he insisted; and His Majesty begged. “Paw!” commanded Sylvie; and His
Majesty gave his paw. In short, the solemn ceremony of escorting the
travelers to the boundaries of Dogland became one long uproarious game
“But business is business!” the Dog-King said at last. “And I must go
back to mine. I couldn’t come any further,” he added, consulting a
dog-watch, which hung on a chain round his neck, “not even if there
were a Cat insight!”
They took an affectionate farewell of His Majesty, and trudged on.
“That were a dear dog!” Bruno exclaimed. “Has we to go far, Sylvie?
“Not much further, darling!” Sylvie gently replied. “Do you see that
shining, just beyond those trees? I’m almost sure it’s the gate of
Fairyland! I know it’s all golden–Father told me so and so bright,
so bright!” she went on dreamily.
“It dazzles!” said Bruno, shading his eyes with one little hand, while
the other clung tightly to Sylvie’s hand, as if he were half-alarmed at
her strange manner.
For the child moved on as if walking in her sleep, her large eyes
gazing into the far distance, and her breath coming and going in quick
pantings of eager delight. I knew, by some mysterious mental light,
that a great change was taking place in my sweet little friend
(for such I loved to think her) and that she was passing from the
condition of a mere Outland Sprite into the true Fairy-nature.
Upon Bruno the change came later: but it was completed in both before
they reached the golden gate, through which I knew it would be
impossible for me to follow. I could but stand outside, and take a
last look at the two sweet children, ere they disappeared within,
and the golden gate closed with a bang.
And with such a bang! “It never will shut like any other
cupboard-door,” Arthur explained. “There’s something wrong with the
hinge. However, here’s the cake and wine. And you’ve had your forty
winks. So you really must get off to bed, old man! You’re fit for
nothing else. Witness my hand, Arthur Forester, M.D.”
By this time I was wide-awake again. “Not quite yet!” I pleaded.
“Really I’m not sleepy now. And it isn’t midnight yet.”
“Well, I did want to say another word to you,” Arthur replied in a
relenting tone, as he supplied me with the supper he had prescribed.
“Only I thought you were too sleepy for it to-night.”
We took our midnight meal almost in silence; for an unusual nervousness
seemed to have seized on my old friend.
“What kind of a night is it?” he asked, rising and undrawing the
window-curtains, apparently to change the subject for a minute.
I followed him to the window, and we stood together, looking out,
“When I first spoke to you about–” Arthur began, after a long and
embarrassing silence, “that is, when we first talked about her–for I
think it was you that introduced the subject–my own position in life
forbade me to do more than worship her from a distance:
and I was turning over plans for leaving this place finally,
and settling somewhere out of all chance of meeting her again.
That seemed to be my only chance of usefulness in life.
Would that have been wise?” I said. “To leave yourself no hope at all?”
“There was no hope to leave,” Arthur firmly replied, though his eyes
glittered with tears as he gazed upwards into the midnight sky, from
which one solitary star, the glorious ‘Vega,’ blazed out in fitful
splendour through the driving clouds. “She was like that star to me–
bright, beautiful, and pure, but out of reach, out of reach!”
He drew the curtains again, and we returned to our places by the
“What I wanted to tell you was this,” he resumed. “I heard this
evening from my solicitor. I can’t go into the details of the
business, but the upshot is that my worldly wealth is much more than I
thought, and I am (or shall soon be) in a position to offer marriage,
without imprudence, to any lady, even if she brought nothing. I doubt