THE METAL PIG
yet the boy kissed the Metal Pig once more, and then took Bellissima on his arm : the little thing trembled with cold, therefore the boy ran as fast as he could.
1 What are you running away with there ? ' asked two gendarmes whom he met, and at whom Bellissima barked. ' Where have you stolen that pretty dog ? ' they asked, and they took it away from him.
1 Oh, give it back to me ! ' cried the boy despairingly.
1 If you have not stolen him, you may say at home that the dog may be sent for to the watch-house.' And they told him where the watch-house was, and went away with Bellissima.
Here was a terrible calamity ! The boy did not know whether he should jump into the Arno, or go home and confess everything ; they would certainly kill him, he thought.
1 But I will gladly be killed ; then I shall die and get to heaven,' he reasoned. And he went home, principally with the idea of being killed.
The door was locked, and he could not reach the knocker ; no one was in the street, but a stone lay there, and with this he thundered at the door.
' Who is there ? ' cried somebody from within.
' It is I,' said he. ' The dog is gone. Open the door, and then kill me ! '
There was quite a panic. Madame was especially concerned for poor Bellissima. She immediately looked at the wall, where the dog's dress usually hung, and there was the little lamb-skin.
1 Bellissima in the watch-house ! ' she cried aloud. ' You bad boy ! How did you entice her out ? She'll be frozen, the poor delicate little thing ! among those rough soldiers.'
The father was at once sent off—the woman lamented and the boy wept. All the inhabitants of the house came together, and among the rest the painter : he took the boy between his knees and questioned him ; and in broken sentences he heard the whole story about the Metal Pig and the gallery, which was certainly rather incomprehensible.
The painter consoled the little fellow, and tried to calm the old lady's anger ; but she would not be pacified until the father came in with Bellissima, who had been among