“By the way, there was something about Bruno succeeding to the
Wrardenship,” said my Lady. “How does that stand in the new Agreement?”
The Chancellor chuckled. “Just the same, word for word,” he said,
“with one exception, my Lady. Instead of ‘Bruno,’ I’ve taken the
liberty to put in–” he dropped his voice to a whisper, “to put in
‘Uggug,’ you know!”
“Uggug, indeed!” I exclaimed, in a burst of indignation I could no
longer control. To bring out even that one word seemed a gigantic
effort: but, the cry once uttered, all effort ceased at once: a sudden
gust swept away the whole scene, and I found myself sitting up, staring
at the young lady in the opposite corner of the carriage, who had now
thrown back her veil, and was looking at me with an expression of
A BEGGAR’S PALACE.
That I had said something, in the act of waking, I felt sure: the
hoarse stifled cry was still ringing in my ears, even if the startled
look of my fellow-traveler had not been evidence enough: but what could
I possibly say by way of apology?
“I hope I didn’t frighten you?” I stammered out at last.
“I have no idea what I said. I was dreaming.”
“You said ‘Uggug indeed!'” the young lady replied, with quivering lips
that would curve themselves into a smile, in spite of all her efforts
to look grave. “At least–you didn’t say it–you shouted it!”
“I’m very sorry,” was all I could say, feeling very penitent and
helpless. “She has Sylvie’s eyes!” I thought to myself, half-doubting
whether, even now, I were fairly awake. “And that sweet look of
innocent wonder is all Sylvie’s too. But Sylvie hasn’t got that calm
resolute mouth nor that far-away look of dreamy sadness, like one that
has had some deep sorrow, very long ago–” And the thick-coming
fancies almost prevented my hearing the lady’s next words.
“If you had had a ‘Shilling Dreadful’ in your hand,” she proceeded,
“something about Ghosts or Dynamite or Midnight Murder–one could
understand it: those things aren’t worth the shilling, unless they give
one a Nightmare. But really–with only a medical treatise,
you know–” and she glanced, with a pretty shrug of contempt,
at the book over which I had fallen asleep.
Her friendliness, and utter unreserve, took me aback for a moment;
yet there was no touch of forwardness, or boldness, about the child for
child, almost, she seemed to be: I guessed her at scarcely over
twenty–all was the innocent frankness of some angelic visitant,
new to the ways of earth and the conventionalisms or, if you will,
the barbarisms–of Society. “Even so,” I mused, “will Sylvie look and
speak, in another ten years.”
“You don’t care for Ghosts, then,” I ventured to suggest, unless they
are really terrifying?”
“Quite so,” the lady assented. “The regular Railway-Ghosts–I mean
the Ghosts of ordinary Railway-literature–are very poor affairs.
I feel inclined to say, with Alexander Selkirk, ‘Their tameness is
shocking to me’! And they never do any Midnight Murders.
They couldn’t ‘welter in gore,’ to save their lives!”
“‘Weltering in gore’ is a very expressive phrase, certainly.
Can it be done in any fluid, I wonder?”
“I think not,” the lady readily replied–quite as if she had thought
it out, long ago. “It has to be something thick. For instance, you
might welter in bread-sauce. That, being white, would be more suitable
for a Ghost, supposing it wished to welter!”
“You have a real good terrifying Ghost in that book?” I hinted.
“How could you guess?” she exclaimed with the most engaging frankness,
and placed the volume in my hands. I opened it eagerly, with a not
unpleasant thrill like what a good ghost-story gives one) at the
‘uncanny’ coincidence of my having so unexpectedly divined the subject
of her studies.
It was a book of Domestic Cookery, open at the article Bread Sauce.’
I returned the book, looking, I suppose, a little blank, as the lady
laughed merrily at my discomfiture. “It’s far more exciting than some
of the modern ghosts, I assure you! Now there was a Ghost last
month–I don’t mean a real Ghost in in Supernature–but in a