This time the queen shook her head. “No; I give you only my promise; but a promise made across a primrose ring is never broken.”
“And Toby?” Peter asked it anxiously.
“You must leave him behind. You see, if you took him back over the River of Make-Believe he would have to turn back into a make-believe dog again; but—I promise he shall be waiting in the home for you.”
The queen led them down the hill to the shore again; and there they found the ferry-man ready, waiting. It is customary, I believe, for every one to be ferried home. The river, that way, is treble as wide, and the sandman is always wandering up and down the brink, scattering his sand so that one is apt to get too drowsy to swim the whole distance. The children piled into the boat—all but Michael; he stood clinging fast to the queen’s gray dress.
“Don’t you want to go back?” she asked, gently.
“Nyet; the heart by me no longer to bump—here,” and Michael pointed to the pit of his stomach.
“Aw, come on,” called Peter.
But Michael only shook his head and clung closer to the gray dress.
“All right, ferryman; he may stay,” said the queen.
“Good-by!” shouted the children. “Don’t forget us, Michael.”
“Nyet; goo’-by,” Michael shouted back; and then he laughed. “You tell Mi’ Peggie—I say—Go’ blees you!”
And this was Michael’s patch.
The ferryman stood in the stem and swung his great oar. Slowly the boat moved, scrunching over the white pebbles, and slipped into the water. The children saw Michael and the queen waving their hands until they had dwindled to shadow-specks in the distance; they watched the wake of starshine lengthen out behind them; they listened to the ripples lapping at the keel. To and fro, to and fro, swayed the ferryman to the swing of his oar. “Sleep—sleep—sleep,” sang the river, running with them. Bridget stretched her arms about as many children as she could compass and held them close while eight pairs of eyes slowly—slowly—shut.
IN WHICH A PART OF THE BOARD HAS DISTURBING DREAMS
It is a far cry from a primrose ring to a disbanded board meeting; but Fancy bridged it in a twinkling and without an effort. She blew the trustees off the door-step of Saint Margaret’s, homeward, with an insistent buzzing of “ifs” and “buts” in their ears, and the faint woodsy odor of primroses under their noses.
To each member of the board entering his own home, unsupported by the presence of his fellow-members and the scientific zeal of the Senior Surgeon, the business of the afternoon began to change its aspect. For some unaccountable reason—unless we take Fancy into the reckoning—this sudden abandoning of Ward C did not seem the simple matter of an hour previous; while in perspective even Margaret MacLean’s outspokenness became less heinous and more human.