Bim was nearer tears on these occasions than on any other in all his mortal life. His adoration of Lucy was the foundation-stone of his existence, and she accepted it with a lofty assumption of indifference; but very sharply would she have missed it had it been taken from her, and in long after years she was to look back upon that love of his and wonder that she could have accepted it so lightly; Bim found in her gravity and assurance all that he demanded of his elders. Lucy was never at a loss for an answer to any question, and Bim believed all that she told him.
“Where’s China, Lucy?”
“Oh, don’t bother, Bim.”
“No, but where is it?”
“What a nuisance you are! It’s near Africa.”
“Where Uncle Alfred is?”
“Yes, just there.”
“But is Uncle Alfred in—China?”
“No, silly, of course not.”
“I didn’t say China was in Africa. I said it was near.”
“Oh! I see. Uncle Alfred could just go in the train?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Oh! I see. P’r’aps he will.”
But, for the most part, Bim, realising that Lucy “didn’t want to be bothered,” pursued his life alone. Through all the turmoil and disorder of that tempestuous nursery he gravely went his way, at one moment fighting lions and tigers, at another being nurse on her afternoon out (this was a truly astonishing adventure composed of scraps flung to him from nurse’s conversational table and including many incidents that were far indeed from any nurse’s experience), or again, he would be his mother giving a party, and, in the course of this, a great deal of food would be eaten, his favourite dishes, treacle pudding and cottage pie, being always included.
With the exception of his enthusiasm for Lucy he was no sentimentalist. He hated being kissed, he did not care very greatly for Roger and Dorothy and Robert, and regarded them as nothing but nuisances when they interfered with his games or compelled him to join in theirs.
And now this is the story of his Odyssey.
It happened on a wet April afternoon. The morning had been fine, a golden morning with the scent in the air of the showers that had fallen during the night. Then, suddenly, after midday, the rain came down, splashing on to the shining pavements as it fell, beating on to the windows and then running, in little lines, on to the ledges and falling from there in slow, heavy drops. The sky was black, the statues in the garden dejected, the almond tree beaten, all the little paths running with water, and on the garden seats the rain danced like a live thing.