Roverandom - Page 3/5

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The next day the Man-in-the-Moon looked at Roverandom and said: 'That was a narrow squeak! You seem to have explored the white side pretty well for a young dog. I think, when you have got your breath back, it will be time for you to visit the other side.'

"Can I come too?' asked the moon-dog.

'It wouldn't be good for you,' said the Man, 'and I don't advise you to. You might see things that would make you more homesick than fire and chimney-stacks, and that would turn out as bad as dragons.'

The moon-dog did not blush, because he could not; and he did not say anything, but he went and sat down in a corner and wondered how much the old man knew of everything that went on, and everything that was said, too. Also for a little while he wondered what exactly the old man meant; but that did not bother him long - he was a lighthearted fellow.

As for Roverandom, when he had got his breath back, a few days later the Man-in-the-Moon came and whistled for him. Then down and down they went together; down the stairs, and into the cellars which were cut inside the cliff and had small windows looking out of the side of the precipice over the wide places of the moon; and then down secret steps that seemed to lead right under the mountains, until after a long while they came into a completely dark place, and stopped, though Roverandom's head went on turning giddily after the miles of corkscrewing downwards.

In complete darkness the Man-in-the-Moon shone palely all by himself like a glow-worm, and that was all the light they had. It was quite enough, though, to see the door by - a big door in the floor. This the old man pulled up, and as it was lifted darkness seemed to well up out of the opening like a fog, so that Roverandom could no longer see even the faint glimmering of the Man through it.

'Down you go, good dog!' said his voice out of the blackness. And you won't be surprised to be told that Roverandom was not a good dog, and would not budge. He backed into the furthest corner of the little room, and set his ears back. He was more frightened of that hole than of the old man.

But it was not any good. The Man-in-the-Moon simply picked him up and dropped him plump into the black hole; and as he fell and fell into nothing, Roverandom heard him calling out, already far above him: 'Drop straight, and then fly on with the wind! Wait for me at the other end! '

That ought to have comforted him, but it did not. Roverandom always said afterwards that he did not think even falling over the world's edge could be worse; and that anyway it was the nastiest part of all his adventures, and still made him feel as if he had lost his tummy whenever he thought of it. You can tell he is still thinking of it when he cries out and twitches in his sleep on the hearthrug.

All the same, it came to an end. After a long while his falling gradually slowed down, until at last he almost stopped. The rest of the way he had to use his wings; and it w as like flying up, up, through a big chimney - luckily with a strong draught helping him along. Jolly glad he was when he got at last to the top.

There he lay panting at the edge of the hole at the other end, waiting obediently, and anxiously, for the Man-in-the-Moon. It was a good while before he appeared, and Roverandom had time to see that he was at the bottom of a deep dark valley, ringed round with low dark hills. Black clouds seemed to rest upon their tops; and beyond the clouds was just one star.

Suddenly the little dog felt very sleepy; a bird in some gloomy bushes nearby was singing a drowsy song that seemed strange and wonderful to him after the little dumb birds of the other side to which he had got used. He shut his eyes.

'Wake up, you doglet!' called a voice; and Roverandom bounced up just in time to see the Man climbing out of the hole on a silver rope which a large grey spider (much larger than himself) was fastening to a tree close by.

The Man climbed out. 'Thank you!' he said to the spider. 'And now be off!' And off the spider went, and was glad to go. There are black spiders on the dark side, poisonous ones, if not as large as the monsters of the white side. They hate anything white or pale or light, and especially pale spiders, which they hate like rich relations that pay infrequent visits.

The grey spider dropped back down the rope into the hole, and a black spider dropped out of the tree at the same moment.

'Now then!' cried the old man to the black spider. 'Come back there! That is my private door, and don't you forget it. Just make me a nice hammock from those two yew-trees, and I'll forgive you.'

'It's a longish climb down and up through the middle of' the moon,' he said to Roverandom, 'and I think a little rest before they arrive would do me good. They are very nice, but they need a good deal of energy. Of course I could take to wings, only I wear 'em out so fast; also it would mean widening the hole, as my size in wings would hardly fit, and I'm a beautiful rope-climber.

'Now what do you think of this side?' the Man continued. 'Dark with a pale sky, while tother was pale with a dark sky, eh? Quite a change, only there is not much more real colour here than there, not what I call real colour, loud and lots of it together. There are a few gleams under the trees, if you look, fireflies and diamond-beetles and ruby-moths, and such like. Too tiny, though; too tiny like all the bright things on this side. And they live a terrible life of it, what with owls like eagles and as black as coal, and crows like vultures and as numerous as sparrows, and all these black spiders. It's the black-velvet bob-owlers, flying all together in clouds, that I personally like least. They won't even get out of my way; I hardly dare give out a glimmer, or they all get tangled in my beard.'

'Still this side has its charms, young dog; and one of them is that nobody and no-doggy on earth has ever seen it before - when they were awake - except you! '

Then the Man suddenly jumped into the hammock, which the black spider had been spinning for him while he was talking, and went fast asleep in a twinkling.

Roverandom sat alone and watched him, with a wary eye for black spiders too. Little gleams of firelight, red, green, gold, and blue, flashed and shifted here and there beneath the dark windless trees. The sky was pale with strange stars above the floating wisps of velvet cloud. Thousands of nightingales seemed to be singing in some other valley, faint beyond the nearer hills.

And then Roverandom heard the sound of children's voices, or the echo of the echo of their voices coming down a sudden soft-stirring breeze. He sat up and barked the loudest bark he had barked since this tale began.

'Bless me!' cried the Man-in-the-Moon, jumping up wide wake, straight out of the hammock onto the grass, and nearly onto Roverandom's tail. 'Have they arrived already? '

'Who?' asked Roverandom.

'Well, if you didn't hear them, what did you yap for? ' said the old man. 'Come on! This is the way.'

They went down a long grey path, marked at the sides with faintly luminous stones, and overhung with bushes. It led on and on, and the bushes became pine-trees, and the air was filled with the smell of pine-trees at night. Then the path began to climb; and after a time they came to the top of the lowest point in the ring of hills that had shut them in.

Then Roverandom looked down into the next valley; and all the nightingales stopped singing, like turning off a tap, and children's voices floated up clear and sweet, for they were singing a fair song with many voices blended to one music.

Down the hillside raced and jumped the old man and the dog together. My word! the Man-in-the-Moon could leap from rock to rock!

'Come on, come on!' he called. 'I may be a bearded billy-goat, a wild or garden goat, but you can't catch me! ' And Roverandom had to fly to keep up with him.

And so they came suddenly to a sheer precipice, not very high, but dark and polished like jet. Looking over, Roverandom saw below a garden in twilight; and as he looked it changed to the soft glow of an afternoon sun, though he could not see where the soft light came from that lit all that sheltered place and never strayed beyond. Grey fountains were there, and long lawns; and children everywhere, dancing sleepily, walking dreamily, and talking to themselves. Some stirred as if just waking from deep sleep; some were already running wide awake and laughing: they were digging, gathering flowers, building tents and houses, chasing butterflies, kicking balls, climbing trees; and all were singing.

'Where do they all come from?' asked Roverandom, bewildered and delighted.

'From their homes and beds, of course,' said the Man.

'And how do they get here?'

'That I ain't going to tell you at all; and you'll never find out. You are lucky, and so is anyone, to get here by any way at all; but the children don't come by your way, at any rate. Some come often, and some come seldom, and I make most of the dream. Some of it they bring with them, of course, like lunch to school, and some (I am sorry to say) the spiders make - but not in this valley, and not if I catch 'em at it. And now let's go and join the party! '

The cliff of jet sloped steeply down. It was much too smooth even for a spider to climb - not that any spider ever dared try; for he might slide down, but neither he nor anything else could get up again; and in that garden were hidden sentinels, not to mention the Man-in-the-Moon, without whom no party was complete, for they were his own parties.

And he now slid bang into the middle of this one. He just sat down and tobogganed, swish! right into the midst of a crowd of children with Roverandom rolling on top of him, quite forgetting that he could fly. Or could have down - for when he picked himself up at the bottom he found that his wings had gone.

'What's that little dog doing?' said a small boy to the Man. Roverandom was going round and round like a top, trying to look at his own back.

'Looking for his wings, my boy. He thinks he has rubbed them off on the toboggan-run, but they're in my pocket. No wings allowed down here, people don't get out of here without leave, do they?'

'No! Baddy-long-beard! ' said about twenty children all at once, and one boy caught hold of the old man's beard and climbed up it onto his shoulder. Roverandom expected to see him turned into a moth or a piece of indiarubber, or something, on the spot.

But 'My word! you're a bit of a rope-climber, my boy!' said the Man. 'I'll have to give you lessons.' And he tossed the boy right up into the air. He did not fall down again; not a bit of it. He stuck up in the air; and the Man-in-the-Moon threw him a silver rope that he slipped out of his pocket.

'Just climb down that quick!' he said; and down the boy slithered into the old man's arms, where he was well tickled. 'You'll wake up, if you laugh so loud,' said the Man, and he put him down on the grass and walked off into the crowd.

Roverandom was left to amuse himself, and he was just making for a beautiful yellow ball ('Just like my own at home,' he thought) when he heard a voice he knew.

'There's my little dog!' it said. 'There's my little dog! I always thought he was real. Fancy him being here, when I've looked and looked all over the sands and called and whistled every day for him!'

As soon as Roverandom heard that voice, he sat up and begged.

'My little begging dog! ' said little boy Two (of course); and he ran up and patted him. 'Where have you been to?'

But all Roverandom could say at first was: 'Can you hear what I'm saying?'

'Of course I can,' said little boy Two. 'But when mummy brought you home before, you wouldn't listen to me at all, although I did my best bark-talk for you. And I don't believe you tried to say much to me either; you seemed to be thinking of something else.'

Roverandom said how sorry he was, and he told the little boy hom he had fallen out of his pocket; and all about Psamathos, and Mew, and many of the adventures he had had since he was lost. That is how the little boy and his brothers got to know about the odd fellow in the sand, and learned a lot of other useful things they might otherwise have missed. Little boy Two thought that 'Roverandom' was a splendid name. 'I shall call you that too,' he said. 'And don't forget that you still belong to me!'

Then they had a game with the ball, and a game of hide-and-seek, and a run and a long walk, and a rabbit-hunt (with no result, of course, except excitement: the rabbits were exceedingly shadowy), and much splashing in the ponds, and all kinds of other things one after another for endless ages; and they got to like one another better and better. The little boy was rolling over and over on the dewy grass, in a very bed-timish light (but no one seems to mind wet grass or bed-time in that place), and the little dog was rolling over and over with him, and standing on his head like no dog on earth ever has done since Mother Hubbard's dead dog did it; and the little boy was laughing till he - vanished quite suddenly and left Roverandom all alone on the lawn!

'He's waked up, that's all,' said the Man.-in-the-Moon, who suddenly appeared. 'Gone home, and about time too. Why! it's only a quarter of an hour before his breakfast time. He'll miss his walk on the sands this morning. Well, well! I am afraid it's our time to go, too.

So, very reluctantly, Roverandom went back to the white side with the old man. They walked all the way, and it took a very long time; and Roverandom did not enjoy it as much as he ought to have done. For they saw all kinds of queer things, and had many adventures - perfectly safe, of course, with the Man-in-the-Moon close at hand. That was just as well, as there were lots of nasty creepy things in the bogs that would otherwise have grabbed the little dog quick. The dark side was as wet as the white side was dry, and full of the most extraordinary plants and creatures, which I would tell you about, if Roverandom had taken any particular notice of them. But he did not; he was thinking of the garden and the little boy.

At last they came to the grey edge, and they looked past the cinder valleys where many of the dragons lived, through a gap in the mountains to the great white plain and the shining cliffs. They saw the world rise, a pale green and gold moon, huge and round above the shoulders of the Lunar Mountains; and Roverandom thought: 'That is where my little boy lives!' It seemed a terrible and enormous way away.

'Do dreams come true?' he asked.

'Some of mine do,' said the old man. 'Some, but not all; and seldom any of them straight away, or quite like they were in dreaming them. But why do you want to know about dreams?'

'I was only wondering,' said Roverandom.

'About that little boy,' said the Man. 'I thought so.' He then pulled a telescope out of his pocket. It opened out to an enormous length. 'A little look will do you no harm, I think,' he said.

Roverandom looked through it - when he had managed at last to shut one eye and keep the other open. He saw the world plainly. First he saw the far end of the moon's path falling straight onto the sea; and he thought he saw, faint and rather thin, long lines of small people sailing swiftly down it, but he could not be quite sure. The moonlight quickly faded. Sunlight began to grow; and suddenly there was the cove of the sand-sorcerer {but no sign of Psamathos - Psamathos did not allow himself to be peeped at); and after a while the two little boys walked into the round picture, going hand in hand along the shore, 'Looking for shells or for me?' wondered the dog.

Very soon the picture shifted and he saw the little boys' father's white house on the cliff, with its garden running down to the sea; and at the gate he saw - an unpleasant surprise - the old wizard sitting on a stone smoking his pipe, as if he had nothing to do but watch there for ever, with his old green hat on the back of his head and his waistcoat unbuttoned.

'What's old Arta-what-d'you-call-him doing at the gate?' Roverandom asked. 'I should have thought he had forgotten about me long ago. And aren't his holidays over yet?'

'No, he's waiting for you, my doglet. He hasn't forgotten. If you turn up there just now, real or toy, he'll put some new bewitchment on you pretty quick. It isn't that he minds so much about his trousers - they were soon mended - but he is very annoyed with Samathos for interfering; and Samathos hasn't finished making his arrangements yet for dealing with him.'

Just then Roverandom saw Artaxerxes' hat blown off by the wind, and off the wizard ran after it; and plain to see, he had a wonderful patch on his trousers, an orange-coloured patch with black spots.

'I should have thought that a wizard could have managed to patch his trousers better than that! ' said Roverandom.

'But he thinks he has managed it beautifully! ' said the old man. 'He bewitched a piece off somebody's window-curtains; they got fire insurance, and he got a splash of colour, and both are satisfied. Still, you are right. He is failing, I do believe. Sad after all these centuries to see a man going off his magic; but lucky for you, perhaps.' Then the Man-in-the-Moon closed the telescope with a snap, and off they went again.

'Here are your wings again,' he said when they had reached the tower. 'Now fly off and amuse yourself! Don't worry the moonbeams, don't kill my white rabbits, and come back when you feel hungry! - or have any other sort of pain.'

Roverandom at once flew off to find the moon-dog and tell him about the other side; but the other dog was a bit jealous of a visitor being allowed to see things which he could not, and he pretended not to be interested.

'Sounds a nasty part altogether,' he growled. 'I'm sure I don't want to see it. I suppose you'll be boxed with the white side now, and only having me to go about with, instead of all your two-legged friends. It's a pity the Persian wizard is such a sticker, and you can't go home.'

Roverandom was rather hurt; and he told the moon-dog over and over again that he was jolly glad to be back at the tower, and would never be bored with the white side. They soon settled down to be good friends again, and did lots and lots of things together; and yet what the moon-dog had said in bad temper turned out to be true. It was not Roverandom's fault, and he did his best not to show it, but somehow none of the adventures or explorations seemed so exciting to him as they had done before, and he was always thinking of the fun he had in the garden with little boy Two.

They visited the valley of the white moon-gnomes (moonums, for short) that ride about on rabbits, and make pancakes out of snowflakes, and grow little golden apple-trees no bigger than buttercups in their neat orchards. They put broken glass and tintacks outside the lairs of some of the lesser dragons( while they were asleep), and lay awake till the middle of the night to hear them roar with rage - dragons often have tender tummies, as I have told you already, and they go out for a drink at twelve midnight every night of their lives, not to speak of between-whiles. Sometimes the dogs even dared to go spider-baiting - biting webs and setting free the moonbeams, and flying off just in time, while the spiders threw lassoes at them from the hill-tops. But all the while Roverandom was looking out for Postman Mew and News of the World (mostly murders and football-matches, as even a little dog knows; but there is sometimes something better in an odd corner).

He missed Mew's next visit, as he was away on a ramble, but the old man was still reading the letters and news when he got back (and he seemed in a mighty good humour too, sitting on the roof with his feet dangling over the edge, puffing at an enormous white clay-pipe, sending out clouds of smoke like a railway-engine, and smiling right round his round old face).

Roverandom felt he could bear it no longer. 'I've got a pain in my inside,' he said. 'I want to go back to the little boy, so that his dream can come true.'

The old man put down his letter (it was about Artaxerxes, and very amusing), and took the pipe out of his mouth. 'Must you go? Can't you stay? This is so sudden! So pleased to have met you! You must drop in again one day. Deelighted to see you any time!' he said all in a breath.

'Very well!' he went on more sensibly. 'Artaxerxes is arranged for.'

'How??' asked Roverandom, really excited again.

'He has married a mermaid and gone to live at the bottom of the Deep Blue Sea.'

'I hope she will patch his trousers better! A green sea-weed patch would go well with his green hat.'

'My dear dog! He was married in a complete new suit of seaweed green with pink coral buttons and epaulettes of sea-anemones; and they burnt his old hat on the beach! Samathos arranged it all. O! Samathos is very deep, as deep as the Deep Blue Sea, and I expect he means to settle lots of things to his liking this way, lots more than just you, my dog.

'I wonder how it will turn out! Artaxerxes is getting into his twentieth or twenty-first childhood at the moment, it seems to me; and he makes a lot of fuss about very little things. Most obstinate he is, to be sure. He used to be a pretty good magician, but he is becoming bad-tempered and a thorough nuisance. When he came and dug up old Samathos with a wooden spade in the middle of the afternoon, and pulled him out of his hole by the ears, the Samathist thought things had gone too far, and I don't wonder. "Such a lot of disturbance, just at my best time for sleeping, and all about a wretched little dog": that is what he writes to me, and you needn't blush.

'So he invited Artaxerxes to a mermaid-party, when both their tempers had cooled down a bit, and that is how it all happened. They took Artaxerxes out for a moonlight swim, and he will never go back to Persia, or even Pershore. He fell in love with the rich mer-king's elderly but lovely daughter, and they were married the next night.

'It is probably just as well. There has not been a resident Magician in the Ocean for some time. Proteus, Poseidon, Triton, Neptune, and all that lot, they've all turned into minnows or mussels long ago, and in any case they never knew or bothered much about things outside the Mediterranean - they were too fond of sardines. Old Niord retired a long while ago, too. He was of course only able to give half his attention to business after his silly marriage with the giantess - you remember she fell in love with him because he had clean feet (so convenient in the home), and fell out of love with him, when it was too late, because they were wet. He's on his last legs now, I hear; quite doddery, poor old dear. Oil-fuel has given him a dreadful cough, and he has retired to the coast of Iceland for a little sunshine.

'There was the Old Man of the Sea, of course. He was my cousin, and I'm not proud of it. He was a bit of a burden - wouldn't walk, and always wanted to be carried, as I dare say you have heard. That was the death of him. He sat on a floating mine (if you know what I mean) a year or two ago, right on one of the buttons! Not even my magic could do anything with that case. It was worse than the one of Humpty Dumpty.'

'What about Britannia? ' asked Roverandom, who after all was an English dog; though really he was a bit bored with all this, and wanted to hear more about his own wizard. 'I thought Britannia ruled the waves.'

'She never really gets her feet wet. She prefers patting lions on the beach, and sitting on a penny with an eel-fork in her hand - and in any case there is more to manage in the sea than waves. How they have got Artaxerxes, and I hope he will be of use. He'll spend the first few years trying to grow plums on polyps, I expect, if they let him; and that'll be easier than keeping the mer-folk in order.

'Well, well, well! Where was I? Of course - you can go back now, if you want to. In fact, not to be too polite, it's time you went back as soon as possible. Old Samathos is your first call - and don't follow my bad example and forget your Ps when you meet!'

Mew turned up again the very next day, with an extra post - an immense number of letters for the Man-in-the-Moon, and bundles of newspapers: The Illustrated Weekly Weed, Ocean Notions, The Mer-mail, The Conch, and The Morning Splash. They all had exactly the same (exclusive) pictures of Artaxerxes' wedding on the beach at full moon, with Mr Psamathos Psamathides, the well-known financier (a mere title of respect), grinning in the background. But they were nicer than our pictures, for they were at least coloured; and the mermaid really did look beautiful (her tail was in the foam).

The time had come to say good-bye. The Man-in-the-Moon beamed on Roverandom; and the moon-dog tried to look unconcerned. Roverandom himself had rather a drooping tail, but all he said was: 'Good-bye, pup! Take care of yourself, don't worry the moon-beams, don't kill the white rabbits, and don't eat too much supper! '

'Pup yourself!' said the moon-Rover. 'And stop eating wizards' trousers!' That was all; and yet, I believe, he was always worrying the old Man-in-the-Moon to send him on a holiday to visit Roverandom, and that he has been allowed to go several times since then.

After that Roverandom went back with Mew, and the Man went back into his cellars, and the moon-dog sat on the roof and watched them out of sight.

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