Beasts and Super-Beasts
IT was a hot afternoon, and the railway carriage was correspondingly sultry, and the next
stop was at Templecombe, nearly an hour ahead. The occupants of the carriage were a
small girl, and a smaller girl, and a small boy. An aunt belonging to the children occupied
one corner seat, and the further corner seat on the opposite side was occupied by a
bachelor who was a stranger to their party, but the small girls and the small boy
emphatically occupied the compartment. Both the aunt and the children were
conversational in a limited, persistent way, reminding one of the attentions of a housefly
that refuses to be discouraged. Most of the aunt's remarks seemed to begin with "Don't,"
and nearly all of the children's remarks began with "Why?" The bachelor said nothing out
loud. "Don't, Cyril, don't," exclaimed the aunt, as the small boy began smacking the
cushions of the seat, producing a cloud of dust at each blow.
"Come and look out of the window," she added.
The child moved reluctantly to the window. "Why are those sheep being driven out of
that field?" he asked.
"I expect they are being driven to another field where there is more grass," said the aunt
"But there is lots of grass in that field," protested the boy; "there's nothing else but grass
there. Aunt, there's lots of grass in that field."
"Perhaps the grass in the other field is better," suggested the aunt fatuously.
"Why is it better?" came the swift, inevitable question.
"Oh, look at those cows!" exclaimed the aunt. Nearly every field along the line had
contained cows or bullocks, but she spoke as though she were drawing attention to a
"Why is the grass in the other field better?" persisted Cyril.
The frown on the bachelor's face was deepening to a scowl. He was a hard,
unsympathetic man, the aunt decided in her mind. She was utterly unable to come to any
satisfactory decision about the grass in the other field.
The smaller girl created a diversion by beginning to recite "On the Road to Mandalay."
She only knew the first line, but she put her limited knowledge to the fullest possible use.
She repeated the line over and over again in a dreamy but resolute and very audible
voice; it seemed to the bachelor as though some one had had a bet with her that she could
not repeat the line aloud two thousand times without stopping. Whoever it was who had
made the wager was likely to lose his bet.