon me, that I was suddenly
endowed with the power of floating in the air. I could still just _see_
the children: but their forms were shadowy and unsubstantial, and their
voices sounded as if they came from some distant place and time, they
were so unreal. However, I offered no further opposition to Bruno’s
going into the house. He was back again in a few moments. “No, he isn’t
come yet,” he said. “They’re talking about him inside, and saying how
drunk he was last week.”

While he was speaking, one of the men lounged out through the door, a
pipe in one hand and a mug of beer in the other, and crossed to where we
were standing, so as to get a better view along the road. Two or three
others leaned out through the open window, each holding his mug of beer,
with red faces and sleepy eyes. “Canst see him, lad?” one of them asked.

“I dunnot know,” the man said, taking a step forwards, which brought us
nearly face to face. Sylvie hastily pulled me out of his way. “Thanks,
child,” I said. “I had forgotten he couldn’t see us. What would have
happened if I had staid in his way?”

“I don’t know,” Sylvie said gravely. “It wouldn’t matter to _us_; but
_you_ may be different.” She said this in her usual voice, but the man
took no sort of notice, though she was standing close in front of him,
and looking up into his face as she spoke.

“He’s coming now!” cried Bruno, pointing down the road.

“He be a-coomin noo!” echoed the man, stretching out his arm exactly
over Bruno’s head, and pointing with his pipe.

“Then _chorus_ agin!” was shouted out by one of the red-faced men in the
window: and forthwith a dozen voices yelled, to a harsh discordant
melody, the refrain:—

  “There’s him, an’ yo’ an’ me,
            Roarin’ laddies!
  We loves a bit o spree,
  Roarin’ laddies we,
            Roarin’ laddies
            Roarin’ laddies!”

The man lounged back again to the house, joining lustily in the chorus
as he went: so that only the children and I were in the road when
‘Willie’ came up.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                             WILLIE’S WIFE.


He made for the door of the public-house, but the children intercepted
him. Sylvie clung to one arm; while Bruno, on the opposite side, was
pushing him with all his strength, with many inarticulate cries of
“Gee-up! Gee-back! Woah then!” which he had picked up from the
waggoners.

‘Willie’ took not the least notice of them: he was simply conscious that
_something_ had checked him: and, for want of any other way of
accounting for it, he seemed to regard it as his own act.

[Illustration: THE RESCUE OF WILLIE]

“I wunnut coom in,” he said: “not to-day.”

“A mug o’ beer wunnut hurt ’ee!” his friends shouted in chorus. “_Two_
mugs wunnut hurt ’ee! Nor a dozen mugs!”

“Nay,” said Willie. “I’m agoan whoam.”

“What, withouten thy drink, Willie man?” shouted the others. But ‘Willie
man’ would have no more discussion, and turned doggedly away, the
children keeping one on each side of him, to guard him against any
change in his sudden resolution.

For a while he walked on stoutly enough, keeping his hands in his
pockets, and softly whistling a tune, in time to his heavy tread: his
success, in appearing entirely at his ease, was _almost_ complete; but a
careful observer would have noted that he had forgotten the second part
of the air, and that, when it broke down, he instantly began it again,
being too nervous to think of another, and too restless to endure
silence.

It was not the old fear that possessed him now—the old fear, that had
been his dreary companion every Saturday night he could remember, as he
had reeled along, steadying himself against gates and garden-palings,
and when the shrill reproaches of his wife had seemed to his dazed brain
only the echo of a yet more piercing voice within, the intolerable wail
of a hopeless remorse: it was a wholly new fear that had come to him
now: life had taken on itself a new set of colours, and was lighted up
with a new and dazzling radiance, and he did not see, as yet, how his
home-life, and his wife and child, would fit into the new order of
things: the very novelty of it all was, to his simple mind, a perplexity
and an overwhelming terror.

And now the tune died into sudden silence on the trembling lips, as he
turned a sharp corner, and came in sight of his own cottage, where his
wife stood, leaning with folded arms on the wicket-gate, and looking up
the road with a pale face, that had in it no glimmer of the light of
hope—only the heavy shadow of a deep stony despair.

“Fine an’ early, lad! Fine an’ early!” The words might have been words
of welcoming, but oh, the bitterness of the tone in which she said it!
“What brings thee from thy merry mates, and all the fiddling and the
jigging? Pockets empty, I doubt? Or thou’st come, mebbe, for to see thy
little one die? The bairnie’s clemmed, and I’ve nor bite nor sup to gie
her. But what does _thou_ care?” She flung the gate open, and met him
with blazing eyes of fury.

The man said no word. Slowly, and with downcast eyes, he passed into the
house, while she, half terrified at his strange silence, followed him in
without another word; and it was not till he had sunk into a chair, with
his arms crossed on the table and with drooping head, that she found her
voice again.

It seemed entirely natural for us to go in with them: at another time
one would have asked leave for this, but I felt, I knew not why, that we
were in some mysterious way invisible, and as free to come and to go as
disembodied spirits.

The child in the cradle woke up, and raised a piteous cry, which in a
moment brought the children to its side: Bruno rocked the cradle, while
Sylvie tenderly replaced the little head on the pillow from which it had
slipped. But the mother took no heed of the cry, nor yet of the
satisfied ‘coo’ that it set up when Sylvie had made it happy again: she
only stood gazing at her husband, and vainly trying, with white
quivering lips (I believe she thought he was mad), to speak in the old
tones of shrill upbraiding that he knew so well.

“And thou’st spent all thy wages—I’ll swear thou hast—on the devil’s own
drink—and thou’st been and made thysen a beast again—as thou allus
dost——”

“Hasna!” the man muttered, his voice hardly rising above a whisper, as
he slowly emptied his pockets on the table. “There’s th’ wage, Missus,
every penny on’t.”

The woman gasped, and put one hand to her heart, as if under some great
shock of surprise. “Then _how_’s thee gotten th’ drink?”

“_Hasna_ gotten it,” he answered her, in a tone more sad than sullen. “I
hanna touched a drop this blessed day. No!” he cried aloud, bringing his
clenched fist heavily down upon the table, and looking up at her with
gleaming eyes, “nor I’ll never touch another drop o’ the cursed
drink—till I die—so help me God my Maker!” His voice, which had suddenly
risen to a hoarse shout, dropped again as suddenly: and once more he
bowed his head, and buried his face in his folded arms.

[Illustration: WILLIE’S WIFE]

The woman had dropped upon her knees by the cradle, while he was
speaking. She neither looked at him nor seemed to hear him. With hands
clasped above her head, she rocked herself wildly to and fro. “Oh my
God! Oh my God!” was all she said, over and over again.

Sylvie and Bruno gently unclasped her hands and drew them down—till she
had an arm round each of them, though she took no notice of them, but
knelt on with eyes gazing upwards, and lips that moved as if in silent
thanksgiving. The man kept his face hidden, and uttered no sound: but
one could _see_ the sobs that shook him from head to foot.

After a while he raised his head—his face all wet with tears. “Polly!”
he said softly; and then, louder, “Old Poll!”

Then she rose from her knees and came to him, with a dazed look, as if
she were walking in her sleep. “Who was it called me old Poll?” she
asked: her voice took on it a tender playfulness: her eyes sparkled; and
the rosy light of Youth flushed her pale cheeks, till she looked more
like a happy girl of seventeen than a worn woman of forty. “Was that my
own lad, my Willie, a-waiting for me at the stile?”

His face too was transformed, in the same magic light, to the likeness
of a bashful boy: and boy and girl they seemed, as he wound an arm about
her, and drew her to his side, while with the other hand he thrust from
him the heap of money, as though it were something hateful to the touch.
“Tak it, lass,” he said, “tak it all! An’ fetch us summat to eat: but
get a sup o’ milk, first, for t’ bairn.”

“My _little_ bairn!” she murmured as she gathered up the coins. “My own
little lassie!” Then she moved to the door, and was passing out, but a
sudden thought seemed to arrest her: she hastily returned—first to kneel
down and kiss the sleeping child, and then to throw herself into her
husband’s arms and be strained to his heart. The next moment she was on
her way, taking with her a jug that hung on a peg near the door: we
followed close behind.

We had not gone far before we came in sight of a swinging sign-board
bearing the word ‘DAIRY’ on it, and here she went in, welcomed by a
little curly white dog, who, not being under the ‘eerie’ influence, saw
the children, and received them with the most effusive affection. When I
got inside, the dairyman was in the act of taking the money. “Is’t for
thysen, Missus, or for t’ bairn?” he asked, when he had filled the jug,
pausing with it in his hand.

“For t’ _bairn_!” she said, almost reproachfully. “Think’st tha I’d
touch a drop _mysen_, while as _she_ hadna got her fill?”

“All right, Missus,” the man replied, turning away with the jug in his
hand. “Let’s just mak sure it’s good measure.” He went back among his
shelves of milk-bowls, carefully keeping his back towards her while he
emptied a little measure of cream into the jug, muttering to himself
“mebbe it’ll hearten her up a bit, the little lassie!”

The woman never noticed the kind deed, but took back the jug with a
simple “Good evening, Master,” and went her way: but the children had
been more observant, and, as we followed her out, Bruno remarked “That
were _welly_ kind: and I loves that man: and if I was welly rich I’d
give him a hundred pounds—and a bun. That little grummeling dog doosn’t
know its business!” He referred to the dairyman’s little dog, who had
apparently quite forgotten the affectionate welcome he had given us on
our arrival, and was now following at a respectful distance, doing his
best to ‘_speed the parting guest_’ with a shower of little shrill
barks, that seemed to tread on one another’s heels.

“What _is_ a dog’s business?” laughed Sylvie. “Dogs ca’n’t keep shops
and give change!”

“Sisters’ businesses _isn’t_ to laugh at their brothers,” Bruno replied
with perfect gravity. “And dogs’ businesses is to _bark_—not like that:
it should finish one bark before it begins another: and it should—Oh
Sylvie, there’s some dindledums!”

And in another moment the happy children were flying across the common,
racing for the patch of dandelions.

While I stood watching them, a strange dreamy feeling came upon me: a
railway-platform seemed to take the place of the green sward, and,
instead of the light figure of Sylvie bounding along, I seemed to see
the flying form of Lady Muriel; but whether Bruno had also undergone a
transformation, and had become the old man whom she was running to
overtake, I was unable to judge, so instantaneously did the feeling come
and go.

When I re-entered the little sitting-room which I shared with Arthur, he
was standing with his back to me, looking out of the open window, and
evidently had not heard me enter. A cup of tea, apparently just tasted
and pushed aside, stood on the table, on the opposite side of which was
a letter, just begun, with the pen lying across it: an open book lay on
the sofa: the London paper occupied the easy chair; and on the little
table, which stood by it, I noticed an unlighted cigar and an open box
of cigar-lights: all things betokened that the Doctor, usually so
methodical and so self-contained, had been trying every form of
occupation, and could settle to none!

“This is very unlike _you_, Doctor!” I was beginning, but checked
myself, as he turned at the sound of my voice, in sheer amazement at the
wonderful change that had taken place in his appearance. Never had I
seen a face so radiant with happiness, or eyes that sparkled with such
unearthly light! “Even thus,” I thought, “must the herald-angel have
looked, who brought to the shepherds, watching over their flocks by
night, that sweet message of ‘_peace on earth, good-will to men_’!”

“Yes, dear friend!” he said, as if in answer to the question that I
suppose he read in my face. “It is true! It is true!”

No need to ask _what_ was true. “God bless you both!” I said, as I felt
the happy tears brimming to my eyes. “You were made for each other!”

“Yes,” he said, simply, “I believe we were. And _what_ a change it makes
in one’s Life! This isn’t the same world! That isn’t the sky I saw
yesterday! Those clouds—I never saw such clouds in all my life before!
They look like troops of hovering angels!”

To _me_ they looked very ordinary clouds indeed: but then _I_ had not
fed ‘_on honey-dew, And drunk the milk of Paradise_’!

“She wants to see you—at once,” he continued, descending suddenly to the
things of earth. “She says _that_ is the _one_ drop yet wanting in her
cup of happiness!”

“I’ll go at once,” I said, as I turned to leave the room. “Wo’n’t you
come with me?”

“No, Sir!” said the Doctor, with a sudden effort—which proved an utter
failure—to resume his professional manner. “Do I _look_ like coming with
you? Have you never heard that two is company, and——”

“Yes,” I said, “I _have_ heard it: and I’m painfully aware that_ I_ am
_Number Three_! But, _when_ shall we three meet again?”

“_When the hurly-burly’s done!_” he answered with a happy laugh, such as
I had not heard from him for many a year.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                               MEIN HERR.


So I went on my lonely way, and, on reaching the Hall, I found Lady
Muriel standing at the garden-gate waiting for me.

“No need to _give_ you joy, or to _wish_ you joy?” I began.

“None _whatever_!” she replied, with the joyous laugh of a child. “We
_give_ people what they haven’t got: we _wish_ for something that is yet
to come. For _me_, it’s all _here_! It’s all _mine_! Dear friend,” she
suddenly broke off, “do you think Heaven ever begins on _Earth_, for any
of us?”

“For _some_,” I said. “For some, perhaps, who are simple and childlike.
You know He said ‘of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’”

Lady Muriel clasped her hands, and gazed up into the cloudless sky, with
a look I had often seen in Sylvie’s eyes. “I feel as if it had begun for
_me_,” she almost whispered. “I feel as if _I_ were one of the happy
children, whom He bid them bring near to Him, though the people would
have kept them back. Yes, He has seen me in the throng. He has read the
wistful longing in my eyes. He has beckoned me to Him. They have _had_
to make way for me. He has taken me up in His arms. He has put His hands
upon me and blessed me!” She paused, breathless in her perfect
happiness.

“Yes,” I said. “I think He has!”

“You must come and speak to my father,” she went on, as we stood side by
side at the gate, looking down the shady lane. But, even as she said the
words, the ‘eerie’ sensation came over me like a flood: I saw the dear
old Professor approaching us, and also saw, what was stranger still,
that he was visible to _Lady Muriel_!

What was to be done? Had the fairy-life been merged in the real life? Or
was Lady Muriel ‘eerie’ also, and thus able to enter into the
fairy-world along with me? The words were on my lips (“I see an old
friend of mine in the lane: if you don’t know him, may I introduce him
to you?”) when the strangest thing of all happened: Lady Muriel spoke.

“I see an old friend of mine in the lane,” she said: “if you don’t know
him, may I introduce him to you?”

I seemed to wake out of a dream: for the ‘eerie’ feeling was still
strong upon me, and the figure outside seemed to be changing at every
moment, like one of the shapes in a kaleidoscope: now he was the
_Professor_, and now he was somebody else! By the time he had reached
the gate, he certainly was somebody else: and I felt that the proper
course was for _Lady Muriel_, not for _me_, to introduce him. She
greeted him kindly, and, opening the gate, admitted the venerable old
man—a German, obviously—who looked about him with dazed eyes, as if
_he_, too, had but just awaked from a dream!

No, it was certainly _not_ the Professor! My old friend _could_ not have
grown that magnificent beard since last we met: moreover, he would have
recognised _me_, for I was certain that _I_ had not changed much in the
time.

As it was, he simply looked at me vaguely, and took off his hat in
response to Lady Muriel’s words “Let me introduce Mein Herr to you”;
while in the words, spoken in a strong German accent, “proud to make
your acquaintance, Sir!” I could detect no trace of an idea that we had
ever met before.

Lady Muriel led us to the well-known shady nook, where preparations for
afternoon tea had already been made, and, while she went in to look for
the Earl, we seated ourselves in two easy-chairs, and ‘Mein Herr’ took
up Lady Muriel’s work, and examined it through his large spectacles (one
of the adjuncts that made him so provokingly like the Professor).
“Hemming pocket-handkerchiefs?” he said, musingly. “So _that_ is what
the English miladies occupy themselves with, is it?”

“It is the one accomplishment,” I said, “in which Man has never yet
rivaled Woman!”

Here Lady Muriel returned with her father; and, after he had exchanged
some friendly words with ‘Mein Herr,’ and we had all been supplied with
the needful ‘creature-comforts,’ the newcomer returned to the suggestive
subject of Pocket-handkerchiefs.

“You have heard of Fortunatus’s Purse, Miladi? Ah, so! Would you be
surprised to hear that, with three of these leetle handkerchiefs, you
shall make the Purse of Fortunatus, quite soon, quite easily?”

“Shall I indeed?” Lady Muriel eagerly replied, as she took a heap of
them into her lap, and threaded her needle. “_Please_ tell me how, Mein
Herr! I’ll make one before I touch another drop of tea!”

“You shall first,” said Mein Herr, possessing himself of two of the
handkerchiefs, spreading one upon the other, and holding them up by two
corners, “you shall first join together these upper corners, the right
to the right, the left to the left; and the opening between them shall
be the _mouth_ of the Purse.”

A very few stitches sufficed to carry out _this_ direction. “Now, if I
sew the other three edges together,” she suggested, “the bag is
complete?”

“Not so, Miladi: the _lower_ edges shall _first_ be joined—ah, not so!”
(as she was beginning to sew them together). “Turn one of them over, and
join the _right_ lower corner of the one to the _left_ lower corner of
the other, and sew the lower edges together in what you would call _the
wrong way_.”

“_I_ see!” said Lady Muriel, as she deftly executed the order. “And a
very twisted, uncomfortable, uncanny-looking bag it makes! But the
_moral_ is a lovely one. Unlimited wealth can only be attained by doing
things _in the wrong way_! And how are we to join up these
mysterious—no, I mean _this_ mysterious opening?” (twisting the thing
round and round with a puzzled air.) “Yes, it _is_ one opening. I
thought it was _two_, at first.”

“You have seen the puzzle of the Paper Ring?” Mein Herr said, addressing
the Earl. “Where you take a slip of paper, and join its ends together,
first twisting one, so as to join the _upper_ corner of _one_ end to the
_lower_ corner of the _other_?”

“I saw one made, only yesterday,” the Earl replied. “Muriel, my child,
were you not making one, to amuse those children you had to tea?”

“Yes, I know that Puzzle,” said Lady Muriel. “The Ring has only _one_
surface, and only _one_ edge. It’s very mysterious!”

“The _bag_ is just like that, isn’t it?” I suggested. “Is not the
_outer_ surface of one side of it continuous with the _inner_ surface of
the other side?”

“So it is!” she exclaimed. “Only it _isn’t_ a bag, just yet. How shall
we fill up this opening, Mein Herr?”

“Thus!” said the old man impressively, taking the bag from her, and
rising to his feet in the excitement of the explanation. “The edge of
the opening consists of _four_ handkerchief-edges, and you can trace it
continuously, round and round the opening: down the right edge of _one_
handkerchief, up the left edge of the _other_, and then down the left
edge of the _one_, and up the right edge of the _other_!”

“So you can!” Lady Muriel murmured thoughtfully, leaning her head on her
hand, and earnestly watching the old man. “And that _proves_ it to be
only _one_ opening!”

[Illustration: FORTUNATUS’ PURSE]

She looked so strangely like a child, puzzling over a difficult lesson,
and Mein Herr had become, for the moment, so strangely like the old
Professor, that I felt utterly bewildered: the ‘eerie’ feeling was on me
in its full force, and I felt almost _impelled_ to say “Do you
understand it, Sylvie?” However I checked myself by a great effort, and
let the dream (if indeed it _was_ a dream) go on to its end.

“Now, this _third_ handkerchief,” Mein Herr proceeded, “has _also_ four
edges, which you can trace continuously round and round: all you need do
is to join its four edges to the four edges of the opening. The Purse is
then complete, and its outer surface——”

“_I_ see!” Lady Muriel eagerly interrupted. “Its _outer_ surface will be
continuous with its _inner_ surface! But it will take time. I’ll sew it
up after tea.” She laid aside the bag and resumed her cup of tea. “But
why do you call it Fortunatus’s Purse, Mein Herr?”

The dear old man beamed upon her, with a jolly smile, looking more
exactly like the Professor than ever. “Don’t you see, my child—I should
say Miladi? Whatever is _inside_ that Purse, is _outside_ it; and
whatever is _outside_ it, is _inside_ it. So you have all the wealth of
the world in that leetle Purse!”

His pupil clapped her hands, in unrestrained delight. “I’ll certainly
sew the third handkerchief in—_some_ time,” she said: “but I wo’n’t take
up your time by trying it now. Tell us some more wonderful things,
please!” And her face and her voice so _exactly_ recalled Sylvie, that I
could not help glancing round, half-expecting to see _Bruno_ also!

Mein Herr began thoughtfully balancing his spoon on the edge of his
teacup, while he pondered over this request. “Something wonderful—like
 Fortunatus’s Purse? _That_ will give you—when it is made—wealth beyond
your wildest dreams: but it will not give you _Time_!”

A pause of silence ensued—utilised by Lady Muriel for the very practical
purpose of refilling the teacups.

“In _your_ country,” Mein Herr began with a startling abruptness, “what
becomes of all the wasted Time?”

Lady Muriel looked grave. “Who can tell?” she half-whispered to herself.
“All one knows is that it is gone—past recall!”

“Well, in _my_—I mean in a country _I_ have visited,” said the old man,
“they store it up: and it comes in _very_ useful, years afterwards! For
example, suppose you have a long tedious evening before you: nobody to
talk to: nothing you care to do: and yet hours too soon to go to bed.
How do _you_ behave then?”

“I get _very_ cross,” she frankly admitted: “and I want to throw things
about the room!”

“When that happens to—to the people I have visited, they never act _so_.
By a short and simple process—which I cannot explain to you—they store
up the useless hours: and, on some _other_ occasion, when they happen to
_need_ extra time, they get them out again!”

The Earl was listening with a slightly incredulous smile. “Why cannot
you _explain_ the process?” he enquired.

Mein Herr was ready with a quite unanswerable reason. “Because you have
no _words_, in _your_ language, to convey the ideas which are needed. I
could explain it in—in—but you would not understand it!”

“No indeed!” said Lady Muriel, graciously dispensing with the _name_ of
the unknown language. “I never learnt it—at least, not to speak it
_fluently_, you know. _Please_ tell us some more wonderful things!”

“They run their railway-trains without any engines—nothing is needed but
machinery to _stop_ them with. Is _that_ wonderful enough, Miladi?”

“But where does the _force_ come from?” I ventured to ask.

Mein Herr turned quickly round, to look at the new speaker. Then he took
off his spectacles, and polished them, and looked at me again, in
evident bewilderment. I could see he was thinking—as indeed _I_ was
also—that we _must_ have met before.

“They use the force of _gravity_,” he said. “It is a force known also in
_your_ country, I believe?”

“But that would need a railway going _down-hill_,” the Earl remarked.
“You ca’n’t have _all_ your railways going down-hill?”

“They _all_ do,” said Mein Herr.

“Not from _both_ ends?”

“From _both_ ends.”

“Then I give it up!” said the Earl.

“Can you explain the process?” said Lady Muriel. “Without using that
language, that I ca’n’t speak fluently?”

“Easily,” said Mein Herr. “Each railway is in a long tunnel, perfectly
straight: so of course the _middle_ of it is nearer the centre of the
globe than the two ends: so every train runs half-way _down_-hill, and
that gives it force enough to run the _other_ half _up_-hill.”

“Thank you. I understand that perfectly,” said Lady Muriel. “But the
velocity, in the _middle_ of the tunnel, must be something _fearful_!”

‘Mein Herr’ was evidently much gratified at the intelligent interest
Lady Muriel took in his remarks. At every moment the old man seemed to
grow more chatty and more fluent. “You would like to know our methods of
_driving_?” he smilingly enquired. “To us, a run-away horse is of no
import at all!”

Lady Muriel slightly shuddered. “To _us_ it is a very real danger,” she
said.

“That is because your carriage is wholly _behind_ your horse. Your horse
runs. Your carriage follows. Perhaps your horse has the bit in his
teeth. Who shall stop him? You fly, ever faster and faster! Finally
comes the inevitable upset!”

“But suppose _your_ horse manages to get the bit in his teeth?”

“No matter! We would not concern ourselves. Our horse is harnessed in
the very centre of our carriage. Two wheels are in front of him, and two
behind. To the roof is attached one end of a broad belt. This goes under
the horse’s body, and the other end is attached to a leetle—what you
call a ‘windlass,’ I think. The horse takes the bit in his teeth. He
runs away. We are flying at ten miles an hour! We turn our little
windlass, five turns, six turns, seven turns, and—poof! Our horse is off
the ground! _Now_ let him gallop in the air, as much as he pleases: our
_carriage_ stands still. We sit round him, and watch him till he is
tired. Then we let him down. Our horse is glad, very much glad, when his
feet once more touch the ground!”

“Capital!” said the Earl, who had been listening attentively. “Are there
any other peculiarities in your carriages?”

“In the _wheels_, sometimes, my Lord. For your health, _you_ go to sea:
to be pitched, to be rolled, occasionally to be drowned. _We_ do all
that on land: we are pitched, as you; we are rolled, as you; but
_drowned_, no! There is no water!”

“What are the wheels like, then?”

“They are _oval_, my Lord. Therefore the carriages rise and fall.”

“Yes, and pitch the carriage backwards and forwards: but how do they
make it _roll_?”

“They do not match, my Lord. The _end_ of one wheel answers to the
_side_ of the opposite wheel. So first one side of the carriage rises,
then the other. And it pitches all the while. Ah, you must be a good
sailor, to drive in our boat-carriages!”

“I can easily believe it,” said the Earl.

Mein Herr rose to his feet. “I must leave you now, Miladi,” he said,
consulting his watch. “I have another engagement.”

“I only wish we had stored up some extra time!” Lady Muriel said, as she
shook hands with him. “Then we could have kept you a little longer!”

“In _that_ case I would gladly stay,” replied Mein Herr. “As it is—I
fear I must say good-bye!”

“Where did you first meet him?” I asked Lady Muriel, when Mein Herr had
left us. “And where does he live? And what is his real name?”

“We first—met—him——” she musingly replied, “really, I ca’n’t remember
_where_! And I’ve no idea where he lives! And I never heard any other
name! It’s very curious. It never occurred to me before to consider what
a mystery he is!”

“I hope we shall meet again,” I said: “he interests me very much.”

“He will be at our farewell-party, this day fortnight,” said the Earl.
“Of course you will come? Muriel is anxious to gather all our friends
around us once more, before we leave the place.”

And then he explained to me—as Lady Muriel had left us together—that he
was so anxious to get his daughter away from a place full of so many
painful memories connected with the now-canceled engagement with Major
Lindon, that they had arranged to have the wedding in a months time,
after which Arthur and his wife were to go on a foreign tour.

“Don’t forget Tuesday week!” he said as we shook hands at parting. “I
only wish you could bring with you those charming children, that you
introduced to us in the summer. Talk of the mystery of Mein Herr! That’s
_nothing_ to the mystery that seems to attend _them_! I shall never
forget those marvellous flowers!”

“I will bring them if I possibly can,” I said. But how to _fulfil_ such
a promise, I mused to myself on my way back to our lodgings, was a
problem entirely beyond my skill!



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                           IN A SHADY PLACE.


The ten days glided swiftly away: and, the day before the great party
was to take place, Arthur proposed that we should stroll down to the
Hall, in time for afternoon-tea.

“Hadn’t you better go _alone_?” I suggested. “Surely _I_ shall be very
much _de trop_?”

“Well, it’ll be a kind of _experiment_,” he said. “_Fiat experimentum in
corpore vili!_” he added, with a graceful bow of mock politeness towards
the unfortunate victim. “You see I shall have to bear the sight,
to-morrow night, of my lady-love making herself agreable to everybody
_except_ the right person, and I shall bear the agony all the better if
we have a dress-rehearsal beforehand!”

“_My_ part in the play being, apparently, that of the sample _wrong_
person?”

“Well, no,” Arthur said musingly, as we set forth: “there’s no such part
in a regular company. ‘Heavy Father’? _That_ won’t do: that’s filled
already. ‘Singing Chambermaid’? Well, the ‘First Lady’ doubles _that_
part. ‘Comic Old Man’? You’re not comic enough. After all, I’m afraid
there’s no part for you but the ‘Well-dressed Villain’: only,” with a
critical side-glance, “I’m a _leetle_ uncertain about the dress!”

We found Lady Muriel alone, the Earl having gone out to make a call, and
at once resumed old terms of intimacy, in the shady arbour where the
tea-things seemed to be always waiting. The only novelty in the
arrangements (one which Lady Muriel seemed to regard as _entirely_ a
matter of course), was that two of the chairs were placed _quite_ close
together, side by side. Strange to say, _I_ was not invited to occupy
_either_ of them!

“We have been arranging, as we came along, about letter-writing,” Arthur
began. “He will want to know how we’re enjoying our Swiss tour: and of
course we must pretend we _are_?”

“Of course,” she meekly assented.

“And the skeleton-in-the-cupboard——” I suggested.

“—is always a difficulty,” she quickly put in, “when you’re traveling
about, and when there are no cupboards in the hotels. However, _ours_ is
a _very_ portable one; and will be neatly packed, in a nice leather
case——”

“But please don’t think about _writing_,” I said, “when you’ve anything
more attractive on hand. I delight in _reading_ letters, but I know well
how tiring it is to _write_ them.”

“It _is_, sometimes,” Arthur assented. “For instance, when you’re very
shy of the person you have to write to.”

“Does that show itself in the _letter_?” Lady Muriel enquired. “Of
course, when I hear any one _talking_—_you_, for instance—I can see how
_desperately_ shy he is! But can you see that in a _letter_?”

“Well, of course, when you hear any one talk _fluently_—_you_, for
instance—you can see how desperately _un_-shy she is—not to say saucy!
But the shyest and most intermittent talker must _seem_ fluent in
letter-writing. He may have taken half-an-hour to _compose_ his second
sentence; but there it is, close after the first!”

“Then letters don’t express all that they _might_ express?”

“That’s merely because our system of letter-writing is incomplete. A shy
writer _ought_ to be able to show that he is so. Why shouldn’t he make
_pauses_ in writing, just as he would do in speaking? He might leave
blank spaces—say half a page at a time. And a _very_ shy girl—if there
_is_ such a thing—might write a sentence on the _first_ sheet of her
letter—then put in a couple of _blank_ sheets—then a sentence on the
_fourth_ sheet: and so on.”

“I quite foresee that _we_—I mean this clever little boy and myself—”
Lady Muriel said to me, evidently with the kind wish to bring me into
the conversation, “—are going to become famous—of course all our
inventions are common property now—for a new Code of Rules for
Letter-writing! Please invent some more, little boy!”

“Well, another thing _greatly_ needed, little girl, is some way of
expressing that we _don’t_ mean anything.”

“Explain yourself, little boy! Surely _you_ can find no difficulty in
expressing a _total_ absence of meaning?”

“I mean that you should be able, when you _don’t_ mean a thing to be
taken seriously, to express that wish. For human nature is so
constituted that whatever you write seriously is taken as a joke, and
whatever you mean as a joke is taken seriously! At any rate, it is so in
writing to a _lady_!”

“Ah! you’re not used to writing to ladies!” Lady Muriel remarked,
leaning back in her chair, and gazing thoughtfully into the sky. “You
should try.”

“Very good,” said Arthur. “How many ladies may I begin writing to? As
many as I can count on the fingers of both hands?”

“As many as you can count on the _thumbs_ of _one_ hand!” his lady-love
replied with much severity. “What a _very_ naughty little boy he is!
_Isn’t_ he?” (with an appealing glance at me).

“He’s a little fractious,” I said. “Perhaps he’s cutting a tooth.” While
to myself I said “How _exactly_ like Sylvie talking to Bruno!”

“He wants his tea.” (The naughty little boy volunteered the
information.) “He’s getting very tired, at the mere _prospect_ of the
great party to-morrow!”

“Then he shall have a good rest beforehand!” she soothingly replied.
“The tea isn’t made yet. Come, little boy, lean well back in your chair,
and think about nothing—or about _me_, whichever you prefer!”

“All the same, all the same!” Arthur sleepily murmured, watching her
with loving eyes, as she moved her chair away to the tea table, and
began to make the tea. “Then he’ll wait for his tea, like a good,
patient little boy!”

“Shall I bring you the London Papers?” said Lady Muriel. “I saw them
lying on the table as I came out, but my father said there was nothing
in them, except that horrid murder-trial.” (Society was just then
enjoying its daily thrill of excitement in studying the details of a
specially sensational murder in a thieves’ den in the East of London.)

“I have no appetite for horrors,” Arthur replied. “But I hope we have
learned the lesson they should teach us—though we are very apt to read
it backwards!”

[Illustration: ‘I AM SITTING AT YOUR FEET’]

“You speak in riddles,” said Lady Muriel. “Please explain yourself. See
now,” suiting the action to the word, “I am sitting at your feet, just
as if you were a second Gamaliel! Thanks, no.” (This was to me, who had
risen to bring her chair back to its former place.) “Pray don’t disturb
yourself. This tree and the grass make a very nice easy-chair. _What_ is
the lesson that one always reads wrong?”

Arthur was silent for a minute. “I would like to be clear what it _is_ I
mean,” he said, slowly and thoughtfully, “before I say anything to
_you_—because you _think_ about it.”

Anything approaching to a compliment was so unusual an utterance for
Arthur, that it brought a flush of pleasure to her cheek, as she replied
“It is _you_, that give me the ideas to think about.”

“One’s first thought,” Arthur proceeded, “in reading of anything
specially vile or barbarous, as done by a fellow-creature, is apt to be
that we see a new depth of Sin revealed _beneath_ us: and we seem to
gaze down into that abyss from some higher ground, far apart from it.”

“I think I understand you now. You mean that one ought to think—not
‘God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are’—but ‘God, be merciful
to me also, who might be, but for Thy grace, a sinner as vile as he!’”

“No,” said Arthur. “I meant a great deal more than that.”

She looked up quickly, but checked herself, and waited in silence.

“One must begin further back, I think. Think of some other man, the same
age as this poor wretch. Look back to the time when they both began
life—before they had sense enough to know Right from Wrong. _Then_, at
any rate, they were equal in God’s sight?”

She nodded assent.

“We have, then, two distinct epochs at which we may contemplate the two
men whose lives we are comparing. At the first epoch they are, so far as
moral responsibility is concerned, on precisely the same footing: they
are alike incapable of doing right or wrong. At the second epoch the one
man—I am taking an extreme case, for contrast—has won the esteem and
love of all around him: his character is stainless, and his name will be
held in honour hereafter: the other man’s history is one unvaried record
of crime, and his life is at last forfeited to the outraged laws of his
country. Now what have been the causes, in each case, of each man’s
condition being what it is at the second epoch? They are of two
kinds—one acting from within, the other from without. These two kinds
need to be discussed separately—that is, if I have not already tired you
with my prosing?”

“On the contrary,” said Lady Muriel, “it is a special delight to me to
have a question discussed in this way—analysed and arranged, so that one
can understand it. Some books, that profess to argue out a question, are
to me intolerably wearisome, simply because the ideas are all arranged
hap-hazard—a sort of ‘first come, first served.’”

“You are very encouraging,” Arthur replied, with a pleased look. “The
causes, acting from _within_, which make a man’s character what it is at
any given moment, are his successive acts of volition—that is, his acts
of choosing whether he will do this or that.”

“We are to assume the existence of Free-Will?” I said, in order to have
that point made quite clear.

“If not,” was the quiet reply, “_cadit quaestio_: and I have no more to
say.”

“We _will_ assume it!” the rest of the audience—the majority, I may say,
looking at it from Arthur’s point of view—imperiously proclaimed. The
orator proceeded.

“The causes, acting from _without_, are his surroundings—what Mr.
Herbert Spencer calls his ‘environment.’ Now the point I want to make
clear is this, that a man is responsible for his acts of choosing, but
_not_ responsible for his environment. Hence, if these two men make, on
some given occasion, when they are exposed to equal temptation, equal
efforts to resist and to choose the right, their condition, in the sight
of God, must be the same. If He is pleased in the one case, so will He
be in the other; if displeased in the one case, so also in the other.”

“That is so, no doubt: I see it quite clearly,” Lady Muriel put in.

“And yet, owing to their different environments, the one may win a great
victory over the temptation, while the other falls into some black abyss
of crime.”

“But surely you would not say those men were equally guilty in the sight
of God?”

“Either that,” said Arthur, “or else I must give up my belief in God’s
perfect justice. But let me put one more case, which will show my
meaning even more forcibly. Let the one man be in a high social
position—the other, say, a common thief. Let the one be tempted to some
trivial act of unfair dealing—something which he can do with the
absolute certainty that it will never be discovered—something which he
can with perfect ease forbear from doing—and which he distinctly knows
to be a sin. Let the other be tempted to some terrible crime—as men
would consider it—but under an almost overwhelming pressure of
motives—of course not _quite_ overwhelming, as that would destroy all
responsibility. Now, in this case, let the second man make a _greater_
effort at resistance than the first. Also suppose _both_ to fall under
the temptation—I say that the second man is, in God’s sight, _less_
guilty than the other.”

Lady Muriel drew a long breath. “It upsets all one’s ideas of Right and
Wrong—just at first! Why, in that dreadful murder-trial, you would say,
I suppose, that it was possible that the least guilty man in the Court
was the murderer, and that possibly the judge who tried him, by yielding
to the temptation of making one unfair remark, had committed a crime
outweighing the criminal’s whole career!”

“Certainly I should,” Arthur firmly replied. “It sounds like a paradox,
I admit. But just think what a grievous sin it must be, in God’s sight,
to yield to some very slight temptation, which we could have resisted
with perfect ease, and to do it deliberately, and in the full light of
God’s Law. What penance can atone for a sin like _that_?”

“I ca’n’t reject your theory,” I said. “But how it seems to widen the
possible area of Sin in the world!”

“Is that so?” Lady Muriel anxiously enquired.

“Oh, not so, not so!” was the eager reply. “To me it seems to clear away
much of the cloud that hangs over the world’s history. When this view
first made itself clear to me, I remember walking out into the fields,
repeating to myself that line of Tennyson ‘_There seemed no room for
sense of wrong!_’ The thought, that perhaps the real guilt of the human
race was infinitely less than I fancied it—that the millions, whom I had
thought of as sunk in hopeless depths of sin, were perhaps, in God’s
sight, scarcely sinning at all—was more sweet than words can tell! Life
seemed more bright and beautiful, when once that thought had come! ‘_A
livelier emerald twinkles in the grass, A purer sapphire melts into the
sea!_’” His voice trembled as he concluded, and the tears stood in his
eyes.

Lady Muriel shaded her face with her hand, and was silent for a minute.
“It is a beautiful thought,” she said, looking up at last. “Thank
you—Arthur, for putting it into my head!”

The Earl returned in time to join us at tea, and to give us the very
unwelcome tidings that a fever had broken out in the little harbour-town
that lay below us—a fever of so malignant a type that, though it had
only appeared a day or two ago, there were already more than a dozen
down in it, two or three of whom were reported to be in imminent danger.

In answer to the eager questions of Arthur—who of course took a deep
scientific interest in the matter—he could give very few _technical_
details, though he had met the local doctor. It appeared, however, that
it was an almost _new_ disease—at least in _this_ century, though it
_might_ prove to be identical with the ‘Plague’ recorded in
History—_very_ infectious, and frightfully rapid in its action. “It will
not, however, prevent our party to-morrow,” he said in conclusion. “None
of the guests belong to the infected district, which is, as you know,
exclusively peopled by fishermen: so you may come without any fear.”

Arthur was very silent, all the way back, and, on reaching our lodgings,
immediately plunged into medical studies, connected with the alarming
malady of whose arrival we had just heard.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                          THE FAREWELL-PARTY.


On the following day, Arthur and I reached the Hall in good time, as
only a few of the guests—it was to be a party of eighteen—had as yet
arrived; and these were talking with the Earl, leaving us the
opportunity of a few words apart with our hostess.

“Who is that _very_ learned-looking man with the large spectacles?”
Arthur enquired. “I haven’t met him here before, have I?”

“No, he’s a new friend of ours,” said Lady Muriel: “a German, I believe.
He _is_ such a dear old thing! And quite the most learned man I ever
met—with _one_ exception, of course!” she added humbly, as Arthur drew
himself up with an air of offended dignity.

“And the young lady in blue, just beyond him, talking to that
foreign-looking man. Is _she_ learned, too?”

“I don’t know,” said Lady Muriel. “But I’m told she’s a wonderful
piano-forte-player. I hope you’ll hear her to-night. I asked that
foreigner to take her in, because _he’s_ very musical, too. He’s a
French Count, I believe; and he sings _splendidly_!”

“Science—music—singing—you have indeed got a complete party!” said
Arthur. “I feel quite a privileged person, meeting all these stars. I
_do_ love music!”

“But the party isn’t _quite_ complete!” said Lady Muriel. “You haven’t
brought us those two beautiful children,” she went on, turning to me.
“He brought them here to tea, you know, one day last summer,” again
addressing Arthur; “and they _are_ such darlings!”

“They are, _indeed_,” I assented.

“But why haven’t you brought them with you? You promised my father you
_would_.”

“I’m very sorry,” I said; “but really it was impossible to bring them
with me.” Here I most certainly _meant_ to conclude the sentence: and it
was with a feeling of utter amazement, which I cannot adequately
describe, that I heard myself _going on speaking_. “—but they are to
join me here in the course of the evening” were the words, uttered in
_my_ voice, and seeming to come from _my_ lips.

“I’m _so_ glad!” Lady Muriel joyfully replied. “I _shall_ enjoy
introducing them to some of my friends here! When do you expect them?”

I took refuge in silence. The only _honest_ reply would have been “That
was not _my_ remark. _I_ didn’t say it, and _it isn’t true_!” But I had
not the moral courage to make such a confession. The character of a
‘lunatic’ is not, I believe, very difficult to _acquire_: but it is
amazingly difficult to _get rid of_: and it seemed quite certain that
any such speech as _that_ would _quite_ justify the issue of a writ ‘_de
lunatico inquirendo_.’

Lady Muriel evidently thought I had failed to hear her question, and
turned to Arthur with a remark on some other subject; and I had time to
recover from my shock of surprise—or to awake out of my momentary
‘eerie’ condition, whichever it was.

When things around me seemed once more to be real, Arthur was saying
“I’m afraid there’s no help for it: they _must_ be finite in number.”

“I should be sorry to have to believe it,” said Lady Muriel. “Yet, when
one comes to think of it, there _are_ no new melodies, now-a-days. What
people talk of as ‘the last new song’ always recalls to _me_ some tune
I’ve known as a child!”

“The day must come—if the world lasts long enough——” said Arthur, “when
every possible tune will have been composed—every possible pun
perpetrated——” (Lady Muriel wrung her hands, like a tragedy-queen) “and,
worse than that, every possible _book_ written! For the number of
_words_ is finite.”

“It’ll make very little difference to the _authors_,” I suggested.
“Instead of saying ‘_what_ book shall I write?’ an author will ask
himself ‘_which_ book shall I write?’ A mere verbal distinction!”

Lady Muriel gave me an approving smile. “But _lunatics_ would always
write new books, surely?” she went on. “They _couldn’t_ write the sane
books over again!”

“True,” said Arthur. “But _their_ books would come to an end, also. The
number of lunatic _books_ is as finite as the number of lunatics.”

“And _that_ number is becoming greater every year,” said a pompous man,
whom I recognised as the self-appointed showman on the day of the
picnic.

“So they say,” replied Arthur. “And, when ninety per cent. of us are
lunatics,” (he seemed to be in a wildly nonsensical mood) “the asylums
will be put to their proper use.”

“And that is——?” the pompous man gravely enquired.

“_To shelter the sane!_” said Arthur. “_We_ shall bar ourselves in. The
lunatics will have it all their own way, _outside_. They’ll do it a
little queerly, no doubt. Railway-collisions will be always happening:
steamers always blowing up: most of the towns will be burnt down: most
of the ships sunk——”

“And most of the men _killed_!” murmured the pompous man, who was
evidently hopelessly bewildered.

“Certainly,” Arthur assented. “Till at last there will be _fewer_
lunatics than sane men. Then _we_ come out: _they_ go in: and things
return to their normal condition!”

The pompous man frowned darkly, and bit his lip, and folded his arms,
vainly trying to think it out. “He is _jesting_!” he muttered to himself
at last, in a tone of withering contempt, as he stalked away.

By this time the other guests had arrived; and dinner was announced.
Arthur of course took down Lady Muriel: and _I_ was pleased to find
myself seated at her other side, with a severe-looking old lady (whom I
had not met before, and whose name I had, as is usual in introductions,
entirely failed to catch, merely gathering that it sounded like a
compound-name) as my partner for the banquet.

She appeared, however, to be acquainted with Arthur, and confided to me
in a low voice her opinion that he was “a very argumentative young man.”
Arthur, for his part, seemed well inclined to show himself worthy of the
character she had given him, and, hearing her say “I never take wine
with my soup!” (this was _not_ a confidence to me, but was launched upon
Society, as a matter of general interest), he at once challenged a
combat by asking her “_when_ would you say that property _commence_ in a
plate of soup?”

“This is _my_ soup,” she sternly replied: “and what is before you is
_yours_.”

“No doubt,” said Arthur: “but _when_ did I begin to own it? Up to the
moment of its being put into the plate, it was the property of our host:
while being offered round the table, it was, let us say, held in trust
by the waiter: did it become mine when I accepted it? Or when it was
placed before me? Or when I took the first spoonful?”

“He is a _very_ argumentative young man!” was all the old lady would
say: but she said it audibly, this time, feeling that Society had a
right to know it.

Arthur smiled mischievously. “I shouldn’t mind betting you a shilling,”
he said, “that the Eminent Barrister next you” (It certainly _is_
possible to say words so as to make them begin with capitals!) “ca’n’t
answer me!”

“I _never_ bet,” she sternly replied.

“Not even sixpenny points at _whist_?”

“_Never!_” she repeated. “_Whist_ is innocent enough: but whist played
for _money_!” She shuddered.

Arthur became serious again. “I’m afraid I ca’n’t take that view,” he
said. “I consider that the introduction of small stakes for card-playing
was one of the most _moral_ acts Society ever did, _as_ Society.”

“How was it so?” said Lady Muriel.

“Because it took Cards, once for all, out of the category of games at
which _cheating_ is possible. Look at the way Croquet is demoralising
Society. Ladies are beginning to cheat at it, terribly: and, if they’re
found out, they only laugh, and call it fun. But when there’s _money_ at
stake, that is out of the question. The swindler is _not_ accepted as a
wit. When a man sits down to cards, and cheats his friends out of their
money, he doesn’t get much _fun_ out of it—unless he thinks it fun to be
kicked down stairs!”

“If all gentlemen thought as badly of ladies as _you_ do,” my neighbour
remarked with some bitterness, “there would be very few—very few——.” She
seemed doubtful how to end her sentence, but at last took “honeymoons”
as a safe word.

“On the contrary,” said Arthur, the mischievous smile returning to his
face, “if only people would adopt _my_ theory, the number of
honeymoons—quite of a new kind—would be greatly increased!”

“May we hear about this new kind of honeymoon?” said Lady Muriel.

“Let _X_ be the gentleman,” Arthur began, in a slightly raised voice, as
he now found himself with an audience of _six_, including ‘Mein Herr,’
who was seated at the other side of my polynomial partner. “Let _X_ be
the gentleman, and _Y_ the lady to whom he thinks of proposing. He
applies for an Experimental Honeymoon. It is granted. Forthwith the
young couple—accompanied by the great-aunt of _Y_, to act as
chaperone—start for a month’s tour, during which they have many a
moonlight-walk, and many a _tête-à-tête_ conversation, and each can form
a more correct estimate of the other’s character, in four _weeks_, than
would have been possible in as many _years_, when meeting under the
ordinary restrictions of Society. And it is only after their _return_
that _X_ finally decides whether he will, or will not, put the momentous
question to _Y_!”

“In nine cases out of ten,” the pompous man proclaimed, “he would decide
to break it off!”

“Then, in nine cases out of ten,” Arthur rejoined, “an unsuitable match
would be prevented, and _both_ parties saved from misery!”

“The only really _unsuitable_ matches,” the old lady remarked, “are
those made without sufficient _Money_. Love may come _afterwards_. Money
is needed _to begin with_!”

This remark was cast loose upon Society, as a sort of general challenge;
and, as such, it was at once accepted by several of those within
hearing: _Money_ became the key-note of the conversation for some time;
and a fitful echo of it was again heard, when the dessert had been
placed upon the table, the servants had left the room, and the Earl had
started the wine in its welcome progress round the table.

“I’m very glad to see you keep up the old customs,” I said to Lady
Muriel as I filled her glass. “It’s really delightful to experience,
once more, the peaceful feeling that comes over one when the waiters
have left the room—when one can converse without the feeling of being
overheard, and without having dishes constantly thrust over one’s
shoulder. How much more sociable it is to be able to pour out the wine
for the ladies, and to hand the dishes to those who wish for them!”

“In that case, kindly send those peaches down here,” said a fat
red-faced man, who was seated beyond our pompous friend. “I’ve been
wishing for them—diagonally—for some time!”

“Yes, it _is_ a ghastly innovation,” Lady Muriel replied, “letting the
waiters carry round the wine at dessert. For one thing, they _always_
take it the wrong way round—which of course brings bad luck to
_everybody_ present!”

“Better go the _wrong_ way than not go _at all_!” said our host. “Would
you kindly help yourself?” (This was to the fat red-faced man.) “You are
not a teetotaler, I think?”

“Indeed but I _am_!” he replied, as he pushed on the bottles. “Nearly
twice as much money is spent in England on _Drink_, as on any other
article of food. Read this card.” (What faddist ever goes about without
a pocketful of the appropriate literature?) “The stripes of different
colours represent the amounts spent on various articles of food. Look at
the highest three. Money spent on butter and on cheese, thirty-five
millions: on bread, seventy millions: on _intoxicating liquors_, one
hundred and thirty-six millions! If I had my way, I would close every
public-house in the land! Look at that card, and read the motto. _That’s
where all the money goes to!_”

“Have you seen the _Anti-Teetotal Card_?” Arthur innocently enquired.

“No, Sir, I have not!” the orator savagely replied. “What is it like?”

“Almost exactly like this one. The coloured stripes are the same. Only,
instead of the words ‘Money spent on,’ it has ‘Incomes derived from sale
of’; and, instead of ‘That’s where all the money goes to,’ its motto is
‘_That’s where all the money comes from!_’”

The red-faced man scowled, but evidently considered Arthur beneath his
notice. So Lady Muriel took up the cudgels. “Do you hold the theory,”
she enquired, “that people can preach teetotalism more effectually by
being teetotalers themselves?”

“Certainly I do!” replied the red-faced man. “Now, here is a case in
point,” unfolding a newspaper-cutting: “let me read you this letter from
a teetotaler. _To the Editor. Sir, I was once a moderate drinker, and
knew a man who drank to excess. I went to him. ‘Give up this drink,’ I
said. ‘It will ruin your health!’ ‘You drink,’ he said: ‘why shouldn’t
I?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I know when to leave off.’ He turned away from
me. ‘You drink in your way,’ he said: ‘let me drink in mine. Be off!’
Then I saw that, to do any good with him, I must forswear drink. From
that hour I haven’t touched a drop!_”

“There! What do you say to _that_?” He looked round triumphantly, while
the cutting was handed round for inspection.

“How very curious!” exclaimed Arthur, when it had reached him. “Did you
happen to see a letter, last week, about early rising? It was strangely
like this one.”

The red-faced man’s curiosity was roused. “Where did it appear?” he
asked.

“Let me read it to you,” said Arthur. He took some papers from his
pocket, opened one of them, and read as follows. “_To the Editor. Sir, I
was once a moderate sleeper, and knew a man who slept to excess. I
pleaded with him. ‘Give up this lying in bed,’ I said, ‘It will ruin
your health!’ ‘You go to bed,’ he said: ‘why shouldn’t I?’ ‘Yes,’ I
said, ‘but I know when to get up in the morning.’ He turned away from
me. ‘You sleep in your way,’ he said: ‘let me sleep in mine. Be off!’
Then I saw that to do any good with him, I must forswear sleep. From
that hour I haven’t been to bed!_”

Arthur folded and pocketed his paper, and passed on the
newspaper-cutting. None of us dared to laugh, the red-faced man was
evidently so angry. “Your parallel doesn’t run on all fours!” he
snarled.

“_Moderate_ drinkers never do so!” Arthur quietly replied. Even the
stern old lady laughed at this.

“But it needs many other things to make a _perfect_ dinner!” said Lady
Muriel, evidently anxious to change the subject. “Mein Herr! What is
_your_ idea of a perfect dinner-party?”

The old man looked round smilingly, and his gigantic spectacles seemed
more gigantic than ever. “A _perfect_ dinner-party?” he repeated.
“First, it must be presided over by our present hostess!”

“That, of _course_!” she gaily interposed. “But what _else_, Mein Herr?”

“I can but tell you what I have seen,” said Mein Herr, “in mine own—in
the country I have traveled in.”

He paused for a full minute, and gazed steadily at the ceiling—with so
dreamy an expression on his face, that I feared he was going off into a
reverie, which seemed to be his normal state. However, after a minute,
he suddenly began again.

“That which chiefly causes the failure of a dinner-party, is the
running-short—not of meat, nor yet of drink, but of _conversation_.”

“In an _English_ dinner-party,” I remarked, “I have never known
_small-talk_ run short!”

“Pardon me,” Mein Herr respectfully replied, “I did not say
‘small-talk.’ I said ‘conversation.’ All such topics as the weather, or
politics, or local gossip, are unknown among us. They are either vapid
or controversial. What we need for _conversation_ is a topic of
_interest_ and of _novelty_. To secure these things we have tried
various plans—Moving-Pictures, Wild-Creatures, Moving-Guests, and a
Revolving-Humorist. But this last is only adapted to _small_ parties.”

“Let us have it in four separate Chapters, please!” said Lady Muriel,
who was evidently deeply interested—as, indeed, most of the party were,
by this time: and, all down the table, talk had ceased, and heads were
leaning forwards, eager to catch fragments of Mein Herr’s oration.

“Chapter One! Moving-Pictures!” was proclaimed in the silvery voice of
our hostess.

“The dining-table is shaped like a circular ring,” Mein Herr began, in
low dreamy tones, which, however, were perfectly audible in the silence.
“The guests are seated at the inner side as well as the outer, having
ascended to their places by a winding-staircase, from the room below.
Along the middle of the table runs a little railway; and there is an
endless train of trucks, worked round by machinery; and on each truck
there are two pictures, leaning back to back. The train makes two
circuits during dinner; and, when it has been _once_ round, the waiters
turn the pictures round in each truck, making them face the other way.
Thus _every_ guest sees _every_ picture!”

He paused, and the silence seemed deader than ever. Lady Muriel looked
aghast. “Really, if this goes on,” she exclaimed, “I shall have to drop
a pin! Oh, it’s _my_ fault, is it?” (In answer to an appealing look from
Mein Herr.) “I was forgetting my duty. Chapter Two! Wild-Creatures!”

“We found the Moving-Pictures a _little_ monotonous,” said Mein Herr.
“People didn’t care to talk Art through a whole dinner; so we tried
Wild-Creatures. Among the flowers, which we laid (just as _you_ do)
about the table, were to be seen, here a mouse, there a beetle; here a
spider,” (Lady Muriel shuddered) “there a wasp; here a toad, there a
snake;” (“Father!” said Lady Muriel, plaintively. “Did you hear
_that_?”) “so we had plenty to talk about!”

“And when you got stung——” the old lady began.

“They were all chained-up, dear Madam!”

And the old lady gave a satisfied nod.

There was no silence to follow, _this_ time. “Third Chapter!” Lady
Muriel proclaimed at once, “Moving-Guests!”

“Even the Wild-Creatures proved monotonous,” the orator proceeded. “So
we left the guests to choose their own subjects; and, to avoid monotony,
we changed _them_. We made the table of _two_ rings; and the inner ring
moved slowly round, all the time, along with the floor in the middle and
the inner row of guests. Thus _every_ inner guest was brought
face-to-face with _every_ outer guest. It was a little confusing,
sometimes, to have to _begin_ a story to one friend and _finish_ it to
another; but _every_ plan has its faults, you know.”

“Fourth Chapter!” Lady Muriel hastened to announce. “The
Revolving-Humorist!”

“For a _small_ party we found it an excellent plan to have a round
table, with a hole cut in the middle large enough to hold _one_ guest.
Here we placed our _best_ talker. He revolved slowly, facing every other
guest in turn: and he told lively anecdotes the whole time!”

“I shouldn’t like it!” murmured the pompous man. “It would make me
giddy, revolving like that! I should decline to——” here it appeared to
dawn upon him that perhaps the assumption he was making was not
warranted by the circumstances: he took a hasty gulp of wine, and choked
himself.

But Mein Herr had relapsed into reverie, and made no further remark.
Lady Muriel gave the signal, and the ladies left the room.



                               CHAPTER X.
                           JABBERING AND JAM.


When the last lady had disappeared, and the Earl, taking his place at
the head of the table, had issued the military order “Gentlemen! Close
up the ranks, if you please!”, and when, in obedience to his command, we
had gathered ourselves compactly round him, the pompous man gave a deep
sigh of relief, filled his glass to the brim, pushed on the wine, and
began one of his favorite orations. “They are charming, no doubt!
Charming, but very frivolous. They drag us down, so to speak, to a lower
level. They——”

“Do not all pronouns require antecedent _nouns_?” the Earl gently
enquired.

“Pardon me,” said the pompous man, with lofty condescension. “I had
overlooked the noun. The ladies. We regret their absence. Yet we console
ourselves. _Thought is free._ With them, we are limited to _trivial_
topics—Art, Literature, Politics, and so forth. One can bear to discuss
_such_ paltry matters with a lady. But no man, in his senses—” (he
looked sternly round the table, as if defying contradiction) “—ever yet
discussed _WINE_ with a lady!” He sipped his glass of port, leaned back
in his chair, and slowly raised it up to his eye, so as to look through
it at the lamp. “The vintage, my Lord?” he enquired, glancing at his
host.

The Earl named the date.

“So I had supposed. But one likes to be certain. The _tint_ is, perhaps,
slightly pale. But the _body_ is unquestionable. And as for the
_bouquet_——”

Ah, that magic Bouquet! How vividly that single word recalled the scene!
The little beggar-boy turning his somersault in the road—the sweet
little crippled maiden in my arms—the mysterious evanescent
nurse-maid—all rushed tumultuously into my mind, like the creatures of a
dream: and through this mental haze there still boomed on, like the
tolling of a bell, the solemn voice of the great connoisseur of _WINE_!

Even _his_ utterances had taken on themselves a strange and dream-like
form. “No,” he resumed—and _why_ is it, I pause to ask, that, in taking
up the broken thread of a dialogue, one _always_ begins with this
cheerless monosyllable? After much anxious thought, I have come to the
conclusion that the object in view is the same as that of the schoolboy,
when the sum he is working has got into a hopeless muddle, and when in
despair he takes the sponge, washes it all out, and begins again. Just
in the same way the bewildered orator, by the simple process of denying
_everything_ that has been hitherto asserted, makes a clean sweep of the
whole discussion, and can ‘start fair’ with a fresh theory. “No,” he
resumed: “there’s nothing like cherry-jam, after all. That’s what _I_
say!”

“Not for _all_ qualities!” an eager little man shrilly interposed. “For
_richness_ of general tone I don’t say that it _has_ a rival. But for
_delicacy_ of modulation—for what one may call the ‘_harmonics_’ of
flavour—give _me_ good old _raspberry_-jam!”

“Allow me one word!” The fat red-faced man, quite hoarse with
excitement, broke into the dialogue. “It’s too important a question to
be settled by Amateurs! I can give you the views of a
_Professional_—perhaps the most experienced jam-taster now living. Why,
I’ve known him fix the age of strawberry-jam, to a _day_—and we all know
what a difficult jam it is to give a date to—on a single tasting! Well,
I put to him the _very_ question you are discussing. His words were
‘_cherry_-jam is best, for mere _chiaroscuro_ of flavour:
_raspberry_-jam lends itself best to those resolved discords that linger
so lovingly on the tongue: but, for rapturous _utterness_ of saccharine
perfection, it’s _apricot-jam first and the rest nowhere_!’ That was
well put, _wasn’t_ it?”

“Consummately put!” shrieked the eager little man.

“I know your friend well,” said the pompous man. “As a jam-taster, he
has no rival! Yet I scarcely think——”

But here the discussion became general: and his words were lost in a
confused medley of names, every guest sounding the praises of his own
favorite jam. At length, through the din, our host’s voice made itself
heard. “Let us join the ladies!” These words seemed to recall me to
waking life; and I felt sure that, for the last few minutes, I had
relapsed into the ‘eerie’ state.

“A strange dream!” I said to myself as we trooped upstairs. “Grown men
discussing, as seriously as if they were matters of life and death, the
hopelessly trivial details of mere _delicacies_, that appeal to no
higher human function than the nerves of the tongue and palate! What a
humiliating spectacle such a discussion would be in waking life!”

When, on our way to the drawing-room, I received from the housekeeper my
little friends, clad in the daintiest of evening costumes, and looking,
in the flush of expectant delight, more radiantly beautiful than I had
ever seen them before, I felt no shock of surprise, but accepted the
fact with the same unreasoning apathy with which one meets the events of
a dream, and was merely conscious of a vague anxiety as to how they
would acquit themselves in so novel a scene—forgetting that Court-life
in Outland was as good training as they could need for Society in the
more substantial world.

It would be best, I thought, to introduce them as soon as possible to
some good-natured lady-guest, and I selected the young lady whose
piano-forte-playing had been so much talked of. “I am sure you like
children,” I said. “May I introduce two little friends of mine? This is
Sylvie—and this is Bruno.”

The young lady kissed Sylvie very graciously. She would have done the
same for _Bruno_, but he hastily drew back out of reach. “Their faces
are new to me,” she said. “Where do you come from, my dear?”

I had not anticipated so inconvenient a question; and, fearing that it
might embarrass Sylvie, I answered for her. “They come from some
distance. They are only here just for this one evening.”

“How far have you come, dear?” the young lady persisted.

Sylvie looked puzzled. “A mile or two, I _think_,” she said doubtfully.

“A mile or _three_,” said Bruno.

“You shouldn’t say ‘a mile or _three_,’” Sylvie corrected him.

The young lady nodded approval. “Sylvie’s quite right. It isn’t usual to
say ‘a mile or _three_.’”

“It would be usual—if we said it often enough,” said Bruno.

It was the young lady’s turn to look puzzled now. “He’s very quick, for
his age!” she murmured. “You’re not more than seven, are you, dear?” she
added aloud.

“I’m not so many as _that_,” said Bruno. “I’m _one_. Sylvie’s _one_.
Sylvie and me is _two_. _Sylvie_ taught me to count.”

“Oh, I wasn’t _counting_ you, you know!” the young lady laughingly
replied.

“Hasn’t oo _learnt_ to count?” said Bruno.

The young lady bit her lip. “Dear! What embarrassing questions he _does_
ask!” she said in a half-audible ‘aside.’

“Bruno, you shouldn’t!” Sylvie said reprovingly.

“Shouldn’t _what_?” said Bruno.

“You shouldn’t ask—that sort of questions.”

“_What_ sort of questions?” Bruno mischievously persisted.

“What _she_ told you not,” Sylvie replied, with a shy glance at the
young lady, and losing all sense of grammar in her confusion.

“Oo ca’n’t pronounce it!” Bruno triumphantly cried. And he turned to the
young lady, for sympathy in his victory. “I _knewed_ she couldn’t
pronounce ‘umbrella-sting’!”

The young lady thought it best to return to the arithmetical problem.
“When I asked if you were _seven_, you know, I didn’t mean ‘how many
_children_?’ I meant ‘how many _years_——’”

“Only got _two_ ears,” said Bruno. “Nobody’s got _seven_ ears.”

“And you belong to this little girl?” the young lady continued,
skilfully evading the anatomical problem.

“No, I doosn’t belong to _her_!” said Bruno. “Sylvie belongs to _me_!”
And he clasped his arms round her as he added “She are my very mine!”

“And, do you know,” said the young lady, “I’ve a little sister at home,
exactly like _your_ sister? I’m sure they’d love each other.”

“They’d be very extremely useful to each other,” Bruno said,
thoughtfully. “And they wouldn’t want no looking-glasses to brush their
hair wiz.”

“Why not, my child?”

“Why, each one would do for the other one’s looking-glass, a-course!”
cried Bruno.

But here Lady Muriel, who had been standing by, listening to this
bewildering dialogue, interrupted it to ask if the young lady would
favour us with some music; and the children followed their new friend to
the piano.

Arthur came and sat down by me. “If rumour speaks truly,” he whispered,
“we are to have a real treat!” And then, amid a breathless silence, the
performance began.

She was one of those players whom Society talks of as ‘brilliant,’ and
she dashed into the loveliest of Haydn’s Symphonies in a style that was
clearly the outcome of years of patient study under the best masters. At
first it seemed to be the perfection of piano-forte-playing; but in a
few minutes I began to ask myself, wearily, “_What_ is it that is
wanting? _Why_ does one get no pleasure from it?”

Then I set myself to listen intently to every note; and the mystery
explained itself. There _was_ an almost-perfect mechanical
_correctness_—and there was nothing else! False notes, of course, did
not occur: she knew the piece too well for _that_; but there was just
enough irregularity of _time_ to betray that the player had no real
‘ear’ for music—just enough inarticulateness in the more elaborate
passages to show that she did not think her audience worth taking real
pains for—just enough mechanical monotony of accent to take all _soul_
out of the heavenly modulations she was profaning—in short, it was
simply irritating; and, when she had rattled off the finale and had
struck the final chord as if, the instrument being now done with, it
didn’t matter how many wires she broke, I could not even _affect_ to
join in the stereotyped “Oh, _thank_ you!” which was chorused around me.

Lady Muriel joined us for a moment. “Isn’t it _beautiful_?” she
whispered, to Arthur, with a mischievous smile.

“No, it isn’t!” said Arthur. But the gentle sweetness of his face quite
neutralised the apparent rudeness of the reply.

“Such execution, you know!” she persisted.

“That’s what she _deserves_,” Arthur doggedly replied: “but people are
so prejudiced against capital——”

“Now you’re beginning to talk nonsense!” Lady Muriel cried. “But you
_do_ like Music, don’t you? You said so just now.”

“Do I like _Music_?” the Doctor repeated softly to himself. “My dear
Lady Muriel, there is Music and Music. Your question is painfully vague.
You might as well ask ‘Do you like _People_?’”

Lady Muriel bit her lip, frowned, and stamped with one tiny foot. As a
dramatic representation of ill-temper, it was distinctly _not_ a
success. However, it took in _one_ of her audience, and Bruno hastened
to interpose, as peacemaker in a rising quarrel, with the remark “_I_
likes Peoples!”

Arthur laid a loving hand on the little curly head. “What? _All_
Peoples?” he enquired.

“Not _all_ Peoples,” Bruno explained. “Only but Sylvie—and Lady
Muriel—and him—” (pointing to the Earl) “and oo—and oo!”

“You shouldn’t point at people,” said Sylvie. “It’s very rude.”

“In Bruno’s World,” I said, “there are only _four_ People—worth
mentioning!”

“In Bruno’s World!” Lady Muriel repeated thoughtfully. “A bright and
flowery world. Where the grass is always green, where the breezes always
blow softly, and the rain-clouds never gather; where there are no wild
beasts, and no deserts——”

“There _must_ be deserts,” Arthur decisively remarked. “At least if it
was _my_ ideal world.”

“But what possible use is there in a _desert_?” said Lady Muriel.
“_Surely_ you would have no wilderness in your ideal world?”

Arthur smiled. “But indeed I _would_!” he said. “A wilderness would be
more necessary than a railway; and _far_ more conducive to general
happiness than church-bells!”

“But what would you use it for?”

“_To practise music in_,” he replied. “All the young ladies, that have
no ear for music, but insist on learning it, should be conveyed, every
morning, two or three miles into the wilderness. There each would find a
comfortable room provided for her, and also a cheap second-hand
piano-forte, on which she might play for hours, without adding one
needless pang to the sum of human misery!”

Lady Muriel glanced round in alarm, lest these barbarous sentiments
should be overheard. But the fair musician was at a safe distance. “At
any rate you must allow that she’s a sweet girl?” she resumed.

“Oh, certainly. As sweet as _eau sucrée_, if you choose—and nearly as
interesting!”

“You are incorrigible!” said Lady Muriel, and turned to me. “I hope you
found Mrs. Mills an interesting companion?”

“Oh, _that’s_ her name, is it?” I said. “I fancied there was _more_ of
it.”

“So there is: and it will be ‘at your proper peril’ (whatever that may
mean) if you ever presume to address her as ‘Mrs. Mills.’ She is ‘Mrs.
Ernest—Atkinson—Mills’!”

“She is one of those would-be grandees,” said Arthur, “who think that,
by tacking on to their surname all their spare Christian-names, with
hyphens between, they can give it an aristocratic flavour. As if it
wasn’t trouble enough to remember _one_ surname!”

By this time the room was getting crowded, as the guests, invited for
the evening-party, were beginning to arrive, and Lady Muriel had to
devote herself to the task of welcoming them, which she did with the
sweetest grace imaginable. Sylvie and Bruno stood by her, deeply
interested in the process.

“I hope you like my friends?” she said to them. “Specially my dear old
friend, Mein Herr (What’s become of him, I wonder? Oh, there he is!),
that old gentleman in spectacles, with a long beard?”

“He’s a grand old gentleman!” Sylvie said, gazing admiringly at ‘Mein
Herr,’ who had settled down in a corner, from which his mild eyes beamed
on us through a gigantic pair of spectacles. “And what a lovely beard!”

“What does he call his-self?” Bruno whispered.

“He calls himself ‘Mein Herr,’” Sylvie whispered in reply.

Bruno shook his head impatiently. “That’s what he calls his _hair_, not
his _self_, oo silly!” He appealed to me. “What doos he call his _self_,
Mister Sir?”

“That’s the only name _I_ know of,” I said. “But he looks very lonely.
Don’t you pity his grey hairs?”

“I pities his _self_,” said Bruno, still harping on the misnomer; “but I
doosn’t pity his _hair_, one bit. His _hair_ ca’n’t feel!”

“We met him this afternoon,” said Sylvie. “We’d been to see Nero, and
we’d had _such_ fun with him, making him invisible again! And we saw
that nice old gentleman as we came back.”

“Well, let’s go and talk to him, and cheer him up a little,” I said:
“and perhaps we shall find out what he calls himself.”



                              CHAPTER XI.
                          THE MAN IN THE MOON.


The children came willingly. With one of them on each side of me, I
approached the corner occupied by ‘Mein Herr.’ “You don’t object to
_children_, I hope?” I began.

“_Crabbed age and youth cannot live together!_” the old man cheerfully
replied, with a most genial smile. “Now take a good look at me, my
children! You would guess me to be an _old_ man, wouldn’t you?”

At first sight, though his face had reminded me so mysteriously of “the
Professor,” he had seemed to be decidedly a _younger_ man: but, when I
came to look into the wonderful depth of those large dreamy eyes, I
felt, with a strange sense of awe, that he was incalculably _older_: he
seemed to gaze at us out of some by-gone age, centuries away.

[Illustration: MEIN HERR’S FAIRY-FRIENDS]

“I don’t know if oo’re an _old_ man,” Bruno answered, as the children,
won over by the gentle voice, crept a little closer to him. “I thinks
oo’re _eighty-three_.”

“He is very exact!” said Mein Herr.

“Is he anything like right?” I said.

“There are reasons,” Mein Herr gently replied, “reasons which I am not
at liberty to explain, for not mentioning _definitely_ any Persons,
Places, or Dates. One remark only I will permit myself to make—that the
period of life, between the ages of a hundred-and-sixty-five and a
hundred-and-seventy-five, is a specially _safe_ one.”

“How do you make that out?” I said.

“Thus. You would consider swimming to be a very safe amusement, if you
scarcely ever heard of any one dying of it. Am I not right in thinking
that you never heard of any one dying between those two ages?”

“I see what you mean,” I said: “but I’m afraid you ca’n’t prove
_swimming_ to be safe, on the same principle. It is no uncommon thing to
hear of some one being _drowned_.”

“In _my_ country,” said Mein Herr, “no one is _ever_ drowned.”

“Is there no water deep enough?”

“Plenty! But we ca’n’t _sink_. We are all _lighter than water_. Let me
explain,” he added, seeing my look of surprise. “Suppose you desire a
race of _pigeons_ of a particular shape or colour, do you not select,
from year to year, those that are nearest to the shape or colour you
want, and keep those, and part with the others?”

“We do,” I replied. “We call it ‘Artificial Selection.’”

“Exactly so,” said Mein Herr. “Well, _we_ have practised that for some
centuries—constantly selecting the _lightest_ people: so that, now,
_everybody_ is lighter than water.”

“Then you never can be drowned at _sea_?”

“Never! It is only on the _land_—for instance, when attending a play in
a theatre—that we are in such a danger.”

“How can that happen at a _theatre_?”

“Our theatres are all _underground_. Large tanks of water are placed
above. If a fire breaks out, the taps are turned, and in one minute the
theatre is flooded, up to the very roof! Thus the fire is extinguished.”

“_And_ the audience, I presume?”

“That is a minor matter,” Mein Herr carelessly replied. “But they have
the comfort of knowing that, whether drowned or not, they are all
_lighter than water_. We have not yet reached the standard of making
people lighter than _air_: but we are _aiming_ at it; and, in another
thousand years or so——”

“What doos oo do wiz the peoples that’s too heavy?” Bruno solemnly
enquired.

“We have applied the same process,” Mein Herr continued, not noticing
Bruno’s question, “to many other purposes. We have gone on selecting
_walking-sticks_—always keeping those that walked _best_—till we have
obtained some, that can walk by themselves! We have gone on selecting
_cotton-wool_, till we have got some lighter than air! You’ve no idea
what a useful material it is! We call it ‘Imponderal.’”

“What do you use it for?”

“Well, chiefly for _packing_ articles, to go by Parcel-Post. It makes
them weigh _less than nothing_, you know.”

“And how do the Post-Office people know what you have to pay?”

“That’s the beauty of the new system!” Mein Herr cried exultingly. “They
pay _us_: we don’t pay _them_! I’ve often got as much as five shillings
for sending a parcel.”

“But doesn’t your Government object?”

“Well, they _do_ object, a little. They say it comes so expensive, in
the long run. But the thing’s as clear as daylight, by their own rules.
If I send a parcel, that weighs a pound _more_ than nothing, I _pay_
three-pence: so, of course, if it weighs a pound _less_ than nothing, I
ought to _receive_ three-pence.”

“It is _indeed_ a useful article!” I said.

“Yet even ‘Imponderal’ has its disadvantages,” he resumed. “I bought
some, a few days ago, and put it into my _hat_, to carry it home, and
the hat simply floated away!”

“Had oo some of that funny stuff in oor hat _today_?” Bruno enquired.
“Sylvie and me saw oo in the road, and oor hat were ever so high up!
Weren’t it, Sylvie?”

“No, that was quite another thing.” said Mein Herr. “There was a drop or
two of rain falling: so I put my hat on the top of my stick—as an
umbrella, you know. As I came along the road,” he continued, turning to
me, “I was overtaken by——”

“——a shower of rain?” said Bruno.

“Well, it _looked_ more like the tail of a dog,” Mein Herr replied. “It
was the most curious thing! Something rubbed affectionately against my
knee. And I looked down. And I could see _nothing_! Only, about a yard
off, there was a dog’s tail, wagging, all by itself!”

“Oh, _Sylvie_!” Bruno murmured reproachfully. “Oo didn’t finish making
him visible!”

“I’m _so_ sorry!” Sylvie said, looking very penitent. “I meant to rub it
along his back, but we were in such a hurry. We’ll go and finish him
tomorrow. Poor thing! Perhaps he’ll get no supper tonight!”

“_Course_ he won’t!” said Bruno. “Nobody never gives bones to a dog’s
tail!”

Mein Herr looked from one to the other in blank astonishment. “I do not
understand you,” he said. “I had lost my way, and I was consulting a
pocket-map, and somehow I had dropped one of my gloves, and this
invisible _Something_, that had rubbed against my knee, actually brought
it back to me!”

“Course he did!” said Bruno. “He’s _welly_ fond of fetching things.”

Mein Herr looked so thoroughly bewildered that I thought it best to
change the subject. “What a useful thing a pocket-map is!” I remarked.

“That’s another thing we’ve learned from _your_ Nation,” said Mein Herr,
“map-making. But we’ve carried it much further than _you_. What do you
consider the _largest_ map that would be really useful?”

“About six inches to the mile.”

“Only _six inches_!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got to six
_yards_ to the mile. Then we tried a _hundred_ yards to the mile. And
then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the
country, on the scale of _a mile to the mile_!”

“Have you used it much?” I enquired.

“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the farmers
objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the
sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure
you it does nearly as well. Now let me ask you _another_ question. What
is the smallest _world_ you would care to inhabit?”

“_I_ know!” cried Bruno, who was listening intently. “I’d like a little
teeny-tiny world, just big enough for Sylvie and me!”

“Then you would have to stand on opposite sides of it,” said Mein Herr.
“And so you would never see your sister _at all_!”

“And I’d have no _lessons_,” said Bruno.

“You don’t mean to say you’ve been trying experiments in _that_
direction!” I said.

“Well, not _experiments_ exactly. We do not profess to _construct_
planets. But a scientific friend of mine, who has made several
balloon-voyages, assures me he has visited a planet so small that he
could walk right round it in twenty minutes! There had been a great
battle, just before his visit, which had ended rather oddly: the
vanquished army ran away at full speed, and in a very few minutes found
themselves face-to-face with the victorious army, who were marching home
again, and who were so frightened at finding themselves between _two_
armies, that they surrendered at once! Of course that lost them the
battle, though, as a matter of fact, they had killed _all_ the soldiers
on the other side.”

“Killed soldiers _ca’n’t_ run away,” Bruno thoughtfully remarked.

“‘Killed’ is a technical word,” replied Mein Herr. “In the little planet
I speak of, the bullets were made of soft black stuff, which marked
everything it touched. So, after a battle, all you had to do was to
count how many soldiers on each side were ‘killed’—that means ‘marked on
the _back_,’ for marks in _front_ didn’t count.”

“Then you couldn’t ‘kill’ any, unless they ran away?” I said.

“My scientific friend found out a better plan than _that_. He pointed
out that, if only the bullets were sent _the other way round the world_,
they would hit the enemy in the _back_. After that, the _worst_ marksmen
were considered the _best_ soldiers; and _the very worst of all_ always
got First Prize.”

“And how did you decide which was _the very worst of all_?”

“Easily. The _best_ possible shooting is, you know, to hit what is
exactly in _front_ of you: so of course the _worst_ possible is to hit
what is exactly _behind_ you.”

“They were strange people in that little planet!” I said.

“They were indeed! Perhaps their method of _government_ was the
strangest of all. In _this_ planet, I am told, a Nation consists of a
number of Subjects, and one King: but, in the little planet I speak of,
it consisted of a number of _Kings_, and one _Subject_!”

“You say you are ‘told’ what happens in _this_ planet,” I said. “May I
venture to guess that you yourself are a visitor from some _other_
planet?”

Bruno clapped his hands in his excitement. “Is oo the Man-in-the-Moon?”
he cried.

Mein Herr looked uneasy. “I am _not_ in the Moon, my child,” he said
evasively. “To return to what I was saying. I think _that_ method of
government ought to answer _well_. You see, the Kings would be sure to
make Laws contradicting each other: so the Subject could never be
punished, because, _whatever_ he did, he’d be obeying _some_ Law.”

“And, whatever he did, he’d be _dis_obeying _some_ Law!” cried Bruno.
“So he’d _always_ be punished!”

Lady Muriel was passing at the moment, and caught the last word.
“Nobody’s going to be punished _here_!” she said, taking Bruno in her
arms. “This is Liberty-Hall! Would you lend me the children for a
minute?”

“The children desert us, you see,” I said to Mein Herr, as she carried
them off: “so we old folk must keep each other company!”

The old man sighed. “Ah, well! We’re old folk _now_; and yet I was a
child myself, once—at least I fancy so.”

It _did_ seem a rather unlikely fancy, I could not help owning to
myself—looking at the shaggy white hair, and the long beard—that he
could _ever_ have been a child. “You are fond of young people?” I said.

“Young _men_,” he replied. “Not of _children_ exactly. I used to teach
young men—many a year ago—in my dear old University!”

“I didn’t quite catch its _name_?” I hinted.

“I did not name it,” the old man replied mildly. “Nor would you know the
name if I did. Strange tales I could tell you of all the changes I have
witnessed there! But it would weary you, I fear.”

“No, _indeed_!” I said. “Pray go on. What kind of changes?”

But the old man seemed to be more in a humour for questions than for
answers. “Tell me,” he said, laying his hand impressively on my arm,
“tell me something. For I am a stranger in your land, and I know little
of _your_ modes of education: yet something tells me _we_ are further on
than _you_ in the eternal cycle of change—and that many a theory _we_
have tried and found to fail, _you_ also will try, with a wilder
enthusiasm: you also will find to fail, with a bitterer despair!”

It was strange to see how, as he talked, and his words flowed more and
more freely, with a certain rhythmic eloquence, his features seemed to
glow with an inner light, and the whole man seemed to be transformed, as
if he had grown fifty years younger in a moment of time.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                              FAIRY-MUSIC.


The silence that ensued was broken by the voice of the musical young
lady, who had seated herself near us, and was conversing with one of the
newly-arrived guests. “Well!” she said in a tone of scornful surprise.
“We _are_ to have something new in the way of music, it appears!”

I looked round for an explanation, and was nearly as much astonished as
the speaker herself: it was _Sylvie_ whom Lady Muriel was leading to the
piano!

“Do try it, my darling!” she was saying. “I’m sure you can play very
nicely!”

Sylvie looked round at me, with tears in her eyes. I tried to give her
an encouraging smile, but it was evidently a great strain on the nerves
of a child so wholly unused to be made an exhibition of, and she was
frightened and unhappy. Yet here came out the perfect sweetness of her
disposition: I could see that she was resolved to forget herself, and do
her best to give pleasure to Lady Muriel and her friends. She seated
herself at the instrument, and began instantly. Time and expression, so
far as one could judge, were perfect: but her touch was one of such
extraordinary lightness that it was at first scarcely possible, through
the hum of conversation which still continued, to catch a note of what
she was playing.

But in a minute the hum had died away into absolute silence, and we all
sat, entranced and breathless, to listen to such heavenly music as none
then present could ever forget.

Hardly touching the notes at first, she played a sort of introduction in
a minor key—like an embodied twilight; one felt as though the lights
were growing dim, and a mist were creeping through the room. Then there
flashed through the gathering gloom the first few notes of a melody so
lovely, so delicate, that one held one’s breath, fearful to lose a
single note of it. Ever and again the music dropped into the pathetic
minor key with which it had begun, and, each time that the melody forced
its way, so to speak, through the enshrouding gloom into the light of
day, it was more entrancing, more magically sweet. Under the airy touch
of the child, the instrument actually seemed to _warble_, like a bird.
“_Rise up, my love, my fair one_,” it seemed to sing, “_and come away!
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers
appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come!_” One
could fancy one heard the tinkle of the last few drops, shaken from the
trees by a passing gust—that one saw the first glittering rays of the
sun, breaking through the clouds.

The Count hurried across the room in great excitement. “I _cannot_
remember myself,” he exclaimed, “of the name of this so charming an air!
It is of an opera, most surely. Yet not even will the _opera_ remind his
name to me! What you call him, dear child?”

[Illustration: ‘HOW CALL YOU THE OPERA?’]

Sylvie looked round at him with a rapt expression of face. She had
ceased playing, but her fingers still wandered fitfully over the keys.
All fear and shyness had quite passed away now, and nothing remained but
the pure joy of the music that had thrilled our hearts.

“The title of it!” the Count repeated impatiently. “How call you the
opera?”

“I don’t know what an opera _is_,” Sylvie half-whispered.

“How, then, call you the _air_?”

“I don’t know any name for it,” Sylvie replied, as she rose from the
instrument.

“But this is marvellous!” exclaimed the Count, following the child, and
addressing himself to me, as if I were the proprietor of this musical
prodigy, and so _must_ know the origin of her music. “You have heard her
play this, sooner—I would say ‘before this occasion’? How call you the
air?”

I shook my head; but was saved from more questions by Lady Muriel, who
came up to petition the Count for a song.

The Count spread out his hands apologetically, and ducked his head.
“But, Milady, I have already respected—I would say prospected—all your
songs; and there shall be none fitted to my voice! They are not for
basso voices!”

“Wo’n’t you look at them again?” Lady Muriel implored.

“Let’s help him!” Bruno whispered to Sylvie. “Let’s get him—_you_ know!”

Sylvie nodded. “Shall _we_ look for a song for you?” she said sweetly to
the Count.

“Mais _oui_!” the little man exclaimed.

“Of course we may!” said Bruno, while, each taking a hand of the
delighted Count, they led him to the music-stand.

“There is still hope!” said Lady Muriel over her shoulder, as she
followed them.

I turned to ‘Mein Herr,’ hoping to resume our interrupted conversation.
“You were remarking——” I began: but at this moment Sylvie came to call
Bruno, who had returned to my side, looking unusually serious. “_Do_
come, Bruno!” she entreated. “You know we’ve nearly found it!” Then, in
a whisper, “The locket’s in my _hand_, now. I couldn’t get it out while
they were looking!”

But Bruno drew back. “The man called me names,” he said with dignity.

“What names?” I enquired with some curiosity.

“I asked him,” said Bruno, “which sort of song he liked. And he said
‘_A_ song of _a_ man, not of _a_ lady.’ And I said ‘Shall Sylvie and me
find you the song of Mister Tottles?’ And he said ‘Wait, eel!’ And I’m
_not_ an eel, oo know!”

“I’m _sure_ he didn’t mean it!” Sylvie said earnestly. “It’s something
French—you know he ca’n’t talk English so well as——”

Bruno relented visibly. “Course he knows no better, if he’s Flench!
Flenchmen _never_ can speak English so goodly as _us_!” And Sylvie led
him away, a willing captive.

“Nice children!” said the old man, taking off his spectacles and rubbing
them carefully. Then he put them on again, and watched with an approving
smile, while the children tossed over the heap of music, and we just
caught Sylvie’s reproving words, “We’re _not_ making hay, Bruno!”

“This has been a long interruption to our conversation,” I said. “Pray
let us go on!”

“Willingly!” replied the gentle old man.

“I was much interested in what you——” He paused a moment, and passed his
hand uneasily across his brow. “One forgets,” he murmured. “What was I
saying? Oh! Something you were to tell me. Yes. Which of your teachers
do you value the most highly, those whose words are easily understood,
or those who puzzle you at every turn?”

I felt obliged to admit that we generally admired most the teachers we
couldn’t quite understand.

“Just so,” said Mein Herr. “That’s the way it begins. Well, _we_ were at
that stage some eighty years ago—or was it ninety? Our favourite teacher
got more obscure every year; and every year we admired him more—just as
_your_ Art-fanciers call _mist_ the fairest feature in a landscape, and
admire a view with frantic delight when they can see nothing! Now I’ll
tell you how it ended. It was Moral Philosophy that our idol lectured
on. Well, his pupils couldn’t make head or tail of it, but they got it
all by heart; and, when Examination-time came, they wrote it down; and
the Examiners said ‘Beautiful! What depth!’”

“But what good was it to the young men _afterwards_?”

“Why, don’t you see?” replied Mein Herr. “_They_ became teachers in
their turn, and _they_ said all these things over again; and _their_
pupils wrote it all down; and the Examiners accepted it; and nobody had
the ghost of an idea what it all meant!”

“And how did it end?”

“It ended this way. We woke up one fine day, and found there was no one
in the place that knew _anything_ about Moral Philosophy. So we
abolished it, teachers, classes, examiners, and all. And if any one
wanted to learn anything about it, he had to make it out for himself;
and after another twenty years or so there were several men that really
knew something about it! Now tell me another thing. How long do you
teach a youth before you examine him, in your Universities?”

I told him, three or four years.

“Just so, just what _we_ did!” he exclaimed. “We taught ’em a bit, and,
just as they were beginning to take it in, we took it all out again! We
pumped our wells dry before they were a quarter full—we stripped our
orchards while the apples were still in blossom—we applied the severe
logic of arithmetic to our chickens, while peacefully slumbering in
their shells! Doubtless it’s the early bird that picks up the worm—but
if the bird gets up so outrageously early that the worm is still deep
underground, what _then_ is its chance of a breakfast?”

Not much, I admitted.

“Now see how that works!” he went on eagerly. “If you want to pump your
wells so soon—and I suppose you tell me that is what you _must_ do?”

“We must,” I said. “In an over-crowded country like this, nothing but
Competitive Examinations——”

Mein Herr threw up his hands wildly. “What, _again_?” he cried. “I
thought it was dead, fifty years ago! Oh this Upas tree of Competitive
Examinations! Beneath whose deadly shade all the original genius, all
the exhaustive research, all the untiring life-long diligence by which
our fore-fathers have so advanced human knowledge, must slowly but
surely wither away, and give place to a system of Cookery, in which the
human mind is a sausage, and all we ask is, how much indigestible stuff
can be crammed into it!”

Always, after these bursts of eloquence, he seemed to forget himself for
a moment, and only to hold on to the thread of thought by some single
word. “Yes, _crammed_,” he repeated. “We went through all that stage of
the disease—had it bad, I warrant you! Of course, as the Examination was
all in all, we tried to put in just what was wanted—and the _great_
thing to aim at was, that the Candidate should know absolutely _nothing_
beyond the needs of the Examination! I don’t say it was ever _quite_
achieved: but one of my own pupils (pardon an old man’s egotism) came
very near it. After the Examination, he mentioned to me the few facts
which he knew but had _not_ been able to bring in, and I can assure you
they were trivial, Sir, absolutely trivial!”

I feebly expressed my surprise and delight.

The old man bowed, with a gratified smile, and proceeded. “At that time,
no one had hit on the much more rational plan of watching for the
individual scintillations of genius, and rewarding them as they
occurred. As it was, we made our unfortunate pupil into a Leyden-jar,
charged him up to the eyelids—then applied the knob of a Competitive
Examination, and drew off one magnificent spark, which very often
cracked the jar! What mattered _that_? We labeled it ‘First Class
Spark,’ and put it away on the shelf.”

“But the more rational system——?” I suggested.

“Ah, yes! _that_ came next. Instead of giving the whole reward of
learning in one lump, we used to pay for every good answer as it
occurred. How well I remember lecturing in those days, with a heap of
small coins at my elbow! It was ‘A _very_ good answer, Mr. Jones!’ (that
meant a shilling, mostly). ‘Bravo, Mr. Robinson!’ (that meant
half-a-crown). Now I’ll tell you how _that_ worked. Not one single fact
would any of them take in, without a fee! And when a clever boy came up
from school, he got paid more for learning than we got paid for teaching
him! Then came the wildest craze of all.”

“What, _another_ craze?” I said.

“It’s the last one,” said the old man. “I must have tired you out with
my long story. Each College wanted to get the clever boys: so we adopted
a system which we had heard was very popular in England: the Colleges
competed against each other, and the boys let themselves out to the
highest bidder! What geese we were! Why, they were bound to come to the
University _somehow_. We needn’t have paid ’em! And all our money went
in getting clever boys to come to one College rather than another! The
competition was so keen, that at last mere money-payments were not
enough. Any College, that wished to secure some specially clever young
man, had to waylay him at the Station, and hunt him through the streets.
The first who touched him was allowed to have him.”

“That hunting-down of the scholars, as they arrived, must have been a
curious business,” I said. “Could you give me some idea of what it was
like?”

“Willingly!” said the old man. “I will describe to you the very last
Hunt that took place, before that form of Sport (for it was actually
reckoned among the _Sports_ of the day: we called it ‘Cub-Hunting’) was
finally abandoned. I witnessed it myself, as I happened to be passing by
at the moment, and was what we called ‘in at the death.’ I can see it
now!” he went on in an excited tone, gazing into vacancy with those
large dreamy eyes of his. “It seems like yesterday; and yet it
happened——” He checked himself hastily, and the remaining words died
away into a whisper.

[Illustration: SCHOLAR-HUNTING: THE PURSUED]

“_How_ many years ago did you say?” I asked, much interested in the
prospect of at last learning _some_ definite fact in his history.

[Illustration: SCHOLAR-HUNTING: THE PURSUERS]

“_Many_ years ago,” he replied. “The scene at the Railway-Station had
been (so they told me) one of wild excitement. Eight or nine Heads of
Colleges had assembled at the gates (no one was allowed inside), and the
Station-Master had drawn a line on the pavement, and insisted on their
all standing behind it. The gates were flung open! The young man darted
through them, and fled like lightning down the street, while the Heads
of Colleges actually _yelled_ with excitement on catching sight of him!
The Proctor gave the word, in the old statutory form, ‘_Semel!_ _Bis!_
_Ter!_ _Currite!_’, and the Hunt began! Oh, it was a fine sight, believe
me! At the first corner he dropped his Greek Lexicon: further on, his
railway-rug: then various small articles: then his umbrella: lastly,
what I suppose he prized most, his hand-bag: but the game was up: the
spherical Principal of—of——”

“Of _which_ College?” I said.

“—of _one_ of the Colleges,” he resumed, “had put into operation the
Theory—his own discovery—of Accelerated Velocity, and captured him just
opposite to where I stood. I shall never forget that wild breathless
struggle! But it was soon over. Once in those great bony hands, escape
was impossible!”

“May I ask why you speak of him as the ‘_spherical_’ Principal?” I said.

“The epithet referred to his _shape_, which was a perfect _sphere_. You
are aware that a bullet, another instance of a perfect sphere, when
falling in a perfectly straight line, moves with Accelerated Velocity?”

I bowed assent.

“Well, my spherical friend (as I am proud to call him) set himself to
investigate the _causes_ of this. He found them to be _three_. One; that
it is a perfect _sphere_. Two; that it moves in a _straight line_.
Three; that its direction is _not upwards_. When these three conditions
are fulfilled, you get Accelerated Velocity.”

“Hardly,” I said: “if you will excuse my differing from you. Suppose we
apply the theory to _horizontal_ motion. If a bullet is fired
_horizontally_, it——”

“—it does _not_ move in a _straight line_,” he quietly finished my
sentence for me.

“I yield the point,” I said. “What did your friend do next?”

“The next thing was to apply the theory, as you rightly suggest, to
_horizontal_ motion. But the moving body, ever tending to _fall_, needs
_constant support_, if it is to move in a true horizontal line. ‘What,
then,’ he asked himself, ‘will _give constant support to a moving
body_?’ And his answer was ‘_Human legs!_’ _That_ was the discovery that
immortalised his name!”

“His name being——?” I suggested.

“I had not mentioned it,” was the gentle reply of my most unsatisfactory
informant. “His next step was an obvious one. He took to a diet of
suet-dumplings, until his body had become a perfect sphere. _Then_ he
went out for his first experimental run—which nearly cost him his life!”

“How was _that_?”

“Well, you see, he had no idea of the _tremendous_ new Force in Nature
that he was calling into play. He began too fast. In a very few minutes
he found himself moving at a hundred miles an hour! And, if he had not
had the presence of mind to charge into the middle of a haystack (which
he scattered to the four winds) there can be no doubt that he would have
left the Planet he belonged to, and gone right away into Space!”

“And how came that to be the _last_ of the Cub-Hunts?” I enquired.

“Well, you see, it led to a rather scandalous dispute between two of the
Colleges. _Another_ Principal had laid his hand on the young man, so
nearly at the same moment as the _spherical_ one, that there was no
knowing which had touched him first. The dispute got into print, and did
us no credit, and, in short, Cub-Hunts came to an end. Now I’ll tell you
what cured us of that wild craze of ours, the bidding against each
other, for the clever scholars, just as if they were articles to be sold
by auction! Just when the craze had reached its highest point, and when
one of the Colleges had actually advertised a Scholarship of one
thousand pounds _per annum_, one of our tourists brought us the
manuscript of an old African legend—I happen to have a copy of it in my
pocket. Shall I translate it for you?”

“Pray go on,” I said, though I felt I was getting _very_ sleepy.



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                          WHAT TOTTLES MEANT.


Mein Herr unrolled the manuscript, but, to my great surprise, instead of
_reading_ it, he began to _sing_ it, in a rich mellow voice that seemed
to ring through the room.

  “One thousand pounds per annuum
  Is not so bad a figure, come!”
  Cried Tottles. “And I tell you, flat,
  A man may marry well on that!
  To say ‘the Husband needs the Wife’
  Is not the way to represent it.
  The crowning joy of Woman’s life
  Is _Man_!” said Tottles (and he meant it).

  The blissful Honey-moon is past:
  The Pair have settled down at last:
  Mamma-in-law their home will share,
  And make their happiness her care.
  “Your income is an ample one;
  Go it, my children!” (And they went it).
  “I rayther think this kind of fun
  Won’t last!” said Tottles (and he meant it).

  They took a little country-box—
  A box at Covent Garden also:
  They lived a life of double-knocks,
  Acquaintances began to call so:
  Their London house was much the same
  (It took three hundred, clear, to rent it):
  “Life is a very jolly game!”
  Cried happy Tottles (and he meant it).

  ‘Contented with a frugal lot’
  (He always used that phrase at Gunter’s),
  He bought a handy little yacht—
  A dozen serviceable hunters—
  The fishing of a Highland Loch—
  A sailing-boat to circumvent it—
  “The sounding of that Gaelic ‘och’
  Beats _me_!” said Tottles (and he meant it).

Here, with one of those convulsive starts that wake one up in the very
act of dropping off to sleep, I became conscious that the deep musical
tones that thrilled me did _not_ belong to Mein Herr, but to the French
Count. The old man was still conning the manuscript.

“I _beg_ your pardon for keeping you waiting!” he said. “I was just
making sure that I knew the English for all the words. I am quite ready
now.” And he read me the following Legend:—

“In a city that stands in the very centre of Africa, and is rarely
visited by the casual tourist, the people had always bought eggs—a daily
necessary in a climate where egg-flip was the usual diet—from a Merchant
who came to their gates once a week. And the people always bid wildly
against each other: so there was quite a lively auction every time the
Merchant came, and the last egg in his basket used to fetch the value of
two or three camels, or thereabouts. And eggs got dearer every week. And
still they drank their egg-flip, and wondered where all their money went
to.

[Illustration: THE EGG-MERCHANT]

“And there came a day when they put their heads together. And they
understood what donkeys they had been.

“And next day, when the Merchant came, only _one_ Man went forth. And he
said ‘Oh, thou of the hook-nose and the goggle-eyes, thou of the
measureless beard, how much for that lot of eggs?’

“And the Merchant answered him ‘I _could_ let thee have that lot at ten
thousand piastres the dozen.’

“And the Man chuckled inwardly, and said ‘_Ten_ piastres the dozen I
offer thee, and no more, oh descendant of a distinguished grandfather!’

“And the Merchant stroked his beard, and said ‘Hum! I will await the
coming of thy friends,’ So he waited. And the Man waited with him. And
they waited both together.”

“The manuscript breaks off here,” said Mein Herr, as he rolled it up
again; “but it was enough to open our eyes. We saw what simpletons we
had been—buying our Scholars much as those ignorant savages bought their
eggs—and the ruinous system was abandoned. If only we could have
abandoned, along with it, all the _other_ fashions we had borrowed from
you, instead of carrying them to their logical results! But it was not
to be. What ruined my country, and drove me from my home, was the
introduction—into the _Army_, of all places—of your theory of Political
Dichotomy!”

“Shall I trouble you too much,” I said, “if I ask you to explain what
you mean by ‘the Theory of Political Dichotomy’?”

“No trouble at all!” was Mein Herr’s most courteous reply. “I quite
enjoy talking, when I get so good a listener. What started the thing,
with us, was the report brought to us, by one of our most eminent
statesmen, who had stayed some time in England, of the way affairs were
managed there. It was a political necessity (so he assured us, and we
believed him, though we had never discovered it till that moment) that
there should be _two_ Parties, in every affair and on every subject. In
_Politics_, the two Parties, which you had found it necessary to
institute, were called, he told us, ‘Whigs’ and ‘Tories’.”

“That must have been some time ago?” I remarked.

“It _was_ some time ago,” he admitted. “And this was the way the affairs
of the British Nation were managed. (You will correct me if I
misrepresent it. I do but repeat what our traveler told us.) These two
Parties—which were in chronic hostility to each other—took turns in
conducting the Government; and the Party, that happened _not_ to be in
power, was called the ‘Opposition’, I believe?”

“That is the right name,” I said. “There have always been, so long as we
have had a Parliament at all, _two_ Parties, one ‘in’, and one ‘out’.”

“Well, the function of the ‘Ins’ (if I may so call them) was to do the
best they could for the national welfare—in such things as making war or
peace, commercial treaties, and so forth?”

“Undoubtedly,” I said.

“And the function of the ‘Outs’ was (so our traveller assured us, though
we were very incredulous at first) to _prevent_ the ‘Ins’ from
succeeding in any of these things?”

“To _criticize_ and to _amend_ their proceedings,” I corrected him. “It
would be _unpatriotic_ to _hinder_ the Government in doing what was for
the good of the Nation! We have always held a _Patriot_ to be the
greatest of heroes, and an _unpatriotic_ spirit to be one of the worst
of human ills!”

“Excuse me for a moment,” the old gentleman courteously replied, taking
out his pocket-book. “I have a few memoranda here, of a correspondence I
had with our tourist, and, if you will allow me, I’ll just refresh my
memory—although I quite agree with you—it is, as you say, one of the
worst of human ills—” And, here Mein Herr began singing again:—

  But oh, the worst of human ills
  (Poor Tottles found) are ‘little bills’!
  And, with no balance in the Bank,
  What wonder that his spirits sank?
  Still, as the money flowed away,
  He wondered how on earth she spent it.
  “You cost me twenty pounds a day,
  _At least_!” cried Tottles (and he meant it).

  She sighed. “Those Drawing Rooms, you know!
  I really never thought about it:
  Mamma declared we ought to go—
  We should be Nobodies without it.
  That diamond-circlet for my brow—
  I quite believed that _she_ had sent it,
  Until the Bill came in just now——”
  “_Viper_!” cried Tottles (and he meant it).

  Poor Mrs. T. could bear no more,
  But fainted flat upon the floor.
  Mamma-in-law, with anguish wild,
  Seeks, all in vain, to rouse her child.
  “Quick! Take this box of smelling-salts!
  Don’t scold her, James, or you’ll repent it,
  She’s a _dear_ girl, with all her faults——”
  “She _is_!” groaned Tottles (and he meant it).

  “I was a donkey,” Tottles cried,
  “To choose your daughter for my bride!
  ’Twas _you_ that bid us cut a dash!
  ’Tis _you_ have brought us to this smash!
  You don’t suggest one single thing
  That can in any way prevent it——
  Then what’s the use of arguing?
  _Shut up!_” cried Tottles (and he meant it).

Once more I started into wakefulness, and realised that Mein Herr was
not the singer. He was still consulting his memoranda.

“It is exactly what my friend told me,” he resumed, after conning over
various papers. “‘_Unpatriotic_’ is the very word I had used, in writing
to him, and ‘_hinder_’ is the very word he used in his reply! Allow me
to read you a portion of his letter:——

  “‘_I can assure you_,’ he writes, ‘_that, unpatriotic as you may think
  it, the recognised function of the ‘Opposition’ is to hinder, in every
  manner not forbidden by the Law, the action of the Government. This
  process is called ‘Legitimate Obstruction’: and the greatest triumph
  the ‘Opposition’ can ever enjoy, is when they are able to point out
  that, owing to their ‘Obstruction’, the Government have failed in
  everything they have tried to do for the good of the Nation!_’”

“Your friend has not put it _quite_ correctly,” I said. “The Opposition
would no doubt be glad to point out that the Government had failed
_through their own fault_; but _not_ that they had failed on account of
_Obstruction_!”

“You think so?” he gently replied. “Allow me now to read to you this
newspaper-cutting, which my friend enclosed in his letter. It is part of
the report of a public speech, made by a Statesman who was at the time a
member of the ‘Opposition’:—

  “‘_At the close of the Session, he thought they had no reason to be
  discontented with the fortunes of the campaign. They had routed the
  enemy at every point. But the pursuit must be continued. They had only
  to follow up a disordered and dispirited foe._’”

“Now to what portion of your national history would you guess that the
speaker was referring?”

“Really, the number of _successful_ wars we have waged during the last
century,” I replied, with a glow of British pride, “is _far_ too great
for me to guess, with any chance of success, _which_ it was we were then
engaged in. However, I will name ‘_India_’ as the most probable. The
Mutiny was no doubt, all but crushed, at the time that speech was made.
What a fine, manly, _patriotic_ speech it must have been!” I exclaimed
in an outburst of enthusiasm.

“You think so?” he replied, in a tone of gentle pity. “Yet my friend
tells me that the ‘_disordered and dispirited foe_’ simply meant the
Statesmen who happened to be in power at the moment; that the
‘_pursuit_’ simply meant ‘Obstruction’; and that the words ‘_they had
routed the enemy_’ simply meant that the ‘Opposition’ had succeeded in
hindering the Government from doing any of the work which the Nation had
empowered them to do!”

I thought it best to say nothing.

“It seemed queer to _us_, just at first,” he resumed, after courteously
waiting a minute for me to speak: “but, when once we had mastered the
idea, our respect for your Nation was so great that we carried it into
every department of life! It was ‘_the beginning of the end_’ with us.
My country never held up its head again!” And the poor old gentleman
sighed deeply.

“Let us change the subject,” I said. “Do not distress yourself, I beg!”

“No, no!” he said, with an effort to recover himself. “I had rather
finish my story! The next step (after reducing our Government to
impotence, and putting a stop to all useful legislation, which did not
take us long to do) was to introduce what we called ‘the glorious
British Principle of Dichotomy’ into _Agriculture_. We persuaded many of
the well-to-do farmers to divide their staff of labourers into two
Parties, and to set them one against the other. They were called, like
our political Parties, the ‘Ins’ and the ‘Outs’: the business of the
‘Ins’ was to do as much of ploughing, sowing, or whatever might be
needed, as they could manage in a day, and at night they were paid
according to the amount they had _done_: the business of the ‘Outs’ was
to hinder them, and _they_ were paid for the amount they had _hindered_.
The farmers found they had to pay only _half_ as much wages as they did
before, and they didn’t observe that the amount of work done was only a
_quarter_ as much as was done before: so they took it up quite
enthusiastically, _at first_.”

“And _afterwards_——?” I enquired.

“Well, _afterwards_ they didn’t like it quite so well. In a very short
time, things settled down into a regular routine. No work _at all_ was
done. So the ‘Ins’ got no wages, and the ‘Outs’ got full pay. And the
farmers never discovered, till most of them were ruined, that the
rascals had agreed to manage it so, and had shared the pay between them!
While the thing lasted, there were funny sights to be seen! Why, I’ve
often watched a ploughman, with two horses harnessed to the plough,
doing his best to get it _forwards_; while the opposition-ploughman,
with three donkeys harnessed at the _other_ end, was doing _his_ best to
get it _backwards_! And the plough never moving an inch, _either_ way!”

“But _we_ never did anything like _that_!” I exclaimed.

“Simply because you were less _logical_ than we were,” replied Mein
Herr. “There is _sometimes_ an advantage in being a donk—Excuse me! No
_personal_ allusion intended. All this happened _long ago_, you know!”

“Did the Dichotomy-Principle succeed in _any_ direction?” I enquired.

“In _none_,” Mein Herr candidly confessed. “It had a _very_ short trial
in _Commerce_. The shop-keepers _wouldn’t_ take it up, after once trying
the plan of having half the attendants busy in folding up and carrying
away the goods which the other half were trying to spread out upon the
counters. They said the Public didn’t like it!”

“I don’t wonder at it,” I remarked.

“Well, we tried ‘the British Principle’ for some years. And the end of
it all was—” His voice suddenly dropped, almost to a whisper; and large
tears began to roll down his cheeks. “—the end was that we got involved
in a war; and there was a great battle, in which we far out-numbered the
enemy. But what could one expect, when only _half_ of our soldiers were
fighting, and the other half pulling them back? It ended in a crushing
defeat—an utter rout. This caused a Revolution; and most of the
Government were banished. I myself was accused of Treason, for having so
strongly advocated ‘the British Principle.’ My property was all
forfeited, and—and—I was driven into exile! ‘Now the mischief’s done,’
they said, ‘perhaps you’ll kindly leave the country?’ It nearly broke my
heart, but I had to go!”

The melancholy tone became a wail: the wail became a chant: the chant
became a song—though whether it was _Mein Herr_ that was singing, this
time, or somebody else, I could not feel certain.

  “And, now the mischief’s done, perhaps
  You’ll kindly go and pack your traps?
  Since _two_ (your daughter and your son)
  Are Company, but _three_ are none.
  A course of saving we’ll begin:
  When change is needed, _I’ll_ invent it:
  Don’t think to put _your_ finger in
  _This_ pie!” cried Tottles (and he meant it).

The music seemed to die away. Mein Herr was again speaking in his
ordinary voice. “Now tell me one thing more,” he said. “Am I right in
thinking that in _your_ Universities, though a man may reside some
thirty or forty years, you examine him, once for all, at the end of the
first three or four?”

“That is so, undoubtedly,” I admitted.

“Practically, then, you examine a man at the _beginning_ of his career!”
the old man said to himself rather than to me. “And what guarantee have
you that he _retains_ the knowledge for which you have rewarded
him—beforehand, as _we_ should say?”

“None,” I admitted, feeling a little puzzled at the drift of his
remarks. “How do _you_ secure that object?”

“By examining him at the _end_ of his thirty or forty years—not at the
beginning,” he gently replied. “On an average, the knowledge then found
is about one-fifth of what it was at first—the process of forgetting
going on at a very steady uniform rate—and he, who forgets _least_, gets
_most_ honour, and most rewards.”

“Then you give him the money when he needs it no longer? And you make
him live most of his life on _nothing_!”

“Hardly that. He gives his orders to the tradesmen: they supply him, for
forty, sometimes fifty, years, at their own risk: then he gets his
Fellowship—which pays him in _one_ year as much as _your_ Fellowships
pay in fifty—and then he can easily pay all his bills, with interest.”

“But suppose he fails to get his Fellowship? That must occasionally
happen.”

“That occasionally happens.” It was Mein Herr’s turn, now, to make
admissions.

“And what becomes of the tradesmen?”

“They calculate accordingly. When a man appears to be getting alarmingly
ignorant, or stupid, they will sometimes refuse to supply him any
longer. You have no idea with what enthusiasm a man will begin to rub up
his forgotten sciences or languages, when his butcher has cut off the
supply of beef and mutton!”

“And who are the Examiners?”

“The young men who have just come, brimming over with knowledge. You
would think it a curious sight,” he went on, “to see mere boys examining
such old men. I have known a man set to examine his own grandfather. It
was a little painful for both of them, no doubt. The old gentleman was
as bald as a coot——”

“How bald would that be?” I’ve no idea why I asked this question. I felt
I was getting foolish.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                            BRUNO’S PICNIC.


“As bald as bald,” was the bewildering reply. “Now, Bruno, I’ll tell you
a story.”

“And I’ll tell _oo_ a story,” said Bruno, beginning in a great hurry for
fear of Sylvie getting the start of him: “once there were a Mouse—a
little tiny Mouse—such a tiny little Mouse! Oo never saw such a tiny
Mouse——”

“Did nothing ever happen to it, Bruno?” I asked. “Haven’t you anything
more to tell us, besides its being so tiny?”

“Nothing never happened to it,” Bruno solemnly replied.

“Why did nothing never happen to it?” said Sylvie, who was sitting, with
her head on Bruno’s shoulder, patiently waiting for a chance of
beginning _her_ story.

“It were too tiny,” Bruno explained.

“_That’s_ no reason!” I said. “However tiny it was, things might happen
to it.”

Bruno looked pityingly at me, as if he thought me very stupid. “It were
too tiny,” he repeated. “If anything happened to it, it would die—it
were so _very_ tiny!”

“Really that’s enough about its being tiny!” Sylvie put in. “Haven’t you
invented any more about it?”

“Haven’t invented no more yet.”

“Well then, you shouldn’t begin a story till you’ve invented more! Now
be quiet, there’s a good boy, and listen to _my_ story.”

And Bruno, having quite exhausted all his inventive faculty, by
beginning in too great a hurry, quietly resigned himself to listening.
“Tell about the other Bruno, please,” he said coaxingly.

Sylvie put her arms round his neck, and began:——

“The wind was whispering among the trees,” (“That wasn’t good manners!”
Bruno interrupted. “Never mind about manners,” said Sylvie) “and it was
evening—a nice moony evening, and the Owls were hooting——”

“Pretend they weren’t Owls!” Bruno pleaded, stroking her cheek with his
fat little hand. “I don’t like Owls. Owls have such great big eyes.
Pretend they were Chickens!”

“Are you afraid of their great big eyes, Bruno?” I said.

“Aren’t _’fraid_ of nothing,” Bruno answered in as careless a tone as he
could manage: “they’re ugly with their great big eyes. I think if they
cried, the tears would be as big—oh, as big as the moon!” And he laughed
merrily. “Doos Owls cry ever, Mister Sir?”

“Owls cry never,” I said gravely, trying to copy Bruno’s way of
speaking: “they’ve got nothing to be sorry for, you know.”

“Oh, but they have!” Bruno exclaimed. “They’re ever so sorry, ’cause
they killed the poor little Mouses!”

“But they’re not sorry when they’re _hungry_, I suppose?”

“Oo don’t know nothing about Owls!” Bruno scornfully remarked. “When
they’re hungry, they’re very, _very_ sorry they killed the little
Mouses, ’cause if they _hadn’t_ killed them there’d be sumfin for
supper, oo know!”

Bruno was evidently getting into a dangerously inventive state of mind,
so Sylvie broke in with “Now I’m going on with the story. So the
Owls—the Chickens, I mean—were looking to see if they could find a nice
fat Mouse for their supper——”

“Pretend it was a nice ’abbit!” said Bruno.

“But it _wasn’t_ a nice habit, to kill Mouses,” Sylvie argued. “I can’t
pretend _that_!”

“I didn’t say ‘_habit_,’ oo silly fellow!” Bruno replied with a merry
twinkle in his eye. “’_abbits_—that runs about in the fields!”

“Rabbit? Well it can be a Rabbit, if you like. But you mustn’t alter my
story so much, Bruno. A Chicken _couldn’t_ eat a Rabbit!”

“But it might have wished to see if it could try to eat it.”

“Well, it wished to see if it could try—oh, really, Bruno, that’s
nonsense! I shall go back to the Owls.”

“Well then, pretend they hadn’t great eyes!”

“And they saw a little Boy,” Sylvie went on, disdaining to make any
further corrections. “And he asked them to tell him a story. And the
Owls hooted and flew away——” (“Oo shouldn’t say ‘_flewed_;’ oo should
say ‘_flied_,’” Bruno whispered. But Sylvie wouldn’t hear.) “And he met
a Lion. And he asked the Lion to tell him a story. And the Lion said
‘yes,’ it would. And, while the Lion was telling him the story, it
nibbled some of his head off——”

“Don’t say ‘nibbled’!” Bruno entreated. “Only little things
nibble—little thin sharp things, with edges——”

“Well then, it ‘_nubbled_,’” said Sylvie. “And when it had nubbled _all_
his head off, he went away, and he never said ‘thank you’!”

“That were very rude,” said Bruno. “If he couldn’t speak, he might have
nodded—no, he couldn’t nod. Well, he might have shaked _hands_ with the
Lion!”

“Oh, I’d forgotten that part!” said Sylvie. “He _did_ shake hands with
it. He came back again, you know, and he thanked the Lion very much, for
telling him the story.”

“Then his head had growed up again?” said Bruno.

“Oh yes, it grew up in a minute. And the Lion begged pardon, and said it
wouldn’t nubble off little boys’ heads—not never no more!”

Bruno looked much pleased at this change of events. “Now that are a
_really_ nice story!” he said. “_Aren’t_ it a nice story, Mister Sir?”

“Very,” I said. “I would like to hear another story about that Boy.”

“So would _I_,” said Bruno, stroking Sylvie’s cheek again. “_Please_
tell about Bruno’s Picnic; and don’t talk about _nubbly_ Lions!”

“I won’t, if it frightens you,” said Sylvie.

“_Flightens_ me!” Bruno exclaimed indignantly. “It isn’t _that_! It’s
’cause ‘nubbly’ ’s such a grumbly word to say—when one person’s got her
head on another person’s shoulder. When she talks like that,” he
explained to me, “the talking goes down bofe sides of my face—all the
way to my chin—and it _doos_ tickle so! It’s enough to make a beard
grow, that it is!”

He said this with great severity, but it was evidently meant for a joke:
so Sylvie laughed—a delicious musical little laugh, and laid her soft
cheek on the top of her brother’s curly head, as if it were a pillow,
while she went on with the story. “So this Boy——”

“But it wasn’t _me_, oo know!” Bruno interrupted. “And oo needn’t try to
look as if it was, Mister Sir!”

I represented, respectfully, that I was trying to look as if it wasn’t.

“—he was a middling good Boy——”

“He were a _welly_ good Boy!” Bruno corrected her. “And he never did
nothing he wasn’t told to do——”

“_That_ doesn’t make a good Boy!” Sylvie said contemptuously.

“That _do_ make a good Boy!” Bruno insisted.

Sylvie gave up the point. “Well, he was a _very_ good Boy, and he always
kept his promises, and he had a big cupboard——”

“—for to keep all his promises in!” cried Bruno.

“If he kept _all_ his promises,” Sylvie said, with a mischievous look in
her eyes, “he wasn’t like _some_ Boys I know of!”

“He had to put _salt_ with them, a-course,” Bruno said gravely: “oo
ca’n’t keep promises when there isn’t any salt. And he kept his birthday
on the second shelf.”

“How long did he keep his birthday?” I asked. “I never can keep _mine_
more than twenty-four hours.”

“Why, a birthday _stays_ that long by itself!” cried Bruno. “Oo doosn’t
know how to keep birthdays! This Boy kept _his_ a whole year!”

“And then the next birthday would begin,” said Sylvie. “So it would be
his birthday _always_.”

“So it were,” said Bruno. “Doos _oo_ have treats on _oor_ birthday,
Mister Sir?”

“Sometimes,” I said.

“When oo’re _good_, I suppose?”

“Why, it _is_ a sort of treat, being good, isn’t it?” I said.

“A sort of _treat_!” Bruno repeated. “It’s a sort of _punishment_, _I_
think!”

“Oh, Bruno!” Sylvie interrupted, almost sadly. “How _can_ you?”

“Well, but it _is_,” Bruno persisted. “Why, look here, Mister Sir!
_This_ is being good!” And he sat bolt upright, and put on an absurdly
solemn face. “First oo must sit up as straight as pokers——”

“—as _a_ poker,” Sylvie corrected him.

“—as straight as _pokers_,” Bruno firmly repeated. “Then oo must clasp
oor hands—_so_. Then—‘Why hasn’t oo brushed oor hair? Go and brush it
_toreckly_!’ Then—‘Oh, Bruno, oo mustn’t dog’s-ear the daisies!’ Did oo
learn _oor_ spelling wiz daisies, Mister Sir?”

“I want to hear about that Boy’s _Birthday_,” I said.

Bruno returned to the story instantly. “Well, so this Boy said ‘Now it’s
my Birthday!’ And so—I’m tired!” he suddenly broke off, laying his head
in Sylvie’s lap. “Sylvie knows it best. Sylvie’s grown-upper than me. Go
on, Sylvie!”

Sylvie patiently took up the thread of the story again. “So he said ‘Now
it’s my Birthday. Whatever shall I do to keep my Birthday? All _good_
little Boys——” (Sylvie turned away from Bruno, and made a great pretence
of whispering to _me_) “—all _good_ little Boys—Boys that learn their
lessons quite perfect—they always keep their birthdays, you know. So of
course _this_ little Boy kept _his_ Birthday.”

“Oo may call him Bruno, if oo like,” the little fellow carelessly
remarked. “It weren’t _me_, but it makes it more interesting.”

“So Bruno said to himself ‘The properest thing to do is to have a
Picnic, all by myself, on the top of the hill. And I’ll take some Milk,
and some Bread, and some Apples: and first and foremost, I want some
_Milk_!’ So, first and foremost, Bruno took a milk-pail——”

“And he went and milkted the Cow!” Bruno put in.

“Yes,” said Sylvie, meekly accepting the new verb. “And the Cow said
‘Moo! What are you going to do with all that Milk?’ And Bruno said
‘Please’m, I want it for my Picnic.’ And the Cow said ‘Moo! But I hope
you wo’n’t _boil_ any of it?’ And Bruno said ‘No, _indeed_ I won’t! New
Milk’s so nice and so warm, it wants no boiling!’”

“It doesn’t want no boiling,” Bruno offered as an amended version.

“So Bruno put the Milk in a bottle. And then Bruno said ‘Now I want some
Bread!’ So he went to the Oven, and he took out a delicious new Loaf.
And the Oven——”

“—ever so light and so puffy!” Bruno impatiently corrected her. “Oo
shouldn’t leave out so many words!”

Sylvie humbly apologised. “—a delicious new Loaf, ever so light and so
puffy. And the Oven said——” Here Sylvie made a long pause. “Really I
don’t know _what_ an Oven begins with, when it wants to speak!”

Both children looked appealingly at me; but I could only say,
helplessly, “I haven’t the least idea! _I_ never heard an Oven speak!”

For a minute or two we all sat silent; and then Bruno said, very softly,
“Oven begins wiz ‘O’.”

“_Good_ little boy!” Sylvie exclaimed. “He does his spelling _very_
nicely. _He’s cleverer than he knows!_” she added, aside, to _me_. “So
the Oven said ‘O! What are you going to do with all that Bread?’ And
Bruno said ‘Please——’ Is an Oven ‘Sir’ or ‘’m,’ would you say?” She
looked to me for a reply.

“_Both_, I think,” seemed to me the safest thing to say.

Sylvie adopted the suggestion instantly. “So Bruno said ‘Please, Sirm, I
want it for my Picnic.’ And the Oven said ‘O! But I hope you wo’n’t
_toast_ any of it?’ And Bruno said ‘No, _indeed_ I wo’n’t! New Bread’s
so light and so puffy, it wants no toasting!’”

“It never doesn’t want no toasting,” said Bruno. “I _wiss_ oo wouldn’t
say it so short!”

“So Bruno put the Bread in the hamper. Then Bruno said ‘Now I want some
Apples!’ So he took the hamper, and he went to the Apple-Tree, and he
picked some lovely ripe Apples. And the Apple-Tree said——” Here followed
another long pause.

Bruno adopted his favourite expedient of tapping his forehead; while
Sylvie gazed earnestly upwards, as if she hoped for some suggestion from
the birds, who were singing merrily among the branches overhead. But no
result followed.

“What _does_ an Apple-tree begin with, when it wants to speak?” Sylvie
murmured despairingly, to the irresponsive birds.

At last, taking a leaf out of Bruno’s book, I ventured on a remark.
“Doesn’t ‘Apple-tree’ always begin with ‘Eh!’?”

“Why, of _course_ it does! How _clever_ of you!” Sylvie cried
delightedly.

Bruno jumped up, and patted me on the head. I tried not to feel
conceited.

“So the Apple Tree said ‘Eh! What are you going to do with all those
Apples?’ And Bruno said ‘Please, Sir, I want them for my Picnic,’ And
the Apple-Tree said ‘Eh! But I hope you wo’n’t _bake_ any of them?’ And
Bruno said ‘No, _indeed_ I wo’n’t! Ripe Apples are so nice and so sweet,
they want no baking!’”

“They never doesn’t——” Bruno was beginning, but Sylvie corrected herself
before he could get the words out.

“‘They never doesn’t nonow want no baking.’ So Bruno put the Apples in
the hamper, along with the Bread, and the bottle of Milk. And he set off
to have a Picnic, on the top of the hill, all by himself——”

“He wasn’t greedy, oo know, to have it all by himself,” Bruno said,
patting me on the cheek to call my attention; “’cause he hadn’t got no
brothers and sisters.”

“It was very sad to have no _sisters_, wasn’t it?” I said.

“Well, I don’t know,” Bruno said thoughtfully; “’cause he hadn’t no
lessons to do. So he didn’t mind.”

Sylvie went on. “So, as he was walking along the road, he heard behind
him such a curious sort of noise—a sort of a Thump! Thump! Thump!
‘Whatever _is_ that?’ said Bruno. ‘Oh, I know!’ said Bruno. ‘Why, it’s
only my Watch a-ticking!’”

“_Were_ it his Watch a-ticking?” Bruno asked me, with eyes that fairly
sparkled with mischievous delight.

“No doubt of it!” I replied. And Bruno laughed exultingly.

“Then Bruno thought a little harder. And he said ‘No! It _ca’n’t_ be my
Watch a-ticking; because I haven’t _got_ a Watch!’”

Bruno peered up anxiously into my face, to see how I took it. I hung my
head, and put a thumb into my mouth, to the evident delight of the
little fellow.

“So Bruno went a little further along the road. And then he heard it
again, that queer noise—Thump! Thump! Thump! ‘What ever _is_ that?’ said
Bruno. ‘Oh, I know!’ said Bruno. ‘Why, it’s only the Carpenter a-mending
my Wheelbarrow!’”

“_Were_ it the Carterpenter a-mending his Wheelbarrow?” Bruno asked me.

I brightened up, and said “It _must_ have been!” in a tone of absolute
conviction.

Bruno threw his arms round Sylvie’s neck. “Sylvie!” he said, in a
perfectly audible whisper. “He says it _must_ have been!”

“Then Bruno thought a little harder. And he said ‘No! It _ca’n’t_ be the
Carpenter amending my Wheelbarrow, because I haven’t _got_ a
Wheelbarrow!’”

This time I hid my face in my hands, quite unable to meet Bruno’s look
of triumph.

“So Bruno went a little further along the road. And then he heard that
queer noise again—Thump! Thump! Thump! So he thought he’d look round,
_this_ time, just to _see_ what it was. And what should it be but a
great Lion!”

“A great big Lion,” Bruno corrected her.

“A great big Lion. And Bruno was ever so frightened, and he ran——”

“No, he wasn’t _flightened_ a bit!” Bruno interrupted. (He was evidently
anxious for the reputation of his namesake.) “He runned away to get a
good look at the Lion; ’cause he wanted to see if it were the same Lion
what used to nubble little Boys’ heads off; and he wanted to know how
big it was!”

“Well, he ran away, to get a good look at the Lion. And the Lion trotted
slowly after him. And the Lion called after him, in a very gentle voice,
‘Little Boy, little Boy! You needn’t be afraid of _me_! I’m a very
_gentle_ old Lion now. I _never_ nubble little Boys’ heads off, as I
used to do.’ And so Bruno said ‘Don’t you _really_, Sir? Then what do
you live on?’ And the Lion——”

“Oo _see_ he weren’t a bit flightened!” Bruno said to me, patting my
cheek again. “’cause he remembered to call it ‘Sir,’ oo know.”

I said that no doubt that was the _real_ test whether a person was
frightened or not.

“And the Lion said ‘Oh, I live on bread-and-butter, and cherries, and
marmalade, and plum-cake———’”

“—and _apples_!” Bruno put in.

“Yes, ‘and apples.’ And Bruno said ‘Won’t you come with me to my
Picnic?’ And the Lion said ‘Oh, I should like it _very much indeed_!’
And Bruno and the Lion went away together.” Sylvie stopped suddenly.

“Is that _all_?” I asked, despondingly.

“Not _quite_ all,” Sylvie slily replied. “There’s a sentence or two
more. Isn’t there, Bruno?”

“Yes,” with a carelessness that was evidently put on: “just a sentence
or two more.”

“And, as they were walking along, they looked over a hedge, and who
should they see but a little black Lamb! And the Lamb was ever so
frightened. And it ran——”

“It were _really_ flightened!” Bruno put in.

“It ran away. And Bruno ran after it. And he called ‘Little Lamb! You
needn’t be afraid of _this_ Lion! It _never_ kills things! It lives on
cherries, and marmalade——’”

“—and _apples_!” said Bruno. “Oo _always_ forgets the apples!”

“And Bruno said ‘Wo’n’t you come with us to my Picnic?’ And the Lamb
said ‘Oh, I should like it _very much indeed_, if my Ma will let me!’
And Bruno said ‘Let’s go and ask your Ma!’ And they went to the old
Sheep. And Bruno said ‘Please, may your little Lamb come to my Picnic?’
And the Sheep said ‘Yes, if it’s learnt all its lessons.’ And the Lamb
said ‘Oh yes, Ma! I’ve learnt _all_ my lessons!’”

“Pretend it hadn’t any lessons!” Bruno earnestly pleaded.

“Oh, that would never do!” said Sylvie. “I ca’n’t leave out all about
the lessons! And the old Sheep said ‘Do you know your A B C yet? Have
you learnt A?’ And the Lamb said ‘Oh yes, Ma! I went to the A-field, and
I helped them to make A!’ ‘Very good, my child! And have you learnt B?’
‘Oh yes, Ma! I went to the B-hive, and the B gave me some honey!’ ‘Very
good, my child! And have you learnt C?’ ‘Oh yes, Ma! I went to the
C-side, and I saw the ships sailing on the C!’ ‘Very good, my child! You
may go to Bruno’s Picnic.’

[Illustration: STARTING FOR BRUNO’S PICNIC]

“So they set off. And Bruno walked in the middle, so that the Lamb
mightn’t see the Lion——”

“It were _flightened_,” Bruno explained.

“Yes, and it trembled so; and it got paler and paler; and, before they’d
got to the top of the hill, it was a _white_ little Lamb—as white as
snow!”

“But _Bruno_ weren’t flightened!” said the owner of that name. “So _he_
staid black!”

“No, he _didn’t_ stay black! He staid _pink_!” laughed Sylvie. “I
shouldn’t kiss you like this, you know, if you were _black_!”

“Oo’d _have_ to!” Bruno said with great decision. “Besides, Bruno wasn’t
_Bruno_, oo know—I mean, Bruno wasn’t _me_—I mean—don’t talk nonsense,
Sylvie!”

“I won’t do it again!” Sylvie said very humbly. “And so, as they went
along, the Lion said ‘Oh, I’ll tell you what I used to do when I was a
young Lion. I used to hide behind trees, to watch for little Boys.’”
(Bruno cuddled a little closer to her.) “‘And, if a little thin scraggy
Boy came by, why, I used to let him go. But, if a little fat juicy——’”

Bruno could bear no more. “Pretend he wasn’t juicy!” he pleaded,
half-sobbing.

“Nonsense, Bruno!” Sylvie briskly replied. “It’ll be done in a moment!
‘—if a little fat juicy Boy came by, why, I used to spring out and
gobble him up! Oh, you’ve no _idea_ what a delicious thing it is—a
little juicy Boy!’ And Bruno said ‘Oh, if you please, Sir, _don’t_ talk
about eating little boys! It makes me so _shivery_!’”

The real Bruno shivered, in sympathy with the hero.

“And the Lion said ‘Oh, well, we won’t talk about it, then! I’ll tell
you what happened on my wedding-day——’”

“I like _this_ part better,” said Bruno, patting my cheek to keep me
awake.

“‘There was, oh, such a lovely wedding-breakfast! At _one_ end of the
table there was a large plum-pudding. And at the other end there was a
nice roasted _Lamb_! Oh, you’ve no _idea_ what a delicious thing it is—a
nice roasted Lamb!’ And the Lamb said ‘Oh, if you please, Sir, _don’t_
talk about eating Lambs! It makes me so _shivery_!’ And the Lion said
‘Oh, well, we won’t talk about it, then!’”



                              CHAPTER XV.
                           THE LITTLE FOXES.


“So, when they got to the top of the hill, Bruno opened the hamper: and
he took out the Bread, and the Apples, and the Milk: and they ate, and
they drank. And when they’d finished the Milk, and eaten half the Bread
and half the Apples, the Lamb said ‘Oh, my paws is so sticky! I want to
wash my paws!’ And the Lion said ‘Well, go down the hill, and wash them
in the brook, yonder. We’ll wait for you!’”

“It never comed back!” Bruno solemnly whispered to me.

But Sylvie overheard him. “You’re not to whisper, Bruno! It spoils the
story! And when the Lamb had been gone a long time, the Lion said to
Bruno ‘Do go and see after that silly little Lamb! It must have lost its
way.’ And Bruno went down the hill. And when he got to the brook, he saw
the Lamb sitting on the bank: and who should be sitting by it but an old
Fox!”

“Don’t know who _should_ be sitting by it,” Bruno said thoughtfully to
himself. “A old Fox _were_ sitting by it.”

“And the old Fox were saying,” Sylvie went on, for once conceding the
grammatical point, “‘Yes, my dear, you’ll be ever so happy with us, if
you’ll only come and see us! I’ve got three little Foxes there, and we
do love little Lambs so dearly!’ And the Lamb said ‘But you never _eat_
them, do you, Sir?’ And the Fox said ‘Oh, no! What, _eat_ a Lamb? We
never _dream_ of doing such a thing!’ So the Lamb said ‘Then I’ll come
with you.’ And off they went, hand in hand.”

“That Fox were welly extremely wicked, _weren’t_ it?” said Bruno.

“No, no!” said Sylvie, rather shocked at such violent language. “It
wasn’t quite so bad as that!”

“Well, I mean, it wasn’t nice,” the little fellow corrected himself.

“And so Bruno went back to the Lion. ‘Oh, come quick!’ he said. ‘The Fox
has taken the Lamb to his house with him! I’m _sure_ he means to eat
it!’ And the Lion said ‘I’ll come as quick as ever I can!’ And they
trotted down the hill.”

“Do oo think he caught the Fox, Mister Sir?” said Bruno. I shook my
head, not liking to speak: and Sylvie went on.

“And when they got to the house, Bruno looked in at the window. And
there he saw the three little Foxes sitting round the table, with their
clean pinafores on, and spoons in their hands——”

“Spoons in their hands!” Bruno repeated in an ecstasy of delight.

“And the Fox had got a great big knife—all ready to kill the poor little
Lamb——” (“Oo needn’t be flightened, Mister Sir!” Bruno put in, in a
hasty whisper.)

[Illustration: ‘ENTER THE LION’]

“And just as he was going to do it, Bruno heard a great ROAR——” (The
real Bruno put his hand into mine, and held tight), “and the Lion came
_bang_ through the door, and the next moment it had bitten off the old
Fox’s head! And Bruno jumped in at the window, and went leaping round
the room, and crying out ‘Hooray! Hooray! The old Fox is dead! The old
Fox is dead!’”

Bruno got up in some excitement. “May I do it now?” he enquired.

Sylvie was quite decided on this point. “Wait till afterwards,” she
said. “The speeches come next, don’t you know? You always love the
speeches, _don’t_ you?”

“Yes, I doos,” said Bruno: and sat down again.

“The Lion’s speech. ‘Now, you silly little Lamb, go home to your mother,
and never listen to old Foxes again. And be very good and obedient.’

“The Lamb’s speech. ‘Oh, indeed, Sir, I will, Sir!’ and the Lamb went
away.” (“But _oo_ needn’t go away!” Bruno explained. “It’s quite the
nicest part—what’s coming now!” Sylvie smiled. She liked having an
appreciative audience.)

“The Lion’s speech to Bruno. ‘Now, Bruno, take those little Foxes home
with you, and teach them to be good obedient little Foxes! Not like that
wicked old thing there, that’s got no head!’” (“That hasn’t got no
head,” Bruno repeated.)

“Bruno’s speech to the Lion. ‘Oh, indeed, Sir, I will, Sir!’ And the
Lion went away.” (“It gets betterer and betterer, now,” Bruno whispered
to me, “right away to the end!”)

“Bruno’s speech to the little Foxes. ‘Now, little Foxes, you’re going to
have your first lesson in being good. I’m going to put you into the
hamper, along with the Apples and the Bread: and you’re not to eat the
Apples: and you’re not to eat the Bread: and you’re not to eat
_anything_——till we get to my house: and then you’ll have your supper.’

“The little Foxes’ speech to Bruno. The little Foxes said nothing.

“So Bruno put the Apples into the hamper—and the little Foxes—and the
Bread——” (“They had picnicked all the Milk,” Bruno explained in a
whisper) “—and he set off to go to his house.” (“We’re getting near the
end now,” said Bruno.)

“And, when he had got a little way, he thought he would look into the
hamper, and see how the little Foxes were getting on.”

“So he opened the door——” said Bruno.

“Oh, Bruno!” Sylvie exclaimed, “_you’re_ not telling the story! So he
opened the door, and behold, there were no Apples! So Bruno said ‘Eldest
little Fox, have _you_ been eating the Apples?’ And the eldest little
Fox said ‘No no no!’” (It is impossible to give the tone in which Sylvie
repeated this rapid little ‘No no no!’ The nearest I can come to it is
to say that it was much as if a young and excited duck had tried to
quack the words. It was too quick for a quack, and yet too harsh to be
anything else.) “Then he said ‘Second little Fox, have _you_ been eating
the Apples?’ And the second little Fox said ‘No no no!’ Then he said
‘Youngest little Fox, have _you_ been eating the Apples?’ And the
youngest little Fox _tried_ to say ‘No no no!’ but its mouth was so
full, it couldn’t, and it only said ‘Wauch! Wauch! Wauch!’ And Bruno
looked into its mouth. And its mouth was full of Apples! And Bruno shook
his head, and he said ‘Oh dear, oh dear! What bad creatures these Foxes
are!’”

Bruno was listening intently: and, when Sylvie paused to take breath, he
could only just gasp out the words “About the Bread?”

“Yes,” said Sylvie, “the Bread comes next. So he shut the door again;
and he went a little further; and then he thought he’d just peep in once
more. And behold, there was no Bread!” (“What do ‘behold’ _mean_?” said
Bruno. “Hush!” said Sylvie.) “And he said ‘Eldest little Fox, have _you_
been eating the Bread?’ And the eldest little Fox said ‘No no no!’
‘Second little Fox, have _you_ been eating the Bread?’ And the second
little Fox only said ‘Wauch! Wauch! Wauch!’ And Bruno looked into its
mouth, and its mouth was full of Bread!” (“It might have chokeded it,”
said Bruno.) “So he said ‘Oh dear, oh dear! What _shall_ I do with these
Foxes?’ And he went a little further.” (“Now comes the most interesting
part,” Bruno whispered.)

“And when Bruno opened the hamper again, what do you think he saw?”
(“Only _two_ Foxes!” Bruno cried in a great hurry.) “You shouldn’t tell
it so quick. However, he _did_ see only _two_ Foxes. And he said ‘Eldest
little Fox, have you been eating the youngest little Fox?’ And the
eldest little Fox said ‘No no no!’ ‘Second little Fox, have _you_ been
eating the youngest little Fox?’ And the second little Fox did its very
best to say ‘No no no!’ but it could only say ‘Weuchk! Weuchk! Weuchk!’
And when Bruno looked into its mouth, it was half full of Bread, and
half full of Fox!” (Bruno said nothing in the pause this time. He was
beginning to pant a little, as he knew the crisis was coming.)

“And when he’d got nearly home, he looked once more into the hamper, and
he saw——”

“Only——” Bruno began, but a generous thought struck him, and he looked
at me. “_Oo_ may say it, _this_ time, Mister Sir!” he whispered. It was
a noble offer, but I wouldn’t rob him of the treat. “Go on, Bruno,” I
said, “you say it much the best.” “Only—but—_one_—Fox!” Bruno said with
great solemnity.

[Illustration: ‘WHIHUAUCH! WHIHUAUCH!’]

“‘Eldest little Fox,’” Sylvie said, dropping the narrative-form in her
eagerness, “‘you’ve been _so_ good that I can hardly believe _you’ve_
been disobedient: but I’m _afraid_ you’ve been eating your little
sister?’ And the eldest little Fox said ‘Whihuauch! Whihuauch!’ and then
it choked. And Bruno looked into its mouth, and it _was_ full!” (Sylvie
paused to take breath, and Bruno lay back among the daisies, and looked
at me triumphantly. “Isn’t it _grand_, Mister Sir?” said he. I tried
hard to assume a critical tone. “It’s grand,” I said: “but it frightens
one so!” “Oo may sit a little closer to _me_, if oo like,” said Bruno.)

“And so Bruno went home: and took the hamper into the kitchen, and
opened it. And he saw——” Sylvie looked at _me_, this time, as if she
thought I had been rather neglected and ought to be allowed _one_ guess,
at any rate.

“He ca’n’t guess!” Bruno cried eagerly. “I ’fraid I _must_ tell him!
There weren’t—_nuffin_ in the hamper!” I shivered in terror, and Bruno
clapped his hands with delight. “He _is_ flightened, Sylvie! Tell the
rest!”

“So Bruno said ‘Eldest little Fox, have you been eating _yourself_, you
wicked little Fox?’ And the eldest little Fox said ‘Whihuauch!’ And then
Bruno saw there was only its _mouth_ in the hamper! So he took the
mouth, and he opened it, and shook, and shook! And at last he shook the
little Fox out of its own mouth! And then he said ‘Open your mouth
again, you wicked little thing!’ And he shook, and shook! And he shook
out the second little Fox! And he said ‘Now open _your_ mouth!’ And he
shook, and shook! And he shook out the youngest little Fox, and all the
Apples, and all the Bread!

“And then Bruno stood the little Foxes up against the wall: and he made
them a little speech. ‘Now, little Foxes, you’ve begun very wickedly—and
you’ll have to be punished. First you’ll go up to the nursery, and wash
your faces, and put on clean pinafores. Then you’ll hear the bell ring
for supper. Then you’ll come down: and _you won’t have any supper_: but
you’ll have a good _whipping_! Then you’ll go to bed. Then in the
morning you’ll hear the bell ring for breakfast. _But you won’t have any
breakfast!_ You’ll have a good _whipping_! Then you’ll have your
lessons. And, perhaps, if you’re _very_ good, when dinner-time comes,
you’ll have a little dinner, and no more whipping!’” (“How _very_ kind
he was!” I whispered to Bruno. “_Middling_ kind,” Bruno corrected me
gravely.)

“So the little Foxes ran up to the nursery. And soon Bruno went into the
hall, and rang the big bell. ‘Tingle, tingle, tingle! Supper, supper,
supper!’ Down came the little Foxes, in such a hurry for their supper!
Clean pinafores! Spoons in their hands! And, when they got into the
dining-room, there was ever such a white table-cloth on the table! But
there was nothing on it but a big whip. And they had _such_ a whipping!”
(I put my handkerchief to my eyes, and Bruno hastily climbed upon my
knee and stroked my face. “Only _one_ more whipping, Mister Sir!” he
whispered. “Don’t cry more than oo ca’n’t help!”)

“And the next morning early, Bruno rang the big bell again. ‘Tingle,
tingle, tingle! Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast!’ Down came the little
Foxes! Clean pinafores! Spoons in their hands! No breakfast! Only the
big whip! Then came lessons,” Sylvie hurried on, for I still had my
handkerchief to my eyes. “And the little Foxes were ever so good! And
they learned their lessons backwards, and forwards, and upside-down. And
at last Bruno rang the big bell again. ‘Tingle, tingle, tingle! Dinner,
dinner, dinner!’ And when the little Foxes came down——” (“Had they clean
pinafores on?” Bruno enquired. “Of course!” said Sylvie. “And spoons?”
“Why, you _know_ they had!” “Couldn’t be _certain_,” said Bruno.) “—they
came as slow as slow! And they said ‘Oh! There’ll be no dinner! There’ll
only be the big whip!’ But, when they got into the room, they saw the
most _lovely_ dinner!” (“Buns?” cried Bruno, clapping his hands.) “Buns,
and cake, and——” (“—and jam?” said Bruno.) “Yes, jam—and soup—and——”
(“—and _sugar plums_!” Bruno put in once more; and Sylvie seemed
satisfied.)

“And ever after that, they _were_ such good little Foxes! They did their
lessons as good as gold—and they never did what Bruno told them not
to—and they never ate each other any more—and _they never ate
themselves_!”

The story came to an end so suddenly, it almost took my breath away;
however I did my best to make a pretty speech of thanks. “I’m sure it’s
very—very—very much so, I’m sure!” I seemed to hear myself say.



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                          BEYOND THESE VOICES.


“I didn’t quite catch what you said!” were the next words that reached
my ear, but certainly _not_ in the voice either of Sylvie or of Bruno,
whom I could just see, through the crowd of guests, standing by the
piano, and listening to the Count’s song. Mein Herr was the speaker. “I
didn’t quite catch what you said!” he repeated. “But I’ve no doubt you
take _my_ view of it. Thank you _very_ much for your kind attention.
There is only but _one_ verse left to be sung!” These last words were
not in the gentle voice of Mein Herr, but in the deep bass of the French
Count. And, in the silence that followed, the final stanza of ‘Tottles’
rang through the room.

[Illustration: ‘NEVER!’ YELLED TOTTLES]

  See now this couple settled down
  In quiet lodgings, out of town:
  Submissively the tearful wife
  Accepts a plain and humble life:
  Yet begs one boon on bended knee:
  ‘My ducky-darling, don’t resent it!
  Mamma might come for two or three——’
  ‘NEVER!’ yelled Tottles. And he meant it.

The conclusion of the song was followed by quite a chorus of thanks and
compliments from all parts of the room, which the gratified singer
responded to by bowing low in all directions. “It is to me a great
privilege,” he said to Lady Muriel, “to have met with this so marvellous
a song. The accompaniment to him is so strange, so mysterious: it is as
if a new music were to be invented! I will play him once again so as
that to show you what I mean.” He returned to the piano, but the song
had vanished.

The bewildered singer searched through the heap of music lying on an
adjoining table, but it was not there, either. Lady Muriel helped in the
search: others soon joined: the excitement grew. “What _can_ have become
of it?” exclaimed Lady Muriel. Nobody knew: one thing only was certain,
that no one had been near the piano since the Count had sung the last
verse of the song.

“Nevare mind him!” he said, most good-naturedly. “I shall give it you
with memory alone!” He sat down, and began vaguely fingering the notes;
but nothing resembling the tune came out. Then he, too, grew excited.
“But what oddness! How much of singularity! That I might lose, not the
words alone, but the tune also—that is quite curious, I suppose?”

We all supposed it, heartily.

“It was that sweet little boy, who found it for me,” the Count
suggested. “Quite perhaps _he_ is the thief?”

“Of course he is!” cried Lady Muriel. “Bruno! Where are you, my
darling?”

But no Bruno replied: it seemed that the two children had vanished as
suddenly, and as mysteriously, as the song.

“They are playing us a trick!” Lady Muriel gaily exclaimed. “This is
only an _ex tempore_ game of Hide-and-Seek! That little Bruno is an
embodied Mischief!”

The suggestion was a welcome one to most of us, for some of the guests
were beginning to look decidedly uneasy. A general search was set on
foot with much enthusiasm: curtains were thrown back and shaken,
cupboards opened, and ottomans turned over; but the number of possible
hiding-places proved to be strictly limited; and the search came to an
end almost as soon as it had begun.

“They must have run out, while we were wrapped up in the song,” Lady
Muriel said, addressing herself to the Count, who seemed more agitated
than the others; “and no doubt they’ve found their way back to the
housekeeper’s room.”

“Not by _this_ door!” was the earnest protest of a knot of two or three
gentlemen, who had been grouped round the door (one of them actually
leaning against it) for the last half-hour, as they declared. “_This_
door has not been opened since the song began!”

An uncomfortable silence followed this announcement. Lady Muriel
ventured no further conjectures, but quietly examined the fastenings of
the windows, which opened as doors. They all proved to be well fastened,
_inside_.

Not yet at the end of her resources, Lady Muriel rang the bell. “Ask the
housekeeper to step here,” she said, “and to bring the children’s
walking-things with her.”

“I’ve brought them, my Lady,” said the obsequious housekeeper, entering
after another minute of silence. “I thought the young lady would have
come to my room to put on her boots. Here’s your boots, my love!” she
added cheerfully, looking in all directions for the children. There was
no answer, and she turned to Lady Muriel with a puzzled smile. “Have the
little darlings hid themselves?”

“I don’t see them, just now,” Lady Muriel replied, rather evasively.
“You can leave their things here, Wilson. _I’ll_ dress them, when
they’re ready to go.”

The two little hats, and Sylvie’s walking-jacket, were handed round
among the ladies, with many exclamations of delight. There certainly was
a sort of witchery of beauty about them. Even the little boots did not
miss their share of favorable criticism. “Such natty little things!” the
musical young lady exclaimed, almost fondling them as she spoke. “And
what tiny tiny feet they must have!”

Finally, the things were piled together on the centre-ottoman, and the
guests, despairing of seeing the children again, began to wish
good-night and leave the house.

There were only some eight or nine left—to whom the Count was
explaining, for the twentieth time, how he had had his eye on the
children during the last verse of the song; how he had then glanced
round the room, to see what effect “de great chest-note” had had upon
his audience; and how, when he looked back again, they had both
disappeared—when exclamations of dismay began to be heard on all sides,
the Count hastily bringing his story to an end to join in the outcry.

The walking-things had all disappeared!

After the utter failure of the search for the _children_, there was a
very half-hearted search made for their _apparel_. The remaining guests
seemed only too glad to get away, leaving only the Count and our four
selves.

The Count sank into an easy-chair, and panted a little.

“Who then _are_ these dear children, I pray you?” he said. “Why come
they, why go they, in this so little ordinary a fashion? That the music
should make itself to vanish—that the hats, the boots, should make
themselves to vanish—how is it, I pray you?”

“I’ve no idea where they are!” was all I could say, on finding myself
appealed to, by general consent, for an explanation.

The Count seemed about to ask further questions, but checked himself.

“The hour makes himself to become late,” he said. “I wish to you a very
good night, my Lady. I betake myself to my bed—to dream—if that indeed I
be not dreaming now!” And he hastily left the room.

“Stay awhile, stay awhile!” said the Earl, as I was about to follow the
Count. “_You_ are not a guest, you know! Arthur’s friend is at _home_
here!”

“Thanks!” I said, as, with true English instincts, we drew our chairs
together round the fire-place, though no fire was burning—Lady Muriel
having taken the heap of music on her knee, to have one more search for
the strangely-vanished song.

“Don’t you sometimes feel a wild longing,” she said, addressing herself
to me, “to have something more to do with your hands, while you talk,
than just holding a cigar, and now and then knocking off the ash? Oh, I
know all that you’re going to say!” (This was to Arthur, who appeared
about to interrupt her.) “The Majesty of Thought supersedes the work of
the fingers. A Man’s severe thinking, _plus_ the shaking-off a
cigar-ash, comes to the same total as a Woman’s trivial fancies, _plus_
the most elaborate embroidery. _That’s_ your sentiment, isn’t it, only
better expressed?”

Arthur looked into the radiant, mischievous face, with a grave and very
tender smile. “Yes,” he said resignedly: “that is my sentiment,
exactly.”

“Rest of body, and activity of mind,” I put in. “Some writer tells us
_that_ is the acme of human happiness.”

“Plenty of _bodily_ rest, at any rate!” Lady Muriel replied, glancing at
the three recumbent figures around her. “But what you call activity of
_mind_——”

“—is the privilege of young Physicians _only_,” said the Earl. “We old
men have no claim to be active! _What can an old man do but die?_”

“A good many other things, I should _hope_,” Arthur said earnestly.

“Well, maybe. Still you have the advantage of me in many ways, dear boy!
Not only that _your_ day is dawning while _mine_ is setting, but your
_interest_ in Life—somehow I ca’n’t help envying you _that_. It will be
many a year before you lose your hold of _that_.”

“Yet surely many human interests _survive_ human Life?” I said.

“Many do, no doubt. And _some_ forms of Science; but only _some_, I
think. Mathematics, for instance: _that_ seems to possess an endless
interest: one ca’n’t imagine _any_ form of Life, or _any_ race of
intelligent beings, where Mathematical truth would lose its meaning. But
I fear _Medicine_ stands on a different footing. Suppose you discover a
remedy for some disease hitherto supposed to be incurable. Well, it is
delightful for the moment, no doubt—full of interest—perhaps it brings
you fame and fortune. But what then? Look on, a few years, into a life
where disease has no existence. What is your discovery worth, _then_?
Milton makes Jove promise too much. ‘_Of so much fame in heaven expect
thy meed._’ Poor comfort, when one’s ‘fame’ concerns matters that will
have ceased to have a meaning!”

“At any rate, one wouldn’t care to make any _fresh_ medical
discoveries,” said Arthur. “I see no help for _that_—though I shall be
sorry to give up my favorite studies. Still, medicine, disease, pain,
sorrow, sin—I fear they’re all linked together. Banish sin, and you
banish them all!”

“_Military_ science is a yet stronger instance,” said the Earl. “Without
sin, _war_ would surely be impossible. Still any mind, that has had in
this life any keen interest, not in _itself_ sinful, will surely find
itself _some_ congenial line of work hereafter. Wellington may have no
more _battles_ to fight—and yet—

  ‘We doubt not that, for one so true,
  There must be other, nobler work to do,
  Than when he fought at Waterloo,
        And Victor he must ever be!’”

He lingered over the beautiful words, as if he loved them: and his
voice, like distant music, died away into silence.

After a minute or two he began again. “If I’m not wearying you, I would
like to tell you an idea of the future Life which has haunted me for
years, like a sort of waking nightmare—I ca’n’t reason myself out of
it.”

“Pray do,” Arthur and I replied, almost in a breath. Lady Muriel put
aside the heap of music, and folded her hands together.

“The one idea,” the Earl resumed, “that has seemed to me to overshadow
all the rest, is that of _Eternity_—involving, as it seems to do, the
necessary _exhaustion_ of all subjects of human interest. Take Pure
Mathematics, for instance—a Science independent of our present
surroundings. I have studied it, myself, a little. Take the subject of
circles and ellipses—what we call ‘curves of the second degree.’ In a
future Life, it would only be a question of so many years (or _hundreds_
of years, if you like), for a man to work out _all_ their properties.
Then he _might_ go to curves of the third degree. Say _that_ took ten
times as long (you see we have _unlimited_ time to deal with). I can
hardly imagine his _interest_ in the subject holding out even for those;
and, though there is no limit to the _degree_ of the curves he might
study, yet surely the time, needed to exhaust _all_ the novelty and
interest of the subject, would be absolutely _finite_? And so of all
other branches of Science. And, when I transport myself, in thought,
through some thousands or millions of years, and fancy myself possessed
of as much Science as one created reason can carry, I ask myself ‘What
then? With nothing more to learn, can one rest content on _knowledge_,
for the eternity yet to be lived through?’ It has been a very wearying
thought to me. I have sometimes fancied one _might_, in that event, say
‘It is better _not_ to be,’ and pray for personal _annihilation_—the
Nirvana of the Buddhists.”

“But that is only half the picture,” I said. “Besides working for
_oneself_, may there not be the helping of _others_?”

“Surely, surely!” Lady Muriel exclaimed in a tone of relief, looking at
her father with sparkling eyes.

“Yes,” said the Earl, “so long as there _were_ any others needing help.
But, given ages and ages more, surely all created reasons would at
length reach the same dead level of _satiety_. And _then_ what is there
to look forward to?”

“I know that weary feeling,” said the young Doctor. “I have gone through
it all, more than once. Now let me tell you how I have put it to myself.
I have imagined a little child, playing with toys on his nursery-floor,
and yet able to _reason_, and to look on, thirty years ahead. Might he
not say to himself ‘By that time I shall have had enough of bricks and
ninepins. How weary Life will be!’ Yet, if we look forward through those
thirty years, we find him a great statesman, full of interests and joys
far more intense than his baby-life could give—joys wholly inconceivable
to his baby-mind—joys such as no baby-language could in the faintest
degree describe. Now, may not our life, a million years hence, have the
same relation, to our life now, that the man’s life has to the child’s?
And, just as one might try, all in vain, to express to that child, in
the language of bricks and ninepins, the meaning of ‘politics,’ so
perhaps all those descriptions of Heaven, with its music, and its
feasts, and its streets of gold, may be only attempts to describe, in
_our_ words, things for which we _really_ have no words at all. Don’t
you think that, in _your_ picture of another life, you are in fact
transplanting that child into political life, without making any
allowance for his growing up?”

“I think I understand you,” said the Earl. “The music of Heaven _may_ be
something beyond our powers of thought. Yet the music of Earth is sweet!
Muriel, my child, sing us something before we go to bed!”

“Do,” said Arthur, as he rose and lit the candles on the cottage-piano,
lately banished from the drawing-room to make room for a ‘semi-grand.’
“There is a song here, that I have never heard you sing.

  ‘Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
    Bird thou never wert,
  That from Heaven, or near it,
    Pourest thy full heart!’”

he read from the page he had spread open before her.

“And our little life here,” the Earl went on, “is, to that grand time,
like a child’s summer-day! One gets tired as night draws on,” he added,
with a touch of sadness in his voice, “and one gets to long for bed! For
those welcome words ‘Come, child, ’tis bed-time!’”



                             CHAPTER XVII.
                             TO THE RESCUE!


“It _isn’t_ bed-time!” said a sleepy little voice. “The owls hasn’t gone
to bed, and I s’a’n’t go to seep wizout oo sings to me!”

“Oh, Bruno!” cried Sylvie. “Don’t you know the owls have only just got
up? But the _frogs_ have gone to bed, ages ago.”

“Well, _I_ aren’t a frog,” said Bruno.

“What shall I sing?” said Sylvie, skilfully avoiding the argument.

“Ask Mister Sir,” Bruno lazily replied, clasping his hands behind his
curly head, and lying back on his fern-leaf, till it almost bent over
with his weight. “This aren’t a comfable leaf, Sylvie. Find me a
comfabler—please!” he added, as an after-thought, in obedience to a
warning finger held up by Sylvie. “I doosn’t like being feet-upwards!”

It was a pretty sight to see—the motherly way in which the fairy-child
gathered up her little brother in her arms, and laid him on a stronger
leaf. She gave it just a touch to set it rocking, and it went on
vigorously by itself, as if it contained some hidden machinery. It
certainly wasn’t the wind, for the evening-breeze had quite died away
again, and not a leaf was stirring over our heads.

“Why does that one leaf rock so, without the others?” I asked Sylvie.
She only smiled sweetly and shook her head. “I don’t know _why_,” she
said. “It always does, if it’s got a fairy-child on it. It _has_ to, you
know.”

“And can people see the leaf rock, who ca’n’t see the Fairy on it?”

“Why, of course!” cried Sylvie. “A leaf’s a leaf, and everybody can see
it; but Bruno’s Bruno, and they ca’n’t see _him_, unless they’re eerie,
like you.”

Then I understood how it was that one sometimes sees—going through the
woods in a still evening—one fern-leaf rocking steadily on, all by
itself. Haven’t you ever seen that? Try if you can see the fairy-sleeper
on it, next time; but don’t _pick_ the leaf, whatever you do; let the
little one sleep on!

But all this time Bruno was getting sleepier and sleepier. “Sing, sing!”
he murmured fretfully. Sylvie looked to me for instructions. “What shall
it be?” she said.

“Could you sing him the nursery-song you once told me of?” I suggested.
“The one that had been put through the mind-mangle, you know. ‘_The
little man that had a little gun_,’ I think it was.”

“Why, that are one of the _Professor’s_ songs!” cried Bruno. “I likes
the little man; and I likes the way they spinned him——like a
teetle-totle-tum.” And he turned a loving look on the gentle old man who
was sitting at the other side of his leaf-bed, and who instantly began
to sing, accompanying himself on his Outlandish guitar, while the snail,
on which he sat, waved its horns in time to the music.

[Illustration: BRUNO’S BED-TIME]

  In stature the Manlet was dwarfish——
    No burly big Blunderbore he:
  And he wearily gazed on the crawfish
    His Wifelet had dressed for his tea.
  “Now reach me, sweet Atom, my gunlet,
    And hurl the old shoelet for luck:
  Let me hie to the bank of the runlet,
              And shoot thee a Duck!”

  She has reached him his minikin gunlet:
    She has hurled the old shoelet for luck:
  She is busily baking a bunlet,
    To welcome him home with his Duck.
  On he speeds, never wasting a wordlet,
    Though thoughtlets cling, closely as wax,
  To the spot where the beautiful birdlet
                So quietly quacks.

[Illustration: ‘LONG CEREMONIOUS CALLS’]

  Where the Lobsterlet lurks, and the Crablet
    So slowly and sleepily crawls:
  Where the Dolphin’s at home, and the Dablet
    Pays long ceremonious calls:
  Where the Grublet is sought by the Froglet:
    Where the Frog is pursued by the Duck:
  Where the Ducklet is chased by the Doglet——
              So runs the world’s luck!

[Illustration: THE VOICES]

  He has loaded with bullet and powder:
    His footfall is noiseless as air:
  But the Voices grow louder and louder,
    And bellow, and bluster, and blare.
  They bristle before him and after,
    They flutter above and below,
  Shrill shriekings of lubberly laughter,
                Weird wailings of woe!

  They echo without him, within him:
    They thrill through his whiskers and beard:
  Like a teetotum seeming to spin him,
    With sneers never hitherto sneered.
  “Avengement,” they cry, “on our Foelet!
    Let the Manikin weep for our wrongs!
  Let us drench him, from toplet to toelet,
              With Nursery-Songs!

[Illustration: ‘HIS SOUL SHALL BE SAD FOR THE SPIDER’]

  “He shall muse upon ‘Hey! Diddle! Diddle!’
    On the Cow that surmounted the Moon:
  He shall rave of the Cat and the Fiddle,
    And the Dish that eloped with the Spoon:
  And his soul shall be sad for the Spider,
    When Miss Muffet was sipping her whey,
  That so tenderly sat down beside her,
                And scared her away!

  “The music of Midsummer-madness
    Shall sting him with many a bite,
  Till, in rapture of rollicking sadness,
    He shall groan with a gloomy delight:
  He shall swathe him, like mists of the morning,
    In platitudes luscious and limp,
  Such as deck, with a deathless adorning,
              The Song of the Shrimp!

  “When the Ducklet’s dark doom is decided,
    We will trundle him home in a trice:
  And the banquet, so plainly provided,
    Shall round into rose-buds and rice:
  In a blaze of pragmatic invention
    He shall wrestle with Fate, and shall reign:
  But he has not a friend fit to mention,
              So hit him again!”

  He has shot it, the delicate darling!
    And the Voices have ceased from their strife:
  Not a whisper of sneering or snarling;
    As he carries it home to his wife:
  Then, cheerily champing the bunlet
    His spouse was so skilful to bake,
  He hies him once more to the runlet,
              To fetch her the Drake!

“He’s sound asleep now,” said Sylvie, carefully tucking in the edge of a
violet-leaf, which she had been spreading over him as a sort of blanket:
“good night!”

“Good night!” I echoed.

“You may well say ‘good night’!” laughed Lady Muriel, rising and
shutting up the piano as she spoke. “When you’ve been nid—nid—nodding
all the time I’ve been singing for your benefit! What was it all about,
now?” she demanded imperiously.

“Something about a duck?” I hazarded. “Well, a bird of some kind?” I
corrected myself, perceiving at once that _that_ guess was wrong, at any
rate.

“_Something about a bird of some kind!_” Lady Muriel repeated, with as
much withering scorn as her sweet face was capable of conveying. “And
that’s the way he speaks of Shelley’s Sky-Lark, is it? When the Poet
particularly says ‘_Hail to thee, blithe spirit!_ Bird _thou never
wert_!’”

[Illustration: LORDS OF THE CREATION]

She led the way to the smoking-room, where, ignoring all the usages of
Society and all the instincts of Chivalry, the three Lords of the
Creation reposed at their ease in low rocking-chairs, and permitted the
one lady who was present to glide gracefully about among us, supplying
our wants in the form of cooling drinks, cigarettes, and lights. Nay, it
was only _one_ of the three who had the chivalry to go beyond the
common-place “thank you,” and to quote the Poet’s exquisite description
of how Geraint, when waited on by Enid, was moved

  “To stoop and kiss the tender little thumb
  That crossed the platter as she laid it down,”

and to suit the action to the word—an audacious liberty for which, I
feel bound to report, he was _not_ duly reprimanded.

As no topic of conversation seemed to occur to any one, and as we were,
all four, on those delightful terms with one another (the only terms, I
think, on which any friendship, that deserves the name of _intimacy_,
can be maintained) which involve no sort of necessity for _speaking_ for
mere speaking’s sake, we sat in silence for some minutes.

At length I broke the silence by asking “Is there any fresh news from
the harbour about the Fever?”

“None since this morning,” the Earl said, looking very grave. “But that
was alarming enough. The Fever is spreading fast: the London doctor has
taken fright and left the place, and the only one now available isn’t a
regular doctor at all: he is apothecary, and doctor, and dentist, and I
don’t know what other trades, all in one. It’s a bad outlook for those
poor fishermen—and a worse one for all the women and children.”

“How many are there of them altogether?” Arthur asked.

“There were nearly one hundred, a week ago.” said the Earl: “but there
have been twenty or thirty deaths since then.”

“And what religious ministrations are there to be had?”

“There are three brave men down there,” the Earl replied, his voice
trembling with emotion, “gallant heroes as ever won the Victoria Cross!
I am certain that no one of the three will ever leave the place merely
to save his own life. There’s the Curate: his wife is with him: they
have no children. Then there’s the Roman Catholic Priest. And there’s
the Wesleyan Minister. They go amongst their own flocks, mostly; but I’m
told that those who are dying like to have _any_ of the three with them.
How slight the barriers seem to be that part Christian from Christian,
when one has to deal with the great facts of Life and the reality of
Death!”

“So it must be, and so it should be——” Arthur was beginning, when the
front-door bell rang, suddenly and violently.

We heard the front-door hastily opened, and voices outside: then a knock
at the door of the smoking-room, and the old house-keeper appeared,
looking a little scared.

“Two persons, my Lord, to speak with Dr. Forester.”

Arthur stepped outside at once, and we heard his cheery “Well, my men?”
but the answer was less audible, the only words I could distinctly catch
being “ten since morning, and two more just——”

“But there _is_ a doctor there?” we heard Arthur say: and a deep voice,
that we had not heard before, replied “Dead, Sir. Died three hours ago.”

Lady Muriel shuddered, and hid her face in her hands: but at this moment
the front-door was quietly closed, and we heard no more.

For a few minutes we sat quite silent: then the Earl left the room, and
soon returned to tell us that Arthur had gone away with the two
fishermen, leaving word that he would be back in about an hour. And,
true enough, at the end of that interval—during which very little was
said, none of us seeming to have the heart to talk—the front-door once
more creaked on its rusty hinges, and a step was heard in the passage,
hardly to be recognised as Arthur’s, so slow and uncertain was it, like
a blind man feeling his way.

He came in, and stood before Lady Muriel, resting one hand heavily on
the table, and with a strange look in his eyes, as if he were walking in
his sleep.

“Muriel—my love——” he paused, and his lips quivered: but after a minute
he went on more steadily. “Muriel—my darling—they—_want_ me—down in the
harbour.”

“_Must_ you go?” she pleaded, rising and laying her hands on his
shoulders, and looking up into his face with her great eyes brimming
over with tears. “Must _you_ go, Arthur? It may mean—death!”

He met her gaze without flinching. “It _does_ mean death,” he said, in a
husky whisper: “but—darling—I am _called_. And even my life itself——”
His voice failed him, and he said no more.

For a minute she stood quite silent, looking upwards with a helpless
gaze, as if even prayer were now useless, while her features worked and
quivered with the great agony she was enduring. Then a sudden
inspiration seemed to come upon her and light up her face with a strange
sweet smile. “_Your_ life?” she repeated. “It is not _yours_ to give!”

Arthur had recovered himself by this time, and could reply quite firmly,
“That is true,” he said. “It is not _mine_ to give. It is _yours_, now,
my—wife that is to be! And you—do _you_ forbid me to go? Will you not
spare me, my own beloved one?”

Still clinging to him, she laid her head softly on his breast. She had
never done such a thing in my presence before, and I knew how deeply she
must be moved. “I _will_ spare you,” she said, calmly and quietly, “to
God.”

“And to God’s poor,” he whispered.

“And to God’s poor,” she added. “When must it be, sweet love?”

[Illustration: ‘WILL YOU NOT SPARE ME?’]

“To-morrow morning,” he replied. “And I have much to do before then.”

And then he told us how he had spent his hour of absence. He had been to
the Vicarage, and had arranged for the wedding to take place at eight
the next morning (there was no legal obstacle, as he had, some time
before this, obtained a Special License) in the little church we knew so
well. “My old friend here,” indicating me, “will act as ‘Best Man,’ I
know: your father will be there to give you away: and—and—you will
dispense with bride’s-maids, my darling?”

She nodded: no words came.

“And then I can go with a willing heart—to do God’s work—knowing that we
are _one_—and that we are together in _spirit_, though not in bodily
presence—and are most of all together when we pray! Our _prayers_ will
go up together——”

“Yes, yes!” sobbed Lady Muriel. “But you must not stay longer now, my
darling! Go home and take some rest. You will need all your strength
to-morrow——”

“Well, I will go,” said Arthur. “We will be here in good time to-morrow.
Good night, my own own darling!”

I followed his example, and we two left the house together. As we walked
back to our lodgings, Arthur sighed deeply once or twice, and seemed
about to speak—but no words came, till we had entered the house, and had
lit our candles, and were at our bedroom-doors. Then Arthur said “Good
night, old fellow! God bless you!”

“God bless you!” I echoed, from the very depths of my heart.

We were back again at the Hall by eight in the morning, and found Lady
Muriel and the Earl, and the old Vicar, waiting for us. It was a
strangely sad and silent party that walked up to the little church and
back; and I could not help feeling that it was much more like a funeral
than a wedding: to Lady Muriel it _was_ in fact, a funeral rather than a
wedding, so heavily did the presentiment weigh upon her (as she told us
afterwards) that her newly-won husband was going forth to his death.

Then we had breakfast; and, all too soon, the vehicle was at the door,
which was to convey Arthur, first to his lodgings, to pick up the things
he was taking with him, and then as far towards the death-stricken
hamlet as it was considered safe to go. One or two of the fishermen were
to meet him on the road, to carry his things the rest of the way.

“And are you quite sure you are taking all that you will need?” Lady
Muriel asked.

“All that I shall need as a _doctor_, certainly. And my own personal
needs are few: I shall not even take any of my own wardrobe—there is a
fisherman’s suit, ready-made, that is waiting for me at my lodgings. I
shall only take my watch, and a few books, and—stay—there _is_ one book
I should like to add, a pocket-Testament—to use at the bedsides of the
sick and dying——”

“Take mine!” said Lady Muriel: and she ran upstairs to fetch it. “It has
nothing written in it but ‘Muriel,’” she said as she returned with it:
“shall I inscribe——”

“No, my own one,” said Arthur, taking it from her. “What _could_ you
inscribe better than that? Could any human name mark it more clearly as
my own individual property? Are _you_ not mine? Are you not,” (with all
the old playfulness of manner) “as Bruno would say, ‘my _very mine_’?”

He bade a long and loving adieu to the Earl and to me, and left the
room, accompanied only by his wife, who was bearing up bravely, and
was—_outwardly_, at least—less overcome than her old father. We waited
in the room a minute or two, till the sound of wheels had told us that
Arthur had driven away; and even then we waited still, for the step of
Lady Muriel, going upstairs to her room, to die away in the distance.
Her step, usually so light and joyous, now sounded slow and weary, like
one who plods on under a load of hopeless misery; and I felt almost as
hopeless, and almost as wretched, as she. “Are we four destined _ever_
to meet again, on this side the grave?” I asked myself, as I walked to
my home. And the tolling of a distant bell seemed to answer me, “No! No!
No!”



                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                          A NEWSPAPER-CUTTING.


                _EXTRACT FROM THE “FAYFIELD CHRONICLE.”_

_Our readers will have followed with painful interest, the accounts we
have from time to time published of the terrible epidemic which has,
during the last two months, carried off most of the inhabitants of the
little fishing-harbour adjoining the village of Elveston. The last
survivors, numbering twenty-three only, out of a population which, three
short months ago, exceeded one hundred and twenty, were removed on
Wednesday last, under the authority of the Local Board, and safely
lodged in the County Hospital: and the place is now veritably ‘a city of
the dead,’ without a single human voice to break its silence._

_The rescuing party consisted of six sturdy fellows—fishermen from the
neighbourhood—directed by the resident Physician of the Hospital, who
came over for that purpose, heading a train of hospital-ambulances. The
six men had been selected—from a much larger number who had volunteered
for this peaceful ‘forlorn hope’—for their strength and robust health,
as the expedition was considered to be, even now, when the malady has
expended its chief force, not unattended with danger._

_Every precaution that science could suggest, against the risk of
infection, was adopted: and the sufferers were tenderly carried on
litters, one by one, up the steep hill, and placed in the ambulances
which, each provided with a hospital nurse, were waiting on the level
road. The fifteen miles, to the Hospital, were done at a walking-pace,
as some of the patients were in too prostrate a condition to bear
jolting, and the journey occupied the whole afternoon._

_The twenty-three patients consist of nine men, six women, and eight
children. It has not been found possible to identify them all, as some
of the children—left with no surviving relatives—are infants; and two
men and one woman are not yet able to make rational replies, the
brain-powers being entirely in abeyance. Among a more well-to-do-race,
there would no doubt have been names marked on the clothes; but here no
such evidence is forthcoming._

_Besides the poor fishermen and their families, there were but five
persons to be accounted for: and it was ascertained, beyond a doubt,
that all five are numbered with the dead. It is a melancholy pleasure to
place on record the names of these genuine martyrs—than whom none,
surely, are more worthy to be entered on the glory-roll of England’s
heroes! They are as follows:—_

_The Rev. James Burgess, M.A., and Emma his wife. He was the Curate at
the Harbour, not thirty years old, and had been married only two years.
A written record was found in their house, of the dates of their
deaths._

_Next to theirs we will place the honoured name of Dr. Arthur Forester,
who, on the death of the local physician, nobly faced the imminent peril
of death, rather than leave these poor folk uncared for in their last
extremity. No record of his name, or of the date of his death, was
found: but the corpse was easily identified, although dressed in the
ordinary fisherman’s suit (which he was known to have adopted when he
went down there), by a copy of the New Testament, the gift of his wife,
which was found, placed next his heart, with his hands crossed over it.
It was not thought prudent to remove the body, for burial elsewhere: and
accordingly it was at once committed to the ground, along with four
others found in different houses, with all due reverence. His wife,
whose maiden name was Lady Muriel Orme, had been married to him on the
very morning on which he undertook his self-sacrificing mission._

_Next we record the Rev. Walter Saunders, Wesleyan Minister. His death
is believed to have taken place two or three weeks ago, as the words
‘Died October 5’ were found written on the wall of the room which he is
known to have occupied—the house being shut up, and apparently not
having been entered for some time._

_Last—though not a whit behind the other four in glorious self-denial
and devotion to duty—let us record the name of Father Francis, a young
Jesuit Priest who had been only a few months in the place. He had not
been dead many hours when the exploring party came upon the body, which
was identified, beyond the possibility of doubt, by the dress, and by
the crucifix which was, like the young Doctor’s Testament, clasped
closely to his heart._

_Since reaching the hospital, two of the men and one of the children
have died. Hope is entertained for all the others: though there are two
or three cases where the vital powers seem to be so entirely exhausted
that it is but ‘hoping against hope’ to regard ultimate recovery as even
possible._



                              CHAPTER XIX.
                             A FAIRY-DUET.


The year—what an eventful year it had been for me!—was drawing to a
close, and the brief wintry day hardly gave light enough to recognise
the old familiar objects, bound up with so many happy memories, as the
train glided round the last bend into the station, and the hoarse cry of
“Elveston! Elveston!” resounded along the platform.

It was sad to return to the place, and to feel that I should never again
see the glad smile of welcome, that had awaited me here so few months
ago. “And yet, if I were to find him here,” I muttered, as in solitary
state I followed the porter, who was wheeling my luggage on a barrow,
“and if he _were_ to ‘_strike a sudden hand in mine, And ask a thousand
things of home_,’ I should not—no, ‘_I should not feel it to be
strange_’!”

Having given directions to have my luggage taken to my old lodgings, I
strolled off alone, to pay a visit, before settling down in my own
quarters, to my dear old friends—for such I indeed felt them to be,
though it was barely half a year since first we met—the Earl and his
widowed daughter.

The shortest way, as I well remembered, was to cross through the
churchyard. I pushed open the little wicket-gate and slowly took my way
among the solemn memorials of the quiet dead, thinking of the many who
had, during the past year, disappeared from the place, and had gone to
‘join the majority.’ A very few steps brought me in sight of the object
of my search. Lady Muriel, dressed in the deepest mourning, her face
hidden by a long crape veil, was kneeling before a little marble cross,
round which she was fastening a wreath of flowers.

The cross stood on a piece of level turf, unbroken by any mound, and I
knew that it was simply a memorial-cross, for one whose dust reposed
elsewhere, even before reading the simple inscription:—

                         _In loving Memory of_
                         ARTHUR FORESTER, M.D.
              _whose mortal remains lie buried by the sea:
             whose spirit has returned to God who gave it_.

               _“Greater love hath no man than this, that
               a man lay down his life for his friends.”_

She threw back her veil on seeing me approach, and came forwards to meet
me, with a quiet smile, and far more self-possessed than I could have
expected.

“It is quite like old times, seeing _you_ here again!” she said, in
tones of genuine pleasure. “Have you been to see my father?”

“No,” I said: “I was on my way there, and came through here as the
shortest way. I hope he is well, and you also?”

“Thanks, we are both quite well. And you? Are you any better yet?”

“Not much better, I fear: but no worse, I am thankful to say.”

“Let us sit here awhile, and have a quiet chat,” she said. The
calmness—almost indifference—of her manner quite took me by surprise. I
little guessed what a fierce restraint she was putting upon herself.

“One can be so quiet here,” she resumed. “I come here every—every day.”

“It is very peaceful,” I said.

“You got my letter?”

“Yes, but I delayed writing. It is so hard to say—on _paper_—”

“I know. It was kind of you. You were with us when we saw the last of——”
She paused a moment, and went on more hurriedly. “I went down to the
harbour several times, but no one knows which of those vast graves it
is. However, they showed me the house he died in: that was some comfort.
I stood in the very room where—where——.” She struggled in vain to go on.
The flood-gates had given way at last, and the outburst of grief was the
most terrible I had ever witnessed. Totally regardless of my presence,
she flung herself down on the turf, burying her face in the grass, and
with her hands clasped round the little marble cross, “Oh, my darling,
my darling!” she sobbed. “And God meant your life to be so beautiful!”

[Illustration: IN THE CHURCH-YARD]

I was startled to hear, thus repeated by Lady Muriel, the very words of
the darling child whom I had seen weeping so bitterly over the dead
hare. Had some mysterious influence passed, from that sweet
fairy-spirit, ere she went back to Fairyland, into the human spirit that
loved her so dearly? The idea seemed too wild for belief. And yet, are
there not ‘_more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our
philosophy_’?

“God _meant_ it to be beautiful,” I whispered, “and surely it _was_
beautiful? God’s purpose never fails!” I dared say no more, but rose and
left her. At the entrance-gate to the Earl’s house I waited, leaning on
the gate and watching the sun set, revolving many memories—some happy,
some sorrowful—until Lady Muriel joined me.

She was quite calm again now. “Do come in,” she said. “My father will be
so pleased to see you!”

The old man rose from his chair, with a smile, to welcome me; but his
self-command was far less than his daughter’s, and the tears coursed
down his face as he grasped both my hands in his, and pressed them
warmly.

My heart was too full to speak; and we all sat silent for a minute or
two. Then Lady Muriel rang the bell for tea. “You _do_ take five o’clock
tea, I know!” she said to me, with the sweet playfulness of manner I
remembered so well, “even though you _ca’n’t_ work your wicked will on
the Law of Gravity, and make the teacups descend into Infinite Space, a
little faster than the tea!”

This remark gave the tone to our conversation. By a tacit mutual
consent, we avoided, during this our first meeting after her great
sorrow, the painful topics that filled our thoughts, and talked like
light-hearted children who had never known a care.

“Did you ever ask yourself the question,” Lady Muriel began, _à propos_
of nothing, “what is the _chief_ advantage of being a Man instead of a
Dog?”

“No, indeed,” I said: “but I think there are advantages on the _Dog’s_
side of the question, as well.”

“No doubt,” she replied, with that pretty mock-gravity that became her
so well: “but, on _Man’s_ side, the chief advantage seems to me to
consist in _having pockets_! It was borne in upon me—upon _us_, I should
say; for my father and I were returning from a walk—only yesterday. We
met a dog carrying home a bone. What it wanted it for, I’ve no idea:
certainly there was no _meat_ on it——”

A strange sensation came over me, that I had heard all this, or
something exactly like it, before: and I almost expected her next words
to be “perhaps he meant to make a cloak for the winter?” However what
she really said was “and my father tried to account for it by some
wretched joke about _pro bono publico_. Well, the dog laid down the
bone—_not_ in disgust with the pun, which would have shown it to be a
dog of taste—but simply to rest its jaws, poor thing! I _did_ pity it
so! Won’t you join my _Charitable Association for supplying dogs with
pockets_? How would _you_ like to have to carry your walking-stick in
your mouth?”

Ignoring the difficult question as to the _raison d’être_ of a
walking-stick, supposing one had no _hands_, I mentioned a curious
instance, I had once witnessed, of reasoning by a dog. A gentleman, with
a lady, and child, and a large dog, were down at the end of a pier on
which I was walking. To amuse his child, I suppose, the gentleman put
down on the ground his umbrella and the lady’s parasol, and then led the
way to the other end of the pier, from which he sent the dog back for
the deserted articles. I was watching with some curiosity. The dog came
racing back to where I stood, but found an unexpected difficulty in
picking up the things it had come for. With the umbrella in its mouth,
its jaws were so far apart that it could get no firm grip on the
parasol. After two or three failures, it paused and considered the
matter.

Then it put down the umbrella and began with the parasol. Of course that
didn’t open its jaws nearly so wide, and it was able to get a good hold
of the umbrella, and galloped off in triumph. One couldn’t doubt that it
had gone through a real train of logical thought.

“I entirely agree with you,” said Lady Muriel: “but don’t orthodox
writers condemn that view, as putting Man on the level of the lower
animals? Don’t they draw a sharp boundary-line between Reason and
Instinct?”

“That certainly _was_ the orthodox view, a generation ago,” said the
Earl. “The truth of Religion seemed ready to stand or fall with the
assertion that Man was the only reasoning animal. But that is at an end
now. Man can still claim _certain_ monopolies—for instance, such a use
of _language_ as enables us to utilise the work of many, by ‘division of
labour.’ But the belief, that we have a monopoly of _Reason_, has long
been swept away. Yet no catastrophe has followed. As some old poet says,
‘_God is where he was_.’”

“Most religious believers would _now_ agree with Bishop Butler,” said I,
“and not reject a line of argument, even if it led straight to the
conclusion that animals have some kind of _soul_, which survives their
bodily death.”

“I _would_ like to know _that_ to be true!” Lady Muriel exclaimed. “If
only for the sake of the poor horses. Sometimes I’ve thought that, if
anything _could_ make me cease to believe in a God of perfect justice,
it would be the sufferings of horses—without guilt to deserve it, and
without any compensation!”

“It is only part of the great Riddle,” said the Earl, “why innocent
beings _ever_ suffer. It _is_ a great strain on Faith—but not a
_breaking_ strain, I think.”

“The sufferings of _horses_,” I said, “are chiefly caused by _Man’s_
cruelty. So _that_ is merely one of the many instances of Sin causing
suffering to others than the Sinner himself. But don’t you find a
_greater_ difficulty in sufferings inflicted by animals upon each other?
For instance, a cat playing with a mouse. Assuming it to have no _moral_
responsibility, isn’t that a greater mystery than a man over-driving a
horse?”

“I think it _is_,” said Lady Muriel, looking a mute appeal to her
father.

“What right have we to make that assumption?” said the Earl. “_Many_ of
our religious difficulties are merely deductions from unwarranted
assumptions. The wisest answer to most of them, is, I think, ‘_behold,
we know not anything_.’”

“You mentioned ‘division of labour,’ just now,” I said. “Surely it is
carried to a wonderful perfection in a hive of bees?”

“So wonderful—so entirely super-human—” said the Earl, “and so entirely
inconsistent with the intelligence they show in other ways—that I feel
no doubt at all that it is _pure_ Instinct, and _not_, as some hold, a
very high order of Reason. Look at the utter stupidity of a bee, trying
to find its way out of an open window! It _doesn’t_ try, in any
reasonable sense of the word: it simply bangs itself about! We should
call a puppy _imbecile_, that behaved so. And yet we are asked to
believe that its intellectual level is above Sir Isaac Newton!”

“Then you hold that _pure_ Instinct contains no _Reason_ at all?”

“On the contrary,” said the Earl, “I hold that the work of a bee-hive
involves Reason of the _highest_ order. But none of it is done by the
_Bee_. _God_ has reasoned it all out, and has put into the mind of the
Bee the _conclusions_, only, of the reasoning process.”

“But how do their minds come to work _together_?” I asked.

“What right have we to assume that they _have_ minds?”

“Special pleading, special pleading!” Lady Muriel cried, in a most
unfilial tone of triumph. “Why, you yourself said, just now, ‘the mind
of the Bee’!”

“But I did _not_ say ‘_minds_,’ my child,” the Earl gently replied. “It
has occurred to me, as the most probable solution of the ‘Bee’-mystery,
that a swarm of Bees _have only one mind among them_. We often see one
mind animating a most complex collection of limbs and organs, _when
joined together_. How do we know that any material connection is
necessary? May not mere neighbourhood be enough? If so, a swarm of bees
is simply a single animal whose many limbs are not quite close
together!”

“It is a bewildering thought,” I said, “and needs a night’s rest to
grasp it properly. Reason and Instinct _both_ tell me I ought to go
home. So, good-night!”

“I’ll ‘set’ you part of the way,” said Lady Muriel. “I’ve had no walk
to-day. It will do me good, and I have more to say to you. Shall we go
through the wood? It will be pleasanter than over the common, even
though it _is_ getting a little dark.”

We turned aside into the shade of interlacing boughs, which formed an
architecture of almost perfect symmetry, grouped into lovely groined
arches, or running out, far as the eye could follow, into endless
aisles, and chancels, and naves, like some ghostly cathedral, fashioned
out of the dream of a moon-struck poet.

“Always, in this wood,” she began after a pause (silence seemed natural
in this dim solitude), “I begin thinking of Fairies! May I ask you a
question?” she added hesitatingly. “Do you believe in Fairies?”

The momentary impulse was so strong to tell her of my experiences in
this very wood, that I had to make a real effort to keep back the words
that rushed to my lips. “If you mean, by ‘believe,’ ‘believe in their
_possible_ existence,’ I say ‘Yes.’ For their _actual_ existence, of
course, one would need _evidence_.”

“You were saying, the other day,” she went on, “that you would accept
_anything_, on good evidence, that was not _à priori_ impossible. And I
think you named _Ghosts_ as an instance of a _provable_ phenomenon.
Would _Fairies_ be another instance?”

“Yes, I think so.” And again it was hard to check the wish to say more:
but I was not yet sure of a sympathetic listener.

“And have you any theory as to what sort of place they would occupy in
Creation? Do tell me what you think about them! Would they, for instance
(supposing such beings to exist), would they have any moral
responsibility? I mean” (and the light bantering tone suddenly changed
to one of deep seriousness) “would they be capable of _sin_?”

“They can reason—on a lower level, perhaps, than men and women—never
rising, I think, above the faculties of a child; and they have a moral
sense, most surely. Such a being, without _free will_, would be an
absurdity. So I am driven to the conclusion that they _are_ capable of
sin.”

“You believe in them?” she cried delightedly, with a sudden motion as if
about to clap her hands. “Now tell me, have you any reason for it?”

And still I strove to keep back the revelation I felt sure was coming.
“I believe that there is _life_ everywhere—not _material_ only, not
merely what is palpable to our senses—but immaterial and invisible as
well. We believe in our own immaterial essence—call it ‘soul,’ or
‘spirit,’ or what you will. Why should not other similar essences exist
around us, _not_ linked on to a visible and _material_ body? Did not God
make this swarm of happy insects, to dance in this sunbeam for one hour
of bliss, for no other object, that we can imagine, than to swell the
sum of conscious happiness? And where shall we dare to draw the line,
and say ‘He has made all these and no more’?”

“Yes, yes!” she assented, watching me with sparkling eyes. “But these
are only reasons for not _denying_. You have more reasons than this,
have you not?”

“Well, yes,” I said, feeling I might safely tell all now. “And I could
not find a fitter time or place to say it. I have _seen_ them—and in
this very wood!”

Lady Muriel asked no more questions. Silently she paced at my side, with
head bowed down and hands clasped tightly together. Only, as my tale
went on, she drew a little short quick breath now and then, like a child
panting with delight. And I told her what I had never yet breathed to
any other listener, of my double life, and, more than that (for _mine_
might have been but a noonday-dream), of the double life of those two
dear children.

And when I told her of Bruno’s wild gambols, she laughed merrily; and
when I spoke of Sylvie’s sweetness and her utter unselfishness and
trustful love, she drew a deep breath, like one who hears at last some
precious tidings for which the heart has ached for a long while; and the
happy tears chased one another down her cheeks.

“I have often longed to meet an angel,” she whispered, so low that I
could hardly catch the words. “I’m _so_ glad I’ve seen Sylvie! My heart
went out to the child the first moment that I saw her—— Listen!” she
broke off suddenly. “That’s Sylvie singing! I’m sure of it! Don’t you
know her voice?”

“I have heard _Bruno_ sing, more than once,” I said: “but I never heard
Sylvie.”

“I have only heard her _once_,” said Lady Muriel. “It was that day when
you brought us those mysterious flowers. The children had run out into
the garden; and I saw Eric coming in that way, and went to the window to
meet him: and Sylvie was singing, under the trees, a song I had never
heard before. The words were something like ‘I think it is Love, I feel
it is Love.’ Her voice sounded far away, like a dream, but it was
beautiful beyond all words—as sweet as an infant’s first smile, or the
first gleam of the white cliffs when one is coming _home_ after weary
years—a voice that seemed to fill one’s whole being with peace and
heavenly thoughts—— Listen!” she cried, breaking off again in her
excitement. “That _is_ her voice, and that’s the very song!”

I could distinguish no words, but there was a dreamy sense of music in
the air that seemed to grow ever louder and louder, as if coming nearer
to us. We stood quite silent, and in another minute the two children
appeared, coming straight towards us through an arched opening among the
trees. Each had an arm round the other, and the setting sun shed a
golden halo round their heads, like what one sees in pictures of saints.
They were looking in our direction, but evidently did not see us, and I
soon made out that Lady Muriel had for once passed into a condition
familiar to _me_, that we were both of us ‘eerie,’ and that, though we
could see the children so plainly, we were quite invisible to _them_.

[Illustration: A FAIRY-DUET]

The song ceased just as they came into sight: but, to my delight, Bruno
instantly said “Let’s sing it all again, Sylvie! It _did_ sound so
pretty!” And Sylvie replied “Very well. It’s _you_ to begin, you know.”

So Bruno began, in the sweet childish treble I knew so well:—

  “Say, what is the spell, when her fledgelings are cheeping,
    That lures the bird home to her nest?
  Or wakes the tired mother, whose infant is weeping,
    To cuddle and croon it to rest?
  What’s the magic that charms the glad babe in her arms,
    Till it cooes with the voice of the dove?”

And now ensued quite the strangest of all the strange experiences that
marked the wonderful year whose history I am writing—the experience of
_first_ hearing Sylvie’s voice in song. Her part was a very short
one—only a few words—and she sang it timidly, and very low indeed,
scarcely audibly, but the _sweetness_ of her voice was simply
indescribable; I have never heard any earthly music like it.

  “’Tis a secret, and so let us whisper it low—
    And the name of the secret is Love!”

On me the first effect of her voice was a sudden sharp pang that seemed
to pierce through one’s very heart. (I had felt such a pang only once
before in my life, and it had been from _seeing_ what, at the moment,
realised one’s idea of perfect beauty—it was in a London exhibition,
where, in making my way through a crowd, I suddenly met, face to face, a
child of quite unearthly beauty.) Then came a rush of burning tears to
the eyes, as though one could weep one’s soul away for pure delight. And
lastly there fell on me a sense of awe that was almost terror—some such
feeling as Moses must have had when he heard the words “_Put off thy
shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy
ground_.” The figures of the children became vague and shadowy, like
glimmering meteors: while their voices rang together in exquisite
harmony as they sang:—

      “For I think it is Love,
      For I feel it is Love,
  For I’m sure it is nothing but Love!”

By this time I could see them clearly once more. Bruno again sang by
himself:—

  “Say, whence is the voice that, when anger is burning,
    Bids the whirl of the tempest to cease?
  That stirs the vexed soul with an aching—a yearning
    For the brotherly hand-grip of peace?
  Whence the music that fills all our being—that thrills
    Around us, beneath, and above?”

Sylvie sang more courageously, this time: the words seemed to carry her
away, out of herself:—

  “’Tis a secret: none knows how it comes, how it goes:
    But the name of the secret is Love!”

And clear and strong the chorus rang out:—

      “For I think it is Love,
      For I feel it is Love,
  For I’m sure it is nothing but Love!”

Once more we heard Bruno’s delicate little voice alone:—

  “Say whose is the skill that paints valley and hill,
    Like a picture so fair to the sight?
  That flecks the green meadow with sunshine and shadow,
    Till the little lambs leap with delight?”

And again uprose that silvery voice, whose angelic sweetness I could
hardly bear:—

  “’Tis a secret untold to hearts cruel and cold,
    Though ’tis sung, by the angels above,
  In notes that ring clear for the ears that can hear—
    And the name of the secret is Love!”

And then Bruno joined in again with

      “For I think it is Love,
      For I feel it is Love,
  For I’m sure it is nothing but Love!”

“That _are_ pretty!” the little fellow exclaimed, as the children passed
us—so closely that we drew back a little to make room for them, and it
seemed we had only to reach out a hand to touch them: but this we did
not attempt.

“No use to try and stop them!” I said, as they passed away into the
shadows. “Why, they could not even _see_ us!”

“No use at all,” Lady Muriel echoed with a sigh. “One would _like_ to
meet them again, in living form! But I feel, somehow, _that_ can never
be. They have passed out of _our_ lives!” She sighed again; and no more
was said, till we came out into the main road, at a point near my
lodgings.

“Well, I will leave you here,” she said. “I want to get back before
dark: and I have a cottage-friend to visit, first. Good night, dear
friend! Let us see you soon—and often!” she added, with an affectionate
warmth that went to my very heart. “_For those are few we hold as
dear!_”

“Good night!” I answered. “Tennyson said that of a worthier friend than
me.”

“Tennyson didn’t know what he was talking about!” she saucily rejoined,
with a touch of her old childish gaiety; and we parted.



                              CHAPTER XX.
                          GAMMON AND SPINACH.


My landlady’s welcome had an extra heartiness about it: and though, with
a rare delicacy of feeling, she made no direct allusion to the friend
whose companionship had done so much to brighten life for me, I felt
sure that it was a kindly sympathy with my solitary state that made her
so specially anxious to do all she could think of to ensure my comfort,
and make me feel at home.

The lonely evening seemed long and tedious: yet I lingered on, watching
the dying fire, and letting Fancy mould the red embers into the forms
and faces belonging to bygone scenes. Now it seemed to be Bruno’s
roguish smile that sparkled for a moment, and died away: now it was
Sylvie’s rosy cheek: and now the Professor’s jolly round face, beaming
with delight. “You’re welcome, my little ones!” he seemed to say. And
then the red coal, which for the moment embodied the dear old Professor,
began to wax dim, and with its dying lustre the words seemed to die away
into silence. I seized the poker, and with an artful touch or two
revived the waning glow, while Fancy—no coy minstrel she—sang me once
again the magic strain I loved to hear.

“You’re welcome, little ones!” the cheery voice repeated. “I told them
you were coming. Your rooms are all ready for you. And the Emperor and
the Empress—well, I think they’re rather pleased than otherwise! In
fact, Her Highness said ‘I hope they’ll be in time for the Banquet!’
Those were her very words, I assure you!”

“Will Uggug be at the Banquet?” Bruno asked. And both children looked
uneasy at the dismal suggestion.

“Why, of course he will!” chuckled the Professor. “Why, it’s his
_birthday_, don’t you know? And his health will be drunk, and all that
sort of thing. What would the Banquet be without _him_?”

“Ever so much nicer,” said Bruno. But he said it in a _very_ low voice,
and nobody but Sylvie heard him.

The Professor chuckled again. “It’ll be a jolly Banquet, now _you’ve_
come, my little man! I _am_ so glad to see you again!”

“I ’fraid we’ve been very long in coming,” Bruno politely remarked.

“Well, yes,” the Professor assented. “However, you’re very short now
you’re come: that’s _some_ comfort.” And he went on to enumerate the
plans for the day. “The Lecture comes first,” he said. “_That_ the
Empress _insists_ on. She says people will eat so much at the Banquet,
they’ll be too sleepy to attend to the Lecture afterwards—and perhaps
she’s right. There’ll just be a little _refreshment_, when the people
first arrive—as a kind of surprise for the Empress, you know. Ever since
she’s been—well, not _quite_ so clever as she once was—we’ve found it
desirable to concoct little surprises for her. _Then_ comes the
Lecture——”

“What? The Lecture you were getting ready—ever so long ago?” Sylvie
enquired.

“Yes—that’s the one,” the Professor rather reluctantly admitted. “It
_has_ taken a goodish time to prepare. I’ve got so many other things to
attend to. For instance, I’m Court-Physician. I have to keep all the
Royal Servants in good health—and that reminds me!” he cried, ringing
the bell in a great hurry. “This is Medicine-Day! We only give Medicine
once a week. If we were to begin giving it every day, the bottles would
_soon_ be empty!”

“But if they were ill on the _other_ days?” Sylvie suggested.

“What, ill on the wrong _day_!” exclaimed the Professor. “Oh, that would
never do! A Servant would be dismissed _at once_, who was ill on the
wrong day! This is the Medicine for _today_,” he went on, taking down a
large jug from a shelf. “I mixed it, myself, first thing this morning.
Taste it!” he said, holding out the jug to Bruno. “Dip in your finger,
and taste it!”

Bruno did so, and made such an excruciatingly wry face that Sylvie
exclaimed, in alarm, “Oh, Bruno, you mustn’t!”

“It’s welly extremely nasty!” Bruno said, as his face resumed its
natural shape.

“Nasty?” said the Professor. “Why, of _course_ it is! What would
Medicine be, if it wasn’t _nasty_?”

“Nice,” said Bruno.

“I was going to say—” the Professor faltered, rather taken aback by the
promptness of Bruno’s reply, “—that _that_ would never do! Medicine
_has_ to be nasty, you know. Be good enough to take this jug, down into
the Servants’ Hall,” he said to the footman who answered the bell: “and
tell them it’s their Medicine for _today_.”

“Which of them is to drink it?” the footman asked, as he carried off the
jug.

“Oh, I’ve not settled _that_ yet!” the Professor briskly replied. “I’ll
come and settle that, soon. Tell them not to begin, on any account, till
I come! It’s really _wonderful_,” he said, turning to the children, “the
success I’ve had in curing Diseases! Here are some of my memoranda.” He
took down from the shelf a heap of little bits of paper, pinned together
in twos and threes. “Just look at _this_ set, now. ‘_Under-Cook Number
Thirteen recovered from Common Fever—Febris Communis_.’ And now see
what’s pinned to it. ‘_Gave Under-Cook Number Thirteen a Double Dose of
Medicine_.’ _That’s_ something to be proud of, _isn’t_ it?”

“But which happened _first_?” said Sylvie, looking very much puzzled.

The Professor examined the papers carefully. “They are not _dated_, I
find,” he said with a slightly dejected air: “so I fear I ca’n’t tell
you. But they _both_ happened: there’s no doubt of _that_. The
_Medicine’s_ the great thing, you know. The _Diseases_ are much less
important. You can keep a _Medicine_, for years and years: but nobody
ever wants to keep a _Disease_! By the way, come and look at the
platform. The Gardener asked me to come and see if it would do. We may
as well go before it gets dark.”

“We’d like to, very much!” Sylvie replied. “Come, Bruno, put on your
hat. Don’t keep the dear Professor waiting!”

“Ca’n’t find my hat!” the little fellow sadly replied. “I were rolling
it about. And it’s rolled itself away!”

“Maybe it’s rolled in _there_,” Sylvie suggested, pointing to a dark
recess, the door of which stood half open: and Bruno ran in to look.
After a minute he came slowly out again, looking very grave, and
carefully shut the cupboard-door after him.

“It aren’t in there,” he said, with such unusual solemnity, that
Sylvie’s curiosity was roused.

“What _is_ in there, Bruno?”

“There’s cobwebs—and two spiders—” Bruno thoughtfully replied, checking
off the catalogue on his fingers, “—and the cover of a picture-book—and
a tortoise—and a dish of nuts—and an old man.”

“An old man!” cried the Professor, trotting across the room in great
excitement. “Why, it must be the Other Professor, that’s been lost for
ever so long!”

[Illustration: THE OTHER PROFESSOR FOUND]

He opened the door of the cupboard wide: and there he was, the Other
Professor, sitting in a chair, with a book on his knee, and in the act
of helping himself to a nut from a dish, which he had taken down off a
shelf just within his reach. He looked round at us, but said nothing
till he had cracked and eaten the nut. Then he asked the old question.
“Is the Lecture all ready?”

“It’ll begin in an hour,” the Professor said, evading the question.
“First, we must have something to surprise the Empress. And then comes
the Banquet——”

“The Banquet!” cried the Other Professor, springing up, and filling the
room with a cloud of dust. “Then I’d better go and—and brush myself a
little. What a state I’m in!”

“He _does_ want brushing!” the Professor said, with a critical air,
“Here’s your hat, little man! I had put it on by mistake. I’d quite
forgotten I had _one_ on, already. Let’s go and look at the platform.”

“And there’s that nice old Gardener singing still!” Bruno exclaimed in
delight, as we went out into the garden. “I do believe he’s been singing
that very song ever since we went away!”

“Why, of course he has!” replied the Professor. “It wouldn’t be the
thing to leave off, you know.”

“Wouldn’t be _what_ thing?” said Bruno: but the Professor thought it
best not to hear the question. “What are you doing with that hedgehog?”
he shouted at the Gardener, whom they found standing upon one foot,
singing softly to himself, and rolling a hedgehog up and down with the
other foot.

“Well, I wanted fur to know what hedgehogs lives on: so I be a-keeping
this here hedgehog—fur to see if it eats potatoes——”

“Much better keep a potato,” said the Professor; “and see if hedgehogs
eat it!”

“That be the roight way, sure-ly!” the delighted Gardener exclaimed. “Be
you come to see the platform?”

“Aye, aye!” the Professor cheerily replied. “And the children have come
back, you see!”

The Gardener looked round at them with a grin. Then he led the way to
the Pavilion; and as he went he sang:—

  “He looked again, and found it was
    A Double Rule of Three:
  ‘And all its Mystery,’ he said,
    ‘Is clear as day to me!’”

“You’ve been _months_ over that song,” said the Professor. “Isn’t it
finished yet?”

“There be only one verse more,” the Gardener sadly replied. And, with
tears streaming down his cheeks, he sang the last verse:—

  “He thought he saw an Argument
    That proved he was the Pope:
  He looked again, and found it was
    A Bar of Mottled Soap.
  ‘A fact so dread,’ he faintly said,
    ‘Extinguishes all hope!’”

Choking with sobs, the Gardener hastily stepped on a few yards ahead of
the party, to conceal his emotion.

“Did _he_ see the Bar of Mottled Soap?” Sylvie enquired, as we followed.

“Oh, certainly!” said the Professor. “That song is his own history, you
know.”

Tears of an ever-ready sympathy glittered in Bruno’s eyes. “I’s _welly_
sorry he isn’t the Pope!” he said. “Aren’t _you_ sorry, Sylvie?”

“Well—I hardly know,” Sylvie replied in the vaguest manner. “Would it
make him any happier?” she asked the Professor.

“It wouldn’t make the _Pope_ any happier,” said the Professor. “Isn’t
the platform _lovely_?” he asked, as we entered the Pavilion.

“I’ve put an extra beam under it!” said the Gardener, patting it
affectionately as he spoke. “And now it’s that strong, as—as a mad
elephant might dance upon it!”

“Thank you _very_ much!” the Professor heartily rejoined. “I don’t know
that we shall exactly require—but it’s convenient to know.” And he led
the children upon the platform, to explain the arrangements to them.
“Here are three seats, you see, for the Emperor and the Empress and
Prince Uggug. But there must be two more chairs here!” he said, looking
down at the Gardener. “One for Lady Sylvie, and one for the smaller
animal!”

“And may I help in the Lecture?” said Bruno. “I can do some
conjuring-tricks.”

“Well, it’s not exactly a _conjuring_ lecture,” the Professor said, as
he arranged some curious-looking machines on the table. “However, what
can you do? Did you ever go through a table, for instance?”

“Often!” said Bruno. “_Haven’t_ I, Sylvie?”

The Professor was evidently surprised, though he tried not to show it.
“This must be looked into,” he muttered to himself, taking out a
note-book. “And first—what kind of table?”

“Tell him!” Bruno whispered to Sylvie, putting his arms round her neck.

“Tell him yourself,” said Sylvie.

“Ca’n’t,” said Bruno. “It’s a _bony_ word.”

“Nonsense!” laughed Sylvie. “You can say it well enough, if you only
try. Come!”

“Muddle—” said Bruno. “That’s a bit of it.”

“_What_ does he say?” cried the bewildered Professor.

“He means the multiplication-table,” Sylvie explained.

The Professor looked annoyed, and shut up his note-book again. “Oh,
that’s _quite_ another thing,” he said.

“It are ever so many other things,” said Bruno. “_Aren’t_ it, Sylvie?”

A loud blast of trumpets interrupted this conversation. “Why, the
entertainment has _begun_!” the Professor exclaimed, as he hurried the
children into the Reception-Saloon. “I had no idea it was so late!”

A small table, containing cake and wine, stood in a corner of the
Saloon; and here we found the Emperor and Empress waiting for us. The
rest of the Saloon had been cleared of furniture, to make room for the
guests. I was much struck by the great change a few months had made in
the faces of the Imperial Pair. A vacant stare was now the _Emperor’s_
usual expression; while over the face of the _Empress_ there flitted,
ever and anon, a meaningless smile.

“So you’re come at last!” the Emperor sulkily remarked, as the Professor
and the children took their places. It was evident that he was _very_
much out of temper: and we were not long in learning the cause of this.
He did not consider the preparations, made for the Imperial party, to be
such as suited their rank. “A common mahogany table!” he growled,
pointing to it contemptuously with his thumb. “Why wasn’t it made of
gold, I should like to know?”

“It would have taken a very long——” the Professor began, but the Emperor
cut the sentence short.

“Then the cake! Ordinary plum! Why wasn’t it made of—of——” He broke off
again. “Then the wine! Merely old Madeira! Why wasn’t it——? Then this
chair! That’s worst of all. Why wasn’t it a throne? One _might_ excuse
the other omissions, but I _ca’n’t_ get over the chair!”

“What _I_ ca’n’t get over,” said the Empress, in eager sympathy with her
angry husband, “is the _table_!”

“Pooh!” said the Emperor.

“It is much to be regretted!” the Professor mildly replied, as soon as
he had a chance of speaking. After a moment’s thought he strengthened
the remark. “_Everything_,” he said, addressing Society in general, “is
_very much_ to be regretted!”

A murmur of “Hear, hear!” rose from the crowded Saloon.

There was a rather awkward pause: the Professor evidently didn’t know
how to begin. The Empress leant forwards, and whispered to him. “A few
jokes, you know, Professor—just to put people at their ease!”

“True, true, Madam!” the Professor meekly replied. “This little boy——”

“_Please_ don’t make any jokes about _me_!” Bruno exclaimed, his eyes
filling with tears.

“I won’t if you’d rather I didn’t,” said the kind-hearted Professor. “It
was only something about a Ship’s Buoy: a harmless pun—but it doesn’t
matter.” Here he turned to the crowd and addressed them in a loud voice.
“Learn your A’s!” he shouted. “Your B’s! Your C’s! And your D’s! _Then_
you’ll be at your ease!”

There was a roar of laughter from all the assembly, and then a great
deal of confused whispering. “_What_ was it he said? Something about
bees, I fancy——.”

The Empress smiled in her meaningless way, and fanned herself. The poor
Professor looked at her timidly: he was clearly at his wits’ end again,
and hoping for another hint. The Empress whispered again.

“Some spinach, you know, Professor, as a surprise.”

The Professor beckoned to the Head-Cook, and said something to him in a
low voice. Then the Head-Cook left the room, followed by all the other
cooks.

“It’s difficult to get things started,” the Professor remarked to Bruno.
“When once we get started, it’ll go on all right, you’ll see.”

“If oo want to startle people,” said Bruno, “oo should put live frogs on
their backs.”

Here the cooks all came in again, in a procession, the Head-Cook coming
last and carrying something, which the others tried to hide by waving
flags all round it. “Nothing but flags, Your Imperial Highness! Nothing
but flags!” he kept repeating, as he set it before her. Then all the
flags were dropped in a moment, as the Head-Cook raised the cover from
an enormous dish.

[Illustration: ‘HER IMPERIAL HIGHNESS IS SURPRISED!’]

“What is it?” the Empress said faintly, as she put her spy-glass to her
eye. “Why, it’s _Spinach_, I declare!”

“Her Imperial Highness is surprised,” the Professor explained to the
attendants: and some of them clapped their hands. The Head-Cook made a
low bow, and in doing so dropped a spoon on the table, as if by
accident, just within reach of the Empress, who looked the other way and
pretended not to see it.

“I _am_ surprised!” the Empress said to Bruno. “Aren’t you?”

“Not a bit,” said Bruno. “I heard——” but Sylvie put her hand over his
mouth, and spoke for him. “He’s rather tired, I think. He wants the
Lecture to begin.”

“I want the _supper_ to begin,” Bruno corrected her.

The Empress took up the spoon in an absent manner, and tried to balance
it across the back of her hand, and in doing this she dropped it into
the dish: and, when she took it out again, it was full of spinach. “How
curious!” she said, and put it into her mouth. “It tastes just like
_real_ spinach! I thought it was an imitation—but I do believe it’s
real!” And she took another spoonful.

“It wo’n’t be real much longer,” said Bruno.

But the Empress had had enough spinach by this time, and somehow—I
failed to notice the exact process—we all found ourselves in the
Pavilion, and the Professor in the act of beginning the long-expected
Lecture.



                              CHAPTER XXI.
                        THE PROFESSOR’S LECTURE.


“In Science—in fact, in most things—it is usually best _to begin at the
beginning_. In _some_ things, of course, it’s better to begin at the
_other_ end. For instance, if you wanted to paint a dog green, it
_might_ be best to begin with the _tail_, as it doesn’t bite at _that_
end. And so——”

“May _I_ help oo?” Bruno interrupted.

“Help me to do _what_?” said the puzzled Professor, looking up for a
moment, but keeping his finger on the book he was reading from, so as
not to lose his place.

“To paint a dog green!” cried Bruno. “_Oo_ can begin wiz its _mouf_, and
I’ll——”

“No, no!” said the Professor. “We haven’t got to the _Experiments_ yet.
And so,” returning to his note-book, “I’ll give you the Axioms of
Science. After that I shall exhibit some Specimens. Then I shall explain
a Process or two. And I shall conclude with a few Experiments. An
_Axiom_, you know, is a thing that you accept without contradiction. For
instance, if I were to say ‘Here we are!’, that would be accepted
without any contradiction, and it’s a nice sort of remark to _begin_ a
conversation with. So it would be an _Axiom_. Or again, supposing I were
to say ‘Here we are not!’ _that_ would be——”

“—a fib!” cried Bruno.

“Oh, _Bruno_!” said Sylvie in a warning whisper. “Of course it would be
an _Axiom_, if the Professor said it!”

“—that would be accepted, if people were civil,” continued the
Professor; “so it would be _another_ Axiom.”

“It _might_ be an Axledum,” Bruno said: “but it wouldn’t be _true_!”

“Ignorance of Axioms,” the Lecturer continued, “is a great drawback in
life. It wastes so much time to have to say them over and over again.
For instance, take the Axiom ‘_Nothing is greater than itself_’; that
is, ‘_Nothing can contain itself_.’ How often you hear people say ‘He
was so excited, he was quite unable to contain himself,’ Why, _of
course_ he was unable! The _excitement_ had nothing to do with it!”

“I say, look here, you know!” said the Emperor, who was getting a little
restless. “How many Axioms are you going to give us? At _this_ rate, we
sha’n’t get to the _Experiments_ till to-morrow-week!”

“Oh, sooner than _that_, I assure you!” the Professor replied, looking
up in alarm. “There are only,” (he referred to his notes again) “only
_two_ more, that are really _necessary_.”

“Read ’em out, and get on to the _Specimens_,” grumbled the Emperor.

“The _First_ Axiom,” the Professor read out in a great hurry, “consists
of these words, ‘_Whatever is, is_.’ And the Second consists of _these_
words, ‘_Whatever isn’t, isn’t_.’ We will now go on to the _Specimens_.
The first tray contains Crystals and other Things.” He drew it towards
him, and again referred to his note-book. “Some of the labels—owing to
insufficient adhesion——” Here he stopped again, and carefully examined
the page with his eyeglass. “I ca’n’t quite read the rest of the
sentence,” he said at last, “but it _means_ that the labels have come
loose, and the Things have got mixed——”

“Let _me_ stick ’em on again!” cried Bruno eagerly, and began licking
them, like postage-stamps, and dabbing them down upon the Crystals and
the other Things. But the Professor hastily moved the tray out of his
reach. “They _might_ get fixed to the _wrong_ Specimens, you know!” he
said.

“Oo shouldn’t have any _wrong_ peppermints in the tray!” Bruno boldly
replied. “_Should_ he, Sylvie?”

But Sylvie only shook her head.

The Professor heard him not. He had taken up one of the bottles, and was
carefully reading the label through his eye-glass. “Our first
Specimen——” he announced, as he placed the bottle in front of the other
Things, “is—that is, it is called——” here he took it up, and examined
the label again, as if he thought it might have changed since he last
saw it, “is called Aqua Pura—common water—the fluid that cheers——”

“Hip! Hip! Hip!” the Head-Cook began enthusiastically.

“—but _not_ inebriates!” the Professor went on quickly, but only just in
time to check the “Hooroar!” which was beginning.

“Our second Specimen,” he went on, carefully opening a small jar, “is——”
here he removed the lid, and a large beetle instantly darted out, and
with an angry buzz went straight out of the Pavilion, “—is—or rather, I
should say,” looking sadly into the empty jar, “it _was_—a curious kind
of Blue Beetle. Did any one happen to remark—as it went past—three blue
spots under each wing?”

Nobody had remarked them.

“Ah, well!” the Professor said with a sigh. “It’s a pity. Unless you
remark that kind of thing _at the moment_, it’s very apt to get
overlooked! The _next_ Specimen, at any rate, will not fly away! It
is—in short, or perhaps, more correctly, at _length_—an _Elephant_. You
will observe——.” Here he beckoned to the Gardener to come up on the
platform, and with his help began putting together what looked like an
enormous dog-kennel, with short tubes projecting out of it on both
sides.

“But we’ve seen _Elephants_ before,” the Emperor grumbled.

“Yes, but not through a _Megaloscope_!” the Professor eagerly replied.
“You know you can’t see a _Flea_, properly, without a
_magnifying_-glass—what we call a _Microscope_. Well, just in the same
way, you ca’n’t see an _Elephant_, properly, without a
_minimifying_-glass. There’s one in each of these little tubes. And
_this_ is a _Megaloscope_! The Gardener will now bring in the next
Specimen. Please open _both_ curtains, down at the end there, and make
way for the Elephant!”

There was a general rush to the sides of the Pavilion, and all eyes were
turned to the open end, watching for the return of the Gardener, who had
gone away singing “_He thought he saw an Elephant That practised on a
Fife!_” There was silence for a minute: and then his harsh voice was
heard again in the distance. “_He looked again_—come up, then! _He
looked again, and found it was_—woa back! _and, found it was A letter
from his_—make way there! He’s a-coming!”

[Illustration: ‘HE THOUGHT HE SAW AN ELEPHANT’]

And in marched, or waddled—it is hard to say which is the right word—an
Elephant, on its hind-legs, and playing on an enormous fife which it
held with its fore-feet.

The Professor hastily threw open a large door at the end of the
Megaloscope, and the huge animal, at a signal from the Gardener, dropped
the fife, and obediently trotted into the machine, the door of which was
at once shut by the Professor. “The Specimen is now ready for
observation!” he proclaimed. “It is exactly the size of the Common
Mouse—_Mus Communis_!”

There was a general rush to the tubes, and the spectators watched with
delight the minikin creature, as it playfully coiled its trunk round the
Professor’s extended finger, finally taking its stand upon the palm of
his hand, while he carefully lifted it out, and carried it off to
exhibit to the Imperial party.

“Isn’t it a _darling_?” cried Bruno. “May I stroke it, please? I’ll
touch it _welly_ gently!”

The Empress inspected it solemnly with her eye-glass. “It is very
small,” she said in a deep voice. “Smaller than elephants usually are, I
believe?”

The Professor gave a start of delighted surprise. “Why, that’s _true_!”
he murmured to himself. Then louder, turning to the audience, “Her
Imperial Highness has made a remark which is perfectly sensible!” And a
wild cheer arose from that vast multitude.

“The next Specimen,” the Professor proclaimed, after carefully placing
the little Elephant in the tray, among the Crystals and other Things,
“is a _Flea_, which we will enlarge for the purposes of observation.”
Taking a small pill-box from the tray, he advanced to the Megaloscope,
and reversed all the tubes. “The Specimen is ready!” he cried, with his
eye at one of the tubes, while he carefully emptied the pill-box through
a little hole at the side. “It is now the size of the Common
Horse—_Equus Communis_!”

There was another general rush, to look through the tubes, and the
Pavilion rang with shouts of delight, through which the Professor’s
anxious tones could scarcely be heard. “Keep the door of the Microscope
_shut_!” he cried. “If the creature were to escape, _this size_, it
would——” But the mischief was done. The door had swung open, and in
another moment the Monster had got out, and was trampling down the
terrified, shrieking spectators.

But the Professor’s presence of mind did not desert him. “Undraw those
curtains!” he shouted. It was done. The Monster gathered its legs
together, and in one tremendous bound vanished into the sky.

“Where _is_ it?” said the Emperor, rubbing his eyes.

“In the next Province, I fancy,” the Professor replied. “That jump would
take it at _least_ five miles! The next thing is to explain a Process or
two. But I find there is hardly room enough to operate—the smaller
animal is rather in my way——”

“Who does he mean?” Bruno whispered to Sylvie.

“He means _you_!” Sylvie whispered back. “Hush!”

“Be kind enough to move—angularly—to _this_ corner,” the Professor said,
addressing himself to Bruno.

Bruno hastily moved his chair in the direction indicated. “Did I move
angrily enough?” he inquired. But the Professor was once more absorbed
in his Lecture, which he was reading from his note-book.

“I will now explain the Process of—the name is blotted, I’m sorry to
say. It will be illustrated by a number of—of——” here he examined the
page for some time, and at last said “It seems to be either
‘Experiments’ or ‘Specimens’——”

“Let it be _Experiments_,” said the Emperor. “We’ve seen plenty of
_Specimens_.”

“Certainly, certainly!” the Professor assented. “We will have some
Experiments.”

“May _I_ do them?” Bruno eagerly asked.

“Oh dear no!” The Professor looked dismayed. “I really don’t know what
would happen if _you_ did them!”

“Nor nobody doosn’t know what’ll happen if _oo_ doos them!” Bruno
retorted.

“Our First Experiment requires a Machine. It has two knobs—only
_two_—you can count them, if you like.”

The Head-Cook stepped forwards, counted them, and retired satisfied.

“Now you _might_ press those two knobs together—but that’s not the way
to do it. Or you _might_ turn the Machine upside-down—but _that’s_ not
the way to do it!”

“What _are_ the way to do it?” said Bruno, who was listening very
attentively.

The Professor smiled benignantly. “Ah, yes!” he said, in a voice like
the heading of a chapter. “The Way To Do It! Permit me!” and in a moment
he had whisked Bruno upon the table. “I divide my subject,” he began,
“into three parts——”

“I think I’ll get down!” Bruno whispered to Sylvie. “It aren’t nice to
be divided!”

“He hasn’t got a knife, silly boy!” Sylvie whispered in reply. “Stand
still! You’ll break all the bottles!”

“The first part is to take hold of the knobs,” putting them into Bruno’s
hands. “The second part is——” Here he turned the handle, and, with a
loud “Oh!”, Bruno dropped both the knobs, and began rubbing his elbows.

The Professor chuckled in delight. “It had a sensible effect. _Hadn’t_
it?” he enquired.

“No, it hadn’t a _sensible_ effect!” Bruno said indignantly. “It were
very silly indeed. It jingled my elbows, and it banged my back, and it
crinkled my hair, and it buzzed among my bones!”

“I’m sure it _didn’t_!” said Sylvie. “You’re only inventing!”

“Oo doosn’t know nuffin about it!” Bruno replied. “Oo wasn’t there to
see. Nobody ca’n’t go among my bones. There isn’t room!”

“Our Second Experiment,” the Professor announced, as Bruno returned to
his place, still thoughtfully rubbing his elbows, “is the production of
that seldom-seen-but-greatly-to-be-admired phenomenon, Black Light! You
have seen White Light, Red Light, Green Light, and so on: but never,
till this wonderful day, have any eyes but mine seen _Black Light_! This
box,” carefully lifting it upon the table, and covering it with a heap
of blankets, “is quite full of it. The way I made it was this—I took a
lighted candle into a dark cupboard and shut the door. Of course the
cupboard was then full of _Yellow_ Light. Then I took a bottle of Black
ink, and poured it over the candle: and, to my delight, every atom of
the Yellow Light turned _Black_! That was indeed the proudest moment of
my life! Then I filled a box with it. And now—would any one like to get
under the blankets and see it?”

Dead silence followed this appeal: but at last Bruno said “_I’ll_ get
under, if it won’t jingle my elbows.”

Satisfied on this point, Bruno crawled under the blankets, and, after a
minute or two, crawled out again, very hot and dusty, and with his hair
in the wildest confusion.

“What did you see in the box?” Sylvie eagerly enquired.

“I saw _nuffin_!” Bruno sadly replied. “It were too dark!”

“He has described the appearance of the thing exactly!” the Professor
exclaimed with enthusiasm. “Black Light, and Nothing, look so extremely
alike, at first sight, that I don’t wonder he failed to distinguish
them! We will now proceed to the Third Experiment.”

The Professor came down, and led the way to where a post had been driven
firmly into the ground. To one side of the post was fastened a chain,
with an iron weight hooked on to the end of it, and from the other side
projected a piece of whalebone, with a ring at the end of it. “This is a
_most_ interesting Experiment!” the Professor announced. “It will need
_time_, I’m afraid: but that is a trifling disadvantage. Now observe. If
I were to unhook this weight, and let go, it would fall to the ground.
You do not deny _that_?”

Nobody denied it.

“And in the same way, if I were to bend this piece of whalebone round
the post—thus—and put the ring over this hook—thus—it stays bent: but,
if I unhook it, it straightens itself again. You do not deny _that_?”

Again, nobody denied it.

“Well, now, suppose we left things just as they are, for a long time.
The force of the _whalebone_ would get exhausted, you know, and it would
stay bent, even when you unhooked it. Now, _why_ shouldn’t the same
thing happen with the _weight_? The _whalebone_ gets so used to being
bent, that it ca’n’t _straighten_ itself any more. Why shouldn’t the
_weight_ get so used to being held up, that it ca’n’t _fall_ any more?
That’s what _I_ want to know!”

“That’s what _we_ want to know!” echoed the crowd.

“How long must we wait?” grumbled the Emperor.

The Professor looked at his watch. “Well, I _think_ a thousand years
will do to _begin_ with,” he said. “Then we will cautiously unhook the
weight: and, if it _still_ shows (as perhaps it will) a _slight_
tendency to fall, we will hook it on to the chain again, and leave it
for _another_ thousand years.”

Here the Empress experienced one of those flashes of Common Sense which
were the surprise of all around her. “Meanwhile there’ll be time for
another Experiment,” she said.

“There will _indeed_!” cried the delighted Professor. “Let us return to
the platform, and proceed to the _Fourth_ Experiment!”

“For this concluding Experiment, I will take a certain Alkali, or Acid—I
forget which. Now you’ll see what will happen when I mix it with Some——”
here he took up a bottle, and looked at it doubtfully, “—when I mix it
with—with Something——”

Here the Emperor interrupted. “What’s the _name_ of the stuff?” he
asked.

“I don’t remember the _name_,” said the Professor: “and the label has
come off.” He emptied it quickly into the other bottle, and, with a
tremendous bang, both bottles flew to pieces, upsetting all the
machines, and filling the Pavilion with thick black smoke. I sprang to
my feet in terror, and—and found myself standing before my solitary
hearth, where the poker, dropping at last from the hand of the sleeper,
had knocked over the tongs and the shovel, and had upset the kettle,
filling the air with clouds of steam. With a weary sigh, I betook myself
to bed.

[Illustration: AN EXPLOSION]



                             CHAPTER XXII.
                              THE BANQUET.


“_Heaviness may endure for a night: but joy cometh in the morning._” The
next day found me quite another being. Even the memories of my lost
friend and companion were sunny as the genial weather that smiled around
me. I did not venture to trouble Lady Muriel, or her father, with
another call so soon: but took a walk into the country, and only turned
homewards when the low sunbeams warned me that day would soon be over.

On my way home, I passed the cottage where the old man lived, whose face
always recalled to me the day when I first met Lady Muriel; and I
glanced in as I passed, half-curious to see if he were still living
there.

Yes: the old man was still alive. He was sitting out in the porch,
looking just as he did when I first saw him at Fayfield Junction—it
seemed only a few days ago!

“Good evening!” I said, pausing.

“Good evening, Maister!” he cheerfully responded. “Wo’n’t ee step in?”

I stepped in, and took a seat on the bench in the porch. “I’m glad to
see you looking so hearty,” I began. “Last time, I remember, I chanced
to pass just as Lady Muriel was coming away from the house. Does she
still come to see you?”

“Ees,” he answered slowly. “She has na forgotten me. I don’t lose her
bonny face for many days together. Well I mind the very first time she
come, after we’d met at Railway Station. She told me as she come to mak’
amends. Dear child! Only think o’ that! To mak’ amends!”

“To make amends for what?” I enquired. “What could _she_ have done to
need it?”

“Well, it were loike this, you see? We were both on us a-waiting fur t’
train at t’ Junction. And I had setten mysen down upat t’ bench. And
Station-Maister, _he_ comes and he orders me off—fur t’ mak’ room for
her Ladyship, you understand?”

“I remember it all,” I said. “I was there myself, that day.”

“_Was_ you, now? Well, an’ she axes my pardon fur’t. Think o’ that, now!
_My_ pardon! An owd ne’er-do-weel like me! Ah! She’s been here many a
time, sin’ then. Why, she were in here only yestere’en, as it were,
asittin’, as it might be, where you’re a-sitting now, an’ lookin’
sweeter and kinder nor an angel! An’ she says ‘You’ve not got your
Minnie, now,’ she says, ‘to fettle for ye.’ Minnie was my
grand-daughter, Sir, as lived wi’ me. She died, a matter of two months
ago—or it may be three. She was a bonny lass—and a good lass, too. Eh,
but life has been rare an’ lonely without her!”

He covered his face in his hands: and I waited a minute or two, in
silence, for him to recover himself.

“So she says ‘Just tak’ _me_ fur your Minnie!’ she says. ‘Didna Minnie
mak’ your tea fur you?’ says she. ‘Ay,’ says I. An she mak’s the tea.
‘An’ didna Minnie light your pipe?’ says she. ‘Ay,’ says I. An’ she
lights the pipe for me. ‘An’ didna Minnie set out your tea in t’ porch?’
An’ I says ‘My dear,’ I says, ‘I’m thinking you’re Minnie hersen!’ An’
she cries a bit. We both on us cries a bit——.”

Again I kept silence for a while.

“An’ while I smokes my pipe, she sits an’ talks to me—as loving an’ as
pleasant! I’ll be bound I thowt it were Minnie come again! An’ when she
gets up to go, I says ‘Winnot ye shak’ hands wi’ me?’ says I. An’ she
says ‘Na,’ she says: ‘a cannot _shak’ hands_ wi’ thee!’ she says.”

“I’m sorry she said _that_,” I put in, thinking it was the only instance
I had ever known of pride of rank showing itself in Lady Muriel.

“Bless you, it werena _pride_!” said the old man, reading my thoughts.
“She says ‘_Your_ Minnie never _shook hands_ wi’ you!’ she says. ‘An’
_I’m_ your Minnie now,’ she says. An’ she just puts her dear arms about
my neck—and she kisses me on t’ cheek—an’ may God in Heaven bless her!”
And here the poor old man broke down entirely, and could say no more.

[Illustration: ‘A CANNOT SHAK’ HANDS WI’ THEE!’]

“God bless her!” I echoed. “And good night to you!” I pressed his hand,
and left him. “Lady Muriel,” I said softly to myself as I went
homewards, “truly you know how to ‘mak’ amends’!”

Seated once more by my lonely fireside, I tried to recall the strange
vision of the night before, and to conjure up the face of the dear old
Professor among the blazing coals. “That black one—with just a touch of
red—would suit him well,” I thought. “After such a catastrophe, it would
be sure to be covered with black stains—and he would say:—

“The result of _that_ combination—you may have noticed?—was an
_Explosion_! Shall I repeat the Experiment?”

“No, no! Don’t trouble yourself!” was the general cry. And we all
trooped off, in hot haste, to the Banqueting-Hall, where the feast had
already begun.

No time was lost in helping the dishes, and very speedily every guest
found his plate filled with good things.

“I have always maintained the principle,” the Professor began, “that it
is a good rule to take some food—occasionally. The great advantage of
dinner-parties——” he broke off suddenly. “Why, actually here’s the Other
Professor!” he cried. “And there’s no place left for him!”

[Illustration: THE OTHER PROFESSOR’S FALL]

The Other Professor came in reading a large book, which he held close to
his eyes. One result of his not looking where he was going was that he
tripped up, as he crossed the Saloon, flew up into the air, and fell
heavily on his face in the middle of the table.

“_What_ a pity!” cried the kind-hearted Professor, as he helped him up.

“It wouldn’t be _me_, if I didn’t trip,” said the Other Professor.

The Professor looked much shocked. “Almost _anything_ would be better
than _that_!” he exclaimed. “It never does,” he added, aside to Bruno,
“to be anybody else, does it?”

To which Bruno gravely replied “I’s got nuffin on my plate.”

The Professor hastily put on his spectacles, to make sure that the
_facts_ were all right, to begin with: then he turned his jolly round
face upon the unfortunate owner of the empty plate. “And what would you
like next, my little man?”

“Well,” Bruno said, a little doubtfully, “I think I’ll take some
plum-pudding, please—while I think of it.”

“Oh, Bruno!” (This was a whisper from Sylvie.) “It isn’t good manners to
ask for a dish before it comes!”

And Bruno whispered back “But I might forget to ask for some, when it
comes, oo know—I _do_ forget things, sometimes,” he added, seeing Sylvie
about to whisper more.

And _this_ assertion Sylvie did not venture to contradict.

Meanwhile a chair had been placed for the Other Professor, between the
Empress and Sylvie. Sylvie found him a rather uninteresting neighbour:
in fact, she couldn’t afterwards remember that he had made more than
_one_ remark to her during the whole banquet, and that was “What a
comfort a Dictionary is!” (She told Bruno, afterwards, that she had been
too much afraid of him to say more than “Yes, Sir,” in reply; and that
had been the end of their conversation. On which Bruno expressed a very
decided opinion that _that_ wasn’t worth calling a ‘conversation’ at
all. “Oo should have asked him a riddle!” he added triumphantly. “Why,
_I_ asked the Professor _three_ riddles! One was that one you asked me
in the morning, ‘How many pennies is there in two shillings?’ And
another was——” “Oh, Bruno!” Sylvie interrupted. “_That_ wasn’t a
riddle!” “It _were_!” Bruno fiercely replied.)

By this time a waiter had supplied Bruno with a plateful of _something_,
which drove the plum-pudding out of his head.

“Another advantage of dinner-parties,” the Professor cheerfully
explained, for the benefit of any one that would listen, “is that it
helps you to _see_ your friends. If you want to _see_ a man, offer him
something to eat. It’s the same rule with a mouse.”

“This Cat’s very kind to the Mouses,” Bruno said, stooping to stroke a
remarkably fat specimen of the race, that had just waddled into the
room, and was rubbing itself affectionately against the leg of his
chair. “Please, Sylvie, pour some milk in your saucer. Pussie’s ever so
thirsty!”

“Why do you want _my_ saucer?” said Sylvie. “You’ve got one yourself!”

“Yes, I know,” said Bruno: “but I wanted _mine_ for to give it some
_more_ milk in.”

Sylvie looked unconvinced: however it seemed quite impossible for her
_ever_ to refuse what her brother asked: so she quietly filled her
saucer with milk, and handed it to Bruno, who got down off his chair to
administer it to the cat.

“The room’s very hot, with all this crowd,” the Professor said to
Sylvie. “I wonder why they don’t put some lumps of ice in the grate? You
fill it with lumps of coal in the winter, you know, and you sit round it
and enjoy the warmth. How jolly it would be to fill it now with lumps of
ice, and sit round it and enjoy the coolth!”

Hot as it was, Sylvie shivered a little at the idea. “It’s very cold
_outside_,” she said. “My feet got almost frozen to-day.”

“That’s the _shoemaker’s_ fault!” the Professor cheerfully replied. “How
often I’ve explained to him that he _ought_ to make boots with little
iron frames under the soles, to hold lamps! But he never _thinks_. No
one would suffer from cold, if only they would _think_ of those little
things. I always use hot ink, myself, in the winter. Very few people
ever think of _that_! Yet how simple it is!”

“Yes, it’s very simple,” Sylvie said politely. “Has the cat had enough?”
This was to Bruno, who had brought back the saucer only half-emptied.

But Bruno did not hear the question. “There’s somebody scratching at the
door and wanting to come in,” he said. And he scrambled down off his
chair, and went and cautiously peeped out through the door-way.

“Who was it wanted to come in?” Sylvie asked, as he returned to his
place.

“It were a Mouse,” said Bruno. “And it peepted in. And it saw the Cat.
And it said ‘I’ll come in another day.’ And I said ‘Oo needn’t be
flightened. The Cat’s _welly_ kind to Mouses.’ And it said ‘But I’s got
some imporkant business, what I _must_ attend to.’ And it said ‘I’ll
call again to-morrow.’ And it said ‘Give my love to the Cat.’”

“What a fat cat it is!” said the Lord Chancellor, leaning across the
Professor to address his small neighbour. “It’s quite a wonder!”

“It was awfully fat when it camed in,” said Bruno: “so it would be more
wonderfuller if it got thin all in a minute.”

“And that was the reason, I suppose,” the Lord Chancellor suggested,
“why you didn’t give it the rest of the milk?”

“No,” said Bruno. “It were a betterer reason. I tooked the saucer up
’cause it were so discontented!”

“It doesn’t look so to _me_,” said the Lord Chancellor. “What made you
think it was discontented?”

“’Cause it grumbled in its throat.”

“Oh, Bruno!” cried Sylvie. “Why, that’s the way cats show they’re
_pleased_!”

Bruno looked doubtful. “It’s not a good way,” he objected. “Oo wouldn’t
say _I_ were pleased, if I made that noise in my throat!”

“What a singular boy!” the Lord Chancellor whispered to himself: but
Bruno had caught the words.

“What do it mean to say ‘a _singular_ boy’?” he whispered to Sylvie.

“It means _one_ boy,” Sylvie whispered in return. “And _plural_ means
two or three.”

“Then I’s welly glad I _is_ a singular boy!” Bruno said with great
emphasis. “It would be _horrid_ to be two or three boys! P’raps they
wouldn’t play with me!”

“Why _should_ they?” said the Other Professor, suddenly waking up out of
a deep reverie. “They might be asleep, you know.”

“Couldn’t, if _I_ was awake,” Bruno said cunningly.

“Oh, but they might indeed!” the Other Professor protested. “Boys don’t
all go to sleep at once, you know. So these boys—but who are you talking
about?”

“He _never_ remembers to ask that first!” the Professor whispered to the
children.

“Why, the rest of _me_, a-course!” Bruno exclaimed triumphantly.
“Supposing I was two or three boys!”

The Other Professor sighed, and seemed to be sinking back into his
reverie; but suddenly brightened up again, and addressed the Professor.
“There’s nothing more to be done _now_, is there?”

“Well, there’s the dinner to finish,” the Professor said with a
bewildered smile: “and the heat to bear. I hope you’ll enjoy the
dinner—such as it is; and that you won’t mind the heat—such as it
isn’t.”

The sentence _sounded_ well, but somehow I couldn’t quite understand it;
and the Other Professor seemed to be no better off. “Such as it isn’t
_what_?” he peevishly enquired.

“It isn’t as hot as it might be,” the Professor replied, catching at the
first idea that came to hand.

“Ah, I see what you mean _now_!” the Other Professor graciously
remarked. “It’s very badly expressed, but I quite see it _now_! Thirteen
minutes and a half ago,” he went on, looking first at Bruno and then at
his watch as he spoke, “you said ‘this Cat’s very kind to the Mouses.’
It must be a singular animal!”

“So it _are_,” said Bruno, after carefully examining the Cat, to make
sure how many there were of it.

“But how do you know it’s kind to the Mouses—or, more correctly
speaking, the _Mice_?”

“’Cause it _plays_ with the Mouses,” said Bruno; “for to amuse them, oo
know.”

“But that is just what I _don’t_ know,” the Other Professor rejoined.
“My belief is, it plays with them to _kill_ them!”

“Oh, that’s quite a _accident_!” Bruno began, so eagerly, that it was
evident he had already propounded this very difficulty to the Cat. “It
’splained all that to me, while it were drinking the milk. It said ‘I
teaches the Mouses new games: the Mouses likes it ever so much.’ It said
‘Sometimes little accidents happens: sometimes the Mouses kills
theirselves.’ It said ‘I’s always _welly_ sorry, when the Mouses kills
theirselves.’ It said——”

“If it was so _very_ sorry,” Sylvie said, rather disdainfully, “it
wouldn’t _eat_ the Mouses after they’d killed themselves!”

But this difficulty, also, had evidently not been lost sight of in the
exhaustive ethical discussion just concluded. “It said——” (the orator
constantly omitted, as superfluous, his own share in the dialogue, and
merely gave us the replies of the Cat) “It said ‘Dead Mouses _never_
objecks to be eaten.’ It said ‘There’s no use wasting good Mouses.’ It
said ‘Wifful—’ sumfinoruvver. It said ‘And oo may live to say ‘How much
I wiss I had the Mouse that then I frew away!’ It said——.”

“It hadn’t _time_ to say such a lot of things!” Sylvie interrupted
indignantly.

“Oo doosn’t know how Cats speaks!” Bruno rejoined contemptuously. “Cats
speaks _welly_ quick!”



                             CHAPTER XXIII.
                             THE PIG-TALE.


By this time the appetites of the guests seemed to be nearly satisfied,
and even _Bruno_ had the resolution to say, when the Professor offered
him a fourth slice of plum-pudding, “I thinks three helpings is enough!”

Suddenly the Professor started as if he had been electrified. “Why, I
had nearly forgotten the most important part of the entertainment! The
Other Professor is to recite a Tale of a Pig—I mean a Pig-Tale,” he
corrected himself. “It has Introductory Verses at the beginning, and at
the end.”

“It ca’n’t have Introductory Verses at the _end_, can it?” said Sylvie.

“Wait till you hear it,” said the Professor: “then you’ll see. I’m not
sure it hasn’t some in the _middle_, as well.” Here he rose to his feet,
and there was an instant silence through the Banqueting-Hall: they
evidently expected a speech.

“Ladies, and gentlemen,” the Professor began, “the Other Professor is so
kind as to recite a Poem. The title of it is ‘The Pig-Tale.’ He never
recited it before!” (General cheering among the guests.) “He will never
recite it again!” (Frantic excitement, and wild cheering all down the
hall, the Professor himself mounting the table in hot haste, to lead the
cheering, and waving his spectacles in one hand and a spoon in the
other.)

Then the Other Professor got up, and began:—

  Little Birds are dining
      Warily and well,
      Hid in mossy cell:
  Hid, I say, by waiters
  Gorgeous in their gaiters—
      I’ve a Tale to tell.

[Illustration: ‘TEACHING TIGRESSES TO SMILE’]

  Little Birds are feeding
      Justices with jam,
      Rich in frizzled ham:
  Rich, I say, in oysters
  Haunting shady cloisters—
      That is what I am.

  Little Birds are teaching
      Tigresses to smile,
      Innocent of guile:
  Smile, I say, not smirkle—
  Mouth a semicircle,
      That’s the proper style.

  Little Birds are sleeping
      All among the pins,
      Where the loser wins:
  Where, I say, he sneezes
  When and how he pleases—
      So the Tale begins.

  There was a Pig that sat alone
    Beside a ruined Pump:
  By day and night he made his moan—
  It would have stirred a heart of stone
  To see him wring his hoofs and groan,
    Because he could not jump.

  A certain Camel heard him shout—
    A Camel with a hump.
  “Oh, is it Grief, or is it Gout?
  What is this bellowing about?”
  That Pig replied, with quivering snout,
    “Because I cannot jump!”

  That Camel scanned him, dreamy-eyed.
    “Methinks you are too plump.
  I never knew a Pig so wide—
  That wobbled so from side to side—
  Who could, however much he tried,
    Do such a thing as _jump_!

  “Yet mark those trees, two miles away,
    All clustered in a clump:
  If you could trot there twice a day,
  Nor ever pause for rest or play,
  In the far future—Who can say?—
    You may be fit to jump.”

[Illustration: ‘HORRID WAS THAT PIG’S DESPAIR!’]

  That Camel passed, and left him there,
    Beside the ruined Pump.
  Oh, horrid was that Pig’s despair!
  His shrieks of anguish filled the air.
  He wrung his hoofs, he rent his hair,
    Because he could not jump.

  There was a Frog that wandered by—
    A sleek and shining lump:
  Inspected him with fishy eye,
  And said “O Pig, what makes you cry?”
  And bitter was that Pig’s reply,
    “Because I cannot jump!”

  That Frog he grinned a grin of glee,
    And hit his chest a thump
  “O Pig,” said, “be ruled by me,
  And you shall see what you shall see.
  This minute, for a trifling fee,
    I’ll teach you how to jump!

  “You may be faint from many a fall,
    And bruised by many a bump:
  But, if you persevere through all,
  And practise first on something small,
  Concluding with a ten-foot wall,
    You’ll find that you can jump!”

  That Pig looked up with joyful start:
    “Oh Frog, you _are_ a trump!
  Your words have healed my inward smart—
  Come, name your fee and do your part:
  Bring comfort to a broken heart,
    By teaching me to jump!”

  “My fee shall be a mutton-chop,
    My goal this ruined Pump.
  Observe with what an airy flop
  I plant myself upon the top!
  Now bend your knees and take a hop,
    For that’s the way to jump!”

[Illustration: THE FATAL JUMP]

  Uprose that Pig, and rushed, full whack,
    Against the ruined Pump:
  Rolled over like an empty sack,
  And settled down upon his back,
  While all his bones at once went ‘Crack!’
    It was a fatal jump.

When the Other Professor had recited this Verse, he went across to the
fire-place, and put his head up the chimney. In doing this, he lost his
balance, and fell head-first into the empty grate, and got so firmly
fixed there that it was some time before he could be dragged out again.

Bruno had had time to say “I thought he wanted to see how many peoples
was up the chimbley.”

And Sylvie had said “_Chimney_—not chimbley.”

And Bruno had said “Don’t talk ’ubbish!”

All this, while the Other Professor was being extracted.

“You must have blacked your face!” the Empress said anxiously. “Let me
send for some soap?”

“Thanks, no,” said the Other Professor, keeping his face turned away.
“Black’s quite a respectable colour. Besides, soap would be no use
without water.”

Keeping his back well turned away from the audience, he went on with the
Introductory Verses:—

[Illustration: ‘BATHING CROCODILES IN CREAM’]

  Little Birds are writing
      Interesting books,
      To be read by cooks:
  Read, I say, not roasted—
  Letterpress, when toasted,
      Loses its good looks.

  Little Birds are playing
      Bagpipes on the shore,
      Where the tourists snore:
  “Thanks!” they cry. “’Tis thrilling!
  Take, oh take this shilling!
      Let us have no more!”

  Little Birds are bathing
      Crocodiles in cream,
      Like a happy dream:
  Like, but not so lasting—
  Crocodiles, when fasting,
      Are not all they seem!

[Illustration: ‘THAT PIG LAY STILL AS ANY STONE’]

  That Camel passed, as Day grew dim
    Around the ruined Pump.
  “O broken heart! O broken limb!
  It needs,” that Camel said to him,
  “Something more fairy-like and slim,
    To execute a jump!”

  That Pig lay still as any stone,
    And could not stir a stump:
  Nor ever, if the truth were known,
  Was he again observed to moan,
  Nor ever wring his hoofs and groan,
    Because he could not jump.

  That Frog made no remark, for he
    Was dismal as a dump:
  He knew the consequence must be
  That he would never get his fee—
  And still he sits, in miserie,
    Upon that ruined Pump!

[Illustration: ‘STILL HE SITS IN MISERIE’]

“It’s a miserable story!” said Bruno. “It begins miserably, and it ends
miserablier. I think I shall cry. Sylvie, please lend me your
handkerchief.”

“I haven’t got it with me,” Sylvie whispered.

“Then I won’t cry,” said Bruno manfully.

“There are more Introductory Verses to come,” said the Other Professor,
“but I’m hungry.” He sat down, cut a large slice of cake, put it on
Bruno’s plate, and gazed at his own empty plate in astonishment.

“Where did you get that cake?” Sylvie whispered to Bruno.

“He gived it me,” said Bruno.

“But you shouldn’t ask for things! You _know_ you shouldn’t!”

“I _didn’t_ ask,” said Bruno, taking a fresh mouthful: “he _gived_ it
me.”

Sylvie considered this for a moment: then she saw her way out of it.
“Well, then, ask him to give _me_ some!”

“You seem to enjoy that cake?” the Professor remarked.

“Doos that mean ‘munch’?” Bruno whispered to Sylvie.

Sylvie nodded. “It means ‘to munch’ and ‘to _like_ to munch.’”

Bruno smiled at the Professor. “I _doos_ enjoy it,” he said.

The Other Professor caught the word. “And I hope you’re enjoying
_yourself_, little Man?” he enquired.

Bruno’s look of horror quite startled him. “No, _indeed_ I aren’t!” he
said.

The Other Professor looked thoroughly puzzled. “Well, well!” he said.
“Try some cowslip wine!” And he filled a glass and handed it to Bruno.
“Drink this, my dear, and you’ll be quite another man!”

“Who shall I be?” said Bruno, pausing in the act of putting it to his
lips.

“Don’t ask so many questions!” Sylvie interposed, anxious to save the
poor old man from further bewilderment. “Suppose we get the Professor to
tell us a story.”

Bruno adopted the idea with enthusiasm. “_Please_ do!” he cried eagerly.
“Sumfin about tigers—and bumble-bees—and robin-redbreasts, oo knows!”

“Why should you always have _live_ things in stories?” said the
Professor. “Why don’t you have events, or circumstances?”

“Oh, _please_ invent a story like that!” cried Bruno.

The Professor began fluently enough. “Once a coincidence was taking a
walk with a little accident, and they met an explanation—a _very_ old
explanation—so old that it was quite doubled up, and looked more like a
conundrum——” he broke off suddenly.

“_Please_ go on!” both children exclaimed.

The Professor made a candid confession. “It’s a very difficult sort to
invent, I find. Suppose Bruno tells one, first.”

Bruno was only too happy to adopt the suggestion.

“Once there were a Pig, and a Accordion, and two Jars of
Orange-marmalade——”

“The _dramatis personæ_,” murmured the Professor. “Well, what then?”

“So, when the Pig played on the Accordion,” Bruno went on, “one of the
Jars of Orange-marmalade didn’t like the tune, and the other Jar of
Orange-marmalade did like the tune—I _know_ I shall get confused among
those Jars of Orange-marmalade, Sylvie!” he whispered anxiously.

“I will now recite the other Introductory Verses,” said the Other
Professor.

[Illustration: ‘BLESSED BY HAPPY STAGS’]

  Little Birds are choking
      Baronets with bun,
      Taught to fire a gun:
  Taught, I say, to splinter
  Salmon in the winter—
      Merely for the fun.

  Little Birds are hiding
      Crimes in carpet-bags,
      Blessed by happy stags:
  Blessed, I say, though beaten—
  Since our friends are eaten
      When the memory flags.

  Little Birds are tasting
      Gratitude and gold,
      Pale with sudden cold
  Pale, I say, and wrinkled—
  When the bells have tinkled
      And the Tale is told.

“The next thing to be done,” the Professor cheerfully remarked to the
Lord Chancellor, as soon as the applause, caused by the recital of the
Pig-Tale, had come to an end, “is to drink the Emperor’s health, is it
not?”

“Undoubtedly!” the Lord Chancellor replied with much solemnity, as he
rose to his feet to give the necessary directions for the ceremony.
“Fill your glasses!” he thundered. All did so, instantly. “Drink the
Emperor’s health!” A general gurgling resounded all through the Hall.
“Three cheers for the Emperor!” The faintest possible sound followed
_this_ announcement: and the Chancellor, with admirable presence of
mind, instantly proclaimed “A speech from the Emperor!”

The Emperor had begun his speech almost before the words were uttered.
“However unwilling to be Emperor—since you all wish me to be Emperor—you
know how badly the late Warden managed things—with such enthusiasm as
you have shown—he persecuted you—he taxed you too heavily—you know who
is fittest man to be Emperor—my brother had no sense——.”

How long this curious speech might have lasted it is impossible to say,
for just at this moment a hurricane shook the palace to its foundations,
bursting open the windows, extinguishing some of the lamps, and filling
the air with clouds of dust, which took strange shapes in the air, and
seemed to form words.

But the storm subsided as suddenly as it had risen—the casements swung
into their places again: the dust vanished: all was as it had been a
minute ago—with the exception of the Emperor and Empress, over whom had
come a wondrous change. The vacant stare, the meaningless smile, had
passed away: all could see that these two strange beings had returned to
their senses.

The Emperor continued his speech as if there had been no interruption.
“And we have behaved—my wife and I—like two arrant Knaves. We deserve no
better name. When my brother went away, you lost the best Warden you
ever had. And I’ve been doing my best, wretched hypocrite that I am, to
cheat you into making me an Emperor. Me! One that has hardly got the
wits to be a shoe-black!”

The Lord Chancellor wrung his hands in despair. “He is mad, good
people!” he was beginning. But both speeches stopped suddenly—and, in
the dead silence that followed, a knocking was heard at the outer door.

“What is it?” was the general cry. People began running in and out. The
excitement increased every moment. The Lord Chancellor, forgetting all
the rules of Court-ceremony, ran full speed down the hall, and in a
minute returned, pale and gasping for breath.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.
                          THE BEGGAR’S RETURN.


“Your Imperial Highnesses!” he began. “It’s the old Beggar again! Shall
we set the dogs at him?”

“Bring him here!” said the Emperor.

The Chancellor could scarcely believe his ears. “_Here_, your Imperial
Highness? Did I rightly understand——.”

“Bring him here!” the Emperor thundered once more. The Chancellor
tottered down the hall—and in another minute the crowd divided, and the
poor old Beggar was seen entering the Banqueting-Hall.

[Illustration: THE OLD BEGGAR’S RETURN]

He was indeed a pitiable object: the rags, that hung about him, were all
splashed with mud: his white hair and his long beard were tossed about
in wild disorder. Yet he walked upright, with a stately tread, as if
used to command: and—strangest sight of all—Sylvie and Bruno came with
him, clinging to his hands, and gazing at him with looks of silent love.

Men looked eagerly to see how the Emperor would receive the bold
intruder. Would he hurl him from the steps of the daïs? But no. To their
utter astonishment, the Emperor knelt as the beggar approached, and with
bowed head murmured “Forgive us!”

“Forgive us!” the Empress, kneeling at her husband’s side, meekly
repeated.

The Outcast smiled. “Rise up!” he said. “I forgive you!” And men saw
with wonder that a change had passed over the old beggar, even as he
spoke. What had seemed, but now, to be vile rags and splashes of mud,
were seen to be in truth kingly trappings, broidered with gold, and
sparkling with gems. All knew him now, and bent low before the Elder
Brother, the true Warden.

“Brother mine, and Sister mine!” the Warden began, in a clear voice that
was heard all through that vast hall. “I come not to disturb you. Rule
on, as Emperor, and rule wisely. For I am chosen King of Elfland.
To-morrow I return there, taking nought from hence, save only—save
only——” his voice trembled, and with a look of ineffable tenderness, he
laid his hands in silence on the heads of the two little ones who clung
around him.

But he recovered himself in a moment, and beckoned to the Emperor to
resume his place at the table. The company seated themselves again—room
being found for the Elfin-King between his two children—and the Lord
Chancellor rose once more, to propose the next toast.

“The next toast—the hero of the day—why, he isn’t here!” he broke off in
wild confusion.

Good gracious! Everybody had forgotten Prince Uggug!

“He was told of the Banquet, of course?” said the Emperor.

“Undoubtedly!” replied the Chancellor. “_That_ would be the duty of the
Gold Stick in Waiting.”

“Let the Gold Stick come forwards!” the Emperor gravely said.

The Gold Stick came forwards. “I attended on His Imperial Fatness,” was
the statement made by the trembling official. “I told him of the Lecture
and the Banquet——.”

“What followed?” said the Emperor: for the unhappy man seemed almost too
frightened to go on.

“His Imperial Fatness was graciously pleased to be sulky. His Imperial
Fatness was graciously pleased to box my ears. His Imperial Fatness was
graciously pleased to say ‘I don’t care!’”

“‘Don’t-care’ came to a bad end,” Sylvie whispered to Bruno. “I’m not
sure, but I _believe_ he was hanged.”

The Professor overheard her. “_That_ result,” he blandly remarked, “was
merely a case of mistaken identity.”

Both children looked puzzled.

“Permit me to explain. ‘Don’t-care’ and ‘Care’ were twin-brothers.
‘Care,’ you know, killed the Cat. And they caught ‘Don’t-care’ by
mistake, and hanged him instead. And so ‘Care’ is alive still. But he’s
very unhappy without his brother. That’s why they say ‘Begone, dull
Care!’”

“Thank you!” Sylvie said, heartily. “It’s very extremely interesting.
Why, it seems to explain _everything_!”

“Well, not quite _everything_,” the Professor modestly rejoined. “There
are two or three scientific difficulties——”

“What was your general impression as to His Imperial Fatness?” the
Emperor asked the Gold Stick.

“My impression was that His Imperial Fatness was getting more——”

“More _what_?”

All listened breathlessly for the next word.

“More PRICKLY!”

“He must be sent for _at once_!” the Emperor exclaimed. And the Gold
Stick went off like a shot. The Elfin-King sadly shook his head. “No
use, no use!” he murmured to himself. “Loveless, loveless!”

Pale, trembling, speechless, the Gold Stick came slowly back again.

“Well?” said the Emperor. “Why does not the Prince appear?”

“One can easily guess,” said the Professor. “His Imperial Fatness is,
without doubt, a little preoccupied.”

Bruno turned a look of solemn enquiry on his old friend. “What do that
word mean?”

But the Professor took no notice of the question. He was eagerly
listening to the Gold Stick’s reply.

“Please your Highness! His Imperial Fatness is——” Not a word more could
he utter.

The Empress rose in an agony of alarm. “Let us go to him!” she cried.
And there was a general rush for the door.

Bruno slipped off his chair in a moment. “May we go too?” he eagerly
asked. But the King did not hear the question, as the Professor was
speaking to him. “_Preoccupied_, your Majesty!” he was saying. “That is
what he is, no doubt!”

“May we go and see him?” Bruno repeated. The King nodded assent, and the
children ran off. In a minute or two they returned, slowly and gravely.
“Well?” said the King. “What’s the matter with the Prince?”

“He’s—what _you_ said,” Bruno replied, looking at the Professor. “That
hard word.” And he looked to Sylvie for assistance.

“Porcupine,” said Sylvie.

“No, no!” the Professor corrected her. “‘_Pre-occupied_,’ you mean.”

[Illustration: ‘PORCUPINE!’]

“No, it’s _porcupine_,” persisted Sylvie. “Not that other word at all.
And please will you come? The house is all in an uproar.” (“And oo’d
better bring an uproar-glass wiz oo!” added Bruno.)

We got up in great haste, and followed the children upstairs. No one
took the least notice of _me_, but I wasn’t at all surprised at this, as
I had long realised that I was quite invisible to them all—even to
Sylvie and Bruno.

All along the gallery, that led to the Prince’s apartment, an excited
crowd was surging to and fro, and the Babel of voices was deafening:
against the door of the room three strong men were leaning, vainly
trying to shut it—for some great animal inside was constantly bursting
it half open, and we had a glimpse, before the men could push it back
again, of the head of a furious wild beast, with great fiery eyes and
gnashing teeth. Its voice was a sort of mixture—there was the roaring of
a lion, and the bellowing of a bull, and now and then a scream like a
gigantic parrot. “There is no judging by the voice!” the Professor cried
in great excitement. “What is it?” he shouted to the men at the door.
And a general chorus of voices answered him “Porcupine! Prince Uggug has
turned into a Porcupine!”

“A new Specimen!” exclaimed the delighted Professor. “Pray let me go in.
It should be labeled at once!”

But the strong men only pushed him back. “Label it, indeed! Do you want
to be eaten up?” they cried.

“Never mind about Specimens, Professor!” said the Emperor, pushing his
way through the crowd. “Tell us how to keep him safe!”

“A large cage!” the Professor promptly replied. “Bring a large cage,” he
said to the people generally, “with strong bars of steel, and a
portcullis made to go up and down like a mouse-trap! Does any one happen
to have such a thing about him?”

It didn’t sound a likely sort of thing for any one to have about him;
however, they brought him one directly: curiously enough, there happened
to be one standing in the gallery.

“Put it facing the opening of the door, and draw up the portcullis!”
This was done in a moment.

“Blankets now!” cried the Professor. “This is a most interesting
Experiment!”

There happened to be a pile of blankets close by: and the Professor had
hardly said the word, when they were all unfolded and held up like
curtains all around. The Professor rapidly arranged them in two rows, so
as to make a dark passage, leading straight from the door to the mouth
of the cage.

“Now fling the door open!” This did not need to be done: the three men
had only to leap out of the way, and the fearful monster flung the door
open for itself, and, with a yell like the whistle of a steam-engine,
rushed into the cage.

“Down with the portcullis!” No sooner said than done: and all breathed
freely once more, on seeing the Porcupine safely caged.

The Professor rubbed his hands in childish delight. “The Experiment has
succeeded!” he proclaimed. “All that is needed now is to feed it three
times a day, on chopped carrots and——.”

“Never mind about its food, just now!” the Emperor interrupted. “Let us
return to the Banquet. Brother, will you lead the way?” And the old man,
attended by his children, headed the procession down stairs. “See the
fate of a loveless life!” he said to Bruno, as they returned to their
places. To which Bruno made reply, “I always loved Sylvie, so I’ll never
get prickly like that!”

“He _is_ prickly, certainly,” said the Professor, who had caught the
last words, “but we must remember that, however porcupiny, he is royal
still! After this feast is over, I’m going to take a little present to
Prince Uggug—just to soothe him, you know: it isn’t pleasant living in a
cage.”

“What’ll you give him for a birthday-present?” Bruno enquired.

“A small saucer of chopped carrots,” replied the Professor. “In giving
birthday-presents, _my_ motto is—cheapness! I should think I save forty
pounds a year by giving—oh, _what_ a twinge of pain!”

“What is it?” said Sylvie anxiously.

“My old enemy!” groaned the Professor. “Lumbago—rheumatism—that sort of
thing. I think I’ll go and lie down a bit.” And he hobbled out of the
Saloon, watched by the pitying eyes of the two children.

“He’ll be better soon!” the Elfin-King said cheerily. “Brother!” turning
to the Emperor, “I have some business to arrange with you to-night. The
Empress will take care of the children.” And the two Brothers went away
together, arm-in-arm.

The Empress found the children rather sad company. They could talk of
nothing but “the dear Professor,” and “what a pity he’s so ill!”, till
at last she made the welcome proposal “Let’s go and see him!”

The children eagerly grasped the hands she offered them: and we went off
to the Professor’s study, and found him lying on the sofa, covered up
with blankets, and reading a little manuscript-book. “Notes on Vol.
Three!” he murmured, looking up at us. And there, on a table near him,
lay the book he was seeking when first I saw him.

“And how are you now, Professor?” the Empress asked, bending over the
invalid.

The Professor looked up, and smiled feebly. “As devoted to your Imperial
Highness as ever!” he said in a weak voice. “All of me, that is not
Lumbago, is Loyalty!”

“A sweet sentiment!” the Empress exclaimed with tears in her eyes. “You
seldom hear anything so beautiful as that—even in a Valentine!”

“We must take you to stay at the seaside,” Sylvie said, tenderly. “It’ll
do you ever so much good! And the Sea’s so grand!”

“But a Mountain’s grander!” said Bruno.

“What is there grand about the Sea?” said the Professor. “Why, you could
put it all into a teacup!”

“_Some_ of it,” Sylvie corrected him.

“Well, you’d only want a certain number of tea-cups to hold it _all_.
And _then_ where’s the grandeur? Then as to a Mountain—why, you could
carry it all away in a wheel-barrow, in a certain number of years!”

“It wouldn’t look grand—the bits of it in the wheel-barrow,” Sylvie
candidly admitted.

“But when oo put it together again——” Bruno began.

“When you’re older,” said the Professor, “you’ll know that you _ca’n’t_
put Mountains together again so easily! One lives and one learns, you
know!”

“But it needn’t be the _same_ one, need it?” said Bruno. “Won’t it do,
if _I_ live, and if _Sylvie_ learns?”

“I _ca’n’t_ learn without living!” said Sylvie.

“But I _can_ live without learning!” Bruno retorted. “Oo just try me!”

“What I meant, was—” the Professor began, looking much puzzled,
“—was—that you don’t know _everything_, you know.”

“But I _do_ know everything I know!” persisted the little fellow. “I
know ever so many things! Everything, ’cept the things I _don’t_ know.
And Sylvie knows all the rest.”

The Professor sighed, and gave it up. “Do you know what a Boojum is?”

“_I_ know!” cried Bruno. “It’s the thing what wrenches people out of
their boots!”

“He means ‘bootjack,’” Sylvie explained in a whisper.

“You ca’n’t wrench people out of _boots_,” the Professor mildly
observed.

Bruno laughed saucily. “Oo _can_, though! Unless they’re _welly_ tight
in.”

“Once upon a time there was a Boojum——” the Professor began, but stopped
suddenly. “I forget the rest of the Fable,” he said. “And there was a
lesson to be learned from it. I’m afraid I forget _that_, too.”

“_I’ll_ tell oo a Fable!” Bruno began in a great hurry. “Once there were
a Locust, and a Magpie, and a Engine-driver. And the Lesson is, to learn
to get up early——”

“It isn’t a bit interesting!” Sylvie said contemptuously. “You shouldn’t
put the Lesson so soon.”

“When did you invent that Fable?” said the Professor. “Last week?”

“No!” said Bruno. “A deal shorter ago than that. Guess again!”

“I ca’n’t guess,” said the Professor. “How long ago?”

“Why, it isn’t invented yet!” Bruno exclaimed triumphantly. “But I
_have_ invented a lovely one! Shall I say it?”

“If you’ve _finished_ inventing it,” said Sylvie. “And let the Lesson be
‘to try again’!”

“No,” said Bruno with great decision. “The Lesson are ‘_not_ to try
again’!” “Once there were a lovely china man, what stood on the
chimbley-piece. And he stood, and he stood. And one day he tumbleded
off, and he didn’t hurt his self one bit. Only he _would_ try again. And
the next time he tumbleded off, he hurted his self welly much, and
breaked off ever so much varnish.”

“But how did he come back on the chimney-piece after his first tumble?”
said the Empress. (It was the first sensible question she had asked in
all her life.)

“_I_ put him there!” cried Bruno.

“Then I’m afraid you know something about his tumbling,” said the
Professor. “Perhaps you pushed him?”

To which Bruno replied, very seriously, “Didn’t pushed him _much_—he
were a _lovely_ china man,” he added hastily, evidently very anxious to
change the subject.

“Come, my children!” said the Elfin-King, who had just entered the room.
“We must have a little chat together, before you go to bed.” And he was
leading them away, but at the door they let go his hands, and ran back
again to wish the Professor good night.

[Illustration: ‘GOOD-NIGHT, PROFESSOR!’]

“Good night, Professor, good night!” And Bruno solemnly shook hands with
the old man, who gazed at him with a loving smile, while Sylvie bent
down to press her sweet lips upon his forehead.

“Good night, little ones!” said the Professor. “You may leave me now—to
ruminate. I’m as jolly as the day is long, except when it’s necessary to
ruminate on some very difficult subject. All of me,” he murmured
sleepily as we left the room, “all of me, that isn’t _Bonhommie_, is
Rumination!”

“_What_ did he say, Bruno?” Sylvie enquired, as soon as we were safely
out of hearing.

“I _think_ he said ‘All of me that isn’t Bone-disease is Rheumatism.’
Whatever _are_ that knocking, Sylvie?”

Sylvie stopped, and listened anxiously. It sounded like some one kicking
at a door. “I _hope_ it isn’t that Porcupine breaking loose!” she
exclaimed.

“Let’s go on!” Bruno said hastily. “There’s nuffin to wait for, oo
know!“



                              CHAPTER XXV
                           LIFE OUT OF DEATH.


The sound of kicking, or knocking, grew louder every moment: and at last
a door opened somewhere near us. “Did you say ‘come in!’ Sir?” my
landlady asked timidly.

“Oh yes, come in!” I replied. “What’s the matter?”

“A note has just been left for you, Sir, by the baker’s boy. He said he
was passing the Hall, and they asked him to come round and leave it
here.”

The note contained five words only. “Please come at once. Muriel.”

A sudden terror seemed to chill my very heart. “The Earl is ill!” I said
to myself. “Dying, perhaps!” And I hastily prepared to leave the house.

“No bad news, Sir, I hope?” my landlady said, as she saw me out. “The
boy said as some one had arrived unexpectedly——.”

“I hope that is it!” I said. But my feelings were those of fear rather
than of hope: though, on entering the house, I was somewhat reassured by
finding luggage lying in the entrance, bearing the initials “E. L.”

“It’s only Eric Lindon after all!” I thought, half relieved and half
annoyed. “Surely she need not have sent for me for _that_!”

Lady Muriel met me in the passage. Her eyes were gleaming—but it was the
excitement of joy, rather than of grief. “I have a surprise for you!”
she whispered.

“You mean that Eric Lindon is here?” I said, vainly trying to disguise
the involuntary bitterness of my tone. “‘_The funeral baked meats did
coldly furnish forth the marriage-tables_,’” I could not help repeating
to myself. How cruelly I was misjudging her!

“No, no!” she eagerly replied. “At least—Eric _is_ here. But——,” her
voice quivered, “but there is _another_!”

No need for further question. I eagerly followed her in. There on the
bed, he lay—pale and worn—the mere shadow of his old self—my old friend
come back again from the dead!

“Arthur!” I exclaimed. I could not say another word.

“Yes, back again, old boy!” he murmured, smiling as I grasped his hand.
“_He_,” indicating Eric, who stood near, “saved my life—_He_ brought me
back. Next to God, we must thank _him_, Muriel, my wife!”

Silently I shook hands with Eric and with the Earl: and with one consent
we moved into the shaded side of the room, where we could talk without
disturbing the invalid, who lay, silent and happy, holding his wife’s
hand in his, and watching her with eyes that shone with the deep steady
light of Love.

“He has been delirious till to-day,” Eric explained in a low voice: “and
even to-day he has been wandering more than once. But the sight of _her_
has been new life to him.” And then he went on to tell us, in would-be
careless tones—I knew how he hated any display of feeling—how he had
insisted on going back to the plague-stricken town, to bring away a man
whom the doctor had abandoned as dying, but who _might_, he fancied,
recover if brought to the hospital: how he had seen nothing in the
wasted features to remind him of Arthur, and only recognised him when he
visited the hospital a month after: how the doctor had forbidden him to
announce the discovery, saying that any shock to the over taxed brain
might kill him at once: how he had staid on at the hospital, and nursed
the sick man by night and day—all this with the studied indifference of
one who is relating the commonplace acts of some chance acquaintance!

“And this was his _rival_!” I thought. “The man who had won from him the
heart of the woman he loved!”

[Illustration: ‘HIS WIFE KNELT DOWN AT HIS SIDE’]

“The sun is setting,” said Lady Muriel, rising and leading the way to
the open window. “Just look at the western sky! What lovely crimson
tints! We shall have a glorious day to-morrow——” We had followed her
across the room, and were standing in a little group, talking in low
tones in the gathering gloom, when we were startled by the voice of the
sick man, murmuring words too indistinct for the ear to catch.

“He is wandering again,” Lady Muriel whispered, and returned to the
bedside. We drew a little nearer also: but no, this had none of the
incoherence of delirium. “_What reward shall I give unto the Lord_,” the
tremulous lips were saying, “_for all the benefits that He hath done
unto me? I will receive the cup of salvation, and call—and call_——” but
here the poor weakened memory failed, and the feeble voice died into
silence.

His wife knelt down at the bedside, raised one of his arms, and drew it
across her own, fondly kissing the thin white hand that lay so
listlessly in her loving grasp. It seemed to me a good opportunity for
stealing away without making her go through any form of parting: so,
nodding to the Earl and Eric, I silently left the room. Eric followed me
down the stairs, and out into the night.

“Is it Life or Death?” I asked him, as soon as we were far enough from
the house for me to speak in ordinary tones.

“It is _Life_!” he replied with eager emphasis. “The doctors are quite
agreed as to _that_. All he needs now, they say, is rest, and perfect
quiet, and good nursing. He’s quite sure to get rest and quiet, here:
and, as for the nursing why, I think it’s just _possible_——” (he tried
hard to make his trembling voice assume a playful tone) “he may even get
fairly well nursed, in his present quarters!”

“I’m sure of it!” I said. “Thank you so much for coming out to tell me!”
And, thinking he had now said all he had come to say, I held out my hand
to bid him good night. He grasped it warmly, and added, turning his face
away as he spoke, “By the way, there is one other thing I wanted to say.
I thought you’d like to know that—that I’m not—not in the mind I was in
when last we met. It isn’t—that I can accept Christian belief—at least,
not yet. But all this came about so strangely. And she had prayed, you
know. And I had prayed. And—and—” his voice broke, and I could only just
catch the concluding words, “_there is a God that answers prayer!_ I
know it for certain now.” He wrung my hand once more, and left me
suddenly. Never before had I seen him so deeply moved.

So, in the gathering twilight, I paced slowly homewards, in a tumultuous
whirl of happy thoughts: my heart seemed full, and running over, with
joy and thankfulness: all that I had so fervently longed for, and prayed
for, seemed now to have come to pass. And, though I reproached myself,
bitterly, for the unworthy suspicion I had for one moment harboured
against the true-hearted Lady Muriel, I took comfort in knowing it had
been but a passing thought.

Not Bruno himself could have mounted the stairs with so buoyant a step,
as I felt my way up in the dark, not pausing to strike a light in the
entry, as I knew I had left the lamp burning in my sitting-room.

But it was no common _lamplight_ into which I now stepped, with a
strange, new, dreamy sensation of some subtle witchery that had come
over the place. Light, richer and more golden than any lamp could give,
flooded the room, streaming in from a window I had somehow never noticed
before, and lighting up a group of three shadowy figures, that grew
momently more distinct—a grave old man in royal robes, leaning back in
an easy chair, and two children, a girl and a boy, standing at his side.

“Have you the Jewel still, my child?” the old man was saying.

“Oh, _yes_!” Sylvie exclaimed with unusual eagerness. “Do you think I’d
_ever_ lose it or forget it?” She undid the ribbon round her neck, as
she spoke, and laid the Jewel in her father’s hand.

Bruno looked at it admiringly. “What a lovely brightness!” he said.
“It’s just like a little red star! May I take it in my hand?”

Sylvie nodded: and Bruno carried it off to the window, and held it aloft
against the sky, whose deepening blue was already spangled with stars.
Soon he came running back in some excitement. “Sylvie! Look here!” he
cried. “I can see right through it when I hold it up to the sky. And it
isn’t red a bit: it’s, oh such a lovely blue! And the words are all
different! Do look at it!”

Sylvie was quite excited, too, by this time; and the two children
eagerly held up the Jewel to the light, and spelled out the legend
between them, “ALL WILL LOVE SYLVIE.”

[Illustration: THE BLUE LOCKET]

“Why, this is the _other_ Jewel!” cried Bruno. “Don’t you remember,
Sylvie? The one you _didn’t_ choose!”

Sylvie took it from him, with a puzzled look, and held it, now up to the
light, now down. “It’s blue, _one_ way,” she said softly to herself,
“and it’s red, the _other_ way! Why, I thought there were _two_ of
them—Father!” she suddenly exclaimed, laying the Jewel once more in his
hand, “I do believe it was the _same_ Jewel all the time!”

“Then you choosed it from _itself_,” Bruno thoughtfully remarked.
“Father, _could_ Sylvie choose a thing from itself?”

“Yes, my own one,” the old man replied to Sylvie, not noticing Bruno’s
embarrassing question, “it _was_ the same Jewel—but you chose quite
right.” And he fastened the ribbon round her neck again.

“SYLVIE WILL LOVE ALL—ALL WILL LOVE SYLVIE,” Bruno murmured, raising
himself on tiptoe to kiss the ‘little red star.’ “And, when you look
_at_ it, it’s red and fierce like the sun—and, when you look _through_
it, it’s gentle and blue like the sky!”

“God’s own sky,” Sylvie said, dreamily.

“God’s own sky,” the little fellow repeated, as they stood, lovingly
clinging together, and looking out into the night. “But oh, Sylvie, what
makes the sky such a _darling_ blue?”

Sylvie’s sweet lips shaped themselves to reply, but her voice sounded
faint and very far away. The vision was fast slipping from my eager
gaze: but it seemed to me, in that last bewildering moment, that not
Sylvie but an angel was looking out through those trustful brown eyes,
and that not Sylvie’s but an angel’s voice was whispering

                             “It is love.”

[Illustration: ‘IT IS LOVE!’]


                                THE END.



                             GENERAL INDEX.


[N.B. ‘I’ refers to “Sylvie and Bruno,” ‘II’ to “Sylvie and Bruno
Concluded.”]

                                   A
  Accelerated Velocity, causes of; II. 190
  Air, Cotton-wool lighter than, how to obtain; II. 166
  Animal-Suffering, mystery of; II. 296
  Anti-Teetotal Card; II. 139
  Artistic effect said to require Indistinctness; I. 241
  Asylums, Lunatic-, future use for; II. 132
  Axioms of Science; II. 330

                                   B
  Badgers, the Three (Poem); I. 247
  Barometer, sideways motion of; I. 13
  Baron Doppelgeist; I. 85
  Bath, Portable, for Tourists; I. 25
  Bazaars, Charity-; II. 44
  Beauty, Pain of realising; II. 337
  Bed, reason for never going to; II. 141
  Bees, Mind of; II. 29
  Bessie’s Song; II. 76
  Bible-Selections for Children; I. xiii
      ”    ”    learning by heart; I. xiv
  Black Light, how to produce; II. 341
  Boat, motion of, how to imitate on land; II. 108
  Books, or Minds. Which contain most Science? I. 21
  Boots for Horizontal Weather; I. 14
  Brain, inverted position of; I. 243
  Bread-sauce appropriate for Weltering; I. 58
  Breaking promises. Why is it wrong? II. 27
  Bruno’s Song: I. 215
  Burden of Proof misplaced by Crocodiles; I. 230
      ”    ”    ”    Ladies; I. 235
      ”    ”    ”    Watts, Dr.; do.

                                   C
  ‘Care’ and ‘Don’t-Care,’ history of; II. 385
  Carrying one’s self. Why is it not fatiguing? I. 169
  Charity-Bazaars; II. 44
      ”    fallacies as to; II. 43
      ”    Pseudo-; II. 42
  Child’s Bible; I. xiii
      ”    Sunday, in last generation; I. 387
      ”    view of Adult Life; II. 260
      ”    ”    Present Life; I. 330
  Choral Services, effect of; I. 273. II. xix
  Chorister’s life, dangers of; I. 274. II. xix
  Church-going, true principle of; I. 272
  Competition for Scholars; II. 187
  Competitive Examination; II. 184
  Conceited Critic always depreciates; I. 237
  Content, opportunity for cultivating; I. 152
  ‘Convenient’ and ‘Inconvenient,’ difference in meaning; I. 140
  Conversation at Dinner-parties, how to promote: (_see_
          “Dinner-parties”)
  Cotton-wool lighter than air, how to obtain; II. 166
  Critic, conceited, always depreciates; I. 237
      ”    how to gain character of; I. 238
  Crocodiles, Logic of; I. 230
  Croquet. Why is it demoralising? II. 135

                                   D
  Darwinism reversed; I. 64
  Day, length and shortness of, compared; I. 159
      ”    true length of; I. 159
  Death, certainty of, effect of realising; I. xix
  Debts, how to avoid Payment of; I. 131
  Deserts, use for; II. 158
  Dichotomy, Political, in common life; II. 198, 205, 207
  Dinner-parties, how to promote Conversation at:—
      Moving-Guests; II. 145
          ”    Pictures; II. 143
      Revolving-Humorist; II. 145
      Wild-Creatures; II. 144
  Dog-King, the, (‘Nero’); I. 175. II. 58
  Dog, Man’s advantage over; II. 293
      ”    reasoning power of; II. 294
  ‘Doing good,’ ambiguity of phrase; II. 43
  Doppelgeist, Baron; I. 85
  Dramatization of Life; I. 333
  Dreaminess, certain cure for; I. 136
  Drunkenness, how to prevent; II. 71

                                   E
  Eggs, how to purchase; II. 196
  Electricity, influence of, on Literature; I. 64
  Enjoyment of Life; I. 335
      ”    Novel-reading; I. 336
  Eternity, contemplation of. Why is it wearisome? II. 258
  Events in reverse order; I. 350
  Examination, Competitive; II. 184
  Experimental Honeymoons; II. 136
  Eye, images inverted in the; I. 242

                                   F
  Fairies, captured, how to treat; II. 5
      ”    character of, how to improve; I. 190
      ”    existence of, possible; II. 300
      ”    presence of, how to recognise; I. 191. II. 264
      ”    moral responsibility of; II. 301
  Falling Houses, Life in; I. 100
  Final Causes, problem in; I. 297
  Fires in Theatres, how to prevent; II. 165
  Fortunatus’ Purse, how to make; II. 100
  Free-Will and Nerve-Force; I. 390
  Frog, young, how to amuse; I. 364
  Future Life. What interests will survive in it? II. 256

                                   G
  Gardener’s Song:—
      Albatross; I. 164
      Argument; II. 319.
      Banker’s Clerk; I. 90.
      Bar of Mottled Soap; II. 319.
      Bear without a head; I. 116.
      Buffalo; I. 78.
      Coach-and-Four; I. 116.
      Double Rule of Three; I. 168.
      Elephant; I. 65; II. 334.
      Garden-Door; I. 168.
      Hippopotamus; I. 90.
      Kangaroo; I. 106.
      Letter from his Wife; I. 65.
      Middle of Next Week; I. 83.
      Penny-Postage-Stamp; I. 164.
      Rattlesnake; I. 83.
      Sister’s Husband’s Niece; I. 78.
      Vegetable-Pill; I. 106
  Ghosts, treatment of, by Shakespeare; I. 60
      ”    ”    in Railway-Literature; I. 58
      ”    Weltering, Bread-sauce appropriate for; I. 58
  Girls’ Shakespeare; I. xv
  Government with many Kings and one Subject; II. 172
  Graduated races of Man; I. 299
  Guests, Moving-; II. 145

                                   H
  Happiness, excessive, how to moderate; I. 159
  Heaven inconceivable to those on Earth; II. 260
  Honesty, Dr. Watts’ argument for; I. 235
  Honeymoons, Experimental; II. 136
  Horizontal Weather, Boots for; I. 14
  Horses, Runaway, how to control; II. 108
  Hot Ink, use of; II. 357
  Houses, Falling, Life in; I. 100
  Humorist, Revolving; II. 145
  Hunting, Morality of; I. xx, 318; II. xviii
  Hymns appealing to Selfishness; I. 276

                                   I
  ‘Idle Mouths’; II. 37
  ‘Imponderal’; II. 166
  ‘Inconvenient’ and ‘Convenient,’ difference in meaning of; I. 140
  Indistinctness said to be necessary for Artistic effect; I. 241
  Ink, Hot, use of; II. 357
  Instinct and Reason; II. 295
  Inversion of Brain; I. 243
      “    images on Retina; I. 242

                                   J
  Jam-tasting; II. 150
  Jesting in Letter-writing, how to indicate; II. 117

                                   K
  ‘King Fisher’ Song; II. 14
  Knocking-down, some persons not liable to; II. 54

                                   L
  Ladies, Logic of; I. 235
  Least Common Multiple, rule of, applied to Literature; I. 22
  Letter-writing, how to indicate Jesting in; II. 117
      ”    ”    ”    Shyness in; II. 115
  Life, adult, Child’s view of; II. 260
      ”    Dramatization of; I. 133
      ”    Future, What interests will survive in it? II. 256
      ”    how to enjoy; I. 335
      ”    in Falling Houses; I. 100
      ”    ”    reverse order; I. 350
      ”    Present, Child’s view of; I. 330
  Light, Black, how to produce; II. 341
  Literature as influenced by Electricity; I. 64
      ”    ”    Steam; I. 64
      ”    for Railway; I. 58
      ”    treated by rule of Least Common Multiple; I. 22
  ‘Little Birds’ (Poem); II. 364, 371, 377
  ‘Little Man’ (Poem); II. 265
      ”    privilege of being; I. 299
  Liturgy, Choral, effect of; I. 273
  Logic of Crocodiles; I. 230
      ”    of Ladies; I. 235
      ”    of Dr. Watts; do.
      ”    requisites for complete Argument in; I. 259
  Loving or being loved. Which is best? I. 77
  Lunatic-Asylums, future use for; II. 132
  Lunatics out-numbering the Sane, result of; II. 133

                                   M
  Man, advantages of, over the Dog; II. 293
      ”    graduated races of; I. 299
      ”    Little, privilege of being; I. 299
  Maps, best size for; II. 169
  ‘Matilda Jane’ (Poem); II. 76
  ‘Megaloscope’; II. 334
  Minds, or Books. Which contain most Science? I. 21
  Money, effect of increasing value of; I. 312
      ”    playing for, a moral act; II. 135
  Morality of Sport; I. xx, 318. II. xviii
  Moral Philosophy, teachers of. Which are most esteemed? II. 181
  Moving-Guests; II. 145
      ”    Pictures; II. 143
  Music, how to get largest amount of in given time; I. 338
      “    Why is it sometimes not pleasing? II. 156

                                   N
  ‘Nero’ the Dog-King; I. 175. II. 58
  Nerve-Force and Free-Will; I. 390
  Nerves, slow action of; I. 158
  Novel-reading, how to enjoy; I. 336

                                   O
  ‘Obstruction,’ Political, in common life; II. 203
  ‘Onus probandi’ misplaced by Crocodiles; I. 230
      ”    ”    Ladies; I. 235
      ”    ”    Dr. Watts; do.
  ‘Opposition,’ Political, in common life; II. 200

                                   P
  Pain, how to minimise; I. 337
  Paley’s definition of Virtue; I. 273
  Parentheses in Conversation, how to indicate; I. 251
  Passages, Selected, for learning by heart; I. xv
  Payment of Debts, how to avoid; I. 131
  ‘Peter and Paul’ (Poem); I. 143
  Philosophy, Moral. What kind is most esteemed? II. 181
  Phlizz, a visionary flower; I. 282
      ”    ”    fruit; I. 75
      ”    ”    nurse-maid; I. 283
  Pictures, how to criticize; I. 238
      ”    Moving; II. 143
  ‘Pig Tale’ (Poem); I. 138; II. 366, 372
  Planets, small; II. 170
  Playing for money, a moral act; II. 135
  Pleasure, how to maximise; I. 335
  Plunge-Bath, portable, for Tourists; I. 25
  Poems, first lines of:—
      ‘He stept so lightly to the land’; I. 291
      ‘He thought he saw an Albatross’; I. 164
      ”    ”    an Argument’; II. 319
      ”    ”    a Banker’s Clerk’; I. 90
      ”    ”    a Buffalo’; I. 78
      ”    ”    a Coach-and-Four’; I. 116
      ”    ”    an Elephant’; I. 65; II. 334
      ”    ”    a Garden-Door’; I. 168
      ”    ”    a Kangaroo’; I. 106
      ”    ”    a Rattlesnake’; I. 83
      ‘In Stature the Manlet was dwarfish’; II. 265
      ‘King Fisher courted Lady Bird’; II. 14
      ‘Little Birds are &c.’; II. 364, 371, 377
      ‘Matilda Jane, you never look’; II. 76
      ‘One thousand pounds per annuum’; II. 194
      ‘Peter is poor, said noble Paul’; I. 143
      ‘Rise, oh rise! The daylight dies’; I. 215
      ‘Say, what is the spell, when her fledgelings are cheeping’;
          II. 305
      ‘There be three Badgers on a mossy stone’; I. 247
      ‘There was a Pig, that sat alone’; I. 138; II. 366, 372
  Political Dichotomy in common life; II. 198, 205, 207
      ”    ‘Opposition’ in common life; II. 200
  Poor people, method for enriching; I. 312
  Poverty, blessings of; I. 152
  Prayer for temporal blessings, efficacy of; I. 391
  Preachers appealing to Selfishness; I. 276
      ”    exceptional privileges of; I. 277
  Promises. When are they binding? II. 26
      ”    breaking of. Why is it wrong? II. 27
  Proof, Burden of; (_see_ ‘Burden of Proof’)
  Property, inherited, duties of owner of; II. 39
  Pseudo-Charity; II. 43
  Purse of Fortunatus, how to make; II. 100

                                   Q
  Questions in Conversation, how to indicate; I. 251

                                   R
  Railway Literature; I. 58
      ”    Scenes, Dramatization of; I. 333
  Rain, Horizontal, Boots for; I. 14
  Reason and Instinct; II. 295
      ”    power of, in Dog; II. 294
  Retina, images inverted on; I. 242
  Reversed order of Events; I. 350
  Revolving-Humorist; II. 145
  Runaway Horses, how to control; II. 108

                                   S
  Scenery enjoyed most by Little Men; I. 299
  Scholars, Competition for; II. 187
  Science, Axioms of; II. 330
      “    Do Books, or Minds, contain most? I. 21
  Selections from Bible, for Children; I. xiii
      ”    ”    for learning by heart; I. xiv
      ”    Prose and Verse,    ”    ”; I. xv
      ”    from Shakespeare, for Girls; I. xv
  Selfishness appealed to in Hymns; I. 276
      ”    ”    religious teaching; do.
      ”    ”    Sermons; do.
  Sermons appealing to Selfishness; do.
      ”    faults of; I. 277. II. xix
  Services, Choral, effect of; I. 273
  Shakespeare, passages of, discussed:—
          ‘All the world’s a stage’; I. 335
          ‘Aye, every inch a king!’; I. 373
          ‘Is this a dagger that I see before me?’; I. 371
          ‘Rest, rest, perturbed Spirit!’; I. 60
          ‘To be, or not to be’; I. 370
      ”    Selections from, for Girls; I. xv
      ”    treatment of Ghosts by; I. 60
  Shyness, how to indicate in Letter-writing; II. 115
  ‘Sillygism,’ requisites for; I. 259
  Sinfulness, amount of, in World; II. 125
      ”    of an act differs with environment; II. 123
  Sobriety, extreme, inconvenience of; I. 140
  Spencer, Herbert, difficulties in; I. 258
  Spherical, advantage of being; II. 190
  Sport, Morality of; I. xx, 318. II. xviii
  Steam, influence of, on Literature; I. 64
  Sufferings of Animals, mystery of; II. 296
  Sunday, as spent by children of last generation; I. 387
      ”    observance of; I. 385
  Sylvie and Bruno’s Song; II. 305

                                   T
  Teetotal-Card; II. 139
  Theatres, Fires in, how to prevent; II. 165
  ‘Three Badgers’ (Poem); I. 247
  Time, how to put back; I. 314, 347
      ”    ”    reverse; I. 350
      ”    storage of; II. 105
  ‘Tottles’ (Poem); II. 194, 201, 209, 248
  Tourists’ Portable Bath; I. 25
  Trains running without engines; II. 106

                                   V
  Velocity, Accelerated, causes of; II. 190
  Virtue, Paley’s definition of; I. 274
  Voyages on Land; II. 109

                                   W
  Walking-sticks that walk alone, how to obtain; II. 166
  Water, people lighter than, how to obtain; II. 165
  Watts, Dr., Argument for Honesty; I. 235
      ”    Logic of; do.
  Weather, Horizontal, Boots for; I. 14
  Weight, force of, how to exhaust; II. 343
      ”    relative, conceivable non-existence of; I. 100
  Weltering, Bread-sauce appropriate for; I. 58
  ‘What Tottles meant’ (Poem); II. 194, 201, 209, 248
  Wild-Creatures; II. 144
  Wilderness, use for; II. 158
  ‘Wilful waste, &c.,’ lesson to be learnt from; II. 69



                        Works by Lewis Carroll.


                     SYLVIE AND BRUNO. First Part.

With forty-six Illustrations by Harry Furniss. 12mo, cloth extra, gilt,
                                 $1.50.

“A charming book for children. The illustrations are very
happy.”—_Boston Traveller._

“Alice was a delightful little girl, but hardly more pleasing than are
the hero and heroine of this latest book from a writer in whose nonsense
there is far more sense than in the serious works of many contemporary
authors.”—_Morning Post._

“Mr. Furniss’s illustrations, which are numerous, are at once graceful
and full of humor. We pay him a high compliment when we say he proves
himself a worthy successor to Mr. Tenniel in illustrating Mr. Lewis
Carroll’s books.”—_St. James’s Gazette._

“Bruno and Sylvie are wholly delightful creations, the Professor is
worthy to rank with the immortal Pickwick, and there is an endless fund
of enjoyment in the Gardener and his wonderful songs.... The pictures by
Harry Furniss are incomparably good.”—_Boston Beacon._

“_Sylvie and Bruno_ is characterized by his peculiar and whimsical
humor, his extravagant conceits, and the grotesqueness and inconsistency
of plot, characters, and incidents in his stories.... It is a charming
piece of work.”—_New York Sun._


                   ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND.

   _One Hundredth Thousand._ With forty-two Illustrations by Tenniel.
                       12mo, cloth, gilt, $1.00.
                Also a German Translation. 12mo, $2.00.
                   A French Translation. 12mo, $2.00.
                  An Italian Translation. 12mo, $2.00.

“An excellent piece of nonsense.”—_Times._

“That most delightful of children’s stories.”—_Saturday Review._

“That delectable and truly imaginative work.”—_New York Sun._

“Probably no other book has ever filled just the place that _Alice in
Wonderland_ has held in the hearts of children and grown people during
the last twenty years.”—_Every Thursday._

“_Alice in Wonderland_ and its sequel _Through the Looking-Glass_ are
known wherever the English tongue is spoken. They are classics of their
kind and could in no wise be improved upon.”—_St. Louis Republic._

“_Alice in Wonderland_ is the most delightful imaginative composition of
late years for boys and girls.”—_The Boston Globe._

“Love for children and keen sympathy with them in the delightfully
primitive views they take of life is one of the distinctive
characteristics of Lewis Carroll.”—_The Churchman._


         THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS, AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE.

 _Sixtieth Thousand._ With fifty Illustrations by Tenniel. 12mo, cloth,
                              gilt, $1.00.

“Will fairly rank with the tale of her previous experience.”—_Daily
Telegraph._

“Many of Mr. Tenniel’s designs are masterpieces of wise
absurdity.”—_Athenæum._

“Whether as regarding author or illustrator, this book is a jewel rarely
to be found nowadays.”—_Echo._


  ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS, AND
                        WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE.

  With all the Illustrations. Printed in one volume, on thinner paper,
                             cloth, $1.25.

“We know of no books in the whole range of juvenile literature so full
of genuine and boundless fun as these.”—_Boston Evening Transcript._


                           THE NURSERY ALICE.

 Containing twenty colored enlargements from Tenniel’s Illustrations to
    _Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland_, with text adapted to Nursery
          Readers by Lewis Carroll. 4to, colored cover, $1.50.

“Let the little people rejoice!—the most charming book in the world has
appeared for them. _The Nursery Alice_, with its wealth of colored
illustrations from Tenniel’s pictures, is certainly the most artistic
juvenile that has been seen for many and many a day.”—_Boston Budget._

“This is a charming book, both in pictures and in text, for the little
ones of the nursery. It is a sort of miniature of _Alice in Wonderland_,
and will no doubt have a circulation and become as great a favorite
among the wee ones as the larger volume has among the older
children.”—_Christian at Work._


                    ALICE’S ADVENTURES UNDER GROUND.

  Being a Fac-simile of the original MS. Book afterward developed into
  _Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland_. With twenty-seven Illustrations.
                              12mo, $1.50.


                       THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK.

 An Agony in Eight Fits. With nine Illustrations by Henry Holiday. _New
                     Edition._ Cloth, gilt, $1.00.

“This is a very pretty edition of the verses which should have made
their author famous, even if he had never written _Alice in Wonderland_.
The Snark, like the Jabberwock, for some reason or other, has no place
in the natural histories, yet it is a very charming creature. The book
contains nine quaint illustrations by Henry Holiday.”—_America._


                           RHYME? AND REASON?

   With sixty-five Illustrations by Arthur B. Frost and nine by Henry
                         Holiday. 12mo, $1.50.

This book is a reprint, with additions, of the comic portions of
_Phantasmagoria, and other Poems_, and of _The Hunting of the Snark_.

“_Rhyme? and Reason?_ by Lewis Carroll, author of _Alice in Wonderland_
shows the same quaintness of fancy and the same originality of humor
that mark his prose works. The versification is smooth and flowing, and
the rhyming exceedingly ingenious.”—_Boston Saturday Evening Gazette._

“_Rhyme? and Reason?_ with its clever illustrations, will be sure of
great popularity.”—_Philadelphia Press._


                            A TANGLED TALE.

 Reprinted from the _Monthly Packet_. With Illustrations. 12mo, cloth,
                                 $1.50.

“To people mathematically inclined, who are fond of odd style and odd
illustrations, and who like to travel so many (Gordian) knots an hour,
Mr. Lewis Carroll’s new ‘wonderland’—_A Tangled Tale_—will prove a
delightful treat.”—_The Critic._


                           THE GAME OF LOGIC.

   With an Envelope containing a Card Diagram and Nine Counters—four
                 red and five gray. 12mo, cloth, $1.00.



                         A NEW UNIFORM EDITION
                                   OF
                           MRS. MOLESWORTH’S
                          STORIES FOR CHILDREN
                                  WITH
            ILLUSTRATIONS BY WALTER CRANE AND LESLIE BROOKE.


           In Ten Volumes. 12mo. Cloth. One Dollar a Volume.

  Tell Me a Story, and Herr Baby.
    “Carrots,” and A Christmas Child.
      Grandmother Dear, and Two Little Waifs.
    The Cuckoo Clock, and The Tapestry Room.
    Christmas-Tree Land, and A Christmas Posy.
  The Children of the Castle, and Four Winds Farm.
    Little Miss Peggy, and Nurse Heatherdale’s Story.
      “Us,” and The Rectory Children.
    Rosy, and The Girls and I.
    Mary.

                 THE SET, TEN VOLUMES, IN BOX, $10.00.

“It seems to me not at all easier to draw a lifelike child than to draw
a lifelike man or woman: Shakespeare and Webster were the only two men
of their age who could do it with perfect delicacy and success; at
least, it there was another who could, I must crave pardon of his happy
memory for my forgetfulness or ignorance of his name. Our own age is
more fortunate, on this single score at least, having a larger and far
nobler proportion of female writers; among whom, since the death of
George Eliot, there is none left whose touch is so exquisite and
masterly, whose love is so thoroughly according to knowledge, whose
bright and sweet invention is so fruitful, so truthful, or so delightful
as Mrs. Molesworth’s. Any chapter of _The Cuckoo Clock_ or the
enchanting _Adventures of Herr Baby_ is worth a shoal of the very best
novels dealing with the characters and fortunes of mere adults.”—Mrs. A.
C. Swinburne, in _The Nineteenth Century_.


                           MRS. MOLESWORTH’S
                         Stories for Children.

“There is hardly a better author to put into the hands of children than
Mrs. Molesworth. I cannot easily speak too highly of her work. It is a
curious art she has, not wholly English in its spirit, but a cross of
the old English with the Italian. Indeed, I should say Mrs. Molesworth
had also been a close student of the German and Russian, and had some
way, catching and holding the spirit of all, created a method and tone
quite her own.... Her characters are admirable and real.”—_St. Louis
Globe-Democrat._

“Mrs. Molesworth has a rare gift for composing stories for children.
With a light yet forcible touch, she paints sweet and artless, yet
natural and strong, characters.”—_Congregationalist._

“Mrs. Molesworth always has in her books those charming touches of
nature that are sure to charm small people. Her stories are so likely to
have been true that men ‘grown up’ do not disdain them.”—_Home Journal._

“No English writer of childish stories has a better reputation than Mrs.
Molesworth, and none with whose stories we are familiar deserves it
better. She has a motherly knowledge of the child nature, a clear sense
of character, the power of inventing simple incidents that interest, and
the ease which comes of continuous practice.”—_Mail and Express._

“Christmas would hardly be Christmas without one of Mrs. Molesworth’s
stories. No one has quite the same power of throwing a charm and an
interest about the most commonplace every-day doings as she has, and no
one has ever blended fairy-land and reality with the same
skill.”—_Educational Times._

“Mrs. Molesworth is justly a great favorite with children; her stories
for them are always charmingly interesting and healthful in
tone.”—_Boston Home Journal._

“Mrs. Molesworth’s books are cheery, wholesome, and particularly well
adapted to refined life. It is safe to add that Mrs. Molesworth is the
best English prose writer for children.... A new volume from Mrs.
Molesworth is always a treat.”—_The Beacon._

“No holiday season would be complete for a host of young readers without
a volume from the hand of Mrs. Molesworth.... It is one of the
peculiarities of Mrs. Molesworth’s stories that older readers can no
more escape their charm than younger ones.”—_Christian Union._

“Mrs. Molesworth ranks with George Macdonald and Mrs. Ewing as a writer
of children’s stories that possess real literary merit.”—_Milwaukee
Sentinel._

                 THE SET, TEN VOLUMES, IN BOX, $10.00.


                    TELL ME A STORY, and HERR BABY.

“So delightful that we are inclined to join in the petition, and we hope
she may soon tell us more stories.”—_Athenæum._


                     “CARROTS”; Just a Little Boy.

“One of the cleverest and most pleasing stories it has been our good
fortune to meet with for some time. Carrots and his sister are
delightful little beings, whom to read about is at once to become very
fond of.”—_Examiner._


              A CHRISTMAS CHILD; A Sketch of a Boy’s Life.

“A very sweet and tenderly drawn sketch, with life and reality manifest
throughout.”—_Pall Mall Gazette._

“This is a capital story, well illustrated. Mrs. Molesworth is one of
those sunny, genial writers who has genius for writing acceptably for
the young. She has the happy faculty of blending enough real with
romance to make her stories very practical for good without robbing them
of any of their exciting interest.”—_Chicago Inter-Ocean._

“Mrs. Molesworth is one of the few writers of tales for children whose
sentiment though of the sweetest kind is never sickly; whose religious
feeling is never concealed yet never obtruded; whose books are always
good but never ‘goody.’ Little Ted with his soft heart, clever head, and
brave spirit is no morbid presentment of the angelic child ‘too good to
live,’ and who is certainly a nuisance on earth, but a charming
creature, if not a portrait, whom it is a privilege to meet even in
fiction.”—_The Academy._


                           THE CUCKOO CLOCK.

“A beautiful little story.... It will be read with delight by every
child into whose hands it is placed.”—_Pall Mall Gazette._


                           GRANDMOTHER DEAR.

“The author’s concern is with the development of character, and seldom
does one meet with the wisdom, tact, and good breeding which pervade
this little book.”—_Nation._


                           TWO LITTLE WAIFS.

“Mrs. Molesworth’s delightful story of _Two Little Waifs_ will charm all
the small people who find it in their stockings. It relates the
adventures of two lovable English children lost in Paris, and is just
wonderful enough to pleasantly wring the youthful heart.”—_New York
Tribune._

“It is, in its way, indeed, a little classic, of which the real beauty
and pathos can hardly be appreciated by young people.... It is not too
much to say of the story that it is perfect of its kind.”—_Critic and
Good Literature._

“This is a charming little juvenile story from the pen of Mrs.
Molesworth, detailing the various adventures of a couple of motherless
children in searching for their father, whom they had missed in Paris,
where they had gone to meet him.”—_Montreal Star._


                           THE TAPESTRY ROOM.

“Mrs. Molesworth is the queen of children’s fairy-land. She knows how to
make use of the vague, fresh, wondering instincts of childhood, and to
invest familiar things with fairy glamour.”—_Athenæum._

“The story told is a charming one of what may be called the neo-fairy
sort.... There has been nothing better of its kind done anywhere for
children, whether we consider its capacity to awaken interest or its
wholesomeness.”—_Evening Post._


                          CHRISTMAS-TREE LAND.

“It is conceived after a happy fancy, as it relates the supposititious
journey of a party of little ones through that part of fairy-land where
Christmas-trees are supposed to most abound. There is just enough of the
old-fashioned fancy about fairies mingled with the ‘modern improvements’
to incite and stimulate the youthful imagination to healthful action.
The pictures by Walter Crane are, of course, not only well executed in
themselves, but in charming consonance with the spirit of the
tale.”—_Troy Times._

“_Christmas-Tree Land_, by Mrs. Molesworth, is a book to make younger
readers open their eyes wide with delight. A little boy and a little
girl, domiciled in a great white castle, wander on their holidays
through the surrounding fir-forests, and meet with the most delightful
pleasures. There is a fascinating, mysterious character in their
adventures and enough of the fairylike and wonderful to puzzle and
enchant all the little ones.”—_Boston Home Journal._


                           A CHRISTMAS POSY.

“This is a collection of eight of those inimitable stories for children
which none could write better than Mrs. Molesworth. Her books are prime
favorites with children of all ages, and they are as good and wholesome
as they are interesting and popular. This makes a very handsome book,
and its illustrations are excellent.”—_Christian at Work._

“_A Christmas Posy_, by Mrs. Molesworth, is lovely and fragrant. Mrs.
Molesworth succeeds by right to the place occupied with so much honor by
the late Mrs. Ewing, as a writer of charming stories for children. The
present volume is a cluster of delightful short stories. Mr. Crane’s
illustrations are in harmony with the text.”—_Christian Intelligencer._


                      THE CHILDREN OF THE CASTLE.

“_The Children of the Castle_, by Mrs. Molesworth, is another of those
delightful juvenile stories of which this author has written so many. It
is a fascinating little book, with a charming plot, a sweet, pure
atmosphere, and teaches a wholesome moral in the most winning
manner.”—_B. S. E. Gazette._

“_The Children of the Castle_ are delightful creations, actual little
girls, living in an actual castle, but often led by their fancies into a
shadowy fairy-land. There is a charming refinement of style and spirit
about the story from beginning to end; an imaginative child will find
endless pleasure in it, and the lesson of gentleness and unselfishness
is so artistically managed that it does not seem like a lesson, but only
a part of the story.”—_Milwaukee Sentinel._


                            FOUR WINDS FARM.

“Mrs. Molesworth’s books are always delightful, but of all none is more
charming than the volume with which she greets the holidays this season.
_Four Winds Farm_ is one of the most delicate and pleasing books for a
child that has seen the light this many a day. It is full of fancy and
of that instinctive sympathy with childhood which makes this author’s
books so attractive and so individual.”—_Boston Courier._

“Still more delicately fanciful is Mrs. Molesworth’s lovely little tale
of the _Four Winds Farm_. It is neither a dream nor a fairy story, but
concerns the fortune of a real little boy, named Gratian; yet the dream
and the fairy tale seem to enter into his life, and make part of it. The
farmhouse in which the child lives is set exactly at the meeting-place
of the four winds, and they, from the moment of his birth, have acted as
his self-elected godmothers.... All the winds love the boy, and, held in
the balance of their influence, he grows up as a boy should, simply and
truly, with a tender heart and firm mind. The idea of this little book
is essentially poetical.”—_Literary World._


                       NURSE HEATHERDALE’S STORY.

“_Nurse Heatherdale’s Story_ is all about a small boy, who was good
enough, yet was always getting into some trouble through complications
in which he was not to blame. The same sort of things happens to men and
women. He is an orphan, though he is cared for in a way by relations,
who are not so very rich, yet are looked on as well fixed. After many
youthful trials and disappointments he falls into a big stroke of good
luck, which lifts him and goes to make others happy. Those who want a
child’s book will find nothing to harm and something to interest in this
simple story.”—_Commercial Advertiser._


                                 “US.”

“Mrs. Molesworth’s _Us, an Old-Fashioned Story_, is very charming. A
dear little six-year-old ‘bruvver’ and sister constitute the ‘us,’ whose
adventures with gypsies form the theme of the story. Mrs. Molesworth’s
style is graceful, and she pictures the little ones with brightness and
tenderness.”—_Evening Post._

“A pretty and wholesome story.”—_Literary World._

“_Us, an Old-Fashioned Story_, is a sweet and quaint story of two little
children who lived long ago, in an old-fashioned way, with their
grandparents. The story is delightfully told.”—_Philadelphia News._

“_Us_ is one of Mrs. Molesworth’s charming little stories for young
children. The narrative ... is full of interest for its real grace and
delicacy, and the exquisiteness and purity of the English in which it is
written.”—_Boston Advertiser._


                         THE RECTORY CHILDREN.

“In _The Rectory Children_ Mrs. Molesworth has written one of those
delightful volumes which we always look for at Christmas
time.”—_Athenæum._

“Quiet, sunny, interesting, and thoroughly winning and
wholesome.”—_Boston Journal._

_The Rectory Children_—“There is no writer of children’s books more
worthy of their admiration and love than Mrs. Molesworth. Her bright and
sweet invention is so truthful, her characters so faithfully drawn, and
the teaching of her stories so tender and noble, that while they please
and charm they insensibly distil into the youthful mind the most
valuable lessons. In _The Rectory Children_ we have a fresh, bright
story that will be sure to please all her young admirers.”—_Christian at
Work._

“_The Rectory Children_, by Mrs. Molesworth, is a very pretty story of
English life. Mrs. Molesworth is one of the most popular and charming of
English story-writers for children. Her child characters are true to
life, always natural and attractive, and her stories are wholesome and
interesting.”—_Indianapolis Journal._


                                 ROSY.

“_Rosy_, like all the rest of her stories, is bright and pure and
utterly free from cant,—a book that children will read with pleasure and
lasting profit.”—_Boston Traveller._

“There is no one who has a genius better adapted for entertaining
children than Mrs. Molesworth, and her latest story, _Rosy_, is one of
her best. It is illustrated with eight woodcuts from designs by Walter
Crane.”—_Philadelphia Press._

“... Mrs. Molesworth’s clever _Rosy_, a story showing in a charming way
how one little girl’s jealousy and bad temper were conquered; one of the
best, most suggestive and improving of the Christmas juveniles.”—_New
York Tribune._

“_Rosy_ is an exceedingly graceful and interesting story by Mrs.
Molesworth, one of the best and most popular writers of juvenile
fiction. This little story is full of tenderness, is fragrant in
sentiment, and points with great delicacy and genuine feeling a charming
moral.”—_Boston Gazette._


                            THE GIRLS AND I.

“Perhaps the most striking feature of this pleasant story is the natural
manner in which it is written. It is just like the conversation of a
bright boy—consistently like it from beginning to end. It is a boy who
is the hero of the tale, and he tells the adventures of himself and
those nearest him. He is, by the way, in many respects an example for
most young persons. It is a story characterized by sweetness and
purity—a desirable one to put into the hands of youthful
readers.”—_Gettysburg Monthly._

“... A delightful and purposeful story which no one can read without
being benefited.”—_New York Observer._


                                 MARY.

              Mrs. Molesworth’s last story. _Just Ready._

“Mrs. Molesworth’s reputation as a writer of story-books is so well
established that any new book of hers scarce needs a word of
introduction.”—_Home Journal._

                            MACMILLAN & CO.,
                       66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.

[Illustration: Book back cover.]



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--Moved the frontispiece illustration to the corresponding place in the
  text, and adjusted the table of illustration accordingly.

--Collated table of illustrations, checked page numbers, and added its
  captions to the illustrations.

--Only in the text versions, delimited italicized text (or
  non-italicized text within poetry) in _underscores_ (the HTML version
  reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--The HTML version contains relative links to pages and illustrations in
  the companion volume: Gutenberg #48630: Sylvie and Bruno, Illustrated

--Removed the note (N.B. “stagy-entrances” is a misprint for
  “stage-entrances”) because the typo was corrected in the companion
  volume





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