Instantly she was answered from a distant knoll, where for some reason Sir Muscovy loved to retire for meditation. The cries grew lower and softer as the birds approached each other, and they met at the corner just under my window. Instantly they put their two bills together and the loud cries changed to confiding murmurs. Evidently some hurried questions and answers passed between them, and then Sir Muscovy waddled rapidly by the quickest path, Miss Crippletoes following him at a slower pace, and both passed out of sight, using their wings to help their feet down the steep declivity. The next morning, when I wakened early, my first thought was to look out, and there on the sunny greensward where they were accustomed to be fed, Sir Muscovy, Lady Blanche, and their humble maid, Malardina Crippletoes, were scattering their own breakfast before the bills of twelve beautiful golden balls of ducklings. The little creatures could never have climbed the bank, but must have started from their nest at dawn, coming round by the brook to the level at the foot of the garden, and so by slow degrees up to the house.
Judging from what I heard and knew of their habits, I am sure the excitement of the previous morning was occasioned by the hatching of the eggs, and that Lady Blanche had hastily sent her friend to call Sir Muscovy, the family remaining together until they could bring the babies with them and display their beauty to Phoebe and me.
We are not wholly without the pleasures of the town in Barbury Green. Once or twice in a summer, late on a Saturday afternoon, a procession of red and yellow vans drives into a field near the centre of the village. By the time the vans are unpacked all the children in the community are surrounding the gate of entrance. There is rifle-shooting, there is fortune-telling, there are games of pitch and toss, and swings, and French bagatelle; and, to crown all, a wonderful orchestrion that goes by steam. The water is boiled for the public’s tea, and at the same time thrilling strains of melody are flung into the air. There is at present only one tune in the orchestrion’s repertory, but it is a very good tune; though after hearing it three hundred and seven times in a single afternoon, it pursues one, sleeping and waking, for the next week. Phoebe and I took the Square Baby and went in to this diversified entertainment. There was a small crowd of children at the entrance, but as none of them seemed to be provided with pennies, and I felt in a fairy godmother mood, I offered them the freedom of the place at my expense.
I never purchased more radiant good-will for less money, but the combined effect of the well-boiled tea and the boiling orchestrion produced many village nightmares, so the mothers told me at chapel next morning.
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I have many friends in Barbury Green, and often have a pleasant chat with the draper, and the watchmaker, and the chemist.