"Course he had blankets!" retorted her brother. "Doos oo think Crocodiles goes walks wizout blankets? And he frowned with his eyebrows. And the Goat was welly flightened at his eyebrows!"
"I'd never be afraid of eyebrows?" exclaimed Sylvie.
"I should think oo would, though, if they'd got a Crocodile fastened to them, like these had! And so the Man jamp, and he jamp, and at last he got right out of the hole."
Sylvie gave another little gasp: this rapid dodging about among the characters of the Story had taken away her breath.
"And he runned away for to look for the Goat, oo know. And he heard the Lion grunting---"
"Lions don't grunt," said Sylvie.
"This one did," said Bruno. "And its mouth were like a large cupboard. And it had plenty of room in its mouth. And the Lion runned after the Man for to eat him, oo know. And the Mouse runned after the Lion."
"But the Mouse was running after the Crocodile," I said: "he couldn't run after both!"
Bruno sighed over the density of his audience, but explained very patiently. "He did runned after bofe: 'cause they went the same way! And first he caught the Crocodile, and then he didn't catch the Lion. And when he'd caught the Crocodile, what doos oo think he did--'cause he'd got pincers in his pocket?"
"I ca'n't guess," said Sylvie.
[Image...'He wrenched out that crocodile's toof!']
"Nobody couldn't guess it!" Bruno cried in high glee. "Why, he wrenched out that Crocodile's toof!"
"Which tooth?" I ventured to ask.
But Bruno was not to be puzzled. "The toof he were going to bite the Goat with, a course!"
"He couldn't be sure about that," I argued,
"unless he wrenched out all its teeth."
Bruno laughed merrily, and half sang, as he swung himself backwards and forwards, "He did--wrenched--out--all its teef!"
"Why did the Crocodile wait to have them wrenched out?" said Sylvie.
"It had to wait," said Bruno.
I ventured on another question. "But what became of the Man who said 'You may wait here till I come back'?"
"He didn't say 'Oo may,'" Bruno explained. "He said, 'Oo will.' Just like Sylvie says to me 'Oo will do oor lessons till twelve o'clock.' Oh, I wiss," he added with a little sigh, "I wiss Sylvie would say 'Oo may do oor lessons'!"
This was a dangerous subject for discussion, Sylvie seemed to think. She returned to the Story. "But what became of the Man?"
"Well, the Lion springed at him. But it came so slow, it were three weeks in the air--"
"Did the Man wait for it all that time?" I said.
"Course he didn't!" Bruno replied, gliding head-first down the stem of the fox-glove, for the Story was evidently close to its end. "He sold his house, and he packed up his things, while the Lion were coming. And he went and he lived in another town. So the Lion ate the wrong man."
This was evidently the Moral: so Sylvie made her final proclamation to the Frogs. "The Story's finished! And whatever is to be learned from it," she added, aside to me, "I'm sure I don't know!"
I did not feel quite clear about it myself, so made no suggestion: but the Frogs seemed quite content, Moral or no Moral, and merely raised a husky chorus of "Off! Off!" as they hopped away.
"It's just a week," I said, three days later, to Arthur, "since we heard of Lady Muriel's engagement. I think I ought to call, at any rate, and offer my congratulations. Won't you come with me?"
A pained expression passed over his face.
"When must you leave us?" he asked.
"By the first train on Monday."
"Well--yes, I will come with you. It would seem strange and unfriendly if I didn't. But this is only Friday. Give me till Sunday afternoon. I shall be stronger then."
Shading his eyes with one hand, as if half-ashamed of the tears that were coursing down his cheeks, he held the other out to me. It trembled as I clasped it.
I tried to frame some words of sympathy; but they seemed poor and cold, and I left them unspoken. "Good night!" was all I said.