I shall be quite de trop in the carriage!"
"I think I'll walk too," said the Earl. "You'll have to be content with Eric as your escort," he added, to Lady Muriel, who had joined us while he was speaking.
"You must be as entertaining as Cerberus--'three gentlemen rolled into one'--" Lady Muriel said to her companion. "It will be a grand military exploit!"
"A sort of Forlorn Hope?" the Captain modestly suggested.
"You do pay pretty compliments!" laughed his fair cousin. "Good day to you, gentlemen three--or rather deserters three!" And the two young folk entered the carriage and were driven away.
"How long will your sketch take?" said Arthur.
"Well," I said, "I should like an hour for it. Don't you think you had better go without me? I'll return by train. I know there's one in about an hour's time."
"Perhaps that would be best," said the Earl. "The Station is quite close."
So I was left to my own devices, and soon found a comfortable seat, at the foot of a tree, from which I had a good view of the ruins.
"It is a very drowsy day," I said to myself, idly turning over the leaves of the sketch-book to find a blank page. "Why, I thought you were a mile off by this time!" For, to my surprise, the two walkers were back again.
"I came back to remind you," Arthur said, "that the trains go every ten minutes--"
"Nonsense!" I said. "It isn't the Metropolitan Railway!"
"It is the Metropolitan Railway," the Earl insisted. "'This is a part of Kensington."
"Why do you talk with your eyes shut?" said Arthur. "Wake up!"
"I think it's the heat makes me so drowsy," I said, hoping, but not feeling quite sure, that I was talking sense. "Am I awake now?"
"I think not, "the Earl judicially pronounced. "What do you think, Doctor? He's only got one eye open!"
"And he's snoring like anything!" cried Bruno. "Do wake up, you dear old thing!" And he and Sylvie set to work, rolling the heavy head from side to side, as if its connection with the shoulders was a matter of no sort of importance.
And at last the Professor opened his eyes, and sat up, blinking at us with eyes of utter bewilderment. "Would you have the kindness to mention," he said, addressing me with his usual old-fashioned courtesy, "whereabouts we are just now and who we are, beginning with me?"
I thought it best to begin with the children. "This is Sylvie. Sir; and this is Bruno."
"Ah, yes! I know them well enough!" the old man murmured. "Its myself I'm most anxious about. And perhaps you'll be good enough to mention, at the same time, how I got here?"
"A harder problem occurs to me," I ventured to say: "and that is, how you're to get back again."
"True, true!" the Professor replied. "That's the Problem, no doubt. Viewed as a Problem, outside of oneself, it is a most interesting one. Viewed as a portion of one's own biography, it is, I must admit, very 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.