Next day, after he'd had his tea, the Boy strolled up the chalky track that led to the summit of the Downs; and there, sure enough, he found the dragon, stretched lazily on the sward in front of his cave. The view from that point was a magnificent one. To the right and left, the bare and billowy leagues of Downs; in front, the vale, with its clustered homesteads, its threads of white roads running through orchards and well-tilled acreage, and, far away, a hint of grey old cities on the horizon. A cool breeze played over the surface of the grass and the silver shoulder of a large moon was showing above distant junipers. No wonder the dragon seemed in a peaceful and contented mood; indeed, as the Boy approached he could hear the beast purring with a happy regularity. " Well, we live and learn! " he said to himself. " None of my books ever told me that dragons purred ! "
" Hullo, dragon ! " said the Boy, quietly, when he had got up to him.
The dragon, on hearing the approaching footsteps, made the beginning of a courteous effort to rise. But when he saw it was a Boy, he set his eyebrows severely.
" Now don't you hit me," he said; " or bung stones, or squirt water, or anything. I won't have it, I tell you! "
"Not goin' to hit you," said the Boy wearily, dropping on the grass beside the beast: " and don't, for goodness' sake, keep on saying I Don't;' I hear so much of it, and it's monotonous, and makes me tired. I've simply looked in to ask you how you were and all that sort of thing; but if I'm in the way I can easily clear out. I've lots of friends, and no one can say I'm in the habit of shoving myself in where I'm not wanted! "
" No, no, don't go off in a huff," said the dragon, hastily; " fact is, - I'm as happy up here as the day's long; never without an occupation, dear fellow, never without an occupation! And yet, between ourselves, it is a trifle dull at times."
The Boy bit off a stalk of grass and chewed it. " Going to make a long stay here?" he asked, politely.
" Can't hardly say at present," replied the dragon. " It seems a nice place enough- but I've only been here a short time, and one must look about and reflect and consider before settling down. It's rather a serious thing, settling down. Besides - now I'm going to tell you something ! You'd never guess it if you tried ever so ! - fact is, I'm such a confoundedly lazy beggar! "
" You surprise me," said the Boy, civilly.
"It's the sad truth," the dragon went on, settling down between his paws and evidently delighted to have found a listener at last: " and I fancy that's really how I came to be here. You see all the other fellows were so active and earnest and all that sort of thing-always rampaging, and skirmishing, and scouring the desert sands, and pacing the margin of the sea, and chasing knights all over the place, and devouring damsels, and going on generally - whereas I liked to get my meals regular and then to prop my back against a bit of rock and snooze a bit, and wake up and think of things going on and how they kept going on just the same, you know! So when it happened I got fairly caught."
"When what happened, please?" asked the Boy.
"That's just what I don't precisely know," said the dragon. " I suppose the earth sneezed, or shook itself, or the bottom dropped out of something. Anyhow there was a shake and a roar and a general stramash, and I found myself miles away underground and wedged in as tight as tight. Well, thank goodness, my wants are few, and at any rate I had peace and quietness and was n't always being asked to come along and do something. And I've got such an active mind - always occupied, I assure you ! But time went on, and there was a certain sameness about the life, and at last I began to think it would be fun to work my way upstairs and see what you other fellows were doing. So I scratched and burrowed, and worked this way and that way and at last I came out through this cave here. And I like the country, and the view, and the people - what I Ve seen of 'em - and on the whole I feel inclined to settle down here."
" What's your mind always occupied about? " asked the Boy. " That's what I want to know."
The dragon coloured slightly and looked away. Presently he said bashfully:
"Did you ever - just for fun - try to make up poetry - verses, you know?"
" 'Course I have," said the Boy. " Heaps of it. And some of it's quite good, I feel sure, only there's no one here cares about it. Mother's very kind and all that, when I read it to her, and so's father for that matter. But somehow they don't seem to - "
" Exactly," cried the dragon; M my own case exactly. They don't seem to, and you can't argue with 'em about it. Now you've got culture, you have, I could tell it on you at once, and I should just like your candid opinion about some little things I threw off lightly, when I was down there. I 'm awfully pleased to have met you, and I'm hoping the other neighbours will be equally agreeable. There was a very nice old gentleman up here only last night, but he did n't seem to want to intrude."
"That was my father," said the boy, " and he is a nice old gentleman, and I'll introduce you some day if you like."
" Can't you two come up here and dine or something to-morrow ? " asked the dragon eagerly. " Only, of course, if you've got nothing better to do," he added politely.
" Thanks awfully," said the Boy, " but we don't go out anywhere without my mother, and, to tell you the truth, I'm afraid she might n't quite approve of you. You see there's no getting over the hard fact that you 're a dragon, is there ? And when you talk of settling down, and the neighbours, and so on, I can't help feeling that you don't quite realize your position. You 're an enemy of the human race, you see! "
" Have n't got an enemy in the world," said the dragon, cheerfully. Too lazy "to make 'em, to begin with. And if I do read other fellows my poetry, I 'm always ready to listen to theirs ! "