Hark, he's singing! Its his favorite amusement."
And once more those shrill discordant tones rang out:--
"He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk Descending from the bus: He looked again, and found it was A Hippopotamus: 'If this should stay to dine,' he said, 'There won't be mutch for us!'"
Throwing away the spade, he broke into a frantic jig, snapping his fingers, and repeating, again and again,
"There won't be much for us! There won't be much for us!"
[Image...It was a hippoptamus]
Once more the Baron looked slightly offended, but the Vice-Warden hastily explained that the song had no allusion to him, and in fact had no meaning at all. "You didn't mean anything by it, now did you?" He appealed to the Gardener, who had finished his song, and stood, balancing himself on one leg, and looking at them, with his mouth open.
"I never means nothing," said the Gardener: and Uggug luckily came up at the moment, and gave the conversation a new turn.
"Allow me to present my son," said the Vice-warden; adding, in a whisper, "one of the best and cleverest boys that ever lived! I'll contrive for you to see some of his cleverness. He knows everything that other boys don't know; and in archery, in fishing, in painting, and in music, his skill is--but you shall judge for yourself. You see that target over there? He shall shoot an arrow at it. Dear boy,"he went on aloud, "his Adiposity would like to see you shoot. Bring his Highness' bow and arrows!"
Uggug looked very sulky as he received the bow and arrow, and prepared to shoot. Just as the arrow left the bow, the Vice-Warden trod heavily on the toe of the Baron, who yelled with the pain.
"Ten thousand pardons! "he exclaimed. "I stepped back in my excitement. See! It is a bull's-eye!"
The Baron gazed in astonishment. "He held the bow so awkwardly, it seemed impossible!" he muttered. But there was no room for doubt: there was the arrow, right in the centre of the bull's-eye!
"The lake is close by," continued the Vice-warden. "Bring his Highness' fishing-rod!" And Uggug most unwillingly held the rod, and dangled the fly over the water.
"A beetle on your arm!" cried my Lady, pinching the poor Baron's arm worse than if ten lobsters had seized it at once. "That kind is poisonous," she explained. "But what a pity! You missed seeing the fish pulled out!"
An enormous dead cod-fish was lying on the bank, with the hook in its mouth.
"I had always fancied," the Baron faltered, "that cod were salt-water fish?"
"Not in this country," said the Vice-Warden. "Shall we go in? Ask my son some question on the way any subject you like!" And the sulky boy was violently shoved forwards, to walk at the Baron's side.
"Could your Highness tell me," the Baron cautiously began, "how much seven times nine would come to?"
"Turn to the left!" cried the Vice-Warden, hastily stepping forwards to show the way---so hastily, that he ran against his unfortunate guest, who fell heavily on his face.
"So sorry!" my Lady exclaimed, as she and her husband helped him to his feet again. "My son was in the act of saying 'sixty-three' as you fell!"
The Baron said nothing: he was covered with dust, and seemed much hurt, both in body and mind. However, when they had got him into the house, and given him a good brushing, matters looked a little better.
Dinner was served in due course, and every fresh dish seemed to increase the good-humour of the Baron: but all efforts, to get him to express his opinion as to Uggug's cleverness, were in vain, until that interesting youth had left the room, and was seen from the open window, prowling about the lawn with a little basket, which he was filling with frogs.
"So fond of Natural History as he is, dear boy!" said the doting mother. "Now do tell us, Baron, what you think of him!"
"To be perfectly candid, said the cautious Baron, "I would like a little more evidence. I think you mentioned his skill in--"
"Music?" said the Vice-Warden.