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The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

Part 2 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It did.

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

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

Everyone turned to look at him.

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

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

Gerald went up to the woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She looked at it a moment, and then whispered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crowd snorted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not "

"Yes the ring."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Halloa!" it said gloomily.

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

"So did you us," said Jimmy.

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

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

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

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

"Yes, it is," said Mabel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, then a detective."

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy hailed the constable.

"Halloa, Johnson!" he said.

And Johnson replied: "Halloa, young shaver!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Never thought of what?" Gerald asked impatiently.

"The window."

"What window?"

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

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

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

And Kathleen agreed that she must.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Aunt!"

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

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

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

"How do you know?"

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

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

"But how was it?" Mabel asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The enchantment of the garden held him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As he went the happenings took words in his mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Like who says?" snapped the aunt.

"Whoever it is," Mabel moaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Whatever is it?" Kathleen cried.

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

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

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

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

"Yes," said Eliza.

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

"But what was you going to tell me?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How did you get visible?" Jimmy asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Gerald went on singing

"Where the lips of Johnson smile,

There's the land of Cherry Isle.

Other fish, other fish, Fish I fry.

Stately Johnson, come and buy!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerald nodded and resumed:

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

Mabel nodded.

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

"But which way?"

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

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

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

"I saw them," said Gerald stiffly.

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

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

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

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

This pleased Gerald, of course.

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

I say, we must run for it."

So the story stopped and the running began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You did?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes," said Johnson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Morning," he said immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"How do you know?" Jimmy asked.

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

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

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

But it was not the baker, When they opened the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Not much exhibition about her," whispered Jimmy; "good old
ring!"

"I haven't stolen anything," said the gentleman friend. "Here, you
leave me be. It's my eyes has gone wrong. Leave go of me, d'ye
hear?"

Suddenly his hand dropped and he staggered back against the
water-butt. Eliza had "left go" of him. She pushed past the
children, shoving them aside with her invisible elbows. Gerald
caught her by the arm with one hand, felt for her ear with the
other, and whispered, "You stand still and don't say a word. If you
do well, what's to stop me from sending for the police?"

Eliza did not know what there was to stop him. So she did as she
was told, and stood invisible and silent, save for a sort of blowing,
snorting noise peculiar to her when she was out of breath.

The mustard-coloured young man had recovered his balance, and
stood looking at the children with eyes, if possible, rounder than
before.

"What is it?" he gasped feebly. "What's up? What's it all about?"

"If you don't know, I'm afraid we can't tell you," said Gerald
politely.

"Have I been talking very strange-like?" he asked, taking off his
hat and passing his hand over his forehead.

"Very," said Mabel.

"I hope I haven't said anything that wasn't good manners," he said
anxiously.

"Not at all," said Kathleen. "You only said your fiancee had hold
of your hand, and that you couldn't see her."

"No more I can."

"No more can we," said Mabel.

"But I couldn't have dreamed it, and then come along here making
a penny show of myself like this, could I?"

"You know best," said Gerald courteously.

"But," the mustard-coloured victim almost screamed, "do you
mean to tell me..."

"I don't mean to tell you anything," said Gerald quite truly, "but I'll
give you a bit of advice. You go home and lie down a bit and put a
wet rag on your head. You'll be all right tomorrow."

"But I haven't "

"I should," said Mabel; "the sun's very hot, you know."

"I feel all right now," he said, "but well, I can only say I'm sorry,
that's all I can say. I've never been taken like this before, miss. I'm
not subject to it don't you think that. But I could have sworn Eliza
Ain't she gone out to meet me?"

"Eliza's in-doors," said Mabel. "She can't come out to meet
anybody today."

"You won't tell her about me carrying on this way, will you, miss?
It might set her against me if she thought I was liable to fits, which
I never was from a child."

"We won't tell Eliza anything about you."

"And you'll overlook the liberty?"

"Of course. We know you couldn't help it," said Kathleen. "You go
home and lie down. I'm sure you must need it. Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon, I'm sure, miss," he said dreamily. "All the same I
can feel the print of her finger-bones on my hand while I'm saying
it. And you won't let it get round to my boss my employer I mean?
Fits of all sorts are against a man in any trade."

"No, no, no, it's all right good-bye," said everyone. And a silence
fell as he went slowly round the water-butt and the green yard-gate
shut behind him. The silence was broken by Eliza.

"Give me up!" she said. "Give me up to break my heart in a prison
cell!"

There was a sudden splash, and a round wet drop lay on the
doorstep.

"Thunder shower," said Jimmy; but it was a tear from Eliza.

"Give me up," she went on, "give me up" splash "but don't let me
be took here in the town where I'm known and respected" splash.
"I'll walk ten miles to be took by a strange police not Johnson as
keeps company with my own cousin" splash. "But I do thank you
for one thing. You didn't tell Elf as I'd stolen the ring. And I didn't
splash I only sort of borrowed it, it being my day out, and my
gentleman friend such a toff, like you can see for yourselves."

The children had watched, spellbound, the interesting tears that
became visible as they rolled off the invisible nose of the
miserable Eliza. Now Gerald roused himself, and spoke.

"It's no use your talking," he said. "We can't see you!"

"That's what he said," said Eliza's voice, "but "

"You can't see yourself," Gerald went on. "Where's your hand?"

Eliza, no doubt, tried to see it, and of course failed; for instantly,
with a shriek that might have brought the police if there had been
any about, she went into a violent fit of hysterics. The children did
what they could, everything that they had read of in books as
suitable to such occasions, but it is extremely difficult to do the
right thing with an invisible housemaid in strong hysterics and her
best clothes. That was why the best hat was found, later on, to be
completely ruined, and why the best blue dress was never quite
itself again. And as they were burning bits of the feather
dusting-brush as nearly under Eliza's nose as they could guess, a
sudden spurt of flame and a horrible smell, as the flame died
between the quick hands of Gerald, showed but too plainly that
Eliza's feather boa had tried to help.

It did help. Eliza "came to" with a deep sob and said, "Don't burn
me real ostrich stole; I'm better now."

They helped her up and she sat down on the bottom step, and the
children explained to her very carefully and quite kindly that she
really was invisible, and that if you steal or even borrow rings you
can never be sure what will happen to you.

"But 'ave I got to go on stopping like this," she moaned, when they
had fetched the little mahogany looking-glass from its nail over the
kitchen sink, and convinced her that she was really invisible, "for
ever and ever? An we was to a bin married come Easter. No one
won't marry a gell as 'e can't see. It ain't likely."

"No, not for ever and ever," said Mabel kindly, "but you've got to
go through with it like measles. I expect you'll be all right
tomorrow."

"Tonight, I think," said Gerald.

"We'll help you all we can, and not tell anyone," said Kathleen.

"Not even the police," said Jimmy.

"Now let's get Mademoiselle's tea ready," said Gerald.

"And ours," said Jimmy.

"No," said Gerald, "we'll have our tea out. We'll have a picnic and
we'll take Eliza. I'll go out and get the cakes." "I sha'n't eat no cake,
Master Jerry," said Eliza's voice, "so don't you think it. You'd see it
going down inside my chest. It wouldn't he what I should call nice
of me to have cake showing through me in the open air. Oh, it's a
dreadful judgment just for a borrow!"

They reassured her, set the tea, deputed Kathleen to let in
Mademoiselle who came home tired and a little sad, it seemed
waited for her and Gerald and the cakes, and started off for
Yalding Towers.

"Picnic parties aren't allowed," said Mabel.

"Ours will be," said Gerald briefly. "Now, Eliza, you catch on to
Kathleen's arm and I'll walk behind to conceal your shadow. My
aunt! take your hat off; it makes your shadow look like I don't
know what. People will think we're the county lunatic asylum
turned loose."

It was then that the hat, becoming visible in Kathleen's hand,
showed how little of the sprinkled water had gone where it was
meant to go on Eliza's face.

"Me best 'at," said Eliza, and there was a silence with sniffs in it.

"Look here," said Mabel, "you cheer up. Just you think this is all a
dream. It's just the kind of thing you might dream if your
conscience bad got pains in it about the ring."

"But will I wake up again?"

"Oh yes, you'll wake up again. Now we're going to bandage your
eyes and take you through a very small door, and don't you resist,
or we'll bring a policeman into the dream like a shot."

I have not time to describe Eliza's entrance into the cave. She went
head first: the girls propelled and the boys received her. If Gerald
had not thought of tying her hands someone would certainly have
been scratched. As it was Mabel's hand was scraped between the
cold rock and a passionate boot-heel. Nor will I tell you all that she
said as they led her along the fern-bordered gully and through the
arch into the wonderland of Italian scenery. She had but little
language left when they removed her bandage under a weeping
willow where a statue of Diana, bow in hand, stood poised on one
toe a most unsuitable attitude for archery, I have always thought.

"Now," said Gerald, "it's all over nothing but niceness now and
cake and things."

"It's time we did have our tea," said Jimmy. And it was.

Eliza, once convinced that her chest, though invisible, was not
transparent, and that her companions could not by looking through
it count how many buns she had eaten, made an excellent meal. So
did the others. If you want really to enjoy your tea, have minced
veal and potatoes and rice-pudding for dinner, with several hours
of excitement to follow, and take your tea late.

The soft, cool green and grey of the garden were changing the
green grew golden, the shadows black, and the lake where the
swans were mirrored upside down, under the Temple of Phoebus,
was bathed in rosy light from the little fluffy clouds that lay
opposite the Sunset.

"It is pretty," said Eliza, "just like a picture-postcard, ain't it? the
tuppenny kind."

"I ought to be getting home," said Mabel.

"I can't go home like this. I'd stay and be a savage and live in that
white hut if it had any walls and doors," said Eliza.

"She means the Temple of Dionysus," said Mabel, pointing to it.

The sun set suddenly behind the line of black fir-trees on the top of
the slope, and the white temple, that had been pink, turned grey.

"It would be a very nice place to live in even as it is," said
Kathleen.

"Draughty," said Eliza, "and law, what a lot of steps to clean! What
they make houses for without no walls to 'em? Who'd live in," She
broke off, stared, and added: "What's that?"

"What?"

"That white thing coming down the steps. Why, it's a young man in
statooary."

"The statues do come alive here, after sunset," said Gerald in very
matter-of-fact tones.

"I see they do." Eliza did not seem at all surprised or alarmed.
"There's another of 'em. Look at them little wings to his feet like
pigeons."

"I expect that's Mercury," said Gerald.

"It's 'Hermes' under the statue that's got wings on its feet, said
Mabel, "but "

"1 don't see any statues," said Jimmy. "What are you punching me
for?"

"Don't you see?" Gerald whispered; but he need not have been so
troubled, for all Eliza's attention was with her wandering eyes that
followed hither and thither the quick movements of unseen statues.
"Don't you see? The statues come alive when the sun goes down
and you can't see them unless you're invisible

and I if you do see them you're not frightened unless you touch
them."

"Let's get her to touch one and see," said Jimmy.

"E's lep into the water," said Eliza in a rapt voice. "My, can't he
swim neither! And the one with the pigeons wings is flying all over
the lake having larks with 'im. I do call that pretty. It's like cupids
as you see on wedding-cakes. And here's another of 'em, a little
chap with long ears and a baby deer galloping alongside! An look
at the lady with the biby, throwing it up and catching it like as if it
was a ball. I wonder she ain't afraid. But it's pretty to see 'em."

The broad park lay stretched before the children in growing
greyness and a stillness that deepened. Amid the thickening
shadows they could see the statues gleam white and motionless.
But Eliza saw other things. She watched in silence presently, and
they watched silently, and the evening fell like a veil that grew
heavier and blacker. And it was night. And the moon came up
above the trees.

"Oh," cried Eliza suddenly, "here's the dear little boy with the deer
he's coming right for me, bless his heart!"

Next moment she was screaming, and her screams grew fainter
and there was the sound of swift boots on gravel.

"Come on!" cried Gerald; "she touched it, and then she was
frightened, Just like I was. Run! she'll send everyone in the town
mad if she gets there like that. Just a voice and boots! Run! Run!

They ran. But Eliza had the start of them. Also when she ran on the
grass they could not hear her footsteps and had to wait for the
sound of leather on far-away gravel. Also she was driven by fear,
and fear drives fast.

She went, it seemed, the nearest way, invisibly through the waxing
moonlight, seeing she only knew what amid the glades and groves.

"I'll stop here; see you tomorrow," gasped Mabel, as the loud
pursuers followed Eliza's clatter across the terrace. "She's gone
through the stable yard."

"The back way," Gerald panted as they turned the corner of their
own street, and he and Jimmy swung in past the water-butt.

An unseen but agitated presence seemed to be fumbling with the
locked back-door. The church clock struck the half-hour.

"Half-past nine," Gerald had just breath to say. "Pull at the ring.
Perhaps it'll come off now."

He spoke to the bare doorstep. But it was Eliza, dishevelled,
breathless, her hair coming down, her collar crooked, her dress
twisted and disordered, who suddenly held out a hand a hand that
they could see; and in the hand, plainly visible in the moonlight,
the dark circle of the magic ring.

"Alf a mo!" said Eliza's gentleman friend next morning. He was
waiting for her when she opened the door with pail and
hearthstone in her hand. "Sorry you couldn't come out yesterday."

"So'm I." Eliza swept the wet flannel along the top step. "What did
you do?"

"I 'ad a bit of a headache," said the gentleman friend. "I laid down
most of the afternoon. What were you up to?"

"Oh, nothing pertickler," said Eliza.

"Then it was all a dream, she said, when he was gone; "but it'll be
a lesson to me not to meddle with anybody's old ring again in a
hurry."

"So they didn't tell 'er about me behaving like I did," said he as he
went "sun, I suppose like our Army in India. I hope I ain't going to
be liable to it, that's all!"

Johnson was the hero of the hour. It was he who had tracked the
burglars, laid his plans, and recovered the lost silver. He had not
thrown the stone public opinion decided that Mabel and her aunt
must have been mistaken in supposing that there was a stone at all.
But he did not deny the warning letter. It was Gerald who went out
after breakfast to buy the newspaper, and who read aloud to the
others the two columns of fiction which were the Liddlesby
Observer's report of the facts. As he read every mouth opened
wider and wider, and when he ceased with "this gifted
fellow-townsman with detective instincts which out-rival those of
Messrs. Lecoq and Holmes, and whose promotion is now assured,"
there was quite a blank silence.

"Well," said Jimmy, breaking it, "he doesn't stick it on neither,
does he?"

"I feel," said Kathleen, "as if it was our fault as if it was us had told
all these whoppers; because if it hadn't been for you they couldn't
have, Jerry. How could he say all that?"

"Well," said Gerald, trying to be fair, "you know, after all, the chap
had to say something. I'm glad I " He stopped abruptly.

"You're glad you what?"

"No matter," said he, with an air of putting away affairs of state.
"Now, what are we going to do today? The faithful Mabel
approaches; she will want her ring. And you and Jimmy want it
too. Oh, I know. Mademoiselle hasn't had any attention paid to her
for more days than our hero likes to confess."

"I wish you wouldn't always call yourself 'our hero', said Jimmy;
"you aren't mine, anyhow."

"You're both of you mine," said Kathleen hastily.

"Good little girl." Gerald smiled annoyingly. "Keep baby brother in
a good temper till Nursie comes back."

"You're not going out without us?" Kathleen asked in haste.

"I haste away,

'Tis market day,"

sang Gerald,

"And in the market there

Buy roses for my fair.

If you want to come too, get your boots on, and look slippy about
it."

"I don't want to come," said Jimmy, and sniffed.

Kathleen turned a despairing look on Gerald.

"Oh, James, James," said Gerald sadly, "how difficult you make it
for me to forget that you're my little brother! If ever I treat you like
one of the other chaps, and rot you like I should Turner or
Moberley or any of my pals well, this is what comes of it."

"You don't call them your baby brothers," said Jimmy, and truly.

"No; and I'll take precious good care I don't call you it again. Come
on, my hero and heroine. The devoted Mesrour is your salaaming
slave."

The three met Mabel opportunely at the corner of the square where
every Friday the stalls and the awnings and the green umbrellas
were pitched, and poultry, pork, pottery, vegetables, drapery,
sweets, toys, tools, mirrors, and all sorts of other interesting
merchandise were spread out on trestle tables, piled on carts whose
horses were stabled and whose shafts were held in place by piled
wooden cases, or laid out, as in the case of crockery and hardware,
on the bare flag-stones of the market-place.

The sun was shining with great goodwill, and, as Mabel remarked,
"all Nature looked smiling and gay." There were a few bunches of
flowers among the vegetables, and the children hesitated, balanced
in choice.

"Mignonette is sweet," said Mabel.

"Roses are roses," said Kathleen.

"Carnations are tuppence," said Jimmy; and Gerald, sniffing
among the bunches of tightly-tied tea-roses, agreed that this settled
it.

So the carnations were bought, a bunch of yellow ones, like
sulphur, a bunch of white ones like clotted cream, and a bunch of
red ones like the cheeks of the doll that Kathleen never played
with. They took the carnations home, and Kathleen's green
hair-ribbon came in beautifully for tying them up, which was
hastily done on the doorstep.

Then discreetly Gerald knocked at the door of the drawing-room,
where Mademoiselle seemed to sit all day.

"Entrez!" came her voice; and Gerald entered. She was not
reading, as usual, but bent over a sketch-book; on the table was an
open colour-box of un-English appearance, and a box of that
slate-coloured liquid so familiar alike to the greatest artist in
watercolours and to the humblest child with a sixpenny paintbox.

"With all of our loves," said Gerald, laying the flowers down
suddenly before her.

"But it is that you are a dear child. For this it must that I embrace
you no?" And before Gerald could explain that he was too old, she
kissed him with little quick French pecks on the two cheeks.

"Are you painting?" he asked hurriedly, to hide his annoyance at
being treated like a baby.

"I achieve a sketch of yesterday," she answered; and before he had
time to wonder what yesterday would look like in a picture she
showed him a beautiful and exact sketch of Yalding Towers.

"Oh, I say ripping!" was the critic's comment. "I say, mayn't the
others come and see?" The others came, including Mabel, who
stood awkwardly behind the rest, and looked over Jimmy's
shoulder.

"I say, you are clever," said Gerald respectfully.

"To what good to have the talent, when one must pass one's life at
teaching the infants?" said Mademoiselle.

"It must be fairly beastly," Gerald owned.

"You, too, see the design?" Mademoiselle asked Mabel, adding: "A
friend from the town, yes?"

"How do you do?" said Mabel politely. "No, I'm not from the town.
I live at Yalding Towers."

The name seemed to impress Mademoiselle very much. Gerald
anxiously hoped in his own mind that she was not a snob.

"Yalding Towers," she repeated, "but this is very extraordinary. Is
it possible that you are then of the family of Lord Yalding?"

"He hasn't any family," said Mabel; "he's not married."

"I would say are you how you say? cousin sister niece?"

"No," said Mabel, flushing hotly, "I'm nothing grand at all. I'm
Lord Yalding's housekeeper's niece."

"But you know Lord Yalding, is it not?"

"No," said Mabel, "I've never seen him."

"He comes then never to his chateau?"

"Not since I've lived there. But he's coming next week."

"Why lives he not there?" Mademoiselle asked.

"Auntie says he's too poor," said Mabel, and proceeded to tell the
tale as she had heard it in the housekeeper's room: how Lord
Yalding's uncle had left all the money he could leave away from
Lord Yalding to Lord Yalding's second cousin, and poor Lord
Yalding had only just enough to keep the old place in repair, and
to live very quietly indeed somewhere else, but not enough to keep
the house open or to live there; and how he couldn't sell the house
because it was "in tale .

"What is it then in tail?" asked Mademoiselle.

"In a tale that the lawyers write out," said Mabel, proud of her
knowledge and flattered by the deep interest of the French
governess; "and when once they've put your house in one of their
tales you can't sell it or give it away, but you have to leave it to
your son, even if you don't want to."

"But how his uncle could he be so cruel to leave him the chateau
and no money?" Mademoiselle asked; and Kathleen and Jimmy
stood amazed at the sudden keenness of her interest in what
seemed to them the dullest story.

"Oh, I can tell you that too," said Mabel. "Lord Yalding wanted to
marry a lady his uncle didn't want him to, a barmaid or a ballet
lady or something, and he wouldn't give her up, and his uncle said,
'Well then,' and left everything to the cousin."

"And you say he is not married."

"No the lady went into a convent; I expect she's bricked-up alive
by now."

"Bricked ?"

"In a wall, you know,: said Mabel, pointing explainingly at the
pink and gilt roses of the wall-paper, "shut up to kill them. That's
what they do to you in convents."

"Not at all," said Mademoiselle; "in convents are very kind good
women; there is but one thing in convents that is detestable the
locks on the doors. Sometimes people cannot get out, especially
when they are very young and their relations have placed them
there for their welfare and happiness. But brick how you say it?
enwalling ladies to kill them. No it does itself never. And this lord
he did not then seek his lady?"

"Oh, yes he sought her right enough," Mabel assured her; "but
there are millions of convents, you know, and he had no idea
where to look, and they sent back his letters from the post-office,
and "

"Ciel!" cried Mademoiselle, "but it seems that one knows all in the
housekeeper's saloon."

"Pretty well all," said Mabel simply.

"And you think he will find her? No?"

"Oh, he'll find her all right," said Mabel, "when he's old and broken
down, you know and dying; and then a gentle Sister of Charity will
soothe his pillow, and just when he's dying she'll reveal herself and
say: 'My own lost love!' and his face will light up with a wonderful
joy and he'll expire with her beloved name on his parched lips."

Mademoiselle's was the silence of sheer astonishment. "You do the
prophecy, it appears?" she said at last. "Oh no," said Mabel; "I got
that out of a book. I can tell you lots more fatal love-stories any
time you like."

The French governess gave a little jump, as though she had
suddenly remembered something.

"It is nearly dinner-time," she said. "Your friend Mabelle, yes will
be your convivial, and in her honour we will make a little feast.
My beautiful flowers put them to the water, Kathleen. I run to buy
the cakes. Wash the hands, all, and be ready when I return."

Smiling and nodding to the children, she left them, and ran up the
stairs.

"Just as if she was young," said Kathleen.

"She is young," said Mabel. "Heaps of ladies have offers of

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