But he had not quite reached the end of his alarms. As he took the cage, a parrot at the back of the booth uplifted his voice and squawked,—
“No prerogative! No prerogative! No prerogative!”
“You mustn’t mind him,” said the bird-seller genially. “He’s like the crowd—picks up a cry an’ harps on it without understandin’.”
Master Dicky understood it no better; but thanked the man and ran off, prize in hand, to rejoin the girl.
They hurried back to the Inn. At the gateway she paused.
“I let you say what was wrong just now,” she explained. “Your father didn’t give me that money for putting out the fire.”
Here she hesitated. Dicky could not think what it mattered, or why her voice was so timid.
“Oh,” said he carelessly, “I dare say it was just because he liked you. Father has plenty of money.”
FATHER AND SON.
The dinner set before Captain Vyell comprised a dish of oysters, a fish chowder, a curried crab, a fried fowl with white sauce, a saddle of tenderest mutton, and various sweets over which Manasseh had thrown the elegant flourishes of his art. The wine came from the Rhone valley—a Hermitage of the Collector’s own shipment. The candles that lit the repast stood in the Collector’s own silver candlesticks. As an old Roman general carried with him on foreign service, packed in panniers on mule-back, a tessellated pavement to be laid down for him at each camping halt and repacked when the troops moved forward, so did Captain Vyell on his progresses of inspection travel with all the apparatus of a good table.
Dicky, seated opposite his father in a suit of sapphire blue velvet with buttons of cut steel, partook only of the fried fowl and of a syllabub. He had his glass of wine too, and sipped at it, not liking it much, but encouraged by his father, who held that a fine palate could not be cultivated too early.
By some process of dishing-up best known to himself (but with the aid, no doubt, of the “dam scullion”) Manasseh, who had cooked the dinner, also served it; noiselessly, wearing white gloves because his master abominated the sight of a black hand at meals. These gloves had a fascination for Dicky. They attracted his eyes as might the intervolved play of two large white moths in the penumbra beyond the candle-light, between his father’s back and the dark sideboard; but he fought against the attraction because he knew that to be aware of a servant was an offence against good manners at table.
His father encouraged him to talk, and he told of his purchase—but not all the story. Not for worlds—instinct told him—must he mention the word he had heard spoken. Yet he got so far as to say,—
“The people here don’t like us—do they, father?”
Captain Vyell laughed. “No, that’s very certain. And, to tell you the truth, if I had known you were wandering the street by yourself I might have felt uneasy. Manasseh shall take you for a walk to-morrow. One can never be sure of the canaille.”