All this time Dog-waiters, in splendid livery, were running up with lighted candles: but, as fast as they put them upon the table, other waiters ran away with them, so that there never seemed to be one for me, though the Master kept nudging me with his elbow, and repeating" I ca'n't let you sleep here! You're not in bed, you know!"
I made a great effort, and just succeeded in getting out the words "I know I'm not. I'm in an arm-chair."
"Well, forty winks will do you no harm," the Master said, and left me. I could scarcely hear his words: and no wonder: he was leaning over the side of a ship, that was miles away from the pier on which I stood. The ship passed over the horizon and I sank back into the arm-chair.
The next thing I remember is that it was morning: breakfast was just over: Sylvie was lifting Bruno down from a high chair, and saying to a Spaniel, who was regarding them with a most benevolent smile, "Yes, thank you we've had a very nice breakfast. Haven't we, Bruno?"
There was too many bones in the--Bruno began, but Sylvie frowned at him, and laid her finger on her lips, for, at this moment, the travelers were waited on by a very dignified officer, the Head-Growler, whose duty it was, first to conduct them to the King to bid him farewell and then to escort them to the boundary of Dogland. The great Newfoundland received them most affably but instead of saying "good-bye he startled the Head-growler into giving three savage growls, by announcing that he would escort them himself.
It is a most unusual proceeding, your Majesty! the Head-Growler exclaimed, almost choking with vexation at being set aside, for he had put on his best Court-suit, made entirely of cat-skins, for the occasion.
"I shall escort them myself," his Majesty repeated, gently but firmly, laying aside the Royal robes, and changing his crown for a small coronet, "and you may stay at home."
"I are glad!" Bruno whispered to Sylvie, when they had got well out of hearing. "He were so welly cross!" And he not only patted their Royal escort, but even hugged him round the neck in the exuberance of his delight.
His Majesty calmly wagged the Royal tail. "It's quite a relief," he said, "getting away from that Palace now and then! Royal Dogs have a dull life of it, I can tell you! Would you mind" (this to Sylvie, in a low voice, and looking a little shy and embarrassed) "would you mind the trouble of just throwing that stick for me to fetch?"
Sylvie was too much astonished to do anything for a moment: it sounded such a monstrous impossibility that a King should wish to run after a stick. But Bruno was equal to the occasion, and with a glad shout of "Hi then! Fetch it, good Doggie!" he hurled it over a clump of bushes. The next moment the Monarch of Dogland had bounded over the bushes, and picked up the stick, and came galloping back to the children with it in his mouth. Bruno took it from him with great decision. "Beg for it!" he insisted; and His Majesty begged. "Paw!" commanded Sylvie; and His Majesty gave his paw. In short, the solemn ceremony of escorting the travelers to the boundaries of Dogland became one long uproarious game of play!
"But business is business!" the Dog-King said at last. "And I must go back to mine. I couldn't come any further," he added, consulting a dog-watch, which hung on a chain round his neck, "not even if there were a Cat insight!"
They took an affectionate farewell of His Majesty, and trudged on.
"That were a dear dog!" Bruno exclaimed. "Has we to go far, Sylvie? I's tired!"
"Not much further, darling!" Sylvie gently replied. "Do you see that shining, just beyond those trees? I'm almost sure it's the gate of Fairyland! I know it's all golden--Father told me so and so bright, so bright!" she went on dreamily.
"It dazzles!" said Bruno, shading his eyes with one little hand, while the other clung tightly to Sylvie's hand, as if he were half-alarmed at her strange manner.
For the child moved on as if walking in her sleep, her large eyes gazing into the far distance, and her breath coming and going in quick pantings of eager delight.