seen more of her, and formed your own judgment of her: but somehow you
surprised it out of me. And I’ve not breathed a word of it to any one
else. But I can trust you with a secret, old friend! Yes! It’s true of
me, what I suppose you said in jest.
“In the merest jest, believe me!” I said earnestly. “Why, man, I’m
three times her age! But if she’s your choice, then I’m sure she’s all
that is good and–”
“–and sweet,” Arthur went on, “and pure, and self-denying, and
true-hearted, and–” he broke off hastily, as if he could not trust
himself to say more on a subject so sacred and so precious.
Silence followed: and I leaned back drowsily in my easy-chair,
filled with bright and beautiful imaginings of Arthur and his lady-love,
and of all the peace and happiness in store for them.
I pictured them to myself walking together, lingeringly and lovingly,
under arching trees, in a sweet garden of their own, and welcomed back
by their faithful gardener, on their return from some brief excursion.
It seemed natural enough that the gardener should be filled with
exuberant delight at the return of so gracious a master and mistress
and how strangely childlike they looked! I could have taken them for
Sylvie and Bruno less natural that he should show it by such wild
dances, such crazy songs!
“He thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
‘The one thing I regret,’ he said,
‘Is that it cannot speak!”
–least natural of all that the Vice-Warden and ‘my Lady’ should be
standing close beside me, discussing an open letter, which had just
been handed to him by the Professor, who stood, meekly waiting,
a few yards off.
“If it were not for those two brats,” I heard him mutter, glancing
savagely at Sylvie and Bruno, who were courteously listening to the
Gardener’s song, “there would be no difficulty whatever.”
“Let’s hear that bit of the letter again,” said my Lady.
And the Vice-Warden read aloud:-
“–and we therefore entreat you graciously to accept the Kingship,
to which you have been unanimously elected by the Council of Elfland:
and that you will allow your son Bruno of whose goodness, cleverness,
and beauty, reports have reached us–to be regarded as Heir-Apparent.”
“But what’s the difficulty?” said my Lady.
“Why, don’t you see? The Ambassador, that brought this, is waiting in
the house: and he’s sure to see Sylvie and Bruno: and then, when he
sees Uggug, and remembers all that about ‘goodness, cleverness,
and beauty,’ why, he’s sure to–”
“And where will you find a better boy than Uggug?” my Lady indignantly
interrupted. “Or a wittier, or a lovelier?”
To all of which the Vice-Warden simply replied “Don’t you be a great
blethering goose! Our only chance is to keep those two brats out of
sight. If you can manage that, you may leave the rest to me.
I’ll make him believe Uggug to be a model of cleverness and all that.”
“We must change his name to Bruno, of course?” said my Lady.
The Vice-Warden rubbed his chin. “Humph! No!” he said musingly.
“Wouldn’t do. The boy’s such an utter idiot, he’d never learn to answer
“Idiot, indeed!” cried my Lady. “He’s no more an idiot than I am!”
“You’re right, my dear,” the Vice-Warden soothingly I replied.
“He isn’t, indeed!”
My Lady was appeased. “Let’s go in and receive the Ambassador,”
she said, and beckoned to the Professor. “Which room is he waiting in?”
“In the Library, Madam.”
“And what did you say his name was?” said the Vice-Warden.
The Professor referred to a card he held in his hand.
“His Adiposity the Baron Doppelgeist.”
“Why does he come with such a funny name?” said my Lady.
“He couldn’t well change it on the journey,” the Professor meekly
replied, “because of the luggage.”
“You go and receive him,” my Lady said to the Vice-Warden,
“and I’ll attend to the children.”
THE BARONS EMBASSY.
I was following the Vice-Warden, but, on second thoughts, went after my