“Never mind, Elfie,” cried Babie, “I’ve got something for Mr. Gould and for Kate and Mary.”
“Have you, Babie? So have I,” returned Armine; and the two, who had been wedged into one seat, began a whispering conversation, by which the listeners might have learnt that there was a friendly rivalry as to which had made the two pounds provide the largest possible number of presents. Neither had bought anything for self, for the chest of drawers, bath, and broom were for Babie’s precious dolls, not for herself. Mother Carey, uncle and aunt, brothers, sisters, cousins, servants, Mr. Gould, the gardener’s grandson, the old apple-woman, “the little thin girls,” had all been provided for at that wonderful German Bazaar, and the only regret was that gifts for Mr. Ogilvie and Alfred Richards could not be brought within the powers of even two pounds. What had Mother Carey bought? Ah! Nobody was to know till Twelfth-day, and then the first tree cut at Belforest would be a Christmas-tree. Then came a few regrets that everybody had proclaimed their purchases, and therewith people began to grow weary and drop asleep. It was by gaslight that they arrived at home and bundled into the flys that awaited them, and then in the hall at home came Elvira’s cry-
“Where’s my doggie, my Chico?”
“Here; I took him out,” said Jock.
“That’s not Chico; that’s a nasty, horrid, yellow cur. Chico was black. You naughty boy, Jock, you’ve been and changed my dog.”
“Has Midas changed him to gold?” cried Babie.
“Ah,” said Bobus, meaningly.
“You’ve done it then, Bobus! You’ve put something to him.”
“I haven’t,” said Bobus, “but he’s been licking himself all the way home. Well, we all know green is the sacred colour of the Grand Turk.”
“No! You don’t mean it!” said Allen, catching up the dog and holding him to the lamp, while Janet observed that he was a sort of chameleon, for his body, which had been black, was now yellow, and his chops which had been tan, had become black.
Elvira began to cry angrily, still uncomprehending, and fancying Bobus and Jock had played her a trick and changed her dog; Allen abused the horrid little brute, and the more horrid man who had deceived him; and Armine began pitying and caressing him, seriously distressed lest the poor little beast should have poisoned himself. Caroline herself expected to have heard that he was dead the next morning, and would have felt more compassion than regret; but, to her surprise and Allen’s chagrin, Chico made his appearance, very rhubarb-coloured and perfectly well.
“I think,” said Elvira, “I will give Chico to grandpapa, for a nice London present.”
Everybody burst out laughing at this piece of generosity, and though the young lady never quite understood what amused them, and Allen heartily wished Chico among the army of dogs at River Hollow, he did somehow or other remain at the Folly, and, after the fashion of dogs, adopted Jock as the special object of his devotion.