Sunday, October 14, 2007



My Lamb, you are so very small,
You have not learned to read at all.
Yet never a printed book withstands
The urgence of your dimpled hands.
So, though this book is for yourself,
Let mother keep it on the shelf
Till you can read. O days that Pass,
That day will come too soon, alas!
1. Beautiful As the Day
2. Golden Guineas
3. Being Wanted
4. Wings
5. No Wings
6. A Castle and No Dinner
7. A Siege and Bed
8. Bigger Than the Baker's Boy
9. Grown Up
10. Scalps
11. The Last Wish
The house was three miles from the station, but before the dusty
hired fly had rattled along for five minutes the children began to
put their heads out of the carriage window and to say, 'Aren't we
nearly there?' And every time they passed a house, which was not
very often, they all said, 'Oh, is THIS it?' But it never was,
till they reached the very top of the hill, just past the
chalk-quarry and before you come to the gravel-pit. And then there
was a white house with a green garden and an orchard beyond, and
mother said, 'Here we are!'
'How white the house is,' said Robert.
'And look at the roses,' said Anthea.
'And the plums,' said Jane.
'It is rather decent,' Cyril admitted.
The Baby said, 'Wanty go walky'; and the fly stopped with a last
rattle and jolt.
Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on in the scramble
to get out of the carriage that very minute, but no one seemed to
mind. Mother, curiously enough, was in no hurry to get out; and
even when she had come down slowly and by the step, and with no
jump at all, she seemed to wish to see the boxes carried in, and
even to pay the driver, instead of joining in that first glorious
rush round the garden and the orchard and the thorny, thistly,
briery, brambly wilderness beyond the broken gate and the dry
fountain at the side of the house. But the children were wiser,
for once. It was not really a pretty house at all; it was quite
ordinary, and mother thought it was rather inconvenient, and was
quite annoyed at there being no shelves, to speak of, and hardly a
cupboard in the place. Father used to say that the ironwork on the
roof and coping was like an architect's nightmare. But the house
was deep in the country, with no other house in sight, and the
children had been in London for two years, without so much as once
going to the seaside even for a day by an excursion train, and so
the White House seemed to them a sort of Fairy Palace set down in
an Earthly Paradise. For London is like prison for children,
especially if their relations are not rich.
Of course there are the shops and the theatres, and Maskelyne and
Cook's, and things, but if your people are rather poor you don't
get taken to the theatres, and you can't buy things out of the
shops; and London has none of those nice things that children may
play with without hurting the things or themselves - such as trees
and sand and woods and waters. And nearly everything in London is
the wrong sort of shape - all straight lines and flat streets,
instead of being all sorts of odd shapes, like things are in the
country. Trees are all different, as you know, and I am sure some
tiresome person must have told you that there are no two blades of
grass exactly alike. But in streets, where the blades of grass
don't grow, everything is like everything else. This is why so
many children who live in towns are so extremely naughty. They do
not know what is the matter with them, and no more do their fathers
and mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, tutors, governesses, and
nurses; but I know. And so do you now. Children in the country
are naughty sometimes, too, but that is for quite different
The children had explored the gardens and the outhouses thoroughly
before they were caught and cleaned for tea, and they saw quite
well that they were certain to be happy at the White House. They
thought so from the first moment, but when they found the back of
the house covered with jasmine, an in white flower, and smelling
like a bottle of the most expensive scent that is ever given for a
birthday present; and when they had seen the lawn, all green and
smooth, and quite different from the brown grass in the gardens at
Camden Town; and when they had found the stable with a loft over it
and some old hay still left, they were almost certain; and when
Robert had found the broken swing and tumbled out of it and got a
lump on his head the size of an egg, and Cyril had nipped his
finger in the door of a hutch that seemed made to keep rabbits in,
if you ever had any, they had no longer any doubts whatever.
The best part of it all was that there were no rules about not
going to places and not doing things. In London almost everything
is labelled 'You mustn't touch,' and though the label is invisible,
it's just as bad, because you know it's there, or if you don't you
jolly soon get told.
The White House was on the edge of a hill, with a wood behind it -
and the chalk-quarry on one side and the gravel-pit on the other.
Down at the bottom of the hill was a level plain, with queer-shaped
white buildings where people burnt lime, and a big red brewery and
other houses; and when the big chimneys were smoking and the sun
was setting, the valley looked as if it was filled with golden
mist, and the limekilns and oast-houses glimmered and glittered
till they were like an enchanted city out of the Arabian Nights.
Now that I have begun to tell you about the place, I feel that I
could go on and make this into a most interesting story about all
the ordinary things that the children did - just the kind of things
you do yourself, you know - and you would believe every word of it;
and when I told about the children's being tiresome, as you are
sometimes, your aunts would perhaps write in the margin of the
story with a pencil, 'How true!' or 'How like life!'and you would
see it and very likely be annoyed. So I will only tell you the
really astonishing things that happened, and you may leave the book
about quite safely, for no aunts and uncles either are likely to
write 'How true!' on the edge of the story. Grown-up people find
it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they
have what they call proof. But children will believe almost
anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that
the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well
that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes
round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun
gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun as
it is, and the earth knows its place, and lies as still as a mouse.
Yet I daresay you believe all that about the earth and the sun, and
if so you will find it quite easy to believe that before Anthea and
Cyril and the others had been a week in the country they had found
a fairy. At least they called it that, because that was what it
called itself; and of course it knew best, but it was not at all
like any fairy you ever saw or heard of or read about.
It was at the gravel-pits. Father had to go away suddenly on
business, and mother had gone away to stay with Granny, who was not
very well. They both went in a great hurry, and when they were
gone the house seemed dreadfully quiet and empty, and the children
wandered from one room to another and looked at the bits of paper
and string on the floors left over from the packing, and not yet
cleared up, and wished they had something to do. It was Cyril who
'I say, let's take our Margate spades and go and dig in the
gravel-pits. We can pretend it's seaside.'
'Father said it was once,' Anthea said; 'he says there are shells
there thousands of years old.'
So they went. Of course they had been to the edge of the
gravel-pit and looked over, but they had not gone down into it for
fear father should say they mustn't play there, and the same with
the chalk-quarry. The gravel-pit is not really dangerous if you
don't try to climb down the edges, but go the slow safe way round
by the road, as if you were a cart.
Each of the children carried its own spade, and took it in turns to
carry the Lamb. He was the baby, and they called him that because
'Baa' was the first thing he ever said. They called Anthea
'Panther', which seems silly when you read it, but when you say it
it sounds a little like her name.
The gravel-pit is very large and wide, with grass growing round the
edges at the top, and dry stringy wildflowers, purple and yellow.
It is like a giant's wash-hand basin. And there are mounds of
gravel, and holes in the sides of the basin where gravel has been
taken out, and high up in the steep sides there are the little
holes that are the little front doors of the little sand-martins'
little houses.
The children built a castle, of course, but castle-building is
rather poor fun when you have no hope of the swishing tide ever
coming in to fill up the moat and wash away the drawbridge, and, at
the happy last, to wet everybody up to the waist at least.
Cyril wanted to dig out a cave to play smugglers in, but the others
thought it might bury them alive, so it ended in all spades going
to work to dig a hole through the castle to Australia. These
children, you see, believed that the world was round, and that on
the other side the little Australian boys and girls were really
walking wrong way up, like flies on the ceiling, with their heads
hanging down into the air.
The children dug and they dug and they dug, and their hands got
sandy and hot and red, and their faces got damp and shiny. The
Lamb had tried to eat the sand, and had cried so hard when he found
that it was not, as he had supposed, brown sugar, that he was now
tired out, and was lying asleep in a warm fat bunch in the middle
of the half-finished castle. This left his brothers and sisters
free to work really hard, and the hole that was to come out in
Australia soon grew so deep that Jane, who was called Pussy for
short, begged the others to Stop.
'Suppose the bottom of the hole gave way suddenly,' she said, 'and
you tumbled out among the little Australians, all the sand would
get in their eyes.'
'Yes,' said Robert; 'and they would hate us, and throw stones at
us, and not let us see the kangaroos, or opossums, or blue-gums, or
Emu Brand birds, or anything.'
Cyril and Anthea knew that Australia was not quite so near as all
that, but they agreed to stop using the spades and go on with their
hands. This was quite easy, because the sand at the bottom of the
hole was very soft and fine and dry, like sea-sand. And there were
little shells in it.
'Fancy it having been wet sea here once, all sloppy and shiny,'
said Jane, 'with fishes and conger-eels and coral and mermaids.'
'And masts of ships and wrecked Spanish treasure. I wish we could
find a gold doubloon, or something,' Cyril said.
'How did the sea get carried away?' Robert asked.
'Not in a pail, silly,' said his brother. 'Father says the earth
got too hot underneath, like you do in bed sometimes, so it just
hunched up its shoulders, and the sea had to slip off, like the
blankets do off us, and the shoulder was left sticking out, and
turned into dry land. Let's go and look for shells; I think that
little cave looks likely, and I see something sticking out there
like a bit of wrecked ship's anchor, and it's beastly hot in the
Australian hole.'
The others agreed, but Anthea went on digging. She always liked to
finish a thing when she had once begun it. She felt it would be a
disgrace to leave that hole without getting through to Australia.
The cave was disappointing, because there were no shells, and the
wrecked ship's anchor turned out to be only the broken end of a
pickaxe handle, and the cave party were just making up their minds
that the sand makes you thirstier when it is not by the seaside,
and someone had suggested going home for lemonade, when Anthea
suddenly screamed:
'Cyril! Come here! Oh, come quick! It's alive! It'll get away!
They all hurried back.
'It's a rat, I shouldn't wonder,' said Robert. 'Father says they
infest old places - and this must be pretty old if the sea was here
thousands of years ago.'
'Perhaps it is a snake,' said Jane, shuddering.
'Let's look,' said Cyril, jumping into the hole. 'I'm not afraid
of snakes. I like them. If it is a snake I'll tame it, and it
will follow me everywhere, and I'll let it sleep round my neck at
'No, you won't,' said Robert firmly. He shared Cyril's bedroom.
'But you may if it's a rat.'
'Oh, don't be silly!' said Anthea; 'it's not a rat, it's MUCH
bigger. And it's not a snake. It's got feet; I saw them; and fur!
No - not the spade. You'll hurt it! Dig with your hands.'
'And let IT hurt ME instead! That's so likely, isn't it?' said
Cyril, seizing a spade.
'Oh, don't!' said Anthea. 'Squirrel, DON'T. I - it sounds silly,
but it said something. It really and truly did.'
'It said, "You let me alone".'
But Cyril merely observed that his sister must have gone off her
nut, and he and Robert dug with spades while Anthea sat on the edge
of the hole, jumping up and down with hotness and anxiety. They
dug carefully, and presently everyone could see that there really
was something moving in the bottom of the Australian hole.
Then Anthea cried out, 'I'M not afraid. Let me dig,' and fell on
her knees and began to scratch like a dog does when he has suddenly
remembered where it was that he buried his bone.
'Oh, I felt fur,' she cried, half laughing and half crying. 'I did
indeed! I did!' when suddenly a dry husky voice in the sand made
them all jump back, and their hearts jumped nearly as fast as they
'Let me alone,' it said. And now everyone heard the voice and
looked at the others to see if they had too.
'But we want to see you,' said Robert bravely.
'I wish you'd come out,' said Anthea, also taking courage.
'Oh, well - if that's your wish,' the voice said, and the sand
stirred and spun and scattered, and something brown and furry and
fat came rolling out into the hole and the sand fell off it, and it
sat there yawning and rubbing the ends of its eyes with its hands.
'I believe I must have dropped asleep,' it said, stretching itself.
The children stood round the hole in a ring, looking at the
creature they had found. It was worth looking at. Its eyes were
on long horns like a snail's eyes, and it could move them in and
out like telescopes; it had ears like a bat's ears, and its tubby
body was shaped like a spider's and covered with thick soft fur;
its legs and arms were furry too, and it had hands and feet like a
'What on earth is it?' Jane said. 'Shall we take it home?'
The thing turned its long eyes to look at her, and said: 'Does she
always talk nonsense, or is it only the rubbish on her head that
makes her silly?'
It looked scornfully at Jane's hat as it spoke.
'She doesn't mean to be silly,' Anthea said gently; we none of us
do, whatever you may think! Don't be frightened; we don't want to
hurt you, you know.'
'Hurt ME!' it said. 'ME frightened? Upon my word! Why, you talk
as if I were nobody in particular.' All its fur stood out like a
cat's when it is going to fight.
'Well,' said Anthea, still kindly, 'perhaps if we knew who you are
in particular we could think of something to say that wouldn't make
you cross. Everything we've said so far seems to have. Who are
you? And don't get angry! Because really we don't know.'
'You don't know?' it said. 'Well, I knew the world had changed -
but - well, really - do you mean to tell me seriously you don't
know a Psammead when you see one?'
'A Sammyadd? That's Greek to me.'
'So it is to everyone,' said the creature sharply. 'Well, in plain
English, then, a SAND-FAIRY. Don't you know a Sand-fairy when you
see one?'
It looked so grieved and hurt that Jane hastened to say, 'Of course
I see you are, now. It's quite plain now one comes to look at
'You came to look at me, several sentences ago,' it said crossly,
beginning to curl up again in the sand.
'Oh - don't go away again! Do talk some more,' Robert cried. 'I
didn't know you were a Sand-fairy, but I knew directly I saw you
that you were much the wonderfullest thing I'd ever seen.'
The Sand-fairy seemed a shade less disagreeable after this.
'It isn't talking I mind,' it said, 'as long as you're reasonably
civil. But I'm not going to make polite conversation for you. If
you talk nicely to me, perhaps I'll answer you, and perhaps I
won't. Now say something.'
Of course no one could think of anything to say, but at last Robert
thought of 'How long have you lived here?' and he said it at once.
'Oh, ages - several thousand years,' replied the Psammead.
'Tell us all about it. Do.'
'It's all in books.'
'You aren't!' Jane said. 'Oh, tell us everything you can about
yourself! We don't know anything about you, and you are so nice.'
The Sand-fairy smoothed his long rat-like whiskers and smiled
between them.
'Do please tell!' said the children all together.
It is wonderful how quickly you get used to things, even the most
astonishing. Five minutes before, the children had had no more
idea than you that there was such a thing as a sand-fairy in the
world, and now they were talking to it as though they had known it
all their lives. It drew its eyes in and said:
'How very sunny it is - quite like old times. Where do you get
your Megatheriums from now?'
'What?' said the children all at once. It is very difficult always
to remember that 'what' is not polite, especially in moments of
surprise or agitation.
'Are Pterodactyls plentiful now?' the Sand-fairy went on.
The children were unable to reply.
'What do you have for breakfast?' the Fairy said impatiently, 'and
who gives it you?'
'Eggs and bacon, and bread-and-milk, and porridge and things.
Mother gives it us. What are Mega-what's-its-names and
Ptero-what-do-you-call-thems? And does anyone have them for
'Why, almost everyone had Pterodactyl for breakfast in my time!
Pterodactyls were something like crocodiles and something like
birds - I believe they were very good grilled. You see it was like
this: of course there were heaps of sand-fairies then, and in the
morning early you went out and hunted for them, and when you'd
found one it gave you your wish. People used to send their little
boys down to the seashore early in the morning before breakfast to
get the day's wishes, and very often the eldest boy in the family
would be told to wish for a Megatherium, ready jointed for cooking.
It was as big as an elephant, you see, so there was a good deal of
meat on it. And if they wanted fish, the Ichthyosaurus was asked
for - he was twenty to forty feet long, so there was plenty of him.
And for poultry there was the Plesiosaurus; there were nice
pickings on that too. Then the other children could wish for other
things. But when people had dinner-parties it was nearly always
Megatheriums; and Ichthyosaurus, because his fins were a great
delicacy and his tail made soup.'
'There must have been heaps and heaps of cold meat left over,' said
Anthea, who meant to be a good housekeeper some day.
'Oh no,' said the Psammead, 'that would never have done. Why, of
course at sunset what was left over turned into stone. You find
the stone bones of the Megatherium and things all over the place
even now, they tell me.'
'Who tell you?' asked Cyril; but the Sand-fairy frowned and began
to dig very fast with its furry hands.
'Oh, don't go!' they all cried; 'tell us more about it when it was
Megatheriums for breakfast! Was the world like this then?'
It stopped digging.
'Not a bit,' it said; 'it was nearly all sand where I lived, and
coal grew on trees, and the periwinkles were as big as tea-trays -
you find them now; they're turned into stone. We sand-fairies used
to live on the seashore, and the children used to come with their
little flint-spades and flint-pails and make castles for us to live
in. That's thousands of years ago, but I hear that children still
build castles on the sand. It's difficult to break yourself of a
'But why did you stop living in the castles?' asked Robert.
'It's a sad story,' said the Psammead gloomily. 'It was because
they WOULD build moats to the castles, and the nasty wet bubbling
sea used to come in, and of course as soon as a sand-fairy got wet
it caught cold, and generally died. And so there got to be fewer
and fewer, and, whenever you found a fairy and had a wish, you used
to wish for a Megatherium, and eat twice as much as you wanted,
because it might be weeks before you got another wish.'
'And did YOU get wet?' Robert inquired.
The Sand-fairy shuddered. 'Only once,' it said; 'the end of the
twelfth hair of my top left whisker - I feel the place still in
damp weather. It was only once, but it was quite enough for me.
I went away as soon as the sun had dried my poor dear whisker. I
scurried away to the back of the beach, and dug myself a house deep
in warm dry sand, and there I've been ever since. And the sea
changed its lodgings afterwards. And now I'm not going to tell you
another thing.'
'Just one more, please,' said the children. 'Can you give wishes
'Of course,' said it; 'didn't I give you yours a few minutes ago?
You said, "I wish you'd come out," and I did.'
'Oh, please, mayn't we have another?'
'Yes, but be quick about it. I'm tired of you.'
I daresay you have often thought what you would do if you had three
wishes given you, and have despised the old man and his wife in the
black-pudding story, and felt certain that if you had the chance
you could think of three really useful wishes without a moment's
hesitation. These children had often talked this matter over, but,
now the chance had suddenly come to them, they could not make up
their minds.
'Quick,' said the Sand-fairy crossly. No one could think of
anything, only Anthea did manage to remember a private wish of her
own and jane's which they had never told the boys. She knew the
boys would not care about it - but still it was better than
'I wish we were all as beautiful as the day,' she said in a great
The children looked at each other, but each could see that the
others were not any better-looking than usual. The Psammead pushed
out its long eyes, and seemed to be holding its breath and swelling
itself out till it was twice as fat and furry as before. Suddenly
it let its breath go in a long sigh.
'I'm really afraid I can't manage it,' it said apologetically; 'I
must be out of practice.'
The children were horribly disappointed.
'Oh, DO try again!' they said.
'Well,' said the Sand-fairy, 'the fact is, I was keeping back a
little strength to give the rest of you your wishes with. If
you'll be contented with one wish a day amongst the lot of you I
daresay I can screw myself up to it. Do you agree to that?'
'Yes, oh yes!' said Jane and Anthea. The boys nodded. They did
not believe the Sand-fairy could do it. You can always make girls
believe things much easier than you can boys.
It stretched out its eyes farther than ever, and swelled and
swelled and swelled.
'I do hope it won't hurt itself,' said Anthea.
'Or crack its skin,' Robert said anxiously.
Everyone was very much relieved when the Sand-fairy, after getting
so big that it almost filled up the hole in the sand, suddenly let
out its breath and went back to its proper size.
'That's all right,' it said, panting heavily. 'It'll come easier
'Did it hurt much?' asked Anthea.
'Only my poor whisker, thank you,' said he, 'but you're a kind and
thoughtful child. Good day.'
It scratched suddenly and fiercely with its hands and feet, and
disappeared in the sand. Then the children looked at each other,
and each child suddenly found itself alone with three perfect
strangers, all radiantly beautiful.
They stood for some moments in perfect silence. Each thought that
its brothers and sisters had wandered off, and that these strange
children had stolen up unnoticed while it was watching the swelling
form of the Sand-fairy. Anthea spoke first -
'Excuse me,' she said very politely to Jane, who now had enormous
blue eyes and a cloud of russet hair, 'but have you seen two little
boys and a little girl anywhere about?'
'I was just going to ask you that,' said Jane. And then Cyril
'Why, it's YOU! I know the hole in your pinafore! You ARE Jane,
aren't you? And you're the Panther; I can see your dirty
handkerchief that you forgot to change after you'd cut your thumb!
Crikey! The wish has come off, after all. I say, am I as handsome
as you are?'
'If you're Cyril, I liked you much better as you were before,' said
Anthea decidedly. 'You look like the picture of the young
chorister, with your golden hair; you'll die young, I shouldn't
wonder. And if that's Robert, he's like an Italian organ-grinder.
His hair's all black.'
'You two girls are like Christmas cards, then - that's all - silly
Christmas cards,' said Robert angrily. 'And jane's hair is simply
It was indeed of that Venetian tint so much admired by artists.
'Well, it's no use finding fault with each other,' said Anthea;
'let's get the Lamb and lug it home to dinner. The servants will
admire us most awfully, you'll see.'
Baby was just waking when they got to him, and not one of the
children but was relieved to find that he at least was not as
beautiful as the day, but just the same as usual.
'I suppose he's too young to have wishes naturally,' said Jane.
'We shall have to mention him specially next time.'
Anthea ran forward and held out her arms.
'Come to own Panther, ducky,' she said.
The Baby looked at her disapprovingly, and put a sandy pink thumb
in his mouth, Anthea was his favourite sister.
'Come then,' she said.
'G'way long!' said the Baby.
'Come to own Pussy,' said Jane.
'Wants my Panty,' said the Lamb dismally, and his lip trembled.
'Here, come on, Veteran,' said Robert, 'come and have a yidey on
Yobby's back.'
'Yah, narky narky boy,' howled the Baby, giving way altogether.
Then the children knew the worst. THE BABY DID NOT KNOW THEM!
They looked at each other in despair, and it was terrible to each,
in this dire emergency, to meet only the beautiful eyes of perfect
strangers, instead of the merry, friendly, commonplace, twinkling,
jolly little eyes of its own brothers and sisters.
'This is most truly awful,' said Cyril when he had tried to lift up
the Lamb, and the Lamb had scratched like a cat and bellowed like
a bull. 'We've got to MAKE FRIENDS with him! I can't carry him
home screaming like that. Fancy having to make friends with our
own baby! - it's too silly.'
That, however, was exactly what they had to do. It took over an
hour, and the task was not rendered any easier by the fact that the
Lamb was by this time as hungry as a lion and as thirsty as a
At last he consented to allow these strangers to carry him home by
turns, but as he refused to hold on to such new acquaintances he
was a dead weight and most exhausting.
'Thank goodness, we're home!' said Jane, staggering through the
iron gate to where Martha, the nursemaid, stood at the front door
shading her eyes with her hand and looking out anxiously. 'Here!
Do take Baby!'
Martha snatched the Baby from her arms.
'Thanks be, HE'S safe back,' she said. 'Where are the others, and
whoever to goodness gracious are all of you?'
'We're US, of course,' said Robert.
'And who's US, when you're at home?' asked Martha scornfully.
'I tell you it's US, only we're beautiful as the day,' said Cyril.
'I'm Cyril, and these are the others, and we're jolly hungry. Let
us in, and don't be a silly idiot.'
Martha merely dratted Cyril's impudence and tried to shut the door
in his face.
'I know we LOOK different, but I'm Anthea, and we're so tired, and
it's long past dinner-time.'
'Then go home to your dinners, whoever you are; and if our children
put you up to this playacting you can tell them from me they'll
catch it, so they know what to expect!' With that she did bang the
door. Cyril rang the bell violently. No answer. Presently cook
put her head out of a bedroom window and said:
'If you don't take yourselves off, and that precious sharp, I'll go
and fetch the police.' And she slammed down the window.
'It's no good,' said Anthea. 'Oh, do, do come away before we get
sent to prison!'
The boys said it was nonsense, and the law of England couldn't put
you in prison for just being as beautiful as the day, but all the
same they followed the others out into the lane.
'We shall be our proper selves after sunset, I suppose,' said Jane.
'I don't know,' Cyril said sadly; 'it mayn't be like that now -
things have changed a good deal since Megatherium times.'
'Oh,' cried Anthea suddenly, 'perhaps we shall turn into stone at
sunset, like the Megatheriums did, so that there mayn't be any of
us left over for the next day.'
She began to cry, so did Jane. Even the boys turned pale. No one
had the heart to say anything.
It was a horrible afternoon. There was no house near where the
children could beg a crust of bread or even a glass of water. They
were afraid to go to the village, because they had seen Martha go
down there with a basket, and there was a local constable. True,
they were all as beautiful as the day, but that is a poor comfort
when you are as hungry as a hunter and as thirsty as a sponge.
Three times they tried in vain to get the servants in the White
House to let them in and listen to their tale. And then Robert
went alone, hoping to be able to climb in at one of the back
windows and so open the door to the others. But all the windows
were out of reach, and Martha emptied a toilet-jug of cold water
over him from a top window, and said:
'Go along with you, you nasty little Eyetalian monkey."
It came at last to their sitting down in a row under the hedge,
with their feet in a dry ditch, waiting for sunset, and wondering
whether, when the sun did set, they would turn into stone, or only
into their own old natural selves; and each of them still felt
lonely and among strangers, and tried not to look at the others,
for, though their voices were their own, their faces were so
radiantly beautiful as to be quite irritating to look at.
'I don't believe we SHALL turn to stone,' said Robert, breaking a
long miserable silence, 'because the Sand-fairy said he'd give us
another wish to-morrow, and he couldn't if we were stone, could
The others said 'No,' but they weren't at all comforted.
Another silence, longer and more miserable, was broken by Cyril's
suddenly saying, 'I don't want to frighten you girls, but I believe
it's beginning with me already. My foot's quite dead. I'm turning
to stone, I know I am, and so will you in a minute.'
'Never mind,' said Robert kindly, 'perhaps you'll be the only stone
one, and the rest of us will be all right, and we'll cherish your
statue and hang garlands on it.'
But when it turned out that Cyril's foot had only gone to sleep
through his sitting too long with it under him, and when it came to
life in an agony of pins and needles, the others were quite cross.
'Giving us such a fright for nothing!' said Anthea.
The third and miserablest silence of all was broken by Jane. She
said: 'If we DO come out of this all right, we'll ask the Sammyadd
to make it so that the servants don't notice anything different, no
matter what wishes we have.'
The others only grunted. They were too wretched even to make good
At last hunger and fright and crossness and tiredness - four very
nasty things - all joined together to bring one nice thing, and
that was sleep. The children lay asleep in a row, with their
beautiful eyes shut and their beautiful mouths open. Anthea woke
first. The sun had set, and the twilight was coming on.
Anthea pinched herself very hard, to make sure, and when she found
she could still feel pinching she decided that she was not stone,
and then she pinched the others. They, also, were soft.
'Wake up,' she said, almost in tears of joy; 'it's all right, we're
not stone. And oh, Cyril, how nice and ugly you do look, with your
old freckles and your brown hair and your little eyes. And so do
you all!' she added, so that they might not feel jealous.
When they got home they were very much scolded by Martha, who told
them about the strange children.
'A good-looking lot, I must say, but that impudent.'
'I know,' said Robert, who knew by experience how hopeless it would
be to try to explain things to Martha.
'And where on earth have you been all this time, you naughty little
things, you?'
'In the lane.'
'Why didn't you come home hours ago?'
'We couldn't because of THEM,' said Anthea.
'The children who were as beautiful as the day. They kept us there
till after sunset. We couldn't come back till they'd gone. You
don't know how we hated them! Oh, do, do give us some supper - we
are so hungry.'
'Hungry! I should think so,' said Martha angrily; 'out all day
like this. Well, I hope it'll be a lesson to you not to go picking
up with strange children - down here after measles, as likely as
not! Now mind, if you see them again, don't you speak to them -
not one word nor so much as a look - but come straight away and
tell me. I'll spoil their beauty for them!'
'If ever we DO see them again we'll tell you,' Anthea said; and
Robert, fixing his eyes fondly on the cold beef that was being
brought in on a tray by cook, added in heartfelt undertones -
'And we'll take jolly good care we never DO see them again.'
And they never have.
Anthea woke in the morning from a very real sort of dream, in which
she was walking in the Zoological Gardens on a pouring wet day
without any umbrella. The animals seemed desperately unhappy
because of the rain, and were all growling gloomily. When she
awoke, both the growling and the rain went on just the same. The
growling was the heavy regular breathing of her sister Jane, who
had a slight cold and was still asleep. The rain fell in slow
drops on to Anthea's face from the wet corner of a bath-towel which
her brother Robert was gently squeezing the water out of, to wake
her up, as he now explained.
'Oh, drop it!' she said rather crossly; so he did, for he was not
a brutal brother, though very ingenious in apple-pie beds,
booby-traps, original methods of awakening sleeping relatives, and
the other little accomplishments which make home happy.
'I had such a funny dream,' Anthea began.
'So did I,' said Jane, wakening suddenly and without warning. 'I
dreamed we found a Sand-fairy in the gravel-pits, and it said it
was a Sammyadd, and we might have a new wish every day, and -'
'But that's what I dreamed,' said Robert. 'I was just going to
tell you - and we had the first wish directly it said so. And I
dreamed you girls were donkeys enough to ask for us all to be
beautiful as the day, and we jolly well were, and it was perfectly
'But CAN different people all dream the same thing?' said Anthea,
sitting up in bed, 'because I dreamed all that as well as about the
Zoo and the rain; and Baby didn't know us in my dream, and the
servants shut us out of the house because the radiantness of our
beauty was such a complete disguise, and -'
The voice of the eldest brother sounded from across the landing.
'Come on, Robert,' it said, 'you'll be late for breakfast again -
unless you mean to shirk your bath like you did on Tuesday.'
'I say, come here a sec,' Robert replied. 'I didn't shirk it; I
had it after brekker in father's dressing-room, because ours was
emptied away.'
Cyril appeared in the doorway, partially clothed.
'Look here,' said Anthea, 'we've all had such an odd dream. We've
all dreamed we found a Sand-fairy.'
Her voice died away before Cyril's contemptuous glance. 'Dream?'
he said, 'you little sillies, it's TRUE. I tell you it all
happened. That's why I'm so keen on being down early. We'll go up
there directly after brekker, and have another wish. Only we'll
make up our minds, solid, before we go, what it is we do want, and
no one must ask for anything unless the others agree first. No
more peerless beauties for this child, thank you. Not if I know
The other three dressed, with their mouths open. If all that dream
about the Sand-fairy was real, this real dressing seemed very like
a dream, the girls thought. Jane felt that Cyril was right, but
Anthea was not sure, till after they had seen Martha and heard her
full and plain reminders about their naughty conduct the day
before. Then Anthea was sure. 'Because,' said she, 'servants
never dream anything but the things in the Dream-book, like snakes
and oysters and going to a wedding - that means a funeral, and
snakes are a false female friend, and oysters are babies.'
'Talking of babies,' said Cyril, 'where's the Lamb?'
'Martha's going to take him to Rochester to see her cousins.
Mother said she might. She's dressing him now,' said Jane, 'in his
very best coat and hat. Bread-and-butter, please.'
'She seems to like taking him too,' said Robert in a tone of
'Servants do like taking babies to see their relations,' Cyril
said. 'I've noticed it before - especially in their best things.'
'I expect they pretend they're their own babies, and that they're
not servants at all, but married to noble dukes of high degree, and
they say the babies are the little dukes and duchesses,' Jane
suggested dreamily, taking more marmalade. 'I expect that's what
Martha'll say to her cousin. She'll enjoy herself most
'She won't enjoy herself most frightfully carrying our infant duke
to Rochester,' said Robert, 'not if she's anything like me - she
'Fancy walking to Rochester with the Lamb on your back! Oh,
crikey!' said Cyril in full agreement.
'She's going by carrier,' said Jane. 'Let's see them off, then we
shall have done a polite and kindly act, and we shall be quite sure
we've got rid of them for the day.'
So they did.
Martha wore her Sunday dress of two shades of purple, so tight in
the chest that it made her stoop, and her blue hat with the pink
cornflowers and white ribbon. She had a yellow-lace collar with a
green bow. And the Lamb had indeed his very best cream-coloured
silk coat and hat. It was a smart party that the carrier's cart
picked up at the Cross Roads. When its white tilt and red wheels
had slowly vanished in a swirl of chalk-dust -
'And now for the Sammyadd!' said Cyril, and off they went.
As they went they decided on the wish they would ask for. Although
they were all in a great hurry they did not try to climb down the
sides of the gravel-pit, but went round by the safe lower road, as
if they had been carts. They had made a ring of stones round the
place where the Sand-fairy had disappeared, so they easily found
the spot. The sun was burning and bright, and the sky was deep
blue - without a cloud. The sand was very hot to touch.
'Oh - suppose it was only a dream, after all,' Robert said as the
boys uncovered their spades from the sand-heap where they had
buried them and began to dig.
'Suppose you were a sensible chap,' said Cyril; 'one's quite as
likely as the other!'
'Suppose you kept a civil tongue in your head,' Robert snapped.
'Suppose we girls take a turn,' said Jane, laughing. 'You boys
seem to be getting very warm.'
'Suppose you don't come shoving your silly oar in,' said Robert,
who was now warm indeed.
'We won't,' said Anthea quickly. 'Robert dear, don't be so grumpy
- we won't say a word, you shall be the one to speak to the Fairy
and tell him what we've decided to wish for. You'll say it much
better than we shall.'
'Suppose you drop being a little humbug,' said Robert, but not
crossly. 'Look out - dig with your hands, now!'
So they did, and presently uncovered the spider-shaped brown hairy
body, long arms and legs, bat's ears and snail's eyes of the
Sand-fairy himself. Everyone drew a deep breath of satisfaction,
for now of course it couldn't have been a dream.
The Psammead sat up and shook the sand out of its fur.
'How's your left whisker this morning?' said Anthea politely.
'Nothing to boast of,' said it, 'it had rather a restless night.
But thank you for asking.'
'I say,' said Robert, 'do you feel up to giving wishes to-day,
because we very much want an extra besides the regular one? The
extra's a very little one,' he added reassuringly.
'Humph!' said the Sand-fairy. (If you read this story aloud,
please pronounce 'humph' exactly as it is spelt, for that is how he
said it.) 'Humph! Do you know, until I heard you being
disagreeable to each other just over my head, and so loud too, I
really quite thought I had dreamed you all. I do have very odd
dreams sometimes.'
'Do you?'Jane hurried to say, so as to get away from the subject of
disagreeableness. 'I wish,' she added politely, 'you'd tell us
about your dreams - they must be awfully interesting.'
'Is that the day's wish?' said the Sand-fairy, yawning.
Cyril muttered something about 'just like a girl,' and the rest
stood silent. If they said 'Yes,' then good-bye to the other
wishes they had decided to ask for. If they said 'No,' it would be
very rude, and they had all been taught manners, and had learned a
little too, which is not at all the same thing. A sigh of relief
broke from all lips when the Sand-fairy said:
'If I do I shan't have strength to give you a second wish; not even
good tempers, or common sense, or manners, or little things like
'We don't want you to put yourself out at all about these things,
we can manage them quite well ourselves,' said Cyril eagerly; while
the others looked guiltily at each other, and wished the Fairy
would not keep all on about good tempers, but give them one good
rowing if it wanted to, and then have done with it.
'Well,' said the Psammead, putting out his long snail's eyes so
suddenly that one of them nearly went into the round boy's eyes of
Robert, 'let's have the little wish first.'
'We don't want the servants to notice the gifts you give us.'
'Are kind enough to give us,' said Anthea in a whisper.
'Are kind enough to give us, I mean,' said Robert.
The Fairy swelled himself out a bit, let his breath go, and said -
'I've done THAT for you - it was quite easy. People don't notice
things much, anyway. What's the next wish?'
'We want,' said Robert slowly, 'to be rich beyond the dreams of
something or other.'
'Avarice,' said Jane.
'So it is,' said the Fairy unexpectedly. 'But it won't do you much
good, that's one comfort,' it muttered to itself. 'Come - I can't
go beyond dreams, you know! How much do you want, and will you
have it in gold or notes?'
'Gold, please - and millions of it.'
'This gravel-pit full be enough?' said the Fairy in an off-hand
'Oh YES!'
'Then get out before I begin, or you'll be buried alive in it.'
It made its skinny arms so long, and waved them so frighteningly,
that the children ran as hard as they could towards the road by
which carts used to come to the gravel-pits. Only Anthea had
presence of mind enough to shout a timid 'Good-morning, I hope your
whisker will be better to-morrow,' as she ran.
On the road they turned and looked back, and they had to shut their
eyes, and open them very slowly, a little bit at a time, because
the sight was too dazzling for their eyes to be able to bear it.
It was something like trying to look at the sun at high noon on
Midsummer Day. For the whole of the sand-pit was full, right up to
the very top, with new shining gold pieces, and all the little
sand-martins' little front doors were covered out of sight. Where
the road for the carts wound into the gravel-pit the gold lay in
heaps like stones lie by the roadside, and a great bank of shining
gold shelved down from where it lay flat and smooth between the
tall sides of the gravel-pit. And all the gleaming heap was minted
gold. And on the sides and edges of these countless coins the
midday sun shone and sparkled, and glowed and gleamed till the
quarry looked like the mouth of a smelting furnace, or one of the
fairy halls that you see sometimes in the sky at sunset.
The children stood with their mouths open, and no one said a word.
At last Robert stopped and picked up one of the loose coins from
the edge of the heap by the cart-road, and looked at it. He looked
on both sides. Then he said in a low voice, quite different to his
own, 'It's not sovereigns.'
'It's gold, anyway,' said Cyril. And now they all began to talk at
once. They all picked up the golden treasure by handfuls, and let
it run through their fingers like water, and the chink it made as
it fell was wonderful music. At first they quite forgot to think
of spending the money, it was so nice to play with. Jane sat down
between two heaps of gold and Robert began to bury her, as you bury
your father in sand when you are at the seaside and he has gone to
sleep on the beach with his newspaper over his face. But Jane was
not half buried before she cried out, 'Oh, stop, it's too heavy!
It hurts!
Robert said 'Bosh!' and went on.
'Let me out, I tell you,' cried Jane, and was taken out, very
white, and trembling a little.
'You've no idea what it's like,' said she; 'it's like stones on you
- or like chains.'
'Look here,' Cyril said, 'if this is to do us any good, it's no
good our staying gasping at it like this. Let's fill our pockets
and go and buy things. Don't you forget, it won't last after
sunset. I wish we'd asked the Sammyadd why things don't turn to
stone. Perhaps this will. I'll tell you what, there's a pony and
cart in the village.'
'Do you want to buy that?' asked Jane.
'No, silly - we'll HIRE it. And then we'll go to Rochester and buy
heaps and heaps of things. Look here, let's each take as much as
we can carry. But it's not sovereigns. They've got a man's head
on one side and a thing like the ace of spades on the other. Fill
your pockets with it, I tell you, and come along. You can jaw as
we go - if you must jaw.'
Cyril sat down and began to fill his pockets.
'You made fun of me for getting father to have nine pockets in my
Norfolks,' said he, 'but now you see!'
They did. For when Cyril had filled his nine pockets and his
handkerchief and the space between himself and his shirt front with
the gold coins, he had to stand up. But he staggered, and had to
sit down again in a hurry-
'Throw out some of the cargo,' said Robert. 'You'll sink the ship,
old chap. That comes of nine pockets.'
And Cyril had to.
Then they set off to walk to the village. It was more than a mile,
and the road was very dusty indeed, and the sun seemed to get
hotter and hotter, and the gold in their pockets got heavier and
It was Jane who said, 'I don't see how we're to spend it all.
There must be thousands of pounds among the lot of us. I'm going
to leave some of mine behind this stump in the hedge. And directly
we get to the village we'll buy some biscuits; I know it's long
past dinner-time.' She took out a handful or two of gold and hid
it in the hollows of an old hornbeam. 'How round and yellow they
are,' she said. 'Don't you wish they were gingerbread nuts and we
were going to eat them?'
'Well, they're not, and we're not,' said Cyril. 'Come on!'
But they came on heavily and wearily. Before they reached the
village, more than one stump in the hedge concealed its little
hoard of hidden treasure. Yet they reached the village with about
twelve hundred guineas in their pockets. But in spite of this
inside wealth they looked quite ordinary outside, and no one would
have thought they could have more than a half-crown each at the
outside. The haze of heat, the blue of the wood smoke, made a sort
of dim misty cloud over the red roofs of the village. The four sat
down heavily on the first bench they came to- It happened to be
outside the Blue Boar Inn.
It was decided that Cyril should go into the Blue Boar and ask for
ginger-beer, because, as Anthea said, 'It is not wrong for men to
go into public houses, only for children. And Cyril is nearer to
being a man than us, because he is the eldest.' So he went. The
others sat in the sun and waited.
'Oh, hats, how hot it is!' said Robert. 'Dogs put their tongues
out when they're hot; I wonder if it would cool us at all to put
out ours?'
'We might try,'Jane said; and they all put their tongues out as far
as ever they could go, so that it quite stretched their throats,
but it only seemed to make them thirstier than ever, besides
annoying everyone who went by. So they took their tongues in
again, just as Cyril came back with the ginger-beer.
'I had to pay for it out of my own two-and-sevenpence, though, that
I was going to buy rabbits with,' he said. 'They wouldn't change
the gold. And when I pulled out a handful the man just laughed and
said it was card-counters. And I got some sponge-cakes too, out of
a glass jar on the bar-counter. And some biscuits with caraways
The sponge-cakes were both soft and dry and the biscuits were dry
too, and yet soft, which biscuits ought not to be. But the
ginger-beer made up for everything.
'It's my turn now to try to buy something with the money,' Anthea
said, 'I'm next eldest. Where is the pony-cart kept?'
It was at The Chequers, and Anthea went in the back way to the
yard, because they all knew that little girls ought not to go into
the bars of public-houses. She came out, as she herself said,
'pleased but not proud'.
'He'll be ready in a brace of shakes, he says,' she remarked, 'and
he's to have one sovereign - or whatever it is - to drive us in to
Rochester and back, besides waiting there till we've got everything
we want. I think I managed very well.'
'You think yourself jolly clever, I daresay,' said Cyril moodily.
'How did you do it?'
'I wasn't jolly clever enough to go taking handfuls of money out of
my pocket, to make it seem cheap, anyway,' she retorted. 'I just
found a young man doing something to a horse's leg with a sponge
and a pail. And I held out one sovereign, and I said, "Do you know
what this is?" He said, "No," and he'd call his father. And the
old man came, and he said it was a spade guinea; and he said was it
my own to do as I liked with, and I said "Yes"; and I asked about
the pony-cart, and I said he could have the guinea if he'd drive us
in to Rochester. And his name is S. Crispin. And he said, "Right
It was a new sensation to be driven in a smart pony-trap along
pretty country roads, it was very pleasant too (which is not always
the case with new sensations), quite apart from the beautiful plans
of spending the money which each child made as they went along,
silently of course and quite to itself, for they felt it would
never have done to let the old innkeeper hear them talk in the
affluent sort of way they were thinking. The old man put them down
by the bridge at their request.
'If you were going to buy a carriage and horses, where would you
go?' asked Cyril, as if he were only asking for the sake of
something to say.
'Billy Peasemarsh, at the Saracen's Head,' said the old man
promptly. 'Though all forbid I should recommend any man where it's
a question of horses, no more than I'd take anybody else's
recommending if I was a-buying one. But if your pa's thinking of
a turnout of any sort, there ain't a straighter man in Rochester,
nor a civiller spoken, than Billy, though I says it.'
'Thank you,' said Cyril. 'The Saracen's Head.'
And now the children began to see one of the laws of nature turn
upside down and stand on its head like an acrobat. Any grown-up
persons would tell you that money is hard to get and easy to spend.
But the fairy money had been easy to get, and spending it was not
only hard, it was almost impossible. The tradespeople of Rochester
seemed to shrink, to a trades-person, from the glittering fairy
gold ('furrin money' they called it, for the most part). To begin
with, Anthea, who had had the misfortune to sit on her hat earlier
in the day, wished to buy another. She chose a very beautiful one,
trimmed with pink roses and the blue breasts of peacocks. It was
marked in the window, 'Paris Model, three guineas'.
'I'm glad,' she said, 'because, if it says guineas, it means
guineas, and not sovereigns, which we haven't got.'
But when she took three of the spade guineas in her hand, which was
by this time rather dirty owing to her not having put on gloves
before going to the gravel-pit, the black-silk young lady in the
shop looked very hard at her, and went and whispered something to
an older and uglier lady, also in black silk, and then they gave
her back the money and said it was not current coin.
'It's good money,' said Anthea, 'and it's my own.'
'I daresay,' said the lady, 'but it's not the kind of money that's
fashionable now, and we don't care about taking it.'
'I believe they think we've stolen it,' said Anthea, rejoining the
others in the street; 'if we had gloves they wouldn't think we were
so dishonest. It's my hands being so dirty fills their minds with
So they chose a humble shop, and the girls bought cotton gloves,
the kind at sixpence three-farthings, but when they offered a
guinea the woman looked at it through her spectacles and said she
had no change; so the gloves had to be paid for out of Cyril's
two-and-sevenpence that he meant to buy rabbits with, and so had
the green imitation crocodile-skin purse at ninepence-halfpenny
which had been bought at the same time. They tried several more
shops, the kinds where you buy toys and scent, and silk
handkerchiefs and books, and fancy boxes of stationery, and
photographs of objects of interest in the vicinity. But nobody
cared to change a guinea that day in Rochester, and as they went
from shop to shop they got dirtier and dirtier, and their hair got
more and more untidy, and Jane slipped and fell down on a part of
the road where a water-cart had just gone by. Also they got very
hungry, but they found no one would give them anything to eat for
their guineas. After trying two pastrycooks in vain, they became
so hungry, perhaps from the smell of the cake in the shops, as
Cyril suggested, that they formed a plan of campaign in whispers
and carried it out in desperation. They marched into a third
pastrycook's - Beale his name was - and before the people behind
the counter could interfere each child had seized three new penny
buns, clapped the three together between its dirty hands, and taken
a big bite out of the triple sandwich. Then they stood at bay,
with the twelve buns in their hands and their mouths very full
indeed. The shocked pastrycook bounded round the corner.
'Here,' said Cyril, speaking as distinctly as he could, and holding
out the guinea he got ready before entering the shop, 'pay yourself
out of that.'
Mr Beale snatched the coin, bit it, and put it in his pocket.
'Off you go,' he said, brief and stern like the man in the song.
'But the change?' said Anthea, who had a saving mind.
'Change!' said the man. 'I'll change you! Hout you goes; and you
may think yourselves lucky I don't send for the police to find out
where you got it!'
In the Castle Gardens the millionaires finished the buns, and
though the curranty softness of these were delicious, and acted
like a charm in raising the spirits of the party, yet even the
stoutest heart quailed at the thought of venturing to sound Mr
Billy Peasemarsh at the Saracen's Head on the subject of a horse
and carriage. The boys would have given up the idea, but Jane was
always a hopeful child, and Anthea generally an obstinate one, and
their earnestness prevailed.
The whole party, by this time indescribably dirty, therefore betook
itself to the Saracen's Head. The yard-method of attack having
been successful at The Chequers was tried again here. Mr
Peasemarsh was in the yard, and Robert opened the business in these
terms -
'They tell me you have a lot of horses and carriages to sell.' It
had been agreed that Robert should be spokesman, because in books
it is always the gentlemen who buy horses, and not ladies, and
Cyril had had his go at the Blue Boar.
'They tell you true, young man,' said Mr Peasemarsh. He was a long
lean man, with very blue eyes and a tight mouth and narrow lips.
'We should like to buy some, please,' said Robert politely.
'I daresay you would.'
'Will you show us a few, please? To choose from.'
'Who are you a-kiddin of?' inquired Mr Billy Peasemarsh. 'Was you
sent here of a message?'
'I tell you,' said Robert, 'we want to buy some horses and
carriages, and a man told us you were straight and civil spoken,
but I shouldn't wonder if he was mistaken.'
'Upon my sacred!' said Mr Peasemarsh. 'Shall I trot the whole
stable out for your Honour's worship to see? Or shall I send round
to the Bishop's to see if he's a nag or two to dispose of?'
'Please do,' said Robert, 'if it's not too much trouble. It would
be very kind of you.'
Mr Peasemarsh put his hands in his pockets and laughed, and they
did not like the way he did it. Then he shouted 'Willum!'
A stooping ostler appeared in a stable door.
'Here, Willum, come and look at this 'ere young dook! Wants to buy
the whole stud, lock, stock, and bar'l. And ain't got tuppence in
his pocket to bless hisself with, I'll go bail!'
Willum's eyes followed his master's pointing thumb with
contemptuous interest.
'Do 'e, for sure?' he said.
But Robert spoke, though both the girls were now pulling at his
jacket and begging him to 'come along'. He spoke, and he was very
angry; he said:
'I'm not a young duke, and I never pretended to be. And as for
tuppence - what do you call this?' And before the others could
stop him he had pulled out two fat handfuls of shining guineas, and
held them out for Mr Peasemarsh to look at. He did look. He
snatched one up in his finger and thumb. He bit it, and Jane
expected him to say, 'The best horse in my stables is at your
service.' But the others knew better. Still it was a blow, even
to the most desponding, when he said shortly:
'Willum, shut the yard doors,' and Willum grinned and went to shut
'Good-afternoon,' said Robert hastily; 'we shan't buy any of your
horses now, whatever you say, and I hope it'll be a lesson to you.'
He had seen a little side gate open, and was moving towards it as
he spoke. But Billy Peasemarsh put himself in the way.
'Not so fast, you young off-scouring!' he said. 'Willum, fetch the
Willum went. The children stood huddled together like frightened
sheep, and Mr Peasemarsh spoke to them till the pleece arrived. He
said many things. Among other things he said:
'Nice lot you are, aren't you, coming tempting honest men with your
'They ARE our guineas,' said Cyril boldly.
'Oh, of course we don't know all about that, no more we don't - oh
no - course not! And dragging little gells into it, too. 'Ere -
I'll let the gells go if you'll come along to the pleece quiet.'
'We won't be let go,' said Jane heroically; 'not without the boys.
It's our money just as much as theirs, you wicked old man.'
'Where'd you get it, then?' said the man, softening slightly, which
was not at all what the boys expected when Jane began to call
Jane cast a silent glance of agony at the others.
'Lost your tongue, eh? Got it fast enough when it's for calling
names with. Come, speak up! Where'd you get it?'
'Out of the gravel-pit,' said truthful Jane.
'Next article,' said the man.
'I tell you we did,' Jane said. 'There's a fairy there - all over
brown fur - with ears like a bat's and eyes like a snail's, and he
gives you a wish a day, and they all come true.'
'Touched in the head, eh?' said the man in a low voice, 'all the
more shame to you boys dragging the poor afflicted child into your
sinful burglaries.'
'She's not mad; it's true,' said Anthea; 'there is a fairy. If I
ever see him again I'll wish for something for you; at least I
would if vengeance wasn't wicked - so there!'
'Lor' lumme,' said Billy Peasemarsh, 'if there ain't another on
And now Willum came -back with a spiteful grin on his face, and at
his back a policeman, with whom Mr Peasemarsh spoke long in a
hoarse earnest whisper.
'I daresay you're right,' said the policeman at last. 'Anyway,
I'll take 'em up on a charge of unlawful possession, pending
inquiries. And the magistrate will deal with the case. Send the
afflicted ones to a home, as likely as not, and the boys to a
reformatory. Now then, come along, youngsters! No use making a
fuss. You bring the gells along, Mr Peasemarsh, sir, and I'll
shepherd the boys.'
Speechless with rage and horror, the four children were driven
along the streets of Rochester. Tears of anger and shame blinded
them, so that when Robert ran right into a passer-by he did not
recognize her till a well--known voice said, 'Well, if ever I did!
Oh, Master Robert, whatever have you been a doing of now?' And
another voice, quite as well known, said, 'Panty; want go own
They had run into Martha and the baby!
Martha behaved admirably. She refused to believe a word of the
policeman's story, or of Mr Peasemarsh's either, even when they
made Robert turn out his pockets in an archway and show the
'I don't see nothing,' she said. 'You've gone out of your senses,
you two! There ain't any gold there - only the poor child's hands,
all over crock and dirt, and like the very chimbley. Oh, that I
should ever see the day!'
And the children thought this very noble of Martha, even if rather
wicked, till they remembered how the Fairy had promised that the
servants should never notice any of the fairy gifts. So of course
Martha couldn't see the gold, and so was only speaking the truth,
and that was quite right, of course, but not extra noble.
It was getting dusk when they reached the police-station. The
policeman told his tale to an inspector, who sat in a large bare
room with a thing like a clumsy nursery-fender at one end to put
prisoners in. Robert wondered whether it was a cell or a dock.
'Produce the coins, officer,' said the inspector.
'Turn out your pockets,' said the constable.
Cyril desperately plunged his hands in his pockets, stood still a
moment, and then began to laugh - an odd sort of laugh that hurt,
and that felt much more like crying. His pockets were empty. So
were the pockets of the others. For of course at sunset all the
fairy gold had vanished away.
'Turn out your pockets, and stop that noise,' said the inspector.
Cyril turned out his pockets, every one of the nine which enriched
his Norfolk suit. And every pocket was empty.
'Well!' said the inspector.
'I don't know how they done it - artful little beggars! They
walked in front of me the 'ole way, so as for me to keep my eye on
them and not to attract a crowd and obstruct the traffic.'
'It's very remarkable,' said the inspector, frowning.
'If you've quite done a-browbeating of the innocent children,' said
Martha, 'I'll hire a private carriage and we'll drive home to their
papa's mansion. You'll hear about this again, young man! - I told
you they hadn't got any gold, when you were pretending to see it in
their poor helpless hands. It's early in the day for a constable
on duty not to be able to trust his own eyes. As to the other one,
the less said the better; he keeps the Saracen's Head, and he knows
best what his liquor's like.'
'Take them away, for goodness' sake,' said the inspector crossly.
But as they left the police-station he said, 'Now then!' to the
policeman and Mr Pease- marsh, and he said it twenty times as
crossly as he had spoken to Martha.
Martha was as good as her word. She took them home in a very grand
carriage, because the carrier's cart was gone, and, though she had
stood by them so nobly with the police, she was so angry with them
as soon as they were alone for 'trapseing into Rochester by
themselves', that none of them dared to mention the old man with
the pony-cart from the village who was waiting for them in
Rochester. And so, after one day of boundless wealth, the children
found themselves sent to bed in deep disgrace, and only enriched by
two pairs of cotton gloves, dirty inside because of the state of
the hands they had been put on to cover, an imitation
crocodile-skin purse, and twelve penny buns long since digested.
The thing that troubled them most was the fear that the old
gentleman's guinea might have disappeared at sunset with all the
rest, so they went down to the village next day to apologize for
not meeting him in Rochester, and to see. They found him very
friendly. The guinea had NOT disappeared, and he had bored a hole
in it and hung it on his watch-chain. As for the guinea the baker
took, the children felt they could not care whether it had vanished
or not, which was not perhaps very honest, but on the other hand
was not wholly unnatural. But afterwards this preyed on Anthea's
mind, and at last she secretly sent twelve stamps by post to 'Mr
Beale, Baker, Rochester'. Inside she wrote, 'To pay for the buns.'
I hope the guinea did disappear, for that pastrycook was really not
at all a nice man, and, besides, penny buns are seven for sixpence
in all really respectable shops.
The morning after the children had been the possessors of boundless
wealth, and had been unable to buy anything really useful or
enjoyable with it, except two pairs of cotton gloves, twelve penny
buns, an imitation crocodile-skin purse, and a ride in a pony-cart,
they awoke without any of the enthusiastic happiness which they had
felt on the previous day when they remembered how they had had the
luck to find a Psammead, or Sand-fairy; and to receive its promise
to grant them a new wish every day. For now they had had two
wishes, Beauty and Wealth, and neither had exactly made them happy.
But the happening of strange things, even if they are not
completely pleasant things, is more amusing than those times when
nothing happens but meals, and they are not always completely
pleasant, especially on the days when it is cold mutton or hash.
There was no chance of talking things over before breakfast,
because everyone overslept itself, as it happened, and it needed a
vigorous and determined struggle to get dressed so as to be only
ten minutes late for breakfast. During this meal some efforts were
made to deal with the question of the Psammead in an impartial
spirit, but it is very difficult to discuss anything thoroughly and
at the same time to attend faithfully to your baby brother's
breakfast needs. The Baby was particularly lively that morning.
He not only wriggled his body through the bar of his high chair,
and hung by his head, choking and purple, but he collared a
tablespoon with desperate suddenness, hit Cyril heavily on the head
with it, and then cried because it was taken away from him. He put
his fat fist in his bread-and-milk, and demanded 'nam', which was
only allowed for tea. He sang, he put his feet on the table - he
clamoured to 'go walky'. The conversation was something like this:
'Look here - about that Sand-fairy - Look out! - he'll have the
milk over.'
Milk removed to a safe distance.
'Yes - about that Fairy - No, Lamb dear, give Panther the narky
Then Cyril tried. 'Nothing we've had yet has turned out - He
nearly had the mustard that time!'
'I wonder whether we'd better wish - Hullo! you've done it now, my
boy!' And, in a flash of glass and pink baby-paws, the bowl of
golden carp in the middle of the table rolled on its side, and
poured a flood of mixed water and goldfish into the Baby's lap and
into the laps of the others.
Everyone was almost as much upset as the goldfish: the Lamb only
remaining calm. When the pool on the floor had been mopped up, and
the leaping, gasping goldfish had been collected and put back in
the water, the Baby was taken away to be entirely redressed by
Martha, and most of the others had to change completely. The
pinafores and jackets that had been bathed in goldfish-and-water
were hung out to dry, and then it turned out that Jane must either
mend the dress she had torn the day before or appear all day in her
best petticoat. It was white and soft and frilly, and trimmed with
lace, and very, very pretty, quite as pretty as a frock, if not
more so. Only it was NOT a frock, and Martha's word was law. She
wouldn't let Jane wear her best frock, and she refused to listen
for a moment to Robert's suggestion that Jane should wear her best
petticoat and call it a dress.
'It's not respectable,' she said. And when people say that, it's
no use anyone's saying anything. You will find this out for
yourselves some day.
So there was nothing for it but for Jane to mend her frock. The
hole had been torn the day before when she happened to tumble down
in the High Street of Rochester, just where a water-cart had passed
on its silvery way. She had grazed her knee, and her stocking was
much more than grazed, and her dress was cut by the same stone
which had attended to the knee and the stocking. Of course the
others were not such sneaks as to abandon a comrade in misfortune,
so they all sat on the grass-plot round the sundial, and Jane
darned away for dear life. The Lamb was still in the hands of
Martha having its clothes changed, so conversation was possible.
Anthea and Robert timidly tried to conceal their inmost thought,
which was that the Psammead was not to be trusted; but Cyril said:
'Speak out - say what you've got to say - I hate hinting, and
"don't know", and sneakish ways like that.'
So then Robert said, as in honour bound: 'Sneak yourself - Anthea
and me weren't so goldfishy as you two were, so we got changed
quicker, and we've had time to think it over, and if you ask me -'
'I didn't ask you,' said Jane, biting off a needleful of thread as
she had always been strictly forbidden to do.
'I don't care who asks or who doesn't,' said Robert, but Anthea and
I think the Sammyadd is a spiteful brute. If it can give us our
wishes I suppose it can give itself its own, and I feel almost sure
it wishes every time that our wishes shan't do us any good. Let's
let the tiresome beast alone, and just go and have a jolly good
game of forts, on our own, in the chalk-pit.'
(You will remember that the happily situated house where these
children were spending their holidays lay between a chalk-quarry
and a gravel-pit.)
Cyril and Jane were more hopeful - they generally were.
'I don't think the Sammyadd does it on purpose,' Cyril said; 'and,
after all, it WAS silly to wish for boundless wealth. Fifty pounds
in two-shilling pieces would have been much more sensible. And
wishing to be beautiful as the day was simply donkeyish. I don't
want to be disagreeable, but it was. We must try to find a really
useful wish, and wish it.'
Jane dropped her work and said:
'I think so too, it's too silly to have a chance like this and not
use it. I never heard of anyone else outside a book who had such
a chance; there must be simply heaps of things we could wish for
that wouldn't turn out Dead Sea fish, like these two things have.
Do let's think hard, and wish something nice, so that we can have
a real jolly day - what there is left of it.'
Jane darned away again like mad, for time was indeed getting on,
and everyone began to talk at once. If you had been there you
could not possibly have made head or tail of the talk, but these
children were used to talking 'by fours', as soldiers march, and
each of them could say what it had to say quite comfortably, and
listen to the agreeable sound of its own voice, and at the same
time have three-quarters of two sharp ears to spare for listening
to what the others said. That is an easy example in multiplication
of vulgar fractions, but, as I daresay you can't do even that, I
won't ask you to tell me whether 3/4 X 2 = 1 1/2, but I will ask
you to believe me that this was the amount of ear each child was
able to lend to the others. Lending ears was common in Roman
times, as we learn from Shakespeare; but I fear I am getting too
When the frock was darned, the start for the gravel-pit was delayed
by Martha's insisting on everybody's washing its hands - which was
nonsense, because nobody had been doing anything at all, except
Jane, and how can you get dirty doing nothing? That is a difficult
question, and I cannot answer it on paper. In real life I could
very soon show you - or you me, which is much more likely.
During the conversation in which the six ears were lent (there were
four children, so THAT sum comes right), it had been decided that
fifty pounds in two-shilling pieces was the right wish to have.
And the lucky children, who could have anything in the wide world
by just wishing for it, hurriedly started for the gravel-pit to
express their wishes to the Psammead. Martha caught them at the
gate, and insisted on their taking the Baby with them.
'Not want him indeed! Why, everybody 'ud want him, a duck! with
all their hearts they would; and you know you promised your ma to
take him out every blessed day,' said Martha.
'I know we did,' said Robert in gloom, 'but I wish the Lamb wasn't
quite so young and small. It would be much better fun taking him
'He'll mend of his youngness with time,' said Martha; 'and as for
his smallness, I don't think you'd fancy carrying of him any more,
however big he was. Besides he can walk a bit, bless his precious
fat legs, a ducky! He feels the benefit of the new-laid air, so he
does, a pet!' With this and a kiss, she plumped the Lamb into
Anthea's arms, and went back to make new pinafores on the
sewing-machine. She was a rapid performer on this instrument.
The Lamb laughed with pleasure, and said, 'Walky wif Panty,' and
rode on Robert's back with yells of joy, and tried to feed Jane
with stones, and altogether made himself so agreeable that nobody
could long be sorry that he was of the party.
The enthusiastic Jane even suggested that they should devote a
week's wishes to assuring the Baby's future, by asking such gifts
for him as the good fairies give to Infant Princes in proper
fairy-tales, but Anthea soberly reminded her that as the
Sand-fairy's wishes only lasted till sunset they could not ensure
any benefit to the Baby's later years; and Jane owned that it would
be better to wish for fifty pounds in two-shilling pieces, and buy
the Lamb a three-pound-fifteen rocking-horse, like those in the
Army and Navy Stores list, with part of the money.
It was settled that, as soon as they had wished for the money and
got it, they would get Mr Crispin to drive them into Rochester
again, taking Martha with them, if they could not get out of taking
her. And they would make a list of the things they really wanted
before they started. Full of high hopes and excellent resolutions,
they went round the safe slow cart-road to the gravel-pits, and as
they went in between the mounds of gravel a sudden thought came to
them, and would have turned their ruddy cheeks pale if they had
been children in a book. Being real live children, it only made
them stop and look at each other with rather blank and silly
expressions. For now they remembered that yesterday, when they had
asked the Psammead for boundless wealth, and it was getting ready
to fill the quarry with the minted gold of bright guineas -
millions of them - it had told the children to run along outside
the quarry for fear they should be buried alive in the heavy
splendid treasure. And they had run. And so it happened that they
had not had time to mark the spot where the Psammead was, with a
ring of stones, as before. And it was this thought that put such
silly expressions on their faces.
'Never mind,' said the hopeful Jane, 'we'll soon find him.'
But this, though easily said, was hard in the doing. They looked
and they looked, and though they found their seaside spades,
nowhere could they find the Sand-fairy.
At last they had to sit down and rest - not at all because they
were weary or disheartened, of course, but because the Lamb
insisted on being put down, and you cannot look very carefully
after anything you may have happened to lose in the sand if you
have an active baby to look after at the same time. Get someone to
drop your best knife in the sand next time you go to the seaside,
and then take your baby brother with you when you go to look for
it, and you will see that I am right.
The Lamb, as Martha had said, was feeling the benefit of the
country air, and he was as frisky as a sandhopper. The elder ones
longed to go on talking about the new wishes they would have when
(or if) they found the Psammead again. But the Lamb wished to
enjoy himself.
He watched his opportunity and threw a handful of sand into
Anthea's face, and then suddenly burrowed his own head in the sand
and waved his fat legs in the air. Then of course the sand got
into his eyes, as it had into Anthea's, and he howled.
The thoughtful Robert had brought one solid brown bottle of
ginger-beer with him, relying on a thirst that had never yet failed
him. This had to be uncorked hurriedly - it was the only wet thing
within reach, and it was necessary to wash the sand out of the
Lamb's eyes somehow. Of course the ginger hurt horribly, and he
howled more than ever. And, amid his anguish of kicking, the
bottle was upset and the beautiful ginger-beer frothed out into the
sand and was lost for ever.
It was then that Robert, usually a very patient brother, so far
forgot himself as to say:
'Anybody would want him, indeed! Only they don't; Martha doesn't,
not really, or she'd jolly well keep him with her. He's a little
nuisance, that's what he is. It's too bad. I only wish everybody
DID want him with all their hearts; we might get some peace in our
The Lamb stopped howling now, because Jane had suddenly remembered
that there is only one safe way of taking things out of little
children's eyes, and that is with your own soft wet tongue. It is
quite easy if you love the Baby as much as you ought to.
Then there was a little silence. Robert was not proud of himself
for having been so cross, and the others were not proud of him
either. You often notice that sort of silence when someone has
said something it ought not to - and everyone else holds its tongue
and waits for the one who oughtn't to have said it is sorry.
The silence was broken by a sigh - a breath suddenly let out. The
children's heads turned as if there had been a string tied to each
nose, and someone had pulled all the strings at once.
And everyone saw the Sand-fairy sitting quite close to them, with
the expression which it used as a smile on its hairy face.
'Good-morning,' it said; 'I did that quite easily! Everyone wants
him now.'
'It doesn't matter,' said Robert sulkily, because he knew he had
been behaving rather like a pig. 'No matter who wants him -
there's no one here to - anyhow.'
'Ingratitude,' said the Psammead, 'is a dreadful vice.'
'We're not ungrateful,'Jane made haste to say, 'but we didn't
REALLY want that wish. Robert only just said it. Can't you take
it back and give us a new one?'
'No - I can't,' the Sand-fairy said shortly; 'chopping and changing
- it's not business. You ought to be careful what you do wish.
There was a little boy once, he'd wished for a Plesiosaurus instead
of an Ichthyosaurus, because he was too lazy to remember the easy
names of everyday things, and his father had been very vexed with
him, and had made him go to bed before tea-time, and wouldn't let
him go out in the nice flint boat along with the other children -
it was the annual school-treat next day - and he came and flung
himself down near me on the morning of the treat, and he kicked his
little prehistoric legs about and said he wished he was dead. And
of course then he was.'
'How awful!' said the children all together.
'Only till sunset, of course,' the Psammead said; 'still it was
quite enough for his father and mother. And he caught it when he
woke up - I can tell you. He didn't turn to stone - I forget why
- but there must have been some reason. They didn't know being
dead is only being asleep, and you're bound to wake up somewhere or
other, either where you go to sleep or in some better place. You
may be sure he caught it, giving them such a turn. Why, he wasn't
allowed to taste Megatherium for a month after that. Nothing but
oysters and periwinkles, and common things like that.'
All the children were quite crushed by this terrible tale. They
looked at the Psammead in horror. Suddenly the Lamb perceived that
something brown and furry was near him.
'Poof, poof, poofy,' he said, and made a grab.
'It's not a pussy,' Anthea was beginning, when the Sand-fairy
leaped back.
'Oh, my left whisker!' it said; 'don't let him touch me. He's
Its fur stood on end with horror - and indeed a good deal of the
ginger-beer had been spilt on the blue smock of the Lamb.
The Psammead dug with its hands and feet, and vanished in an
instant and a whirl of sand.
The children marked the spot with a ring of stones.
'We may as well get along home,' said Robert. 'I'll say I'm sorry;
but anyway if it's no good it's no harm, and we know where the
sandy thing is for to-morrow.'
The others were noble. No one reproached Robert at all. Cyril
picked up the Lamb, who was now quite himself again, and off they
went by the safe cart-road.
The cart-road from the gravel-pits joins the road almost directly.
At the gate into the road the party stopped to shift the Lamb from
Cyril's back to Robert's. And as they paused a very smart open
carriage came in sight, with a coachman and a groom on the box, and
inside the carriage a lady - very grand indeed, with a dress all
white lace and red ribbons and a parasol all red and white - and a
white fluffy dog on her lap with a red ribbon round its neck. She
looked at the children, and particularly at the Baby, and she
smiled at him. The children were used to this, for the Lamb was,
as all the servants said, a 'very taking child'. So they waved
their hands politely to the lady and expected her to drive on. But
she did not. Instead she made the coachman stop. And she beckoned
to Cyril, and when he went up to the carriage she said:
'What a dear darling duck of a baby! Oh, I SHOULD so like to adopt
it! Do you think its mother would mind?'
'She'd mind very much indeed,' said Anthea shortly.
'Oh, but I should bring it up in luxury, you know. I am Lady
Chittenden. You must have seen my photograph in the illustrated
papers. They call me a beauty, you know, but of course that's all
nonsense. Anyway -'
She opened the carriage door and jumped out. She had the
wonderfullest red high-heeled shoes with silver buckles. 'Let me
hold him a minute,' she said. And she took the Lamb and held him
very awkwardly, as if she was not used to babies.
Then suddenly she jumped into the carriage with the Lamb in her
arms and slammed the door and said, 'Drive on!'
The Lamb roared, the little white dog barked, and the coachman
'Drive on, I tell you!' cried the lady; and the coachman did, for,
as he said afterwards, it was as much as his place was worth not
The four children looked at each other, and then with one accord
they rushed after the carriage and held on behind. Down the dusty
road went the smart carriage, and after it, at double-quick time,
ran the twinkling legs of the Lamb's brothers and sisters.
The Lamb howled louder and louder, but presently his howls changed
by slow degree to hiccupy gurgles, and then all was still and they
knew he had gone to sleep.
The carriage went on, and the eight feet that twinkled through the
dust were growing quite stiff and tired before the carriage stopped
at the lodge of a grand park. The children crouched down behind
the carriage, and the lady got out. She looked at the Baby as it
lay on the carriage seat, and hesitated.
'The darling - I won't disturb it,' she said, and went into the
lodge to talk to the woman there about a setting of Buff Orpington
eggs that had not turned out well.
The coachman and footman sprang from the box and bent over the
sleeping Lamb.
'Fine boy - wish he was mine,' said the coachman.
'He wouldn't favour YOU much,' said the groom sourly; 'too
The coachman pretended not to hear. He said:
'Wonder at her now - I do really! Hates kids. Got none of her
own, and can't abide other folkses'.'
The children, crouching in the white dust under the carriage,
exchanged uncomfortable glances.
'Tell you what,' the coachman went on firmly, 'blowed if I don't
hide the little nipper in the hedge and tell her his brothers took
'im! Then I'll come back for him afterwards.'
'No, you don't,' said the footman. 'I've took to that kid so as
never was. If anyone's to have him, it's me - so there!'
'Stow your gab!' the coachman rejoined. 'You don't want no kids,
and, if you did, one kid's the same as another to you. But I'm a
married man and a judge of breed. I knows a first-rate yearling
when I sees him. I'm a-goin' to 'ave him, an' least said soonest
'I should 'a' thought,' said the footman sneeringly, you'd a'most
enough. What with Alfred, an' Albert, an' Louise, an' Victor
Stanley, and Helena Beatrice, and another -'
The coachman hit the footman in the chin - the foot- man hit the
coachman in the waistcoat - the next minute the two were fighting
here and there, in and out, up and down, and all over everywhere,
and the little dog jumped on the box of the carriage and began
barking like mad.
Cyril, still crouching in the dust, waddled on bent legs to the
side of the carriage farthest from the battlefield. He unfastened
the door of the carriage - the two men were far too much occupied
with their quarrel to notice anything - took the Lamb in his arms,
and, still stooping, carried the sleeping baby a dozen yards along
the road to where a stile led into a wood. The others followed,
and there among the hazels and young oaks and sweet chestnuts,
covered by high strong-scented bracken, they all lay hidden till
the angry voices of the men were hushed at the angry voice of the
red-and-white lady, and, after a long and anxious search, the
carriage at last drove away.
'My only hat!' said Cyril, drawing a deep breath as the sound of
wheels at last died away. 'Everyone DOES want him now - and no
mistake! That Sammyadd has done us again! Tricky brute! For any
sake, let's get the kid safe home.'
So they peeped out, and finding on the right hand only lonely white
road, and nothing but lonely white road on the left, they took
courage, and the road, Anthea carrying the sleeping Lamb.
Adventures dogged their footsteps. A boy with a bundle of faggots
on his back dropped his bundle by the roadside and asked to look at
the Baby, and then offered to carry him; but Anthea was not to be
caught that way twice. They all walked on, but the boy followed,
and Cyril and Robert couldn't make him go away till they had more
than once invited him to smell their fists. Afterwards a little
girl in a blue-and-white checked pinafore actually followed them
for a quarter of a mile crying for 'the precious Baby', and then
she was only got rid of by threats of tying her to a tree in the
wood with all their pocket-handkerchiefs. 'So that the bears can
come and eat you as soon as it gets dark,' said Cyril severely.
Then she went off crying. It presently seemed wise, to the
brothers and sisters of the Baby, who was wanted by everyone, to
hide in the hedge whenever they saw anyone coming, and thus they
managed to prevent the Lamb from arousing the inconvenient
affection of a milkman, a stone-breaker, and a man who drove a cart
with a paraffin barrel at the back of it. They were nearly home
when the worst thing of all happened. Turning a corner suddenly
they came upon two vans, a tent, and a company of gipsies encamped
by the side of the road. The vans were hung all round with wicker
chairs and cradles, and flower-stands and feather brushes. A lot
of ragged children were industriously making dust-pies in the road,
two men lay on the grass smoking, and three women were doing the
family washing in an old red watering-can with the top broken off.
In a moment all the gipsies, men, women, and children, surrounded
Anthea and the Baby.
'Let me hold him, little lady,' said one of the gipsy women, who
had a mahogany-coloured face and dust-coloured hair; 'I won't hurt
a hair of his head, the little picture!'
'I'd rather not,' said Anthea.
'Let me have him,' said the other woman, whose face was also of the
hue of mahogany, and her hair jet-black, in greasy curls. 'I've
nineteen of my own, so I have.'
'No,' said Anthea bravely, but her heart beat so that it nearly
choked her.
Then one of the men pushed forward.
'Swelp me if it ain't!' he cried, 'my own long-lost cheild! Have
he a strawberry mark on his left ear? No? Then he's my own babby,
stolen from me in hinnocent hinfancy. 'And 'im over - and we'll
not 'ave the law on yer this time.'
He snatched the Baby from Anthea, who turned scarlet and burst into
tears of pure rage.
The others were standing quite still; this was much the most
terrible thing that had ever happened to them. Even being taken up
by the police in Rochester was nothing to this. Cyril was quite
white, and his hands trembled a little, but he made a sign to the
others to shut up. He was silent a minute, thinking hard. Then he
'We don't want to keep him if he's yours. But you see he's used to
us. You shall have him if you want him.'
'No, no!' cried Anthea - and Cyril glared at her.
'Of course we want him,' said the women, trying to get the Baby out
of the man's arms. The Lamb howled loudly.
'Oh, he's hurt!' shrieked Anthea; and Cyril, in a savage undertone,
bade her 'Stow it!'
'You trust to me,' he whispered. 'Look here,' he went on, 'he's
awfully tiresome with people he doesn't know very well. Suppose we
stay here a bit till he gets used to you, and then when it's
bedtime I give you my word of honour we'll go away and let you keep
him if you want to. And then when we're gone you can decide which
of you is to have him, as you all want him so much.'
'That's fair enough,' said the man who was holding the Baby, trying
to loosen the red neckerchief which the Lamb had caught hold of and
drawn round his mahogany throat so tight that he could hardly
breathe. The gipsies whispered together, and Cyril took the chance
to whisper too. He said, 'Sunset! we'll get away then.'
And then his brothers and sisters were filled with wonder and
admiration at his having been so clever as to remember this.
'Oh, do let him come to us!' said Jane. 'See we'll sit down here
and take care of him for you till he gets used to you.'
'What about dinner?' said Robert suddenly. The others looked at
him with scorn. 'Fancy bothering about your beastly dinner when
your br - I mean when the Baby' - Jane whispered hotly. Robert
carefully winked at her and went on:
'You won't mind my just running home to get our dinner?' he said to
the gipsy; 'I can bring it out here in a basket.'
His brother and sisters felt themselves very noble, and despised
him. They did not know his thoughtful secret intention. But the
gipsies did in a minute.
'Oh yes!' they said; 'and then fetch the police with a pack of lies
about it being your baby instead of ours! D'jever catch a weasel
asleep?' they asked.
'If you're hungry you can pick a bit along of us,' said the
light-haired gipsy woman, not unkindly. 'Here, Levi, that blessed
kid'll howl all his buttons off. Give him to the little lady, and
let's see if they can't get him used to us a bit.'
So the Lamb was handed back; but the gipsies crowded so closely
that he could not possibly stop howling. Then the man with the red
handkerchief said:
'Here, Pharaoh, make up the fire; and you girls see to the pot.
Give the kid a chanst.' So the gipsies, very much against their
will, went off to their work, and the children and the Lamb were
left sitting on the grass.
'He'll be all right at sunset,'Jane whispered. 'But, oh, it is
awful! Suppose they are frightfully angry when they come to their
senses! They might beat us, or leave us tied to trees, or
'No, they won't,' Anthea said. ('Oh, my Lamb, don't cry any more,
it's all right, Panty's got oo, duckie!) They aren't unkind people,
or they wouldn't be going to give us any dinner.'
'Dinner?' said Robert. 'I won't touch their nasty dinner. It
would choke me!'
The others thought so too then. But when the dinner was ready - it
turned out to be supper, and happened between four and five - they
were all glad enough to take what they could get. It was boiled
rabbit, with onions, and some bird rather like a chicken, but
stringier about its legs and with a stronger taste. The Lamb had
bread soaked in hot water and brown sugar sprinkled on the top. He
liked this very much, and consented to let the two gipsy women feed
him with it, as he sat on Anthea's lap. All that long hot
afternoon Robert and Cyril and Anthea and Jane had to keep the Lamb
amused and happy, while the gipsies looked eagerly on. By the time
the shadows grew long and black across the meadows he had really
'taken to' the woman with the light hair, and even consented to
kiss his hand to the children, and to stand up and bow, with his
hand on his chest - 'like a gentleman' - to the two men. The whole
gipsy camp was in raptures with him, and his brothers and sisters
could not help taking some pleasure in showing off his
accomplishments to an audience so interested and enthusiastic. But
they longed for sunset.
'We're getting into the habit of longing for sunset,' Cyril
whispered. 'How I do wish we could wish something really sensible,
that would be of some use, so that we should be quite sorry when
sunset came.'
The shadows got longer and longer, and at last there were no
separate shadows any more, but one soft glowing shadow over
everything; for the sun was out of sight - behind the hill - but he
had not really set yet. The people who make the laws about
lighting bicycle lamps are the people who decide when the sun sets;
he has to do it, too, to the minute, or they would know the reason
But the gipsies were getting impatient.
'Now, young uns,' the red-handkerchief man said,'it's time you were
laying of your heads on your pillowses - so it is! The kid's all
right and friendly with us now - so you just hand him over and
sling that hook o' yours like you said.'
The women and children came crowding round the Lamb, arms were held
out, fingers snapped invitingly, friendly faces beaming with
admiring smiles; but all failed to tempt the loyal Lamb. He clung
with arms and legs to Jane, who happened to be holding him, and
uttered the gloomiest roar of the whole day.
'It's no good,' the woman said, 'hand the little poppet over, miss.
We'll soon quiet him.'
And still the sun would not set.
'Tell her about how to put him to bed,' whispered Cyril; 'anything
to gain time - and be ready to bolt when the sun really does make
up its silly old mind to set.'
'Yes, I'll hand him over in just one minute,' Anthea began, talking
very fast - 'but do let me just tell you he has a warm bath every
night and cold in the morning, and he has a crockery rabbit to go
into the warm bath with him, and little Samuel saying his prayers
in white china on a red cushion for the cold bath; and if you let
the soap get into his eyes, the Lamb -'
'Lamb kyes,' said he - he had stopped roaring to listen.
The woman laughed. 'As if I hadn't never bath'd a babby!' she
said. 'Come - give us a hold of him. Come to 'Melia, my
'G'way, ugsie!' replied the Lamb at once.
'Yes, but,' Anthea went on, 'about his meals; you really MUST let
me tell you he has an apple or a banana every morning, and
bread-and-milk for breakfast, and an egg for his tea sometimes, and
'I've brought up ten,' said the black-ringleted woman, 'besides the
others. Come, miss, 'and 'im over - I can't bear it no longer. I
just must give him a hug.'
'We ain't settled yet whose he's to be, Esther,' said one of the
'It won't be you, Esther, with seven of 'em at your tail a'ready.'
'I ain't so sure of that,' said Esther's husband.
'And ain't I nobody, to have a say neither?' said the husband of
Zillah, the girl, said, 'An' me? I'm a single girl - and no one
but 'im to look after - I ought to have him.'
'Hold yer tongue!'
'Shut your mouth!'
'Don't you show me no more of your imperence!'
Everyone was getting very angry. The dark gipsy faces were
frowning and anxious-looking. Suddenly a change swept over them,
as if some invisible sponge had wiped away these cross and anxious
expressions, and left only a blank.
The children saw that the sun really HAD set. But they were afraid
to move. And the gipsies were feeling so muddled, because of the
invisible sponge that had washed all the feelings of the last few
hours out of their hearts, that they could not say a word.
The children hardly dared to breathe. Suppose the gipsies, when
they recovered speech, should be furious to think how silly they
had been all day.
It was an awkward moment. Suddenly Anthea, greatly daring, held
out the Lamb to the red-handkerchief man.
'Here he is!' she said.
The man drew back. 'I shouldn't like to deprive you, miss,' he
said hoarsely.
'Anyone who likes can have my share of him,' said the other man.
'After all, I've got enough of my own,' said Esther.
'He's a nice little chap, though,' said Amelia. She was the only
one who now looked affectionately at the whimpering Lamb.
Zillah said, 'If I don't think I must have had a touch of the sun.
I don't want him.'
'Then shall we take him away?' said Anthea.
'Well, suppose you do,' said Pharaoh heartily, 'and we'll say no
more about it!'
And with great haste all the gipsies began to be busy about their
tents for the night. All but Amelia. She went with the children
as far as the bend in the road - and there she said:
'Let me give him a kiss, miss - I don't know what made us go for to
behave so silly. Us gipsies don't steal babies, whatever they may
tell you when you're naughty. We've enough of our own, mostly.
But I've lost all mine.'
She leaned towards the Lamb; and he, looking in her eyes,
unexpectedly put up a grubby soft paw and stroked her face.
'Poor, poor!' said the Lamb. And he let the gipsy woman kiss him,
and, what is more, he kissed her brown cheek in return - a very
nice kiss, as all his kisses are, and not a wet one like some
babies give. The gipsy woman moved her finger about on his
forehead, as if she had been writing something there, and the same
with his chest and his hands and his feet; then she said:
'May he be brave, and have the strong head to think with, and the
strong heart to love with, and the strong hands to work with, and
the strong feet to travel with, and always come safe home to his
own.' Then she said something in a strange language no one could
understand, and suddenly added:
'Well, I must be saying "so long" - and glad to have made your
acquaintance.' And she turned and went back to her home - the tent
by the grassy roadside.
The children looked after her till she was out of sight. Then
Robert said, 'How silly of her! Even sunset didn't put her right.
What rot she talked!'
'Well,' said Cyril, 'if you ask me, I think it was rather decent of
her -'
'Decent?' said Anthea; 'it was very nice indeed of her. I think
she's a dear.'
'She's just too frightfully nice for anything,' said Jane.
And they went home - very late for tea and unspeakably late for
dinner. Martha scolded, of course. But the Lamb was safe.
'I say - it turned out we wanted the Lamb as much as anyone,' said
Robert, later.
'Of course.'
'But do you feel different about it now the sun's set?'
'No,' said all the others together.
'Then it's lasted over sunset with us.'
'No, it hasn't,' Cyril explained. 'The wish didn't do anything to
US. We always wanted him with all our hearts when we were our
proper selves, only we were all pigs this morning; especially you,
Robert.' Robert bore this much with a strange calm.
'I certainly THOUGHT I didn't want him this morning,' said he.
'Perhaps I was a pig. But everything looked so different when we
thought we were going to lose him.'
The next day was very wet - too wet to go out, and far too wet to
think of disturbing a Sand-fairy so sensitive to water that he
still, after thousands of years, felt the pain of once having had
his left whisker wetted. It was a long day, and it was not till
the afternoon that all the children suddenly decided to write
letters to their mother. It was Robert who had the misfortune to
upset the ink-pot - an unusually deep and full one - straight into
that part of Anthea's desk where she had long pretended that an
arrangement of gum and cardboard painted with Indian ink was a
secret drawer. It was not exactly Robert's fault; it was only his
misfortune that he chanced to be lifting the ink across the desk
just at the moment when Anthea had got it open, and that that same
moment should have been the one chosen by the Lamb to get under the
table and break his squeaking bird. There was a sharp convenient
wire inside the bird, and of course the Lamb ran the wire into
Robert's leg at once; and so, without anyone's meaning to, the
secret drawer was flooded with ink. At the same time a stream was
poured over Anthea's half-finished letter. So that her letter was
something like this:
DARLING MOTHER, I hope you are quite well, and I hope Granny is
better. The other day we ...
Then came a flood of ink, and at the bottom these words in pencil
It was not me upset the ink, but it took such a time clearing up,
so no more as it is post-time. - From your loving daughter,
Robert's letter had not even been begun. He had been drawing a
ship on the blotting-paper while he was trying to think of what to
say. And of course after the ink was upset he had to help Anthea
to clean out her desk, and he promised to make her another secret
drawer, better than the other. And she said, 'Well, make it now.'
So it was post-time and his letter wasn't done. And the secret
drawer wasn't done either.
Cyril wrote a long letter, very fast, and then went to set a trap
for slugs that he had read about in the Home-made Gardener, and
when it was post-time the letter could not be found, and it never
was found. Perhaps the slugs ate it.
jane's letter was the only one that went. She meant to tell her
mother all about the Psammead - in fact -they had all meant to do
this - but she spent so long thinking how to spell the word that
there was no time to tell the story properly, and it is useless to
tell a story unless you do tell it properly, so she had to be
contented with this -
We are all as as good as we can, like you told us to, and the Lamb
has a little cold, but Martha says it is nothing, only he upset the
goldfish into himself yesterday morning. When we were up at the
sand-pit the other day we went round by the safe way where carts
go, and we found a --
Half an hour went by before Jane felt quite sure that they could
none of them spell Psammead. And they could not find it in the
dictionary either, though they looked. Then Jane hastily finished
her letter.
We found a strange thing, but it is nearly post-time, so no more at
present from your little girl,
Ps. - If you could have a wish come true, what would you have?
Then the postman was heard blowing his horn, and Robert rushed out
in the rain to stop his cart and give him the letter. And that was
how it happened that, though all the children meant to tell their
mother about the Sand-fairy, somehow or other she never got to
know. There were other reasons why she never got to know, but
these come later.
The next day Uncle Richard came and took them all to Maidstone in
a wagonette - all except the Lamb. Uncle Richard was the very best
kind of uncle. He bought them toys at Maidstone. He took them
into a shop and let them choose exactly what they wanted, without
any restrictions about price, and no nonsense about things being
instructive. It is very wise to let children choose exactly what
they like, because they are very foolish and inexperienced, and
sometimes they will choose a really instructive thing without
meaning to. This happened to Robert, who chose, at the last
moment, and in a great hurry, a box with pictures on it of winged
bulls with men's heads and winged men with eagles' heads. He
thought there would be animals inside, the same as on the box.
When he got it home it was a Sunday puzzle about ancient Nineveh!
The others chose in haste, and were happy at leisure. Cyril had a
model engine, and the girls had two dolls, as well as a china
tea-set with forget-me-nots on it, to be 'between them'. The boys'
'between them' was bow and arrows.
Then Uncle Richard took them on the beautiful Medway in a boat, and
then they all had tea at a beautiful pastrycook's, and when they
reached home it was far too late to have any wishes that day.
They did not tell Uncle Richard anything about the Psammead. I do
not know why. And they do not know why. But I daresay you can
The day after Uncle Richard had behaved so handsomely was a very
hot day indeed. The people who decide what the weather is to be,
and put its orders down for it in the newspapers every morning,
said afterwards that it was the hottest day there had been for
years. They had ordered it to be 'warmer - some showers', and
warmer it certainly was. In fact it was so busy being warmer that
it had no time to attend to the order about showers, so there
weren't any.
Have you ever been up at five o'clock on a fine summer morning? It
is very beautiful. The sunlight is pinky and yellowy, and all the
grass and trees are covered with dew-diamonds. And all the shadows
go the opposite way to the way they do in the evening, which is
very interesting and makes you feel as though you were in a new
other world.
Anthea awoke at five. She had made herself wake, and I must tell
you how it is done, even if it keeps you waiting for the story to
go on.
You get into bed at night, and lie down quite flat on your little
back with your hands straight down by your sides. Then you say 'I
must wake up at five' (or six, or seven, or eight, or nine, or
whatever the time is that you want), and as you say it you push
your chin down on to your chest and then bang your head back on the
pillow. And you do this as many times as there are ones in the
time you want to wake up at. (It is quite an easy sum.) Of course
everything depends on your really wanting to get up at five (or
six, or seven, or eight, or nine); if you don't really want to,
it's all of no use. But if you do - well, try it and see. Of
course in this, as in doing Latin proses or getting into mischief,
practice makes perfect. Anthea was quite perfect.
At the very moment when she opened her eyes she heard the
black-and-gold clock down in the dining-room strike eleven. So she
knew it was three minutes to five. The black-and-gold clock always
struck wrong, but it was all right when you knew what it meant. It
was like a person talking a foreign language. If you know the
language it is just as easy to understand as English. And Anthea
knew the clock language. She was very sleepy, but she jumped out
of bed and put her face and hands into a basin of cold water. This
is a fairy charm that prevents your wanting to get back into bed
again. Then she dressed, and folded up her nightgown. She did not
tumble it together by the sleeves, but folded it by the seams from
the hem, and that will show you the kind of well-brought-up little
girl she was.
Then she took her shoes in her hand and crept softly down the
stairs. She opened the dining-room window and climbed out. It
would have been just as easy to go out by the door, but the window
was more romantic, and less likely to be noticed by Martha.
'I will always get up at five,' she said to herself. 'It was quite
too awfully pretty for anything.'
Her heart was beating very fast, for she was carrying out a plan
quite her own. She could not be sure that it was a good plan, but
she was quite sure that it would not be any better if she were to
tell the others about it. And she had a feeling that, right or
wrong, she would rather go through with it alone. She put on her
shoes under the iron veranda, on the red-and-yellow shining tiles,
and then she ran straight to the sand-pit, and found the Psammead's
place, and dug it out; it was very cross indeed.
'It's too bad,' it said, fluffing up its fur like pigeons do their
feathers at Christmas time. 'The weather's arctic, and it's the
middle of the night.'
'I'm so sorry,' said Anthea gently, and she took off her white
pinafore and covered the Sand-fairy up with it, all but its head,
its bat's ears, and its eyes that were like a snail's eyes.
'Thank you,' it said, 'that's better. What's the wish this
'I don't know,' said she; 'that's just it. You see we've been very
unlucky, so far. I wanted to talk to you about it. But - would
you mind not giving me any wishes till after breakfast? It's so
hard to talk to anyone if they jump out at you with wishes you
don't really want!'
'You shouldn't say you wish for things if you don't wish for them.
In the old days people almost always knew whether it was
Megatherium or Ichthyosaurus they really wanted for dinner.'
'I'll try not,' said Anthea, 'but I do wish -'
'Look out!' said the Psammead in a warning voice, and it began to
blow itself out.
'Oh, this isn't a magic wish - it's just - I should be so glad if
you'd not swell yourself out and nearly burst to give me anything
just now. Wait till the others are here.'
'Well, well,' it said indulgently, but it shivered.
'Would you,' asked Anthea kindly - 'would you like to come and sit
on my lap? You'd be warmer, and I could turn the skirt of my frock
up round you. I'd be very careful.'
Anthea had never expected that it would, but it did.
'Thank you,' it said; 'you really are rather thoughtful.' It crept
on to her lap and snuggled down, and she put her arms round it with
a rather frightened gentleness. 'Now then!' it said.
'Well then,' said Anthea, 'everything we have wished has turned out
rather horrid. I wish you would advise us. You are so old, you
must be very wise.'
'I was always generous from a child,' said the Sand-fairy. 'I've
spent the whole of my waking hours in giving. But one thing I
won't give - that's advice.'
'You see,' Anthea went on, it's such a wonderful thing - such a
splendid, glorious chance. It's so good and kind and dear of you
to give us our wishes, and it seems such a pity it should all be
wasted just because we are too silly to know what to wish for.'
Anthea had meant to say that - and she had not wanted to say it
before the others. It's one thing to say you're silly, and quite
another to say that other people are.
'Child,' said the Sand-fairy sleepily, 'I can only advise you to
think before you speak -'
'But I thought you never gave advice.'
'That piece doesn't count,' it said. 'You'll never take it!
Besides, it's not original. It's in all the copy-books.'
'But won't you just say if you think wings would be a silly wish?'
'Wings?' it said. 'I should think you might do worse. Only, take
care you aren't flying high at sunset. There was a little Ninevite
boy I heard of once. He was one of King Sennacherib's sons, and a
traveller brought him a Psammead. He used to keep it in a box of
sand on the palace terrace. It was a dreadful degradation for one
of us, of course; still the boy was the Assyrian King's son. And
one day he wished for wings and got them. But he forgot that they
would turn into stone at sunset, and when they did he fell slap on
to one of the winged lions at the top of his father's great
staircase; and what with HIS stone wings and the lions' stone wings
- well, it's not a pretty story! But I believe the boy enjoyed
himself very much till then.'
'Tell me,' said Anthea, 'why don't our wishes turn into stone now?
Why do they just vanish?'
'Autres temps, autres moeurs,' said the creature.
'Is that the Ninevite language?' asked Anthea, who had learned no
foreign language at school except French.
'What I mean is,' the Psammead went on, 'that in the old days
people wished for good solid everyday gifts - Mammoths and
Pterodactyls and things - and those could be turned into stone as
easy as not. But people wish such high-flying fanciful things
nowadays. How are you going to turn being beautiful as the day, or
being wanted by everybody, into stone? You see it can't be done.
And it would never do to have two rules, so they simply vanish. If
being beautiful as the day COULD be turned into stone it would last
an awfully long time, you know - much longer than you would. just
look at the Greek statues. It's just as well as it is. Good-bye.
I AM so sleepy.'
It jumped off her lap - dug frantically, and vanished.
Anthea was late for breakfast. It was Robert who quietly poured a
spoonful of treacle down the Lamb's frock, so that he had to be
taken away and washed thoroughly directly after breakfast. And it
was of course a very naughty thing to do; yet it served two
purposes - it delighted the Lamb, who loved above all things to be
completely sticky, and it engaged Martha's attention so that the
others could slip away to the sand-pit without the Lamb.
They did it, and in the lane Anthea, breathless from the scurry of
that slipping, panted out -
'I want to propose we take turns to wish. Only, nobody's to have
a wish if the others don't think it's a nice wish. Do you agree?'
'Who's to have first wish?' asked Robert cautiously.
'Me, if you don't mind,' said Anthea apologetically. 'And I've
thought about it - and it's wings.'
There was a silence. The others rather wanted to find fault, but
it was hard, because the word 'wings' raised a flutter of joyous
excitement in every breast.
'Not so dusty,' said Cyril generously; and Robert added, 'Really,
Panther, you're not quite such a fool as you look.'
Jane said, 'I think it would be perfectly lovely. It's like a
bright dream of delirium.'
They found the Sand-fairy easily. Anthea said:
'I wish we all had beautiful wings to fly with.'
The Sand-fairy blew himself out, and next moment each child felt a
funny feeling, half heaviness and half lightness, on its shoulders.
The Psammead put its head on one side and turned its snail's eyes
from one to the other.
'Not so dusty,' it said dreamily. 'But really, Robert, you're not
quite such an angel as you look.' Robert almost blushed.
The wings were very big, and more beautiful than you can possibly
imagine - for they were soft and smooth, and every feather lay
neatly in its place. And the feathers were of the most lovely
mixed changing colours, like the rainbow, or iridescent glass, or
the beautiful scum that sometimes floats on water that is not at
all nice to drink.
'Oh - but can we fly?'Jane said, standing anxiously first on one
foot and then on the other.
'Look out!' said Cyril; 'you're treading on my wing.'
'Does it hurt?' asked Anthea with interest; but no one answered,
for Robert had spread his wings and jumped up, and now he was
slowly rising in the air. He looked very awkward in his
knickerbocker suit - his boots in particular hung helplessly, and
seemed much larger than when he was standing in them. But the
others cared but little how he looked - or how they looked, for
that matter. For now they all spread out their wings and rose in
the air. Of course you all know what flying feels like, because
everyone has dreamed about flying, and it seems so beautifully easy
- only, you can never remember how you did it; and as a rule you
have to do it without wings, in your dreams, which is more clever
and uncommon, but not so easy to remember the rule for. Now the
four children rose flapping from the ground, and you can't think
how good the air felt running against their faces. Their wings
were tremendously wide when they were spread out, and they had to
fly quite a long way apart so as not to get in each other's way.
But little things like this are easily learned.
All the words in the English Dictionary, and in the Greek Lexicon
as well, are, I find, of no use at all to tell you exactly what it
feels like to be flying, so I Will not try. But I will say that to
look DOWN on the fields and woods, instead of along at them, is
something like looking at a beautiful live map, where, instead of
silly colours on paper, you have real moving sunny woods and green
fields laid out one after the other. As Cyril said, and I can't
think where he got hold of such a strange expression, 'It does you
a fair treat!' It was most wonderful and more like real magic than
any wish the children had had yet. They flapped and flew and
sailed on their great rainbow wings, between green earth and blue
sky; and they flew right over Rochester and then swerved round
towards Maidstone, and presently they all began to feel extremely
hungry. Curiously enough, this happened when they were flying
rather low, and just as they were crossing an orchard where some
early plums shone red and ripe.
They paused on their wings. I cannot explain to you how this is
done, but it is something like treading water when you are
swimming, and hawks do it extremely well.
'Yes, I daresay,' said Cyril, though no one had spoken. 'But
stealing is stealing even if you've got wings.'
'Do you really think so?' said Jane briskly. 'If you've got wings
you're a bird, and no one minds birds breaking the commandments.
At least, they MAY mind, but the birds always do it, and no one
scolds them or sends them to prison.'
It was not so easy to perch on a plum-tree as you might think,
because the rainbow wings were so very large; but somehow they all
managed to do it, and the plums were certainly very sweet and
Fortunately, it was not till they had all had quite as many plums
as were good for them that they saw a stout man, who looked exactly
as though he owned the plum-trees, come hurrying through the
orchard gate with a thick stick, and with one accord they
disentangled their wings from the plum-laden branches and began to
The man stopped short, with his mouth open. For he had seen the
boughs of his trees moving and twitching, and he had said to
himself, 'The young varmints - at it again!' And he had come out
at once, for the lads of the village had taught him in past seasons
that plums want looking after. But when he saw the rainbow wings
flutter up out of the plum-tree he felt that he must have gone
quite mad, and he did not like the feeling at all. And when Anthea
looked down and saw his mouth go slowly open, and stay so, and his
face become green and mauve in patches, she called out:
'Don't be frightened,' and felt hastily in her pocket for a
threepenny-bit with a hole in it, which she had meant to hang on a
ribbon round her neck, for luck. She hovered round the unfortunate
plum-owner, and said, 'We have had some of your plums; we thought
it wasn't stealing, but now I am not so sure. So here's some money
to pay for them.'
She swooped down towards the terror-stricken grower of plums, and
slipped the coin into the pocket of his jacket, and in a few flaps
she had rejoined the others.
The farmer sat down on the grass, suddenly and heavily.
'Well - I'm blessed!' he said. 'This here is what they call
delusions, I suppose. But this here threepenny' - he had pulled it
out and bitten it - 'THAT'S real enough. Well, from this day forth
I'll be a better man. It's the kind of thing to sober a chap for
life, this is. I'm glad it was only wings, though. I'd rather see
birds as aren't there, and couldn't be, even if they pretend to
talk, than some things as I could name.'
He got up slowly and heavily, and went indoors, and he was so nice
to his wife that day that she felt quite happy, and said to
herself, 'Law, whatever have a-come to the man!' and smartened
herself up and put a blue ribbon bow at the place where her collar
fastened on, and looked so pretty that he was kinder than ever. So
perhaps the winged children really did do one good thing that day.
If so, it was the only one; for really there is nothing like wings
for getting you into trouble. But, on the other hand, if you arc
in trouble, there is nothing like wings for getting you out of it.
This was the case in the matter of the fierce dog who sprang out at
them when they had folded up their wings as small as possible and
were going up to a farm door to ask for a crust of bread and
cheese, for in spite of the plums they were soon just as hungry as
ever again.
Now there is no doubt whatever that, if the four had been ordinary
wingless children, that black and fierce dog would have had a good
bite out of the brown-stockinged leg of Robert, who was the
nearest. But at first growl there was a flutter of wings, and the
dog was left to strain at his chain and stand on his hind-legs as
if he were trying to fly too.
They tried several other farms, but at those where there were no
dogs the people were far too frightened to do anything but scream;
and at last when it was nearly four o'clock, and their wings were
getting miserably stiff and tired, they alighted on a church-tower
and held a council of war.
'We can't possibly fly all the way home without dinner or tea,'
said Robert with desperate decision.
'And nobody will give us any dinner, or even lunch, let alone tea,'
said Cyril.
'Perhaps the clergyman here might,' suggested Anthea. 'He must
know all about angels -'
'Anybody could see we're not that,' said Jane. 'Look at Robert's
boots and Squirrel's plaid necktie.'
'Well,' said Cyril firmly, 'if the country you're in won't SELL
provisions, you TAKE them. In wars I mean. I'm quite certain you
do. And even in other stories no good brother would allow his
little sisters to starve in the midst of plenty.'
'Plenty?' repeated Robert hungrily; and the others looked vaguely
round the bare leads of the church- tower, and murmured, 'In the
midst of?'
'Yes,' said Cyril impressively. 'There is a larder window at the
side of the clergyman's house, and I saw things to eat inside -
custard pudding and cold chicken and tongue - and pies - and jam.
It's rather a high window - but with wings -'
'How clever of you!' said Jane.
'Not at all,' said Cyril modestly; 'any born general - Napoleon or
the Duke of Marlborough - would have seen it just the same as I
'It seems very wrong,' said Anthea.
'Nonsense,' said Cyril. 'What was it Sir Philip Sidney said when
the soldier wouldn't stand him a drink? - "My necessity is greater
than his".'
'We'll club our money, though, and leave it to pay for the things,
won't we?' Anthea was persuasive, and very nearly in tears,
because it is most trying to feel enormously hungry and unspeakably
sinful at one and the same time.
'Some of it,' was the cautious reply.
Everyone now turned out its pockets on the lead roof of the tower,
where visitors for the last hundred and fifty years had cut their
own and their sweethearts' initials with penknives in the soft
lead. There was five-and-sevenpence-halfpenny altogether, and even
the upright Anthea admitted that that was too much to pay for four
peoples dinners. Robert said he thought eighteen pence.
And half-a-crown was finally agreed to be 'hand- some'.
So Anthea wrote on the back of her last term's report, which
happened to be in her pocket, and from which she first tore her own
name and that of the school, the following letter:
We are very hungry indeed because of having to fly all day, and we
think it is not stealing when you are starving to death. We are
afraid to ask you for fear you should say 'No', because of course
you know about angels, but you would not think we were angels. We
will only take the nessessities of life, and no pudding or pie, to
show you it is not grediness but true starvation that makes us make
your larder stand and deliver. But we are not highwaymen by trade.
'Cut it short,' said the others with one accord. And Anthea
hastily added:
Our intentions are quite honourable if you only knew. And here is
half-a-crown to show we are sinseer and grateful. Thank you for
your kind hospitality.
The half-crown was wrapped in this letter, and all the children
felt that when the clergyman had read it he would understand
everything, as well as anyone could who had not seen the wings.
'Now,' said Cyril,"of course there's some risk; we'd better fly
straight down the other side of the tower and then flutter low
across the churchyard and in through the shrubbery. There doesn't
seem to be anyone about. But you never know. The window looks out
into the shrubbery. It is embowered in foliage, like a window in
a story. I'll go in and get the things. Robert and Anthea can
take them as I hand them out through the window; and Jane can keep
watch - her eyes are sharp - and whistle if she sees anyone about.
Shut up, Robert! she can whistle quite well enough for that,
anyway. It ought not to be a very good whistle - it'll sound more
natural and birdlike. Now then - off we go!'
I cannot pretend that stealing is right. I can only say that on
this occasion it did not look like stealing to the hungry four, but
appeared in the light of a fair and reasonable business
transaction. They had never happened to learn that a tongue -
hardly cut into - a chicken and a half, a loaf of bread, and a
syphon of soda-water cannot be bought in shops for half-a-crown.
These were the necessaries of life, which Cyril handed out of the
larder window when, quite unobserved and without hindrance or
adventure, he had led the others to that happy spot. He felt that
to refrain from jam, apple turnovers, cake, and mixed candied peel
was a really heroic act - and I agree with him. He was also proud
of not taking the custard pudding - and there I think he was wrong
- because if he had taken it there would have been a difficulty
about returning the dish; no one, however starving, has a right to
steal china pie-dishes with little pink flowers on them. The
soda-water syphon was different. They could not do without
something to drink, and as the maker's name was on it they felt
sure it would be returned to him wherever they might leave it. If
they had time they would take it back themselves. The man appeared
to live in Rochester, which would not be much out of their way
Everything was carried up to the top of the tower, and laid down on
a sheet of kitchen paper which Cyril had found on the top shelf of
the larder. As he unfolded it, Anthea said, 'I don't think THAT'S
a necessity of life.'
'Yes, it is,' said he. 'We must put the things down somewhere to
cut them up; and I heard father say the other day people got
diseases from germans in rain-water. Now there must be lots of
rain-water here - and when it dries up the germans are left, and
they'd get into the things, and we should all die of scarlet
'What are germans?'
'Little waggly things you see with microscopes,' said Cyril, with
a scientific air. 'They give you every illness you can think of!
I'm sure the paper was a necessary, just as much as the bread and
meat and water. Now then! Oh, my eyes, I am hungry!'
I do not wish to describe the picnic party on the top of the tower.
You can imagine well enough what it is like to carve a chicken and
a tongue with a knife that has only one blade - and that snapped
off short about half-way down. But it was done. Eating with your
fingers is greasy and difficult - and paper dishes soon get to look
very spotty and horrid. But one thing you CAN'T imagine, and that
is how soda-water behaves when you try to drink it straight out of
a syphon - especially a quite full one. But if imagination will
not help you, experience will, and you can easily try it for
yourself if you can get a grown-up to give you the syphon. If you
want to have a really thorough experience, put the tube in your
mouth and press the handle very suddenly and very hard. You had
better do it when you are alone - and out of doors is best for this
However you eat them, tongue and chicken and new bread are very
good things, and no one minds being sprinkled a little with
soda-water on a really fine hot day. So that everyone enjoyed the
dinner very much indeed, and everyone ate as much as it possibly
could: first, because it was extremely hungry; and secondly,
because, as I said, tongue and chicken and new bread are very nice.
Now, I daresay you will have noticed that if you have to wait for
your dinner till long after the proper time, and then eat a great
deal more dinner than usual, and sit in the hot sun on the top of
a church-tower - or even anywhere else - you become soon and
strangely sleepy. Now Anthea and Jane and Cyril and Robert were
very like you in many ways, and when they had eaten all they could,
and drunk all there was, they became sleepy, strangely and soon -
especially Anthea, because she had got up so early.
One by one they left off talking and leaned back, and before it was
a quarter of an hour after dinner they had all curled round and
tucked themselves up under their large soft warm wings and were
fast asleep. And the sun was sinking slowly in the west. (I must
say it was in the west, because it is usual in books to say so, for
fear careless people should think it was setting in the east. In
point of fact, it was not exactly in the west either - but that's
near enough.) The sun, I repeat, was sinking slowly in the west,
and the children slept warmly and happily on - for wings are cosier
than eiderdown quilts to sleep under. The shadow of the
church-tower fell across the churchyard, and across the Vicarage,
and across the field beyond; and presently there were no more
shadows, and the sun had set, and the wings were gone. And still
the children slept. But not for long. Twilight is very beautiful,
but it is chilly; and you know, however sleepy you are, you wake up
soon enough if your brother or sister happens to be up first and
pulls your blankets off you. The four wingless children shivered
and woke. And there they were - on the top of a church-tower in
the dusky twilight, with blue stars coming out by ones and twos and
tens and twenties over their heads - miles away from home, with
three-and-three-halfpence in their pockets, and a doubtful act
about the necessities of life to be accounted for if anyone found
them with the soda-water syphon.
They looked at each other. Cyril spoke first, picking up the
'We'd better get along down and get rid of this beastly thing.
It's dark enough to leave it on the clergyman's doorstep, I should
think. Come on.'
There was a little turret at the corner of the tower, and the
little turret had a door in it. They had noticed this when they
were eating, but had not explored it, as you would have done in
their place. Because, of course, when you have wings, and can
explore the whole sky, doors seem hardly worth exploring.
Now they turned towards it.
'Of course,' said Cyril, 'this is the way down.'
It was. But the door was locked on the inside!
And the world was growing darker and darker. And they were miles
from home. And there was the soda-water syphon.
I shall not tell you whether anyone cried, nor if so, how many
cried, nor who cried. You will be better employed in making up
your minds what you would have done if you had been in their place.
Whether anyone cried or not, there was certainly an interval during
which none of the party was quite itself. When they grew calmer,
Anthea put her handkerchief in her pocket and her arm round Jane,
and said:
'It can't be for more than one night. We can signal with our
handkerchiefs in the morning. They'll be dry then. And someone
will come up and let us out -'
'And find the syphon,' said Cyril gloomily; 'and we shall be sent
to prison for stealing -'
'You said it wasn't stealing. You said you were sure it wasn't.'
'I'm not sure NOW,' said Cyril shortly.
'Let's throw the beastly thing slap away among the trees,' said
Robert, 'then no one can do anything to us.'
'Oh yes' - Cyril's laugh was not a lighthearted one - 'and hit some
chap on the head, and be murderers as well as - as the other
'But we can't stay up here all night,' said Jane; 'and I want my
'You CAN'T want your tea,' said Robert; 'you've only just had your
'But I do want it,' she said; 'especially when you begin talking
about stopping up here all night. Oh, Panther - I want to go home!
I want to go home!'
'Hush, hush,' Anthea said. 'Don't, dear. It'll be all right,
somehow. Don't, don't -'
'Let her cry,' said Robert desperately; 'if she howls loud enough,
someone may hear and come and let us out.'
'And see the soda-water thing,' said Anthea swiftly. 'Robert,
don't be a brute. Oh, Jane, do try to be a man! It's just the
same for all of us.'
Jane did try to 'be a man' - and reduced her howls to sniffs.
There was a pause. Then Cyril said slowly, 'Look here. We must
risk that syphon. I'll button it up inside my jacket - perhaps no
one will notice it. You others keep well in front of me. There
are lights in the clergyman's house. They've not gone to bed yet.
We must just yell as loud as ever we can. Now all scream when I
say three. Robert, you do the yell like the railway engine, and
I'll do the coo-ee like father's. The girls can do as they please.
One, two, three!'
A fourfold yell rent the silent peace of the evening, and a maid at
one of the Vicarage windows paused with her hand on the blind-cord.
'One, two, three!' Another yell, piercing and complex, startled
the owls and starlings to a flutter of feathers in the belfry
below. The maid fled from the Vicarage window and ran down the
Vicarage stairs and into the Vicarage kitchen, and fainted as soon
as she had explained to the man-servant and the cook and the cook's
cousin that she had seen a ghost. It was quite untrue, of course,
but I suppose the girl's nerves were a little upset by the yelling.
'One, two, three!' The Vicar was on his doorstep by this time, and
there was no mistaking the yell that greeted him.
'Goodness me,' he said to his wife, 'my dear, someone's being
murdered in the church! Give me my hat and a thick stick, and tell
Andrew to come after me. I expect it's the lunatic who stole the
The children had seen the flash of light when the Vicar opened his
front door. They had seen his dark form on the doorstep, and they
had paused for breath, and also to see what he would do.
When he turned back for his hat, Cyril said hastily:
'He thinks he only fancied he heard something. You don't half
yell! Now! One, two, three!'
It was certainly a whole yell this time, and the Vicar's wife flung
her arms round her husband and screamed a feeble echo of it.
'You shan't go!' she said, 'not alone. Jessie!' - the maid
unfainted and came out of the kitchen - 'send Andrew at once.
There's a dangerous lunatic in the church, and he must go
immediately and catch it.'
'I expect he WILL catch it too,' said Jessie to herself as she went
through the kitchen door. 'Here, Andrew,' she said, there's
someone screaming like mad in the church, and the missus says
you're to go along and catch it.'
'Not alone, I don't,' said Andrew in low firm tones. To his master
he merely said, 'Yes, sir.'
'You heard those screams?'
'I did think I noticed a sort of something,' said Andrew.
'Well, come on, then,' said the Vicar. 'My dear, I MUST go!' He
pushed her gently into the sitting-room, banged the door, and
rushed out, dragging Andrew by the arm.
A volley of yells greeted them. As it died into silence Andrew
shouted, 'Hullo, you there! Did you call?'
'Yes,' shouted four far-away voices.
'They seem to be in the air,' said the Vicar. 'Very remarkable.'
'Where are you?' shouted Andrew: and Cyril replied in his deepest
voice, very slow and loud:
'Come down, then!' said Andrew; and the same voice replied:
'My goodness!' said the Vicar. 'Andrew, fetch the stable lantern.
Perhaps it would be as well to fetch another man from the village.'
'With the rest of the gang about, very likely. No, sir; if this
'ere ain't a trap - well, may I never! There's cook's cousin at
the back door now. He's a keeper, sir, and used to dealing with
vicious characters. And he's got his gun, sir.'
'Hullo there!' shouted Cyril from the church-tower; 'come up and
let us out.'
'We're a-coming,' said Andrew. 'I'm a-going to get a policeman and
a gun.'
'Andrew, Andrew,' said the Vicar, 'that's not the truth.'
'It's near enough, sir, for the likes of them.'
So Andrew fetched the lantern and the cook's cousin; and the
Vicar's wife begged them all to be very careful.
They went across the churchyard - it was quite dark now - and as
they went they talked. The Vicar was certain a lunatic was on the
church-tower - the one who had written the mad letter, and taken
the cold tongue and things. Andrew thought it was a 'trap'; the
cook's cousin alone was calm. 'Great cry, little wool,' said he;
'dangerous chaps is quieter.' He was not at all afraid. But then
he had a gun. That was why he was asked to lead the way up the
worn steep dark steps of the church-tower. He did lead the way,
with the lantern in one hand and the gun in the other. Andrew went
next. He pretended afterwards that this was because he was braver
than his master, but really it was because he thought of traps, and
he did not like the idea of being behind the others for fear
someone should come soffly up behind him and catch hold of his legs
in the dark. They went on and on, and round and round the little
corkscrew staircase - then through the bell-ringers' loft, where
the bell-ropes hung with soft furry ends like giant caterpillars -
then up another stair into the belfry, where the big quiet bells
are - and then on, up a ladder with broad steps - and then up a
little stone stair. And at the top of that there was a little
door. And the door was bolted on the stair side.
The cook's cousin, who was a gamekeeper, kicked at the door, and
'Hullo, you there!'
The children were holding on to each other on the other side of the
door, and trembling with anxiousness - and very hoarse with their
howls. They could hardly speak, but Cyril managed to reply
'Hullo, you there!'
'How did you get up there?'
It was no use saying 'We flew up', so Cyril said:
'We got up - and then we found the door was locked and we couldn't
get down. Let us out - do.'
'How many of you are there?' asked the keeper.
'Only four,' said Cyril.
'Are you armed?'
'Are we what?'
'I've got my gun handy - so you'd best not try any tricks,' said
the keeper. 'If we open the door, will you promise to come quietly
down, and no nonsense?'
'Yes - oh YES!' said all the children together.
'Bless me,' said the Vicar, 'surely that was a female voice?'
'Shall I open the door, Sir?' said the keeper. Andrew went down a
few steps, 'to leave room for the others' he said afterwards.
'Yes,' said the Vicar, 'open the door. Remember,' he said through
the keyhole, 'we have come to release you. You will keep your
promise to refrain from violence?'
'How this bolt do stick,' said the keeper; 'anyone 'ud think it
hadn't been drawed for half a year.' As a matter of fact it
When all the bolts were drawn, the keeper spoke deep-chested words
through the keyhole.
'I don't open,' said he, 'till you've gone over to the other side
of the tower. And if one of you comes at me I fire. Now!'
'We're all over on the other side,' said the voices.
The keeper felt pleased with himself, and owned himself a bold man
when he threw open that door, and, stepping out into the leads,
flashed the full light of the stable lantern on to the group of
desperadoes standing against the parapet on the other side of the
He lowered his gun, and he nearly dropped the lantern.
'So help me,' he cried, 'if they ain't a pack of kiddies!'
The Vicar now advanced.
'How did you come here?' he asked severely. 'Tell me at once. '
'Oh, take us down,' said Jane, catching at his coat, 'and we'll
tell you anything you like. You won't believe us, but it doesn't
matter. Oh, take us down!'
The others crowded round him, with the same entreaty. All but
Cyril. He had enough to do with the soda-water syphon, which would
keep slipping down under his jacket. It needed both hands to keep
it steady in its place.
But he said, standing as far out of the lantern light as possible:
'Please do take us down.'
So they were taken down. It is no joke to go down a strange
church-tower in the dark, but the keeper helped them - only, Cyril
had to be independent because of the soda-water syphon. It would
keep trying to get away. Half-way down the ladder it all but
escaped. Cyril just caught it by its spout, and as nearly as
possible lost his footing. He was trembling and pale when at last
they reached the bottom of the winding stair and stepped out on to
the flags of the church-porch.
Then suddenly the keeper caught Cyril and Robert each by an arm.
'You bring along the gells, sir,' said he; 'you and Andrew can
manage them.'
'Let go!' said Cyril; 'we aren't running away. We haven't hurt
your old church. Leave go!'
'You just come along,' said the keeper; and Cyril dared not oppose
him with violence, because just then the syphon began to slip
So they were all marched into the Vicarage study, and the Vicar's
wife came rushing in.
'Oh, William, are you safe?' she cried.
Robert hastened to allay her anxiety.
'Yes,' he said, 'he's quite safe. We haven't hurt him at all. And
please, we're very late, and they'll be anxious at home. Could you
send us home in your carriage?'
'Or perhaps there's a hotel near where we could get a carriage
from,' said Anthea. 'Martha will be very anxious as it is.'
The Vicar had sunk into a chair, overcome by emotion and amazement.
Cyril had also sat down, and was leaning forward with his elbows on
his knees because of that soda-water syphon.
'But how did you come to be locked up in the church-tower?' asked
the Vicar.
'We went up,' said Robert slowly, 'and we were tired, and we all
went to sleep, and when we woke up we found the door was locked, so
we yelled.'
'I should think you did!' said the Vicar's wife. 'Frightening
everybody out of their wits like this! You ought to be ashamed of
'We are,' said Jane gently.
'But who locked the door?' asked the Vicar.
'I don't know at all,' said Robert, with perfect truth. 'Do please
send us home.'
'Well, really,' said the Vicar, 'I suppose we'd better. Andrew,
put the horse to, and you can take them home.'
'Not alone, I don't,' said Andrew to himself.
'And,' the Vicar went on, 'let this be a lesson to you ...' He
went on talking, and the children listened miserably. But the
keeper was not listening. He was looking at the unfortunate Cyril.
He knew all about poachers of course, so he knew how people look
when they're hiding something. The Vicar had just got to the part
about trying to grow up to be a blessing to your parents, and not
a trouble and a disgrace, when the keeper suddenly said:
'Arst him what he's got there under his jacket'; and Cyril knew
that concealment was at an end. So he stood up, and squared his
shoulders and tried to look noble, like the boys in books that no
one can look in the face of and doubt that they come of brave and
noble families and will be faithful to the death, and he pulled out
the soda-water syphon and said:
'Well, there you are, then.'
There was a silence. Cyril went on - there was nothing else for
'Yes, we took this out of your larder, and some chicken and tongue
and bread. We were very hungry, and we didn't take the custard or
jam. We only took bread and meat and water - and we couldn't help
its being the soda kind -just the necessaries of life; and we left
half-a-crown to pay for it, and we left a letter. And we're very
sorry. And my father will pay a fine or anything you like, but
don't send us to prison. Mother would be so vexed. You know what
you said about not being a disgrace. Well, don't you go and do it
to us - that's all! We're as sorry as we can be. There!'
'However did you get up to the larder window?' said Mrs Vicar.
'I can't tell you that,' said Cyril firmly.
'Is this the whole truth you've been telling me?' asked the
'No,' answered Jane suddenly; 'it's all true, but it's not the
whole truth. We can't tell you that. It's no good asking. Oh, do
forgive us and take us home!' She ran to the Vicar's wife and
threw her arms round her. The Vicar's wife put her arms round
Jane, and the keeper whispered behind his hand to the Vicar:
'They're all right, sir - I expect it's a pal they're standing by.
Someone put 'em up to it, and they won't peach. Game little kids.'
'Tell me,' said the Vicar kindly, 'are you screening someone else?
Had anyone else anything to do with this?'
'Yes,' said Anthea, thinking of the Psammead; 'but it wasn't their
'Very well, my dears,' said the Vicar, 'then let's say no more
about it. Only just tell us why you wrote such an odd letter.'
'I don't know,' said Cyril. 'You see, Anthea wrote it in such a
hurry, and it really didn't seem like stealing then. But
afterwards, when we found we couldn't get down off the
church-tower, it seemed just exactly like it. We are all very
sorry -'
'Say no more about it,' said the Vicar's wife; 'but another time
just think before you take other people's tongues. Now - some cake
and milk before you go home?'
When Andrew came to say that the horse was put to, and was he
expected to be led alone into the trap that he had plainly seen
from the first, he found the children eating cake and drinking milk
and laughing at the Vicar's jokes. Jane was sitting on the Vicar's
wife's lap.
So you see they got off better than they deserved.
The gamekeeper, who was the cook's cousin, asked leave to drive
home with them, and Andrew was only too glad to have someone to
protect him from the trap he was so certain of.
When the wagonette reached their own house, between the
chalk-quarry and the gravel-pit, the children were very sleepy, but
they felt that they and the keeper were friends for life.
Andrew dumped the children down at the iron gate without a word.
'You get along home,' said the Vicarage cook's cousin, who was a
gamekeeper. 'I'll get me home on Shanks' mare.'
So Andrew had to drive off alone, which he did not like at all, and
it was the keeper that was cousin to the Vicarage cook who went
with the children to the door, and, when they had been swept to bed
in a whirlwind of reproaches, remained to explain to Martha and the
cook and the housemaid exactly what had happened. He explained so
well that Martha was quite amiable the next morning.
After that he often used to come over and see Martha; and in the
end - but that is another story, as dear Mr Kipling says.
Martha was obliged to stick to what she had said the night before
about keeping the children indoors the next day for a punishment.
But she wasn't at all snarky about it, and agreed to let Robert go
out for half an hour to get something he particularly wanted.
This, of course, was the day's wish.
Robert rushed to the gravel-pit, found the Psammead, and presently
wished for - But that, too, is another story.
The others were to be kept in as a punishment for the misfortunes
of the day before. Of course Martha thought it was naughtiness,
and not misfortune - so you must not blame her. She only thought
she was doing her duty. You know grown-up people often say they do
not like to punish you, and that they only do it for your own good,
and that it hurts them as much as it hurts you - and this is really
very often the truth.
Martha certainly hated having to punish the children quite as much
as they hated to be punished. For one thing, she knew what a noise
there would be in the house all day. And she had other reasons.
'I declare,' she said to the cook, 'it seems almost a shame keeping
of them indoors this lovely day; but they are that audacious,
they'll be walking in with their heads knocked off some of these
days, if I don't put my foot down. You make them a cake for tea
to-morrow, dear. And we'll have Baby along of us soon as we've got
a bit forrard with our work. Then they can have a good romp with
him out of the way. Now, Eliza, come, get on with them beds.
Here's ten o'clock nearly, and no rabbits caught!'
People say that in Kent when they mean 'and no work done'.
So all the others were kept in, but Robert, as I have said, was
allowed to go out for half an hour to get something they all
wanted. And that, of course, was the day's wish.
He had no difficulty in finding the Sand-fairy, for the day was
already so hot that it had actually, for the first time, come out
of its own accord, and it was sitting in a sort of pool of soft
sand, stretching itself, and trimming its whiskers, and turning its
snail's eyes round and round.
'Ha!' it said when its left eye saw Robert; 'I've been looking out
for you. Where are the rest of you? Not smashed themselves up
with those wings, I hope?'
'No,' said Robert; 'but the wings got us into a row, just like all
the wishes always do. So the others are kept indoors, and I was
only let out for half-an-hour - to get the wish. So please let me
wish as quickly as I can.'
'Wish away,' said the Psammead, twisting itself round in the sand.
But Robert couldn't wish away. He forgot all the things he had
been thinking about, and nothing would come into his head but
little things for himself, like toffee, a foreign stamp album, or
a clasp- knife with three blades and a corkscrew. He sat down to
think better, but it was no use. He could only think of things the
others would not have cared for - such as a football, or a pair of
leg-guards, or to be able to lick Simpkins minor thoroughly when he
went back to school.
'Well,' said the Psammead at last, 'you'd better hurry up with that
wish of yours. Time flies.'
'I know it does,' said Robert. 'I can't think what to wish for.
I wish you could give one of the others their wish without their
having to come here to ask for it. Oh, DON'T!'
But it was too late. The Psammead had blown itself out to about
three times its proper size, and now it collapsed like a pricked
bubble, and with a deep sigh leaned back against the edge of its
sand-pool, quite faint with the effort.
'There!' it said in a weak voice; 'it was tremendously hard - but
I did it. Run along home, or they're sure to wish for something
silly before you get there.'
They were - quite sure; Robert felt this, and as he ran home his
mind was deeply occupied with the sort of wishes he might find they
had wished in his absence. They might wish for rabbits, or white
mice, or chocolate, or a fine day to-morrow, or even - and that was
most likely - someone might have said, 'I do wish to goodness
Robert would hurry up.' Well, he WAS hurrying up, and so they
would have their wish, and the day would be wasted. Then he tried
to think what they could wish for - something that would be amusing
indoors. That had been his own difficulty from the beginning. So
few things are amusing indoors when the sun is shining outside and
you mayn't go out, however much you want to. Robert was running as
fast as he could, but when he turned the corner that ought to have
brought him within sight of the architect's nightmare - the
ornamental iron-work on the top of the house - he opened his eyes
so wide that he had to drop into a walk; for you cannot run with
your eyes wide open. Then suddenly he stopped short, for there was
no house to be seen. The front-garden railings were gone too, and
where the house had stood - Robert rubbed his eyes and looked
again. Yes, the others HAD wished - there was no doubt about that
- and they must have wished that they lived in a castle; for there
the castle stood black and stately, and very tall and broad, with
battlements and lancet windows, and eight great towers; and, where
the garden and the orchard had been, there were white things dotted
like mushrooms. Robert walked slowly on, and as he got nearer he
saw that these were tents) and men in armour were walking about
among the tents - crowds and crowds of them.
'Oh, crikey!' said Robert fervently. 'They HAVE! They've wished
for a castle, and it's being besieged! It's just like that
Sand-fairy! I wish we'd never seen the beastly thing!'
At the little window above the great gateway, across the moat that
now lay where the garden had been but half an hour ago, someone was
waving something pale dust-coloured. Robert thought it was one of
Cyril's handkerchiefs. They had never been white since the day
when he had upset the bottle of 'Combined Toning and Fixing
Solution' into the drawer where they were. Robert waved back, and
immediately felt that he had been unwise. For his signal had been
seen by the besieging force, and two men in steel-caps were coming
towards him. They had high brown boots on their long legs, and
they came towards him with such great strides that Robert
remembered the shortness of his own legs and did not run away. He
knew it would be useless to himself, and he feared it might be
irritating to the foe. So he stood still, and the two men seemed
quite pleased with him.
'By my halidom,' said one, 'a brave varlet this!'
Robert felt pleased at being CALLED brave, and somehow it made him
FEEL brave. He passed over the 'varlet'. It was the way people
talked in historical romances for the young, he knew, and it was
evidently not meant for rudeness. He only hoped he would be able
to understand what they said to him. He had not always been able
quite to follow the conversations in the historical romances for
the young.
'His garb is strange,' said the other. 'Some outlandish treachery,
'Say, lad, what brings thee hither?'
Robert knew this meant, 'Now then, youngster, what are you up to
here, eh?' - so he said:
'If you please, I want to go home.'
'Go, then!' said the man in the longest boots; 'none hindereth, and
nought lets us to follow. Zooks!' he added in a cautious
undertone, 'I misdoubt me but he beareth tidings to the besieged.'
'Where dwellest thou, young knave?' inquired the man with the
largest steel-cap.
'Over there,' said Robert; and directly he had said it he knew he
ought to have said 'Yonder!'
'Ha - sayest so?' rejoined the longest boots. 'Come hither, boy.
This is a matter for our leader.'
And to the leader Robert was dragged forthwith - by the reluctant
The leader was the most glorious creature Robert had ever seen. He
was exactly like the pictures Robert had so often admired in the
historical romances. He had armour, and a helmet, and a horse, and
a crest, and feathers, and a shield, and a lance, and a sword. His
armour and his weapons were all, I am almost sure, of quite
different periods. The shield was thirteenth-century, while the
sword was of the pattern used in the Peninsular War. The cuirass
was of the time of Charles I, and the helmet dated from the Second
Crusade. The arms on the shield were very grand - three red
running lions on a blue ground. The tents were of the latest brand
and the whole appearance of camp, army, and leader might have been
a shock to some. But Robert was dumb with admiration, and it all
seemed to him perfectly correct, because he knew no more of
heraldry or archaeology than the gifted artists who usually drew
the pictures for the historical romances. The scene was indeed
'exactly like a picture'. He admired it all so much that he felt
braver than ever.
'Come hither, lad,' said the glorious leader, when the men in
Cromwellian steel-caps had said a few low eager words. And he took
off his helmet, because he could not see properly with it on. He
had a kind face, and long fair hair. 'Have no fear; thou shalt
take no scathe,' he said.
Robert was glad of that. He wondered what 'scathe' was, and if it
was nastier than the senna tea which he had to take sometimes.
'Unfold thy tale without alarm,' said the leader kindly. 'Whence
comest thou, and what is thine intent?'
'My what?' said Robert.
'What seekest thou to accomplish? What is thine errand, that thou
wanderest here alone among these rough men-at-arms? Poor child,
thy mother's heart aches for thee e'en now, I'll warrant me.'
'I don't think so,' said Robert; 'you see, she doesn't know I'm
The leader wiped away a manly tear, exactly as a leader in a
historical romance would have done, and said:
'Fear not to speak the truth, my child; thou hast nought to fear
from Wulfric de Talbot.'
Robert had a wild feeling that this glorious leader of the
besieging party - being himself part of a wish - would be able to
understand better than Martha, or the gipsies, or the policeman in
Rochester, or the clergyman of yesterday, the true tale of the
wishes and the Psammead. The only difficulty was that he knew he
could never remember enough 'quothas' and 'beshrew me's', and
things like that, to make his talk sound like the talk of a boy in
a historical romance. However, he began boldly enough, with a
sentence straight out of Ralph de Courcy; or, The Boy Crusader. He
'Grammercy for thy courtesy, fair sir knight. The fact is, it's
like this - and I hope you're not in a hurry, because the story's
rather a breather. Father and mother are away, and when we were
down playing in the sand-pits we found a Psammead.'
'I cry thee mercy! A Sammyadd?' said the knight.
'Yes, a sort of - of fairy, or enchanter - yes, that's it, an
enchanter; and he said we could have a wish every day, and we
wished first to be beautiful.'
'Thy wish was scarce granted,' muttered one of the men-at-arms,
looking at Robert, who went on as if he had not heard, though he
thought the remark very rude indeed.
'And then we wished for money - treasure, you know; but we couldn't
spend it. And yesterday we wished for wings, and we got them, and
we had a ripping time to begin with -'
'Thy speech is strange and uncouth,' said Sir Wulfric de Talbot.
'Repeat thy words - what hadst thou?'
'A ripping - I mean a jolly - no - we were contented with our lot
- that's what I mean; only, after that we got into an awful fix.'
'What is a fix? A fray, mayhap?'
'No - not a fray. A - a - a tight place.'
'A dungeon? Alas for thy youthful fettered limbs!' said the
knight, with polite sympathy.
'It wasn't a dungeon. We just - just encountered undeserved
misfortunes,' Robert explained, 'and to-day we are punished by not
being allowed to go out. That's where I live,' - he pointed to the
castle. 'The others are in there, and they're not allowed to go
out. It's all the Psammead's - I mean the enchanter's fault. I
wish we'd never seen him.'
'He is an enchanter of might?'
'Oh yes - of might and main. Rather!'
'And thou deemest that it is the spells of the enchanter whom thou
hast angered that have lent strength to the besieging party,' said
the gallant leader; 'but know thou that Wulfric de Talbot needs no
enchanter's aid to lead his followers to victory.'
'No, I'm sure you don't,' said Robert, with hasty courtesy; 'of
course not - you wouldn't, you know. But, all the same, it's
partly his fault, but we're most to blame. You couldn't have done
anything if it hadn't been for us.'
'How now, bold boy?' asked Sir Wulfric haughtily. 'Thy speech is
dark, and eke scarce courteous. Unravel me this riddle!'
'Oh,' said Robert desperately, 'of course you don't know it, but
you're not REAL at all. You're only here because the others must
have been idiots enough to wish for a castle - and when the sun
sets you'll just vanish away, and it'll be all right.'
The captain and the men-at-arms exchanged glances, at first
pitying, and then sterner, as the longest-booted man said, 'Beware,
noble my lord; the urchin doth but feign madness to escape from our
clutches. Shall we not bind him?'
'I'm no more mad than you are,' said Robert angrily, 'perhaps not
so much - only, I was an idiot to think you'd understand anything.
Let me go - I haven't done anything to you.'
'Whither?' asked the knight, who seemed to have believed all the
enchanter story till it came to his own share in it. 'Whither
wouldst thou wend?'
'Home, of course.' Robert pointed to the castle.
'To carry news of succour? Nay!'
'All right then,' said Robert, struck by a sudden idea; 'then let
me go somewhere else.' His mind sought eagerly among his memories
of the historical romance.
'Sir Wulfric de Talbot,' he said slowly, 'should think foul scorn
to - to keep a chap - I mean one who has done him no hurt - when he
wants to cut off quietly - I mean to depart without violence.'
'This to my face! Beshrew thee for a knave!' replied Sir Wulfric.
But the appeal seemed to have gone home. 'Yet thou sayest sooth,'
he added thoughtfully. 'Go where thou wilt,' he added nobly, 'thou
art free. Wulfric de Talbot warreth not with babes, and Jakin here
shall bear thee company.'
'All right,' said Robert wildly. 'Jakin will enjoy himself, I
think. Come on, Jakin. Sir Wulfric, I salute thee.'
He saluted after the modern military manner, and set off running to
the sand-pit, Jakin's long boots keeping up easily.
He found the Fairy. He dug it up, he woke it up,
he implored it to give him one more wish.
'I've done two to-day already,' it grumbled, 'and one was as stiff
a bit of work as ever I did.'
'Oh, do, do, do, do, DO!' said Robert, while Jakin looked on with
an expression of open-mouthed horror at the strange beast that
talked, and gazed with its snail's eyes at him.
'Well, what is it?' snapped the Psammead, with cross sleepiness.
'I wish I was with the others,' said Robert. And the Psammead
began to swell. Robert never thought of wishing the castle and the
siege away. Of course he knew they had all come out of a wish, but
swords and daggers and pikes and lances seemed much too real to be
wished away. Robert lost consciousness for an instant. When he
opened his eyes the others were crowding round him.
'We never heard you come in,' they said. 'How awfully jolly of you
to wish it to give us our wish!'
'Of course we understood that was what you'd done.'
'But you ought to have told us. Suppose we'd wished something
'Silly?' said Robert, very crossly indeed. 'How much sillier could
you have been, I'd like to know? You nearly settled ME - I can
tell you.'
Then he told his story, and the others admitted that it certainly
had been rough on him. But they praised his courage and cleverness
so much that he presently got back his lost temper, and felt braver
than ever, and consented to be captain of the besieged force.
'We haven't done anything yet,' said Anthea comfortably; 'we waited
for you. We're going to shoot at them through these little
loopholes with the bow and arrows uncle gave you, and you shall
have first shot.'
'I don't think I would,' said Robert cautiously; 'you don't know
what they're like near to. They've got REAL bows and arrows - an
awful length - and swords and pikes and daggers, and all sorts of
sharp things. They're all quite, quite real. It's not just a - a
picture, or a vision, or anything; they can hurt us - or kill us
even, I shouldn't wonder. I can feel my ear all sore still. Look
here - have you explored the castle? Because I think we'd better
let them alone as long as they let us alone. I heard that Jakin
man say they weren't going to attack till just before sundown. We
can be getting ready for the attack. Are there any soldiers in the
castle to defend it?'
'We don't know,' said Cyril. 'You see, directly I'd wished we were
in a besieged castle, everything seemed to go upside down, and,when
it came straight we looked out of the window, and saw the camp and
things and you - and of course we kept on looking at everything.
Isn't this room jolly? It's as real as real!'
It was. It was square, with stone walls four feet thick, and great
beams for ceiling. A low door at the corner led to a flight of
steps, up and down. The children went down; they found themselves
in a great arched gatehouse - the enormous doors were shut and
barred. There was a window in a little room at the bottom of the
round turret up which the stair wound, rather larger than the other
windows, and looking through it they saw that the drawbridge was up
and the portcullis down; the moat looked very wide and deep.
Opposite the great door that led to the moat was another great
door, with a little door in it. The children went through this,
and found themselves in a big paved courtyard, with the great grey
walls of the castle rising dark and heavy on all four sides.
Near the middle of the courtyard stood Martha, moving her right
hand backwards and forwards in the air. The cook was stooping down
and moving her hands, also in a very curious way. But. the oddest
and at the same time most terrible thing was the Lamb, who was
sitting on nothing, about three feet from the ground, laughing
The children ran towards him. Just as Anthea was reaching out her
arms to take him, Martha said crossly, 'Let him alone - do, miss,
when he is good.'
'But what's he DOING?' said Anthea.
'Doing? Why, a-setting in his high chair as good as gold, a
precious, watching me doing of the ironing. Get along with you, do
- my iron's cold again.'
She went towards the cook, and seemed to poke an invisible fire
with an unseen poker - the cook seemed to be putting an unseen dish
into an invisible oven.
'Run along with you, do,' she said; 'I'm behindhand as it is. You
won't get no dinner if you come a-hindering of me like this. Come,
off you goes, or I'll pin a dishcloth to some of your tails.'
'You're sure the Lamb's all right?' asked Jane anxiously.
'Right as ninepence, if you don't come unsettling of him. I
thought you'd like to be rid of him for to-day; but take him, if
you want him, for gracious' sake.'
'No, no,' they said, and hastened away. They would have to defend
the castle presently, and the Lamb was safer even suspended in
mid-air in an invisible kitchen than in the guardroom of a besieged
castle. They went through the first doorway they came to, and sat
down helplessly on a wooden bench that ran along the room inside.
'How awful!' said Anthea and Jane together; and Jane added, 'I feel
as if I was in a mad asylum.'
'What does it mean?' Anthea said. 'It's creepy; I don't like it.
I wish we'd wished for something plain - a rocking-horse, or a
donkey, or something.'
'It's no use wishing NOW,' said Robert bitterly; and Cyril said:
'Do dry up a sec; I want to think.'
He buried his face in his hands, and the others looked about them.
They were in a long room with an arched roof. There were wooden
tables along it, and one across at the end of the room, on a sort
of raised platform. The room was very dim and dark. The floor was
strewn with dry things like sticks, and they did not smell nice.
Cyril sat up suddenly and said:
'Look here - it's all right. I think it's like this. You know, we
wished that the servants shouldn't notice any difference when we
got wishes. And nothing happens to the Lamb unless we specially
wish it to. So of course they don't notice the castle or anything.
But then the castle is on the same place where our house was - is,
I mean - and the servants have to go on being in the house, or else
they would notice. But you can't have a castle mixed up with our
house - and so we can't see the house, because we see the castle;
and they can't see the castle, because they go on seeing the house;
and so -'
'Oh, DON'T!' said Jane; 'you make my head go all swimmy, like being
on a roundabout. It doesn't matter! Only, I hope we shall be able
to see our dinner, that's all - because if it's invisible it'll be
unfeelable as well, and then we can't eat it! I KNOW it will,
because I tried to feel if I could feel the Lamb's chair, and there
was nothing under him at all but air. And we can't eat air, and I
feel just as if I hadn't had any breakfast for years and years.'
'It's no use thinking about it,' said Anthea. 'Let's go on
exploring. Perhaps we might find something to eat.'
This lighted hope in every breast, and they went on exploring the
castle. But though it was the most perfect and delightful castle
you can possibly imagine, and furnished in the most complete and
beautiful manner, neither food nor men-at-arms were to be found in
'If only you'd thought of wishing to be besieged in a castle
thoroughly garrisoned and provisioned!' said Jane reproachfully.
'You can't think of everything, you know,' said Anthea. 'I should
think it must be nearly dinner-time by now.'
It wasn't; but they hung about watching the strange movements of
the servants in the middle of the courtyard, because, of course,
they couldn't be sure where the dining-room of the invisible house
was. Presently they saw Martha carrying an invisible tray across
the courtyard, for it seemed that, by the most fortunate accident,
the dining-room of the house and the banqueting-hall of the castle
were in the same place. But oh, how their hearts sank when they
perceived that the tray was invisible!
They waited in wretched silence while Martha went through the form
of carving an unseen leg of mutton and serving invisible greens and
potatoes with a spoon that no one could see. When she had left the
room, the children looked at the empty table, and then at each
'This is worse than anything,' said Robert, who had not till now
been particularly keen on his dinner.
'I'm not so very hungry,' said Anthea, trying to make the best of
things, as usual.
Cyril tightened his belt ostentatiously. Jane burst into tears.
The children were sitting in the gloomy banqueting-hall, at the end
of one of the long bare wooden tables. There was now no hope.
Martha had brought in the dinner, and the dinner was invisible, and
unfeelable too; for, when they rubbed their hands along the table,
they knew but too well that for them there was nothing there BUT
Suddenly Cyril felt in his pocket.
'Right, oh!' he cried. 'Look here! Biscuits.'
Rather broken and crumbled, certainly, but still biscuits. Three
whole ones, and a generous handful of crumbs and fragments.
'I got them this morning - cook - and I'd quite forgotten,' he
explained as he divided them with scrupulous fairness into four
They were eaten in a happy silence, though they tasted a little
oddly, because they had been in Cyril's pocket all the morning with
a hank of tarred twine, some green fir-cones, and a ball of
cobbler's wax.
'Yes, but look here, Squirrel,' said Robert; 'you're so clever at
explaining about invisibleness and all that. How is it the
biscuits are here, and all the bread and meat and things have
'I don't know,' said Cyril after a pause, 'unless it's because WE
had them. Nothing about us has changed. Everything's in my pocket
all right.'
'Then if we HAD the mutton it would be real,' said Robert. 'Oh,
don't I wish we could find it!'
'But we can't find it. I suppose it isn't ours till we've got it
in our mouths.'
'Or in our pockets,' said Jane, thinking of the biscuits.
'Who puts mutton in their pockets, goose-girl?' said Cyril. 'But
I know - at any rate, I'll try it!'
He leaned over the table with his face about an inch from it, and
kept opening and shutting his mouth as if he were taking bites out
of air.
'It's no good,' said Robert in deep dejection. 'You'll only -
Cyril stood up with a grin of triumph, holding a square piece of
bread in his mouth. It was quite real. Everyone saw it. It is
true that, directly he bit a piece off, the rest vanished; but it
was all right, because he knew he had it in his hand though he
could neither see nor feel it. He took another bite from the air
between his fingers, and it turned into bread as he bit. The next
moment all the others were following his example, and opening and
shutting their mouths an inch or so from the bare-looking table.
Robert captured a slice of mutton, and - but I think I will draw a
veil over the rest of this painful scene. It is enough to say that
they all had enough mutton, and that when Martha came to change the
plates she said she had never seen such a mess in all her born
The pudding was, fortunately, a plain suet roly-poly, and in answer
to Martha's questions the children all with one accord said that
they would NOT have treacle on it - nor jam, nor sugar - 'Just
plain, please,' they said. Martha said, 'Well, I never - what
next, I wonder!' and went away.
Then ensued another scene on which I will not dwell, for nobody
looks nice picking up slices of suet pudding from the table in its
mouth, like a dog.
The great thing, after all, was that they had had dinner; and now
everyone felt more courage to prepare for the attack that was to be
delivered before sunset. Robert, as captain, insisted on climbing
to the top of one of the towers to reconnoitre, so up they all
went. And now they could see all round the castle, and could see,
too, that beyond the moat, on every side, the tents of the
besieging party were pitched. Rather uncomfortable shivers ran
down the children's backs as they saw that all the men were very
busy cleaning or sharpening their arms, re-stringing their bows,
and polishing their shields. A large party came along the road,
with horses dragging along the great trunk of a tree; and Cyril
felt quite pale, because he knew this was for a battering-ram.
'What a good thing we've got a moat,' he said; 'and what a good
thing the drawbridge is up - I should never have known how to work
'Of course it would be up in a besieged castle.'
'You'd think there ought to have been soldiers in it, wouldn't
you?' said Robert.
'You see you don't know how long it's been besieged,' said Cyril
darkly; 'perhaps most of the brave defenders were killed quite
early in the siege and all the provisions eaten, and now there are
only a few intrepid survivors - that's us, and we are going to
defend it to the death.'
'How do you begin - defending to the death, I mean?' asked Anthea.
'We ought to be heavily armed - and then shoot at them when they
advance to the attack.'
'They used to pour boiling lead down on besiegers when they got too
close,' said Anthea. 'Father showed me the holes on purpose for
pouring it down through at Bodiam Castle. And there are holes like
it in the gate-tower here.'
'I think I'm glad it's only a game; it IS only a game, isn't it?'
said Jane.
But no one answered.
The children found plenty of strange weapons in the castle, and if
they were armed at all it was soon plain that they would be, as
Cyril said, 'armed heavily' - for these swords and lances and
crossbows were far too weighty even for Cyril's manly strength; and
as for the longbows, none of the children could even begin to bend
them. The daggers were better; but Jane hoped that the besiegers
would not come close enough for daggers to be of any use.
'Never mind, we can hurl them like javelins,' said Cyril, 'or drop
them on people's heads. I say - there are lots of stones on the
other side of the courtyard. If we took some of those up, just to
drop on their heads if they were to try swimming the moat.'
So a heap of stones grew apace, up in the room above the gate; and
another heap, a shiny spiky dangerous-looking heap, of daggers and
As Anthea was crossing the courtyard for more stones, a sudden and
valuable idea came to her. She went to Martha and said, 'May we
have just biscuits for tea? We're going to play at besieged
castles, and we'd like the biscuits to provision the garrison. Put
mine in my pocket, please, my hands are so dirty. And I'll tell
the others to fetch theirs.'
This was indeed a happy thought, for now with four generous
handfuls of air, which turned to biscuit as Martha crammed it into
their pockets, the garrison was well provisioned till sundown.
They brought up some iron pots of cold water to pour on the
besiegers instead of hot lead, with which the castle did not seem
to be provided.
The afternoon passed with wonderful quickness. It was very
exciting; but none of them, except Robert, could feel all the time
that this was real deadly dangerous work. To the others, who had
only seen the camp and the besiegers from a distance, the whole
thing seemed half a game of make-believe, and half a splendidly
distinct and perfectly safe dream. But it was only now and then
that Robert could feel this.
When it seemed to be tea-time the biscuits were eaten with water
from the deep well in the courtyard, drunk out of horns. Cyril
insisted on putting by eight of the biscuits, in case anyone should
feel faint in stress of battle.
just as he was putting away the reserve biscuits in a sort of
little stone cupboard without a door, a sudden sound made him drop
three. It was the loud fierce cry of a trumpet.
'You see it IS real,' said Robert, 'and they are going to attack.'
All rushed to the narrow windows.
'Yes,' said Robert, 'they're all coming out of their tents and
moving about like ants. There's that Jakin dancing about where the
bridge joins on. I wish he could see me put my tongue out at him!
The others were far too pale to wish to put their tongues out at
anybody. They looked at Robert with surprised respect. Anthea
'You really ARE brave, Robert.'
'Rot!' Cyril's pallor turned to redness now, all in a minute.
'He's been getting ready to be brave all the afternoon. And I
wasn't ready, that's all. I shall be braver than he is in half a
'Oh dear!' said Jane, 'what does it matter which of
you is the bravest? I think Cyril was a perfect silly to wish for
a castle, and I don't want to play.'
'It ISN'T' - Robert was beginning sternly, but Anthea
interrupted -
'Oh yes, you do,' she said coaxingly; 'it's a very nice game,
really, because they can't possibly get in, and if they do the
women and children are always spared by civilized armies.'
'But are you quite, quite sure they ARE civilized?' asked Jane,
panting. 'They seem to be such a long time ago.'
'Of course they are.' Anthea pointed cheerfully through the narrow
window. 'Why, look at the little flags on their lances, how bright
they are - and how fine the leader is! Look, that's him - isn't
it, Robert? - on the grey horse.'
Jane consented to look, and the scene was almost too pretty to be
alarming. The green turf, the white tents, the flash of pennoned
lances, the gleam of armour, and the bright colours of scarf and
tunic - it was just like a splendid coloured picture. The trumpets
were sounding, and when the trumpets stopped for breath the
children could hear the cling-clang of armour and the murmur of
A trumpeter came forward to the edge of the moat, which now seemed
very much narrower than at first, and blew the longest and loudest
blast they had yet heard. When the blaring noise had died away, a
man who was with the trumpeter shouted:
'What ho, within there!' and his voice came plainly to the garrison
in the gate-house.
'Hullo there!' Robert bellowed back at once.
'In the name of our Lord the King, and of our good lord and trusty
leader Sir Wulfric de Talbot, we summon this castle to surrender -
on pain of fire and sword and no quarter. Do ye surrender?'
'No,' bawled Robert, 'of course we don't! Never,
Never, NEVER!'
The man answered back:
'Then your fate be on your own heads.'
'Cheer,' said Robert in a fierce whisper. 'Cheer to show them we
aren't afraid, and rattle the daggers to make more noise. One,
two, three! Hip, hip, hooray! Again - Hip, hip, hooray! One more
- Hip, hip, hooray!' The cheers were rather high and weak, but the
rattle of the daggers lent them strength and depth.
There was another shout from the camp across the moat - and then
the beleaguered fortress felt that the attack had indeed begun.
It was getting rather dark in the room above the great gate, and
Jane took a very little courage as she remembered that sunset
couldn't be far off now.
'The moat is dreadfully thin,' said Anthea.
'But they can't get into the castle even if they do swim over,'
said Robert. And as he spoke he heard feet on the stair outside -
heavy feet and the clank of steel. No one breathed for a moment.
The steel and the feet went on up the turret stairs. Then Robert
sprang softly to the door. He pulled off his shoes.
'Wait here,' he whispered, and stole quickly and softly after the
boots and the spur-clank. He peeped into the upper room. The man
was there - and it was Jakin, all dripping with moat-water, and he
was fiddling about with the machinery which Robert felt sure worked
the drawbridge. Robert banged the door suddenly, and turned the
great key in the lock, just as Jakin sprang to the inside of the
door. Then he tore downstairs and into the little turret at the
foot of the tower where the biggest window was.
'We ought to have defended THIS!' he cried to the others as they
followed him. He was just in time. Another man had swum over, and
his fingers were on the window-ledge. Robert never knew how the
man had managed to climb up out of the water. But he saw the
clinging fingers, and hit them as hard as he could with an iron bar
that he caught up from the floor. The man fell with a plop-plash
into the moat-water. In another moment Robert was outside the
little room, had banged its door and was shooting home the enormous
bolts, and calling to Cyril to lend a hand.
Then they stood in the arched gate-house, breathing hard and
looking at each other. jane's mouth was open.
'Cheer up, jenny,' said Robert - 'it won't last much longer.'
There was a creaking above, and something rattled and shook. The
pavement they stood on seemed to tremble. Then a crash told them
that the drawbridge had been lowered to its place.
'That's that beast Jakin,' said Robert. 'There's still the
portcullis; I'm almost certain that's worked from lower down.'
And now the drawbridge rang and echoed hollowly to the hoofs of
horses and the tramp of armed men.
'Up - quick!' cried Robert. 'Let's drop things on them.'
Even the girls were feeling almost brave now. They followed Robert
quickly, and under his directions began to drop stones out through
the long narrow windows. There was a confused noise below, and
some groans.
'Oh dear!' said Anthea, putting down the stone she was just going
to drop out. 'I'm afraid we've hurt somebody!'
Robert caught up the stone in a fury.
'I should just hope we HAD!' he said; 'I'd give something for a
jolly good boiling kettle of lead. Surrender, indeed!'
And now came more tramping, and a pause, and then the thundering
thump of the battering-ram. And the little room was almost quite
'We've held it,' cried Robert, 'we won't surrender! The sun MUST
set in a minute. Here - they're all jawing underneath again. Pity
there's no time to get more stones! Here, pour that water down on
them. It's no good, of course, but they'll hate it.'
'Oh dear!' said Jane; 'don't you think we'd better surrender?'
'Never!' said Robert; 'we'll have a parley if you like, but we'll
never surrender. Oh, I'll be a soldier when I grow up - you just
see if I don't. I won't go into the Civil Service, whatever anyone
'Let's wave a handkerchief and ask for a parley,' Jane pleaded. 'I
don't believe the sun's going to set to-night at all.'
'Give them the water first - the brutes!' said the bloodthirsty
Robert. So Anthea tilted the pot over the nearest lead-hole, and
poured. They heard a splash below, but no one below seemed to have
felt it. And again the ram battered the great door. Anthea
'How idiotic,' said Robert, lying flat on the floor and putting one
eye to the lead hole. 'Of course the holes go straight down into
the gate-house - that's for when the enemy has got past the door
and the portcullis, and almost all is lost. Here, hand me the
pot.' He crawled on to the three-cornered window-ledge in the
middle of the wall, and, taking the pot from Anthea, poured the
water out through the arrow-slit.
And as he began to pour, the noise of the battering-ram and the
trampling of the foe and the shouts of 'Surrender!' and 'De Talbot
for ever!' all suddenly stopped and went out like the snuff of a
candle; the little dark room seemed to whirl round and turn
topsy-turvy, and when the children came to themselves there they
were safe and sound, in the big front bedroom of their own house -
the house with the ornamental nightmare iron-top to the roof.
They all crowded to the window and looked out. The moat and the
tents and the besieging force were all gone - and there was the
garden with its tangle of dahlias and marigolds and asters and late
roses, and the spiky iron railings and the quiet white road.
Everyone drew a deep breath.
'And that's all right!' said Robert. 'I told you so! And, I say,
we didn't surrender, did we?'
'Aren't you glad now I wished for a castle?' asked Cyril.
'I think I am NOW,' said Anthea slowly. 'But I wouldn't wish for
it again, I think, Squirrel dear!'
'Oh, it was simply splendid!' said Jane unexpectedly. 'I wasn't
frightened a bit.'
'Oh, I say!' Cyril was beginning, but Anthea stopped him.
'Look here,' she said, 'it's just come into my head. This is the
very first thing we've wished for that hasn't got us into a row.
And there hasn't been the least little scrap of a row about this.
Nobody's raging downstairs, we're safe and sound, we've had an
awfully jolly day - at least, not jolly exactly, but you know what
I mean. And we know now how brave Robert is - and Cyril too, of
course,' she added hastily, 'and Jane as well. And we haven't got
into a row with a single grown-up.'
The door was opened suddenly and fiercely.
'You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,' said the voice of Martha,
and they could tell by her voice that she was very angry indeed.
'I thought you couldn't last through the day without getting up to
some doggery! A person can't take a breath of air on the front
doorstep but you must be emptying the wash-hand jug on to their
heads! Off you go to bed, the lot of you, and try to get up better
children in the morning. Now then - don't let me have to tell you
twice. If I find any of you not in bed in ten minutes I'll let you
know it, that's all! A new cap, and everything!'
She flounced out amid a disregarded chorus of regrets and
apologies. The children were very sorry, but really it was not
their faults. You can't help it if you are pouring water on a
besieging foe, and your castle suddenly changes into your house -
and everything changes with it except the water, and that happens
to fall on somebody else's clean cap.
'I don't know why the water didn't change into nothing, though,'
said Cyril.
'Why should it?' asked Robert. 'Water's water all the world over.'
'I expect the castle well was the same as ours in the stable-yard,'
said Jane. And that was really the case.
'I thought we couldn't get through a wish-day without a row,' said
Cyril; 'it was much too good to be true. Come on, Bobs, my
military hero. If we lick into bed sharp she won't be so frumious,
and perhaps she'll bong us up some supper. I'm jolly hungry!
Good-night, kids.'
'Good-night. I hope the castle won't come creeping back in the
night,' said Jane.
'Of course it won't,' said Anthea briskly, 'but Martha will - not
in the night, but in a minute. Here, turn round, I'll get that
knot out of your pinafore strings.'
'Wouldn't it have been degrading for Sir Wulfric de Talbot,' said
Jane dreamily, 'if he could have known that half the besieged
garrison wore pinafores?'
'And the other half knickerbockers. Yes - frightfully. Do stand
still - you're only tightening the knot,' said Anthea.
'Look here,' said Cyril. 'I've got an idea.'
'Does it hurt much?' said Robert sympathetically.
'Don't be a jackape! I'm not humbugging.'
'Shut up, Bobs!' said Anthea.
'Silence for the Squirrel's oration,' said Robert.
Cyril balanced himself on the edge of the water-butt in the
backyard, where they all happened to be, and spoke.
'Friends, Romans, countrymen - and women - we found a Sammyadd. We
have had wishes. We've had wings, and being beautiful as the day
- ugh! - that was pretty jolly beastly if you like - and wealth and
castles, and that rotten gipsy business with the Lamb. But we're
no forrader. We haven't really got anything worth having for our
'We've had things happening,' said Robert; 'that's always
'It's not enough, unless they're the right things,' said Cyril
firmly. 'Now I've been thinking -'
'Not really?' whispered Robert.
'In the silent what's-its-names of the night. It's like suddenly
being asked something out of history - the date of the Conquest or
something; you know it all right all the time, but when you're
asked it all goes out of your head. Ladies and gentlemen, you know
jolly well that when we're all rotting about in the usual way heaps
of things keep cropping up, and then real earnest wishes come into
the heads of the beholder -'
'Hear, hear!' said Robert.
'- of the beholder, however stupid he is,' Cyril went on. 'Why,
even Robert might happen to think of a really useful wish if he
didn't injure his poor little brains trying so hard to think. -
Shut up, Bobs, I tell you! - You'll have the whole show over.'
A struggle on the edge of a water-butt is exciting, but damp. When
it was over, and the boys were partially dried, Anthea said:
'It really was you began it, Bobs. Now honour is satisfied) do let
Squirrel go on. We're wasting the whole morning.'
'Well then,' said Cyril, still wringing the water out of the tails
of his jacket, 'I'll call it pax if Bobs will.'
'Pax then,' said Robert sulkily. 'But I've got a lump as big as a
cricket ball over my eye.'
Anthea patiently offered a dust-coloured handkerchief, and Robert
bathed his wounds in silence. 'Now, Squirrel,' she said.
'Well then - let's just play bandits, or forts, or soldiers, or any
of the old games. We're dead sure to think of something if we try
not to. You always do.'
The others consented. Bandits was hastily chosen for the game.
'It's as good as anything else,' said Jane gloomily. It must be
owned that Robert was at first but a half-hearted bandit, but when
Anthea had borrowed from Martha the red-spotted handkerchief in
which the keeper had brought her mushrooms that morning, and had
tied up Robert's head with it so that he could be the wounded hero
who had saved the bandit captain's life the day before, he cheered
up wonderfully. All were soon armed. Bows and arrows slung on the
back look well; and umbrellas and cricket stumps stuck through the
belt give a fine impression of the wearer's being armed to the
teeth. The white cotton hats that men wear in the country nowadays
have a very brigandish effect when a few turkey's feathers are
stuck in them. The Lamb's mail-cart was covered with a
red-and-blue checked tablecloth, and made an admirable
baggage-wagon. The Lamb asleep inside it was not at all in the
way. So the banditti set out along the road that led to the
'We ought to be near the Sammyadd,' said Cyril, 'in case we think
of anything suddenly.'
It is all very well to make up your minds to play bandits - or
chess, or ping-pong, or any other agreeable game - but it is not
easy to do it with spirit when all the wonderful wishes you can
think of, or can't think of, are waiting for you round the corner.
The game was dragging a little, and some of the bandits were
beginning to feel that the others were disagreeable things, and
were saying so candidly, when the baker's boy came along the road
with loaves in a basket. The opportunity was not one to be lost.
'Stand and deliver!' cried Cyril.
'Your money or your life!' said Robert.
And they stood on each side of the baker's boy. Unfortunately, he
did not seem to enter into the spirit of the thing at all. He was
a baker's boy of an unusually large size. He merely said:
'Chuck it now, d'ye hear!' and pushed the bandits aside most
Then Robert lassoed him with jane's skipping-rope, and instead of
going round his shoulders, as Robert intended, it went round his
feet and tripped him up. The basket was upset, the beautiful new
loaves went bumping and bouncing all over the dusty chalky road.
The girls ran to pick them up, and all in a moment Robert and the
baker's boy were fighting it out, man to man, with Cyril to see
fair play, and the skipping-rope twisting round their legs like an
interested snake that wished to be a peacemaker. It did not
succeed; indeed the way the boxwood handles sprang up and hit the
fighters on the shins and ankles was not at all peace-making. I
know this is the second fight - or contest - in this chapter, but
I can't help it. It was that sort of day. You know yourself there
are days when rows seem to keep on happening, quite without your
meaning them to. If I were a writer of tales of adventure such as
those which used to appear in The Boys of England when I was young,
of course I should be able to describe the fight, but I cannot do
it. I never can see what happens during a fight, even when it is
only dogs. Also, if I had been one of these Boys of England
writers, Robert would have got the best of it. But I am like
George Washington - I cannot tell a lie, even about a cherry-tree,
much less about a fight, and I cannot conceal from you that Robert
was badly beaten, for the second time that day. The baker's boy
blacked his other eye, and, being ignorant of the first rules of
fair play and gentlemanly behaviour, he also pulled Robert's hair,
and kicked him on the knee. Robert always used to say he could
have licked the butcher if it hadn't been for the girls. But I am
not sure. Anyway, what happened was this, and very painful it was
to self-respecting boys.
Cyril was just tearing off his coat so as to help his brother in
proper style, when Jane threw her arms round his legs and began to
cry and ask him not to go and be beaten too. That 'too' was very
nice for Robert, as you can imagine - but it was nothing to what he
felt when Anthea rushed in between him and the baker's boy, and
caught that unfair and degraded fighter round the waist, imploring
him not to fight any more.
'Oh, don't hurt my brother any more!' she said in floods of tears.
'He didn't mean it - it's only play. And I'm sure he's very
You see how unfair this was to Robert. Because, if the baker's boy
had had any right and chivalrous instincts, and had yielded to
Anthea's pleading and accepted her despicable apology, Robert could
not, in honour, have done anything to him at a future time. But
Robert's fears, if he had any, were soon dispelled. Chivalry was
a stranger to the breast of the baker's boy. He pushed Anthea away
very roughly, and he chased Robert with kicks and unpleasant
conversation right down the road to the sand-pit, and there, with
one last kick, he landed him in a heap of sand.
'I'D larn you, you young varmint!' he said, and went off to pick up
his loaves and go about his business. Cyril, impeded by Jane,
could do nothing without hurting her, for she clung round his legs
with the strength of despair. The baker's boy went off red and
damp about the face; abusive to the last, he called them a pack of
silly idiots, and disappeared round the corner. Then jane's grasp
loosened. Cyril turned away in silent dignity to follow Robert,
and the girls followed him, weeping without restraint.
It was not a happy party that flung itself down in the sand beside
the sobbing Robert. For Robert was sobbing - mostly with rage.
Though of course I know that a really heroic boy is always dry-eyed
after a fight. But then he always wins, which had not been the
case with Robert.
Cyril was angry with Jane; Robert was furious with Anthea; the
girls were miserable; and not one of the four was pleased with the
baker's boy. There was, as French writers say, 'a silence full of
Then Robert dug his toes and his hands into the sand and wriggled
in his rage. 'He'd better wait till I'm grown up - the cowardly
brute! Beast! - I hate him! But I'll pay him out. just because
he's bigger than me.'
'You began,' said Jane incautiously.
'I know I did, silly - but I was only rotting - and he kicked me -
look here -'
Robert tore down a stocking and showed a purple bruise touched up
with red. 'I only wish I was bigger than him, that's all.'
He dug his fingers in the sand, and sprang up, for his hand had
touched something furry. It was the Psammead, of course - 'On the
look-out to make sillies of them as usual,' as Cyril remarked
later. And of course the next moment Robert's wish was granted,
and he was bigger than the baker's boy. Oh, but much, much bigger.
He was bigger than the big policeman who used to be at the crossing
at the Mansion House years ago - the one who was so kind in helping
old ladies over the crossing - and he was the biggest man I have
ever seen, as well as the kindest. No one had a foot-rule in its
pocket, so Robert could not be measured - but he was taller than
your father would be if he stood on your mother's head, which I am
sure he would never be unkind enough to do. He must have been ten
or eleven feet high, and as broad as a boy of that height ought to
be. his Norfolk suit had fortunately grown too, and now he stood
up in it - with one of his enormous stockings turned down to show
the gigantic bruise on his vast leg. Immense tears of fury still
stood on his flushed giant face. He looked so surprised, and he
was so large to be wearing an Eton collar, that the others could
not help laughing.
'The Sammyadd's done us again,' said Cyril.
'Not us - ME,' said Robert. 'If you'd got any decent feeling you'd
try to make it make you the same size. You've no idea how silly it
feels,' he added thoughtlessly.
'And I don't want to; I can jolly well see how silly it looks,'
Cyril was beginning; but Anthea said:
'Oh, DON'T! I don't know what's the matter with you boys to-day.
Look here, Squirrel, let's play fair. It is hateful for poor old
Bobs, all alone up there. Let's ask the Sammyadd for another wish,
and, if it will, I do really think we ought to be made the same
The others agreed, but not gaily; but when they found the Psammead,
it wouldn't.
'Not I,' it said crossly, rubbing its face with its feet. He's a
rude violent boy, and it'll do him good to be the wrong size for a
bit. What did he want to come digging me out with his nasty wet
hands for? He nearly touched me! He's a perfect savage. A boy of
the Stone Age would have had more sense.'
Robert's hands had indeed been wet - with tears.
'Go away and leave me in peace, do,' the Psammead went on. 'I
can't think why you don't wish for something sensible - something
to eat or drink, or good manners, or good tempers. Go along with
you, do!'
It almost snarled as it shook its whiskers, and turned a sulky
brown back on them. The most hopeful felt that further parley was
vain. They turned again to the colossal Robert.
'Whatever shall we do?' they said; and they all said it.
'First,' said Robert grimly, 'I'm going to reason with that baker's
boy. I shall catch him at the end of the road.'
'Don't hit a chap littler than yourself, old man,' said Cyril.
'Do I look like hitting him?' said Robert scornfully. 'Why, I
should KILL him. But I'll give him something to remember. Wait
till I pull up my stocking.' He pulled up his stocking, which was
as large as a small bolster-case, and strode off. His strides were
six or seven feet long, so that it was quite easy for him to be at
the bottom of the hill, ready to meet the baker's boy when he came
down swinging the empty basket to meet his master's cart, which had
been leaving bread at the cottages along the road.
Robert crouched behind a haystack in the farmyard, that is at the
corner, and when he heard the boy come whistling along, he jumped
out at him and caught him by the collar.
'Now,' he said, and his voice was about four times its usual size,
just as his body was four times its, 'I'm going to teach you to
kick boys smaller than you.'
He lifted up the baker's boy and set him on the top of the
haystack, which was about sixteen feet from the ground, and then he
sat down on the roof of the cowshed and told the baker's boy
exactly what he thought of him. I don't think the boy heard it all
- he was in a sort of trance of terror. When Robert had said
everything he could think of, and some things twice over, he shook
the boy and said:
'And now get down the best way you can,' and left him.
I don't know how the baker's boy got down, but I do know that he
missed the cart, and got into the very hottest of hot water when he
turned up at last at the bakehouse. I am sorry for him, but, after
all, it was quite right that he should be taught that English boys
mustn't use their feet when they fight, but their fists. Of course
the water he got into only became hotter when he tried to tell his
master about the boy he had licked and the giant as high as a
church, because no one could possibly believe such a tale as that.
Next day the tale was believed - but that was too late to be of any
use to the baker's boy.
When Robert rejoined the others he found them in the garden.
Anthea had thoughtfully asked Martha to let them have dinner out
there - because the dining-room was rather small, and it would have
been so awkward to have a brother the size of Robert in there. The
Lamb, who had slept peacefully during the whole stormy morning, was
now found to be sneezing, and Martha said he had a cold and would
be better indoors.
'And really it's just as well,' said Cyril, 'for I don't believe
he'd ever have stopped screaming if he'd once seen you the awful
size you are!'
Robert was indeed what a draper would call an 'out-size' in boys.
He found himself able to step right over the iron gate in the front
Martha brought out the dinner - it was cold veal and baked
potatoes, with sago pudding and stewed plums to follow.
She of course did not notice that Robert was anything but the usual
size, and she gave him as much meat and potatoes as usual and no
more. You have no idea how small your usual helping of dinner
looks when you are many times your proper size. Robert groaned,
and asked for more bread. But Martha would not go on giving more
bread for ever. She was in a hurry, because the keeper intended to
call on his way to Benenhurst Fair, and she wished to be dressed
smartly before he came.
'I wish WE were going to the Fair,' said Robert.
'You can't go anywhere that size,' said Cyril.
'Why not?' said Robert. 'They have giants at fairs, much bigger
ones than me.'
'Not much, they don't,' Cyril was beginning, when Jane screamed
'Oh!' with such loud suddenness that they all thumped her on the
back and asked whether she had swallowed a plum-stone.
'No,' she said, breathless from being thumped, 'it's - it's not a
plum-stone. it's an idea. Let's take Robert to the Fair, and get
them to give us money for showing him! Then we really shall get
something out of the old Sammyadd at last!'
'Take me, indeed!' said Robert indignantly. 'Much more likely me
take you!'
And so it turned out. The idea appealed irresistibly to everyone
but Robert, and even he was brought round by Anthea's suggestion
that he should have a double share of any money they might make.
There was a little old pony-trap in the coach-house - the kind that
is called a governess-cart. It seemed desirable to get to the Fair
as quickly as possible, so Robert - who could now take enormous
steps and so go very fast indeed - consented to wheel the others in
this. It was as easy to him now as wheeling the Lamb in the
mail-cart had been in the morning. The Lamb's cold prevented his
being of the party.
It was a strange sensation being wheeled in a pony-carriage by a
giant. Everyone enjoyed the journey except Robert and the few
people they passed on the way. These mostly went into what looked
like some kind of standing-up fits by the roadside, as Anthea said.
just outside Benenhurst, Robert hid in a barn, and the others went
on to the Fair.
There were some swings, and a hooting tooting blaring
merry-go-round, and a shooting-gallery and coconut shies.
Resisting an impulse to win a coconut - or at least to attempt the
enterprise - Cyril went up to the woman who was loading little guns
before the array of glass bottles on strings against a sheet of
'Here you are, little gentleman!' she said. 'Penny a shot!'
'No, thank you,' said Cyril, 'we are here on business, not on
pleasure. Who's the master?'
'The what?'
'The master - the head - the boss of the show.'
'Over there,' she said, pointing to a stout man in a dirty linen
jacket who was sleeping in the sun; 'but I don't advise you to wake
him sudden. His temper's contrary, especially these hot days.
Better have a shot while you're waiting.'
'It's rather important,' said Cyril. 'It'll be very profitable to
him. I think he'll be sorry if we take it away.'
'Oh, if it's money in his pocket,' said the woman. 'No kid now?
What is it?'
'It's a GIANT.'
'You ARE kidding?'
'Come along and see,' said Anthea.
The woman looked doubtfully at them, then she called to a ragged
little girl in striped stockings and a dingy white petticoat that
came below her brown frock, and leaving her in charge of the
'shooting-gallery' she turned to Anthea and said, 'Well, hurry up!
But if you ARE kidding, you'd best say so. I'm as mild as milk
myself, but my Bill he's a fair terror and -'
Anthea led the way to the barn. 'It really IS a giant,' she said.
'He's a giant little boy - in Norfolks like my brother's there.
And we didn't bring him up to the Fair because people do stare so,
and they seem to go into kind of standing-up fits when they see
him. And we thought perhaps you'd like to show him and get
pennies; and if you like to pay us something, you can - only, it'll
have to be rather a lot, because we promised him he should have a
double share of whatever we made.'
The woman murmured something indistinct, of which the children
could only hear the words, 'Swelp me!' 'balmy,' and 'crumpet,'
which conveyed no definite idea to their minds.
She had taken Anthea's hand, and was holding it very firmly; and
Anthea could not help wondering what would happen if Robert should
have wandered off or turned his proper size during the interval.
But she knew that the Psammead's gifts really did last till sunset,
however inconvenient their lasting might be; and she did not think,
somehow, that Robert would care to go out alone while he was that
When they reached the barn and Cyril called 'Robert!' there was a
stir among the loose hay, and Robert began to come out. His hand
and arm came first - then a foot and leg. When the woman saw the
hand she said 'My!' but when she saw the foot she said 'Upon my
civvy!' and when, by slow and heavy degrees, the whole of Robert's
enormous bulk was at last completely disclosed, she drew a long
breath and began to say many things, compared with which 'balmy'
and 'crumpet' seemed quite ordinary. She dropped into
understandable English at last.
'What'll you take for him?' she said excitedly. 'Anything in
reason. We'd have a special van built - leastways, I know where
there's a second-hand one would do up handsome - what a baby
elephant had, as died. What'll you take? He's soft, ain't he?
Them giants mostly is - but I never see - no, never! What'll you
take? Down on the nail. We'll treat him like a king, and give him
first-rate grub and a doss fit for a bloomin' dook. He must be
dotty or he wouldn't need you kids to cart him about. What'll you
take for him?'
'They won't take anything,' said Robert sternly. 'I'm no more soft
than you are - not so much, I shouldn't wonder. I'll come and be
a show for to-day if you'll give me' - he hesitated at the enormous
price he was about to ask - 'if you'll give me fifteen shillings.'
'Done,' said the woman, so quickly that Robert felt he had been
unfair to himself, and wished he had asked thirty. 'Come on now -
and see my Bill - and we'll fix a price for the season. I dessay
you might get as much as two quid a week reg'lar. Come on - and
make yourself as small as you can, for gracious' sake!'
This was not very small, and a crowd gathered quickly, so that it
was at the head of an enthusiastic procession that Robert entered
the trampled meadow where the Fair was held, and passed over the
stubbly yellow dusty grass to the door of the biggest tent. He
crept in, and the woman went to call her Bill. He was the big
sleeping man, and he did not seem at all pleased at being awakened.
Cyril, watching through a slit in the tent, saw him scowl and shake
a heavy fist and a sleepy head. Then the woman went on speaking
very fast. Cyril heard 'Strewth,' and 'biggest draw you ever, so
help me!' and he began to share Robert's feeling that fifteen
shillings was indeed far too little. Bill slouched up to the tent
and entered. When he beheld the magnificent proportions of Robert
he said but little - 'Strike me pink!' were the only words the
children could afterwards remember - but he produced fifteen
shillings, mainly in sixpences and coppers, and handed it to
'We'll fix up about what you're to draw when the show's over
to-night,' he said with hoarse heartiness. 'Lor' love a duck!
you'll be that happy with us you'll never want to leave us. Can
you do a song now - or a bit of a breakdown?'
'Not to-day,' said Robert, rejecting the idea of trying to sing 'As
once in May', a favourite of his mother's, and the only song he
could think of at the moment.
'Get Levi and clear them bloomin' photos out. Clear the tent.
Stick up a curtain or suthink,' the man went on. 'Lor', what a
pity we ain't got no tights his size! But we'll have 'em before
the week's out. Young man, your fortune's made. It's a good thing
you came to me, and not to some chaps as I could tell you on. I've
known blokes as beat their giants, and starved 'em too; so I'll
tell you straight, you're in luck this day if you never was afore.
'Cos I'm a lamb, I am - and I don't deceive you.'
'I'm not afraid of anyone's beating ME,' said Robert, looking down
on the 'lamb'. Robert was crouched on his knees, because the tent
was not big enough for him to stand upright in, but even in that
position he could still look down on most people. 'But I'm awfully
hungry I wish you'd get me something to eat.'
'Here, 'Becca,' said the hoarse Bill. 'Get him some grub - the
best you've got, mind!' Another whisper followed, of which the
children only heard, 'Down in black and white - first thing
Then the woman went to get the food - it was only bread and cheese
when it came, but it was delightful to the large and empty Robert;
and the man went to post sentinels round the tent, to give the
alarm if Robert should attempt to escape with his fifteen
'As if we weren't honest,' said Anthea indignantly when the meaning
of the sentinels dawned on her.
Then began a very strange and wonderful afternoon.
Bill was a man who knew his business. In a very little while, the
photographic views, the spyglasses you look at them through, so
that they really seem rather real, and the lights you see them by,
were all packed away. A curtain - it was an old red-and-black
carpet really - was run across the tent. Robert was concealed
behind, and Bill was standing on a trestle-table outside the tent
making a speech. It was rather a good speech. It began by saying
that the giant it was his privilege to introduce to the public that
day was the eldest son of the Emperor of San Francisco, compelled
through an unfortunate love affair with the Duchess of the Fiji
Islands to leave his own country and take refuge in England - the
land of liberty - where freedom was the right of every man, no
matter how big he was. It ended by the announcement that the first
twenty who came to the tent door should see the giant for
threepence apiece. 'After that,' said Bill, 'the price is riz, and
I don't undertake to say what it won't be riz to. So now's yer
A young man squiring his sweetheart on her afternoon out was the
first to come forward. For that occasion his was the princely
attitude - no expense spared - money no object. His girl wished to
see the giant? Well, she should see the giant, even though seeing
the giant cost threepence each and the other entertainments were
all penny ones.
The flap of the tent was raised - the couple entered. Next moment
a wild shriek from the girl thrilled through all present. Bill
slapped his leg. 'That's done the trick!' he whispered to 'Becca.
It was indeed a splendid advertisement of the charms of Robert.
When the girl came out she was pale and trembling, and a crowd was
round the tent.
'What was it like?' asked a bailiff.
'Oh! - horrid! - you wouldn't believe,' she said. 'It's as big as
a barn, and that fierce. It froze the blood in my bones. I
wouldn't ha' missed seeing it for anything.'
The fierceness was only caused by Robert's trying not to laugh.
But the desire to do that soon left him, and before sunset he was
more inclined to cry than to laugh, and more inclined to sleep than
either. For, by ones and twos and threes, people kept coming in
all the afternoon, and Robert had to shake hands with those who
wished it, and allow himself to be punched and pulled and patted
and thumped, so that people might make sure he was really real.
The other children sat on a bench and watched and waited, and were
very bored indeed. It seemed to them that this was the hardest way
of earning money that could have been invented. And only fifteen
shillings! Bill had taken four times that already, for the news of
the giant had spread, and tradespeople in carts, and gentlepeople
in carriages, came from far and near. One gentleman with an
eyeglass, and a very large yellow rose in his buttonhole, offered
Robert, in an obliging whisper, ten pounds a week to appear at the
Crystal Palace. Robert had to say 'No'.
'I can't,' he said regretfully. 'It's no use promising what you
can't do.'
'Ah, poor fellow, bound for a term of years, I suppose! Well,
here's my card; when your time's up come to me.'
'I will - if I'm the same size then,' said Robert truthfully.
'If you grow a bit, so much the better,' said the gentleman.
When he had gone, Robert beckoned Cyril and said:
'Tell them I must and will have an easy. And I want my tea.'
Tea was provided, and a paper hastily pinned on the tent. It said:
Then there was a hurried council.
'How am I to get away?' said Robert. 'I've been thinking about it
all the afternoon.'
'Why, walk out when the sun sets and you're your right size. They
can't do anything to us.'
Robert opened his eyes. 'Why, they'd nearly kill us,' he said,
'when they saw me get my right size. No, we must think of some
other way. We MUST be alone when the sun sets.'
'I know,' said Cyril briskly, and he went to the door, outside
which Bill was smoking a clay pipe and talking in a low voice to
'Becca. Cyril heard him say - 'Good as havin' a fortune left you.'
'Look here,' said Cyril, 'you can let people come in again in a
minute. He's nearly finished his tea. But he must be left alone
when the sun sets. He's very queer at that time of day, and if
he's worried I won't answer for the consequences.'
'Why - what comes over him?' asked Bill.
'I don't know; it's - it's a sort of a change,' said Cyril
candidly. 'He isn't at all like himself - you'd hardly know him.
He's very queer indeed. Someone'll get hurt if he's not alone
about sunset.' This was true.
'He'll pull round for the evening, I s'pose?'
'Oh yes - half an hour after sunset he'll be quite himself again.'
'Best humour him,' said the woman.
And so, at what Cyril judged was about half an hour before sunset,
the tent was again closed 'whilst the giant gets his supper'.
The crowd was very merry about the giant's meals and their coming
so close together.
'Well, he can pick a bit,' Bill owned. 'You see he has to eat
hearty, being the size he is.'
Inside the tent the four children breathlessly arranged a plan of
'You go NOW,' said Cyril to the girls, 'and get along home as fast
as you can. Oh, never mind the beastly pony-cart; we'll get that
to-morrow. Robert and I are dressed the same. We'll manage
somehow, like Sydney Carton did. Only, you girls MUST get out, or
it's all no go. We can run, but you can't - whatever you may
think. No, Jane, it's no good Robert going out and knocking people
down. The police would follow him till he turned his proper size,
and then arrest him like a shot. Go you must! If you don't, I'll
never speak to you again. It was you got us into this mess really,
hanging round people's legs the way you did this morning. Go, I
tell you!'
And Jane and Anthea went.
'We're going home,' they said to Bill. 'We're leaving the giant
with you. Be kind to him.' And that, as Anthea said afterwards,
was very deceitful, but what were they to do?
When they had gone, Cyril went to Bill.
'Look here,' he said, 'he wants some ears of corn - there's some in
the next field but one. I'll just run and get it. Oh, and he says
can't you loop up the tent at the back a bit? He says he's
stifling for a breath of air. I'll see no one peeps in at him.
I'll cover him up, and he can take a nap while I go for the corn.
He WILL have it - there's no holding him when he gets like this.'
The giant was made comfortable with a heap of sacks and an old
tarpaulin. The curtain was looped up, and the brothers were left
alone. They matured their plan in whispers. Outside, the
merry-go-round blared out its comic tunes, screaming now and then
to attract public notice.
Half a minute after the sun had set, a boy in a Norfolk suit came
out past Bill.
'I'm off for the corn,' he said, and mingled quickly with the
At the same instant a boy came out of the back of the tent past
'Becca, posted there as sentinel.
'I'm off after the corn,' said this boy also. And he, too, moved
away quietly and was lost in the crowd. The front-door boy was
Cyril; the back-door was Robert - now, since sunset, once more his
proper size. They walked quickly through the field, and along the
road, where Robert caught Cyril up. Then they ran. They were home
as soon as the girls were, for it was a long way, and they ran most
of it. It was indeed a very long way, as they found when they had
to go and drag the pony-trap home next morning, with no enormous
Robert to wheel them in it as if it were a mail-cart, and they were
babies and he was their gigantic nursemaid.
I cannot possibly tell you what Bill and 'Becca said when they
found that the giant had gone. For one thing, I do not know.
Cyril had once pointed out that ordinary life is full of occasions
on which a wish would be most useful. And this thought filled his
mind when he happened to wake early on the morning after the
morning after Robert had wished to be bigger than the baker's boy,
and had been it. The day that lay between these two days had been
occupied entirely by getting the governess-cart home from
Cyril dressed hastily; he did not take a bath, because tin baths
are so noisy, and he had no wish to rouse Robert, and he slipped
off alone, as Anthea had once done, and ran through the dewy
morning to the sand-pit. He dug up the Psammead very carefully and
kindly, and began the conversation by asking it whether it still
felt any ill effects from the contact with the tears of Robert the
day before yesterday. The Psammead was in a good temper. It
replied politely.
'And now, what can I do for you?' it said. 'I suppose you've come
here so early to ask for something for yourself, something your
brothers and sisters aren't to know about eh? Now, do be persuaded
for your own good! Ask for a good fat Megatherium and have done
with it.'
'Thank you - not to-day, I think,' said Cyril cautiously. 'What I
really wanted to say was - you know how you're always wishing for
things when you're playing at anything?'
'I seldom play,' said the Psammead coldly.
'Well, you know what I mean,' Cyril went on impatiently. 'What I
want to say is: won't you let us have our wish just when we think
of it, and just where we happen to be? So that we don't have to
come and disturb you again,' added the crafty Cyril.
'It'll only end in your wishing for something you don't really
want, like you did about the castle,' said the Psammead, stretching
its brown arms and yawning. 'It's always the same since people
left off eating really wholesome things. However, have it your own
way. Good-bye.'
'Good-bye,' said Cyril politely.
'I'll tell you what,' said the Psammead suddenly, shooting out its
long snail's eyes - 'I'm getting tired of you - all of you. You
have no more sense than so many oysters. Go along with you!'
And Cyril went.
'What an awful long time babies STAY babies,' said Cyril after the
Lamb had taken his watch out of his pocket while he wasn't
noticing, and with coos and clucks of naughty rapture had opened
the case and used the whole thing as a garden spade, and when even
immersion in a wash-hand basin had failed to wash the mould from
the works and make the watch go again. Cyril had said several
things in the heat of the moment; but now he was calmer, and had
even consented to carry the Lamb part of the way to the woods.
Cyril had persuaded the others to agree to his plan, and not to
wish for anything more till they really did wish it. Meantime it
seemed good to go to the woods for nuts, and on the mossy grass
under a sweet chestnut-tree the five were sitting. The Lamb was
pulling up the moss by fat handfuls, and Cyril was gloomily
contemplating the ruins of his watch.
'He does grow,' said Anthea. 'Doesn't oo, precious?'
'Me grow,' said the Lamb cheerfully - 'me grow big boy, have guns
an' mouses - an' - an' ...' Imagination or vocabulary gave out
here. But anyway it was the longest speech the Lamb had ever made,
and it charmed everyone, even Cyril, who tumbled the Lamb over and
rolled him in the moss to the music of delighted squeals.
'I suppose he'll be grown up some day,' Anthea was saying, dreamily
looking up at the blue of the sky that showed between the long
straight chestnut-leaves. But at that moment the Lamb, struggling
gaily with Cyril, thrust a stoutly-shod little foot against his
brother's chest; there was a crack! - the innocent Lamb had broken
the glass of father's second-best Waterbury watch, which Cyril had
borrowed without leave.
'Grow up some day!' said Cyril bitterly, plumping the Lamb down on
the grass. 'I daresay he will when nobody wants him to. I wish to
goodness he would -'
'OH, take care!' cried Anthea in an agony of apprehension. But it
was too late - like music to a song her words and Cyril's came out
together - Anthea - 'Oh, take care!' Cyril - 'Grow up now!'
The faithful Psammead was true to its promise, and there, before
the horrified eyes of its brothers and sisters, the Lamb suddenly
and violently grew up. It was the most terrible moment. The
change was not so sudden as the wish-changes usually were. The
Baby's face changed first. It grew thinner and larger, lines came
in the forehead, the eyes grew more deep-set and darker in colour,
the mouth grew longer and thinner; most terrible of all, a little
dark moustache appeared on the lip of one who was still - except as
to the face - a two-year-old baby in a linen smock and white
open-work socks.
'Oh, I wish it wouldn't! Oh, I wish it wouldn't! You boys might
wish as well!' They all wished hard, for the sight was enough to
dismay the most heartless. They all wished so hard, indeed, that
they felt quite giddy and almost lost consciousness; but the
wishing was quite vain, for, when the wood ceased to whirl round,
their dazzled eyes were riveted at once by the spectacle of a very
proper-looking young man in flannels and a straw hat - a young man
who wore the same little black moustache which just before they had
actually seen growing upon the Baby's lip. This, then, was the
Lamb - grown up! Their own Lamb! It was a terrible moment. The
grown-up Lamb moved gracefully across the moss and settled himself
against the trunk of the sweet chestnut. He tilted the straw hat
over his eyes. He was evidently weary. He was going to sleep.
The Lamb - the original little tiresome beloved Lamb often went to
sleep at odd times and in unexpected places. Was this new Lamb in
the grey flannel suit and the pale green necktie like the other
Lamb? or had his mind grown up together with his body?
That was the question which the others, in a hurried council held
among the yellowing bracken a few yards from the sleeper, debated
'Whichever it is, it'll be just as awful,' said Anthea. 'If his
inside senses are grown up too, he won't stand our looking after
him; and if he's still a baby inside of him how on earth are we to
get him to do anything? And it'll be getting on for dinner-time in
a minute 'And we haven't got any nuts,' said Jane.
'Oh, bother nuts!' said Robert; 'but dinner's different - I didn't
have half enough dinner yesterday. Couldn't we tie him to the tree
and go home to our dinners and come back afterwards?'
'A fat lot of dinner we should get if we went back without the
Lamb!' said Cyril in scornful misery. 'And it'll be just the same
if we go back with him in the state he is now. Yes, I know it's my
doing; don't rub it in! I know I'm a beast, and not fit to live;
you can take that for settled, and say no more about it. The
question is, what are we going to do?'
'Let's wake him up, and take him into Rochester or Maidstone and
get some grub at a pastrycook's,' said Robert hopefully.
'Take him?' repeated Cyril. 'Yes - do! It's all MY fault - I
don't deny that - but you'll find you've got your work cut out for
you if you try to take that young man anywhere. The Lamb always
was spoilt, but now he's grown up he's a demon - simply. I can see
it. Look at his mouth.'
'Well then,' said Robert, 'let's wake him up and see what HE'LL do.
Perhaps HE'LL take us to Maidstone and stand Sam. He ought to have
a lot of money in the pockets of those extra-special bags. We MUST
have dinner, anyway.'
They drew lots with little bits of bracken. It fell to jane's lot
to waken the grown-up Lamb.
She did it gently by tickling his nose with a twig of wild
honeysuckle. He said 'Bother the flies!' twice, and then opened
his eyes.
'Hullo, kiddies!' he said in a languid tone, 'still here? What's
the giddy hour? You'll be late for your grub!'
'I know we shall,' said Robert bitterly.
'Then cut along home,' said the grown-up Lamb.
'What about your grub, though?' asked Jane.
'Oh, how far is it to the station, do you think? I've a sort of
notion that I'll run up to town and have some lunch at the club.'
Blank misery fell like a pall on the four others. The Lamb - alone
- unattended - would go to town and have lunch at a club! Perhaps
he would also have tea there. Perhaps sunset would come upon him
amid the dazzling luxury of club-land, and a helpless cross sleepy
baby would find itself alone amid unsympathetic waiters, and would
wail miserably for 'Panty' from the depths of a club arm-chair!
The picture moved Anthea almost to tears.
'Oh no, Lamb ducky, you mustn't do that!' she cried incautiously.
The grown-up Lamb frowned. 'My dear Anthea,' he said, 'how often
am I to tell you that my name is Hilary or St Maur or Devereux? -
any of my baptismal names are free to my little brothers and
sisters, but NOT "Lamb" - a relic of foolish and far-off
This was awful. He was their elder brother now, was he? Well, of
course he was, if he was grown up - since they weren't. Thus, in
whispers, Anthea and Robert.
But the almost daily adventures resulting from the Psammead wishes
were making the children wise beyond their years.
'Dear Hilary,' said Anthea, and the others choked at the name, 'you
know father didn't wish you to go to London. He wouldn't like us
to be left alone without you to take care of us. Oh, deceitful
beast that I am!' she added to herself.
'Look here,' said Cyril, 'if you're our elder brother, why not
behave as such and take us over to Maidstone and give us a jolly
good blow-out, and we'll go on the river afterwards?'
'I'm infinitely obliged to you,' said the Lamb courteously, 'but I
should prefer solitude. Go home to your lunch - I mean your
dinner. Perhaps I may look in about tea-time - or I may not be
home till after you are in your beds.'
Their beds! Speaking glances flashed between the wretched four.
Much bed there would be for them if they went home without the
'We promised mother not to lose sight of you if we took you
out,'Jane said before the others could stop her.
'Look here, Jane,' said the grown-up Lamb, putting his hands in his
pockets and looking down at her, 'little girls should be seen and
not heard. You kids must learn not to make yourselves a nuisance.
Run along home now - and perhaps, if you're good, I'll give you
each a penny to-morrow.'
'Look here,' said Cyril, in the best 'man to man' tone at his
command, 'where are you going, old man? You might let Bobs and me
come with you - even if you don't want the girls.'
This was really rather noble of Cyril, for he never did care much
about being seen in public with the Lamb, who of course after
sunset would be a baby again.
The 'man to man' tone succeeded.
'I shall just run over to Maidstone on my bike,' said the new Lamb
airily, fingering the little black moustache. 'I can lunch at The
Crown - and perhaps I'll have a pull on the river; but I can't take
you all on the machine - now, can I? Run along home, like good
The position was desperate. Robert exchanged a despairing look
with Cyril. Anthea detached a pin from her waistband, a pin whose
withdrawal left a gaping chasm between skirt and bodice, and handed
it furtively to Robert - with a grimace of the darkest and deepest
meaning. Robert slipped away to the road. There, sure enough,
stood a bicycle - a beautiful new free-wheel. Of course Robert
understood at once that if the Lamb was grown up he MUST have a
bicycle. This had always been one of Robert's own reasons for
wishing to be grown up. He hastily began to use the pin - eleven
punctures in the back tyre, seven in the front. He would have made
the total twenty-two but for the rustling of the yellow
hazel-leaves, which warned him of the approach of the others. He
hastily leaned a hand on each wheel, and was rewarded by the
'whish' of what was left of the air escaping from eighteen neat
'Your bike's run down,' said Robert, wondering how he could so soon
have learned to deceive.
'So it is,' said Cyril.
'It's a puncture,' said Anthea, stooping down, and standing up
again with a thorn which she had got ready for the purpose. 'Look
The grown-up Lamb (or Hilary, as I suppose one must now call him)
fixed his pump and blew up the tyre. The punctured state of it was
soon evident.
'I suppose there's a cottage somewhere near - where one could get
a pail of water?' said the Lamb.
There was; and when the number of punctures had been made manifest,
it was felt to be a special blessing that the cottage provided
'teas for cyclists'. It provided an odd sort of tea-and-hammy meal
for the Lamb and his brothers. This was paid for out of the
fifteen shillings which had been earned by Robert when he was a
giant - for the Lamb, it appeared, had unfortunately no money about
him. This was a great disappointment for the others; but it is a
thing that will happen, even to the most grown-up of us. However,
Robert had enough to eat, and that was something. Quietly but
persistently the miserable four took it in turns to try to persuade
the Lamb (or St Maur) to spend the rest of the day in the woods.
There was not very much of the day left by the time he had mended
the eighteenth puncture. He looked up from the completed work with
a sigh of relief, and suddenly put his tie straight.
'There's a lady coming,' he said briskly - 'for goodness' sake, get
out of the way. Go home - hide - vanish somehow! I can't be seen
with a pack of dirty kids.' His brothers and sisters were indeed
rather dirty, because, earlier in the day, the Lamb, in his infant
state, had sprinkled a good deal of garden soil over them. The
grown-up Lamb's voice was so tyrant-like, as Jane said afterwards,
that they actually retreated to the back garden, and left him with
his little moustache and his flannel suit to meet alone the young
lady, who now came up the front garden wheeling a bicycle.
The woman of the house came out, and the young lady spoke to her -
the Lamb raised his hat as she passed him - and the children could
not hear what she said, though they were craning round the corner
by the pig-pail and listening with all their ears. They felt it to
be 'perfectly fair,' as Robert said, 'with that wretched Lamb in
that condition.'
When the Lamb spoke in a languid voice heavy with politeness, they
heard well enough.
'A puncture?' he was saying. 'Can I not be of any assistance? If
you could allow me -?'
There was a stifled explosion of laughter behind the pig-pail - the
grown-up Lamb (otherwise Devereux) turned the tail of an angry eye
in its direction.
'You're very kind,' said the lady, looking at the Lamb. She looked
rather shy, but, as the boys put it, there didn't seem to be any
nonsense about her.
'But oh,' whispered Cyril behind the pig-pail, 'I should have
thought he'd had enough bicycle-mending for one day - and if she
only knew that really and truly he's only a whiny-piny, silly
little baby!'
'He's not,' Anthea murmured angrily. 'He's a dear - if people only
let him alone. It's our own precious Lamb still, whatever silly
idiots may turn him into - isn't he, Pussy?'
Jane doubtfully supposed so.
Now, the Lamb - whom I must try to remember to call St Maur - was
examining the lady's bicycle and talking to her with a very
grown-up manner indeed. No one could possibly have supposed, to
see and hear him, that only that very morning he had been a chubby
child of two years breaking other people's Waterbury watches.
Devereux (as he ought to be called for the future) took out a gold
watch when he had mended the lady's bicycle, and all the onlookers
behind the pig-pail said 'Oh!' - because it seemed so unfair that
the Baby, who had only that morning destroyed two cheap but honest
watches, should now, in the grown-upness Cyril's folly had raised
him to, have a real gold watch - with a chain and seals!
Hilary (as I will now term him) withered his brothers and sisters
with a glance, and then said to the lady - with whom he seemed to
be quite friendly:
'If you will allow me, I will ride with you as far as the Cross
Roads; it is getting late, and there are tramps about.'
No one will ever know what answer the young lady intended to give
to this gallant offer, for, directly Anthea heard it made, she
rushed out, knocking against the pig-pail, which overflowed in a
turbid stream, and caught the Lamb (I suppose I ought to say
Hilary) by the arm. The others followed, and in an instant the
four dirty children were visible, beyond disguise.
'Don't let him,' said Anthea to the lady, and she spoke with
intense earnestness; 'he's not fit to go with anyone!'
'Go away, little girl!' said St Maur (as we will now call him) in
a terrible voice. 'Go home at once!'
'You'd much better not have anything to do with him,' the now
reckless Anthea went on. 'He doesn't know who he is. He's
something very different from what you think he is.'
'What do you mean?' asked the lady not unnaturally, while Devereux
(as I must term the grown-up Lamb) tried vainly to push Anthea
away. The others backed her up, and she stood solid as a rock.
'You just let him go with you,' said Anthea, 'you'll soon see what
I mean! How would you like to suddenly see a poor little helpless
baby spinning along downhill beside you with its feet up on a
bicycle it had lost control Of?'
The lady had turned rather pale.
'Who are these very dirty children?' she asked the grown-up Lamb
(sometimes called St Maur in these pages).
'I don't know,' he lied miserably.
'Oh, Lamb! how can you?' cried Jane - 'when you know perfectly well
you're our own little baby brother that we're so fond of. We're
his big brothers and sisters,' she explained, turning to the lady,
who with trembling hands was now turning her bicycle towards the
gate, 'and we've got to take care of him. And we must get him home
before sunset, or I don't know whatever will become of us. You
see, he's sort of under a spell - enchanted - you know what I
Again and again the Lamb (Devereux, I mean) had tried to stop
Jane's eloquence, but Robert and Cyril held him, one by each leg,
and no proper explanation was possible. The lady rode hastily
away, and electrified her relatives at dinner by telling them of
her escape from a family of dangerous lunatics. 'The little girl's
eyes were simply those of a maniac. I can't think how she came to
be at large,' she said.
When her bicycle had whizzed away down the road, Cyril spoke
'Hilary, old chap,' he said, 'you must have had a sunstroke or
something. And the things you've been saying to that lady! Why,
if we were to tell you the things you've said when you are yourself
again, say to- morrow morning, you wouldn't even understand them -
let alone believe them! You trust to me, old chap, and come home
now, and if you're not yourself in the morning we'll ask the
milkman to ask the doctor to come.'
The poor grown-up Lamb (St Maur was really one of his Christian
names) seemed now too bewildered to resist.
'Since you seem all to be as mad as the whole worshipful company of
hatters,' he said bitterly, 'I suppose I HAD better take you home.
But you're not to suppose I shall pass this over. I shall have
something to say to you all to-morrow morning.'
'Yes, you will, my Lamb,' said Anthea under her breath, 'but it
won't be at all the sort of thing you think it's going to be.'
In her heart she could hear the pretty, soft little loving voice of
the baby Lamb - so different from the affected tones of the
dreadful grown-up Lamb (one of whose names was Devereux) - saying,
'Me love Panty - wants to come to own Panty.'
'Oh, let's get home, for goodness' sake,' she said. 'You shall say
whatever you like in the morning - if you can,' she added in a
It was a gloomy party that went home through the soft evening.
During Anthea's remarks Robert had again made play with the pin and
the bicycle tyre and the Lamb (whom they had to call St Maur or
Devereux or Hilary) seemed really at last to have had his fill of
bicycle-mending. So the machine was wheeled.
The sun was just on the point of setting when they arrived at the
White House. The four elder children would have liked to linger in
the lane till the complete sunsetting turned the grown-up Lamb
(whose Christian names I will not further weary you by repeating)
into their own dear tiresome baby brother. But he, in his
grown-upness, insisted on going on, and thus he was met in the
front garden by Martha.
Now you remember that, as a special favour, the Psammead had
arranged that the servants in the house should never notice any
change brought about by the wishes of the children. Therefore
Martha merely saw the usual party, with the baby Lamb, about whom
she had been desperately anxious all the afternoon, trotting beside
Anthea on fat baby legs, while the children, of course, still saw
the grown-up Lamb (never mind what names he was christened by), and
Martha rushed at him and caught him in her arms, exclaiming:
'Come to his own Martha, then - a precious poppet!'
The grown-up Lamb (whose names shall now be buried in oblivion)
struggled furiously. An expression of intense horror and annoyance
was seen on his face. But Martha was stronger than he. She lifted
him up and carried him into the house. None of the children will
ever forget that picture. The neat grey-flannel-suited grown-up
young man with the green tie and the little black moustache -
fortunately, he was slightly built, and not tall - struggling in
the sturdy arms of Martha, who bore him away helpless, imploring
him, as she went, to be a good boy now, and come and have his nice
bremmilk! Fortunately, the sun set as they reached the doorstep,
the bicycle disappeared, and Martha was seen to carry into the
house the real live darling sleepy two-year-old Lamb. The grown-up
Lamb (nameless hence- forth) was gone for ever.
'For ever,' said Cyril, 'because, as soon as ever the Lamb's old
enough to be bullied, we must jolly well begin to bully him, for
his own sake - so that he mayn't grow up like that.'
'You shan't bully him,' said Anthea stoutly; 'not if I can stop
'We must tame him by kindness,' said Jane.
'You see,' said Robert, 'if he grows up in the usual way, there'll
be plenty of time to correct him as he goes along. The awful thing
to-day was his growing up so suddenly. There was no time to
improve him at all.'
'He doesn't want any improving,' said Anthea as the voice of the
Lamb came cooing through the open door, just as she had heard it in
her heart that afternoon:
'Me loves Panty - wants to come to own Panty!'
Probably the day would have been a greater success if Cyril had not
been reading The Last of the Mohicans. The story was running in
his head at breakfast, and as he took his third cup of tea he said
dreamily, 'I wish there were Red Indians in England - not big ones,
you know, but little ones, just about the right size for us to
Everyone disagreed with him at the time, and no one attached any
importance to the incident. But when they went down to the
sand-pit to ask for a hundred pounds in two-shilling pieces with
Queen Victoria's head on, to prevent mistakes - which they had
always felt to be a really reasonable wish that must turn out well
- they found out that they had done it again! For the Psammead,
which was very cross and sleepy, said:
'Oh, don't bother me. You've had your wish.'
'I didn't know it,' said Cyril.
'Don't you remember yesterday?' said the Sand-fairy, still more
disagreeably. 'You asked me to let you have your wishes wherever
you happened to be, and you wished this morning, and you've got
'Oh, have we?' said Robert. 'What is it?'
'So you've forgotten?' said the Psammead, beginning to burrow.
'Never mind; you'll know soon enough. And I wish you joy of it!
A nice thing you've let yourselves in for!'
'We always do, somehow,' said Jane sadly.
And now the odd thing was that no one could remember anyone's
having wished for anything that morning. The wish about the Red
Indians had not stuck in anyone's head. It was a most anxious
morning. Everyone was trying to remember what had been wished for,
and no one could, and everyone kept expecting something awful to
happen every minute. It was most agitating; they knew, from what
the Psammead had said, that they must have wished for something
more than usually undesirable, and they spent several hours in most
agonizing uncertainty. It was not till nearly dinner-time that
Jane tumbled over The Last of the Mohicans - which had, of course,
been left face downwards on the floor - and when Anthea had picked
her and the book up she suddenly said, 'I know!' and sat down flat
on the carpet.
'Oh, Pussy, how awful! It was Indians he wished for - Cyril - at
breakfast, don't you remember? He said, "I wish there were Red
Indians in England," - and now there are, and they're going about
scalping people all over the country, like as not.'
'Perhaps they're only in Northumberland and Durham,' said Jane
soothingly. It was almost impossible to believe that it could
really hurt people much to be scalped so far away as that.
'Don't you believe it!' said Anthea. 'The Sammyadd said we'd let
ourselves in for a nice thing. That means they'll come HERE. And
suppose they scalped the Lamb!'
'Perhaps the scalping would come right again at sunset,' said Jane;
but she did not speak so hopefully as usual.
'Not it!' said Anthea. 'The things that grow out of the wishes
don't go. Look at the fifteen shillings! Pussy, I'm going to
break something, and you must let me have every penny of money
you've got. The Indians will come HERE, don't you see? That
spiteful Psammead as good as said so. You see what my plan is?
Come on!'
Jane did not see at all. But she followed her sister meekly into
their mother's bedroom.
Anthea lifted down the heavy water-jug - it had a pattern of storks
and long grasses on it, which Anthea never forgot. She carried it
into the dressing-room, and carefully emptied the water out of it
into the bath. Then she took the jug back into the bedroom and
dropped it on the floor. You know how a jug always breaks if you
happen to drop it by accident. If you happen to drop it on
purpose, it is quite different. Anthea dropped that jug three
times, and it was as unbroken as ever. So at last she had to take
her father's boot-tree and break the jug with that in cold blood.
It was heartless work.
Next she broke open the missionary-box with the poker. Jane told
her that it was wrong, of course, but Anthea shut her lips very
tight and then said:
'Don't be silly - it's a matter of life and death.'
There was not very much in the missionary-box - only
seven-and-fourpence - but the girls between them had nearly four
shillings. This made over eleven shillings, as you will easily
Anthea tied up the money in a corner of her pocket-handkerchief.
'Come on, Jane!' she said, and ran down to the farm. She knew that
the farmer was going into Rochester that afternoon. In fact it had
been arranged that he was to take the four children with him. They
had planned this in the happy hour when they believed that they
were going to get that hundred pounds, in two-shilling pieces, out
of the Psammead. They had arranged to pay the farmer two shillings
each for the ride. Now Anthea hastily explained to him that they
could not go, but would he take Martha and the Baby instead? He
agreed, but he was not pleased to get only half-a-crown instead of
eight shillings.
Then the girls ran home again. Anthea was agitated, but not
flurried. When she came to think it over afterwards, she could not
help seeing that she had acted with the most far-seeing
promptitude, just like a born general. She fetched a little box
from her corner drawer, and went to find Martha, who was laying the
cloth and not in the best of tempers.
'Look here,' said Anthea. 'I've broken the toilet-jug in mother's
'Just like you - always up to some mischief,' said Martha, dumping
down a salt-cellar with a bang.
'Don't be cross, Martha dear,' said Anthea. 'I've got enough money
to pay for a new one - if only you'll be a dear and go and buy it
for us. Your cousins keep a china-shop, don't they? And I would
like you to get it to-day, in case mother comes home to-morrow.
You know she said she might, perhaps.'
'But you're all going into town yourselves,' said Martha.
'We can't afford to, if we get the new jug,' said Anthea; 'but
we'll pay for you to go, if you'll take the Lamb. And I say,
Martha, look here - I'll give you my Liberty box, if you'll go.
Look, it's most awfully pretty - all inlaid with real silver and
ivory and ebony like King Solomon's temple.'
'I see,' said Martha; 'no, I don't want your box, miss. What you
want is to get the precious Lamb off your hands for the afternoon.
Don't you go for to think I don't see through you!'
This was so true that Anthea longed to deny it at once - Martha had
no business to know so much. But she held her tongue.
Martha set down the bread with a bang that made it jump off its
'I DO want the jug got,' said Anthea softly. 'You WILL go, won't
'Well, just for this once, I don't mind; but mind you don't get
into none of your outrageous mischief while I'm gone - that's all!'
'He's going earlier than he thought,' said Anthea eagerly. 'You'd
better hurry and get dressed. Do put on that lovely purple frock,
Martha, and the hat with the pink cornflowers, and the yellow-lace
collar. Jane'll finish laying the cloth, and I'll wash the Lamb
and get him ready.'
As she washed the unwilling Lamb, and hurried him into his best
clothes, Anthea peeped out of the window from time to time; so far
all was well - she could see no Red Indians. When with a rush and
a scurry and some deepening of the damask of Martha's complexion
she and the Lamb had been got off, Anthea drew a deep breath.
'HE'S safe!' she said, and, to jane's horror, flung herself down on
the floor and burst into floods of tears. Jane did not understand
at all how a person could be so brave and like a general, and then
suddenly give way and go flat like an air-balloon when you prick
it. It is better not to go flat, of course, but you will observe
that Anthea did not give way till her aim was accomplished. She
had got the dear Lamb out of danger - she felt certain the Red
Indians would be round the White House or nowhere - the farmer's
cart would not come back till after sunset, so she could afford to
cry a little. It was partly with joy that she cried, because she
had done what she meant to do. She cried for about three minutes,
while Jane hugged her miserably and said at five-second intervals,
'Don't cry, Panther dear!'
Then she jumped up, rubbed her eyes hard with the corner of her
pinafore, so that they kept red for the rest of the day, and
started to tell the boys. But just at that moment cook rang the
dinner-bell, and nothing could be said till they had all been
helped to minced beef. Then cook left the room, and Anthea told
her tale. But it is a mistake to tell a thrilling tale when people
are eating minced beef and boiled potatoes. There seemed somehow
to be something about the food that made the idea of Red Indians
seem flat and unbelievable. The boys actually laughed, and called
Anthea a little silly.
'Why,' said Cyril, 'I'm almost sure it was before I said that, that
Jane said she wished it would be a fine day.'
'It wasn't,' said Jane briefly.
'Why, if it was Indians,' Cyril went on - 'salt, please, and
mustard - I must have something to make this mush go down - if it
was Indians, they'd have been infesting the place long before this
- you know they would. I believe it's the fine day.'
'Then why did the Sammyadd say we'd let ourselves in for a nice
thing?' asked Anthea. She was feeling very cross. She knew she
had acted with nobility and discretion, and after that it was very
hard to be called a little silly, especially when she had the
weight of a burglared missionary-box and about seven-and-fourpence,
mostly in coppers, lying like lead upon her conscience.
There was a silence, during which cook took away the mincy plates
and brought in the treacle-pudding. As soon as she had retired,
Cyril began again.
'Of course I don't mean to say,' he admitted, 'that it wasn't a
good thing to get Martha and the Lamb out of the light for the
afternoon; but as for Red Indians - why, you know jolly well the
wishes always come that very minute. If there was going to be Red
Indians, they'd be here now.'
'I expect they are,' said Anthea; 'they're lurking amid the
undergrowth, for anything you know. I do think you're most beastly
'Indians almost always DO lurk, really, though, don't they?' put in
Jane, anxious for peace.
No, they don't,' said Cyril tartly. 'And I'm not unkind, I'm only
truthful. And I say it was utter rot breaking the water-jug; and
as for the missionary-box, I believe it's a treason-crime, and I
shouldn't wonder if you could be hanged for it, if any of us was to
split -'
'Shut up, can't you?' said Robert; but Cyril couldn't. You see, he
felt in his heart that if there SHOULD be Indians they would be
entirely his own fault, so he did not wish to believe in them. And
trying not to believe things when in your heart you are almost sure
they are true, is as bad for the temper as anything I know.
'It's simply idiotic,' he said, 'talking about Indians, when you
can see for yourselves that it's Jane who's got her wish. Look
what a fine day it is - OH - '
He had turned towards the window to point out the fineness of the
day - the others turned too - and a frozen silence caught at Cyril,
and none of the others felt at all like breaking it. For there,
peering round the corner of the window, among the red leaves of the
Virginia creeper, was a face - a brown face, with a long nose and
a tight mouth and very bright eyes. And the face was painted in
coloured patches. It had long black hair, and in the hair were
Every child's mouth in the room opened, and stayed open. The
treacle-pudding was growing white and cold on their plates. No one
could move.
Suddenly the feathered head was cautiously withdrawn, and the spell
was broken. I am sorry to say that Anthea's first words were very
like a girl.
'There, now!' she said. 'I told you so!'
Treacle-pudding had now definitely ceased to charm. Hastily
wrapping their portions in a Spectator of the week before the week
before last, they hid them behind the crinkled-paper
stove-ornament, and fled upstairs to reconnoitre and to hold a
hurried council.
'Pax,' said Cyril handsomely when they reached their mother's
bedroom. 'Panther, I'm sorry if I was a brute.'
'All right,' said Anthea, 'but you see now!'
No further trace of Indians, however, could be discerned from the
'Well,' said Robert, 'what are we to do?'
'The only thing I can think of,' said Anthea, who was now generally
admitted to be the heroine of the day, 'is - if we dressed up as
like Indians as we can, and looked out of the windows, or even went
out. They might think we were the powerful leaders of a large
neighbouring tribe, and - and not do anything to us, you know, for
fear of awful vengeance.'
'But Eliza, and the cook?' said Jane.
'You forget - they can't notice anything,' said Robert. 'They
wouldn't notice anything out of the way, even if they were scalped
or roasted at a slow fire.'
'But would they come right at sunset?'
'Of course. You can't be really scalped or burned to death without
noticing it, and you'd be sure to notice it next day, even if it
escaped your attention at the time,' said Cyril. 'I think Anthea's
right, but we shall want a most awful lot of feathers.'
'I'll go down to the hen-house,' said Robert. 'There's one of the
turkeys in there - it's not very well. I could cut its feathers
without it minding much. It's very bad - doesn't seem to care what
happens to it. Get me the cutting-out scissors.'
Earnest reconnoitring convinced them all that no Indians were in
the poultry-yard. Robert went. In five minutes he came back -
pale, but with many feathers.
'Look here,' he said, 'this is jolly serious. I cut off the
feathers, and when I turned to come out there was an Indian
squinting at me from under the old hen-coop. I just brandished the
feathers and yelled, and got away before he could get the coop off
the top of himself. Panther, get the coloured blankets off our
beds, and look slippy, can't you?'
It is wonderful how like an Indian you can make yourselves with
blankets and feathers and coloured scarves. Of course none of the
children happened to have long black hair, but there was a lot of
black calico that had been got to cover school-books with. They
cut strips of this into a sort of fine fringe, and fastened it
round their heads with the amber-coloured ribbons off the girls'
Sunday dresses. Then they stuck turkeys' feathers in the ribbons.
The calico looked very like long black hair, especially when the
strips began to curl up a bit.
'But our faces,' said Anthea, 'they're not at all the right colour.
We're all rather pale, and I'm sure I don't know why, but Cyril is
the colour of putty.'
'I'm not,' said Cyril.
'The real Indians outside seem to be brownish,' said Robert
hastily. 'I think we ought to be really RED - it's sort of
superior to have a red skin, if you are one.'
The red ochre cook used for the kitchen bricks seemed to be about
the reddest thing in the house. The children mixed some in a
saucer with milk, as they had seen cook do for the kitchen floor.
Then they carefully painted each other's faces and hands with it,
till they were quite as red as any Red Indian need be - if not
They knew at once that they must look very terrible when they met
Eliza in the passage, and she screamed aloud. This unsolicited
testimonial pleased them very much. Hastily telling her not to be
a goose, and that it was only a game, the four blanketed,
feathered, really and truly Redskins went boldly out to meet the
foe. I say boldly. That is because I wish to be polite. At any
rate, they went.
Along the hedge dividing the wilderness from the garden was a row
of dark heads, all highly feathered.
'It's our only chance,' whispered Anthea. 'Much better than to
wait for their blood-freezing attack. We must pretend like mad.
Like that game of cards where you pretend you've got aces when you
haven't. Fluffing they call it, I think. Now then. Whoop!'
With four wild war-whoops - or as near them as English children
could be expected to go without any previous practice - they rushed
through the gate and struck four warlike attitudes in face of the
line of Red Indians. These were all about the same height, and
that height was Cyril's.
'I hope to goodness they can talk English,' said Cyril through his
Anthea knew they could, though she never knew how she came to know
it. She had a white towel tied to a walking-stick. This was a
flag of truce, and she waved it, in the hope that the Indians would
know what it was. Apparently they did - for one who was browner
than the others stepped forward.
'Ye seek a pow-wow?' he said in excellent English. 'I am Golden
Eagle, of the mighty tribe of Rock-dwellers.'
'And I,' said Anthea, with a sudden inspiration, 'am the Black
Panther - chief of the - the - the - Mazawattee tribe. My brothers
- I don't mean - yes, I do - the tribe - I mean the Mazawattees -
are in ambush below the brow of yonder hill.'
'And what mighty warriors be these?' asked Golden Eagle, turning to
the others.
Cyril said he was the great chief Squirrel, of the Moning Congo
tribe, and, seeing that Jane was sucking her thumb and could
evidently think of no name for herself, he added, 'This great
warrior is Wild Cat - Pussy Ferox we call it in this land - leader
of the vast Phiteezi tribe.'
And thou, valorous Redskin?' Golden Eagle inquired suddenly of
Robert, who, taken unawares, could only reply that he was Bobs,
leader of the Cape Mounted Police.
'And now,' said Black Panther, 'our tribes, if we just whistle them
up, will far outnumber your puny forces; so resistance is useless.
Return, therefore, to your own land, O brother, and smoke pipes of
peace in your wampums with your squaws and your medicine-men, and
dress yourselves in the gayest wigwams, and eat happily of the
juicy fresh-caught moccasins.'
'You've got it all wrong,' murmured Cyril angrily. But Golden
Eagle only looked inquiringly at her.
'Thy customs are other than ours, O Black Panther,' he said.
'Bring up thy tribe, that we may hold pow-wow in state before them,
as becomes great chiefs.'
'We'll bring them up right enough,' said Anthea, 'with their bows
and arrows, and tomahawks, and scalping-knives, and everything you
can think of, if you don't look sharp and go.'
She spoke bravely enough, but the hearts of all the children were
beating furiously, and their breath came in shorter and shorter
gasps. For the little real Red Indians were closing up round them
- coming nearer and nearer with angry murmurs - so that they were
the centre of a crowd of dark, cruel faces.
'It's no go,' whispered Robert. 'I knew it wouldn't be. We must
make a bolt for the Psammead. It might help us. If it doesn't -
well, I suppose we shall come alive again at sunset. I wonder if
scalping hurts as much as they say.'
'I'll wave the flag again,' said Anthea. 'If they stand back,
we'll run for it.'
She waved the towel, and the chief commanded his followers to stand
back. Then, charging wildly at the place where the line of Indians
was thinnest, the four children started to run. Their first rush
knocked down some half-dozen Indians, over whose blanketed bodies
the children leaped, and made straight for the sand-Pit. This was
no time for the safe easy way by which carts go down - right over
the edge of the sand-pit they went, among the yellow and pale
purple flowers and dried grasses, past the little sand-martins'
little front doors, skipping, clinging, bounding, stumbling,
sprawling, and finally rolling.
Yellow Eagle and his followers came up with them just at the very
spot where they had seen the Psammead that morning.
Breathless and beaten, the wretched children now awaited their
fate. Sharp knives and axes gleamed round them, but worse than
these was the cruel light in the eyes of Golden Eagle and his
'Ye have lied to us, O Black Panther of the Mazawattees - and thou,
too, Squirrel of the Moning Congos. These also, Pussy Ferox of the
Phiteezi, and Bobs of the Cape Mounted Police - these also have
lied to us, if not with their tongue, yet by their silence. Ye
have lied under the cover of the Truce-flag of the Pale-face. Ye
have no followers. Your tribes are far away - following the
hunting trail. What shall be their doom?' he concluded, turning
with a bitter smile to the other Red Indians.
'Build we the fire!' shouted his followers; and at once a dozen
ready volunteers started to look for fuel. The four children, each
held between two strong little Indians, cast despairing glances
round them. Oh, if they could only see the Psammead!
'Do you mean to scalp us first and then roast us?' asked Anthea
'Of course!' Redskin opened his eyes at her. 'It's always done.'
The Indians had formed a ring round the children, and now sat on
the ground gazing at their captives. There was a threatening
Then slowly, by twos and threes, the Indians who had gone to look
for firewood came back, and they came back empty-handed. They had
not been able to find a single stick of wood, for a fire! No one
ever can, as a matter of fact, in that part of Kent.
The children drew a deep breath of relief, but it ended in a moan
of terror. For bright knives were being brandished all about them.
Next moment each child was seized by an Indian; each closed its
eyes and tried not to scream. They waited for the sharp agony of
the knife. It did not come. Next moment they were released, and
fell in a trembling heap. Their heads did not hurt at all. They
only felt strangely cool! Wild war-whoops rang in their ears.
When they ventured to open their eyes they saw four of their foes
dancing round them with wild leaps and screams, and each of the
four brandished in his hand a scalp of long flowing black hair.
They put their hands to their heads - their own scalps were safe!
The poor untutored savages had indeed scalped the children. But
they had only, so to speak, scalped them of the black calico
The children fell into each other's arms, sobbing and laughing.
'Their scalps are ours,' chanted the chief; 'ill-rooted were their
ill-fated hairs! They came off in the hands of the victors -
without struggle, without resistance, they yielded their scalps to
the conquering Rock-dwellers! Oh, how little a thing is a scalp so
lightly won!'
'They'll take our real ones in a minute; you see if they don't,'
said Robert, trying to rub some of the red ochre off his face and
hands on to his hair.
'Cheated of our just and fiery revenge are we,' the chant went on
- 'but there are other torments than the scalping-knife and the
flames. Yet is the slow fire the correct thing. O strange
unnatural country, wherein a man may find no wood to burn his
enemy! - Ah, for the boundless forests of my native land, where the
great trees for thousands of miles grow but to furnish firewood
wherewithal to burn our foes. Ah, would we were but in our native
forest once more!'
Suddenly, like a flash of lightning, the golden gravel shone all
round the four children instead of the dusky figures. For every
single Indian had vanished on the instant at their leader's word.
The Psammead must have been there all the time. And it had given
the Indian chief his wish.
Martha brought home a jug with a pattern of storks and long grasses
on it. Also she brought back all Anthea's money.
'My cousin, she give me the jug for luck; she said it was an odd
one what the basin of had got smashed.'
'Oh, Martha, you arc a dear!' sighed Anthea, throwing her arms
round her.
'Yes,' giggled Martha, 'you'd better make the most of me while
you've got me. I shall give your ma notice directly minute she
comes back.'
'Oh, Martha, we haven't been so very horrid to you, have we?' asked
Anthea, aghast.
'Oh, it ain't that, miss.' Martha giggled more than ever. 'I'm
a-goin' to be married. It's Beale the gamekeeper. He's been
a-proposin' to me off and on ever since you come home from the
clergyman's where you got locked up on the church-tower. And
to-day I said the word an' made him a happy man.'
Anthea put the seven-and-fourpence back in the missionary-box, and
pasted paper over the place where the poker had broken it. She was
very glad to be able to do this, and she does not know to this day
whether breaking open a missionary-box is or is not a hanging
Of course you, who see above that this is the eleventh (and last)
chapter, know very well that the day of which this chapter tells
must be the last on which Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane will have
a chance of getting anything out of the Psammead, or Sand-fairy.
But the children themselves did not know this. They were full of
rosy visions, and, whereas on other days they had often found it
extremely difficult to think of anything really nice to wish for,
their brains were now full of the most beautiful and sensible
ideas. 'This,' as Jane remarked afterwards, 'is always the way.'
Everyone was up extra early that morning, and these plans were
hopefully discussed in the garden before breakfast. The old idea
of one hundred pounds in modern florins was still first favourite,
but there were others that ran it close - the chief of these being
the 'pony each' idea. This had a great advantage. You could wish
for a pony each during the morning, ride it all day, have it vanish
at sunset, and wish it back again next day. Which would be an
economy of litter and stabling. But at breakfast two things
happened. First, there was a letter from mother. Granny was
better, and mother and father hoped to be home that very afternoon.
A cheer arose. And of course this news at once scattered all the
before-breakfast wish-ideas. For everyone saw quite plainly that
the wish for the day must be something to please mother and not to
please themselves.
'I wonder what she WOULD like,' pondered Cyril.
'She'd like us all to be good,' said Jane primly.
'Yes - but that's so dull for us,' Cyril rejoined; 'and, besides,
I should hope we could be that without sand-fairies to help us.
No; it must be something splendid, that we couldn't possibly get
without wishing for.'
'Look out,' said Anthea in a warning voice; 'don't forget
yesterday. Remember, we get our wishes now just wherever we happen
to be when we say "I wish". Don't let's let ourselves in for
anything silly - to-day of all days.'
'All right,' said Cyril. 'You needn't jaw.'
just then Martha came in with a jug full of hot water for the
teapot - and a face full of importance for the children.
'A blessing we're all alive to eat our breakfasses!' she said
'Why, whatever's happened?' everybody asked.
'Oh, nothing,' said Martha, 'only it seems nobody's safe from being
murdered in their beds nowadays.'
'Why,' said Jane as an agreeable thrill of horror ran down her back
and legs and out at her toes, 'has anyone been murdered in their
'Well - not exactly,' said Martha; 'but they might just as well.
There's been burglars over at Peasmarsh Place - Beale's just told
me - and they've took every single one of Lady Chittenden's
diamonds and jewels and things, and she's a-goin' out of one
fainting fit into another, with hardly time to say "Oh, my
diamonds!" in between. And Lord Chittenden's away in London.'
'Lady Chittenden,' said Anthea; 'we've seen her. She wears a
red-and-white dress, and she has no children of her own and can't
abide other folkses'.'
'That's her,' said Martha. 'Well, she's put all her trust in
riches, and you see how she's served. They say the diamonds and
things was worth thousands of thousands of pounds. There was a
necklace and a river - whatever that is - and no end of bracelets;
and a tarrer and ever so many rings. But there, I mustn't stand
talking and all the place to clean down afore your ma comes home.'
'I don't see why she should ever have had such lots of diamonds,'
said Anthea when Martha had Bounced off. 'She was rather a nasty
lady, I thought. And mother hasn't any diamonds, and hardly any
jewels - the topaz necklace, and the sapphire ring daddy gave her
when they were engaged, and the garnet star, and the little pearl
brooch with great-grandpapa's hair in it - that's about all.'
'When I'm grown up I'll buy mother no end of diamonds,' said
Robert, 'if she wants them. I shall make so much money exploring
in Africa I shan't know what to do with it.'
'Wouldn't it be jolly,' said Jane dreamily, 'if mother could find
all those lovely things, necklaces and rivers of diamonds and
'TI--ARAS,' said Cyril.
'Ti--aras, then - and rings and everything in her room when she
came home? I wish she would.' The others gazed at her in horror.
'Well, she WILL,' said Robert; 'you've wished, my good Jane - and
our only chance now is to find the Psammead, and if it's in a good
temper it MAY take back the wish and give us another. If not -
well - goodness knows what we're in for! - the police, of course,
and - Don't cry, silly! We'll stand by you. Father says we need
never be afraid if we don't do anything wrong and always speak the
But Cyril and Anthea exchanged gloomy glances. They remembered how
convincing the truth about the Psammead had been once before when
told to the police.
It was a day of misfortunes. Of course the Psammead could not be
found. Nor the jewels, though every one Of the children searched
their mother's room again and again.
'Of course,' Robert said, 'WE couldn't find them. It'll be mother
who'll do that. Perhaps she'll think they've been in the house for
years and years, and never know they are the stolen ones at all.'
'Oh yes!' Cyril was very scornful; 'then mother will be a receiver
of stolen goods, and you know jolly well what THAT'S worse than.'
Another and exhaustive search of the sand-pit failed to reveal the
Psammead, so the children went back to the house slowly and sadly.
'I don't care,' said Anthea stoutly, 'we'll tell mother the truth,
and she'll give back the jewels - and make everything all right.'
'Do you think so?' said Cyril slowly. 'Do you think She'll believe
us? Could anyone believe about a Sammyadd unless they'd seen it?
She'll think we're pretending. Or else she'll think we're raving
mad, and then we shall be sent to Bedlam. How would you like it?'
- he turned suddenly on the miserable Jane - 'how would you like
it, to be shut up in an iron cage with bars and padded walls, and
nothing to do but stick straws in your hair all day, and listen to
the howlings and ravings of the other maniacs? Make up your minds
to it, all of you. It's no use telling mother.'
'But it's true,' said Jane.
'Of course it is, but it's not true enough for grown-up people to
believe it,' said Anthea. 'Cyril's right. Let's put flowers in
all the vases, and try not to think about diamonds. After all,
everything has come right in the end all the other times.'
So they filled all the pots they could find with flowers - asters
and zinnias, and loose-leaved late red roses from the wall of the
stable-yard, till the house was a perfect bower.
And almost as soon as dinner was cleared away mother arrived, and
was clasped in eight loving arms. It was very difficult indeed not
to tell her all about the Psammead at once, because they had got
into the habit of telling her everything. But they did succeed in
not telling her.
Mother, on her side, had plenty to tell them - about Granny, and
Granny's pigeons, and Auntie Emma's lame tame donkey. She was very
delighted with the flowery-boweryness of the house; and everything
seemed so natural and pleasant, now that she was home again, that
the children almost thought they must have dreamed the Psammead.
But, when mother moved towards the stairs to go UP to her bedroom
and take off her bonnet, the eight arms clung round her just as if
she only had two children, one the Lamb and the other an octopus.
'Don't go up, mummy darling,' said Anthea; 'let me take your things
up for you.'
'Or I will,' said Cyril.
'We want you to come and look at the rose-tree,' said Robert.
'Oh, don't go up!' said Jane helplessly.
'Nonsense, dears,' said mother briskly, 'I'm not such an old woman
yet that I can't take my bonnet off in the proper place. Besides,
I must wash these black hands of mine.'
So up she went, and the children, following her, exchanged glances
of gloomy foreboding.
Mother took off her bonnet - it was a very pretty hat, really, with
white roses on it - and when she had taken it off she went to the
dressing-table to do her pretty hair.
On the table between the ring-stand and the pincushion lay a green
leather case. Mother opened it.
'Oh, how lovely!' she cried. It was a ring, a large pearl with
shining many-lighted diamonds set round it. 'Wherever did this
come from?' mother asked, trying it on her wedding finger, which it
fitted beautifully. 'However did it come here?'
'I don't know,' said each of the children truthfully.
'Father must have told Martha to put it here,' mother said. 'I'll
run down and ask her.'
'Let me look at it,' said Anthea, who knew Martha would not be able
to see the ring. But when Martha was asked, of course she denied
putting the ring there, and so did Eliza and cook.
Mother came back to her bedroom, very much interested and pleased
about the ring. But, when she opened the dressing-table drawer and
found a long case containing an almost priceless diamond necklace,
she was more interested still, though not so pleased. In the
wardrobe, when she went to put away her 'bonnet', she found a tiara
and several brooches, and the rest of the jewellery turned up in
various parts of the room during the next half-hour. The children
looked more and more uncomfortable, and now Jane began to sniff.
Mother looked at her gravely.
'Jane,' she said, 'I am sure you know something about this. Now
think before you speak, and tell me the truth.'
'We found a Fairy,' said Jane obediently.
'No nonsense, please,' said her mother sharply.
'Don't be silly, Jane,' Cyril interrupted. Then he went on
desperately. 'Look here, mother, we've never seen the things
before, but Lady Chittenden at Peasmarsh Place lost all her
jewellery by wicked burglars last night. Could this possibly be
All drew a deep breath. They were saved.
'But how could they have put it here? And why should they?' asked
mother, not unreasonably. 'Surely it would have been easier and
safer to make off with it?'
'Suppose,' said Cyril, 'they thought it better to wait for - for
sunset - nightfall, I mean, before they went off with it. No one
but us knew that you were coming back to-day.'
'I must send for the police at once,' said mother distractedly.
'Oh, how I wish daddy were here!'
'Wouldn't it be better to wait till he DOES come?' asked Robert,
knowing that his father would not be home before sunset.
'No, no; I can't wait a minute with all this on my mind,' cried
mother. 'All this' was the heap of jewel-cases on the bed. They
put them all in the wardrobe, and mother locked it. Then mother
called Martha.
'Martha,' she said, 'has any stranger been into MY room since I've
been away? Now, answer me truthfully.'
'No, mum,' answered Martha; 'leastways, what I mean to say -'
She stopped.
'Come,' said her mistress kindly; 'I see someone has. You must
tell me at once. Don't be frightened. I'm sure you haven't done
anything wrong.'
Martha burst into heavy sobs.
'I was a-goin' to give you warning this very day, mum, to leave at
the end of my month, so I was - on account of me being going to
make a respectable young man happy. A gamekeeper he is by trade,
mum - and I wouldn't deceive you - of the name of Beale. And it's
as true as I stand here, it Was your coming home in such a hurry,
and no warning given, out of the kindness of his heart it was, as
he says, "Martha, my beauty," he says - which I ain't and never
was, but you know how them men will go on - "I can't see you
a-toiling and a-moiling and not lend a 'elping 'and; which mine is
a strong arm and it's yours, Martha, my dear," says he. And so he
helped me a-cleanin' of the windows, but outside, mum, the whole
time, and me in; if I never say another breathing word it's the
gospel truth.'
'Were you with him the whole time?' asked her mistress.
'Him outside and me in, I was,' said Martha; 'except for fetching
up a fresh pail and the leather that that slut of a Eliza 'd hidden
away behind the mangle.'
'That will do,' said the children's mother. 'I am not pleased with
you, Martha, but you have spoken the truth, and that counts for
When Martha had gone, the children clung round their mother.
'Oh, mummy darling,' cried Anthea, 'it isn't Beale's fault, it
isn't really! He's a great dear; he is, truly and honourably, and
as honest as the day. Don't let the police take him, mummy! oh,
don't, don't, don't!'
It was truly awful. Here was an innocent man accused of robbery
through that silly wish of Jane's, and it was absolutely useless to
tell the truth. All longed to, but they thought of the straws in
the hair and the shrieks of the other frantic maniacs, and they
could not do it.
'Is there a cart hereabouts?' asked mother feverishly. 'A trap of
any sort? I must drive in to Rochester and tell the police at
All the children sobbed, 'There's a cart at the farm, but, oh,
don't go! - don't go! - oh, don't go! - wait till daddy comes
Mother took not the faintest notice. When she had set her mind on
a thing she always went straight through with it; she was rather
like Anthea in this respect.
'Look here, Cyril,' she said, sticking on her hat with long sharp
violet-headed pins, 'I leave you in charge. Stay in the
dressing-room. You can pretend to be swimming boats in the bath,
or something. Say I gave you leave. But stay there, with the
landing door open; I've locked the other. And don't let anyone go
into my room. Remember, no one knows the jewels are there except
me, and all of you, and the wicked thieves who put them there.
Robert, you stay in the garden and watch the windows. If anyone
tries to get in you must run and tell the two farm men that I'll
send up to wait in the kitchen. I'll tell them there are dangerous
characters about - that's true enough. Now, remember, I trust you
both. But I don't think they'll try it till after dark, so you're
quite safe. Good-bye, darlings.'
And she locked her bedroom door and went off with the key in her
The children could not help admiring the dashing and decided way in
which she had acted. They thought how useful she would have been
in organizing escape from some of the tight places in which they
had found themselves of late in consequence of their ill-timed
'She's a born general,' said Cyril - 'but I don't know what's going
to happen to us. Even if the girls were to hunt for that beastly
Sammyadd and find it, and get it to take the jewels away again,
mother would only think we hadn't looked out properly and let the
burglars sneak in and nick them - or else the police will think
WE'VE got them - or else that she's been fooling them. Oh, it's a
pretty decent average ghastly mess this time, and no mistake!'
He savagely made a paper boat and began to float it in the bath, as
he had been told to do.
Robert went into the garden and sat down on the worn yellow grass,
with his miserable head between his helpless hands.
Anthea and Jane whispered together in the passage downstairs, where
the coconut matting was - with the hole in it that you always
caught your foot in if you were not careful. Martha's voice could
be heard in the kitchen - grumbling loud and long.
'It's simply quite too dreadfully awful,' said Anthea. 'How do you
know all the diamonds are there, too? If they aren't, the police
will think mother and father have got them, and that they've only
given up some of them for a kind of desperate blind. And they'll
be put in prison, and we shall be branded outcasts, the children of
felons. And it won't be at all nice for father and mother either,'
she added, by a candid afterthought.
'But what can WE do?' asked Jane.
'Nothing - at least we might look for the Psammead again. It's a
very, very hot day. He may have come out to warm that whisker of
'He won't give us any more beastly wishes to-day,' said Jane
flatly. 'He gets crosser and crosser every time we see him. I
believe he hates having to give wishes.'
Anthea had been shaking her head gloomily - now she stopped shaking
it so suddenly that it really looked as though she were pricking up
her ears.
'What is it?' asked Jane. 'Oh, have you thought of something?'
'Our one chance,' cried Anthea dramatically; 'the last lone-lorn
forlorn hope. Come on.'
At a brisk trot she led the way to the sand-pit. Oh, joy! - there
was the Psammead, basking in a golden sandy hollow and preening its
whiskers happily in the glowing afternoon sun. The moment it saw
them it whisked round and began to burrow - it evidently preferred
its own company to theirs. But Anthea was too quick for it. She
caught it by its furry shoulders gently but firmly, and held it.
'Here - none of that!' said the Psammead. 'Leave go of me, will
But Anthea held him fast.
'Dear kind darling Sammyadd,' she said breathlessly.
'Oh yes - it's all very well,' it said; 'you want another wish, I
expect. But I can't keep on slaving from morning till night giving
people their wishes. I must have SOME time to myself.'
'Do you hate giving wishes?' asked Anthea gently, and her voice
trembled with excitement.
'Of course I do,' it said. 'Leave go of me or I'll bite! - I
really will - I mean it. Oh, well, if you choose to risk it.'
Anthea risked it and held on.
'Look here,' she said, 'don't bite me - listen to reason. If
you'll only do what we want to-day, we'll never ask you for another
wish as long as we live.'
The Psammead was much moved.
'I'd do anything,' it said in a tearful voice. 'I'd almost burst
myself to give you one wish after another, as long as I held out,
if you'd only never, never ask me to do it after to-day. If you
knew how I hate to blow myself out with other people's wishes, and
how frightened I am always that I shall strain a muscle or
something. And then to wake up every morning and know you've GOT
to do it. You don't know what it is - you don't know what it is,
you don't!' Its voice cracked with emotion, and the last 'don't'
was a squeak.
Anthea set it down gently on the sand.
'It's all over now,' she said soothingly. 'We promise faithfully
never to ask for another wish after to-day.'
'Well, go ahead,' said the Psammead; 'let's get it over.'
'How many can you do?'
'I don't know - as long as I can hold out.'
'Well, first, I wish Lady Chittenden may find she's never lost her
The Psammead blew itself out, collapsed, and said, 'Done.'
'I wish, said Anthea more slowly, 'mother mayn't get to the
'Done,' said the creature after the proper interval.
'I wish,' said Jane suddenly, 'mother could forget all about the
'Done,' said the Psammead; but its voice was weaker.
'Wouldn't you like to rest a little?' asked Anthea considerately.
'Yes, please,' said the Psammead; 'and, before we go further, will
you wish something for me?'
'Can't you do wishes for yourself?'
'Of course not,' it said; 'we were always expected to give each
other our wishes - not that we had any to speak of in the good old
Megatherium days. just wish, will you, that you may never be able,
any of you, to tell anyone a word about ME.'
'Why?' asked Jane.
'Why, don't you see, if you told grown-ups I should have no peace
of my life. They'd get hold of me, and they wouldn't wish silly
things like you do, but real earnest things; and the scientific
people would hit on some way of making things last after sunset, as
likely as not; and they'd ask for a graduated income-tax, and
old-age pensions and manhood suffrage, and free secondary
education, and dull things like that; and get them, and keep them,
and the whole world would be turned topsy-turvy. Do wish it!
Anthea repeated the Psammead's wish, and it blew itself out to a
larger size than they had yet seen it attain.
'And now,' it said as it collapsed, 'can I do anything more for
'Just one thing; and I think that clears everything up, doesn't it,
Jane? I wish Martha to forget about the diamond ring, and mother
to forget about the keeper cleaning the windows.'
'It's like the "Brass Bottle",' said Jane.
'Yes, I'm glad we read that or I should never have thought of it.'
'Now,' said the Psammead faintly, 'I'm almost worn out. Is there
anything else?'
'No; only thank you kindly for all you've done for us, and I hope
you'll have a good long sleep, and I hope we shall see you again
some day.'
'Is that a wish?' it said in a weak voice.
'Yes, please,' said the two girls together.
Then for the last time in this story they saw the Psammead blow
itself out and collapse suddenly. It nodded to them, blinked its
long snail's eyes, burrowed, and disappeared, scratching fiercely
to the last, and the sand closed over it.
'I hope we've done right?' said Jane.
'I'm sure we have,' said Anthea. 'Come on home and tell the boys.'
Anthea found Cyril glooming over his paper boats, and told him.
Jane told Robert. The two tales were only just ended when mother
walked in, hot and dusty. She explained that as she was being
driven into Rochester to buy the girls' autumn school-dresses the
axle had broken, and but for the narrowness of the lane and the
high soft hedges she would have been thrown out. As it was, she
was not hurt, but she had had to walk home. 'And oh, my dearest
dear chicks,' she said, 'I am simply dying for a cup of tea! Do
run and see if the kettle boils!'
'So you see it's all right,'Jane whispered. 'She doesn't
'No more does Martha,' said Anthea, who had been to ask after the
state of the kettle.
As the servants sat at their tea, Beale the gamekeeper dropped in.
He brought the welcome news that Lady Chittenden's diamonds had not
been lost at all. Lord Chittenden had taken them to be re-set and
cleaned, and the maid who knew about it had gone for a holiday. So
that was all right.
'I wonder if we ever shall see the Psammead again,' said Jane
wistfully as they walked in the garden, while mother was putting
the Lamb to bed.
'I'm sure we shall,' said Cyril, 'if you really wished it.'
'We've promised never to ask it for another wish,' said Anthea.
'I never want to,' said Robert earnestly.
They did see it again, of course, but not in this story. And it
was not in a sand-pit either, but in a very, very, very different
place. It was in a -- But I must say no more.

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