"You are quite right," said my Lady. "And, now I come to think of it, there would hardly be time for more than one Lecture. And it will go off all the better, if we begin with a Banquet, and a Fancy-dress Ball---- "
"It will indeed!" the Professor cried, with enthusiasm.
"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, my Lady!"
"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 hearty kiss.
"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!"
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