A LOST PARADISE G5
' Why are you so silent ? ' asked the man one morning when dinner had passed before his wife had uttered one word. ' A little while ago you used to be chattering all the day long, and now I have almost forgotten the sound of your voice.'
' Oh, nothing ; I did not feel inclined to talk, that was all! ' She stopped, and added carelessly after a pause, ' Don't you ever wonder what is in that soup-tureen ? '
' No, never,' replied the man. ' It is no affair of ours,' and the conversation dropped once more, but as time went on, the woman spoke less and less, and seemed so wretched that her husband grew quite frightened about her. As to her food, she refused one thing after another.
' My dear wife,' said the man at last, ' you really must eat something. What in the world is the matter with you ? If you go on like this you will die.'
' I would rather die than not know what is in that tureen,' she burst forth so violently that the husband was quite startled.
' Is that it ? ' cried he ; ' are you making yourself miserable because of that ? Why, you know we should be turned out of the palace, and sent away to starve.'
' Oh no, we shouldn't. The king is too good-natured. Of course he didn't mean a little thing like this ! Besides, there is no need to lift the lid off altogether. Just raise one corner so that I may peep. We are quite alone : nobody will ever know.'
The man hesitated : it did seem a ' little thing,' and if it was to make his wife contented and happy it was well worth the risk. So he took hold of the handle of the cover and raised it very slowly and carefully, while the woman stooped down to peep. Suddenly she started back with a scream, for a small mouse had sprung from the inside of the tureen, and had nearly hit her in the eye. Round and round the room it ran, round and round they both ran after it, knocking down