POLYNESIA was waiting for us in the front porch. She looked full of some important news.
“Doctor,” said she, “the Purple Bird-of-Paradise has arrived!”
“At last!” said the Doctor. “I had begun to fear some accident had befallen her. And how is Miranda?”
From the excited way in which the Doctor fumbled his key into the lock I guessed that we were not going to get our tea right away, even now.
“Oh, she seemed all right when she arrived,” said Polynesia—“tired from her long journey of course but otherwise all right. But what do you think? That mischief-making sparrow, Cheapside, insulted her as soon as she came into the garden. When I arrived on the scene she was in tears and was all for turning round and going straight back to Brazil to-night. I had the hardest work persuading her to wait till you came. She’s in the study. I shut Cheapside in one of your book-cases and told him I’d tell you exactly what had happened the moment you got home.”
The Doctor frowned, then walked silently and quickly to the study.
Here we found the candles lit; for the daylight was nearly gone. Dab-Dab was standing on the floor mounting guard over one of the glass-fronted book-cases in which Cheapside had been imprisoned. The noisy little sparrow was still fluttering angrily behind the glass when we came in.
In the centre of the big table, perched on the ink-stand, stood the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. She had a deep violet-colored breast, scarlet wings and a long, long sweeping tail of gold. She was unimaginably beautiful but looked dreadfully tired. Already she had her head under her wing; and she swayed gently from side to side on top of the ink-stand like a bird that has flown long and far.
“Sh!” said Dab-Dab. “Miranda is asleep. I’ve got this little imp Cheapside in here. Listen, Doctor: for Heaven’s sake send that sparrow away before he does any more mischief. He’s nothing but a vulgar little nuisance. We’ve had a perfectly awful time trying to get Miranda to stay. Shall I serve your tea in here, or will you come into the kitchen when you’re ready?”
“We’ll come into the kitchen, Dab-Dab,” said the Doctor. “Let Cheapside out before you go, please.”
Dab-Dab opened the bookcase-door and Cheapside strutted out trying hard not to look guilty.
“Cheapside,” said the Doctor sternly, “what did you say to Miranda when she arrived?”
“I didn’t say nothing, Doc, straight I didn’t. That is, nothing much. I was picking up crumbs off the gravel path when she comes swanking into the garden, turning up her nose in all directions, as though she owned the earth—just because she’s got a lot of colored plumage. A London sparrow’s as good as her any day. I don’t hold by these gawdy bedizened foreigners nohow. Why don’t they stay in their own country?”
“But what did you say to her that got her so offended?”
“All I said was, ‘You don’t belong in an English garden; you ought to be in a milliner’s window.’ That’s all.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Cheapside. Don’t you realize that this bird has come thousands of miles to see me—only to be insulted by your impertinent tongue as soon as she reaches my garden? What do you mean by it?—If she had gone away again before I got back to-night I would never have forgiven you—Leave the room.”
Sheepishly, but still trying to look as though he didn’t care, Cheapside hopped out into the passage and Dab-Dab closed the door.
The Doctor went up to the beautiful bird on the ink-stand and gently stroked its back. Instantly its head popped out from under its wing.