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Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno: Chapter 12
A Musical Gardener.
The Other Professor regarded him with some anxiety. "The smaller
animal ought to go to bed at once," he said with an air of authority.
"Why at once?" said the Professor.
"Because he can't go at twice," said the Other Professor.
The Professor gently clapped his hands. "Isn't he wonderful!" he said
to Sylvie. "Nobody else could have thought of the reason, so quick.
Why, of course he ca'n't go at twice! It would hurt him to be divided."
This remark woke up Bruno, suddenly and completely.
"I don't want to be divided," he said decisively.
"It does very well on a diagram," said the Other Professor.
"I could show it you in a minute, only the chalk's a little blunt."
"Take care!" Sylvie anxiously exclaimed, as he began, rather clumsily,
to point it. "You'll cut your finger off, if you hold the knife so!"
"If oo cuts it off, will oo give it to me, please?" Bruno thoughtfully
"It's like this," said the Other Professor, hastily drawing a long line
upon the black board, and marking the letters 'A,' 'B,' at the two ends,
and 'C' in the middle: "let me explain it to you. If AB were to be
divided into two parts at C--"
"It would be drownded," Bruno pronounced confidently.
The Other Professor gasped. "What would be drownded?"
"Why the bumble-bee, of course!" said Bruno. "And the two bits would
sink down in the sea!"
Here the Professor interfered, as the Other Professor was evidently too
much puzzled to go on with his diagram.
"When I said it would hurt him, I was merely referring to the action of
The Other Professor brightened up in a moment. "The action of the
nerves," he began eagerly, "is curiously slow in some people.
I had a friend, once, that, if you burnt him with a red-hot poker,
it would take years and years before he felt it!"
"And if you only pinched him?" queried Sylvie.
"Then it would take ever so much longer, of course. In fact, I doubt
if the man himself would ever feel it, at all. His grandchildren might."
"I wouldn't like to be the grandchild of a pinched grandfather, would
you, Mister Sir?" Bruno whispered. "It might come just when you wanted
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?"
"We know the way to Fairyland--where Father's
said Sylvie: "if only the Gardener would let us out."
"Won't he open the door for you?" said the Professor.
"Not for us," said Sylvie: "but I'm sure he would for you.
Do come and ask him, Professor dear!"
"I'll come this minute!" said the Professor.
Bruno sat up and dried his eyes. "Isn't he kind, Mister Sir?"
"He is indeed," said I. But the Professor took no notice of my remark.
He had put on a beautiful cap with a long tassel, and was selecting one
of the Other Professor's walking-sticks, from a stand in the corner of
the room. "A thick stick in one's hand makes people respectful,"
he was saying to himself. "Come along, dear children!" And we all went
out into the garden together.
"I shall address him, first of all," the Professor explained as we went
along, "with a few playful remarks on the weather. I shall then question
him about the Other Professor. This will have a double advantage. First,
it will open the conversation (you can't even drink a bottle of wine
without opening it first): and secondly, if he's seen the Other Professor,
we shall find him that way: and, if he hasn't, we sha'n't."
On our way, we passed the target, at which Uggug had been made to shoot
during the Ambassador's visit.
"See!" said the Professor, pointing out a hole in the middle of the
bull's-eye. "His Imperial Fatness had only one shot at it; and he went
in just here!"
Bruno carefully examined the hole. "Couldn't go in there,"
he whispered to me. "He are too fat!"
We had no sort of difficulty in finding the Gardener. Though he was
hidden from us by some trees, that harsh voice of his served to direct
us; and, as we drew nearer, the words of his song became more and more
"He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
'You'd best be getting home,' he said:
'The nights are very damp!'"
"Would it be afraid of catching cold?" said Bruno.
"If it got very damp," Sylvie suggested, "it might stick to something,
"And that somefin would have to go by the post, what ever it was!"
Bruno eagerly exclaimed. "Suppose it was a cow! Wouldn't it be
dreadful for the other things!"
"And all these things happened to him," said the Professor.
"That's what makes the song so interesting."
"He must have had a very curious life," said Sylvie.
"You may say that!" the Professor heartily rejoined.
"Of course she may!" cried Bruno.
By this time we had come up to the Gardener, who was standing on one
leg, as usual, and busily employed in watering a bed of flowers with an
"It hasn't got no water in it!" Bruno explained to him, pulling his
sleeve to attract his attention.
"It's lighter to hold," said the Gardener. "A lot of water in it makes
one's arms ache." And he went on with his work, singing softly to himself
"The nights are very damp!"
"In digging things out of the ground--which you probably do now and
then," the Professor began in a loud voice; "in making things into
heaps--which no doubt you often do; and in kicking things about with
one heel--which you seem never to leave off doing; have you ever
happened to notice another Professor something like me, but different?"
"Never!" shouted the Gardener, so loudly and violently that we all drew
back in alarm. "There ain't such a thing!"
"We will try a less exciting topic," the Professor mildly remarked to
the children. "You were asking----"
"We asked him to let us through the garden-door," said Sylvie:
"but he wouldn't: but perhaps he would for you!"
The Professor put the request, very humbly and courteously.
"I wouldn't mind letting you out," said the Gardener. "But I mustn't
open the door for children. D'you think I'd disobey the Rules?
Not for one-and-sixpence!"
The Professor cautiously produced a couple of shillings.
"That'll do it!" the Gardener shouted, as he hurled the watering-can
across the flower-bed, and produced a handful of keys--one large one,
and a number of small ones.
"But look here, Professor dear!" whispered Sylvie. "He needn't open
the door for us, at all. We can go out with you."
"True, dear child!" the Professor thankfully replied, as he replaced
the coins in his pocket. "That saves two shillings!" And he took the
children's hands, that they might all go out together when the door was
opened. This, however, did not seem a very likely event, though the
Gardener patiently tried all the small keys, over and over again.
At last the Professor ventured on a gentle suggestion. "Why not try
the large one? I have often observed that a door unlocks much more
nicely with its own key."
The very first trial of the large key proved a success: the Gardener
opened the door, and held out his hand for the money.
The Professor shook his head. "You are acting by Rule," he explained,
"in opening the door for me. And now it's open, we are going out by
Rule--the Rule of Three."
The Gardener looked puzzled, and let us go out; but, as he locked the
door behind us, we heard him singing thoughtfully to himself
"He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
'And all its mystery,' he said,
'Is clear as day to me!'"
"I shall now return," said the Professor, when we had walked a few
yards: "you see, it's impossible to read here, for all my books are in
But the children still kept fast hold of his hands. "Do come with us!"
Sylvie entreated with tears in her eyes.
"Well, well!" said the good-natured old man. "Perhaps I'll come after
you, some day soon. But I must go back now. You see I left off at a
comma, and it's so awkward not knowing how the sentence finishes!
Besides, you've got to go through Dogland first, and I'm always a
little nervous about dogs. But it'll be quite easy to come, as soon as
I've completed my new invention--for carrying
one's-self, you know.
It wants just a little more working out."
"Won't that be very tiring, to carry yourself?" Sylvie enquired.
"Well, no, my child. You see, whatever fatigue one incurs by carrying,
one saves by being carried! Good-bye, dears!
Good-bye, Sir!" he added
to my intense surprise, giving my hand an affectionate squeeze.
"Good-bye, Professor!" I replied: but my voice sounded strange and far
away, and the children took not the slightest notice of our farewell.
Evidently they neither saw me nor heard me, as, with their arms
lovingly twined round each other, they marched boldly on.
Next: A Visit to Dogland