“One hundred and five,” he muttered, and shook his bald head. “Yes, he has fever. I saw it at once, as he entered the room.”
“Professor,” I cried out, in an agony of remorse, “really I meant nothing by it. I know very well that you are not a parrot—that you are—”
“I—I—a parrot!” he exclaimed, smiling knowingly at Mabel. “No, I should think not. He is raving, my dear. High fever. Just what I said. Won’t you go out and send Maggie for the doctor? No, stop, I shall go myself. Then he will be sure to come without delay. It is high time.”
The professor buttoned his coat up to his chin, fixed his hat at the proper angle on the back of his head, and departed in haste.
“How do you feel now, Jamie dear?” said Mabel, after awhile.
“I am very well, I thank you, Mabel,” answered I. “In fact, it is all nonsense. I am not sick at all.”
“Hush, hush! you must not talk so much,” demanded she, and put her hand over my mouth.
My excitement was now gradually subsiding, and my blood was returning to its usual speed.
“If you don’t object, Mabel,” said I, “I’ll get up and go home. There’s nothing whatever the matter with me.”
“Will you be a good boy and keep quiet,” rejoined she, emphasizing each word by a gentle tap on my head with her crochet-needle.
“Well, if it can amuse you to have me lying here and playing sick,” muttered I, “then, of course, I will do anything to please you.”
“That is right,” said she, and gave me a friendly nod.
So I lay still for a long while, until I came once more to think of my wonderful spectacles, which had turned the venerable professor into a parrot. I thought I owed Mabel an apology for what I had done to her father, and I determined to ease my mind by confiding the whole story to her.
“Mabel,” I began, raising myself on my elbow, “I want to tell you something, but you must promise me beforehand that you will not be angry with me.”
“Angry with you, Jamie?” repeated she, opening her bright eyes wide in astonishment. “I never was angry with you in my life.”
“Very well, then. But I have done something very bad, and I shall never have peace until I have confided it all to you. You are so very good, Mabel. I wish I could be as good as you are.”
Mabel was about to interrupt me, but I prevented her, and continued:
“Last night, as I was going home from your house, the moonlight was so strangely airy and beautiful, and without quite intending to do it, I found myself taking a walk through the gorge. There I saw some curious little lights dancing over the ground, and I remembered the story of the peasant who had caught the gnome. And do you know what I did?”
Mabel was beginning to look apprehensive.
“No, I can’t imagine what you did,” she whispered.
“Well, I lifted my cane, struck at one of the lights, and, before I knew it, there lay a live gnome on the ground, kicking with his small legs.”