Sylvie and Bruno
Part 3 out of 5
"Then after that," I went on, "the walks want sweeping a bit; and I
think you might cut down that tall nettle--it's so close to the garden
that it's quite in the way--"
"What is oo talking about?" Bruno impatiently interrupted me.
"All that won't vex her a bit!"
"Won't it?" I said, innocently. "Then, after that, suppose we put in
some of these coloured pebbles--just to mark the divisions between the
different kinds of flowers, you know. That'll have a very pretty
Bruno turned round and had another good stare at me. At last there
came an odd little twinkle into his eyes, and he said, with quite a new
meaning in his voice, "That'll do nicely. Let's put 'em in rows--
all the red together, and all the blue together. "
"That'll do capitally," I said; "and then--what kind of flowers does
Sylvie like best?"
Bruno had to put his thumb in his mouth and consider a little before he
could answer. "Violets," he said, at last.
"There's a beautiful bed of violets down by the brook--"
"Oh, let's fetch 'em!" cried Bruno, giving a little skip into the air.
"Here! Catch hold of my hand, and I'll help oo along. The grass is
rather thick down that way."
I couldn't help laughing at his having so entirely forgotten what a big
creature he was talking to. "No, not yet, Bruno," I said: "we must
consider what's the right thing to do first. You see we've got quite a
business before us."
"Yes, let's consider," said Bruno, putting his thumb into his mouth again,
and sitting down upon a dead mouse.
"What do you keep that mouse for?" I said. "You should either bury it,
or else throw it into the brook."
"Why, it's to measure with!" cried Bruno.
"How ever would oo do a garden without one? We make each bed three
mouses and a half long, and two mouses wide."
I stopped him, as he was dragging it off by the tail to show me how it
was used, for I was half afraid the 'eerie' feeling might go off before
we had finished the garden, and in that case I should see no more of
him or Sylvie. "I think the best way will be for you to weed the beds,
while I sort out these pebbles, ready to mark the walks with."
"That's it!" cried Bruno. "And I'll tell oo about the caterpillars
while we work."
"Ah, let's hear about the caterpillars," I said, as I drew the pebbles
together into a heap and began dividing them into colours.
And Bruno went on in a low, rapid tone, more as if he were talking to
himself. "Yesterday I saw two little caterpillars, when I was sitting
by the brook, just where oo go into the wood. They were quite green,
and they had yellow eyes, and they didn't see me. And one of them had
got a moth's wing to carry--a great brown moth's wing, oo know, all dry,
with feathers. So he couldn't want it to eat, I should think--perhaps
he meant to make a cloak for the winter?"
"Perhaps," I said, for Bruno had twisted up the last word into a sort
of question, and was looking at me for an answer.
One word was quite enough for the little fellow, and he went on
merrily. "Well, and so he didn't want the other caterpillar to see the
moth's wing, oo know--so what must he do but try to carry it with all
his left legs, and he tried to walk on the other set. Of course he
toppled over after that."
"After what?" I said, catching at the last word, for, to tell the
truth, I hadn't been attending much.
"He toppled over," Bruno repeated, very gravely, "and if oo ever saw a
caterpillar topple over, oo'd know it's a welly serious thing, and not
sit grinning like that--and I sha'n't tell oo no more!"
"Indeed and indeed, Bruno, I didn't mean to grin. See, I'm quite grave
But Bruno only folded his arms, and said "Don't tell me.
I see a little twinkle in one of oor eyes--just like the moon."
"Why do you think I'm like the moon, Bruno?" I asked.
"Oor face is large and round like the moon," Bruno answered, looking at
me thoughtfully. "It doosn't shine quite so bright--but it's more
I couldn't help smiling at this. "You know I sometimes wash my face,
Bruno. The moon never does that."
"Oh, doosn't she though!" cried Bruno; and he leant forwards and added
in a solemn whisper, "The moon's face gets dirtier and dirtier every
night, till it's black all across. And then, when it's dirty all
over--so--" (he passed his hand across his own rosy cheeks as he spoke)
"then she washes it."
"Then it's all clean again, isn't it?"
"Not all in a moment," said Bruno. "What a deal of teaching oo wants!
She washes it little by little--only she begins at the other edge,
By this time he was sitting quietly on the dead mouse with his arms
folded, and the weeding wasn't getting on a bit: so I had to say "Work
first, pleasure afterwards: no more talking till that bed's finished."
After that we had a few minutes of silence, while I sorted out the
pebbles, and amused myself with watching Bruno's plan of gardening.
It was quite a new plan to me: he always measured each bed before he
weeded it, as if he was afraid the weeding would make it shrink;
and once, when it came out longer than he wished, he set to work to
thump the mouse with his little fist, crying out "There now! It's all
gone wrong again! Why don't oo keep oor tail straight when I tell oo!"
"I'll tell you what I'll do," Bruno said in a half-whisper, as we
worked. "Oo like Fairies, don't oo?"
"Yes," I said: "of course I do, or I shouldn't have come here.
I should have gone to some place where there are no Fairies."
Bruno laughed contemptuously. "Why, oo might as well say oo'd go to
some place where there wasn't any air--supposing oo didn't like air!"
This was a rather difficult idea to grasp. I tried a change of subject.
"You're nearly the first Fairy I ever saw. Have you ever seen any people
"Plenty!" said Bruno. "We see'em when we walk in the road."
"But they ca'n't see you. How is it they never tread on you?"
"Ca'n't tread on us," said Bruno, looking amused at my ignorance.
"Why, suppose oo're walking, here--so--" (making little marks on the
ground) "and suppose there's a Fairy--that's me--walking here. Very
well then, oo put one foot here, and one foot here, so oo doosn't tread
on the Fairy."
This was all very well as an explanation, but it didn't convince me.
"Why shouldn't I put one foot on the Fairy?" I asked.
"I don't know why," the little fellow said in a thoughtful tone.
"But I know oo wouldn't. Nobody never walked on the top of a Fairy.
Now I'll tell oo what I'll do, as oo're so fond of Fairies.
I'll get oo an invitation to the Fairy-King's dinner-party.
I know one of the head-waiters."
I couldn't help laughing at this idea.
"Do the waiters invite the guests?" I asked.
"Oh, not to sit down!" Bruno said. "But to wait at table.
Oo'd like that, wouldn't oo? To hand about plates, and so on."
"Well, but that's not so nice as sitting at the table, is it?"
"Of course it isn't," Bruno said, in a tone as if he rather pitied my
ignorance; "but if oo're not even Sir Anything, oo ca'n't expect to be
allowed to sit at the table, oo know."
I said, as meekly as I could, that I didn't expect it, but it was the
only way of going to a dinner-party that I really enjoyed. And Bruno
tossed his head, and said, in a rather offended tone that I might do as
I pleased--there were many he knew that would give their ears to go.
"Have you ever been yourself, Bruno?"
"They invited me once, last week," Bruno said, very gravely.
"It was to wash up the soup-plates--no, the cheese-plates I mean that
was grand enough. And I waited at table. And I didn't hardly make
only one mistake."
"What was it?" I said. "You needn't mind telling me."
"Only bringing scissors to cut the beef with," Bruno said carelessly.
"But the grandest thing of all was, I fetched the King a glass of cider!"
"That was grand!" I said, biting my lip to keep myself from laughing.
"Wasn't it?" said Bruno, very earnestly. "Oo know it isn't every one
that's had such an honour as that!"
This set me thinking of the various queer things we call "an honour" in
this world, but which, after all, haven't a bit more honour in them
than what Bruno enjoyed, when he took the King a glass of cider.
I don't know how long I might not have dreamed on in this way, if Bruno
hadn't suddenly roused me. "Oh, come here quick!" he cried, in a state
of the wildest excitement. "Catch hold of his other horn!
I ca'n't hold him more than a minute!"
He was struggling desperately with a great snail, clinging to one of
its horns, and nearly breaking his poor little back in his efforts to
drag it over a blade of grass.
I saw we should have no more gardening if I let this sort of thing go
on, so I quietly took the snail away, and put it on a bank where he
couldn't reach it. "We'll hunt it afterwards, Bruno," I said,
"if you really want to catch it.
But what's the use of it when you've got it?" "What's the use of a fox
when oo've got it?" said Bruno. "I know oo big things hunt foxes."
I tried to think of some good reason why "big things" should hunt
foxes, and he should not hunt snails, but none came into my head: so I
said at last, "Well, I suppose one's as good as the other.
I'll go snail-hunting myself some day."
"I should think oo wouldn't be so silly," said Bruno,
"as to go snail-hunting by oor-self. Why, oo'd never get the snail along,
if oo hadn't somebody to hold on to his other horn!"
"Of course I sha'n't go alone," I said, quite gravely. "By the way, is
that the best kind to hunt, or do you recommend the ones without shells?"
"Oh, no, we never hunt the ones without shells," Bruno said, with a
little shudder at the thought of it. "They're always so cross about it;
and then, if oo tumbles over them, they're ever so sticky!"
By this time we had nearly finished the garden. I had fetched some
violets, and Bruno was just helping me to put in the last, when he
suddenly stopped and said "I'm tired."
"Rest then," I said: "I can go on without you, quite well."
Bruno needed no second invitation: he at once began arranging the dead
mouse as a kind of sofa. "And I'll sing oo a little song," he said, as
he rolled it about.
"Do," said I: "I like songs very much."
"Which song will oo choose?" Bruno said, as he dragged the mouse into a
place where he could get a good view of me. "'Ting, ting, ting' is the
There was no resisting such a strong hint as this: however,
I pretended to think about it for a moment, and then said "Well, I like
'Ting, ting, ting,' best of all."
"That shows oo're a good judge of music," Bruno said, with a pleased look.
"How many hare-bells would oo like?" And he put his thumb into his mouth
to help me to consider.
As there was only one cluster of hare-bells within easy reach, I said
very gravely that I thought one would do this time, and I picked
it and gave it to him. Bruno ran his hand once or twice up and down
the flowers, like a musician trying an instrument, producing a most
delicious delicate tinkling as he did so. I had never heard
flower-music before--I don't think one can, unless one's in the 'eerie'
state and I don't know quite how to give you an idea of what it was
like, except by saying that it sounded like a peal of bells a thousand
miles off. When he had satisfied himself that the flowers were in
tune, he seated himself on the dead mouse (he never seemed really
comfortable anywhere else), and, looking up at me with a merry twinkle
in his eyes, he began. By the way, the tune was rather a curious one,
and you might like to try it for yourself, so here are the notes.
[Image...Music for hare-bells]
"Rise, oh, rise! The daylight dies:
The owls are hooting, ting, ting, ting!
Wake, oh, wake! Beside the lake
The elves are fluting, ting, ting, ting!
Welcoming our Fairy King,
We sing, sing, sing."
He sang the first four lines briskly and merrily, making the hare-bells
chime in time with the music; but the last two he sang quite slowly and
gently, and merely waved the flowers backwards and forwards. Then he
left off to explain. "The Fairy-King is Oberon, and he lives across
the lake--and sometimes he comes in a little boat--and we go and meet
him and then we sing this song, you know."
"And then you go and dine with him?" I said, mischievously.
"Oo shouldn't talk," Bruno hastily said: "it interrupts the song so."
I said I wouldn't do it again.
"I never talk myself when I'm singing," he went on very gravely: "so oo
shouldn't either." Then he tuned the hare-bells once more, and sang:---
"Hear, oh, hear! From far and near
The music stealing, ting, ting, ting!
Fairy belts adown the dells
Are merrily pealing, ting, ting, ting!
Welcoming our Fairy King,
We ring, ring, ring.
"See, oh, see! On every tree
What lamps are shining, ting, ting, ting!
They are eyes of fiery flies
To light our dining, ting, ting, ting!
Welcoming our Fairy King
They swing, swing, swing.
"Haste, oh haste, to take and taste
The dainties waiting, ting, ting, ting!
Honey-dew is stored--"
"Hush, Bruno!" I interrupted in a warning whisper. "She's coming!"
Bruno checked his song, and, as she slowly made her way through the
long grass, he suddenly rushed out headlong at her like a little bull,
shouting "Look the other way! Look the other way!"
"Which way?" Sylvie asked, in rather a frightened tone, as she looked
round in all directions to see where the danger could be.
"That way!" said Bruno, carefully turning her round with her face to
the wood. "Now, walk backwards walk gently--don't be frightened: oo
But Sylvie did trip notwithstanding: in fact he led her, in his hurry,
across so many little sticks and stones, that it was really a wonder
the poor child could keep on her feet at all. But he was far too much
excited to think of what he was doing.
I silently pointed out to Bruno the best place to lead her to, so as to
get a view of the whole garden at once: it was a little rising ground,
about the height of a potato; and, when they had mounted it, I drew
back into the shade, that Sylvie mightn't see me.
I heard Bruno cry out triumphantly "Now oo may look!" and then followed
a clapping of hands, but it was all done by Bruno himself. Sylvie: was
silent--she only stood and gazed with her hands clasped together, and I
was half afraid she didn't like it after all.
Bruno too was watching her anxiously, and when she jumped down off the
mound, and began wandering up and down the little walks, he cautiously
followed her about, evidently anxious that she should form her own
opinion of it all, without any hint from him. And when at last she
drew a long breath, and gave her verdict--in a hurried whisper, and
without the slightest regard to grammar-- "It's the loveliest thing as
I never saw in all my life before!" the little fellow looked as well
pleased as if it had been given by all the judges and juries in England
"And did you really do it all by yourself, Bruno?" said Sylvie.
"And all for me?"
"I was helped a bit," Bruno began, with a merry little laugh at her
surprise. "We've been at it all the afternoon--I thought oo'd like--"
and here the poor little fellow's lip began to quiver, and all in a
moment he burst out crying, and running up to Sylvie he flung his arms
passionately round her neck, and hid his face on her shoulder.
There was a little quiver in Sylvie's voice too, as she whispered "Why,
what's the matter, darling?" and tried to lift up his head and kiss him.
But Bruno only clung to her, sobbing, and wouldn't be comforted till he
had confessed. "I tried--to spoil oor garden--first--but I'll never--
never--" and then came another burst of tears, which drowned the rest
of the sentence. At last he got out the words "I liked--putting in the
flowers--for oo, Sylvie --and I never was so happy before."
And the rosy little face came up at last to be kissed, all wet with tears
as it was.
Sylvie was crying too by this time, and she said nothing but "Bruno,
dear!" and "I never was so happy before," though why these two children
who had never been so happy before should both be crying was a mystery
I felt very happy too, but of course I didn't cry: "big things" never
do, you know we leave all that to the Fairies. Only I think it must
have been raining a little just then, for I found a drop or two on my
After that they went through the whole garden again, flower by flower,
as if it were a long sentence they were spelling out, with kisses for
commas, and a great hug by way of a full-stop when they got to the end.
"Doos oo know, that was my river-edge, Sylvie?" Bruno solemnly began.
Sylvie laughed merrily. "What do you mean?" she said. And she pushed
back her heavy brown hair with both hands, and looked at him with
dancing eyes in which the big teardrops were still glittering.
Bruno drew in a long breath, and made up his mouth for a great effort.
"I mean revenge," he said: "now oo under'tand." And he looked so happy
and proud at having said the word right at last, that I quite envied him.
I rather think Sylvie didn't "under'tand" at all; but she gave him a
little kiss on each cheek, which seemed to do just as well.
So they wandered off lovingly together, in among the buttercups, each
with an arm twined round the other, whispering and laughing as they went,
and never so much as once looked back at poor me. Yes, once, just before
I quite lost sight of them, Bruno half turned his head, and nodded me a
saucy little good-bye over one shoulder. And that was all the thanks I
got for my trouble. The very last thing I saw of them was this--
Sylvie was stooping down with her arms round Bruno's neck, and
saying coaxingly in his ear, "Do you know, Bruno, I've quite forgotten
that hard word. Do say it once more. Come! Only this once, dear!"
But Bruno wouldn't try it again.
A CHANGED CROCODILE.
The Marvellous--the Mysterious--had quite passed out of my life for the
moment: and the Common-place reigned supreme. I turned in the
direction of the Earl's house, as it was now 'the witching hour' of five,
and I knew I should find them ready for a cup of tea and a quiet chat.
Lady Muriel and her father gave me a delightfully warm welcome. They were
not of the folk we meet in fashionable drawing-rooms who conceal all
such feelings as they may chance to possess beneath the impenetrable mask
of a conventional placidity. 'The Man with the Iron Mask' was, no doubt,
a rarity and a marvel in his own age: in modern London no one would turn
his head to give him a second look! No, these were real people.
When they looked pleased, it meant that they were pleased: and when
Lady Muriel said, with a bright smile, "I'm very glad to see you again!",
I knew that it was true.
Still I did not venture to disobey the injunctions--crazy as I felt
them to be--of the lovesick young Doctor, by so much as alluding to his
existence: and it was only after they had given me full details of a
projected picnic, to which they invited me, that Lady Muriel exclaimed,
almost as an after-thought, "and do, if you can, bring Doctor Forester
with you! I'm sure a day in the country would do him good. I'm afraid
he studies too much--"
It was 'on the tip of my tongue' to quote the words "His only books are
woman's looks!" but I checked myself just in time--with something of
the feeling of one who has crossed a street, and has been all but run
over by a passing 'Hansom.'
"--and I think he has too lonely a life," she went on, with a gentle
earnestness that left no room whatever to suspect a double meaning.
"Do get him to come! And don't forget the day, Tuesday week. We can
drive you over. It would be a pity to go by rail--- there is so much
pretty scenery on the road. And our open carriage just holds four."
"Oh, I'll persuade him to come!" I said with confidence--thinking
"it would take all my powers of persuasion to keep him away!"
The picnic was to take place in ten days: and though Arthur readily
accepted the invitation I brought him, nothing that I could say would
induce him to call--either with me or without me on the Earl and his
daughter in the meanwhile. No: he feared to " wear out his welcome,"
he said: they had "seen enough of him for one while": and, when at last
the day for the expedition arrived, he was so childishly nervous and
uneasy that I thought it best so to arrange our plans that we should go
separately to the house--my intention being to arrive some time after
him, so as to give him time to get over a meeting.
With this object I purposely made a considerable circuit on my way to
the Hall (as we called the Earl's house): "and if I could only manage
to lose my way a bit," I thought to myself, "that would suit me capitally!"
In this I succeeded better, and sooner, than I had ventured to hope for.
The path through the wood had been made familiar to me, by many a
solitary stroll, in my former visit to Elveston; and how I could have
so suddenly and so entirely lost it--even though I was so engrossed in
thinking of Arthur and his lady-love that I heeded little else--was a
mystery to me. "And this open place," I said to myself, "seems to have
some memory about it I cannot distinctly recall--surely it is the very
spot where I saw those Fairy-Children! But I hope there are no snakes
about!" I mused aloud, taking my seat on a fallen tree. "I certainly
do not like snakes--and I don't suppose Bruno likes them, either!"
"No, he doesn't like them!" said a demure little voice at my side.
"He's not afraid of them, you know. But he doesn't like them.
He says they're too waggly!"
Words fail me to describe the beauty of the little group--couched on a
patch of moss, on the trunk of the fallen tree, that met my eager gaze:
Sylvie reclining with her elbow buried in the moss, and her rosy cheek
resting in the palm of her hand, and Bruno stretched at her feet with
his head in her lap.
"Too waggly?" was all I could say in so sudden an emergency.
"I'm not praticular," Bruno said, carelessly: "but I do like straight
"But you like a dog when it wags its tail, Sylvie interrupted.
"You know you do, Bruno!"
"But there's more of a dog, isn't there, Mister Sir?" Bruno appealed to me.
"You wouldn't like to have a dog if it hadn't got nuffin but a head and
I admitted that a dog of that kind would be uninteresting.
"There isn't such a dog as that," Sylvie thoughtfully remarked.
"But there would be," cried Bruno, "if the Professor shortened it up
"Shortened it up?" I said. "That's something new. How does he do it?"
"He's got a curious machine "Sylvie was beginning to explain.
"A welly curious machine," Bruno broke in, not at all willing to have
the story thus taken out of his mouth, "and if oo puts
in--some-finoruvver--at one end, oo know and he turns the handle--and
it comes out at the uvver end, oh, ever so short!"
"As short as short! "Sylvie echoed.
"And one day when we was in Outland, oo know--before we came to
Fairyland me and Sylvie took him a big Crocodile. And he shortened it
up for us. And it did look so funny! And it kept looking round, and
saying 'wherever is the rest of me got to?' And then its eyes looked
"Not both its eyes," Sylvie interrupted.
"Course not!" said the little fellow. "Only the eye that couldn't see
wherever the rest of it had got to. But the eye that could see
"How short was the crocodile?" I asked, as the story was getting a
"Half as short again as when we caught it --so long," said Bruno,
spreading out his arms to their full stretch.
I tried to calculate what this would come to, but it was too hard for me.
Please make it out for me, dear Child who reads this!
"But you didn't leave the poor thing so short as that, did you?"
"Well, no. Sylvie and me took it back again and we got it stretched
to--to--how much was it, Sylvie?"
"Two times and a half, and a little bit more," said Sylvie.
"It wouldn't like that better than the other way, I'm afraid?"
"Oh, but it did though!" Bruno put in eagerly. "It were proud of its
new tail! Oo never saw a Crocodile so proud! Why, it could go round
and walk on the top of its tail, and along its back, all the way to its
[Image...A changed crocodile]
Not quite all the way," said Sylvie. "It couldn't, you know."
"Ah, but it did, once!" Bruno cried triumphantly. "Oo weren't
looking--but I watched it. And it walked on tippiety-toe, so as it
wouldn't wake itself, 'cause it thought it were asleep. And it got
both its paws on its tail. And it walked and it walked all the way
along its back. And it walked and it walked on its forehead.
And it walked a tiny little way down its nose! There now!"
This was a good deal worse than the last puzzle. Please, dear Child,
"I don't believe no Crocodile never walked along its own forehead!"
Sylvie cried, too much excited by the controversy to limit the number
of her negatives.
"Oo don't know the reason why it did it!', Bruno scornfully retorted.
"It had a welly good reason. I heerd it say 'Why shouldn't I walk on
my own forehead?' So a course it did, oo know!"
"If that's a good reason, Bruno," I said, "why shouldn't you get up
"Shall, in a minute," said Bruno: "soon as we've done talking.
Only two peoples ca'n't talk comfably togevver, when one's getting up
a tree, and the other isn't!"
It appeared to me that a conversation would scarcely be 'comfable'
while trees were being climbed, even if both the 'peoples' were doing it:
but it was evidently dangerous to oppose any theory of Bruno's;
so I thought it best to let the question drop, and to ask for an account
of the machine that made things longer.
This time Bruno was at a loss, and left it to Sylvie.
"It's like a mangle," she said: "if things are put in, they get squoze--"
"Squeezeled!" Bruno interrupted.
"Yes." Sylvie accepted the correction, but did not attempt to pronounce
the word, which was evidently new to her. "They get--like that--and
they come out, oh, ever so long!"
"Once," Bruno began again, "Sylvie and me writed--"
"Wrote!" Sylvie whispered.
"Well, we wroted a Nursery-Song, and the Professor mangled it longer
for us. It were 'There was a little Man, And he had a little gun,
And the bullets--'"
"I know the rest," I interrupted. "But would you say it long I mean
the way that it came out of the mangle?"
"We'll get the Professor to sing it for you," said Sylvie.
"It would spoil it to say it."
"I would like to meet the Professor," I said. "And I would like to
take you all with me, to see some friends of mine, that live near here.
Would you like to come?"
"I don't think the Professor would like to come," said Sylvie.
"He's very shy. But we'd like it very much. Only we'd better not come
this size, you know."
The difficulty had occurred to me already: and I had felt that perhaps
there would be a slight awkwardness in introducing two such tiny
friends into Society. "What size will you be?" I enquired.
"We'd better come as--common children," Sylvie thoughtfully replied.
"That's the easiest size to manage."
"Could you come to-day?" I said, thinking "then we could have you at
Sylvie considered a little. "Not to-day," she replied. "We haven't
got the things ready. We'll come on--Tuesday next, if you like.
And now, really Bruno, you must come and do your lessons."
"I wiss oo wouldn't say 'really Bruno!'" the little fellow pleaded,
with pouting lips that made him look prettier than ever.
"It always show's there's something horrid coming! And I won't kiss you,
if you're so unkind."
"Ah, but you have kissed me!" Sylvie exclaimed in merry triumph.
"Well then, I'll unkiss you!" And he threw his arms round her neck for
this novel, but apparently not very painful, operation.
"It's very like kissing!" Sylvie remarked, as soon as her lips were
again free for speech.
"Oo don't know nuffin about it! It were just the conkery!" Bruno
replied with much severity, as he marched away.
Sylvie turned her laughing face to me. "Shall we come on Tuesday?"
"Very well," I said: "let it be Tuesday next.
But where is the Professor? Did he come with you to Fairyland?"
"No," said Sylvie. "But he promised he'd come and see us, some day.
He's getting his Lecture ready. So he has to stay at home."
"At home?" I said dreamily, not feeling quite sure what she had said.
"Yes, Sir. His Lordship and Lady Muriel are at home.
Please to walk this way."
THE THREE BADGERS.
Still more dreamily I found myself following this imperious voice into
a room where the Earl, his daughter, and Arthur, were seated.
"So you're come at last!" said Lady Muriel, in a tone of playful reproach.
"I was delayed," I stammered. Though what it was that had delayed me I
should have been puzzled to explain! Luckily no questions were asked.
The carriage was ordered round, the hamper, containing our contribution
to the Picnic, was duly stowed away, and we set forth.
There was no need for me to maintain the conversation. Lady Muriel and
Arthur were evidently on those most delightful of terms, where one has
no need to check thought after thought, as it rises to the lips, with
the fear 'this will not be appreciated--this will give' offence--
this will sound too serious--this will sound flippant': like very old
friends, in fullest sympathy, their talk rippled on.
"Why shouldn't we desert the Picnic and go in some other direction?"
she suddenly suggested. "A party of four is surely self-sufficing?
And as for food, our hamper--"
"Why shouldn't we? What a genuine lady's argument!" laughed Arthur.
"A lady never knows on which side the onus probandi--the burden of
"Do men always know?" she asked with a pretty assumption of meek docility.
"With one exception--the only one I can think of Dr. Watts, who has
asked the senseless question
'Why should I deprive my neighbour
Of his goods against his will?'
Fancy that as an argument for Honesty! His position seems to be 'I'm
only honest because I see no reason to steal.' And the thief's answer
is of course complete and crushing. 'I deprive my neighbour of his
goods because I want them myself. And I do it against his will because
there's no chance of getting him to consent to it!'"
"I can give you one other exception," I said: "an argument I heard only
to-day---and not by a lady. 'Why shouldn't I walk on my own forehead?'"
"What a curious subject for speculation!" said Lady Muriel, turning to me,
with eyes brimming over with laughter. "May we know who propounded
the question? And did he walk on his own forehead?"
"I ca'n't remember who it was that said it!" I faltered. "Nor where I
"Whoever it was, I hope we shall meet him at the Picnic!" said Lady Muriel.
"It's a far more interesting question than 'Isn't this a picturesque ruin?'
Aren't those autumn-tints lovely?' I shall have to answer those two
questions ten times, at least, this afternoon!"
"That's one of the miseries of Society!" said Arthur. "Why ca'n't
people let one enjoy the beauties of Nature without having to say so
every minute? Why should Life be one long Catechism?"
"It's just as bad at a picture-gallery," the Earl remarked.
"I went to the R.A. last May, with a conceited young artist: and he did
torment me! I wouldn't have minded his criticizing the pictures himself:
but I had to agree with him--or else to argue the point, which would have
"It was depreciatory criticism, of course?" said Arthur.
"I don't see the 'of course' at all."
"Why, did you ever know a conceited man dare to praise a picture?
The one thing he dreads (next to not being noticed) is to be proved
fallible! If you once praise a picture, your character for
infallibility hangs by a thread. Suppose it's a figure-picture, and
you venture to say 'draws well.' Somebody measures it, and finds one of
the proportions an eighth of an inch wrong. You are disposed of as a
critic! 'Did you say he draws well?'
your friends enquire sarcastically, while you hang your head and blush.
No. The only safe course, if any one says 'draws well,' is to shrug
your shoulders. 'Draws well?' you repeat thoughtfully. 'Draws well?
Humph!' That's the way to become a great critic!"
Thus airily chatting, after a pleasant drive through a few miles of
beautiful scenery, we reached the rendezvous--a ruined castle--where
the rest of the picnic-party were already assembled. We spent an hour
or two in sauntering about the ruins: gathering at last, by common
consent, into a few random groups, seated on the side of a mound,
which commanded a good view of the old castle and its surroundings.
The momentary silence, that ensued, was promptly taken possession of or,
more correctly, taken into custody--by a Voice; a voice so smooth,
so monotonous, so sonorous, that one felt, with a shudder, that any
other conversation was precluded, and that, unless some desperate
remedy were adopted, we were fated to listen to a Lecture, of which no
man could foresee the end!
The speaker was a broadly-built man, whose large, flat, pale face was
bounded on the North by a fringe of hair, on the East and West by a
fringe of whisker, and on the South by a fringe of beard--the whole
constituting a uniform halo of stubbly whitey-brown bristles. His
features were so entirely destitute of expression that I could not help
saying to myself--helplessly, as if in the clutches of a night-mare--
"they are only penciled in: no final touches as yet!" And he had a way
of ending every sentence with a sudden smile, which spread like a ripple
over that vast blank surface, and was gone in a moment, leaving behind
it such absolute solemnity that I felt impelled to murmur
"it was not he: it was somebody else that smiled!"
"Do you observe?" (such was the phrase with which the wretch began each
sentence) "Do you observe the way in which that broken arch, at the
very top of the ruin, stands out against the clear sky? It is placed
exactly right: and there is exactly enough of it. A little more, or a
little less, and all would be utterly spoiled!"
[Image...A lecture, on art]
"Oh gifted architect!" murmured Arthur, inaudibly to all but
Lady Muriel and myself. "Foreseeing the exact effect his work would
have, when in ruins, centuries after his death!"
"And do you observe, where those trees slope down the hill, (indicating
them with a sweep of the hand, and with all the patronising air of the
man who has himself arranged the landscape), "how the mists rising from
the river fill up exactly those intervals where we need indistinctness,
for artistic effect? Here, in the foreground, a few clear touches are
not amiss: but a back-ground without mist, you know! It is simply
barbarous! Yes, we need indistinctness!"
The orator looked so pointedly at me as he uttered these words, that I
felt bound to reply, by murmuring something to the effect that I hardly
felt the need myself--and that I enjoyed looking at a thing, better,
when I could see it.
"Quite so!" the great man sharply took me up. "From your point of
view, that is correctly put. But for anyone who has a soul for Art,
such a view is preposterous. Nature is one thing. Art is another.
Nature shows us the world as it is. But Art--as a Latin author tells
us--Art, you know the words have escaped my memory "Ars est celare
Naturam," Arthur interposed with a delightful promptitude.
"Quite so!" the orator replied with an air of relief. "I thank you!
Ars est celare Naturam but that isn't it." And, for a few peaceful
moments, the orator brooded, frowningly, over the quotation. The
welcome opportunity was seized, and another voice struck into the
"What a lovely old ruin it is!" cried a young lady in spectacles,
the very embodiment of the March of Mind, looking at Lady Muriel, as the
proper recipient of all really original remarks. "And don't you admire
those autumn-tints on the trees? I do, intensely!"
Lady Muriel shot a meaning glance at me; but replied with admirable
gravity. "Oh yes indeed, indeed! So true!"
"And isn't strange, said the young lady, passing with startling
suddenness from Sentiment to Science, "that the mere impact of certain
coloured rays upon the Retina should give us such exquisite pleasure?"
"You have studied Physiology, then?" a certain young Doctor courteously
"Oh, yes! Isn't it a sweet Science?"
Arthur slightly smiled. "It seems a paradox, does it not," he went on,
"that the image formed on the Retina should be inverted?"
"It is puzzling," she candidly admitted. "Why is it we do not see
"You have never heard the Theory, then, that the Brain also is
"No indeed! What a beautiful fact! But how is it proved?"
"Thus," replied Arthur, with all the gravity of ten Professors rolled
into one. "What we call the vertex of the Brain is really its base:
and what we call its base is really its vertex: it is simply a question
This last polysyllable settled the matter.
"How truly delightful!" the fair Scientist exclaimed with enthusiasm.
"I shall ask our Physiological Lecturer why he never gave us that
"I'd give something to be present when the question is asked!" Arthur
whispered to me, as, at a signal from Lady Muriel, we moved on to where
the hampers had been collected, and devoted ourselves to the more
substantial business of the day.
We 'waited' on ourselves, as the modern barbarism (combining two good
things in such a way as to secure the discomforts of both and
the advantages of neither) of having a picnic with servants to wait
upon you, had not yet reached this out-of-the-way region--and of course
the gentlemen did not even take their places until the ladies had been
duly provided with all imaginable creature-comforts. Then I supplied
myself with a plate of something solid and a glass of something fluid,
and found a place next to Lady Muriel.
It had been left vacant--apparently for Arthur, as a distinguished
stranger: but he had turned shy, and had placed himself next to the
young lady in spectacles, whose high rasping voice had already cast
loose upon Society such ominous phrases as "Man is a bundle of
Qualities!", "the Objective is only attainable through the Subjective!".
Arthur was bearing it bravely: but several faces wore a look of alarm,
and I thought it high time to start some less metaphysical topic.
"In my nursery days," I began, "when the weather didn't suit for an
out-of-doors picnic, we were allowed to have a peculiar kind, that we
enjoyed hugely. The table cloth was laid under the table, instead of
upon it: we sat round it on the floor: and I believe we really enjoyed
that extremely uncomfortable kind of dinner more than we ever did the
"I've no doubt of it," Lady Muriel replied.
"There's nothing a well-regulated child hates so much as regularity.
I believe a really healthy boy would thoroughly enjoy Greek Grammar--
if only he might stand on his head to learn it! And your carpet-dinner
certainly spared you one feature of a picnic, which is to me its chief
"The chance of a shower?" I suggested.
"No, the chance--or rather the certainty of live things occurring in
combination with one's food! Spiders are my bugbear. Now my father has
no sympathy with that sentiment--have you, dear?" For the Earl had
caught the word and turned to listen.
"To each his sufferings, all are men," he replied in the sweet sad
tones that seemed natural to him: "each has his pet aversion."
"But you'll never guess his!" Lady Muriel said, with that delicate
silvery laugh that was music to my ears.
I declined to attempt the impossible.
"He doesn't like snakes!" she said, in a stage whisper. "Now, isn't
that an unreasonable aversion? Fancy not liking such a dear, coaxingly,
clingingly affectionate creature as a snake!"
"Not like snakes!" I exclaimed. "Is such a thing possible?"
"No, he doesn't like them," she repeated with a pretty mock-gravity.
"He's not afraid of them, you know. But he doesn't like them.
He says they're too waggly!"
I was more startled than I liked to show. There was something so
uncanny in this echo of the very words I had so lately heard from that
little forest-sprite, that it was only by a great effort I succeeded in
saying, carelessly, "Let us banish so unpleasant a topic. Won't you
sing us something, Lady Muriel? I know you do sing without music."
"The only songs I know--without music--are desperately sentimental,
I'm afraid! Are your tears all ready?"
"Quite ready! Quite ready!" came from all sides, and Lady Muriel--not
being one of those lady-singers who think it de rigueur to decline to
sing till they have been petitioned three or four times, and have
pleaded failure of memory, loss of voice, and other conclusive reasons
for silence--began at once:--
[Image...'Three badgers on a mossy stone']
"There be three Badgers on a mossy stone,
Beside a dark and covered way:
Each dreams himself a monarch on his throne,
And so they stay and stay
Though their old Father languishes alone,
They stay, and stay, and stay.
"There be three Herrings loitering around,
Longing to share that mossy seat:
Each Herring tries to sing what she has found
That makes Life seem so sweet.
Thus, with a grating and uncertain sound,
They bleat, and bleat, and bleat,
"The Mother-Herring, on the salt sea-wave,
Sought vainly for her absent ones:
The Father-Badger, writhing in a cave,
Shrieked out ' Return, my sons!
You shalt have buns,' he shrieked,' if you'll behave!
Yea, buns, and buns, and buns!'
"'I fear,' said she, 'your sons have gone astray?
My daughters left me while I slept.'
'Yes 'm,' the Badger said: 'it's as you say.'
'They should be better kept.'
Thus the poor parents talked the time away,
And wept, and wept, and wept."
Here Bruno broke off suddenly. "The Herrings' Song wants anuvver tune,
Sylvie," he said. "And I ca'n't sing it not wizout oo plays it for me!"
[Image...'Three badgers, writhing in a cave']
Instantly Sylvie seated herself upon a tiny mushroom, that happened
to grow in front of a daisy, as if it were the most ordinary
musical instrument in the world, and played on the petals as if they
were the notes of an organ. And such delicious tiny music it was!
Such teeny-tiny music!
Bruno held his head on one side, and listened very gravely for a few
moments until he had caught the melody. Then the sweet childish voice
rang out once more:--
"Oh, dear beyond our dearest dreams,
Fairer than all that fairest seems!
To feast the rosy hours away,
To revel in a roundelay!
How blest would be
A life so free---
Ipwergis-Pudding to consume,
And drink the subtle Azzigoom!
"And if in other days and hours,
Mid other fluffs and other flowers,
The choice were given me how to dine---
'Name what thou wilt: it shalt be thine!'
Oh, then I see
The life for me
Ipwergis-Pudding to consume,
And drink the subtle Azzigoom!"
"Oo may leave off playing now, Sylvie. I can do the uvver tune much
better wizout a compliment."
"He means 'without accompaniment,'" Sylvie whispered, smiling at my
puzzled look: and she pretended to shut up the stops of the organ.
"The Badgers did not care to talk to Fish:
They did not dote on Herrings' songs:
They never had experienced the dish
To which that name belongs:
And oh, to pinch their tails,' (this was their wish,)
'With tongs, yea, tongs, and tongs!'"
I ought to mention that he marked the parenthesis, in the air, with his
finger. It seemed to me a very good plan. You know there's no sound
to represent it--any more than there is for a question.
Suppose you have said to your friend "You are better to-day," and that
you want him to understand that you are asking him a question, what can
be simpler than just to make a "?". in the air with your finger?
He would understand you in a moment!
[Image...'Those aged one waxed gay']
"'And are not these the Fish,' the Eldest sighed,
'Whose Mother dwells beneath the foam'
'They are the Fish!' the Second one replied.
'And they have left their home!'
'Oh wicked Fish,' the Youngest Badger cried,
'To roam, yea, roam, and roam!'
"Gently the Badgers trotted to the shore
The sandy shore that fringed the bay:
Each in his mouth a living Herring bore--
Those aged ones waxed gay:
Clear rang their voices through the ocean's roar,
'Hooray, hooray, hooray!'"
"So they all got safe home again," Bruno said, after waiting a minute
to see if I had anything to say: he evidently felt that some remark
ought to be made. And I couldn't help wishing there were some such
rule in Society, at the conclusion of a song--that the singer herself
should say the right thing, and not leave it to the audience. Suppose
a young lady has just been warbling ('with a grating and uncertain sound')
Shelley's exquisite lyric 'I arise from dreams of thee': how much nicer
it would be, instead of your having to say "Oh, thank you, thank you!"
for the young lady herself to remark, as she draws on her gloves,
while the impassioned words 'Oh, press it to thine own, or it will break
at last!' are still ringing in your ears, "--but she wouldn't do it,
you know. So it did break at last."
"And I knew it would!" she added quietly, as I started at the sudden
crash of broken glass. "You've been holding it sideways for the last
minute, and letting all the champagne run out! Were you asleep,
I wonder? I'm so sorry my singing has such a narcotic effect!"
QUEER STREET, NUMBER FORTY.
Lady Muriel was the speaker. And, for the moment, that was the only
fact I could clearly realise. But how she came to be there and how I
came to be there--and how the glass of champagne came to be there--all
these were questions which I felt it better to think out in silence,
and not commit myself to any statement till I understood things a
little more clearly.
'First accumulate a mass of Facts: and then construct a Theory.'
That, I believe, is the true Scientific Method.
I sat up, rubbed my eves, and began to accumulate Facts.
A smooth grassy slope, bounded, at the upper end, by venerable ruins
half buried in ivy, at the lower, by a stream seen through arching
trees--a dozen gaily-dressed people, seated in little groups here and
there--some open hampers--the debris of a picnic--such were the Facts
accumulated by the Scientific Researcher. And now, what deep,
far-reaching Theory was he to construct from them? The Researcher
found himself at fault. Yet stay! One Fact had escaped his notice.
While all the rest were grouped in twos and in threes, Arthur was
alone: while all tongues were talking, his was silent: while all faces
were gay, his was gloomy and despondent. Here was a Fact indeed!
The Researcher felt that a Theory must be constructed without delay.
Lady Muriel had just risen and left the party. Could that be the cause
of his despondency? The Theory hardly rose to the dignity of a Working
Hypothesis. Clearly more Facts were needed.
The Researcher looked round him once more: and now the Facts accumulated
in such bewildering profusion, that the Theory was lost among them.
For Lady Muriel had gone to meet a strange gentleman, just visible in
the distance: and now she was returning with him, both of them talking
eagerly and joyfully, like old friends who have been long parted:
and now she was moving from group to group, introducing the new
hero of the hour: and he, young, tall, and handsome, moved gracefully
at her side, with the erect bearing and firm tread of a soldier.
Verily, the Theory looked gloomy for Arthur! His eye caught mine,
and he crossed to me.
"He is very handsome," I said.
"Abominably handsome!" muttered Arthur: then smiled at his own bitter
words. "Lucky no one heard me but you!"
"Doctor Forester," said Lady Muriel, who had just joined us, "let me
introduce to you my cousin Eric Lindon Captain Lindon, I should say."
Arthur shook off his ill-temper instantly and completely, as he rose
and gave the young soldier his hand. "I have heard of you," he said.
"I'm very glad to make the acquaintance of Lady Muriel's cousin."
"Yes, that's all I'm distinguished for, as yet!" said Eric (so we soon
got to call him) with a winning smile. "And I doubt," glancing at Lady
Muriel, "if it even amounts to a good-conduct-badge!
But it's something to begin with."
"You must come to my father, Eric," said Lady Muriel. "I think he's
wandering among the ruins." And the pair moved on.
The gloomy look returned to Arthur's face: and I could see it was only
to distract his thoughts that he took his place at the side of the
metaphysical young lady, and resumed their interrupted discussion.
"Talking of Herbert Spencer," he began, "do you really find no logical
difficulty in regarding Nature as a process of involution, passing from
definite coherent homogeneity to indefinite incoherent heterogeneity?"
Amused as I was at the ingenious jumble he had made of Spencer's words,
I kept as grave a face as I could.
No physical difficulty," she confidently replied: "but I haven't
studied Logic much. Would you state the difficulty?"
"Well," said Arthur, "do you accept it as self-evident? Is it as
obvious, for instance, as that 'things that are greater than the same
are greater than one another'?"
"To my mind," she modestly replied, "it seems quite as obvious.
I grasp both truths by intuition. But other minds may need some
logical--I forget the technical terms."
"For a complete logical argument," Arthur began with admirable
solemnity, "we need two prim Misses--"
"Of course!" she interrupted. "I remember that word now.
And they produce--?"
"A Delusion," said Arthur.
"Ye--es?" she said dubiously. "I don't seem to remember that so well.
But what is the whole argument called?"
"Ah, yes! I remember now. But I don't need a Sillygism, you know,
to prove that mathematical axiom you mentioned."
"Nor to prove that 'all angles are equal', I suppose?"
"Why, of course not! One takes such a simple truth as that for granted!"
Here I ventured to interpose, and to offer her a plate of strawberries
and cream. I felt really uneasy at the thought that she might detect
the trick: and I contrived, unperceived by her, to shake my head
reprovingly at the pseudo-philosopher. Equally unperceived by her,
Arthur slightly raised his shoulders, and spread his hands abroad,
as who should say "What else can I say to her?" and moved away, leaving
her to discuss her strawberries by 'involution,' or any other way she
By this time the carriages, that were to convey the revelers to their
respective homes, had begun to assemble outside the Castle-grounds:
and it became evident--now that Lady Muriel's cousin had joined our party
that the problem, how to convey five people to Elveston, with a
carriage that would only hold four, must somehow be solved.
The Honorable Eric Lindon, who was at this moment walking up and down
with Lady Muriel, might have solved it at once, no doubt, by announcing
his intention of returning on foot. Of this solution there did not
seem to be the very smallest probability.
The next best solution, it seemed to me, was that I should walk home:
and this I at once proposed.
"You're sure you don't mind?', said the Earl. "I'm afraid the carriage
wont take us all, and I don't like to suggest to Eric to desert his
cousin so soon."
"So far from minding it," I said, "I should prefer it. It will give me
time to sketch this beautiful old ruin."
"I'll keep you company," Arthur suddenly said. And, in answer to what
I suppose was a look of surprise on my face, he said in a low voice,
"I really would rather. I shall be quite de trop in the carriage!"
"I think I'll walk too," said the Earl. "You'll have to be content
with Eric as your escort," he added, to Lady Muriel, who had joined us
while he was speaking.
"You must be as entertaining as Cerberus--'three gentlemen rolled into
one'--" Lady Muriel said to her companion. "It will be a grand
"A sort of Forlorn Hope?" the Captain modestly suggested.
"You do pay pretty compliments!" laughed his fair cousin. "Good day to
you, gentlemen three--or rather deserters three!" And the two young
folk entered the carriage and were driven away.
"How long will your sketch take?" said Arthur.
"Well," I said, "I should like an hour for it. Don't you think you had
better go without me? I'll return by train. I know there's one in
about an hour's time."
"Perhaps that would be best," said the Earl. "The Station is quite close."
So I was left to my own devices, and soon found a comfortable seat,
at the foot of a tree, from which I had a good view of the ruins.
"It is a very drowsy day," I said to myself, idly turning over the
leaves of the sketch-book to find a blank page. "Why, I thought you
were a mile off by this time!" For, to my surprise, the two walkers
were back again.
"I came back to remind you," Arthur said, "that the trains go every ten
"Nonsense!" I said. "It isn't the Metropolitan Railway!"
"It is the Metropolitan Railway," the Earl insisted. "'This is a part
"Why do you talk with your eyes shut?" said Arthur. "Wake up!"
"I think it's the heat makes me so drowsy," I said, hoping, but not
feeling quite sure, that I was talking sense. "Am I awake now?"
"I think not, "the Earl judicially pronounced. "What do you think,
Doctor? He's only got one eye open!"
"And he's snoring like anything!" cried Bruno. "Do wake up, you dear
old thing!" And he and Sylvie set to work, rolling the heavy head from
side to side, as if its connection with the shoulders was a matter of
no sort of importance.
And at last the Professor opened his eyes, and sat up, blinking at us
with eyes of utter bewilderment. "Would you have the kindness to
mention," he said, addressing me with his usual old-fashioned courtesy,
"whereabouts we are just now and who we are, beginning with me?"
I thought it best to begin with the children. "This is Sylvie. Sir;
and this is Bruno."
"Ah, yes! I know them well enough!" the old man murmured. "Its myself
I'm most anxious about. And perhaps you'll be good enough to mention,
at the same time, how I got here?"
"A harder problem occurs to me," I ventured to say: "and that is, how
you're to get back again."
"True, true!" the Professor replied. "That's the Problem, no doubt.
Viewed as a Problem, outside of oneself, it is a most interesting one.
Viewed as a portion of one's own biography, it is, I must admit, very
distressing!" He groaned, but instantly added, with a chuckle,
"As to myself, I think you mentioned that I am--"
"Oo're the Professor!" Bruno shouted in his ear. "Didn't oo know that?
Oo've come from Outland! And it's ever so far away from here!"
The Professor leapt to his feet with the agility of a boy.
"Then there's no time to lose!" he exclaimed anxiously.
"I'll just ask this guileless peasant, with his brace of buckets
that contain (apparently) water, if he'll be so kind as to direct us.
Guileless peasant!" he proceeded in a louder voice.
"Would you tell us the way to Outland?"
The guileless peasant turned with a sheepish grin. "Hey?" was all he said.
"The way--to--Outland!" the Professor repeated.
The guileless peasant set down his buckets and considered. "Ah dunnot--"
"I ought to mention," the Professor hastily put in, "that whatever you
say will be used in evidence against you."
The guileless peasant instantly resumed his buckets. "Then ah says
nowt!" he answered briskly, and walked away at a great pace.
The children gazed sadly at the rapidly vanishing figure. "He goes
very quick!" the Professor said with a sigh. "But I know that was the
right thing to say. I've studied your English Laws. However, let's
ask this next man that's coming. He is not guileless, and he is not a
peasant--but I don't know that either point is of vital importance."
It was, in fact, the Honourable Eric Lindon, who had apparently
fulfilled his task of escorting Lady Muriel home, and was now strolling
leisurely up and down the road outside the house, enjoying; a solitary
"Might I trouble you, Sir, to tell us the nearest way to Outland!"
Oddity as he was, in outward appearance, the Professor was, in that
essential nature which no outward disguise could conceal, a thorough
And, as such, Eric Lindon accepted him instantly. He took the cigar
from his mouth, and delicately shook off the ash, while he considered.
"The name sounds strange to me," he said. "I doubt if I can help you?'
"It is not very far from Fairyland," the Professor suggested.
Eric Lindon's eye-brows were slightly raised at these words,
and an amused smile, which he courteously tried to repress,
flitted across his handsome face: "A trifle cracked!" he muttered
to himself. "But what a jolly old patriarch it is!" Then he turned
to the children. "And ca'n't you help him, little folk?" he said,
with a gentleness of tone that seemed to win their hearts at once.
"Surely you know all about it?
'How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score miles and ten.
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again!'"
To my surprise, Bruno ran forwards to him, as if he were some old
friend of theirs, seized the disengaged hand and hung on to it with
both of his own: and there stood this tall dignified officer in the
middle of the road, gravely swinging a little boy to and fro, while
Sylvie stood ready to push him, exactly as if a real swing had suddenly
been provided for their pastime.
"We don't want to get to Babylon, oo know!" Bruno explained as he swung.
"And it isn't candlelight: it's daylight!" Sylvie added, giving the
swing a push of extra vigour, which nearly took the whole machine off
By this time it was clear to me that Eric Lindon was quite unconscious
of my presence. Even the Professor and the children seemed to have
lost sight of me: and I stood in the midst of the group, as
unconcernedly as a ghost, seeing but unseen.
"How perfectly isochronous!" the Professor exclaimed with enthusiasm.
He had his watch in his hand, and was carefully counting Bruno's
oscillations. "He measures time quite as accurately as a pendulum!"
[Image...'How perfectly isochronous!']
"Yet even pendulums," the good-natured young soldier observed,
as he carefully released his hand from Bruno's grasp, "are not a joy
for ever! Come, that's enough for one bout, little man!' Next time we
meet, you shall have another. Meanwhile you'd better take this old
gentleman to Queer Street, Number--"
"We'll find it!" cried Bruno eagerly, as they dragged the Professor away.
"We are much indebted to you!" the Professor said, looking over his
"Don't mention it!" replied the officer, raising his hat as a parting
"What number did you say!" the Professor called from the distance.
The officer made a trumpet of his two hands. "Forty!" he shouted in
stentorian tones. "And not piano, by any means!" he added to himself.
"It's a mad world, my masters, a mad world!" He lit another cigar,
and strolled on towards his hotel.
"What a lovely evening!" I said, joining him as he passed me.
"Lovely indeed," he said. "Where did you come from?
Dropped from the clouds?"
"I'm strolling your way," I said; and no further explanation seemed
"Have a cigar?"
"Thanks: I'm not a smoker."
"Is there a Lunatic Asylum near here?"
"Not that I know of."
"Thought there might be. Met a lunatic just now. Queer old fish as
ever I saw!"
And so, in friendly chat, we took our homeward ways, and wished each
other 'good-night' at the door of his hotel.
Left to myself, I felt the 'eerie' feeling rush over me again, and saw,
standing at the door of Number Forty, the three figures I knew so well.
"Then it's the wrong house?" Bruno was saying.
"No, no! It's the right house," the Professor cheerfully replied:
"but it's the wrong street. That's where we've made our mistake!
Our best plan, now, will be to--"
It was over. The street was empty, Commonplace life was around me,
and the 'eerie' feeling had fled.
HOW TO MAKE A PHLIZZ.
The week passed without any further communication with the 'Hall,'
as Arthur was evidently fearful that we might 'wear out our welcome';
but when, on Sunday morning, we were setting out for church, I gladly
agreed to his proposal to go round and enquire after the Earl, who was
said to be unwell.
Eric, who was strolling in the garden, gave us a good report of the
invalid, who was still in bed, with Lady Muriel in attendance.
"Are you coming with us to church?" I enquired.
"Thanks, no," he courteously replied. "It's not--exactly in my line,
you know. It's an excellent institution--for the poor. When I'm with
my own folk, I go, just to set them an example. But I'm not known here:
so I think I'll excuse myself sitting out a sermon. Country-preachers
are always so dull!"
Arthur was silent till we were out of hearing. Then he said to himself,
almost inaudibly, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them."
"Yes," I assented: "no doubt that is the principle on which church-going
"And when he does go," he continued (our thoughts ran so much together,
that our conversation was often slightly elliptical), "I suppose he
repeats the words 'I believe in the Communion of Saints'?"
But by this time we had reached the little church, into which a goodly
stream of worshipers, consisting mainly of fishermen and their
families, was flowing.
The service would have been pronounced by any modern aesthetic
religionist--or religious aesthete, which is it?--to be crude and cold:
to me, coming fresh from the ever-advancing developments of a London
church under a soi-disant 'Catholic' Rector, it was unspeakably
There was no theatrical procession of demure little choristers, trying
their best not to simper under the admiring gaze of the congregation:
the people's share in the service was taken by the people themselves,
unaided, except that a few good voices, judiciously posted here and
there among them, kept the singing from going too far astray.
There was no murdering of the noble music, contained in the Bible and
the Liturgy, by its recital in a dead monotone, with no more expression
than a mechanical talking-doll.
No, the prayers were prayed, the lessons were read, and best of all the
sermon was talked; and I found myself repeating, as we left the church,
the words of Jacob, when he 'awaked out of his sleep.' "'Surely the
Lord is in this place! This is none other but the house of God,
and this is the gate of heaven.'"
"Yes," said Arthur, apparently in answer to my thoughts, "those 'high'
services are fast becoming pure Formalism. More and more the people
are beginning to regard them as 'performances,' in which they only
'assist' in the French sense. And it is specially bad for the little
boys. They'd be much less self-conscious as pantomime-fairies.
With all that dressing-up, and stagy-entrances and exits, and being
always en evidence, no wonder if they're eaten up with vanity,
the blatant little coxcombs!"
When we passed the Hall on our return, we found the Earl and Lady
Muriel sitting out in the garden. Eric had gone for a stroll.
We joined them, and the conversation soon turned on the sermon we had
just heard, the subject of which was 'selfishness.'
"What a change has come over our pulpits," Arthur remarked, "since the
time when Paley gave that utterly selfish definition of virtue,
'the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for
the sake of everlasting happiness'!"
Lady Muriel looked at him enquiringly, but she seemed to have learned
by intuition, what years of experience had taught me, that the way to
elicit Arthur's deepest thoughts was neither to assent nor dissent,
but simply to listen.
"At that time," he went on, "a great tidal wave of selfishness was
sweeping over human thought. Right and Wrong had somehow been
transformed into Gain and Loss, and Religion had become a sort of
commercial transaction. We may be thankful that our preachers are
beginning to take a nobler view of life."
"But is it not taught again and again in the Bible?" I ventured to ask.
"Not in the Bible as a whole," said Arthur. "In the Old Testament,
no doubt, rewards and punishments are constantly appealed to as motives
for action. That teaching is best for children, and the Israelites
seem to have been, mentally, utter children. We guide our children
thus, at first: but we appeal, as soon as possible, to their innate
sense of Right and Wrong: and, when that stage is safely past,
we appeal to the highest motive of all, the desire for likeness to,
and union with, the Supreme Good. I think you will find that to be the
teaching of the Bible, as a whole, beginning with 'that thy days may be
long in the land,' and ending with 'be ye perfect, even as your Father
which is in heaven is perfect.'"
We were silent for awhile, and then Arthur went off on another tack.
"Look at the literature of Hymns, now. How cankered it is, through and
through, with selfishness! There are few human compositions more
utterly degraded than some modern Hymns!"
I quoted the stanza
"Whatever, Lord, we tend to Thee,
Repaid a thousandfold shall be,
Then gladly will we give to Thee,
Giver of all!'
"Yes," he said grimly: "that is the typical stanza. And the very last
charity-sermon I heard was infected with it. After giving many good
reasons for charity, the preacher wound up with 'and, for all you give,
you will be repaid a thousandfold!' Oh the utter meanness of such a
motive, to be put before men who do know what self-sacrifice is,
who can appreciate generosity and heroism! Talk of Original Sin!"
he went on with increasing bitterness. "Can you have a stronger proof
of the Original Goodness there must be in this nation, than the fact
that Religion has been preached to us, as a commercial speculation,
for a century, and that we still believe in a God?"
"It couldn't have gone on so long," Lady Muriel musingly remarked,
"if the Opposition hadn't been practically silenced--put under what the
French call la cloture. Surely in any lecture-hall, or in private
society, such teaching would soon have been hooted down?"
"I trust so," said Arthur: "and, though I don't want to see 'brawling
in church' legalised, I must say that our preachers enjoy an enormous
privilege--which they ill deserve, and which they misuse terribly.
We put our man into a pulpit, and we virtually tell him 'Now, you may
stand there and talk to us for half-an-hour. We won't interrupt you by
so much as a word! You shall have it all your own way!' And what does
he give us in return? Shallow twaddle, that, if it were addressed to
you over a dinner-table, you would think 'Does the man take me for a
The return of Eric from his walk checked the tide of Arthur's eloquence,
and, after a few minutes' talk on more conventional topics, we took our
leave. Lady Muriel walked with us to the gate. "You have given me much
to think about," she said earnestly, as she gave Arthur her hand.
"I'm so glad you came in!" And her words brought a real glow of pleasure
into that pale worn face of his.
On the Tuesday, as Arthur did not seem equal to more walking, I took a
long stroll by myself, having stipulated that he was not to give the
whole day to his books, but was to meet me at the Hall at about
tea-time. On my way back, I passed the Station just as the
afternoon-train came in sight, and sauntered down the stairs to see it
come in. But there was little to gratify my idle curiosity: and, when
the train was empty, and the platform clear, I found it was about time
to be moving on, if I meant to reach the Hall by five.
As I approached the end of the platform, from which a steep irregular
wooden staircase conducted to the upper world, I noticed two passengers,
who had evidently arrived by the train, but who, oddly enough, had
entirely escaped my notice, though the arrivals had been so few.
They were a young woman and a little girl: the former, so far as one
could judge by appearances, was a nursemaid, or possibly a
nursery-governess, in attendance on the child, whose refined face,
even more than her dress, distinguished her as of a higher class than
The child's face was refined, but it was also a worn and sad one, and
told a tale (or so I seemed to read it) of much illness and suffering,
sweetly and patiently borne. She had a little crutch to help herself
along with: and she was now standing, looking wistfully up the long
staircase, and apparently waiting till she could muster courage to
begin the toilsome ascent.
There are some things one says in life--as well as things one
does--which come automatically, by reflex action, as the physiologists
say (meaning, no doubt, action without reflection, just as lucus is
said to be derived 'a non lucendo'). Closing one's eyelids, when
something seems to be flying into the eye, is one of those actions,
and saying "May I carry the little girl up the stairs?" was another.
It wasn't that any thought of offering help occurred to me, and that
then I spoke: the first intimation I had, of being likely to make that
offer, was the sound of my own voice, and the discovery that the offer
had been made. The servant paused, doubtfully glancing from her charge
to me, and then back again to the child. "Would you like it, dear?"
she asked her. But no such doubt appeared to cross the child's mind:
she lifted her arms eagerly to be taken up. "Please!" was all she
said, while a faint smile flickered on the weary little face. I took
her up with scrupulous care, and her little arm was at once clasped
trustfully round my neck.
[Image...The lame child]
She was a very light weight--so light, in fact, that the ridiculous
idea crossed my mind that it was rather easier going up, with her in
my arms, than it would have been without her: and, when we reached the
road above, with its cart-ruts and loose stones--all formidable obstacles
for a lame child--I found that I had said "I'd better carry her over
this rough place," before I had formed any mental connection between
its roughness and my gentle little burden. "Indeed it's troubling you
too much, Sir!" the maid exclaimed. "She can walk very well on the flat."
But the arm, that was twined about my neck, clung just an atom more
closely at the suggestion, and decided me to say "She's no weight,
really. I'll carry her a little further. I'm going your way."
The nurse raised no further objection: and the next speaker was a
ragged little boy, with bare feet, and a broom over his shoulder, who
ran across the road, and pretended to sweep the perfectly dry road in
front of us. "Give us a 'ap'ny!" the little urchin pleaded, with a
broad grin on his dirty face.
"Don't give him a 'ap'ny!" said the little lady in my arms. The words
sounded harsh: but the tone was gentleness itself. "He's an idle
little boy!" And she laughed a laugh of such silvery sweetness as I had
never yet heard from any lips but Sylvie's. To my astonishment, the
boy actually joined in the laugh, as if there were some subtle sympathy
between them, as he ran away down the road and vanished through a gap
in the hedge.
But he was back in a few moments, having discarded his broom and
provided himself, from some mysterious source, with an exquisite
bouquet of flowers. "Buy a posy, buy a posy! Only a 'ap'ny!" he
chanted, with the melancholy drawl of a professional beggar.
"Don't buy it!" was Her Majesty's edict as she looked down, with a
lofty scorn that seemed curiously mixed with tender interest, on the
ragged creature at her feet.
But this time I turned rebel, and ignored the royal commands.
Such lovely flowers, and of forms so entirely new to me, were not to be
abandoned at the bidding of any little maid, however imperious.
I bought the bouquet: and the little boy, after popping the halfpenny
into his mouth, turned head-over-heels, as if to ascertain whether the
human mouth is really adapted to serve as a money-box.
With wonder, that increased every moment, I turned over the flowers,
and examined them one by one: there was not a single one among them
that I could remember having ever seen before. At last I turned to the
nursemaid. "Do these flowers grow wild about here? I never saw--"
but the speech died away on my lips. The nursemaid had vanished!
"You can put me down, now, if you like," Sylvie quietly remarked.
I obeyed in silence, and could only ask myself "Is this a dream?",
on finding Sylvie and Bruno walking one on either side of me,
and clinging to my hands with the ready confidence of childhood.
"You're larger than when I saw you last!" I began. "Really I think we
ought to be introduced again! There's so much of you that I never met
before, you know."
"Very well!" Sylvie merrily replied. "This is Bruno. It doesn't take
long. He's only got one name!"
"There's another name to me!" Bruno protested, with a reproachful look
at the Mistress of the Ceremonies. "And it's--' Esquire'!"
"Oh, of course. I forgot," said Sylvie. "Bruno--Esquire!"
"And did you come here to meet me, my children?" I enquired.
"You know I said we'd come on Tuesday, Sylvie explained. "Are we the
proper size for common children?"
"Quite the right size for children," I replied, (adding mentally
"though not common children, by any means!") "But what became of the
"It are gone!" Bruno solemnly replied.
"Then it wasn't solid, like Sylvie and you?"
"No. Oo couldn't touch it, oo know. If oo walked at it, oo'd go right
"I quite expected you'd find it out, once," said Sylvie. "Bruno ran it
against a telegraph post, by accident. And it went in two halves.
But you were looking the other way."
I felt that I had indeed missed an opportunity: to witness such an
event as a nursemaid going 'in two halves' does not occur twice in a
"When did oo guess it were Sylvie?" Bruno enquired.
[Image...'It went in two halves']
"I didn't guess it, till it was Sylvie," I said. "But how did
You manage the nursemaid? "
"Bruno managed it," said Sylvie. "It's called a Phlizz."
"And how do you make a Phlizz, Bruno?"
"The Professor teached me how," said Bruno.
"First oo takes a lot of air--"
"Oh, Bruno!" Sylvie interposed. "The Professor said you weren't to tell!"
But who did her voice?" I asked.
"Indeed it's troubling you too much, Sir! She can walk very well on
Bruno laughed merrily as I turned hastily from side to side, looking in
all directions for the speaker. "That were me!" he gleefully
proclaimed, in his own voice.
"She can indeed walk very well on the flat," I said. "And I think I
was the Flat."
By this time we were near the Hall. "This is where my friends live,"
I said. "Will you come in and have some tea with them?"
Bruno gave a little jump of joy: and Sylvie said "Yes, please.
You'd like some tea, Bruno, wouldn't you? He hasn't tasted tea,"
she explained to me, "since we left Outland."
"And that weren't good tea!" said Bruno. "It were so welly weak!"
LIGHT COME, LIGHT GO.
Lady Muriel's smile of welcome could not quite conceal the look of
surprise with which she regarded my new companions.
I presented them in due form. "This is Sylvie, Lady Muriel. And this
"Any surname?" she enquired, her eyes twinkling with fun.
"No," I said gravely. "No surname."
She laughed, evidently thinking I said it in fun; and stooped to kiss
the children a salute to which Bruno submitted with reluctance: Sylvie
returned it with interest.
While she and Arthur (who had arrived before me) supplied the children
with tea and cake, I tried to engage the Earl in conversation: but he
was restless and distrait, and we made little progress. At last, by a
sudden question, he betrayed the cause of his disquiet.
"Would you let me look at those flowers you have in your hand?"
"Willingly!" I said, handing him the bouquet. Botany was, I knew, a
favourite study of his: and these flowers were to me so entirely new
and mysterious, that I was really curious to see what a botanist would
say of them.
They did not diminish his disquiet. On the contrary, he became every
moment more excited as he turned them over. "These are all from
Central India!" he said, laying aside part of the bouquet.
"They are rare, even there: and I have never seen them in any other part
of the world. These two are Mexican--This one--" (He rose hastily, and
carried it to the window, to examine it in a better light, the flush of
excitement mounting to his very forehead) "---is. I am nearly sure
--but I have a book of Indian Botany here--" He took a volume from
the book-shelves, and turned the leaves with trembling fingers. "Yes!
Compare it with this picture! It is the exact duplicate! This is the
flower of the Upas-tree, which usually grows only in the depths of
forests; and the flower fades so quickly after being plucked, that it
is scarcely possible to keep its form or colour even so far as the
outskirts of the forest! Yet this is in full bloom! Where did you get
these flowers?" he added with breathless eagerness.
I glanced at Sylvie, who, gravely and silently, laid her finger on her
lips, then beckoned to Bruno to follow her, and ran out into the garden;
and I found myself in the position of a defendant whose two most
important witnesses have been suddenly taken away. "Let me give you
the flowers!" I stammered out at last, quite 'at my wit's end' as
to how to get out of the difficulty. "You know much more about them
than I do!"
"I accept them most gratefully! But you have not yet told me--" the
Earl was beginning, when we were interrupted, to my great relief, by
the arrival of Eric Lindon.
To Arthur, however, the new-comer was, I saw clearly, anything but
welcome. His face clouded over: he drew a little back from the circle,
and took no further part in the conversation, which was wholly
maintained, for some minutes, by Lady Muriel and her lively cousin,
who were discussing some new music that had just arrived from London.
"Do just try this one!" he pleaded. "The music looks easy to sing at
sight, and the song's quite appropriate to the occasion."
"Then I suppose it's
'Five o'clock tea!
Ever to thee
Faithful I'll be,
Five o'clock tea!"'
laughed Lady Muriel, as she sat down to the piano, and lightly struck a
few random chords.
"Not quite: and yet it is a kind of 'ever to thee faithful I'll be!'
It's a pair of hapless lovers: he crosses the briny deep: and she is
"That is indeed appropriate!" she replied mockingly, as he placed the
song before her.
"And am I to do the lamenting? And who for, if you please?"
She played the air once or twice through, first in quick, and finally
in slow, time; and then gave us the whole song with as much graceful
ease as if she had been familiar with it all her life:--
"He stept so lightly to the land,
All in his manly pride:
He kissed her cheek, he pressed her hand,
Yet still she glanced aside.
'Too gay he seems,' she darkly dreams,
'Too gallant and too gay
To think of me--poor simple me---
When he is far away!'
'I bring my Love this goodly pearl
Across the seas,' he said:
'A gem to deck the dearest girl
That ever sailor wed!'
She clasps it tight' her eyes are bright:
Her throbbing heart would say
'He thought of me--he thought of me---
When he was far away!'
The ship has sailed into the West:
Her ocean-bird is flown:
A dull dead pain is in her breast,
And she is weak and lone:
Yet there's a smile upon her face,
A smile that seems to say
'He'll think of me he'll think of me---
When he is far away!
'Though waters wide between us glide,
Our lives are warm and near:
No distance parts two faithful hearts
Two hearts that love so dear:
And I will trust my sailor-lad,
For ever and a day,
To think of me--to think of me---
When he is far away!'"
The look of displeasure, which had begun to come over Arthur's face
when the young Captain spoke of Love so lightly, faded away as the song
proceeded, and he listened with evident delight. But his face darkened
again when Eric demurely remarked "Don't you think 'my soldier-lad'
would have fitted the tune just as well!"
"Why, so it would!" Lady Muriel gaily retorted.
"Soldiers, sailors, tinkers, tailors, what a lot of words would fit in!
I think 'my tinker-lad sounds best. Don't you?"
To spare my friend further pain, I rose to go, just as the Earl was
beginning to repeat his particularly embarrassing question about the
"You have not yet--'
"Yes, I've had some tea, thank you!" I hastily interrupted him.
"And now we really must be going. Good evening, Lady Muriel!"
And we made our adieux, and escaped, while the Earl was still absorbed
in examining the mysterious bouquet.
Lady Muriel accompanied us to the door. "You couldn't have given my
father a more acceptable present!" she said, warmly. "He is so
passionately fond of Botany. I'm afraid I know nothing of the theory
of it, but I keep his Hortus Siccus in order. I must get some sheets
of blotting-paper, and dry these new treasures for him before they fade.
"That won't be no good at all!" said Bruno, who was waiting for us in
"Why won't it?" said I. "You know I had to give the flowers, to stop
"Yes, it ca'n't be helped," said Sylvie: "but they will be sorry when
they find them gone!"
"But how will they go?"
"Well, I don't know how. But they will go. The nosegay was only a Phlizz,
you know. Bruno made it up."
These last words were in a whisper, as she evidently did not wish
Arthur to hear. But of this there seemed to be little risk: he hardly
seemed to notice the children, but paced on, silent and abstracted; and
when, at the entrance to the wood, they bid us a hasty farewell and ran
off, he seemed to wake out of a day-dream.
The bouquet vanished, as Sylvie had predicted; and when, a day or two
afterwards, Arthur and I once more visited the Hall, we found the Earl
and his daughter, with the old housekeeper, out in the garden,
examining the fastenings of the drawing-room window.
"We are holding an Inquest," Lady Muriel said, advancing to meet us:
"and we admit you, as Accessories before the Fact, to tell us all you
know about those flowers."
"The Accessories before the Fact decline to answer any questions,"
I gravely replied. "And they reserve their defence."
"Well then, turn Queen's Evidence, please! The flowers have
disappeared in the night," she went on, turning to Arthur, "and we are
quite sure no one in the house has meddled with them. Somebody must
have entered by the window--"
"But the fastenings have not been tampered with," said the Earl.
"It must have been while you were dining, my Lady," said the housekeeper.
"That was it, said the Earl. "The thief must have seen you bring the
flowers," turning to me, "and have noticed that you did not take them
away. And he must have known their great value--they are simply
priceless!" he exclaimed, in sudden excitement.
"And you never told us how you got them!" said Lady Muriel.
"Some day," I stammered, "I may be free to tell you. Just now, would
you excuse me?"
The Earl looked disappointed, but kindly said "Very well, we will ask
[Image...Five o'clock tea]
"But we consider you a very bad Queen's Evidence," Lady Muriel
added playfully, as we entered the arbour. "We pronounce you to be an
accomplice: and we sentence you to solitary confinement, and to be fed
on bread and butter. Do you take sugar?"
"It is disquieting, certainly," she resumed, when all 'creature-comforts'
had been duly supplied, "to find that the house has been entered by a
thief in this out-of-the-way place. If only the flowers had been eatables,
one might have suspected a thief of quite another shape--"
"You mean that universal explanation for all mysterious disappearances,
'the cat did it'?" said Arthur.
"Yes," she replied. "What a convenient thing it would be if all
thieves had the same shape! It's so confusing to have some of them
quadrupeds and others bipeds!"
"It has occurred to me," said Arthur, "as a curious problem in Teleology--
the Science of Final Causes," he added, in answer to an enquiring look
from Lady Muriel.
"And a Final Cause is--?"
"Well, suppose we say--the last of a series of connected events--each
of the series being the cause of the next--for whose sake the first
event takes place."
"But the last event is practically an effect of the first, isn't it?
And yet you call it a cause of it!"
Arthur pondered a moment. "The words are rather confusing, I grant
you," he said. "Will this do? The last event is an effect of the
first: but the necessity for that event is a cause of the necessity for
"That seems clear enough," said Lady Muriel. "Now let us have the
"It's merely this. What object can we imagine in the arrangement by
which each different size (roughly speaking) of living creatures has
its special shape? For instance, the human race has one kind of
shape--bipeds. Another set, ranging from the lion to the mouse,
are quadrupeds. Go down a step or two further, and you come to insects
with six legs--hexapods--a beautiful name, is it not? But beauty, in
our sense of the word, seems to diminish as we go down: the creature
becomes more--I won't say 'ugly' of any of God's creatures--more uncouth.
And, when we take the microscope, and go a few steps lower still,
we come upon animalculae, terribly uncouth, and with a terrible
number of legs!"
"The other alternative," said the Earl, "would be a diminuendo series
of repetitions of the same type. Never mind the monotony of it: let's
see how it would work in other ways. Begin with the race of men, and
the creatures they require: let us say horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs
we don't exactly require frogs and spiders, do we, Muriel?"
Lady Muriel shuddered perceptibly: it was evidently a painful subject.
"We can dispense with them," she said gravely.
"Well, then we'll have a second race of men, half-a-yard high--"
"--who would have one source of exquisite enjoyment, not possessed by
ordinary men!" Arthur interrupted.
"What source?" said the Earl.
"Why, the grandeur of scenery! Surely the grandeur of a mountain, to me,
depends on its size, relative to me? Double the height of the mountain,
and of course it's twice as grand. Halve my height, and you produce the
"Happy, happy, happy Small!" Lady Muriel murmured rapturously.
"None but the Short, none but the Short, none but the Short enjoy the Tall!"
"But let me go on," said the Earl. "We'll have a third race of men,
five inches high; a fourth race, an inch high--"
"They couldn't eat common beef and mutton, I'm sure!" Lady Muriel
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