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The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

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The Enchanted Castle

by E. Nesbit

To Margaret Ostler with love from E. Nesbit

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

Royalty Chambers, Soho, W. 25
September 1907

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

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

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

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

"You couldn't," said Jimmy.

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

"Too much fag," said Gerald briefly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Eh bien?" she said rather impatiently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh, yes," said Gerald truthfully.

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, what luck?" the others asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They had.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A breathless pause followed.

"You all right?" asked Jimmy.

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

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

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

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

"It is a cave," said Kathleen.

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

"Darkness doesn't dazzle," said Jimmy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here he found her hand, and she screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I like that!" said Jimmy, indignant.

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

"What?" asked Kathleen anxiously.

"Bears, perhaps," said Gerald briefly.

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

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

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

"There are steps down," said Jimmy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"That chap at school ," said Gerald.

"It is an enchanted castle," said Kathleen.

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

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

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

"Magic mowing machines," Jimmy suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I am so hungry!" said Jimmy.

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

"I wasn't before."

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Lift it yourself," said Gerald.

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

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

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

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

"Of course I am," said Gerald uneasily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why, kiss her awake, of course."

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

"Well, someone's got to."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But " said Jimmy.

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

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

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

"Then this really is an enchanted castle?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Roast chicken," said Kathleen, without hesitation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so it did, on a large rusty nail.

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

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

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

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

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

They went straight on in the dark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your word of honour," gasped Gerald.

"Oh, do be quick!" moaned Kathleen.

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

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

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

She spoke.

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

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

"May we may we touch?" asked Gerald.

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

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

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

"What?" asked Jimmy.

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

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

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

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

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

"What King and Queen?" asked the Princess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And this ring?" Jimmy pointed.

"Oh, that makes you invisible."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They shut them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I didn't cheat."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'm not."

"You are really. Look in the glass."

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

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

"Let go, then," she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"The ?"

"Your royal father and mother."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Perhaps she knows some charm "

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a heartfelt pause.

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

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

"No such luck," said the voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did it fit?" asked Kathleen, with interest

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

"I do want my tea!" said Jimmy

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, what am I to do?"

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

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

"And have a good council."

"After tea," said Jimmy

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

"So she would if I stayed."

"Oh, come on," said Jimmy.

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

"So it has."

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

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

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

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

"May we look over?" asked Kathleen.

There was no answer. The pencil went on writing.

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

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

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

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

MABEL."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which they did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You'll go back to get things?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Always sweep under the mats."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She won't believe you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone was glad when they got out of the town.

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you get her note?" asked Kathleen.

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

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

"Quite," said Gerald truthfully.

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

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

"Shish!" said Mabel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Indeed!" said the aunt.

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

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

And on this they got away quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I should do it really," said Mabel, "but Jerry could look like doing

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