"'Dear friends,' she said, 'at your age, is this decorous? Is it proper? Is it even ladylike?'
"'There it is! Catch it! Catch it!' cried one of the old ladies.
"'Come and play with us!' cried another.
"None of the rest paid any attention to the serious looks of the grown-up children who went sadly on toward the fort, hoping to find some one more reasonable.
"The next person they saw was the lord chancellor, a bald, stout old gentleman, who was sitting on the woolsack, which, you remember, he had carried away on his back. He was very busy with a pipe, and the children thought he was smoking, and grew more hopeful. He might have some trace of good sense left, they thought, if he could care for such a grown-up pursuit."
Here Uncle Jack offered his cigar to Bryda politely; but she made a face and turned her head away.
"I don't want to be so grown-up as _that_," she said.
"Oh!" said Uncle Jack, with his funny face, that he always put on to tease Bryda. "Oh, I thought you wanted to grow up all of a sudden."
"Well--only for some things," answered she, feeling that Uncle Jack was taking a mean advantage in remembering her sayings, and bringing them up again. "Please go on," she added hastily.
Uncle Jack winked at her very slowly and solemnly; then took a good puff at his cigar, and went on:
"When they came up he was found to be blowing soap-bubbles!
"'A-ah!' he spluttered, trying to talk with the pipe in his mouth.
'D-don't break it, please! There!' as the bubble burst and vanished; 'it's too bad, I declare! Directly I got a really good one, big and bright, that always happens. Have a try,' he added, offering Queen May the pipe.
"'I say, my lord,' said the major-general commanding the royal army, coming up at the moment, 'can you tell me how to mend lead soldiers?
I've tried gum and glue, and one of the maids of honor tried to sew one, but somehow they don't join properly. It's a horrid bore, and that fellow, the speaker, won't let me have a ride on his rocking-horse. I'd punch him, only he's six feet three, and as broad as he's long. So I don't know what to play at.'
"'It _is_ slow,' answered the lord chancellor, pityingly. 'Never mind, old chap, come up to the fort and we'll make some toffee.'
"So the elderly gentlemen went off arm-in-arm, and Queen May shook her head sadly.
"'They are all mad, poor things! What are we to do?'
"'Hi! hi!' cried a voice, and looking round they saw that tall, handsome nobleman, the master of the horse, running toward them as fast as he could. At last, perhaps, they had found some one to speak sensibly to.
"'Hi! you fellows,' he cried breathlessly; 'stop a minute, will you?
Is that a circus pony? and can he do tricks? Sit up with a hat on, and drink out of teacups, I mean.'
"'Certainly not,' replied Queen May, with her utmost dignity. 'I hardly understand, Lord Moyers, how you can ask such a strange question. Did you ever see a lady, especially if she were a crowned queen, riding a circus pony?'
"Lord Moyers giggled, and turned head-over-heels on the spot, after which he rushed off again to join the rest of the House of Lords, who were playing 'hi! cockalorum,' close by.
"The procession went on very sorrowfully toward the fort. It grieved them to see this frivolity in those to whom they had been taught to look up.
"'Alas, my country!' sighed Eric, the boy who, you remember, had proposed to kill the pig before he was touched with the fairy wand.
"Perhaps it was on arriving at the gates of the fort that the very strangest sight was seen. The queen was a very stout and middle-aged person, of rather stern countenance, and here she was busy with a skipping rope--her hair loose, her royal robes tucked up, and her crown on one side.
"'It's the best fun and the finest exercise in the world,' she gasped.
'If I could only skip twice to one turn of the rope!'
"And on she went, while the children watched. But there was something so utterly ridiculous about the sight that Queen May and her followers, after various vain efforts to suppress their mirth, burst into one peal of laughter, which rang merrily through the old fort, and over the hillside.
"It broke the charm, and in a moment the children became children again, and the grown people became as they were before.
"There was a large flat field on the mountain top, in front of the gates of the old fort, and here all the exiles wore in a few minutes assembled.
"The king was about to address them, when in a moment, no one knowing how she came there, the Fairy Set-'em-right stood among them, close beside his majesty.
"'You have all learned a lesson, and I will put it into words for you,' she said."
"Oh, dear!" interrupted Bryda, "here comes the moral! Don't make a very hard one, Uncle Jack, please!"
He laughed. "I must finish this truthful story truthfully, miss.
"She said, turning to the king and queen:
"'Your fault was that you forgot you once were young yourselves.'"
Bryda nodded her head very wisely.
"'And you, children, forgot that you could not do without old people.
That wicked law is at once repealed.'
"'Certainly, ma'am,' said the king, bowing.
"'Children are to be children, and behave as such, and be treated as such. Parents are parents, the children are not to forget that. Now go home all of you, and don't forget this one caution, _I've got my eye on you_.'
"With these awful words the fairy vanished. And that's the end of the story."
"And a very nice ending, too!" said Bryda.
[Illustration with caption: IS THERE A PECULIAR FLAVOR IN WHAT YOU SPRINKLE FROM YOUR TORCH? ASKED SCROOGE--page 271 _From the drawing by T Leech_]
BRDYA'S DREADFUL SCRAPE
By Mrs. E. M. Field
Bryda was awakened from her pleasant morning sleep by a strange sound.
Her window was partly open, but something struck against the upper sash; it was not a bird that had lost its way, nor a wasp come to look for jam, for as Bryda raised her head something that could only be a handful of light gravel or shot struck the window again, and at the same time a clear, shrill whistle sounded outside.
Bryda hastily sprang up. One does not care much about dress at nine years old, so in white nightdress and dark twisted hair she fearlessly put her head out of the window, and saw, to her delight, her cousin, Maurice Gray, a boy some two years younger than herself, with his queer, ugly little Scotch terrier, Toby, standing on the lawn. She need not be sad for want of a playmate to-day.
"Get up and dress!" cried Maurice. "Aren't you ashamed, my Lady Lie-in-bed? Come out directly!"