As there was only one cluster of hare-bells within easy reach, I said very gravely that I thought one would do this time, and I picked it and gave it to him. Bruno ran his hand once or twice up and down the flowers, like a musician trying an instrument, producing a most delicious delicate tinkling as he did so. I had never heard flower-music before--I don't think one can, unless one's in the 'eerie' state and I don't know quite how to give you an idea of what it was like, except by saying that it sounded like a peal of bells a thousand miles off. When he had satisfied himself that the flowers were in tune, he seated himself on the dead mouse (he never seemed really comfortable anywhere else), and, looking up at me with a merry twinkle in his eyes, he began. By the way, the tune was rather a curious one, and you might like to try it for yourself, so here are the notes.
[Image...Music for hare-bells]
"Rise, oh, rise! The daylight dies: The owls are hooting, ting, ting, ting! Wake, oh, wake! Beside the lake The elves are fluting, ting, ting, ting! Welcoming our Fairy King, We sing, sing, sing."
He sang the first four lines briskly and merrily, making the hare-bells chime in time with the music; but the last two he sang quite slowly and gently, and merely waved the flowers backwards and forwards. Then he left off to explain. "The Fairy-King is Oberon, and he lives across the lake--and sometimes he comes in a little boat--and we go and meet him and then we sing this song, you know."
"And then you go and dine with him?" I said, mischievously.
"Oo shouldn't talk," Bruno hastily said: "it interrupts the song so."
I said I wouldn't do it again.
"I never talk myself when I'm singing," he went on very gravely: "so oo shouldn't either." Then he tuned the hare-bells once more, and sang:---
"Hear, oh, hear! From far and near The music stealing, ting, ting, ting! Fairy belts adown the dells Are merrily pealing, ting, ting, ting! Welcoming our Fairy King, We ring, ring, ring.
"See, oh, see! On every tree What lamps are shining, ting, ting, ting! They are eyes of fiery flies To light our dining, ting, ting, ting! Welcoming our Fairy King They swing, swing, swing.
"Haste, oh haste, to take and taste The dainties waiting, ting, ting, ting! Honey-dew is stored--"
"Hush, Bruno!" I interrupted in a warning whisper. "She's coming!"
Bruno checked his song, and, as she slowly made her way through the long grass, he suddenly rushed out headlong at her like a little bull, shouting "Look the other way! Look the other way!"
"Which way?" Sylvie asked, in rather a frightened tone, as she looked round in all directions to see where the danger could be.
"That way!" said Bruno, carefully turning her round with her face to the wood. "Now, walk backwards walk gently--don't be frightened: oo sha'n't trip!"
But Sylvie did trip notwithstanding: in fact he led her, in his hurry, across so many little sticks and stones, that it was really a wonder the poor child could keep on her feet at all. But he was far too much excited to think of what he was doing.
I silently pointed out to Bruno the best place to lead her to, so as to get a view of the whole garden at once: it was a little rising ground, about the height of a potato; and, when they had mounted it, I drew back into the shade, that Sylvie mightn't see me.
I heard Bruno cry out triumphantly "Now oo may look!" and then followed a clapping of hands, but it was all done by Bruno himself. Sylvie: was silent--she only stood and gazed with her hands clasped together, and I was half afraid she didn't like it after all.
Bruno too was watching her anxiously, and when she jumped down off the mound, and began wandering up and down the little walks, he cautiously followed her about, evidently anxious that she should form her own opinion of it all, without any hint from him. And when at last she drew a long breath, and gave her verdict--in a hurried whisper, and without the slightest regard to grammar-- "It's the loveliest thing as I never saw in all my life before!" the little fellow looked as well pleased as if it had been given by all the judges and juries in England put together.