rational or half-rational beings except men, anywhere, anywhen, or anyhow; that nymphs, satyrs, fauns, inui, dwarfs, trolls, elves, gnomes, fairies, brownies, nixes, wills, kobolds, leprechaunes, cluricaunes, banshees, will-o’-the-wisps, follets, lutins, magots, goblins, afrits, marids, jinns, ghouls, peris, deevs, angels, archangels, imps, bogies, or worse, were nothing at all, and pure bosh and wind. And he had to get up very early in the morning to prove that, and to eat his breakfast overnight; but he did it, at least to his own satisfaction. Whereon a certain great divine, and a very clever divine was he, called him a regular Sadducee; and probably he was quite right. Whereon the professor, in return, called him a regular Pharisee; and probably he was quite right too. But they did not quarrel in the least; for, when men are men of the world, hard words run off them like water off a duck’s back. So the professor and the divine met at dinner that evening, and sat together on the sofa afterwards for an hour, and talked over the state of female labour on the antarctic continent (for nobody talks shop after his claret), and each vowed that the other was the best company he ever met in his life. What an advantage it is to be men of the world!
From all which you may guess that the professor was not the least of little Ellie’s opinion. So he gave her a succinct compendium of his famous paper at the British Association, in a form suited for the youthful mind. But, as we have gone over his arguments against water-babies once already, which is once too often, we will not repeat them here.
Now little Ellie was, I suppose, a stupid little girl; for, instead of being convinced by Professor Ptthmllnsprts’ arguments, she only asked the same question over again.
“But why are there not water-babies?”
I trust and hope that it was because the professor trod at that moment on the edge of a very sharp mussel, and hurt one of his corns sadly, that he answered quite sharply, forgetting that he was a scientific man, and therefore ought to have known that he couldn’t know; and that he was a logician, and therefore ought to have known that he could not prove a universal negative—I say, I trust and hope it was because the mussel hurt his corn, that the professor answered quite sharply:
“Because there ain’t.”
Which was not even good English, my dear little boy; for, as you must know from Aunt Agitate’s Arguments, the professor ought to have said, if he was so angry as to say anything of the kind— Because there are not: or are none: or are none of them; or (if he had been reading Aunt Agitate too) because they do not exist.
And he groped with his net under the weeds so violently, that, as it befell, he caught poor little Tom.
He felt the net very heavy; and lifted it out quickly, with Tom all entangled in the meshes.
“Dear me!” he cried. “What a large pink Holothurian; with hands, too! It must be connected with Synapta.” And he took him out. “It has actually eyes!” he cried. “Why, it must be a Cephalopod! This is most extraordinary!”