to be happy!”
That would be awkward, I admitted, taking it quite as a matter of
course that he had so suddenly caught sight of me. “But don’t you
always want to be happy, Bruno?”
“Not always,” Bruno said thoughtfully. “Sometimes, when I’s too happy,
I wants to be a little miserable. Then I just tell Sylvie about it,
oo know, and Sylvie sets me some lessons. Then it’s all right.”
“I’m sorry you don’t like lessons,” I said.
“You should copy Sylvie. She’s always as busy as the day is long!”
“Well, so am I!” said Bruno.
“No, no!” Sylvie corrected him. “You’re as busy as the day is short!”
“Well, what’s the difference?” Bruno asked. “Mister Sir, isn’t the day
as short as it’s long? I mean, isn’t it the same length?”
Never having considered the question in this light, I suggested that
they had better ask the Professor; and they ran off in a moment to
appeal to their old friend. The Professor left off polishing his
spectacles to consider. “My dears,” he said after a minute,
“the day is the same length as anything that is the same length as it.”
And he resumed his never-ending task of polishing.
The children returned, slowly and thoughtfully, to report his answer.
“Isn’t he wise?”
Sylvie asked in an awestruck whisper. “If I was as wise as that,
I should have a head-ache all day long. I know I should!”
“You appear to be talking to somebody–that isn’t here,” the Professor
said, turning round to the children. “Who is it?”
Bruno looked puzzled. “I never talks to nobody when he isn’t here!” he
replied. “It isn’t good manners. Oo should always wait till he comes,
before oo talks to him!”
The Professor looked anxiously in my direction, and seemed to look
through and through me without seeing me. “Then who are you talking
to?” he said. “There isn’t anybody here, you know, except the Other
Professor and he isn’t here!” he added wildly, turning round and round
like a teetotum. “Children! Help to look for him! Quick! He’s got
The children were on their feet in a moment.
“Where shall we look?” said Sylvie.
“Anywhere!” shouted the excited Professor. “Only be quick about it!”
And he began trotting round and round the room, lifting up the chairs,
and shaking them.
Bruno took a very small book out of the bookcase, opened it, and shook
it in imitation of the Professor. “He isn’t here,” he said.
“He ca’n’t be there, Bruno!” Sylvie said indignantly.
“Course he ca’n’t!” said Bruno. “I should have shooked him out,
if he’d been in there!”
“Has he ever been lost before?” Sylvie enquired, turning up a corner of
the hearth-rug, and peeping under it.
“Once before,” said the Professor: “he once lost himself in a wood–”
“And couldn’t he find his-self again?” said Bruno. “Why didn’t he
shout? He’d be sure to hear his-self, ’cause he couldn’t be far off,
“Lets try shouting,” said the Professor.
“What shall we shout?” said Sylvie.
“On second thoughts, don’t shout,” the Professor replied.
“The Vice-Warden might hear you. He’s getting awfully strict!”
This reminded the poor children of all the troubles, about which they
had come to their old friend. Bruno sat down on the floor and began
crying. “He is so cruel!” he sobbed. “And he lets Uggug take away all
my toys! And such horrid meals!”
“What did you have for dinner to-day?” said the Professor.
“A little piece of a dead crow,” was Bruno’s mournful reply.
“He means rook-pie,” Sylvie explained.
“It were a dead crow,” Bruno persisted. “And there were a apple-pudding
–and Uggug ate it all–and I got nuffin but a crust! And I asked for
a orange–and–didn’t get it!” And the poor little fellow buried his face
in Sylvie’s lap, who kept gently stroking his hair,as she went on.
“It’s all true, Professor dear! They do treat my darling Bruno very badly!
And they’re not kind to me either,” she added in a lower tone,
as if that were a thing of much less importance.
The Professor got out a large red silk handkerchief, and wiped his eyes.
“I wish I could help you, dear children!” he said. “But what can I do?”