The Professor was congratulating Earth's first visitor from another planet on his wisdom in getting in touch with a cultural anthropologist before contacting any other scientists (or governments, God forbid!), and in learning English from radio and TV before landing from his orbit-parked rocket, when the Martian stood up and said hesitantly, "Excuse me, please, but where is it?"
That baffled the Professor and the Martian seemed to grow anxious—at least his long mouth curved upward, and he had earlier explained that it curling downward was his smile—and he repeated, "Please, where is it?"
He was surprisingly humanoid in most respects, but his complexion was textured so like the rich dark armchair he'd just been occupying that the Professor's pin-striped gray suit, which he had eagerly consented to wear, seemed an arbitrary interruption between him and the chair—a sort of Mother Hubbard dress on a phantom conjured from its leather.
The Professor's Wife, always a perceptive hostess, came to her husband's rescue by saying with equal rapidity, "Top of the stairs, end of the hall, last door."
The Martian's mouth curled happily downward and he said, "Thank you very much," and was off.
Comprehension burst on the Professor. He caught up with his guest at the foot of the stairs.
"Here, I'll show you the way," he said.
"No, I can find it myself, thank you," the Martian assured him.
Something rather final in the Martian's tone made the Professor desist, and after watching his visitor sway up the stairs with an almost hypnotic softly jogging movement, he rejoined his wife in the study, saying wonderingly, "Who'd have thought it, by George! Function taboos as strict as our own!"
"I'm glad some of your professional visitors maintain 'em," his wife said darkly.
"But this one's from Mars, darling, and to find out he's—well, similar in an aspect of his life is as thrilling as the discovery that water is burned hydrogen. When I think of the day not far distant when I'll put his entries in the cross-cultural index ..."
He was still rhapsodizing when the Professor's Little Son raced in.
"Pop, the Martian's gone to the bathroom!"
"Hush, dear. Manners."
"Now it's perfectly natural, darling, that the boy should notice and be excited. Yes, Son, the Martian's not so very different from us."
"Oh, certainly," the Professor's Wife said with a trace of bitterness. "I don't imagine his turquoise complexion will cause any comment at all when you bring him to a faculty reception. They'll just figure he's had a hard night—and that he got that baby-elephant nose sniffing around for assistant professorships."
"Really, darling! He probably thinks of our noses as disagreeably amputated and paralyzed."
"Well, anyway, Pop, he's in the bathroom. I followed him when he squiggled upstairs."
"Now, Son, you shouldn't have done that. He's on a strange planet and it might make him nervous if he thought he was being spied on. We must show him every courtesy. By George, I can't wait to discuss these things with Ackerly-Ramsbottom! When I think of how much more this encounter has to give the anthropologist than even the physicist or astronomer ..."
He was still going strong on his second rhapsody when he was interrupted by another high-speed entrance. It was the Professor's Coltish Daughter.
"Mom, Pop, the Martian's—"
"Hush, dear. We know."
The Professor's Coltish Daughter regained her adolescent poise, which was considerable....