an old gentleman wrapped in what appeared to be a blue dressing gown with white stars all over it. The old man had a wisp of a beard and white eyebrows that slanted way up at the outside corners. He was wearing on his head a blue dunce cap which also had white stars on it.
"Are you-uh-Mr. A. J. Merlin?" Wilbur stammered. "I mean the Mr. Merlin who gives people confidence?"
"I might be," the old man said cagily.
He stared down at Wilbur, and for the first time Wilbur noticed the old man had eyes as black and mysterious as a pool on a dark night. Those eyes regarded Wilbur, noting his size, weight and general construction.
"Bah," the old man snorted. "You won't do. Not timid enough."
"Yes, sir," Wilbur chattered. He started backward down the stairs and almost fell.
"Wait a minute," the creaky voice ordered.
Wilbur halted in mid-step. The black eyes regarded him. A hand tipped by long, curving fingernails stroked the wisp of a beard.
"On the other hand," t