Lady, being curious to see how she would manage to keep the children
out of sight.
I found her holding Sylvie’s hand, and with her other hand stroking
Bruno’s hair in a most tender and motherly fashion: both children were
looking bewildered and half-frightened.
“My own darlings,” she was saying, “I’ve been planning a little treat
for you! The Professor shall take you a long walk into the woods this
beautiful evening: and you shall take a basket of food with you, and
have a little picnic down by the river!”
Bruno jumped, and clapped his hands. “That are nice!” he cried.
“Aren’t it, Sylvie?”
Sylvie, who hadn’t quite lost her surprised look, put up her mouth for
a kiss. “Thank you very much,” she said earnestly.
My Lady turned her head away to conceal the broad grin of triumph that
spread over her vast face, like a ripple on a lake. “Little simpletons!”
she muttered to herself, as she marched up to the house.
I followed her in.
“Quite so, your Excellency,” the Baron was saying as we entered the
Library. “All the infantry were under my command.” He turned, and was
duly presented to my Lady.
“A military hero?” said my Lady. The fat little man simpered.
“Well, yes,” he replied, modestly casting down his eyes.
“My ancestors were all famous for military genius.”
My Lady smiled graciously. “It often runs in families,” she remarked:
“just as a love for pastry does.”
The Baron looked slightly offended, and the Vice-Warden discreetly
changed the subject. “Dinner will soon be ready,” he said. “May I have
the honour of conducting your Adiposity to the guest-chamber?”
“Certainly, certainly!” the Baron eagerly assented. “It would never do
to keep dinner waiting!” And he almost trotted out of the room after
He was back again so speedily that the Vice-warden had barely time to
explain to my Lady that her remark about “a love for pastry” was
“unfortunate. You might have seen, with half an eye,” he added,
“that that’s his line. Military genius, indeed! Pooh!”
“Dinner ready yet?” the Baron enquired, as he hurried into the room.
“Will be in a few minutes,” the Vice-Warden replied. “Meanwhile, let’s
take a turn in the garden. You were telling me,” he continued,
as the trio left the house, “something about a great battle in which
you had the command of the infantry–”
“True,” said the Baron. “The enemy, as I was saying, far outnumbered us:
but I marched my men right into the middle of–what’s that?”
the Military Hero exclaimed in agitated tones, drawing back behind the
Vice-Warden, as a strange creature rushed wildly upon them, brandishing
“It’s only the Gardener!” the Vice-Warden replied in an encouraging tone.
“Quite harmless, I assure you. Hark, he’s singing!
Its his favorite amusement.”
And once more those shrill discordant tones rang out:–
“He thought he saw a Banker’s Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
‘If this should stay to dine,’ he said,
‘There won’t be mutch for us!'”
Throwing away the spade, he broke into a frantic jig, snapping his
fingers, and repeating, again and again,
“There won’t be much for us!
There won’t be much for us!”
[Image…It was a hippoptamus]
Once more the Baron looked slightly offended, but the Vice-Warden
hastily explained that the song had no allusion to him,
and in fact had no meaning at all. “You didn’t mean anything by it,
now did you?” He appealed to the Gardener, who had finished his song,
and stood, balancing himself on one leg, and looking at them, with his
“I never means nothing,” said the Gardener: and Uggug luckily came up
at the moment, and gave the conversation a new turn.
“Allow me to present my son,” said the Vice-warden; adding,
in a whisper, “one of the best and cleverest boys that ever lived!
I’ll contrive for you to see some of his cleverness. He knows everything
that other boys don’t know; and in archery, in fishing, in painting,
and in music, his skill is–but you shall judge for yourself.
You see that target over there? He shall shoot an arrow at it.