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Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, and its second volume Sylvie and Bruno Concluded published in 1893, form the last novel by Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. Both volumes were illustrated by Harry Furniss. The novel has two main plots: one set in the real world at the time the book was published (the Victorian era), the other in the fantasy world of Fairyland. While the latter plot is a fairy tale with many nonsense elements and poems, similar to Carroll's Alice books, the story set in Victorian Britain is a social novel, with its characters discussing various concepts and aspects of religion, society, philosophy and morality. Two short pieces, "Fairy Sylvie" and "Bruno's Revenge", originally appeared in Aunt Judy's Magazine in 1867. Some years later, in 1873 or 1874, Carroll had the idea to use these as the core for a longer story. Much of the rest of the novel he compiled from notes of ideas and dialogue which he had collected over the years (and which he called "litterature" in the introduction to the first volume).Carroll initially intended for the novel to be published in one volume. However, due to its length, it was divided into two volumes, published in 1889 and 1893. The novel is not nearly as well known as the Alice books. It was very poorly received and did not have many reprintings; modern commentators note that it lacks much of Carroll's characteristic humour. The poem The Mad Gardener's Song, widely reprinted elsewhere, is the best-known part of the book. The introductory poem contains a double acrostic on the name "Isa Bowman", one of Carroll's child friends.
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CHAPTER 1. LESS BREAD! MORE TAXES!
CHAPTER 2. L'AMIE INCONNUE.
CHAPTER 3. BIRTHDAY-PRESENTS.
CHAPTER 4. A CUNNING CONSPIRACY.
CHAPTER 5. A BEGGAR'S PALACE.
CHAPTER 6. THE MAGIC LOCKET.
CHAPTER 7. THE BARONS EMBASSY.
CHAPTER 8. A RIDE ON A LION.
CHAPTER 9. A JESTER AND A BEAR.
CHAPTER 10. THE OTHER PROFESSOR.
CHAPTER 11. PETER AND PAUL.
CHAPTER 12. A MUSICAL GARDENER.
CHAPTER 13. A VISIT TO DOGLAND.
CHAPTER 14. FAIRY-SYLVIE.
CHAPTER 15. BRUNO'S REVENGE.
CHAPTER 16. A CHANGED CROCODILE.
CHAPTER 17. THE THREE BADGERS.
CHAPTER 18. QUEER STREET, NUMBER FORTY.
CHAPTER 19. HOW TO MAKE A PHLIZZ.
CHAPTER 20. LIGHT COME, LIGHT GO.
CHAPTER 21. THROUGH THE IVORY DOOR.
CHAPTER 22. CROSSING THE LINE.
CHAPTER 23. AN OUTLANDISH WATCH.
CHAPTER 24. THE FROGS' BIRTHDAY-TREAT.
CHAPTER 25. LOOKING EASTWARD.
PREFACE.CHAPTER 1. LESS BREAD! MORE TAXES!
—and then all the people cheered again, and one man, who was more excited than the rest, flung his hat high into the air, and shouted (as well as I could make out) "Who roar for the Sub-Warden?" Everybody roared, but whether it was for the Sub-Warden, or not, did not clearly appear: some were shouting "Bread!" and some "Taxes!", but no one seemed to know what it was they really wanted.
All this I saw from the open window of the Warden's breakfast-saloon, looking across the shoulder of the Lord Chancellor, who had sprung to his feet the moment the shouting began, almost as if he had been expecting it, and had rushed to the window which commanded the best view of the market-place.
"What can it all mean?" he kept repeating to himself, as, with his hands clasped behind him, and his gown floating in the air, he paced rapidly up and down the room. "I never heard such shouting before—and at this time of the morning, too! And with such unanimity! Doesn't it strike you as very remarkable?"
I represented, modestly, that to my ears it appeared that they were shouting for different things, but the Chancellor would not listen to my suggestion for a moment. "They all shout the same words, I assure you!" he said: then, leaning well out of the window, he whispered to a man who was standing close underneath, "Keep'em together, ca'n't you? The Warden will be here directly. Give'em the signal for the march up!" All this was evidently not meant for my ears, but I could scarcely help hearing it, considering that my chin was almost on the Chancellor's shoulder.
The 'march up' was a very curious sight:
a straggling procession of men, marching two and two, began from the other side of the market-place, and advanced in an irregular zig-zag fashion towards the Palace, wildly tacking from side to side, like a sailing vessel making way against an unfavourable wind so that the head of the procession was often further from us at the end of one tack than it had been at the end of the previous one.
Yet it was evident that all was being done under orders, for I noticed that all eyes were fixed on the man who stood just under the window, and to whom the Chancellor was continually whispering. This man held his hat in one hand and a little green flag in the other: whenever he waved the flag the procession advanced a little nearer, when he dipped it they sidled a little farther off, and whenever he waved his hat they all raised a hoarse cheer. "Hoo-roah!" they cried, carefully keeping time with the hat as it bobbed up and down. "Hoo-roah! Noo! Consti! Tooshun! Less! Bread! More! Taxes!"
"That'll do, that'll do!" the Chancellor whispered. "Let 'em rest a bit till I give you the word. He's not here yet!" But at this moment the great folding-doors of the saloon were flung open, and he turned with a guilty start to receive His High Excellency. However it was only Bruno, and the Chancellor gave a little gasp of relieved anxiety.
"Morning!" said the little fellow, addressing the remark, in a general sort of way, to the Chancellor and the waiters. "Doos oo know where Sylvie is? I's looking for Sylvie!"
"She's with the Warden, I believe, y'reince!" the Chancellor replied with a low bow. There was, no doubt, a certain amount of absurdity in applying this title (which, as of course you see without my telling you, was nothing but 'your Royal Highness' condensed into one syllable) to a small creature whose father was merely the Warden of Outland: still, large excuse must be made for a man who had passed several years at the Court of Fairyland, and had there acquired the almost impossible art of pronouncing five syllables as one.
But the bow was lost upon Bruno, who had run out of the room, even while the great feat of The Unpronounceable Monosyllable was being triumphantly performed.
Just then, a single voice in the distance was understood to shout "A speech from the Chancellor!" "Certainly, my friends!" the Chancellor replied with extraordinary promptitude. "You shall have a speech!" Here one of the waiters, who had been for some minutes busy making a queer-looking mixture of egg and sherry, respectfully presented it on a large silver salver. The Chancellor took it haughtily, drank it off thoughtfully, smiled benevolently on the happy waiter as he set down the empty glass, and began. To the best of my recollection this is what he said.
"Ahem! Ahem! Ahem! Fellow-sufferers, or rather suffering fellows—" ("Don't call 'em names!" muttered the man under the window. "I didn't say felons!" the Chancellor explained.) "You may be sure that I always sympa—" ("'Ear, 'ear!" shouted the crowd, so loudly as quite to drown the orator's thin squeaky voice) "—that I always sympa—" he repeated. ("Don't simper quite so much!" said the man under the window. "It makes yer look a hidiot!" And, all this time, "'Ear, 'ear!" went rumbling round the market-place, like a peal of thunder.) "That I always sympathise!" yelled the Chancellor, the first moment there was silence. "But your true friend is the Sub-Warden! Day and night he is brooding on your wrongs—I should say your rights—that is to say your wrongs—no, I mean your rights—" ("Don't talk no more!" growled the man under the window. "You're making a mess of it!") At this moment the Sub-Warden entered the saloon. He was a thin man, with a mean and crafty face, and a greenish-yellow complexion; and he crossed the room very slowly, looking suspiciously about him as if he thought there might be a savage dog hidden somewhere. "Bravo!" he cried, patting the Chancellor on the back. "You did that speech very well indeed. Why, you're a born orator, man!"
"Oh, that's nothing!" the Chancellor replied, modestly, with downcast eyes. "Most orators are born, you know."
The Sub-Warden thoughtfully rubbed his chin. "Why, so they are!" he admitted. "I never considered it in that light. Still, you did it very well. A word in your ear!"
The rest of their conversation was all in whispers: so, as I could hear no more, I thought I would go and find Bruno.
I found the little fellow standing in the passage, and being addressed by one of the men in livery, who stood before him, nearly bent double from extreme respectfulness, with his hands hanging in front of him like the fins of a fish. "His High Excellency," this respectful man was saying, "is in his Study, y'reince!" (He didn't pronounce this quite so well as the Chancellor.) Thither Bruno trotted, and I thought it well to follow him.
The Warden, a tall dignified man with a grave but very pleasant face, was seated before a writing-table, which was covered with papers, and holding on his knee one of the sweetest and loveliest little maidens it has ever been my lot to see. She looked four or five years older than Bruno, but she had the same rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes, and the same wealth of curly brown hair. Her eager smiling face was turned upwards towards her father's, and it was a pretty sight to see the mutual love with which the two faces—one in the Spring of Life, the other in its late Autumn—were gazing on each other.
"No, you've never seen him," the old man was saying: "you couldn't, you know, he's been away so long—traveling from land to land, and seeking for health, more years than you've been alive, little Sylvie!" Here Bruno climbed upon his other knee, and a good deal of kissing, on a rather complicated system, was the result.
"He only came back last night," said the Warden, when the kissing was over: "he's been traveling post-haste, for the last thousand miles or so, in order to be here on Sylvie's birthday. But he's a very early riser, and I dare say he's in the Library already. Come with me and see him. He's always kind to children. You'll be sure to like him."
"Has the Other Professor come too?" Bruno asked in an awe-struck voice.
"Yes, they arrived together. The Other Professor is—well, you won't like him quite so much, perhaps. He's a little more dreamy, you know."
"I wiss Sylvie was a little more dreamy," said Bruno.
"What do you mean, Bruno?" said Sylvie.
Bruno went on addressing his father. "She says she ca'n't, oo know. But I thinks it isn't ca'n't, it's wo'n't."
"Says she ca'n't dream!" the puzzled Warden repeated.
"She do say it," Bruno persisted. "When I says to her 'Let's stop lessons!', she says 'Oh, I ca'n't dream of letting oo stop yet!'"
"He always wants to stop lessons," Sylvie explained, "five minutes after we begin!"
"Five minutes' lessons a day!" said the Warden. "You won't learn much at that rate, little man!"
"That's just what Sylvie says," Bruno rejoined. "She says I wo'n't learn my lessons. And I tells her, over and over, I ca'n't learn 'em. And what doos oo think she says? She says 'It isn't ca'n't, it's wo'n't!'"
"Let's go and see the Professor," the Warden said, wisely avoiding further discussion. The children got down off his knees, each secured a hand, and the happy trio set off for the Library—followed by me. I had come to the conclusion by this time that none of the party (except, for a few moments, the Lord Chancellor) was in the least able to see me.
"What's the matter with him?" Sylvie asked, walking with a little extra sedateness, by way of example to Bruno at the other side, who never ceased jumping up and down.
\'7bImage...Visiting the profesor\'7d
"What was the matter—but I hope he's all right now—was lumbago, and rheumatism, and that kind of thing. He's been curing himself, you know: he's a very learned doctor. Why, he's actually invented three new diseases, besides a new way of breaking your collar-bone!"
"Is it a nice way?" said Bruno.
"Well, hum, not very," the Warden said, as we entered the Library. "And here is the Professor. Good morning, Professor! Hope you're quite rested after your journey!"
A jolly-looking, fat little man, in a flowery dressing-gown, with a large book under each arm, came trotting in at the other end of the room, and was going straight across without taking any notice of the children. "I'm looking for Vol. Three," he said. "Do you happen to have seen it?"
"You don't see my children, Professor!" the Warden exclaimed, taking him by the shoulders and turning him round to face them.
The Professor laughed violently: then he gazed at them through his great spectacles, for a minute or two, without speaking.
At last he addressed Bruno. "I hope you have had a good night, my child?" Bruno looked puzzled. "I's had the same night oo've had," he replied. "There's only been one night since yesterday!"
It was the Professor's turn to look puzzled now. He took off his spectacles, and rubbed them with his handkerchief. Then he gazed at them again. Then he turned to the Warden. "Are they bound?" he enquired.
"No, we aren't," said Bruno, who thought himself quite able to answer this question.
The Professor shook his head sadly. "Not even half-bound?"
"Why would we be half-bound?" said Bruno.
"We're not prisoners!"
But the Professor had forgotten all about them by this time, and was speaking to the Warden again. "You'll be glad to hear," he was saying, "that the Barometer's beginning to move—"
"Well, which way?" said the Warden—adding, to the children, "Not that I care, you know. Only he thinks it affects the weather. He's a wonderfully clever man, you know. Sometimes he says things that only the Other Professor can understand. Sometimes he says things that nobody can understand! Which way is it, Professor? Up or down?"
"Neither!" said the Professor, gently clapping his hands. "It's going sideways—if I may so express myself."
"And what kind of weather does that produce?" said the Warden. "Listen, children! Now you'll hear something worth knowing!"
"Horizontal weather," said the Professor, and made straight for the door, very nearly trampling on Bruno, who had only just time to get out of his way.
"Isn't he learned?" the Warden said, looking after him with admiring eyes. "Positively he runs over with learning!"
"But he needn't run over me!" said Bruno.
The Professor was back in a moment: he had changed his dressing-gown for a frock-coat, and had put on a pair of very strange-looking boots, the tops of which were open umbrellas. "I thought you'd like to see them," he said. "These are the boots for horizontal weather!"
\'7bImage...Boots for horizontal weather\'7d
"But what's the use of wearing umbrellas round one's knees?"
"In ordinary rain," the Professor admitted, "they would not be of much use. But if ever it rained horizontally, you know, they would be invaluable—simply invaluable!"
"Take the Professor to the breakfast-saloon, children," said the Warden. "And tell them not to wait for me. I had breakfast early, as I've some business to attend to." The children seized the Professor's hands, as familiarly as if they had known him for years, and hurried him away. I followed respectfully behind.CHAPTER 2. L'AMIE INCONNUE.
As we entered the breakfast-saloon, the Professor was saying "—and he had breakfast by himself, early: so he begged you wouldn't wait for him, my Lady. This way, my Lady," he added, "this way!" And then, with (as it seemed to me) most superfluous politeness, he flung open the door of my compartment, and ushered in "—a young and lovely lady!" I muttered to myself with some bitterness. "And this is, of course, the opening scene of Vol. I. She is the Heroine. And I am one of those subordinate characters that only turn up when needed for the development of her destiny, and whose final appearance is outside the church, waiting to greet the Happy Pair!"
"Yes, my Lady, change at Fayfield," were the next words I heard (oh that too obsequious Guard!), "next station but one." And the door closed, and the lady settled down into her corner, and the monotonous throb of the engine (making one feel as if the train were some gigantic monster, whose very circulation we could feel) proclaimed that we were once more speeding on our way. "The lady had a perfectly formed nose," I caught myself saying to myself, "hazel eyes, and lips—" and here it occurred to me that to see, for myself, what "the lady" was really like, would be more satisfactory than much speculation.
I looked round cautiously, and—was entirely disappointed of my hope. The veil, which shrouded her whole face, was too thick for me to see more than the glitter of bright eyes and the hazy outline of what might be a lovely oval face, but might also, unfortunately, be an equally unlovely one. I closed my eyes again, saying to myself "—couldn't have a better chance for an experiment in Telepathy! I'll think out her face, and afterwards test the portrait with the original."
At first, no result at all crowned my efforts, though I 'divided my swift mind,' now hither, now thither, in a way that I felt sure would have made AEneas green with envy: but the dimly-seen oval remained as provokingly blank as ever—a mere Ellipse, as if in some mathematical diagram, without even the Foci that might be made to do duty as a nose and a mouth. Gradually, however, the conviction came upon me that I could, by a certain concentration of thought, think the veil away, and so get a glimpse of the mysterious face—as to which the two questions, "is she pretty?" and "is she plain?", still hung suspended, in my mind, in beautiful equipoise.
Success was partial—and fitful—still there was a result: ever and anon, the veil seemed to vanish, in a sudden flash of light: but, before I could fully realise the face, all was dark again. In each such glimpse, the face seemed to grow more childish and more innocent: and, when I had at last thought the veil entirely away, it was, unmistakeably, the sweet face of little Sylvie!
"So, either I've been dreaming about Sylvie," I said to myself, "and this is the reality. Or else I've really been with Sylvie, and this is a dream! Is Life itself a dream, I wonder?"
To occupy the time, I got out the letter, which had caused me to take this sudden railway-journey from my London home down to a strange fishing-town on the North coast, and read it over again:—
"DEAR OLD FRIEND, "I'm sure it will be as great a pleasure to me, as it can possibly be to you, to meet once more after so many years: and of course I shall be ready to give you all the benefit of such medical skill as I have: only, you know, one mustn't violate professional etiquette! And you are already in the hands of a first-rate London doctor, with whom it would be utter affectation for me to pretend to compete. (I make no doubt he is right in saying the heart is affected: all your symptoms point that way.) One thing, at any rate, I have already done in my doctorial capacity—secured you a bedroom on the ground-floor, so that you will not need to ascend the stairs at all. "I shalt expect you by last train on Friday, in accordance with your letter: and, till then, I shalt say, in the words of the old song, 'Oh for Friday nicht! Friday's lang a-coming!' "Yours always, "ARTHUR FORESTER. "P.S. Do you believe in Fate?" This Postscript puzzled me sorely. "He is far too sensible a man," I thought, "to have become a Fatalist. And yet what else can he mean by it?" And, as I folded up the letter and put it away, I inadvertently repeated the words aloud. "Do you believe in Fate?"
The fair 'Incognita' turned her head quickly at the sudden question. "No, I don't!" she said with a smile. "Do you?"
"I—I didn't mean to ask the question!" I stammered, a little taken aback at having begun a conversation in so unconventional a fashion.
The lady's smile became a laugh—not a mocking laugh, but the laugh of a happy child who is perfectly at her ease. "Didn't you?" she said. "Then it was a case of what you Doctors call 'unconscious cerebration'?"
"I am no Doctor," I replied. "Do I look so like one? Or what makes you think it?"
She pointed to the book I had been reading, which was so lying that its title, "Diseases of the Heart," was plainly visible.
"One needn't be a Doctor," I said, "to take an interest in medical books. There's another class of readers, who are yet more deeply interested—"
"You mean the Patients?" she interrupted, while a look of tender pity gave new sweetness to her face. "But," with an evident wish to avoid a possibly painful topic, "one needn't be either, to take an interest in books of Science. Which contain the greatest amount of Science, do you think, the books, or the minds?"
"Rather a profound question for a lady!" I said to myself, holding, with the conceit so natural to Man, that Woman's intellect is essentially shallow. And I considered a minute before replying. "If you mean living minds, I don't think it's possible to decide. There is so much written Science that no living person has ever read: and there is so much thought-out Science that hasn't yet been written. But, if you mean the whole human race, then I think the minds have it: everything, recorded in books, must have once been in some mind, you know."
"Isn't that rather like one of the Rules in Algebra?" my Lady enquired. ("Algebra too!" I thought with increasing wonder.) "I mean, if we consider thoughts as factors, may we not say that the Least Common Multiple of all the minds contains that of all the books; but not the other way?"
"Certainly we may!" I replied, delighted with the illustration. "And what a grand thing it would be," I went on dreamily, thinking aloud rather than talking, "if we could only apply that Rule to books! You know, in finding the Least Common Multiple, we strike out a quantity wherever it occurs, except in the term where it is raised to its highest power. So we should have to erase every recorded thought, except in the sentence where it is expressed with the greatest intensity."
My Lady laughed merrily. "Some books would be reduced to blank paper, I'm afraid!" she said.
"They would. Most libraries would be terribly diminished in bulk. But just think what they would gain in quality!"
"When will it be done?" she eagerly asked. "If there's any chance of it in my time, I think I'll leave off reading, and wait for it!"
"Well, perhaps in another thousand years or so—"
"Then there's no use waiting!", said my Lady. "Let's sit down. Uggug, my pet, come and sit by me!"
"Anywhere but by me!" growled the Sub-warden. "The little wretch always manages to upset his coffee!"
I guessed at once (as perhaps the reader will also have guessed, if, like myself, he is very clever at drawing conclusions) that my Lady was the Sub-Warden's wife, and that Uggug (a hideous fat boy, about the same age as Sylvie, with the expression of a prize-pig) was their son. Sylvie and Bruno, with the Lord Chancellor, made up a party of seven.
\'7bImage...A portable plunge-bath\'7d
"And you actually got a plunge-bath every morning?" said the Sub-Warden, seemingly in continuation of a conversation with the Professor. "Even at the little roadside-inns?"
"Oh, certainly, certainly!" the Professor replied with a smile on his jolly face. "Allow me to explain. It is, in fact, a very simple problem in Hydrodynamics. (That means a combination of Water and Strength.) If we take a plunge-bath, and a man of great strength (such as myself) about to plunge into it, we have a perfect example of this science. I am bound to admit," the Professor continued, in a lower tone and with downcast eyes, "that we need a man of remarkable strength. He must be able to spring from the floor to about twice his own height, gradually turning over as he rises, so as to come down again head first."
"Why, you need a flea, not a man!" exclaimed the Sub-Warden.
"Pardon me," said the Professor. "This particular kind of bath is not adapted for a flea. Let us suppose," he continued, folding his table-napkin into a graceful festoon, "that this represents what is perhaps the necessity of this Age—the Active Tourist's Portable Bath. You may describe it briefly, if you like," looking at the Chancellor, "by the letters A.T.P.B."
The Chancellor, much disconcerted at finding everybody looking at him, could only murmur, in a shy whisper, "Precisely so!"
"One great advantage of this plunge-bath," continued the Professor, "is that it requires only half-a-gallon of water—"
"I don't call it a plunge-bath," His Sub-Excellency remarked, "unless your Active Tourist goes right under!"
"But he does go right under," the old man gently replied. "The A.T. hangs up the P. B. on a nail—thus. He then empties the water-jug into it—places the empty jug below the bag—leaps into the air—descends head-first into the bag—the water rises round him to the top of the bag—and there you are!" he triumphantly concluded. "The A.T. is as much under water as if he'd gone a mile or two down into the Atlantic!"
"And he's drowned, let us say, in about four minutes—"
"By no means!" the Professor answered with a proud smile. "After about a minute, he quietly turns a tap at the lower end of the P. B.—all the water runs back into the jug and there you are again!"
"But how in the world is he to get out of the bag again?"
"That, I take it," said the Professor, "is the most beautiful part of the whole invention. All the way up the P.B., inside, are loops for the thumbs; so it's something like going up-stairs, only perhaps less comfortable; and, by the time the A. T. has risen out of the bag, all but his head, he's sure to topple over, one way or the other—the Law of Gravity secures that. And there he is on the floor again!"
"A little bruised, perhaps?"
"Well, yes, a little bruised; but having had his plunge-bath: that's the great thing."
"Wonderful! It's almost beyond belief!" murmured the Sub-Warden. The Professor took it as a compliment, and bowed with a gratified smile.
"Quite beyond belief!" my Lady added—meaning, no doubt, to be more complimentary still. The Professor bowed, but he didn't smile this time. "I can assure you," he said earnestly, "that, provided the bath was made, I used it every morning. I certainly ordered it—that I am clear about—my only doubt is, whether the man ever finished making it. It's difficult to remember, after so many years—"
At this moment the door, very slowly and creakingly, began to open, and Sylvie and Bruno jumped up, and ran to meet the well-known footstep.CHAPTER 3. BIRTHDAY-PRESENTS.
"It's my brother!" the Sub-warden exclaimed, in a warning whisper. "Speak out, and be quick about it!"
The appeal was evidently addressed to the Lord Chancellor, who instantly replied, in a shrill monotone, like a little boy repeating the alphabet, "As I was remarking, your Sub-Excellency, this portentous movement—"
"You began too soon!" the other interrupted, scarcely able to restrain himself to a whisper, so great was his excitement. "He couldn't have heard you. Begin again!" "As I was remarking," chanted the obedient Lord Chancellor, "this portentous movement has already assumed the dimensions of a Revolution!"
"And what are the dimensions of a Revolution?" The voice was genial and mellow, and the face of the tall dignified old man, who had just entered the room, leading Sylvie by the hand, and with Bruno riding triumphantly on his shoulder, was too noble and gentle to have scared a less guilty man: but the Lord Chancellor turned pale instantly, and could hardly articulate the words "The dimensions your—your High Excellency? I—I—scarcely comprehend!"
"Well, the length, breadth, and thickness, if you like it better!" And the old man smiled, half-contemptuously.
The Lord Chancellor recovered himself with a great effort, and pointed to the open window. "If your High Excellency will listen for a moment to the shouts of the exasperated populace—" ("of the exasperated populace!" the Sub-Warden repeated in a louder tone, as the Lord Chancellor, being in a state of abject terror, had dropped almost into a whisper) "—you will understand what it is they want."
And at that moment there surged into the room a hoarse confused cry, in which the only clearly audible words were "Less—bread—More—taxes!" The old man laughed heartily. "What in the world—" he was beginning: but the Chancellor heard him not. "Some mistake!" he muttered, hurrying to the window, from which he shortly returned with an air of relief. "Now listen!" he exclaimed, holding up his hand impressively. And now the words came quite distinctly, and with the regularity of the ticking of a clock, "More—bread—Less taxes!'"
"More bread!" the Warden repeated in astonishment. "Why, the new Government Bakery was opened only last week, and I gave orders to sell the bread at cost-price during the present scarcity! What can they expect more?"
"The Bakery's closed, y'reince!" the Chancellor said, more loudly and clearly than he had spoken yet. He was emboldened by the consciousness that here, at least, he had evidence to produce: and he placed in the Warden's hands a few printed notices, that were lying ready, with some open ledgers, on a side-table.
"Yes, yes, I see!" the Warden muttered, glancing carelessly through them. "Order countermanded by my brother, and supposed to be my doing! Rather sharp practice! It's all right!" he added in a louder tone. "My name is signed to it: so I take it on myself. But what do they mean by 'Less Taxes'? How can they be less? I abolished the last of them a month ago!"
"It's been put on again, y'reince, and by y'reince's own orders!", and other printed notices were submitted for inspection.
The Warden, whilst looking them over, glanced once or twice at the Sub-Warden, who had seated himself before one of the open ledgers, and was quite absorbed in adding it up; but he merely repeated "It's all right. I accept it as my doing."
"And they do say," the Chancellor went on sheepishly—looking much more like a convicted thief than an Officer of State, "that a change of Government, by the abolition of the Sub-Warden—-I mean," he hastily added, on seeing the Warden's look of astonishment, "the abolition of the office of Sub-Warden, and giving the present holder the right to act as Vice-Warden whenever the Warden is absent—would appease all this seedling discontent I mean," he added, glancing at a paper he held in his hand, "all this seething discontent!"
"For fifteen years," put in a deep but very harsh voice, "my husband has been acting as Sub-Warden. It is too long! It is much too long!" My Lady was a vast creature at all times: but, when she frowned and folded her arms, as now, she looked more gigantic than ever, and made one try to fancy what a haystack would look like, if out of temper.
"He would distinguish himself as a Vice!" my Lady proceeded, being far too stupid to see the double meaning of her words. "There has been no such Vice in Outland for many a long year, as he would be!"
"What course would you suggest, Sister?" the Warden mildly enquired.
My Lady stamped, which was undignified: and snorted, which was ungraceful. "This is no jesting matter!" she bellowed.
"I will consult my brother," said the Warden. "Brother!"
"—and seven makes a hundred and ninety-four, which is sixteen and two-pence," the Sub-Warden replied. "Put down two and carry sixteen."
The Chancellor raised his hands and eyebrows, lost in admiration. "Such a man of business!" he murmured.
"Brother, could I have a word with you in my Study?" the Warden said in a louder tone. The Sub-Warden rose with alacrity, and the two left the room together.
My Lady turned to the Professor, who had uncovered the urn, and was taking its temperature with his pocket-thermometer. "Professor!" she began, so loudly and suddenly that even Uggug, who had gone to sleep in his chair, left off snoring and opened one eye. The Professor pocketed his thermometer in a moment, clasped his hands, and put his head on one side with a meek smile.
"You were teaching my son before breakfast, I believe?" my Lady loftily remarked. "I hope he strikes you as having talent?"
"Oh, very much so indeed, my Lady!" the Professor hastily replied, unconsciously rubbing his ear, while some painful recollection seemed to cross his mind. "I was very forcibly struck by His Magnificence, I assure you!"
"He is a charming boy!" my Lady exclaimed. "Even his snores are more musical than those of other boys!"
If that were so, the Professor seemed to think, the snores of other boys must be something too awful to be endured: but he was a cautious man, and he said nothing.
"And he's so clever!" my Lady continued. "No one will enjoy your Lecture more by the way, have you fixed the time for it yet? You've never given one, you know: and it was promised years ago, before you—
"Yes, yes, my Lady, I know! Perhaps next Tuesday or Tuesday week—"
"That will do very well," said my Lady, graciously. "Of course you will let the Other Professor lecture as well?"
"I think not, my Lady?" the Professor said with some hesitation. "You see, he always stands with his back to the audience. It does very well for reciting; but for lecturing—"
"You are quite right," said my Lady. "And, now I come to think of it, there would hardly be time for more than one Lecture. And it will go off all the better, if we begin with a Banquet, and a Fancy-dress Ball—"
"It will indeed!" the Professor cried, with enthusiasm.
"I shall come as a Grass-hopper," my Lady calmly proceeded. "What shall you come as, Professor?"
The Professor smiled feebly. "I shall come as—as early as I can, my Lady!"
"You mustn't come in before the doors are opened," said my Lady.
"I ca'n't," said the Professor. "Excuse me a moment. As this is Lady Sylvie's birthday, I would like to—" and he rushed away.
Bruno began feeling in his pockets, looking more and more melancholy as he did so: then he put his thumb in his mouth, and considered for a minute: then he quietly left the room.
He had hardly done so before the Professor was back again, quite out of breath. "Wishing you many happy returns of the day, my dear child!" he went on, addressing the smiling little girl, who had run to meet him. "Allow me to give you a birthday-present. It's a second-hand pincushion, my dear. And it only cost fourpence-halfpenny!"
"Thank you, it's very pretty!" And Sylvie rewarded the old man with a hearty kiss.
"And the pins they gave me for nothing!" the Professor added in high glee. "Fifteen of 'em, and only one bent!"
"I'll make the bent one into a hook!" said Sylvie. "To catch Bruno with, when he runs away from his lessons!"
"You ca'n't guess what my present is!" said Uggug, who had taken the butter-dish from the table, and was standing behind her, with a wicked leer on his face.
"No, I ca'n't guess," Sylvie said without looking up. She was still examining the Professor's pincushion.
"It's this!" cried the bad boy, exultingly, as he emptied the dish over her, and then, with a grin of delight at his own cleverness, looked round for applause.
Sylvie coloured crimson, as she shook off the butter from her frock: but she kept her lips tight shut, and walked away to the window, where she stood looking out and trying to recover her temper.
Uggug's triumph was a very short one: the Sub-Warden had returned, just in time to be a witness of his dear child's playfulness, and in another moment a skilfully-applied box on the ear had changed the grin of delight into a howl of pain.
"My darling!" cried his mother, enfolding him in her fat arms. "Did they box his ears for nothing? A precious pet!"
"It's not for nothing!" growled the angry father. "Are you aware, Madam, that I pay the house-bills, out of a fixed annual sum? The loss of all that wasted butter falls on me! Do you hear, Madam!"
"Hold your tongue, Sir!" My Lady spoke very quietly—almost in a whisper. But there was something in her look which silenced him. "Don't you see it was only a joke? And a very clever one, too! He only meant that he loved nobody but her! And, instead of being pleased with the compliment, the spiteful little thing has gone away in a huff!"
The Sub-Warden was a very good hand at changing a subject. He walked across to the window. "My dear," he said, "is that a pig that I see down below, rooting about among your flower-beds?"
"A pig!" shrieked my Lady, rushing madly to the window, and almost pushing her husband out, in her anxiety to see for herself. "Whose pig is it? How did it get in? Where's that crazy Gardener gone?"
At this moment Bruno re-entered the room, and passing Uggug (who was blubbering his loudest, in the hope of attracting notice) as if he was quite used to that sort of thing, he ran up to Sylvie and threw his arms round her. "I went to my toy-cupboard," he said with a very sorrowful face, "to see if there were somefin fit for a present for oo! And there isn't nuffin! They's all broken, every one! And I haven't got no money left, to buy oo a birthday-present! And I ca'n't give oo nuffin but this!" ("This" was a very earnest hug and a kiss.)
"Oh, thank you, darling!" cried Sylvie. "I like your present best of all!" (But if so, why did she give it back so quickly?)
His Sub-Excellency turned and patted the two children on the head with his long lean hands. "Go away, dears!" he said. "There's business to talk over."
Sylvie and Bruno went away hand in hand: but, on reaching the door, Sylvie came back again and went up to Uggug timidly. "I don't mind about the butter," she said, "and I—I'm sorry he hurt you!" And she tried to shake hands with the little ruffian: but Uggug only blubbered louder, and wouldn't make friends. Sylvie left the room with a sigh.
The Sub-Warden glared angrily at his weeping son. "Leave the room, Sirrah!" he said, as loud as he dared. His wife was still leaning out of the window, and kept repeating "I ca'n't see that pig! Where is it?"
"It's moved to the right now it's gone a little to the left," said the Sub-Warden: but he had his back to the window, and was making signals to the Lord Chancellor, pointing to Uggug and the door, with many a cunning nod and wink.
\'7bImage...Removal of Uggug\'7d
The Chancellor caught his meaning at last, and, crossing the room, took that interesting child by the ear the next moment he and Uggug were out of the room, and the door shut behind them: but not before one piercing yell had rung through the room, and reached the ears of the fond mother.
"What is that hideous noise?" she fiercely asked, turning upon her startled husband.
"It's some hyaena—or other," replied the Sub-Warden, looking vaguely up to the ceiling, as if that was where they usually were to be found. "Let us to business, my dear. Here comes the Warden." And he picked up from the floor a wandering scrap of manuscript, on which I just caught the words 'after which Election duly holden the said Sibimet and Tabikat his wife may at their pleasure assume Imperial—' before, with a guilty look, he crumpled it up in his hand.
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