The Professor overheard her. `That result,' he blandly remarked, `was merely a case of mistaken identity.'
Both children looked puzzled.
`Permit me to explain. "Don't-care" and "Care" were twin-brothers. "Care", you know, killed the Cat. And they caught "Don't-care" by mistake, and hanged him instead. And so "Care" is alive still. But he's very unhappy without his brother. That's why they say "Begone, dull Care!" '
`Thank you!' Sylvie said, heartily. `It's very extremely interesting. Why, it seems to explain everything!'
`Well, not quite everything,' the Professor modestly rejoined. `There are two or three scientific difficulties-- '
`What was your general impression as to His Imperial Fatness?' the Emperor asked the Gold Stick.
`My impression was that His Imperial Fatness was getting more--'
All listened breathlessly for the next word.
`He must be sent for at once!' the Emperor exclaimed. And the Gold Stick went off like a shot. The Elfin-King sadly shook his head. `No use, no use!' he murmured to himself. `Loveless, loveless!'
Pale, trembling, speechless, the Gold Stick came slowly back again.
`Well?' said the Emperor. `Why does not the Prince appear?'
`One can easily guess,' said the Professor. `His Imperial Fatness is, without doubt, a little preoccupied.'
Bruno turned a look of solemn enquiry on his old friend. `What do that word mean?'
But the Professor took no notice of the question. He was eagerly listening to the Gold Stick's reply.
`Please your Highness! His Imperial Fatness is--' Not a word more could he utter.
The Empress rose in an agony of alarm. `Let us go to him!' she cried. And there was a general rush for the door.
Bruno slipped off his chair in a moment. `May we go too?' he eagerly asked. But the King did not hear the question, as the Professor was speaking to him. `Preoccupied, your Majesty!' he was saying. `That is what he is, no doubt!'
`May we go and see him?' Bruno repeated. The King nodded assent, and the children ran off. In a minute or two they returned, slowly and gravely. `Well?' said the King. `What's the matter with the Prince?'
`He's--what you said,' Bruno replied looking at the Professor. `That hard word.' And he looked to Sylvie for assistance.
`Porcupine,' said Sylvie.
`No, no!' the Professor corrected her. ` "Pre-occupied", you mean.'
`No, it's porcupine,' persisted Sylvie. `Not that other word at all. And please will you come? The house is all in an uproar.' (`And oo'd better bring an uproar-glass wiz oo!' added Bruno.)
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