Part 3 out of 5
marriage when they re no younger than her. I've seen lots of
weddings too, with much older brides. And why didn't you tell me
she was so beautiful?"
"Is she?" asked Kathleen.
"Of course she is; and what a darling to think of cakes for me, and
calling me a convivial!"
"Look here," said Gerald, "I call this jolly decent of her. You
know, governesses never have more than the meanest pittance, just
enough to sustain life, and here she is spending her little all on us.
Supposing we just don't go out today, but play with her instead. I
expect she's most awfully bored really."
"Would she really like it?" Kathleen wondered. "Aunt Emily says
grown-ups never really like playing. They do it to please us.
"They little know," Gerald answered, "how often we do it to please
"We've got to do that dressing-up with the Princess clothes anyhow
we said we would," said Kathleen. "Let's treat her to that."
"Rather near tea-time," urged Jimmy, "so that there'll be a
fortunate interruption and the play won't go on for ever."
"I suppose all the things are safe?" Mabel asked.
"Quite. I told you where I put them. Come on, Jimmy; let's help lay
the table. We'll get Eliza to put out the best china."
"It was lucky," said Gerald, struck by a sudden thought, "that the
burglars didn't go for the diamonds in the treasure-chamber."
"They couldn't," said Mabel almost in a whisper; "they didn't know
about them. I don't believe anybody knows about them, except me
and you, and you're sworn to secrecy. This, you will remember,
had been done almost at the beginning. I know aunt doesn't know.
I just found out the spring by accident. Lord Yalding's kept the
"I wish I'd got a secret like that to keep," said Gerald. "If the
burglars do know," said Mabel, "it'll all come out at the trial.
Lawyers make you tell everything you know at trials, and a lot of
"There won't be any trial," said Gerald, kicking the leg of the piano
"It said in the paper," Gerald went on slowly, "'The miscreants
must have received warning from a confederate, for the admirable
preparations to arrest them as they returned for their ill-gotten
plunder were unavailing. But the police have a clew.'"
"What a pity!" said Mabel.
"You needn't worry they haven't got any old clew," said Gerald,
still attentive to the piano leg.
"I didn't mean the clew; I meant the confederate."
"It's a pity you think he's a pity, because he was me," said Gerald,
standing up and leaving the piano leg alone. He looked straight
before him, as the boy on the burning deck may have looked.
"I couldn't help it," he said. "I know you'll think I'm a criminal, but
I couldn't do it. I don't know how detectives can. I went over a
prison once, with father; and after I'd given the tip to Johnson I
remembered that, and I just couldn't. I know I'm a beast, and not
worthy to be a British citizen."
"I think it was rather nice of you," said Mabel kindly. "How did
you warn them?"
"I just shoved a paper under the man's door the one that I knew
where he lived to tell him to lie low."
"Oh! do tell me what did you put on it exactly?" Mabel warmed to
this new interest. "It said: 'The police know all except your names.
Be virtuous and you are safe. But if there's any more burgling I
shall split and you may rely on that from a friend.' I know it was
wrong, but I couldn't help it. Don't tell the others. They wouldn't
understand why I did it. I don't understand it myself."
"I do, said Mabel: it's because you've got a kind and noble heart."
"Kind fiddlestick, my good child!" said Gerald, suddenly losing the
burning boy expression and becoming in a flash entirely himself.
"Cut along and wash your hands; you're as black as ink."
"So are you," said Mabel, "and I'm not. It's dye with me. Auntie
was dyeing a blouse this morning. It told you how in Home Drivel
and she's as black as ink too, and the blouse is all streaky. Pity the
ring won't make just parts of you invisible the dirt, for instance."
"Perhaps," Gerald said unexpectedly, "it won't make even all of
you invisible again."
"Why not? You haven't been doing anything to it have you?"
Mabel sharply asked.
"No; but didn't you notice you were invisible twenty-one hours; I
was fourteen hours invisible, and Eliza only seven that's seven less
each time. And now we've come to "
"How frightfully good you are at sums!" said Mabel, awe-struck.
"You see, it's got seven hours less each time, and seven from seven
is nought; it's got to be something different this time. And then
afterwards it can't be minus seven, because I don't see how unless
it made you more visible thicker, you know."
"Don't!" said Mabel; "you make my head go round."
"And there's another odd thing," Gerald went on; "when you're
invisible your relations don't love you. Look at your aunt, and
Cathy never turning a hair at me going burgling. We haven't got to
the bottom of that ring yet. Crikey! here's Mademoiselle with the
cakes. Run, bold bandits wash for your lives!"
It was not cakes only; it was plums and grapes and jam tarts and
soda-water and raspberry vinegar, and chocolates in pretty boxes
and pure, thick, rich cream in brown jugs, also a big bunch of
roses. Mademoiselle was strangely merry for a governess. She
served out the cakes and tarts with a liberal hand, made wreaths of
the flowers for all their heads she was not eating much herself
drank the health of Mabel, as the guest of the day, in the beautiful
pink drink that comes from mixing raspberry vinegar and
soda-water, and actually persuaded Jimmy to wear his wreath, on
the ground that the Greek gods as well as the goddesses always
wore wreaths at a feast.
There never was such a feast provided by any French governess
since French governesses began. There were jokes and stories and
laughter. Jimmy showed all those tricks with forks and corks and
matches and apples which are so deservedly popular.
Mademoiselle told them stories of her own schooldays when she
was "a quite little girl with two tight tresses so", and when they
could not understand the tresses, called for paper and pencil and
drew the loveliest little picture of herself when she was a child
with two short fat pig-tails sticking out from her head like
knitting-needles from a ball of dark worsted. Then she drew
pictures of everything they asked for, till Mabel pulled Gerald's
jacket and whispered: "The acting!"
"Draw us the front of a theatre," said Gerald tactfully "a French
"They are the same thing as the English theatres," Mademoiselle
"Do you like acting the theatre, I mean?"
"But yes I love it."
"All right," said Gerald briefly. "We'll act a play for you now this
afternoon if you like."
"Eliza will be washing up," Cathy whispered, "and she was
promised to see it."
"Or this evening," said Gerald "and please, Mademoiselle, may
Eliza come in and look on?"
"But certainly," said Mademoiselle; "amuse yourselves well, my
"But it's you," said Mabel suddenly, "that we want to amuse.
Because we love you very much don't we, all of you?"
"Yes," the chorus came unhesitatingly. Though the others would
never have thought of saying such a thing on their own account.
Yet, as Mabel said it, they found to their surprise that it was true.
"Tiens!" said Mademoiselle, "you love the old French governess?
Impossible," and she spoke rather indistinctly.
"You're not old," said Mabel; "at least not so very, she added
brightly, and you're as lovely as a Princess."
"Go then, flatteress!" said Mademoiselle, laughing; and Mabel
went. The others were already half-way up the stairs.
Mademoiselle sat in the drawing-room as usual, and it was a good
thing that she was not engaged in serious study, for it seemed that
the door opened and shut almost ceaselessly all throughout the
afternoon. Might they have the embroidered antimacassars and the
sofa cushions? Might they have the clothes-line out of the
washhouse? Eliza said they mightn't, but might they? Might they
have the sheepskin hearth-rugs? Might they have tea in the garden,
because they had almost got the stage ready in the dining-room,
and Eliza wanted to set tea? Could Mademoiselle lend them any
coloured clothes scarves or dressing-gowns, or anything bright?
Yes, Mademoiselle could, and did silk things, surprisingly lovely
for a governess to have.
Had Mademoiselle any rouge? They had always heard that French
ladies No. Mademoiselle hadn't and to judge by the colour of her
face, Mademoiselle didn't need it. Did Mademoiselle think the
chemist sold rouge or had she any false hair to spare? At this
challenge Mademoiselle's pale fingers pulled out a dozen hairpins,
and down came the loveliest blue-black hair, hanging to her knees
in straight, heavy lines.
"No, you terrible infants," she cried. "I have not the false hair, nor
the rouge. And my teeth you want them also, without doubt?"
She showed them in a laugh.
"I said you were a Princess," said Mabel, "and now I know. You're
Rapunzel. Do always wear your hair like that! May we have the
peacock fans, please, off the mantelpiece, and the things that loop
back the curtains, and all the handkerchiefs you've got?"
Mademoiselle denied them nothing. They had the fans and the
handkerchiefs and some large sheets of expensive drawing-paper
out of the school cupboard, and Mademoiselle's best sable
paint-brush and her paint-box.
"Who would have thought," murmured Gerald, pensively sucking
the brush and gazing at the paper mask he had just painted, "that
she was such a brick in disguise? I wonder why crimson lake
always tastes just like Liebig's Extract."
Everything was pleasant that day somehow. There are some days
like that, you know, when everything goes well from the very
beginning; all the things you want are in their places, nobody
misunderstands you, and all that you do turns out admirably. How
different from those other days which we all know too well, when
your shoe-lace breaks, your comb is mislaid, your brush spins on
its back on the floor and lands under the bed where you can't get at
it you drop the soap, your buttons come off, an eyelash gets into
your eye, you have used your last clean handkerchief, your collar is
frayed at the edge and cuts your neck, and at the very last moment
your suspender breaks, and there is no string. On such a day as this
you are naturally late for breakfast, and everyone thinks you did it
on purpose. And the day goes on and on, getting worse and worse
you mislay your exercise-book, you drop your arithmetic in the
mud, your pencil breaks, and when you open your knife to sharpen
the pencil you split your nail. On such a day you jam your thumb
in doors, and muddle the messages you are sent on by grown-ups.
You upset your tea, and your bread-and-butter won't hold together
for a moment. And when at last you get to bed usually in disgrace
it is no comfort at all to you to know that not a single bit of it is
your own fault.
This day was not one of those days, as you will have noticed. Even
the tea in the garden there was a bricked bit by a rockery that made
a steady floor for the tea-table was most delightful, though the
thoughts of four out of the five were busy with the coming play,
and the fifth had thoughts of her own that had had nothing to do
with tea or acting.
Then there was an interval of slamming doors, interesting silences,
feet that flew up and down stairs.
It was still good daylight when the dinner-bell rang the signal had
been agreed upon at tea-time, and carefully explained to Eliza.
Mademoiselle laid down her book and passed out of the
sunset-yellowed hail into the faint yellow gaslight of the
dining-room. The giggling Eliza held the door open before her, and
followed her in. The shutters had been closed streaks of daylight
showed above and below them. The green-and-black tablecloths of
the school dining-tables were supported on the clothes-line from
the backyard. The line sagged in a graceful curve, but it answered
its purpose of supporting the curtains which concealed that part of
the room which was the stage.
Rows of chairs had been placed across the other end of the room
all the chairs in the house, as it seemed and Mademoiselle started
violently when she saw that fully half a dozen of these chairs were
occupied. And by the queerest people, too an old woman with a
poke bonnet tied under her chin with a red handkerchief, a lady in
a large straw hat wreathed in flowers and the oddest hands that
stuck out over the chair in front of her, several men with strange,
clumsy figures, and all with hats on.
"But," whispered Mademoiselle, through the chinks of the
tablecloths, "you have then invited other friends? You should have
asked me, my children."
Laughter and something like a "hurrah" answered her from behind
the folds of the curtaining tablecloths.
"All right, Mademoiselle Rapunzel," cried Mabel; "turn the gas up.
It's only part of the entertainment."
Eliza, still giggling, pushed through the lines of chairs, knocking
off the hat of one of the visitors as she did so, and turned up the
three incandescent burners.
Mademoiselle looked at the figure seated nearest to her, stooped to
look more closely, half laughed, quite screamed, and sat down
"Oh!" she cried, "they are not alive!"
Eliza, with a much louder scream, had found out the same thing
and announced it differently. "They ain't got no insides," said she.
The seven members of the audience seated among the wilderness
of chairs had, indeed, no insides to speak of. Their bodies were
bolsters and rolled-up blankets, their spines were broom-handles,
and their arm and leg bones were hockey sticks and umbrellas.
Their shoulders were the wooden crosspieces that Mademoiselle
used for keeping her jackets in shape; their hands were gloves
stuffed out with handkerchiefs; and their faces were the paper
masks painted in the afternoon by the untutored brush of Gerald,
tied on to the round heads made of the ends of stuffed
bolster-cases. The faces were really rather dreadful. Gerald had
done his best, but even after his best had been done you would
hardly have known they were faces, some of them, if they hadn't
been in the positions which faces usually occupy, between the
collar and the hat. Their eyebrows were furious with lamp-black
frowns their eyes the size, and almost the shape, of five-shilling
pieces, and on their lips and cheeks had been spent much crimson
lake and nearly the whole of a half-pan of vermilion.
"You have made yourself an auditors, yes? Bravo!" cried
Mademoiselle, recovering herself and beginning to clap. And to
the sound of that clapping the curtain went up or, rather, apart. A
voice said, in a breathless, choked way, "Beauty and the Beast,"
and the stage was revealed.
It was a real stage too the dining-tables pushed close together and
covered with pink-and-white counterpanes. It was a little unsteady
and creaky to walk on, but very imposing to look at. The scene was
simple, but convincing. A big sheet of cardboard, bent square, with
slits cut in it and a candle behind, represented, quite transparently,
the domestic hearth; a round hat-tin of Eliza s, supported on a stool
with a night-light under it, could not have been mistaken, save by
wilful malice, for anything but a copper. A waste-paper basket
with two or three school dusters and an overcoat in it, and a pair of
blue pyjamas over the back of a chair, put the finishing touch to
the scene. It did not need the announcement from the wings, "The
laundry at Beauty's home." It was so plainly a laundry and nothing
In the wings: "They look just like a real audience, don't they?"
whispered Mabel. "Go on, Jimmy don't forget the Merchant has to
be pompous and use long words."
Jimmy, enlarged by pillows under Gerald's best overcoat which
had been intentionally bought with a view to his probable growth
during the two years which it was intended to last him, a Turkish
towel turban on his head and an open umbrella over it, opened the
first act in a simple and swift soliloquy:
"I am the most unlucky merchant that ever was. I was once the
richest merchant in Bagdad, but I lost all my ships, and now I live
in a poor house that is all to bits; you can see how the rain comes
through the roof, and my daughters take in washing. And ,"
The pause might have seemed long, but Gerald rustled in, elegant
in Mademoiselle's pink dressing-gown and the character of the
"A nice drying day," he minced. "Pa dear, put the umbrella the
other way up. It'll save us going out in the rain to fetch water.
Come on, sisters, dear father's got us a new wash-tub. Here's
Round the umbrella, now held the wrong way up, the three sisters
knelt and washed imaginary linen. Kathleen wore a violet skirt of
Eliza s, a blue blouse of her own, and a cap of knotted
handkerchiefs. A white nightdress girt with a white apron and two
red carnations in Mabel's black hair left no doubt as to which of
the three was Beauty.
The scene went very well. The final dance with waving towels was
all that there is of charming, Mademoiselle said; and Eliza was so
much amused that, as she said, she got quite a nasty stitch along of
laughing so hearty.
You know pretty well what Beauty and the Beast would be like
acted by four children who had spent the afternoon in arranging
their costumes and so had left no time for rehearsing what they had
to say. Yet it delighted them, and it charmed their audience. And
what more can any play do, even Shakespeare's? Mabel, in her
Princess clothes, was a resplendent Beauty; and Gerald a Beast
who wore the drawing-room hearthrugs with an air of
indescribable distinction. If Jimmy was not a talkative merchant,
he made it up with a stoutness practically unlimited, and Kathleen
surprised and delighted even herself by the quickness with which
she changed from one to the other of the minor characters fairies,
servants, and messengers. It was at the end of the second act that
Mabel, whose costume, having reached the height of elegance,
could not be bettered and therefore did not need to be changed,
said to Gerald, sweltering under the weighty magnificence of his
"I say, you might let us have the ring back."
"I'm going to," said Gerald, who had quite forgotten it. "I'll give it
you in the next scene. Only don't lose it, or go putting it on. You
might go out all together and never be seen again, or you might get
seven times as visible as anyone else, so that all the rest of us
would look like shadows beside you, you'd be so thick, or ,"
"Ready!" said Kathleen, bustling in, once more a wicked sister.
Gerald managed to get his hand into his pocket under his
hearthrug, and when he rolled his eyes in agonies of sentiment, and
said, "Farewell, dear Beauty! Return quickly, for if you remain
long absent from your faithful beast he will assuredly perish," he
pressed a ring into her hand and added: "This is a magic ring that
will give you anything you wish. When you desire to return to your
own disinterested beast, put on the ring and utter your wish.
Instantly you will be by my side."
Beauty-Mabel took the ring, and it was the ring.
The curtains closed to warm applause from two pairs of hands.
The next scene went splendidly. The sisters were almost too
natural in their disagreeableness, and Beauty's annoyance when
they splashed her Princess's dress with real soap and water was
considered a miracle of good acting. Even the merchant rose to
something more than mere pillows, and the curtain fell on his
pathetic assurance that in the absence of his dear Beauty he was
wasting away to a shadow. And again two pairs of hands
"Here, Mabel, catch hold," Gerald appealed from under the weight
of a towel-horse, the tea-urn, the tea-tray, and the green baize
apron of the boot boy, which together with four red geraniums
from the landing, the pampas-grass from the drawing-room
fireplace, and the india-rubber plants from the drawing-room
window were to represent the fountains and garden of the last act.
The applause had died away.
"I wish," said Mabel, taking on herself the weight of the tea-urn, "I
wish those creatures we made were alive. We should get
something like applause then."
"I'm jolly glad they aren't, said Gerald, arranging the baize and the
towel-horse. "Brutes! It makes me feel quite silly when I catch
their paper eyes."
The curtains were drawn back. There lay the hearthrug-coated
beast, in flat abandonment among the tropic beauties of the
garden, the pampas-grass shrubbery, the india-rubber plant bushes,
the geranium-trees and the urn fountain. Beauty was ready to make
her great entry in all the thrilling splendour of despair. And then
suddenly it all happened.
Mademoiselle began it: she applauded the garden scene with
hurried little clappings of her quick French hands. Eliza's fat red
palms followed heavily, and then someone else was clapping, six
or seven people, and their clapping made a dull padded sound.
Nine faces instead of two were turned towards the stage, and seven
out of the nine were painted, pointed paper faces. And every hand
and every face was alive. The applause grew louder as Mabel
glided forward, and as she paused and looked at the audience her
unstudied pose of horror and amazement drew forth applause
louder still; but it was not loud enough to drown the shrieks of
Mademoiselle and Eliza as they rushed from the room, knocking
chairs over and crushing each other in the doorway. Two distant
doors banged, Mademoiselle's door and Eliza's door.
"Curtain! curtain! quick!" cried Beauty-Mabel, in a voice that
wasn't Mabel's or the Beauty's. "Jerry those things have come alive.
Oh, whatever shall we do?"
Gerald in his hearthrugs leaped to his feet. Again that flat padded
applause marked the swish of cloths on clothes-line as Jimmy and
Kathleen drew the curtains.
"What's up?" they asked as they drew.
"You've done it this time!" said Gerald to the pink, perspiring
Mabel. "Oh, bother these strings!"
"Can't you burst them? I've done it?" retorted Mabel. "I like that!"
"More than I do," said Gerald.
"Oh, it's all right," said Mabel. "Come on. We must go and pull the
things to pieces then they can't go on being alive."
"It's your fault, anyhow," said Gerald with every possible absence
of gallantry. "Don't you see? It's turned into a wishing ring. I knew
something different was going to happen. Get my knife out of my
pocket this string's in a knot. Jimmy, Cathy, those Ugly-Wuglies
have come alive because Mabel wished it. Cut out and pull them to
Jimmy and Cathy peeped through the curtain and recoiled with
white faces and staring eyes. "Not me!" was the brief rejoinder of
Jimmy. Cathy said, "Not much!" And she meant it, anyone could
And now, as Gerald, almost free of the hearthrugs, broke his
thumb-nail on the stiffest blade of his knife, a thick rustling and a
sharp, heavy stumping sounded beyond the curtain.
"They're going out!" screamed Kathleen "walking out on their
umbrella and broomstick legs. You can't stop them, Jerry, they re
"Everybody in the town'll be insane by tomorrow night if we don't
stop them," cried Gerald. "Here, give me the ring I'll unwish them."
He caught the ring from the unresisting Mabel, cried, "I wish the
Uglies weren't alive," and tore through the door. He saw, in fancy,
Mabel's wish undone, and the empty hall strewed with limp
bolsters, hats, umbrellas, coats and gloves, prone abject properties
from which the brief life had gone out for ever. But the hall was
crowded with live things, strange things all horribly short as broom
sticks and umbrellas are short. A limp hand gesticulated. A pointed
white face with red cheeks looked up at him, and wide red lips
said something, he could not tell what. The voice reminded him of
the old beggar down by the bridge who had no roof to his mouth.
These creatures had no roofs to their mouths, of course they had no
"Aa 00 re o me me oo a oo ho el?" said the voice again. And it had
said it four times before Gerald could collect himself sufficiently
to understand that this horror alive, and most likely quite
uncontrollable was saying, with a dreadful calm, polite
persistence: "Can you recommend me to a good hotel?"
"Can you recommend me to a good hotel?" The speaker had no
inside to his head. Gerald had the best of reasons for knowing it.
The speaker's coat had no shoulders inside it only the cross-bar
that a jacket is slung on by careful ladies. The hand raised in
interrogation was not a hand at all; it was a glove lumpily stuffed
with pocket-handkerchiefs; and the arm attached to it was only
Kathleen's school umbrella. Yet the whole thing was alive, and
was asking a definite, and for anybody else, anybody who really
was a body, a reasonable question.
With a sensation of inward sinking, Gerald realized that now or
never was the time for him to rise to the occasion. And at the
thought he inwardly sank more deeply than before. It seemed
impossible to rise in the very smallest degree.
"I beg your pardon" was absolutely the best he could do; and the
painted, pointed paper face turned to him once more, and once
more said: "Aa 00 re o me me oo a oo ho el?"
"You want a hotel?" Gerald repeated stupidly, "a good hotel?"
"A oo ho el," reiterated the painted lips.
"I'm awfully sorry," Gerald went on one can always be polite, of
course, whatever happens, and politeness came natural to him "but
all our hotels shut so early about eight, I think."
"Och em er," said the Ugly-Wugly. Gerald even now does not
understand how that practical joke hastily wrought of hat,
overcoat, paper face and limp hands could have managed, by just
being alive, to become perfectly respectable, apparently about fifty
years old, and obviously well known and respected in his own
suburb the kind of man who travels first class and smokes
expensive cigars. Gerald knew this time, without need of
repetition, that the Ugly-Wugly had said: "Knock 'em up."
"You can't," Gerald explained; "they re all stone deaf every single
person who keeps a hotel in this town. It's," he wildly plunged "it's
a County Council law. Only deaf people are allowed to keep
hotels. It's because of the hops in the beer," he found himself
adding; "you know, hops are so good for ear-ache."
"I 0 wy ollo oo," said the respectable Ugly-Wugly; and Gerald was
not surprised to find that the thing did "not quite follow him."
"It is a little difficult at first," he said. The other Ugly-Wuglies
were crowding round. The lady in the poke bonnet said Gerald
found he was getting quite clever at understanding the
conversation of those who had no roofs to their mouths:
"If not a hotel, a lodging."
"My lodging is on the cold ground," sang itself unbidden and
unavailing in Gerald's ear. Yet stay was it unavailing?
"I do know a lodging," he said slowly, "but ," The tallest of the
Ugly-Wuglies pushed forward. He was dressed in the old brown
overcoat and top-hat which always hung on the school hat-stand to
discourage possible burglars by deluding them into the idea that
there was a gentleman-of-the-house, and that he was at home. He
had an air at once more sporting and less reserved than that of the
first speaker, and anyone could see that he was not quite a
"Wa I wo oo oh," he began, but the lady Ugly-Wugly in the
flower-wreathed hat interrupted him. She spoke more distinctly
than the others, owing, as Gerald found afterwards, to the fact that
her mouth had been drawn open, and the flap cut from the aperture
had been folded back so that she really had something like a roof
to her mouth, though it was only a paper one.
"What I want to know," Gerald understood her to say, "is where are
the carriages we ordered?"
"I don't know," said Gerald, "but I'll find out. But we ought to be
moving," he added; "you see, the performance is over, and they
want to shut up the house and put the lights out. Let's be moving."
"Eh ech e oo-ig," repeated the respectable Ugly-Wugly, and
stepped towards the front door.
"Oo urn oo," said the flower-wreathed one; and Gerald assures me
that her vermilion lips stretched in a smile.
"I shall be delighted," said Gerald with earnest courtesy, "to do
anything, of course. Things do happen so awkwardly when you
least expect it. I could go with you, and get you a lodging, if you'd
only wait a few moments in the in the yard. It's quite a superior
sort of yard, he went on, as a wave of surprised disdain passed over
their white paper faces not a common yard, you know; the pump,"
he added madly, "has just been painted green all over, and the
dustbin is enamelled iron."
The Ugly-Wuglies turned to each other in consultation, and Gerald
gathered that the greenness of the pump and the enamelled
character of the dustbin made, in their opinion, all the difference.
"I'm awfully sorry," he urged eagerly, "to have to ask you to wait,
but you see I've got an uncle who's quite mad, and I have to give
him his gruel at half-past nine. He won't feed out of any hand but
mine." Gerald did not mind what he said. The only people one is
allowed to tell lies to are the Ugly-Wuglies; they are all clothes
and have no insides, because they are not human beings, but only a
sort of very real visions, and therefore cannot be really deceived,
though they may seem to be.
Through the back door that has the blue, yellow, red, and green
glass in it, down the iron steps into the yard, Gerald led the way,
and the Ugly-Wuglies trooped after him. Some of them had boots,
but the ones whose feet were only broomsticks or umbrellas found
the open-work iron stairs very awkward.
"If you wouldn't mind," said Gerald, "just waiting under the
balcony? My uncle is so very mad. If he were to see see any
strangers I mean, even aristocratic ones I couldn't answer for the
"Perhaps, said the flower-hatted lady nervously, "it would be better
for us to try and find a lodging ourselves?"
"I wouldn't advise you to," said Gerald as grimly as he knew how;
"the police here arrest all strangers. It's the new law the Liberals
have just made," he added convincingly, "and you'd get the sort of
lodging you wouldn't care for I couldn't bear to think of you in a
prison dungeon," he added tenderly.
"I ah wi oo er papers," said the respectable Ugly-Wugly, and added
something that sounded like "disgraceful state of things."
However, they ranged themselves under the iron balcony. Gerald
gave one last look at them and wondered, in his secret heart, why
he was not frightened, though in his outside mind he was
congratulating himself on his bravery. For the things did look
rather horrid. In that light it was hard to believe that they were
really only clothes and pillows and sticks with no insides. As he
went up the steps he heard them talking among themselves in that
strange language of theirs, all oo's and ah's; and he thought he
distinguished the voice of the respectable Ugly-Wugly saying,
"Most gentlemanly lad," and the wreathed-hatted lady answering
warmly: "Yes, indeed."
The coloured-glass door closed behind him. Behind him was the
yard, peopled by seven impossible creatures. Before him lay the
silent house, peopled, as he knew very well, by five human beings
as frightened as human beings could be. You think, perhaps, that
Ugly-Wuglies are nothing to be frightened of. That's only because
you have never seen one come alive. You must make one any old
suit of your father s, and a hat that he isn't wearing, a bolster or
two, a painted paper face, a few sticks and a pair of boots will do
the trick; get your father to lend you a wishing ring, give it back to
him when it has done its work, and see how you feel then.
Of course the reason why Gerald was not afraid was that he had
the ring; and, as you have seen, the wearer of that is not frightened
by anything unless he touches that thing. But Gerald knew well
enough how the others must be feeling. That was why he stopped
for a moment in the hall to try and imagine what would have been
most soothing to him if he had been as terrified as he knew they
"Cathy! I say! What ho, Jimmy! Mabel ahoy!" he cried in a loud,
cheerful voice that sounded very unreal to himself.
The dining-room door opened a cautious inch.
"I say such larks!" Gerald went on, shoving gently at the door with
his shoulder. "Look out! what are you keeping the door shut for?"
"Are you alone?" asked Kathleen in hushed, breathless tones.
"Yes, of course. Don't be a duffer!"
The door opened, revealing three scared faces and the disarranged
chairs where that odd audience had sat.
"Where are they? Have you unwished them? We heard them
"They're in the yard," said Gerald with the best imitation of joyous
excitement that he could manage. "It is such fun! They're just like
real people, quite kind and jolly. It's the most ripping lark. Don't let
on to Mademoiselle and Eliza. I'll square them. Then Kathleen and
Jimmy must go to bed, and I'll see Mabel home, and as soon as we
get outside I must find some sort of lodging for the Ugly-Wuglies
they are such fun though. I do wish you could all go with me."
"Fun?" echoed Kathleen dismally and doubting.
"Perfectly killing," Gerald asserted resolutely. "Now, you just
listen to what I say to Mademoiselle and Eliza, and back me up for
all you're worth.
"But," said Mabel, "you can't mean that you're going to leave me
alone directly we get out, and go off with those horrible creatures.
They look like fiends."
"You wait till you've seen them close," Gerald advised. "Why, they
re just ordinary the first thing one of them did was to ask me to
recommend it to a good hotel! I couldn't understand it at first,
because it has no roof to its mouth, of course."
It was a mistake to say that, Gerald knew it at once.
Mabel and Kathleen were holding hands in a way that plainly
showed how a few moments ago they had been clinging to each
other in an agony of terror. Now they clung again. And Jimmy,
who was sitting on the edge of what had been the stage, kicking his
boots against the pink counterpane, shuddered visibly.
"It doesn't matter," Gerald explained "about the roofs, I mean; you
soon get to understand. I heard them say I was a gentlemanly lad as
I was coming away. They wouldn't have cared to notice a little
thing like that if they'd been fiends, you know."
"It doesn't matter how gentlemanly they think you; if you don't see
me home you aren't, that's all. Are you going to?" Mabel
"Of course I am. We shall have no end of a lark. Now for
He had put on his coat as he spoke and now ran up the stairs. The
others, herding in the hall, could hear his light-hearted there
knock at Mademoiselle's door, the reassuring "It's only me Gerald,
you know," the pause, the opening of the door, and the low-voiced
parley that followed; then Mademoiselle and Gerald at Eliza's
door, voices of reassurance; Eliza's terror, bluntly voluble, tactfully
"Wonder what lies he's telling them," Jimmy grumbled.
"Oh! not lies," said Mabel; "he's only telling them as much of the
truth as it's good for them to know."
"If you'd been a man," said Jimmy witheringly, "you'd have been a
beastly Jesuit, and hid up chimneys."
"If I were only just a boy," Mabel retorted, "I shouldn't be scared
out of my life by a pack of old coats."
"I'm so sorry you were frightened," Gerald's honeyed tones floated
down the staircase; "we didn't think about you being frightened.
And it was a good trick, wasn't it?"
"There!" whispered Jimmy, "he's been telling her it was a trick of
"Well, so it was," said Mabel stoutly.
"It was indeed a wonderful trick," said Mademoiselle; "and how
did you move the mannikins?"
"Oh, we've often done it with strings, you know," Gerald
"That's true, too," Kathleen whispered.
"Let us see you do once again this trick so remarkable," said
Mademoiselle, arriving at the bottom-stair mat.
"Oh, I've cleared them all out," said Gerald. ("So he has, from
Kathleen aside to Jimmy.) "We were so sorry you were startled; we
thought you wouldn't like to see them again."
"Then," said Mademoiselle brightly, as she peeped into the untidy
dining-room and saw that the figures had indeed vanished, "if we
supped and discoursed of your beautiful piece of theatre?"
Gerald explained fully how much his brother and sister would
enjoy this. As for him Mademoiselle would see that it was his duty
to escort Mabel home, and kind as it was of Mademoiselle to ask
her to stay the night, it could not be, on account of the frenzied and
anxious affection of Mabel's aunt. And it was useless to suggest
that Eliza should see Mabel home, because Eliza was nervous at
night unless accompanied by her gentleman friend.
So Mabel was hatted with her own hat and cloaked with a cloak
that was not hers; and she and Gerald went out by the front door,
amid kind last words and appointments for the morrow.
The moment that front door was shut Gerald caught Mabel by the
arm and led her briskly to the corner of the side street which led to
the yard. Just round the corner he stopped.
"Now," he said, "what I want to know is are you an idiot or aren't
"Idiot yourself!" said Mabel, but mechanically, for she saw that he
was in earnest.
"Because I'm not frightened of the Ugly-Wuglies. They're as
harmless as tame rabbits. But an idiot might be frightened, and
give the whole show away. If you're an idiot, say so, and I'll go
back and tell them you're afraid to walk home, and that I'll go and
let your aunt know you're stopping."
"I'm not an idiot," said Mabel; "and," she added, glaring round her
with the wild gaze of the truly terror-stricken, "I'm not afraid of
"I'm going to let you share my difficulties and dangers," said
Gerald; "at least, I'm inclined to let you. I wouldn't do as much for
my own brother, I can tell you. And if you queer my pitch I'll never
speak to you again or let the others either."
"You're a beast, that's what you are! I don't need to be threatened to
make me brave. I am."
"Mabel," said Gerald, in low, thrilling tones, for he saw that the
time had come to sound another note, "I know you're brave. I
believe in you, That's why I've arranged it like this. I'm certain
you've got the heart of a lion under that black-and-white exterior.
Can I trust you? To the death?"
Mabel felt that to say anything but "Yes" was to throw away a
priceless reputation for courage. So "Yes" was what she said.
"Then wait here. You're close to the lamp. And when you see me
coming with them remember they re as harmless as serpents I
mean doves. Talk to them just like you would to anyone else.
He turned to leave her, but stopped at her natural question:
"What hotel did you say you were going to take them to?"
"Oh, Jimminy!" the harassed Gerald caught at his hair with both
hands. "There! you see, Mabel, you're a help already." he had, even
at that moment, some tact left. "I clean forgot! I meant to ask you
isn't there any lodge or anything in the Castle grounds where I
could put them for the night? The charm will break, you know,
some time, like being invisible did, and they'll just be a pack of
coats and things that we can easily carry home any day. Is there a
lodge or anything?"
"There's a secret passage," Mabel began but at the moment the
yard-door opened and an Ugly-Wugly put out its head and looked
anxiously down the street.
"Righto!" Gerald ran to meet it. It was all Mabel could do not to
run in an opposite direction with an opposite motive. It was all she
could do, but she did it, and was proud of herself as long as ever
she remembered that night.
And now, with all the silent precaution necessitated by the near
presence of an extremely insane uncle, the Ugly-Wuglies, a grisly
band, trooped out of the yard door.
"Walk on your toes, dear," the bonneted Ugly-Wugly whispered to
the one with a wreath; and even at that thrilling crisis Gerald
wondered how she could, since the toes of one foot were but the
end of a golf club and of the other the end of a hockey-stick.
Mabel felt that there was no shame in retreating to the lamp-post at
the street corner, but, once there, she made herself halt and no one
but Mabel will ever know how much making that took. Think of it
to stand there, firm and quiet, and wait for those hollow,
unbelievable things to come up to her, clattering on the pavement
with their stumpy feet or borne along noiselessly, as in the case of
the flower-hatted lady, by a skirt that touched the ground, and had,
Mabel knew very well, nothing at all inside it.
She stood very still; the insides of her hands grew cold and damp,
but still she stood, saying over and over again: "They re not true
they can't be true. It's only a dream they aren't really true. They
can't be." And then Gerald was there, and all the Ugly-Wuglies
crowding round, and Gerald saying: "This is one of our friends
Mabel the Princess in the play, you know. Be a man!" he added in
a whisper for her ear alone.
Mabel, all her nerves stretched tight as banjo strings, had an awful
instant of not knowing whether she would be able to be a man or
whether she would be merely a shrieking and running little mad
girl. For the respectable Ugly-Wugly shook her limply by the hand.
("He can't be true," she told herself), and the rose-wreathed one
took her arm with a soft-padded glove at the end of an umbrella
arm, and said: "You dear, clever little thing! Do walk with me!" in
a gushing, girlish way, and in speech almost wholly lacking in
Then they all walked up the High Street as if, as Gerald said, they
were anybody else.
It was a strange procession, but Liddlesby goes early to bed, and
the Liddlesby police, in common with those of most other places,
wear boots that one can hear a mile off. If such boots had been
heard, Gerald would have had time to turn back and head them off.
He felt now that he could not resist a flush of pride in Mabel's
courage as he heard her polite rejoinders to the still more polite
remarks of the amiable Ugly-Wuglies. He did not know how near
she was to the scream that would throw away the whole thing and
bring the police and the residents out to the ruin of everybody.
They met no one, except one man, who murmured, "Guy Fawkes,
swelp me!" and crossed the road hurriedly; and when, next day, he
told what he had seen, his wife disbelieved him, and also said it
was a judgement on him, which was unreasonable.
Mabel felt as though she were taking part in a very completely
arranged nightmare, but Gerald was in it too Gerald, who had
asked if she was an idiot. Well, she wasn't. But she soon would be,
she felt. Yet she went on answering the courteous vowel-talk of
these impossible people. She had often heard her aunt speak of
impossible people. Well, now she knew what they were like.
Summer twilight had melted into summer moonlight. The shadows
of the Ugly-Wuglies on the white road were much more horrible
than their more solid selves. Mabel wished it had been a dark
night, and then corrected the wish with a hasty shudder.
Gerald, submitting to a searching interrogatory from the tall-hatted
Ugly-Wugly as to his schools, his sports, pastimes, and ambitions,
wondered how long the spell would last. The ring seemed to work
in sevens. Would these things have seven hours'life or fourteen or
twenty-one?"His mind lost itself in the intricacies of the
seven-times table (a teaser at the best of times) and only found
itself with a shock when the procession found itself at the gates of
the Castle grounds.
Locked of course.
"You see," he explained, as the Ugly-Wuglies vainly shook the
iron gates with incredible hands; "it's so very late. There is another
way. But you have to climb through a hole."
"The ladies," the respectable Ugly-Wugly began objecting; but the
ladies with one voice affirmed that they loved adventures. "So
frightfully thrilling," added the one who wore roses.
So they went round by the road, and coming to the hole it was a
little difficult to find in the moonlight, which always disguises the
most familiar things Gerald went first with the bicycle lantern
which he had snatched as his pilgrims came out of the yard; the
shrinking Mabel followed, and then the Ugly-Wuglies, with hollow
rattlings of their wooden limbs against the stone, crept through,
and with strange vowel-sounds of general amazement, manly
courage, and feminine nervousness, followed the light along the
passage through the fern-hung cutting and under the arch.
When they emerged on the moonlit enchantment of the Italian
garden a quite intelligible "Oh!" of surprised admiration broke
from more than one painted paper lip; and the respectable
Ugly-Wugly was understood to say that it must be quite a
show-place by George, sir! yes.
Those marble terraces and artfully serpentining gravel walks surely
never had echoed to steps so strange. No shadows so wildly
unbelievable had, for all its enchantments, ever fallen on those
smooth, grey, dewy lawns. Gerald was thinking this, or something
like it (what he really thought was, "I bet there never was such ado
as this, even here! ), when he saw the statue of Hermes leap from
its pedestal and run towards him and his company with all the
lively curiosity of a street boy eager to be in at a street fight. He
saw, too, that he was the only one who perceived that white
advancing presence. And he knew that it was the ring that let him
see what by others could not be seen. He slipped it from his finger.
Yes; Hermes was on his pedestal, still as the snow man you make
in the Christmas holidays. He put the ring on again, and there was
Hermes, circling round the group and gazing deep in each
unconscious Ugly-Wugly face.
"This seems a very superior hotel," the tall-hatted Ugly-Wugly was
saying; "the grounds are laid out with what you might call taste."
"We should have to go in by the back door," said Mabel suddenly.
"The front door's locked at half-past nine."
A short, stout Ugly-Wugly in a yellow and blue cricket cap, who
had hardly spoken, muttered something about an escapade, and
about feeling quite young again.
And now they had skirted the marble-edged pool where the
goldfish swam and glimmered, and where the great prehistoric
beast had come down to bathe and drink. The water flashed white
diamonds in the moonlight, and Gerald alone of them all saw that
the scaly-plated vast lizard was even now rolling and wallowing
there among the lily pads.
They hastened up the steps of the Temple of Flora. The back of it,
where no elegant arch opened to the air, was against one of those
sheer hills, almost cliffs, that diversified the landscape of that
garden. Mabel passed behind the statue of the goddess, fumbled a
little, and then Gerald's lantern, flashing like a searchlight, showed
a very high and very narrow doorway: the stone that was the door,
and that had closed it, revolved slowly under the touch of Mabel's
"This way," she said, and panted a little. The back of her neck felt
cold and goose-fleshy.
"You lead the way, my lad, with the lantern," said the suburban
Ugly-Wugly in his bluff, agreeable way.
"I I must stay behind to close the door," said Gerald.
"The Princess can do that. We'll help her," said the wreathed one
with effusion; and Gerald thought her horribly officious.
He insisted gently that he would be the one responsible for the safe
shutting of that door.
"You wouldn't like me to get into trouble, I'm sure," he urged; and
the Ugly-Wuglies, for the last time kind and reasonable, agreed
that this, of all things, they would most deplore.
"You take it," Gerald urged, pressing the bicycle lamp on the
elderly Ugly-Wugly; "you're the natural leader. Go straight ahead.
Are there any steps?" he asked Mabel in a whisper.
"Not for ever so long," she whispered back. "It goes on for ages,
and then twists round."
"Whispering," said the smallest Ugly-Wugly suddenly, "ain't
"He hasn't any, anyhow," whispered the lady Ugly-Wugly; "don't
mind him quite a self-made man," and squeezed Mabel's arm with
horrible confidential flabbiness.
The respectable Ugly-Wugly leading with the lamp, the others
following trustfully, one and all disappeared into that narrow
doorway; and Gerald and Mabel standing without, hardly daring to
breathe lest a breath should retard the procession, almost sobbed
with relief. Prematurely, as it turned out. For suddenly there was a
rush and a scuffle inside the passage, and as they strove to close
the door the Ugly-Wuglies fiercely pressed to open it again.
Whether they saw something in the dark passage that alarmed
them, whether they took it into their empty heads that this could
not be the back way to any really respectable hotel, or whether a
convincing sudden instinct warned them that they were being
tricked, Mabel and Gerald never knew. But they knew that the
Ugly- Wuglies were no longer friendly and commonplace, that a
fierce change had come over them. Cries of "No, No!" "We won't
go on!" "Make him lead!" broke the dreamy stillness of the perfect
night. There were screams from ladies voices, the hoarse,
determined shouts of strong Ugly- Wuglies roused to resistance,
and, worse than all, the steady pushing open of that narrow stone
door that had almost closed upon the ghastly crew. Through the
chink of it they could be seen, a writhing black crowd against the
light of the bicycle lamp; a padded hand reached round the door;
stick-boned arms stretched out angrily towards the world that that
door, if it closed, would shut them off from for ever. And the tone
of their consonantless speech was no longer conciliatory and
ordinary; it was threatening, full of the menace of unbearable
The padded hand fell on Gerald's arm, and instantly all the terrors
that he had, so far, only known in imagination became real to him,
and he saw, in the sort of flash that shows drowning people their
past lives, what it was that he had asked of Mabel, and that she had
"Push, push for your life!" he cried, and setting his heel against the
pedestal of Flora, pushed manfully.
"I can't any more oh, I can't!" moaned Mabel, and tried to use her
heel likewise but her legs were too short.
"They mustn't get out, they mustn't!" Gerald panted.
"You'll know it when we do," came from inside the door in tones
which fury and mouth-rooflessness would have made
unintelligible to any ears but those sharpened by the wild fear of
that unspeakable moment.
"What's up, there?" cried suddenly a new voice a voice with all its
consonants comforting, clean-cut, and ringing, and abruptly a new
shadow fell on the marble floor of Flora's temple.
"Come and help push!" Gerald's voice only just reached the
newcomer. "If they get out they'll kill us all."
A strong, velveteen-covered shoulder pushed suddenly between the
shoulders of Gerald and Mabel; a stout man's heel sought the aid
of the goddess's pedestal; the heavy, narrow door yielded slowly, it
closed, its spring clicked, and the furious, surging, threatening
mass of Ugly-Wuglies was shut in, and Gerald and Mabel oh,
incredible relief! were shut out. Mabel threw herself on the marble
floor, sobbing slow, heavy sobs of achievement and exhaustion. If
I had been there I should have looked the other way, so as not to
see whether Gerald yielded himself to the same abandonment.
The newcomer he appeared to be a gamekeeper Gerald decided
later looked down on well, certainly on Mabel, and said:
"Come on, don't be a little duffer." (He may have said, "a couple of
little duffers .) "Who is it, and what's it all about?"
"I can't possibly tell you," Gerald panted.
"We shall have to see about that, shan't we," said the newcomer
amiably. "Come out into the moonlight and let's review the
Gerald, even in that topsy-turvy state of his world, found time to
think that a gamekeeper who used such words as that had most
likely a romantic past. But at the same time he saw that such a man
would be far less easy to "square" with an unconvincing tale than
Eliza, or Johnson, or even Mademoiselle. In fact, he seemed, with
the only tale that they had to tell, practically unsquarable.
Gerald got up if he was not up already, or still up and pulled at the
limp and now hot hand of the sobbing Mabel; and as he did so the
unsquarable one took his hand, and thus led both children out from
under the shadow of Flora's dome into the bright white moonlight
that carpeted Flora's steps. Here he sat down, a child on each side
of him, drew a hand of each through his velveteen arm, pressed
them to his velveteen sides in a friendly, reassuring way, and said:
"Now then! Go ahead!"
Mabel merely sobbed. We must excuse her. She had been very
brave, and I have no doubt that all heroines, from Joan of Arc to
Grace Darling, have had their sobbing moments.
But Gerald said: "It's no use. If I made up a story you'd see through
"That's a compliment to thy discernment, anyhow," said the
stranger. "What price telling me the truth?"
"If we told you the truth," said Gerald, "you wouldn't believe it."
"Try me," said the velveteen one. He was clean-shaven, and had
large eyes that sparkled when the moonlight touched them.
"I can't," said Gerald, and it was plain that he spoke the truth.
"You'd either think we were mad, and get us shut up, or else Oh,
it's no good. Thank you for helping us, and do let us go home."
"I wonder," said the stranger musingly, "whether you have any
"Considering that we invented them " Gerald hotly began, and
stopped with late prudence.
"If by 'them' you mean the people whom I helped you to imprison
in yonder tomb," said the Stranger, loosing Mabel's hand to put his
arm round her, "remember that I saw and heard them. And with all
respect to your imagination, I doubt whether any invention of
yours would be quite so convincing."
Gerald put his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands.
"Collect yourself," said the one in velveteen; "and while you are
collecting, let me just put the thing from my point of view. I think
you hardly realize my position. I come down from London to take
care of a big estate."
"I thought you were a gamekeeper," put in Gerald.
Mabel put her head on the stranger's shoulder. "Hero in disguise,
then, I know," she sniffed.
"Not at all," said he; "bailiff would be nearer the mark. On the very
first evening I go out to take the moonlit air, and approaching a
white building, hear sounds of an agitated scuffle, accompanied by
frenzied appeals for assistance. Carried away by the enthusiasm of
the moment, I do assist and shut up goodness knows who behind a
stone door. Now, is it unreasonable that I should ask who it is that
I've shut up helped to shut up, I mean, and who it is that I've
"It's reasonable enough," Gerald admitted.
"Well then," said the stranger.
"Well then," said Gerald, "the fact is No," he added after a pause,
"the fact is, I simply can't tell you."
"Then I must ask the other side," said Velveteens. "Let me go I'll
undo that door and find out for myself."
"Tell him," said Mabel, speaking for the first time. "Never mind if
he believes or not. We can't have them let out."
"Very well," said Gerald, "I'll tell him. Now look here, Mr. Bailiff,
will you promise us on an English gentleman's word of honour
because, of course, I can see you're that, bailiff or not will you
promise that you won't tell any one what we tell you and that you
won't have us put in a lunatic asylum, however mad we sound?"
"Yes," said the stranger, "I think I can promise that. But if you've
been having a sham fight or anything and shoved the other side
into that hole, don't you think you'd better let them out? They'll be
most awfully frightened, you know. After all, I suppose they are
"Wait till you hear," Gerald answered. "They're not children not
much! Shall I just tell about them or begin at the beginning?"
"The beginning, of course," said the stranger.
Mabel lifted her head from his velveteen shoulder and said, "Let
me begin, then. I found a ring, and I said it would make me
invisible. I said it in play. And it did. I was invisible twenty-one
hours. Never mind where I got the ring. Now, Gerald, you go on."
Gerald went on; for quite a long time he went on, for the story was
a splendid one to tell.
"And so," he ended, "we got them in there; and when seven hours
are over, or fourteen, or twenty-one, or something with a seven in
it, they'll just be old coats again. They came alive at half-past nine.
I think they'll stop being it in seven hours that's half-past four. Now
will you let us go home?""I'll see you home," said the stranger in a
quite new tone of exasperating gentleness. "Come let's be going."
"You don't believe us," said Gerald. "Of course you don t. Nobody
could. But I could make you believe if I chose."
All three stood up, and the stranger stared in Gerald's eyes till
Gerald answered his thought.
"No, I don't look mad, do I?"
"No, you aren't. But, come, you're an extraordinarily sensible boy;
don't you think you may be sickening for a fever or something?"
"And Cathy and Jimmy and Mademoiselle and Eliza, and the man
who said 'Guy Fawkes, swelp me!' and you, you saw them move
you heard them call out. Are you sickening for anything?"
"No or at least not for anything but information. Come, and I'll see
"Mabel lives at the Towers," said Gerald, as the stranger turned
into the broad drive that leads to the big gate.
"No relation to Lord Yalding," said Mabel hastily " housekeeper's
niece." She was holding on to his hand all the way. At the servants
entrance she put up her face to be kissed, and went in.
"Poor little thing!" said the bailiff, as they went down the drive
towards the gate.
He went with Gerald to the door of the school.
"Look here," said Gerald at parting. "I know what you're going to
do. You're going to try to undo that door."
"Discerning!" said the stranger.
"Well don't. Or, anyway, wait till daylight and let us be there. We
can get there by ten."
"All right I'll meet you there by ten," answered the stranger. "By
George! you're the rummest kids I ever met."
"We are rum," Gerald owned, "but so would you be if Good-night."
As the four children went over the smooth lawn towards Flora's
Temple they talked, as they had talked all the morning, about the
adventures of last night and of Mabel's bravery. It was not ten, but
half-past twelve; for Eliza, backed by Mademoiselle, had insisted
on their "clearing up," and clearing up very thoroughly, the "litter"
of last night.
"You're a Victoria Cross heroine, dear," said Cathy warmly. "You
ought to have a statue put up to you."
"It would come alive if you put it here," said Gerald grimly.
"I shouldn't have been afraid," said Jimmy.
"By daylight," Gerald assured him, "everything looks so jolly
"I do hope he'll be there," Mabel said; "he was such a dear, Cathy a
perfect bailiff, with the soul of a gentleman."
"He isn't there, though," said Jimmy. "I believe you just dreamed
him, like you did the statues coming alive."
They went up the marble steps in the sunshine, and it was difficult
to believe that this was the place where only in last night's
moonlight fear had laid such cold hands on the hearts of Mabel
"Shall we open the door," suggested Kathleen, "and begin to carry
home the coats?"
"Let's listen first," said Gerald; "perhaps they aren't only coats yet."
They laid ears to the hinges of the stone door, behind which last
night the Ugly-Wuglies had shrieked and threatened. All was still
as the sweet morning itself. It was as they turned away that they
saw the man they had come to meet. He was on the other side of
Flora's pedestal. But he was not standing up. He lay there, quite
still, on his back, his arms flung wide.
"Oh, look!" cried Cathy, and pointed. His face was a queer
greenish colour, and on his forehead there was a cut; its edges
were blue, and a little blood had trickled from it on to the white of
At the same time Mabel pointed too but she did not cry out as
Cathy had done. And what she pointed at was a big glossy-leaved
rhododendron bush, from which a painted pointed paper face
peered out very white, very red, in the sunlight and, as the children
gazed, shrank back into the cover of the shining leaves.
It was but too plain. The unfortunate bailiff must have opened the
door before the spell had faded, while yet the Ugly Wuglies were
something more than mere coats and hats and sticks. They had
rushed out upon him, and had done this. He lay there insensible
was it a golf-club or a hockey-stick that had made that horrible cut
on his forehead? Gerald wondered. The girls had rushed to the
sufferer; already his head was in Mabel's lap. Kathleen had tried to
get it on to hers, but Mabel was too quick for her.
Jimmy and Gerald both knew what was the first thing needed by
the unconscious, even before Mabel impatiently said: "Water!
"What in?" Jimmy asked, looking doubtfully at his hands, and then
down the green slope to the marble-bordered pool where the
"Your hat anything," said Mabel.
The two boys turned away.
"Suppose they come after us," said Jimmy.
"What come after us?" Gerald snapped rather than asked.
"The Ugly-Wuglies," Jimmy whispered..
"Who's afraid?" Gerald inquired.
But he looked to right and left very carefully, and chose the way
that did not lead near the bushes. He scooped water up in his straw
hat and returned to Flora's Temple, carrying it carefully in both
hands. When he saw how quickly it ran through the straw he
pulled his handkerchief from his breast pocket with his teeth and
dropped it into the hat. It was with this that the girls wiped the
blood from the bailiff's brow.
"We ought to have smelling salts," said Kathleen, half in tears. "I
know we ought."
"They would be good," Mabel owned.
"Hasn't your aunt any?"
"Yes, but "
"Don't be a coward," said Gerald; "think of last night. They
wouldn't hurt you. He must have insulted them or something. Look
here, you run. We'll see that nothing runs after you."
There was no choice but to relinquish the head of the interesting
invalid to Kathleen; so Mabel did it, cast one glaring glance round
the rhododendron bordered slope, and fled towards the castle.
The other three bent over the still unconscious bailiff.
"He's not dead, is he?" asked Jimmy anxiously.
"No," Kathleen reassured him, "his heart's heating. Mabel and I felt
it in his wrist, where doctors do. How frightfully good-looking he
"Not so dusty," Gerald admitted.
"I never know what you mean by good-looking," said Jimmy, and
suddenly a shadow fell on the marble beside them and a fourth
voice spoke not Mabel s; her hurrying figure, though still in sight,
was far away.
The children looked up into the face of the eldest of the
Ugly-Wuglies, the respectable one. Jimmy and Kathleen screamed.
I am sorry, but they did.
"Hush!" said Gerald savagely: he was still wearing the ring. "Hold
your tongues! I'll get him away," he added in a whisper.
"Very sad affair this," said the respectable Ugly-Wugly. He spoke
with a curious accent; there was something odd about his r's, and
his m's and n's were those of a person labouring under an almost
intolerable cold in the head. But it was not the dreadful "oo" and
"ah" voice of the night before. Kathleen and Jimmy stooped over
the bailiff. Even that prostrate form, being human, seemed some
little protection. But Gerald, strong in the fearlessness that the ring
gave to its wearer, looked full into the face of the Ugly-Wugly and
started. For though the face was almost the same as the face he had
himself painted on the school drawing-paper, it was not the same.
For it was no longer paper. It was a real face, and the hands, lean
and almost transparent as they were, were real hands. As it moved
a little to get a better view of the bailiff it was plain that it had
legs, arms live legs and arms, and a self-supporting backbone. It
was alive indeed with a vengeance.
"How did it happen?" Gerald asked, with an effort of calmness a
"Most regrettable," said the Ugly-Wugly. "The others must have
missed the way last night in the passage. They never found the
"Did you?" asked Gerald blankly.
"Of course," said the Ugly-Wugly. "Most respectable, exactly as
you said. Then when I came away I didn't come the front way
because I wanted to revisit this sylvan scene by daylight, and the
hotel people didn't seem to know how to direct me to it I found the
others all at this door, very angry. They'd been here all night, trying
to get out. Then the door opened this gentleman must have opened
it and before I could protect him, that underbred man in the high
hat you remember ,"
"Hit him on the head, and he fell where you see him. The others
dispersed, and I myself was just going for assistance when I saw
Here Jimmy was discovered to be in tears and Kathleen white as
"What's the matter, my little man?" said the respectable
Ugly-Wugly kindly. Jimmy passed instantly from tears to yells.
"Here, take the ring!" said Gerald in a furious whisper, and thrust it
on to Jimmy's hot, damp, resisting finger. Jimmy's voice stopped
short in the middle of a howl. And Gerald in a cold flash realized
what it was that Mabel had gone through the night before. But it
was daylight, and Gerald was not a coward.
"We must find the others," he said.
"I imagine," said the elderly Ugly-Wugly, "that they have gone to
bathe. Their clothes are in the wood."
He pointed stiffly.
"You two go and see," said Gerald. "I'll go on dabbing this chap's
In the wood Jimmy, now fearless as any lion, discovered four
heaps of clothing, with broomsticks, hockeysticks, and masks
complete all that had gone to make up the gentlemen
Ugly-Wuglies of the night before. On a stone seat well in the sun
sat the two lady Ugly-Wuglies, and Kathleen approached them
gingerly. Valour is easier in the sunshine than at night, as we all
know. When she and Jimmy came close to the bench, they saw that
the Ugly-Wuglies were only Ugly-Wuglies such as they had often
made. There was no life in them. Jimmy shook them to pieces, and
a sigh of relief burst from Kathleen.
"The spell's broken, you see," she said; "and that old gentleman,
he's real. He only happens to be like the Ugly-Wugly we made."
"He's got the coat that hung in the hall on, anyway," said Jimmy.
"No, it's only like it. Let's get back to the unconscious stranger."
They did, and Gerald begged the elderly Ugly-Wugly to retire
among the bushes with Jimmy; "because, said he, "I think the poor
bailiff's coming round, and it might upset him to see strangers and
Jimmy'll keep you company. He's the best one of us to go with
you," he added hastily.
And this, since Jimmy had the ring, was certainly true.
So the two disappeared behind the rhododendrons. Mabel came
back with the salts just as the bailiff opened his eyes.
"It's just like life," she said; "I might just as well not have gone.
However ," She knelt down at once and held the bottle under the
sufferer's nose till he sneezed and feebly pushed her hand away
with the faint question: "What's up now?"
"You've hurt your head," said Gerald. "Lie still."
"No more smelling-bottle," he said weakly, and lay.
Quite soon he sat up and looked round him. There was an anxious
silence. Here was a grown-up who knew last night's secret, and
none of the children were at all sure what the utmost rigour of the
law might be in a case where people, no matter how young, made
Ugly-Wuglies, and brought them to life dangerous, fighting, angry
life. What would he say what would he do?" He said: "What an
odd thing! Have I been insensible long?"
"Hours," said Mabel earnestly.
"Not long," said Kathleen.
"We don't know. We found you like it," said Gerald.
"I'm all right now," said the bailiff, and his eye fell on the
blood-stained handkerchief. "I say, I did give my head a bang. And
you've been giving me first aid. Thank you most awfully. But it is
"What's rum?" politeness obliged Gerald to ask.
"Well, I suppose it isn't really rum I expect I saw you just before I
fainted, or whatever it was but I've dreamed the most extraordinary
dream while I've been insensible and you were in it."
"Nothing but us?" asked Mabel breathlessly.
"Oh, lots of things impossible things but you were real enough."
Everyone breathed deeply in relief. It was indeed, as they agreed
later, a lucky let-off.
"Are you sure you're all right?" they all asked, as he got on his feet.
"Perfectly, thank you." He glanced behind Flora's statue as he
spoke. "Do you know, I dreamed there was a door there, but of
course there isn't. I don't know how to thank you," he added,
looking at them with what the girls called his beautiful, kind eyes;
"it's lucky for me you came along. You come here whenever you
like, you know," he added. "I give you the freedom of the place."
"You're the new bailiff, aren't you?" said Mabel.
"Yes. How did you know?" he asked quickly; but they did not tell
him how they knew. Instead, they found out which way he was
going, and went the other way after warm handshakes and hopes
on both sides that they would meet again soon.
"I'll tell you what," said Gerald, as they watched the tall, broad
figure of the bailiff grow smaller across the hot green of the grass
slope, "have you got any idea of how we're going to spend the day?
Because I have."
The others hadn't.
"We'll get rid of that Ugly-Wugly oh, we'll find a way right enough
and directly we've done it we'll go home and seal up the ring in an
envelope so that its teeth'll be drawn and it'll be powerless to have
unforeseen larks with us. Then we'll get out on the roof, and have a
quiet day books and apples. I'm about fed up with adventures, so I
The others told him the same thing.
"Now, think," said he "think as you never thought before how to
get rid of that Ugly-Wugly."
Everyone thought, but their brains were tired with anxiety and
distress, and the thoughts they thought were, as Mabel said, not
worth thinking, let alone saying.
"I suppose Jimmy's all right," said Kathleen anxiously.
"Oh, he's all right: he's got the ring," said Gerald.
"I hope he won't go wishing anything rotten," said Mabel, but
Gerald urged her to shut up and let him think.
"I think I think best sitting down," he said, and sat; "and sometimes
you can think best aloud. The Ugly-Wugly's real don't make any
mistake about that. And he got made real inside that passage. If we
could get him back there he might get changed again, and then we
could take the coats and things back."
"Isn't there any other way?" Kathleen asked; and Mabel, more
candid, said bluntly: "I'm not going into that passage, so there!"
"Afraid! In broad daylight," Gerald sneered.
"It wouldn't be broad daylight in there," said Mabel, and Kathleen
"If we went to him and suddenly tore his coat off," said she "he is
only coats he couldn't go on being real then.
"Couldn't he!" said Gerald. "You don't know what he's like under
Kathleen shivered again. And all this time the sun was shining
gaily and the white statues and the green trees and the fountains
and terraces looked as cheerfully romantic as a scene in a play.
"Anyway," said Gerald, "we'll try to get him back, and shut the
door. That's the most we can hope for. And then apples, and
Robinson Crusoe or the Swiss Family, or any book you like that's
got no magic in it. Now, we've just got to do it. And he's not horrid
now; really he isn't. He's real, you see."
"I suppose that makes all the difference," said Mabel, and tried to
feel that perhaps it did.
"And it's broad daylight just look at the sun," Gerald insisted.
He took a hand of each, and they walked resolutely towards the
bank of rhododendrons behind which Jimmy and the Ugly-Wugly
had been told to wait, and as they went Gerald said: "He's real"
"The sun's shining" "It'll all be over in a minute." And he said these
things again and again, so that there should be no mistake about
As they neared the bushes the shining leaves rustled, shivered, and
parted, and before the girls had time to begin to hang back Jimmy
came blinking out into the sunlight. The boughs closed behind
him, and they did not stir or rustle for the appearance of anyone
else. Jimmy was alone.
"Where is it?" asked the girls in one breath.
"Walking up and down in a fir-walk," said Jimmy, "doing sums in
a book. He says he's most frightfully rich, and he's got to get up to
town to the Stocks or something where they change papers into
gold if you're clever, he says. I should like to go to the
Stocks-change, wouldn't you?"
"I don't seem to care very much about changes, said Gerald. "I've
had enough. Show us where he is we must get rid of him."
"He's got a motor-car," Jimmy went on, parting the warm
varnished-looking rhododendron leaves, "and a garden with a
tennis-court and a lake and a carriage and pair, and he goes to
Athens for his holiday sometimes, just like other people go to
"The best thing," said Gerald, following through the bushes, "will
be to tell him the shortest way out is through that hotel that he
thinks he found last night. Then we get him into the passage, give
him a push, fly back, and shut the door."
"He'll starve to death in there," said Kathleen, "if he's really real."
"I expect it doesn't last long, the ring magics don't anyway, it's the
only thing I can think of."
"He's frightfully rich," Jimmy went on unheeding amid the
cracking of the bushes; "he's building a public library for the
people where he lives, and having his portrait painted to put in it.
He thinks they'll like that."
The belt of rhododendrons was passed, and the children had
reached a smooth grass walk bordered by tall pines and firs of
strange different kinds. "He's just round that corner," said Jimmy.
"He's simply rolling in money. He doesn't know what to do with it.
He's been building a horse-trough and drinking fountain with a
bust of himself on top. Why doesn't he build a private
swimming-bath close to his bed, so that he can just roll off into it
of a morning? I wish I was rich; I'd soon show him ,"
"That's a sensible wish," said Gerald. "I wonder we didn't think of
doing that. Oh, criky!" he added, and with reason. For there, in the
green shadows of the pine-walk, in the woodland silence, broken
only by rustling leaves and the agitated breathing of the three
unhappy others, Jimmy got his wish. By quick but perfectly
plain-to-be-seen degrees Jimmy became rich. And the horrible
thing was that though they could see it happening they did not
know what was happening, and could not have stopped it if they
had. All they could see was Jimmy, their own Jimmy, whom they
had larked with and quarrelled with and made it up with ever since
they could remember, Jimmy continuously and horribly growing
old. The whole thing was over in a few seconds. Yet in those few
seconds they saw him grow to a youth, a young man, a
middle-aged man; and then, with a sort of shivering shock,
unspeakably horrible and definite, he seemed to settle down into
an elderly gentleman, handsomely but rather dowdily dressed, who
was looking down at them through spectacles and asking them the
nearest way to the railway-station. If they had not seen the change
take place, in all its awful details, they would never have guessed
that this stout, prosperous, elderly gentleman
with the high hat, the frock-coat, and the large red seal dangling
from the curve of a portly waistcoat, was their own Jimmy. But, as
they had seen it, they knew the dreadful truth.
"Oh, Jimmy, don't!" cried Mabel desperately.
Gerald said: "This is perfectly beastly," and Kathleen broke into
"Don't cry, little girl!" said That-which-had-been Jimmy; "and you,
boy, can't you give a civil answer to a civil question?"
"He doesn't know us!" wailed Kathleen.
"Who doesn't know you?" said That-which-had-been impatiently.
"You y-you don t!" Kathleen sobbed.
"I certainly don't," returned That-which "but surely that need not
distress you so deeply."
"Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy!" Kathleen sobbed louder than before.
"He doesn't know us," Gerald owned, "or look here, Jimmy, y you
aren't kidding, are you? Because if you are it's simply abject rot "
"My name is Mr. ," said That-which-had-been-Jimmy, and gave
the name correctly. By the way, it will perhaps be shorter to call
this elderly stout person who was Jimmy grown rich by some
simpler name than I have just used. Let us call him 'That' short for
"What are we to do?" whispered Mabel, awestruck; and aloud she
said: "Oh, Mr. James, or whatever you call yourself, do give me
the ring." For on That's finger the fatal ring showed plain.
"Certainly not," said That firmly. "You appear to be a very
"But what are you going to do?" Gerald asked in the flat tones of
"Your interest is very flattering," said That. "Will you tell me, or
won't you, the way to the nearest railway station?"
"No," said Gerald, "we won't."
"Then," said That, still politely, though quite plainly furious,
"perhaps you'll tell me the way to the nearest lunatic asylum?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Kathleen. "You're not so bad as that."
"Perhaps not. But you are," That retorted; "if you're not lunatics
you're idiots. However, I see a gentleman ahead who is perhaps
sane. In fact, I seem to recognize him." A gentleman, indeed, was
now to be seen approaching. It was the elderly Ugly-Wugly.
"Oh! don't you remember Jerry?" Kathleen cried, "and Cathy, your
own Cathy Puss Cat? Dear, dear Jimmy, don't be so silly!"
"Little girl," said That, looking at her crossly through his
spectacles, "I am sorry you have not been better brought up." And
he walked stiffly towards the Ugly-Wugly. Two hats were raised, a
few words were exchanged, and two elderly figures walked side by
side down the green pine-walk, followed by three miserable
children, horrified, bewildered, alarmed, and, what is really worse
than anything, quite at their wits end.
"He wished to be rich, so of course he is," said Gerald; "he'll have
money for tickets and everything.
And when the spell breaks it's sure to break, isn't it? he'll find
himself somewhere awful perhaps in a really good hotel and not
know how he got there."
"I wonder how long the Ugly-Wuglies lasted," said Mabel.
"Yes," Gerald answered, "that reminds me. You two must collect
the coats and things. Hide them, anywhere you like, and we'll carry
them home tomorrow if there is any tomorrow " he added darkly.
"Oh, don t!" said Kathleen, once more breathing heavily on the
verge of tears: "you wouldn't think everything could be so awful,
and the sun shining like it does.
"Look here," said Gerald, "of course I must stick to Jimmy. You
two must go home to Mademoiselle and tell her Jimmy and I have
gone off in the train with a gentleman say he looked like an uncle.
He does some kind of uncle. There'll be a beastly row afterwards,
but it's got to be done.
"It all seems thick with lies," said Kathleen; "you don't seem to be
able to get a word of truth in edgewise hardly."
"Don't you worry," said her brother; "they aren't lies they're as true
as anything else in this magic rot we've got mixed up in. It's like
telling lies in a dream; you can't help it."
"Well, all I know is I wish it would stop."
"Lot of use your wishing that is," said Gerald, exasperated. "So
long. I've got to go, and you've got to stay. If it's any comfort to
you, I don't believe any of it's real: it can't be; it's too thick. Tell
Mademoiselle Jimmy and I will be back to tea. If we don't happen
to be I can't help it. I can't help anything, except perhaps Jimmy."
He started to run, for the girls had lagged, and the Ugly-Wugly and
That (late Jimmy) had quickened their pace.
The girls were left looking after them.
"We've got to find these clothes," said Mabel, "simply got to. I
used to want to be a heroine. It's different when it really comes to
being, isn't it?"
"Yes, very," said Kathleen. "Where shall we hide the clothes when
we've got them? Not not that passage?"
"Never!" said Mabel firmly; "we'll hide them inside the great stone
dinosaurus. He's hollow."
"He comes alive in his stone," said Kathleen.
"Not in the sunshine he doesn't," Mabel told her confidently, "and
not without the ring."
"There won't be any apples and books today," said Kathleen.
"No, but we'll do the babiest thing we can do the minute we get
home. We'll have a dolls tea-party. That'll make us feel as if there
wasn't really any magic."
"It'll have to be a very strong tea party, then," said Kathleen
And now we see Gerald, a small but quite determined figure,
paddling along in the soft white dust of the sunny road, in the wake
of two elderly gentlemen. His hand, in his trousers pocket, buries
itself with a feeling of satisfaction in the heavy mixed coinage that
is his share of the profits of his conjuring at the fair. His noiseless
tennis-shoes bear him to the station, where, unobserved, he listens
at the ticket office to the voice of That-which-was-James. "One
first London," it says and Gerald, waiting till That and the
Ugly-Wugly have strolled on to the platform, politely conversing
of politics and the Kaffir market, takes a third return to London.
The train strides in, squeaking and puffing. The watched take their
seats in a carriage blue-lined. The watcher springs into a yellow
wooden compartment. A whistle sounds, a flag is waved. The train
pulls itself together, strains, jerks, and starts.
"I don't understand," says Gerald, alone in his third- class carriage,
"how railway trains and magic can go on at the same time."
And yet they do.
Mabel and Kathleen, nervously peering among the rhododendron
bushes and the bracken and the fancy fir-trees, find six several
heaps of coats, hats, skirts, gloves, golf-clubs, hockey- sticks,
broom-handles. They carry them, panting and damp, for the
mid-day sun is pitiless, up the hill to where the stone dinosaurus
looms immense among a forest of larches. The dinosaurus has a
hole in his stomach. Kathleen shows Mabel how to "make a back"
and climbs up on it into the cold, stony inside of the monster.
Mabel hands up the clothes and the sticks.
"There's lots of room," says Kathleen; "its tail goes down into the
ground. It's like a secret passage."
"Suppose something comes out of it and jumps out at you," says
Mabel, and Kathleen hurriedly descends.
The explanations to Mademoiselle promise to be difficult, but, as
Kathleen said afterwards, any little thing is enough to take a
grown-up's attention off. A figure passes the window just as they
are explaining that it really did look exactly like an uncle that the
boys have gone to London with.
"Who's that?" says Mademoiselle suddenly, pointing, too, which
everyone knows is not manners.
It is the bailiff coming back from the doctor's with antiseptic
plaster on that nasty cut that took so long a-bathing this morning.
They tell her it is the bailiff at Yalding Towers, and she says,
"Ciel!" (Sky!) and asks no more awkward questions about the
boys. Lunch very late is a silent meal. After lunch Mademoiselle
goes out, in a hat with many pink roses, carrying a rose-lined
parasol. The girls, in dead silence, organize a dolls tea-party, with
real tea. At the second cup Kathleen bursts into tears. Mabel, also
weeping, embraces her.
"I wish," sobs Kathleen, "oh, I do wish I knew where the boys
were! It would be such a comfort."
Gerald knew where the boys were, and it was no comfort to him at
all. If you come to think of it, he was the only person who could
know where they were, because Jimmy didn't know that he was a
boy and indeed he wasn't really and the Ugly-Wugly couldn't be
expected to know anything real, such as where boys were. At the
moment when the second cup of dolls tea very strong, but not
strong enough to drown care in was being poured out by the
trembling hand of Kathleen, Gerald was lurking there really is no
other word for it on the staircase of Aldermanbury Buildings, Old
Broad Street. On the floor below him was a door bearing the
legend "MR. U. W. UGLI, Stock and Share Broker (and at the
Stock Exchange)" and on the floor above was another door, on
which was the name of Gerald's little brother, now grown suddenly
rich in so magic and tragic a way. There were no explaining words
under Jimmy's name. Gerald could not guess what walk in life it
was to which That (which had been Jimmy) owed its affluence. He
had seen, when the door opened to admit his brother, a tangle of
clerks and mahogany desks. Evidently That had a large business.
What was Gerald to do? What could he do?
It is almost impossible, especially for one so young as Gerald, to
enter a large London office and explain that the elderly and
respected head of it is not what he seems, but is really your little
brother, who has been suddenly advanced to age and wealth by a
tricky wishing ring. If you think it's a possible thing, try it, that's
all. Nor could he knock at the door of Mr. U. W. Ugli, Stock and
Share Broker (and at the Stock Exchange), and inform his clerks
that their chief was really nothing but old clothes that had
accidentally come alive, and by some magic, which he couldn't
attempt to explain, become real during a night spent at a really
good hotel which had no existence.
The situation bristled, as you see, with difficulties. And it was so
long past Gerald's proper dinner-time that his increasing hunger
was rapidly growing to seem the most important difficulty of all. It
is quite possible to starve to death on the staircase of a London
building if the people you are watching for only stay long enough
in their offices. The truth of this came home to Gerald more and
A boy with hair like a new front door mat came whistling up the
stairs. He had a dark blue bag in his hands.
"I'll give you a tanner for yourself if you'll get me a tanner's worth
of buns," said Gerald, with that prompt decision common to all
"Show us yer tanners," the boy rejoined with at least equal
promptness. Gerald showed them. "All right; hand over."
"Payment on delivery," said Gerald, using words from the drapers
which he had never thought to use.
The boy grinned admiringly.
"Knows 'is wy abaht," he said; "ain't no flies on 'im."
"Not many," Gerald owned with modest pride. "Cut along, there's a
good chap. I've got to wait here. I'll take care of your bag if you
"Nor yet there ain't no flies on me neither," remarked the boy,
shouldering it. "I been up to the confidence trick for years ever
since I was your age."
With this parting shot he went, and returned in due course
bun-laden. Gerald gave the sixpence and took the buns. When the
boy, a minute later, emerged from the door of Mr. U. W. Ugli,
Stock and Share Broker (and at the Stock Exchange), Gerald
"What sort of chap's that?" he asked, pointing the question with a
jerk of an explaining thumb.
"Awful big pot," said the boy; "up to his eyes in oof. Motor and all
"Know anything about the one on the next landing?"
"He's bigger than what this one is. Very old firm special cellar in
the Bank of England to put his chink in all in bins like against the
wall at the corn-chandler s. Jimminy, I wouldn't mind 'alf an hour
in there, and the doors open and the police away at a beano. Not
much! Neither. You'll bust if you eat all them buns."
"Have one?" Gerald responded, and held out the bag.
"They say in our office," said the boy, paying for the bun
honourably with unasked information, "as these two is all for
cutting each other's throats oh, only in the way of business been at
it for years."
Gerald wildly wondered what magic and how much had been
needed to give history and a past to these two things of yesterday,
the rich Jimmy and the Ugly-Wugly. If he could get them away
would all memory of them fade in this boy's mind, for instance, in
the minds of all the people who did business with them in the
City? Would the mahogany-and-clerk-furnished offices fade away?
Were the clerks real? Was the mahogany? Was he himself real?
Was the boy?
"Can you keep a secret?" he asked the other boy. "Are you on for a
"I ought to be getting back to the office," said the boy.
"Get then!" said Gerald.
"Don't you get stuffy," said the boy. "I was just a-going to say it
didn't matter. I know how to make my nose bleed if I'm a bit late."
Gerald congratulated him on this accomplishment, at once so
useful and so graceful, and then said: "Look here. I'll give you five