Albert’s uncle was out on his bicycle as usual. After the day when we became Canterbury Pilgrims and were brought home in the dog-cart with red wheels by the lady he told us was his long-lost grandmother he had known years ago in India, he spent not nearly so much of his time in writing, and he used to shave every morning instead of only when requisite, as in earlier days. And he was always going out on his bicycle in his new Norfolk suit. We are not so unobserving as grown-up people make out. We knew well enough he was looking for the long-lost. And we jolly well wished he might find her. Oswald, always full of sympathy with misfortune, however undeserved, had himself tried several times to find the lady. So had the others. But all this is what they call a digression; it has nothing to do with the dragon’s teeth I am now narrating.
It began with the pig dying–it was the one we had for the circus, but it having behaved so badly that day had nothing to do with its illness and death, though the girls said they felt remorse, and perhaps if we hadn’t made it run so that day it might have been spared to us. But Oswald cannot pretend that people were right just because they happen to be dead, and as long as that pig was alive we all knew well enough that it was it that made us run–and not us it.
The pig was buried in the kitchen garden. Bill, that we made the tombstone for, dug the grave, and while he was away at his dinner we took a turn at digging, because we like to be useful, and besides, when you dig you never know what you may turn up. I knew a man once that found a gold ring on the point of his fork when he was digging potatoes, and you know how we found two half-crowns ourselves once when we were digging for treasure.
Oswald was taking his turn with the spade, and the others were sitting on the gravel and telling him how to do it.
“Work with a will,” Dicky said, yawning.
Alice said: “I wish we were in a book. People in books never dig without finding something. I think I’d rather it was a secret passage than anything.”
Oswald stopped to wipe his honest brow ere replying.
“A secret’s nothing when you’ve found it out. Look at the secret staircase. It’s no good, not even for hide-and-seek, because of its squeaking. I’d rather have the pot of gold we used to dig for when we were little.” It was really only last year, but you seem to grow old very quickly after you have once passed the prime of your youth, which is at ten, I believe.
“How would you like to find the mouldering bones of Royalist soldiers foully done to death by nasty Ironsides?” Noel asked, with his mouth full of plum.
“If they were really dead it wouldn’t matter,” Dora said. “What I’m afraid of is a skeleton that can walk about and catch at your legs when you’re going up-stairs to bed.”
“Skeletons can’t walk,” Alice said in a hurry; “you know they can’t, Dora.”
And she glared at Dora till she made her sorry she had said what she had. The things you are frightened of, or even those you would rather not meet in the dark, should never be mentioned before the little ones, or else they cry when it comes to bedtime, and say it was because of what you said.
“We sha’n’t find anything. No jolly fear,” said Dicky.
And just then my spade I was digging with struck on something hard, and it felt hollow. I did really think for one joyful space that we had found that pot of gold. But the thing, whatever it was, seemed to be longish; longer, that is, than a pot of gold would naturally be. And as I uncovered it I saw that it was not at all pot-of-gold-color, but like a bone Pincher has buried. So Oswald said: