The nursemaid had vanished!
"You can put me down, now, if you like," Sylvie quietly remarked.
I obeyed in silence, and could only ask myself "Is this a dream?", on finding Sylvie and Bruno walking one on either side of me, and clinging to my hands with the ready confidence of childhood.
"You're larger than when I saw you last!" I began. "Really I think we ought to be introduced again! There's so much of you that I never met before, you know."
"Very well!" Sylvie merrily replied. "This is Bruno. It doesn't take long. He's only got one name!"
"There's another name to me!" Bruno protested, with a reproachful look at the Mistress of the Ceremonies. "And it's--' Esquire'!"
"Oh, of course. I forgot," said Sylvie. "Bruno--Esquire!"
"And did you come here to meet me, my children?" I enquired.
"You know I said we'd come on Tuesday, Sylvie explained. "Are we the proper size for common children?"
"Quite the right size for children," I replied, (adding mentally "though not common children, by any means!") "But what became of the nursemaid?"
"It are gone!" Bruno solemnly replied.
"Then it wasn't solid, like Sylvie and you?"
"No. Oo couldn't touch it, oo know. If oo walked at it, oo'd go right froo!"
"I quite expected you'd find it out, once," said Sylvie. "Bruno ran it against a telegraph post, by accident. And it went in two halves. But you were looking the other way."
I felt that I had indeed missed an opportunity: to witness such an event as a nursemaid going 'in two halves' does not occur twice in a life-time!
"When did oo guess it were Sylvie?" Bruno enquired.
[Image...'It went in two halves']
"I didn't guess it, till it was Sylvie," I said. "But how did You manage the nursemaid? "
"Bruno managed it," said Sylvie. "It's called a Phlizz."
"And how do you make a Phlizz, Bruno?"
"The Professor teached me how," said Bruno. "First oo takes a lot of air--"
"Oh, Bruno!" Sylvie interposed. "The Professor said you weren't to tell!" But who did her voice?" I asked.
"Indeed it's troubling you too much, Sir! She can walk very well on the flat."
Bruno laughed merrily as I turned hastily from side to side, looking in all directions for the speaker. "That were me!" he gleefully proclaimed, in his own voice.
"She can indeed walk very well on the flat," I said. "And I think I was the Flat."
By this time we were near the Hall. "This is where my friends live," I said. "Will you come in and have some tea with them?"
Bruno gave a little jump of joy: and Sylvie said "Yes, please. You'd like some tea, Bruno, wouldn't you? He hasn't tasted tea," she explained to me, "since we left Outland."
"And that weren't good tea!" said Bruno. "It were so welly weak!"
LIGHT COME, LIGHT GO.
Lady Muriel's smile of welcome could not quite conceal the look of surprise with which she regarded my new companions.
I presented them in due form. "This is Sylvie, Lady Muriel. And this is Bruno."
"Any surname?" she enquired, her eyes twinkling with fun.
"No," I said gravely. "No surname."
She laughed, evidently thinking I said it in fun; and stooped to kiss the children a salute to which Bruno submitted with reluctance: Sylvie returned it with interest.
While she and Arthur (who had arrived before me) supplied the children with tea and cake, I tried to engage the Earl in conversation: but he was restless and distrait, and we made little progress. At last, by a sudden question, he betrayed the cause of his disquiet.
"Would you let me look at those flowers you have in your hand?"
"Willingly!" I said, handing him the bouquet. Botany was, I knew, a favourite study of his: and these flowers were to me so entirely new and mysterious, that I was really curious to see what a botanist would say of them.
They did not diminish his disquiet. On the contrary, he became every moment more excited as he turned them over. "These are all from Central India!" he said, laying aside part of the bouquet. "They are rare, even there: and I have never seen them in any other part of the world.