I'm afraid he studies too much--"
It was 'on the tip of my tongue' to quote the words "His only books are woman's looks!" but I checked myself just in time--with something of the feeling of one who has crossed a street, and has been all but run over by a passing 'Hansom.'
"--and I think he has too lonely a life," she went on, with a gentle earnestness that left no room whatever to suspect a double meaning. "Do get him to come! And don't forget the day, Tuesday week. We can drive you over. It would be a pity to go by rail--- there is so much pretty scenery on the road. And our open carriage just holds four."
"Oh, I'll persuade him to come!" I said with confidence--thinking "it would take all my powers of persuasion to keep him away!"
The picnic was to take place in ten days: and though Arthur readily accepted the invitation I brought him, nothing that I could say would induce him to call--either with me or without me on the Earl and his daughter in the meanwhile. No: he feared to " wear out his welcome," he said: they had "seen enough of him for one while": and, when at last the day for the expedition arrived, he was so childishly nervous and uneasy that I thought it best so to arrange our plans that we should go separately to the house--my intention being to arrive some time after him, so as to give him time to get over a meeting.
With this object I purposely made a considerable circuit on my way to the Hall (as we called the Earl's house): "and if I could only manage to lose my way a bit," I thought to myself, "that would suit me capitally!"
In this I succeeded better, and sooner, than I had ventured to hope for. The path through the wood had been made familiar to me, by many a solitary stroll, in my former visit to Elveston; and how I could have so suddenly and so entirely lost it--even though I was so engrossed in thinking of Arthur and his lady-love that I heeded little else--was a mystery to me. "And this open place," I said to myself, "seems to have some memory about it I cannot distinctly recall--surely it is the very spot where I saw those Fairy-Children! But I hope there are no snakes about!" I mused aloud, taking my seat on a fallen tree. "I certainly do not like snakes--and I don't suppose Bruno likes them, either!"
"No, he doesn't like them!" said a demure little voice at my side. "He's not afraid of them, you know. But he doesn't like them. He says they're too waggly!"
Words fail me to describe the beauty of the little group--couched on a patch of moss, on the trunk of the fallen tree, that met my eager gaze: Sylvie reclining with her elbow buried in the moss, and her rosy cheek resting in the palm of her hand, and Bruno stretched at her feet with his head in her lap.
"Too waggly?" was all I could say in so sudden an emergency.
"I'm not praticular," Bruno said, carelessly: "but I do like straight animals best--"
"But you like a dog when it wags its tail, Sylvie interrupted. "You know you do, Bruno!"
"But there's more of a dog, isn't there, Mister Sir?" Bruno appealed to me. "You wouldn't like to have a dog if it hadn't got nuffin but a head and a tail?"
I admitted that a dog of that kind would be uninteresting.
"There isn't such a dog as that," Sylvie thoughtfully remarked.
"But there would be," cried Bruno, "if the Professor shortened it up for us!"
"Shortened it up?" I said. "That's something new. How does he do it?"
"He's got a curious machine "Sylvie was beginning to explain.
"A welly curious machine," Bruno broke in, not at all willing to have the story thus taken out of his mouth, "and if oo puts in--some-finoruvver--at one end, oo know and he turns the handle--and it comes out at the uvver end, oh, ever so short!"
"As short as short! "Sylvie echoed.
"And one day when we was in Outland, oo know--before we came to Fairyland me and Sylvie took him a big Crocodile. And he shortened it up for us. And it did look so funny! And it kept looking round, and saying 'wherever is the rest of me got to?' And then its eyes looked unhappy--"
"Not both its eyes," Sylvie interrupted.