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´╗┐Title: The Enchanted Castle
Author: Nesbit, E. (Edith)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Enchanted Castle" ***

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The Enchanted Castle

by E. Nesbit



To Margaret Ostler with love from E. Nesbit

Peggy, you came from the heath and moor,
And you brought their airs through my open door;
You brought the blossom of youth to blow
In the Latin Quarter of Soho.
For the sake of that magic I send you here
A tale of enchantments, Peggy dear,
 A bit of my work, and a bit of my heart...
The bit that you left when we had to part.

Royalty Chambers, Soho, W. 25
September 1907



There were three of them Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen. Of course,
Jerry's name was Gerald, and not Jeremiah, whatever you may
think; and Jimmy's name was James; and Kathleen was never
called by her name at all, but Cathy, or Catty, or Puss Cat, when
her brothers were pleased with her, and Scratch Cat when they
were not pleased. And they were at school in a little town in the
West of England the boys at one school, of course, and the girl at
another, because the sensible habit of having boys and girls at the
same school is not yet as common as I hope it will be some day.
They used to see each other on Saturdays and Sundays at the house
of a kind maiden lady; but it was one of those houses where it is
impossible to play. You know the kind of house, don't you? There
is a sort of a something about that kind of house that makes you
hardly able even to talk to each other when you are left alone, and
playing seems unnatural and affected. So they looked forward to
the holidays, when they should all go home and be together all day
long, in a house where playing was natural and conversation
possible, and where the Hampshire forests and fields were full of
interesting things to do and see. Their Cousin Betty was to be there
too, and there were plans. Betty's school broke up before theirs,
and so she got to the Hampshire home first, and the moment she
got there she began to have measles, so that my three couldn't go
home at all. You may imagine their feelings. The thought of seven
weeks at Miss Hervey's was not to be borne, and all three wrote
home and said so. This astonished their parents very much,
because they had always thought it was so nice for the children to
have dear Miss Hervey's to go to. However, they were "jolly decent
about it , as Jerry said, and after a lot of letters and telegrams, it
was arranged that the boys should go and stay at Kathleen's school,
where there were now no girls left and no mistresses except the
French one.

"It'll be better than being at Miss Hervey's," said Kathleen, when
the boys came round to ask Mademoiselle when it would be
convenient for them to come; "and, besides, our school's not half
so ugly as yours. We do have tablecloths on the tables and curtains
at the windows, and yours is all deal boards, and desks, and
inkiness."

When they had gone to pack their boxes Kathleen made all the
rooms as pretty as she could with flowers in jam jars marigolds
chiefly, because there was nothing much else in the back garden.
There were geraniums in the front garden, and calceolarias and
lobelias; of course, the children were not allowed to pick these.

"We ought to have some sort of play to keep us going through the
holidays," said Kathleen, when tea was over, and she had unpacked
and arranged the boys clothes in the painted chests of drawers,
feeling very grown-up and careful as she neatly laid the different
sorts of clothes in tidy little heaps in the drawers. "Suppose we
write a book."

"You couldn't," said Jimmy.

"I didn't mean me, of course," said Kathleen, a little injured; "I
meant us."

"Too much fag," said Gerald briefly.

"If we wrote a book," Kathleen persisted, "about what the insides
of schools really are like, people would read it and say how clever
we were."

"More likely expel us," said Gerald. "No; we'll have an
out-of-doors game bandits, or something like that. It wouldn't be
bad if we could get a cave and keep stores in it, and have our
meals there."

"There aren't any caves," said Jimmy, who was fond of
contradicting everyone. "And, besides, your precious Mamselle
won't let us go out alone, as likely as not."

"Oh, we'll see about that," said Gerald. "I'll go and talk to her like a
father."

"Like that?" Kathleen pointed the thumb of scorn at him, and he
looked in the glass.

"To brush his hair and his clothes and to wash his face and hands
was to our hero but the work of a moment," said Gerald, and went
to suit the action to the word.

It was a very sleek boy, brown and thin and interesting-looking,
that knocked at the door of the parlour where Mademoiselle sat
reading a yellow-covered book and wishing vain wishes. Gerald
could always make himself look interesting at a moment's notice, a
very useful accomplishment in dealing with strange grown-ups. It
was done by opening his grey eyes rather wide, allowing the
corners of his mouth to droop, and assuming a gentle, pleading
expression, resembling that of the late little Lord Fauntleroy who
must, by the way, be quite old now, and an awful prig.

"Entrez!" said Mademoiselle, in shrill French accents. So he
entered.

"Eh bien?" she said rather impatiently.

"I hope I am not disturbing you," said Gerald, in whose mouth, it
seemed, butter would not have melted.

"But no," she said, somewhat softened. "What is it that you
desire?"

"I thought I ought to come and say how do you do," said Gerald,
"because of you being the lady of the house."

He held out the newly-washed hand, still damp and red. She took
it.

"You are a very polite little boy," she said.

"Not at all," said Gerald, more polite than ever. "I am so sorry for
you. It must be dreadful to have us to look after in the holidays."

"But not at all," said Mademoiselle in her turn. "I am sure you will
be very good childrens."

Gerald's look assured her that he and the others would be as near
angels as children could be without ceasing to be human."We'll
try," he said earnestly.

"Can one do anything for you?" asked the French governess kindly.

"Oh, no, thank you," said Gerald. "We don't want to give you any
trouble at all. And I was thinking it would be less trouble for you if
we were to go out into the woods all day tomorrow and take our
dinner with us something cold, you know so as not to be a trouble
to the cook."

"You are very considerate," said Mademoiselle coldly. Then
Gerald's eyes smiled; they had a trick of doing this when his lips
were quite serious. Mademoiselle caught the twinkle, and she
laughed and Gerald laughed too.

"Little deceiver!" she said. "Why not say at once you want to be
free of surveillance, how you say overwatching without pretending
it is me you wish to please?"

"You have to be careful with grown-ups, " said Gerald, "but it isn't
all pretence either. We don't want to trouble you and we don't want
you to "

"To trouble you. Eh bien! Your parents, they permit these days at
woods?"

"Oh, yes," said Gerald truthfully.

"Then I will not be more a dragon than the parents. I will forewarn
the cook. Are you content?"

"Rather!" said Gerald. "Mademoiselle, you are a dear."

"A deer?" she repeated "a stag?"

"No, a a cherie," said Gerald "a regular A1 cherie. And you sha'n't
repent it. Is there anything we can do for you wind your wool, or
find your spectacles, or ?"

"He thinks me a grandmother!" said Mademoiselle, laughing more
than ever. "Go then, and be not more naughty than you must."

"Well, what luck?" the others asked.

"It's all right," said Gerald indifferently. "I told you it would be.
The ingenuous youth won the regard of the foreign governess, who
in her youth had been the beauty of her humble village."

"I don't believe she ever was. She's too stern," said Kathleen.

"Ah!" said Gerald, "that's only because you don't know how to
manage her. She wasn't stern with me."

"I say," what a humbug you are though, aren't you?" said Jimmy.

"No, I'm a dip what's-its-name? Something like an ambassador.
Dipsoplomatist that's what I am. Anyhow, we've got our day, and if
we don't find a cave in it my name's not Jack Robinson."

Mademoiselle, less stern than Kathleen had ever seen her, presided
at supper, which was bread and treacle spread several hours
before, and now harder and drier than any other food you can think
of. Gerald was very polite in handing her butter and cheese, and
pressing her to taste the bread and treacle.

"Bah! it is like sand in the mouth of a dryness! Is it possible this
pleases you?"

"No," said Gerald, "it is not possible, but it is not polite for boys to
make remarks about their food!"

She laughed, but there was no more dried bread and treacle for
supper after that.

"How do you do it?" Kathleen whispered admiringly as they said
good night.

"Oh, it's quite easy when you've once got a grownup to see what
you're after. You'll see, I shall drive her with a rein of darning
cotton after this."

Next morning Gerald got up early and gathered a little bunch of
pink carnations from a plant which he found hidden among the
marigolds. He tied it up with black cotton and laid it on
Mademoiselle's plate. She smiled and looked quite handsome as
she stuck the flowers in her belt.

"Do you think it's quite decent," Jimmy asked later "sort of bribing
people to let you do as you like with flowers and things and
passing them the salt?"

"It's not that," said Kathleen suddenly. "I know what Gerald means,
only I never think of the things in time myself. You see, if you
want grown-ups to be nice to you the least you can do is to be nice
to them and think of little things to please them. I never think of
any myself. Jerry does; that's why all the old ladies like him. It's
not bribery. It's a sort of honesty like paying for things."

"Well, anyway," said Jimmy, putting away the moral question,
"we've got a ripping day for the woods."

They had.

The wide High Street, even at the busy morning hour almost as
quiet as a dream-street, lay bathed in sunshine; the leaves shone
fresh from last night's rain, but the road was dry, and in the
sunshine the very dust of it sparkled like diamonds. The beautiful
old houses, standing stout and strong, looked as though they were
basking in the sunshine and enjoying it.

"But are there any woods?" asked Kathleen as they passed the
market-place.

"It doesn't much matter about woods," said Gerald dreamily, "we're
sure to find something. One of the chaps told me his father said
when he was a boy there used to be a little cave under the bank in
a lane near the Salisbury Road; but he said there was an enchanted
castle there too, so perhaps the cave isn't true either." "If we were
to get horns," said Kathleen, "and to blow them very hard all the
way, we might find a magic castle."

"If you've got the money to throw away on horns..." said Jimmy
contemptuously.

"Well, I have, as it happens, so there!" said Kathleen. And the
horns were bought in a tiny shop with a bulging window full of a
tangle of toys and sweets and cucumbers and sour apples.

And the quiet square at the end of the town where the church is,
and the houses of the most respectable people, echoed to the sound
of horns blown long and loud. But none of the houses turned into
enchanted castles. Away they went along the Salisbury Road,
which was very hot and dusty, so they agreed to drink one of the
bottles of ginger-beer.

"We might as well carry the ginger-beer inside us as inside the
bottle," said Jimmy, "and we can hide the bottle and call for it as
we come back.

Presently they came to a place where the road, as Gerald said,
went two ways at once.

"That looks like adventures," said Kathleen; and they took the
right-hand road, and the next time they took a turning it was a
left-hand one, "so as to be quite fair," Jimmy said, and then a
right-hand one and then a left, and so on, till they were completely
lost.

"Completely," said Kathleen; "how jolly!"

And now trees arched overhead, and the banks of the road were
high and bushy. The adventurers had long since ceased to blow
their horns. It was too tiring to go on doing that, when there was no
one to be annoyed by it.

"Oh, kriky!" observed Jimmy suddenly, "let's sit down a bit and
have some of our dinner. We might call it lunch, you know," he
added persuasively.

So they sat down in the hedge and ate the ripe red gooseberries
that were to have been their dessert.

And as they sat and rested and wished that their boots did not feel
so full of feet, Gerald leaned back against the bushes, and the
bushes gave way so that he almost fell over backward. Something
had yielded to the pressure of his back, and there was the sound of
something heavy that fell.

"Oh, Jimminy!" he remarked, recovering himself suddenly; "there's
something hollow in there the stone I was leaning against simply
went!"

"I wish it was a cave," said Jimmy; "but of course it isn't."

"If we blow the horns perhaps it will be," said Kathleen, and
hastily blew her own.

Gerald reached his hand through the bushes. "I can't feel anything
but air," he said; "it's just a hole full of emptiness. The other two
pulled back the bushes. There certainly was a hole in the bank.
"I'm going to go in," observed Gerald.

"Oh, don't!" said his sister. "I wish you wouldn't. Suppose there
were snakes!"

"Not likely," said Gerald, but he leaned forward and struck a
match. "It is a cave!" he cried, and put his knee on the mossy stone
he had been sitting on, scrambled over it, and disappeared.

A breathless pause followed.

"You all right?" asked Jimmy.

"Yes; come on. You'd better come feet first there's a bit of a drop."

"I'll go next," said Kathleen, and went feet first, as advised. The
feet waved wildly in the air.

"Look out!" said Gerald in the dark; "you'll have my eye out. Put
your feet down, girl, not up. It's no use trying to fly here there's no
room."

He helped her by pulling her feet forcibly down and then lifting
her under the arms. She felt rustling dry leaves under her boots,
and stood ready to receive Jimmy, who came in head first, like one
diving into an unknown sea.

"It is a cave," said Kathleen.

"The young explorers," explained Gerald, blocking up the hole of
entrance with his shoulders, "dazzled at first by the darkness of the
cave, could see nothing."

"Darkness doesn't dazzle," said Jimmy.

"I wish we'd got a candle," said Kathleen.

"Yes, it does," Gerald contradicted "could see nothing. But their
dauntless leader, whose eyes had grown used to the dark while the
clumsy forms of the others were bunging up the entrance, had
made a discovery.

"Oh, what!" Both the others were used to Gerald's way of telling a
story while he acted it, but they did sometimes wish that he didn't
talk quite so long and so like a book in moments of excitement.

"He did not reveal the dread secret to his faithful followers till one
and all had given him their word of honour to be calm."

"We'll be calm all right," said Jimmy impatiently."Well, then," said
Gerald, ceasing suddenly to be a book and becoming a boy,
"there's a light over there look behind you!"

They looked. And there was. A faint greyness on the brown walls
of the cave, and a brighter greyness cut off sharply by a dark line,
showed that round a turning or angle of the cave there was
daylight.

"Attention!" said Gerald; at least, that was what he meant, though
what he said was "Shun!" as becomes the son of a soldier. The
others mechanically obeyed.

"You will remain at attention till I give the word "Slow march!' on
which you will advance cautiously in open order, following your
hero leader, taking care not to tread on the dead and wounded."

"I wish you wouldn't!" said Kathleen.

"There aren't any," said Jimmy, feeling for her hand in the dark;
"he only means, take care not to tumble over stones and things"

Here he found her hand, and she screamed.

"It's only me," said Jimmy. "I thought you'd like me to hold it. But
you're just like a girl."

Their eyes had now begun to get accustomed to the darkness, and
all could see that they were in a rough stone cave, that went
straight on for about three or four yards and then turned sharply to
the right.

"Death or victory!" remarked Gerald. "Now, then Slow march!"

He advanced carefully, picking his way among the loose earth and
stones that were the floor of the cave.

"A sail, a sail!" he cried, as he turned the corner.

"How splendid!" Kathleen drew a long breath as she came out into
the sunshine.

"I don't see any sail," said Jimmy, following.

The narrow passage ended in a round arch all fringed with ferns
and creepers. They passed through the arch into a deep, narrow
gully whose banks were of stones, moss-covered; and in the
crannies grew more ferns and long grasses. Trees growing on the
top of the bank arched across, and the sunlight came through in
changing patches of brightness, turning the gully to a roofed
corridor of goldy-green. The path, which was of greeny-grey
flagstones where heaps of leaves had drifted, sloped steeply down,
and at the end of it was another round arch, quite dark inside,
above which rose rocks and grass and bushes.

"It's like the outside of a railway tunnel," said James.

"It's the entrance to the enchanted castle," said Kathleen. "Let's
blow the horns."

"Dry up!" said Gerald. "The bold Captain, reproving the silly
chatter of his subordinates ,"

"I like that!" said Jimmy, indignant.

"I thought you would," resumed Gerald "of his subordinates, bade
them advance with caution and in silence, because after all there
might be somebody about, and the other arch might be an
ice-house or something dangerous.

"What?" asked Kathleen anxiously.

"Bears, perhaps," said Gerald briefly.

"There aren't any bears without bars in England, anyway," said
Jimmy. "They call bears bars in America," he added absently.

"Quick march!" was Gerald's only reply.

And they marched. Under the drifted damp leaves the path was
firm and stony to their shuffling feet. At the dark arch they
stopped.

"There are steps down," said Jimmy.

"It is an ice-house," said Gerald.

"Don't let's," said Kathleen.

"Our hero," said Gerald, "who nothing could dismay, raised the
faltering hopes of his abject minions by saying that he was jolly
well going on, and they could do as they liked about it."

"If you call names," said Jimmy, "you can go on by yourself. He
added, "So there!"

"It's part of the game, silly," explained Gerald kindly. "You can be
Captain tomorrow, so you'd better hold your jaw now, and begin to
think about what names you'll call us when it's your turn."

Very slowly and carefully they went down the steps. A vaulted
stone arched over their heads. Gerald struck a match when the last
step was found to have no edge, and to be, in fact, the beginning of
a passage, turning to the left.

"This," said Jimmy, "will take us back into the road."

"Or under it," said Gerald. "We've come down eleven steps."

They went on, following their leader, who went very slowly for
fear, as he explained, of steps. The passage was very dark.

"I don't half like it!" whispered Jimmy.

Then came a glimmer of daylight that grew and grew, and
presently ended in another arch that looked out over a scene so like
a picture out of a book about Italy that everyone's breath was taken
away, and they simply walked forward silent and staring. A short
avenue of cypresses led, widening as it went, to a marble terrace
that lay broad and white in the sunlight. The children, blinking,
leaned their arms on the broad, flat balustrade and gazed.
Immediately below them was a lake just like a lake in "The
Beauties of Italy" a lake with swans and an island and weeping
willows; beyond it were green slopes dotted with groves of trees,
and amid the trees gleamed the white limbs of statues. Against a
little hill to the left was a round white building with pillars, and to
the right a waterfall came tumbling down among mossy stones to
splash into the lake. Steps fed from the terrace to the water, and
other steps to the green lawns beside it. Away across the grassy
slopes deer were feeding, and in the distance where the groves of
trees thickened into what looked almost a forest were enormous
shapes of grey stone, like nothing that the children had ever seen
before.

"That chap at school ," said Gerald.

"It is an enchanted castle," said Kathleen.

"I don't see any castle," said Jimmy.

"What do you call that, then?" Gerald pointed to where, beyond a
belt of lime-trees, white towers and turrets broke the blue of the
sky.

"There doesn't seem to be anyone about," said Kathleen, "and yet
it's all so tidy. I believe it is magic"

"Magic mowing machines," Jimmy suggested.

"If we were in a book it would be an enchanted castle certain to
be," said Kathleen.

"It is an enchanted castle," said Gerald in hollow tones.

"But there aren't any" Jimmy was quite positive.

"How do you know? Do you think there's nothing in the world but
what you've seen?" His scorn was crushing.

"I think magic went out when people began to have
steam-engines," Jimmy insisted, "and newspapers, and telephones
and wireless telegraphing."

"Wireless is rather like magic when you come to think of it," said
Gerald.

"Oh, that sort!" Jimmy's contempt was deep.

"Perhaps there's given up being magic because people didn't
believe in it any more," said Kathleen.

"Well, don't let's spoil the show with any silly old not believing,"
said Gerald with decision. "I'm going to believe in magic as hard
as I can. This is an enchanted garden, and that's an enchanted
castle, and I'm jolly well going to explore."

The dauntless knight then led the way, leaving his ignorant squires
to follow or not, just as they jolly well chose. He rolled off the
balustrade and strode firmly down towards the lawn, his boots
making, as they went, a clatter full of determination. The others
followed. There never was such a garden out of a picture or a
fairy-tale. They passed quite close by the deer, who only raised
their pretty heads to look, and did not seem startled at all. And
after a long stretch of turf they passed under the heaped-up heavy
masses of lime-trees and came into a rose-garden, bordered with
thick, close-cut yew hedges, and lying red and pink and green and
white in the sun, like a giant's many-coloured, highly-scented
pocket-handkerchief.

"I know we shall meet a gardener in a minute, and he'll ask what
we re doing here. And then what will you say?" Kathleen asked
with her nose in a rose.

"I shall say we have lost our way, and it will be quite true," said
Gerald.

But they did not meet a gardener or anybody else, and the feeling
of magic got thicker and thicker, till they were almost afraid of the
sound of their feet in the great silent place. Beyond the rose garden
was a yew hedge with an arch cut in it, and it was the beginning of
a maze like the one in Hampton Court.

"Now," said Gerald, "you mark my words. In the middle of this
maze we shall find the secret enchantment. Draw your swords, my
merry men all, and hark forward tallyho in the utmost silence.
Which they did. It was very hot in the maze, between the close yew
hedges, and the way to the maze's heart was hidden well. Again
and again they found themselves at the black yew arch that opened
on the rose garden, and they were all glad that they had brought
large, clean pocket-handkerchiefs with them. It was when they
found themselves there for the fourth time that Jimmy suddenly
cried, "Oh, I wish ' and then stopped short very suddenly. "Oh!" he
added in quite a different voice, "where's the dinner?" And then in
a stricken silence they all remembered that the basket with the
dinner had been left at the entrance of the cave. Their thoughts
dwelt fondly on the slices of cold mutton, the six tomatoes, the
bread and butter, the screwed-up paper of salt, the apple turnovers,
and the little thick glass that one drank the ginger-beer out of.

"Let's go back," said Jimmy, "now this minute, and get our things
and have our dinner."

"Let's have one more try at the maze. I hate giving things up," said
Gerald.

"I am so hungry!" said Jimmy.

"Why didn't you say so before?" asked Gerald bitterly.

"I wasn't before."

"Then you can't be now. You don't get hungry all in a minute.
What's that?"

That was a gleam of red that lay at the foot of the yew-hedge a thin
little line, that you would hardly have noticed unless you had been
staring in a fixed and angry way at the roots of the hedge.

It was a thread of cotton. Gerald picked it up. One end of it was
tied to a thimble with holes in it, and the other--

"There is no other end," said Gerald, with firm triumph. "It's a clew
that's what it is. What price cold mutton now? I've always felt
something magic would happen some day, and now it has."

"I expect the gardener put it there," said Jimmy.

"With a Princess's silver thimble on it? Look! there's a crown on
the thimble."

There was.

"Come," said Gerald in low, urgent tones, "if you are adventurers
be adventurers; and anyhow, I expect someone has gone along the
road and bagged the mutton hours ago."

He walked forward, winding the red thread round his fingers as he
went. And it was a clew, and it led them right into the middle of
the maze. And in the very middle of the maze they came upon the
wonder.

The red clew led them up two stone steps to a round grass plot.
There was a sun-dial in the middle, and all round against the yew
hedge a low, wide marble seat. The red clew ran straight across the
grass and by the sun-dial, and ended in a small brown hand with
jewelled rings on every finger. The hand was, naturally, attached
to an arm, and that had many bracelets on it, sparkling with red
and blue and green stones. The arm wore a sleeve of pink and gold
brocaded silk, faded a little here and there but still extremely
imposing, and the sleeve was part of a dress, which was worn by a
lady who lay on the stone seat asleep in the sun. The rosy gold
dress fell open over an embroidered petticoat of a soft green
colour. There was old yellow lace the colour of scalded cream, and
a thin white veil spangled with silver stars covered the face.

"It's the enchanted Princess," said Gerald, now really impressed. "I
told you so."

"It's the Sleeping Beauty," said Kathleen. "It is look how
old-fashioned her clothes are, like the pictures of Marie
Antoinette's ladies in the history book. She has slept for a hundred
years. Oh, Gerald, you're the eldest; you must be the Prince, and
we never knew it."

"She isn't really a Princess," said Jimmy. But the others laughed at
him, partly because his saying things like that was enough to spoil
any game, and partly because they really were not at all sure that it
was not a Princess who lay there as still as the sunshine. Every
stage of the adventure the cave, the wonderful gardens, the maze,
the clew, had deepened the feeling of magic, till now Kathleen and
Gerald were almost completely bewitched.

"Lift the veil up," Jerry, said Kathleen in a whisper, "if she isn't
beautiful we shall know she can't be the Princess.

"Lift it yourself," said Gerald.

"I expect you're forbidden to touch the figures," said Jimmy.

"It's not wax, silly," said his brother.

"No," said his sister, "wax wouldn't be much good in this sun. And,
besides, you can see her breathing. It's the Princess right enough."
She very gently lifted the edge of the veil and turned it back. The
Princess's face was small and white between long plaits of black
hair. Her nose was straight and her brows finely traced. There were
a few freckles on cheekbones and nose.

"No wonder," whispered Kathleen, "sleeping all these years in all
this sun! Her mouth was not a rosebud. But all the same "Isn't she
lovely!" Kathleen murmured. "Not so dusty," Gerald was
understood to reply. "Now, Jerry," said Kathleen firmly, "you're the
eldest."

"Of course I am," said Gerald uneasily.

"Well, you've got to wake the Princess."

"She's not a Princess," said Jimmy, with his hands in the pockets of
his knickerbockers; "she's only a little girl dressed up."

"But she's in long dresses," urged Kathleen.

"Yes, but look what a little way down her frock her feet come. She
wouldn't be any taller than Jerry if she was to stand up."

"Now then," urged Kathleen. "Jerry, don't be silly. You've got to do
it."

"Do what?" asked Gerald, kicking his left boot with his right.

"Why, kiss her awake, of course."

"Not me!" was Gerald's unhesitating rejoinder.

"Well, someone's got to."

"She'd go for me as likely as not the minute she woke up," said
Gerald anxiously.

"I'd do it like a shot," said Kathleen, "but I don't suppose it ud
make any difference me kissing her."

She did it; and it didn't. The Princess still lay in deep slumber.

"Then you must, Jimmy. I dare say you'll do. Jump back quickly
before she can hit you."

"She won't hit him, he's such a little chap," said Gerald.

"Little yourself!" said Jimmy. "I don't mind kissing her. I'm not a
coward, like Some People. Only if I do, I'm going to be the
dauntless leader for the rest of the day."

"No, look here hold on!" cried Gerald, "perhaps I'd better " But, in
the meantime, Jimmy had planted a loud, cheerful-sounding kiss
on the Princess's pale cheek, and now the three stood breathless,
awaiting the result.

And the result was that the Princess opened large, dark eyes,
stretched out her arms, yawned a little, covering her mouth with a
small brown hand, and said, quite plainly and distinctly, and
without any room at all for mistake:

"Then the hundred years are over? How the yew hedges have
grown! Which of you is my Prince that aroused me from my deep
sleep of so many long years?"

"I did," said Jimmy fearlessly, for she did not look as though she
were going to slap anyone.

"My noble preserver!" said the Princess, and held out her hand.
Jimmy shook it vigorously.

"But I say," said he, "you aren't really a Princess, are you?"

"Of course I am," she answered; "who else could I be? Look at my
crown!" She pulled aside the spangled veil, and showed beneath it
a coronet of what even Jimmy could not help seeing to be
diamonds.

"But " said Jimmy.

"Why," she said, opening her eyes very wide, "you must have
known about my being here, or you'd never have come. How did
you get past the dragons?"

Gerald ignored the question. "I say," he said, "do you really believe
in magic, and all that?"

"I ought to," she said, "if anybody does. Look, here's the place
where I pricked my finger with the spindle." She showed a little
scar on her wrist.

"Then this really is an enchanted castle?"

"Of course it is," said the Princess. "How stupid you are!" She
stood up, and her pink brocaded dress lay in bright waves about
her feet.

"I said her dress would be too long," said Jimmy.

"It was the right length when I went to sleep," said the Princess; "it
must have grown in the hundred years."

"I don't believe you're a Princess at all," said Jimmy; "at least "

"Don't bother about believing it, if you don't like," said the
Princess. "It doesn't so much matter what you believe as what I am.
She turned to the others.

"Let's go back to the castle," she said, "and I'll show you all my
lovely jewels and things. Wouldn't you like that?"

"Yes, said Gerald with very plain hesitation. "But "

"But what?" The Princess's tone was impatient.

"But we're most awfully hungry." "Oh, so am I!" cried the Princess.

"We've had nothing to eat since breakfast."

"And it's three now," said the Princess, looking at the sun-dial.
"Why, you've had nothing to eat for hours and hours and hours. But
think of me! I haven't had anything to eat for a hundred years."
Come along to the castle.

"The mice will have eaten everything," said Jimmy sadly. He saw
now that she really was a Princess.

"Not they," cried the Princess joyously. "You forget everything's
enchanted here. Time simply stood still for a hundred years. Come
along, and one of you must carry my train, or I shan't be able to
move now it's grown such a frightful length."

When you are young so many things are difficult to believe, and
yet the dullest people will tell you that they are true such things,
for instance, as that the earth goes round the sun, and that it is not
flat but round. But the things that seem really likely, like
fairy-tales and magic, are, so say the grown-ups, not true at all. Yet
they are so easy to believe, especially when you see them
happening. And, as I am always telling you, the most wonderful
things happen to all sorts of people, only you never hear about
them because the people think that no one will believe their
stories, and so they don't tell them to any one except me. And they
tell me, because they know that I can believe anything.

When Jimmy had awakened the Sleeping Princess, and she had
invited the three children to go with her to her palace and get
something to eat, they all knew quite surely that they had come
into a place of magic happenings. And they walked in a slow
procession along the grass towards the castle. The Princess went
first, and Kathleen carried her shining train; then came Jimmy, and
Gerald came last. They were all quite sure that they had walked
right into the middle of a fairy-tale, and they were the more ready
to believe it because they were so tired and hungry. They were, in
fact, so hungry and tired that they hardly noticed where they were
going, or observed the beauties of the formal gardens through
which the pink-silk Princess was leading them. They were in a sort
of dream, from which they only partially awakened to find
themselves in a big hail, with suits of armour and old flags round
the walls, the skins of beasts on the floor, and heavy oak tables and
benches ranged along it.

The Princess entered, slow and stately, but once inside she
twitched her sheeny train out of Jimmy's hand and turned to the
three.

"You just wait here a minute," she said, "and mind you don't talk
while I'm away. This castle is crammed with magic, and I don't
know what will happen if you talk." And with that, picking up the
thick goldy-pink folds under her arms, she ran out, as Jimmy said
afterwards, "most unprincesslike," showing as she ran black
stockings and black strap shoes.

Jimmy wanted very much to say that he didn't believe anything
would happen, only he was afraid something would happen if he
did, so he merely made a face and put out his tongue. The others
pretended not to see this, which was much more crushing than
anything they could have said. So they sat in silence, and Gerald
ground the heel of his boot upon the marble floor. Then the
Princess came back, very slowly and kicking her long skirts in
front of her at every step. She could not hold them up now because
of the tray she carried.

It was not a silver tray, as you might have expected, but an oblong
tin one. She set it down noisily on the end of the long table and
breathed a sigh of relief..

"Oh! it was heavy," she said. I don't know what fairy feast the
children's fancy had been busy with. Anyhow, this was nothing like
it. The heavy tray held a loaf of bread, a lump of cheese, and a
brown jug of water. The rest of its heaviness was just plates and
mugs and knives.

"Come along," said the Princess hospitably. "I couldn't find
anything but bread and cheese but it doesn't matter, because
everything's magic here, and unless you have some dreadful secret
fault the bread and cheese will turn into anything you like. What
would you like?" she asked Kathleen.

"Roast chicken," said Kathleen, without hesitation.

The pinky Princess cut a slice of bread and laid it on a dish.

"There you are," she said, "roast chicken. Shall I carve it, or will
you?"

"You, please," said Kathleen, and received a piece of dry bread on
a plate.

"Green peas?" asked the Princess, cut a piece of cheese and laid it
beside the bread.

Kathleen began to eat the bread, cutting it up with knife and fork
as you would eat chicken. It was no use owning that she didn't see
any chicken and peas, or anything but cheese and dry bread,
because that would be owning that she had some dreadful secret
fault.

"If I have, it is a secret, even from me," she told herself.

The others asked for roast beef and cabbage and got it, she
supposed, though to her it only looked like dry bread and Dutch
cheese.

"I do wonder what my dreadful secret fault is," she thought, as the
Princess remarked that, as for her, she could fancy a slice of roast
peacock. "This one, she added, lifting a second mouthful of dry
bread on her fork, "is quite delicious."

"It's a game, isn't it?" asked Jimmy suddenly.

"What's a game?" asked the Princess, frowning.

"Pretending it's beef the bread and cheese, I mean."

"A game? But it is beef. Look at it," said the Princess, opening her
eyes very wide.

"Yes, of course," said Jimmy feebly. "I was only joking."

Bread and cheese is not perhaps so good as roast beef or chicken
or peacock (I'm not sure about the peacock. I never tasted peacock,
did you?); but bread and cheese is, at any rate, very much better
than nothing when you have gone on having nothing since
breakfast (gooseberries and ginger-beer hardly count) and it is long
past your proper dinner-time. Everyone ate and drank and felt
much better.

"Now," said the Princess, brushing the bread crumbs off her green
silk lap, "if you're sure you won't have any more meat you can
come and see my treasures. Sure you won't take the least bit more
chicken? No? Then follow me."

She got up and they followed her down the long hall to the end
where the great stone stairs ran up at each side and joined in a
broad flight leading to the gallery above. Under the stairs was a
hanging of tapestry.

"Beneath this arras," said the Princess, "is the door leading to my
private apartments." She held the tapestry up with both hands, for
it was heavy, and showed a little door that had been hidden by it.

"The key," she said, "hangs above."

And so it did, on a large rusty nail.

"Put it in," said the Princess, "and turn it." Gerald did so, and the
great key creaked and grated in the lock.

"Now push," she said; "push hard, all of you. They pushed hard, all
of them. The door gave way, and they fell over each other into the
dark space beyond.

The Princess dropped the curtain and came after them, closing the
door behind her.

"Look out!" she said; "look out!" there are two steps down.

"Thank you," said Gerald, rubbing his knee at the bottom of the
steps. "We found that out for ourselves." "I'm sorry," said the
Princess, "but you can't have hurt yourselves much. Go straight on.
There aren't any more steps."

They went straight on in the dark.

"When you come to the door just turn the handle and go in. Then
stand still till I find the matches. I know where they are."

"Did they have matches a hundred years ago?" asked Jimmy.

"I meant the tinder-box," said the Princess quickly. "We always
called it the matches. Don't you? Here, let me go first."

She did, and when they had reached the door she was waiting for
them with a candle in her hand. She thrust it on Gerald.

"Hold it steady," she said, and undid the shutters of a long window,
so that first a yellow streak and then a blazing great oblong of light
flashed at them and the room was full of sunshine.

"It makes the candle look quite silly," said Jimmy. "So it does, said
the Princess, and blew out the candle. Then she took the key from
the outside of the door, put it in the inside keyhole, and turned it.

The room they were in was small and high. Its domed ceiling was
of deep blue with gold stars painted on it. The walls were of wood,
panelled and carved, and there was no furniture in it whatever.

"This," said the Princess, "is my treasure chamber." "But where,
asked Kathleen politely, "are the treasures?"

"Don't you see them?" asked the Princess.

"No, we don't," said Jimmy bluntly. "You don't come that
bread-and-cheese game with me not twice over, you don't!"

"If you really don't see them," said the Princess, "I suppose I shall
have to say the charm. Shut your eyes, please. And give me your
word of honour you won't look till I tell you, and that you'll never
tell anyone what you've seen."

Their words of honour were something that the children would
rather not have given just then, but they gave them all the same,
and shut their eyes tight.

"Wiggadil yougadoo begadee leegadeeve nowgadow?" said the
Princess rapidly; and they heard the swish of her silk train moving
across the room. Then there was a creaking, rustling noise.

"She's locking us in!" cried Jimmy.

"Your word of honour," gasped Gerald.

"Oh, do be quick!" moaned Kathleen.

"You may look," said the voice of the Princess. And they looked.
The room was not the same room, yet yes, the starry-vaulted blue
ceiling was there, and below it half a dozen feet of the dark
panelling, but below that the walls of the room blazed and
sparkled with white and blue and red and green and gold and
silver. Shelves ran round the room, and on them were gold cups
and silver dishes, and platters and goblets set with gems,
ornaments of gold and silver, tiaras of diamonds, necklaces of
rubies, strings of emeralds and pearls, all set out in unimaginable
splendour against a background of faded blue velvet. It was like
the Crown jewels that you see when your kind uncle takes you to
the Tower, only there seemed to be far more jewels than you or
anyone else has ever seen together at the Tower or anywhere else.

The three children remained breathless, open-mouthed, staring at
the sparkling splendours all about them, while the Princess stood,
her arm stretched out in a gesture of command, and a proud smile
on her lips.

"My word!" said Gerald, in a low whisper. But no one spoke out
loud. They waited as if spellbound for the Princess to speak.

She spoke.

"What price bread-and-cheese games now?" she asked
triumphantly. "Can I do magic, or can't I?"

"You can; oh, you can!" said Kathleen.

"May we may we touch?" asked Gerald.

"All that's mine is yours," said the Princess, with a generous wave
of her brown hand, and added quickly, "Only, of course, you
mustn't take anything away with you."

"We're not thieves!" said Jimmy. The others were already turning
over the wonderful things on the blue velvet shelves.

"Perhaps not," said the Princess, "but you're a very unbelieving
little boy. You think I can't see inside you, but I can. I know what
you've been thinking."

"What?" asked Jimmy.

"Oh, you know well enough," said the Princess. "You're thinking
about the bread and cheese that I changed into beef, and about
your secret fault. I say, let's all dress up and you be princes and
princesses too."

"To crown our hero," said Gerald, lifting a gold crown with a cross
on the top, "was the work of a moment." He put the crown on his
head, and added a collar of SS and a zone of sparkling emeralds,
which would not quite meet round his middle. He turned from
fixing it by an ingenious adaptation of his belt to find the others
already decked with diadems, necklaces, and rings.

"How splendid you look!" said the Princess, "and how I wish your
clothes were prettier. What ugly clothes people wear nowadays! A
hundred years ago "

Kathleen stood quite still with a diamond bracelet raised in her
hand.

"I say," she said. "The King and Queen?"

"What King and Queen?" asked the Princess.

"Your father and mother," your sorrowing parents, said Kathleen.
"They'll have waked up by now. Won't they be wanting to see you,
after a hundred years, you know?"

"Oh ah yes," said the Princess slowly. "I embraced my rejoicing
parents when I got the bread and cheese. They re having their
dinner. They won't expect me yet. Here," she added, hastily putting
a ruby bracelet on Kathleen's arm, "see how splendid that is!"

Kathleen would have been quite content to go on all day trying on
different jewels and looking at herself in the little silver-framed
mirror that the Princess took from one of the shelves, but the boys
were soon weary of this amusement.

"Look here," said Gerald, "if you're sure your father and mother
won't want you, let's go out and have a jolly good game of
something. You could play besieged castles awfully well in that
maze unless you can do any more magic tricks."

"You forget," said the Princess, "I'm grown up. I don't play games.
And I don't like to do too much magic at a time, it's so tiring.
Besides, it'll take us ever so long to put all these things back in
their proper places."

It did. The children would have laid the jewels just anywhere; but
the Princess showed them that every necklace, or ring, or bracelet
had its own home on the velvet a slight hollowing in the shelf
beneath, so that each stone fitted into its own little nest.

As Kathleen was fitting the last shining ornament into its proper
place, she saw that part of the shelf near it held, not bright jewels,
but rings and brooches and chains, as well as queer things that she
did not know the names of, and all were of dull metal and odd
shapes.

"What's all this rubbish?" she asked.

"Rubbish, indeed!" said the Princess. "Why those are all magic
things! This bracelet anyone who wears it has got to speak the
truth. This chain makes you as strong as ten men; if you wear this
spur your horse will go a mile a minute; or if you're walking it's the
same as seven-league boots."

"What does this brooch do?" asked Kathleen, reaching out her
hand. The princess caught her by the wrist.

"You mustn't touch," she said; "if anyone but me touches them all
the magic goes out at once and never comes back. That brooch
will give you any wish you like."

"And this ring?" Jimmy pointed.

"Oh, that makes you invisible."

"What's this?" asked Gerald, showing a curious buckle.

"Oh, that undoes the effect of all the other charms."

"Do you mean really?" Jimmy asked. "You're not just kidding?"

"Kidding indeed!" repeated the Princess scornfully. "I should have
thought I'd shown you enough magic to prevent you speaking to a
Princess like that!"

"I say," said Gerald, visibly excited. "You might show us how
some of the things act. Couldn't you give us each a wish?"

The Princess did not at once answer. And the minds of the three
played with granted wishes brilliant yet thoroughly reasonable  the
kind of wish that never seems to occur to people in fairy-tales
when they suddenly get a chance to have their three wishes
granted.

"No," said the Princess suddenly, "no; I can't give wishes to you, it
only gives me wishes. But I'll let you see the ring make me
invisible. Only you must shut your eyes while I do it."

They shut them.

"Count fifty," said the Princess, "and then you may look. And then
you must shut them again, and count fifty, and I'll reappear."

Gerald counted, aloud. Through the counting one could hear a
creaking, rustling sound.

"Forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty!" said Gerald, and they
opened their eyes.

They were alone in the room. The jewels had vanished and so had
the Princess.

"She's gone out by the door, of course," said Jimmy, but the door
was locked.

"That is magic," said Kathleen breathlessly. "Maskelyne and
Devant can do that trick, said Jimmy. "And I want my tea."

"Your tea!" Gerald's tone was full of contempt. "The lovely
Princess, he went on, "reappeared as soon as our hero had finished
counting fifty. One, two, three, four ,"

Gerald and Kathleen had both closed their eyes. But somehow
Jimmy hadn't. He didn't mean to cheat, he just forgot. And as
Gerald's count reached twenty he saw a panel under the window
open slowly.

"Her," he said to himself. "I knew it was a trick!" and at once shut
his eyes, like an honourable little boy.

On the word "fifty" six eyes opened. And the panel was closed and
there was no Princess.

"She hasn't pulled it off this time," said Gerald. "Perhaps you'd
better count again," said Kathleen. "I believe there's a cupboard
under the window," said Jimmy, "and she's hidden in it. Secret
panel, you know."

"You looked! That's cheating," said the voice of the Princess so
close to his ear that he quite jumped.

"I didn't cheat."

"Where on earth What ever ," said all three together. For still there
was no Princess to be seen.

"Come back visible, Princess dear," said Kathleen. "Shall we shut
our eyes and count again?"

"Don't be silly!" said the voice of the Princess, and it sounded very
cross.

"We're not silly," said Jimmy, and his voice was cross too. "Why
can't you come back and have done with it? You know you're only
hiding."

"Don't!" said Kathleen gently. "She is invisible, you know."

"So should I be if I got into the cupboard," said Jimmy.

"Oh yes," said the sneering tone of the Princess, "you think
yourselves very clever, I dare say. But I don't mind. We'll play that
you can't see me, if you like."

"Well, but we can't," said Gerald. "It's no use getting in a wax. If
you're hiding, as Jimmy says, you'd better come out. If you've
really turned invisible, you'd better make yourself visible again."

"Do you really mean," asked a voice quite changed, but still the
Princess's, "that you can't see me?"

"Can't you see we can't?" asked Jimmy rather unreasonably.

The sun was blazing in at the window; the eight-sided room was
very hot, and everyone was getting cross.

"You can't see me?" There was the sound of a sob in the voice of
the invisible Princess.

"No, I tell you," said Jimmy, "and I want my tea and "

What he was saying was broken off short, as one might break a
stick of sealing wax. And then in the golden afternoon a really
quite horrid thing happened: Jimmy suddenly leaned backwards,
then forwards, his eyes opened wide and his mouth too. Backward
and forward he went, very quickly and abruptly, then stood still.

"Oh, he's in a fit! Oh, Jimmy, dear Jimmy!" cried Kathleen,
hurrying to him. "What is it, dear, what is it?"

"It's not a fit," gasped Jimmy angrily. "She shook me."

"Yes, said the voice of the Princess, "and I'll shake him again if he
keeps on saying he can't see me."

"You'd better shake me," said Gerald angrily. "I'm nearer your own
size."

And instantly she did. But not for long. The moment Gerald felt
hands on his shoulders he put up his own and caught those other
hands by the wrists. And there he was, holding wrists that he
couldn't see. It was a dreadful sensation. An invisible kick made
him wince, but he held tight to the wrists.

"Cathy," he cried, "come and hold her legs; she's kicking me."

"Where?" cried Kathleen, anxious to help. "I don't see any legs."

"This is her hands I've got," cried Gerald. "She is invisible right
enough. Get hold of this hand, and then you can feel your way
down to her legs."

Kathleen did so. I wish I could make you understand how very,
very uncomfortable and frightening it is to feel, in broad daylight,
hands and arms that you can't see.

"I won't have you hold my legs," said the invisible Princess,
struggling violently.

"What are you so cross about?" Gerald was quite calm. "You said
you'd be invisible and you are."

"I'm not."

"You are really. Look in the glass."

"I'm not; I can't be."

"Look in the glass," Gerald repeated, quite unmoved.

"Let go, then," she said.

Gerald did, and the moment he had done so he found it impossible
to believe that he really had been holding invisible hands.

"You're just pretending not to see me," said the Princess anxiously,
"aren't you? Do say you are. You've had your joke with me. Don't
keep it up. I don't like it."

"On our sacred word of honour," said Gerald, "you're still invisible.

There was a silence. Then, "Come," said the Princess. "I'll let you
out, and you can go. I'm tired of playing with you."

They followed her voice to the door, and through it, and along the
little passage into the hall. No one said anything. Everyone felt
very uncomfortable.

"Let's get out of this," whispered Jimmy as they got to the end of
the hall.

But the voice of the Princess said: "Come out this way; it's quicker.
I think you're perfectly hateful. I'm sorry I ever played with you.
Mother always told me not to play with strange children."

A door abruptly opened, though no hand was seen to touch it.
"Come through, can't you!" said the voice of the Princess.

It was a little ante-room, with long, narrow mirrors between its
long, narrow windows.

"Good-bye, said Gerald. "Thanks for giving us such a jolly time.
Let's part friends, he added, holding out his hand.

An unseen hand was slowly put in his, which closed on it,
vice-like.

"Now," he said, "you've jolly well got to look in the glass and own
that we're not liars."

He led the invisible Princess to. one of the mirrors, and held her in
front of it by the shoulders.

"Now," he said, "you just look for yourself." There was a silence,
and then a cry of despair rang through the room.

"Oh oh oh! I am invisible. Whatever shall I do?"

"Take the ring off," said Kathleen, suddenly practical.

Another silence.

"I can't!" cried the Princess. "It won't come off. But it can't be the
ring; rings don't make you invisible."

"You said this one did," said Kathleen, "and it has."

"But it can't," said the Princess. "I was only playing at magic. I just
hid in the secret cupboard it was only a game. Oh, whatever shall I
do?"

"A game?" said Gerald slowly; "but you can do magic  the
invisible jewels, and you made them come visible."

"Oh, it's only a secret spring and the panelling slides up. Oh, what
am I to do?"

Kathleen moved towards the voice and gropingly got her arms
round a pink-silk waist that she couldn't see. Invisible arms clasped
her, a hot invisible cheek was laid against hers, and warm invisible
tears lay wet between the two faces.

"Don't cry, dear," said Kathleen; "let me go and tell the King and
Queen."

"The ?"

"Your royal father and mother."

"Oh, don't mock me!" said the poor Princess. "You know that was
only a game, too, like ,"

"Like the bread and cheese," said Jimmy triumphantly. "I knew
that was!"

"But your dress and being asleep in the maze, and ,"

"Oh, I dressed up for fun, because everyone's away at the fair, and I
put the clew just to make it all more real. I was playing at Fair
Rosamond first, and then I heard you talking in the maze, and I
thought what fun; and now I'm invisible, and I shall never come
right again, never I know I shan't! It serves me right for lying, but I
didn't really think you'd believe it  not more than half, that is," she
added hastily, trying to be truthful.

"But if you're not the Princess, who are you?" asked Kathleen, still
embracing the unseen.

"I'm my aunt lives here," said the invisible Princess. "She may be
home any time. Oh, what shall I do?"

"Perhaps she knows some charm "

"Oh, nonsense!" said the voice sharply; "she doesn't believe in
charms. She would be so vexed. Oh, I daren't let her see me like
this!" she added wildly.

"And all of you here, too. She'd be so dreadfully cross."

The beautiful magic castle that the children had believed in now
felt as though it were tumbling about their ears. All that was left
was the invisibleness of the Princess. But that, you will own, was a
good deal.

"I just said it, moaned the voice, "and it came true. I wish I'd never
played at magic I wish I'd never played at anything at all."

"Oh, don't say that," Gerald said kindly. "Let's go out into the
garden, near the lake, where it's cool, and we'll hold a solemn
council. You'll like that, won't you?"

"Oh!" cried Kathleen suddenly, "the buckle; that makes magic
come undone!"

"It doesn't really," murmured the voice that seemed to speak
without lips. "I only just said that."

"You only 'just said' about the ring," said Gerald. "Anyhow, let's
try."

"Not you me," said the voice. "You go down to the Temple of
Flora, by the lake. I'll go back to the jewel-room by myself. Aunt
might see you."

"She won't see you," said Jimmy.

"Don't rub it in," said Gerald. "Where is the Temple of Flora?"

"That's the way," the voice said; "down those steps and along the
winding path through the shrubbery. You can't miss it. It's white
marble, with a statue goddess inside."

The three children went down to the white marble Temple of Flora
that stood close against the side of the little hill, and sat down in
its shadowy inside. It had arches all round except against the hill
behind the statue, and it was cool and restful.

They had not been there five minutes before the feet of a runner
sounded loud on the gravel. A shadow, very black and distinct, fell
on the white marble floor.

"Your shadow's not invisible, anyhow," said Jimmy.

"Oh, bother my shadow!" the voice of the Princess replied. "We
left the key inside the door, and it's shut itself with the wind, and
it's a spring lock!"

There was a heartfelt pause.

Then Gerald said, in his most business-like manner: "Sit down,
Princess, and we'll have a thorough good palaver about it."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Jimmy, "if we was to wake up and find
it was dreams."

"No such luck," said the voice.

"Well," said Gerald, "first of all, what's your name, and if you're
not a Princess, who are you?"

"I'm I'm," said a voice broken with sobs, "I'm the  housekeeper's
niece at the castle and my name's Mabel Prowse."

"That's exactly what I thought," said Jimmy, without a shadow of
truth, because how could he? The others were silent. It was a
moment full of agitation and confused ideas.

"Well, anyhow," said Gerald, "you belong here."

"Yes," said the voice, and it came from the floor, as though its
owner had flung herself down in the madness of despair. "Oh yes, I
belong here right enough, but what's the use of belonging
anywhere if you're invisible?"

Those of my readers who have gone about much with an invisible
companion will not need to be told how awkward the whole
business is. For one thing, however much you may have been
convinced that your companion is invisible, you will, I feel sure,
have found yourself every now and then saying, "This must be a
dream!" or "I know I shall wake up in half a sec!" And this was the
case with Gerald, Kathleen, and Jimmy as they sat in the white
marble Temple of Flora, looking out through its arches at the
sunshiny park and listening to the voice of the enchanted Princess,
who really was not a Princess at all, but just the housekeeper's
niece, Mabel Prowse; though, as Jimmy said, "she was enchanted,
right enough."

"It's no use talking," she said again and again, and the voice came
from an empty-looking space between two pillars; "I never
believed anything would happen, and now it has."

"Well," said Gerald kindly, "can we do anything for you? Because,
if not, I think we ought to be going."

"Yes," said Jimmy; "I do want my tea!"

"Tea!" said the unseen Mabel scornfully. "Do you mean to say
you'd go off to your teas and leave me after getting me into this
mess?"

"Well, of all the unfair Princesses I ever met!" Gerald began. But
Kathleen interrupted

"Oh, don't rag her," she said. "Think how horrid it must be to be
invisible!"

"I don't think," said the hidden Mabel, "that my aunt likes me very
much as it is. She wouldn't let me go to the fair because I'd
forgotten to put back some old trumpery shoe that Queen Elizabeth
wore I got it out from the glass case to try it on."

"Did it fit?" asked Kathleen, with interest

"Not it much too small," said Mabel. "I don't believe it ever fitted
anyone."

"I do want my tea!" said Jimmy

"I do really think perhaps we ought to go," said Gerald. "You see,
it isn't as if we could do anything for you."

"You'll have to tell your aunt," said Kathleen kindly

"No, no, no!" moaned Mabel invisibly; "take me with you. I'll
leave her a note to say I've run away to sea."

"Girls don't run away to sea.""

They might," said the stone floor between the pillars, "as
stowaways, if nobody wanted a cabin boy cabin girl, I mean."

"I'm sure you oughtn't," said Kathleen firmly.

"Well, what am I to do?"

"Really," said Gerald, "I don't know what the girl can do. Let her
come home with us and have "

"Tea oh, yes," said Jimmy, jumping up.

"And have a good council."

"After tea," said Jimmy

"But her aunt'lI find she's gone."

"So she would if I stayed."

"Oh, come on," said Jimmy.

"But the aunt'll think something's happened to her."

"So it has."

"And she'll tell the police, and they'll look everywhere for me."

"They'll never find you," said Gerald. "Talk of impenetrable
disguises!"

"I'm sure," said Mabel, "aunt would much rather never see me
again than see me like this. She'd never get over it; it might kill her
she has spasms as it is. I'll write to her, and we'll put it in the big
letter-box at the gate as we go out. Has anyone got a bit of pencil
and a scrap of paper?"

Gerald had a note-book, with leaves of the shiny kind which you
have to write on, not with a blacklead pencil, but with an ivory
thing with a point of real lead. And it won't write on any other
paper except the kind that is in the book, and this is often very
annoying when you are in a hurry. Then was seen the strange
spectacle of a little ivory stick, with a leaden point, standing up at
an odd, impossible-looking slant, and moving along all by itself as
ordinary pencils do when you are writing with them

"May we look over?" asked Kathleen.

There was no answer. The pencil went on writing.

"Mayn't we look over?" Kathleen said again."

Of course you may!" said the voice near the paper. "I nodded,
didn't I? Oh, I forgot, my nodding's invisible too."T

he pencil was forming round, clear letters on the page torn out of
the note-book. This is what it wrote:

"DEAR AUNT, I am afraid you will not see me again for some
time. A lady in a motor-car has adopted me, and we are going
straight to the coast and then in a ship. It is useless to try to follow
me. Farewell, and may you be happy. I hope you enjoyed the fair

MABEL."

"But that's all lies," said Jimmy bluntly.

"No, it isn't; it's fancy," said Mabel. "If I said I've become invisible,
she'd think that was a lie, anyhow.""

Oh, come along," said Jimmy; "you can quarrel just as well
walking."

Gerald folded up the note as a lady in India had taught him to do
years before, and Mabel led them by another and very much nearer
way out of the park. And the walk home was a great deal shorter,
too, than the walk out had been.

The sky had clouded over while they were in the Temple of Flora,
and the first spots of rain fell as they got back to the house, very
late indeed for tea.

Mademoiselle was looking out of the window, and came herself to
open the door

"But it is that you are in lateness, in lateness!" she cried. "You
have had a misfortune no? All goes well?"

"We are very sorry indeed," said Gerald. "It took us longer to get
home than we expected. I do hope you haven't been anxious. I have
been thinking about you most of the way home."

"Go, then," said the French lady, smiling; "you shall have them in
the same time the tea and the supper."

Which they did.

"How could you say you were thinking about her all the time?"
said a voice just by Gerald's ear, when Mademoiselle had left them
alone with the bread and butter and milk and baked apples. "It was
just as much a lie as me being adopted by a motor lady."

"No, it wasn't," said Gerald, through bread and butter. "I was
thinking about whether she'd be in a wax or not. So there!"

There were only three plates, but Jimmy let Mabel have his, and
shared with Kathleen. It was rather horrid to see the bread and
butter waving about in the air, and bite after bite disappearing
from it apparently by no human agency; and the spoon rising with
apple in it and returning to the plate empty. Even the tip of the
spoon disappeared as long as it was in Mabel's unseen mouth; so
that at times it looked as though its bowl had been broken off

Everyone was very hungry, and more bread and butter had to be
fetched. Cook grumbled when the plate was filled for the third
time.

"I tell you what," said Jimmy; "I did want my tea."

"I tell you what," said Gerald; "it'll be jolly difficult to give Mabel
any breakfast. Mademoiselle will be here then. She'd have a fit if
she saw bits of forks with bacon on them vanishing, and then the
forks coming back out of vanishment, and the bacon lost for ever."

"We shall have to buy things to eat and feed our poor captive in
secret," said Kathleen.

"Our money won't last long," said Jimmy, in gloom. "Have you got
any money?"

He turned to where a mug of milk was suspended in the air without
visible means of support.

"I've not got much money," was the reply from near the milk, "but
I've got heaps of ideas."

"We must talk about everything in the morning," said Kathleen.
"We must just say good night to Mademoiselle, and then you shall
sleep in my bed, Mabel. I'll lend you one of my nightgowns."

"I'll get my own tomorrow," said Mabel cheerfully.

"You'll go back to get things?"

"Why not? Nobody can see me. I think I begin to see all sorts of
amusing things coming along. It's not half bad being invisible."

It was extremely odd, Kathleen thought, to see the Princess's
clothes coming out of nothing. First the gauzy veil appeared
hanging in the air. Then the sparkling coronet suddenly showed on
the top of the chest of drawers. Then a sleeve of the pinky gown
showed, then another, and then the whole gown lay on the floor in
a glistening ring as the unseen legs of Mabel stepped out of it. For
each article of clothing became visible as Mabel took it off. The
nightgown, lifted from the bed, disappeared a bit at a time.

"Get into bed," said Kathleen, rather nervously.

The bed creaked and a hollow appeared in the pillow. Kathleen put
out the gas and got into bed; all this magic had been rather
upsetting, and she was just the least bit frightened, but in the dark
she found it was not so bad. Mabel's arms went round her neck the
moment she got into bed, and the two little girls kissed in the kind
darkness, where the visible and the invisible could meet on equal
terms.

"Good night," said Mabel. "You're a darling, Cathy; you've been
most awfully good to me, and I shan't forget it. I didn't like to say
so before the boys, because I know boys think you're a muff if
you're grateful. But I am. Good night."

Kathleen lay awake for some time. She was just getting sleepy
when she remembered that the maid who would call them in the
morning would see those wonderful Princess clothes.

"I'll have to get up and hide them," she said. "What a bother!"

And as she lay thinking what a bother it was she happened to fall
asleep, and when she woke again it was bright morning, and Eliza
was standing in front of the chair where Mabel's clothes lay,
gazing at the pink Princess-frock that lay on the top of her heap
and saying, "Law!"

"Oh, don't touch, please!" Kathleen leaped out of bed as Eliza was
reaching out her hand.

"Where on earth did you get hold of that?"

"We're going to use it for acting," said Kathleen, on the desperate
inspiration of the moment. "It's lent me for that."

"You might show me, miss," suggested Eliza.

"Oh, please not!" said Kathleen, standing in front of the chair in
her nightgown. "You shall see us act when we are dressed up.
There! And you won't tell anyone, will you?"

"Not if you're a good little girl," said Eliza. "But you be sure to let
me see when you do dress up. But where"

Here a bell rang and Eliza had to go, for it was the postman, and
she particularly wanted to see him.

"And now," said Kathleen, pulling on her first stocking, "we shall
have to do the acting. Everything seems very difficult."

"Acting isn't," said Mabel; and an unsupported stocking waved in
the air and quickly vanished. "I shall love it.,"

"You forget," said Kathleen gently, "invisible actresses can't take
part in plays unless they're magic ones."

"Oh," cried a voice from under a petticoat that hung in the air, "I've
got such an idea!"

"Tell it us after breakfast," said Kathleen, as the water in the basin
began to splash about and to drip from nowhere back into itself.
"And oh! I do wish you hadn't written such whoppers to your aunt.
I'm sure we oughtn't to tell lies for anything."

"What's the use of telling the truth if nobody believes you?" came
from among the splashes

"I don't know," said Kathleen, "but I'm sure we ought to tell the
truth."

"You can, if you like," said a voice from the folds of a towel that
waved lonely in front of the wash-hand stand

"All right. We will, then, first thing after brek your brek, I mean.
You'll have to wait up here till we can collar something and bring
it up to you. Mind you dodge Eliza when she comes to make the
bed."

The invisible Mabel found this a fairly amusing game; she further
enlivened it by twitching out the corners of tucked-up sheets and
blankets when Eliza wasn't looking.

"Drat the clothes!" said Eliza; "anyone ud think the things was
bewitched."

She looked about for the wonderful Princess clothes she had
glimpsed earlier in the morning. But Kathleen had hidden them in
a perfectly safe place under the mattress, which she knew Eliza
never turned.

Eliza hastily brushed up from the floor those bits of fluff which
come from goodness knows where in the best regulated houses.
Mabel, very hungry and exasperated at the long absence of the
others at their breakfast, could not forbear to whisper suddenly in
Eliza's ear:

"Always sweep under the mats."

The maid started and turned pale. "I must be going silly," she
murmured; "though it's just what mother always used to say. Hope
I ain't going dotty, like Aunt Emily. Wonderful what you can
fancy, ain't it?"

She took up the hearth-rug all the same, swept under it, and under
the fender. So thorough was she, and so pale, that Kathleen,
entering with a chunk of bread raided by Gerald from the pantry
window, exclaimed:

"Not done yet. I say, Eliza, you do look ill! What's the matter?"

"I thought I'd give the room a good turn-out," said Eliza, still very
pale.

"Nothing's happened to upset you?" Kathleen asked. She had her
own private fears.

"Nothing only my fancy, miss," said Eliza. "I always was fanciful
from a child dreaming of the pearly gates and them little angels
with nothing on only their heads and wings so cheap to dress, I
always think, compared with children."

When she was got rid of, Mabel ate the bread and drank water
from the tooth-mug.

"I'm afraid it tastes of cherry tooth-paste rather," said Kathleen
apologetically.

"It doesn't matter," a voice replied from the tilted mug; "it's more
interesting than water. I should think red wine in ballads was
rather like this."

"We've got leave for the day again," said Kathleen, when the last
bit of bread had vanished, "and Gerald feels like I do about lies, So
we're going to tell your aunt where you really are."

"She won't believe you."

"That doesn't matter, if we speak the truth," said Kathleen primly.

"I expect you'll be sorry for it," said Mabel; "but come on and, I
say, do be careful not to shut me in the door as you go out. You
nearly did just now."

In the blazing sunlight that flooded the High Street four shadows
to three children seemed dangerously noticeable. A butcher's boy
looked far too earnestly at the extra shadow, and his big,
liver-coloured lurcher snuffed at the legs of that shadow's mistress
and whined uncomfortably.

"Get behind me," said Kathleen; "then our two shadows will look
like one."

But Mabel's shadow, very visible, fell on Kathleen's back, and the
ostler of the Davenant Arms looked up to see what big bird had
cast that big shadow.

A woman driving a cart with chickens and ducks in it called out:
"Halloa, missy, ain't you blacked yer back, neither! What you been
leaning up against?"

Everyone was glad when they got out of the town.

Speaking the truth to Mabel's aunt did not turn out at all as anyone
even Mabel expected. The aunt was discovered reading a pink
novelette at the window of the housekeeper's room, which, framed
in clematis and green creepers, looked out on a nice little
courtyard to which Mabel led the party.

"Excuse me," said Gerald, "but I believe you've lost your niece?"

"Not lost, my boy," said the aunt, who was spare and tall, with a
drab fringe and a very genteel voice.

"We could tell you something about her," said Gerald.

"Now," replied the aunt, in a warning voice, "no complaints,
please. My niece has gone, and I am sure no one thinks less than I
do of her little pranks. If she's played any tricks on you it's only her
lighthearted way. Go away, children, I'm busy."

"Did you get her note?" asked Kathleen.

The aunt showed rather more interest than before, but she still kept
her finger in the novelette.

"Oh," she said, "so you witnessed her departure? Did she seem
glad to go?"

"Quite," said Gerald truthfully.

"Then I can only be glad that she is provided for," said the aunt. "I
dare say you were surprised. These romantic adventures do occur
in our family. Lord Yalding selected me out of eleven applicants
for the post of housekeeper here. I've not the slightest doubt the
child was changed at birth and her rich relatives have claimed
her."

"But aren't you going to do anything tell the police, or"

"Shish!" said Mabel.

"I won't shish," said Jimmy. "Your Mabel's invisible  that's all it is.
She's just beside me now."

"I detest untruthfulness," said the aunt severely, "in all its forms.
Will you kindly take that little boy away? I am quite satisfied
about Mabel."

"Well," said Gerald, "you are an aunt and no mistake! But what
will Mabel's father and mother say?"

"Mabel's father and mother are dead," said the aunt calmly, and a
little sob sounded close to Gerald's ear.

"All right," he said, "we'll be off. But don't you go saying we didn't
tell you the truth, that's all."

"You have told me nothing," said the aunt, "none of you, except
that little boy, who has told me a silly falsehood."

"We meant well," said Gerald gently. "You don't mind our having
come through the grounds, do you? we're very careful not to touch
anything."

"No visitors are allowed," said the aunt, glancing down at her
novel rather impatiently.

"Ah! but you wouldn't count us visitors," said Gerald in his best
manner. "We re friends of Mabel's. Our father's Colonel of the th."

"Indeed!" said the aunt.

"And our aunt's Lady Sandling, so you can be sure we wouldn't
hurt anything on the estate."

"I'm sure you wouldn't hurt a fly," said the aunt absently.
"Good-bye. Be good children."

And on this they got away quickly.

"Why," said Gerald, when they were outside the little court, "your
aunt's as mad as a hatter. Fancy not caring what becomes of you,
and fancy believing that rot about the motor lady!"

"I knew she'd believe it when I wrote it," said Mabel modestly.
"She's not mad, only she's always reading novelettes, I read the
books in the big library. Oh, it's such a jolly room such a queer
smell, like boots, and old leather books sort of powdery at the
edges. I'll take you there some day. Now your consciences are all
right about my aunt, I'll tell you my great idea. Let's get down to
the Temple of Flora. I'm glad you got aunt's permission for the
grounds. It would be so awkward for you to have to be always
dodging behind bushes when one of the gardeners came along."

"Yes," said Gerald modestly, "I thought of that."

The day was as bright as yesterday had been, and from the white
marble temple the Italian-looking landscape looked more than ever
like a steel engraving coloured by hand, or an oleographic
imitation of one of Turner's pictures.

When the three children were comfortably settled on the steps that
led up to the white statue, the voice of the fourth child said sadly:
"I'm not ungrateful, hut I'm rather hungry. And you can't be always
taking things for me through your larder window. If you like, I'll go
back and live in the castle. It's supposed to be haunted. I suppose I
could haunt it as well as anyone else. I am a sort of ghost now, you
know. I will if you like."

"Oh no," said Kathleen kindly; "you must stay with us.

"But about food. I'm not ungrateful, really I'm not, but breakfast is
breakfast, and bread's only bread."

"If you could get the ring off, you could go back."

"Yes," said Mabel's voice, "but you see, I can't. I tried again last
night in bed, and again this morning. And it's like stealing, taking
things out of your larder even if it's only bread."

"Yes, it is," said Gerald, who had carried out this bold enterprise.

"Well, now, what we must do is to earn some money."

Jimmy remarked that this was all very well. But Gerald and
Kathleen listened attentively.

"What I mean to say," the voice went on, "I'm really sure is all for
the best, me being invisible. We shall have adventures you see if
we don t."

"Adventures," said the bold buccaneer, "are not always profitable."
It was Gerald who murmured this.

"This one will be, anyhow, you see. Only you mustn't all go. Look
here, if Jerry could make himself look common "

"That ought to be easy," said Jimmy. And Kathleen told him not to
be so jolly disagreeable.

"I'm not," said Jimmy, "only "

"Only he has an inside feeling that this Mabel of yours is going to
get us into trouble," put in Gerald. "Like La Belle Dame Sans
Merci, and he does not want to be found in future ages alone and
palely loitering in the middle of sedge and things."

"I won't get you into trouble, indeed I won t," said the voice. "Why,
we're a band of brothers for life, after the way you stood by me
yesterday. What I mean is Gerald can go to the fair and do
conjuring."

"He doesn't know any," said Kathleen.

"I should do it really," said Mabel, "but Jerry could look like doing
it move things without touching them and all that. But it wouldn't
do for all three of you to go. The more there are of children the
younger they look, I think, and the more people wonder what they
re doing all alone by themselves."

"The accomplished conjurer deemed these the words of wisdom,"
said Gerald; and answered the dismal "Well, but what about us? of
his brother and sister by suggesting that they should mingle
unsuspected with the crowd. "But don't let on that you know me,"
he said; "and try to look as if you belonged to some of the
grown-ups at the fair. If you don't, as likely as not you'll have the
kind policemen taking the little lost children by the hand and
leading them home to their stricken relations French governess, I
mean."

"Let's go now," said the voice that they never could get quite used
to hearing, coming out of different parts of the air as Mabel moved
from one place to another. So they went.

The fair was held on a waste bit of land, about half a mile from the
castle gates. When they got near enough to hear the steam-organ of
the merry-go-round, Gerald suggested that as he had ninepence he
should go ahead and get something to eat, the amount spent to be
paid back out of any money they might make by conjuring. The
others waited in the shadows of a deep-banked lane, and he came
back, quite soon, though long after they had begun to say what a
long time he had been gone. He brought some Barcelona nuts,
red-streaked apples, small sweet yellow pears, pale pasty
gingerbread, a whole quarter of a pound of peppermint bulls-eyes,
and two bottles of ginger-beer.

"It's what they call an investment," he said, when Kathleen said
something about extravagance. "We shall all need special
nourishing to keep our strength up, especially the bold conjurer."

They ate and drank. It was a very beautiful meal, and the far-off
music of the steam-organ added the last touch of festivity to the
scene. The boys were never tired of seeing Mabel eat, or rather of
seeing the strange, magic-looking vanishment of food which was
all that showed of Mabel's eating. They were entranced by the
spectacle, and pressed on her more than her just share of the feast,
just for the pleasure of seeing it disappear.

"My aunt!" said Gerald, again and again; "that ought to knock
'em!"

It did.

Jimmy and Kathleen had the start of the others, and when they got
to the fair they mingled with the crowd, and were as unsuspected
as possible.

They stood near a large lady who was watching the Coconut shies,
and presently saw a strange figure with its hands in its pockets
strolling across the trampled yellowy grass among the bits of
drifting paper and the sticks and straws that always litter the
ground of an English fair. It was Gerald, but at first they hardly
knew him. He had taken off his tie, and round his head, arranged
like a turban, was the crimson school-scarf that had supported his
white flannels. The tie, one supposed, had taken on the duties of
the handkerchief. And his face and hands were a bright black, like
very nicely polished stoves!

Everyone turned to look at him.

"He's just like a conjurer!" whispered Jimmy. "I don't suppose it'll
ever come off, do you?"

They followed him at a distance, and when he went close to the
door of a small tent, against whose door-post a long-faced
melancholy woman was lounging, they stopped and tried to look as
though they belonged to a farmer who strove to send up a number
by banging with a big mallet on a wooden block.

Gerald went up to the woman.

"Taken much?" he asked, and was told, but not harshly, to go away
with his impudence.

"I'm in business myself," said Gerald, "I'm a conjurer, from India."

"Not you!" said the woman; "you ain't no conjurer. Why, the backs
of yer ears is all white."

"Are they?" said Gerald. "How clever of you to see that!" He
rubbed them with his hands. "That better?"

"That's all right. What's your little game?"

"Conjuring, really and truly," said Gerald. "There's smaller boys
than me put on to it in India. Look here, I owe you one for telling
me about my ears. If you like to run the show for me I'll go shares.
Let me have your tent to perform in, and you do the patter at the
door.

"Lor love you! I can't do no patter. And you're getting at me. Let's
see you do a bit of conjuring, since you're so clever an all."

"Right you are," said Gerald firmly. "You see this apple? Well, I'll
make it move slowly through the air, and then when I say "Go!"
it'll vanish."

"Yes into your mouth! Get away with your nonsense."

"You're too clever to be so unbelieving," said Gerald. "Look here!"

He held out one of the little apples, and the woman saw it move
slowly and unsupported along the air.

"Now go!" cried Gerald, to the apple, and it went. "How's that?" he
asked, in tones of triumph.

The woman was glowing with excitement, and her eyes shone.
"The best I ever see!" she whispered. "I'm on, mate, if you know
any more tricks like that."

"Heaps," said Gerald confidently; "hold out your hand." The
woman held it out; and from nowhere, as it seemed, the apple
appeared and was laid on her hand. The apple was rather damp.

She looked at it a moment, and then whispered:

"Come on! there's to be no one in it but just us two. But not in the
tent. You take a pitch here, 'longside the tent. It's worth twice the
money in the open air."

"But people won't pay if they can see it all for nothing."

"Not for the first turn, but they will after  you see. And you'll have
to do the patter."

"Will you lend me your shawl?" Gerald asked. She unpinned it it
was a red and black plaid and he spread it on the ground as he had
seen Indian conjurers do, and seated himself cross-legged behind
it.

"I mustn't have anyone behind me, that's all," he said; and the
woman hastily screened off a little enclosure for him by hanging
old sacks to two of the guy-ropes of the tent. "Now I'm ready, he
said. The woman got a drum from the inside of the tent and beat it.
Quite soon a little crowd had collected.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Gerald, "I come from India, and I can
do a conjuring entertainment the like of which you've never seen.
When I see two shillings on the shawl I'll begin."

"I dare say you will!" said a bystander; and there were several
short, disagreeable laughs.

"Of course," said Gerald, "if you can't afford two shillings between
you" there were about thirty people in the crowd by now "I say no
more."

Two or three pennies fell on the shawl, then a few more then the
fall of copper ceased.

"Ninepence," said Gerald. "Well, I've got a generous nature. You'll
get such a ninepennyworth as you've never had before. I don't wish
to deceive you I have an accomplice, but my accomplice is
invisible."

The crowd snorted.

"By the aid of that accomplice," Gerald went on, "I will read any
letter that any of you may have in your pocket. If one of you will
just step over the rope and stand beside me, my invisible
accomplice will read that letter over his shoulder."

A man stepped forward, a ruddy-faced, horsy-looking person. He
pulled a letter from his pocket and stood plain in the sight of all, in
a place where everyone saw that no one could see over his
shoulder.

"Now!" said Gerald. There was a moment's pause. Then from quite
the other side of the enclosure came a faint, faraway, sing-song
voice. It said:

"SIR Yours of the fifteenth duly to hand. With regard to the
mortgage on your land, we regret our inability "

"Stow it!" cried the man, turning threateningly on Gerald.

He stepped out of the enclosure explaining that there was nothing
of that sort in his letter; but nobody believed him, and a buzz of
interested chatter began in the crowd, ceasing abruptly when
Gerald began to speak.

"Now," said he, laying the nine pennies down on the shawl, "you
keep your eyes on those pennies, and one by one you'll see them
disappear."

And of course they did. Then one by one they were laid down
again by the invisible hand of Mabel. The crowd clapped loudly.
"Bravo!" "That's something like!" "Show us another!" cried the
people in the front rank. And those behind pushed forward.

"Now," said Gerald, "you've seen what I can do, but I don't do any
more till I see five shillings on this carpet."

And in two minutes seven-and-threepence lay there and Gerald did
a little more conjuring.

When the people in front didn't want to give any more money,
Gerald asked them to stand back and let the others have a look in. I
wish I had time to tell you of all the tricks he did the grass round
his enclosure was absolutely trampled off by the feet of the people
who thronged to look at him. There is really hardly any limit to the
wonders you can do if you have an invisible accomplice. All sorts
of things were made to move about, apparently by themselves, and
even to vanish into the folds of Mabel's clothing. The woman stood
by, looking more and more pleasant as she saw the money come
tumbling in, and beating her shabby drum every time Gerald
stopped conjuring.

The news of the conjurer had spread all over the fair. The crowd
was frantic with admiration. The man who ran the coconut shies
begged Gerald to throw in his lot with him; the owner of the rifle
gallery offered him free board and lodging and go shares; and a
brisk, broad lady, in stiff black silk and a violet bonnet, tried to
engage him for the forthcoming Bazaar for Reformed Bandsmen.

And all this time the others mingled with the crowd  quite
unobserved, for who could have eyes for anyone but Gerald? It was
getting quite late, long past tea-time, and Gerald, who was getting
very tired indeed, and was quite satisfied with his share of the
money, was racking his brains for a way to get out of it.

"How are we to hook it?" he murmured, as Mabel made his cap
disappear from his head by the simple process of taking it off and
putting it in her pocket.

"They'll never let us get away. I didn't think of that before."

"Let me think!" whispered Mabel; and next moment she said, close
to his ear: "Divide the money, and give her something for the
shawl. Put the money on it and say. . ." She told him what to say.

Gerald's pitch was in the shade of the tent; otherwise, of course,
everyone would have seen the shadow of the invisible Mabel as
she moved about making things vanish.

Gerald told the woman to divide the money, which she did
honestly enough.

"Now," he said, while the impatient crowd pressed closer and
closer, "I'll give you five bob for your shawl.

"Seven-and-six," said the woman mechanically.

"Righto!" said Gerald, putting his heavy share of the money in his
trouser pocket.

"This shawl will now disappear," he said, picking it up. He handed
it to Mabel, who put it on; and, of course, it disappeared. A roar of
applause went up from the audience.

"Now," he said, "I come to the last trick of all. I shall take three
steps backwards and vanish. He took three steps backwards, Mabel
wrapped the invisible shawl round him, and he did not vanish. The
shawl, being invisible, did not conceal him in the least.

"Yah!" cried a boy's voice in the crowd. "Look at "im! "E knows "e
can't do it."

"I wish I could put you in my pocket," said Mabel. The crowd was
crowding closer. At any moment they might touch Mabel, and then
anything might happen  simply anything. Gerald took hold of his
hair with both hands, as his way was when he was anxious or
discouraged. Mabel, in invisibility, wrung her hands, as people are
said to do in books  that is, she clasped them and squeezed very
tight.

"Oh!" she whispered suddenly, "it's loose. I can get it off."

"Not "

"Yes the ring."

"Come on, young master. Give us summat for our money," a farm
labourer shouted.

"I will," said Gerald. "This time I really will vanish. Slip round
into the tent," he whispered to Mabel.

"Push the ring under the canvas. Then slip out at the back and join
the others. When I see you with them I'll disappear. Go slow, and
I'll catch you up."

"It's me," said a pale and obvious Mabel in the ear of Kathleen.
"He's got the ring; come on, before the crowd begins to scatter."

As they went out of the gate they heard a roar of surprise and
annoyance rise from the crowd, and knew that this time Gerald
really had disappeared.

They had gone a mile before they heard footsteps on the road, and
looked back. No one was to be seen.

Next moment Gerald's voice spoke out of clear, empty-looking
space.

"Halloa!" it said gloomily.

"How horrid!" cried Mabel; "you did make me jump! Take the ring
off; it makes me feel quite creepy, you being nothing but a voice."

"So did you us," said Jimmy.

"Don't take it off yet," said Kathleen, who was really rather
thoughtful for her age, "because you're still blackleaded, I suppose,
and you might be recognized, and eloped with by gypsies, so that
you should go on doing conjuring for ever and ever."

"I should take it off," said Jimmy; "it's no use going about
invisible, and people seeing us with Mabel and saying we've
eloped with her."

"Yes," said Mabel impatiently, "that would be simply silly. And,
besides, I want my ring."

"It's not yours any more than ours, anyhow," said Jimmy.

"Yes, it is," said Mabel.

"Oh, stow it!" said the weary voice of Gerald beside her. "What's
the use of jawing?"

"I want the ring," said Mabel, rather mulishly.

"Want" the words came out of the still evening air  "want must be
your master. You can't have the ring. I can't get it off!"

The difficulty was not only that Gerald had got the ring on and
couldn't get it off, and was therefore invisible, but that Mabel, who
had been invisible and therefore possible to be smuggled into the
house, was now plain to be seen and impossible for smuggling
purposes.

The children would have not only to account for the apparent
absence of one of themselves, but for the obvious presence of a
perfect stranger.

"I can't go back to aunt. I can't and I won't," said Mabel firmly, "not
if I was visible twenty times over."

"She'd smell a rat if you did," Gerald owned "about the motor-car,
I mean, and the adopting lady. And what we're to say to
Mademoiselle about you !" He tugged at the ring.

"Suppose you told the truth," said Mabel meaningly.

"She wouldn't believe it," said Cathy; "or, if she did, she'd go stark,
staring, raving mad."

"No," said Gerald's voice, "we daren't tell her. But she's really
rather decent. Let's ask her to let you stay the night because it's too
late for you to get home."

"That's all right," said Jimmy, "but what about you?"

"I shall go to bed," said Gerald, "with a bad headache. Oh, that's
not a lie! I've got one right enough. It's the sun, I think. I know
blacklead attracts the concentration of the sun."

"More likely the pears and the gingerbread," said Jimmy unkindly.
"Well, let's get along. I wish it was me was invisible. I'd do
something different from going to bed with a silly headache, I
know that."

"What would you do?" asked the voice of Gerald just behind him.

"Do keep in one place, you silly cuckoo!" said Jimmy. "You make
me feel all jumpy. He had indeed jumped rather violently. "Here,
walk between Cathy and me.

"What would you do?" repeated Gerald, from that apparently
unoccupied position.

"I'd be a burglar," said Jimmy.

Cathy and Mabel in one breath reminded him how wrong burgling
was, and Jimmy replied:

"Well, then a detective."

"There's got to be something to detect before you can begin
detectiving," said Mabel.

"Detectives don't always detect things," said Jimmy, very truly. "If
I couldn't be any other kind I'd be a baffled detective. You could be
one all right, and have no end of larks just the same. Why don't you
do it?"

"It's exactly what I am going to do," said Gerald. "We'll go round
by the police-station and see what they've got in the way of
crimes."

They did, and read the notices on the board outside. Two dogs had
been lost, a purse, and a portfolio of papers "of no value to any but
the owner." Also Houghton Grange had been broken into and a
quantity of silver plate stolen. "Twenty pounds reward offered for
any information that may lead to the recovery of the missing
property."

"That burglary's my lay," said Gerald; "I'll detect that. Here comes
Johnson," he added; "he's going off duty. Ask him about it. The fell
detective, being invisible, was unable to pump the constable, but
the young brother of our hero made the inquiries in quite a
creditable manner. Be creditable, Jimmy."

Jimmy hailed the constable.

"Halloa, Johnson!" he said.

And Johnson replied: "Halloa, young shaver!"

"Shaver yourself!" said Jimmy, but without malice.

"What are you doing this time of night?" the constable asked
jocosely. "All the dicky birds is gone to their little nesteses."

"We've been to the fair," said Kathleen. "There was a conjurer
there. I wish you could have seen him."

"Heard about him," said Johnson; "all fake, you know. The
quickness of the 'and deceives the hi."

Such is fame. Gerald, standing in the shadow, jingled the loose
money in his pocket to console himself.

"What's that?" the policeman asked quickly.

"Our money jingling," said Jimmy, with perfect truth.

"It's well to be some people," Johnson remarked; "wish I'd got my
pockets full to jingle with."

"Well, why haven't you?" asked Mabel. "Why don't you get that
twenty pounds reward?"

"I'll tell you why I don't. Because in this "ere realm of liberty, and
Britannia ruling the waves, you ain't allowed to arrest a chap on
suspicion, even if you know puffickly well who done the job."

"What a shame!" said Jimmy warmly. "And who do you think did
it?"

"I don't think I know." Johnson's voice was ponderous as his boots.
"It's a man what's known to the police on account of a heap o
crimes he's done, but we never can't bring it "ome to "im, nor yet
get sufficient evidence to convict."

"Well, said Jimmy, "when I've left school I'll come to you and be
apprenticed, and be a detective. Just now I think we'd better get
home and detect our supper. Good night!"

They watched the policeman's broad form disappear through the
swing door of the police-station; and as it settled itself into quiet
again the voice of Gerald was heard complaining bitterly.

"You've no more brains than a halfpenny bun," he said; "no details
about how and when the silver was taken."

"But he told us he knew," Jimmy urged.

"Yes, that's all you've got out of him. A silly policeman's silly idea.
Go home and detect your precious supper! It's all you're fit for."

"What'll you do about supper?" Mabel asked.

"Buns!" said Gerald, "halfpenny buns. They'll make me think of
my dear little brother and sister. Perhaps you've got enough sense
to buy buns? I can't go into a shop in this state."

"Don't you be so disagreeable," said Mabel with spirit.

"We did our best. If I were Cathy you should whistle for your nasty
buns."

"If you were Cathy the gallant young detective would have left
home long ago. Better the cabin of a tramp steamer than the best
family mansion that's got a brawling sister in it," said Gerald. "You
are a bit of an outsider at present, my gentle maiden. Jimmy and
Cathy know well enough when their bold leader is chaffing and
when he isn't.

"Not when we can't see your face we don't," said Cathy, in tones of
relief. "I really thought you were in a flaring wax, and so did
Jimmy, didn't you?"

"Oh, rot!" said Gerald. "Come on! This way to the bun shop."

They went, And it was while Cathy and Jimmy were in the shop
and the others were gazing through the glass at the jam tarts and
Swiss rolls and Victoria sandwiches and Bath buns under the
spread yellow muslin in the window, that Gerald discoursed in
Mabel's ear of the plans and hopes of one entering on a detective
career.

"I shall keep my eyes open tonight, I can tell you," he began. "I
shall keep my eyes skinned, and no jolly error. The invisible
detective may not only find out about the purse and the silver, but
detect some crime that isn't even done yet. And I shall hang about
until I see some suspicious-looking characters leave the town, and
follow them furtively and catch them red-handed, with their hands
full of priceless jewels, and hand them over."

"Oh!" cried Mabel, so sharply and suddenly that Gerald was roused
from his dream to express sympathy.

"Pain?" he said quite kindly. "It's the apples they were rather hard."

"Oh, it's not that," said Mabel very earnestly. "Oh, how awful! I
never thought of that before."

"Never thought of what?" Gerald asked impatiently.

"The window."

"What window?"

"The panelled-room window. At home, you know at the castle.
That settles it I must go home. We left it open and the shutters as
well, and all the jewels and things there. Auntie'll never go in; she
never does. That settles it; I must go home now this minute."

Here the others issued from the shop, bun-bearing, and the
situation was hastily explained to them.

"So you see I must go," Mabel ended.

And Kathleen agreed that she must.

But Jimmy said he didn't see what good it would do. "Because the
key's inside the door, anyhow."

"She will be cross," said Mabel sadly. "She'll have to get the
gardeners to get a ladder and "

"Hooray!" said Gerald. "Here's me! Nobler and more secret than
gardeners or ladders was the invisible Jerry. I'll climb in at the
window it's all ivy, I know I could and shut the window and the
shutters all sereno, put the key back on the nail, and slip out
unperceived the back way, threading my way through the maze of
unconscious retainers. There'll be plenty of time. I don't suppose
burglars begin their fell work until the night is far advanced."

"Won't you be afraid?" Mabel asked. "Will it be safe  suppose you
were caught?"

"As houses. I can't be," Gerald answered, and wondered that the
question came from Mabel and not from Kathleen, who was
usually inclined to fuss a little annoyingly about the danger and
folly of adventures.

But all Kathleen said was, "Well, good-bye; we'll come and see
you tomorrow, Mabel. The floral temple at half-past ten. I hope
you won't get into an awful row about the motor-car lady."

"Let's detect our supper now," said Jimmy.

"All right," said Gerald a little bitterly. It is hard to enter on an
adventure like this and to find the sympathetic interest of years
suddenly cut off at the meter, as it were. Gerald felt that he ought,
at a time like this, to have been the centre of interest. And he
wasn't. They could actually talk about supper. Well, let them. He
didn't care! He spoke with sharp sternness: "Leave the pantry
window undone for me to get in by when I've done my detecting.
Come on, Mabel." He caught her hand. "Bags I the buns, though,"
he added, by a happy afterthought, and snatching the bag, pressed
it on Mabel, and the sound of four boots echoed on the pavement
of the High Street as the outlines of the running Mabel grew small
with distance.

Mademoiselle was in the drawing-room. She was sitting by the
window in the waning light reading letters.

"Ah, vous voici!" she said unintelligibly. "You are again late; and
my little Gerald, where is he?"

This was an awful moment. Jimmy's detective scheme had not
included any answer to this inevitable question. The silence was
unbroken till Jimmy spoke.

"He said he was going to bed because he had a headache." And
this, of course, was true.

"This poor Gerald!" said Mademoiselle. "Is it that I should mount
him some supper?"

"He never eats anything when he's got one of his headaches,"
Kathleen said. And this also was the truth.

Jimmy and Kathleen Went to bed, wholly untroubled by anxiety
about their brother, and Mademoiselle pulled out the bundle of
letters and read them amid the ruins of the simple supper.

"It is ripping being out late like this," said Gerald through the soft
summer dusk.

"Yes," said Mabel, a solitary-looking figure plodding along the
high-road. "I do hope auntie won't be very furious."

"Have another bun," suggested Gerald kindly, and a sociable
munching followed.

It was the aunt herself who opened to a very pale and trembling
Mabel the door which is appointed for the entrances and exits of
the domestic staff at Yalding Towers. She looked over Mabel's
head first, as if she expected to see someone taller. Then a very
small voice said:

"Aunt!"

The aunt started back, then made a step towards Mabel.

"You naughty, naughty girl!" she cried angrily; "how could you
give me such a fright? I've a good mind to keep you in bed for a
week for this, miss. Oh, Mabel, thank Heaven you're safe!" And
with that the aunt's arms went round Mabel and Mabel's round the
aunt in such a hug as they had never met in before.

"But you didn't seem to care a bit this morning," said Mabel, when
she had realized that her aunt really had been anxious, really was
glad to have her safe home again.

"How do you know?"

"I was there listening. Don't be angry, auntie."

"I feel as if I could never be angry with you again, now I've got you
safe," said the aunt surprisingly.

"But how was it?" Mabel asked.

"My dear," said the aunt impressively, "I've been in a sort of
trance. I think I must be going to be ill. I've always been fond of
you, but I didn't want to spoil you. But yesterday, about half-past
three, I was talking about you to Mr. Lewson, at the fair, and quite
suddenly I felt as if you didn't matter at all. And I felt the same
when I got your letter and when those children came. And today in
the middle of tea I suddenly woke up and realized that you were
gone. It was awful. I think I must be going to be ill. Oh, Mabel,
why did you do it?"

"It was a joke," said Mabel feebly. And then the two went in and
the door was shut.

"That's most uncommon odd," said Gerald, outside; "looks like
more magic to me. I don't feel as if we d got to the bottom of this
yet, by any manner of means. There's more about this castle than
meets the eye."

There certainly was. For this castle happened to be  but it would
not be fair to Gerald to tell you more about it than he knew on that
night when he went alone and invisible through the shadowy great
grounds of it to look for the open window of the panelled room.
He knew that night no more than I have told you; but as he went
along the dewy lawns and through the groups of shrubs and trees,
where pools lay like giant looking-glasses reflecting the quiet stars,
and the white limbs of statues gleamed against a background of
shadow, he began to feel well, not excited, not surprised, not
anxious, but different.

The incident of the invisible Princess had surprised, the incident of
the conjuring had excited, and the sudden decision to be a
detective had brought its own anxieties; but all these happenings,
though wonderful and unusual, had seemed to be, after all, inside
the circle of possible things wonderful as the chemical
experiments are where two liquids poured together make fire,
surprising as legerdemain, thrilling as a juggler's display, but
nothing more. Only now a new feeling came to him as he walked
through those gardens; by day those gardens were like dreams, at
night they were like visions. He could not see his feet as he
walked, but he saw the movement of the dewy grass-blades that his
feet displaced. And he had that extraordinary feeling so difficult to
describe, and yet so real and so unforgettable the feeling that he
was in another world, that had covered up and hidden the old
world as a carpet covers a floor. The floor was there all right,
underneath, but what he walked on was the carpet that covered it
and that carpet was drenched in magic, as the turf was drenched in
dew.

The feeling was very wonderful; perhaps you will feel it some day.
There are still some places in the world where it can be felt, but
they grow fewer every year.

The enchantment of the garden held him.

"I'll not go in yet," he told himself; "it's too early. And perhaps I
shall never be here at night again. I suppose it is the night that
makes everything look so different."

Something white moved under a weeping willow; white hands
parted the long, rustling leaves. A white figure came out, a
creature with horns and goat's legs and the head and arms of a boy.
And Gerald was not afraid. That was the most wonderful thing of
all, though he would never have owned it. The white thing
stretched its limbs, rolled on the grass, righted itself and frisked
away across the lawn. Still something white gleamed under the
willow; three steps nearer and Gerald saw that it was the pedestal
of a statue empty.

"They come alive," he said; and another white shape came out of
the Temple of Flora and disappeared in the laurels. "The statues
come alive."

There was a crunching of the little stones in the gravel of the drive.
Something enormously long and darkly grey came crawling
towards him, slowly, heavily. The moon came out just in time to
show its shape. It was one of those great lizards that you see at the
Crystal Palace, made in stone, of the same awful size which they
were millions of years ago when they were masters of the world,
before Man was.

"It can't see me," said Gerald. "I am not afraid. It's come to life,
too."

As it writhed past him he reached out a hand and touched the side
of its gigantic tail. It was of stone. It had not "come alive" as he
had fancied, but was alive in its stone. It turned, however, at the
touch; but Gerald also had turned, and was running with all his
speed towards the house. Because at that stony touch Fear had
come into the garden and almost caught him. It was Fear that he
ran from, and not the moving stone beast.

He stood panting under the fifth window; when he had climbed to
the window-ledge by the twisted ivy that clung to the wall, he
looked back over the grey slope there was a splashing at the
fish-pool that had mirrored the stars the shape of the great stone
beast was wallowing in the shallows among the lily-pads.

Once inside the room, Gerald turned for another look. The
fish-pond lay still and dark, reflecting the moon. Through a gap in
the drooping willow the moonlight fell on a statue that stood calm
and motionless on its pedestal. Everything was in its place now in
the garden. Nothing moved or stirred.

"How extraordinarily rum!" said Gerald. "I shouldn't have thought
you could go to sleep walking through a garden and dream like
that."

He shut the window, lit a match, and closed the shutters. Another
match showed him the door. He turned the key, went out, locked
the door again, hung the key on its usual nail, and crept to the end
of the passage. Here he waited, safe in his invisibility, till the
dazzle of the matches should have gone from his eyes, and he be
once more able to find his way by the moonlight that fell in bright
patches on the floor through the barred, unshuttered windows of
the hall.

"Wonder where the kitchen is," said Gerald. He had quite forgotten
that he was a detective. He was only anxious to get home and tell
the others about that extraordinarily odd dream that he had had in
the gardens. "I suppose it doesn't matter what doors I open. I'm
invisible all right still, I suppose? Yes; can't see my hand before
my face." He held up a hand for the purpose. "Here goes!"

He opened many doors, wandered into long rooms with furniture
dressed in brown holland covers that looked white in that strange
light, rooms with chandeliers hanging in big bags from the high
ceilings, rooms whose walls were alive with pictures, rooms whose
walls were deadened with rows on rows of old books, state
bedrooms in whose great plumed four-posters Queen Elizabeth
had no doubt slept. (That Queen, by the way, must have been very
little at home, for she seems to have slept in every old house in
England.) But he could not find the kitchen. At last a door opened
on stone steps that went up there was a narrow stone passage steps
that went down a door with a light under it. It was, somehow,
difficult to put out one's hand to that door and open it.

"Nonsense!" Gerald told himself, "don't be an ass! Are you
invisible, or aren't you?"

Then he opened the door, and someone inside said something in a
sudden rough growl.

Gerald stood back, flattened against the wall, as a man sprang to
the doorway and flashed a lantern into the passage.

"All right," said the man, with almost a sob of relief. "It was only
the door swung open, it's that heavy that's all."

"Blow the door!" said another growling voice; "blessed if I didn't
think it was a fair cop that time."

They closed the door again. Gerald did not mind. In fact, he rather
preferred that it should be so. He didn't like the look of those men.
There was an air of threat about them. In their presence even
invisibility seemed too thin a disguise. And Gerald had seen as
much as he wanted to see. He had seen that he had been right
about the gang. By wonderful luck  beginner's luck, a card-player
would have told him he had discovered a burglary on the very first
night of his detective career. The men were taking silver out of
two great chests, wrapping it in rags, and packing it in baize sacks.
The door of the room was of iron six inches thick. It was, in fact,
the strong-room, and these men had picked the lock. The tools they
had done it with lay on the floor, on a neat cloth roll, such as
wood-carvers keep their chisels in.

"Hurry up!" Gerald heard. "You needn't take all night over it."

The silver rattled slightly. "You're a rattling of them trays like
bloomin' castanets," said the gruffest voice. Gerald turned and
went away, very carefully and very quickly. And it is a most
curious thing that, though he couldn't find the way to the servants
wing when he had nothing else to think of, yet now, with his mind
full, so to speak, of silver forks and silver cups, and the question of
who might be coming after him down those twisting passages, he
went straight as an arrow to the door that led from the hall to the
place he wanted to get to.

As he went the happenings took words in his mind.

"The fortunate detective," he told himself, "having succeeded
beyond his wildest dreams, himself left the spot in search of
assistance."

But what assistance? There were, no doubt, men in the house, also
the aunt; but he could not warn them.

He was too hopelessly invisible to carry any weight with strangers.
The assistance of Mabel would not be of much value. The police?
Before they could be got and the getting of them presented
difficulties the burglars would have cleared away with their sacks
of silver.

Gerald stopped and thought hard; he held his head with both hands
to do it. You know the way the same as you sometimes do for
simple equations or the dates of the battles of the Civil War.

Then with pencil, note-book, a window-ledge, and all the
cleverness he could find at the moment, he wrote: "You know the
room where the silver is. Burglars are burgling it, the thick door is
picked. Send a man for police. I will follow the burglars if they get
away ere police arrive on the spot."

He hesitated a moment, and ended "From a Friend this is not a
sell."

This letter, tied tightly round a stone by means of a shoelace,
thundered through the window of the room where Mabel and her
aunt, in the ardour of reunion, were enjoying a supper of unusual
charm stewed plums, cream, sponge-cakes, custard in cups, and
cold bread-and-butter pudding.

Gerald, in hungry invisibility, looked wistfully at the supper before
he threw the stone. He waited till the shrieks had died away, saw
the stone picked up, the warning letter read.

"Nonsense!" said the aunt, growing calmer. "How wicked! Of
course it's a hoax."

"Oh! do send for the police, like he says," wailed Mabel.

"Like who says?" snapped the aunt.

"Whoever it is," Mabel moaned.

"Send for the police at once," said Gerald, outside, in the manliest
voice he could find. "You'll only blame yourself if you don t. I
can't do any more for you."

"I I'll set the dogs on you!" cried the aunt.

"Oh, auntie, don't!" Mabel was dancing with agitation. "It's true I
know it's true. Do do wake Bates!"

"I don't believe a word of it," said the aunt. No more did Bates
when, owing to Mabel's persistent worryings, he was awakened.
But when he had seen the paper, and had to choose whether he'd
go to the strong-room and see that there really wasn't anything to
believe or go for the police on his bicycle, he chose the latter
course.

When the police arrived the strong-room door stood ajar, and the
silver, or as much of it as the three men could carry, was gone.

Gerald's note-book and pencil came into play again later on that
night. It was five in the morning before he crept into bed, tired out
and cold as a stone.

"Master Gerald!" it was Eliza's voice in his ears "it's seven o clock
and another fine day, and there's been another burglary My cats
alive!" she screamed, as she drew up the blind and turned towards
the bed; "look at his bed, all crocked with black, and him not
there!" "Oh, Jiminy!" It was a scream this time. Kathleen came
running from her room; Jimmy sat up in his bed and rubbed his
eyes.

"Whatever is it?" Kathleen cried.

"I dunno when I 'ad such a turn. Eliza sat down heavily on a box as
she spoke. "First thing his bed all empty and black as the chimley
back, and him not in it, and then when I looks again he is in it all
the time. I must be going silly. I thought as much when I heard
them haunting angel voices yesterday morning. But I'll tell
Mamselle of you, my lad, with your tricks, you may rely on that.
Blacking yourself all over and crocking up your clean sheets and
pillow-cases. It's going back of beyond, this is."

"Look here," said Gerald slowly; "I'm going to tell you something."

Eliza simply snorted, and that was rude of her; but then, she had
had a shock and had not got over it.

"Can you keep a secret?" asked Gerald, very earnest through the
grey of his partly rubbed-off blacklead.

"Yes," said Eliza.

"Then keep it and I'll give you two bob."

"But what was you going to tell me?"

"That. About the two bob and the secret. And you keep your mouth
shut."

"I didn't ought to take it," said Eliza, holding out her hand eagerly.
"Now you get up, and mind you wash all the corners, Master
Gerald."

"Oh, I'm so glad you're safe," said Kathleen, when Eliza had gone.

"You didn't seem to care much last night," said Gerald coldly.

"I can't think how I let you go. I didn't care last night. But when I
woke this morning and remembered!"

"There, that'll do it'll come off on you," said Gerald through the
reckless hugging of his sister.

"How did you get visible?" Jimmy asked.

"It just happened when she called me the ring came off."

"Tell us all about everything," said Kathleen. "Not yet, said Gerald
mysteriously.

"Where's the ring?" Jimmy asked after breakfast. "I want to have a
try now."

"I I forgot it," said Gerald; "I expect it's in the bed somewhere.

But it wasn't. Eliza had made the bed.

"I'll swear there ain't no ring there," she said. "I should "a seen it if
there had'a been."

"Search and research proving vain," said Gerald, when every
corner of the bedroom had been turned out and the ring had not
been found, "the noble detective hero of our tale remarked that he
would have other fish to fry in half a jiff, and if the rest of you
want to hear about last night..."

"Let's keep it till we get to Mabel," said Kathleen heroically.

"The assignation was ten-thirty, wasn't it? Why shouldn't Gerald
gas as we go along? I don't suppose anything very much happened,
anyhow." This, of course, was Jimmy.

"That shows," remarked Gerald sweetly, "how much you know.
The melancholy Mabel will await the tryst without success, as far
as this one is concerned." 'Fish, fish, other fish other fish I fry!'" he
warbled to the tune of 'Cherry Ripe' , till Kathleen could have
pinched him.

Jimmy turned coldly away, remarking, "When you've quite done."

But Gerald went on singing

"Where the lips of Johnson smile,

There's the land of Cherry Isle.

Other fish, other fish, Fish I fry.

Stately Johnson, come and buy!"

"How can you," asked Kathleen, "be so aggravating?"

"I don't know," said Gerald, returning to prose.

"Want of sleep or intoxication of success, I mean. Come where no
one can hear us.

'Oh, come to some island where no one can hear,

And beware of the keyhole that's glued to an ear,'"

he whispered, opened the door suddenly, and there, sure enough,
was Eliza, stooping without. She flicked feebly at the wainscot
with a duster, but concealment was vain.

"You know what listeners never hear," said Jimmy severely.

"I didn't, then so there!" said Eliza, whose listening ears were
crimson. So they passed out, and up the High Street, to sit on the
churchyard wall and dangle their legs. And all the way Gerald's
lips were shut into a thin, obstinate line.

"Now," said Kathleen. "Oh, Jerry, don't be a goat! I'm simply dying
to hear what happened."

"That's better," said Gerald, and he told his story. As he told it
some of the white mystery and magic of the moonlit gardens got
into his voice and his words, so that when he told of the statues
that came alive, and the great beast that was alive through all its
stone, Kathleen thrilled responsive, clutching his arm, and even
Jimmy ceased to kick the wall with his boot heels, and listened
open-mouthed.

Then came the thrilling tale of the burglars, and the warning letter
flung into the peaceful company of Mabel, her aunt, and the
bread-and-butter pudding. Gerald told the story with the greatest
enjoyment and such fullness of detail that the church clock chimed
half-past eleven as he said, "Having done all that human agency
could do, and further help being despaired of, our gallant young
detective Hullo, there's Mabel!"

There was. The tail-board of a cart shed her almost at their feet.

"I couldn't wait any longer," she explained, "when you didn't come.
And I got a lift. Has anything more happened?" The burglars had
gone when Bates got to the strong-room.

"You don't mean to say all that wheeze is real?" Jimmy asked.

"Of course it's real," said Kathleen. "Go on, Jerry. He's just got to
where he threw the stone into your bread-and-butter pudding,
Mabel. Go on.

Mabel climbed on to the wall. "You've got visible again quicker
than I did," she said.

Gerald nodded and resumed:

"Our story must be told in as few words as possible, owing to the
fish-frying taking place at twelve, and it's past the half-hour now.
Having left his missive to do its warning work, Gerald de Sherlock
Holmes sped back, wrapped in invisibility, to the spot where by the
light of their dark-lanterns the burglars were still still burgling with
the utmost punctuality and despatch. I didn't see any sense in
running into danger, so I just waited outside the passage where the
steps are you know?"

Mabel nodded.

"Presently they came out, very cautiously, of course, and looked
about them. They didn't see me so deeming themselves unobserved
they passed in silent Indian file along the passage one of the sacks
of silver grazed my front part and out into the night."

"But which way?"

"Through the little looking-glass room where you looked at
yourself when you were invisible. The hero followed swiftly on his
invisible tennis-shoes. The three miscreants instantly sought the
shelter of the groves and passed stealthily among the
rhododendrons and across the park, and his voice dropped and he
looked straight before him at the pinky convolvulus netting a heap
of stones beyond the white dust of the road "the stone things that
come alive, they kept looking out from between bushes and under
trees and I saw them all right, but they didn't see me. They saw the
burglars though, right enough; but the burglars couldn't see them.
Rum, wasn't it?"

"The stone things?" Mabel had to have them explained to her.

"I never saw them come alive," she said, "and I've been in the
gardens in the evening as often as often.

"I saw them," said Gerald stiffly.

"I know, I know," Mabel hastened to put herself right with him;
"what I mean to say is I shouldn't wonder if they re only visible
when you're invisible the liveness of them, I mean, not the
stoniness."

Gerald understood, and I'm sure I hope you do.

"I shouldn't wonder if you're right," he said. "The castle garden's
enchanted right enough; but what I should like to know is how and
why. I say, come on, I've got to catch Johnson before twelve. We'll
walk as far as the market and then we'll have to run for it."

"But go on with the adventure," said Mabel. "You can talk as we
go." "Oh, do it is so awfully thrilling!"

This pleased Gerald, of course.

"Well, I just followed, you know, like in a dream, and they got out
the cavy way you know, where we got in and I jolly well thought I
d lost them; I had to wait till they'd moved off down the road so
that they shouldn't hear me rattling the stones, and I had to tear to
catch them up. I took my shoes off I expect my stockings are done
for. And I followed and followed and followed and they went
through the place where the poor people live, and right down to
the river. And

I say, we must run for it."

So the story stopped and the running began.

They caught Johnson in his own back-yard washing at a bench
against his own back-door.

"Look here, Johnson," Gerald said, "what'll you give me if I put
you up to winning that fifty pounds reward?"

"Halves," said Johnson promptly, "and a clout 'long-side your head
if you was coming any of your nonsense over me."

"It's not nonsense," said Gerald very impressively. "If you'll let us
in I'll tell you all about it. And when you've caught the burglars and
got the swag back you just give me a quid for luck. I won't ask for
more."

"Come along in, then," said Johnson, "if the young ladies'll excuse
the towel. But I bet you do want something more off of me. Else
why not claim the reward yourself?"

"Great is the wisdom of Johnson he speaks winged words." The
children were all in the cottage now, and the door was shut. "I
want you never to let on who told you. Let them think it was your
own unaided pluck and far-sightedness."

"Sit you down," said Johnson, "and if you're kidding you'd best
send the little gells home afore I begin on you."

"I am not kidding," replied Gerald loftily, "never less. And anyone
but a policeman would see why I don't want anyone to know it was
me. I found it out at dead of night, in a place where I wasn't
supposed to be; and there'd be a beastly row if they found out at
home about me being out nearly all night. Now do you see, my
bright-eyed daisy?"

Johnson was now too interested, as Jimmy said afterwards, to
mind what silly names he was called. He said he did see and asked
to see more.

"Well, don't you ask any questions, then. I'll tell you all it's good
for you to know. Last night about eleven I was at Yalding Towers.
No it doesn't matter how I got there or what I got there for and
there was a window open and I got in, and there was a light. And it
was in the strong-room, and there were three men, putting silver in
a bag."

"Was it you give the warning, and they sent for the police?"
Johnson was leaning eagerly forward, a hand on each knee.

"Yes, that was me. You can let them think it was you, if you like.
You were off duty, weren't you?"

"I was," said Johnson, "in the arms of Murphy "

"Well, the police didn't come quick enough. But I was there a
lonely detective. And I followed them."

"You did?"

"And I saw them hide the booty and I know the other stuff from
Houghton's Court's in the same place, and I heard them arrange
about when to take it away."

"Come and show me where," said Johnson, jumping up so quickly
that his Windsor arm-chair fell over backwards, with a crack, on
the red-brick floor.

"Not so," said Gerald calmly; "if you go near the spot before the
appointed time you'll find the silver, but you'll never catch the
thieves."

"You're right there." The policeman picked up his chair and sat
down in it again. "Well?"

"Well, there's to be a motor to meet them in the lane beyond the
boat-house by Sadler's Rents at one o clock tonight. They'll get the
things out at half-past twelve and take them along in a boat. So
now's your chance to fill your pockets with chink and cover
yourself with honour and glory."

"So help me!" Johnson was pensive and doubtful still "So help me!
you couldn't have made all this up out of your head."

"Oh yes, I could. But I didn't. Now look here. It's the chance of
your lifetime, Johnson! A quid for me, and a still tongue for you,
and the job's done. Do you agree?"

"Oh, I agree right enough," said Johnson. "I agree. But if you're
coming any of your larks "

"Can't you see he isn't?" Kathleen put in impatiently. "He's not a
liar we none of us are."

"If you're not on, say so," said Gerald, "and I'll find another
policeman with more sense."

"I could split about you being out all night," said Johnson.

"But you wouldn't be so ungentlemanly," said Mabel brightly.
"Don't you be so unbelieving, when we're trying to do you a good
turn."

"If I were you," Gerald advised, "I'd go to the place where the
silver is, with two other men. You could make a nice little ambush
in the wood-yard it's close there. And I'd have two or three more
men up trees in the lane to wait for the motor-car."

"You ought to have been in the force, you ought," said Johnson
admiringly; "but s'pose it was a hoax!"

"Well, then you'd have made an ass of yourself I don't suppose it
ud be the first time," said Jimmy.

"Are you on?" said Gerald in haste. "Hold your jaw, Jimmy, you
idiot!"

"Yes," said Johnson.

"Then when you're on duty you go down to the wood-yard, and the
place where you see me blow my nose is the place. The sacks are
tied with string to the posts under the water. You just stalk by in
your dignified beauty and make a note of the spot. That's where
glory waits you, and when Fame elates you and you're a sergeant,
please remember me."

Johnson said he was blessed. He said it more than once, and then
remarked that he was on, and added that he must be off that instant
minute.

Johnson's cottage lies just out of the town beyond the blacksmith's
forge and the children had come to it through the wood. They went
back the same way, and then down through the town, and through
its narrow, unsavoury streets to the towing-path by the timber yard.
Here they ran along the trunks of the big trees, peeped into the
saw-pit, and the men were away at dinner and this was a favourite
play place of every boy within miles made themselves a see-saw
with a fresh cut, sweet-smelling pine plank and an elm-root.

"What a ripping place!" said Mabel, breathless on the seesaw's end.
"I believe I like this better than pretending games or even magic."

"So do I," said Jimmy. "Jerry, don't keep sniffing so  you'll have no
nose left."

"I can't help it," Gerald answered; "I daren't use my hankey for fear
Johnson's on the lookout somewhere unseen. I wish I'd thought of
some other signal." Sniff! "No, nor I shouldn't want to now if I
hadn't got not to. That's what's so rum. The moment I got down
here and remembered what I'd said about the signal I began to have
a cold and Thank goodness! here he is."

The children, with a fine air of unconcern, abandoned the see-saw.
"Follow my leader!" Gerald cried, and ran along a barked oak
trunk, the others following. In and out and round about ran the file
of children, over heaps of logs, under the jutting ends of piled
planks, and just as the policeman's heavy boots trod the
towing-path Gerald halted at the end of a little landing-stage of
rotten boards, with a rickety handrail, cried "Pax!" and blew his
nose with loud fervour.

"Morning," he said immediately.

"Morning," said Johnson. "Got a cold, ain't you?"

"Ah! I shouldn't have a cold if I'd got boots like yours," returned
Gerald admiringly. "Look at them. Anyone ud know your fairy
footstep a mile off. How do you ever get near enough to anyone to
arrest them?" He skipped off the landing-stage, whispered as he
passed Johnson, "Courage, promptitude, and dispatch. That's the
place," and was off again, the active leader of an active procession.

"We've brought a friend home to dinner," said Kathleen, when
Eliza opened the door. "Where's Mademoiselle?"

"Gone to see Yalding Towers. Today's show day, you know. An
just you hurry over your dinners. It's my afternoon out, and my
gentleman friend don't like it if he's kept waiting."

"All right, we'll eat like lightning," Gerald promised. "Set another
place, there's an angel."

They kept their word. The dinner it was minced veal and potatoes
and rice-pudding, perhaps the dullest food in the world was over in
a quarter of an hour.

"And now," said Mabel, when Eliza and a jug of hot water had
disappeared up the stairs together, "where's the ring? I ought to put
it back."

"I haven't had a turn yet," said Jimmy. "When we find it Cathy and
I ought to have turns same as you and Gerald did."

"When you find it ?" Mabel's pale face turned paler between her
dark locks.

"I'm very sorry we're all very sorry," began Kathleen, and then the
story of the losing had to be told.

"You couldn't have looked properly," Mabel protested. "It can't
have vanished."

"You don't know what it can do no more do we. It's no use getting
your quills up, fair lady. Perhaps vanishing itself is just what it
does do. You see, it came off my hand in the bed. We looked
everywhere."

"Would you mind if I looked?" Mabel's eyes implored her little
hostess. "You see, if it's lost it's my fault. It's almost the same as
stealing. That Johnson would say it was just the same. I know he
would."

"Let's all look again," said Cathy, jumping up. "We were rather in a
hurry this morning."

So they looked, and they looked. In the bed, under the bed, under
the carpet, under the furniture. They shook the curtains, they
explored the corners, and found dust and flue, but no ring. They
looked, and they looked. Everywhere they looked. Jimmy even
looked fixedly at the ceiling, as though he thought the ring might
have bounced up there and stuck. But it hadn't.

"Then," said Mabel at last, "your housemaid must have stolen it.
That's all. I shall tell her I think so."

And she would have done it too, but at that moment the front door
banged and they knew that Eliza had gone forth in all the glory of
her best things to meet her "gentleman friend" .

"It's no use," Mabel was almost in tears; "look here will you leave
me alone? Perhaps you others looking distracts me. And I'll go
over every inch of the room by myself."

"Respecting the emotion of their guest, the kindly charcoal-burners
withdrew," said Gerald. And they closed the door softly from the
outside on Mabel and her search.

They waited for hers of course politeness demanded it, and
besides, they had to stay at home to let Mademoiselle in; though it
was a dazzling day, and Jimmy had just remembered that Gerald's
pockets were full of the money earned at the fair, and that nothing
had yet been bought with that money, except a few buns in which
he had had no share. And of course they waited impatiently.

It seemed about an hour, and was really quite ten minutes, before
they heard the bedroom door open and Mabel's feet on the stairs.

"She hasn't found it," Gerald said.

"How do you know?" Jimmy asked.

"The way she walks," said Gerald. You can, in fact, almost always
tell whether the thing has been found that people have gone to look
for by the sound of their feet as they return. Mabel's feet said "No
go" as plain as they could speak. And her face confirmed the
cheerless news.

A sudden and violent knocking at the back door prevented anyone
from having to be polite about how sorry they were, or fanciful
about being sure the ring would turn up soon.

All the servants except Eliza were away on their holidays, so the
children went together to open the door, because, as Gerald said, if
it was the baker they could buy a cake from him and eat it for
dessert. "That kind of dinner sort of needs dessert," he said.

But it was not the baker, When they opened the

door they saw in the paved court where the pump is, and the
dust-bin, and the water-butt, a young man, with his hat very much
on one side, his mouth open under his fair bristly mustache, and
his eyes as nearly round as human eyes can be. He wore a suit of a
bright mustard colour, a blue necktie, and a goldish watch-chain
across his waistcoat. His body was thrown back and his right arm
stretched out towards the door, and his expression was that of a
person who is being dragged somewhere against his will. He
looked so strange that Kathleen tried to shut the door in his face,
murmuring, "Escaped insane." But the door would not close. There
was something in the way.

"Leave go of me!" said the young man.

"Ho yus! I'll leave go of you!" It was the voice of Eliza but no Eliza
could be seen.

"Who's got hold of you?" asked Kathleen.

"She has, miss," replied the unhappy stranger.

"Who's she?" asked Kathleen, to gain time, as she afterwards
explained, for she now knew well enough that what was keeping
the door open was Eliza's unseen foot.

"My fyongsay, miss. At least it sounds like her voice, and it feels
like her bones, but something's come over me, miss, an I can't see
her."

"That's what he keeps on saying," said Eliza's voice. "E's my
gentleman friend; is 'e gone dotty, or is it me?"

"Both, I shouldn't wonder," said Jimmy.

"Now," said Eliza, "you call yourself a man; you look me in the
face and say you can't see me."

"Well I can't," said the wretched gentleman friend.

"If I'd stolen a ring," said Gerald, looking at the sky, "I should go
indoors and be quiet, not stand at the back door and make an
exhibition of myself."

"Not much exhibition about her," whispered Jimmy; "good old
ring!"

"I haven't stolen anything," said the gentleman friend. "Here, you
leave me be. It's my eyes has gone wrong. Leave go of me, d'ye
hear?"

Suddenly his hand dropped and he staggered back against the
water-butt. Eliza had "left go" of him. She pushed past the
children, shoving them aside with her invisible elbows. Gerald
caught her by the arm with one hand, felt for her ear with the
other, and whispered, "You stand still and don't say a word. If you
do well, what's to stop me from sending for the police?"

Eliza did not know what there was to stop him. So she did as she
was told, and stood invisible and silent, save for a sort of blowing,
snorting noise peculiar to her when she was out of breath.

The mustard-coloured young man had recovered his balance, and
stood looking at the children with eyes, if possible, rounder than
before.

"What is it?" he gasped feebly. "What's up? What's it all about?"

"If you don't know, I'm afraid we can't tell you," said Gerald
politely.

"Have I been talking very strange-like?" he asked, taking off his
hat and passing his hand over his forehead.

"Very," said Mabel.

"I hope I haven't said anything that wasn't good manners," he said
anxiously.

"Not at all," said Kathleen. "You only said your fiancee had hold
of your hand, and that you couldn't see her."

"No more I can."

"No more can we," said Mabel.

"But I couldn't have dreamed it, and then come along here making
a penny show of myself like this, could I?"

"You know best," said Gerald courteously.

"But," the mustard-coloured victim almost screamed, "do you
mean to tell me..."

"I don't mean to tell you anything," said Gerald quite truly, "but I'll
give you a bit of advice. You go home and lie down a bit and put a
wet rag on your head. You'll be all right tomorrow."

"But I haven't "

"I should," said Mabel; "the sun's very hot, you know."

"I feel all right now," he said, "but well, I can only say I'm sorry,
that's all I can say. I've never been taken like this before, miss. I'm
not subject to it don't you think that. But I could have sworn Eliza
Ain't she gone out to meet me?"

"Eliza's in-doors," said Mabel. "She can't come out to meet
anybody today."

"You won't tell her about me carrying on this way, will you, miss?
It might set her against me if she thought I was liable to fits, which
I never was from a child."

"We won't tell Eliza anything about you."

"And you'll overlook the liberty?"

"Of course. We know you couldn't help it," said Kathleen. "You go
home and lie down. I'm sure you must need it. Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon, I'm sure, miss," he said dreamily. "All the same I
can feel the print of her finger-bones on my hand while I'm saying
it. And you won't let it get round to my boss my employer I mean?
Fits of all sorts are against a man in any trade."

"No, no, no, it's all right good-bye," said everyone. And a silence
fell as he went slowly round the water-butt and the green yard-gate
shut behind him. The silence was broken by Eliza.

"Give me up!" she said. "Give me up to break my heart in a prison
cell!"

There was a sudden splash, and a round wet drop lay on the
doorstep.

"Thunder shower," said Jimmy; but it was a tear from Eliza.

"Give me up," she went on, "give me up" splash "but don't let me
be took here in the town where I'm known and respected" splash.
"I'll walk ten miles to be took by a strange police not Johnson as
keeps company with my own cousin" splash. "But I do thank you
for one thing. You didn't tell Elf as I'd stolen the ring. And I didn't
splash  I only sort of borrowed it, it being my day out, and my
gentleman friend such a toff, like you can see for yourselves."

The children had watched, spellbound, the interesting tears that
became visible as they rolled off the invisible nose of the
miserable Eliza. Now Gerald roused himself, and spoke.

"It's no use your talking," he said. "We can't see you!"

"That's what he said," said Eliza's voice, "but "

"You can't see yourself," Gerald went on. "Where's your hand?"

Eliza, no doubt, tried to see it, and of course failed; for instantly,
with a shriek that might have brought the police if there had been
any about, she went into a violent fit of hysterics. The children did
what they could, everything that they had read of in books as
suitable to such occasions, but it is extremely difficult to do the
right thing with an invisible housemaid in strong hysterics and her
best clothes. That was why the best hat was found, later on, to be
completely ruined, and why the best blue dress was never quite
itself again. And as they were burning bits of the feather
dusting-brush as nearly under Eliza's nose as they could guess, a
sudden spurt of flame and a horrible smell, as the flame died
between the quick hands of Gerald, showed but too plainly that
Eliza's feather boa had tried to help.

It did help. Eliza "came to" with a deep sob and said, "Don't burn
me real ostrich stole; I'm better now."

They helped her up and she sat down on the bottom step, and the
children explained to her very carefully and quite kindly that she
really was invisible, and that if you steal or even borrow rings you
can never be sure what will happen to you.

"But 'ave I got to go on stopping like this," she moaned, when they
had fetched the little mahogany looking-glass from its nail over the
kitchen sink, and convinced her that she was really invisible, "for
ever and ever? An we was to a bin married come Easter. No one
won't marry a gell as 'e can't see. It ain't likely."

"No, not for ever and ever," said Mabel kindly, "but you've got to
go through with it like measles. I expect you'll be all right
tomorrow."

"Tonight, I think," said Gerald.

"We'll help you all we can, and not tell anyone," said Kathleen.

"Not even the police," said Jimmy.

"Now let's get Mademoiselle's tea ready," said Gerald.

"And ours," said Jimmy.

"No," said Gerald, "we'll have our tea out. We'll have a picnic and
we'll take Eliza. I'll go out and get the cakes." "I sha'n't eat no cake,
Master Jerry," said Eliza's voice, "so don't you think it. You'd see it
going down inside my chest. It wouldn't he what I should call nice
of me to have cake showing through me in the open air. Oh, it's a
dreadful judgment  just for a borrow!"

They reassured her, set the tea, deputed Kathleen to let in
Mademoiselle who came home tired and a little sad, it seemed
waited for her and Gerald and the cakes, and started off for
Yalding Towers.

"Picnic parties aren't allowed," said Mabel.

"Ours will be," said Gerald briefly. "Now, Eliza, you catch on to
Kathleen's arm and I'll walk behind to conceal your shadow. My
aunt! take your hat off; it makes your shadow look like I don't
know what. People will think we're the county lunatic asylum
turned loose."

It was then that the hat, becoming visible in Kathleen's hand,
showed how little of the sprinkled water had gone where it was
meant to go on Eliza's face.

"Me best 'at," said Eliza, and there was a silence with sniffs in it.

"Look here," said Mabel, "you cheer up. Just you think this is all a
dream. It's just the kind of thing you might dream if your
conscience bad got pains in it about the ring."

"But will I wake up again?"

"Oh yes, you'll wake up again. Now we're going to bandage your
eyes and take you through a very small door, and don't you resist,
or we'll bring a policeman into the dream like a shot."

I have not time to describe Eliza's entrance into the cave. She went
head first: the girls propelled and the boys received her. If Gerald
had not thought of tying her hands someone would certainly have
been scratched. As it was Mabel's hand was scraped between the
cold rock and a passionate boot-heel. Nor will I tell you all that she
said as they led her along the fern-bordered gully and through the
arch into the wonderland of Italian scenery. She had but little
language left when they removed her bandage under a weeping
willow where a statue of Diana, bow in hand, stood poised on one
toe a most unsuitable attitude for archery, I have always thought.

"Now," said Gerald, "it's all over nothing but niceness now and
cake and things."

"It's time we did have our tea," said Jimmy. And it was.

Eliza, once convinced that her chest, though invisible, was not
transparent, and that her companions could not by looking through
it count how many buns she had eaten, made an excellent meal. So
did the others. If you want really to enjoy your tea, have minced
veal and potatoes and rice-pudding for dinner, with several hours
of excitement to follow, and take your tea late.

The soft, cool green and grey of the garden were changing the
green grew golden, the shadows black, and the lake where the
swans were mirrored upside down, under the Temple of Phoebus,
was bathed in rosy light from the little fluffy clouds that lay
opposite the Sunset.

"It is pretty," said Eliza, "just like a picture-postcard, ain't it? the
tuppenny kind."

"I ought to be getting home," said Mabel.

"I can't go home like this. I'd stay and be a savage and live in that
white hut if it had any walls and doors," said Eliza.

"She means the Temple of Dionysus," said Mabel, pointing to it.

The sun set suddenly behind the line of black fir-trees on the top of
the slope, and the white temple, that had been pink, turned grey.

"It would be a very nice place to live in even as it is," said
Kathleen.

"Draughty," said Eliza, "and law, what a lot of steps to clean! What
they make houses for without no walls to 'em? Who'd live in," She
broke off, stared, and added: "What's that?"

"What?"

"That white thing coming down the steps. Why, it's a young man in
statooary."

"The statues do come alive here, after sunset," said Gerald in very
matter-of-fact tones.

"I see they do." Eliza did not seem at all surprised or alarmed.
"There's another of 'em. Look at them little wings to his feet like
pigeons."

"I expect that's Mercury," said Gerald.

"It's 'Hermes' under the statue that's got wings on its feet, said
Mabel, "but "

"1 don't see any statues," said Jimmy. "What are you punching me
for?"

"Don't you see?" Gerald whispered; but he need not have been so
troubled, for all Eliza's attention was with her wandering eyes that
followed hither and thither the quick movements of unseen statues.
"Don't you see? The statues come alive when the sun goes down
and you can't see them unless you're invisible

and I if you do see them you're not frightened unless you touch
them."

"Let's get her to touch one and see," said Jimmy.

"E's lep into the water," said Eliza in a rapt voice. "My, can't he
swim neither! And the one with the pigeons wings is flying all over
the lake having larks with 'im. I do call that pretty. It's like cupids
as you see on wedding-cakes. And here's another of 'em, a little
chap with long ears and a baby deer galloping alongside! An look
at the lady with the biby, throwing it up and catching it like as if it
was a ball. I wonder she ain't afraid. But it's pretty to see 'em."

The broad park lay stretched before the children in growing
greyness and a stillness that deepened. Amid the thickening
shadows they could see the statues gleam white and motionless.
But Eliza saw other things. She watched in silence presently, and
they watched silently, and the evening fell like a veil that grew
heavier and blacker. And it was night. And the moon came up
above the trees.

"Oh," cried Eliza suddenly, "here's the dear little boy with the deer
he's coming right for me, bless his heart!"

Next moment she was screaming, and her screams grew fainter
and there was the sound of swift boots on gravel.

"Come on!" cried Gerald; "she touched it, and then she was
frightened, Just like I was. Run! she'll send everyone in the town
mad if she gets there like that. Just a voice and boots! Run! Run!

They ran. But Eliza had the start of them. Also when she ran on the
grass they could not hear her footsteps and had to wait for the
sound of leather on far-away gravel. Also she was driven by fear,
and fear drives fast.

She went, it seemed, the nearest way, invisibly through the waxing
moonlight, seeing she only knew what amid the glades and groves.

"I'll stop here; see you tomorrow," gasped Mabel, as the loud
pursuers followed Eliza's clatter across the terrace. "She's gone
through the stable yard."

"The back way," Gerald panted as they turned the corner of their
own street, and he and Jimmy swung in past the water-butt.

An unseen but agitated presence seemed to be fumbling with the
locked back-door. The church clock struck the half-hour.

"Half-past nine," Gerald had just breath to say. "Pull at the ring.
Perhaps it'll come off now."

He spoke to the bare doorstep. But it was Eliza, dishevelled,
breathless, her hair coming down, her collar crooked, her dress
twisted and disordered, who suddenly held out a hand a hand that
they could see; and in the hand, plainly visible in the moonlight,
the dark circle of the magic ring.

"Alf a mo!" said Eliza's gentleman friend next morning. He was
waiting for her when she opened the door with pail and
hearthstone in her hand. "Sorry you couldn't come out yesterday."

"So'm I." Eliza swept the wet flannel along the top step. "What did
you do?"

"I 'ad a bit of a headache," said the gentleman friend. "I laid down
most of the afternoon. What were you up to?"

"Oh, nothing pertickler," said Eliza.

"Then it was all a dream, she said, when he was gone; "but it'll be
a lesson to me not to meddle with anybody's old ring again in a
hurry."

"So they didn't tell 'er about me behaving like I did," said he as he
went "sun, I suppose like our Army in India. I hope I ain't going to
be liable to it, that's all!"

Johnson was the hero of the hour. It was he who had tracked the
burglars, laid his plans, and recovered the lost silver. He had not
thrown the stone public opinion decided that Mabel and her aunt
must have been mistaken in supposing that there was a stone at all.
But he did not deny the warning letter. It was Gerald who went out
after breakfast to buy the newspaper, and who read aloud to the
others the two columns of fiction which were the Liddlesby
Observer's report of the facts. As he read every mouth opened
wider and wider, and when he ceased with "this gifted
fellow-townsman with detective instincts which out-rival those of
Messrs. Lecoq and Holmes, and whose promotion is now assured,"
there was quite a blank silence.

"Well," said Jimmy, breaking it, "he doesn't stick it on neither,
does he?"

"I feel," said Kathleen, "as if it was our fault as if it was us had told
all these whoppers; because if it hadn't been for you they couldn't
have, Jerry. How could he say all that?"

"Well," said Gerald, trying to be fair, "you know, after all, the chap
had to say something. I'm glad I " He stopped abruptly.

"You're glad you what?"

"No matter," said he, with an air of putting away affairs of state.
"Now, what are we going to do today? The faithful Mabel
approaches; she will want her ring. And you and Jimmy want it
too. Oh, I know. Mademoiselle hasn't had any attention paid to her
for more days than our hero likes to confess."

"I wish you wouldn't always call yourself 'our hero', said Jimmy;
"you aren't mine, anyhow."

"You're both of you mine," said Kathleen hastily.

"Good little girl." Gerald smiled annoyingly. "Keep baby brother in
a good temper till Nursie comes back."

"You're not going out without us?" Kathleen asked in haste.

"I haste away,

'Tis market day,"

sang Gerald,

"And in the market there

Buy roses for my fair.

If you want to come too, get your boots on, and look slippy about
it."

"I don't want to come," said Jimmy, and sniffed.

Kathleen turned a despairing look on Gerald.

"Oh, James, James," said Gerald sadly, "how difficult you make it
for me to forget that you're my little brother! If ever I treat you like
one of the other chaps, and rot you like I should Turner or
Moberley or any of my pals well, this is what comes of it."

"You don't call them your baby brothers," said Jimmy, and truly.

"No; and I'll take precious good care I don't call you it again. Come
on, my hero and heroine. The devoted Mesrour is your salaaming
slave."

The three met Mabel opportunely at the corner of the square where
every Friday the stalls and the awnings and the green umbrellas
were pitched, and poultry, pork, pottery, vegetables, drapery,
sweets, toys, tools, mirrors, and all sorts of other interesting
merchandise were spread out on trestle tables, piled on carts whose
horses were stabled and whose shafts were held in place by piled
wooden cases, or laid out, as in the case of crockery and hardware,
on the bare flag-stones of the market-place.

The sun was shining with great goodwill, and, as Mabel remarked,
"all Nature looked smiling and gay." There were a few bunches of
flowers among the vegetables, and the children hesitated, balanced
in choice.

"Mignonette is sweet," said Mabel.

"Roses are roses," said Kathleen.

"Carnations are tuppence," said Jimmy; and Gerald, sniffing
among the bunches of tightly-tied tea-roses, agreed that this settled
it.

So the carnations were bought, a bunch of yellow ones, like
sulphur, a bunch of white ones like clotted cream, and a bunch of
red ones like the cheeks of the doll that Kathleen never played
with. They took the carnations home, and Kathleen's green
hair-ribbon came in beautifully for tying them up, which was
hastily done on the doorstep.

Then discreetly Gerald knocked at the door of the drawing-room,
where Mademoiselle seemed to sit all day.

"Entrez!" came her voice; and Gerald entered. She was not
reading, as usual, but bent over a sketch-book; on the table was an
open colour-box of un-English appearance, and a box of that
slate-coloured liquid so familiar alike to the greatest artist in
watercolours and to the humblest child with a sixpenny paintbox.

"With all of our loves," said Gerald, laying the flowers down
suddenly before her.

"But it is that you are a dear child. For this it must that I embrace
you no?" And before Gerald could explain that he was too old, she
kissed him with little quick French pecks on the two cheeks.

"Are you painting?" he asked hurriedly, to hide his annoyance at
being treated like a baby.

"I achieve a sketch of yesterday," she answered; and before he had
time to wonder what yesterday would look like in a picture she
showed him a beautiful and exact sketch of Yalding Towers.

"Oh, I say ripping!" was the critic's comment. "I say, mayn't the
others come and see?" The others came, including Mabel, who
stood awkwardly behind the rest, and looked over Jimmy's
shoulder.

"I say, you are clever," said Gerald respectfully.

"To what good to have the talent, when one must pass one's life at
teaching the infants?" said Mademoiselle.

"It must be fairly beastly," Gerald owned.

"You, too, see the design?" Mademoiselle asked Mabel, adding: "A
friend from the town, yes?"

"How do you do?" said Mabel politely. "No, I'm not from the town.
I live at Yalding Towers."

The name seemed to impress Mademoiselle very much. Gerald
anxiously hoped in his own mind that she was not a snob.

"Yalding Towers," she repeated, "but this is very extraordinary. Is
it possible that you are then of the family of Lord Yalding?"

"He hasn't any family," said Mabel; "he's not married."

"I would say are you how you say? cousin sister  niece?"

"No," said Mabel, flushing hotly, "I'm nothing grand at all. I'm
Lord Yalding's housekeeper's niece."

"But you know Lord Yalding, is it not?"

"No," said Mabel, "I've never seen him."

"He comes then never to his chateau?"

"Not since I've lived there. But he's coming next week."

"Why lives he not there?" Mademoiselle asked.

"Auntie says he's too poor," said Mabel, and proceeded to tell the
tale as she had heard it in the housekeeper's room: how Lord
Yalding's uncle had left all the money he could leave away from
Lord Yalding to Lord Yalding's second cousin, and poor Lord
Yalding had only just enough to keep the old place in repair, and
to live very quietly indeed somewhere else, but not enough to keep
the house open or to live there; and how he couldn't sell the house
because it was "in tale .

"What is it then in tail?" asked Mademoiselle.

"In a tale that the lawyers write out," said Mabel, proud of her
knowledge and flattered by the deep interest of the French
governess; "and when once they've put your house in one of their
tales you can't sell it or give it away, but you have to leave it to
your son, even if you don't want to."

"But how his uncle could he be so cruel to leave him the chateau
and no money?" Mademoiselle asked; and Kathleen and Jimmy
stood amazed at the sudden keenness of her interest in what
seemed to them the dullest story.

"Oh, I can tell you that too," said Mabel. "Lord Yalding wanted to
marry a lady his uncle didn't want him to, a barmaid or a ballet
lady or something, and he wouldn't give her up, and his uncle said,
'Well then,' and left everything to the cousin."

"And you say he is not married."

"No the lady went into a convent; I expect she's bricked-up alive
by now."

"Bricked ?"

"In a wall, you know,: said Mabel, pointing explainingly at the
pink and gilt roses of the wall-paper, "shut up to kill them. That's
what they do to you in convents."

"Not at all," said Mademoiselle; "in convents are very kind good
women; there is but one thing in convents that is detestable the
locks on the doors. Sometimes people cannot get out, especially
when they are very young and their relations have placed them
there for their welfare and happiness. But brick how you say it?
enwalling ladies to kill them. No it does itself never. And this lord
he did not then seek his lady?"

"Oh, yes he sought her right enough," Mabel assured her; "but
there are millions of convents, you know, and he had no idea
where to look, and they sent back his letters from the post-office,
and "

"Ciel!" cried Mademoiselle, "but it seems that one knows all in the
housekeeper's saloon."

"Pretty well all," said Mabel simply.

"And you think he will find her? No?"

"Oh, he'll find her all right," said Mabel, "when he's old and broken
down, you know and dying; and then a gentle Sister of Charity will
soothe his pillow, and just when he's dying she'll reveal herself and
say: 'My own lost love!' and his face will light up with a wonderful
joy and he'll expire with her beloved name on his parched lips."

Mademoiselle's was the silence of sheer astonishment. "You do the
prophecy, it appears?" she said at last. "Oh no," said Mabel; "I got
that out of a book. I can tell you lots more fatal love-stories any
time you like."

The French governess gave a little jump, as though she had
suddenly remembered something.

"It is nearly dinner-time," she said. "Your friend Mabelle, yes will
be your convivial, and in her honour we will make a little feast.
My beautiful flowers  put them to the water, Kathleen. I run to buy
the cakes. Wash the hands, all, and be ready when I return."

Smiling and nodding to the children, she left them, and ran up the
stairs.

"Just as if she was young," said Kathleen.

"She is young," said Mabel. "Heaps of ladies have offers of
marriage when they re no younger than her. I've seen lots of
weddings too, with much older brides. And why didn't you tell me
she was so beautiful?"

"Is she?" asked Kathleen.

"Of course she is; and what a darling to think of cakes for me, and
calling me a convivial!"

"Look here," said Gerald, "I call this jolly decent of her. You
know, governesses never have more than the meanest pittance, just
enough to sustain life, and here she is spending her little all on us.
Supposing we just don't go out today, but play with her instead. I
expect she's most awfully bored really."

"Would she really like it?" Kathleen wondered. "Aunt Emily says
grown-ups never really like playing. They do it to please us.

"They little know," Gerald answered, "how often we do it to please
them."

"We've got to do that dressing-up with the Princess clothes anyhow
we said we would," said Kathleen. "Let's treat her to that."

"Rather near tea-time," urged Jimmy, "so that there'll be a
fortunate interruption and the play won't go on for ever."

"I suppose all the things are safe?" Mabel asked.

"Quite. I told you where I put them. Come on, Jimmy; let's help lay
the table. We'll get Eliza to put out the best china."

They went.

"It was lucky," said Gerald, struck by a sudden thought, "that the
burglars didn't go for the diamonds in the treasure-chamber."

"They couldn't," said Mabel almost in a whisper; "they didn't know
about them. I don't believe anybody knows about them, except me
and you, and you're sworn to secrecy. This, you will remember,
had been done almost at the beginning. I know aunt doesn't know.
I just found out the spring by accident. Lord Yalding's kept the
secret well."

"I wish I'd got a secret like that to keep," said Gerald. "If the
burglars do know," said Mabel, "it'll all come out at the trial.
Lawyers make you tell everything you know at trials, and a lot of
lies besides."

"There won't be any trial," said Gerald, kicking the leg of the piano
thoughtfully.

"No trial?"

"It said in the paper," Gerald went on slowly, "'The miscreants
must have received warning from a confederate, for the admirable
preparations to arrest them as they returned for their ill-gotten
plunder were unavailing. But the police have a clew.'"

"What a pity!" said Mabel.

"You needn't worry they haven't got any old clew," said Gerald,
still attentive to the piano leg.

"I didn't mean the clew; I meant the confederate."

"It's a pity you think he's a pity, because he was me," said Gerald,
standing up and leaving the piano leg alone. He looked straight
before him, as the boy on the burning deck may have looked.

"I couldn't help it," he said. "I know you'll think I'm a criminal, but
I couldn't do it. I don't know how detectives can. I went over a
prison once, with father; and after I'd given the tip to Johnson I
remembered that, and I just couldn't. I know I'm a beast, and not
worthy to be a British citizen."

"I think it was rather nice of you," said Mabel kindly. "How did
you warn them?"

"I just shoved a paper under the man's door the one that I knew
where he lived to tell him to lie low."

"Oh! do tell me what did you put on it exactly?" Mabel warmed to
this new interest. "It said: 'The police know all except your names.
Be virtuous and you are safe. But if there's any more burgling I
shall split and you may rely on that from a friend.' I know it was
wrong, but I couldn't help it. Don't tell the others. They wouldn't
understand why I did it. I don't understand it myself."

"I do, said Mabel: it's because you've got a kind and noble heart."

"Kind fiddlestick, my good child!" said Gerald, suddenly losing the
burning boy expression and becoming in a flash entirely himself.
"Cut along and wash your hands; you're as black as ink."

"So are you," said Mabel, "and I'm not. It's dye with me. Auntie
was dyeing a blouse this morning. It told you how in Home Drivel
and she's as black as ink too, and the blouse is all streaky. Pity the
ring won't make just parts of you invisible the dirt, for instance."

"Perhaps," Gerald said unexpectedly, "it won't make even all of
you invisible again."

"Why not? You haven't been doing anything to it have you?"
Mabel sharply asked.

"No; but didn't you notice you were invisible twenty-one hours; I
was fourteen hours invisible, and Eliza only seven that's seven less
each time. And now we've come to "

"How frightfully good you are at sums!" said Mabel, awe-struck.

"You see, it's got seven hours less each time, and seven from seven
is nought; it's got to be something different this time. And then
afterwards it can't be minus seven, because I don't see how  unless
it made you more visible thicker, you know."

"Don't!" said Mabel; "you make my head go round."

"And there's another odd thing," Gerald went on; "when you're
invisible your relations don't love you. Look at your aunt, and
Cathy never turning a hair at me going burgling. We haven't got to
the bottom of that ring yet. Crikey! here's Mademoiselle with the
cakes. Run, bold bandits wash for your lives!"

They ran

It was not cakes only; it was plums and grapes and jam tarts and
soda-water and raspberry vinegar, and chocolates in pretty boxes
and pure, thick, rich cream in brown jugs, also a big bunch of
roses. Mademoiselle was strangely merry for a governess. She
served out the cakes and tarts with a liberal hand, made wreaths of
the flowers for all their heads she was not eating much herself
drank the health of Mabel, as the guest of the day, in the beautiful
pink drink that comes from mixing raspberry vinegar and
soda-water, and actually persuaded Jimmy to wear his wreath, on
the ground that the Greek gods as well as the goddesses always
wore wreaths at a feast.

There never was such a feast provided by any French governess
since French governesses began. There were jokes and stories and
laughter. Jimmy showed all those tricks with forks and corks and
matches and apples which are so deservedly popular.
Mademoiselle told them stories of her own schooldays when she
was "a quite little girl with two tight tresses  so", and when they
could not understand the tresses, called for paper and pencil and
drew the loveliest little picture of herself when she was a child
with two short fat pig-tails sticking out from her head like
knitting-needles from a ball of dark worsted. Then she drew
pictures of everything they asked for, till Mabel pulled Gerald's
jacket and whispered: "The acting!"

"Draw us the front of a theatre," said Gerald tactfully "a French
theatre."

"They are the same thing as the English theatres," Mademoiselle
told him.

"Do you like acting the theatre, I mean?"

"But yes I love it."

"All right," said Gerald briefly. "We'll act a play for you now this
afternoon if you like."

"Eliza will be washing up," Cathy whispered, "and she was
promised to see it."

"Or this evening," said Gerald "and please, Mademoiselle, may
Eliza come in and look on?"

"But certainly," said Mademoiselle; "amuse yourselves well, my
children."

"But it's you," said Mabel suddenly, "that we want to amuse.
Because we love you very much don't we, all of you?"

"Yes," the chorus came unhesitatingly. Though the others would
never have thought of saying such a thing on their own account.
Yet, as Mabel said it, they found to their surprise that it was true.

"Tiens!" said Mademoiselle, "you love the old French governess?
Impossible," and she spoke rather indistinctly.

"You're not old," said Mabel; "at least not so very, she added
brightly, and you're as lovely as a Princess."

"Go then, flatteress!" said Mademoiselle, laughing; and Mabel
went. The others were already half-way up the stairs.

Mademoiselle sat in the drawing-room as usual, and it was a good
thing that she was not engaged in serious study, for it seemed that
the door opened and shut almost ceaselessly all throughout the
afternoon. Might they have the embroidered antimacassars and the
sofa cushions? Might they have the clothes-line out of the
washhouse? Eliza said they mightn't, but might they? Might they
have the sheepskin hearth-rugs? Might they have tea in the garden,
because they had almost got the stage ready in the dining-room,
and Eliza wanted to set tea? Could Mademoiselle lend them any
coloured clothes scarves or dressing-gowns, or anything bright?
Yes, Mademoiselle could, and did silk things, surprisingly lovely
for a governess to have.

Had Mademoiselle any rouge? They had always heard that French
ladies No. Mademoiselle hadn't and to judge by the colour of her
face, Mademoiselle didn't need it. Did Mademoiselle think the
chemist sold rouge or had she any false hair to spare? At this
challenge Mademoiselle's pale fingers pulled out a dozen hairpins,
and down came the loveliest blue-black hair, hanging to her knees
in straight, heavy lines.

"No, you terrible infants," she cried. "I have not the false hair, nor
the rouge. And my teeth you want them also, without doubt?"

She showed them in a laugh.

"I said you were a Princess," said Mabel, "and now I know. You're
Rapunzel. Do always wear your hair like that! May we have the
peacock fans, please, off the mantelpiece, and the things that loop
back the curtains, and all the handkerchiefs you've got?"

Mademoiselle denied them nothing. They had the fans and the
handkerchiefs and some large sheets of expensive drawing-paper
out of the school cupboard, and Mademoiselle's best sable
paint-brush and her paint-box.

"Who would have thought," murmured Gerald, pensively sucking
the brush and gazing at the paper mask he had just painted, "that
she was such a brick in disguise? I wonder why crimson lake
always tastes just like Liebig's Extract."

Everything was pleasant that day somehow. There are some days
like that, you know, when everything goes well from the very
beginning; all the things you want are in their places, nobody
misunderstands you, and all that you do turns out admirably. How
different from those other days which we all know too well, when
your shoe-lace breaks, your comb is mislaid, your brush spins on
its back on the floor and lands under the bed where you can't get at
it you drop the soap, your buttons come off, an eyelash gets into
your eye, you have used your last clean handkerchief, your collar is
frayed at the edge and cuts your neck, and at the very last moment
your suspender breaks, and there is no string. On such a day as this
you are naturally late for breakfast, and everyone thinks you did it
on purpose. And the day goes on and on, getting worse and worse
you mislay your exercise-book, you drop your arithmetic in the
mud, your pencil breaks, and when you open your knife to sharpen
the pencil you split your nail. On such a day you jam your thumb
in doors, and muddle the messages you are sent on by grown-ups.
You upset your tea, and your bread-and-butter won't hold together
for a moment. And when at last you get to bed usually in disgrace
it is no comfort at all to you to know that not a single bit of it is
your own fault.

This day was not one of those days, as you will have noticed. Even
the tea in the garden there was a bricked bit by a rockery that made
a steady floor for the tea-table was most delightful, though the
thoughts of four out of the five were busy with the coming play,
and the fifth had thoughts of her own that had had nothing to do
with tea or acting.

Then there was an interval of slamming doors, interesting silences,
feet that flew up and down stairs.

It was still good daylight when the dinner-bell rang  the signal had
been agreed upon at tea-time, and carefully explained to Eliza.
Mademoiselle laid down her book and passed out of the
sunset-yellowed hail into the faint yellow gaslight of the
dining-room. The giggling Eliza held the door open before her, and
followed her in. The shutters had been closed streaks of daylight
showed above and below them. The green-and-black tablecloths of
the school dining-tables were supported on the clothes-line from
the backyard. The line sagged in a graceful curve, but it answered
its purpose of supporting the curtains which concealed that part of
the room which was the stage.

Rows of chairs had been placed across the other end of the room
all the chairs in the house, as it seemed and Mademoiselle started
violently when she saw that fully half a dozen of these chairs were
occupied. And by the queerest people, too an old woman with a
poke bonnet tied under her chin with a red handkerchief, a lady in
a large straw hat wreathed in flowers and the oddest hands that
stuck out over the chair in front of her, several men with strange,
clumsy figures, and all with hats on.

"But," whispered Mademoiselle, through the chinks of the
tablecloths, "you have then invited other friends? You should have
asked me, my children."

Laughter and something like a "hurrah" answered her from behind
the folds of the curtaining tablecloths.

"All right, Mademoiselle Rapunzel," cried Mabel; "turn the gas up.
It's only part of the entertainment."

Eliza, still giggling, pushed through the lines of chairs, knocking
off the hat of one of the visitors as she did so, and turned up the
three incandescent burners.

Mademoiselle looked at the figure seated nearest to her, stooped to
look more closely, half laughed, quite screamed, and sat down
suddenly.

"Oh!" she cried, "they are not alive!"

Eliza, with a much louder scream, had found out the same thing
and announced it differently. "They ain't got no insides," said she.
The seven members of the audience seated among the wilderness
of chairs had, indeed, no insides to speak of. Their bodies were
bolsters and rolled-up blankets, their spines were broom-handles,
and their arm and leg bones were hockey sticks and umbrellas.
Their shoulders were the wooden crosspieces that Mademoiselle
used for keeping her jackets in shape; their hands were gloves
stuffed out with handkerchiefs; and their faces were the paper
masks painted in the afternoon by the untutored brush of Gerald,
tied on to the round heads made of the ends of stuffed
bolster-cases. The faces were really rather dreadful. Gerald had
done his best, but even after his best had been done you would
hardly have known they were faces, some of them, if they hadn't
been in the positions which faces usually occupy, between the
collar and the hat. Their eyebrows were furious with lamp-black
frowns their eyes the size, and almost the shape, of five-shilling
pieces, and on their lips and cheeks had been spent much crimson
lake and nearly the whole of a half-pan of vermilion.

"You have made yourself an auditors, yes? Bravo!" cried
Mademoiselle, recovering herself and beginning to clap. And to
the sound of that clapping the curtain went up or, rather, apart. A
voice said, in a breathless, choked way, "Beauty and the Beast,"
and the stage was revealed.

It was a real stage too the dining-tables pushed close together and
covered with pink-and-white counterpanes. It was a little unsteady
and creaky to walk on, but very imposing to look at. The scene was
simple, but convincing. A big sheet of cardboard, bent square, with
slits cut in it and a candle behind, represented, quite transparently,
the domestic hearth; a round hat-tin of Eliza s, supported on a stool
with a night-light under it, could not have been mistaken, save by
wilful malice, for anything but a copper. A waste-paper basket
with two or three school dusters and an overcoat in it, and a pair of
blue pyjamas over the back of a chair, put the finishing touch to
the scene. It did not need the announcement from the wings, "The
laundry at Beauty's home." It was so plainly a laundry and nothing
else.

In the wings: "They look just like a real audience, don't they?"
whispered Mabel. "Go on, Jimmy don't forget the Merchant has to
be pompous and use long words."

Jimmy, enlarged by pillows under Gerald's best overcoat which
had been intentionally bought with a view to his probable growth
during the two years which it was intended to last him, a Turkish
towel turban on his head and an open umbrella over it, opened the
first act in a simple and swift soliloquy:

"I am the most unlucky merchant that ever was. I was once the
richest merchant in Bagdad, but I lost all my ships, and now I live
in a poor house that is all to bits; you can see how the rain comes
through the roof, and my daughters take in washing. And ,"

The pause might have seemed long, but Gerald rustled in, elegant
in Mademoiselle's pink dressing-gown and the character of the
eldest daughter.

"A nice drying day," he minced. "Pa dear, put the umbrella the
other way up. It'll save us going out in the rain to fetch water.
Come on, sisters, dear father's got us a new wash-tub. Here's
luxury!"

Round the umbrella, now held the wrong way up, the three sisters
knelt and washed imaginary linen. Kathleen wore a violet skirt of
Eliza s, a blue blouse of her own, and a cap of knotted
handkerchiefs. A white nightdress girt with a white apron and two
red carnations in Mabel's black hair left no doubt as to which of
the three was Beauty.

The scene went very well. The final dance with waving towels was
all that there is of charming, Mademoiselle said; and Eliza was so
much amused that, as she said, she got quite a nasty stitch along of
laughing so hearty.

You know pretty well what Beauty and the Beast would be like
acted by four children who had spent the afternoon in arranging
their costumes and so had left no time for rehearsing what they had
to say. Yet it delighted them, and it charmed their audience. And
what more can any play do, even Shakespeare's? Mabel, in her
Princess clothes, was a resplendent Beauty; and Gerald a Beast
who wore the drawing-room hearthrugs with an air of
indescribable distinction. If Jimmy was not a talkative merchant,
he made it up with a stoutness practically unlimited, and Kathleen
surprised and delighted even herself by the quickness with which
she changed from one to the other of the minor characters fairies,
servants, and messengers. It was at the end of the second act that
Mabel, whose costume, having reached the height of elegance,
could not be bettered and therefore did not need to be changed,
said to Gerald, sweltering under the weighty magnificence of his
beast-skin:

"I say, you might let us have the ring back."

"I'm going to," said Gerald, who had quite forgotten it. "I'll give it
you in the next scene. Only don't lose it, or go putting it on. You
might go out all together and never be seen again, or you might get
seven times as visible as anyone else, so that all the rest of us
would look like shadows beside you, you'd be so thick, or ,"

"Ready!" said Kathleen, bustling in, once more a wicked sister.

Gerald managed to get his hand into his pocket under his
hearthrug, and when he rolled his eyes in agonies of sentiment, and
said, "Farewell, dear Beauty! Return quickly, for if you remain
long absent from your faithful beast he will assuredly perish," he
pressed a ring into her hand and added: "This is a magic ring that
will give you anything you wish. When you desire to return to your
own disinterested beast, put on the ring and utter your wish.
Instantly you will be by my side."

Beauty-Mabel took the ring, and it was the ring.

The curtains closed to warm applause from two pairs of hands.

The next scene went splendidly. The sisters were almost too
natural in their disagreeableness, and Beauty's annoyance when
they splashed her Princess's dress with real soap and water was
considered a miracle of good acting. Even the merchant rose to
something more than mere pillows, and the curtain fell on his
pathetic assurance that in the absence of his dear Beauty he was
wasting away to a shadow. And again two pairs of hands
applauded.

"Here, Mabel, catch hold," Gerald appealed from under the weight
of a towel-horse, the tea-urn, the tea-tray, and the green baize
apron of the boot boy, which together with four red geraniums
from the landing, the pampas-grass from the drawing-room
fireplace, and the india-rubber plants from the drawing-room
window were to represent the fountains and garden of the last act.
The applause had died away.

"I wish," said Mabel, taking on herself the weight of the tea-urn, "I
wish those creatures we made were alive. We should get
something like applause then."

"I'm jolly glad they aren't, said Gerald, arranging the baize and the
towel-horse. "Brutes! It makes me feel quite silly when I catch
their paper eyes."

The curtains were drawn back. There lay the hearthrug-coated
beast, in flat abandonment among the tropic beauties of the
garden, the pampas-grass shrubbery, the india-rubber plant bushes,
the geranium-trees and the urn fountain. Beauty was ready to make
her great entry in all the thrilling splendour of despair. And then
suddenly it all happened.

Mademoiselle began it: she applauded the garden scene with
hurried little clappings of her quick French hands. Eliza's fat red
palms followed heavily, and then someone else was clapping, six
or seven people, and their clapping made a dull padded sound.
Nine faces instead of two were turned towards the stage, and seven
out of the nine were painted, pointed paper faces. And every hand
and every face was alive. The applause grew louder as Mabel
glided forward, and as she paused and looked at the audience her
unstudied pose of horror and amazement drew forth applause
louder still; but it was not loud enough to drown the shrieks of
Mademoiselle and Eliza as they rushed from the room, knocking
chairs over and crushing each other in the doorway. Two distant
doors banged, Mademoiselle's door and Eliza's door.

"Curtain! curtain! quick!" cried Beauty-Mabel, in a voice that
wasn't Mabel's or the Beauty's. "Jerry those things have come alive.
Oh, whatever shall we do?"

Gerald in his hearthrugs leaped to his feet. Again that flat padded
applause marked the swish of cloths on clothes-line as Jimmy and
Kathleen drew the curtains.

"What's up?" they asked as they drew.

"You've done it this time!" said Gerald to the pink, perspiring
Mabel. "Oh, bother these strings!"

"Can't you burst them? I've done it?" retorted Mabel. "I like that!"

"More than I do," said Gerald.

"Oh, it's all right," said Mabel. "Come on. We must go and pull the
things to pieces then they can't go on being alive."

"It's your fault, anyhow," said Gerald with every possible absence
of gallantry. "Don't you see? It's turned into a wishing ring. I knew
something different was going to happen. Get my knife out of my
pocket this string's in a knot. Jimmy, Cathy, those Ugly-Wuglies
have come alive because Mabel wished it. Cut out and pull them to
pieces."

Jimmy and Cathy peeped through the curtain and recoiled with
white faces and staring eyes. "Not me!" was the brief rejoinder of
Jimmy. Cathy said, "Not much!" And she meant it, anyone could
see that.

And now, as Gerald, almost free of the hearthrugs, broke his
thumb-nail on the stiffest blade of his knife, a thick rustling and a
sharp, heavy stumping sounded beyond the curtain.

"They're going out!" screamed Kathleen "walking out on their
umbrella and broomstick legs. You can't stop them, Jerry, they re
too awful!"

"Everybody in the town'll be insane by tomorrow night if we don't
stop them," cried Gerald. "Here, give me the ring I'll unwish them."

He caught the ring from the unresisting Mabel, cried, "I wish the
Uglies weren't alive," and tore through the door. He saw, in fancy,
Mabel's wish undone, and the empty hall strewed with limp
bolsters, hats, umbrellas, coats and gloves, prone abject properties
from which the brief life had gone out for ever. But the hall was
crowded with live things, strange things all horribly short as broom
sticks and umbrellas are short. A limp hand gesticulated. A pointed
white face with red cheeks looked up at him, and wide red lips
said something, he could not tell what. The voice reminded him of
the old beggar down by the bridge who had no roof to his mouth.
These creatures had no roofs to their mouths, of course they had no
"Aa 00 re  o me me oo a oo ho el?" said the voice again. And it had
said it four times before Gerald could collect himself sufficiently
to understand that this horror alive, and most likely quite
uncontrollable  was saying, with a dreadful calm, polite
persistence: "Can you recommend me to a good hotel?"

"Can you recommend me to a good hotel?" The speaker had no
inside to his head. Gerald had the best of reasons for knowing it.
The speaker's coat had no shoulders inside it only the cross-bar
that a jacket is slung on by careful ladies. The hand raised in
interrogation was not a hand at all; it was a glove lumpily stuffed
with pocket-handkerchiefs; and the arm attached to it was only
Kathleen's school umbrella. Yet the whole thing was alive, and
was asking a definite, and for anybody else, anybody who really
was a body, a reasonable question.

With a sensation of inward sinking, Gerald realized that now or
never was the time for him to rise to the occasion. And at the
thought he inwardly sank more deeply than before. It seemed
impossible to rise in the very smallest degree.

"I beg your pardon" was absolutely the best he could do; and the
painted, pointed paper face turned to him once more, and once
more said: "Aa 00 re  o me me oo a oo ho el?"

"You want a hotel?" Gerald repeated stupidly, "a good hotel?"

"A oo ho el," reiterated the painted lips.

"I'm awfully sorry," Gerald went on one can always be polite, of
course, whatever happens, and politeness came natural to him "but
all our hotels shut so early about eight, I think."

"Och em er," said the Ugly-Wugly. Gerald even now does not
understand how that practical joke hastily wrought of hat,
overcoat, paper face and limp hands could have managed, by just
being alive, to become perfectly respectable, apparently about fifty
years old, and obviously well known and respected in his own
suburb the kind of man who travels first class and smokes
expensive cigars. Gerald knew this time, without need of
repetition, that the Ugly-Wugly had said: "Knock 'em up."

"You can't," Gerald explained; "they re all stone deaf every single
person who keeps a hotel in this town. It's," he wildly plunged "it's
a County Council law. Only deaf people are allowed to keep
hotels. It's because of the hops in the beer," he found himself
adding; "you know, hops are so good for ear-ache."

"I 0 wy ollo oo," said the respectable Ugly-Wugly; and Gerald was
not surprised to find that the thing did "not quite follow him."

"It is a little difficult at first," he said. The other Ugly-Wuglies
were crowding round. The lady in the poke bonnet said Gerald
found he was getting quite clever at understanding the
conversation of those who had no roofs to their mouths:

"If not a hotel, a lodging."

"My lodging is on the cold ground," sang itself unbidden and
unavailing in Gerald's ear. Yet stay was it unavailing?

"I do know a lodging," he said slowly, "but ," The tallest of the
Ugly-Wuglies pushed forward. He was dressed in the old brown
overcoat and top-hat which always hung on the school hat-stand to
discourage possible burglars by deluding them into the idea that
there was a gentleman-of-the-house, and that he was at home. He
had an air at once more sporting and less reserved than that of the
first speaker, and anyone could see that he was not quite a
gentleman.

"Wa I wo oo oh," he began, but the lady Ugly-Wugly in the
flower-wreathed hat interrupted him. She spoke more distinctly
than the others, owing, as Gerald found afterwards, to the fact that
her mouth had been drawn open, and the flap cut from the aperture
had been folded back so that she really had something like a roof
to her mouth, though it was only a paper one.

"What I want to know," Gerald understood her to say, "is where are
the carriages we ordered?"

"I don't know," said Gerald, "but I'll find out. But we ought to be
moving," he added; "you see, the performance is over, and they
want to shut up the house and put the lights out. Let's be moving."

"Eh ech e oo-ig," repeated the respectable Ugly-Wugly, and
stepped towards the front door.

"Oo urn oo," said the flower-wreathed one; and Gerald assures me
that her vermilion lips stretched in a smile.

"I shall be delighted," said Gerald with earnest courtesy, "to do
anything, of course. Things do happen so awkwardly when you
least expect it. I could go with you, and get you a lodging, if you'd
only wait a few moments in the in the yard. It's quite a superior
sort of yard, he went on, as a wave of surprised disdain passed over
their white paper faces not a common yard, you know; the pump,"
he added madly, "has just been painted green all over, and the
dustbin is enamelled iron."

The Ugly-Wuglies turned to each other in consultation, and Gerald
gathered that the greenness of the pump and the enamelled
character of the dustbin made, in their opinion, all the difference.

"I'm awfully sorry," he urged eagerly, "to have to ask you to wait,
but you see I've got an uncle who's quite mad, and I have to give
him his gruel at half-past nine. He won't feed out of any hand but
mine." Gerald did not mind what he said. The only people one is
allowed to tell lies to are the Ugly-Wuglies; they are all clothes
and have no insides, because they are not human beings, but only a
sort of very real visions, and therefore cannot be really deceived,
though they may seem to be.

Through the back door that has the blue, yellow, red, and green
glass in it, down the iron steps into the yard, Gerald led the way,
and the Ugly-Wuglies trooped after him. Some of them had boots,
but the ones whose feet were only broomsticks or umbrellas found
the open-work iron stairs very awkward.

"If you wouldn't mind," said Gerald, "just waiting under the
balcony? My uncle is so very mad. If he were to see see any
strangers I mean, even aristocratic ones I couldn't answer for the
consequences."

"Perhaps, said the flower-hatted lady nervously, "it would be better
for us to try and find a lodging ourselves?"

"I wouldn't advise you to," said Gerald as grimly as he knew how;
"the police here arrest all strangers. It's the new law the Liberals
have just made," he added convincingly, "and you'd get the sort of
lodging you wouldn't care for I couldn't bear to think of you in a
prison dungeon," he added tenderly.

"I ah wi oo er papers," said the respectable Ugly-Wugly, and added
something that sounded like "disgraceful state of things."

However, they ranged themselves under the iron balcony. Gerald
gave one last look at them and wondered, in his secret heart, why
he was not frightened, though in his outside mind he was
congratulating himself on his bravery. For the things did look
rather horrid. In that light it was hard to believe that they were
really only clothes and pillows and sticks with no insides. As he
went up the steps he heard them talking among themselves in that
strange language of theirs, all oo's and ah's; and he thought he
distinguished the voice of the respectable Ugly-Wugly saying,
"Most gentlemanly lad," and the wreathed-hatted lady answering
warmly: "Yes, indeed."

The coloured-glass door closed behind him. Behind him was the
yard, peopled by seven impossible creatures. Before him lay the
silent house, peopled, as he knew very well, by five human beings
as frightened as human beings could be. You think, perhaps, that
Ugly-Wuglies are nothing to be frightened of. That's only because
you have never seen one come alive. You must make one any old
suit of your father s, and a hat that he isn't wearing, a bolster or
two, a painted paper face, a few sticks and a pair of boots will do
the trick; get your father to lend you a wishing ring, give it back to
him when it has done its work, and see how you feel then.

Of course the reason why Gerald was not afraid was that he had
the ring; and, as you have seen, the wearer of that is not frightened
by anything unless he touches that thing. But Gerald knew well
enough how the others must be feeling. That was why he stopped
for a moment in the hall to try and imagine what would have been
most soothing to him if he had been as terrified as he knew they
were.

"Cathy! I say! What ho, Jimmy! Mabel ahoy!" he cried in a loud,
cheerful voice that sounded very unreal to himself.

The dining-room door opened a cautious inch.

"I say such larks!" Gerald went on, shoving gently at the door with
his shoulder. "Look out! what are you keeping the door shut for?"

"Are you alone?" asked Kathleen in hushed, breathless tones.

"Yes, of course. Don't be a duffer!"

The door opened, revealing three scared faces and the disarranged
chairs where that odd audience had sat.

"Where are they? Have you unwished them? We heard them
talking. Horrible!"

"They're in the yard," said Gerald with the best imitation of joyous
excitement that he could manage. "It is such fun! They're just like
real people, quite kind and jolly. It's the most ripping lark. Don't let
on to Mademoiselle and Eliza. I'll square them. Then Kathleen and
Jimmy must go to bed, and I'll see Mabel home, and as soon as we
get outside I must find some sort of lodging for the Ugly-Wuglies
they are such fun though. I do wish you could all go with me."

"Fun?" echoed Kathleen dismally and doubting.

"Perfectly killing," Gerald asserted resolutely. "Now, you just
listen to what I say to Mademoiselle and Eliza, and back me up for
all you're worth.

"But," said Mabel, "you can't mean that you're going to leave me
alone directly we get out, and go off with those horrible creatures.
They look like fiends."

"You wait till you've seen them close," Gerald advised. "Why, they
re just ordinary the first thing one of them did was to ask me to
recommend it to a good hotel! I couldn't understand it at first,
because it has no roof to its mouth, of course."

It was a mistake to say that, Gerald knew it at once.

Mabel and Kathleen were holding hands in a way that plainly
showed how a few moments ago they had been clinging to each
other in an agony of terror. Now they clung again. And Jimmy,
who was sitting on the edge of what had been the stage, kicking his
boots against the pink counterpane, shuddered visibly.

"It doesn't matter," Gerald explained "about the roofs, I mean; you
soon get to understand. I heard them say I was a gentlemanly lad as
I was coming away. They wouldn't have cared to notice a little
thing like that if they'd been fiends, you know."

"It doesn't matter how gentlemanly they think you; if you don't see
me home you aren't, that's all. Are you going to?" Mabel
demanded.

"Of course I am. We shall have no end of a lark. Now for
Mademoiselle."

He had put on his coat as he spoke and now ran up the stairs. The
others, herding in the hall, could hear his light-hearted there
s-nothing-unusual-the-matter-whatever-did-you-bolt-like-that-for
knock at Mademoiselle's door, the reassuring "It's only me Gerald,
you know," the pause, the opening of the door, and the low-voiced
parley that followed; then Mademoiselle and Gerald at Eliza's
door, voices of reassurance; Eliza's terror, bluntly voluble, tactfully
soothed.

"Wonder what lies he's telling them," Jimmy grumbled.

"Oh! not lies," said Mabel; "he's only telling them as much of the
truth as it's good for them to know."

"If you'd been a man," said Jimmy witheringly, "you'd have been a
beastly Jesuit, and hid up chimneys."

"If I were only just a boy," Mabel retorted, "I shouldn't be scared
out of my life by a pack of old coats."

"I'm so sorry you were frightened," Gerald's honeyed tones floated
down the staircase; "we didn't think about you being frightened.
And it was a good trick, wasn't it?"

"There!" whispered Jimmy, "he's been telling her it was a trick of
ours."

"Well, so it was," said Mabel stoutly.

"It was indeed a wonderful trick," said Mademoiselle; "and how
did you move the mannikins?"

"Oh, we've often done it with strings, you know," Gerald
explained.

"That's true, too," Kathleen whispered.

"Let us see you do once again this trick so remarkable," said
Mademoiselle, arriving at the bottom-stair mat.

"Oh, I've cleared them all out," said Gerald. ("So he has, from
Kathleen aside to Jimmy.) "We were so sorry you were startled; we
thought you wouldn't like to see them again."

"Then," said Mademoiselle brightly, as she peeped into the untidy
dining-room and saw that the figures had indeed vanished, "if we
supped and discoursed of your beautiful piece of theatre?"

Gerald explained fully how much his brother and sister would
enjoy this. As for him Mademoiselle would see that it was his duty
to escort Mabel home, and kind as it was of Mademoiselle to ask
her to stay the night, it could not be, on account of the frenzied and
anxious affection of Mabel's aunt. And it was useless to suggest
that Eliza should see Mabel home, because Eliza was nervous at
night unless accompanied by her gentleman friend.

So Mabel was hatted with her own hat and cloaked with a cloak
that was not hers; and she and Gerald went out by the front door,
amid kind last words and appointments for the morrow.

The moment that front door was shut Gerald caught Mabel by the
arm and led her briskly to the corner of the side street which led to
the yard. Just round the corner he stopped.

"Now," he said, "what I want to know is are you an idiot or aren't
you?"

"Idiot yourself!" said Mabel, but mechanically, for she saw that he
was in earnest.

"Because I'm not frightened of the Ugly-Wuglies. They're as
harmless as tame rabbits. But an idiot might be frightened, and
give the whole show away. If you're an idiot, say so, and I'll go
back and tell them you're afraid to walk home, and that I'll go and
let your aunt know you're stopping."

"I'm not an idiot," said Mabel; "and," she added, glaring round her
with the wild gaze of the truly terror-stricken, "I'm not afraid of
anything."

"I'm going to let you share my difficulties and dangers," said
Gerald; "at least, I'm inclined to let you. I wouldn't do as much for
my own brother, I can tell you. And if you queer my pitch I'll never
speak to you again or let the others either."

"You're a beast, that's what you are! I don't need to be threatened to
make me brave. I am."

"Mabel," said Gerald, in low, thrilling tones, for he saw that the
time had come to sound another note, "I know you're brave. I
believe in you, That's why I've arranged it like this. I'm certain
you've got the heart of a lion under that black-and-white exterior.
Can I trust you? To the death?"

Mabel felt that to say anything but "Yes" was to throw away a
priceless reputation for courage. So "Yes" was what she said.

"Then wait here. You're close to the lamp. And when you see me
coming with them remember they re as harmless as serpents I
mean doves. Talk to them just like you would to anyone else.
See?"

He turned to leave her, but stopped at her natural question:

"What hotel did you say you were going to take them to?"

"Oh, Jimminy!" the harassed Gerald caught at his hair with both
hands. "There! you see, Mabel, you're a help already." he had, even
at that moment, some tact left. "I clean forgot! I meant to ask you
isn't there any lodge or anything in the Castle grounds where I
could put them for the night? The charm will break, you know,
some time, like being invisible did, and they'll just be a pack of
coats and things that we can easily carry home any day. Is there a
lodge or anything?"

"There's a secret passage," Mabel began but at the moment the
yard-door opened and an Ugly-Wugly put out its head and looked
anxiously down the street.

"Righto!" Gerald ran to meet it. It was all Mabel could do not to
run in an opposite direction with an opposite motive. It was all she
could do, but she did it, and was proud of herself as long as ever
she remembered that night.

And now, with all the silent precaution necessitated by the near
presence of an extremely insane uncle, the Ugly-Wuglies, a grisly
band, trooped out of the yard door.

"Walk on your toes, dear," the bonneted Ugly-Wugly whispered to
the one with a wreath; and even at that thrilling crisis Gerald
wondered how she could, since the toes of one foot were but the
end of a golf club and of the other the end of a hockey-stick.

Mabel felt that there was no shame in retreating to the lamp-post at
the street corner, but, once there, she made herself halt and no one
but Mabel will ever know how much making that took. Think of it
to stand there, firm and quiet, and wait for those hollow,
unbelievable things to come up to her, clattering on the pavement
with their stumpy feet or borne along noiselessly, as in the case of
the flower-hatted lady, by a skirt that touched the ground, and had,
Mabel knew very well, nothing at all inside it.

She stood very still; the insides of her hands grew cold and damp,
but still she stood, saying over and over again: "They re not true
they can't be true. It's only a dream they aren't really true. They
can't be." And then Gerald was there, and all the Ugly-Wuglies
crowding round, and Gerald saying: "This is one of our friends
Mabel the Princess in the play, you know. Be a man!" he added in
a whisper for her ear alone.

Mabel, all her nerves stretched tight as banjo strings, had an awful
instant of not knowing whether she would be able to be a man or
whether she would be merely a shrieking and running little mad
girl. For the respectable Ugly-Wugly shook her limply by the hand.

("He can't be true," she told herself), and the rose-wreathed one
took her arm with a soft-padded glove at the end of an umbrella
arm, and said: "You dear, clever little thing! Do walk with me!" in
a gushing, girlish way, and in speech almost wholly lacking in
consonants.

Then they all walked up the High Street as if, as Gerald said, they
were anybody else.

It was a strange procession, but Liddlesby goes early to bed, and
the Liddlesby police, in common with those of most other places,
wear boots that one can hear a mile off. If such boots had been
heard, Gerald would have had time to turn back and head them off.
He felt now that he could not resist a flush of pride in Mabel's
courage as he heard her polite rejoinders to the still more polite
remarks of the amiable Ugly-Wuglies. He did not know how near
she was to the scream that would throw away the whole thing and
bring the police and the residents out to the ruin of everybody.

They met no one, except one man, who murmured, "Guy Fawkes,
swelp me!" and crossed the road hurriedly; and when, next day, he
told what he had seen, his wife disbelieved him, and also said it
was a judgement on him, which was unreasonable.

Mabel felt as though she were taking part in a very completely
arranged nightmare, but Gerald was in it too Gerald, who had
asked if she was an idiot. Well, she wasn't. But she soon would be,
she felt. Yet she went on answering the courteous vowel-talk of
these impossible people. She had often heard her aunt speak of
impossible people. Well, now she knew what they were like.

Summer twilight had melted into summer moonlight. The shadows
of the Ugly-Wuglies on the white road were much more horrible
than their more solid selves. Mabel wished it had been a dark
night, and then corrected the wish with a hasty shudder.

Gerald, submitting to a searching interrogatory from the tall-hatted
Ugly-Wugly as to his schools, his sports, pastimes, and ambitions,
wondered how long the spell would last. The ring seemed to work
in sevens. Would these things have seven hours'life or fourteen or
twenty-one?"His mind lost itself in the intricacies of the
seven-times table (a teaser at the best of times) and only found
itself with a shock when the procession found itself at the gates of
the Castle grounds.

Locked of course.

"You see," he explained, as the Ugly-Wuglies vainly shook the
iron gates with incredible hands; "it's so very late. There is another
way. But you have to climb through a hole."

"The ladies," the respectable Ugly-Wugly began objecting; but the
ladies with one voice affirmed that they loved adventures. "So
frightfully thrilling," added the one who wore roses.

So they went round by the road, and coming to the hole it was a
little difficult to find in the moonlight, which always disguises the
most familiar things  Gerald went first with the bicycle lantern
which he had snatched as his pilgrims came out of the yard; the
shrinking Mabel followed, and then the Ugly-Wuglies, with hollow
rattlings of their wooden limbs against the stone, crept through,
and with strange vowel-sounds of general amazement, manly
courage, and feminine nervousness, followed the light along the
passage through the fern-hung cutting and under the arch.

When they emerged on the moonlit enchantment of the Italian
garden a quite intelligible "Oh!" of surprised admiration broke
from more than one painted paper lip; and the respectable
Ugly-Wugly was understood to say that it must be quite a
show-place by George, sir! yes.

Those marble terraces and artfully serpentining gravel walks surely
never had echoed to steps so strange. No shadows so wildly
unbelievable had, for all its enchantments, ever fallen on those
smooth, grey, dewy lawns. Gerald was thinking this, or something
like it (what he really thought was, "I bet there never was such ado
as this, even here! ), when he saw the statue of Hermes leap from
its pedestal and run towards him and his company with all the
lively curiosity of a street boy eager to be in at a street fight. He
saw, too, that he was the only one who perceived that white
advancing presence. And he knew that it was the ring that let him
see what by others could not be seen. He slipped it from his finger.
Yes; Hermes was on his pedestal, still as the snow man you make
in the Christmas holidays. He put the ring on again, and there was
Hermes, circling round the group and gazing deep in each
unconscious Ugly-Wugly face.

"This seems a very superior hotel," the tall-hatted Ugly-Wugly was
saying; "the grounds are laid out with what you might call taste."

"We should have to go in by the back door," said Mabel suddenly.
"The front door's locked at half-past nine."

A short, stout Ugly-Wugly in a yellow and blue cricket cap, who
had hardly spoken, muttered something about an escapade, and
about feeling quite young again.

And now they had skirted the marble-edged pool where the
goldfish swam and glimmered, and where the great prehistoric
beast had come down to bathe and drink. The water flashed white
diamonds in the moonlight, and Gerald alone of them all saw that
the scaly-plated vast lizard was even now rolling and wallowing
there among the lily pads.

They hastened up the steps of the Temple of Flora. The back of it,
where no elegant arch opened to the air, was against one of those
sheer hills, almost cliffs, that diversified the landscape of that
garden. Mabel passed behind the statue of the goddess, fumbled a
little, and then Gerald's lantern, flashing like a searchlight, showed
a very high and very narrow doorway: the stone that was the door,
and that had closed it, revolved slowly under the touch of Mabel's
fingers.

"This way," she said, and panted a little. The back of her neck felt
cold and goose-fleshy.

"You lead the way, my lad, with the lantern," said the suburban
Ugly-Wugly in his bluff, agreeable way.

"I I must stay behind to close the door," said Gerald.

"The Princess can do that. We'll help her," said the wreathed one
with effusion; and Gerald thought her horribly officious.

He insisted gently that he would be the one responsible for the safe
shutting of that door.

"You wouldn't like me to get into trouble, I'm sure," he urged; and
the Ugly-Wuglies, for the last time kind and reasonable, agreed
that this, of all things, they would most deplore.

"You take it," Gerald urged, pressing the bicycle lamp on the
elderly Ugly-Wugly; "you're the natural leader. Go straight ahead.
Are there any steps?" he asked Mabel in a whisper.

"Not for ever so long," she whispered back. "It goes on for ages,
and then twists round."

"Whispering," said the smallest Ugly-Wugly suddenly, "ain't
manners."

"He hasn't any, anyhow," whispered the lady Ugly-Wugly; "don't
mind him quite a self-made man," and squeezed Mabel's arm with
horrible confidential flabbiness.

The respectable Ugly-Wugly leading with the lamp, the others
following trustfully, one and all disappeared into that narrow
doorway; and Gerald and Mabel standing without, hardly daring to
breathe lest a breath should retard the procession, almost sobbed
with relief. Prematurely, as it turned out. For suddenly there was a
rush and a scuffle inside the passage, and as they strove to close
the door the Ugly-Wuglies fiercely pressed to open it again.
Whether they saw something in the dark passage that alarmed
them, whether they took it into their empty heads that this could
not be the back way to any really respectable hotel, or whether a
convincing sudden instinct warned them that they were being
tricked, Mabel and Gerald never knew. But they knew that the
Ugly- Wuglies were no longer friendly and commonplace, that a
fierce change had come over them. Cries of "No, No!" "We won't
go on!" "Make him lead!" broke the dreamy stillness of the perfect
night. There were screams from ladies voices, the hoarse,
determined shouts of strong Ugly- Wuglies roused to resistance,
and, worse than all, the steady pushing open of that narrow stone
door that had almost closed upon the ghastly crew. Through the
chink of it they could be seen, a writhing black crowd against the
light of the bicycle lamp; a padded hand reached round the door;
stick-boned arms stretched out angrily towards the world that that
door, if it closed, would shut them off from for ever. And the tone
of their consonantless speech was no longer conciliatory and
ordinary; it was threatening, full of the menace of unbearable
horrors.

The padded hand fell on Gerald's arm, and instantly all the terrors
that he had, so far, only known in imagination became real to him,
and he saw, in the sort of flash that shows drowning people their
past lives, what it was that he had asked of Mabel, and that she had
given.

"Push, push for your life!" he cried, and setting his heel against the
pedestal of Flora, pushed manfully.

"I can't any more oh, I can't!" moaned Mabel, and tried to use her
heel likewise but her legs were too short.

"They mustn't get out, they mustn't!" Gerald panted.

"You'll know it when we do," came from inside the door in tones
which fury and mouth-rooflessness would have made
unintelligible to any ears but those sharpened by the wild fear of
that unspeakable moment.

"What's up, there?" cried suddenly a new voice a voice with all its
consonants comforting, clean-cut, and ringing, and abruptly a new
shadow fell on the marble floor of Flora's temple.

"Come and help push!" Gerald's voice only just reached the
newcomer. "If they get out they'll kill us all."

A strong, velveteen-covered shoulder pushed suddenly between the
shoulders of Gerald and Mabel; a stout man's heel sought the aid
of the goddess's pedestal; the heavy, narrow door yielded slowly, it
closed, its spring clicked, and the furious, surging, threatening
mass of Ugly-Wuglies was shut in, and Gerald and Mabel oh,
incredible relief! were shut out. Mabel threw herself on the marble
floor, sobbing slow, heavy sobs of achievement and exhaustion. If
I had been there I should have looked the other way, so as not to
see whether Gerald yielded himself to the same abandonment.

The newcomer he appeared to be a gamekeeper Gerald decided
later looked down on well, certainly on Mabel, and said:

"Come on, don't be a little duffer." (He may have said, "a couple of
little duffers .) "Who is it, and what's it all about?"

"I can't possibly tell you," Gerald panted.

"We shall have to see about that, shan't we," said the newcomer
amiably. "Come out into the moonlight and let's review the
situation."

Gerald, even in that topsy-turvy state of his world, found time to
think that a gamekeeper who used such words as that had most
likely a romantic past. But at the same time he saw that such a man
would be far less easy to "square" with an unconvincing tale than
Eliza, or Johnson, or even Mademoiselle. In fact, he seemed, with
the only tale that they had to tell, practically unsquarable.

Gerald got up if he was not up already, or still up  and pulled at the
limp and now hot hand of the sobbing Mabel; and as he did so the
unsquarable one took his hand, and thus led both children out from
under the shadow of Flora's dome into the bright white moonlight
that carpeted Flora's steps. Here he sat down, a child on each side
of him, drew a hand of each through his velveteen arm, pressed
them to his velveteen sides in a friendly, reassuring way, and said:
"Now then! Go ahead!"

Mabel merely sobbed. We must excuse her. She had been very
brave, and I have no doubt that all heroines, from Joan of Arc to
Grace Darling, have had their sobbing moments.

But Gerald said: "It's no use. If I made up a story you'd see through
it."

"That's a compliment to thy discernment, anyhow," said the
stranger. "What price telling me the truth?"

"If we told you the truth," said Gerald, "you wouldn't believe it."

"Try me," said the velveteen one. He was clean-shaven, and had
large eyes that sparkled when the moonlight touched them.

"I can't," said Gerald, and it was plain that he spoke the truth.
"You'd either think we were mad, and get us shut up, or else Oh,
it's no good. Thank you for helping us, and do let us go home."

"I wonder," said the stranger musingly, "whether you have any
imagination."

"Considering that we invented them " Gerald hotly began, and
stopped with late prudence.

"If by 'them' you mean the people whom I helped you to imprison
in yonder tomb," said the Stranger, loosing Mabel's hand to put his
arm round her, "remember that I saw and heard them. And with all
respect to your imagination, I doubt whether any invention of
yours would be quite so convincing."

Gerald put his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands.

"Collect yourself," said the one in velveteen; "and while you are
collecting, let me just put the thing from my point of view. I think
you hardly realize my position. I come down from London to take
care of a big estate."

"I thought you were a gamekeeper," put in Gerald.

Mabel put her head on the stranger's shoulder. "Hero in disguise,
then, I know," she sniffed.

"Not at all," said he; "bailiff would be nearer the mark. On the very
first evening I go out to take the moonlit air, and approaching a
white building, hear sounds of an agitated scuffle, accompanied by
frenzied appeals for assistance. Carried away by the enthusiasm of
the moment, I do assist and shut up goodness knows who behind a
stone door. Now, is it unreasonable that I should ask who it is that
I've shut up helped to shut up, I mean, and who it is that I've
assisted?"

"It's reasonable enough," Gerald admitted.

"Well then," said the stranger.

"Well then," said Gerald, "the fact is No," he added after a pause,
"the fact is, I simply can't tell you."

"Then I must ask the other side," said Velveteens. "Let me go I'll
undo that door and find out for myself."

"Tell him," said Mabel, speaking for the first time. "Never mind if
he believes or not. We can't have them let out."

"Very well," said Gerald, "I'll tell him. Now look here, Mr. Bailiff,
will you promise us on an English gentleman's word of honour
because, of course, I can see you're that, bailiff or not will you
promise that you won't tell any one what we tell you and that you
won't have us put in a lunatic asylum, however mad we sound?"

"Yes," said the stranger, "I think I can promise that. But if you've
been having a sham fight or anything and shoved the other side
into that hole, don't you think you'd better let them out? They'll be
most awfully frightened, you know. After all, I suppose they are
only children."

"Wait till you hear," Gerald answered. "They're not children not
much! Shall I just tell about them or begin at the beginning?"

"The beginning, of course," said the stranger.

Mabel lifted her head from his velveteen shoulder and said, "Let
me begin, then. I found a ring, and I said it would make me
invisible. I said it in play. And it did. I was invisible twenty-one
hours. Never mind where I got the ring. Now, Gerald, you go on."

Gerald went on; for quite a long time he went on, for the story was
a splendid one to tell.

"And so," he ended, "we got them in there; and when seven hours
are over, or fourteen, or twenty-one, or something with a seven in
it, they'll just be old coats again. They came alive at half-past nine.
I think they'll stop being it in seven hours that's half-past four. Now
will you let us go home?""I'll see you home," said the stranger in a
quite new tone of exasperating gentleness. "Come let's be going."

"You don't believe us," said Gerald. "Of course you don t. Nobody
could. But I could make you believe if I chose."

All three stood up, and the stranger stared in Gerald's eyes till
Gerald answered his thought.

"No, I don't look mad, do I?"

"No, you aren't. But, come, you're an extraordinarily sensible boy;
don't you think you may be sickening for a fever or something?"

"And Cathy and Jimmy and Mademoiselle and Eliza, and the man
who said 'Guy Fawkes, swelp me!' and you, you saw them move
you heard them call out. Are you sickening for anything?"

"No or at least not for anything but information. Come, and I'll see
you home."

"Mabel lives at the Towers," said Gerald, as the stranger turned
into the broad drive that leads to the big gate.

"No relation to Lord Yalding," said Mabel hastily " housekeeper's
niece." She was holding on to his hand all the way. At the servants
entrance she put up her face to be kissed, and went in.

"Poor little thing!" said the bailiff, as they went down the drive
towards the gate.

He went with Gerald to the door of the school.

"Look here," said Gerald at parting. "I know what you're going to
do. You're going to try to undo that door."

"Discerning!" said the stranger.

"Well don't. Or, anyway, wait till daylight and let us be there. We
can get there by ten."

"All right I'll meet you there by ten," answered the stranger. "By
George! you're the rummest kids I ever met."

"We are rum," Gerald owned, "but so would you be if Good-night."

As the four children went over the smooth lawn towards Flora's
Temple they talked, as they had talked all the morning, about the
adventures of last night and of Mabel's bravery. It was not ten, but
half-past twelve; for Eliza, backed by Mademoiselle, had insisted
on their "clearing up," and clearing up very thoroughly, the "litter"
of last night.

"You're a Victoria Cross heroine, dear," said Cathy warmly. "You
ought to have a statue put up to you."

"It would come alive if you put it here," said Gerald grimly.

"I shouldn't have been afraid," said Jimmy.

"By daylight," Gerald assured him, "everything looks so jolly
different."

"I do hope he'll be there," Mabel said; "he was such a dear, Cathy a
perfect bailiff, with the soul of a gentleman."

"He isn't there, though," said Jimmy. "I believe you just dreamed
him, like you did the statues coming alive."

They went up the marble steps in the sunshine, and it was difficult
to believe that this was the place where only in last night's
moonlight fear had laid such cold hands on the hearts of Mabel
and Gerald.

"Shall we open the door," suggested Kathleen, "and begin to carry
home the coats?"

"Let's listen first," said Gerald; "perhaps they aren't only coats yet."

They laid ears to the hinges of the stone door, behind which last
night the Ugly-Wuglies had shrieked and threatened. All was still
as the sweet morning itself. It was as they turned away that they
saw the man they had come to meet. He was on the other side of
Flora's pedestal. But he was not standing up. He lay there, quite
still, on his back, his arms flung wide.

"Oh, look!" cried Cathy, and pointed. His face was a queer
greenish colour, and on his forehead there was a cut; its edges
were blue, and a little blood had trickled from it on to the white of
the marble.

At the same time Mabel pointed too but she did not cry out as
Cathy had done. And what she pointed at was a big glossy-leaved
rhododendron bush, from which a painted pointed paper face
peered out very white, very red, in the sunlight and, as the children
gazed, shrank back into the cover of the shining leaves.

It was but too plain. The unfortunate bailiff must have opened the
door before the spell had faded, while yet the Ugly Wuglies were
something more than mere coats and hats and sticks. They had
rushed out upon him, and had done this. He lay there insensible
was it a golf-club or a hockey-stick that had made that horrible cut
on his forehead? Gerald wondered. The girls had rushed to the
sufferer; already his head was in Mabel's lap. Kathleen had tried to
get it on to hers, but Mabel was too quick for her.

Jimmy and Gerald both knew what was the first thing needed by
the unconscious, even before Mabel impatiently said: "Water!
water!"

"What in?" Jimmy asked, looking doubtfully at his hands, and then
down the green slope to the marble-bordered pool where the
water-lilies were.

"Your hat anything," said Mabel.

The two boys turned away.

"Suppose they come after us," said Jimmy.

"What come after us?" Gerald snapped rather than asked.

"The Ugly-Wuglies," Jimmy whispered..

"Who's afraid?" Gerald inquired.

But he looked to right and left very carefully, and chose the way
that did not lead near the bushes. He scooped water up in his straw
hat and returned to Flora's Temple, carrying it carefully in both
hands. When he saw how quickly it ran through the straw he
pulled his handkerchief from his breast pocket with his teeth and
dropped it into the hat. It was with this that the girls wiped the
blood from the bailiff's brow.

"We ought to have smelling salts," said Kathleen, half in tears. "I
know we ought."

"They would be good," Mabel owned.

"Hasn't your aunt any?"

"Yes, but "

"Don't be a coward," said Gerald; "think of last night. They
wouldn't hurt you. He must have insulted them or something. Look
here, you run. We'll see that nothing runs after you."

There was no choice but to relinquish the head of the interesting
invalid to Kathleen; so Mabel did it, cast one glaring glance round
the rhododendron bordered slope, and fled towards the castle.

The other three bent over the still unconscious bailiff.

"He's not dead, is he?" asked Jimmy anxiously.

"No," Kathleen reassured him, "his heart's heating. Mabel and I felt
it in his wrist, where doctors do. How frightfully good-looking he
is!"

"Not so dusty," Gerald admitted.

"I never know what you mean by good-looking," said Jimmy, and
suddenly a shadow fell on the marble beside them and a fourth
voice spoke not Mabel s; her hurrying figure, though still in sight,
was far away.

The children looked up into the face of the eldest of the
Ugly-Wuglies, the respectable one. Jimmy and Kathleen screamed.
I am sorry, but they did.

"Hush!" said Gerald savagely: he was still wearing the ring. "Hold
your tongues! I'll get him away," he added in a whisper.

"Very sad affair this," said the respectable Ugly-Wugly. He spoke
with a curious accent; there was something odd about his r's, and
his m's and n's were those of a person labouring under an almost
intolerable cold in the head. But it was not the dreadful "oo" and
"ah" voice of the night before. Kathleen and Jimmy stooped over
the bailiff. Even that prostrate form, being human, seemed some
little protection. But Gerald, strong in the fearlessness that the ring
gave to its wearer, looked full into the face of the Ugly-Wugly and
started. For though the face was almost the same as the face he had
himself painted on the school drawing-paper, it was not the same.
For it was no longer paper. It was a real face, and the hands, lean
and almost transparent as they were, were real hands. As it moved
a little to get a better view of the bailiff it was plain that it had
legs, arms live legs and arms, and a self-supporting backbone. It
was alive indeed with a vengeance.

"How did it happen?" Gerald asked, with an effort of calmness a
successful effort.

"Most regrettable," said the Ugly-Wugly. "The others must have
missed the way last night in the passage. They never found the
hotel."

"Did you?" asked Gerald blankly.

"Of course," said the Ugly-Wugly. "Most respectable, exactly as
you said. Then when I came away I didn't come the front way
because I wanted to revisit this sylvan scene by daylight, and the
hotel people didn't seem to know how to direct me to it I found the
others all at this door, very angry. They'd been here all night, trying
to get out. Then the door opened this gentleman must have opened
it and before I could protect him, that underbred man in the high
hat you remember ,"

Gerald remembered.

"Hit him on the head, and he fell where you see him. The others
dispersed, and I myself was just going for assistance when I saw
you."

Here Jimmy was discovered to be in tears and Kathleen white as
any drawing-paper.

"What's the matter, my little man?" said the respectable
Ugly-Wugly kindly. Jimmy passed instantly from tears to yells.

"Here, take the ring!" said Gerald in a furious whisper, and thrust it
on to Jimmy's hot, damp, resisting finger. Jimmy's voice stopped
short in the middle of a howl. And Gerald in a cold flash realized
what it was that Mabel had gone through the night before. But it
was daylight, and Gerald was not a coward.

"We must find the others," he said.

"I imagine," said the elderly Ugly-Wugly, "that they have gone to
bathe. Their clothes are in the wood."

He pointed stiffly.

"You two go and see," said Gerald. "I'll go on dabbing this chap's
head."

In the wood Jimmy, now fearless as any lion, discovered four
heaps of clothing, with broomsticks, hockeysticks, and masks
complete all that had gone to make up the gentlemen
Ugly-Wuglies of the night before. On a stone seat well in the sun
sat the two lady Ugly-Wuglies, and Kathleen approached them
gingerly. Valour is easier in the sunshine than at night, as we all
know. When she and Jimmy came close to the bench, they saw that
the Ugly-Wuglies were only Ugly-Wuglies such as they had often
made. There was no life in them. Jimmy shook them to pieces, and
a sigh of relief burst from Kathleen.

"The spell's broken, you see," she said; "and that old gentleman,
he's real. He only happens to be like the Ugly-Wugly we made."

"He's got the coat that hung in the hall on, anyway," said Jimmy.

"No, it's only like it. Let's get back to the unconscious stranger."

They did, and Gerald begged the elderly Ugly-Wugly to retire
among the bushes with Jimmy; "because, said he, "I think the poor
bailiff's coming round, and it might upset him to see strangers and
Jimmy'll keep you company. He's the best one of us to go with
you," he added hastily.

And this, since Jimmy had the ring, was certainly true.

So the two disappeared behind the rhododendrons. Mabel came
back with the salts just as the bailiff opened his eyes.

"It's just like life," she said; "I might just as well not have gone.
However ," She knelt down at once and held the bottle under the
sufferer's nose till he sneezed and feebly pushed her hand away
with the faint question: "What's up now?"

"You've hurt your head," said Gerald. "Lie still."

"No more smelling-bottle," he said weakly, and lay.

Quite soon he sat up and looked round him. There was an anxious
silence. Here was a grown-up who knew last night's secret, and
none of the children were at all sure what the utmost rigour of the
law might be in a case where people, no matter how young, made
Ugly-Wuglies, and brought them to life dangerous, fighting, angry
life. What would he say what would he do?" He said: "What an
odd thing! Have I been insensible long?"

"Hours," said Mabel earnestly.

"Not long," said Kathleen.

"We don't know. We found you like it," said Gerald.

"I'm all right now," said the bailiff, and his eye fell on the
blood-stained handkerchief. "I say, I did give my head a bang. And
you've been giving me first aid. Thank you most awfully. But it is
rum."

"What's rum?" politeness obliged Gerald to ask.

"Well, I suppose it isn't really rum I expect I saw you just before I
fainted, or whatever it was but I've dreamed the most extraordinary
dream while I've been insensible and you were in it."

"Nothing but us?" asked Mabel breathlessly.

"Oh, lots of things impossible things but you were real enough."

Everyone breathed deeply in relief. It was indeed, as they agreed
later, a lucky let-off.

"Are you sure you're all right?" they all asked, as he got on his feet.

"Perfectly, thank you." He glanced behind Flora's statue as he
spoke. "Do you know, I dreamed there was a door there, but of
course there isn't. I don't know how to thank you," he added,
looking at them with what the girls called his beautiful, kind eyes;
"it's lucky for me you came along. You come here whenever you
like, you know," he added. "I give you the freedom of the place."

"You're the new bailiff, aren't you?" said Mabel.

"Yes. How did you know?" he asked quickly; but they did not tell
him how they knew. Instead, they found out which way he was
going, and went the other way after warm handshakes and hopes
on both sides that they would meet again soon.

"I'll tell you what," said Gerald, as they watched the tall, broad
figure of the bailiff grow smaller across the hot green of the grass
slope, "have you got any idea of how we're going to spend the day?
Because I have."

The others hadn't.

"We'll get rid of that Ugly-Wugly oh, we'll find a way right enough
and directly we've done it we'll go home and seal up the ring in an
envelope so that its teeth'll be drawn and it'll be powerless to have
unforeseen larks with us. Then we'll get out on the roof, and have a
quiet day books and apples. I'm about fed up with adventures, so I
tell you."

The others told him the same thing.

"Now, think," said he "think as you never thought before how to
get rid of that Ugly-Wugly."

Everyone thought, but their brains were tired with anxiety and
distress, and the thoughts they thought were, as Mabel said, not
worth thinking, let alone saying.

"I suppose Jimmy's all right," said Kathleen anxiously.

"Oh, he's all right: he's got the ring," said Gerald.

"I hope he won't go wishing anything rotten," said Mabel, but
Gerald urged her to shut up and let him think.

"I think I think best sitting down," he said, and sat; "and sometimes
you can think best aloud. The Ugly-Wugly's real don't make any
mistake about that. And he got made real inside that passage. If we
could get him back there he might get changed again, and then we
could take the coats and things back."

"Isn't there any other way?" Kathleen asked; and Mabel, more
candid, said bluntly: "I'm not going into that passage, so there!"

"Afraid! In broad daylight," Gerald sneered.

"It wouldn't be broad daylight in there," said Mabel, and Kathleen
shivered.

"If we went to him and suddenly tore his coat off," said she "he is
only coats he couldn't go on being real then.

"Couldn't he!" said Gerald. "You don't know what he's like under
the coat."

Kathleen shivered again. And all this time the sun was shining
gaily and the white statues and the green trees and the fountains
and terraces looked as cheerfully romantic as a scene in a play.

"Anyway," said Gerald, "we'll try to get him back, and shut the
door. That's the most we can hope for. And then apples, and
Robinson Crusoe or the Swiss Family, or any book you like that's
got no magic in it. Now, we've just got to do it. And he's not horrid
now; really he isn't. He's real, you see."

"I suppose that makes all the difference," said Mabel, and tried to
feel that perhaps it did.

"And it's broad daylight just look at the sun," Gerald insisted.
"Come on!"

He took a hand of each, and they walked resolutely towards the
bank of rhododendrons behind which Jimmy and the Ugly-Wugly
had been told to wait, and as they went Gerald said: "He's real"
"The sun's shining" "It'll all be over in a minute." And he said these
things again and again, so that there should be no mistake about
them.

As they neared the bushes the shining leaves rustled, shivered, and
parted, and before the girls had time to begin to hang back Jimmy
came blinking out into the sunlight. The boughs closed behind
him, and they did not stir or rustle for the appearance of anyone
else. Jimmy was alone.

"Where is it?" asked the girls in one breath.

"Walking up and down in a fir-walk," said Jimmy, "doing sums in
a book. He says he's most frightfully rich, and he's got to get up to
town to the Stocks or something where they change papers into
gold if you're clever, he says. I should like to go to the
Stocks-change, wouldn't you?"

"I don't seem to care very much about changes, said Gerald. "I've
had enough. Show us where he is we must get rid of him."

"He's got a motor-car," Jimmy went on, parting the warm
varnished-looking rhododendron leaves, "and a garden with a
tennis-court and a lake and a carriage and pair, and he goes to
Athens for his holiday sometimes, just like other people go to
Margate."

"The best thing," said Gerald, following through the bushes, "will
be to tell him the shortest way out is through that hotel that he
thinks he found last night. Then we get him into the passage, give
him a push, fly back, and shut the door."

"He'll starve to death in there," said Kathleen, "if he's really real."

"I expect it doesn't last long, the ring magics don't  anyway, it's the
only thing I can think of."

"He's frightfully rich," Jimmy went on unheeding amid the
cracking of the bushes; "he's building a public library for the
people where he lives, and having his portrait painted to put in it.
He thinks they'll like that."

The belt of rhododendrons was passed, and the children had
reached a smooth grass walk bordered by tall pines and firs of
strange different kinds. "He's just round that corner," said Jimmy.
"He's simply rolling in money. He doesn't know what to do with it.
He's been building a horse-trough and drinking fountain with a
bust of himself on top. Why doesn't he build a private
swimming-bath close to his bed, so that he can just roll off into it
of a morning? I wish I was rich; I'd soon show him ,"

"That's a sensible wish," said Gerald. "I wonder we didn't think of
doing that. Oh, criky!" he added, and with reason. For there, in the
green shadows of the pine-walk, in the woodland silence, broken
only by rustling leaves and the agitated breathing of the three
unhappy others, Jimmy got his wish. By quick but perfectly
plain-to-be-seen degrees Jimmy became rich. And the horrible
thing was that though they could see it happening they did not
know what was happening, and could not have stopped it if they
had. All they could see was Jimmy, their own Jimmy, whom they
had larked with and quarrelled with and made it up with ever since
they could remember, Jimmy continuously and horribly growing
old. The whole thing was over in a few seconds. Yet in those few
seconds they saw him grow to a youth, a young man, a
middle-aged man; and then, with a sort of shivering shock,
unspeakably horrible and definite, he seemed to settle down into
an elderly gentleman, handsomely but rather dowdily dressed, who
was looking down at them through spectacles and asking them the
nearest way to the railway-station. If they had not seen the change
take place, in all its awful details, they would never have guessed
that this stout, prosperous, elderly gentleman

with the high hat, the frock-coat, and the large red seal dangling
from the curve of a portly waistcoat, was their own Jimmy. But, as
they had seen it, they knew the dreadful truth.

"Oh, Jimmy, don't!" cried Mabel desperately.

Gerald said: "This is perfectly beastly," and Kathleen broke into
wild weeping.

"Don't cry, little girl!" said That-which-had-been Jimmy; "and you,
boy, can't you give a civil answer to a civil question?"

"He doesn't know us!" wailed Kathleen.

"Who doesn't know you?" said That-which-had-been impatiently.

"You y-you don t!" Kathleen sobbed.

"I certainly don't," returned That-which "but surely that need not
distress you so deeply."

"Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy!" Kathleen sobbed louder than before.

"He doesn't know us," Gerald owned, "or look here, Jimmy, y you
aren't kidding, are you? Because if you are it's simply abject rot "

"My name is Mr.  ," said That-which-had-been-Jimmy, and gave
the name correctly. By the way, it will perhaps be shorter to call
this elderly stout person who was Jimmy grown rich by some
simpler name than I have just used. Let us call him 'That'  short for
'That-which-had-been Jimmy'.

"What are we to do?" whispered Mabel, awestruck; and aloud she
said: "Oh, Mr. James, or whatever you call yourself, do give me
the ring." For on That's finger the fatal ring showed plain.

"Certainly not," said That firmly. "You appear to be a very
grasping child."

"But what are you going to do?" Gerald asked in the flat tones of
complete hopelessness.

"Your interest is very flattering," said That. "Will you tell me, or
won't you, the way to the nearest railway station?"

"No," said Gerald, "we won't."

"Then," said That, still politely, though quite plainly furious,
"perhaps you'll tell me the way to the nearest lunatic asylum?"

"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Kathleen. "You're not so bad as that."

"Perhaps not. But you are," That retorted; "if you're not lunatics
you're idiots. However, I see a gentleman ahead who is perhaps
sane. In fact, I seem to recognize him." A gentleman, indeed, was
now to be seen approaching. It was the elderly Ugly-Wugly.

"Oh! don't you remember Jerry?" Kathleen cried, "and Cathy, your
own Cathy Puss Cat? Dear, dear Jimmy, don't be so silly!"

"Little girl," said That, looking at her crossly through his
spectacles, "I am sorry you have not been better brought up." And
he walked stiffly towards the Ugly-Wugly. Two hats were raised, a
few words were exchanged, and two elderly figures walked side by
side down the green pine-walk, followed by three miserable
children, horrified, bewildered, alarmed, and, what is really worse
than anything, quite at their wits end.

"He wished to be rich, so of course he is," said Gerald; "he'll have
money for tickets and everything.

And when the spell breaks it's sure to break, isn't it? he'll find
himself somewhere awful  perhaps in a really good hotel and not
know how he got there."

"I wonder how long the Ugly-Wuglies lasted," said Mabel.

"Yes," Gerald answered, "that reminds me. You two must collect
the coats and things. Hide them, anywhere you like, and we'll carry
them home tomorrow if there is any tomorrow " he added darkly.

"Oh, don t!" said Kathleen, once more breathing heavily on the
verge of tears: "you wouldn't think everything could be so awful,
and the sun shining like it does.

"Look here," said Gerald, "of course I must stick to Jimmy. You
two must go home to Mademoiselle and tell her Jimmy and I have
gone off in the train with a gentleman say he looked like an uncle.
He does some kind of uncle. There'll be a beastly row afterwards,
but it's got to be done.

"It all seems thick with lies," said Kathleen; "you don't seem to be
able to get a word of truth in edgewise hardly."

"Don't you worry," said her brother; "they aren't lies  they're as true
as anything else in this magic rot we've got mixed up in. It's like
telling lies in a dream; you can't help it."

"Well, all I know is I wish it would stop."

"Lot of use your wishing that is," said Gerald, exasperated. "So
long. I've got to go, and you've got to stay. If it's any comfort to
you, I don't believe any of it's real: it can't be; it's too thick. Tell
Mademoiselle Jimmy and I will be back to tea. If we don't happen
to be I can't help it. I can't help anything, except perhaps Jimmy."
He started to run, for the girls had lagged, and the Ugly-Wugly and
That (late Jimmy) had quickened their pace.

The girls were left looking after them.

"We've got to find these clothes," said Mabel, "simply got to. I
used to want to be a heroine. It's different when it really comes to
being, isn't it?"

"Yes, very," said Kathleen. "Where shall we hide the clothes when
we've got them? Not not that passage?"

"Never!" said Mabel firmly; "we'll hide them inside the great stone
dinosaurus. He's hollow."

"He comes alive in his stone," said Kathleen.

"Not in the sunshine he doesn't," Mabel told her confidently, "and
not without the ring."

"There won't be any apples and books today," said Kathleen.

"No, but we'll do the babiest thing we can do the minute we get
home. We'll have a dolls tea-party. That'll make us feel as if there
wasn't really any magic."

"It'll have to be a very strong tea party, then," said Kathleen
doubtfully.

And now we see Gerald, a small but quite determined figure,
paddling along in the soft white dust of the sunny road, in the wake
of two elderly gentlemen. His hand, in his trousers pocket, buries
itself with a feeling of satisfaction in the heavy mixed coinage that
is his share of the profits of his conjuring at the fair. His noiseless
tennis-shoes bear him to the station, where, unobserved, he listens
at the ticket office to the voice of That-which-was-James. "One
first London," it says and Gerald, waiting till That and the
Ugly-Wugly have strolled on to the platform, politely conversing
of politics and the Kaffir market, takes a third return to London.
The train strides in, squeaking and puffing. The watched take their
seats in a carriage blue-lined. The watcher springs into a yellow
wooden compartment. A whistle sounds, a flag is waved. The train
pulls itself together, strains, jerks, and starts.

"I don't understand," says Gerald, alone in his third- class carriage,
"how railway trains and magic can go on at the same time."

And yet they do.

Mabel and Kathleen, nervously peering among the rhododendron
bushes and the bracken and the fancy fir-trees, find six several
heaps of coats, hats, skirts, gloves, golf-clubs, hockey- sticks,
broom-handles. They carry them, panting and damp, for the
mid-day sun is pitiless, up the hill to where the stone dinosaurus
looms immense among a forest of larches. The dinosaurus has a
hole in his stomach. Kathleen shows Mabel how to "make a back"
and climbs up on it into the cold, stony inside of the monster.
Mabel hands up the clothes and the sticks.

"There's lots of room," says Kathleen; "its tail goes down into the
ground. It's like a secret passage."

"Suppose something comes out of it and jumps out at you," says
Mabel, and Kathleen hurriedly descends.

The explanations to Mademoiselle promise to be difficult, but, as
Kathleen said afterwards, any little thing is enough to take a
grown-up's attention off. A figure passes the window just as they
are explaining that it really did look exactly like an uncle that the
boys have gone to London with.

"Who's that?" says Mademoiselle suddenly, pointing, too, which
everyone knows is not manners.

It is the bailiff coming back from the doctor's with antiseptic
plaster on that nasty cut that took so long a-bathing this morning.
They tell her it is the bailiff at Yalding Towers, and she says,
"Ciel!" (Sky!) and asks no more awkward questions about the
boys. Lunch  very late is a silent meal. After lunch Mademoiselle
goes out, in a hat with many pink roses, carrying a rose-lined
parasol. The girls, in dead silence, organize a dolls tea-party, with
real tea. At the second cup Kathleen bursts into tears. Mabel, also
weeping, embraces her.

"I wish," sobs Kathleen, "oh, I do wish I knew where the boys
were! It would be such a comfort."

Gerald knew where the boys were, and it was no comfort to him at
all. If you come to think of it, he was the only person who could
know where they were, because Jimmy didn't know that he was a
boy and indeed he wasn't really and the Ugly-Wugly couldn't be
expected to know anything real, such as where boys were. At the
moment when the second cup of dolls tea  very strong, but not
strong enough to drown care in  was being poured out by the
trembling hand of Kathleen, Gerald was lurking there really is no
other word for it on the staircase of Aldermanbury Buildings, Old
Broad Street. On the floor below him was a door bearing the
legend "MR. U. W. UGLI, Stock and Share Broker (and at the
Stock Exchange)" and on the floor above was another door, on
which was the name of Gerald's little brother, now grown suddenly
rich in so magic and tragic a way. There were no explaining words
under Jimmy's name. Gerald could not guess what walk in life it
was to which That (which had been Jimmy) owed its affluence. He
had seen, when the door opened to admit his brother, a tangle of
clerks and mahogany desks. Evidently That had a large business.

What was Gerald to do? What could he do?

It is almost impossible, especially for one so young as Gerald, to
enter a large London office and explain that the elderly and
respected head of it is not what he seems, but is really your little
brother, who has been suddenly advanced to age and wealth by a
tricky wishing ring. If you think it's a possible thing, try it, that's
all. Nor could he knock at the door of Mr. U. W. Ugli, Stock and
Share Broker (and at the Stock Exchange), and inform his clerks
that their chief was really nothing but old clothes that had
accidentally come alive, and by some magic, which he couldn't
attempt to explain, become real during a night spent at a really
good hotel which had no existence.

The situation bristled, as you see, with difficulties. And it was so
long past Gerald's proper dinner-time that his increasing hunger
was rapidly growing to seem the most important difficulty of all. It
is quite possible to starve to death on the staircase of a London
building if the people you are watching for only stay long enough
in their offices. The truth of this came home to Gerald more and
more painfully.

A boy with hair like a new front door mat came whistling up the
stairs. He had a dark blue bag in his hands.

"I'll give you a tanner for yourself if you'll get me a tanner's worth
of buns," said Gerald, with that prompt decision common to all
great commanders.

"Show us yer tanners," the boy rejoined with at least equal
promptness. Gerald showed them. "All right; hand over."

"Payment on delivery," said Gerald, using words from the drapers
which he had never thought to use.

The boy grinned admiringly.

"Knows 'is wy abaht," he said; "ain't no flies on 'im."

"Not many," Gerald owned with modest pride. "Cut along, there's a
good chap. I've got to wait here. I'll take care of your bag if you
like."

"Nor yet there ain't no flies on me neither," remarked the boy,
shouldering it. "I been up to the confidence trick for years ever
since I was your age."

With this parting shot he went, and returned in due course
bun-laden. Gerald gave the sixpence and took the buns. When the
boy, a minute later, emerged from the door of Mr. U. W. Ugli,
Stock and Share Broker (and at the Stock Exchange), Gerald
stopped him.

"What sort of chap's that?" he asked, pointing the question with a
jerk of an explaining thumb.

"Awful big pot," said the boy; "up to his eyes in oof. Motor and all
that."

"Know anything about the one on the next landing?"

"He's bigger than what this one is. Very old firm special cellar in
the Bank of England to put his chink in all in bins like against the
wall at the corn-chandler s. Jimminy, I wouldn't mind 'alf an hour
in there, and the doors open and the police away at a beano. Not
much! Neither. You'll bust if you eat all them buns."

"Have one?" Gerald responded, and held out the bag.

"They say in our office," said the boy, paying for the bun
honourably with unasked information, "as these two is all for
cutting each other's throats oh, only in the way of business been at
it for years."

Gerald wildly wondered what magic and how much had been
needed to give history and a past to these two things of yesterday,
the rich Jimmy and the Ugly-Wugly. If he could get them away
would all memory of them fade in this boy's mind, for instance, in
the minds of all the people who did business with them in the
City? Would the mahogany-and-clerk-furnished offices fade away?
Were the clerks real? Was the mahogany? Was he himself real?
Was the boy?

"Can you keep a secret?" he asked the other boy. "Are you on for a
lark?"

"I ought to be getting back to the office," said the boy.

"Get then!" said Gerald.

"Don't you get stuffy," said the boy. "I was just a-going to say it
didn't matter. I know how to make my nose bleed if I'm a bit late."

Gerald congratulated him on this accomplishment, at once so
useful and so graceful, and then said: "Look here. I'll give you five
bob honest."

"What for?" was the boy's natural question.

"If you'll help me. "

"Fire ahead."

"I'm a private inquiry," said Gerald.

"Tec? You don't look it."

"What's the good of being one if you look it?" Gerald asked
impatiently, beginning on another bun. "That old chap on the floor
above he's wanted."

"Police?" asked the boy with fine carelessness.

"No sorrowing relations."

"'Return to,'" said the boy; "'all forgotten and forgiven.' I see."

"And I've got to get him to them, somehow. Now, if you could go
in and give him a message from someone who wanted to meet him
on business ,"

"Hold on!" said the boy. "I know a trick worth two of that. You go
in and see old Ugli. He'd give his ears to have the old boy out of
the way for a day or two. They were saying so in our office only
this morning."

"Let me think," said Gerald, laying down the last bun on his knee
expressly to hold his head in his hands.

"Don't you forget to think about my five bob," said the boy.

Then there was a silence on the stairs, broken only by the cough of
a clerk in That's office, and the clickety-clack of a typewriter in the
office of Mr. U. W. Ugli.

Then Gerald rose up and finished the bun.

"You're right," he said. "I'll chance it. Here's your five bob."

He brushed the bun crumbs from his front, cleared his throat, and
knocked at the door of Mr. U. W. Ugli. It opened and he entered.

The door-mat boy lingered, secure in his power to account for his
long absence by means of his well-trained nose, and his waiting
was rewarded. He went down a few steps, round the bend of the
stairs, and heard the voice of Mr. U. W. Ugli, so well known on
that staircase (and on the Stock Exchange) say in soft, cautious
accents:

"Then I'll ask him to let me look at the ring and I'll drop it. You
pick it up. But remember, it's a pure accident, and you don't know
me. I can't have my name mixed up in a thing like this. You're sure
he's really unhinged?"

"Quite," said Gerald; "he's quite mad about that ring. He'll follow it
anywhere. I know he will. And think of his sorrowing relations."

"I do I do," said Mr. Ugli kindly; "that's all I do think of, of
course."

He went up the stairs to the other office, and Gerald heard the
voice of That telling his clerks that he was going out to lunch.
Then the horrible Ugly-Wugly and Jimmy, hardly less horrible in
the eyes of Gerald, passed down the stairs where, in the dusk of the
lower landing, two boys were making themselves as
undistinguishable as possible, and so out into the street, talking of
stocks and shares, bears and bulls. The two boys followed.

"I say," the door-mat-headed boy whispered admiringly, "whatever
are you up to?"

"You'll see," said Gerald recklessly. "Come on!"

"You tell me. I must be getting back."

"Well, I'll tell you, but you won't believe me. That old gentleman's
not really old at all he's my young brother suddenly turned into
what you see. The other's not real at all. He's only just old clothes
and nothing inside."

"He looks it, I must say," the boy admitted; "but I say you do stick
it on, don't you?"

"Well, my brother was turned like that by a magic ring."

"There ain't no such thing as magic," said the boy. "I learnt that at
school."

"All right," said Gerald. "Good-bye."

"Oh, go ahead!" said the boy; "you do stick it on, though."

"Well, that magic ring. If I can get hold of It I shall just wish we
were all in a certain place. And we shall be. And then I can deal
with both of them."

"Deal?"

"Yes, the ring won't unwish anything you've wished. That undoes
itself with time, like a spring uncoiling. But it'll give you a
brand-new wish I'm almost certain of it. Anyhow, I'm going to
chance it."

"You are a rotter, aren't you?" said the boy respectfully.

"You wait and see," Gerald repeated.

"I say, you aren't going into this swell place! You can't?"

The boy paused, appalled at the majesty of Pym's.

"Yes, I am they can't turn us out as long as we behave. You come
along, too. I'll stand lunch."

I don't know why Gerald clung so to this boy. He wasn't a very nice
boy. Perhaps it was because he was the only person Gerald knew
in London to speak to  except That-which-had-been-Jimmy and the
Ugly-Wugly; and he did not want to talk to either of them.

What happened next happened so quickly that, as Gerald said later,
it was "just like magic". The restaurant was crowded busy men
were hastily bolting the food hurriedly brought by busy waitresses.
There was a clink of forks and plates, the gurgle of beer from
bottles, the hum of talk, and the smell of many good things to eat.

"Two chops, please," Gerald had just said, playing with a plainly
shown handful of money, so as to leave no doubt of his honourable
intentions. Then at the next table he heard the words, "Ah, yes,
curious old family heirloom," the ring was drawn off the finger of
That, and Mr. U. W. Ugli, murmuring something about a unique
curio, reached his impossible hand out for it. The door-mat-headed
boy was watching breathlessly.

"There's a ring right enough," he owned. And then the ring slipped
from the hand of Mr. U. W. Ugli and skidded along the floor.
Gerald pounced on it like a greyhound on a hare. He thrust the dull
circlet on his finger and cried out aloud in that crowded place:

"I wish Jimmy and I were inside that door behind the statue of
Flora."

It was the only safe place he could think of.

The lights and sounds and scents of the restaurant died away as a
wax-drop dies in fire a rain-drop in water. I don't know, and Gerald
never knew, what happened in that restaurant. There was nothing
about it in the papers, though Gerald looked anxiously for
'Extraordinary Disappearance of well-known City Man.' What the
door-mat-headed boy did or thought I don't know either. No more
does Gerald. But he would like to know, whereas I don't care
tuppence. The world went on all right, anyhow, whatever he
thought or did. The lights and the sounds and the scents of Pym's
died out. In place of the light there was darkness; in place of the
sounds there was silence; and in place of the scent of beef, pork,
mutton, fish, veal, cabbage, onions, carrots, beer, and tobacco
there was the musty, damp scent of a place underground that has
been long shut up.

Gerald felt sick and giddy, and there was something at the back of
his mind that he knew would make him feel sicker and giddier as
soon as he should have the sense to remember what it was.
Meantime it was important to think of proper words to soothe the
City man that had once been Jimmy to keep him quiet till Time,
like a spring uncoiling, should bring the reversal of the spell make
all things as they were and as they ought to be. But he fought in
vain for words. There were none. Nor were they needed. For
through the deep darkness came a voice and it was not the voice of
that City man who had been Jimmy, but the voice of that very
Jimmy who was Gerald's little brother, and who had wished that
unlucky wish for riches that could only be answered by changing
all that was Jimmy, young and poor, to all that Jimmy, rich and
old, would have been. Another voice said: "Jerry, Jerry! Are you
awake? I've had such a rum dream."

And then there was a moment when nothing was said or done.

Gerald felt through the thick darkness, and the thick silence, and
the thick scent of old earth shut up, and he got hold of Jimmy's
hand.

"It's all right, Jimmy, old chap," he said; "it's not a dream now. It's
that beastly ring again. I had to wish us here, to get you back at all
out of your dream."

"Wish us where?" Jimmy held on to the hand in a way that in the
daylight of life he would have been the first to call babyish.

"Inside the passage behind the Flora statue," said Gerald, adding,
"it's all right, really."

"Oh, I dare say it's all right," Jimmy answered through the dark,
with an irritation not strong enough to make him loosen his hold of
his brother's hand. "But how are we going to get out?"

Then Gerald knew what it was that was waiting to make him feel
more giddy than the lightning flight from Cheapside to Yalding
Towers had been able to make him. But he said stoutly:

"I'll wish us out, of course." Though all the time he knew that the
ring would not undo its given wishes.

It didn't.

Gerald wished. He handed the ring carefully to Jimmy, through the
thick darkness. And Jimmy wished.

And there they still were, in that black passage behind Flora, that
had led in the case of one Ugly-Wugly at least to 'a good hotel'.
And the stone door was shut. And they did not know even which
way to turn to it.

"If I only had some matches!" said Gerald.

"Why didn't you leave me in the dream?" Jimmy almost
whimpered. "It was light there, and I was just going to have
salmon and cucumber."

"I," rejoined Gerald in gloom, "was just going to have steak and
fried potatoes."

The silence, and the darkness, and the earthy scent were all they
had now.

"I always wondered what it would be like," said Jimmy in low,
even tones, "to be buried alive. And now I know! Oh! his voice
suddenly rose to a shriek, "it isn't true, it isn't! It's a dream that's
what it is!"

There was a pause while you could have counted ten. Then "Yes,"
said Gerald bravely, through the scent and the silence and the
darkness, "it's just a dream, Jimmy, old chap. We'll just hold on,
and call out now and then just for the lark of the thing. But it's
really only a dream, of course."

Of course, said Jimmy in the silence and the darkness and the
scent of old earth.

There is a curtain, thin as gossamer, clear as glass, strong as iron,
that hangs for ever between the world of magic and the world that
seems to us to be real. And when once people have found one of
the little weak spots in that curtain which are marked by magic
rings, and amulets, and the like, almost anything may happen.
Thus it is not surprising that Mabel and Kathleen, conscientiously
conducting one of the dullest dolls tea-parties at which either had
ever assisted, should suddenly, and both at once, have felt a
strange, unreasonable, but quite irresistible desire to return
instantly to the Temple of Flora even at the cost of leaving the
dolls tea-service in an unwashed state, and only half the raisins
eaten. They went as one has to go when the magic impulse drives
one against their better judgement, against their wills almost.

And the nearer they came to the Temple of Flora, in the golden
hush of the afternoon, the more certain each was that they could
not possibly have done otherwise.

And this explains exactly how it was that when Gerald and Jimmy,
holding hands in the darkness of the passage, uttered their first
concerted yell, "just for the lark of the thing", that yell was
instantly answered from outside.

A crack of light showed in that part of the passage where they had
least expected the door to be. The stone door itself swung slowly
open, and they were out of it, in the Temple of Flora, blinking in
the good daylight, an unresisting prey to Kathleen's embraces and
the questionings of Mabel.

"And you left that Ugly-Wugly loose in London," Mabel pointed
out; "you might have wished it to be with you, too."

"It's all right where it is," said Gerald. "I couldn't think of
everything. And besides, no, thank you! Now we'll go home and
seal up the ring in an envelope."

"I haven't done anything with the ring yet," said Kathleen.

"I shouldn't think you'd want to when you see the sort of things it
does with you," said Gerald.

"It wouldn't do things like that if I was wishing with it," Kathleen
protested,

"Look here," said Mabel, "let's just put it back in the treasure-room
and have done with it. I oughtn't ever to have taken it away, really.
It's a sort of stealing. It's quite as bad, really, as Eliza borrowing it
to astonish her gentleman friend with."

"I don't mind putting it back if you like," said Gerald, "only if any
of us do think of a sensible wish you'll let us have it out again, of
course?"

"Of course, of course," Mabel agreed.

So they trooped up to the castle, and Mabel once more worked the
spring that let down the panelling and showed the jewels, and the
ring was put back among the odd dull ornaments that Mabel had
once said were magic.

"How innocent it looks!" said Gerald. "You wouldn't think there
was any magic about it. It's just like an old silly ring. I wonder if
what Mabel said about the other things is true! Suppose we try."

"Don't!" said Kathleen. "I think magic things are spiteful. They just
enjoy getting you into tight places."

"I'd like to try," said Mabel, "only well, everything's been rather
upsetting, and I've forgotten what I said anything was."

So had the others. Perhaps that was why, when Gerald said that a
bronze buckle laid on the foot would have the effect of
seven-league boots, it didn't; when Jimmy, a little of the City man
he had been clinging to him still, said that the steel collar would
ensure your always having money in your pockets, his own
remained empty; and when Mabel and Kathleen invented qualities
of the most delightful nature for various rings and chains and
brooches, nothing at all happened.

"It's only the ring that's magic," said Mabel at last; "and, I say!" she
added, in quite a different voice.

"What?"

"Suppose even the ring isn't!"

"But we know it is."

"I don't," said Mabel. "I believe it's not today at all. I believe it's the
other day we've just dreamed all these things. It's the day I made up
that nonsense about the ring."

"No, it isn't," said Gerald; "you were in your Princess-clothes then.

"What Princess-clothes?" said Mabel, opening her dark eyes very
wide.

"Oh, don't be silly," said Gerald wearily.

"I'm not silly," said Mabel; "and I think it's time you went. I'm sure
Jimmy wants his tea."

"Of course I do," said Jimmy. "But you had got the
Princess-clothes that day. Come along; let's shut up the shutters
and leave the ring in its long home."

"What ring?" said Mabel.

"Don't take any notice of her," said Gerald. "She's only trying to be
funny."

"No, I'm not," said Mabel; "but I'm inspired like a Python or a
Sibylline lady. What ring?"

"The wishing-ring," said Kathleen; "the invisibility ring."

"Don't you see now," said Mabel, her eyes wider than ever, "the
ring's what you say it is? That's how it came to make us invisible I
just said it. Oh, we can't leave it here, if that's what it is. It isn't
stealing, really, when it's as valuable as that, you see. Say what it
is.

"It's a wishing-ring," said Jimmy.

"We've had that before and you had your silly wish," said Mabel,
more and more excited. "I say it isn't a wishing-ring. I say it's a ring
that makes the wearer four yards high."

She had caught up the ring as she spoke, and even as she spoke the
ring showed high above the children's heads on the finger of an
impossible Mabel, who was, indeed, twelve feet high.

"Now you've done it!" said Gerald and he was right. It was in vain
that Mabel asserted that the ring was a wishing-ring. It quite
clearly wasn't; it was what she had said it was.

"And you can't tell at all how long the effect will last," said Gerald.
"Look at the invisibleness." This is difficult to do, but the others
understood him.

"It may last for days," said Kathleen. "Oh, Mabel, it was silly of
you!"

"That's right, rub it in," said Mabel bitterly; "you should have
believed me when I said it was what I said it was. Then I shouldn't
have had to show you, and I shouldn't be this silly size. What am I
to do now, I should like to know?"

"We must conceal you till you get your right size again that's all,"
said Gerald practically.

"Yes but where?" said Mabel, stamping a foot twenty-four inches
long.

"In one of the empty rooms. You wouldn't be afraid?"

"Of course not," said Mabel. "Oh, I do wish we'd just put the ring
back and left it."

"Well, it wasn't us that didn't," said Jimmy, with more truth than
grammar.

"I shall put it back now," said Mabel, tugging at it.

"I wouldn't if I were you," said Gerald thoughtfully. "You don't
want to stay that length, do you? And unless the ring's on your
finger when the time's up, I dare say it wouldn't act."

The exalted Mabel sullenly touched the spring. The panels slowly
slid into place, and all the bright jewels were hidden. Once more
the room was merely eight-sided, panelled, sunlit, and
unfurnished.

"Now," said Mabel, "where am I to hide? It's a good thing auntie
gave me leave to stay the night with you. As it is, one of you will
have to stay the night with me. I'm not going to be left alone, the
silly height I am."

Height was the right word; Mabel had said "four yards high" and
she was four yards high. But she was hardly any thicker than when
her height was four feet seven, and the effect was, as Gerald
remarked, "wonderfully worm-like". Her clothes had, of course,
grown with her, and she looked like a little girl reflected in one of
those long bent mirrors at Rosherville Gardens, that make stout
people look so happily slender, and slender people so sadly
scraggy. She sat down suddenly on the floor, and it was like a
four-fold foot-rule folding itself up.

"It's no use sitting there, girl," said Gerald.

"I'm not sitting here," retorted Mabel; "I only got down so as to be
able to get through the door. It'll have to be hands and knees
through most places for me now, I suppose."

"Aren't you hungry?" Jimmy asked suddenly.

"I don't know," said Mabel desolately; "it's it's such a long way
off!"

"Well, I'll scout," said Gerald; "if the coast's clear "

"Look here," said Mabel, "I think I'd rather be out of doors till it
gets dark."

"You can't. Someone's certain to see you."

"Not if I go through the yew-hedge," said Mabel. "There's a
yew-hedge with a passage along its inside like the box-hedge in
The Luck of the Vails.

"In what?"

"The Luck of the Vails. It's a ripping book. It was that book first
set me on to hunt for hidden doors in panels and things. If I crept
along that on my front, like a serpent it comes out amongst the
rhododendrons, close by the dinosaurus we could camp there.

"There's tea," said Gerald, who had had no dinner.

"That's just what there isn't," said Jimmy, who had had none either.

"Oh, you won't desert me!" said Mabel. "Look here I'll write to
auntie. She'll give you the things for a picnic, if she's there and
awake. If she isn't, one of the maids will."

So she wrote on a leaf of Gerald's invaluable pocketbook:
"DEAREST AUNTIE Please may we have some things for a
picnic? Gerald will bring them. I would come myself, but I am a
little tired. I think I have been growing rather fast. Your loving
niece, MABEL." "P.S. Lots, please, because some of us are very
hungry."

It was found difficult, but possible, for Mabel to creep along the
tunnel in the yew-hedge. Possible, but slow, so that the three had
hardly had time to settle themselves among the rhododendrons and
to wonder bitterly what on earth Gerald was up to, to be such a
time gone, when he returned, panting under the weight of a
covered basket. He dumped it down on the fine grass carpet,
groaned, and added, "But it's worth it. Where's our Mabel?"

The long, pale face of Mabel peered out from rhododendron
leaves, very near the ground.

"I look just like anybody else like this, don't I?" she asked
anxiously; "all the rest of me's miles away, under different bushes."

"We've covered up the bits between the bushes with bracken and
leaves," said Kathleen, avoiding the question; "don't wriggle,
Mabel, or you'll waggle them off."

Jimmy was eagerly unpacking the basket. It was a generous tea. A
long loaf, butter in a cabbage-leaf, a bottle of milk, a bottle of
water, cake, and large, smooth, yellow gooseberries in a box that
had once held an extra-sized bottle of somebody's matchless
something for the hair and moustache. Mabel cautiously advanced
her incredible arms from the rhododendron and leaned on one of
her spindly elbows, Gerald cut bread and butter, while Kathleen
obligingly ran round, at Mabel's request, to see that the green
coverings had not dropped from any of the remoter parts of
Mabel's person. Then there was a happy, hungry silence, broken
only by those brief, impassioned suggestions natural to such an
occasion:

"More cake, please."

"Milk ahoy, there."

"Chuck us the goosegogs."

Everyone grew calmer more contented with their lot. A pleasant
feeling, half tiredness and half restfulness, crept to the extremities
of the party. Even the unfortunate Mabel was conscious of it in her
remote feet, that lay crossed under the third rhododendron to the
north-north-west of the tea-party. Gerald did but voice the feelings
of the others when he said, not without regret:

"Well, I'm a new man, but I couldn't eat so much as another
goosegog if you paid me."

"I could," said Mabel; "yes, I know they re all gone, and I've had
my share. But I could. It's me being so long, I suppose."

A delicious after-food peace filled the summer air. At a little
distance the green-lichened grey of the vast stone dinosaurus
showed through the shrubs. He, too, seemed peaceful and happy.
Gerald caught his stone eye through a gap in the foliage. His
glance seemed somehow sympathetic.

"I dare say he liked a good meal in his day," said Gerald, stretching
luxuriously.

"Who did?"

"The dino what s-his-name," said Gerald.

"He had a meal today," said Kathleen, and giggled.

"Yes didn't he?" said Mabel, giggling also.

"You mustn't laugh lower than your chest," said Kathleen
anxiously, "or your green stuff will joggle off."

"What do you mean a meal?" Jimmy asked suspiciously. "What are
you sniggering about?"

"He had a meal. Things to put in his inside," said Kathleen, still
giggling.

"Oh, be funny if you want to," said Jimmy, suddenly cross. "We
don't want to know do we, Jerry?"

"I do," said Gerald witheringly; "I'm dying to know. Wake me, you
girls, when you've finished pretending you're not going to tell."

He tilted his hat over his eyes, and lay back in the attitude of
slumber.

"Oh, don't be stupid!" said Kathleen hastily. "It's only that we fed
the dinosaurus through the hole in his stomach with the clothes the
Ugly-Wuglies were made of!"

"We can take them home with us, then," said Gerald, chewing the
white end of a grass stalk, "so that's all right."

"Look here," said Kathleen suddenly; "I've got an idea. Let me
have the ring a bit. I won't say what the idea is, in case it doesn't
come off, and then you'd say I was silly. I'll give it back before we
go."

"Oh, but you aren't going yet!" said Mabel, pleading. She pulled
off the ring. "Of course, she added earnestly, "I'm only too glad for
you to try any idea, however silly it is."

Now, Kathleen's idea was quite simple. It was only that perhaps
the ring would change its powers if someone else renamed it
someone who was not under the power of its enchantment. So the
moment it had passed from the long, pale hand of Mabel to one of
her own fat, warm, red paws, she jumped up, crying, "Let's go and
empty the dinosaurus now, and started to run swiftly towards that
prehistoric monster. She had a good start. She wanted to say aloud,
yet so that the others could not hear her, "This is a wishing-ring. It
gives you any wish you choose. And she did say it. And no one
heard her, except the birds and a squirrel or two, and perhaps a
stone faun, whose pretty face seemed to turn a laughing look on
her as she raced past its pedestal.

The way was uphill; it was sunny, and Kathleen had run her
hardest, though her brothers caught her up before she reached the
great black shadow of the dinosaurus. So that when she did reach
that shadow she was very hot indeed and not in any state to decide
calmly on the best wish to ask for.

"I'll get up and move the things down, because I know exactly
where I put them," she said.

Gerald made a back, Jimmy assisted her to climb up, and she
disappeared through the hole into the dark inside of the monster. In
a moment a shower began to descend from the opening a shower
of empty waistcoats, trousers with wildly waving legs, and coats
with sleeves uncontrolled.

"Heads below!" called Kathleen, and down came walking-sticks
and golf-sticks and hockey-sticks and broom-sticks, rattling and
chattering to each other as they came.

"Come on," said Jimmy.

"Hold on a bit," said Gerald. "I'm coming up. He caught the edge
of the hole above in his hands and jumped. Just as he got his
shoulders through the opening and his knees on the edge he heard
Kathleen's boots on the floor of the dinosaurus's inside, and
Kathleen's voice saying: "Isn't it jolly cool in here? I suppose
statues are always cool. I do wish I was a statue. Oh!"

The "oh" was a cry of horror and anguish. And it seemed to be cut
off very short by a dreadful stony silence.

"What's up?" Gerald asked. But in his heart he knew. He climbed
up into the great hollow. In the little light that came up through the
hole he could see something white against the grey of the
creature's sides. He felt in his pockets, still kneeling, struck a
match, and when the blue of its flame changed to clear yellow he
looked up to see what he had known he would see the face of
Kathleen, white, stony, and lifeless. Her hair was white, too, and
her hands, clothes, shoes everything was white, with the hard, cold
whiteness of marble. Kathleen had her wish: she was a statue.
There was a long moment of perfect stillness in the inside of the
dinosaurus. Gerald could not speak. It was too sudden, too terrible.
It was worse than anything that had happened yet. Then he turned
and spoke down out of that cold, stony silence to Jimmy, in the
green, sunny, rustling, live world outside.

"Jimmy, he said, in tones perfectly ordinary and matter of fact,
"Kathleen's gone and said that ring was a wishing-ring. And so it
was, of course. I see now what she was up to, running like that.
And then the young duffer went and wished she was a statue."

"And she is?" asked Jimmy, below.

"Come up and have a look," said Gerald. And Jimmy came, partly
with a pull from Gerald and partly with a jump of his own.

"She's a statue, right enough," he said, in awestruck tones. "Isn't it
awful!"

"Not at all," said Gerald firmly. "Come on let's go and tell Mabel."

To Mabel, therefore, who had discreetly remained with her long
length screened by rhododendrons, the two boys returned and
broke the news. They broke it as one breaks a bottle with a
pistol-shot.

"Oh, my goodness!" said Mabel, and writhed through her long
length so that the leaves and fern tumbled off in little showers, and
she felt the sun suddenly hot on the backs of her legs. "What next?
Oh, my goodness!"

"She'll come all right," said Gerald, with outward calm.

"Yes; but what about me?" Mabel urged. "I haven't got the ring.
And my time will be up before hers is. Couldn't you get it back?
Can't you get it off her hand? I'd put it back on her hand the very
minute I was my right size again faithfully I would."

"Well, it's nothing to blub about," said Jimmy, answering the sniffs
that had served her in this speech for commas and full-stops; "not
for you, anyway."

"Ah! you don't know," said Mabel; "you don't know what it is to be
as long as I am. Do do try and get the ring. After all, it is my ring
more than any of the rest of yours, anyhow, because I did find it,
and I did say it was magic."

The sense of justice always present in the breast of Gerald awoke
to this appeal.

"I expect the ring's turned to stone her boots have, and all her
clothes. But I'll go and see. Only if I can't, I can't, and it's no use
your making a silly fuss."

The first match lighted inside the dinosaurus showed the ring dark
on the white hand of the statuesque Kathleen.

The fingers were stretched straight out. Gerald took hold of the
ring, and, to his surprise, it slipped easily off the cold, smooth
marble finger.

"I say, Cathy, old girl, I am sorry," he said, and gave the marble
hand a squeeze. Then it came to him that perhaps she could hear
him. So he told the statue exactly what he and the others meant to
do. This helped to clear up his ideas as to what he and the others
did mean to do. So that when, after thumping the statue
hearteningly on its marble back, he returned to the rhododendrons,
he was able to give his orders with the clear precision of a born
leader, as he later said. And since the others had, neither of them,
thought of any plans, his plan was accepted, as the plans of born
leaders are apt to be.

"Here's your precious ring," he said to Mabel. "Now you're not
frightened of anything, are you?"

"No," said Mabel, in surprise. "I'd forgotten that. Look here, I'll
stay here or farther up in the wood if you'll leave me all the coats,
so that I shan't be cold in the night. Then I shall be here when
Kathleen comes out of the stone again."

"Yes," said Gerald, "that was exactly the born leader's idea.

"You two go home and tell Mademoiselle that Kathleen's staying
at the Towers. She is."

"Yes," said Jimmy, "she certainly is."

"The magic goes in seven-hour lots," said Gerald; "your invisibility
was twenty-one hours, mine fourteen, Eliza's seven. When it was a
wishing-ring it began with seven. But there's no knowing what
number it will be really. So there's no knowing which of you will
come right first. Anyhow, we'll sneak out by the cistern window
and come down the trellis, after we've said good night to
Mademoiselle, and come and have a look at you before we go to
bed. I think you'd better come close up to the dinosaurus and we'll
leaf you over before we go."

Mabel crawled into cover of the taller trees, and there stood up
looking as slender as a poplar and as unreal as the wrong answer to
a sum in long division. It was to her an easy matter to crouch
beneath the dinosaurus, to put her head up through the opening,
and thus to behold the white form of Kathleen.

"It's all right, dear," she told the stone image; "I shall be quite close
to you. You call me as soon as you feel you're coming right again."

The statue remained motionless, as statues usually do, and Mabel
withdrew her head, lay down, was covered up, and left. The boys
went home. It was the only reasonable thing to do. It would never
have done for Mademoiselle to become anxious and set the police
on their track. Everyone felt that. The shock of discovering the
missing Kathleen, not only in a dinosaurus's stomach, but, further,
in a stone statue of herself, might well have unhinged the mind of
any constable, to say nothing of the mind of Mademoiselle, which,
being foreign, would necessarily be a mind more light and easy to
upset. While as for Mabel

"Well, to look at her as she is now," said Gerald, "why, it would
send any one off their chump except us."

"We're different, said Jimmy; "our chumps have had to jolly well
get used to things. It would take a lot to upset us now."

"Poor old Cathy! all the same," said Gerald. "Yes, of course," said
Jimmy.

The sun had died away behind the black trees and the moon was
rising. Mabel, her preposterous length covered with coats,
waistcoats, and trousers laid along it, slept peacefully in the chill
of the evening. Inside the dinosaurus Kathleen, alive in her marble,
slept too. She had heard Gerald's words had seen the lighted
matches. She was Kathleen just the same as ever only she was
Kathleen in a case of marble that would not let her move. It would
not have let her cry, even if she wanted to. But she had not wanted
to cry. Inside, the marble was not cold or hard. It seemed,
somehow, to be softly lined with warmth and pleasantness and
safety. Her back did not ache with stooping. Her limbs were not
stiff with the hours that they had stayed moveless. Everything was
well better than well. One had only to wait quietly and quite
comfortably and one would come out of this stone case, and once
more be the Kathleen one had always been used to being. So she
waited happily and calmly, and presently waiting changed to not
waiting to not anything; and, close held in the soft inwardness of
the marble, she slept as peacefully and calmly as though she had
been lying in her own bed.

She was awakened by the fact that she was not lying in her own
bed was not, indeed, lying at all by the fact that she was standing
and that her feet had pins and needles in them. Her arms, too, held
out in that odd way, were stiff and tired. She rubbed her eyes,
yawned, and remembered. She had been a statue a statue inside the
stone dinosaurus.

"Now I'm alive again," was her instant conclusion, "and I'll get out
of it."

She sat down, put her feet through the hole that showed faintly
grey in the stone beast's underside, and as she did so a long, slow
lurch threw her sideways on the stone where she sat. The
dinosaurus was moving!

"Oh!" said Kathleen inside it, "how dreadful! It must be moonlight,
and it's come alive, like Gerald said.

It was indeed moving. She could see through the hole the changing
surface of grass and bracken and moss as it waddled heavily along.
She dared not drop through the hole while it moved, for fear it
should crush her to death with its gigantic feet. And with that
thought came another: where was Mabel? Somewhere somewhere
near? Suppose one of the great feet planted itself on some part of
Mabel's inconvenient length? Mabel being the size she was now it
would be quite difficult not to step on some part or other of her, if
she should happen to be in one's way quite difficult, however much
one tried. And the dinosaurus would not try: Why should it?
Kathleen hung in an agony over the round opening. The huge beast
swung from side to side. It was going faster; it was no good, she
dared not jump out. Anyhow, they must be quite away from Mabel
by now. Faster and faster went the dinosaurus. The floor of its
stomach sloped. They were going downhill. Twigs cracked and
broke as it pushed through a belt of evergreen oaks; gravel
crunched, ground beneath its stony feet. Then stone met stone.
There was a pause. A splash! They were close to water the lake
where by moonlight Hermes fluttered and Janus and the
dinosaurus swam together. Kathleen dropped swiftly through the
hole on to the flat marble that edged the basin, rushed sideways,
and stood panting in the shadow of a statue's pedestal. Not a
moment too soon, for even as she crouched the monster lizard
slipped heavily into the water, drowning a thousand smooth,
shining lily pads, and swam away towards the central island.

"Be still, little lady. I leap!" The voice came from the pedestal, and
next moment Phoebus had jumped from the pedestal in his little
temple, clearing the steps, and landing a couple of yards away.

"You are new," said Phoebus over his graceful shoulder. "I should
not have forgotten you if once I had seen you."

"I am," said Kathleen, "quite, quite new. And I didn't know you
could talk."

"Why not?" Phoebus laughed. "You can talk."

"But I'm alive."

"Am not I?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, I suppose so," said Kathleen, distracted, but not afraid;
"only I thought you had to have the ring on before one could even
see you move."

Phoebus seemed to understand her, which was rather to his credit,
for she had certainly not expressed herself with clearness.

"Ah! that's for mortals," he said. "We can hear and see each other
in the few moments when life is ours. That is a part of the
beautiful enchantment."

"But I am a mortal," said Kathleen.

"You are as modest as you are charming," said Phoebus Apollo
absently; "the white water calls me! I go," and the next moment
rings of liquid silver spread across the lake, widening and
widening, from the spot where the white joined hands of the
Sun-god had struck the water as he dived.

Kathleen turned and went up the hill towards the rhododendron
bushes. She must find Mabel, and they must go home at once. If
only Mabel was of a size that one could conveniently take home
with one! Most likely, at this hour of enchantments, she was.
Kathleen, heartened by the thought, hurried on. She passed through
the rhododendron bushes, remembered the pointed painted paper
face that had looked out from the glossy leaves, expected to be
frightened  and wasn't. She found Mabel easily enough, and much
more easily than she would have done had Mabel been as she
wished to find her. For quite a long way off in the moonlight, she
could see that long and worm-like form, extended to its full twelve
feet and covered with coats and trousers and waistcoats. Mabel
looked like a drain-pipe that has been covered in sacks in frosty
weather. Kathleen touched her long cheek gently, and she woke.

"What's up?" she said sleepily.

"It's only me," Kathleen explained.

"How cold your hands are!" said Mabel.

"Wake up," said Kathleen, "and let's talk."

"Can't we go home now? I'm awfully tired, and it's so long since
tea-time."

"You're too long to go home yet," said Kathleen sadly, and then
Mabel remembered.

She lay with closed eyes then suddenly she stirred and cried out:

"Oh! Cathy, I feel so funny like one of those horn snakes when you
make it go short to get it into its box. I am yes I know I am "

She was; and Kathleen, watching her, agreed that it was exactly
like the shortening of a horn spiral snake between the closing
hands of a child. Mabel's distant feet drew near Mabel's long, lean
arms grew shorter Mabel's face was no longer half a yard long.

"You're coming right you are! Oh, I am so glad!" cried Kathleen.

"I know I am," said Mabel; and as she said it she became once
more Mabel, not only in herself which, of course, she had been all
the time, but in her outward appearance.

"You are all right. Oh, hooray! hooray! I am so glad!" said
Kathleen kindly; "and now we'll go home at once, dear."

"Go home?" said Mabel, slowly sitting up and staring at Kathleen
with her big dark eyes. "Go home like that?"

"Like what?" Kathleen asked impatiently.

"Why, you," was Mabel's odd reply.

"I'm all right," said Kathleen. "Come on."

"Do you mean to say you don't know?" said Mabel. "Look at
yourself your hands your dress everything."

Kathleen looked at her hands. They were of marble whiteness. Her
dress, too her shoes, her stockings, even the ends of her hair. She
was white as new-fallen snow.

"What is it?" she asked, beginning to tremble. "What am I all this
horrid colour for?"

"Don't you see? Oh, Cathy, don't you see? You've not come right.
You're a statue still."

"I'm not I'm alive I'm talking to you."

"I know you are, darling," said Mabel, soothing her as one soothes
a fractious child. "That's because it's moonlight."

"But you can see I'm alive."

"Of course I can. I've got the ring."

"But I'm all right; I know I am."

"Don't you see," said Mabel gently, taking her white marble hand,
"you're not all right? It's moonlight, and you're a statue, and you've
just come alive with all the other statues. And when the moon goes
down you'll just be a statue again. That's the difficulty, dear, about
our going home again. You're just a statue still, only you've come
alive with the other marble things. Where's the dinosaurus?"

"In his bath," said Kathleen, "and so are all the other stone beasts."

Well," said Mabel, trying to look on the bright side of things, "then
we've got one thing, at any rate, to be thankful for!"

"If," said Kathleen, sitting disconsolate in her marble, "if I am
really a statue come alive, I wonder you're not afraid of me."

"I've got the ring," said Mabel with decision. "Cheer up, dear! you
will soon be better. Try not to think about it."

She spoke as you speak to a child that has cut its finger, or fallen
down on the garden path, and rises up with grazed knees to which
gravel sticks intimately.

"I know," Kathleen absently answered.

"And I've been thinking," said Mabel brightly, "we might find Out
a lot about this magic place, if the other statues aren't too proud to
talk to us."

"They aren't," Kathleen assured her; "at least, Phoebus wasn't. He
was most awfully polite and nice."

"Where is he?" Mabel asked.

"In the lake he was," said Kathleen.

"Then let's go down there," said Mabel. "Oh, Cathy! it is jolly
being your own proper thickness again." She jumped up, and the
withered ferns and branches that had covered her long length and
had been gathered closely upon her as she shrank to her proper size
fell as forest leaves do when sudden storms tear them. But the
white Kathleen did not move.

The two sat on the grey moonlit grass with the quiet of the night
all about them. The great park was still as a painted picture; only
the splash of the fountains and the far-off whistle of the Western
express broke the silence, which, at the same time, then deepened.

"What cheer, little sister!" said a voice behind them a golden
voice. They turned quick, startled heads, as birds, surprised, might
turn. There in the moonlight stood Phoebus, dripping still from the
lake, and smiling at them, very gentle, very friendly.

"Oh, it's you!" said Kathleen.

"None other," said Phoebus cheerfully. "Who is your friend, the
earth-child?"

"This is Mabel," said Kathleen.

Mabel got up and bowed, hesitated, and held out a hand.

"I am your slave, little lady," said Phoebus, enclosing it in marble
fingers. "But I fail to understand how you can see us, and why you
do not fear."

Mabel held up the hand that wore the ring.

"Quite sufficient explanation," said Phoebus; "but since you have
that, why retain your mottled earthy appearance? Become a statue,
and swim with us in the lake."

"I can't swim," said Mabel evasively.

"Nor yet me," said Kathleen.

"You can," said Phoebus. "All statues that come to life are
proficient in all athletic exercises. And you, child of the dark eyes
and hair like night, wish yourself a statue and join our revels."

"I'd rather not, if you will excuse me," said Mabel cautiously. "You
see ... this ring ... you wish for things, and you never know how
long they're going to last. It would be jolly and all that to be a
statue now, but in the morning I should wish I hadn't."

"Earth-folk often do, they say," mused Phoebus. "But, child, you
seem ignorant of the powers of your ring. Wish exactly, and the
ring will exactly perform. If you give no limit of time, strange
enchantments woven by Arithmos the outcast god of numbers will
creep in and spoil the spell. Say thus: "I wish that till the dawn I
may be a statue of living marble, even as my child friend, and that
after that time I may be as before Mabel of the dark eyes and
night-coloured hair."

"Oh, yes, do, it would be so jolly!" cried Kathleen. "Do, Mabel!
And if we're both statues, shall we be afraid of the dinosaurus?"

"In the world of living marble fear is not," said Phoebus. "Are we
not brothers, we and the dinosaurus brethren alike wrought of
stone and life?"

"And could I swim if I did?"

"Swim, and float, and dive and with the ladies of Olympus spread
the nightly feast, eat of the food of the gods, drink their cup, listen
to the song that is undying, and catch the laughter of immortal
lips."

"A feast!" said Kathleen. "Oh, Mabel, do! You would if you were
as hungry as I am."

"But it won't be real food," urged Mabel.

"It will be real to you, as to us," said Phoebus; "there is no other
realness even in your many-coloured world."

Still Mabel hesitated. Then she looked at Kathleen's legs and
suddenly said: "Very well, I will. But first I'll take off my shoes
and stockings. Marble boots look simply awful especially the
laces. And a marble stocking that's coming down and mine do!"

She had pulled off shoes and stockings and pinafore. "Mabel has
the sense of beauty," said Phoebus approvingly. "Speak the spell,
child, and I will lead you to the ladies of Olympus."

Mabel, trembling a little, spoke it, and there were two little live
statues in the moonlit glade. Tall Phoebus took a hand of each.

"Come run!" he cried. And they ran.

"Oh it is jolly!" Mabel panted. "Look at my white feet in the grass!
I thought it would feel stiff to be a statue, but it doesn't."

"There is no stiffness about the immortals," laughed the Sun-god.
"For tonight you are one of us."

And with that they ran down the slope to the lake.

"Jump!" he cried, and they jumped, and the water splashed up
round three white, gleaming shapes.

"Oh! I can swim!" breathed Kathleen.

"So can I," said Mabel.

"Of course you can," said Phoebus. "Now three times round the
lake, and then make for the island."

Side by side the three swam, Phoebus swimming gently to keep
pace with the children. Their marble clothes did not seem to
interfere at all with their swimming, as your clothes would if you
suddenly jumped into the basin of the Trafalgar Square fountains
and tried to swim there. And they swam most beautifully, with that
perfect ease and absence of effort or tiredness which you must
have noticed about your own swimming in dreams. And it was the
most lovely place to swim in; the water-lilies, whose long, snaky
stalks are so inconvenient to ordinary swimmers, did not in the
least interfere with the movements of marble arms and legs. The
moon was high in the clear sky-dome. The weeping willows,
cypresses, temples, terraces, banks of trees and shrubs, and the
wonderful old house, all added to the romantic charm of the scene.

"This is the nicest thing the ring has brought us yet," said Mabel,
through a languid but perfect side-stroke.

"I thought you'd enjoy it," said Phoebus kindly; "now once more
round, and then the island."

They landed on the island amid a fringe of rushes, yarrow,
willow-herb, loose-strife, and a few late, scented, powdery, creamy
heads of meadow-sweet. The island was bigger than it looked from
the bank, and it seemed covered with trees and shrubs. But when,
Phoebus leading the way, they went into the shadow of these, they
perceived that beyond the trees lay a light, much nearer to them
than the other side of the island could possibly be. And almost at
once they were through the belt of trees, and could see where the
light came from. The trees they had just passed among made a
dark circle round a big cleared space, standing up thick and dark,
like a crowd round a football field, as Kathleen remarked.

First came a wide, smooth ring of lawn, then marble steps going
down to a round pool, where there were no water-lilies, only gold
and silver fish that darted here and there like flashes of quicksilver
and dark flames. And the enclosed space of water and marble and
grass was lighted with a clear, white, radiant light, seven times
stronger than the whitest moonlight, and in the still waters of the
pool seven moons lay reflected. One could see that they were only
reflections by the way their shape broke and changed as the gold
and silver fish rippled the water with moving fin and tail that
steered.

The girls looked up at the sky, almost expecting to see seven
moons there. But no, the old moon shone alone, as she had always
shone on them.

"There are seven moons," said Mabel blankly, and pointed, which
is not manners.

"Of course," said Phoebus kindly; "everything in our world is
seven times as much so as in yours."

"But there aren't seven of you," said Mabel.

"No, but I am seven times as much," said the Sun-god. "You see,
there's numbers, and there's quantity, to say nothing of quality. You
see that, I'm sure."

"Not quite," said Kathleen.

"Explanations always weary me," Phoebus interrupted. "Shall we
join the ladies?"

On the further side of the pool was a large group, so white that it
seemed to make a great white hole in the trees. Some twenty or
thirty figures there were in the group all statues and all alive. Some
were dipping their white feet among the gold and silver fish, and
sending ripples across the faces of the seven moons. Some were
pelting each other with roses roses so sweet that the girls could
smell them even across the pool. Others were holding hands and
dancing in a ring, and two were sitting on the steps playing
cat's-cradle which is a very ancient game indeed  with a thread of
white marble.

As the new-comers advanced a shout of greeting and gay laughter
went up. "Late again, Phoebus!" someone called out. And another:
"Did one of your horses cast a shoe?" And yet another called out
something about laurels.

"I bring two guests," said Phoebus, and instantly the statues
crowded round, stroking the girls hair, patting their cheeks, and
calling them the prettiest love-names.

"Are the wreaths ready, Hebe?" the tallest and most splendid of the
ladies called out. "Make two more!"

And almost directly Hebe came down the steps, her round arms
hung thick with rose-wreaths. There was one for each marble head.

Everyone now looked seven times more beautiful than before,
which, in the case of the gods and goddesses, is saying a good deal.
The children remembered how at the raspberry vinegar feast
Mademoiselle had said that gods and goddesses always wore
wreaths for meals.

Hebe herself arranged the roses on the girls heads  and Aphrodite
Urania, the dearest lady in the world, with a voice like mother's at
those moments when you love her most, took them by the hands
and said: "Come, we must get the feast ready. Eros Psyche Hebe
Ganymede all you young people can arrange the fruit."

"I don't see any fruit," said Kathleen, as four slender forms
disengaged themselves from the white crowd and came towards
them.

"You will though," said Eros, a really nice boy, as the girls
instantly agreed; "you've only got to pick it."

"Like this," said Psyche, lifting her marble arms to a willow
branch. She reached out her hand to the children it held a ripe
pomegranate.

"I see," said Mabel. "You just " She laid her fingers to the willow
branch and the firm softness of a big peach was within them.

"Yes, just that," laughed Psyche, who was a darling, as any one
could see.

After this Hebe gathered a few silver baskets from a convenient
alder, and the four picked fruit industriously. Meanwhile the elder
statues were busy plucking golden goblets and jugs and dishes
from the branches of ash-trees and young oaks and filling them
with everything nice to eat and drink that anyone could possibly
want, and these were spread on the steps. It was a celestial picnic.
Then everyone sat or lay down and the feast began. And oh! the
taste of the food served on those dishes, the sweet wonder of the
drink that melted from those gold cups on the white lips of the
company! And the fruit there is no fruit like it grown on earth, just
as there is no laughter like the laughter of those lips, no songs like
the songs that stirred the silence of that night of wonder.

"Oh!" cried Kathleen, and through her fingers the juice of her third
peach fell like tears on the marble steps. "I do wish the boys were
here!"

"I do wonder what they're doing," said Mabel.

"At this moment," said Hermes, who had just made a wide ring of
flight, as a pigeon does, and come back into the circle  "at this
moment they are wandering desolately near the home of the
dinosaurus, having escaped from their home by a window, in
search of you. They fear that you have perished, and they would
weep if they did not know that tears do not become a man,
however youthful."

Kathleen stood up and brushed the crumbs of ambrosia from her
marble lap.

"Thank you all very much, she said. "It was very kind of you to
have us, and we've enjoyed ourselves very much, but I think we
ought to go now, please.

"If it is anxiety about your brothers," said Phoebus obligingly, "it is
the easiest thing in the world for them to join you. Lend me your
ring a moment."

He took it from Kathleen's half-reluctant hand, dipped it in the
reflection of one of the seven moons, and gave it back. She
clutched it. "Now," said the Sun-god, "wish for them that which
Mabel wished for herself. Say "

"I know," Kathleen interrupted. "I wish that the boys may be
statues of living marble like Mabel and me till dawn, and
afterwards be like they are now."

"If you hadn't interrupted," said Phoebus "but there, we can't
expect old heads on shoulders of young marble. You should have
wished them here and but no matter. Hermes, old chap, cut across
and fetch them, and explain things as you come."

He dipped the ring again in one of the reflected moons before he
gave it back to Kathleen.

"There," he said, "now it's washed clean ready for the next magic."

"It is not our custom to question guests," said Hera the queen,
turning her great eyes on the children; "but that ring excites, I am
sure, the interest of us all."

"It is the ring," said Phoebus.

"That, of course," said Hera; "but if it were not inhospitable to ask
questions I should ask, How came it into the hands of these
earth-children?"

"That," said Phoebus, "is a long tale. After the feast the story, and
after the story the song."

Hermes seemed to have "explained everything" quite fully; for
when Gerald and Jimmy in marble whiteness arrived, each
clinging to one of the god's winged feet, and so borne through the
air, they were certainly quite at ease. They made their best bows to
the goddesses and took their places as unembarrassed as though
they had had Olympian suppers every night of their lives. Hebe
had woven wreaths of roses ready for them, and as Kathleen
watched them eating and drinking, perfectly at home in their
marble, she was very glad that amid the welling springs of
immortal peach-juice she had not forgotten her brothers.

"And now," said Hera, when the boys had been supplied with
everything they could possibly desire, and more than they could
eat "now for the story."

"Yes," said Mabel intensely; and Kathleen said, "Oh yes; now for
the story. How splendid!"

"The story," said Phoebus unexpectedly, "will be told by our
guests."

"Oh no!" said Kathleen, shrinking.

"The lads, maybe, are bolder," said Zeus the king, taking off his
rose-wreath, which was a little tight, and rubbing his compressed
ears.

"I really can't," said Gerald; "besides, I don't know any stories."

"Nor yet me," said Jimmy.

"It's the story of how we got the ring that they want," said Mabel in
a hurry. "I'll tell it if you like, Once upon a time there was a little
girl called Mabel," she added yet more hastily, and went on with
the tale all the tale of the enchanted castle, or almost all, that you
have read in these pages. The marble Olympians listened
enchanted almost as enchanted as the castle itself, and the soft
moonlit moments fell past like pearls dropping into a deep pool.

"And so," Mabel ended abruptly, "Kathleen wished for the boys
and the Lord Hermes fetched them and here we all are."

A burst of interested comment and question blossomed out round
the end of the story, suddenly broken off short by Mabel.

"But," said she, brushing it aside, as it grew thinner, "now we want
you to tell us."

"To tell you ?"

"How you come to be alive, and how you know about the ring and
everything you do know."

"Everything I know?" Phoebus laughed it was to him that she had
spoken and not his lips only but all the white lips curled in
laughter. "The span of your life, my earth-child, would not contain
the words I should speak, to tell you all I know."

"Well, about the ring anyhow, and how you come alive," said
Gerald; "you see, it's very puzzling to us."

"Tell them, Phoebus," said the dearest lady in the world; "don't
tease the children."

So Phoebus, leaning back against a heap of leopard- skins that
Dionysus had lavishly plucked from a spruce fir, told.

"All statues," he said, "can come alive when the moon shines, if
they so choose. But statues that are placed in ugly cities do not
choose. Why should they weary themselves with the contemplation
of the hideous?"

"Quite so," said Gerald politely, to fill the pause.

"In your beautiful temples," the Sun-god went on, "the images of
your priests and of your warriors who lie cross-legged on their
tombs come alive and walk in their marble about their temples,
and through the woods and fields. But only on one night in all the
year can any see them. You have beheld us because you held the
ring, and are of one brotherhood with us in your marble, but on
that one night all may behold us."

"And when is that?" Gerald asked, again polite, in a pause.

"At the festival of the harvest," said Phoebes. "On that night as the
moon rises it strikes one beam of perfect light on to the altar in
certain temples. One of these temples is in Hellas, buried under the
fall of a mountain which Zeus, being angry, hurled down upon it.
One is in this land; it is in this great garden."

"Then," said Gerald, much interested, "if we were to come up to
that temple on that night, we could see you, even without being
statues or having the ring?"

"Even so," said Phoebus. "More, any question asked by a mortal
we are on that night bound to answer."

"And the night is when?"

"Ah!" said Phoebus, and laughed. "Wouldn't you like to know!"

Then the great marble King of the Gods yawned, stroked his long
beard, and said: "Enough of stories, Phoebus. Tune your lyre."

"But the ring," said Mabel in a whisper, as the Sun-god tuned the
white strings of a sort of marble harp that lay at his feet "about
how you know all about the ring?"

"Presently," the Sun-god whispered back. "Zeus must be obeyed;
but ask me again before dawn, and I will tell you all I know of it."
Mabel drew back, and leaned against the comfortable knees of one
Demeter Kathleen and Psyche sat holding hands. Gerald and
Jimmy lay at full length, chins on elbows, gazing at the Sun-god;
and even as he held the lyre, before ever his fingers began to
sweep the strings, the spirit of music hung in the air, enchanting,
enslaving, silencing all thought but the thought of itself, all desire
but the desire to listen to it.

Then Phoebus struck the strings and softly plucked melody from
them, and all the beautiful dreams of all the world came fluttering
close with wings like doves wings; and all the lovely thoughts that
sometimes hover near, but not so near that you can catch them,
now came home as to their nests in the hearts of those who
listened. And those who listened forgot time and space, and how to
be sad, and how to be naughty, and it seemed that the whole world
lay like a magic apple in the hand of each listener, and that the
whole world was good and beautiful.

And then, suddenly, the spell was shattered. Phoebus struck a
broken chord, followed by an instant of silence; then he sprang up,
crying, "The dawn! the dawn! To your pedestals, O gods!"

In an instant the whole crowd of beautiful marble people had
leaped to its feet, had rushed through the belt of wood that cracked
and rustled as they went, and the children heard them splash, in the
water beyond. They heard, too, the gurgling breathing of a great
beast, and knew that the dinosaurus, too, was returning to his own
place.

Only Hermes had time, since one flies more swiftly than one
swims, to hover above them for one moment, and to whisper with
a mischievous laugh:

"In fourteen days from now, at the Temple of Strange Stones."

"What's the secret of the ring?" gasped Mabel.

"The ring is the heart of the magic," said Hermes. "Ask at the
moonrise on the fourteenth day, and you shall know all."

With that he waved the snowy caduceus and rose in the air
supported by his winged feet. And as he went the seven reflected
moons died out and a chill wind began to blow, a grey light grew
and grew, the birds stirred and twittered, and the marble slipped
away from the children like a skin that shrivels in fire, and they
were statues no more, but flesh and blood children as they used to
be, standing knee-deep in brambles and long coarse grass. There
was no smooth lawn, no marble steps, no seven-mooned fish-pond.
The dew lay thick on the grass and the brambles, and it was very
cold.

"We ought to have gone with them," said Mabel with chattering
teeth. "We can't swim now we re not marble. And I suppose this is
the island?"

It was and they couldn't swim.

They knew it. One always knows those sort of things somehow
without trying. For instance, you know perfectly that you can't fly.
There are some things that there is no mistake about.

The dawn grew brighter and the outlook more black every
moment.

"There isn't a boat, I suppose?" Jimmy asked.

"No," said Mabel, "not on this side of the lake; there's one in the
boat-house, of course if you could swim there."

"You know I can't," said Jimmy.

"Can't anyone think of anything?" Gerald asked, shivering.

"When they find we've disappeared they'll drag all the water for
miles round, said Jimmy hopefully, "in case we've fallen in and
sunk to the bottom. When they come to drag this we can yell and
be rescued."

"Yes, dear, that will be nice," was Gerald's bitter comment.

"Don't be so disagreeable," said Mabel with a tone so strangely
cheerful that the rest stared at her in amazement.

"The ring," she said. "Of course we've only got to wish ourselves
home with it. Phoebus washed it in the moon ready for the next
wish.

"You didn't tell us about that," said Gerald in accents of perfect
good temper. "Never mind. Where is the ring?"

"You had it," Mabel reminded Kathleen.

"I know I had," said that child in stricken tones, "but I gave it to
Psyche to look at and and she's got it on her finger!"

Everyone tried not to be angry with Kathleen. All partly
succeeded.

"If we ever get off this beastly island," said Gerald,

"I suppose you can find Psyche's statue and get it off again?"

"No I can't," Mabel moaned. "I don't know where the statue is. I've
never seen it. It may be in Hellas, wherever that is or anywhere, for
anything I know."

No one had anything kind to say, and it is pleasant to record that
nobody said anything. And now it was grey daylight, and the sky to
the north was flushing in pale pink and lavender.

The boys stood moodily, hands in pockets. Mabel and Kathleen
seemed to find it impossible not to cling together, and all about
their legs the long grass was icy with dew.

A faint sniff and a caught breath broke the silence. "Now, look
here," said Gerald briskly, "I won't have it. Do you hear?
Snivelling's no good at all. No, I'm not a pig. It's for your own
good. Let's make a tour of the island. Perhaps there's a boat hidden
somewhere among the overhanging boughs.

"How could there be?" Mabel asked.

"Someone might have left it there, I suppose," said Gerald.

"But how would they have got off the island?"

"In another boat, of course," said Gerald; "come on."
Downheartedly, and quite sure that there wasn't and couldn't be
any boat, the four children started to explore the island. How often
each one of them had dreamed of islands, how often wished to be
stranded on one! Well, now they were. Reality is sometimes quite
different from dreams, and not half so nice. It was worst of all for
Mabel, whose shoes and stockings were far away on the mainland.
The coarse grass and brambles were very cruel to bare legs and
feet.

They stumbled through the wood to the edge of the water, but it
was impossible to keep close to the edge of the island, the
branches grew too thickly. There was a narrow, grassy path that
wound in and out among the trees, and this they followed, dejected
and mournful. Every moment made it less possible for them to
hope to get back to the school-house unnoticed. And if they were
missed and beds found in their present unslept-in state well, there
would be a row of some sort, and, as Gerald said, "Farewell to
liberty!"

"Of course we can get off all right," said Gerald. "Just all shout
when we see a gardener or a keeper on the mainland. But if we do,
concealment is at an end and all is absolutely up!"

"Yes," said everyone gloomily.

"Come, buck up!" said Gerald, the spirit of the born general
beginning to reawaken in him. "We shall get out of this scrape all
right, as we've got out of others; you know we shall. See, the sun's
coming out. You feel all right and jolly now, don't you?"

"Yes, oh yes!" said everyone, in tones of unmixed misery.

The sun was now risen, and through a deep cleft in the hills it sent
a strong shaft of light straight at the island. The yellow light,
almost level, struck through the stems of the trees and dazzled the
children's eyes. This, with the fact that he was not looking where
he was going, as Jimmy did not fail to point out later, was enough
to account for what now happened to Gerald, who was leading the
melancholy little procession. He stumbled, clutched at a tree-trunk,
missed his clutch, and disappeared, with a yell and a clatter; and
Mabel, who came next, only pulled herself up just in time not to
fall down a steep flight of moss-grown steps that seemed to open
suddenly in the ground at her feet.

"Oh, Gerald!" she called down the steps; "are you hurt?"

"No," said Gerald, out of sight and crossly, for he was hurt, rather
severely; "it's steps, and there's a passage."

"There always is," said Jimmy.

"I knew there was a passage," said Mabel; "it goes under the water
and comes out at the Temple of Flora. Even the gardeners know
that, but they won't go down, for fear of snakes."

"Then we can get out that way I do think you might have said so,"
Gerald's voice came up to say.

"I didn't think of it," said Mabel. "At least And I suppose it goes
past the place where the Ugly-Wugly found its good hotel."

"I'm not going," said Kathleen positively, "not in the dark, I'm not.
So I tell you!"

"Very well, baby," said Gerald sternly, and his head appeared from
below very suddenly through interlacing brambles. "No one asked
you to go in the dark. We'll leave you here if you like, and return
and rescue you with a boat. Jimmy, the bicycle lamp!" He reached
up a hand for it.

Jimmy produced from his bosom, the place where lamps are
always kept in fairy stories see Aladdin and others a bicycle lamp.

"We brought it," he explained, "so as not to break our shins over
bits of long Mabel among the rhododendrons."

"Now," said Gerald very firmly, striking a match and opening the
thick, rounded glass front of the bicycle lamp, "I don't know what
the rest of you are going to do, but I'm going down these steps and
along this passage. If we find the good hotel well, a good hotel
never hurt anyone yet."

"It's no good, you know," said Jimmy weakly; "you know jolly well
you can't get out of that Temple of Flora door, even if you get to
it."

"I don't know," said Gerald, still brisk and commander-like;
"there's a secret spring inside that door most likely. We hadn't a
lamp last time to look for it, remember."

"If there's one thing I do hate its undergroundness," said Mabel.

"You're not a coward," said Gerald, with what is known as
diplomacy. "You're brave, Mabel. Don't I know it!" You hold
Jimmy's hand and I'll hold Cathy s. Now then."

"I won't have my hand held," said Jimmy, of course. "I'm not a
kid."

"Well, Cathy will. Poor little Cathy! Nice brother Jerry'll hold poor
Cathy's hand."

Gerald's bitter sarcasm missed fire here, for Cathy gratefully
caught the hand he held out in mockery. She was too miserable to
read his mood, as she mostly did. "Oh, thank you, Jerry dear," she
said gratefully; "you are a dear, and I will try not to be frightened."
And for quite a minute Gerald shamedly felt that he had not been
quite, quite kind.

So now, leaving the growing goldness of the sunrise, the four went
down the stone steps that led to the underground and underwater
passage, and everything seemed to grow dark and then to grow into
a poor pretence of light again, as the splendour of dawn gave place
to the small dogged lighting of the bicycle lamp. The steps did
indeed lead to a passage, the beginnings of it choked with the
drifted dead leaves of many old autumns. But presently the passage
took a turn, there were more steps, down, down, and then the
passage was empty and straight lined above and below and on each
side with slabs of marble, very clear and clean. Gerald held Cathy's
hand with more of kindness and less of exasperation than he had
supposed possible.

And Cathy, on her part, was surprised to find it possible to be so
much less frightened than she expected.

The flame of the bull's-eye threw ahead a soft circle of misty light
the children followed it silently. Till, silently and suddenly, the
light of the bull's-eye behaved as the flame of a candle does when
you take it out into the sunlight to light a bonfire, or explode a
train of gunpowder, or what not. Because now, with feelings
mixed indeed, of wonder, and interest, and awe, but no fear, the
children found themselves in a great hail, whose arched roof was
held up by two rows of round pillars, and whose every corner was
filled with a soft, searching, lovely light, filling every cranny, as
water fills the rocky secrecies of hidden sea-caves.

"How beautiful!" Kathleen whispered, breathing hard into the
tickled ear of her brother, and Mabel caught the hand of Jimmy
and whispered, "I must hold your hand I must hold on to
something silly, or I shan't believe it's real."

For this hall in which the children found themselves was the most
beautiful place in the world. I won't describe it, because it does not
look the same to any two people, and you wouldn't understand me
if I tried to tell you how it looked to any one of these four. But to
each it seemed the most perfect thing possible. I will only say that
all round it were great arches. Kathleen saw them as Moorish,
Mabel as Tudor, Gerald as Norman, and Jimmy as Churchwarden
Gothic. (If you don't know what these are, ask your uncle who
collects brasses, and he will explain, or perhaps Mr. Millar will
draw the different kinds of arches for you.) And through these
arches one could see many things oh! but many things. Through
one appeared an olive garden, and in it two lovers who held each
other's hands, under an Italian moon; through another a wild sea,
and a ship to whom the wild, racing sea was slave. A third showed
a king on his throne, his courtiers obsequious about him; and yet a
fourth showed a really good hotel, with the respectable
Ugly-Wugly sunning himself on the front doorsteps. There was a
mother, bending over a wooden cradle. There was an artist gazing
entranced on the picture his wet brush seemed to have that
moment completed, a general dying on a field where Victory had
planted the standard he loved, and these things were not pictures,
but the truest truths, alive, and, as anyone could see, immortal.

Many other pictures there were that these arches framed. And all
showed some moment when life had sprung to fire and flower the
best that the soul of man could ask or man's destiny grant. And the
really good hotel had its place here too, because there are some
souls that ask no higher thing of life than "a really good hotel" .

"Oh, I am glad we came; I am, I am!" Kathleen murmured, and
held fast to her brother's hand.

They went slowly up the hall, the ineffectual bull's-eye, held by
Jimmy, very crooked indeed, showing almost as a shadow in this
big, glorious light.

And then, when the hall's end was almost reached, the children
saw where the light came from. It glowed and spread itself from
one place, and in that place stood the one statue that Mabel "did
not know where to find" the statue of Psyche. They went on,
slowly, quite happy, quite bewildered. And when they came close
to Psyche they saw that on her raised hand the ring showed dark.

Gerald let go Kathleen's hand, put his foot on the pediment, his
knee on the pedestal. He stood up, dark and human, beside the
white girl with the butterfly wings.

"I do hope you don't mind," he said, and drew the ring off very
gently. Then, as he dropped to the ground, "Not here," he said. "I
don't know why, but not here."

And they all passed behind the white Psyche, and once more the
bicycle lamp seemed suddenly to come to life again as Gerald held
it in front of him, to be the pioneer in the dark passage that led
from the Hall of but they did not know, then, what it was the Hall
of.

Then, as the twisting passage shut in on them with a darkness that
pressed close against the little light of the bicycle lamp, Kathleen
said, "Give me the ring. I know exactly what to say."

Gerald gave it with not extreme readiness.

"I wish," said Kathleen slowly, "that no one at home may know
that we've been out tonight, and I wish we were safe in our own
beds, undressed, and in our nightgowns, and asleep."

And the next thing any of them knew, it was good, strong, ordinary
daylight not just sunrise, but the kind of daylight you are used to
being called in, and all were in their own beds. Kathleen had
framed the wish most sensibly. The only mistake had been in
saying "in our own beds" because, of course, Mabel's own bed was
at Yalding Towers, and to this day Mabel's drab-haired aunt cannot
understand how Mabel, who was staying the night with that child
in the town she was so taken up with, hadn't come home at eleven,
when the aunt locked up, and yet she was in her bed in the
morning. For though not a clever woman, she was not stupid
enough to be able to believe any one of the eleven fancy
explanations which the distracted Mabel offered in the course of
the morning. The first (which makes twelve) of these explanations
was The Truth, and of course the aunt was far too clever to believe
That!

It was show-day at Yalding Castle, and it seemed good to the
children to go and visit Mabel, and, as Gerald put it, to mingle
unsuspected with the crowd; to gloat over all the things which they
knew and which the crowd didn't know about the castle and the
sliding panels, the magic ring and the statues that came alive.
Perhaps one of the pleasantest things about magic happenings is
the feeling which they give you of knowing what other people not
only don't know but wouldn't, so to speak, believe if they did.

On the white road outside the gates of the castle was a dark
spattering of breaks and wagonettes and dogcarts. Three or four
waiting motor-cars puffed fatly where they stood, and bicycles
sprawled in heaps along the grassy hollow by the red brick wall.
And the people who had been brought to the castle by the breaks
and wagonettes, and dog-carts and bicycles and motors, as well as
those who had walked there on their own unaided feet, were
scattered about the grounds, or being shown over those parts of the
castle which were, on this one day of the week, thrown open to
visitors.

There were more visitors than usual today because it had somehow
been whispered about that Lord Yalding was down, and that the
holland covers were to be taken off the state furniture so that a rich
American who wished to rent the castle, to live in, might see the
place in all its glory.

It certainly did look very splendid. The embroidered satin, gilded
leather and tapestry of the chairs, which had been hidden by brown
holland, gave to the rooms a pleasant air of being lived in. There
were flowering plants and pots of roses here and there on tables or
window-ledges. Mabel's aunt prided herself on her tasteful touch
in the home, and had studied the arrangement of flowers in a series
of articles in Home Drivel called "How to Make Home High-class
on Nine-pence a Week".

The great crystal chandeliers, released from the bags that at
ordinary times shrouded them, gleamed with grey and purple
splendour. The brown linen sheets had been taken off the state
beds, and the red ropes that usually kept the low crowd in its
proper place had been rolled up and hidden away.

"It's exactly as if we were calling on the family," said the grocer's
daughter from Salisbury to her friend who was in the millinery.

"If the Yankee doesn't take it, what do you say to you and me
setting up here when we get spliced?" the draper's assistant asked
his sweetheart. And she said: "Oh, Reggie, how can you! you are
too funny."

All the afternoon the crowd in its smart holiday clothes, pink
blouses, and light-coloured suits, flowery hats, and scarves beyond
description passed through and through the dark hall, the
magnificent drawing-rooms and boudoirs and picture-galleries.
The chattering crowd was awed into something like quiet by the
calm, stately bedchambers, where men had been born, and died;
where royal guests had lain in long-ago summer nights, with big
bow-pots of elder-flowers set on the hearth to ward off fever and
evil spells. The terrace, where in old days dames in ruffs had
sniffed the sweet-brier and southern-wood of the borders below,
and ladies, bright with rouge and powder and brocade, had walked
in the swing of their hooped skirts the terrace now echoed to the
sound of brown boots, and the tap-tap of high-heeled shoes at two
and eleven three, and high laughter and chattering voices that said
nothing that the children wanted to hear. These spoiled for them
the quiet of the enchanted castle, and outraged the peace of the
garden of enchantments.

"It isn't such a lark after all," Gerald admitted, as from the window
of the stone summer-house at the end of the terrace they watched
the loud colours and heard the loud laughter. "I do hate to see all
these people in our garden."

"I said that to that nice bailiff-man this morning," said Mabel,
setting herself on the stone floor, "and he said it wasn't much to let
them come once a week. He said Lord Yalding ought to let them
come when they liked said he would if he lived there."

"That's all he knows!" said Jimmy. "Did he say anything else?"

"Lots," said Mabel. "I do like him! I told him ,"

"You didn't!"

"Yes. I told him lots about our adventures. The humble bailiff is a
beautiful listener."

"We shall be locked up for beautiful lunatics if you let your jaw
get the better of you, my Mabel child."

"Not us!" said Mabel. "I told it you know the way every word true,
and yet so that nobody believes any of it. When I'd quite done he
said I'd got a real littery talent, and I promised to put his name on
the beginning of the first book I write when I grow up."

"You don't know his name," said Kathleen. "Let's do something
with the ring."

"Imposs!" said Gerald. "I forgot to tell you, but I met
Mademoiselle when I went back for my garters and she's coming
to meet us and walk back with us."

"What did you say?"

"I said," said Gerald deliberately, "that it was very kind of her. And
so it was. Us not wanting her doesn't make it not kind her coming "

"It may be kind, but it's sickening too," said Mabel, "because now I
suppose we shall have to stick here and wait for her; and I
promised we d meet the bailiff-man. He's going to bring things in a
basket and have a picnic-tea with us."

"Where?"

"Beyond the dinosaurus. He said he'd tell me all about the
anteddy-something animals it means before Noah's Ark; there are
lots besides the dinosaurus in return for me telling him my
agreeable fictions. Yes, he called them that."

"When?"

"As soon as the gates shut. That's five."

"We might take Mademoiselle along," suggested Gerald.

"She d be too proud to have tea with a bailiff, I expect; you never
know how grown-ups will take the simplest things." It was
Kathleen who said this.

"Well, I'll tell you what," said Gerald, lazily turning on the stone
bench. "You all go along, and meet your bailiff. A picnic's a
picnic. And I'll wait for Mademoiselle."

Mabel remarked joyously that this was jolly decent of Gerald, to
which he modestly replied: "Oh, rot!"

Jimmy added that Gerald rather liked sucking-up to people.

"Little boys don't understand diplomacy," said Gerald calmly;
"sucking-up is simply silly. But it's better to be good than pretty
and ,"

"How do you know?" Jimmy asked.

"And," his brother went on, "you never know when a grown-up
may come in useful. Besides, they like it. You must give them
some little pleasures. Think how awful it must be to be old. My
hat!"

"I hope I shan't be an old maid," said Kathleen.

"I don't mean to be," said Mabel briskly. "I'd rather marry a
travelling tinker."

"It would be rather nice," Kathleen mused, "to marry the Gypsy
King and go about in a caravan telling fortunes and hung round
with baskets and brooms."

"Oh, if I could choose," said Mabel, "of course I'd marry a brigand,
and live in his mountain fastnesses, and be kind to his captives and
help them to escape and ,"

"You'll be a real treasure to your husband," said Gerald.

"Yes," said Kathleen, "or a sailor would be nice. You'd watch for
his ship coming home and set the lamp in the dormer window to
light him home through the storm; and when he was drowned at
sea you d be most frightfully sorry, and go every day to lay flowers
on his daisied grave."

"Yes," Mabel hastened to say, "or a soldier, and then you'd go to
the wars with short petticoats and a cocked hat and a barrel round
your neck like a St. Bernard dog. There's a picture of a soldier's
wife on a song auntie's got. It's called 'The Veevandyear'."

"When I marry " Kathleen quickly said.

"When I marry," said Gerald, "I'll marry a dumb girl, or else get the
ring to make her so that she can't speak unless she's spoken to.
Let's have a squint.

He applied his eye to the stone lattice.

"They're moving off," he said. "Those pink and purple hats are
nodding off in the distant prospect; and the funny little man with
the beard like a goat is going a different way from everyone else
the gardeners will have to head him off. I don't see Mademoiselle,
though. The rest of you had better bunk. It doesn't do to run any
risks with picnics. The deserted hero of our tale, alone and
unsupported, urged on his brave followers to pursue the
commissariat waggons, he himself remaining at the post of danger
and difficulty, because he was born to stand on burning decks
whence all but he had fled, and to lead forlorn hopes when
despaired of by the human race!"

"I think I'll marry a dumb husband," said Mabel, "and there shan't
be any heroes in my books when I write them, only a heroine.
Come on, Cathy."

Coming out of that cool, shadowy summer-house into the sunshine
was like stepping into an oven, and the stone of the terrace was
burning to the children's feet.

"I know now what a cat on hot bricks feels like," said Jimmy.

The antediluvian animals are set in a beech-wood on a slope at
least half a mile across the park from the castle. The grandfather of
the present Lord Yalding had them set there in the middle of last
century, in the great days of the late Prince Consort, the Exhibition
of 1851, Sir Joseph Paxton, and the Crystal Palace. Their stone
flanks, their wide, ungainly wings, their lozenged crocodile-like
backs show grey through the trees a long way off.

Most people think that noon is the hottest time of the day. They are
wrong. A cloudless sky gets hotter and hotter all the afternoon, and
reaches its very hottest at five. I am sure you must all have noticed
this when you are going out to tea anywhere in your best clothes,
especially if your clothes are starched and you happen to have a
rather long and shadeless walk.

Kathleen, Mabel, and Jimmy got hotter and hotter, and went more
and more slowly. They had almost reached that stage of
resentment and discomfort when one "wishes one hadn't come"
before they saw, below the edge of the beech-wood, the white
waved handkerchief of the bailiff.

That banner, eloquent of tea, shade, and being able to sit down, put
new heart into them. They mended their pace, and a final
desperate run landed them among the drifted coppery leaves and
bare grey and green roots of the beech-wood.

"Oh, glory!" said Jimmy, throwing himself down. "How do you
do?"

The bailiff looked very nice, the girls thought. He was not wearing
his velveteens, but a grey flannel suit that an Earl need not have
scorned; and his straw hat would have done no discredit to a Duke;
and a Prince could not have worn a prettier green tie. He
welcomed the children warmly. And there were two baskets
dumped heavy and promising among the beech-leaves.

He was a man of tact. The hot, instructive tour of the stone
antediluvians, which had loomed with ever-lessening charm before
the children, was not even mentioned.

"You must be desert-dry," he said, "and you'll be hungry, too, when
you've done being thirsty. I put on the kettle as soon as I discerned
the form of my fair romancer in the extreme offing."

The kettle introduced itself with puffings and bubblings from the
hollow between two grey roots where it sat on a spirit-lamp.

"Take off your shoes and stockings, won't you?" said the bailiff in
matter-of-course tones, just as old ladies ask each other to take off
their bonnets; "there's a little baby canal just over the ridge."

The joys of dipping one's feet in cool running water after a hot
walk have yet to be described. I could write pages about them.
There was a mill-stream when I was young with little fishes in it,
and dropped leaves that spun round, and willows and alders that
leaned over it and kept it cool, and but this is not the story of my
life.

When they came back, on rested, damp, pink feet, tea was made
and poured ouy delicious tea with as much milk as ever you
wanted, out of a beer bottle with a screw top, and cakes, and
gingerbread, and plums, and a big melon with a lump of ice in its
heart a tea for the gods!

This thought must have come to Jimmy, for he said suddenly,
removing his face from inside a wide-bitten crescent of
melon-rind:

"Your feast's as good as the feast of the Immortals, almost."

"Explain your recondite allusion," said the grey-flannelled host;
and Jimmy, understanding him to say, "What do you mean?"
replied with the whole tale of that wonderful night when the
statues came alive, and a banquet of unearthly splendour and
deliciousness was plucked by marble hands from the trees of the
lake island.

When he had done the bailiff said: "Did you get all this out of a
book?"

"No," said Jimmy, "it happened."

"You are an imaginative set of young dreamers,. aren't you?" the
bailiff asked, handing the plums to Kathleen, who smiled, friendly
but embarrassed. Why couldn't Jimmy have held his tongue?

"No, we re not," said that indiscreet one obstinately; "everything
I've told you did happen, and so did the things Mabel told you."

The bailiff looked a little uncomfortable. "All right, old chap," he
said. And there was a short, uneasy silence. "Look here," said
Jimmy, who seemed for once to have got the bit between his teeth,
"do you believe me or not?"

"Don't be silly, Jimmy!" Kathleen whispered. "Because, if you
don't I'll make you believe."

"Don't!" said Mabel and Kathleen together.

"Do you or don't you?" Jimmy insisted, lying on his front with his
chin on his hands, his elbows on a moss-cushion, and his bare legs
kicking among the beech leaves.

"I think you tell adventures awfully well," said the bailiff
cautiously.

"Very well," said Jimmy, abruptly sitting up, "you don't believe
me. Nonsense, Cathy! he's a gentleman, even if he is a bailiff."

"Thank you!" said the bailiff with eyes that twinkled.

"You won't tell, will you?" Jimmy urged.

"Tell what?"

"Anything."

"Certainly not. I am, as you say, the soul of honour."

"Then Cathy, give me the ring."

"Oh, no!" said the girls together.

Kathleen did not mean to give up the ring; Mabel did not mean
that she should; Jimmy certainly used no force. Yet presently he
held it in his hand. It was his hour. There are times like that for all
of us, when what we say shall be done is done.

"Now," said Jimmy, "this is the ring Mabel told you about. I say it
is a wishing-ring. And if you will put it on your hand and wish,
whatever you wish will happen."

"Must I wish out loud?"

"Yes I think so."

"Don't wish for anything silly," said Kathleen, making the best of
the situation, "like its being fine on Tuesday or its being your
favourite pudding for dinner tomorrow. Wish for something you
really want."

"I will," said the bailiff. "I'll wish for the only thing I really want. I
wish my I wish my friend were here."

The three who knew the power of the ring looked round to see the
bailiff's friend appear; a surprised man that friend would be, they
thought, and perhaps a frightened one. They had all risen, and
stood ready to soothe and reassure the newcomer. But no startled
gentleman appeared in the wood, only, coming quietly through the
dappled sun and shadow under the beech-trees, Mademoiselle and
Gerald, Mademoiselle in a white gown, looking quite nice and like
a picture, Gerald hot and polite.

"Good afternoon," said that dauntless leader of forlorn hopes. "I
persuaded Mademoiselle "

That sentence was never finished, for the bailiff and the French
governess were looking at each other with the eyes of tired
travellers who find, quite without expecting it, the desired end of a
very long journey.

And the children saw that even if they spoke it would not make
any difference.

"You!" said the bailiff.

"Mais . . . c'est donc vous," said Mademoiselle, in a funny choky
voice.

And they stood still and looked at each other, "like stuck pigs" , as
Jimmy said later, for quite a long time.

"Is she your friend?" Jimmy asked.

"Yes oh yes," said the bailiff. "You are my friend, are you not?"

"But yes," Mademoiselle said softly. "I am your friend."

"There! you see," said Jimmy, "the ring does do what I said."

"We won't quarrel about that," said the bailiff. "You can say it's the
ring. For me it's a coincidence the happiest, the dearest ,"

"Then you ?" said the French governess.

"Of course," said the bailiff. "Jimmy, give your brother some tea.
Mademoiselle, come and walk in the woods: there are a thousand
things to say."

"Eat then, my Gerald," said Mademoiselle, now grown young, and
astonishingly like a fairy princess. "I return all at the hour, and we
re-enter together. It is that we must speak each other. It is long
time that we have not seen us, me and Lord Yalding!"

"So he was Lord Yalding all the time," said Jimmy, breaking a
stupefied silence as the white gown and the grey flannels
disappeared among the beech trunks. "Landscape painter sort of
dodge silly, I call it. And fancy her being a friend of his, and his
wishing she was here! Different from us, eh? Good old ring!"

"His friend!" said Mabel with strong scorn; "Don't you see she's his
lover? Don't you see she's the lady that was bricked up in the
convent, because he was so poor, and he couldn't find her. And
now the ring's made them live happy ever after. I am glad! Aren't
you, Cathy?"

"Rather!" said Kathleen; "it's as good as marrying a sailor or a
bandit."

"It's the ring did it," said Jimmy. "If the American takes the house
he'll pay lots of rent, and they can live on that."

"I wonder if they'll be married tomorrow!" said Mabel.

"Wouldn't if be fun if we were bridesmaids," said Cathy.

"May I trouble you for the melon," said Gerald. "Thanks! Why
didn't we know he was Lord Yalding? Apes and moles that we
were!"

"I've known since last night," said Mabel calmly; "only I promised
not to tell. I can keep a secret, can't I?"

"Too jolly well," said Kathleen, a little aggrieved.

"He was disguised as a bailiff," said Jimmy; "that's why we didn't
know."

"Disguised as a fiddle-stick-end," said Gerald. "Ha, ha! I see
something old Sherlock Holmes never saw, nor that idiot Watson,
either. If you want a really impenetrable disguise, you ought to
disguise yourself as what you really are. I'll remember that."

"It's like Mabel, telling things so that you can't believe them," said
Cathy.

"I think Mademoiselle's jolly lucky," said Mabel.

"She's not so bad. He might have done worse," said Gerald.
"Plums, please!"

There was quite plainly magic at work. Mademoiselle next
morning was a changed governess. Her cheeks were pink, her lips
were red, her eyes were larger and brighter, and she had done her
hair in an entirely new way, rather frivolous and very becoming.

"Mamselle's coming out!" Eliza remarked.

Immediately after breakfast Lord Yalding called with a wagonette
that wore a smart blue cloth coat, and was drawn by two horses
whose coats were brown and shining and fitted them even better
than the blue cloth coat fitted the wagonette, and the whole party
drove in state and splendour to Yalding Towers.

Arrived there, the children clamoured for permission

to explore the castle thoroughly, a thing that had never yet been
possible. Lord Yalding, a little absent in manner, but yet quite
cordial, consented. Mabel showed the others all the secret doors
and unlikely passages and stairs that she had discovered. It was a
glorious morning. Lord Yalding and Mademoiselle went through
the house, it is true, but in a rather half-hearted way. Quite soon
they were tired, and went out through the French windows of the
drawing-room and through the rose garden, to sit on the curved
stone seat in the middle of the maze, where once, at the beginning
of things, Gerald, Kathleen, and Jimmy had found the sleeping
Princess who wore pink silk and diamonds.

The children felt that their going left to the castle a more spacious
freedom, and explored with more than Arctic enthusiasm. It was as
they emerged from the little rickety secret staircase that led from
the powdering-room of the state suite to the gallery of the hall that
they came suddenly face to face with the odd little man who had a
beard like a goat and had taken the wrong turning yesterday.

"This part of the castle is private," said Mabel, with great presence
of mind, and shut the door behind her.

"I am aware of it," said the goat-faced stranger, "but I have the
permission of the Earl of Yalding to examine the house at my
leisure."

"Oh!" said Mabel. "I beg your pardon. We all do. We didn't know."

"You are relatives of his lordship, I should surmise?" asked the
goat-faced.

"Not exactly," said Gerald. "Friends".

The gentleman was thin and very neatly dressed; he had small,
merry eyes and a face that was brown and dry-looking.

"You are playing some game, I should suppose?"

"No, sir," said Gerald, "only exploring."

"May a stranger propose himself as a member of your Exploring
Expedition?" asked the gentleman, smiling a tight but kind smile.

The children looked at each other.

"You see," said Gerald, "it's rather difficult to explain  but you see
what I mean, don't you?"

"He means," said Jimmy, "that we can't take you into an exploring
party without we know what you want to go for."

"Are you a photographer?" asked Mabel, "or is it some newspaper's
sent you to write about the Towers?"

"I understand your position," said the gentleman. "I am not a
photographer, nor am I engaged by any journal. I am a man of
independent means, travelling in this country with the intention of
renting a residence. My name is Jefferson D. Conway."

"Oh!" said Mabel; "then you're the American millionaire."

"I do not like the description, young lady," said Mr. Jefferson D.
Conway. "I am an American citizen, and I am not without means.
This is a fine property a very fine property. If it were for sale ,"

"It isn't, it can't be," Mabel hastened to explain. "The lawyers have
put it in a tale, so Lord Yalding can't sell it. But you could take it
to live in, and pay Lord Yalding a good millionairish rent, and then
he could marry the French governess "

"Shish!" said Kathleen and Mr. Jefferson D. Conway together, and
he added: "Lead the way, please; and I should suggest that the
exploration be complete and exhaustive."

Thus encouraged, Mabel led the millionaire through all the castle.
He seemed pleased, yet disappointed too.

"It is a fine mansion," he said at last when they had come back to
the point from which they had started; "but I should suppose, in a
house this size, there would mostly be a secret stairway, or a
priests hiding place, or a ghost?"

"There are," said Mabel briefly, "but I thought Americans didn't
believe in anything but machinery and newspapers." She touched
the spring of the panel behind her, and displayed the little tottery
staircase to the American. The sight of it worked a wonderful
transformation in him. He became eager, alert, very keen.

"Say!" he cried, over and over again, standing in the door that led
from the powdering-room to the state bed-chamber. "But this is
great great!"

The hopes of everyone ran high. It seemed almost certain that the
castle would be let for a millionairish rent and Lord Yalding be
made affluent to the point of marriage.

"If there were a ghost located in this ancestral pile, I'd close with
the Earl of Yalding today, now, on the nail," Mr. Jefferson D.
Conway went on.

"If you were to stay till tomorrow, and sleep in this room, I expect
you'd see the ghost," said Mabel.

"There is a ghost located here then?" he said joyously.

"They say," Mabel answered, "that old Sir Rupert, who lost his
head in Henry the Eighth's time, walks of a night here, with his
head under his arm. But we've not seen that. What we have seen is
the lady in a pink dress with diamonds in her hair. She carries a
lighted taper," Mabel hastily added. The others, now suddenly
aware of Mabel's plan, hastened to assure the American in accents
of earnest truth that they had all seen the lady with the pink gown.

He looked at them with half-closed eyes that twinkled.

"Well," he said, "I calculate to ask the Earl of Yalding to permit
me to pass a night in his ancestral best bed- chamber. And if I hear
so much as a phantom footstep, or hear so much as a ghostly sigh,
I'll take the place."

"I am glad!" said Cathy.

"You appear to be very certain of your ghost," said the American,
still fixing them with little eyes that shone. "Let me tell you, young
gentlemen, that I carry a gun, and when I see a ghost, I shoot."

He pulled a pistol out of his hip-pocket, and looked at it lovingly.

"And I am a fair average shot," he went on, walking across the
shiny floor of the state bed-chamber to the open window. "See that
big red rose, like a tea-saucer?"

They saw.

The next moment a loud report broke the stillness, and the red
petals of the shattered rose strewed balustrade and terrace.

The American looked from one child to another. Every face was
perfectly white.

"Jefferson D. Conway made his little pile by strict attention to
business, and keeping his eyes skinned," he added. "Thank you for
all your kindness."

"Suppose you'd done it, and he'd shot you!" said Jimmy cheerfully.
"That would have been an adventure, wouldn't it?"

"I'm going to do it still," said Mabel, pale and defiant. "Let's find
Lord Yalding and get the ring back."

Lord Yalding had had an interview with Mabel's aunt, and lunch
for six was laid in the great dark hall, among the armour and the
oak furniture a beautiful lunch served on silver dishes.
Mademoiselle, becoming every moment younger and more like a
Princess, was moved to tears when Gerald rose, lemonade-glass in
hand, and proposed the health of "Lord and Lady Yalding".

When Lord Yalding had returned thanks in a speech full of
agreeable jokes the moment seemed to Gerald propitious, and he
said:

"The ring, you know you don't believe in it, but we do. May we
have it back?"

And got it.

Then, after a hasty council, held in the panelled jewel-room,
Mabel said: "This is a wishing-ring, and I wish all the American's
weapons of all sorts were here."

Instantly the room was full six feet up the wall of a tangle and
mass of weapons, swords, spears, arrows, tomahawks, fowling
pieces, blunderbusses, pistols, revolvers, scimitars, kreeses every
kind of weapon you can think of and the four children wedged in
among all these weapons of death hardly dared to breathe.

"He collects arms, I expect," said Gerald, "and the arrows are
poisoned, I shouldn't wonder. Wish them back where they came
from, Mabel, for goodness sake, and try again."

Mabel wished the weapons away, and at once the four children
stood safe in a bare panelled room. But

"No,", Mabel said, "I can't stand it. We'll work the ghost another
way. I wish the American may think he sees a ghost when he goes
to bed. Sir Rupert with his head under his arm will do."

"Is it tonight he sleeps there?"

"I don't know. I wish he may see Sir Rupert every night that'll
make it all serene."

"It's rather dull," said Gerald; "we shan't know whether he's seen
Sir Rupert or not."

"We shall know in the morning, when he takes the house."

This being settled, Mabel's aunt was found to be desirous of
Mabel's company, so the others went home.

It was when they were at supper that Lord Yalding suddenly
appeared, and said: "Mr. Jefferson Conway wants you boys to
spend the night with him in the state chamber. I've had beds put
up. You don't mind, do you? He seems to think you've got some
idea of playing ghost-tricks on him."

It was difficult to refuse, so difficult that it proved impossible.

Ten o clock found the boys each in a narrow white bed that looked
quite absurdly small in that high, dark chamber, and in face of that
tall gaunt four-poster hung with tapestry and ornamented with
funereal-looking plumes.

"I hope to goodness there isn't a real ghost," Jimmy whispered.

"Not likely," Gerald whispered back.

"But I don't want to see Sir Rupert's ghost with its head under its
arm," Jimmy insisted.

"You won't. The most you'll see'll be the millionaire seeing it.
Mabel said he was to see it, not us. Very likely you'll sleep all
night and not see anything. Shut your eyes and count up to a
million and don't be a goat!"

As soon as Mabel had learned from her drab-haired aunt that this
was indeed the night when Mr. Jefferson D. Conway would sleep
at the castle she had hastened to add a wish, "that Sir Rupert and
his head may appear tonight in the state bedroom."

Jimmy shut his eyes and began to count a million. Before he had
counted it he fell asleep. So did his brother.

They were awakened by the loud echoing bang of a pistol shot.
Each thought of the shot that had been fired that morning, and
opened eyes that expected to see a sunshiny terrace and red-rose
petals strewn upon warm white stone.

Instead, there was the dark, lofty state chamber, lighted but little
by six tall candles; there was the American in shirt and trousers, a
smoking pistol in his hand; and there, advancing from the door of
the powdering-room, a figure in doublet and hose, a ruff round its
neck and no head! The head, sure enough, was there; but it was
under the right arm, held close in the slashed-velvet sleeve of the
doublet. The face looking from under the arm wore a pleasant
smile. Both boys, I am sorry to say, screamed. The American fired
again. The bullet passed through Sir Rupert, who advanced
without appearing to notice it.

Then, suddenly, the lights went out. The next thing the boys knew
it was morning. A grey daylight shone blankly through the tall
windows and wild rain was beating upon the glass, and the
American was gone.

"Where are we?" said Jimmy, sitting up with tangled hair and
looking round him. "Oh, I remember. Ugh! it was horrid. I'm about
fed up with that ring, so 1 don't mind telling you."

"Nonsense!" said Gerald. "I enjoyed it. I wasn't a bit frightened,
were you?"

"No," said Jimmy, "of course I wasn't.

"We've done the trick," said Gerald later when they learned that
the American had breakfasted early with Lord Yalding and taken
the first train to London; "he's gone to get rid of his other house,
and take this one. The old ring's beginning to do really useful
things."

"Perhaps you'll believe in the ring now," said Jimmy to Lord
Yalding, whom he met later on in the picture-gallery; "it's all our
doing that Mr. Jefferson saw the ghost. He told us he'd take the
house if he saw a ghost, so of course we took care he did see one."

"Oh, you did, did you?" said Lord Yalding in rather an odd voice.
"I'm very much obliged, I'm sure."

"Don't mention it," said Jimmy kindly. "I thought you'd be pleased
and him too."

"Perhaps you'll be interested to learn," said Lord Yalding, putting
his hands in his pockets and staring down at Jimmy, "that Mr.
Jefferson D. Conway was so pleased with your ghost that he got
me out of bed at six o clock this morning to talk about it."

"Oh, ripping!" said Jimmy. "What did he say?"

"He said, as far as I can remember," said Lord Yalding, still in the
same strange voice "he said: "My lord, your ancestral pile is Al. It
is, in fact, The Limit. Its luxury is palatial, its grounds are nothing
short of Edenesque. No expense has been spared, I should surmise.
Your ancestors were whole-hoggers. They have done the thing as it
should be done every detail attended to. I like your tapestry, and I
like your oak, and I like your secret stairs. But I think your
ancestors should have left well enough alone, and stopped at that."
So I said they had, as far as I knew, and he shook his head and
said:

"No, Sir. Your ancestors take the air of a night with their heads
under their arms. A ghost that sighed or glided or rustled I could
have stood, and thanked you for it, and considered it in the rent.
But a ghost that bullets go through while it stands grinning with a
bare neck and its head loose under its own arm and little boys
screaming and fainting in their beds no! What I say is, If this is a
British hereditary high-toned family ghost, excuse me!" And he
went off by the early train.

"I say," the stricken Jimmy remarked, "I am sorry, and I don't think
we did faint, really I don't but we thought it would be just what you
wanted. And perhaps someone else will take the house."

"I don't know anyone else rich enough," said Lord Yalding. "Mr.
Conway came the day before he said he would, or you'd never have
got hold of him. And I don't know how you did it, and I don't want
to know. It was a rather silly trick."

There was a gloomy pause. The rain beat against the long
windows.

"I say" Jimmy looked up at Lord Yalding with the light of a new
idea in his round face "I say, if you're hard up, why don't you sell
your jewels?"

"I haven't any jewels, you meddlesome young duffer," said Lord
Yalding quite crossly; and taking his hands out of his pockets, he
began to walk away.

"I mean the ones in the panelled room with the stars in the
ceiling," Jimmy insisted, following him.

"There aren't any," said Lord Yalding shortly; "and if this is some
more ring-nonsense I advise you to be careful, young man. I've had
about as much as I care for."

"It's not ring-nonsense, said Jimmy: "there are shelves and shelves
of beautiful family jewels. You can sell them and ,"

"Oh, no!" cried Mademoiselle, appearing like an oleograph of a
duchess in the door of the picture-gallery; "don't sell the family
jewels "

"There aren't any, my lady," said Lord Yalding, going towards her.
"I thought you were never coming."

"Oh, aren't there!" said Mabel, who had followed Mademoiselle.
"You just come and see,"

"Let us see what they will to show us," cried Mademoiselle, for
Lord Yalding did not move; "it should at least be amusing."

"It is," said Jimmy.

So they went, Mabel and Jimmy leading, while Mademoiselle and
Lord Yalding followed, hand in hand.

"It's much safer to walk hand in hand," said Lord Yalding; "with
these children at large one never knows what may happen next."

It would be interesting, no doubt, to describe the feelings of Lord
Yalding as he followed Mabel and Jimmy through his ancestral
halls, but I have no means of knowing at all what he felt. Yet one
must suppose that he felt something: bewilderment, perhaps,
mixed with a faint wonder, and a desire to pinch himself to see if
he were dreaming. Or he may have pondered the rival questions,
"Am I mad? Are they mad?" without being at all able to decide
which he ought to try to answer, let alone deciding what, in either
case, the answer ought to be. You see, the children did seem to
believe in the odd stories they told and the wish had come true,
and the ghost had appeared. He must have thought but all this is
vain; I don't really know what he thought any more than you do.

Nor can I give you any clew to the thoughts and feelings of
Mademoiselle. I only know that she was very happy, but anyone
would have known that if they had seen her face. Perhaps this is as
good a moment as any to explain that when her guardian had put
her in a convent so that she should not sacrifice her fortune by
marrying a poor lord, her guardian had secured that fortune (to
himself) by going off with it to South America. Then, having no
money left, Mademoiselle

had to work for it. So she went out as governess, and took the
situation she did take because it was near Lord Yalding's home.
She wanted to see him, even though she thought he had forsaken
her and did not love her any more. And now she had seen him. I
dare say she thought about some of these things as she went along
through his house, her hand held in his. But of course I can't be
sure.

Jimmy's thoughts, of course, I can read like any old book. He
thought, "Now he'll have to believe me." That Lord Yalding should
believe him had become, quite unreasonably, the most important
thing in the world to Jimmy. He wished that Gerald and Kathleen
were there to share his triumph, but they were helping Mabel's
aunt to cover the grand furniture up, and so were out of what
followed. Not that they missed much, for when Mabel proudly
said, "Now you'll see, and the others came close round her in the
little panelled room, there was a pause, and then nothing happened
at all!

"There's a secret spring here somewhere," said Mabel, fumbling
with fingers that had suddenly grown hot and damp.

"Where?" said Lord Yalding.

"Here," said Mabel impatiently, "only I can't find it."

And she couldn't. She found the spring of the secret panel under
the window all right, but that seemed to everyone dull compared
with the jewels that everyone had pictured and two at least had
seen. But the spring that made the oak panelling slide away and
displayed jewels plainly to any eye worth a king's ransom this
could not be found. More, it was simply not there. There could be
no doubt of that. Every inch of the panelling was felt by careful
fingers. The earnest protests of Mabel and Jimmy died away
presently in a silence made painful by the hotness of one's ears, the
discomfort of not liking to meet anyone's eyes, and the resentful
feeling that the spring was not behaving in at all a sportsmanlike
way, and that, in a word, this was not cricket.

"You see!" said Lord Yalding severely. "Now you've had your joke,
if you call it a joke, and I've had enough of the whole silly
business. Give me the ring it's mine, I suppose, since you say you
found it somewhere here and don't let's hear another word about all
this rubbish of magic and enchantment."

"Gerald's got the ring," said Mabel miserably.

"Then go and fetch him," said Lord Yalding "both of you."

The melancholy pair retired, and Lord Yalding spent the time of
their absence in explaining to Mademoiselle how very unimportant
jewels were compared with other things.

The four children came back together.

"We've had enough of this ring business," said Lord Yalding. "Give
it to me and we'll say no more about it."

"I I can't get it off," said Gerald. "It it always did have a will of its
own."

"I'll soon get it off," said Lord Yalding. But he didn't. "We'll try
soap," he said firmly. Four out of his five hearers knew just exactly
how much use soap would be.

"They won't believe about the jewels," wailed Mabel, suddenly
dissolved in tears, "and I can't find the spring. I've felt all over we
all have it was just here, and "

Her fingers felt it as she spoke; and as she ceased to speak the
carved panels slid away, and the blue velvet shelves laden with
jewels were disclosed to the unbelieving eyes of Lord Yalding and
the lady who was to be his wife.

"Jove!" said Lord Yalding.

"Misericorde!" said the lady.

"But why now?" gasped Mabel. "Why not before?"

"I expect it's magic," said Gerald. "There's no real spring here, and
it couldn't act because the ring wasn't here. You know Phoebus
told us the ring was the heart of all the magic."

"Shut it up and take the ring away and see.

They did, and Gerald was (as usual, he himself pointed out) proved
to be right. When the ring was away there was no spring; when the
ring was in the room there (as Mabel urged) was the spring all
right enough.

"So you see," said Mabel to Lord Yalding.

"I see that the spring's very artfully concealed," said that dense
peer. "I think it was very clever indeed of you to find it. And if
those jewels are real ,"

"Of course they're real," said Mabel indignantly.

"Well, anyway," said Lord Yalding, "thank you all very much. I
think it's clearing up. I'll send the wagonette home with you after
lunch. And if you don't mind, I'll have the ring."

Half an hour of soap and water produced no effect whatever,
except to make the finger of Gerald very red and very sore. Then
Lord Yalding said something very impatient indeed, and then
Gerald suddenly became angry and said: "Well, I'm sure I wish it
would come off," and of course instantly, "slick as butter" , as he
later pointed out, off it came.

"Thank you," said Lord Yalding.

"And I believe now he thinks I kept it on on purpose," said Gerald
afterwards when, at ease on the leads at home, they talked the
whole thing out over a tin of preserved pineapple and a bottle of
ginger-beer apiece. "There's no pleasing some people. He wasn't in
such a fiery hurry to order that wagonette after he found that
Mademoiselle meant to go when we did. But I liked him better
when he was a humble bailiff. Take him for all in all, he does not
look as if we should like him again.

"He doesn't know what's the matter with him," said Kathleen,
leaning back against the tiled roof) "it's really the magic it's like
sickening with measles."

Don't you remember how cross Mabel was at first about the
invisibleness?"

"Rather!" said Jimmy.

"It's partly that," said Gerald, trying to be fair, "and partly it's the
being in love. It always makes people like idiots a chap at school
told me. His sister was like that . quite rotten, you know. And she
used to be quite a decent sort before she was engaged."

At tea and at supper Mademoiselle was radiant as attractive as a
lady on a Christmas card, as merry as a marmoset, and as kind as
you would always be yourself if you could take the trouble. At
breakfast, an equal radiance, kindness, attraction, merriment. Then
Lord Yalding came to see her. The meeting took place in the
drawing-room; the children with deep discreetness remained shut
in the school-room till Gerald, going up to his room for a pencil,
surprised Eliza with her ear glued to the drawing-room key-hole.

After that Gerald sat on the top stair with a book.

He could not hear any of the conversation in the drawing-room,
but he could command a view of the door, and in this way be
certain that no one else heard any of it. Thus it was that when the
drawing-room door opened Gerald was in a position to see Lord
Yalding come out. "Our young hero, as he said later, "coughed
with infinite tact to show that he was there," but Lord Yalding did
not seem to notice. He walked in a blind sort of way to the
hat-stand, fumbled clumsily with the umbrellas and macintoshes,
found his straw hat and looked at it gloomily, crammed it on his
head and went out, banging the door behind him in the most
reckless way.

He left the drawing-room door open, and Gerald, though he had
purposely put himself in a position where one could hear nothing
from the drawing-room when the door was shut, could hear
something quite plainly now that the door was open. That
something, he noticed with deep distress and disgust, was the
sound of sobs and sniffs. Mademoiselle was quite certainly crying.

"Jimminy!" he remarked to himself, "they haven't lost much time.
Fancy their beginning to quarrel already! I hope I'll never have to
be anybody's lover."

But this was no time to brood on the terrors of his own future.
Eliza might at any time occur. She would not for a moment
hesitate to go through that open door, and push herself into the
very secret sacred heart of Mademoiselle's grief. It seemed to
Gerald better that he should be the one to do this. So he went softly
down the worn green Dutch carpet of the stairs and into the
drawing-room, shutting the door softly and securely behind him.

"It is all over," Mademoiselle was saying, her face buried in the
beady arum-lilies on a red ground worked for a cushion cover by a
former pupil: "he will not marry me!"

Do not ask me how Gerald had gained the lady's confidence. He
had, as I think I said almost at the beginning, very pretty ways with
grown-ups, when he chose. Anyway, he was holding her hand,
almost as affectionately as if she had been his mother with a
headache, and saying "Don't!" and "Don't cry!" and "It'll be all
right, you see if it isn't" in the most comforting way you can
imagine, varying the treatment with gentle thumps on the back and
entreaties to her to tell him all about it.

This wasn't mere curiosity, as you might think. The entreaties were
prompted by Gerald's growing certainty that whatever was the
matter was somehow the fault of that ring. And in this Gerald was
("once more, as he told himself) right.

The tale, as told by Mademoiselle, was certainly an unusual one.
Lord Yalding, last night after dinner, had walked in the park "to
think of "

"Yes, I know," said Gerald; "and he had the ring on. And he saw "

"He saw the monuments become alive," sobbed Mademoiselle;
"his brain was troubled by the ridiculous accounts of fairies that
you tell him. He sees Apollon and Aphrodite alive on their marble.
He remembers him of your story. He wish himself a statue. Then
he becomes mad imagines to himself that your story of the island
is true, plunges in the lake, swims among the beasts of the Ark of
Noe, feeds with gods on an island. At dawn the madness become
less. He think the Pantheon vanish. But him, no he thinks himself
statue, hiding from gardeners in his garden till nine less a quarter.
Then he thinks to wish himself no more a statue and perceives that
he is flesh and blood. A bad dream, but he has lost the head with
the tales you tell. He say it is no dream but he is fool mad how you
say? And a mad man must not marry. There is no hope. I am at
despair! And the life is vain!"

"There is," said Gerald earnestly. "I assure you there is hope, I
mean. And life's as right as rain really. And there's nothing to
despair about. He's not mad, and it's not a dream. It's magic. It
really and truly is."

"The magic exists not," Mademoiselle moaned; "it is that he is
mad. It is the joy to re-see me after so many days. Oh,
la-la-la-la-la!"

"Did he talk to the gods?" Gerald asked gently.

"It is there the most mad of all his ideas. He say that Mercure give
him rendezvous at some temple tomorrow when the moon raise
herself."

"Right," cried Gerald, "righto! Dear nice, kind, pretty
Mademoiselle Rapunzel, don't be a silly little duffer" he lost
himself for a moment among the consoling endearments he was
accustomed to offer to Kathleen in moments of grief and emotion,
but hastily added: "I mean, do not be a lady who weeps
causelessly. Tomorrow he will go to that temple. I will go. Thou
shalt go he will go. We will go you will go let 'em all go! And, you
see, it's going to be absolutely all right. He'll see he isn't mad, and
you'll understand all about everything. Take my handkerchief, it's
quite a clean one as it happens; I haven't even unfolded it. Oh! do
stop crying, there's a dear, darling, long-lost lover."

This flood of eloquence was not without effect. She took his
handkerchief, sobbed, half smiled, dabbed at her eyes, and said:
"Oh, naughty! Is it some trick you play him, like the ghost?"

"I can't explain," said Gerald, "but I give you my word of honour
you know what an Englishman's word of honour is, don't you?
even if you are French  that everything is going to be exactly what
you wish. I've never told you a lie. Believe me!"

"It is curious," said she, drying her eyes, "but I do." And once
again, so suddenly that he could not have resisted, she kissed him.
I think, however, that in this her hour of sorrow he would have
thought it mean to resist.

"It pleases her and it doesn't hurt me much," would have been his
thought.

And now it is near moonrise. The French governess, half-doubting,
half-hoping, but wholly longing to be near Lord Yalding even if he
be as mad as a March hare, and the four children they have
collected Mabel by an urgent letter-card posted the day before are
going over the dewy grass. The moon has not yet risen, but her
light is in the sky mixed with the pink and purple of the sunset.
The west is heavy with ink-clouds and rich colour, but the east,
where the moon rises, is clear as a rock-pool.

They go across the lawn and through the beech wood and come at
last, through a tangle of underwood and bramble, to a little level
tableland that rises out of the flat hill-top one tableland out of
another. Here is the ring of vast rugged stones, one pierced with a
curious round hole, worn smooth at its edges. In the middle of the
circle is a great flat stone, alone, desolate, full of meaning a stone
that is covered thick with the memory of old faiths and creeds long
since forgotten. Something dark moves in the circle. The French
girl breaks from the children, goes to it, clings to its arm. It is Lord
Yalding, and he is telling her to go.

"Never of the life!" she cries. "If you are mad I am mad too, for I
believe the tale these children tell. And I am here to be with thee
and see with thee whatever the rising moon shall show us."

The children, holding hands by the flat stone, more moved by the
magic in the girl's voice than by any magic of enchanted rings,
listen, trying not to listen.

"Are you not afraid?" Lord Yalding is saying.

"Afraid? With you?" she laughs. He put his arm round her. The
children hear her sigh.

"Are you afraid," he says, "my darling?"

Gerald goes across the wide turf ring expressly to say: "You can't
be afraid if you are wearing the ring. And I'm sorry, but we can
hear every word you say."

She laughs again. "It makes nothing," she says "you know already
if we love each other."

Then he puts the ring on her finger, and they stand together. The
white of his flannel coat sleeve marks no line on the white of her
dress; they stand as though cut out of one block of marble.

Then a faint greyness touches the top of that round hole, creeps up
the side. Then the hole is a disc of light a moonbeam strikes
straight through it across the grey green of the circle that the stones
mark, and as the moon rises the moonbeam slants downward. The
children have drawn back till they stand close to the lovers. The
moonbeam slants more and more; now it touches the far end of the
stone, now it draws nearer and nearer to the middle of it, now at
last it touches the very heart and centre of that central stone. And
then it is as though a spring were touched, a fountain of light
released. Everything changes or, rather, everything is revealed.
There are no more secrets. The plan of the world seems plain, like
an easy sum that one writes in big figures on a child's slate. One
wonders how one can ever have wondered about anything. Space
is not; every place that one has seen or dreamed of is here. Time is
not; into this instant is crowded all that one has ever done or
dreamed of doing. It is a moment and it is eternity. It is the centre
of the universe and it is the universe itself. The eternal light rests
on and illuminates the eternal heart of things.

None of the six human beings who saw that moon-rising were ever
able to think about it as having anything to do with time. Only for
one instant could that moon-ray have rested full on the centre of
that stone.

And yet there was time for many happenings.

From that height one could see far out over the quiet park and
sleeping gardens, and through the grey green of them shapes
moved, approaching.

The great beasts came first: strange forms that were when the
world was new  gigantic lizards with wings dragons they lived as
in men's memories mammoths, strange vast birds, they crawled up
the hill and ranged themselves outside the circle. Then, not from
the garden but from very far away, came the stone gods of Egypt
and Assyria bull-bodied, bird-winged, hawk-headed, cat-headed,
all in stone, and all alive and alert; strange, grotesque figures from
the towers of cathedrals figures of angels with folded wings,
figures of beasts with wings wide spread; sphinxes; uncouth idols
from Southern palm-fringed islands; and, last of all, the beautiful
marble shapes of the gods and goddesses who had held their
festival on the lake-island, and bidden Lord Yalding and the
children to this meeting.

Not a word was spoken. Each stone shape came gladly and quietly
into the circle of light and understanding, as children, tired with a
long ramble, creep quietly through the open door into the firelit
welcome of home.

The children had thought to ask many questions. And it had been
promised that the questions should be answered. Yet now no one
spoke a word, because all had come into the circle of the real
magic where all things are understood without speech.

Afterwards none of them could ever remember at all what had
happened. But they never forgot that they had been somewhere
where everything was easy and beautiful. And people who can
remember even that much are never quite the same again. And
when they came to talk of it next day they found that to each some
little part of that night's great enlightenment was left.

All the stone creatures drew closer round the stone the light where
the moonbeam struck it seemed to break away in spray such as
water makes when it falls from a height. All the crowd was bathed
in whiteness. A deep hush lay over the vast assembly.

Then a wave of intention swept over the mighty crowd. All the
faces, bird, beast, Greek statue, Babylonian monster, human child
and human lover, turned upward, the radiant light illumined them
and one word broke from all.

"The light!" they cried, and the sound of their voice was like the
sound of a great wave; "the light! the light "

And then the light was not any more, and, soft as floating
thistle-down, sleep was laid on the eyes of all but the immortals.

The grass was chill and dewy and the clouds had veiled the moon.
The lovers and the children were standing together, all clinging
close, not for fear, but for love.

"I want," said the French girl softly, "to go to the cave on the
island."

Very quietly through the gentle brooding night they went down to
the boat-house, loosed the clanking chain, and dipped oars among
the drowned stars and lilies. They came to the island, and found
the steps.

"I brought candles," said Gerald, "in case."

So, lighted by Gerald's candles, they went down into the Hall of
Psyche! and there glowed the light spread from her statue, and all
was as the children had seen it before.

It is the Hall of Granted Wishes.

"The ring," said Lord Yalding.

"The ring," said his lover, "is the magic ring given long ago to a
mortal, and it is what you say it is. It was given to your ancestor by
a lady of my house that he might build her a garden and a house
like her own palace and garden in her own land. So that this place
is built partly by his love and partly by that magic. She never lived
to see it; that was the price of the magic."

It must have been English that she spoke, for otherwise how could
the children have understood her? Yet the words were not like
Mademoiselle's way of speaking.

"Except from children," her voice went on, "the ring exacts a
payment. You paid for me, when I came by your wish, by this
terror of madness that you have since known. Only one wish is
free."

"And that wish is ,"

"The last," she said. "Shall I wish?"

"Yes wish," they said, all of them.

"I wish, then," said Lord Yalding's lover, "that all the magic this
ring has wrought may be undone, and that the ring itself may be no
more and no less than a charm to bind thee and me together for
evermore."

She ceased. And as she ceased the enchanted light died away, the
windows of granted wishes went out, like magic-lantern pictures.
Gerald's candle faintly lighted a rudely arched cave, and where
Psyche's statue had been was a stone with something carved on it.

Gerald held the light low.

"It is her grave," the girl said.

Next day no one could remember anything at all exactly. But a
good many things were changed. There was no ring but the plain
gold ring that Mademoiselle found clasped in her hand when she
woke in her own bed in the morning. More than half the jewels in
the panelled room were gone, and those that remained had no
panelling to cover them; they just lay bare on the velvet-covered
shelves. There was no passage at the back of the Temple of Flora.
Quite a lot of the secret passages and hidden rooms had
disappeared. And there were not nearly so many statues in the
garden as everyone had supposed. And large pieces of the castle
were missing and had to be replaced at great expense.

From which we may conclude that Lord Yalding's ancestor had
used the ring a good deal to help him in his building.

However, the jewels that were left were quite enough to pay for
everything.

The suddenness with which all the ring-magic was undone was
such a shock to everyone concerned that they now almost doubt
that any magic ever happened.

But it is certain that Lord Yalding married the French governess
and that a plain gold ring was used in the ceremony, and this, if
you come to think of it, could be no other than the magic ring,
turned, by that last wish, into a charm to keep him and his wife
together for ever.

Also, if all this story is nonsense and a make-up if Gerald and
Jimmy and Kathleen and Mabel have merely imposed on my
trusting nature by a pack of unlikely inventions, how do you
account for the paragraph which appeared in the evening papers
the day after the magic of the moon-rising?

"MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF A WELL-KNOWN CITY MAN,"

it said, and then went on to say how a gentleman, well known and
much respected in financial circles, had vanished, leaving no trace.

"Mr. U. W. Ugli," the papers continued, "had remained late,
working at his office as was his occasional habit. The office door
was found locked, and on its being broken open the clothes of the
unfortunate gentleman were found in a heap on the floor, together
with an umbrella, a walking stick, a golf club, and, curiously
enough, a feather brush, such as housemaids use for dusting. Of his
body, however, there was no trace. The police are stated to have a
clew."

If they have, they have kept it to themselves. But I do not think
they can have a clew, because, of course, that respected gentleman
was the Ugly-Wugly who became real when, in search of a really
good hotel, he got into the Hall of Granted Wishes. And if none of
this story ever happened, how is it that those four children are such
friends with Lord and Lady Yalding, and stay at The Towers
almost every holidays?

It is all very well for all of them to pretend that the whole of this
story is my own invention: facts are facts, and you can't explain
them away.





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