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“What do you think the pigeon himself would have said to Pierre before his neck was wrung?” asked Herbert, leaning back in his big chair. “Thank you—only one lump, Lemois.”

“By Jove!—why didn’t I ask the bird?—it might have been illuminating—and I speak a little pigeon-English, you know. Doubtless he would have told me he preferred being riddled with shot at a match and crawling away under a hedge to die, to being treated as a common criminal—the neck-twisting part, I mean. Why do you want to know, Herbert?”

“Oh, nothing; only I sometimes think—if you will forgive me for being serious—that there is another side to the whole question; though I must also send my thanks to Pierre for the pie.”

That one of their old good-natured passages at arms was coming became instantly apparent—tilts that every one enjoyed, for Herbert talked as he modelled—never any fumbling about for a word; never any uncertainty nor vagueness—always a direct and convincing sureness of either opinion or facts, and always the exact and precise truth. He would no sooner have exaggerated a statement than he would have added a hair’s-breadth of clay to a