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 plainly audible:-
"He thought he saw an Albatross That fluttered round the lamp: He looked again, and found it was A Penny-Postage-Stamp. 'You'd best be getting home,' he said: 'The nights are very damp!'"
[Image...He thought he saw an albatross]
"Would it be afraid of catching cold?" said Bruno.
If it got very damp," Sylvie suggested, "it might stick to something, you know."
"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 empty watering-can.
"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.