The Enchanted Castle - E. Nesbit

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CHAPTER ONE

There were three of them — Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen. Jerry's name was Gerald, and Jimmy's name was James; and Kathleen was never called by her name at all, but Cathy, or Puss Cat, when her brothers were pleased with her, and Scratch Cat when they were not pleased. And they were at school in a little town in the West of England — the boys at one school, and the girl at another. They saw each other on Saturdays and Sundays at the house of a kind lady; but it was one of those important houses where it is impossible to play. So they looked forward to the holidays, when they would all go home. Then they could be together all day long and play in the house and explore the Hampshire forests and fields. Their Cousin Betty was expected there too. Betty got to the Hampshire home first, and the moment she got there she began to have measles, so that the three children couldn't go home at all. You may imagine their feelings. It was absolutely impossible to spend seven weeks at Miss Hervey's house, so all three wrote home and said so. This surprised their parents very much, because they had always thought the children liked to go to dear Miss Hervey's house. However, they were 'jolly decent about it', as Jerry said, and let the boys go and stay at Kathleen's school, where there was no one except the French teacher.
'We must have some sort of play during the holidays,' said Kathleen, when she had unpacked and arranged the boys' clothes in the drawers, feeling very grown-up. 'Let's write a book about what schools really are like. People would read it and say how clever we were.'
'More likely expel us,' said Gerald. 'No; we'll have an out-of-doors game. We could get a cave and keep stores in it.'
'There aren't any caves,' said Jimmy. 'And, besides, Mademoiselle won't let us go out alone.'
'Don't worry,' said Gerald. 'I'll go and talk to her.'
It was a thin and interesting-looking boy that knocked at the door of the room where the French teacher sat reading a book. Gerald could always make himself look interesting when he met new grown-ups. It was done by opening his grey eyes rather wide, and having a nice expression.
'I hope I am not disturbing you,' said Gerald, when he came in.
'Bat no,' she said. 'What is it that you want?'
'I decided to come and say how do you do,' said Gerald, because you are the lady of the house.'
'You are a very polite little boy, she said.
'Not at all,' said Gerald, more polite than ever. 'I am so sorry for you, because you'll have to look after us in the holidays.'
'But not at all,' said Mademoiselle in her turn. 'I am sure you will be very good children.'
'We'll try,' he said honestly. 'We don't want to give you any trouble at all. And I was thinking it would be less trouble for you if we could go out into the woods tomorrow and take our dinner with us — something cold, you know.'
Mademoiselle laughed and Gerald laughed too.
'Little deceiver!' she said. 'Why not say at once you want to be free of over watching?'
'You have to be careful with grown-ups,' said Gerald.
'Your parents, they permit these days at woods?'
'Oh, yes,' said Gerald truthfully.
'Then I will not be more a dragon than the parents.'
'Thank you!' said Gerald. 'Is there anything we can do for you — wind your wool, or find your spectacles, or-?'
'He thinks me a grandmother!' said Mademoiselle, laughing more than ever.
'Well, what luck?' the others asked.
'It's all right,' said Gerald. 'I told you it would be.'
'I don't believe you. She's too stern,' said Kathleen.
'Ah!' said Gerald, 'that's only because you don't know how to manage her. She wasn't stern with me.'
Next morning the children went to explore the woods.
'But are there any woods?' asked Kathleen as they passed the market-place.
'It doesn't much matter about woods,' said Gerald dreamily, 'I'm sure we'll find something. One of the boys told me his father said when he was a boy there was a little cave near the Salisbury Road; but he said there was an enchanted castle there too, so perhaps the cave isn't true either.'
Finally they came to a place where the road, as Gerald said, went two ways at once.
'That looks like adventures,' said Kathleen; and they turned to the right, then turned to the left, 'So as to be quite fair,' Jimmy said, and then to the right again and to the left again, and so on, till they were completely lost.
'Completely,' said Kathleen; 'how interesting!'
The adventurers decided to sit down and have something to eat. And as they sat and rested, Gerald leaned back against the bushes and almost fell over backward. He stood up and said. 'I couldn't feel anything but air, it's a hole there.' The other two pulled back the bushes. There certainly was a hole in the bank. 'I'm going in,' said Gerald. He put his knee on a stone and disappeared.
'You all right?' asked Jimmy.
'Yes; come on.'
He helped Kathleen and Jimmy to get in.
'It is a cave,' said Kathleen.
They could see that they were in a dark stone cave three or four yards long, which turned then sharply to the right.
The adventurers turned the corner and saw a round arch. They passed through the arch into a deep, narrow passage whose banks were of stones. On the top of the banks grew trees, and the sunlight came through their branches, turning the passage to a corridor of gold-green. At the end of it was another found arch, quite dark inside, above which rose rocks and grass and bushes.
'It's like a railway tunnel,' said James.
'It's the entrance to the enchanted castle,' said Kathleen.
At the dark arch they stopped.
'There are steps down,' said Jimmy.
Very slowly and carefully they went down the steps. Gerald struck a match and they saw a passage, turning to the left. They went on, following their leader. The passage was very dark.
'I don't like it!' whispered Jimmy.
Then the children saw daylight that grew and grew. The passage finally ended in another arch. They passed through the arch and came to a marble terrace, which was white in the sunlight. It was a fantastic view like a picture out of a book about Italy. Immediately below them was a lake with swans and an island; beyond it were green slopes covered with trees, and amid the trees they saw white statues. To the left there was a round white building with pillars, and to the right — a waterfall. Away across the grassy slopes they saw deer.
'It is an enchanted castle,' said Kathleen.
'I don't see any castle,' said Jimmy.
'What do you call that, then?' Gerald pointed to white towers beyond the trees. 'It is an enchanted castle,' said Gerald.
'But there aren't any.' Jimmy was quite positive.
'How do you know? Do you think there's nothing in the world but what you've seen?'
'I think magic went out when people began to have steam- engines,' Jimmy insisted, 'and newspapers, and telephones.'
'Perhaps there's no magic because people don't believe in it anymore,' said Kathleen.
'Well, don't let's spoil the show with any silly old not believing,' said Gerald with decision. 'I'm going to believe in magic as hard as I can. This is an enchanted garden, and that's an enchanted castle, and I'm going to explore them.'
There never was such a garden out of a picture or a fairy-tale. They passed quite close by the deer, who only raised their pretty heads to look, and were not afraid at all. Then they came into a rose-garden, red and pink and green and white in the sun, like a giant's many-colored handkerchief.
The feeling of magic got thicker and thicker, till they were almost afraid of the sound of their feet in the great silent place. Beyond the rose garden was a hedge with an arch cut in it, and it was the beginning of a maze.
It was impossible to get to the middle of the maze. Again and again they found themselves at the arch. It was when they found themselves there for the fourth time that Jimmy suddenly cried, 'Oh, where's the dinner?' And then in silence they all remembered that the basket with the dinner had been left at the entrance of the cave.
'Let's go back,' said Jimmy, 'now this minute, and get our things and have our dinner.'
'Let's have one more try at the maze. I hate giving things up,' said Gerald. 'What's that?'
'That' was a red cotton thread. Gerald picked it up. One end of it was tied to a thimble with holes in it, and the other -
'There is no other end,' said Gerald, with firm triumph. 'It's a clue — that's what it is. I've always felt something magic would happen someday, and now it has.'
'I think the gardener put it there,' said Jimmy.
'With a Princess's silver thimble on it? Look! There's a crown on the thimble.'
There was.
'Come,' said Gerald, 'if you are adventurers be adventurers.'
He walked forward, winding the red thread round his fingers as he went. The red clue led them to the middle of the maze. There was a sun-dial there, and all round against the hedge a low, wide marble seat. The red clue ended in a small brown hand with rings on every finger. The hand belonged to a lady who lay on the stone seat asleep in the sun. She was wearing a wonderful rosy-gold silk dress; a thin white veil with silver stars covered the face.
'It's the enchanted Princess,' said Gerald, now really impressed. 'I told you so.'
'It's the Sleeping Beauty,' said Kathleen, 'it is — look how old-fashioned her clothes are. She has slept for a hundred years. Oh, Gerald, you're the eldest; you must be the Prince, and we never knew it.'
She very gently lifted the edge of the veil and turned it back. The Princess's face was small and white. It was surrounded by long black hair. Her nose was straight; there were a few freckles on cheekbones and nose.
'No wonder,' whispered Kathleen, 'sleeping all these years in all this sun! But she is lovely!' 'Not so dusty,' said Gerald.
'Now, Jerry,' said Kathleen firmly, 'You've got to kiss and wake the Princess.'
'Not me!' declared Gerald. 'She'd go for me the minute she woke up.'
'I can kiss her,' said Jimmy. 'I'm not a coward, like Some People.'
And before Gerald could say a word Jimmy loudly kissed the Princess on her pale cheek, and now the three stood breathless, waiting for the result.
And the result was that the Princess opened large, dark eyes, stretched out her arms, yawned a little, covering her mouth with a small brown hand, and said:
'Then the hundred years are over? Which of you is my Prince that woke me from my deep sleep?'
'I did,' said Jimmy fearlessly, for she did not look as though she were going to slap anyone. 'But you aren't really a Princess, are you?'
'Of course I am,' she answered. 'Look at my crown!' She pulled aside the veil, and showed beneath it a crown decorated with diamonds.
'How did you get past the dragons?' asked the Princess.
Gerald ignored the question. 'I say,' he said, 'do you really believe in magic, and all that?'
'I ought to, if anybody does,' she said and showed a little scar on her wrist from the spindle.
'Then this really is an enchanted castle?'
'Of course it is,' said the Princess. 'How stupid you are!' She stood up.
'Let's go back to the castle,' she said, 'and I'll show you all my lovely jewels and things. Wouldn't you like that?'
'Yes,' said Gerald with hesitation. 'But-'
'But what?' The Princess's tone was impatient.
'But we're most awfully hungry.'
'Oh, so am I!' cried the Princess. 'I haven't had anything to eat for a hundred years. Come along to the castle.'
'The mice have eaten everything,' said Jimmy sadly. He saw now that she really was a Princess.
'Not they,' cried the Princess. 'You forget everything's enchanted here. Time simply stood still for a hundred years.
CHAPTER TWO
When the procession entered the castle the Princess turned to her guests.
'You just wait here a minute,' she said, 'and don't talk while I'm away. This castle is full of magic, and I don't know what will happen if you talk.' And with that she ran out, as Jimmy said afterwards, 'most un princess like,' showing as she ran black stockings and black shoes.
Soon she returned with a tray, which held some bread and cheese and a jug of water.
'Come along,' said the Princess hospitably. 'I couldn't find anything but bread and cheese — but it doesn't matter, because everything's magic here, and unless you have some awful secret fault the bread and cheese will turn into anything you like. What would you like?' she asked Kathleen.
'Roast chicken,' said Kathleen, without hesitation.
The Princess cut a slice of bread and laid it on a dish.
'Green peas?' asked the Princess, cut a piece of cheese and laid it beside the bread.
Kathleen began to eat the bread, cutting it up with knife and fork as you would eat chicken. She didn't see any chicken and peas, or anything but cheese and dry bread.
'If I have an awful secret, it is a secret, even from me,' she told herself.
The others asked for roast beef and cabbage and got it, she supposed, though to her it only looked like dry bread and Dutch cheese. For herself the Princess chose a piece of roast peacock.
'It's a game, isn't it?' asked Jimmy suddenly.
'What's a game?' asked the Princess, frowning.
'Pretending it's beef — the bread and cheese, I mean.'
'A game? But it is beef. Look at it,' said the Princess, opening her eyes very wide.
'Yes, of course,' said Jimmy. 'I was only joking.'
Bread and cheese is not perhaps so good as roast beef or chicken or peacock, but bread and cheese is, at any rate, very much better than nothing at all. Everyone ate and drank and felt much better.
'Now,' said the Princess, 'you can come and see my treasures.'
She got up and they, followed her down the long hall to the great stone stairs. Under the stairs behind a heavy curtain there was a little door.
'This is the door leading to my private apartments,' said the Princess.
She opened the door, and they went straight on — in the dark.
Soon they reached another door. The Princess took the key from the outside of the door, put it in the keyhole, and turned it.
The room they were in was small and high. Its ceiling was deep blue with gold stars. The walls were of wood, paneled, and there was no furniture in it at all.
'This,' said the Princess, 'is my treasure chamber.'
'But where,' asked Kathleen politely, 'are the treasures?'
'Don't you see them?' asked the Princess.
'No, we don't,' said Jimmy. 'You don't come that bread- and-cheese game with me — not again!'
'If you really don't see them,' said the Princess, 'I sup-pose I shall have to say the charm. Close your eyes, please. And give me your word of honor you won't look till I tell you, and that you'll never tell anyone what you've seen.'
The children gave their words of honor rather reluctant — and closed their eyes.
'Wiggadil yougadoo begadee leegadeeve nowgadow?' said the Princess rapidly. Then they heard a creaking noise.
'She's locking us in!' cried Jimmy.
'Your word of honor,' whispered Gerald.
'You may look,' said the voice of the Princess. And they looked. The room was not the same room, yet — yes, the blue ceiling was there, but now the walls sparkled with white and blue and red and green and gold and silver. There were shelves around the room, and on them were gold cups and silver dishes, and ornaments of gold and silver, tiaras of diamonds, necklaces of rubies, emeralds and pearls.
The three children remained breathless, open-mouthed, looking at the sparkling treasures all about them, while the Princess stood with a proud smile on her lips.
'Can I do magic, or can't I?' she asked triumphantly.
'You can; oh, you can!' said Kathleen.
'May we — may we touch' asked Gerald.
'All that's mine is yours,' said the Princess, and added quickly, 'Only, of course, you mustn't take anything away with you.'
'We're not thieved' said Jimmy. The others were already turning over the wonderful things on the shelves.
'Perhaps not,' said the Princess, 'but you're a very unbelieving little boy. I say, let's all dress up and you be princes and princesses too.'
The children decorated themselves with diadems, neck-laces, and rings.
Kathleen stood quite still with a diamond bracelet raised in her hand.
'I say,' she said. 'The King and Queen?'
'What King and Queen?' asked the Princess.
'Your father and mother,' said Kathleen. 'Won't they be wanting to see you, after a hundred years, you know?'
'Oh — ah — yes,' said the Princess slowly. 'I embraced my parents when I got the bread and cheese. They're having their dinner.'
'Look here,' said Gerald, 'if you're sure your father and mother don't expect you, let's go out and have a good game of something — unless you can do any more magic tricks'
'You forget,' said the Princess, 'I'm grown up. I don't play games. And I don't like to do too much magic at a time, it's so tiring. Besides, we must put all these things back in their proper places.'
As Kathleen was putting the last shining ornament into its proper place, she saw more rings and brooches and chains and other things, and all were of ordinary metal.
'What's all this rubbish?' she asked.
'Rubbish, indeed!' said the Princess. 'Why those are all magic things! This bracelet — anyone who wears it has got to speak the truth. This chain makes you as strong as ten men.'
'What does this brooch do?' asked Kathleen, reaching out her hand. The princess caught her by the wrist.
'You mustn't touch,' she said; 'if anyone but me touches them all the magic goes out at once and never comes back. That brooch will give you any wish you like.'
'And this ring?' Jimmy pointed.
'Oh, that makes you invisible.'
'I say,' said Gerald, excited. 'Could you show us how some of the things act? Couldn't you give us each a wish?'
'No,' said the Princess suddenly, 'It can't give wishes to you, it only gives me wishes. But I'll let you see the ring make me invisible. Only you must close your eyes while I do it.'
They closed them.
'Count fifty,' said the Princess, 'and then you may look. And then you must close them again, and count fifty, and I'll reappear.'
Gerald counted, aloud. Through the counting they could hear a creaking sound.
'Forty-nine, fifty!' said Gerald, and they opened their eyes.
They were alone in the room. The jewels had disappeared and so had the Princess.
'That is magic,' said Kathleen breathlessly.
Gerald began counting again. He and Kathleen had both closed their eyes. But somehow Jimmy hadn't. He didn't mean to cheat, he just forgot. And as Gerald's count reached twenty he saw a panel under the window open slowly.
'I knew it was a trick!' he said to himself and at once closed his eyes, like an honorable little boy.
On the word 'fifty' six eyes opened. And the panel was closed and there was no Princess.
'I believe there's a cupboard under the window,' said Jimmy, 'and she's hidden in it. Secret panel, you know.'
'You looked! That's cheating,' said the voice of the Princess so close to his ear that he quite jumped.
'I didn't cheat.'
Though the children heard her voice still there was no Princess to be seen.
'Come back again. Princess dear,' said Kathleen. 'Shall we close our eyes and count again?'
'Don't be silly!' said the voice of the Princess.
'We're not silly,' said Jimmy. You know you're only hiding.'
'If you're hiding, as Jimmy says, you'd better come out. If you've really turned invisible, you'd better make yourself visible again,' said Gerald.
'Do you really mean,' asked a voice quite changed, 'that you can't see me?'
'No, I tell you,' said Jimmy.
«You are really invisible. Look in the glass,' said Gerald.
There was a silence, and then the children heard a cry of despair.
'Oh — oh — oh! I am invisible. What shall I do?'
'Take the ring off,' said Kathleen, suddenly practical.
Another silence.
'I can't!' cried the Princess, it won't come off. But it can't be the ring. I was only playing at magic. I just hid in the secret cupboard — it was only a game. Oh, whatever shall I do?'
'A game?' said Gerald slowly; 'but you can do magic — the invisible jewels, and you made them come visible.'
Oh, it's only a secret spring and the paneling slides up. Oh, what shall I do!'
'Don't cry, dear,' said Kathleen; 'let me go and tell the King and Queen.'
'The-'
'Your royal father and mother.'
'Oh, don't mock me!' said the poor Princess. 'You know that was only a game, too, like -'
'Like the bread and cheese,' said Jimmy triumphantly. 'I knew that was!'
'But your dress and being asleep in the maze, and -'
'Oh, I dressed up for fun, because everyone's away at the fair, and I put the clue just to make it all more real. I was playing at the Sleeping Beauty first, and then I heard you talking in the maze, and I thought what fun; and now I'm invisible, and I don't know what to do.
'But if you're not the Princess, who are you?' asked Kathleen.
'I'm — my aunt lives here,' said the invisible Princess. 'She may be home any time. Oh, what shall I do?'
'Perhaps she knows some charm -'
'Oh, nonsense!' said the voice sharply; 'she doesn't be-live in charms. She would be so cross.
'Let's go out into the garden, near the lake, where it's cool, and we can discuss it,' Gerald said kindly. 'You'll like that, won't you?'
'Let's go down to the Temple of Flora, by the lake,' said the voice.
The three children and the invisible Princess went down to the white marble Temple of Flora that stood close against the side of the little hill, and sat down inside it. It was cool and quiet there.
'Well,' said Gerald, 'first of all, what's your name, and if you're not a Princess, who are you?'
'I'm — I'm,' said a crying voice, 'I'm the housekeeper's — niece — at — the — castle — and my name's Mabel Prowse.'
'That's exactly what I thought,' said Jimmy, without a shadow of truth, because how could he? The others were silent, because they didn't know what to think of it.
'Well, anyhow,' said Gerald, 'you live here.'
'Yes,' said the voice. 'Oh yes, I live here right enough, but what's the use of living anywhere if you're invisible?'
CHAPTER THREE
'You'll have to tell your aunt,' said Kathleen kindly. 'No, no, no!' moaned Mabel invisibly; 'take me with you. I don't think that my aunt likes me very much. I'll leave her a note to say I've run away to sea.'
'Girls don't run away to sea,'
'Well, what shall I do?'
'Really,' said Gerald, 'I don't know what the girl can do. Let her come home with us and have -'
'Tea — oh, yes,' said Jimmy, jumping up. 'And have a good discussion,'
'After tea,' said Jimmy.
'But the aunt will think something's happened to her.' 'So it has.'
'And she'll tell the police, and they'll look everywhere for me.'
'They'll never find you,' said Gerald.
'I'm sure,' said Mabel, 'aunt would rather never see me again than see me like this. It might kill her. I'll write to her, and we'll put it in the big letter-box at the gate as we go out. Has anyone got a pencil and paper?'
Gerald tore a page out of the note-book and gave Mabel a small pencil. The pencil began writing, forming round, clear letters on the page. This is what it wrote:
'Dear Aunt,
I am afraid you will not see me again for some time. A lady in a car has adopted me, and we are going straight to the coast and then in a ship. It is useless to try to follow me. Good-bye. I hope you enjoyed the fair.
Mabel.'
'But that's all lies,' said Jimmy.
'No, it isn't; it's fancy said Mabel. 'If I said I've become invisible, she'd think that was a lie, anyhow.'
Mabel led the children by another and very much nearer way out of the park. As they got back to school, the first drops of rain fell.
Mademoiselle came herself to open the door.
'You are late!' she cried. 'All goes well?'
'We are very sorry,' said Gerald. 'It took us longer to get home than we expected.'
The children sat down to supper. There were only three plates, but Jimmy let Mabel have his. It was strange to see the bread and butter flying about in the air, and bite after bite disappearing; and the spoon rising with baked apple in it and returning to the plate empty.
Everyone was very hungry, and asked for more bread and butter. Cook grumbled when the plate was filled for the third time.
'It'll be difficult to give Mabel any breakfast,' said Gerald; 'Mademoiselle will be here then. She'd have a fit if she saw bits of bacon fly in the air and disappear.'
'We shall have to buy things for Mabel to eat in secret,' said Kathleen.
'Our money won't last long,' said Jimmy. 'Have you got any money?'
'I've not got much money,' was Mabel's reply, 'but I've got a lot of ideas.'
'We will talk about everything in the morning,' said Kathleen. 'We must just say good night to Mademoiselle, and then you shall sleep in my bed, Mabel. I'll give you one of my nightgowns.'
It was extremely strange, Kathleen thought, to see the Princess's clothes coming out of nothing. First the veil appeared hanging in the air. Then the sparkling crown suddenly showed on the table. Then a sleeve of the pinky dress showed, then another, and then the whole dress lay on the floor. Each piece of clothes became visible as Mabel took it off. The nightgown, lifted from the bed, disappeared a bit at a time.
Kathleen was just getting sleepy when she remembered that the maid who would come in the morning would see those wonderful Princess clothes.
'I'll have to get up and hide them,' she said.
And as she lay thinking about it she fell asleep, and when she woke again it was bright morning, and Eliza was standing in front of the chair where Mabel's clothes lay, looking at the pink dress.
'Oh, don't touch, please!' cried Kathleen.
'Where did you get that?'
'We're going to use it for acting,' invented Kathleen. 'It's given me for that.'
Here a bell rang and Eliza had to go, because it was the postman, and she particularly wanted to see him.
'And now,' said Kathleen, pulling on her first stocking, 'we shall have to do the acting. Everything seems very difficult.'
'Acting isn't,' said Mabel; and a stocking disappeared in the air. 'I shall love it.'
'You forget,' said Kathleen, 'invisible actresses can't take part in plays unless they're magic ones.'
'Oh,' cried a voice, 'I've got such an idea!'
'Tell it us after breakfast,' said Kathleen.
She brought Mabel a piece of bread taken by Gerald from the pantry. Mabel ate the bread and drank water from the tooth- mug.
'I'm afraid it tastes of cherry tooth-paste,' said Kathleen apologetically.
'It doesn't matter,' replied Mabel; 'it's more interesting than water. I think red wine in ballads was rather like this.'
'We're going to tell your aunt where you really are,' said Kathleen.
'She won't believe you. I expect you'll be sorry for it,' said Mabel; 'but come on and, I say, do be careful not to shut me in the door as you go out. You nearly did just now.'
Mabel's aunt was reading a pink novel at the window of the housekeeper's room.
'Excuse me,' said Gerald, 'but I believe you've lost your niece?'
'Not lost, my boy,' said the aunt, who was thin and tall.
'We could tell you something about her,' said Gerald.
'No complaints, please,' replied the aunt. 'My niece has gone. If she's played any tricks on you it's only her light-hearted way. Go away, children, I'm busy.'
'Did you get her note?' asked Kathleen.
The aunt showed more interest than before, but she still kept her finger in the novel.
'Oh,' she said, 'so you saw her leave? Did she seem glad to go?'
'Quite,' said Gerald truthfully.
'These romantic adventures do occur in our family,' said the aunt. 'Lord Yalding selected me out of eleven candidates for the post of housekeeper here. I have no doubt the child was changed at birth and her rich relatives have found her.'
'Your Mabel's invisible,' said Jimmy. 'She's just beside me now.'
'I hate lies,' said the aunt, 'in all its forms. Will you kindly take that little boy away? I am quite satisfied about Mabel.'
'But what will Mabel's father and mother say?' asked Gerald.
'Mabel's father and mother are dead,' said the aunt calmly.
'All right,' he said, 'we'll leave. But don't say we didn't tell you the truth, that's all.'
'You have told me nothing,' said the aunt, 'none of you, except that little boy, who has told me a silly lie. Good-bye.'
And on this they got away quickly.
'Why,' said Gerald, when they were outside the little court, 'your aunt's mad. She doesn't care what becomes of you and believes that nonsense about the lady in a car!'
'I knew she'd believe it when I wrote it,' said Mabel. 'She's not mad, only she's always reading novels. Now I'll tell you my great idea. I'm not ungrateful, but I'm rather hungry. And you can't always take things for me from the pantry. If you like, I'll go back and live in the castle together with the ghosts. I am a sort of ghost now, you know.'
'Oh no,' said Kathleen kindly; 'you must stay with us.'
'If you could get the ring off, you could go back,' said Jimmy.
'Yes, but I can't. I tried again last night and again this morning,' said Mabel's voice. 'What I mean to say — now that I am invisible we can have adventures.'
'»Adventures," said the brave pirate, «are not always profitable.»' It was Gerald who said this.
'This one will be. Look here, if Jerry could make himself look common, he could go to the fair and do conjuring.'
'He doesn't know any,' said Kathleen.
'I should do it really,' said Mabel, 'but Jerry could look like doing it. Move things without touching them and all that. Only you mustn't all go. People may wonder what children are doing all alone by themselves.'
'Don't show that you know me,' said Gerald, 'try to look as if you came to the fair with grown-ups. If you don't, some kind policemen will take the little lost children by the hand and lead them home to parents — the French teacher, I mean.'
'Let's go now,' said the voice. So they went.
The fair was held about half a mile from the castle gates. When they got near enough Gerald went ahead to get something to eat. He brought some nuts, red apples, small yellow pears, sweets and two bottles of ginger-beer.
They ate and drank. The boys were never tired of seeing Mabel eat, or rather of seeing the strange, magic-looking disappearance of food which was all that showed of Mabel's eating.
'I'm sure it will knock them!' said Gerald, again and again. It did.
Jimmy and Kathleen were the first to go to the fair. Soon they saw a strange figure with its hands in its pockets. It was Gerald, but at first they hardly recognized him. He had taken off his tie, and round his head, like a turban, was the red school-scarf. And his face and hands were bright black!
Everyone turned to look at him.
Gerald went up close to a long-faced woman who was sitting at the door of a small tent.
'I'm a conjurer, from India,' said Gerald.
'Not you!' said the woman; 'the backs of your ears are ail white.'
«Are they?' said Gerald. 'How clever of you to see that!' He rubbed them with his hands. 'That better?'
'That's all right. What do you do?'
'Conjuring,' said Gerald. 'Look here, if you help me with the show I'll go shares.
'Let's first see how you do conjuring, since you're so clever.'
'Right you are,' said Gerald firmly. 'You see this apple? Well, I'll make it move slowly through the air, and then when I say „Go!“ it'll disappear.'
'Yes — into your mouth! Get away with your nonsense.'
He held out one of the little apples, and the woman saw it move slowly along the air.
'Now — go' cried Gerald, to the apple, and it went. 'How's that?' he asked, in tons of triumph.
The woman was excited. 'The best ever saw!' she whispered. 'I'm on, mate, if you know any more tricks like that.'
'A lot,' said Gerald. Then he asked: 'Will you give me your shawl?' She gave him a red and black shawl, and he spread it on the ground and seated himself cross-legged behind it. The woman got a drum from the inside of the tent and beat it.
Quite soon a little crowd gathered.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Gerald, 'I come from India, and I can do tricks which you've never seen. When I see two shillings on the shawl I'll begin.'
A few pennies fell on the shawl.
'Nine pence,' said Gerald. 'Well, I've got a generous nature. I don't wish to deceive you — I have an assistant, but my assistant is invisible.'
The crowd laughed.
'Now,' said he, laying the nine pennies down on the shawl, 'you keep your eyes on those pennies, and one by one you'll see them disappear.'
And of course they did. Then one by one they were laid down again by the invisible hand of Mabel. 'Bravo!' 'Show us another!' cried the people.
'Now,' said Gerald, 'you've seen what I can do, but I don't do any more till I see five shillings on this carpet.'
And in two minutes seven shillings lay there and Gerald did a little more conjuring.
The news of the conjurer had spread all over the fair. More people came to look at him. The woman stood, looking more and more pleasant as she saw the money and beat her drum every time Gerald stopped conjuring.
It was getting quite late, and Gerald, who was very tired and quite satisfied with his share of the money, was wondering how to get out of it.
'They'll never let us get away. I didn't think of that be-fore,' he whispered to Mabel.
She thought and told him what to do.
Gerald asked the woman to divide the money, which she did honestly enough.
'Now,' he said, 'I'll give you five shillings for your shawl.'
'Seven shillings,' said the woman mechanically.
'Righto' said Gerald, putting his heavy share of the money in his trouser pocket.
'This shawl will now disappear,' he said, picking it up. He gave it Mabel, who put it on; and, of course, it disappeared. The audience was impressed.
'Now,' he said, 'I come to the last trick of all. I shall take three steps backwards and disappear. He took three steps backwards, Mabel put the invisible shawl round him, and he did not disappear. The invisible shawl couldn't make him invisible.
'Yah!' cried a boy's voice in the crowd. 'Look at him! He knows he can't do it.'
The crowd was crowding closer. At any moment they might touch Mabel, and then anything might happen — simply anything.
'Oh!' whispered Mabel suddenly, 'I can get it off.'
'Not
'Yes — the ring.'
'Come on, young master. Give us something for our money,' a farmer shouted.
'I will,' said Gerald. 'This time I really will disappear. Go into the tent,' he whispered to Mabel. 'Push the ring under the canvas. Then go away and join the others. When I see you with them I'll disappear. Go slow, and I'll catch you up'
'It's me,' said a pale and real Mabel in the ear of Kathleen. 'He's got the ring; come on, before the crowd begins to shout.'
As they went out of the gate they heard the shouting of surprise, and knew that this time Gerald really disappeared.
Later they heard footsteps on the road, and next moment Gerald's voice spoke.
'Hello!' it said gloomily.
'You made me jump! Take my ring off!'
'It's not yours any more than ours, anyhow,' said Jimmy.
'Yes, it is,' said Mabel.
'Oh, stop it!' said the tired voice of Gerald beside her. 'You can't have the ring. I can't get it off.'
CHAPTER FOUR
The difficulty was not only that Gerald was invisible now, but that Mabel who was no more invisible couldn't get into the house.
'I can't go back to aunt. I can't and I won't,' said Mabel firmly.
'But what shall we say to Mademoiselle about you -!' said Gerald.
'You could tell the truth,' said Mabel.
'She wouldn't believe it,' said Cathy.
'No,' said Gerald's voice, 'we can't tell her. But she's really nice. Let's ask her to let you stay the night because it's too late for you to get home.'
'That's all right,' said Jimmy, 'but what about you?'
'I shall go to bed,' said Gerald, 'with a headache. Oh, that's not a lie! I've got one right enough.'
'I'd do something different from going to bed with a silly headache,' said Jimmy unkindly.
'What would you do?' asked the voice of Gerald.
'I'd be a burglar,' said Jimmy.
Cathy and Mabel reminded him how wrong it was, and Jimmy replied:
'Well, then — a detective.'
'It's exactly what I am going to do,' said Gerald. 'We'll go to the police-station and see what they've got in the way of crimes.
They did, and read the notices on the board outside. Two dogs had been lost and a purse. Also someone had stolen many silver plates. Twenty pounds reward offered for any information that may lead to the recovery of the missing property.
'I'll detect that,' said Gerald; 'Here comes Johnson,' he added; 'Ask him about it, Jimmy,'
'Hello, Johnson!' he said.
And Johnson replied: 'Hello. What are you doing here this time of night?' the constable asked. 'You should be at home now.'
'We've been to the fair,' said Kathleen. 'There was an unusual conjurer there,'
'Heard about him,' said Johnson; 'all fake, you know.'
Such is fame. Gerald, standing in the shadow, jingled the money in his pocket.
'What's that?' the policeman asked quickly.
'Our money jingling,' said Jimmy, with perfect truth.
'It's well to have pockets full of money,' said Johnson remarked.
'Well, why haven't you?' asked Mabel. 'Why don't you get that twenty pounds reward?'
'I'll tell you why I don't. Because you can't arrest a per-son on suspicion, even if you know well who did the job.»
'And who do you think did it?' asked Jimmy.'
'I don't think — I know. It's a man known to the police for many crimes he's done, but we never can get enough evidence against him.'
'Well,' said Jimmy, 'after school I'll come to you and be a detective. Just now I think we'd better go home and detect our supper. Good night!'
When the policeman disappeared in the police-station, they heard Gerald's voice.
'You've no more brains than a halfpenny bun,' he said; 'no details about how and when the silver was taken.'
'But he told us he knew,' said Jimmy.
'Yes, that's all you've got out of him. Go home and detect your supper! It's all you can do.'
'What'll you do about supper?' Mabel asked.
'Buns!' said Gerald, 'halfpenny buns. I hope you can buy buns? I can't go into a shop in this state.'
While Cathy and Jimmy were in the shop, Gerald spoke to Mabel about his plans of starting a detective career.
'The invisible detective may not only find out about the purse and the silver, but detect some crime that isn't even done yet. I can follow suspiciously-looking people and catch them red-handed.'
'Oh!' suddenly cried Mabel. 'Oh, how awful! I never thought of that before.'
'Never thought of what?' asked Gerald.
'The window.'
'What window?'
'The paneled-room window. At the castle. We left it open, and all the jewels and things there. Aunt never goes in. I must go home now this minute.'
When the others came out of the shop, the situation was explained to them.
'Aunt will be cross,' said Mabel sadly. 'As we left the key inside the door, she'll have to ask the gardeners to get a ladder and-'
'I can help you!' said Gerald. 'I'll climb in, close the window and get out.'
'Won't you be afraid?' Mabel asked. 'You can be caught?'
'No, I can't be,' answered Gerald. He expected the question about danger from Kathleen, but all Kathleen said was, 'Well, good-bye; we'll come and see you tomorrow, Mabel. The Temple of Flora at half-past ten.'
'Leave the pantry window open for me so I can get in when I've done my detecting,' said Gerald gloomily. Then he took the bag with the buns and caught Mabel's hand. 'Come on, Mabel.'
Jimmy and Kathleen explained to Mademoiselle that Jerry had a headache and couldn't come to supper. After supper they went to bed. They didn't worry at all about their brother.
It was the aunt herself who opened the door to a very pale Mabel. She made a step towards Mabel.
'You naughty, naughty girl!' she cried angrily; 'how could you do this to me? Oh, Mabel, thank Heaven you're safe!' And with that the aunt's arms went round Mabel and Mabel's round the aunt as if they had never met before.
'But you didn't seem to care about me this morning,' said Mabel.
'How do you know?'
'I was there listening. Don't be angry, auntie.'
'My dear,' said the aunt slowly, 'I've been in a sort of trance. I've always been fond of you, but I didn't want to spoil you. But yesterday quite suddenly I felt as if you didn't matter at all. I felt the same when I got your letter and when those children came. And today I suddenly woke up and realized that you were gone. It was awful. Oh, Mabel, why did you do it?'
'It was a joke,' said Mabel. And then the two went in and the door was shut.
'That's very strange,' said Gerald, outside; 'looks like more magic to me. There's more about this castle than meets the eye.'
There certainly was. As Gerald was walking alone and invisible through the shadowy great garden to look for the open window of the paneled room he began to feel — well, not excited, not surprised, not worried, but different.
He had an extraordinary feeling so difficult to describe, and yet so real and so unforgettable — the feeling that he was in another world. The feeling was very wonderful; perhaps you will feel it someday. There are still some places in the world where it can be felt.
Something white moved under a tree. A white figure came out, a creature with horns and goat's legs and the head and arms of a boy. And Gerald was not afraid. The white thing rolled on the grass and ran away across the lawn. Then Gerald saw the pedestal of a statue — empty.
'The statues come alive,' he said; and another white shape came out of the Temple of Flora and disappeared in the bushes.
Then something enormously long and darkly grey came towards him, slowly, heavily. The moon came out just in time to show its shape. It was of those great dinosaurs, which lived millions of years ago when they were masters of the world, before Man was.
'It can't see me,' said Gerald. 'I am not afraid. It's come to life, too.'
He touched the side of its gigantic tail. It was of stone. It turned, however, at the touch; but Gerald also had turned, and was running with all his speed towards the house. It was Fear that he ran from, and not the moving stone beast.
He stood some time under the window, then he climbed into the room. Once inside the room, Gerald turned for another look. The statue stood calm on its pedestal. Everything was in its place now in the garden, nothing moved.
'How extraordinary!' said Gerald. 'I never thought I could go through a garden and dream like that.'
He shut the window, turned the key, went out, locked the door again and went to the end of the passage.
'I wonder where the kitchen is,' said Gerald. He had quite forgotten that he was a detective. He wanted only to get home and tell the others about that unusual dream that he had had in the garden.
He opened many doors, but he could not find the kitchen. At last he opened a door, and someone inside said something.
Gerald stood back against the wall, as a man ran to look into the passage.
'All right,' said the man, with relief. 'The door opened, it's heavy — that's all.'
'I thought it was the police that time!' said another voice.
They closed the door again. Gerald did not mind. He didn't like the look of those men. He felt that they were dangerous. And Gerald had seen what he wanted to see. By wonderful luck — beginner's luck — he had discovered a burglary on the very first night of his detective career. The men were taking silver out of two great boxes and packing it in sacks.
Gerald turned and went away, very carefully and very quickly. What shall he do? He stopped and thought hard. Then he took a pencil and a note-book and wrote:
'You know the room where the silver is. Burglars are taking silver. Send a man for police. I will follow the burglars if they get away before police arrive
'He hesitated a moment, and ended-'
'From a Friend- this is not a sell.'
Then Gerald tied the letter round a stone and threw it into the room where Mabel and her aunt were having supper.
He saw the stone picked up, the letter read.
'Nonsense!' said the aunt.
'Oh! Please send for the police, like he says,' asked Mabel.
'Like who says?' said the aunt.
'Whoever it is,' Mabel moaned. 'It's true — I know it's true. Please wake Bates!'
'I don't believe a word of it,' said the aunt, but she asked Bates to go for the police.
When the police arrived the door of the room was open, and the silver was gone.
It was five in the morning when Gerald finally got into his bed, tired and cold.
'Master Gerald!' — it was Eliza's voice in his ears — 'it's seven o clock and another fine day, and there's been another burglary — Oh!' she screamed as she came up to his bed. Kathleen came running from her room; Jimmy sat up in his bed.
'What's up?' Kathleen cried.
Eliza sat down heavily on a box as she spoke. «At first his bed was all empty and black and he was not in it, and when I looked again he was in it. I'll tell Mam'selle of you, with your tricks.'
'Look here,' said Gerald slowly; 'I'm going to tell you something. Can you keep a secret?'
'Yes,' said Eliza.
'Then keep it and I'll give you two shillings.'
'But what were you going to tell me?'
'That. About the two shillings and the secret. And you must keep your mouth shut.'
'I will,' said Eliza, holding out her hand.
'Oh, I'm so glad you're safe,' said Kathleen, when Eliza had gone.
'You didn't seem to care much last night,' said Gerald coldly. 'I can't think how I let you go. I didn't care last night. But I woke this morning and remembered!'
'How did you get visible?' Jimmy asked. 'It just happened when she called me — the ring came off.' 'Tell us all about everything,' said Kathleen. 'Not yet,' said Gerald mysteriously. 'Where's the ring?' Jimmy asked after breakfast, 'I want to have a try now.'
'I expect it's in the bed somewhere,' said Gerald. But it wasn't. Eliza had made the bed. 'There was no ring there,' she said. 'I swear'
CHAPTER FIVE
On the way to the Temple of Flora the children decided to take a short rest and sat on the churchyard wall.
'Oh, Jerry,' said Kathleen. 'I'm simply dying to hear what happened last night.'
Gerald told them his story. As he told it some of the white mystery and magic of the moonlit garden got into his voice and his words, so that when he told of the statues and the great beast that came alive, Kathleen and Jimmy listened to him open- mouthed.
Then came the thrilling story of the burglars, and the warning letter. Gerald told the story with the greatest enjoyment and in detail. The church clock struck half-past eleven, and they saw Mabel.
'I couldn't wait any longer,' she explained, 'when you didn't come. Has anything more happened? The burglars had gone when Bates got to the room.'
'Go on, Jerry,' said Kathleen. 'He's just got to where he threw the stone into your room, Mabel.'
Mabel climbed on to the wall. 'You've got visible again quicker than I did,' she said.
Gerald nodded and went on with his story:
'I returned to the room. Soon the burglars came out. They didn't see me, and I saw them all right.
'Which way did they go?' asked Mabel.
'They passed across the park. The stone things that come alive kept looking out from between bushes and under trees. They saw the burglars; but the burglars couldn't see them.'
'The stone things?' asked Mabel.
Gerald told her of the statues.
'I never saw them come alive,' she said, 'and I've been in the garden in the evening many times.'
'I saw them,' said Gerald firmly.
'I know, I know,' said Mabel; 'what I mean to say is that they could only be visible when you're invisible.'
'You can be right,' agreed Gerald. 'The castle garden's enchanted, but what I should like to know is how and why. I say, come on, I've got to catch Johnson before twelve.'
'But you can talk as we go,' said Mabel. 'Oh, it is so awfully thrilling!'
This pleased Gerald, of course.
'Well, I just followed. They got out of the park the same way, where we got in. Then they went through the place where the poor people live, and right down to the river. And — I say, we must run to catch Johnson.'
So the story stopped and the running began.
They caught Johnson in his own back-yard washing.
'Look here, Johnson,' said Gerald, 'what'll you give me if I help you to win that reward?'
'Half,' said Johnson, 'but I don't believe any of your nonsense.'
'It's not nonsense,' said Gerald very impressively. 'When you catch the burglars you just give me a quid for luck. I won't ask for more.'
'I'm sure you do want something more off of me,' said Johnson, 'But don't you want the reward yourself?'
'You are right,' said Gerald. 'I want that you never tell anyone who told you. Let them think it was your own luck and far-sightedness. You see, I found it out late at night, in a place where I wasn't supposed to be.
Johnson was now too interested, and Gerald told him how he had seen the burglars at Yalding Towers and how he had followed them.
'I saw them hide the sacks and I know the other stolen things are in the same place, and I heard them talk about when to take them away.'
'Come and show me where,' said Johnson.
'No,' said Gerald calmly; 'if you go there now you'll find the silver, but you'll never catch the thieves.'
'You're right there,' said the policeman. 'Well?'
'Well, a car will be waiting for them beyond the boat- house at one o clock tonight. They'll get the things out at half- past twelve. And you could catch them then.'
'It seems to me real enough,' said Johnson.
'He's not a liar — none of us are.'
'It's the chance of your lifetime. Do you agree?'
'I agree,' said Johnson.
'Then when you're on duty you go down to the river, and the place where you see me blow my nose is the place. The sacks are tied to the posts under the water.'
Johnson said that he would go immediately.
The children were already at the river when they heard the policeman's heavy boots. Gerald stopped at the end of a little landing-stage and loudly blew his nose.
'Morning,' he said immediately.
'Morning,' said Johnson. 'Got a cold?'
'Ah! I shouldn't have a cold if I'd got boots like yours,' said Gerald admiringly. 'Look at them. Anyone would know your footsteps a mile off. How do you ever get near enough to anyone to arrest them?' He whispered as he passed Johnson, 'That's the place,' and he left followed by the others.
'We've brought a friend home to dinner,' said Kathleen, when Eliza opened the door. 'Where's Mademoiselle?'
'Gone to see Yalding Towers. Today's show day. And hurry over your dinner. It's my afternoon out, and my gentle-man friend doesn't like to wait.'
'All right, we'll eat very quickly,' Gerald promised.
They kept their word. The dinner was over in a quarter of an hour.
'And now,' said Mabel, when Eliza disappeared up the stairs, 'where's the ring? I must put it back.'
'I'm very sorry — we're all very sorry,' began Kathleen, and then they told her how the ring was lost. 'Let's all look again. We were rather in a hurry this morning.'
So they looked, and they looked. In the bed, under the bed, under the carpet, under the furniture. They shook the curtains; they explored the corners, but found no ring.
'Then,' said Mabel at last, 'your housemaid have stolen it. That's all. I shall tell her I think so.'
Suddenly they heard knocking at the back door. All the servants except Eliza were away on their holidays, so the children went together to open the door.
When they opened the door they saw a young man, with his hat very much on one side, his mouth open under his fair moustache, and his eyes as nearly round as human eyes can be.
He wore a suit of a bright mustard color and a blue necktie. His expression was that of a person who is being dragged somewhere against his will. He looked so strange that Kathleen tried to shut the door in his face, but she couldn't do it. There was something in the way.
'Leave go of me!' said the young man.
'Oh, yes! I'll leave go of you!' It was the voice of Eliza but no Eliza could be seen.
'Who holds you?' asked Kathleen.
'She has, miss,' replied the unhappy stranger. 'Eliza, miss. At least it sounds like her voice, and it feels like her body, but I can't see her.'
'That's what he keeps on saying,' said Eliza's voice. 'He's my gentleman friend.'
Suddenly his hand dropped. Eliza had 'left go' of him. She pushed past the children, but Gerald caught her by the arm with one hand and whispered: 'Don't move and don't say a word. If you do — well, what's to stop me from sending for the police?'
Eliza did not know what there was to stop him. So she did as she was told, and stood invisible and silent.
The mustard-colored young man stood looking at the children with eyes, if possible, rounder than before.
'What is it?' he asked. 'What's it all about?'
'If you don't know, I'm afraid we can't tell you,' said Gerald politely, 'but I'll give you a bit of advice. You go home and lie down. You'll be all right tomorrow.'
'The sun's very hot, you know,' added Mabel.
'Hasn't Eliza gone out to meet me?' he asked.
'Eliza's indoors,' said Mabel. 'She can't come out to meet anybody today.'
'You go home and lie down,' said Kathleen. 'I'm sure you must need it. Good afternoon.'
'Good afternoon, miss,' said the young man and went slowly away.
The children explained to Eliza very carefully and quite kindly that she really was invisible, and that if you steal rings you can never be sure what will happen to you.
'Is it forever?' moaned Eliza, 'No one will marry a girl he can't see.'
'No, not for ever,' said Mabel kindly, 'I expect you'll be all right tomorrow.'
'Tonight, I think,' said Gerald.
'We'll help you all we can, and not tell anyone,' said Kathleen.
'Not even the police,' said Jimmy.
'Look here, we'll have a picnic and we'll take Eliza. I'll go out and get the cakes,' said Gerald.
When Mademoiselle came home, they started off for Yalding Towers.
'Picnic parties aren't allowed,' said Mabel.
'Ours will be,' said Gerald.
Tea and the buns made an excellent picnic. They sat in the garden till the sun set behind the line of black fir-trees on the top of the slope, and the white temple turned grey.
'It would be a very nice place to live in,' said Kathleen.
'Draughty,' said Eliza, 'a lot of steps to clean! Oh, what's that?'
'What?'
'That white thing coming down the steps. Why, it's a young man in statuary
'The statues do come alive here, after sunset,' said Gerald calmly.
'I see they do.' Eliza did not seem at all surprised or alarmed. 'There's another of them. And many more.'
'I don't see any statues,' said Jimmy.
'Don't you see?' Gerald whispered; 'The statues come alive when the sun goes down and you can't see them unless you're invisible, and you're not afraid unless you touch them.'
'Let's get her to touch one and see,' said Jimmy.
In the darkness of the park the children could see the statues — white and motionless. But Eliza saw other things.
'Oh,' she cried suddenly, 'here's the dear little boy with the deer — he's coming to me!'
Next moment she was screaming and running away.
'Come on!' cried Gerald; 'she touched it, and then she was frightened. Just like I was. Run! She'll send everyone in the town mad if she gets there like that.
They ran, but Eliza was much ahead of them.
'I'll stop here; see you tomorrow,' said Mabel, as they reached the terrace. Then they turned the corner of their own street and saw an unseen person trying to open the locked door of the school. The church clock struck the half-hour.
'Half-past nine,' said Gerald. 'Pull at the ring. Perhaps it'll come off now.'
He spoke to the bare doorstep. But it was Eliza who suddenly held out a hand — a hand that they could see; and in the hand they saw the magic ring.
Next morning Eliza's gentleman friend was waiting for her when she opened the door.
'Sorry you couldn't come out yesterday,' he said.
'So am I. What did you do?' she asked.
'I had a headache,' said the gentleman friend. I laid down most of the afternoon. And what did you do?'
'Oh, nothing interesting,' said Eliza.
'Then it was all a dream,' she said, when he was gone; 'but it'll be a lesson to me not to take anybody's old ring again in a hurry.'
'So they didn't tell her about me behaving like I did,' said he as he went — 'sun, I think. I hope it will not happen to me again!'
CHAPTER SIX
Johnson was the hero of the town. It was he who had tracked the burglars and found the stolen silver. It was Gerald who went out after breakfast to buy the newspaper, and who read aloud to the others the two columns about the policeman with perfect detective instincts. As he read every mouth opened wider and wider.
'How could he say all that?' said Kathleen, if it hadn't been for you they could do nothing, Jerry.'
'Well,' said Gerald, 'you know, after all, he had to say something. I'm glad I-' And he stopped.
'You're glad you what?'
'It doesn't matter,' he said, 'Now, what are we going to do today? Mabel will want her ring. And you and Jimmy want it too. Oh, I know. We haven't been attentive to Mademoiselle lately. We'll go to the fair and buy her flowers.'
The three children met Mabel at the corner of the square where every Friday there was a fair and you could buy fresh meat, vegetables, sweets, toys, mirrors, and all sorts of other interesting things.
The sun was shining, and, as Mabel said, 'all Nature looked smiling and cheerful.'
They chose carnations, a bunch of yellow ones, a bunch of white ones, and a bunch of red ones. They took the carnations home, and Gerald knocked at the door of the drawing- room, where Mademoiselle seemed to sit all day.
'Come in!' came her voice; and Gerald entered. She was not reading, on the table he saw a sketch-book and an open color-box.
'With all of our loves,' said Gerald and laying the flowers down before her.
'You are a dear child.' And before Gerald could say any-thing, she kissed him on the two cheeks.
'Are you painting?' he asked.
'I am doing a sketch,' she answered and showed him a beautiful and exact sketch of Yalding Towers.
'Oh, I say — ripping' was the critic's comment. 'May the others come and see?' The others came, including Mabel, who stood behind the rest, and looked over Jimmy's shoulder.
Mademoiselle saw Mabel and asked: 'A friend from the town, yes?'
'How do you do?' said Mabel politely. 'No, I'm not from the town. I live at Yalding Towers.'
The name seemed to impress Mademoiselle very much.
'Yalding Towers,' she repeated, 'but this is very extraordinary. Is it possible that you are then of the family of Lord Yalding?'
'He hasn't any family,' said Mabel; 'he's not married.'
'Are you his niece then?'
'No,' said Mabel, 'I'm Lord Yalding's housekeeper's niece.'
'But you know Lord Yalding?'
'No,' said Mabel, 'I've never seen him.'
'Then he never comes to his castle?'
'I have never seen him. But he's coming next week.'
'Why doesn't he live there?' Mademoiselle asked.
'Auntie says he's too poor,' said Mabel, and told the story as she had heard it in the housekeeper's room: how Lord Yalding's uncle had left all the money to Lord Yalding's cousin, and poor Lord Yalding had only just enough to keep the old place in repair, and to live very quietly somewhere else.
'But how his uncle could be so cruel to leave him the castle and no money?' asked Mademoiselle.
'Oh, I can tell you that too,' said Mabel. 'Lord Yalding wanted to marry a lady his uncle didn't want him to, a barmaid or a ballet lady or something, and his uncle said, „Well then,“ and left everything to the cousin.'
'And you say he is not married.'
'No — the lady went into a convent.'
'And this lord did not then look for his lady?'
'Oh, yes did,' said Mabel; 'but there are millions of convents, you know, and he had no idea where to look, and they sent back his letters from the post-office, and-'
'It seems that one knows all in the housekeeper's saloon,' said Mademoiselle.
'Pretty well all,' said Mabel simply.
'It is nearly dinner-time,' said the French teacher. 'Your friend will be our guest, and in her honor we will make a little feast. My beautiful flowers — put them into the water, Kathleen. I r
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