It would be interesting, no doubt, to describe the feelings of Lord Yalding as he followed Mabel and Jimmy through his ancestral halls, but I have no means of knowing at all what he felt. Yet one must suppose that he felt something: bewilderment, perhaps, mixed with a faint wonder, and a desire to pinch himself to see if he were dreaming. Or he may have pondered the rival questions, “Am I mad? Are they mad?” without being at all able to decide which he ought to try to answer, let alone deciding what, in either case, the answer ought to be. You see, the children did seem to believe in the odd stories they told⁠—and the wish had come true, and the ghost had appeared. He must have thought⁠—but all this is vain; I don’t really know what he thought any more than you do.

Nor can I give you any clue to the thoughts and feelings of Mademoiselle. I only know that she was very happy, but anyone would have known that if they had seen her face. Perhaps this is as good a moment as any to explain that when her guardian had put her in a convent so that she should not sacrifice her fortune by marrying a poor lord, her guardian had secured that fortune (to himself) by going off with it to South America. Then, having no money left, Mademoiselle had to work for it. So she went out as governess, and took the situation she did take because it was near Lord Yalding’s home. She wanted to see him, even though she thought he had forsaken her and did not love her any more. And now she had seen him. I dare say she thought about some of these things as she went along through his house, her hand held in his. But of course I can’t be sure.

Jimmy’s thoughts, of course, I can read like any old book. He thought, “Now he’ll have to believe me.” That Lord Yalding should believe him had become, quite unreasonably, the most important thing in the world to Jimmy. He wished that Gerald and Kathleen were there to share his triumph, but they were helping Mabel’s aunt to cover the grand furniture up, and so were out of what followed. Not that they missed much, for when Mabel proudly said, “Now you’ll see,” and the others came close round her in the little panelled room, there was a pause, and then nothing happened at all!

“There’s a secret spring here somewhere,” said Mabel, fumbling with fingers that had suddenly grown hot and damp.

“Where?” said Lord Yalding.

Here,” said Mabel impatiently, “only I can’t find it.”

And she couldn’t. She found the spring of the secret panel under the window all right, but that seemed to everyone dull compared with the jewels that everyone had pictured and two at least had seen. But the spring that made the oak panelling slide away and displayed jewels plainly to any eye worth a king’s ransom⁠—this could not be found. More, it was simply not there. There could be no doubt of that. Every inch of the panelling was felt by careful fingers. The earnest protests of Mabel and Jimmy died away presently in a silence made painful by the hotness of one’s ears, the discomfort of not liking to meet anyone’s eyes, and the resentful feeling that the spring was not behaving in at all a sportsmanlike way, and that, in a word, this was not cricket.

“You see!” said Lord Yalding severely. “Now you’ve had your joke, if you call it a joke, and I’ve had enough of the whole silly business. Give me the ring⁠—it’s mine, I suppose, since you say you found it somewhere here⁠—and don’t let’s hear another word about all this rubbish of magic and enchantment.”

“Gerald’s got the ring,” said Mabel miserably.

“Then go and fetch him,” said Lord Yalding “both of you.”

The melancholy pair retired, and Lord Yalding spent the time of their absence in explaining to Mademoiselle how very unimportant jewels were compared with other things.

The four children came back together.

“We’ve had enough of this ring business,” said Lord Yalding. “Give it to me and we’ll say no more about it.”

“I⁠—I can’t get it off,” said Gerald. “It⁠—it always did have a will of its own.”

“I’ll soon get it off,” said Lord Yalding. But he didn’t. “We’ll try soap,” he said firmly. Four out of his five hearers knew just exactly how much use soap would be.

“They won’t believe about the jewels,” wailed Mabel, suddenly dissolved in tears, “and I can’t find the spring. I’ve felt all over⁠—we all have⁠—it was just here, and⁠—”

Her fingers felt it as she spoke; and as she ceased to speak the carved panels slid away, and the blue velvet shelves laden with jewels were disclosed to the unbelieving eyes of Lord Yalding and the lady who was to be his wife.

“Jove!” said Lord Yalding.

Misericorde!” said the lady.

“But why now?” gasped Mabel. “Why not before?”

“I expect it’s magic,” said Gerald. “There’s no real spring here, and it couldn’t act because the ring wasn’t here. You know Phoebus told us the ring was the heart of all the magic.”

“Shut it up and take the ring away and see.”

They did, and Gerald was (as usual, he himself pointed out) proved to be right. When the ring was away there was no spring; when the ring was in the room there (as Mabel urged) was the spring all right enough.

“So you see,” said Mabel to Lord Yalding.

“I see that the spring’s very artfully concealed,” said that dense peer. “I think it was very clever indeed of you to find it. And if those jewels are real⁠—”

“Of course they’re real,” said Mabel indignantly.

“Well, anyway,” said Lord Yalding, “thank you all very much. I think it’s clearing up. I’ll send the wagonette home with you after lunch. And if you don’t mind, I’ll have the ring.”

Half an hour of soap and water produced no effect whatever, except to make the finger of Gerald very red and very sore. Then Lord Yalding said something very impatient indeed, and then Gerald suddenly became angry and said: “Well, I’m sure I wish it would come off,” and of course instantly, “slick as butter,” as he later pointed out, off it came.

“Thank you,” said Lord Yalding.

“And I believe now he thinks I kept it on on purpose,” said Gerald afterwards when, at ease on the leads at home, they talked the whole thing out over a tin of preserved pineapple and a bottle of ginger-beer apiece. “There’s no pleasing some people. He wasn’t in such a fiery hurry to order that wagonette after he found that Mademoiselle meant to go when we did. But I liked him better when he was a humble bailiff. Take him for all in all, he does not look as if we should like him again.”

“He doesn’t know what’s the matter with him,” said Kathleen, leaning back against the tiled roof; “it’s really the magic⁠—it’s like sickening with measles. Don’t you remember how cross Mabel was at first about the invisibleness?”

“Rather!” said Jimmy.

“It’s partly that,” said Gerald, trying to be fair, “and partly it’s the being in love. It always makes people like idiots⁠—a chap at school told me. His sister was like that⁠—quite rotten, you know. And she used to be quite a decent sort before she was engaged.”

At tea and at supper Mademoiselle was radiant⁠—as attractive as a lady on a Christmas card, as merry as a marmoset, and as kind as you would always be yourself if you could take the trouble. At breakfast, an equal radiance, kindness, attraction, merriment. Then Lord Yalding came to see her. The meeting took place in the drawing-room; the children with deep discreetness remained shut in the schoolroom till Gerald, going up to his room for a pencil, surprised Eliza with her ear glued to the drawing-room keyhole.

After that Gerald sat on the top stair with a book.

He could not hear any of the conversation in the drawing-room, but he could command a view of the door, and in this way be certain that no one else heard any of it. Thus it was that when the drawing-room door opened Gerald was in a position to see Lord Yalding come out. “Our young hero,” as he said later, “coughed with infinite tact to show that he was there,” but Lord Yalding did not seem to notice. He walked in a blind sort of way to the hatstand, fumbled clumsily with the umbrellas and macintoshes, found his straw hat and looked at it gloomily, crammed it on his head and went out, banging the door behind him in the most reckless way.

He left the drawing-room door open, and Gerald, though he had purposely put himself in a position where one could hear nothing from the drawing-room when the door was shut, could hear something quite plainly now that the door was open. That something, he noticed with deep distress and disgust, was the sound of sobs and sniffs. Mademoiselle was quite certainly crying.

“Jimminy!” he remarked to himself, “they haven’t lost much time. Fancy their beginning to quarrel already! I hope I’ll never have to be anybody’s lover.”

But this was no time to brood on the terrors of his own future. Eliza might at any time occur. She would not for a moment hesitate to go through that open door, and push herself into the very secret sacred heart of Mademoiselle’s grief. It seemed to Gerald better that he should be the one to do this. So he went softly down the worn green Dutch carpet of the stairs and into the drawing-room, shutting the door softly and securely behind him.

“It is all over,” Mademoiselle was saying, her face buried in the beady arum-lilies on a red ground worked for a cushion cover by a former pupil: “he will not marry me!”

Do not ask me how Gerald had gained the lady’s confidence. He had, as I think I said almost at the beginning, very pretty ways with grownups, when he chose. Anyway, he was holding her hand, almost as affectionately as if she had been his mother with a headache, and saying “Don’t!” and “Don’t cry!” and “It’ll be all right, you see if it isn’t” in the most comforting way you can imagine, varying the treatment with gentle thumps on the back and entreaties to her to tell him all about it.

This wasn’t mere curiosity, as you might think. The entreaties were prompted by Gerald’s growing certainty that whatever was the matter was somehow the fault of that ring. And in this Gerald was (“once more,” as he told himself) right.

The tale, as told by Mademoiselle, was certainly an unusual one. Lord Yalding, last night after dinner, had walked in the park “to think of⁠—”

“Yes, I know,” said Gerald; “and he had the ring on. And he saw⁠—”

“He saw the monuments become alive,” sobbed Mademoiselle; “his brain was troubled by the ridiculous accounts of fairies that you tell him. He sees Apollon and Aphrodité alive on their marble. He remembers him of your story. He wish himself a statue. Then he becomes mad⁠—imagines to himself that your story of the island is true, plunges in the lake, swims among the beasts of the Ark of Noé, feeds with gods on an island. At dawn the madness become less. He think the Pantheon vanish. But him, no⁠—he thinks himself statue, hiding from gardeners in his garden till nine less a quarter. Then he thinks to wish himself no more a statue and perceives that he is flesh and blood. A bad dream, but he has lost the head with the tales you tell. He say it is no dream but he is fool⁠—mad⁠—how you say? And a mad man must not marry. There is no hope. I am at despair! And the life is vain!”

“There is,” said Gerald earnestly. “I assure you there is⁠—hope, I mean. And life’s as right as rain really. And there’s nothing to despair about. He’s not mad, and it’s not a dream. It’s magic. It really and truly is.”

“The magic exists not,” Mademoiselle moaned; “it is that he is mad. It is the joy to re-see me after so many days. Oh, la-la-la-la-la!”

“Did he talk to the gods?” Gerald asked gently.

“It is there the most mad of all his ideas. He say that Mercure give him rendezvous at some temple tomorrow when the moon raise herself.”

“Right,” cried Gerald, “righto! Dear nice, kind, pretty Mademoiselle Rapunzel, don’t be a silly little duffer”⁠—he lost himself for a moment among the consoling endearments he was accustomed to offer to Kathleen in moments of grief and emotion, but hastily added: “I mean, do not be a lady who weeps causelessly. Tomorrow he will go to that temple. I will go. Thou shalt go⁠—he will go. We will go⁠—you will go⁠—let ’em all go! And, you see, it’s going to be absolutely all right. He’ll see he isn’t mad, and you’ll understand all about everything. Take my handkerchief, it’s quite a clean one as it happens; I haven’t even unfolded it. Oh! do stop crying, there’s a dear, darling, long-lost lover.”

This flood of eloquence was not without effect. She took his handkerchief, sobbed, half smiled, dabbed at her eyes, and said: “Oh, naughty! Is it some trick you play him, like the ghost?”

“I can’t explain,” said Gerald, “but I give you my word of honour⁠—you know what an Englishman’s word of honour is, don’t you? even if you are French⁠—that everything is going to be exactly what you wish. I’ve never told you a lie. Believe me!”

“It is curious,” said she, drying her eyes, “but I do.” And once again, so suddenly that he could not have resisted, she kissed him. I think, however, that in this her hour of sorrow he would have thought it mean to resist.

“It pleases her and it doesn’t hurt me⁠—much,” would have been his thought.

And now it is near moonrise. The French governess, half-doubting, half-hoping, but wholly longing to be near Lord Yalding even if he be as mad as a March hare, and the four children⁠—they have collected Mabel by an urgent letter-card posted the day before⁠—are going over the dewy grass. The moon has not yet risen, but her light is in the sky mixed with the pink and purple of the sunset. The west is heavy with ink-clouds and rich colour, but the east, where the moon rises, is clear as a rock-pool.

They go across the lawn and through the beech wood and come at last, through a tangle of underwood and bramble, to a little level tableland that rises out of the flat hilltop⁠—one tableland out of another. Here is the ring of vast rugged stones, one pierced with a curious round hole, worn smooth at its edges. In the middle of the circle is a great flat stone, alone, desolate, full of meaning⁠—a stone that is covered thick with the memory of old faiths and creeds long since forgotten. Something dark moves in the circle. The French girl breaks from the children, goes to it, clings to its arm. It is Lord Yalding, and he is telling her to go.

“Never of the life!” she cries. “If you are mad I am mad too, for I believe the tale these children tell. And I am here to be with thee and see with thee whatever the rising moon shall show us.”

The children, holding hands by the flat stone, more moved by the magic in the girl’s voice than by any magic of enchanted rings, listen, trying not to listen.

“Are you not afraid?” Lord Yalding is saying.

“Afraid? With you?” she laughs. He put his arm round her. The children hear her sigh.

“Are you afraid,” he says, “my darling?”

Gerald goes across the wide turf ring expressly to say: “You can’t be afraid if you are wearing the ring. And I’m sorry, but we can hear every word you say.”

She laughs again. “It makes nothing,” she says “you know already if we love each other.”

Then he puts the ring on her finger, and they stand together. The white of his flannel coat sleeve marks no line on the white of her dress; they stand as though cut out of one block of marble.

Then a faint greyness touches the top of that round hole, creeps up the side. Then the hole is a disc of light⁠—a moonbeam strikes straight through it across the grey green of the circle that the stones mark, and as the moon rises the moonbeam slants downward. The children have drawn back till they stand close to the lovers. The moonbeam slants more and more; now it touches the far end of the stone, now it draws nearer and nearer to the middle of it, now at last it touches the very heart and centre of that central stone. And then it is as though a spring were touched, a fountain of light released. Everything changes or, rather, everything is revealed. There are no more secrets. The plan of the world seems plain, like an easy sum that one writes in big figures on a child’s slate. One wonders how one can ever have wondered about anything. Space is not; every place that one has seen or dreamed of is here. Time is not; into this instant is crowded all that one has ever done or dreamed of doing. It is a moment and it is eternity. It is the centre of the universe and it is the universe itself. The eternal light rests on and illuminates the eternal heart of things.

None of the six human beings who saw that moon-rising were ever able to think about it as having anything to do with time. Only for one instant could that moon-ray have rested full on the centre of that stone.

And yet there was time for many happenings.

From that height one could see far out over the quiet park and sleeping gardens, and through the grey green of them shapes moved, approaching.

The great beasts came first: strange forms that were when the world was new⁠—gigantic lizards with wings⁠—dragons they lived as in men’s memories⁠—mammoths, strange vast birds, they crawled up the hill and ranged themselves outside the circle. Then, not from the garden but from very far away, came the stone gods of Egypt and Assyria⁠—bull-bodied, bird-winged, hawk-headed, cat-headed, all in stone, and all alive and alert; strange, grotesque figures from the towers of cathedrals⁠—figures of angels with folded wings, figures of beasts with wings wide spread; sphinxes; uncouth idols from Southern palm-fringed islands; and, last of all, the beautiful marble shapes of the gods and goddesses who had held their festival on the lake-island, and bidden Lord Yalding and the children to this meeting.

Not a word was spoken. Each stone shape came gladly and quietly into the circle of light and understanding, as children, tired with a long ramble, creep quietly through the open door into the firelit welcome of home.

The children had thought to ask many questions. And it had been promised that the questions should be answered. Yet now no one spoke a word, because all had come into the circle of the real magic where all things are understood without speech.

Afterwards none of them could ever remember at all what had happened. But they never forgot that they had been somewhere where everything was easy and beautiful. And people who can remember even that much are never quite the same again. And when they came to talk of it next day they found that to each some little part of that night’s great enlightenment was left.

All the stone creatures drew closer round the stone⁠—the light where the moonbeam struck it seemed to break away in spray such as water makes when it falls from a height. All the crowd was bathed in whiteness. A deep hush lay over the vast assembly.

Then a wave of intention swept over the mighty crowd. All the faces, bird, beast, Greek statue, Babylonian monster, human child and human lover, turned upward, the radiant light illumined them and one word broke from all.

“The light!” they cried, and the sound of their voice was like the sound of a great wave; “the light! the light⁠—”

And then the light was not any more, and, soft as floating thistledown, sleep was laid on the eyes of all but the immortals.

The grass was chill and dewy and the clouds had veiled the moon. The lovers and the children were standing together, all clinging close, not for fear, but for love.

“I want,” said the French girl softly, “to go to the cave on the island.”

Very quietly through the gentle brooding night they went down to the boathouse, loosed the clanking chain, and dipped oars among the drowned stars and lilies. They came to the island, and found the steps.

“I brought candles,” said Gerald, “in case.”

So, lighted by Gerald’s candles, they went down into the Hall of Psyche! and there glowed the light spread from her statue, and all was as the children had seen it before.

It is the Hall of Granted Wishes.

“The ring,” said Lord Yalding.

“The ring,” said his lover, “is the magic ring given long ago to a mortal, and it is what you say it is. It was given to your ancestor by a lady of my house that he might build her a garden and a house like her own palace and garden in her own land. So that this place is built partly by his love and partly by that magic. She never lived to see it; that was the price of the magic.”

It must have been English that she spoke, for otherwise how could the children have understood her? Yet the words were not like Mademoiselle’s way of speaking.

“Except from children,” her voice went on, “the ring exacts a payment. You paid for me, when I came by your wish, by this terror of madness that you have since known. Only one wish is free.”

“And that wish is⁠—”

“The last,” she said. “Shall I wish?”

“Yes⁠—wish,” they said, all of them.

“I wish, then,” said Lord Yalding’s lover, “that all the magic this ring has wrought may be undone, and that the ring itself may be no more and no less than a charm to bind thee and me together for evermore.”

She ceased. And as she ceased the enchanted light died away, the windows of granted wishes went out, like magic-lantern pictures. Gerald’s candle faintly lighted a rudely arched cave, and where Psyche’s statue had been was a stone with something carved on it.

Gerald held the light low.

“It is her grave,” the girl said.

Next day no one could remember anything at all exactly. But a good many things were changed. There was no ring but the plain gold ring that Mademoiselle found clasped in her hand when she woke in her own bed in the morning. More than half the jewels in the panelled room were gone, and those that remained had no panelling to cover them; they just lay bare on the velvet-covered shelves. There was no passage at the back of the Temple of Flora. Quite a lot of the secret passages and hidden rooms had disappeared. And there were not nearly so many statues in the garden as everyone had supposed. And large pieces of the castle were missing and had to be replaced at great expense.

From which we may conclude that Lord Yalding’s ancestor had used the ring a good deal to help him in his building.

However, the jewels that were left were quite enough to pay for everything.

The suddenness with which all the ring-magic was undone was such a shock to everyone concerned that they now almost doubt that any magic ever happened.

But it is certain that Lord Yalding married the French governess and that a plain gold ring was used in the ceremony, and this, if you come to think of it, could be no other than the magic ring, turned, by that last wish, into a charm to keep him and his wife together forever.

Also, if all this story is nonsense and a makeup⁠—if Gerald and Jimmy and Kathleen and Mabel have merely imposed on my trusting nature by a pack of unlikely inventions, how do you account for the paragraph which appeared in the evening papers the day after the magic of the moon-rising?

Mysterious Disappearance of a Well-Known City Man

it said, and then went on to say how a gentleman, well known and much respected in financial circles, had vanished, leaving no trace.

Mr. U. W. Ugli,” the papers continued, “had remained late, working at his office as was his occasional habit. The office door was found locked, and on its being broken open the clothes of the unfortunate gentleman were found in a heap on the floor, together with an umbrella, a walking stick, a golf club, and, curiously enough, a feather brush, such as housemaids use for dusting. Of his body, however, there was no trace. The police are stated to have a clue.”

If they have, they have kept it to themselves. But I do not think they can have a clue, because, of course, that respected gentleman was the Ugly-Wugly who became real when, in search of a really good hotel, he got into the Hall of Granted Wishes. And if none of this story ever happened, how is it that those four children are such friends with Lord and Lady Yalding, and stay at The Towers almost every holidays?

It is all very well for all of them to pretend that the whole of this story is my own invention: facts are facts, and you can’t explain them away.