The Count spread out his hands apologetically, and ducked his head. `But, Milady, I have already respected-- I would say prospected--all your songs; and there shall be none fitted to my voice! They are not for basso voices!'
`Wo'n't you look at them again?' Lady Muriel implored.
`Let's help him!' Bruno whispered to Sylvie. `Let's get him--you know!'
Sylvie nodded. `Shall we look for a song for you?' she said sweetly to the Count.
`Mais oui!' the little man exclaimed.
`Of course we may!' said Bruno, while, each taking a hand of the delighted Count, they led him to the music-stand.
`There is still hope!' said Lady Muriel over her shoulder, as she followed them.
I turned to `Mein Herr', hoping to resume our interrupted conversation. `You were remarking--' I began: but at this moment Sylvie came to call Bruno, who had returned to my side, looking unusually serious. `Do come, Bruno!' she entreated. `You know we've nearly found it!' Then, in a whisper, `The locket's in my hand, now. I couldn't get it out while they were looking!'
But Bruno drew back. `The man called me names,' he said with dignity.
`What names?' I enquired with some curiosity.
`I asked him,' said Bruno, `which sort of song he liked. And he said "A song of a man, not of a lady". And I said "Shall Sylvie and me find you the song of Mister Tottles?" And he said "Wait, eel!" And I'm not an eel, oo know!'
`I'm sure he didn't mean it!' Sylvie said earnestly. `It's something French--you know he ca'n't talk English so well as--'
Bruno relented visibly. `Course he knows no better, if he's Flench! Flenchmen never can speak English so goodly as us!' And Sylvie led him away, a willing captive.
`Nice children!' said the old man, taking off his spectacles and rubbing them carefully. Then he put them on again, and watched with an approving smile, while the children tossed over the heap of music, and we just caught Sylvie's reproving words, `We're not making hay, Bruno!'
`This has been a long interruption to our conversation,' I said. `Pray let us go on!'
`Willingly!' replied the gentle old man. `I was much interested in what you--' He paused a moment, and passed his hand uneasily across his brow. `One forgets,' he murmured. `What was I saying? Oh! Something you were to tell me. Yes. Which of your teachers do you value the most highly, those whose words are easily understood, or those who puzzle you at every turn?'
I felt obliged to admit that we generally admired most the teachers we couldn't quite understand.
`Just so,' said Mein Herr. `That's the way it begins. Well, we were at that stage some eighty years ago-- or was it ninety? Our favourite teacher got more obscure every year; and every year we admired him more--just as your Art-fanciers call mist the fairest feature in a landscape, and admire a view with frantic delight when they can see nothing! Now I'll tell you how it ended. It was Moral Philosophy that our idol lectured on. Well, his pupils couldn't make head or tail of it, but they got it all by heart; and, when Examination- time came, they wrote it down; and the Examiners said "Beautiful! What depth!"'
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