I was handing him the half-sovereign, when something came bobbing up against the window, and Mr. Bilder’s face doubled its natural length with surprise.
“God bless me!” he said. “If there ain’t old Bersicker come back by ’isself!”
He went to the door and opened it, a most unnecessary proceeding it seemed to me. I have always thought that a wild animal never looks so well as when some obstacle of pronounced durability is between us. A personal experience has intensified rather than diminished that idea.
After all, however, there is nothing like custom, for neither Bilder nor his wife thought any more of the wolf than I should of a dog. The animal itself was a peaceful and well-behaved as that father of all picture-wolves, Red Riding Hood’s quondam friend, whilst moving her confidence in masquerade.
The whole scene was a unutterable mixture of comedy and pathos. The wicked wolf that for a half a day had paralyzed London and set all the children in town shivering in their shoes, was there in a sort of penitent mood, and was received and petted like a sort of vulpine prodigal son. Old Bilder examined him all over with most tender solicitude, and when he had finished with his penitent said,
“There, I knew the poor old chap would get into some kind of trouble. Didn’t I say it all along? Here’s his head all cut and full of broken glass. ‘E’s been a-gettin’ over some bloomin’ wall or other. It’s a shyme that people are allowed to top their walls with broken bottles. This ’ere’s what comes of it. Come along, Bersicker.”
He took the wolf and locked him up in a cage, with a piece of meat that satisfied, in quantity at any rate, the elementary conditions of the fatted calf, and went off to report.
I came off too, to report the only exclusive information that is given today regarding the strange escapade at the Zoo.
17 September.—I was engaged after dinner in my study posting up my books, which, through press of other work and the many visits to Lucy, had fallen sadly into arrear. Suddenly the door was burst open, and in rushed my patient, with his face distorted with passion. I was thunderstruck, for such a thing as a patient getting of his own accord into the Superintendent’s study is almost unknown.