“I shall come as a Grass-hopper,” my Lady calmly proceeded.
“What shall you come as, Professor?”
The Professor smiled feebly. “I shall come as–as early as I can,
“You mustn’t come in before the doors are opened,” said my Lady.
“I ca’n’t,” said the Professor. “Excuse me a moment. As this is Lady
Sylvie’s birthday, I would like to–” and he rushed away.
Bruno began feeling in his pockets, looking more and more melancholy as
he did so: then he put his thumb in his mouth, and considered for a
minute: then he quietly left the room.
He had hardly done so before the Professor was back again, quite out of
breath. “Wishing you many happy returns of the day, my dear child!”
he went on, addressing the smiling little girl, who had run to meet him.
“Allow me to give you a birthday-present. It’s a second-hand
pincushion, my dear. And it only cost fourpence-halfpenny!”
“Thank you, it’s very pretty!” And Sylvie rewarded the old man with a
“And the pins they gave me for nothing!” the Professor added in high
glee. “Fifteen of ’em, and only one bent!”
“I’ll make the bent one into a hook!” said Sylvie. “To catch Bruno
with, when he runs away from his lessons!”
“You ca’n’t guess what my present is!” said Uggug, who had taken the
butter-dish from the table, and was standing behind her, with a wicked
leer on his face.
“No, I ca’n’t guess,” Sylvie said without looking up. She was still
examining the Professor’s pincushion.
“It’s this!” cried the bad boy, exultingly, as he emptied the dish over
her, and then, with a grin of delight at his own cleverness, looked
round for applause.
Sylvie coloured crimson, as she shook off the butter from her frock:
but she kept her lips tight shut, and walked away to the window, where
she stood looking out and trying to recover her temper.
Uggug’s triumph was a very short one: the Sub-Warden had returned,
just in time to be a witness of his dear child’s playfulness,
and in another moment a skilfully-applied box on the ear had changed
the grin of delight into a howl of pain.
“My darling!” cried his mother, enfolding him in her fat arms.
“Did they box his ears for nothing? A precious pet!”
“It’s not for nothing!” growled the angry father. “Are you aware,
Madam, that I pay the house-bills, out of a fixed annual sum?
The loss of all that wasted butter falls on me! Do you hear, Madam!”
“Hold your tongue, Sir!” My Lady spoke very quietly–almost in a
whisper. But there was something in her look which silenced him.
“Don’t you see it was only a joke? And a very clever one, too!
He only meant that he loved nobody but her! And, instead of being
pleased with the compliment, the spiteful little thing has gone away
in a huff!”
The Sub-Warden was a very good hand at changing a subject. He walked
across to the window. “My dear,” he said, “is that a pig that I see
down below, rooting about among your flower-beds?”
“A pig!” shrieked my Lady, rushing madly to the window, and almost
pushing her husband out, in her anxiety to see for herself. “Whose pig
is it? How did it get in? Where’s that crazy Gardener gone?”
At this moment Bruno re-entered the room, and passing Uggug (who was
blubbering his loudest, in the hope of attracting notice) as if he was
quite used to that sort of thing, he ran up to Sylvie and threw his
arms round her. “I went to my toy-cupboard,” he said with a very
sorrowful face, “to see if there were somefin fit for a present for oo!
And there isn’t nuffin! They’s all broken, every one!
And I haven’t got no money left, to buy oo a birthday-present!
And I ca’n’t give oo nuffin but this!” (“This” was a very earnest hug
and a kiss.)
“Oh, thank you, darling!” cried Sylvie. “I like your present best of
all!” (But if so, why did she give it back so quickly?)
His Sub-Excellency turned and patted the two children on the head with