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Chapter 1

Chapter 1

LESS BREAD! MORE TAXES!

--and then all the people cheered again, and one man, who was more
excited than the rest, flung his hat high into the air, and shouted
(as well as I could make out) "Who roar for the Sub-Warden?" Everybody
roared, but whether it was for the Sub-Warden, or not, did not clearly
appear: some were shouting "Bread!" and some "Taxes!", but no one
seemed to know what it was they really wanted.

All this I saw from the open window of the Warden's breakfast-saloon,
looking across the shoulder of the Lord Chancellor, who had sprung to
his feet the moment the shouting began, almost as if he had been
expecting it, and had rushed to the window which commanded the best
view of the market-place.

"What can it all mean?" he kept repeating to himself, as, with his
hands clasped behind him, and his gown floating in the air, he paced
rapidly up and down the room. "I never heard such shouting before--
and at this time of the morning, too! And with such unanimity!
Doesn't it strike you as very remarkable?"

I represented, modestly, that to my ears it appeared that they were
shouting for different things, but the Chancellor would not listen to
my suggestion for a moment. "They all shout the same words, I assure
you!" he said: then, leaning well out of the window, he whispered to a
man who was standing close underneath, "Keep'em together, ca'n't you?
The Warden will be here directly. Give'em the signal for the march up!"
All this was evidently not meant for my ears, but I could scarcely help
hearing it, considering that my chin was almost on the Chancellor's
shoulder.

The 'march up' was a very curious sight:

a straggling procession of men, marching two and two, began from the
other side of the market-place, and advanced in an irregular zig-zag
fashion towards the Palace, wildly tacking from side to side, like a
sailing vessel making way against an unfavourable wind so that the head
of the procession was often further from us at the end of one tack than
it had been at the end of the previous one.

Yet it was evident that all was being done under orders, for I noticed
that all eyes were fixed on the man who stood just under the window,
and to whom the Chancellor was continually whispering. This man held
his hat in one hand and a little green flag in the other: whenever he
waved the flag the procession advanced a little nearer, when he dipped
it they sidled a little farther off, and whenever he waved his hat they
all raised a hoarse cheer. "Hoo-roah!" they cried, carefully keeping
time with the hat as it bobbed up and down. "Hoo-roah! Noo! Consti!
Tooshun! Less! Bread! More! Taxes!"

"That'll do, that'll do!" the Chancellor whispered. "Let 'em rest a bit
till I give you the word. He's not here yet!" But at this moment the
great folding-doors of the saloon were flung open, and he turned with a
guilty start to receive His High Excellency. However it was only Bruno,
and the Chancellor gave a little gasp of relieved anxiety.

"Morning!" said the little fellow, addressing the remark, in a general
sort of way, to the Chancellor and the waiters. "Doos oo know where
Sylvie is? I's looking for Sylvie!"

"She's with the Warden, I believe, y'reince!" the Chancellor replied
with a low bow. There was, no doubt, a certain amount of absurdity in
applying this title (which, as of course you see without my telling
you, was nothing but 'your Royal Highness' condensed into one syllable)
to a small creature whose father was merely the Warden of Outland:
still, large excuse must be made for a man who had passed several years
at the Court of Fairyland, and had there acquired the almost impossible
art of pronouncing five syllables as one.

But the bow was lost upon Bruno, who had run out of the room, even
while the great feat of The Unpronounceable Monosyllable was being
triumphantly performed.

Just then, a single voice in the distance was understood to shout
"A speech from the Chancellor!" "Certainly, my friends!" the Chancellor
replied with extraordinary promptitude. "You shall have a speech!"
Here one of the waiters, who had been for some minutes busy making a
queer-looking mixture of egg and sherry, respectfully presented it on a
large silver salver. The Chancellor took it haughtily, drank it off
thoughtfully, smiled benevolently on the happy waiter as he set down
the empty glass, and began. To the best of my recollection this is what
he said.

"Ahem! Ahem! Ahem! Fellow-sufferers, or rather suffering fellows--"
("Don't call 'em names!" muttered the man under the window.
"I didn't say felons!" the Chancellor explained.)
"You may be sure that I always sympa--"
("'Ear, 'ear!" shouted the crowd, so loudly as quite to drown the
orator's thin squeaky voice) "--that I always sympa--" he repeated.
("Don't simper quite so much!" said the man under the window.
"It makes yer look a hidiot!" And, all this time, "'Ear, 'ear!" went
rumbling round the market-place, like a peal of thunder.)
"That I always sympathise!" yelled the Chancellor, the first moment
there was silence. "But your true friend is the Sub-Warden!
Day and night he is brooding on your wrongs--I should say your rights--
that is to say your wrongs--no, I mean your rights--"
("Don't talk no more!" growled the man under the window.
"You're making a mess of it!") At this moment the Sub-Warden entered
the saloon. He was a thin man, with a mean and crafty face, and a
greenish-yellow complexion; and he crossed the room very slowly,
looking suspiciously about him as if be thought there might be a
savage dog hidden somewhere. "Bravo!" he cried, patting the Chancellor
on the back. "You did that speech very well indeed.
Why, you're a born orator, man!"

"Oh, that's nothing! the Chancellor replied, modestly, with downcast
eyes. "Most orators are born, you know."

The Sub-Warden thoughtfully rubbed his chin. "Why, so they are!" he
admitted. "I never considered it in that light. Still, you did it very
well. A word in your ear!"

The rest of their conversation was all in whispers: so, as I could hear
no more, I thought I would go and find Bruno.

I found the little fellow standing in the passage, and being addressed
by one of the men in livery, who stood before him, nearly bent double
from extreme respectfulness, with his hands hanging in front of him
like the fins of a fish. "His High Excellency," this respectful man was
saying, "is in his Study, y'reince!" (He didn't pronounce this quite so
well as the Chancellor.) Thither Bruno trotted, and I thought it well
to follow him.

The Warden, a tall dignified man with a grave but very pleasant face,
was seated before a writing-table, which was covered with papers, and
holding on his knee one of the sweetest and loveliest little maidens it
has ever been my lot to see. She looked four or five years older than
Bruno, but she had the same rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes, and the
same wealth of curly brown hair. Her eager smiling face was turned
upwards towards her father's, and it was a pretty sight to see the
mutual love with which the two faces--one in the Spring of Life,
the other in its late Autumn--were gazing on each other.

"No, you've never seen him," the old man was saying: "you couldn't,
you know, he's been away so long--traveling from land to land,
and seeking for health, more years than you've been alive, little Sylvie!"
Here Bruno climbed upon his other knee, and a good deal of kissing,
on a rather complicated system, was the result.

"He only came back last night," said the Warden, when the kissing was
over: "he's been traveling post-haste, for the last thousand miles or
so, in order to be here on Sylvie's birthday. But he's a very early
riser, and I dare say he's in the Library already. Come with me and see
him. He's always kind to children. You'll be sure to like him."

"Has the Other Professor come too?" Bruno asked in an awe-struck voice.

"Yes, they arrived together. The Other Professor is--well, you won't
like him quite so much, perhaps. He's a little more dreamy, you know."

"I wiss Sylvie was a little more dreamy," said Bruno.

"What do you mean, Bruno?" said Sylvie.

Bruno went on addressing his father. "She says she ca'n't, oo know.
But I thinks it isn't ca'n't, it's wo'n't."

"Says she ca'n't dream!" the puzzled Warden repeated.

"She do say it," Bruno persisted. "When I says to her 'Let's stop
lessons!', she says 'Oh, I ca'n't dream of letting oo stop yet!'"

"He always wants to stop lessons," Sylvie explained, "five minutes
after we begin!"

"Five minutes' lessons a day!" said the Warden. "You won't learn much
at that rate, little man!"

"That's just what Sylvie says," Bruno rejoined. "She says I wo'n't
learn my lessons. And I tells her, over and over, I ca'n't learn 'em.
And what doos oo think she says? She says 'It isn't ca'n't, it's
wo'n't!'"

"Let's go and see the Professor," the Warden said, wisely avoiding
further discussion. The children got down off his knees, each secured a
hand, and the happy trio set off for the Library--followed by me.
I had come to the conclusion by this time that none of the party
(except, for a few moments, the Lord Chancellor) was in the least able
to see me.

"What's the matter with him?" Sylvie asked, walking with a little extra
sedateness, by way of example to Bruno at the other side, who never
ceased jumping up and down.

"What was the matter--but I hope he's all right now--was lumbago,
and rheumatism, and that kind of thing. He's been curing himself,
you know: he's a very learned doctor. Why, he's actually invented
three new diseases, besides a new way of breaking your collar-bone!"

"Is it a nice way?" said Bruno.

"Well, hum, not very," the Warden said, as we entered the Library.
"And here is the Professor. Good morning, Professor! Hope you're quite
rested after your journey!"

A jolly-looking, fat little man, in a flowery dressing-gown, with a
large book under each arm, came trotting in at the other end of the
room, and was going straight across without taking any notice of the
children. "I'm looking for Vol. Three," he said.
"Do you happen to have seen it?"

"You don't see my children, Professor!" the Warden exclaimed, taking
him by the shoulders and turning him round to face them.

The Professor laughed violently: then he gazed at them through his
great spectacles, for a minute or two, without speaking.

At last he addressed Bruno. "I hope you have had a good night, my child?"
Bruno looked puzzled. "I's had the same night oo've had," he replied.
"There's only been one night since yesterday!"

It was the Professor's turn to look puzzled now.
He took off his spectacles, and rubbed them with his handkerchief.
Then he gazed at them again. Then he turned to the Warden.
"Are they bound?" he enquired.

"No, we aren't," said Bruno, who thought himself quite able to answer
this question.

The Professor shook his head sadly. "Not even half-bound?"

"Why would we be half-bound?" said Bruno.

"We're not prisoners!"

But the Professor had forgotten all about them by this time, and was
speaking to the Warden again. "You'll be glad to hear," he was saying,
"that the Barometer's beginning to move--"

"Well, which way?" said the Warden--adding, to the children,
"Not that I care, you know. Only he thinks it affects the weather.
He's a wonderfully clever man, you know. Sometimes he says things that
only the Other Professor can understand. Sometimes he says things that
nobody can understand! Which way is it, Professor? Up or down?"

"Neither!" said the Professor, gently clapping his hands. "It's going
sideways--if I may so express myself."

"And what kind of weather does that produce?" said the Warden.
"Listen, children! Now you'll hear something worth knowing!"

"Horizontal weather," said the Professor, and made straight for the
door, very nearly trampling on Bruno, who had only just time to get out
of his way.

"Isn't he learned?" the Warden said, looking after him with admiring
eyes. "Positively he runs over with learning!"

"But he needn't run over me!" said Bruno.

The Professor was back in a moment: he had changed his dressing-gown
for a frock-coat, and had put on a pair of very strange-looking boots,
the tops of which were open umbrellas. "I thought you'd like to see
them," he said. "These are the boots for horizontal weather!"

"But what's the use of wearing umbrellas round one's knees?"

"In ordinary rain," the Professor admitted, "they would not be of much
use. But if ever it rained horizontally, you know, they would be
invaluable--simply invaluable!"

"Take the Professor to the breakfast-saloon, children," said the
Warden. "And tell them not to wait for me. I had breakfast early,
as I've some business to attend to." The children seized the Professor's
hands, as familiarly as if they had known him for years, and hurried
him away. I followed respectfully behind.