* * * * *
The Duchess called on me the next day to thank me again, and to ask where she might write to my little friend to thank him also. This information, however, I was naturally unable to impart.
MYSTERY NO. V
SHIN SHIRA AND THE LAME DUCK
It was during the summer holidays and my young cousin Lionel was staying with me again. We had been spending the hot afternoon strolling about Kensington Gardens, and had just been enjoying a cup of tea and some cakes under the trees at the little refreshment place near the Albert Memorial.
“I think we’d better be going home now,” I said. “We’ll get a motor-’bus at the gate.”
“Oh! must we go yet?” pleaded Lionel. “It’s so jolly out here under the trees. Let’s walk home past the Round Pond.”
“I’ve some letters to write before dinner,” said I, “but—”
“Oh, bother the old letters!” interrupted Lionel. “It won’t take much longer to walk, and you’ll get them done all right. Come on!”
With a sigh of resignation, I not altogether unwillingly let the young scamp have his way.
It was the best part of the day: the lengthening shadows and the cool breeze which had sprung up made walking very enjoyable.
We had nearly reached the Round Pond when I heard a startled “squ-a-a-k!” at my feet, and a lame duck struggled up from the grass and limped painfully off.
“Poor thing!” cried Lionel, who was a kind-hearted little chap. “You nearly trod on it. I wonder how it got to be lame.”
“Some boys,” said an indistinct voice close at hand, “some boys threw a stone at it this afternoon and injured its leg.”
We looked round in great surprise, for there seemed to be nobody about to account for the voice; but presently I could just discern Shin Shira’s face and yellow turban appearing.
“Can’t shake hands yet,” said he, nodding amiably, “for they haven’t arrived at present, but I’ve no doubt they’ll be here shortly.”
“I wonder how he’d get on if he wanted to scratch his nose,” whispered Lionel, who had a keen sense of the ridiculous.
“It’s rude to whisper in company,” said Shin Shira severely, evidently aware that some remark had been made about himself—“but there, you’re only a boy, and boys are—Hullo! here come my legs! that’s all right! I thought I shouldn’t have to wait long for them. Where are you off to?” and the little Yellow Dwarf hurried up to us now that he was quite complete.
“Oh, we’re just walking home,” I replied, “only Lionel had a fancy to pass the Round Pond on our way; the little model yachts one often sees there are very amusing to watch.”
“Yes,” agreed Shin Shira. “There’s one been left behind to-day,” he continued. “The boys who threw the stone at the duck were seen by the park keeper, and when he came after them they ran away, leaving their boat behind them. Serve them right if they lose it.”