"Lords and Ladies in Waiting, and various Court Officials," our guide gruffly remarked, as he led us in. Of me the Courtiers took no notice whatever: but Sylvie and Bruno were the subject of many inquisitive looks, and many whispered remarks, of which I only distinctly caught one--made by a sly-looking Dachshund to his friend "Bah wooh wahyah hoobah Oobooh, hah bah?" ("She's not such a bad-looking Human, is she?")
Leaving the new arrivals in the centre of the Saloon, the Sentinel advanced to a door, at the further end of it, which bore an inscription, painted on it in Doggee, "Royal Kennel--scratch and Yell."
Before doing this, the Sentinel turned to the children, and said "Give me your names."
"We'd rather not!" Bruno exclaimed, pulling' Sylvie away from the door. "We want them ourselves. Come back, Sylvie! Come quick!"
"Nonsense!', said Sylvie very decidedly: and gave their names in Doggee.
Then the Sentinel scratched violently at the door, and gave a yell that made Bruno shiver from head to foot.
"Hooyah wah!" said a deep voice inside. (That's Doggee for "Come in!")
"It's the King himself!" the Mastiff whispered in an awestruck tone. "Take off your wigs, and lay them humbly at his paws." (What we should call "at his feet.")
Sylvie was just going to explain, very politely, that really they couldn't perform that ceremony, because their wigs wouldn't come off, when the door of the Royal Kennel opened, and an enormous Newfoundland Dog put his head out. "Bow wow?" was his first question.
"When His Majesty speaks to you," the Sentinel hastily whispered to Bruno, "you should prick up your ears!"
Bruno looked doubtfully at Sylvie. "I'd rather not, please," he said. "It would hurt."
"It doesn't hurt a bit!" the Sentinel said with some indignation. "Look! It's like this!" And he pricked up his ears like two railway signals.
Sylvie gently explained matters. "I'm afraid we ca'n't manage it," she said in a low voice. "I'm very sorry: but our ears haven't got the right--" she wanted to say "machinery" in Doggee: but she had forgotten the word, and could only think of "steam-engine."
The Sentinel repeated Sylvie's explanation to the King.
"Can't prick up their ears without a steam-engine!" His Majesty exclaimed. "They must be curious creatures! I must have a look at them!" And he came out of his Kennel, and walked solemnly up to the children.
What was the amazement--nor to say the horror of the whole assembly, when Sylvie actually patted His Majesty on the head, while Bruno seized his long ears and pretended to tie them together under his chin!
The Sentinel groaned aloud: a beautiful Greyhound who appeared to be one of the Ladies in Waiting--fainted away: and all the other Courtiers hastily drew back, and left plenty of room for the huge Newfoundland to spring upon the audacious strangers, and tear them limb from limb.
Only--he didn't. On the contrary his Majesty actually smiled so far as a Dog can smile--and (the other Dogs couldn't believe their eyes, but it was true, all the same) his Majesty wagged his tail!
"Yah! Hooh hahwooh!" (that is "Well! I never!") was the universal cry.
His Majesty looked round him severely, and gave a slight growl, which produced instant silence. "Conduct my friends to the banqueting-hall!" he said, laying such an emphasis on "my friends" that several of the dogs rolled over helplessly on their backs and began to lick Bruno's feet.
A procession was formed, but I only ventured to follow as far as the door of the banqueting-hall, so furious was the uproar of barking dogs within. So I sat down by the King, who seemed to have gone to sleep, and waited till the children returned to say good-night, when His Majesty got up and shook himself.
"Time for bed!" he said with a sleepy yawn. "The attendants will show you your room," he added, aside, to Sylvie and Bruno. "Bring lights!" And, with a dignified air, he held out his paw for them to kiss.
But the children were evidently not well practised in Court-manners. Sylvie simply stroked the great paw: Bruno hugged it: the Master of the Ceremonies looked shocked.