"Cheer 'em up a bit!" he hinted to my Lady.
"Cake!" my Lady muttered to herself with great decision, crossing the room and opening a cupboard, from which she presently returned with two slices of plum-cake. "Eat, and don't cry!" were her short and simple orders: and the poor children sat down side by side, but seemed in no mood for eating.
For the second time the door opened--or rather was burst open, this time, as Uggug rushed violently into the room, shouting "that old Beggars come again!"
"He's not to have any food--" the Vice-warden was beginning, but the Chancellor interrupted him. "It's all right," he said, in a low voice: "the servants have their orders."
"He's just under here," said Uggug, who had gone to the window, and was looking down into the court-yard.
"Where, my darling?" said his fond mother, flinging her arms round the neck of the little monster. All of us (except Sylvie and Bruno, who took no notice of what was going on) followed her to the window. The old Beggar looked up at us with hungry eyes. "Only a crust of bread, your Highness!" he pleaded.
He was a fine old man, but looked sadly ill and worn. "A crust of bread is what I crave!" he repeated. "A single crust, and a little water!"
"Here's some water, drink this!"
Uggug bellowed, emptying a jug of water over his head.
"Well done, my boy!" cried the Vice-Warden.
"That's the way to settle such folk!"
"Clever boy!", the Wardeness chimed in. "Hasn't he good spirits?"
"Take a stick to him!" shouted the Vice-Warden, as the old Beggar shook the water from his ragged cloak, and again gazed meekly upwards.
"Take a red-hot poker to him!" my Lady again chimed in.
Possibly there was no red-hot poker handy: but some sticks were forthcoming in a moment, and threatening faces surrounded the poor old wanderer, who waved them back with quiet dignity. "No need to break my old bones," he said. "I am going. Not even a crust!"
"Poor, poor old man!" exclaimed a little voice at my side, half choked with sobs. Bruno was at the window, trying to throw out his slice of plum-cake, but Sylvie held him back.
"He shalt have my cake!" Bruno cried, passionately struggling out of Sylvie's arms.
"Yes, yes, darling!" Sylvie gently pleaded. "But don't throw it out! He's gone away, don't you see? Let's go after him." And she led him out of the room, unnoticed by the rest of the party, who were wholly absorbed in watching the old Beggar.
The Conspirators returned to their seats, and continued their conversation in an undertone, so as not to be heard by Uggug, who was still standing at the window.
"By the way, there was something about Bruno succeeding to the Wrardenship," said my Lady. "How does that stand in the new Agreement?"
The Chancellor chuckled. "Just the same, word for word," he said, "with one exception, my Lady. Instead of 'Bruno,' I've taken the liberty to put in--" he dropped his voice to a whisper, "to put in 'Uggug,' you know!"
"Uggug, indeed!" I exclaimed, in a burst of indignation I could no longer control. To bring out even that one word seemed a gigantic effort: but, the cry once uttered, all effort ceased at once: a sudden gust swept away the whole scene, and I found myself sitting up, staring at the young lady in the opposite corner of the carriage, who had now thrown back her veil, and was looking at me with an expression of amused surprise.
A BEGGAR'S PALACE.
That I had said something, in the act of waking, I felt sure: the hoarse stifled cry was still ringing in my ears, even if the startled look of my fellow-traveler had not been evidence enough: but what could I possibly say by way of apology?
"I hope I didn't frighten you?" I stammered out at last. "I have no idea what I said. I was dreaming."
"You said 'Uggug indeed!'" the young lady replied, with quivering lips that would curve themselves into a smile, in spite of all her efforts to look grave. "At least--you didn't say it--you shouted it!"
"I'm very sorry," was all I could say, feeling very penitent and helpless.