itself heard. `Let us join the ladies!' These words seemed to recall me to waking life, and I felt sure that, for the last few minutes, I had relapsed into the `eerie' state.
`A strange dream!' I said to myself as we trooped upstairs. `Grown men discussing, as seriously as if they were matters of life and death, the hopelessly trivial details of mere delicacies, that appeal to no higher human function than the nerves of the tongue and palate! What a humiliating spectacle such a discussion would be in waking life!'
When, on our way to the drawing-room, I received from the housekeeper my little friends, clad in the daintiest of evening costumes, and looking, in the flush of expectant delight, more radiantly beautiful than I had ever seen them before, I felt no shock of surprise, but accepted the fact with the same unreasoning apathy with which one meets the events of a dream, and was merely conscious of a vague anxiety as to how they would acquit themselves in so novel a scene--forgetting that Court-life in Outland was as good training as they could need for Society in the more substantial world.
It would be best, I thought, to introduce them as soon as possible to some good-natured lady-guest, and I selected the young lady whose piano-forte-playing had been so much talked of. `I am sure you like children,' I said. `May I introduce two little friends of mine? This is Sylvie; and this is Bruno.'
The young lady kissed Sylvie very graciously. She would have done the same for Bruno, but he hastily drew back out of reach. `Their faces are new to me,' she said. `Where do you come from, my dear?'
I had not anticipated so inconvenient a question; and fearing that it might embarrass Sylvie, I answered for her. `They come from some distance. They are only here just for this one evening.'
`How far have you come, dear?' the young lady persisted.
Sylvie looked puzzled. `A mile or two, I think,' she said doubtfully.
`A mile or three,' said Bruno.
`You shouldn't say "a mile or three",' Sylvie corrected him.
The young lady nodded approval. `Sylvie's quite right. It isn't usual to say "a mile or three".'
`It would be usual--if we said it often enough,' said Bruno.
It was the young lady's turn to look puzzled now. `He's very quick, for his age!' she murmured. `You're not more than seven, are you, dear?' she added aloud.
`I'm not so many as that,' said Bruno. `I'm one. Sylvie's one. Sylvie and me is two. Sylvie taught me to count.'
`Oh, I wasn't counting you, you know!' the young lady laughingly replied.
`Hasn't oo learnt to count?' said Bruno.
The young lady bit her lip. `Dear! What embarrassing questions he does ask!' she said in a half-audible `aside'.
`Bruno, you shouldn't!' Sylvie said reprovingly.
`Shouldn't what?' said Bruno.
`You shouldn't ask--that sort of questions.'
`What sort of questions?' Bruno mischievously persisted.
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