We had been together, we three, in my rooms, David telling me about the fairy language and Porthos lolling on the sofa listening, as one may say. It is his favourite place of a dull day, and under him were some sheets of newspaper, which I spread there at such times to deceive my house-keeper, who thinks dogs should lie on the floor.
Fairy me tribber is what you say to the fairies when you want them to give you a cup of tea, but it is not so easy as it looks, for all the r’s should be pronounced as w’s, and I forget this so often that David believes I should find difficulty in making myself understood.
“What would you say,” he asked me, “if you wanted them to turn you into a hollyhock?” He thinks the ease with which they can turn you into things is their most engaging quality.
The answer is Fairy me lukka, but though he had often told me this I again forgot the lukka.
“I should never dream,” I said (to cover my discomfiture), “of asking them to turn me into anything. If I was a hollyhock I should soon wither, David.”
He himself had provided me with this objection not long before, but now he seemed to think it merely silly. “Just before the time to wither begins,” he said airily, “you say to them Fairy me bola.”
Fairy me bola means “Turn me back again,” and David’s discovery made me uncomfortable, for I knew he had hitherto kept his distance of the fairies mainly because of a feeling that their conversions are permanent.
So I returned him to his home. I send him home from my rooms under the care of Porthos. I may walk on the other side unknown to them, but they have no need of me, for at such times nothing would induce Porthos to depart from the care of David. If any one addresses them he growls softly and shows the teeth that crunch bones as if they were biscuits. Thus amicably the two pass on to Mary’s house, where Porthos barks his knock-and-ring bark till the door is opened. Sometimes he goes in with David, but on this occasion he said good-bye on the step. Nothing remarkable in this, but he did not return to me, not that day nor next day nor in weeks and months. I was a man distraught; and David wore his knuckles in his eyes. Conceive it, we had lost our dear Porthos--at least--well--something disquieting happened. I don’t quite know what to think of it even now. I know what David thinks. However, you shall think as you choose.
My first hope was that Porthos had strolled to the Gardens and got locked in for the night, and almost as soon as Lock-out was over I was there to make inquiries. But there was no news of Porthos, though I learned that some one was believed to have spent the night in the Gardens, a young gentleman who walked out hastily the moment the gates were opened. He had said nothing, however, of having seen a dog. I feared an accident now, for I knew no thief could steal him, yet even an accident seemed incredible, he was always so cautious at crossings; also there could not possibly have been an accident to Porthos without there being an accident to something else.