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.