And here's a big blackberry for ooself! We couldn't only find but two!"
"Thank you: it's very nice," I said. And I suppose you ate the other, Bruno?"
"No, I didn't," Bruno said, carelessly. "Aren't they pretty dindledums, Mister Sir?"
"Yes, very: but what makes you limp so, my child?"
"Mine foot's come hurted again!" Bruno mournfully replied. And he sat down on the ground, and began nursing it.
The Professor held his head between his hands--an attitude that I knew indicated distraction of mind. "Better rest a minute," he said. "It may be better then--or it may be worse. If only I had some of my medicines here! I'm Court-Physician, you know," he added, aside to me.
"Shall I go and get you some blackberries, darling?" Sylvie whispered, with her arms round his neck; and she kissed away a tear that was trickling down his cheek.
Bruno brightened up in a moment. "That are a good plan!" he exclaimed. "I thinks my foot would come quite unhurted, if I eated a blackberry-- two or three blackberries--six or seven blackberries--"
Sylvie got up hastily. "I'd better go she said, aside to me, before he gets into the double figures!
Let me come and help you, I said. I can reach higher up than you can.
Yes, please, said Sylvie, putting her hand into mine: and we walked off together.
Bruno loves blackberries, she said, as we paced slowly along by a tall hedge, that looked a promising place for them, and it was so sweet of him to make me eat the only one!
Oh, it was you that ate it, then? Bruno didn't seem to like to tell me about it.
No; I saw that, said Sylvie. He's always afraid of being praised. But he made me eat it, really! I would much rather he --oh, what's that? And she clung to my hand, half-frightened, as we came in sight of a hare, lying on its side with legs stretched out just in the entrance to the wood.
It's a hare, my child. Perhaps it's asleep.
No, it isn't asleep, Sylvie said, timidly going nearer to look at it: it's eyes are open. Is it--is it--her voice dropped to an awestruck whisper, is it dead, do you think?"
"Yes, it's quite dead," I said, after stooping to examine it. "Poor thing! I think it's been hunted to death. I know the harriers were out yesterday. But they haven't touched it. Perhaps they caught sight of another, and left it to die of fright and exhaustion."
"Hunted to death?" Sylvie repeated to herself, very slowly and sadly. "I thought hunting was a thing they played at like a game. Bruno and I hunt snails: but we never hurt them when we catch them!"
"Sweet angel!" I thought. "How am I to get the idea of Sport into your innocent mind?" And as we stood, hand-in-hand, looking down at the dead hare, I tried to put the thing into such words as she could understand. "You know what fierce wild-beasts lions and tigers are?" Sylvie nodded. "Well, in some countries men have to kill them, to save their own lives, you know."
"Yes," said Sylvie: "if one tried to kill me, Bruno would kill it if he could."
"Well, and so the men--the hunters--get to enjoy it, you know: the running, and the fighting, and the shouting, and the danger."
"Yes," said Sylvie. "Bruno likes danger."
"Well, but, in this country, there aren't any lions and tigers, loose: so they hunt other creatures, you see." I hoped, but in vain, that this would satisfy her, and that she would ask no more questions.
"They hunt foxes," Sylvie said, thoughtfully. "And I think they kill them, too. Foxes are very fierce. I daresay men don't love them. Are hares fierce?"
"No," I said. "A hare is a sweet, gentle, timid animal--almost as gentle as a lamb."
"But, if men love hares, why--why--" her voice quivered, and her sweet eyes were brimming over with tears.
"I'm afraid they don't love them, dear child."
"All children love them," Sylvie said. "All ladies love them."
"I'm afraid even ladies go to hunt them, sometimes."
Sylvie shuddered. '"Oh, no, not ladies!' she earnestly pleaded. "Not Lady Muriel!"
"No, she never does, I'm sure--but this is too sad a sight for you, dear. Let's try and find some--"
But Sylvie was not satisfied yet.