“Good-bye, Humpty-Dumpty! The trumpet shall be at the station at five
o’clock this afternoon without fail.”
So spoke Colonel Sturt, as Sir Everard drove his two friends from the
door the next morning.
Humphrey waved his hat in answer, and flew off to make arrangements with
Virginie for going to the station to meet it. He had his father’s leave
for himself and Miles to go there with the coachman, and to be dropped
afterwards at old Dyson’s, where Virginie was to meet them, and bring
Nothing could be more perfect! At about half-past four, the dog-cart
drove up to the door, and off they went, followed by many parting
injunctions from Virginie as to getting in and out carefully, and
sitting very still.
The trumpet was waiting at the station, and was safely delivered into
their eager hands.
On the way to old Dyson’s, Humphrey opened the parcel, and displayed the
ear-trumpet to Miles.
Never had they seen so curious an article! It was composed of three
tubes, each fitting into the next, and it lengthened or shortened at
Humphrey got very impatient to arrive, and tried to persuade the
coachman to whip up the horse into a gallop; but steady old Peter didn’t
see it at all.
Humphrey then amused himself by lengthening out the tubes, and
trumpeting loudly through them; causing the horse to start so violently,
that little Miles was almost pitched out. Then, in shutting it up again,
he dropped it into the road, and they had to wait while he got out and
picked it up.
All this causing a delay, Peter was told on arriving at the cottage,
that Virginie had already been there, but that, finding she was too
soon, she had walked on to the village, and was to call again in a few
This information he gathered from a woman who was standing at the gate,
and who assisted the children to alight.
Then, having deposited them safely, Peter drove off; and Humphrey,
brandishing his trumpet, rushed down the little garden, and beat a
thundering tattoo on old Dyson’s door. But, loud as it was, it did not
make any impression on the deaf old man, who was sitting in his
arm-chair, indulging in an afternoon nap.
One minute Humphrey waited, and then his patience gave way. He raised
the latch, and the two children entered the cottage.
“He’s asleep,” whispered Miles.
“You must go and give him a little shake,” said Humphrey.
Miles advanced timidly. He didn’t much like the job, but disobedience
to Humphrey was a thing he never dreamt of.
Humphrey hid the trumpet behind him, and waited eagerly.
Miles’s gentle shake produced no effect at all; Dyson only smiled
pleasantly in his sleep.
“Shake his hand,” said Humphrey.
Miles looked doubtfully at the horny hand lying on the arm of the chair,
and flushed a little as he put his tiny fingers upon it. But the old man
did not move.
“Harder!” cried Humphrey.
Miles exerted himself to the utmost, and succeeded better, for the old
man turned over to one side of his chair, and lifted his head a little.
Miles retreated a few steps. But it was a false alarm, for old Dyson’s
head fell forward again.
“You must jump on his knee, Miles.”
The pretty little face lengthened considerably.
“Oh, Humphie! must I really?”
“Don’t much like it, Humphie.”
“What! afraid of poor old Dyson! Never mind, I’ll do it.”
And, putting the trumpet on the floor, Humphrey sprang upon the old man,
and shook him so vigorously that he woke in a fright; but when he saw
his little visitors, he sat down again with a smile, saying, “Aye, aye,
Mamselle said I was to expect you; and how are ye to-day, my pretty
“Quite well, thank you,” said Miles, drawing nearer.
Dyson put his hand behind his ear: “I don’t hear what you say,” he said,
rather sadly; “I’m an old man, and I’m getting deafer every day.”
Humphrey chuckled with delight, and Miles looked up smiling.
“He’ll hear soon, won’t he, Humphie?”
“Dyson!” shouted Humphrey, backing a few steps and beckoning, “come
The unsuspecting old man rose and advanced. The boy was watching his
opportunity, and directly he was near enough Humphrey snatched up the
trumpet, and putting it up, shouted such a “How are you?” into the old
man’s ear, that the shock caused Dyson to bound into the air, and then
fall backwards with such force, that if he had not providentially fallen
into his chair, he might never have survived to tell the tale. And there
he remained, sputtering and panting, shaking his head about, as if he
felt he would never get rid of the vibration.
The two little boys stood aghast. As good luck would have it, the woman
who had met them at the gate was of an inquisitive disposition; and
wondering what was going on in the cottage, she had for some time been
peeping in at the window.
She understood at once the position of affairs, and came hastily in.
Raising the old man from his chair, she explained to him what had
happened. It was some minutes before he understood, for he was
bewildered and alarmed: but he took it in at last, and the children had
the satisfaction of receiving his thanks, and assurances that he was by
no means ungrateful for their present.
Then the woman spoke gently to him through the trumpet, and his look of
pleasure at hearing so clearly, and his “Well! to be sure!” was a great
delight to the two little boys.
When Dyson had got accustomed to the sound, he declared himself willing
for Humphrey to try again, but the woman suggested that Miles’s voice
was the softest, to which Humphrey agreed.
Miles took up the trumpet, and his gentle “I’m so sorry Humphie made you
jump,” was whispered so quietly, that Dyson only just caught the sound.
Then the old man held it out to Humphrey, who, not expecting it, had not
got anything to say. So no sooner had he put his lips to it than he went
off into such fits of laughter, that Dyson hastily removed the trumpet,
and began to rub his ear, “Aye, but it does tickle so.” This made
Humphrey laugh more, and the woman advised his abandoning the attempt
for that day.
By this time, however, Dyson had got so pleased with his new
accomplishment, that he declared it his intention to go and pay some
visits in the village, saying it was several years since he had had a
good chat with his neighbors.
But they all went, the old man hurrying on at a great rate, so eager was
he to show off his newly-recovered powers.
The first person they met was Virginie, and Dyson said he must have a
word with “Mamselle.”
Humphrey was in an excited state, ready for anything; so while Virginie
was talking, he called Miles, and told him he thought it would be a
capital evening for the pond where the water-lilies grew. There was a
stile at the side of the road, which he knew to be a short cut to the
pond, and he had no doubt they would be able to find their way.
No recollection of his promise to his father troubled his conscience;
and as they were not going to climb the tree, even Virginie could not
So he helped his little brother over the stile, and then they both ran
with all their might.
Meanwhile Virginie, talking affably through the trumpet, in the high
road, did not notice that they had disappeared.