pressed his heel,
And thrice and four times tugged amain,
Ere he wrenched out the steel.”
But when he cried—
“What noble Lucumo
To taste our Roman cheer?”
the puppy, who had been watching the scene with kindling eyes, and ears and tail of eager inquiry, could bear it no longer, but flung himself valiantly into the breach, and barked defiance, dancing about in front of Horatius and snapping furiously at his legs. Alas, poor puppy! He was hailed as “Sextus,” and bade “welcome” by the bold Roman, who forthwith charged upon him, and drove him round and round the grove till he sought safety and protection in the lap of Lars Porsena herself. Then the bridge came down, and Horatius, climbing nimbly to the top of the rock, apostrophized his Father Tiber, sheathed his good sword by his side (i.e., rammed his stick into and through his breeches pocket), and with his jacket on his back plunged headlong in the tide, and swam valiantly across the pine-strewn surface of the little glade.
Bubble’s performance was much applauded by the two girls, who, in the characters of Lars Porsena and Mamilius, “Prince of the Latian name,” had surveyed the whole with dignified amazement. And when the boy, exhausted with his heroic exertions, threw himself down on the pine-needles and begged “Miss Hildy” to sing to them, she readily consented, and sang “Jock o’ Hazeldean” and “Come o’er the stream, Charlie!” so sweetly that the little fat birds sat still on the branches to listen. A faint glow stole into Pink’s wan cheek, and her blue eyes sparkled with pleasure; while Bubble bobbed his head, and testified his delight by drumming with his heels on the ground and begging for more. “A ballid now, Miss Hildy, please,” he cried.
“Well,” said Hildegarde, nothing loth, “what shall it be?”
“One with some fightin’ in it,” replied Bubble, promptly.
So Hildegarde began:—
Whistling and playing;
He’s lighted at Brackley gates
At the day’s dawing.”
And went on to tell of the murder of “bonnie Brackley” and of the treachery of his young wife:—
grief in the kitchen,
And mirth in the ha’;
But the Baron o’ Brackley
Is dead and awa’.”
So the ballad ended, leaving Bubble full of sanguinary desires anent the descendants of the false Inverey. “I—I—I’d like jest to git holt o’ some o’ them fellers!” he exclaimed. “They wouldn’t go slaughterin’ round no gret amount when I’d finished with em’, I tell ye!” And he flourished his stick, and looked so fierce that the puppy yelped piteously, expecting another onslaught.
“And now, Pink,” said Hilda, “we have just time for a story before we go home. Bubble has told me about your stories, and I want very much to hear one.”