It really was not such a bad baby–for a baby. Its face was round and quite clean, which babies’ faces are not always, as I dare say you know by your own youthful relatives; and Dora said its cape was trimmed with real lace, whatever that may be–I don’t see myself how one kind of lace can be realler than another. It was in a very swagger sort of perambulator when we saw it; and the perambulator was standing quite by itself in the lane that leads to the mill.
“I wonder whose baby it is,” Dora said. “Isn’t it a darling, Alice?”
Alice agreed to its being one, and said she thought it was most likely the child of noble parents stolen by gipsies.
“These two, as likely as not,” Noel said. “Can’t you see something crime-like in the very way they’re lying?”
They were two tramps, and they were lying on the grass at the edge of the lane on the shady side, fast asleep, only a very little further on than where the Baby was. They were very ragged, and their snores did have a sinister sound.
“I expect they stole the titled heir at dead of night, and they’ve been travelling hot-foot ever since, so now they’re sleeping the sleep of exhaustedness,” Alice said. “What a heartrending scene when the patrician mother wakes in the morning and finds the infant aristocrat isn’t in bed with his mamma.”
The Baby was fast asleep or else the girls would have kissed it. They are strangely fond of kissing. The author never could see anything in it himself.
“If the gipsies did steal it,” Dora said, “perhaps they’d sell it to us. I wonder what they’d take for it.”
“What could you do with it if you’d got it?” H. O. asked.
“Why, adopt it, of course,” Dora said. “I’ve often thought I should enjoy adopting a baby. It would be a golden deed, too. We’ve hardly got any in the book yet.”
“I should have thought there were enough of us,” Dicky said.
“Ah, but you’re none of you babies,” said Dora.
“Unless you count H. O. as a baby: he behaves jolly like one sometimes.”
This was because of what had happened that morning when Dicky found H. O. going fishing with a box of worms, and the box was the one Dicky keeps his silver studs in, and the medal he got at school, and what is left of his watch and chain. The box is lined with red velvet and it was not nice afterwards. And then H. O. said Dicky had hurt him, and he was a beastly bully, and he cried. We thought all this had been made up, and were sorry to see it threaten to break out again. So Oswald said:
“Oh, bother the Baby! Come along, do!”
And the others came.
We were going to the miller’s with a message about some flour that hadn’t come, and about a sack of sharps for the pigs.
After you go down the lane you come to a cloverfield, and then a cornfield, and then another lane, and then it is the mill. It is a jolly fine mill; in fact, it is two–water and wind ones–one of each kind–with a house and farm buildings as well. I never saw a mill like it, and I don’t believe you have either.
If we had been in a story-book the miller’s wife would have taken us into the neat sanded kitchen where the old oak settle was black with time and rubbing, and dusted chairs for us–old brown Windsor chairs–and given us each a glass of sweet-scented cowslip wine and a thick slice of rich home-made cake. And there would have been fresh roses in an old china bowl on the table. As it was, she asked us all into the parlor and gave us Eiffel Tower lemonade and Marie biscuits. The chairs in her parlor were “bent wood,” and no flowers, except some wax ones under a glass shade, but she was very kind, and we were very much obliged to her. We got out to the miller, though, as soon as we could; only Dora and Daisy stayed with her, and she talked to them about her lodgers and about her relations in London.