“You see we are to get down,” said Hugh.
“Yes,” said Jeanne again, looking round her a little timidly. “Cheri, do you know, I feel just a very, very little bit frightened. It is such a queer place, and I don’t know what we should do. Don’t you think we’d better ask Houpet to take us back again?”
“Oh no,” said Hugh. “I’m sure we’ll be all right. You said you wanted to have some fun, Jeanne, and you seemed to know all about it. You needn’t be frightened with me, Jeanne.”
“No, of course not,” said Jeanne, quite brightly again; “but let us stand up a minute, Hugh, before we get out of the carriage, and look all about us. Isn’t it a queer place?”
“It” was a wide, far-stretching plain, over which the moonlight shone softly. Far or near not a shrub or tree was to be seen, yet it was not like a desert, for the ground was entirely covered with most beautiful moss, so fresh and green, even by the moonlight, that it was difficult to believe the hot sunshine had ever glared upon it. And here and there, all over this great plain—all over it, at least, as far as the children could see—rose suddenly from the ground innumerable jets of water, not so much like fountains as like little waterfalls turned the wrong way; they rushed upwards with such surprising force and noise, and fell to the earth again in numberless tiny threads much more gently and softly than they left it.
“It seems as if somebody must be shooting them up with a gun, doesn’t it?” said Hugh. “I never saw such queer fountains.”
“Let’s go and look at them close,” said Jeanne, preparing to get down. But before she could do so, Houpet gave a shrill, rather peremptory crow, and Jeanne stopped short in surprise.
“What do you want, Houpet?” she said.
By way of reply, Houpet hopped down from his box, and in some wonderfully clever way of his own, before the children could see what he was about, had unharnessed Nibble and Grignan. Then the three arranged themselves in a little procession, and drew up a few steps from the side of the carriage where still stood the chicken-footmen. Though they could not speak, there was no mistaking their meaning.
“They’re going to show us the way,” said Hugh; and as he spoke he jumped out of the carriage, and Jeanne after him.
[Illustration: ONWARDS QUIETLY STEPPED THE LITTLE PROCESSION.—p. 75.]
“They have a pretty
Whereon at night they rest;
They have a sparkling lakelet,
And float upon its breast.”
THE TWO SWANS.
Onwards quietly stepped the little procession, Houpet first, his tuft waving as usual, with a comfortable air of importance and satisfaction; then Nibble and Grignan abreast—hand-in-hand, I was going to have said; next Hugh and Jeanne; with the two attendant chickens behind bringing up the rear.