“Good,” said my Lady, with emphasis, and read on again. “‘Item, that
the contents of the Treasury be preserved intact.’ Why, that’s altered
into ‘shall be at the absolute disposal of the Vice-Warden’!
“Well, Sibby, that was a clever trick! All the Jewels, only think!
May I go and put them on directly?”
“Well, not just yet, Lovey,” her husband uneasily replied.
“You see the public mind isn’t quite ripe for it yet. We must feel
our way. Of course we’ll have the coach-and-four out, at once.
And I’ll take the title of Emperor, as soon as we can safely hold an
Election. But they’ll hardly stand our using the Jewels, as long as
they know the Warden’s alive. We must spread a report of his death.
A little Conspiracy–”
“A Conspiracy!” cried the delighted lady, clapping her hands.
“Of all things, I do like a Conspiracy! It’s so interesting!”
The Vice-Warden and the Chancellor interchanged a wink or two. “Let her
conspire to her heart’s content!” the cunning Chancellor whispered.
“It’ll do no harm!”
“And when will the Conspiracy–”
“Hist!’, her husband hastily interrupted her, as the door opened,
and Sylvie and Bruno came in, with their arms twined lovingly round each
other–Bruno sobbing convulsively, with his face hidden on his
sister’s shoulder, and Sylvie more grave and quiet, but with tears
streaming down her cheeks.
“Mustn’t cry like that!” the Vice-Warden said sharply, but without any
effect on the weeping children. “Cheer ’em up a bit!” he hinted to my
“Cake!” my Lady muttered to herself with great decision, crossing the
room and opening a cupboard, from which she presently returned with two
slices of plum-cake. “Eat, and don’t cry!” were her short and simple
orders: and the poor children sat down side by side, but seemed in no
mood for eating.
For the second time the door opened–or rather was burst open,
this time, as Uggug rushed violently into the room, shouting
“that old Beggars come again!”
“He’s not to have any food–” the Vice-warden was beginning, but the
Chancellor interrupted him. “It’s all right,” he said, in a low voice:
“the servants have their orders.”
“He’s just under here,” said Uggug, who had gone to the window, and was
looking down into the court-yard.
“Where, my darling?” said his fond mother, flinging her arms round the
neck of the little monster. All of us (except Sylvie and Bruno,
who took no notice of what was going on) followed her to the window.
The old Beggar looked up at us with hungry eyes. “Only a crust of bread,
your Highness!” he pleaded.
He was a fine old man, but looked sadly ill and worn.
“A crust of bread is what I crave!” he repeated. “A single crust,
and a little water!”
“Here’s some water, drink this!”
Uggug bellowed, emptying a jug of water over his head.
“Well done, my boy!” cried the Vice-Warden.
“That’s the way to settle such folk!”
“Clever boy!”, the Wardeness chimed in. “Hasn’t he good spirits?”
“Take a stick to him!” shouted the Vice-Warden, as the old Beggar shook
the water from his ragged cloak, and again gazed meekly upwards.
“Take a red-hot poker to him!” my Lady again chimed in.
Possibly there was no red-hot poker handy: but some sticks were
forthcoming in a moment, and threatening faces surrounded the poor old
wanderer, who waved them back with quiet dignity. “No need to break my
old bones,” he said. “I am going. Not even a crust!”
“Poor, poor old man!” exclaimed a little voice at my side, half choked
with sobs. Bruno was at the window, trying to throw out his slice of
plum-cake, but Sylvie held him back.
“He shalt have my cake!” Bruno cried, passionately struggling out of
“Yes, yes, darling!” Sylvie gently pleaded. “But don’t throw it out!
He’s gone away, don’t you see? Let’s go after him.” And she led him out
of the room, unnoticed by the rest of the party, who were wholly
absorbed in watching the old Beggar.
The Conspirators returned to their seats, and continued their
conversation in an undertone, so as not to be heard by Uggug,
who was still standing at the window.