Sebastian fell right out of his bed. Sunlight flooded his room. He rubbed his eyes. The most incredible noise was coming from the garden. The Rabbit threw on his dressing gown and ran barefoot downstairs and out of the house, into the garden.
Sebastian went ‘round the house and saw the yard covered in billowing blue silk. An Animal had crashed a hot air balloon in his garden! Right in front of him, crushing his roses, was the large wicker carriage, and next to it, lying prone on its back, there was a Badger.
“My leg!” the Badger bellowed. “I am wounded! My leg!”
His voice was big and bellicose, his speech interjected with moans of pain.
Sebastian was speechless.
Richard came behind him, carrying his old army revolver.
“What in the world is going on here?” he demanded.
“I have had a bad landing!” the Badger shouted, trying to sit up. “A crash, in fact. And if you fine Animals go on standing there gawping instead of helping me up, I shall have to live permanently in your garden!”
Richard said, “I think I’ll summon the Constable.”
The Badger replied, “Don’t be such a fool, Richard Perriwinkle!”
Nephew and uncle traded glances, then ran over to the Badger.
“Who are you!” Sebastian asked.
The Badger laughed—a delirious cacophony that could no doubt be heard three counties over. He managed to sit upright and caressed his right ankle.
Richard’s eyes were wide. He spoke in an awed, voice, “Plotonicus!”
“In the flesh!” the Badger said, laughing again. “Professor Hercule Xavier Plotonicus, to be precise. And now that I have been formally introduced, would you be so kind as to help me up off this cold ground?”
“Come on, lad!” Richard said, and they hoisted up the Badger, which was no easy task, the professor being as wide as he was tall, and much of both.
They went inside and the professor was seated at the breakfast table while Richard went to fetch gauze and plaster. Sebastian filled a basin with boiling water. When they returned, the Badger was puffing an enormous briar pipe, with a bowl shaped like a horse’s head. They went to work on his ankle.
Sebastian had a good look at the Badger as he helped Richard. The professor’s garb was a hodgepodge of out-of-date clothes and what looked like cast offs: a prune-colored crushed velvet jacket, bright yellow silk neckerchief, mustard-yellow shirt tucked into brown corduroy pants, which sagged like potato sacks around his legs, not quite reaching his ankles, under which were the tops of sunken, mismatched socks (one polka-dotted, the other striped), and shoes all but fallen apart.
Richard said, “Well, there’s nothing broken; only a sprain, I suppose.”
“Good to see you have forgotten none of your military training,” the Badger said. “And this is young Sebastian Perriwinkle, I take it?”
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” Sebastian said, offering a paw.
“We have,” the Badger said, accepting it, “but you were at the time preoccupied with your rattle and mobile, I’m afraid.”
Sebastian laughed. “I’ve grown since then!”
“So I see,” the Badger said, “and now—my breakfast, if you please!”
And from that moment forward, Plotonicus installed himself as master of the house. There was no resisting him. He took up residence in the upstairs spare bedroom and from his bed he commanded what was to be done and when, and it was done. Sebastian wondered at the Badger’s sheer willpower, which seemed to run from a reservoir of infinite depth. The upstairs was filled with his pipe smoke, the whole house with his voice; he was omnipresent.
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