"You see he's quite wrapped up in the book!"
"Suppose oo shuts the book?" Bruno suggested.
"That's it!" cried the delighted Professor. "Of course that'll do it!" And he shut up the book so quickly that he caught the Other Professor's nose between the leaves, and gave it a severe pinch.
The Other Professor instantly rose to his feet, and carried the book away to the end of the room, where he put it back in its place in the book-case. "I've been reading for eighteen hours and three-quarters," he said, "and now I shall rest for fourteen minutes and a half. Is the Lecture all ready?"
"Very nearly, "the Professor humbly replied. "I shall ask you to give me a hint or two--there will be a few little difficulties--"
"And Banquet, I think you said?"
"Oh, yes! The Banquet comes first, of course. People never enjoy Abstract Science, you know, when they're ravenous with hunger. And then there's the Fancy-Dress-Ball. Oh, there'll be lots of entertainment!"
"Where will the Ball come in?" said the Other Professor.
"I think it had better come at the beginning of the Banquet--it brings people together so nicely, you know."
"Yes, that's the right order. First the Meeting: then the Eating: then the Treating--for I'm sure any Lecture you give us will be a treat!" said the Other Professor, who had been standing with his back to us all this time, occupying himself in taking the books out, one by one, and turning them upside-down. An easel, with a black board on it, stood near him: and, every time that he turned a book upside-down, he made a mark on the board with a piece of chalk.
"And as to the 'Pig-Tale'--which you have so kindly promised to give us--" the Professor went on, thoughtfully rubbing his chin. "I think that had better come at the end of the Banquet: then people can listen to it quietly."
"Shall I sing it?" the Other Professor asked, with a smile of delight.
"If you can," the Professor replied, cautiously.
"Let me try," said the Other Professor, seating himself at the pianoforte. "For the sake of argument, let us assume that it begins on A flat." And he struck the note in question. "La, la, la! I think that's within an octave of it." He struck the note again, and appealed to Bruno, who was standing at his side. "Did I sing it like that, my child?"
"No, oo didn't," Bruno replied with great decision. "It were more like a duck."
"Single notes are apt to have that effect," the Other Professor said with a sigh. "Let me try a whole verse.
There was a Pig, that sat alone, Beside a ruined Pump. By day and night he made his moan: It would have stirred a heart of stone To see him wring his hoofs and groan, Because he could not jump.
Would you call that a tune, Professor?" he asked, when he had finished.
The Professor considered a little. "Well," he said at last, "some of the notes are the same as others and some are different but I should hardly call it a tune."
"Let me try it a bit by myself," said the Other Professor. And he began touching the notes here and there, and humming to himself like an angry bluebottle.
"How do you like his singing?" the Professor asked the children in a low voice.
"It isn't very beautiful," Sylvie said, hesitatingly.
"It's very extremely ugly!" Bruno said, without any hesitation at all.
"All extremes are bad," the Professor said, very gravely. "For instance, Sobriety is a very good thing, when practised in moderation: but even Sobriety, when carried to an extreme, has its disadvantages."
"What are its disadvantages?" was the question that rose in my mind-- and, as usual, Bruno asked it for me. "What are its lizard bandages?'
"Well, this is one of them," said the Professor. "When a man's tipsy (that's one extreme, you know), he sees one thing as two. But, when he's extremely sober (that's the other extreme), he sees two things as one. It's equally inconvenient, whichever happens.
"What does 'illconvenient' mean?" Bruno whispered to Sylvie.
"The difference between 'convenient' and 'inconvenient' is best explained by an example," said the Other Professor, who had overheard the question.