Lady Muriel said, with a bright smile, “I’m very glad to see you again!”,
I knew that it was true.
Still I did not venture to disobey the injunctions–crazy as I felt
them to be–of the lovesick young Doctor, by so much as alluding to his
existence: and it was only after they had given me full details of a
projected picnic, to which they invited me, that Lady Muriel exclaimed,
almost as an after-thought, “and do, if you can, bring Doctor Forester
with you! I’m sure a day in the country would do him good. I’m afraid
he studies too much–”
It was ‘on the tip of my tongue’ to quote the words “His only books are
woman’s looks!” but I checked myself just in time–with something of
the feeling of one who has crossed a street, and has been all but run
over by a passing ‘Hansom.’
“–and I think he has too lonely a life,” she went on, with a gentle
earnestness that left no room whatever to suspect a double meaning.
“Do get him to come! And don’t forget the day, Tuesday week. We can
drive you over. It would be a pity to go by rail— there is so much
pretty scenery on the road. And our open carriage just holds four.”
“Oh, I’ll persuade him to come!” I said with confidence–thinking
“it would take all my powers of persuasion to keep him away!”
The picnic was to take place in ten days: and though Arthur readily
accepted the invitation I brought him, nothing that I could say would
induce him to call–either with me or without me on the Earl and his
daughter in the meanwhile. No: he feared to ” wear out his welcome,”
he said: they had “seen enough of him for one while”: and, when at last
the day for the expedition arrived, he was so childishly nervous and
uneasy that I thought it best so to arrange our plans that we should go
separately to the house–my intention being to arrive some time after
him, so as to give him time to get over a meeting.
With this object I purposely made a considerable circuit on my way to
the Hall (as we called the Earl’s house): “and if I could only manage
to lose my way a bit,” I thought to myself, “that would suit me capitally!”
In this I succeeded better, and sooner, than I had ventured to hope for.
The path through the wood had been made familiar to me, by many a
solitary stroll, in my former visit to Elveston; and how I could have
so suddenly and so entirely lost it–even though I was so engrossed in
thinking of Arthur and his lady-love that I heeded little else–was a
mystery to me. “And this open place,” I said to myself, “seems to have
some memory about it I cannot distinctly recall–surely it is the very
spot where I saw those Fairy-Children! But I hope there are no snakes
about!” I mused aloud, taking my seat on a fallen tree. “I certainly
do not like snakes–and I don’t suppose Bruno likes them, either!”
“No, he doesn’t like them!” said a demure little voice at my side.
“He’s not afraid of them, you know. But he doesn’t like them.
He says they’re too waggly!”
Words fail me to describe the beauty of the little group–couched on a
patch of moss, on the trunk of the fallen tree, that met my eager gaze:
Sylvie reclining with her elbow buried in the moss, and her rosy cheek
resting in the palm of her hand, and Bruno stretched at her feet with
his head in her lap.
“Too waggly?” was all I could say in so sudden an emergency.
“I’m not praticular,” Bruno said, carelessly: “but I do like straight
“But you like a dog when it wags its tail, Sylvie interrupted.
“You know you do, Bruno!”
“But there’s more of a dog, isn’t there, Mister Sir?” Bruno appealed to me.
“You wouldn’t like to have a dog if it hadn’t got nuffin but a head and
I admitted that a dog of that kind would be uninteresting.