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Title: It's Your Fairy Tale, You Know
Author: Jackson, Elizabeth Rhodes
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 "It's Your Fairy Tale, You Know" ***

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                    IT’S YOUR FAIRY TALE, YOU KNOW

                       ELIZABETH RHODES JACKSON



                            [Illustration:

                            It’s Your Fairy
                                 Tale
                               You Know

                       Elizabeth Rhodes Jackson

                                Boston
                         B. J. Brimmer Company
                                 1922
                                   ]


                            _Illustrated by
                          L. E. W. KATTELLE_

                            COPYRIGHT, 1922
                       BY B. J. BRIMMER COMPANY
                   First Impression, November, 1922


                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
                          AMBROSE PRESS, INC.
                            Norwood, Mass.


                            TO MY CHILDREN

                        WINIFRED        RALPH
                        FOSTER          KINGSBURY



CONTENTS


   I. The Wishing Stone                                                1

  II. The Pixie Starts It                                              8

 III. The Pixie’s First Task                                          14

  IV. Wendell Finds an Unexpected Ally                                22

   V. A Frog Somewhat Out of the Common                               30

  VI. The Story of the Enchanted Maiden                               38

 VII. Wendell Works the Midnight Spell                                44

VIII. Cousin Virginia has a Caller                                    52

  IX. The Breaking of the Charm                                       58

   X. In the Giant’s House                                            66

  XI. The Cloak of Darkness                                           73

 XII. Blind Man’s Buff with the Giant                                 77

XIII. The Cap of Thought                                              83

 XIV. The Magic Book                                                  89

  XV. A Choice of Charms                                              96

 XVI. The Happy Family                                               102

XVII. Sammy Tries His Hand                                           108



IT’S YOUR FAIRY TALE, YOU KNOW



CHAPTER I

THE WISHING STONE


The children’s room of the Library was very still. Once in a while a
murmur arose at the delivery desk, or some squeaky-shoed small feet
crossed from open shelves to reading table. Occasionally a helpful child
leaned across to another and whispered, “That’s a dandy book. Have you
read the rest of them?” But all of these minor sounds were blended into
the general effect of stillness and seclusion; and they did not even
reach the ears of a small boy named Wendell, who bent over a large
volume on one of the low round tables. He did not hear the footfalls nor
the murmurs; he knew nothing of the rumble of traffic that rose through
the windows; he was not even conscious of gathering dusk, though the
librarian began to snap on lights in dark corners. Wendell read on and
on, giving an excellent imitation of a bookworm.

Absorbed as he was in his book, you probably picture him as a slight,
pale little chap, somewhat underweight for his ten years, with pale
cheeks, a bulging brow, large horn spectacles, completely immersed in a
volume of Emerson’s Essays. Not at all. He had a round, brown face, a
strong, lithe body, excellent arm and leg muscles, and nice brown eyes
that were in unusually good condition because he never overworked them
on school books. He had never opened Emerson’s Essays in his life, and
the large volume that just now held his attention so completely was a
book of fairy tales.

Wendell never read anything but fairy tales, unless it happened to be
“required reading” at the select school for boys that he attended. In
fairy tales he reveled. He read them in bed with the light on at night.
He read them before breakfast and thus made himself late at school. He
hid them behind his geography in study periods. He took them to Sunday
school till his teacher found it out. He read them in the street when he
went on an errand and greatly irritated traffic policemen by trying to
cross the street, reading. Altogether, it was proverbial in Wendell’s
family that he could always be kept out of mischief by a fairy tale. But
oh! what low marks he did get in school!

For he didn’t like to study. He liked baseball and swimming and
roller-skating, but he didn’t like the capitals of the United States,
nor dates, nor fractions. Particularly he didn’t like fractions.

Thoroughly entranced, he read on till another boy reached across in
front of his page to get a book lying on the table. The interruption
roused him. He glanced up, saw that the lights were on and the afternoon
waning, reluctantly rose and returned his volume to the shelves, and
sauntered out with two books of fairy tales under his arm.

He strolled through the upper corridor, with an approving glance at the
great panel of the Muses, who looked to him like fairies on a large
scale; but his goal was the delivery room at the other end, with its
wonderful paintings of Sir Galahad and the Quest of the Holy Grail,
illustrations de luxe of one of Wendell’s favorite folk tales. Long he
lingered over Sir Galahad arriving at the Castle of the Maidens, and
long he gazed on the old spellbound king. He sighed deeply as he left
the room at length. Oh, to have lived in those days!

Through a cross street he hurried along to the Esplanade. Here was fairy
land indeed, had Wendell but had eyes to see it! The sunset glow had not
yet faded from behind the classic buildings on the river front, and twin
necklaces of lights were strung between city and city. But it all seemed
to the boy depressingly modern and unromantic. No suggestion to him of
fairies or giants or witches or wishes. He walked along, still under the
spell of his Library reading, regretting that there was not enough light
to read as he walked, hurrying home to open his fairy books.

From the Embankment, he turned into an old-fashioned street on
the slope of Beacon Hill, and began to climb the heights. His
great-great-grandfather had lived on that street, in Wendell’s present
home, in the early days when fashion first built up the Hill. His great
grandfather and his grandfather and his father, in turn, had lived there
through many changes, as fickle fashion turned to newer avenues. As
Wendell paused in front of his house,--a stern, square front, with a
door whose solidity and heavy brass knocker and sentinel sidelights gave
the impression that it had been put there to keep people out instead of
to let them in,--he was hailed by a friend across the street.

Sammy Davis’ father had a name that ended in _idsky_ when he lived in
Russia; but after he came to America and moved into one floor of the
decadent mansion next to Wendell’s, the family had decided to give an
American twist to the name. So Davis it had become.

Sammy Davis crossed to Wendell.

“Where yer been?”

“Library.”

“Get a book?”

“Yep.”

“Lessee it.”

Sammy reached for the two books, grabbed them. Wendell grabbed in turn.
Perfectly willing he was, of course, to show Sammy the books, but who
doesn’t resent having things grabbed? Sammy ran across the street;
Wendell followed, chased, ducked when Sammy dodged. There was an upright
stone post at the inner edge of the sidewalk, barring vehicles from
entering a narrow blind court that opened opposite Wendell’s house.
Sammy dodged behind this, then out again, ran around in a circle and
back to the post to dodge once more, then ran out again, then back to
the post. The chase was prolonged and I suppose that they encircled that
post a dozen times.

When Wendell at length secured both books, he vaulted up and sat on top
of the post, which was roughly hewn and small on top and not so very
comfortable. Still, you _could_ stick on.

“I’ll tell you, Sammy,” he said. “You come over to-night, and we’ll each
read one--oh Jehoshaphat!” He had suddenly remembered his home work,--a
double allowance of fractions because he had failed to-day.

“Make it to-morrow night, Sammy,” he said. “I’ve got home work
to-night.”

A window on the fourth floor above was raised, a frowsy head stuck out.
“Sammee!” called a strident voice. “Come in and eat.”

“So long. Sorry to leave you,” said Sammy, and departed upward, while
Wendell sat and mused on the post. Once more he drifted away into
memories of fairy tales. At length he shook himself with a heartfelt
though silent, “Gee whiz! I wish I were living in a fairy story right
now, here in Boston,” and slid down and went in to dinner.

Wendell’s family consisted of his father and mother and two older
brothers, Alden and Otis. Just now there was also a visiting relative,
Cousin Virginia, a sprightly young lady from New York, who tolerated
Boston because it was only five hours from her delightful home town. She
seemed to live in a constant state of amusement at things that
Wendell’s people didn’t consider funny at all. Her greeting this time to
Wendell was,

“Well, Ralph Waldo Theocritus Shakespeare, how’s the Public Library
to-day?”

Wendell didn’t see anything funny in that. He grunted.

“Did you happen to see that interesting new volume of correspondence
between Socrates and Lady Jane Grey?”

Wendell didn’t even know that this was intended to be funny.

“I was reading fairy stories,” he said.

“Shocking!” said Cousin Virginia. “A descendant of the Puritans!”

“As to that,” broke in Wendell’s brother Alden, who was a Junior at
Harvard, specializing in Original Sources, “the Puritans had some
imagination. Look at witchcraft. Look at the Wishing Stone.”

“What wishing stone?” asked Cousin Virginia. “I’ve seen the kind they
set in a ring on a girl’s third finger. Do you mean that kind?”

This bit of levity fell flat.

“The Wishing Stone,[A]” said Alden, “was a projecting boulder in the
Common, somewhere near the present junction of the Beacon Street mall
and the Oliver Wendell Holmes walk. There was a tradition that if one
walked or ran nine times around the stone and then stood or sat on it
and silently made a wish, the wish would come true.”

[A] Winsor’s _Memorial History of Boston_, vol. I., p. 554.

“And here you’ve shown me all the sights of Boston and left that out!”
cried Cousin Virginia. “Why, it’s much more interesting than Bunker
Hill Monument. Let us hie us thither by moonlight as soon as we finish
dinner. Careful, Wendell; if your eyes _should_ pop right out, you
couldn’t put them back.”

“The stone,” said Alden, “is no longer there.”

“Oh, where is it, Alden?” cried Wendell.

“According to the early diarists,” returned Alden, “most of those
boulders on the Common were used for building stone from time to time. I
doubt whether its history could possibly be traced.”

“Well, why couldn’t they hang on to it when they had it?” said Wendell
in deep disappointment. Then he went up to his room to do his home
work,--that sad double lot of fractions.



CHAPTER II

THE PIXIE STARTS IT


Of course, Wendell’s intentions were excellent. He fully meant to devote
himself to that home work, to forget the fairy stories that still hung
like a mist about his brain and tackle those fractions like a man. But
we all know how it is,--just as soon as we have looked at this one funny
page of the newspaper, or read this one verse, or found out what the
next chapter is about, we will certainly settle right down to business.
There was the arithmetic. There were the two fairy books from the
Library. Unless you are a seraph with wings and always do your duty, you
will not be surprised to hear that Wendell treated himself to just one
peek at the fairy stories before doing his home work, and that he never
thought of those fractions till he heard his mother’s step on the
stairs, when he shoved the fairy book into his desk drawer and opened
his arithmetic at random.

“Bedtime, my son. Have you finished your lessons?” asked his mother.

“No! Bothersome lot! Can’t make anything of this example--have to give
me another half-hour,” muttered Wendell, not really wishing to deceive
his dear mother, but a little bit ashamed to tell her how he had
neglected his duty.

“I’m sorry, dear, but you’ll have to do it in the morning. You mustn’t
lose sleep. And your brain will be clearer then. I’ll tell Jane to call
you half an hour early.”

“Many are called, but few get up,” as the proverb hath it. Wendell, next
morning, was not one of the few. Jane’s call fell on sleepy ears. He
turned over for one more snooze, woke an hour later to find himself ‘way
behind time, hustled through his dressing and his breakfast, and was off
to school with lessons unprepared,--a sad thing that happened only too
often in his easy-going life.

He managed to slide through most of his recitations, badly but not
disgracefully, until he came to the arithmetic class. I might tell you
in detail of his tragic floundering through problems that he was
supposed to have prepared, of his guilty acknowledgment that he had not
made up the delinquencies of yesterday and the day before, and of the
stern wrath that was visited upon him by the arithmetic teacher, a
strict and disciplinary spinster, whose patience he had often tried in
the past. But this is not a school story. I have to record only such a
part of his troublous career as led directly to the wonderful adventure
of the Wishing Stone. So, briefly, he was “kept in,” with three days’
problems to finish before he could go home.

His teacher, who bore the singularly happy name of Miss Ounce, left him
alone in the deserted school-room. She had a lesson to give in another
part of the building. Wendell pulled his book in front of him, flipped
the pages open to the proper place, ran his fingers through his hair,
and remained in that attitude, which may have denoted either deep
concentration or utter dejection. He read the first problem through
twice, and it had no more meaning for him than Dante’s Inferno in the
original tongue.

“Jee-rusalem!” he said aloud after a long pause.

“Can I be of any assistance?” asked a friendly voice. It came from a
little being perched on the desk in front of him, who certainly had not
been there a moment before. He was about the size of a two-year-old
child, but he had the face of an old man, a genial old man with
twinkling eyes. His body was very round and quite filled his suit of
blue knitted jersey, and his arms and legs were long and spindling.

“For goodness’ sake, who are you?” gasped Wendell.

“I’m a Pixie,” said the being.

“You are?” said Wendell. “I didn’t know there were any--out of fairy
stories.”

“But I’m _in_ a fairy story,” explained the Pixie politely. “I’m in the
same fairy story you’re in.”

“Am I in one?” said the startled Wendell.

“Since last night,” declared the Pixie. “You wished to be, you know, on
the Wishing Stone, after you had run around it nine times. It’s a sure
charm.”

“The Wishing Stone! Is that the old Wishing Stone--the alley post?”

“Somewhat fallen into disuse,” assented the Pixie, “but never-the-less
the Wishing Stone.”

“Well, I never!” said Wendell.

It was so stupendous, such an unbelievable piece of good fortune, that
at first he did not grasp its possibilities. Then his eye fell on the
open book lying on his desk.

“Say!” he exclaimed. “If that’s all true, if I’m really living in a
fairy story, there ought to be some way of settling junk like this in
short order.” He gave a vindictive thump to the arithmetic.

“That’s what I came for,” said the Pixie. “I thought I saw a business
opening here.”

“You mean--” faltered Wendell.

“Why, I’ll do your problems for you. That’s easy. And you do three tasks
for me.”

“Three?”

“Yes, it’s always three,” said the Pixie.

“Say, I think I ought to get more than just these problems for three. I
think you ought to do my home work till the end of the term.”

“Just as soon,” said the Pixie. “No trouble to me. Is it a bargain?”

“But what will you want me to do?” said Wendell.

“I don’t know what I want you to do,” returned the Pixie. “How should I
know? Take a chance. Be a sport.”

“All right,” said Wendell. “I will. Here are the problems.”

“Look in your desk,” said the Pixie immediately.

Wendell opened it. There lay three sheets of large pad paper, covered
with problems completely solved. Wendell’s name and the date were
written at the top in his own handwriting. The work was done neatly
enough to pass, but not so excessively neatly as to arouse suspicion.

“Well, you are some little fiend at arithmetic,” pronounced Wendell with
great relief.

“Glad you are satisfied,” said the Pixie. “Of course you understand that
if you can’t perform my tasks, you belong to me.”

“Well, I might as well belong to you as to Miss Ounce,” ruminated
Wendell. “Come on with your first task. I suppose it will be water in a
sieve from the Charles River or something like that. They always are.”

“I should say not,” said the Pixie with scorn in his voice. “That might
be all very well for the old Kobold that lives under Flag Staff Hill.
It’s just his style, in fact. He’s using the same stuff he did when
Merlin was practicing. No, I like to advance with the best thought of
the time. I’m no back number. Trust me, _I_’ll find something up to
date.”

“Well, speed up,” said Wendell. “What do you want me to do?”

“How should I know?” said the Pixie. “Give me time. I’ll drop around
to-night and let you know.”

Just as he was speaking, the door opened, and in came Miss Ounce, and
maybe Wendell didn’t jump! He started so conspicuously that Miss Ounce
fixed him with an accusing eye and said,

“Well, Wendell, up to mischief, I suppose, instead of doing your work.”

“No, Miss Ounce,” said Wendell, noting with relief that the Pixie was
nowhere in sight, and promptly handed over his papers.

“Um, um!” murmured Miss Ounce. “Very good! Might be neater. Every one
right, though. Now, Wendell, why is it that when you can do such
excellent work as this, you have such a shocking daily record? Yes,
_shocking_ is the word.”

Wendell knew the answer to that, but he didn’t give it. He took his
lecture silently, standing first on one foot and then on the other, but
his mind was on the magic task that the Pixie was to set him, and as
soon as he could he slid out of the room.



CHAPTER III

THE PIXIE’S FIRST TASK


The Pixie came that evening, true to his word. Wendell, undisturbed by
fractions, luxuriously idling over his fairy books, looked up suddenly
and there sat the funny little fellow on the foot of the bed.

“How are you?” said the Pixie. “I didn’t have time to say good-bye
to-day. Your Miss Ounce turned the door-handle too quickly.”

“That’s all right,” said Wendell. “Are you ready to spring my first task
yet?”

“Yes, _sir_,” said the Pixie gleefully. “And you can’t say it isn’t up
to the minute. You must bring me an aeroplane that you have found
traveling underground.”

“Why, there’s no such thing,” said Wendell vexedly. “An aeroplane
traveling underground! How silly! An aeroplane doesn’t travel
underground. How can it?”

“Don’t ask me,” shrugged the Pixie. “How should I know? You can’t
expect me to make up the tasks and think up the answers too. Be
reasonable.” And he vanished.

Wendell was greatly cast down.

“It’s a fool task,” he said as he went to bed. “In fact, it’s
impossible.”

He woke with a sense of calamity hanging over him. Really, it was almost
as bad as having fractions on his mind. He was so serious at breakfast
that Cousin Virginia asked him if he was practicing to be a Puritan
Ancestor at a fancy-dress ball. This levity seemed to Wendell ill-timed.

The brooding anxiety lingered with him all through school time. What if
he couldn’t do the task? What would it be like to belong to a Pixie? He
didn’t like the prospect.

He came out of his school on Beacon Street, still with the cloud
lowering over him. He felt desperate. He thought of going over to the
train yards of South Station and stealing a ride in an empty cattle-car
bound for the prairies of the West. He meditated stowing away on a ship
bound for Timbuctoo or Guam or somewhere. Just then a tempting truck
passed him “south”-bound on Beacon Street. It was low and it was going
slowly, and altogether it offered just the right opportunity to “hook” a
ride. Wendell seized the opportunity and the truck together; and dodged
down inside unseen by the driver.

In Allston, Wendell dropped out again. His mind was somewhat relieved by
this pleasant adventure, and he didn’t wish to get too far from home. He
hailed an electric for Park Street.

Now, you may not believe it, but the first thing he saw when he got on
the car was an aeroplane--a toy aeroplane about four feet long, carried
in the arms of a freckle-faced boy.

Wendell sat down by the boy.

“Does it go?” he said.

“Sure it does,” said the freckle-faced boy.

“How?” said Wendell.

“You wind it up,” said the boy.

It was apparently a perfect model of a large aeroplane, a fascinating
toy. The freckle-faced boy let him hold it, let him examine it closely.
It was a joy to see such a perfect mechanical model on that small scale;
but suddenly it brought a leaden lump to Wendell’s heart. It reminded
him of his impossible task.

“Where you taking it?” asked Wendell.

“Home. I live in Medford.”

“Change at Park Street?” said Wendell.

“Scollay Square,” said the boy. They were now opposite the Public
Garden.

“I’ll bet it can travel,” said Wendell.

“You’ve said it,” replied the boy. “But,” he added, grinning, as the
electric sloped down into the Subway, “this is the first time it ever
traveled underground.”

Wendell nearly bounced from his seat. “Say!” he almost yelled. “What’ll
you take for that aeroplane?”

“Don’t want to sell it,” said the boy. “I just got it.”

“But if you should sell it,” persisted Wendell.

“But I ain’t a-goin’ to sell it,” said the freckle-faced boy.

“But if you ever _should_ want to sell it,” reiterated Wendell. “Say,
there’s something, you know, you’d rather have.”

“Well, I don’t know. What, f’r instance?”

“I’ll give you anything you like for it,” offered Wendell, who was
rapidly formulating a plan in his mind. “Wouldn’t you like a gun, now?”

“I’ve got a gun,” said the boy.

“Don’t you want a dog?” pleaded Wendell.

“Is it a trick dog?” asked the boy.

“Do you want a trick dog?” questioned Wendell.

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, it is a trick dog,” said Wendell. “Just you get out here,” for
meantime they were nearing Park Street, “and I’ll show him to you. I
live right near here.”

“What tricks can he do?” asked the boy.

“You wait and ask him,” said Wendell.

Once out of the Subway, Wendell left the boy on a bench on the Common,
and sprinted across the green expanse, in spite of the official sign,

     KEEP OFF THE GRASS
    IF YOU WANT TO ROAM
      JOIN THE NAVY

He shot around the corner of his street, circled the Wishing Stone
rapidly nine times, climbed on top of it and said to himself,

“I wish for a trick dog that will do any trick you tell him to.”

“Woof! Woof!” said an ingratiating voice near him, and there was the
dog. He was of no special breed, just a lost-dog breed of mongrel, but
he had the look in his eye that means a dog will do anything in the
world for you if he loves you.

“Sit up and beg, old fellow,” commanded Wendell, and the dog sat up with
an excited little bark.

“Heel,” ordered Wendell, who had no time to lose, and the two chased
excitedly through the streets to the Common, and there, to Wendell’s
relief, waited the impatient boy with his aeroplane.

“Here he is,” said Wendell. “Here’s your trick dog.”

The freckle-faced boy looked him over critically.

“He ain’t much to look at,” he said.

“Well,” said Wendell, “you didn’t say you wanted him to take a prize in
a beauty contest. You asked for a trick dog.”

“What can he do?” asked the boy.

“You just try him,” said Wendell.

“Dead dog!” said the freckle-faced boy.

The dog dropped flat and rolled over motionless. He didn’t even blink an
eye.

“Live dog!” said the boy, and up he jumped and frisked and wagged and
was very much alive.

“Is that all he can do?” asked the boy.

“No, he can do any trick,” said Wendell. “I don’t know ’em all myself.
He knew ’em when I got him.”

“Where’d you get him?” asked the boy suspiciously.

“Given to me,” said Wendell. “Let’s have the aeroplane.”

The boy hesitated. Perhaps he was afraid that the dog had been stolen or
found by Wendell, and might soon be claimed by the police. But the dog
himself settled the question. He jumped up on the freckle-faced boy and
“woof”-ed engagingly; and when the freckle-faced boy stooped to pat him,
he licked the boy’s freckles so warmly and wetly and scratchily and
lovingly that the boy hastily handed the aeroplane to Wendell and
gathered the dog right up in his arms; and the bargain was complete.

Wendell had a few pangs himself. The dog had found a warm place in his
heart too. But he consoled himself with the reminder that he could wish
for another just like him any time. And he had the aeroplane.

He took it over to the parade ground on the other side of the Common,
and tried it out. It flew beautifully. On its own merits, apart from
Wendell’s need to satisfy the Pixie’s demand, it was a very desirable
possession.

It struck Wendell as strange that, whatever adventures the Wishing Stone
had thus far brought him, seemed to increase the number of things he had
to wish for. He had never yearned for an aeroplane before, but now it
seemed to him that he couldn’t bear to part with this one to the Pixie.
Of course, he had often thought he would like a dog; but now that the
Wishing Stone had brought to life this wagging, barking, loving morsel
of a pup, Wendell was almost unhappy without him. He wondered if it
would be that way all the time,--if every granted wish would produce
more ungranted ones. If that were so, it would really be happier not to
begin the endless chain, not to have the first wish granted. That was
the way it turned out in a good many of the fairy stories,--the black
pudding, for instance, on the end of the old woman’s nose.

A great truth was almost within Wendell’s grasp for the moment,--that it
is not the attainment of a wish, but the effort to attain it that brings
us happiness: that right activity, not idle possession, is man’s
happiest endowment. Wendell had his finger on this key to happiness, but
as he was only a small boy flying a toy aeroplane, and not a great
philosopher, he did not grasp the key, but let his thoughts wander to
the Pixie, who would probably be all ready with another task after
dinner.

When the Pixie suddenly appeared that evening (sitting this time on top
of the chiffonier, with his thin long legs drooping over the drawers),
Wendell said triumphantly,

“Well, I got the aeroplane.” He stroked it lovingly where it stood
balanced on his desk.

“Why, yes, it’s an aeroplane, all right,” granted the Pixie; “but it
isn’t traveling underground.”

“But it was when I found it,” protested Wendell. “A boy had it in the
Subway.”

The Pixie looked crestfallen.

“I never thought of that,” he admitted. “You win.”

“Tell me all about it,” he added with some curiosity.

Wendell told him the whole thing, but the Pixie looked grave when he
mentioned the Wishing Stone.

“You’re not using them up too fast, are you?” he said doubtfully. “That
makes two, you know.”

“Two what?” said Wendell.

“Why, two wishes. You only have three, you know.”

“Is that a fact?” asked Wendell anxiously. “I didn’t know. Is that
straight?”

“Of course,” said the Pixie. “Everything goes by threes in fairy
stories.”

“I’m afraid you’re right,” said Wendell gloomily.

“I know I am,” said the Pixie. “Well, are you ready for the next task?”

“All right. What comes next?” asked Wendell.



CHAPTER IV

WENDELL FINDS AN UNEXPECTED ALLY


The Pixie brightened a bit. “I have a poser this time,” he said. “You
must find an acorn on Acorn Street.”

It was Wendell’s turn to look crestfallen. As every Beacon Hill boy
knows, Acorn Street is only one block long, or rather one block short,
and there isn’t an oak on it. In fact, there isn’t a tree of any kind:
there isn’t room for one.

The Pixie looked delighted, but he tried to assume a nonchalant air to
hide his triumph. He swung one knee over the other carelessly and tilted
his chin.

“We-ell!” said Wendell, a bit discouraged. But the thought came to him
that in every fairy story the knight who passes the first of three tests
always squeaks through the other two also, so of course there must be
some way out.

“I’ll have to be going,” said the Pixie in an offhand way. “You’ll find
your arithmetic paper in the desk drawer. See you to-morrow night.”

“Hold on,” said Wendell. “You forgot the aeroplane.”

“Forgot it? How?”

“Aren’t you going to take it along?”

“Good gracious, no,” returned the Pixie peevishly. “I can’t take care of
all the truck I tell people to bring me. I don’t run a junk shop. Keep
it yourself. I don’t want it.”

Now that was great luck for Wendell. It brought a large amount of
pleasure into an existence which would otherwise have been most
cheerless; for the unsolved problem loomed before him of finding an
acorn on Acorn Street.

He chose to go through Willow Street on his way to school next morning,
which brought him of course to the head of Acorn Street. There was the
neat little sign fastened on the brick wall,--a bunch of three acorns
and the name in artistic lettering,--evidently the creation of an artist
brain and fashioned by a master hand. Wendell had an inspiration. He
would cut out one of those acorns and take it to the Pixie as a last
resort. Of course, he might be arrested and put in jail for mutilating a
street sign; and after all his trouble, the Pixie might not consider it
an adequate acorn; still the suggestion was something to fall back upon.

Standing at the top of the extremely steep slope which is Acorn Street,
Wendell surveyed the prospect doubtfully. He saw a narrow cobble-stoned
roadway; on his left, a trim row of doll houses, each with its
projecting doorstep and old-fashioned scraper, its spotless white door
and shining brass knocker, and a narrow brick sidewalk where two thin
people could just walk abreast; on his right, a long brick wall, broken
by neat back doors, and a still narrower brick sidewalk where only one
very thin person could walk abreast. Nowhere was there a tree, nor room
to plant a tree. There were a few straggling blades of grass between the
cobble-stones and between the bricks, but not a crevice large enough to
accommodate a single acorn.

A postman came along, whistling cheerily. Wendell stood off the brick
pavement to let him pass. Perhaps the postman could help.

“This is Acorn Street, isn’t it?” said Wendell.

“Some people call it that,” responded the postman jokingly.
“Millionaires’ Alley, _I_ call it.”

“Why, are they all millionaires here?” asked Wendell.

“Just about,” said the postman; “and I knew this street when there were
three families in every house, and the walls that black with dirt, you
could write your name on ’em in chalk. But these millionaire artists
discovered it. Nuts, I call ’em, with their glass studios on the roof
and their Packard cars that have to back out whenever the ice truck
comes through.”

Wendell felt that they were wandering from the point.

“But did you ever see an acorn here?” he asked.

“Nope,” said the postman. “No acorns here. They named it that, I guess,
because it isn’t big enough to be named for a full-grown tree like
Walnut or Chestnut. Peanut Street _I_’d call it.”

“Well, I’ve got to get to school,” said Wendell. He jogged down the
short but precipitous length of treeless Acorn Street, and so on to
school.

After school, as he started for home, the Public Garden tempted him, and
he turned in from Beacon Street. It was a warm October day, and the
Garden wore an air of resuscitated midsummer. He sat down on a bench on
the Charles Street side, facing the lake, which looked very attractive,
although it was no longer bright with the little boating parties and
slow-gliding swan-boats of summer. A flock of doves, seeing Wendell
settled to stay, fluttered down all around him for expected crumbs; and
some busy little sparrows, who are always more alert than the doves and
capture twice as much food, hopped along the path. Wendell felt in his
pockets for stray provender, but without results. A gray squirrel,
bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, loped through the rustling leaves, and ran
up the bench that Wendell occupied. He had a very busy air as of one who
stops for a moment only, in the midst of pressing engagements. A slight
inadvertent movement of Wendell’s sent him scurrying down again. He
frisked through the dead leaves, dug up something of interest from among
them and sat up on his hind legs to handle it. Wendell saw that it was
an acorn and noticed that he was sitting under a young oak. “Pity they
couldn’t plant a few of them where they belong,” he said bitterly.

After the squirrel’s desertion, he sat there a few minutes longer, but
the pigeons, too, soon found that he had no picnic to offer them and
flew off in a flock to a small girl with bare knees, accompanied by a
French-bonneted nurse, who had a whole bag of popcorn. He got up, then,
and, kicking the leaves before him, shuffled out to the wide entrance at
Charles and Beacon Streets.

A traffic policeman, very military-looking in trim khaki, was holding up
the Charles Street traffic while automobiles spun up and down Beacon
Street. Wendell, pausing on the curb, saw him suddenly check the Beacon
Street traffic, while still holding the Charles Street lines at bay. The
large square expanse was quite clear except for the khaki figure with
both arms uplifted. Charles Street truck-drivers prepared to speed up.
Beacon Street automobilists craned their heads out to see what was
delaying the long double lines. Foot passengers lining the curbstones
looked impatient and watched the traffic man for the signal that did not
come. Apparently he had forgotten what he was there for.

Then a smile spread along the curb-stone ranks,--a smile that merged
into a ripple of laughter quite unusual among self-contained Boston
pedestrians, as the impatient waiters saw that the majestic khaki
officer was holding up scores of important citizens to let one small
gray squirrel cross the street.

It was Wendell’s little friend of the Public Garden, still intent on
pressing business, who, unmindful of all safety-first rules, was taking
a diagonal cut from corner to corner across one of the busiest
thoroughfares of Boston.

“I know that squirrel. He lives in Louisburg Square,” Wendell heard a
man say. “I know him by the look in his eye.” Which shows how cocksure
of their own judgments some people are.

The squirrel made the farther corner in safety. The traffic man gave the
signal. The crowd surged forward, Wendell with them. He crossed by right
angles to the squirrel’s corner and saw that busy little beast frisking
along Charles Street, with the deliberate purpose of one who knows his
goal, and then turning up into quiet Chestnut Street.

Wendell followed him, as it was his direct route also; but it was not
until the squirrel turned from Chestnut Street into West Cedar Street
that Wendell saw with fast-beating heart that he carried in his mouth an
acorn for his winter storehouse. If the squirrel should--oh, if only he
should--! Yes, opposite Acorn Street he paused. It was evident that he
had intended to proceed along West Cedar Street to Mount Vernon Street,
which bounds Louisburg Square on the nearer side; but on the door-step
of a West Cedar Street house sat a cat, a sleek gray pussy, and when she
saw the squirrel, she grew tense all over and began to quiver,
commencing at the tip of her tail; and the squirrel saw her--_and turned
up into Acorn Street_.

Would he drop it? oh, would he? Would no yapping puppy come to the
rescue? Would no tidbit of garbage tempt him to investigation? No, Acorn
Street appeared deserted by man and beast. Its aristocratic spotlessness
offered no hope of a bread crust or even a banana peel.

But just then one of the spotless white doors opened. A baby girl
emerged right in the path of the squirrel. He was not alarmed: baby
girls had been a bountiful providence to him since his infancy. But this
baby was a determined little maiden whose brain and hand worked in
unison. Quick as thought she grabbed the squirrel’s beautiful bushy
tail, and quite as quickly she loosed it, for the little gray chap
dropped his acorn and turned his sharp teeth upon that plump little
hand. Then, as he felt himself free, he scurried up the hill without
stopping for anything, and turned westward toward Louisburg Square. When
Wendell passed through the Square, the acorn safe in his trousers
pocket, the squirrel was still chattering excitedly on the branch of a
tree, scolding every one in particular and in general for the loss of
his acorn.

“It’s a shame, old chap,” said Wendell, pausing to peer at him through
the iron railing. “But I’ll bring you a bag of peanuts to make up for
it, you old life-saver, you.”

The Pixie wore an air of quiet triumph when he appeared in Wendell’s
room that evening. So did Wendell.

“Well,” said the Pixie. “Do you give up this time?”

“Not this time,” said Wendell, quietly but with great enjoyment, and he
fished the acorn out of his pocket and laid it on the desk in front of
the Pixie, who glared at it savagely.

“Well,” said Wendell, “are you satisfied?”

“Oh, yes,” said the Pixie, ironically. “It’s an acorn. I know an acorn
when I see one, thank you. But there aren’t any oaks on Acorn Street.”

[Illustration: SHE GRABBED THE SQUIRREL’S BEAUTIFUL BUSHY TAIL]

“I know it. But a squirrel brought it all the way from the Public Garden
and dropped it there. I saw him.”

“A common or garden squirrel?” asked the Pixie incredulously.

“Garden--when I saw him,” said Wendell. “But he might live on the Common
for all I know.”

“Some nutty squirrel,” said the Pixie dejectedly, “to block my game that
way!” He sat fingering the acorn as if he hoped it would turn into
something else.

“Ah!” he said, brightening suddenly. “But I’ve thought of something for
the third test that’s a _sticker_.”

“What is it? A postage stamp?” asked Wendell.

“You won’t feel so funny, young man, when you know what it is,” said the
Pixie, glaring.



CHAPTER V

A FROG SOMEWHAT OUT OF THE COMMON


“I suppose it’s a beacon from Beacon Hill,” said Wendell.

“Now, that’s not bad,” conceded the Pixie. “I may use that some time.
No,” triumphantly, “it’s a frog from the Frog Pond.”

“Je-hoshaphat!” exclaimed Wendell. “You’ve got me this time.”

The Pixie grinned. “I certainly think so,” said he.

For if ever a frog made its lair in the Frog Pond, it was long before
the present memory of man. The Frog Pond is a pool on the Beacon Street
side of Boston Common. In shape it is somewhat like a lima bean. It has
a concrete bottom. Near one end there is a gushing fountain and at the
other a drain, that keep the water fresh. In warm weather, hundreds of
Boston children “go swimming” there every day,--brown-skinned,
black-eyed Italians, little Russian Jews, a small sprinkling of native
Bostonians, quite a large handful of little negroes, “Parthians and
Medes and Elamites,” no doubt, and “the dwellers in Mesopotamia”; but
never, never a frog.

In winter, when the pool is frozen, it is a skating pond, and Flag Staff
Hill, just above it, makes an ideal start for a sled to go whizzing down
across the icy glare of the Frog Pond. Popular opinion has it that it
was this very slide on the Common that was made famous in the winter of
1774 and 1775 by the contest between the youngsters of Boston and
General Gage’s redcoats, then quartered on the town, who tried to spoil
the slide with sand and ashes. Instead of submitting timidly, the boys
carried their complaint to General Gage himself, who assured them that
they should be undisturbed in future and said in comment, “How can we
hope to beat the notion of liberty out of this people? The very boys
breathe the air of liberty!”

Historical truth compels me to state, however, that the Frog Pond was
not the scene of this interesting passage. It was undoubtedly on School
Street, in the neighborhood of the historic Latin School, that the boys’
slide was spoiled, and it was done by the servant of General Haldimand,
who was in command under General Gage, though General Gage was indeed
the court of appeal that decided in favor of the Latin School boys. As
to the servant, I think his idea was a good one, for I have disastrously
tried to walk down School Street myself on an icy day.

But if the Frog Pond was not the actual site of this historic strike for
liberty, it may be called the direct spiritual descendant of whatever
frozen pool had that honor. For the boys and girls of the Frog Pond in
these modern days “breathe the air of liberty”; and the grown people of
Boston know it, and the police know it. The Frog Pond, within close view
of the Massachusetts State House, within three minutes’ walk of Boston’s
financial center, and within a stone’s throw of the shopping district,
belongs exclusively to the youngsters. Any grown person may occupy a
bench on the walk and watch the fun, but he mustn’t complain if he
happens to get splashed. Neither must he object to large groups of girls
and boys all around him, struggling to exchange wet bathing suits for
dry clothes without the shelter of a dressing room. The youngsters are
required to put on their bathing suits at home; but after the swim who
can be expected to traverse blocks and blocks of city streets in a wet
bathing suit? They do the best they can to create for themselves a
privacy that doesn’t exist. They bring newspapers and old blankets and
sit under them on the grass to dress; they form close rings around each
other at critical moments; and the Mayor of Boston consents, because he
is very human and very sensible; and the Common police, who have all
known the delights of the Frog Pond and the difficulties of dressing in
public in their own boyhood days, turn their backs; and the majority of
staid Boston citizens, walking home to dinner past the Pond after office
hours, approves genially, and is of the opinion that the small minority
that disapproves would better walk home by some other path.

To the Frog Pond, then, Wendell bent his steps the following afternoon.
He wore his bathing suit under his shirt and trousers, though it was
somewhat late in the season for bathing. The warm weather had brought
out a number of adventurous souls, Sammy Davis among them.

“Hi, Wendell, come on in,” yelled Sammy.

“How is it?” asked Wendell.

“Fine! Warm as can be.”

Wendell didn’t believe it. He knew the old trick of telling the newest
comer how warm the water is. He stood undecided on the brick walk.

“Seen any frogs in there, Sammy?” he asked.

Of course it was a foolish question, but it popped out before he could
check it.

“Frogs? Naw!” said Sammy in exaggerated denial.

“Frogs! Yah!” said the other boys, and hooted in derision.

“I seen a frog,” piped up a bright-eyed colored baby in a bathing suit
improvised from underclothes, who sat on the stone curb and paddled his
wriggling brown feet in the water.

“Seen a frog! Yes, like fun you did,” jeered his big brother.

“I did seen a frog,” reiterated the baby. “There, on the grass. There he
is now.”

Wendell looked where the brown finger pointed. Could he believe his
eyes? There on the grassy slope of the hill below the Soldiers’ Monument
actually sat and blinked a green and speckled frog.

The brown baby and Wendell were not the only people who had seen him. A
shout went up from the water, and at the same time an echoing shout
arose from a group of small boys who were climbing around on a captured
German tank on the crest of the hill. The boys on the tank began to
scramble down.

The frog sat and blinked stupidly. It seemed dazed or injured, but as
the tank contingent cast themselves down the hill, it leaped with that
surprising suddenness that characterizes frogs, and with its long legs
shooting behind, plunged head first down the slope and into the water.
For the first time within the memory of this generation, there was _a
frog in the Frog Pond_.

Wendell cast off his clothes and shoes and shot in after it. Whew! but
the water was cold! And how to locate the frog? A needle in a hay stack
couldn’t compare with it.

Excitement reigned in the Frog Pond. Every one gave chase. The water was
not clear enough to show the reptile plainly, but occasional glimpses of
it spurred on its hunters. They made futile grabs below the water; they
swam and dove after that frog. Several times some boy’s hand closed over
it, only to find its slippery length wriggling through his fingers. At
length it was captured by Izzy Icklebaum, who brought it triumphantly to
the surface and held it in a tight grasp.

“Oh, Izzy, give it to me,” begged Wendell. “I’ll give you anything you
want for it.”

Izzy lent a business-like ear to this offer.

“You will, eh?” he said, showing a large degree of interest. “Will you
give me your aeroplane?”

In spite of his deep regret, there was not even a moment’s hesitation on
Wendell’s part.

“It’s yours,” he said. “Here, give us the frog here in my stocking. Put
your hands ’way in with him. That’s the big idea. Now I’ve got him.”

Released by Izzy, the frog gave a futile leap, only to find itself
entangled in the stocking foot. The capture was complete. Wendell put on
his clothes over his wet bathing suit, slipped his feet stockingless
into his shoes, slung the frog over his shoulder and started for home.

“I’ll come in for it this aft.,” shouted Izzy after him.

“Right-o,” returned Wendell over his shoulder, and sped on, his heart
lightened of a tremendous burden, the last of the three tasks
accomplished.

True to his word, Izzy came over an hour later and bore off the
aeroplane. Wendell tried not to care. He pinched the frog gently through
the stocking to make sure it was there, and anticipated the Pixie’s
disappointment.

The Pixie certainly was surprised. Wendell handed him the stocking and
told him to feel inside, and when the Pixie’s hand came in contact with
the cold smooth skin of the frog, it gave the Pixie his first shock. He
got his second when Froggy, catching a glimpse of light through the
opening, leaped violently out, almost in the Pixie’s face.

“Well, I suppose that’s settled,” said the Pixie, when the frog had
finally come to rest in a corner of the room. “You really found it in
the Frog Pond?”

“Yes, I did,” said Wendell, “really and truly. So now I’ve finished the
tasks, I’m glad to say.”

“Well, I must say it’s a great relief to me,” returned the Pixie. “I
never do know what to do with boys when I find them belonging to me.
It’s a great responsibility. I’m glad I’m not a mother.”

In spite of his relief, the Pixie continued to look gloomy and to fiddle
uneasily with a pencil on Wendell’s desk. At last he broke out:

“Of course, I’m not doubting your word, but you know and I know that you
couldn’t find a frog in the Frog Pond because there aren’t any.”

“But this one really was,” said Wendell, distressed to see that the
Pixie was not quite convinced that he spoke the truth. “I saw him jump
in myself, and Izzy Icklebaum fished him out.”

“Well, it’s very fishy! I can’t account for it,” said the Pixie.

He remained in a brown study for several seconds; then a bright thought
illumined his little old face.

“I have it. I bet I have it. Which side did the frog jump in from?”

“Why, it came jumping down the hill from the Soldiers’ Monument. When I
first saw it, it was near the top of the hill.”

“Of course it was!” cried the Pixie, slapping his leg. “That’s where the
old Kobold lives. This is just like his work. He never had an original
idea in his life.”

“You mean--?” questioned Wendell.

“I mean this isn’t a real frog at all. It’s a person changed into a
frog--by enchantment, you know. He’s always doing it, pulling that frog
stuff. Why, I can count one, two, three--seven times anyway he’s used
that same spell since Cinderella’s godmother first suggested it. I
should think he’d be tired of it himself.”

The frog sat and blinked at them with its goggle eyes. Wendell didn’t
like its stare. He began to feel uneasy. Suppose it _was_ enchanted.
Suppose it should go back to its natural shape. He somehow felt sure he
shouldn’t like that shape, whatever it might be.

“Of course, this complicates things for you a bit,” said the Pixie
briskly.

“For me?” faltered Wendell.

“Yes, you’ll have to break the spell, you know. You seem to forget this
is your fairy story, young man.”

“But how?” queried Wendell. “It seems to me this business of living in a
fairy story is just nothing but getting out of the frying pan into the
fire.”

“Well, you wished it, you know,” said the Pixie. He uncrossed his legs,
crossed them the other way, gazed around the room, hummed a little tune.
He seemed to be washing his hands of all responsibility.

“Sometimes if you throw a frog against a wall it will do it,”
volunteered the Pixie. He spoke as if he had no interest in the matter.

“Do what?” asked Wendell.

“Break the spell, of course.”

Wendell hated to do it. He didn’t like the frog, to be sure, but that
was no reason for hurting it. However, he advanced, under the compulsion
of the Pixie’s words, grasped the smooth, cold creature, and hurled it
against the wall--then jumped back startled.



CHAPTER VI

THE STORY OF THE ENCHANTED MAIDEN


In place of the frog, before him stood a beauteous maiden. She had a
dazzlingly clear complexion, big infantile blue eyes, and a wealth of
golden hair which she wore so as to conceal her ears. She was dressed
simply but charmingly in a sport blouse and skirt, silk stockings and
low shoes.

“Jumping caterpillars!” ejaculated the Pixie. “I guessed right.”

“You are naturally surprised,” said the Beauteous Maiden, in a low
melodious voice, “to see me in place of that odious frog. I cannot tell
you how grateful I am to you for giving me back my natural form, though
it can be only for a brief time.”

“Have a chair,” said Wendell as soon as he could recover from the shock.

“Thank you,” said the maiden, seating herself and gracefully crossing
one knee over the other. “As the story of my life is a long one and my
time is short, I will begin it at once.”

“Once upon a time there lived a maiden who was so beautiful and so good
that everyone loved her. That maiden, of course, was myself. While I was
still an infant, my mother died and my father married again. He chose
for his second wife a woman who had a daughter of my own age. For many
years we were a happy household, but after a time my stepmother was
transformed into a cruel witch by the magic charms of an old Kobold.”

“Hold on!” cried the Pixie. “Does he live under Flag Staff Hill on the
Common?”

“He does,” said the Beauteous Maiden.

“There, didn’t I tell you this thing was mixed up with him?” said the
Pixie, turning triumphantly to Wendell. “I can always pick out his
style.”

“The old Kobold,” went on the Beauteous Maiden, “gave my stepmother
three magic gifts. The first was a cloak that rendered the wearer
invisible. The second was a cap, and whoever put it on could read the
thoughts of those about him. The third was a book of spells, containing
all the spells and charms ordinarily used by magicians. The old Kobold
decreed that my stepmother should remain under his spell as long as she
held these gifts in her possession; but if she should be robbed of them,
she would lose her base powers as a witch and be restored to her
original virtuous self.”

“I see your work cut out for you,” said the Pixie in a low aside to
Wendell.

“I cannot tell you,” continued the Beauteous Maiden, “what a wretched
life I led from this time on. I was dressed in rags, had only cold
scraps to eat, and was forced to do the most menial work of the house,
while my stepsister wore beautiful clothes and went to balls every
night.”

“Why didn’t your father stop it?” put in Wendell. “I’ve always wondered
about that in these stepmother stories--why the father stood for it.”

“I was coming to that,” said the Beauteous Maiden graciously. “My father
died soon after his second marriage, and my stepmother married again.”

“I see,” said the Pixie thoughtfully. “She took a step farther.”

“Yes,” assented the Beauteous Maiden, “and he was a horrible giant whose
favorite diet was little boys. In addition, my stepmother made life a
burden to me by her magic arts. She spied upon all my actions with the
Cloak of Darkness, and she spied upon all my thoughts with the Cap of
Thought, and she was constantly using her Book of Spells to annoy me.
When I was making doughnuts, she would change the rolling pin into an
eel which would wriggle away from me, and annoying things of that kind.
My stepsister, too, once as dear to me as my own sister could have been,
seemed to come gradually under the Kobold’s spell. While every one
admired and loved me for my youth, innocence, and beauty, she was so
jealous that she constantly sought to do me an injury. At length,
matters came to a climax. One of the Boston papers held a beauty
contest, and, all unknown to me, a good neighbor sent in my photograph
in competition. It had been advertised that the winner of the contest
would be offered a contract with one of the moving-picture companies as
a prize, but I knew nothing of it. Judge, then, of my surprise and
delight, when a reporter for the paper called to say that I had won the
competition and with it the contract as a movie star. But my joy was
equalled only by the rage of my cruel stepmother and the jealousy of my
ugly stepsister. They resolved that I should never sign that contract,
and my stepmother sent me at once with a letter to be delivered to the
old Kobold, requesting him to put the bearer to death.

“This horrible design would doubtless have been carried out, but on the
way to Boston I sat down to rest for a few moments in the Fenway and
fell asleep. While I was asleep, a Metropolitan Park policeman happened
that way, and stood transfixed at the sight of my beauty. Noticing the
letter, which I held in my hand, he took it, opened and read it, and was
shocked beyond measure at the dreadful fate designed for me. He cast
about for means to avert it, and at length wrote another letter,
requesting the Kobold to change the bearer into a fairy, and substituted
this letter for the original one. Soon after, I awoke and went on my
way, all unconscious of these events. I presented the letter to the
Kobold, who immediately used his magic charm to transform me.
Unfortunately, the policeman did not write a very legible hand. The
Kobold read _frog_ for _fairy_ and changed me to the horrible form in
which you first beheld me.”

“There’s a lesson for you, young man,” said the Pixie severely. “You
don’t write any too good a hand yourself.”

“My time is short,” went on the Beauteous Maiden. “The courage and
devotion of my rescuer,” she turned a sad little smile on Wendell, who
wriggled uncomfortably, “has made it possible for me to resume my
natural form for a short time, in order to tell my story, but soon I
must return to the shape of a frog. So I will tell you of the further
task that lies before you.

“You must go alone at midnight to the hill where the Kobold dwells, and
summon him forth by saying these magic words:--

    “_Green hill, green hill, open to me._
     _I would the wise old Kobold see._”

“Well, if that isn’t conceited!” said the Pixie scornfully. “Of all the
nonsense! ‘The wise old Kobold’! My word!”

“When the Kobold comes out, you must tell him that you have come to
rescue the Beauteous Maiden and inquire his terms. He will ask you to
perform a task for him, and when it is completed, I shall be free.”

“I know just what he’ll ask you, too,” put in the Pixie. “Same
superannuated stuff! He’ll ask you to guess his name.”

“Well, what is his name?” asked Wendell, looking from the Pixie to the
Beauteous Maiden and back again.

“How should I know?” shrugged the Pixie. “He doesn’t know, himself,
really. He stuck to Rumpelstiltskin a few hundred years, but lately he
changes it every time. He has to, you know, because he always gives it
away, himself, spinning ’round on one leg. That’s just how much sense he
has.”

“Which side of the hill, I wonder,” went on Wendell, turning to the
Beauteous Maiden, but to his startled surprise, she had vanished, and
there sat the frog, as green, as goggle-eyed, as unintelligent, as
altogether repulsive as if it had never won a beauty contest in its
life.



CHAPTER VII

WENDELL WORKS THE MIDNIGHT SPELL


“How did she get that way?” he asked the Pixie, who only smiled
gleefully and returned, “It’s a great life, isn’t it, this fairy story
business!”

“Well, I suppose I’ve got to do it,” said the harassed boy. “How I’m
ever going to stay awake till midnight, I don’t see.”

“Oh, I’ll wake you, my boy,” said the Pixie obligingly. “You go to bed.”

“And what am I going to do with him--with her?” pursued Wendell,
pointing vindictively to the frog. “Now I know what she is, I’ve got to
make her comfortable somewhere. She can’t sleep in a stocking.”

The frog blinked and stared at him. Wendell stared back gloomily. He
wondered if different frogs looked different to each other, like boys
and dogs. It seemed to him that this frog was particularly ugly, even
judged by frog standards of beauty. Well, poor thing! that was probably
the Kobold’s fault.

“I know what I’ll do with her,” he said. “I’ll put her in the guest
chamber for the night. She’ll like that. Virginia’s away overnight.”

It wasn’t very easy to catch the frog. It eluded Wendell with
long-legged leaps, but Wendell cornered it at last, with the help of the
Pixie, and carried it, its little heart pulsating with fright, to the
dainty room that Cousin Virginia occupied, and tucked it into bed.

“One good job done,” said Wendell to himself. “I won’t have to sleep
with _that_ in the room to-night.”

“Well, old chap, I guess I’ll go to bed now,” he said, yawning, to the
Pixie, “and if you _will_ call me, say about eleven-thirty, I’ll be much
obliged.”

As he slid under the bed clothes and sprawled out in solid comfort, his
foot touched something cold, clammy, repellent. He barely repressed a
shriek. He threw back the bed clothes. Yes, the frog again!

“Now, how did he ever get there?” cried Wendell in bewilderment. “I’m
sure he couldn’t open the door. It _is_ magic, for sure.”

“_She_, you mean. You can’t shake her,” rejoined the Pixie maliciously.
“It’s your fairy tale, you know, and you are The Rescuer.”

“Well, what shall I do with her now?” asked Wendell in despair. “Do you
suppose she’d stay here if I went into Cousin Virginia’s room?”

“Not for a moment,” said the Pixie. “I tell you. You put her under the
down puff, on the foot of the bed, and I’ll keep an eye on her.”

It seemed about five minutes after Wendell was in bed, when he awoke
suddenly and found that the Pixie was pounding him severely.

“Hold on! Hold on!” he called. “What’s the matter?”

“The matter is, I’ve been trying for the last ten minutes to wake you,”
said the Pixie, exasperated. “The Sleeping Beauty had nothing on you.
Hurry up, now, or you won’t get there at midnight.”

Wendell tumbled into his clothes and tiptoed, as noiselessly as in him
lay, down the broad old-fashioned stairs, and still another flight to
the basement. He did not dare risk the noise of the front door, so he
emerged from the kitchen into the back alley, and thence to the street.
Not a person was in sight. Only a black and white cat prowled the
gutters. A strange silence covered the city. Even the surging, seething
roar of West End children at play, which rises all the evening, was
stilled. Wendell’s running footsteps, beating rhythmic time on the brick
pavement of Old Boston, alone broke the stillness. No traffic policemen
presided over Beacon Street. He gained the Common, skirted the Frog
Pond, and faced Flag Staff Hill and, brave boy though he was, he did
tremble in his boots.

The frequent electric lights along the thoroughfares that bound the
Common drew glowing lines of light around it; and there were bright
lights at the intersection of the walks. But here, on the gentle slope
of Flag Staff Hill, under the tall elms, a great black shadow lay. No
Boston boy, born and reared among the historic traditions of the
Commonwealth, but knows the somber legend of this site, that under this
soil lie buried the Quakers and the pirates whom Puritan zeal executed
on this spot in the early days of the colony. Cold chills ran up and
down Wendell’s spine as he stood here in the shadow and listened for the
stroke of midnight. Presently it boomed forth from the old church on
Mount Vernon Street--the same metal voice that struck the hour to the
poet Longfellow when he stood on the bridge at midnight. Now was the
fateful moment! And do you know, whether it was magic or whether it was
scare I can’t say, but Wendell couldn’t for the life of him remember
that charm that was to summon the Kobold! The striking of the clock,
bringing with it the memory of that well known poem which he had learned
in school, had driven every bit of verse out of his mind, except his
Cousin Virginia’s irreverent version of the same poem:--

    “_I stood on the bridge at midnight,_
      _As the clocks were striking three,_
     _And a cabman drove across the bridge_
      _And hitched his horse to me._”

On the eleventh stroke of the old church bell, the Park Street Church at
Brimstone Corner took up the echo. Wendell by a mighty effort recalled
the charm before the second sonorous voice had died on the still air.

    “_Green hill, green hill, open to me._
     _I would the wise old Kobold see,_”

repeated Wendell.

Suddenly another electric light on the path below sprang into
brightness, and sent a light streak across the shadow of the elms. For a
moment Wendell fancied, and decided that it must be only fancy, that
the ground trembled slightly under his feet. Then, before his eyes there
came a crack in the earth, as if a giant seed were germinating and
pushing up a shoot. The crack widened. It became a tunnel extending
apparently into the very heart of the hill; and suddenly, like a cut
moving-picture film that jerks a sudden change upon the screen, he saw
that the mouth of the tunnel was occupied by an unexpected grotesque
figure that could be none other than the Kobold.

Wendell had expected that the Kobold would look somewhat like the Pixie,
but they had nothing in common except smallness of stature. The Kobold
was about the size of a six-year-old, and had white hair and white
whiskers and a very long white beard that reached to his waist. He
appeared to be wearing a belted velvet suit, with full sleeves and
breeches, and he was very stout and stocky.

“Who summons me?” he said with dignity.

“I do,” said Wendell advancing boldly, now that there was need for
action. “I should like to know how to free the Beauteous Maiden from
your spell.”

The Kobold chuckled grimly--an exclusive sort of chuckle that made
Wendell feel very much out of the joke.

“If you wish to win the Maiden’s freedom,” he said slowly, “you will
first have to guess a riddle. You may have three chances to give the
answer. If you guess correctly on any one of those trials, the Maiden
shall be restored to her original form. If

[Illustration: “WHO SUMMONS ME?” SAID THE KOBOLD]

you fail, she shall still remain a frog, and you too shall be
transformed into another shape at my will.”

“Good gracious!” cried Wendell. “Is there as much to it as all that? I’m
not going to be changed into anything at anybody’s will. You can keep
your old riddle and your frog, too, for all of me.” He turned to go.

“Stay!” cried the Kobold, so he stayed to listen.

“I might add,” said the Kobold, “that while the above terms are my
regular ones, I might make a slight reduction in your case, as business
is particularly dull just now. Indeed, to be candid, it is nearly a
hundred years since I have had any opportunity to hold this guessing
contest.”

“Well, how much of a reduction?” asked Wendell. “Will you leave out the
part about transforming me? Say, if I win, the frog changes back to the
Maiden, and if I lose, it stays a frog?”

“No, no,” returned the Kobold. “Such is not my method of doing business.
The princes that have entered this contest in times past have at least
agreed to be transformed for a limited time.”

“Not for a moment, for me,” said Wendell. “Times have changed.”

“A week, say,” urged the Kobold. “I tell you frankly I shall not release
the Maiden for less, and if she is not released before one more year is
run, she will be turned into a loathly dragon for life.”

“Well, make it a week, then,” said Wendell sulkily.

“Agreed!” said the Kobold. “Here, then, is the riddle you must
answer:--_What is Boston?_”

Without a moment’s hesitation, just as promptly as if he had been asked
his own name, Wendell replied in Dr. Holmes’ words, as any Boston boy
would,

“Boston is the Hub of the Universe.”

“Wrong! Wrong!” chuckled the Kobold maliciously. “I knew you’d say that.
But there is another answer.”

“Well,” said the crestfallen Wendell, “I’ll go home and think it over.
And say, do I have to come at midnight every time? It’s mighty hard to
sneak out just then.”

“No, I will make an appointment with you for any time you say,” returned
the Kobold obligingly. “Morning, evening, whatever you wish.”

“Let’s make it eight o’clock in the morning,” said Wendell. “I could
drop in here on the way to school.”

“To-morrow?” asked the Kobold.

“N-no,” hesitated Wendell. “I’ll need a little time on this thing.”

“I’ll wager you will,” chuckled the old Kobold, growing almost slangy in
his dignified glee.

“Say the day after to-morrow,” suggested Wendell.

“Agreed!” said the Kobold. “You will find me here outside the hill. And
mind you bring back that frog. It is not your property, you must
remember.”

“I will. I’ll be glad to,” returned Wendell hurriedly. The frog was
already on his nerves.

“And only two more guesses,” added the Kobold.

“I know,” said Wendell meekly. He was very much mortified to have failed
so quickly through his own assurance. He went back through the silent
streets, let himself in quietly and bolted the back door, took off his
shoes and groped up to his room, where the Pixie sat awaiting him.



CHAPTER VIII

COUSIN VIRGINIA HAS A CALLER


“Well, you deserved to lose,” said the Pixie when he had heard the whole
story, “answering right off like that on the spur of the moment. You
have to think these things over a bit. Besides, the Hub has been moving
slowly westward since Holmes’ time. It’s nearer Chicago, now, I believe.
But what did I tell you about old White-Hairs? Isn’t he a back number?
Trying to do business in the twentieth century the way he used to do it
with those princes in slashed doublets! Why doesn’t he wake up and hear
the birdies sing?”

“How’s the frog?” asked Wendell anxiously.

“An awful nuisance,” responded the Pixie frankly. “I think she’s thirsty
but she won’t drink.”

“Oh, they can’t drink, you know,” explained Wendell. “They take it in
through the skin. That mug is too small. Here, I’ll fill the basin and
put her in.”

That seemed to content the frog. It sat and soaked and absorbed and
goggled at Wendell, who regarded it moodily.

“If I can’t do anything more for you,” said the Pixie, “I’ll move on.
Hope you guess the riddle.”

“Thanks, old fellow,” said Wendell soberly. He was very sleepy and
discouraged. But the frog looked a bit cheerier.

Hardly was Wendell in bed when he dropped off to sleep, and five minutes
later, blop! the frog leaped from the basin and landed on the boy’s
face, all wet and soggy and cold. Wendell, half asleep, struck out in
self-defense, and landed a whacking blow on the poor reptile, that sent
it halfway across the room. He realized instantly what he had done, and
much ashamed of himself, he turned on the light, located the panting
frog, and tucked it under the down quilt at the foot of the bed.
Bitterly he regretted that he had not made an appointment with the
Kobold to return the creature the very next morning.

When he left for school, he hid the frog away again in his stocking, in
a chiffonier drawer, but even his preoccupation with the Boston riddle
did not entirely obliterate his uneasy fear that the frog might escape
or be turned out of the house in his absence, and thus plunge him into
some other awful rescuing problem.

He had hoped that the geography or history or literature lesson might
enlighten him on the definition of Boston, and his attention to study
was so strict that his teachers thought best to watch him even more
closely than usual, to forestall whatever mischief must be brewing. But
no ray of light came to him from any of his lessons. He went home
despondently, assured himself that the frog was still safe, and went out
to play with cheerful Sammy Davis and the other fellows. It seemed a
long while since he, too, had been a care-free, whistling boy, with no
greater anxiety than being kept after school for fractions, or being
chased by Sammy’s cross janitor.

He had almost forgotten his troubles when he went in to dinner, but as
soon as he ascended to his room to study they all came back, for there
sat the frog on his table, popping its eyes out at him most
unpleasantly.

“I guess I’ll study downstairs,” he thought. “I’ll have the library to
myself to-night. Mother and Father have gone to the Symphony, and I
guess Cousin Virginia’s out somewhere.”

He settled down comfortably in the library, and was getting on famously
with his lessons when the bell rang and a masculine voice asked for his
Cousin Virginia. She came down presently and a lively conversation began
in the front room just out of sight but not out of sound of Wendell. He
managed, however, to keep his mind on his work, for it was very silly
talk and not at all interesting. The man was a Harvard student from New
York, and they chattered on about strangers to Wendell whom they knew in
common.

“Do you like Boston?” Wendell heard the man say, and Virginia’s clear
and rather high-pitched voice answered,

“Of course I like Boston. I’ll put it more strongly, I thoroughly enjoy
Boston. I never supposed any place could be so--so historical, so
absolutely, thoroughly, naively, unselfconsciously historical. Why, even
little Wendell--”

“She needn’t _little_ me,” thought Wendell savagely.

“--invited me to see a play he was to be in, in school, and what _do_
you suppose? it was Revolutionary. All about hiding away a wounded
soldier, with allusions to the British encamped on Boston Common, and
the tax on tea. I don’t believe Boston knows anything has happened in
history since the Boston Tea Party.”

“You’ve said it,” said the young man, who seemed to admire Virginia very
much.

“And their holidays,” went on the foolish girl. “When I was here last
spring, I went out to shop on the nineteenth of April, and would you
believe it? the shops were closed. Patriots’ Day, if you please, when
the farmers fired the shot heard round the world! I came in and said to
Auntie, ‘Do you by any chance have a holiday in Boston on the fourth of
July, Auntie?’ ‘Why, yes, dear,’ she said, ‘of course.’ I said, ‘But
why? It isn’t Emerson’s birthday, is it?’ and she said, ‘Why, my dear,
you must know it is Independence Day.’ ‘Oh, yes, Auntie,’ I said, ‘but
why celebrate it in Boston? That little event was pulled off in
Philadelphia. Hasn’t Boston enough?’”

“Ha, ha!” laughed the young man. “That was a good one on Boston.”

“But the greatest pleasure I’ve had is the baked beans,” she went on.

“Pleasure!” echoed the young man. “No _pleasure_, surely.”

“Oh, I mean _mental_ pleasure, to find they really _are_, you know, and
not merely a myth. Of course, I believed before I came here that they
existed here, but as an occasional article of diet. Why, they are a
religious rite, an article of faith! Every Saturday night!”

“Yes, and every Sunday morning breakfast at my boarding house,” groaned
the young man.

“Impossible! Inhuman!” said Virginia brightly.

“Inhuman, but true,” moaned the young man.

Wendell thought he had never heard such idiocy in his life. Delicious
baked beans!

“But they not only _eat_ them--they take them seriously,” Virginia’s
silly little voice ran on. “I made a light and unworthy remark to one of
Auntie’s friends about the sacred bean. She looked at me compassionately
and then said gravely, ‘We always bake them with a small onion in the
bottom of the pot.’ Yes, I don’t know who said it first, but it is
absolutely true that Boston _is_ a state of mind.”

Wendell, listening with the utmost scorn to these trivialities, was
suddenly brought up short.

_Boston is a state of mind._

Three rousing cheers for Cousin Virginia!

He went to bed happy that night. Even the presence of the loathsome frog
was endurable. To-morrow he would return the creature to the Kobold, and
at the same time fling the answer to his riddle in his teeth--if he had
any teeth. It would seem probable that a Kobold with so much white beard
would be too old to have teeth.

The Kobold was waiting for him on the slope of Flag Staff Hill next
morning. So cleverly did his velvet suit take on the soft tone of the
elm trunks, that no one of the busy passersby, hurrying on to business
through the Common, discerned him there under the trees, though Wendell
saw him clearly. Or was it that he made himself invisible to other eyes?

“I’ve brought your frog,” said Wendell, drawing a long breath. He handed
the stocking over to the Kobold, and the frog leaped out and vanished
among the fallen leaves.

“What _is_ Boston?” asked the Kobold mockingly.

“Boston,” said Wendell with assurance, “is a state of mind.”

“Wrong! Wrong!” jeered the Kobold--and was no longer there. But a little
breeze rustled in the elm trees and brought a faint hissing message to
Wendell’s ears, just as the rushes whispered the fatal secret of the
barber of King Midas:--

“One more chance! One more chance!”

Wendell went on dejectedly to school.



CHAPTER IX

THE BREAKING OF THE CHARM


Several days passed by. No inspiration came to Wendell. The Pixie had no
suggestion to offer, only unsympathetic criticism:--“You might have
known that was too subtle for him. He’s no deep thinker. _I_ could have
told you.” His mother grew anxious. “You mustn’t study so hard, dear,”
she said. “You should have been out playing with the boys instead of
poring over that Memorial History of Boston this afternoon. Yes, I know
it is fascinating reading, especially the earlier chapters, but you must
think of your health, dear.” Cousin Virginia looked at Wendell
solicitously, and Wendell knew she meant to be funny again.

This was Saturday evening, and the family had just settled down in the
library with the _Transcript_, each with a section. Alden had the news;
Otis, the sporting page; his father was perusing the editorials, his
mother was reading the religious items. Cousin Virginia dabbled a few
moments in the theatrical columns, like a canary unwilling to get wet
all over in his china tub, and then laid down her section, suppressed a
yawn, and said,

“Why does all Boston find its greatest dissipation Saturday night in
reading the Saturday evening _Transcript_?”

“Habit, pure habit,” growled Alden, without raising his eyes.

“Not altogether habit,” said his mother, gently and seriously. “The
_Transcript_, Virginia, is quite different from any other paper. It is
reliable and conservative and sound.”

“You know, Virginia”--her uncle looked up for a moment with a twinkle in
his eye--“good Bostonians always make a point of dying on Friday, so
that their obituaries can go into the Saturday evening _Transcript_.”

“No? That _is_ consistent,” laughed Virginia. “But even the Boston
children quote it. I saw the funniest little chap as I was crossing the
Common to-day--a short fat little fellow, having a lot of fun with a
false beard and whiskers. He was twirling around on one leg, to get
dizzy, I suppose, and chanting loudly something like this, that didn’t
make any sense:--

    “‘_The boy--will soon--belong--to me,
      Unless--the_ Trans--cript _he--should see.
      Ha! Ha!--the ed--ito--rial page
      He’ll nev--er read--until--old age!_’

Would you believe it? I never would--outside of Boston.”

Wendell listened no further. He could hardly wait for his father to drop
the editorial section. What a foolish old Kobold!--giving the whole
thing away, just as the Pixie said he always did. Thank goodness!

Wendell remembered how his nature study teacher had told the class that
even the smallest and humblest of creatures has undoubtedly some place
in the scheme of things. Even Cousin Virginia had a use in the world, it
would seem.

After a long while, Wendell’s father laid down the page, and Wendell
picked it up inconspicuously. But not too inconspicuously for Cousin
Virginia’s keen laughing eyes.

“Nice little Boston, Wendell,” she whispered to him. “The family picture
is complete.”

Wendell read the page through carefully, every word,--the weather, the
leaders, the paragraphs, the Nomad, Letters to the Editor, Facts and
Fancies, the deaths, and the advertisements. Not one word that gave
light on the definition of Boston. Wendell sat in a brown study.
Presently, he went up to his room, hoping the Pixie would be there, and
sure enough, he was.

“Sounds very probable,” was the Pixie’s comment, after Wendell had laid
the facts before him. “Of course it doesn’t have to be to-night’s
_Transcript_. In fact it couldn’t be. It must have been before he put
the riddle to you, anyway. I shouldn’t be surprised if you’d hit the
bull’s-eye this time. That’s just the kind of riddle he’d
propose--something he read in the paper! That’s just the kind of mind
he has. There are some people like that, you know, who think if they see
it ‘in the paper,’ it must be true.”

“Then,” said Wendell, “you’d advise looking through the old
_Transcripts_ till I find it. I could do that, I guess, at the
_Transcript_ office.”

He had to wait till Monday, of course. Monday afternoon, he went down
directly from school to the _Transcript_ building, which, fitly enough,
occupies the historic site of the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin, the
great journalist. The _Transcript_ people were most courteous and put
their files at Wendell’s disposal. Through editorial page after page
floundered Wendell, and if only he could have understood and remembered
half that he read, he would have emerged from the newspaper office a
complete specimen of the well-read Boston boy, such as his Cousin
Virginia pretended to believe he already was. It was nearly dusk before
his heart was lightened by a definition of Boston, this one from the pen
of Oliver Herford, whom of course Wendell recognized as a delightful
contributor to _St. Nicholas_. Mr. Herford, it seemed, was originally a
Boston man, though now dwelling in the outlands, and, said Mr. Herford,
“Boston is a center of gravity almost entirely surrounded by Newtons.”

It sounded like sense, though naturally Wendell didn’t quite understand
it at first. After he had read it several times, he began to see the
point. Encouraged by the views the Pixie had expressed, Wendell decided
to stop right in at the Kobold’s on the way home. If he wasn’t on the
slope of the hill, or if he remained invisible there, doubtless the
spell that worked before would bring him to light again.

But Wendell found no need to use the spell, for the little old Kobold
was out in plain sight, at least in plain sight of Wendell, though no
one else appeared to notice him in the dusk of evening.

His eye lit up mockingly as Wendell approached.

“I’ve got it this time,” said Wendell. “I found it in the _Transcript_.”

“Oh, did you?” said the little old chap with less assurance than he had
shown before. “What made you think of looking there?”

Wendell decided not to tell him. “Oh, I read the _Transcript_ pretty
regularly,” he said. “This is the answer:--‘Boston is a center of
gravity almost entirely surrounded by Newtons.’”

“You are right!” groaned the Kobold. “You are right!” and gnashed his
teeth. Wendell was much interested, as he had heard of gnashing one’s
teeth, but had never seen it done before; besides it cleared up that
doubtful point in his mind as to whether the white-bearded Kobold had
any teeth.

When the Kobold had finished gnashing, he asked Wendell very
respectfully,

“By the way, can you tell me what it means?”

“It’s perfectly clear,” said Wendell. “You know the Newtons around
Boston, West Newton, and Newton Center, and so on. And Isaac Newton was
the man who discovered the law of gravity--of falling, you know. And
some people do think there’s a lot of gravity in Boston--grave
conversation, I mean. I have a cousin from New York who thinks so. So
it’s a fairly good joke, you see.”

“No, I do not see,” returned the Kobold, grasping his head in both
hands, “but it does not matter, I assure you. I shall not use it again
under any circumstances. It is too ultra-modern. You may not have
guessed it but I am a conservative.”

“I guessed the riddle, anyway,” maintained Wendell, “so where’s the
Maiden?”

“She is here,” said the Kobold, looking down at the rustling leaves,
where Wendell now made out the ugly shape of the frog. “Maiden, you are
free.”

And there she stood, slim and beautiful in the dusk, and looked at
Wendell with the utmost gratitude.

“My deliverer!” she breathed softly.

“I suppose you will have to marry her now,” said the Kobold to Wendell.
“It is always customary.” Wendell was sure there was malice in the old
fellow’s eye this time.

“Why--why--” he stammered, “we didn’t plan that.” And the Beauteous
Maiden added quickly,

“Not yet. There are my cruel stepmother and the giant to consider. Come,
sit with me on yonder bench, and we will discuss the matter.” So they
moved away and left the Kobold standing there, and that was the last
that Wendell saw of _him_, though for all I know, the old fellow may
still be living under Flag Staff Hill on Boston Common to this very
moment.

“The first thing I must do,” said the Beauteous Maiden, “is to hunt up
that moving picture man and sign the contract. Then I shall be
independent in case you shouldn’t succeed with my family.”

“Succeed with your family--how do you mean?” asked Wendell.

“Why, in case my cruel stepmother should work a charm on you, or in case
the giant should eat you up.”

“Oh, I see,” said Wendell, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Well, of course, we’ll hope for the best,” said the Beauteous Maiden.
“Here is the address in Brookline. You take the car from Park Street.
You know what you have to do,--rob my stepmother of the three magic
gifts that give her her power as a witch,--the Cloak of Darkness, the
Cap of Thought and the Book of Spells. The Book of Spells has every
charm in the world.”

“Why not just take the book then?” asked Wendell.

Of course, the minute he had asked it, he knew it was a stupid question.

“Because things always go by threes, Silly,” said the Beauteous Maiden.
“After the witch is powerless, your next task will be to kill the giant;
and the Book of Spells will undoubtedly help you there. Now farewell,
dear Deliverer. I must find that movie man.”

“Good-bye,” said Wendell. He was glad to be alone. He had a great deal
to face and a great deal to plan. Besides that, he had been rubbed the
wrong way by the Beauteous Maiden, who really

[Illustration: SAID THE BEAUTEOUS MAIDEN, “YOUR NEXT TASK WILL BE TO
KILL THE GIANT”]

seemed to think it was a small thing for him to be eaten by a giant for
her sake. He said as much to the Pixie, who came in that evening,
tremendously interested in the answer to the Kobold’s riddle, and eager
to encourage Wendell in his next adventure.



CHAPTER X

IN THE GIANT’S HOUSE


“Oh, yes, it _sounds_ easy,” grumbled Wendell. “Just walk into a witch’s
house and steal her magic cloak. Easy as rolling off a log. Only how am
I going to do it, I’d like to know.”

“I might help,” said the Pixie. “I rather like a lark of that kind.”

“Oh, if _you_’d help,” said Wendell. “That would be great. What could
you do?”

“Well, I have some rather neat transformation charms, myself,” said the
Pixie. “I suppose if I once got you into the house, you could do the
rest.”

“I guess so,” said Wendell. “I could hide in the oven or something.”

“I’ll have to make you pretty small to get into one of these gas ranges
they use now-a-days,” said the Pixie thoughtfully. “You have to think of
everything, you know, in this business, or else you lose by a fluke. I
have it. I’ll change myself into an organ grinder, and you into the
monkey.”

“Yes!” jeered Wendell. “Nice chance a monkey would have to be let into
anybody’s house.”

“Well, of course,” said the Pixie, somewhat crestfallen, “it was only a
suggestion.”

“It’s got to be something that anybody would be glad to have in their
house,” said Wendell. “Something helpful. A furnace man. Or a gas
man--to read the meter.”

“Nobody’s glad to have _him_ in their house,” grunted the Pixie. “But I
get your idea. Why not a plumber to stop a leak? I have a fine plumber’s
transformation among my charms. I’ll be the plumber and you can go as my
assistant. Good idea, what?”

“The very thing,” said Wendell.

“Well, after school to-morrow, you get into your oldest clothes, and
I’ll come around.”

Wendell hurried home the next afternoon and hunted out an old suit that
he had withheld from the Morgan Memorial Goodwill bag, in case of a
painting job or something. Hardly had he got into these clothes, when he
heard an impatient honking in the street. Looking out, he saw in front
of the curb a huge Cadillac with the driver’s seat occupied by a young
chap in workingman’s clothes who grinned up at him and beckoned
frantically.

Wendell went down.

“I wouldn’t have known you,” he said. “It’s a fine disguise.”

“I think it’s rather neat,” returned the Pixie with quiet pride. He had
a young, pleasant, intelligent face, and no one could possibly have
taken him for a Pixie. He was very suitably dressed in khaki trousers,
blue coat, tan shoes, and visored cap, all somewhat creased and soiled,
and a bundle of tools lay on the seat beside him.

“Where did you get the car?” asked Wendell.

“Part of the outfit,” responded the Pixie. “I couldn’t pass for a
plumber, these days, could I, unless I went to my job in a high-powered
touring car?”

The Pixie guided the car deftly down the hill, and turned from the
dimpling blue Charles River into Beacon Street. They spun out over the
smooth pavement through Boston and into Brookline, consulted the address
that the Beauteous Maiden had written down, conferred with a policeman
or two, and at length turned into one of the pretty winding roads that
net the Boston suburbs.

“That’s it,” said the Pixie. “There’s the number.”

It was an attractive modern house of the near-Colonial style of
architecture, white-painted, with green blinds, a brick porch, a very
well-kept lawn, the whole tasteful, but not pretentious.

The Pixie rang the bell.

After a few moments, the door was opened by a young lady, who, while not
positively deformed, was so very, very plain, that Wendell knew at once
that she was the Ugly Stepsister.

“Leak in the bathroom?” asked the Pixie, with a concise, business-like
air.

“I didn’t know it. I’ll ask Mummer,” said the young lady. She left the
door ajar, and they heard her calling, “Mummer!” as she retreated to
the back of the house.

“I might slip in now, don’t you think?” asked Wendell.

“No, no!” whispered the Pixie sternly. “Wait and walk in like a
gentleman. No sneaking when you’re with me, young man.”

Wendell felt somewhat abashed, and yet resentful.

“I’d like to know if it isn’t sneaking to--” he began, but just then a
door opened from the kitchen and the Cruel Stepmother came forward. She
had projecting teeth, and a hooked nose and chin, and her hair straggled
uncombed about her face.

“What do you want?” she said.

“Leak in the bathroom,” said the Pixie briefly. “Your husband
telephoned.”

“Oh,” said she. “Right up the stairs there.”

The Pixie went up with the bag of tools on his shoulder, followed
closely by Wendell, and found a neat tiled bathroom. He unrolled his
tools, selected a monkey-wrench and went to work on the bath-tub pipes.
The two women had remained downstairs.

“Well, you’re here,” said the Pixie in a low tone.

“What would you do next?” whispered Wendell.

“Look about a bit,” rejoined the Pixie. “I’ll keep my ear cocked.”

Wendell tiptoed carefully into the hall and peeked into the front
bedroom. He tried a closet door, found it unlocked, opened it and peered
in at the usual collection of clothes hanging in closets. There was
nothing that looked like a magic cloak. He tiptoed into the next
bedroom and was investigating the contents of the closet there, when he
heard a sudden exclamation from the Pixie in the bathroom. He went in
hastily, asking, “Have you found anything?”

The Pixie had entirely disconnected the bath-tub and disjointed the
pipes, which lay strewn over the white-tiled floor. He was hastily
rolling up his bundle of tools.

“I’m off,” he said. “If the lady asks, tell her I’ve gone for my tools.”

“When are you coming back?” asked Wendell.

“Not at all,” said the Pixie, blithely but hurriedly.

“But aren’t you going to put the plumbing together again?” asked Wendell
in dismay. “They can’t ever do it.”

“I guess they can do it as well as I can,” returned the Pixie. “I never
took even a correspondence course in plumbing. So long.”

“But what about me?” protested Wendell.

“Well, here you are,” said the Pixie impatiently. “You said if I once
got you in here, you’d be all right. I’ve got to be on the way.”

“Yes, but don’t you think the Giant may come?”

“I do, indeed,” said the Pixie, who was now at the top of the stairs.
“In fact, I saw him only a moment ago coming down the street.”

With these words, he hurried down, opened and closed the front door,
swiftly but cautiously, and before Wendell had recovered from the shock,
there rose the purr of the motor, and the car was off.

Its sound had hardly died away, when there came a heavy tread on the
piazza that shook the house, the door was violently thrown open, and a
huge voice roared,

    “_Fee, fi, fo, fum!_
     _I smell the blood of--_”

The roar stopped short. Wendell heard the Stepmother’s voice.

“I wish you’d learn to control that fee, fi, fo, fum business!” she
scolded. “You scared the cook so badly with it this morning that she
gave notice, and here I’ve had to cook the dinner. It may have been all
right back in Cornwall several hundred years ago, but it doesn’t go
here.”

“Well, I’m sure,” said the Giant, “I didn’t mean anything. I _do_ smell
the blood of some one.”

“It’s that plumber upstairs,” she said. “Come in and eat your dinner.”

“Plumber?” said the Giant, and followed her into the dining-room.

They shut the door, but the Giant’s roar was so loud that Wendell could
still hear his part of the conversation, like one end of a telephone
talk.

“Where is the leak?”

       *       *       *       *       *

“How did you know there was one, then?”

       *       *       *       *       *

“No, I didn’t. No such thing.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Well, if he said I called him up, he’s probably a gang of thieves. I’ll
get the police. What did he look like?”

       *       *       *       *       *

“With a small boy, eh? I _knew_ I smelled small boy. I’ll bet he’s one
of these Giant-killer smarties. I’ll soon fix him.” He rose, shaking the
house with his heavy tread.

Wendell was a brave boy, but who wouldn’t quail before an angry giant?
Wendell quailed. He looked around for a place to hide.

The bathroom occupied a little ell with eaves, and under the eaves ran a
wainscoting, broken by a little door that was evidently the entrance to
a low closet. Wendell opened it and crawled in, not quite closing the
door, as it had no handle on the inside. He crouched behind a trunk,
pulled down some old clothes from a nail to cover him, and kept very
still, all but his heart, which thumped loudly.

“They’re not here,” he heard the Stepmother say. “It looks as if they
were coming back, though.”

“They _are_ here,” roared the Giant. “The small boy’s here. I can smell
him. He’s in that closet.”

He flung open the door.

“Bring a light,” he commanded.



CHAPTER XI

THE CLOAK OF DARKNESS


The Stepmother went out and came back with a flashlight.

“Here,” she said.

The Giant flashed it into the closet, yanked out the trunk, flashed the
light in again, straight into Wendell’s face, as he crouched there
half-covered by old clothes.

“He isn’t here,” said the Giant.

“No,” said his wife.

“He’s _been_ in here, though,” declared the Giant, sniffing. “Strong
smell of him.”

“Probably the man had him crawl in there to see if there was any leak in
the connection,” suggested the Stepmother. “I hope he’ll come back and
finish up soon. This place is a mess.”

What did it mean? They were looking straight at him. The light was
shining full on him. Yet they didn’t see him, not any more than if he
were invisible.

_Invisible!_ Why, of course! The invisible cloak--the Cloak of Darkness
that he had come to find! It must be this musty old garment that he had
pulled down to conceal him in his fright. Sure enough! And now came the
terrifying thought,--in another moment the door might be closed upon
him, and he shut fast in a prison from which there would be no easier
escape than if it were a veritable Giant’s dungeon in a fairy book. He
must get out at once. He drew the musty folds securely about him,
crawled forward, dodged under the Giant’s very arm, squeezed close to
the wall to pass the Stepmother, made himself small, not to crowd the
Ugly Stepsister, all agog in the doorway, slid down the banisters,
sneaked through the kitchen, out the back door, and away. He was free!

He scudded down the street as fast as his legs could twinkle, and turned
the corner. Which way to go, was the question. A nice-looking lady was
approaching. Wendell politely took off his cap and confronted her as she
reached him. To his surprise, the lady sailed by without twitching a
feature.

“Oh, of course. She can’t see me,” said Wendell. So he slipped off the
cloak and hung it over his arm, and in a moment a grocer’s delivery boy
with a basket came around the curve.

“Say, can you tell me where to get the car for Park Street?” asked
Wendell.

“Sure, kid,” said the boy obligingly. “Keep on to a big house with a
stone wall around it. Then take the first street to the right and you’ll
come out on the car line.”

Wendell thanked him and went on, found the house and the wall and the
street, and there ahead of him were the electric wires. He got to the
corner almost simultaneously with the car, hailed it and jumped on with
a sigh of relief. It was a pay-as-you-enter car. He stood by the box and
slid his hand into his pocket for the necessary dime, to realize with a
shock that he hadn’t a cent with him. These were his cast-off clothes.
He knew it was useless to search the pockets. He remembered he had gone
through them a week ago, when the ice cream-sandwich man was going by.
He grinned at the conductor, feeling very foolish, and dropped off the
car.

Well, of course, he could walk it all right, since he had to. It would
be simple to follow the car tracks. He stuck his hands in his pockets
and started off whistling.

“Hey, kid, you’re dragging your mother’s cape,” said a young fellow who
passed him. Wendell folded the Cloak of Darkness into a better shape for
carrying, then decided to wear it. After he had it on, the inspiration
came to him to board an electric at the next white post, and ride home
free.

Perfectly simple! He got on behind an unsuspecting gentleman and took a
seat near the door. Across the aisle sat a cross-eyed man. Wendell had
always longed for a chance to see how a cross-eyed man worked his eyes,
but he had never been allowed to stare at any one. Now he sat and stared
to his heart’s content, unforbidden and unseen. He stared with such
concentration that he was unaware that another passenger had entered the
car, a very stout old colored woman, until, ouch! she sat right down on
him!

“Laws-ee!” she said, and rose up quickly, and Wendell jumped for another
seat as fast as his crushed condition would permit. The old woman turned
to apologize--to an empty seat! Her jaw dropped in surprise, she glared
all around the car, and then lowered herself cautiously into the seat,
still muttering.

Wendell felt so secure in his invisibility, that he made no attempt to
restrain his laughter. He roared with mirth, and rocked, and slapped his
knee, till he noticed that the passengers were all looking to see which
one of them was responsible for this unseemly noise. This struck Wendell
as funnier than ever. He laughed uncontrollably, but he didn’t forget
again to keep an eye on the door; and whenever anyone got on after that,
Wendell rose to his feet with a promptitude that would have earned him a
medal as the most courteous boy in Greater Boston, if the Courtesy
Contest Editor of the _Post_ could have seen him.

As the car proceeded northward, the seats were filled more and more,
till there was no room for Wendell to sit. Towards the end of his ride,
it really was too crowded for comfort, for other standing passengers
stood on his feet, and wedged him in to small spaces, and lurched
against him with the motion of the car, and then apologized to somebody
else, till he was very glad when they arrived at Park Street, and he
could run for home. He went in with the cloak under his arm and hid it
in his bureau drawer.



CHAPTER XII

BLIND MAN’S BUFF WITH THE GIANT


The Pixie dropped in as usual after supper, and tried to act as if
nothing had happened; “but he can’t get away with _that_,” said Wendell
to himself.

“Hello, old sport,” said the Pixie in an offhand way. “How are the
fractions?”

“Oh, they’re all there,” returned Wendell, “but, I say, what do you mean
by sneaking off and leaving me this afternoon? I’d like to know that.”

“I _didn’t_ sneak,” said the Pixie indignantly. “I mentioned that I was
going. I _never_ sneak.”

“I’d like to know what you call it then. You didn’t wait for me, did
you?”

“Oh!” said the Pixie. “Why, I’m awfully sorry, old chap. I thought you
weren’t ready to come home when I left.”

“Why didn’t you wait till I was, then?”

“Why, that would have seemed so like hurrying you,” explained the Pixie,
gently. “No one can do a really artistic job with that being-waited-for
feeling. By the way, did you make any headway? Get any line on the
cloak?”

“Yes, I got it all right,” said Wendell. “But you might have waited to
see.”

“I hope I didn’t seem rude,” said the Pixie, penitently. “Really, to be
frank, I never did take much interest in the second-hand clothing trade;
and perhaps I made it too evident that I was a bit bored. I’ll wait for
you next time.”

“You can take it from me there won’t be any next time,” returned Wendell
in a rude voice that was a sad contrast to the Pixie’s gentlemanly
manner. “I’m going alone to-morrow. I guess the Cloak of Darkness will
be worth several dozens of your old transformations. So there!”

“I am sure you will regret this hasty expression of feeling when you
take time to think it over, my dear young friend,” said the Pixie,
gravely yet kindly. “I think I would better leave you until you come to
your better self.”

He instantly vanished from sight.

A few minutes later he put his head in at the door and said in a
forgiving tone, “There are your fractions,” and shut the door again.

Wendell felt much aggrieved. He knew that the Pixie had treated him
badly, and was now trying to make it appear that _he_ was at fault, and
he resolved that he would really go all alone for the Cap of Thought and
rely entirely upon the Cloak of Darkness for his success. So after
school the next day, he rolled the Cloak of Darkness under his arm,
made sure that he had enough money for carfare in his pockets this
time, and took the car at Park Street for Brookline.

After he got off the car, Wendell adjusted the Cloak of Darkness, and
walked on with entire assurance and a high spirit of adventure to the
Giant’s house.

He went up the neat brick steps and tried the front door with great
caution. But it did not yield. Then he went around to the back door, and
that was much better, for the door was open, and he walked straight in
and found the Cruel Stepmother and the Ugly Stepsister getting dinner in
the kitchen.

“These grapes aren’t very good, Mummer,” remarked the young lady, “not
nearly so good as the ones last week.”

“Naturally,” returned the witch, somewhat grimly. “I had to pay for
these.”

“Oh, of course,” said her daughter. “You didn’t have your Cloak of
Darkness when you went marketing to-day.”

“And the High Cost of Living is something awful when the market-man can
see you every minute, and you can’t take a thing without paying for it,”
complained her mother. “If I don’t find that Cloak soon, I just hope the
government will get after those dishonest profiteers.”

“Mummer,” said her daughter, thoughtfully, after a moment.

“Well?”

“Wasn’t your Cloak in the bathroom closet?”

“Yes, but I’ve hunted all through and I’m sure it isn’t there.”

“But, Mummer,--I hate to think of it--but those plumbers yesterday--”

The witch gasped and sat down heavily. “My word! You’re right! That’s
just where it’s gone!”

“And the Cap of Thought--was that with it?”

“No, I’m glad to say. That’s in my bottom bureau drawer.”

Wendell waited for no more. He tiptoed out and ran lightly upstairs.
Now, which room was it? This front one, of course. He opened the lowest
drawer of the bureau. Yes, there it lay, a little filmy cap of
indescribable color.

The front door banged suddenly. Wendell picked up the cap and tiptoed
into the hall and looked over the banisters. Ah! but he was thankful
then for the Cloak of Darkness. For there stood the Giant. And while
Wendell watched him, fascinated and secure, the Giant’s huge nose began
to twitch like a rabbit’s, he sniffed, and then roared out,

“Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell the blood--no, I _won’t_ be quiet!--of an
Englishman. Be he alive--well, your cook’s _gone_, isn’t she? she can’t
be any _goner_!--or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones--hold on! it smells
just like that boy that was here yesterday. Where is he?” He bellowed
out the question.

This roused tremendous excitement in the family. Both women talked at
once:--“the little wretch!”--“positive he stole my Cloak”--“got away
invisible”--“shan’t get away this time”--“Lock the doors, mummer!”--“but
we can’t see him”--“I’ll soon sniff him out”--this last from the Giant.

Wendell stood transfixed at the head of the stairs, clutching the Cap.
Did he dare descend? No, for the Giant growled out, “He’s upstairs, all
right,” and started up the flight. Wendell fled before him and turned
back into the front bedroom, the Giant sniffing close at his heels.

There was an open window in the room, but Wendell dared not risk a jump
from the second story. There ran rapidly through his mind all the
expedients that he could remember, from his reading of wild animal
books, for throwing the hunter off the trail of the quarry. If he could
double on his track,--but the track was too short. If he could climb to
a height and break the scent by leaping off,--but the chiffonier was the
highest thing in sight. If he could follow a stream of running water. He
wondered whether there was anything to gain by making a dash for the
bathroom. The Giant had adopted a horribly sure method. Crouching at the
height of a boy, with hands outstretched to touch the wall on either
side, he advanced slowly across the room. Wendell stood at bay in a
corner, helpless, desperate, but still game.

Just then the telephone rang. The Giant paused to say, “If that’s for
me, I can’t be bothered now. Take the number and say I’ll call ’em
later,” and that one moment of interruption gave Wendell a chance to
duck under the mighty monster’s arm and seek refuge in the other corner
behind his back. But he knew that his respite was but momentary.
Although the Ugly Stepsister had gone to answer the telephone, the Witch
still blocked the door, and as the Giant reached the other wall
fruitlessly, he sniffed intently and once more started across the room.
Wendell felt sure that he stood face to face with his last moment of
life. He jammed the Cap on his head to leave both hands free, drew out
and opened his jackknife and prepared to sell his life dearly.

[Illustration: HE SAW THE GIANT PASS THE WINDOW AGAIN]



CHAPTER XIII

THE CAP OF THOUGHT


Almost drowned by the continuous bellow of the Giant, and yet coming
distinctly to his consciousness, he seemed to hear, or rather feel, a
low monotonous voice that bore a resemblance to the Giant’s speaking
tone, and yet had no quality of roar about it:--“I must shut that
window. If he should jump out of that to the porch roof, he could easily
climb down the trellis.”

_It was the Giant, thinking!_

Wendell took a chance and jumped for the window. Just in time! As he
landed on the porch roof, the window was slammed behind him. He went
backwards down the trellis, and just before his eyes dropped below the
level, he saw the Giant pass the window again, pursuing the scent, which
doubtless still lingered. Spent and breathless though he was, fright
urged the boy on, and he ran two blocks, then dropped under a tree in a
garden and lay at full length on his back with the Cloak around him. He
lay there a long while, slowly recovering from his terrible exhaustion
and gradually getting his nerve back. At length he rose, took off and
folded his Cloak, put on his cloth cap, which he had stuffed into his
pocket on entering the Giant’s house, and walked on to the electric car.
He had quite forgotten the Cap of Thought, which he was still wearing
under his own cap,--and that single fact shows how dazed the encounter
with the Giant had left him. But as soon as he got on the car, he was
reminded of the Cap by the babel of thoughts that greeted him. The
undercurrent was a low expressionless hum blending indistinctly from
minds intent upon the newspapers; but other thoughts reached him clearly
and stridently:--“If the stores aren’t closed, I’ll try to get some of
that blue denim for Jackie’s overalls.” “If he does ask me to the next
dance, I really think I ought to have a new pink georgette.” “I can’t
account for that dollar--let me see, fifteen cents for the cigar,
seventeen cents for the soda, that leaves sixty-eight and five”--. Above
them all, one insistent thought reiterated, savagely, “If he calls me
that again, I’ll show him where he gets off!”

Wendell was very anxious to examine the Cap of Thought more closely. The
brief time that he had held it in his hands in the Giant’s house had
been so crowded with other impressions that he had but an indistinct
conception of his new treasure. He went straight to his room and took it
off and was delighted with its beauty. At first sight it seemed to be
made of gray cobwebs closely woven together into an almost colorless
fabric, but in certain lights it looked as if woven of strands of glass
in rainbow colors. As there was no one upstairs to try its magic
properties on, Wendell decided to wear it in the library after dinner,
and find out what his family was thinking about. He noticed in the
glass, with great satisfaction, that the Cap took on the color of his
own brown hair, so that it was barely visible.

There was a pleasant group in the library when he joined them after
dinner. They were all very quiet. His mother was darning stockings, his
father reading the _Transcript_ and occasionally reading some item
aloud, and his Latin School brother playing checkers with Cousin
Virginia. Yet the room was filled, to Wendell’s sensitive consciousness,
with a fine hum, as of conversation. He sat down quietly behind his
mother, who had not heard him come in.

“And then,” she went on thinking, “he will step down from the stage,
with everyone applauding wildly and saying, ‘Yes, that’s the one. That’s
Wendell Cabot Bradford, the prize orator, the greatest public speaker
Harvard has ever produced.’” Turning, she saw Wendell, gave him a loving
smile, and wondered why he looked so red and uncomfortable.

He tried his father next, and was greatly interested to hear two trains
of thought going on in his mind at once, one on the widening of State
Street (the subject discussed in the editorial that he was reading), and
the other apparently a memory of a telephone conversation he had held
that afternoon with the head-master of Wendell’s school. He seemed to
be turning over in his mind, while he read the editorial, the best
method of introducing the subject under discussion into a conversation
with Wendell; and as the subject under discussion had been the very
painful one of Wendell’s low standing, Wendell decided to go to bed at
once. He paused long enough to learn that his brother Otis’ thought had
nothing to do with checkers, but was idly resting on a dimple in the
cheek of a Dedham girl named Dorothy, whom Wendell had never heard of
(but he treasured the name in memory for future diplomatic use); and
that Cousin Virginia was thinking:--“Oh, to be in New York now the
toddle’s there! Boston! Checkers!! Baked Beans!!! Antimacassars!!!!
Silhouettes!!!!! Pantalettes!!!!!!! I shall die!”

The telephone rang. Wendell offered to go, as he was “just starting for
bed anyway.” It proved to be someone asking for him.

“Do you know who this is?” asked an eager girlish voice. “Can’t you
guess? It’s the Beauteous Maiden. I knew you would want to hear from me,
but I had _such_ a time finding you! I didn’t know how you were listed.
Yes, I’m getting on beautifully. Oh, yes, the contract is signed. We did
it that day. The president of the producing company is delighted with
me. He says I shall film beautifully. He says my youth, innocence, and
beauty will make me the most popular girl in America.--How are you
progressing with the invisible cloak?--You have? How perfectly splendid!
And the Cap of--? You have? How perfectly wonderful! And the Book? No,
I don’t know where she keeps it. I never saw it. But she always keeps
the attic locked and never let me up there, so that might be--Oh, let me
give you my phone number. You must let me know, of course, how it comes
out.”

Wendell wrote it down, but there was a queer sinking in the place where
he kept his heart--or his stomach: he didn’t know which. He was
remembering the Kobold’s remark about marrying the Beauteous Maiden.
Whenever he thought of it, he was attacked by that same curious sinking.
What a brainless fellow that Kobold was, to be sure, just as the Pixie
had said! He rather wished he hadn’t been so short with the Pixie last
night. He was a well-meaning chap, after all, and a fiend at fractions.

When he got upstairs to his room, there was the Pixie waiting for him,
and Wendell was really very glad to see him, and decided not to reopen
the subject of the Pixie’s precipitate flight from the Giant’s house.

The Pixie was tremendously interested in the Cap of Thought. He tried it
on, and also the Cloak of Darkness, and had Wendell try them both on to
show how they worked. And the Pixie gave some very kind advice as to
getting possession of the magic book, and offered to work some of his
best transformation spells; but Wendell had his plan all made and laid
it before the Pixie. It was, to go out very early Saturday morning, when
he would have a holiday from school, watch the house till the Giant had
left, and thus have the whole day ahead of him, to search the premises.
He relied on the magic Cloak and Cap to help him out of any
difficulties that might arise.

“Well, perhaps that’s the best plan,” assented the Pixie. “And of
course, if you find it necessary, you can count on me to change you into
anything we think most useful. For instance, you might like to be
changed to a moving truck, if this magic book is like any other magic
books I’ve ever seen.”

“How do you mean?” said Wendell.

“Well, the subject matter is pretty heavy, you know. It makes the book
rather weighty.”

“Oh, does it?” said Wendell. “I didn’t know.”

“And another thing I want to warn you of,” said the Pixie seriously.
“Don’t read any charm aloud, till you know what it’s for. They ought to
make those magic books fool-proof, but they don’t.”

“I’ll remember,” said Wendell.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MAGIC BOOK


Wendell had counted on having a good deal of sport with the Cloak of
Darkness and the Cap of Thought, wearing them around the house and
outdoors, and even in school, but he was a bit afraid to risk any
accident to them before the eventful Saturday. So he locked them
securely in his chiffonier until that morning.

It was usually very hard to get him to wake up Saturday mornings, but
this Saturday was an exception. He was up with the lark,--if there had
been any,--ate his breakfast before the rest of the family came down,
and was soon on his way over the now familiar route, to the Brookline
house. He had timed it nicely. The Giant was just leaving as he got
there; and Wendell, only too well aware that his scent was now
well-known to the Giant, scuttled down a side street until the monster
was out of sight.

Into the familiar kitchen once more, and all through the house, went
Wendell. The mother and daughter were doing the upstairs work and
Wendell sat around with them for some time, following a confusion of
most uninteresting household details that ran through their minds.

At length he was repaid.

“I guess I’ll get my warm quilt out for the winter,” thought the girl.
“It’s getting cold these nights. Now, _where_ did Mummer put that attic
key? If I ask her, she probably won’t tell me, just to be mean. I’ll
hunt around, instead.”

Presently, the Witch went downstairs, and her daughter took that
opportunity to look through her mother’s bureau drawers; and after some
search, she found it.

“I’d better wait,” she thought, “till Mummer goes marketing. Then I’ll
put the key back again and say nothing about it.”

But she had no sooner gone downstairs, herself, than Wendell took the
key and unlocked the attic door. He took the precaution of locking it
again on the inside, so that there could be no intrusion while he was
searching for the Book. He chuckled to think how chagrined the Ugly
Stepsister would be when she went to look for the key and thought her
mother had changed its hiding-place.

The attic was a large unfinished room with peaked roof. It was only in
the middle that one could stand upright. There was some old furniture
and there were several trunks. Wendell tried the trunks first. One was
locked, with the key still in the lock, and opened easily. And there,
inside, among a store of pillow cases and towels, lay what was
undoubtedly the Magic Book. It was as easy as that!

The Book was about as large as Webster’s Unabridged. It was bound in
very dark, smooth leather, all worn and frayed at the corners, and
fastened with a heavy iron clasp. It did look heavy, just as the Pixie
had said, but Wendell seized it firmly, and attempted to lift it with an
energy that almost pulled his arms from their sockets. For the Book
didn’t lift a fraction of an inch. It might have been soldered to the
trunk.

“My! It _is_ weighty! He was right!” gasped the boy.

He tried again, and again; but the book must have weighed tons. There
was no lifting it.

Wendell considered the matter. There must be something he could do,--but
what? Of course, he could go home and tell the Pixie and get changed
into something strong,--a yoke of oxen, or an elephant. But this was
Saturday. The Pixie had done Monday’s fractions Friday night, and
probably wouldn’t be around again till Monday night. Well, well, what a
disappointment!

He sat down on the edge of the trunk and examined the volume. There was
no title on the cover. He undid the clasp and opened the Book at random.
Yes, this was undoubtedly it. The quaint old lettering showed it, the
long strange words. He spelled out what seemed a perfectly meaningless
sentence.

Whish-sh-sht! A prolonged rushing noise like a sky-rocket, and there
stood before him a strange and uncouth figure. It was a man somewhat
above average height, wearing a costume that Wendell thought was
oriental, though he had never seen anything like it before.

“Who are you?” faltered Wendell.

“I am the Slave of the Charm,” replied the stranger. “I have answered
your summons. What are your commands?”

“I don’t quite understand,” gasped Wendell. “Please explain.”

“You said the magic words that summon me,” repeated the apparition. “I
am here to do your bidding.”

“Oh, I see,” said Wendell. “Good work! Please take this Book home for
me.”

“I obey,” returned the stranger. He lifted the Book on his shoulder,
turned down the stairs and vanished straight through the locked door.

Wendell scrambled after him, first drawing around him the Cloak of
Darkness, which he had thrown off. Not being a magic apparition,
himself, he was forced to unlock the door to get through, and this
delayed him a moment. So he caught just a glimpse of the genie,
vanishing through the front door without opening it. But the witch and
her daughter had seen him go and seen the Book on his shoulder; and the
daughter’s mind was whirling like a merry-go-round, as Wendell easily
perceived.

However, it was quite otherwise with her mother. The former witch sat on
the lowest step of the stairs, with such a happy and peaceful look that
Wendell hardly knew her. “Free at last!” she was exulting

[Illustration: “I AM THE SLAVE OF THE CHARM,” REPLIED THE STRANGER]

inwardly. “I have lost the Cloak and the Cap and now the Book, and at
last I am disenchanted.” Wendell was glad she felt so good about it. He
stayed invisible, never-the-less, and hurried out after his slave, who
was now nowhere in sight. His trail could be followed, however, by a
long line of small boys, stringing out after him as if they were running
to a fire. As it seemed impossible to overtake him on foot, Wendell took
an electric for home. Evidently, his slave was there before him, to
judge from the excitement that still reigned among the boys on his
block. “Say, Wendell,” they hailed him, “you ought to ’a seen the guy
that just went into your house!”

Wendell found the front door intact, and went up to his room. There on
his study table lay the Book. The slave had vanished. Wendell’s first
impulse was to read it from cover to cover, but he was mindful of the
Pixie’s warning. He had already had one demonstration of the wonderful
power and immediate operation of its charms. This once, it had turned
out very neatly for him, but he might not be so fortunate another time.
So he opened the Book very gingerly and pressed his lips tight together,
for fear of being betrayed by his intense interest into reading some
powerful and dangerous passage aloud.

The first thing that Wendell noticed was that it was all written or
printed by hand and was evidently the work of different persons; that
is, the letters, some in print, some in script, changed their character
from page to page, and the ink was in varying degrees of paleness, as if
the transcription had been made at different epochs. Wendell observed
also that the pages of paper differed. In fact, some of them were not
paper at all. There were pages of very thin leather of different shades,
and a sort of tough fibrous substance (that was parchment, had Wendell
known it), and some strips of bark, like bark of the birch or ash. And
there were paper leaves, also, but yellowed and old, none of it modern.
The Book was evidently a bound collection of old manuscripts, brought
together from what sources, by what means, and through how many ages,
the boy could not even guess. But it was a fascinating thing for
magic-loving Wendell to examine, even though much of it was
unintelligible, and much more of no possible use to Wendell. He turned
the brittle, fragile pages with the utmost care, fingering each at the
right-hand top corner, and turning the entire page with his flat hand,
very, very carefully.

The titles of the chapters, or charms, or whatever they were, delighted
him beyond measure:--

    “HOW TO TURN WOOD INTO SILVER.
     HOW TO TURN BASE METALS INTO GOLD.
     HOW TO MAKE IRON FLOAT.
     TO CHANGE AN INFANT PRINCE INTO A HUMMING BIRD.
     TO CUT OFF A DRAGON’S HEAD.
     HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS.
     HOW TO MAKE A FLYING SHIP.” (“Huh! Magic aviation!” commented Wendell.)
     “THE EASIEST WAY TO DISENCHANT A DUMB PRINCESS.
     HOW TO MAKE WINGED SANDALS.
     SOME TRIED METHODS FOR KILLING GIANTS.”

“There you are, Wendell, my boy,” said a friendly voice, and Wendell
looked around and found that the Pixie was looking over his shoulder at
the Book.



CHAPTER XV

A CHOICE OF CHARMS


“Hello, old sport!” said Wendell; “I didn’t expect you till Monday.”

“Oh, I just dropped in,” said the Pixie. “Great book, isn’t it? But, go
easy, son, go easy. Danger, you know.”

“Yes, I am going easy,” said Wendell. “I haven’t read one word out loud.
It’s some book, though!”

“Let’s read that thing about giants,” suggested the Pixie. “That ought
to just suit your case.”

“I suppose there’s no harm in reading _this_ aloud,” said Wendell,
hesitatingly. “Just sort of directions, you see.”

“Go slowly,” commanded the Pixie. “And if you see any charm coming to
meet you, stop short.”

Wendell read:--

    “‘SOME TRIED METHODS FOR KILLING GIANTS.

“‘Method ye first:--To kill a giant--’”

“Put salt on his tail,” interpolated the Pixie.

“Please listen,” said Wendell, and went on,--

“‘Dig a hole deeper than his height a few steps from his door. Cover it
with branches of trees. Standing on the further side, away from his
house, taunt him in a loud voice. When he rushes out, he will fall into
the hole, and can be easily despatched.’”

“By whom?” inquired the Pixie, after deep thought. “I vote, _not_ by
me.”

“Well, here’s another,” said Wendell. “‘Method ye second:--Assume the
disguise of a wayworn traveler. Knock at the giant’s door and ask for a
night’s lodging.’--I can’t do that,” said Wendell. “He knows me by
smell.”

“Never mind. Read it through,” said the Pixie.

“‘He will tell you that he has no extra bed, but that you are welcome to
share his son’s.’--Yes, but he hasn’t a son,” said Wendell.

“Never mind. It’s interesting. Go on,” said the Pixie.

“‘When you go to bed, he will put a gold chain around his son’s neck and
a hempen rope round your neck. As soon as he has left you, put the
hempen rope round his son’s neck and the gold chain round your own neck,
and then feign sleep. After a time, the giant will return. He will feel
for the gold chain, and finding it on your neck, and the hempen rope on
his son’s neck, he will cut off his son’s head with his sword. You must
then wait until you hear the giant’s snores, and rising quickly’--”

“Taking care,” suggested the Pixie, “not to step on a tack.”

“‘--make your way to his bedside, and lop off his head with his own
sword.’”

“Too much shortening in that recipe,” said the Pixie. “Try another.”

“‘Giant-killing as recommended by Puss-in-Boots,’” read Wendell.
“‘Invite the giant to a feast at your castle, and after he is in a good
humor, make a wager that you can change yourself into an animal more
quickly than he can. Change yourself into a cat; and whatever form the
giant assumes, whether that of lion, tiger, leopard, or what-not, let
the onlookers declare that the contest is a draw and that the trial must
be made again. Convince the giant that in order to insure a perfectly
fair trial, both contestants should change to the same shape, and choose
that of a mouse. At the word, allow the giant to take the shape of a
mouse, while you retain that of a cat, and immediately devour him.’”

“That sounds rather good,” said the Pixie approvingly. “You’d have to
practice your transformations at home, first, of course, and be sure you
have the charm down pat.”

Wendell did not answer immediately. “Say, that gives me an idea,” he
finally declared. “Why kill the Giant, anyway?”

“To please the Beauteous Maiden, of course,” said the Pixie.

“Yes, but why _kill_ him?” questioned Wendell. “Why not just change him
into something good and harmless and useful. The Beauteous Maiden would
like that just as well, wouldn’t she?”

“Well, you can ask her,” said the Pixie. “This is the age of
labor-saving. Only, killing seems more definite, somehow, more final.
But you can ask her.”

“I’ll try to get her on the ’phone, now,” said Wendell, “and you be
thinking up something to change him to. And say, look in the Book and
find the charm for it.”

Wendell was gone for some time. “I couldn’t get her,” he said when he
returned. “But I’m sure she’ll be willing. We’ll go ahead and plan
something anyway. Did you find a charm?”

“Oh, yes, loads of them,” said the Pixie. “Just listen to these:--

    “‘TO CHANGE A HUMAN BEING INTO A TURTLE.
      TO CHANGE A HUMAN BEING INTO A BUTTERFLY.
      TO CHANGE A HUMAN BEING INTO A STONE--’ That might be good,--
     ‘TO CHANGE A HUMAN BEING INTO A DRAGON--’ He is that already.”

“Hold on,” said Wendell. “We don’t want any of those. Find a general
one, to change him into any old thing. We can decide what afterwards.”

“All right,” said the Pixie. “I’ll keep on looking, and you keep on
thinking.”

“We might change him into a janitor,” suggested Wendell, who had been
looking idly out of the window until his eye fell on the janitor of
Sammy’s apartment house. “He’s useful, you know. He puts out ashes and
runs the furnace.”

“Oh, that would never do,” cried the Pixie. “That Giant has shown he
can’t be trusted in any position of absolute authority and unlimited
despotism. You must curtail his powers instead of enlarging them.”

“A cook would be good,” said Wendell, who really had a very practical
mind. “My mother and all her friends say there aren’t enough cooks to go
’round.”

“I told you,” said the Pixie wearily, “you must curtail his powers. Just
use your brain a little. Isn’t the cook the greatest power in the
household? Might as well leave him a giant and be done with it!”

“Well, I can’t think,” said Wendell. “I don’t know anything useful. A
victrola, perhaps. I wonder if the Beauteous Maiden has a victrola. I’m
sure she can think of something, anyhow.”

Sure enough, the Beauteous Maiden was resourceful enough to meet the
situation. She called Wendell up herself, after school Monday, just as
he was going to the telephone to try to get her.

Of course, Wendell had not been idle over Sunday. He had made himself
thoroughly familiar with all the various charms for transforming people
that he could find in the Book. There was one first-class charm that
suited him to perfection, because it was adaptable. With this charm, you
could change anything to anything else, anywhere, at any time. Wendell
practiced with it, in a harmless sort of way, quite a little, to be sure
he could work it. He changed his eraser to a bean-shooter, first, and
shot beans at some cats on the back fence. Then he changed a very
handsome and unread copy of Macaulay’s History of England that his aunt
had given him into a gold watch, which, however, he was careful to keep
out of sight of the family, especially Cousin Virginia. He changed an
old pen-wiper into a box of caramels. That was an inspiration. And in
Sunday school he changed a hymnal into a mouse that ran across the
Sunday school room and made quite a diversion. That was one of his
successes. He did another interesting thing. He changed Sammy’s janitor
into a crab just as he was crossing the street. That was an easy change,
because Sammy’s janitor was something of a crab, anyway. He changed him
back again, though, because a street on Beacon Hill is no place for a
crab. By the time he heard from the Beauteous Maiden, he felt quite
ready to carry out any suggestions she might offer.



CHAPTER XVI

THE HAPPY FAMILY


“I have so much to tell you,” said the Beauteous Maiden’s happy voice
over the telephone. “Listen. I’ve heard from Mummer. She ’phoned. My
Cruel Stepmother, you know, only she isn’t any more. She says she is
entirely disenchanted, and she was perfectly lovely to me. I told her
all about you, and she was so pleased. She wants to meet you, of course,
but I thought it was safer to wait until you had killed the Giant.
Mummer says he’s terribly hard to get on with, now that she’s stopped
being a witch. He doesn’t like it a bit. When do you think you can kill
him?”

“I want to ask you about that,” interrupted Wendell, and he laid his
plan before her. “The Beauteous Maiden was very enthusiastic over it.”

“Better!” she exclaimed. “Oh, much better! Now what shall he be changed
to? Something useful, as you say.”

“I thought of a victrola,” urged Wendell, who was fond of music. “You
haven’t a victrola, have you? And every family needs one.”

“No--o, we haven’t,” said the Beauteous Maiden. “That’s rather good, if
we can’t think of anything better. But, let me see. What we
really need in our family, more than a victrola, even, is Social
Placement,--Background,--that sort of thing, you know. Even with Youth,
Innocence, and Beauty, you do need Background, too, if you know what I
mean. And it’s been an awfully hard thing to manage--impossible,
really--with a Giant and a Witch right in plain sight in the family. Now
what _can_ you change the Giant to that will be most useful for
Background?”

“Mayflower Society?” said Wendell. “Sons of the American Revolution? We
have a lot of those in our family. That’s what you mean, isn’t it?”

“In a way,” said the Beauteous Maiden. “But those things aren’t any use
unless they are handled properly. I’ll tell you the kind of thing I
mean,--a Harvard professor, say. That would give us Atmosphere as well
as Background.”

“But they’d have to create a special Chair for him, wouldn’t they?”
hesitated Wendell.

“Why, no,” said the Beauteous Maiden. “You’ll change him down small, of
course, and then he can use any chair they have.”

“Well, all right,” said Wendell. “I’ll do it this afternoon, if you
like.”

“Oh, will you?” cried the Beauteous Maiden. “That will be simply
wonderful. And we’ll go out to call on them to-morrow afternoon if you
can.”

So it was settled. Wendell was to work the charm at once and meet the
Maiden at the Frog Pond after school next day. Of course, it was a
perfectly easy thing for Wendell to do, after all his practice; so he
was sure the charm had worked, and felt entirely safe in going out to
Brookline with the Beauteous Maiden next afternoon. She looked very
charming when he met her at the Frog Pond. Even though not liking her
general style, Wendell had to admit that she was good looking.

“I’m making a tremendous success,” she told him. “And listen. I have
such good news for the family. I’ve got a job for my sister in character
parts. Isn’t that fine! Poor thing! Of course she never could play
anything calling for Youth, Innocence and Beauty, but she has just the
face for character parts. Don’t you think so?”

How very strange it seemed to Wendell to be alighting from the electric
at the familiar corner, to be retracing his hazardous steps towards that
dangerous house, in perfect safety, on an entirely conventional errand.
He said so to the Beauteous Maiden, and she smiled and answered softly.

“I know you ran some frightful risks for my sake. Believe me, I am not
unappreciative, as time will show.”

Wendell wished he hadn’t mentioned it.

The neat white house was unchanged without, but the moment the Beauteous
Maiden opened the door with her latch key and called, “Mummer, I’m
here,” Wendell was conscious of an entire change in the mental
atmosphere. The Good Stepmother came running out from the kitchen to
meet them. Her gray hair was arranged in a recent and becoming fashion;
she had had her projecting teeth out and had some new pivot teeth that
looked much better; and she wore an inexpensive but tasteful afternoon
frock. But the greatest change was in her sweet motherly face. She put
her arms around the Beauteous Maiden, half laughing and half crying,
called over her shoulder, “Daughter, Daughter, here’s your dear sister,”
and then drew her into the living-room for one more kiss. The Beauteous
Maiden, for her part, looked up at her mother with all her Youth,
Innocence, and Beauty shining in her eyes, and said,

“Mummer, dear, you _must_ meet my Deliverer, Wendell Bradford. I can’t
tell in one breath how much he has done for me, but when you know it
all, you will welcome him as a son even as you welcome me as a
daughter,” and Wendell found himself folded in the Good Stepmother’s
embrace.

He was very much alarmed, and before he could escape, he found the
Stepsister giving him a sisterly kiss too.

“You know,” he explained, in horrible embarrassment, “I’m not old enough
to think about marrying.” He hoped this would end the matter, but the
Good Stepmother said, “I know she will wait for you, dear boy;” at which
Wendell writhed, but tried to hide it.

Then the ex-giant came in, and such a family reunion as took place then!
The present professor was a scholarly looking man with a benignant
face. He welcomed the Beauteous Maiden with great affection, and shook
Wendell’s hand cordially and called him a noble fellow.

The family had so much to talk about, after their long separation, that
they hardly knew where to begin. The Beauteous Maiden had told her
mother over the telephone all about her success in the pictures; but of
course her Stepsister had innumerable questions to ask her, for
movie-life is always fascinating to non-professionals. When the
Stepsister heard that the magic doors of movie-land had been opened to
her, too, through this excellent offer to play character parts, she
almost wept for joy.

“And to think of my envy and jealousy of you, dear Sister,” she said,
“and what kindness you are showing to me now, in spite of it all!”

“Hush! do not let us speak of that!” said the Beauteous Maiden. “You
know, my Youth, Innocence, and Beauty are equalled only by my Beauty of
Character.”

Then the family plans had to be discussed. The ex-giant was very happy
in his professorship, and talked enthusiastically of the courses that he
was to give, and an annotated text-book that he had been asked to edit.

“Then there is the question of my library,” he said. “Have you any idea
of the size of a college professor’s library?”

Wendell said he hadn’t.

“Well, I haven’t either,” said the Professor. “But I’ve been shopping
for a library this morning, and I talked with a very intelligent
second-hand-bookstore man. He said five feet was the standard length
for a student’s library, and he showed me several five-foot-lengths that
had been turned in to him by college students--in excellent condition.
Some of them, indeed, looked as if they had never been opened. I bought
ten lengths. Don’t you think fifty feet of library should be about right
for a professor, if five feet is required for a student?”

Wendell and the family, after some intelligent discussion of this point,
agreed with him.

Wendell was feeling quite at home with his new acquaintances by this
time. The Professor sat in a big Morris chair with the Beauteous Maiden
on a cricket at his feet, while his hand strayed lovingly among her
curls. The Stepsister perched with one arm around the Professor’s neck.
On the sofa, the motherly Stepmother sat beside Wendell and leaned over
occasionally to pat his hand. It was altogether a charming scene of
family happiness, such as is too rare, alas! in these modern days of
automobiling, jazz, and summer camps. Wendell was thinking how happy
they all seemed, when the Stepsister suddenly said,

“You’ll have me for bridesmaid, won’t you, dearest?”

“Of course, dear, if Wendell agrees with me,” said the Beauteous Maiden,
smiling.

Poor Wendell! With all his heart he wished that he had never become
involved in his heroic role. Of course, as Deliverer, he _had_ to marry
the Beauteous Maiden, but he did not conceal from himself the fact that
he had never really fancied her. “Even when she was a Frog,” he thought,
“I didn’t want her around.” He was thoroughly unhappy.



CHAPTER XVII

SAMMY TRIES HIS HAND


The Stepsister brought him some lemonade and delicious nutcakes before
they left, and Wendell felt better after he had eaten five of them.
Still, he was glad when the affectionate farewells were over, and he and
the Beauteous Maiden were once more on their way to Boston.

By chance, they met on the electrics a friend of the Beauteous Maiden’s,
a moving-picture friend, her leading man, in fact. He seemed very, very
glad to see the Beauteous Maiden. After being introduced to Wendell, he
sat down on the other side of the Beauteous Maiden, and began to talk to
her very low and earnestly. The Beauteous Maiden was evidently
uncomfortable. She kept turning around and trying to include Wendell in
the conversation, and she laughed a good deal at whatever the young man
was saying, and tried to make light of what was apparently to him a
serious matter.

Now Wendell had the Cap of Thought in his pocket, and as he couldn’t
hear one word that the young man was saying and the Beauteous Maiden
evidently didn’t wish him to be left out, he took out the Magic Cap and
slipped it on under his own cap as a convenience.

Around him rose the confused babble of many thoughts; but to his utmost
amazement, close beside him was a sound of sobbing, of heart-breaking
sobbing, although the Beauteous Maiden was laughing gayly.

And what was she thinking? “Oh, my dear Deliverer, I must marry you when
you grow up. The Deliverer always expects it. And never, _never_, shall
I let you suspect that this young man who plays my leading parts is the
only man in the world for me, that I love him as maiden never loved
before. No, though his heart and mine shall break, I shall uphold the
traditions of all fairy tales and marry you according to the book.”

An old gentleman, reading his paper across the aisle, received a great
shock at this moment. His paper was suddenly dashed from his hand by a
boy’s cap, which descended suddenly from above. It was Wendell’s
cap,--not the magic one,--and he had thrown it in the air with a sudden
“Hurrah!” as he heard what the Beauteous Maiden was thinking.

After he had picked up the old gentleman’s paper and apologized, he
pulled at the sleeve of the Beauteous Maiden and said,

“Listen here a minute. I heard what you thought.”

“What do you mean?” asked the Maiden.

“I have on the Cap of Thought,” said Wendell.

“Why, so you have,” said she.

“And I wish you wouldn’t feel so bad,” he went on. “You can marry the
young man just as well as not. I don’t want you to wait for me. By the
time I’m grown up, I may like some other girl better. Anyway, you just
needn’t consider me. Suit yourself entirely.”

“Do you mean that? Really?” she asked.

“I certainly do,” said Wendell fervently.

“Oh, how perfectly wonderful!” she cried; and then Wendell took off his
Cap of Thought, for her thoughts of the young man grew so enthusiastic
that Wendell was rather bored by listening in.

“Well, that’s well over,” he said to himself gayly “And I’m certainly
coming out of this adventure all to the good. There’s the Pixie doing my
fractions for me. There’s the Cloak of Darkness and the Cap of Thought
whenever I want to do a little sleuthing, and there’s the Magic Book for
all-’round enchantment. I certainly am in luck.”

At Park Street he said good-bye to the grateful Beauteous Maiden and her
leading man and started along Joy Street for home, with a
light-heartedness that he had not known for days. He turned into his own
street and there was Sammy Davis, shinnying up a street lamp.

“Hi, Sam!” he called. “Come on over.” He suddenly realized that he had
lost track of Sammy lately, with so many magic tasks on foot.

“Come on in, Sam,” he said. “I’ve got something to show you.”

Sam came in.

“It’s up in my room,” said Wendell. “Come on up.”

Once there, Wendell brought out the Cloak of Darkness.

“Is that all?” asked Sammy.

“That’s enough, _I_ guess,” said Wendell. “You just wait.”

He threw the Cloak around his shoulders. Sammy stared open-mouthed. He
gazed around the room, then started up in fright and rushed to the open
window.

“Here I am,” cried Wendell, and stood there grinning, visible once more.

While Sammy still stood staring, Wendell pulled the Cloak around himself
again, and laughed outright at Sammy’s face. Then he came into sight
again and asked generously,

“Want to try it yourself?”

Of course Sammy wanted to; and the boys took turns being “it” in a novel
kind of blind-man’s-buff, which was a great deal more fun to Wendell
than when he had played the same game with the Giant.

After that, Wendell brought out the Cap of Thought and adjusted it to
his head. “Now think of something, Sammy,” he said.

“Think of what?” asked Sammy, his mind immediately becoming a perfect
blank, as Wendell could feel.

“Oh, say a verse,” suggested Wendell. “That’s right:--‘Listen, my
children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.’”

“Gee, Wendell! How do you do it?” asked Sammy in bewilderment.

“Try it again,” said Wendell. “I get you. ‘The breaking waves dashed
high On a stern and rockbound coast.’”

“I know something,” said Sammy. “You hold on a minute. I got you stung
this time.”

Sure enough! Though Wendell could get the sounds perfectly, they were
too unfamiliar for him to repeat.

“I can’t _say_ it,” he explained, “but I can hear it all right. It’s
some foreign language. I’ll bet it’s Yiddish.”

“Yes, it is,” said Sammy. “Now let me try.”

So Wendell put the Cap on Sammy’s head and thought, “Sammy Davis, you’re
a nut!” and Sammy grinned and enjoyed the joke on himself.

“Gee, Wendell!” said Sammy. “You certainly are in luck. You can go
anywhere and find out anything. You are a lucky dog!”

“Yes sir!” said Wendell. “And I’ll never have to study again. I can just
wear this Cap in school and when the teacher gives out a question, I’ll
read the answer right in his mind, and say it right off. I’ll do that
all through school and all through college, and then when I’m in
business, I’ll put on the Cloak and go right into the offices of all the
big business men, Rockefeller and Henry Ford and everybody, and wear the
Cap and find out just what they are thinking and how they make their
money, and I’ll make mine the same way.”

“Gee!” said Sammy again and could find no further speech.

[Illustration: BEFORE THE BOYS’ TERRIFIED VISION STOOD A HORRIBLE
DEMON]

“And that isn’t all,” said Wendell. “Here’s the biggest thing yet.”

“What is it anyway?” demanded Sammy, looking suspiciously at the magic
volume.

“_A Book of Spells_,” said Wendell impressively.

“Huh! A spelling book, eh?” echoed Sammy unenthusiastically.

“NO, no,” said Wendell. “_Spells._ Charms, you know. Enchantments. Look
here,” turning the pages: “‘HOW TO TURN BASE METALS INTO GOLD.’ ‘THE
EASIEST WAY TO DISENCHANT A DUMB PRINCESS.’ ‘SOME TRIED METHODS FOR
KILLING GIANTS.’”

“Hey! Lem_me_ see,” cried Sammy. “Some book, I’ll say. ‘HOW TO PLACE A
LOST RING IN A FISH’S MOUTH.’ What do you know! ‘HOW TO LOCATE THE PLACE
WHERE TREASURE IS BURIED.’ Some book, I’ll tell the world! Say, some of
this don’t make much sense, does it? ‘_Abacadabra, alaka, balaka_,--’”
he spelled out a word or two.

A horrible odor filled the room,--like burnt scrambled eggs, thought
Wendell. There floated before his eyes a dimness as of smoke. It took
shape of an awful humanness, and took color as of white ashes. It slowly
took on a dull glow, which brightened until before the boys’ terrified
vision stood a horrible demon, angrily glowing a fiery red. He gave out
heat like a kitchen stove on ironing-day, and the rug where he stood
began to smoke.

“What are your commands?” he hissed.

There were none. Both boys were through the door and downstairs before
he had finished the question. Sammy fled in terror before that frightful
apparition, and Wendell went to bring Sammy back,--but he didn’t think
of that good reason till afterwards. Neither boy paused in flight till
the street was reached.

“Did he have hoofs and a tail?” gasped Sammy.

They stared up at the top windows. A jet of flame shot up. The muslin
window curtain was on fire.

“Fire!!!” yelled Sammy, dashing down the street to the alarm box.
Wendell--this to his credit--ran back into the burning house and alarmed
the family. Mrs. Bradford rushed for her jewels. Cousin Virginia, with
great presence of mind, put in a fire call by telephone. Sammy’s alarm
had already reached the fire station on Mt. Vernon Street. Almost as
Virginia left the telephone, the clang of the engines was heard, and a
line of firemen carried the hose upstairs, with their formula, “Is
everybody out?” The servants rushed clamoring to the street. Virginia
ran to help and reassure Mrs. Bradford, and Wendell followed the last
fireman up to his room.

The smoke was so dense that at first he could see nothing. Then he saw
that the stream of chemical had extinguished all the flames, and was now
directed at a fiery pillar in a sort of human shape that glowed redly
through the smoke. Wendell alone knew what it was. Little by little the
angry glow faded to white ashes. Gradually it dimmed to floating smoke.
The fire was out. The smoke cleared. The firemen withdrew. The family
assembled to view the blackened walls, to sniff the depressing odor, as
of a burnt-out district, to exclaim over the havoc and ruin wrought in
those few minutes.

“How did it happen?” everyone asked, and

“I don’t know,” said Wendell helplessly. How could he explain?

“Wasn’t that Sammy Davis in here?” asked the cook. “You two boys were up
to something, _I_ know.”

His pretty room was a thing of the past--completely burnt out. The walls
were black. A few charred rags had once been window curtains. A sodden
rag underfoot was his rug. The closet was burned through. Blackened
shreds of garments hung on the nails. Wendell’s desk was but charred
timbers. His books were paper ashes.

“I know why Wendell looks so woe-begone!” said Cousin Virginia. “His
school books are burned.”

“Don’t worry, dear,” said his mother. “Everything is covered by
insurance. You wanted your room re-decorated, you know, and it is easy
to replace the clothes and books.”

Ah, yes, but who could replace the Cloak of Darkness? Who could restore
the Cap of Thought? What insurance would cover the Book of Spells?
Wendell was doomed once more to the drudgery of other mortals, to
learning his lessons like other boys, to plodding his toilsome way
through college, to making his own business success, unaided by the
great minds of the world’s financiers. No wonder he stood there glum
and almost tearful amid the blackened ruins of his room and of his
future.

Then suddenly, as he stood by the window, his eyes fell upon the street
below and the crowd of neighbor boys still lingering about the scene of
the fire, and upon the stone post that stood at the entrance to the
court over the way. And his eyes brightened to something like happy
anticipation as he said under his breath,

“Well, anyway, I have one wish left on the Wishing Stone.”





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