"And when are we to see your little friends again?" said the Earl. "They are singularly attractive children."
"I shall be delighted to bring them, when I can," I said! "But I don't know, myself, when I am likely to see them again."
"I'm not going to question you," said the Earl: "but there's no harm in mentioning that Muriel is simply tormented with curiosity! We know most of the people about here, and she has been vainly trying to guess what house they can possibly be staying at."
"Some day I may be able to enlighten her: but just at present----"
"Thanks. She must bear it as best she can. I tell her it's a grand opportunity for practising patience. But she hardly sees it from that point of view. Why, there are the children!"
So indeed they were: waiting (for us, apparently) at a stile, which they could not have climbed over more than a few moments, as Lady Muriel and her cousin had passed it without seeing them. On catching sight of us, Bruno ran to meet us, and to exhibit to us, with much pride, the handle of a clasp-knife ---- the blade having been broken off----which he had picked up in the road.
"And what shall you use it for, Bruno?" I said.
"Don't know," Bruno carelessly replied: "must think."
"A child's first view of life," the Earl remarked, with that sweet sad smile of his, "is that it is a period to be spent in accumulating portable property. That view gets modified as the years glide away." And he held out his hand to Sylvie, who had placed herself by me, looking a little shy of him.
But the gentle old man was not one with whom any child, human or fairy, could be shy for long; and she had very soon deserted my hand for his----Bruno alone remaining faithful to his first friend. We overtook the other couple just as they reached the Station, and both Lady Muriel and Eric greeted the children as old friends----the latter with the words "So you got to Babylon by candlelight, after all?"
"Yes, and back again!" cried Bruno.
Lady Muriel looked from one to the other in blank astonishment. "What, you know them, Eric?" she exclaimed. "This mystery grows deeper every day!"
"Then we must be somewhere in the Third Act," said Eric. "You don't expect the mystery to be cleared up till the Fifth Act, do you?"
"Third Act, I assure you," said the young soldier mercilessly. "Scene, a railway-platform. Lights down. Enter Prince (in disguise, of course) and faithful Attendant. This is the Prince----" (taking Bruno's hand) "and here stands his humble Servant! What is your Royal Highness next command.?" And he made a most courtier-like low bow to his puzzled little friend.
"Oo're not a Servant!" Bruno scornfully exclaimed. "Oo're a Gemplun!"
"Servant, I assure your Royal Highness!" Eric respectfully insisted. "Allow me to mention to your Royal Highness my various situations----past, present, and future."
"What did oo begin wiz?" Bruno asked, beginning to enter into the jest. "Was oo a shoe-black?"
"Lower than that, your Royal Highness! Years ago, I offered myself as a Slave----as a 'Confidential Slave,' I think it's called?" he asked, turning to Lady Muriel.
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