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The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

Part 4 out of 5

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bob honest."

"What for?" was the boy's natural question.

"If you'll help me. "

"Fire ahead."

"I'm a private inquiry," said Gerald.

"Tec? You don't look it."

"What's the good of being one if you look it?" Gerald asked
impatiently, beginning on another bun. "That old chap on the floor
above he's wanted."

"Police?" asked the boy with fine carelessness.

"No sorrowing relations."

"'Return to,'" said the boy; "'all forgotten and forgiven.' I see."

"And I've got to get him to them, somehow. Now, if you could go
in and give him a message from someone who wanted to meet him
on business ,"

"Hold on!" said the boy. "I know a trick worth two of that. You go
in and see old Ugli. He'd give his ears to have the old boy out of
the way for a day or two. They were saying so in our office only
this morning."

"Let me think," said Gerald, laying down the last bun on his knee
expressly to hold his head in his hands.

"Don't you forget to think about my five bob," said the boy.

Then there was a silence on the stairs, broken only by the cough of
a clerk in That's office, and the clickety-clack of a typewriter in the
office of Mr. U. W. Ugli.

Then Gerald rose up and finished the bun.

"You're right," he said. "I'll chance it. Here's your five bob."

He brushed the bun crumbs from his front, cleared his throat, and
knocked at the door of Mr. U. W. Ugli. It opened and he entered.

The door-mat boy lingered, secure in his power to account for his
long absence by means of his well-trained nose, and his waiting
was rewarded. He went down a few steps, round the bend of the
stairs, and heard the voice of Mr. U. W. Ugli, so well known on
that staircase (and on the Stock Exchange) say in soft, cautious
accents:

"Then I'll ask him to let me look at the ring and I'll drop it. You
pick it up. But remember, it's a pure accident, and you don't know
me. I can't have my name mixed up in a thing like this. You're sure
he's really unhinged?"

"Quite," said Gerald; "he's quite mad about that ring. He'll follow it
anywhere. I know he will. And think of his sorrowing relations."

"I do I do," said Mr. Ugli kindly; "that's all I do think of, of
course."

He went up the stairs to the other office, and Gerald heard the
voice of That telling his clerks that he was going out to lunch.
Then the horrible Ugly-Wugly and Jimmy, hardly less horrible in
the eyes of Gerald, passed down the stairs where, in the dusk of the
lower landing, two boys were making themselves as
undistinguishable as possible, and so out into the street, talking of
stocks and shares, bears and bulls. The two boys followed.

"I say," the door-mat-headed boy whispered admiringly, "whatever
are you up to?"

"You'll see," said Gerald recklessly. "Come on!"

"You tell me. I must be getting back."

"Well, I'll tell you, but you won't believe me. That old gentleman's
not really old at all he's my young brother suddenly turned into
what you see. The other's not real at all. He's only just old clothes
and nothing inside."

"He looks it, I must say," the boy admitted; "but I say you do stick
it on, don't you?"

"Well, my brother was turned like that by a magic ring."

"There ain't no such thing as magic," said the boy. "I learnt that at
school."

"All right," said Gerald. "Good-bye."

"Oh, go ahead!" said the boy; "you do stick it on, though."

"Well, that magic ring. If I can get hold of It I shall just wish we
were all in a certain place. And we shall be. And then I can deal
with both of them."

"Deal?"

"Yes, the ring won't unwish anything you've wished. That undoes
itself with time, like a spring uncoiling. But it'll give you a
brand-new wish I'm almost certain of it. Anyhow, I'm going to
chance it."

"You are a rotter, aren't you?" said the boy respectfully.

"You wait and see," Gerald repeated.

"I say, you aren't going into this swell place! You can't?"

The boy paused, appalled at the majesty of Pym's.

"Yes, I am they can't turn us out as long as we behave. You come
along, too. I'll stand lunch."

I don't know why Gerald clung so to this boy. He wasn't a very nice
boy. Perhaps it was because he was the only person Gerald knew
in London to speak to except That-which-had-been-Jimmy and the
Ugly-Wugly; and he did not want to talk to either of them.

What happened next happened so quickly that, as Gerald said later,
it was "just like magic". The restaurant was crowded busy men
were hastily bolting the food hurriedly brought by busy waitresses.
There was a clink of forks and plates, the gurgle of beer from
bottles, the hum of talk, and the smell of many good things to eat.

"Two chops, please," Gerald had just said, playing with a plainly
shown handful of money, so as to leave no doubt of his honourable
intentions. Then at the next table he heard the words, "Ah, yes,
curious old family heirloom," the ring was drawn off the finger of
That, and Mr. U. W. Ugli, murmuring something about a unique
curio, reached his impossible hand out for it. The door-mat-headed
boy was watching breathlessly.

"There's a ring right enough," he owned. And then the ring slipped
from the hand of Mr. U. W. Ugli and skidded along the floor.
Gerald pounced on it like a greyhound on a hare. He thrust the dull
circlet on his finger and cried out aloud in that crowded place:

"I wish Jimmy and I were inside that door behind the statue of
Flora."

It was the only safe place he could think of.

The lights and sounds and scents of the restaurant died away as a
wax-drop dies in fire a rain-drop in water. I don't know, and Gerald
never knew, what happened in that restaurant. There was nothing
about it in the papers, though Gerald looked anxiously for
'Extraordinary Disappearance of well-known City Man.' What the
door-mat-headed boy did or thought I don't know either. No more
does Gerald. But he would like to know, whereas I don't care
tuppence. The world went on all right, anyhow, whatever he
thought or did. The lights and the sounds and the scents of Pym's
died out. In place of the light there was darkness; in place of the
sounds there was silence; and in place of the scent of beef, pork,
mutton, fish, veal, cabbage, onions, carrots, beer, and tobacco
there was the musty, damp scent of a place underground that has
been long shut up.

Gerald felt sick and giddy, and there was something at the back of
his mind that he knew would make him feel sicker and giddier as
soon as he should have the sense to remember what it was.
Meantime it was important to think of proper words to soothe the
City man that had once been Jimmy to keep him quiet till Time,
like a spring uncoiling, should bring the reversal of the spell make
all things as they were and as they ought to be. But he fought in
vain for words. There were none. Nor were they needed. For
through the deep darkness came a voice and it was not the voice of
that City man who had been Jimmy, but the voice of that very
Jimmy who was Gerald's little brother, and who had wished that
unlucky wish for riches that could only be answered by changing
all that was Jimmy, young and poor, to all that Jimmy, rich and
old, would have been. Another voice said: "Jerry, Jerry! Are you
awake? I've had such a rum dream."

And then there was a moment when nothing was said or done.

Gerald felt through the thick darkness, and the thick silence, and
the thick scent of old earth shut up, and he got hold of Jimmy's
hand.

"It's all right, Jimmy, old chap," he said; "it's not a dream now. It's
that beastly ring again. I had to wish us here, to get you back at all
out of your dream."

"Wish us where?" Jimmy held on to the hand in a way that in the
daylight of life he would have been the first to call babyish.

"Inside the passage behind the Flora statue," said Gerald, adding,
"it's all right, really."

"Oh, I dare say it's all right," Jimmy answered through the dark,
with an irritation not strong enough to make him loosen his hold of
his brother's hand. "But how are we going to get out?"

Then Gerald knew what it was that was waiting to make him feel
more giddy than the lightning flight from Cheapside to Yalding
Towers had been able to make him. But he said stoutly:

"I'll wish us out, of course." Though all the time he knew that the
ring would not undo its given wishes.

It didn't.

Gerald wished. He handed the ring carefully to Jimmy, through the
thick darkness. And Jimmy wished.

And there they still were, in that black passage behind Flora, that
had led in the case of one Ugly-Wugly at least to 'a good hotel'.
And the stone door was shut. And they did not know even which
way to turn to it.

"If I only had some matches!" said Gerald.

"Why didn't you leave me in the dream?" Jimmy almost
whimpered. "It was light there, and I was just going to have
salmon and cucumber."

"I," rejoined Gerald in gloom, "was just going to have steak and
fried potatoes."

The silence, and the darkness, and the earthy scent were all they
had now.

"I always wondered what it would be like," said Jimmy in low,
even tones, "to be buried alive. And now I know! Oh! his voice
suddenly rose to a shriek, "it isn't true, it isn't! It's a dream that's
what it is!"

There was a pause while you could have counted ten. Then "Yes,"
said Gerald bravely, through the scent and the silence and the
darkness, "it's just a dream, Jimmy, old chap. We'll just hold on,
and call out now and then just for the lark of the thing. But it's
really only a dream, of course."

Of course, said Jimmy in the silence and the darkness and the
scent of old earth.

There is a curtain, thin as gossamer, clear as glass, strong as iron,
that hangs for ever between the world of magic and the world that
seems to us to be real. And when once people have found one of
the little weak spots in that curtain which are marked by magic
rings, and amulets, and the like, almost anything may happen.
Thus it is not surprising that Mabel and Kathleen, conscientiously
conducting one of the dullest dolls tea-parties at which either had
ever assisted, should suddenly, and both at once, have felt a
strange, unreasonable, but quite irresistible desire to return
instantly to the Temple of Flora even at the cost of leaving the
dolls tea-service in an unwashed state, and only half the raisins
eaten. They went as one has to go when the magic impulse drives
one against their better judgement, against their wills almost.

And the nearer they came to the Temple of Flora, in the golden
hush of the afternoon, the more certain each was that they could
not possibly have done otherwise.

And this explains exactly how it was that when Gerald and Jimmy,
holding hands in the darkness of the passage, uttered their first
concerted yell, "just for the lark of the thing", that yell was
instantly answered from outside.

A crack of light showed in that part of the passage where they had
least expected the door to be. The stone door itself swung slowly
open, and they were out of it, in the Temple of Flora, blinking in
the good daylight, an unresisting prey to Kathleen's embraces and
the questionings of Mabel.

"And you left that Ugly-Wugly loose in London," Mabel pointed
out; "you might have wished it to be with you, too."

"It's all right where it is," said Gerald. "I couldn't think of
everything. And besides, no, thank you! Now we'll go home and
seal up the ring in an envelope."

"I haven't done anything with the ring yet," said Kathleen.

"I shouldn't think you'd want to when you see the sort of things it
does with you," said Gerald.

"It wouldn't do things like that if I was wishing with it," Kathleen
protested,

"Look here," said Mabel, "let's just put it back in the treasure-room
and have done with it. I oughtn't ever to have taken it away, really.
It's a sort of stealing. It's quite as bad, really, as Eliza borrowing it
to astonish her gentleman friend with."

"I don't mind putting it back if you like," said Gerald, "only if any
of us do think of a sensible wish you'll let us have it out again, of
course?"

"Of course, of course," Mabel agreed.

So they trooped up to the castle, and Mabel once more worked the
spring that let down the panelling and showed the jewels, and the
ring was put back among the odd dull ornaments that Mabel had
once said were magic.

"How innocent it looks!" said Gerald. "You wouldn't think there
was any magic about it. It's just like an old silly ring. I wonder if
what Mabel said about the other things is true! Suppose we try."

"Don't!" said Kathleen. "I think magic things are spiteful. They just
enjoy getting you into tight places."

"I'd like to try," said Mabel, "only well, everything's been rather
upsetting, and I've forgotten what I said anything was."

So had the others. Perhaps that was why, when Gerald said that a
bronze buckle laid on the foot would have the effect of
seven-league boots, it didn't; when Jimmy, a little of the City man
he had been clinging to him still, said that the steel collar would
ensure your always having money in your pockets, his own
remained empty; and when Mabel and Kathleen invented qualities
of the most delightful nature for various rings and chains and
brooches, nothing at all happened.

"It's only the ring that's magic," said Mabel at last; "and, I say!" she
added, in quite a different voice.

"What?"

"Suppose even the ring isn't!"

"But we know it is."

"I don't," said Mabel. "I believe it's not today at all. I believe it's the
other day we've just dreamed all these things. It's the day I made up
that nonsense about the ring."

"No, it isn't," said Gerald; "you were in your Princess-clothes then.

"What Princess-clothes?" said Mabel, opening her dark eyes very
wide.

"Oh, don't be silly," said Gerald wearily.

"I'm not silly," said Mabel; "and I think it's time you went. I'm sure
Jimmy wants his tea."

"Of course I do," said Jimmy. "But you had got the
Princess-clothes that day. Come along; let's shut up the shutters
and leave the ring in its long home."

"What ring?" said Mabel.

"Don't take any notice of her," said Gerald. "She's only trying to be
funny."

"No, I'm not," said Mabel; "but I'm inspired like a Python or a
Sibylline lady. What ring?"

"The wishing-ring," said Kathleen; "the invisibility ring."

"Don't you see now," said Mabel, her eyes wider than ever, "the
ring's what you say it is? That's how it came to make us invisible I
just said it. Oh, we can't leave it here, if that's what it is. It isn't
stealing, really, when it's as valuable as that, you see. Say what it
is.

"It's a wishing-ring," said Jimmy.

"We've had that before and you had your silly wish," said Mabel,
more and more excited. "I say it isn't a wishing-ring. I say it's a ring
that makes the wearer four yards high."

She had caught up the ring as she spoke, and even as she spoke the
ring showed high above the children's heads on the finger of an
impossible Mabel, who was, indeed, twelve feet high.

"Now you've done it!" said Gerald and he was right. It was in vain
that Mabel asserted that the ring was a wishing-ring. It quite
clearly wasn't; it was what she had said it was.

"And you can't tell at all how long the effect will last," said Gerald.
"Look at the invisibleness." This is difficult to do, but the others
understood him.

"It may last for days," said Kathleen. "Oh, Mabel, it was silly of
you!"

"That's right, rub it in," said Mabel bitterly; "you should have
believed me when I said it was what I said it was. Then I shouldn't
have had to show you, and I shouldn't be this silly size. What am I
to do now, I should like to know?"

"We must conceal you till you get your right size again that's all,"
said Gerald practically.

"Yes but where?" said Mabel, stamping a foot twenty-four inches
long.

"In one of the empty rooms. You wouldn't be afraid?"

"Of course not," said Mabel. "Oh, I do wish we'd just put the ring
back and left it."

"Well, it wasn't us that didn't," said Jimmy, with more truth than
grammar.

"I shall put it back now," said Mabel, tugging at it.

"I wouldn't if I were you," said Gerald thoughtfully. "You don't
want to stay that length, do you? And unless the ring's on your
finger when the time's up, I dare say it wouldn't act."

The exalted Mabel sullenly touched the spring. The panels slowly
slid into place, and all the bright jewels were hidden. Once more
the room was merely eight-sided, panelled, sunlit, and
unfurnished.

"Now," said Mabel, "where am I to hide? It's a good thing auntie
gave me leave to stay the night with you. As it is, one of you will
have to stay the night with me. I'm not going to be left alone, the
silly height I am."

Height was the right word; Mabel had said "four yards high" and
she was four yards high. But she was hardly any thicker than when
her height was four feet seven, and the effect was, as Gerald
remarked, "wonderfully worm-like". Her clothes had, of course,
grown with her, and she looked like a little girl reflected in one of
those long bent mirrors at Rosherville Gardens, that make stout
people look so happily slender, and slender people so sadly
scraggy. She sat down suddenly on the floor, and it was like a
four-fold foot-rule folding itself up.

"It's no use sitting there, girl," said Gerald.

"I'm not sitting here," retorted Mabel; "I only got down so as to be
able to get through the door. It'll have to be hands and knees
through most places for me now, I suppose."

"Aren't you hungry?" Jimmy asked suddenly.

"I don't know," said Mabel desolately; "it's it's such a long way
off!"

"Well, I'll scout," said Gerald; "if the coast's clear "

"Look here," said Mabel, "I think I'd rather be out of doors till it
gets dark."

"You can't. Someone's certain to see you."

"Not if I go through the yew-hedge," said Mabel. "There's a
yew-hedge with a passage along its inside like the box-hedge in
The Luck of the Vails.

"In what?"

"The Luck of the Vails. It's a ripping book. It was that book first
set me on to hunt for hidden doors in panels and things. If I crept
along that on my front, like a serpent it comes out amongst the
rhododendrons, close by the dinosaurus we could camp there.

"There's tea," said Gerald, who had had no dinner.

"That's just what there isn't," said Jimmy, who had had none either.

"Oh, you won't desert me!" said Mabel. "Look here I'll write to
auntie. She'll give you the things for a picnic, if she's there and
awake. If she isn't, one of the maids will."

So she wrote on a leaf of Gerald's invaluable pocketbook:
"DEAREST AUNTIE Please may we have some things for a
picnic? Gerald will bring them. I would come myself, but I am a
little tired. I think I have been growing rather fast. Your loving
niece, MABEL." "P.S. Lots, please, because some of us are very
hungry."

It was found difficult, but possible, for Mabel to creep along the
tunnel in the yew-hedge. Possible, but slow, so that the three had
hardly had time to settle themselves among the rhododendrons and
to wonder bitterly what on earth Gerald was up to, to be such a
time gone, when he returned, panting under the weight of a
covered basket. He dumped it down on the fine grass carpet,
groaned, and added, "But it's worth it. Where's our Mabel?"

The long, pale face of Mabel peered out from rhododendron
leaves, very near the ground.

"I look just like anybody else like this, don't I?" she asked
anxiously; "all the rest of me's miles away, under different bushes."

"We've covered up the bits between the bushes with bracken and
leaves," said Kathleen, avoiding the question; "don't wriggle,
Mabel, or you'll waggle them off."

Jimmy was eagerly unpacking the basket. It was a generous tea. A
long loaf, butter in a cabbage-leaf, a bottle of milk, a bottle of
water, cake, and large, smooth, yellow gooseberries in a box that
had once held an extra-sized bottle of somebody's matchless
something for the hair and moustache. Mabel cautiously advanced
her incredible arms from the rhododendron and leaned on one of
her spindly elbows, Gerald cut bread and butter, while Kathleen
obligingly ran round, at Mabel's request, to see that the green
coverings had not dropped from any of the remoter parts of
Mabel's person. Then there was a happy, hungry silence, broken
only by those brief, impassioned suggestions natural to such an
occasion:

"More cake, please."

"Milk ahoy, there."

"Chuck us the goosegogs."

Everyone grew calmer more contented with their lot. A pleasant
feeling, half tiredness and half restfulness, crept to the extremities
of the party. Even the unfortunate Mabel was conscious of it in her
remote feet, that lay crossed under the third rhododendron to the
north-north-west of the tea-party. Gerald did but voice the feelings
of the others when he said, not without regret:

"Well, I'm a new man, but I couldn't eat so much as another
goosegog if you paid me."

"I could," said Mabel; "yes, I know they re all gone, and I've had
my share. But I could. It's me being so long, I suppose."

A delicious after-food peace filled the summer air. At a little
distance the green-lichened grey of the vast stone dinosaurus
showed through the shrubs. He, too, seemed peaceful and happy.
Gerald caught his stone eye through a gap in the foliage. His
glance seemed somehow sympathetic.

"I dare say he liked a good meal in his day," said Gerald, stretching
luxuriously.

"Who did?"

"The dino what s-his-name," said Gerald.

"He had a meal today," said Kathleen, and giggled.

"Yes didn't he?" said Mabel, giggling also.

"You mustn't laugh lower than your chest," said Kathleen
anxiously, "or your green stuff will joggle off."

"What do you mean a meal?" Jimmy asked suspiciously. "What are
you sniggering about?"

"He had a meal. Things to put in his inside," said Kathleen, still
giggling.

"Oh, be funny if you want to," said Jimmy, suddenly cross. "We
don't want to know do we, Jerry?"

"I do," said Gerald witheringly; "I'm dying to know. Wake me, you
girls, when you've finished pretending you're not going to tell."

He tilted his hat over his eyes, and lay back in the attitude of
slumber.

"Oh, don't be stupid!" said Kathleen hastily. "It's only that we fed
the dinosaurus through the hole in his stomach with the clothes the
Ugly-Wuglies were made of!"

"We can take them home with us, then," said Gerald, chewing the
white end of a grass stalk, "so that's all right."

"Look here," said Kathleen suddenly; "I've got an idea. Let me
have the ring a bit. I won't say what the idea is, in case it doesn't
come off, and then you'd say I was silly. I'll give it back before we
go."

"Oh, but you aren't going yet!" said Mabel, pleading. She pulled
off the ring. "Of course, she added earnestly, "I'm only too glad for
you to try any idea, however silly it is."

Now, Kathleen's idea was quite simple. It was only that perhaps
the ring would change its powers if someone else renamed it
someone who was not under the power of its enchantment. So the
moment it had passed from the long, pale hand of Mabel to one of
her own fat, warm, red paws, she jumped up, crying, "Let's go and
empty the dinosaurus now, and started to run swiftly towards that
prehistoric monster. She had a good start. She wanted to say aloud,
yet so that the others could not hear her, "This is a wishing-ring. It
gives you any wish you choose. And she did say it. And no one
heard her, except the birds and a squirrel or two, and perhaps a
stone faun, whose pretty face seemed to turn a laughing look on
her as she raced past its pedestal.

The way was uphill; it was sunny, and Kathleen had run her
hardest, though her brothers caught her up before she reached the
great black shadow of the dinosaurus. So that when she did reach
that shadow she was very hot indeed and not in any state to decide
calmly on the best wish to ask for.

"I'll get up and move the things down, because I know exactly
where I put them," she said.

Gerald made a back, Jimmy assisted her to climb up, and she
disappeared through the hole into the dark inside of the monster. In
a moment a shower began to descend from the opening a shower
of empty waistcoats, trousers with wildly waving legs, and coats
with sleeves uncontrolled.

"Heads below!" called Kathleen, and down came walking-sticks
and golf-sticks and hockey-sticks and broom-sticks, rattling and
chattering to each other as they came.

"Come on," said Jimmy.

"Hold on a bit," said Gerald. "I'm coming up. He caught the edge
of the hole above in his hands and jumped. Just as he got his
shoulders through the opening and his knees on the edge he heard
Kathleen's boots on the floor of the dinosaurus's inside, and
Kathleen's voice saying: "Isn't it jolly cool in here? I suppose
statues are always cool. I do wish I was a statue. Oh!"

The "oh" was a cry of horror and anguish. And it seemed to be cut
off very short by a dreadful stony silence.

"What's up?" Gerald asked. But in his heart he knew. He climbed
up into the great hollow. In the little light that came up through the
hole he could see something white against the grey of the
creature's sides. He felt in his pockets, still kneeling, struck a
match, and when the blue of its flame changed to clear yellow he
looked up to see what he had known he would see the face of
Kathleen, white, stony, and lifeless. Her hair was white, too, and
her hands, clothes, shoes everything was white, with the hard, cold
whiteness of marble. Kathleen had her wish: she was a statue.
There was a long moment of perfect stillness in the inside of the
dinosaurus. Gerald could not speak. It was too sudden, too terrible.
It was worse than anything that had happened yet. Then he turned
and spoke down out of that cold, stony silence to Jimmy, in the
green, sunny, rustling, live world outside.

"Jimmy, he said, in tones perfectly ordinary and matter of fact,
"Kathleen's gone and said that ring was a wishing-ring. And so it
was, of course. I see now what she was up to, running like that.
And then the young duffer went and wished she was a statue."

"And she is?" asked Jimmy, below.

"Come up and have a look," said Gerald. And Jimmy came, partly
with a pull from Gerald and partly with a jump of his own.

"She's a statue, right enough," he said, in awestruck tones. "Isn't it
awful!"

"Not at all," said Gerald firmly. "Come on let's go and tell Mabel."

To Mabel, therefore, who had discreetly remained with her long
length screened by rhododendrons, the two boys returned and
broke the news. They broke it as one breaks a bottle with a
pistol-shot.

"Oh, my goodness!" said Mabel, and writhed through her long
length so that the leaves and fern tumbled off in little showers, and
she felt the sun suddenly hot on the backs of her legs. "What next?
Oh, my goodness!"

"She'll come all right," said Gerald, with outward calm.

"Yes; but what about me?" Mabel urged. "I haven't got the ring.
And my time will be up before hers is. Couldn't you get it back?
Can't you get it off her hand? I'd put it back on her hand the very
minute I was my right size again faithfully I would."

"Well, it's nothing to blub about," said Jimmy, answering the sniffs
that had served her in this speech for commas and full-stops; "not
for you, anyway."

"Ah! you don't know," said Mabel; "you don't know what it is to be
as long as I am. Do do try and get the ring. After all, it is my ring
more than any of the rest of yours, anyhow, because I did find it,
and I did say it was magic."

The sense of justice always present in the breast of Gerald awoke
to this appeal.

"I expect the ring's turned to stone her boots have, and all her
clothes. But I'll go and see. Only if I can't, I can't, and it's no use
your making a silly fuss."

The first match lighted inside the dinosaurus showed the ring dark
on the white hand of the statuesque Kathleen.

The fingers were stretched straight out. Gerald took hold of the
ring, and, to his surprise, it slipped easily off the cold, smooth
marble finger.

"I say, Cathy, old girl, I am sorry," he said, and gave the marble
hand a squeeze. Then it came to him that perhaps she could hear
him. So he told the statue exactly what he and the others meant to
do. This helped to clear up his ideas as to what he and the others
did mean to do. So that when, after thumping the statue
hearteningly on its marble back, he returned to the rhododendrons,
he was able to give his orders with the clear precision of a born
leader, as he later said. And since the others had, neither of them,
thought of any plans, his plan was accepted, as the plans of born
leaders are apt to be.

"Here's your precious ring," he said to Mabel. "Now you're not
frightened of anything, are you?"

"No," said Mabel, in surprise. "I'd forgotten that. Look here, I'll
stay here or farther up in the wood if you'll leave me all the coats,
so that I shan't be cold in the night. Then I shall be here when
Kathleen comes out of the stone again."

"Yes," said Gerald, "that was exactly the born leader's idea.

"You two go home and tell Mademoiselle that Kathleen's staying
at the Towers. She is."

"Yes," said Jimmy, "she certainly is."

"The magic goes in seven-hour lots," said Gerald; "your invisibility
was twenty-one hours, mine fourteen, Eliza's seven. When it was a
wishing-ring it began with seven. But there's no knowing what
number it will be really. So there's no knowing which of you will
come right first. Anyhow, we'll sneak out by the cistern window
and come down the trellis, after we've said good night to
Mademoiselle, and come and have a look at you before we go to
bed. I think you'd better come close up to the dinosaurus and we'll
leaf you over before we go."

Mabel crawled into cover of the taller trees, and there stood up
looking as slender as a poplar and as unreal as the wrong answer to
a sum in long division. It was to her an easy matter to crouch
beneath the dinosaurus, to put her head up through the opening,
and thus to behold the white form of Kathleen.

"It's all right, dear," she told the stone image; "I shall be quite close
to you. You call me as soon as you feel you're coming right again."

The statue remained motionless, as statues usually do, and Mabel
withdrew her head, lay down, was covered up, and left. The boys
went home. It was the only reasonable thing to do. It would never
have done for Mademoiselle to become anxious and set the police
on their track. Everyone felt that. The shock of discovering the
missing Kathleen, not only in a dinosaurus's stomach, but, further,
in a stone statue of herself, might well have unhinged the mind of
any constable, to say nothing of the mind of Mademoiselle, which,
being foreign, would necessarily be a mind more light and easy to
upset. While as for Mabel

"Well, to look at her as she is now," said Gerald, "why, it would
send any one off their chump except us."

"We're different, said Jimmy; "our chumps have had to jolly well
get used to things. It would take a lot to upset us now."

"Poor old Cathy! all the same," said Gerald. "Yes, of course," said
Jimmy.

The sun had died away behind the black trees and the moon was
rising. Mabel, her preposterous length covered with coats,
waistcoats, and trousers laid along it, slept peacefully in the chill
of the evening. Inside the dinosaurus Kathleen, alive in her marble,
slept too. She had heard Gerald's words had seen the lighted
matches. She was Kathleen just the same as ever only she was
Kathleen in a case of marble that would not let her move. It would
not have let her cry, even if she wanted to. But she had not wanted
to cry. Inside, the marble was not cold or hard. It seemed,
somehow, to be softly lined with warmth and pleasantness and
safety. Her back did not ache with stooping. Her limbs were not
stiff with the hours that they had stayed moveless. Everything was
well better than well. One had only to wait quietly and quite
comfortably and one would come out of this stone case, and once
more be the Kathleen one had always been used to being. So she
waited happily and calmly, and presently waiting changed to not
waiting to not anything; and, close held in the soft inwardness of
the marble, she slept as peacefully and calmly as though she had
been lying in her own bed.

She was awakened by the fact that she was not lying in her own
bed was not, indeed, lying at all by the fact that she was standing
and that her feet had pins and needles in them. Her arms, too, held
out in that odd way, were stiff and tired. She rubbed her eyes,
yawned, and remembered. She had been a statue a statue inside the
stone dinosaurus.

"Now I'm alive again," was her instant conclusion, "and I'll get out
of it."

She sat down, put her feet through the hole that showed faintly
grey in the stone beast's underside, and as she did so a long, slow
lurch threw her sideways on the stone where she sat. The
dinosaurus was moving!

"Oh!" said Kathleen inside it, "how dreadful! It must be moonlight,
and it's come alive, like Gerald said.

It was indeed moving. She could see through the hole the changing
surface of grass and bracken and moss as it waddled heavily along.
She dared not drop through the hole while it moved, for fear it
should crush her to death with its gigantic feet. And with that
thought came another: where was Mabel? Somewhere somewhere
near? Suppose one of the great feet planted itself on some part of
Mabel's inconvenient length? Mabel being the size she was now it
would be quite difficult not to step on some part or other of her, if
she should happen to be in one's way quite difficult, however much
one tried. And the dinosaurus would not try: Why should it?
Kathleen hung in an agony over the round opening. The huge beast
swung from side to side. It was going faster; it was no good, she
dared not jump out. Anyhow, they must be quite away from Mabel
by now. Faster and faster went the dinosaurus. The floor of its
stomach sloped. They were going downhill. Twigs cracked and
broke as it pushed through a belt of evergreen oaks; gravel
crunched, ground beneath its stony feet. Then stone met stone.
There was a pause. A splash! They were close to water the lake
where by moonlight Hermes fluttered and Janus and the
dinosaurus swam together. Kathleen dropped swiftly through the
hole on to the flat marble that edged the basin, rushed sideways,
and stood panting in the shadow of a statue's pedestal. Not a
moment too soon, for even as she crouched the monster lizard
slipped heavily into the water, drowning a thousand smooth,
shining lily pads, and swam away towards the central island.

"Be still, little lady. I leap!" The voice came from the pedestal, and
next moment Phoebus had jumped from the pedestal in his little
temple, clearing the steps, and landing a couple of yards away.

"You are new," said Phoebus over his graceful shoulder. "I should
not have forgotten you if once I had seen you."

"I am," said Kathleen, "quite, quite new. And I didn't know you
could talk."

"Why not?" Phoebus laughed. "You can talk."

"But I'm alive."

"Am not I?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, I suppose so," said Kathleen, distracted, but not afraid;
"only I thought you had to have the ring on before one could even
see you move."

Phoebus seemed to understand her, which was rather to his credit,
for she had certainly not expressed herself with clearness.

"Ah! that's for mortals," he said. "We can hear and see each other
in the few moments when life is ours. That is a part of the
beautiful enchantment."

"But I am a mortal," said Kathleen.

"You are as modest as you are charming," said Phoebus Apollo
absently; "the white water calls me! I go," and the next moment
rings of liquid silver spread across the lake, widening and
widening, from the spot where the white joined hands of the
Sun-god had struck the water as he dived.

Kathleen turned and went up the hill towards the rhododendron
bushes. She must find Mabel, and they must go home at once. If
only Mabel was of a size that one could conveniently take home
with one! Most likely, at this hour of enchantments, she was.
Kathleen, heartened by the thought, hurried on. She passed through
the rhododendron bushes, remembered the pointed painted paper
face that had looked out from the glossy leaves, expected to be
frightened and wasn't. She found Mabel easily enough, and much
more easily than she would have done had Mabel been as she
wished to find her. For quite a long way off in the moonlight, she
could see that long and worm-like form, extended to its full twelve
feet and covered with coats and trousers and waistcoats. Mabel
looked like a drain-pipe that has been covered in sacks in frosty
weather. Kathleen touched her long cheek gently, and she woke.

"What's up?" she said sleepily.

"It's only me," Kathleen explained.

"How cold your hands are!" said Mabel.

"Wake up," said Kathleen, "and let's talk."

"Can't we go home now? I'm awfully tired, and it's so long since
tea-time."

"You're too long to go home yet," said Kathleen sadly, and then
Mabel remembered.

She lay with closed eyes then suddenly she stirred and cried out:

"Oh! Cathy, I feel so funny like one of those horn snakes when you
make it go short to get it into its box. I am yes I know I am "

She was; and Kathleen, watching her, agreed that it was exactly
like the shortening of a horn spiral snake between the closing
hands of a child. Mabel's distant feet drew near Mabel's long, lean
arms grew shorter Mabel's face was no longer half a yard long.

"You're coming right you are! Oh, I am so glad!" cried Kathleen.

"I know I am," said Mabel; and as she said it she became once
more Mabel, not only in herself which, of course, she had been all
the time, but in her outward appearance.

"You are all right. Oh, hooray! hooray! I am so glad!" said
Kathleen kindly; "and now we'll go home at once, dear."

"Go home?" said Mabel, slowly sitting up and staring at Kathleen
with her big dark eyes. "Go home like that?"

"Like what?" Kathleen asked impatiently.

"Why, you," was Mabel's odd reply.

"I'm all right," said Kathleen. "Come on."

"Do you mean to say you don't know?" said Mabel. "Look at
yourself your hands your dress everything."

Kathleen looked at her hands. They were of marble whiteness. Her
dress, too her shoes, her stockings, even the ends of her hair. She
was white as new-fallen snow.

"What is it?" she asked, beginning to tremble. "What am I all this
horrid colour for?"

"Don't you see? Oh, Cathy, don't you see? You've not come right.
You're a statue still."

"I'm not I'm alive I'm talking to you."

"I know you are, darling," said Mabel, soothing her as one soothes
a fractious child. "That's because it's moonlight."

"But you can see I'm alive."

"Of course I can. I've got the ring."

"But I'm all right; I know I am."

"Don't you see," said Mabel gently, taking her white marble hand,
"you're not all right? It's moonlight, and you're a statue, and you've
just come alive with all the other statues. And when the moon goes
down you'll just be a statue again. That's the difficulty, dear, about
our going home again. You're just a statue still, only you've come
alive with the other marble things. Where's the dinosaurus?"

"In his bath," said Kathleen, "and so are all the other stone beasts."

Well," said Mabel, trying to look on the bright side of things, "then
we've got one thing, at any rate, to be thankful for!"

"If," said Kathleen, sitting disconsolate in her marble, "if I am
really a statue come alive, I wonder you're not afraid of me."

"I've got the ring," said Mabel with decision. "Cheer up, dear! you
will soon be better. Try not to think about it."

She spoke as you speak to a child that has cut its finger, or fallen
down on the garden path, and rises up with grazed knees to which
gravel sticks intimately.

"I know," Kathleen absently answered.

"And I've been thinking," said Mabel brightly, "we might find Out
a lot about this magic place, if the other statues aren't too proud to
talk to us."

"They aren't," Kathleen assured her; "at least, Phoebus wasn't. He
was most awfully polite and nice."

"Where is he?" Mabel asked.

"In the lake he was," said Kathleen.

"Then let's go down there," said Mabel. "Oh, Cathy! it is jolly
being your own proper thickness again." She jumped up, and the
withered ferns and branches that had covered her long length and
had been gathered closely upon her as she shrank to her proper size
fell as forest leaves do when sudden storms tear them. But the
white Kathleen did not move.

The two sat on the grey moonlit grass with the quiet of the night
all about them. The great park was still as a painted picture; only
the splash of the fountains and the far-off whistle of the Western
express broke the silence, which, at the same time, then deepened.

"What cheer, little sister!" said a voice behind them a golden
voice. They turned quick, startled heads, as birds, surprised, might
turn. There in the moonlight stood Phoebus, dripping still from the
lake, and smiling at them, very gentle, very friendly.

"Oh, it's you!" said Kathleen.

"None other," said Phoebus cheerfully. "Who is your friend, the
earth-child?"

"This is Mabel," said Kathleen.

Mabel got up and bowed, hesitated, and held out a hand.

"I am your slave, little lady," said Phoebus, enclosing it in marble
fingers. "But I fail to understand how you can see us, and why you
do not fear."

Mabel held up the hand that wore the ring.

"Quite sufficient explanation," said Phoebus; "but since you have
that, why retain your mottled earthy appearance? Become a statue,
and swim with us in the lake."

"I can't swim," said Mabel evasively.

"Nor yet me," said Kathleen.

"You can," said Phoebus. "All statues that come to life are
proficient in all athletic exercises. And you, child of the dark eyes
and hair like night, wish yourself a statue and join our revels."

"I'd rather not, if you will excuse me," said Mabel cautiously. "You
see ... this ring ... you wish for things, and you never know how
long they're going to last. It would be jolly and all that to be a
statue now, but in the morning I should wish I hadn't."

"Earth-folk often do, they say," mused Phoebus. "But, child, you
seem ignorant of the powers of your ring. Wish exactly, and the
ring will exactly perform. If you give no limit of time, strange
enchantments woven by Arithmos the outcast god of numbers will
creep in and spoil the spell. Say thus: "I wish that till the dawn I
may be a statue of living marble, even as my child friend, and that
after that time I may be as before Mabel of the dark eyes and
night-coloured hair."

"Oh, yes, do, it would be so jolly!" cried Kathleen. "Do, Mabel!
And if we're both statues, shall we be afraid of the dinosaurus?"

"In the world of living marble fear is not," said Phoebus. "Are we
not brothers, we and the dinosaurus brethren alike wrought of
stone and life?"

"And could I swim if I did?"

"Swim, and float, and dive and with the ladies of Olympus spread
the nightly feast, eat of the food of the gods, drink their cup, listen
to the song that is undying, and catch the laughter of immortal
lips."

"A feast!" said Kathleen. "Oh, Mabel, do! You would if you were
as hungry as I am."

"But it won't be real food," urged Mabel.

"It will be real to you, as to us," said Phoebus; "there is no other
realness even in your many-coloured world."

Still Mabel hesitated. Then she looked at Kathleen's legs and
suddenly said: "Very well, I will. But first I'll take off my shoes
and stockings. Marble boots look simply awful especially the
laces. And a marble stocking that's coming down and mine do!"

She had pulled off shoes and stockings and pinafore. "Mabel has
the sense of beauty," said Phoebus approvingly. "Speak the spell,
child, and I will lead you to the ladies of Olympus."

Mabel, trembling a little, spoke it, and there were two little live
statues in the moonlit glade. Tall Phoebus took a hand of each.

"Come run!" he cried. And they ran.

"Oh it is jolly!" Mabel panted. "Look at my white feet in the grass!
I thought it would feel stiff to be a statue, but it doesn't."

"There is no stiffness about the immortals," laughed the Sun-god.
"For tonight you are one of us."

And with that they ran down the slope to the lake.

"Jump!" he cried, and they jumped, and the water splashed up
round three white, gleaming shapes.

"Oh! I can swim!" breathed Kathleen.

"So can I," said Mabel.

"Of course you can," said Phoebus. "Now three times round the
lake, and then make for the island."

Side by side the three swam, Phoebus swimming gently to keep
pace with the children. Their marble clothes did not seem to
interfere at all with their swimming, as your clothes would if you
suddenly jumped into the basin of the Trafalgar Square fountains
and tried to swim there. And they swam most beautifully, with that
perfect ease and absence of effort or tiredness which you must
have noticed about your own swimming in dreams. And it was the
most lovely place to swim in; the water-lilies, whose long, snaky
stalks are so inconvenient to ordinary swimmers, did not in the
least interfere with the movements of marble arms and legs. The
moon was high in the clear sky-dome. The weeping willows,
cypresses, temples, terraces, banks of trees and shrubs, and the
wonderful old house, all added to the romantic charm of the scene.

"This is the nicest thing the ring has brought us yet," said Mabel,
through a languid but perfect side-stroke.

"I thought you'd enjoy it," said Phoebus kindly; "now once more
round, and then the island."

They landed on the island amid a fringe of rushes, yarrow,
willow-herb, loose-strife, and a few late, scented, powdery, creamy
heads of meadow-sweet. The island was bigger than it looked from
the bank, and it seemed covered with trees and shrubs. But when,
Phoebus leading the way, they went into the shadow of these, they
perceived that beyond the trees lay a light, much nearer to them
than the other side of the island could possibly be. And almost at
once they were through the belt of trees, and could see where the
light came from. The trees they had just passed among made a
dark circle round a big cleared space, standing up thick and dark,
like a crowd round a football field, as Kathleen remarked.

First came a wide, smooth ring of lawn, then marble steps going
down to a round pool, where there were no water-lilies, only gold
and silver fish that darted here and there like flashes of quicksilver
and dark flames. And the enclosed space of water and marble and
grass was lighted with a clear, white, radiant light, seven times
stronger than the whitest moonlight, and in the still waters of the
pool seven moons lay reflected. One could see that they were only
reflections by the way their shape broke and changed as the gold
and silver fish rippled the water with moving fin and tail that
steered.

The girls looked up at the sky, almost expecting to see seven
moons there. But no, the old moon shone alone, as she had always
shone on them.

"There are seven moons," said Mabel blankly, and pointed, which
is not manners.

"Of course," said Phoebus kindly; "everything in our world is
seven times as much so as in yours."

"But there aren't seven of you," said Mabel.

"No, but I am seven times as much," said the Sun-god. "You see,
there's numbers, and there's quantity, to say nothing of quality. You
see that, I'm sure."

"Not quite," said Kathleen.

"Explanations always weary me," Phoebus interrupted. "Shall we
join the ladies?"

On the further side of the pool was a large group, so white that it
seemed to make a great white hole in the trees. Some twenty or
thirty figures there were in the group all statues and all alive. Some
were dipping their white feet among the gold and silver fish, and
sending ripples across the faces of the seven moons. Some were
pelting each other with roses roses so sweet that the girls could
smell them even across the pool. Others were holding hands and
dancing in a ring, and two were sitting on the steps playing
cat's-cradle which is a very ancient game indeed with a thread of
white marble.

As the new-comers advanced a shout of greeting and gay laughter
went up. "Late again, Phoebus!" someone called out. And another:
"Did one of your horses cast a shoe?" And yet another called out
something about laurels.

"I bring two guests," said Phoebus, and instantly the statues
crowded round, stroking the girls hair, patting their cheeks, and
calling them the prettiest love-names.

"Are the wreaths ready, Hebe?" the tallest and most splendid of the
ladies called out. "Make two more!"

And almost directly Hebe came down the steps, her round arms
hung thick with rose-wreaths. There was one for each marble head.

Everyone now looked seven times more beautiful than before,
which, in the case of the gods and goddesses, is saying a good deal.
The children remembered how at the raspberry vinegar feast
Mademoiselle had said that gods and goddesses always wore
wreaths for meals.

Hebe herself arranged the roses on the girls heads and Aphrodite
Urania, the dearest lady in the world, with a voice like mother's at
those moments when you love her most, took them by the hands
and said: "Come, we must get the feast ready. Eros Psyche Hebe
Ganymede all you young people can arrange the fruit."

"I don't see any fruit," said Kathleen, as four slender forms
disengaged themselves from the white crowd and came towards
them.

"You will though," said Eros, a really nice boy, as the girls
instantly agreed; "you've only got to pick it."

"Like this," said Psyche, lifting her marble arms to a willow
branch. She reached out her hand to the children it held a ripe
pomegranate.

"I see," said Mabel. "You just " She laid her fingers to the willow
branch and the firm softness of a big peach was within them.

"Yes, just that," laughed Psyche, who was a darling, as any one
could see.

After this Hebe gathered a few silver baskets from a convenient
alder, and the four picked fruit industriously. Meanwhile the elder
statues were busy plucking golden goblets and jugs and dishes
from the branches of ash-trees and young oaks and filling them
with everything nice to eat and drink that anyone could possibly
want, and these were spread on the steps. It was a celestial picnic.
Then everyone sat or lay down and the feast began. And oh! the
taste of the food served on those dishes, the sweet wonder of the
drink that melted from those gold cups on the white lips of the
company! And the fruit there is no fruit like it grown on earth, just
as there is no laughter like the laughter of those lips, no songs like
the songs that stirred the silence of that night of wonder.

"Oh!" cried Kathleen, and through her fingers the juice of her third
peach fell like tears on the marble steps. "I do wish the boys were
here!"

"I do wonder what they're doing," said Mabel.

"At this moment," said Hermes, who had just made a wide ring of
flight, as a pigeon does, and come back into the circle "at this
moment they are wandering desolately near the home of the
dinosaurus, having escaped from their home by a window, in
search of you. They fear that you have perished, and they would
weep if they did not know that tears do not become a man,
however youthful."

Kathleen stood up and brushed the crumbs of ambrosia from her
marble lap.

"Thank you all very much, she said. "It was very kind of you to
have us, and we've enjoyed ourselves very much, but I think we
ought to go now, please.

"If it is anxiety about your brothers," said Phoebus obligingly, "it is
the easiest thing in the world for them to join you. Lend me your
ring a moment."

He took it from Kathleen's half-reluctant hand, dipped it in the
reflection of one of the seven moons, and gave it back. She
clutched it. "Now," said the Sun-god, "wish for them that which
Mabel wished for herself. Say "

"I know," Kathleen interrupted. "I wish that the boys may be
statues of living marble like Mabel and me till dawn, and
afterwards be like they are now."

"If you hadn't interrupted," said Phoebus "but there, we can't
expect old heads on shoulders of young marble. You should have
wished them here and but no matter. Hermes, old chap, cut across
and fetch them, and explain things as you come."

He dipped the ring again in one of the reflected moons before he
gave it back to Kathleen.

"There," he said, "now it's washed clean ready for the next magic."

"It is not our custom to question guests," said Hera the queen,
turning her great eyes on the children; "but that ring excites, I am
sure, the interest of us all."

"It is the ring," said Phoebus.

"That, of course," said Hera; "but if it were not inhospitable to ask
questions I should ask, How came it into the hands of these
earth-children?"

"That," said Phoebus, "is a long tale. After the feast the story, and
after the story the song."

Hermes seemed to have "explained everything" quite fully; for
when Gerald and Jimmy in marble whiteness arrived, each
clinging to one of the god's winged feet, and so borne through the
air, they were certainly quite at ease. They made their best bows to
the goddesses and took their places as unembarrassed as though
they had had Olympian suppers every night of their lives. Hebe
had woven wreaths of roses ready for them, and as Kathleen
watched them eating and drinking, perfectly at home in their
marble, she was very glad that amid the welling springs of
immortal peach-juice she had not forgotten her brothers.

"And now," said Hera, when the boys had been supplied with
everything they could possibly desire, and more than they could
eat "now for the story."

"Yes," said Mabel intensely; and Kathleen said, "Oh yes; now for
the story. How splendid!"

"The story," said Phoebus unexpectedly, "will be told by our
guests."

"Oh no!" said Kathleen, shrinking.

"The lads, maybe, are bolder," said Zeus the king, taking off his
rose-wreath, which was a little tight, and rubbing his compressed
ears.

"I really can't," said Gerald; "besides, I don't know any stories."

"Nor yet me," said Jimmy.

"It's the story of how we got the ring that they want," said Mabel in
a hurry. "I'll tell it if you like, Once upon a time there was a little
girl called Mabel," she added yet more hastily, and went on with
the tale all the tale of the enchanted castle, or almost all, that you
have read in these pages. The marble Olympians listened
enchanted almost as enchanted as the castle itself, and the soft
moonlit moments fell past like pearls dropping into a deep pool.

"And so," Mabel ended abruptly, "Kathleen wished for the boys
and the Lord Hermes fetched them and here we all are."

A burst of interested comment and question blossomed out round
the end of the story, suddenly broken off short by Mabel.

"But," said she, brushing it aside, as it grew thinner, "now we want
you to tell us."

"To tell you ?"

"How you come to be alive, and how you know about the ring and
everything you do know."

"Everything I know?" Phoebus laughed it was to him that she had
spoken and not his lips only but all the white lips curled in
laughter. "The span of your life, my earth-child, would not contain
the words I should speak, to tell you all I know."

"Well, about the ring anyhow, and how you come alive," said
Gerald; "you see, it's very puzzling to us."

"Tell them, Phoebus," said the dearest lady in the world; "don't
tease the children."

So Phoebus, leaning back against a heap of leopard- skins that
Dionysus had lavishly plucked from a spruce fir, told.

"All statues," he said, "can come alive when the moon shines, if
they so choose. But statues that are placed in ugly cities do not
choose. Why should they weary themselves with the contemplation
of the hideous?"

"Quite so," said Gerald politely, to fill the pause.

"In your beautiful temples," the Sun-god went on, "the images of
your priests and of your warriors who lie cross-legged on their
tombs come alive and walk in their marble about their temples,
and through the woods and fields. But only on one night in all the
year can any see them. You have beheld us because you held the
ring, and are of one brotherhood with us in your marble, but on
that one night all may behold us."

"And when is that?" Gerald asked, again polite, in a pause.

"At the festival of the harvest," said Phoebes. "On that night as the
moon rises it strikes one beam of perfect light on to the altar in
certain temples. One of these temples is in Hellas, buried under the
fall of a mountain which Zeus, being angry, hurled down upon it.
One is in this land; it is in this great garden."

"Then," said Gerald, much interested, "if we were to come up to
that temple on that night, we could see you, even without being
statues or having the ring?"

"Even so," said Phoebus. "More, any question asked by a mortal
we are on that night bound to answer."

"And the night is when?"

"Ah!" said Phoebus, and laughed. "Wouldn't you like to know!"

Then the great marble King of the Gods yawned, stroked his long
beard, and said: "Enough of stories, Phoebus. Tune your lyre."

"But the ring," said Mabel in a whisper, as the Sun-god tuned the
white strings of a sort of marble harp that lay at his feet "about
how you know all about the ring?"

"Presently," the Sun-god whispered back. "Zeus must be obeyed;
but ask me again before dawn, and I will tell you all I know of it."
Mabel drew back, and leaned against the comfortable knees of one
Demeter Kathleen and Psyche sat holding hands. Gerald and
Jimmy lay at full length, chins on elbows, gazing at the Sun-god;
and even as he held the lyre, before ever his fingers began to
sweep the strings, the spirit of music hung in the air, enchanting,
enslaving, silencing all thought but the thought of itself, all desire
but the desire to listen to it.

Then Phoebus struck the strings and softly plucked melody from
them, and all the beautiful dreams of all the world came fluttering
close with wings like doves wings; and all the lovely thoughts that
sometimes hover near, but not so near that you can catch them,
now came home as to their nests in the hearts of those who
listened. And those who listened forgot time and space, and how to
be sad, and how to be naughty, and it seemed that the whole world
lay like a magic apple in the hand of each listener, and that the
whole world was good and beautiful.

And then, suddenly, the spell was shattered. Phoebus struck a
broken chord, followed by an instant of silence; then he sprang up,
crying, "The dawn! the dawn! To your pedestals, O gods!"

In an instant the whole crowd of beautiful marble people had
leaped to its feet, had rushed through the belt of wood that cracked
and rustled as they went, and the children heard them splash, in the
water beyond. They heard, too, the gurgling breathing of a great
beast, and knew that the dinosaurus, too, was returning to his own
place.

Only Hermes had time, since one flies more swiftly than one
swims, to hover above them for one moment, and to whisper with
a mischievous laugh:

"In fourteen days from now, at the Temple of Strange Stones."

"What's the secret of the ring?" gasped Mabel.

"The ring is the heart of the magic," said Hermes. "Ask at the
moonrise on the fourteenth day, and you shall know all."

With that he waved the snowy caduceus and rose in the air
supported by his winged feet. And as he went the seven reflected
moons died out and a chill wind began to blow, a grey light grew
and grew, the birds stirred and twittered, and the marble slipped
away from the children like a skin that shrivels in fire, and they
were statues no more, but flesh and blood children as they used to
be, standing knee-deep in brambles and long coarse grass. There
was no smooth lawn, no marble steps, no seven-mooned fish-pond.
The dew lay thick on the grass and the brambles, and it was very
cold.

"We ought to have gone with them," said Mabel with chattering
teeth. "We can't swim now we re not marble. And I suppose this is
the island?"

It was and they couldn't swim.

They knew it. One always knows those sort of things somehow
without trying. For instance, you know perfectly that you can't fly.
There are some things that there is no mistake about.

The dawn grew brighter and the outlook more black every
moment.

"There isn't a boat, I suppose?" Jimmy asked.

"No," said Mabel, "not on this side of the lake; there's one in the
boat-house, of course if you could swim there."

"You know I can't," said Jimmy.

"Can't anyone think of anything?" Gerald asked, shivering.

"When they find we've disappeared they'll drag all the water for
miles round, said Jimmy hopefully, "in case we've fallen in and
sunk to the bottom. When they come to drag this we can yell and
be rescued."

"Yes, dear, that will be nice," was Gerald's bitter comment.

"Don't be so disagreeable," said Mabel with a tone so strangely
cheerful that the rest stared at her in amazement.

"The ring," she said. "Of course we've only got to wish ourselves
home with it. Phoebus washed it in the moon ready for the next
wish.

"You didn't tell us about that," said Gerald in accents of perfect
good temper. "Never mind. Where is the ring?"

"You had it," Mabel reminded Kathleen.

"I know I had," said that child in stricken tones, "but I gave it to
Psyche to look at and and she's got it on her finger!"

Everyone tried not to be angry with Kathleen. All partly
succeeded.

"If we ever get off this beastly island," said Gerald,

"I suppose you can find Psyche's statue and get it off again?"

"No I can't," Mabel moaned. "I don't know where the statue is. I've
never seen it. It may be in Hellas, wherever that is or anywhere, for
anything I know."

No one had anything kind to say, and it is pleasant to record that
nobody said anything. And now it was grey daylight, and the sky to
the north was flushing in pale pink and lavender.

The boys stood moodily, hands in pockets. Mabel and Kathleen
seemed to find it impossible not to cling together, and all about
their legs the long grass was icy with dew.

A faint sniff and a caught breath broke the silence. "Now, look
here," said Gerald briskly, "I won't have it. Do you hear?
Snivelling's no good at all. No, I'm not a pig. It's for your own
good. Let's make a tour of the island. Perhaps there's a boat hidden
somewhere among the overhanging boughs.

"How could there be?" Mabel asked.

"Someone might have left it there, I suppose," said Gerald.

"But how would they have got off the island?"

"In another boat, of course," said Gerald; "come on."
Downheartedly, and quite sure that there wasn't and couldn't be
any boat, the four children started to explore the island. How often
each one of them had dreamed of islands, how often wished to be
stranded on one! Well, now they were. Reality is sometimes quite
different from dreams, and not half so nice. It was worst of all for
Mabel, whose shoes and stockings were far away on the mainland.
The coarse grass and brambles were very cruel to bare legs and
feet.

They stumbled through the wood to the edge of the water, but it
was impossible to keep close to the edge of the island, the
branches grew too thickly. There was a narrow, grassy path that
wound in and out among the trees, and this they followed, dejected
and mournful. Every moment made it less possible for them to
hope to get back to the school-house unnoticed. And if they were
missed and beds found in their present unslept-in state well, there
would be a row of some sort, and, as Gerald said, "Farewell to
liberty!"

"Of course we can get off all right," said Gerald. "Just all shout
when we see a gardener or a keeper on the mainland. But if we do,
concealment is at an end and all is absolutely up!"

"Yes," said everyone gloomily.

"Come, buck up!" said Gerald, the spirit of the born general
beginning to reawaken in him. "We shall get out of this scrape all
right, as we've got out of others; you know we shall. See, the sun's
coming out. You feel all right and jolly now, don't you?"

"Yes, oh yes!" said everyone, in tones of unmixed misery.

The sun was now risen, and through a deep cleft in the hills it sent
a strong shaft of light straight at the island. The yellow light,
almost level, struck through the stems of the trees and dazzled the
children's eyes. This, with the fact that he was not looking where
he was going, as Jimmy did not fail to point out later, was enough
to account for what now happened to Gerald, who was leading the
melancholy little procession. He stumbled, clutched at a tree-trunk,
missed his clutch, and disappeared, with a yell and a clatter; and
Mabel, who came next, only pulled herself up just in time not to
fall down a steep flight of moss-grown steps that seemed to open
suddenly in the ground at her feet.

"Oh, Gerald!" she called down the steps; "are you hurt?"

"No," said Gerald, out of sight and crossly, for he was hurt, rather
severely; "it's steps, and there's a passage."

"There always is," said Jimmy.

"I knew there was a passage," said Mabel; "it goes under the water
and comes out at the Temple of Flora. Even the gardeners know
that, but they won't go down, for fear of snakes."

"Then we can get out that way I do think you might have said so,"
Gerald's voice came up to say.

"I didn't think of it," said Mabel. "At least And I suppose it goes
past the place where the Ugly-Wugly found its good hotel."

"I'm not going," said Kathleen positively, "not in the dark, I'm not.
So I tell you!"

"Very well, baby," said Gerald sternly, and his head appeared from
below very suddenly through interlacing brambles. "No one asked
you to go in the dark. We'll leave you here if you like, and return
and rescue you with a boat. Jimmy, the bicycle lamp!" He reached
up a hand for it.

Jimmy produced from his bosom, the place where lamps are
always kept in fairy stories see Aladdin and others a bicycle lamp.

"We brought it," he explained, "so as not to break our shins over
bits of long Mabel among the rhododendrons."

"Now," said Gerald very firmly, striking a match and opening the
thick, rounded glass front of the bicycle lamp, "I don't know what
the rest of you are going to do, but I'm going down these steps and
along this passage. If we find the good hotel well, a good hotel
never hurt anyone yet."

"It's no good, you know," said Jimmy weakly; "you know jolly well
you can't get out of that Temple of Flora door, even if you get to
it."

"I don't know," said Gerald, still brisk and commander-like;
"there's a secret spring inside that door most likely. We hadn't a
lamp last time to look for it, remember."

"If there's one thing I do hate its undergroundness," said Mabel.

"You're not a coward," said Gerald, with what is known as
diplomacy. "You're brave, Mabel. Don't I know it!" You hold
Jimmy's hand and I'll hold Cathy s. Now then."

"I won't have my hand held," said Jimmy, of course. "I'm not a
kid."

"Well, Cathy will. Poor little Cathy! Nice brother Jerry'll hold poor
Cathy's hand."

Gerald's bitter sarcasm missed fire here, for Cathy gratefully
caught the hand he held out in mockery. She was too miserable to
read his mood, as she mostly did. "Oh, thank you, Jerry dear," she
said gratefully; "you are a dear, and I will try not to be frightened."
And for quite a minute Gerald shamedly felt that he had not been
quite, quite kind.

So now, leaving the growing goldness of the sunrise, the four went
down the stone steps that led to the underground and underwater
passage, and everything seemed to grow dark and then to grow into
a poor pretence of light again, as the splendour of dawn gave place
to the small dogged lighting of the bicycle lamp. The steps did
indeed lead to a passage, the beginnings of it choked with the
drifted dead leaves of many old autumns. But presently the passage
took a turn, there were more steps, down, down, and then the
passage was empty and straight lined above and below and on each
side with slabs of marble, very clear and clean. Gerald held Cathy's
hand with more of kindness and less of exasperation than he had
supposed possible.

And Cathy, on her part, was surprised to find it possible to be so
much less frightened than she expected.

The flame of the bull's-eye threw ahead a soft circle of misty light
the children followed it silently. Till, silently and suddenly, the
light of the bull's-eye behaved as the flame of a candle does when
you take it out into the sunlight to light a bonfire, or explode a
train of gunpowder, or what not. Because now, with feelings
mixed indeed, of wonder, and interest, and awe, but no fear, the
children found themselves in a great hail, whose arched roof was
held up by two rows of round pillars, and whose every corner was
filled with a soft, searching, lovely light, filling every cranny, as
water fills the rocky secrecies of hidden sea-caves.

"How beautiful!" Kathleen whispered, breathing hard into the
tickled ear of her brother, and Mabel caught the hand of Jimmy
and whispered, "I must hold your hand I must hold on to
something silly, or I shan't believe it's real."

For this hall in which the children found themselves was the most
beautiful place in the world. I won't describe it, because it does not
look the same to any two people, and you wouldn't understand me
if I tried to tell you how it looked to any one of these four. But to
each it seemed the most perfect thing possible. I will only say that
all round it were great arches. Kathleen saw them as Moorish,
Mabel as Tudor, Gerald as Norman, and Jimmy as Churchwarden
Gothic. (If you don't know what these are, ask your uncle who
collects brasses, and he will explain, or perhaps Mr. Millar will
draw the different kinds of arches for you.) And through these
arches one could see many things oh! but many things. Through
one appeared an olive garden, and in it two lovers who held each
other's hands, under an Italian moon; through another a wild sea,
and a ship to whom the wild, racing sea was slave. A third showed
a king on his throne, his courtiers obsequious about him; and yet a
fourth showed a really good hotel, with the respectable
Ugly-Wugly sunning himself on the front doorsteps. There was a
mother, bending over a wooden cradle. There was an artist gazing
entranced on the picture his wet brush seemed to have that
moment completed, a general dying on a field where Victory had
planted the standard he loved, and these things were not pictures,
but the truest truths, alive, and, as anyone could see, immortal.

Many other pictures there were that these arches framed. And all
showed some moment when life had sprung to fire and flower the
best that the soul of man could ask or man's destiny grant. And the
really good hotel had its place here too, because there are some
souls that ask no higher thing of life than "a really good hotel" .

"Oh, I am glad we came; I am, I am!" Kathleen murmured, and
held fast to her brother's hand.

They went slowly up the hall, the ineffectual bull's-eye, held by
Jimmy, very crooked indeed, showing almost as a shadow in this
big, glorious light.

And then, when the hall's end was almost reached, the children
saw where the light came from. It glowed and spread itself from
one place, and in that place stood the one statue that Mabel "did
not know where to find" the statue of Psyche. They went on,
slowly, quite happy, quite bewildered. And when they came close
to Psyche they saw that on her raised hand the ring showed dark.

Gerald let go Kathleen's hand, put his foot on the pediment, his
knee on the pedestal. He stood up, dark and human, beside the
white girl with the butterfly wings.

"I do hope you don't mind," he said, and drew the ring off very
gently. Then, as he dropped to the ground, "Not here," he said. "I
don't know why, but not here."

And they all passed behind the white Psyche, and once more the
bicycle lamp seemed suddenly to come to life again as Gerald held
it in front of him, to be the pioneer in the dark passage that led
from the Hall of but they did not know, then, what it was the Hall
of.

Then, as the twisting passage shut in on them with a darkness that
pressed close against the little light of the bicycle lamp, Kathleen
said, "Give me the ring. I know exactly what to say."

Gerald gave it with not extreme readiness.

"I wish," said Kathleen slowly, "that no one at home may know
that we've been out tonight, and I wish we were safe in our own
beds, undressed, and in our nightgowns, and asleep."

And the next thing any of them knew, it was good, strong, ordinary
daylight not just sunrise, but the kind of daylight you are used to
being called in, and all were in their own beds. Kathleen had
framed the wish most sensibly. The only mistake had been in
saying "in our own beds" because, of course, Mabel's own bed was
at Yalding Towers, and to this day Mabel's drab-haired aunt cannot
understand how Mabel, who was staying the night with that child
in the town she was so taken up with, hadn't come home at eleven,
when the aunt locked up, and yet she was in her bed in the
morning. For though not a clever woman, she was not stupid
enough to be able to believe any one of the eleven fancy
explanations which the distracted Mabel offered in the course of
the morning. The first (which makes twelve) of these explanations
was The Truth, and of course the aunt was far too clever to believe
That!

It was show-day at Yalding Castle, and it seemed good to the
children to go and visit Mabel, and, as Gerald put it, to mingle
unsuspected with the crowd; to gloat over all the things which they
knew and which the crowd didn't know about the castle and the
sliding panels, the magic ring and the statues that came alive.
Perhaps one of the pleasantest things about magic happenings is
the feeling which they give you of knowing what other people not
only don't know but wouldn't, so to speak, believe if they did.

On the white road outside the gates of the castle was a dark
spattering of breaks and wagonettes and dogcarts. Three or four
waiting motor-cars puffed fatly where they stood, and bicycles
sprawled in heaps along the grassy hollow by the red brick wall.
And the people who had been brought to the castle by the breaks
and wagonettes, and dog-carts and bicycles and motors, as well as
those who had walked there on their own unaided feet, were
scattered about the grounds, or being shown over those parts of the
castle which were, on this one day of the week, thrown open to
visitors.

There were more visitors than usual today because it had somehow
been whispered about that Lord Yalding was down, and that the
holland covers were to be taken off the state furniture so that a rich
American who wished to rent the castle, to live in, might see the
place in all its glory.

It certainly did look very splendid. The embroidered satin, gilded
leather and tapestry of the chairs, which had been hidden by brown
holland, gave to the rooms a pleasant air of being lived in. There
were flowering plants and pots of roses here and there on tables or
window-ledges. Mabel's aunt prided herself on her tasteful touch
in the home, and had studied the arrangement of flowers in a series
of articles in Home Drivel called "How to Make Home High-class
on Nine-pence a Week".

The great crystal chandeliers, released from the bags that at
ordinary times shrouded them, gleamed with grey and purple
splendour. The brown linen sheets had been taken off the state
beds, and the red ropes that usually kept the low crowd in its
proper place had been rolled up and hidden away.

"It's exactly as if we were calling on the family," said the grocer's
daughter from Salisbury to her friend who was in the millinery.

"If the Yankee doesn't take it, what do you say to you and me
setting up here when we get spliced?" the draper's assistant asked
his sweetheart. And she said: "Oh, Reggie, how can you! you are
too funny."

All the afternoon the crowd in its smart holiday clothes, pink
blouses, and light-coloured suits, flowery hats, and scarves beyond
description passed through and through the dark hall, the
magnificent drawing-rooms and boudoirs and picture-galleries.
The chattering crowd was awed into something like quiet by the
calm, stately bedchambers, where men had been born, and died;
where royal guests had lain in long-ago summer nights, with big
bow-pots of elder-flowers set on the hearth to ward off fever and
evil spells. The terrace, where in old days dames in ruffs had
sniffed the sweet-brier and southern-wood of the borders below,
and ladies, bright with rouge and powder and brocade, had walked
in the swing of their hooped skirts the terrace now echoed to the
sound of brown boots, and the tap-tap of high-heeled shoes at two
and eleven three, and high laughter and chattering voices that said
nothing that the children wanted to hear. These spoiled for them
the quiet of the enchanted castle, and outraged the peace of the
garden of enchantments.

"It isn't such a lark after all," Gerald admitted, as from the window
of the stone summer-house at the end of the terrace they watched
the loud colours and heard the loud laughter. "I do hate to see all
these people in our garden."

"I said that to that nice bailiff-man this morning," said Mabel,
setting herself on the stone floor, "and he said it wasn't much to let
them come once a week. He said Lord Yalding ought to let them
come when they liked said he would if he lived there."

"That's all he knows!" said Jimmy. "Did he say anything else?"

"Lots," said Mabel. "I do like him! I told him ,"

"You didn't!"

"Yes. I told him lots about our adventures. The humble bailiff is a
beautiful listener."

"We shall be locked up for beautiful lunatics if you let your jaw
get the better of you, my Mabel child."

"Not us!" said Mabel. "I told it you know the way every word true,
and yet so that nobody believes any of it. When I'd quite done he
said I'd got a real littery talent, and I promised to put his name on
the beginning of the first book I write when I grow up."

"You don't know his name," said Kathleen. "Let's do something
with the ring."

"Imposs!" said Gerald. "I forgot to tell you, but I met
Mademoiselle when I went back for my garters and she's coming
to meet us and walk back with us."

"What did you say?"

"I said," said Gerald deliberately, "that it was very kind of her. And
so it was. Us not wanting her doesn't make it not kind her coming "

"It may be kind, but it's sickening too," said Mabel, "because now I
suppose we shall have to stick here and wait for her; and I
promised we d meet the bailiff-man. He's going to bring things in a
basket and have a picnic-tea with us."

"Where?"

"Beyond the dinosaurus. He said he'd tell me all about the
anteddy-something animals it means before Noah's Ark; there are
lots besides the dinosaurus in return for me telling him my
agreeable fictions. Yes, he called them that."

"When?"

"As soon as the gates shut. That's five."

"We might take Mademoiselle along," suggested Gerald.

"She d be too proud to have tea with a bailiff, I expect; you never
know how grown-ups will take the simplest things." It was
Kathleen who said this.

"Well, I'll tell you what," said Gerald, lazily turning on the stone
bench. "You all go along, and meet your bailiff. A picnic's a
picnic. And I'll wait for Mademoiselle."

Mabel remarked joyously that this was jolly decent of Gerald, to
which he modestly replied: "Oh, rot!"

Jimmy added that Gerald rather liked sucking-up to people.

"Little boys don't understand diplomacy," said Gerald calmly;
"sucking-up is simply silly. But it's better to be good than pretty
and ,"

"How do you know?" Jimmy asked.

"And," his brother went on, "you never know when a grown-up
may come in useful. Besides, they like it. You must give them
some little pleasures. Think how awful it must be to be old. My
hat!"

"I hope I shan't be an old maid," said Kathleen.

"I don't mean to be," said Mabel briskly. "I'd rather marry a
travelling tinker."

"It would be rather nice," Kathleen mused, "to marry the Gypsy
King and go about in a caravan telling fortunes and hung round
with baskets and brooms."

"Oh, if I could choose," said Mabel, "of course I'd marry a brigand,
and live in his mountain fastnesses, and be kind to his captives and
help them to escape and ,"

"You'll be a real treasure to your husband," said Gerald.

"Yes," said Kathleen, "or a sailor would be nice. You'd watch for
his ship coming home and set the lamp in the dormer window to
light him home through the storm; and when he was drowned at
sea you d be most frightfully sorry, and go every day to lay flowers
on his daisied grave."

"Yes," Mabel hastened to say, "or a soldier, and then you'd go to
the wars with short petticoats and a cocked hat and a barrel round
your neck like a St. Bernard dog. There's a picture of a soldier's
wife on a song auntie's got. It's called 'The Veevandyear'."

"When I marry " Kathleen quickly said.

"When I marry," said Gerald, "I'll marry a dumb girl, or else get the
ring to make her so that she can't speak unless she's spoken to.
Let's have a squint.

He applied his eye to the stone lattice.

"They're moving off," he said. "Those pink and purple hats are
nodding off in the distant prospect; and the funny little man with
the beard like a goat is going a different way from everyone else
the gardeners will have to head him off. I don't see Mademoiselle,
though. The rest of you had better bunk. It doesn't do to run any
risks with picnics. The deserted hero of our tale, alone and
unsupported, urged on his brave followers to pursue the
commissariat waggons, he himself remaining at the post of danger
and difficulty, because he was born to stand on burning decks
whence all but he had fled, and to lead forlorn hopes when
despaired of by the human race!"

"I think I'll marry a dumb husband," said Mabel, "and there shan't
be any heroes in my books when I write them, only a heroine.
Come on, Cathy."

Coming out of that cool, shadowy summer-house into the sunshine
was like stepping into an oven, and the stone of the terrace was
burning to the children's feet.

"I know now what a cat on hot bricks feels like," said Jimmy.

The antediluvian animals are set in a beech-wood on a slope at
least half a mile across the park from the castle. The grandfather of
the present Lord Yalding had them set there in the middle of last
century, in the great days of the late Prince Consort, the Exhibition
of 1851, Sir Joseph Paxton, and the Crystal Palace. Their stone
flanks, their wide, ungainly wings, their lozenged crocodile-like
backs show grey through the trees a long way off.

Most people think that noon is the hottest time of the day. They are
wrong. A cloudless sky gets hotter and hotter all the afternoon, and
reaches its very hottest at five. I am sure you must all have noticed
this when you are going out to tea anywhere in your best clothes,
especially if your clothes are starched and you happen to have a
rather long and shadeless walk.

Kathleen, Mabel, and Jimmy got hotter and hotter, and went more
and more slowly. They had almost reached that stage of
resentment and discomfort when one "wishes one hadn't come"
before they saw, below the edge of the beech-wood, the white
waved handkerchief of the bailiff.

That banner, eloquent of tea, shade, and being able to sit down, put
new heart into them. They mended their pace, and a final
desperate run landed them among the drifted coppery leaves and
bare grey and green roots of the beech-wood.

"Oh, glory!" said Jimmy, throwing himself down. "How do you
do?"

The bailiff looked very nice, the girls thought. He was not wearing
his velveteens, but a grey flannel suit that an Earl need not have
scorned; and his straw hat would have done no discredit to a Duke;
and a Prince could not have worn a prettier green tie. He
welcomed the children warmly. And there were two baskets
dumped heavy and promising among the beech-leaves.

He was a man of tact. The hot, instructive tour of the stone
antediluvians, which had loomed with ever-lessening charm before
the children, was not even mentioned.

"You must be desert-dry," he said, "and you'll be hungry, too, when
you've done being thirsty. I put on the kettle as soon as I discerned
the form of my fair romancer in the extreme offing."

The kettle introduced itself with puffings and bubblings from the
hollow between two grey roots where it sat on a spirit-lamp.

"Take off your shoes and stockings, won't you?" said the bailiff in
matter-of-course tones, just as old ladies ask each other to take off
their bonnets; "there's a little baby canal just over the ridge."

The joys of dipping one's feet in cool running water after a hot
walk have yet to be described. I could write pages about them.
There was a mill-stream when I was young with little fishes in it,
and dropped leaves that spun round, and willows and alders that
leaned over it and kept it cool, and but this is not the story of my
life.

When they came back, on rested, damp, pink feet, tea was made
and poured ouy delicious tea with as much milk as ever you
wanted, out of a beer bottle with a screw top, and cakes, and
gingerbread, and plums, and a big melon with a lump of ice in its
heart a tea for the gods!

This thought must have come to Jimmy, for he said suddenly,

Book of the day: