Whereupon she laughed again and said something about “Cornelia” which I am too modest to repeat, but which, being scholars, you will know by heart, and said that she was glad enough to have me back at all.
Sirs, you cannot think how beautiful our little dining-room looked to me, with the old brass-handled highboy in the corner and the pots of flowers on the sill—far more beautiful than the fretted golden towers and gem-girdled walls of the City under the Sea.
So take my advice, young sirs, the advice of a man many years older than you bold young blades: don’t you ever go listening to a half-breed Peruvian that comes slinking to your window, no matter how enticing may be his tales of treasure.
Your most faithful
“Do you think he dreamed it?” Jerry said.
“Whatever it was, he must have been glad to get back,” I said, switching off the light so that we could talk in the dark, which is more creepy and pleasant.
“But the treasure!” Jerry said. “Do you suppose there ever was such treasure in the world? That’s something like! Imagine finding gold trees and birds eating jewels on the Sea Monster! By the way, do you know about ’Cornelia’?”
I said I thought she had something to do with sitting on a hill and her children turning to stone one after the other, but Jerry said that was Niobe and that it was she who turned to stone, not the children. He has a fearfully long memory. So we put on the light again and looked it up in “The Reader’s Handbook,” because we didn’t want to bother the grown-ups, and we found, of course, that she was the Roman lady who pointed at her sons and said, “These are my jewels!” when somebody asked her where her gold and ornaments were. So naturally the Bottle Man didn’t feel like repeating such a complimentary thing, being an un-stuck-up person, but we did think it was nice of his mother.
We put away the “Handbook” and made the room dark again and were arguing over all the exciting places in the Bottle Man’s story, when Greg spoke up suddenly from the corner where we’d almost forgotten him.
“If I found a thing like those mer-persons,” he said drowsily, “I wouldn’t let it bite me. I’d keep it in the bath-tub and teach it how to do things.”
“Like your precious toad, I suppose,” said Jerry. “Don’t be idiotic.”
So we all went to bed, and I, for one, dreamed about all kinds of glittering treasures and heaps of jewels each as big as your hat, and of our nice old Bottle Man, with his long white beard flowing in the wind.
* * * * *
And now comes the perfectly awful part.