Bryda did not need a second invitation. A very short time indeed passed before she was by Maurice's side.
His father had brought him over, he said; his father wanted to see grandfather about some business, so he had started off very early.
Maurice was dreadfully hungry, and, as the grannies never breakfasted till ten, he and Bryda each got a thick slice of bread and jam from the good-natured cook, and then went off to the garden, Bryda running races with Toby, who mostly had the best of it. You see he had four legs to Bryda's two.
They went to the vinery, and acted a little play, which, however, wanted a few more actors sadly. It was so puzzling for Bryda to be both the imprisoned princess and the ogre at once; and when Maurice, the valiant knight, slew Toby for a dragon, and stepped over his corpse (or would have done, if Toby had been a little more dead, and not run away every other minute), it got really puzzling, and it was well that the breakfast-bell rang at that moment.
Breakfast was rather a long, dull affair. Uncle James, Maurice's father, explained to grandfather a great deal about a drainage scheme; and grandmother, every five minutes, asked her maid Martha, who stood behind her chair, to tell her what it was all about, which Martha had to do in very loud whispers over and over again.
Maurice and Bryda were very glad to run out again, with special directions from grandmother to keep off wet grass, and not get into mischief. This, they thought, could not possibly happen. This time they rambled into the farmyard. Bryda would not look for more kittens, but tried to make friends with some small balls of fluff, which meant some day to be turkeys. At one corner of the yard was a deep tank, or little pond, full of a dark brown, rather thick fluid, which was used in the garden and fields, and had a great effect in the way of making things grow. Bryda and her cousin stood looking at it.
"I declare," said Bryda, "it's like the Styx!"
"I don't see any sticks," said ignorant Maurice, who had never learned that the old heathens believed the souls of dead people went in a ferryboat across a dark river called the Styx, and that the old man who rowed the boat was called Charon.
Bryda thought it would be capital fun to act this little scene.
Certainly the treacle-colored stuff in the pool looked nasty enough to do very well for this dark river.
As to Maurice, he was younger than his cousin, and when they were together she always invented the games, although he had been to school already, and thought girls generally were very little use.
So when Bryda explained what she wanted to do, he only said that he did not know how to act a story that he had never heard; to which Bryda only answered quietly, and as if it were a fact no one could think of doubting for a moment, "You don't know anything about anything, Maurice. Sit down there--no! not on a cabbage, but on the wheelbarrow--and I will tell you all about it."
So she told him the story, in the middle of which the wheelbarrow upset, because Maurice laughed. So he sat on a log of wood, and Bryda picked up the wheelbarrow, got into it, and began in the words of one of her lesson-books, with a little alteration to suit the occasion.
"Friend! Roman! Countryman! lend me your ears! I am Charon--"
"What?" asked Maurice.
"Don't spoil my speech! You may only say 'Hear, hear!' as they do in Parliament."
"But suppose I don't want to hear?"
Bryda had no notion of what they would do under such unlikely circumstances; so, after thinking a little, she merely said, "Don't be silly, Maurice!" And that sort of answer puts an end to any argument quite easily.
"This is my dog Cerberus, with three heads," went on Bryda, pointing to Toby.
"My! what a lot of bones he would eat!" said his master.
Bryda suddenly jumped down from her rather unsteady pulpit.
"Oh, we _will_ have fun! Here, Maurice, put on my white pinafore.
You shall be a ghost, and I will get into the tub with my dog Cerberus, and ferry you over the river," she said.
"It won't hold two," said Maurice, looking rather doubtfully at the rotten tub which Bryda pushed into the filthy waters, making a splash and a most horrible smell as it went in.
"Oh, ghosts don't want much room! Now, Cerberus, in you go!" and in the poor dog went, hastily and ungracefully; being, in fact, thrown in head foremost.
After one howl he resigned himself, and lay down at the bottom of the tub, into which unsteady boat Bryda, armed with her own small spade, followed with Maurice's help.
Having balanced herself by crouching down, so as to bring the center of gravity to the right place, she proceeded to paddle, or, as she called it, to row with the little wooden spade, splashing a good deal, and, of course, making the tub turn round and round, and wriggle very uncomfortably in the pool. "Well, it doesn't matter," said Charon, giving up in despair, and looking very red in the face. "We can pretend I crossed the Styx to fetch you. Now I must speak to the soul in Latin, because, of course, Charon and Cerberus talked Latin always."
"I suppose Cerberus barked in Latin--all three mouths at once," said Maurice; "what a horrid row it must have been!"
"Now talk away," said Bryda.
"But we don't know Latin; I've only just begun at _hic, haec, hoc_."
"_That_ doesn't matter; we must make it up, of course. If we put 'us'
or 'o' at the end of every word it will sound exactly like the stuff Cousin Ronald learns. Now: Poor-us soul-us, do-us you-us want-o to cross over-o?"
"Yes-o," replied Maurice promptly.
"Then-us come-o--oh! oh!" screamed Bryda, making the last word very long indeed; for she trod on the _one_ tail of the dog Cerberus, causing that remarkable animal to jump up howling. Charon's ferryboat was not built to allow of athletic sports on board, so it went over, and Bryda went in.
Oh, dear! what word can describe the filthy mess into which Bryda was plunged up to her waist! the smell of it, and the chill, horrible feeling! Fortunately, she had just taken Maurice's hand, to help in "the soul," who indeed felt very lucky to escape such a voyage!
Maurice was able to help her, but, soaked to the waist and ready to cry, she scrambled up to dry land.
By way of mending matters, the dog Cerberus, who may be supposed to have become Toby again, had gone in altogether, and was rather pleased with himself. So he came and had a good shake close to Bryda, so as to splash all the rest of her small person, and then ran round and round, expressing his delight by all sorts of queer noises.
But, oh! here was a mess! And this after the trouble of yesterday, and all Bryda's good resolutions! It was too dreadful, and tears came fast to her eyes.
But kind Maurice, instead of laughing, pitied her. "Don't cry," he said; "can't you _wash_?"
"I might _run_," said Bryda dolefully, remembering what dreadful things happened to frocks that "ran."
"That stuff might run off," said Maurice; "come on."
And she followed meekly to the nearest greenhouse, where was a large tub of fresh water, and beside it a big squirt or syringe used for watering plants high up in the greenhouse.
"Oh, Maurice dear, I never will call you stupid again!" cried Bryda, delighted, as Maurice filled the syringe and set to work upon her.
What fun that was! It was almost worth the fright of that horrid splash, and almost--not quite, perhaps--worth the disgrace Bryda would certainly be in with nurse. Such peals of laughter followed each shower that the quiet cows in the fields beyond lifted up their great heavy heads, and stared with brown eyes of mild astonishment.
Can you imagine the sort of figure Bryda was when grandmother came out in her wheel-chair to take a turn in the sunshine? Soaked from head to foot; streams of clean water, and others of the horribly smelling stuff into which she had plunged, pouring off her in all directions!
She did indeed look a miserable little guilty thing, hanging her head while grandmother looked at her through her gold eyeglass, evidently so surprised and shocked that she could find no words for a few minutes, and at last could only tell her she must never! never! never!
do such dreadful things again. If she did, the consequences would be
This row of stars must stand for those dreadful consequences, for Bryda never heard them! Uncle James and grandfather had come up by this time, and she fled, as fast as wet, clinging clothes would let her, to the house. It was "out of the frying-pan into the fire,"
though, for nurse's wrath was really something too dreadful; and the way in which she ended, by saying that she supposed Miss Bryda would like better to make mud pies in the streets than to play with other Christians, hurt the child's feelings dreadfully. I am sorry to say she walked out of the nursery with damp, smooth hair and a clean frock, but with her head so very much in the air that her namesake, Saint Bride, or Bridget, or Bryda, would have been quite shocked.
"You see, Cousin Salome," she said afterwards, "it was such a dose of disgraces, and I meant to be so wise, and clever, and useful."
"Did you ask to be made wise, and clever, and useful?" asked Salome gently.
Bryda hung her head. She had forgotten that, I am afraid she dressed so quickly in the morning to join Maurice that she never remembered to ask the Helper of the helpless to make her what she would like to be.
"I have been so miserable, Cousin Salome," she added; "I don't believe Mary Queen of Scots could have been more wretched if she had had her head cut off three times running."