Read an Excerpt
Sylvie and Bruno
By LEWIS CARROLL
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1988 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
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 he 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 hankerchief. 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.CHAPTER 2
As we entered the breakfast-saloon, the Professor was saying "—and he had breakfast by himself, early: so he begged you wouldn't wait for him, my Lady. This way, my Lady," he added, "this way!" And then, with (as it seemed to me) most superfluous politeness, he flung open the door of my compartment, and ushered in "—a young and lovely lady!" I muttered to myself with some bitterness. "And this is, of course, the opening scene of Vol. I. She is the Heroine. And I am one of those subordinate characters that only turn up when needed for the development of her destiny, and whose final appearance is outside the church, waiting to greet the Happy Pair!"
"Yes, my Lady, change at Fayfield," were the next words I heard (oh that too obsequious Guard!), "next station but one." And the door closed, and the lady settled down into her corner, and the monotonous throb of the engine (making one feel as if the train were some gigantic monster, whose very circulation we could feel) proclaimed that we were once more speeding on our way. "The lady had a perfectly formed nose," I caught myself saying to myself, "hazel eyes, and lips—" and here it occurred to me that to see, for myself, what "the lady" was really like, would be more satisfactory than much speculation.
I looked round cautiously, and—was entirely disappointed of my hope. The veil, which shrouded her whole face, was too thick for me to see more than the glitter of bright eyes and the hazy outline of what might be a lovely oval face, but might also, unfortunately, be an equally un lovely one. I closed my eyes again, saying to myself "—couldn't have a better chance for an experiment in Telepathy! I'll think out her face, and afterwards test the portrait with the original."
At first, no result at all crowned my efforts, though I 'divided my swift mind,' now hither, now thither, in a way that I felt sure would have made Æneas green with envy: but the dimly-seen oval remained as provokingly blank as ever—a mere Ellipse, as if in some mathematical diagram, without even the Foci that might be made to do duty as a nose and a mouth. Gradually, however, the conviction came upon me that I could, by a certain concentration of thought, think the veil away, and so get a glimpse of the mysterious face—as to which the two questions, "is she pretty?" and "is she plain?", still hung suspended, in my mind, in beautiful equipoise.
Success was partial—and fitful—still there was a result: ever and anon, the veil seemed to vanish, in a sudden flash of light: but, before I could fully realise the face, all was dark again. In each such glimpse, the face seemed to grow more childish and more innocent: and, when I had at last thought the veil entirely away, it was, unmistakeably, the sweet face of little Sylvie!
"So, either I've been dreaming about Sylvie," I said to myself, "and this is the reality. Or else I've really been with Sylvie, and this is a dream! Is Life itself a dream, I wonder?"
Excerpted from Sylvie and Bruno by LEWIS CARROLL. Copyright © 1988 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.