Those of my readers who have gone about much with an invisible companion will not need to be told how awkward the whole business is. For one thing, however much you may have been convinced that your companion is invisible, you will, I feel sure, have found yourself every now and then saying, “This must be a dream!” or “I know I shall wake up in half a sec!” And this was the case with Gerald, Kathleen, and Jimmy as they sat in the white marble Temple of Flora, looking out through its arches at the sunshiny park and listening to the voice of the enchanted Princess, who really was not a Princess at all, but just the housekeeper’s niece, Mabel Prowse; though, as Jimmy said, “she was enchanted, right enough.”

“It’s no use talking,” she said again and again, and the voice came from an empty-looking space between two pillars; “I never believed anything would happen, and now it has.”

“Well,” said Gerald kindly, “can we do anything for you? Because, if not, I think we ought to be going.”

“Yes,” said Jimmy; “I do want my tea!”

“Tea!” said the unseen Mabel scornfully. “Do you mean to say you’d go off to your teas and leave me after getting me into this mess?”

“Well, of all the unfair Princesses I ever met!” Gerald began. But Kathleen interrupted⁠—

“Oh, don’t rag her,” she said. “Think how horrid it must be to be invisible!”

“I don’t think,” said the hidden Mabel, “that my aunt likes me very much as it is. She wouldn’t let me go to the fair because I’d forgotten to put back some old trumpery shoe that Queen Elizabeth wore⁠—I got it out from the glass case to try it on.”

“Did it fit?” asked Kathleen, with interest.

“Not it⁠—much too small,” said Mabel. “I don’t believe it ever fitted anyone.”

“I do want my tea!” said Jimmy.

“I do really think perhaps we ought to go,” said Gerald. “You see, it isn’t as if we could do anything for you.”

“You’ll have to tell your aunt,” said Kathleen kindly.

“No, no, no!” moaned Mabel invisibly; “take me with you. I’ll leave her a note to say I’ve run away to sea.”

“Girls don’t run away to sea.”

“They might,” said the stone floor between the pillars, “as stowaways, if nobody wanted a cabin boy⁠—cabin girl, I mean.”

“I’m sure you oughtn’t,” said Kathleen firmly.

“Well, what am I to do?”

“Really,” said Gerald, “I don’t know what the girl can do. Let her come home with us and have⁠—”

“Tea⁠—oh, yes,” said Jimmy, jumping up.

“And have a good council.”

“After tea,” said Jimmy.

“But her aunt’ll find she’s gone.”

“So she would if I stayed.”

“Oh, come on,” said Jimmy.

“But the aunt’ll think something’s happened to her.”

“So it has.”

“And she’ll tell the police, and they’ll look everywhere for me.”

“They’ll never find you,” said Gerald. “Talk of impenetrable disguises!”

“I’m sure,” said Mabel, “aunt would much rather never see me again than see me like this. She’d never get over it; it might kill her⁠—she has spasms as it is. I’ll write to her, and we’ll put it in the big letter-box at the gate as we go out. Has anyone got a bit of pencil and a scrap of paper?”

Gerald had a notebook, with leaves of the shiny kind which you have to write on, not with a blacklead pencil, but with an ivory thing with a point of real lead. And it won’t write on any other paper except the kind that is in the book, and this is often very annoying when you are in a hurry. Then was seen the strange spectacle of a little ivory stick, with a leaden point, standing up at an odd, impossible-looking slant, and moving along all by itself as ordinary pencils do when you are writing with them.

“May we look over?” asked Kathleen.

There was no answer. The pencil went on writing.

“Mayn’t we look over?” Kathleen said again.

“Of course you may!” said the voice near the paper. “I nodded, didn’t I? Oh, I forgot, my nodding’s invisible too.”

The pencil was forming round, clear letters on the page torn out of the notebook. This is what it wrote:

Dear Aunt,

I am afraid you will not see me again for some time. A lady in a motorcar has adopted me, and we are going straight to the coast and then in a ship. It is useless to try to follow me. Farewell, and may you be happy. I hope you enjoyed the fair.


“But that’s all lies,” said Jimmy bluntly.

“No, it isn’t; it’s fancy,” said Mabel. “If I said I’ve become invisible, she’d think that was a lie, anyhow.”

“Oh, come along,” said Jimmy; “you can quarrel just as well walking.”

Gerald folded up the note as a lady in India had taught him to do years before, and Mabel led them by another and very much nearer way out of the park. And the walk home was a great deal shorter, too, than the walk out had been.

The sky had clouded over while they were in the Temple of Flora, and the first spots of rain fell as they got back to the house, very late indeed for tea.

Mademoiselle was looking out of the window, and came herself to open the door.

“But it is that you are in lateness, in lateness!” she cried. “You have had a misfortune⁠—no? All goes well?”

“We are very sorry indeed,” said Gerald. “It took us longer to get home than we expected. I do hope you haven’t been anxious. I have been thinking about you most of the way home.”

“Go, then,” said the French lady, smiling; “you shall have them in the same time⁠—the tea and the supper.”

Which they did.

“How could you say you were thinking about her all the time?” said a voice just by Gerald’s ear, when Mademoiselle had left them alone with the bread and butter and milk and baked apples. “It was just as much a lie as me being adopted by a motor lady.”

“No, it wasn’t,” said Gerald, through bread and butter. “I was thinking about whether she’d be in a wax or not. So there!”

There were only three plates, but Jimmy let Mabel have his, and shared with Kathleen. It was rather horrid to see the bread and butter waving about in the air, and bite after bite disappearing from it apparently by no human agency; and the spoon rising with apple in it and returning to the plate empty. Even the tip of the spoon disappeared as long as it was in Mabel’s unseen mouth; so that at times it looked as though its bowl had been broken off.

Everyone was very hungry, and more bread and butter had to be fetched. Cook grumbled when the plate was filled for the third time.

“I tell you what,” said Jimmy; “I did want my tea.”

“I tell you what,” said Gerald; “it’ll be jolly difficult to give Mabel any breakfast. Mademoiselle will be here then. She’d have a fit if she saw bits of forks with bacon on them vanishing, and then the forks coming back out of vanishment, and the bacon lost forever.”

“We shall have to buy things to eat and feed our poor captive in secret,” said Kathleen.

“Our money won’t last long,” said Jimmy, in gloom. “Have you got any money?”

He turned to where a mug of milk was suspended in the air without visible means of support.

“I’ve not got much money,” was the reply from near the milk, “but I’ve got heaps of ideas.”

“We must talk about everything in the morning,” said Kathleen. “We must just say good night to Mademoiselle, and then you shall sleep in my bed, Mabel. I’ll lend you one of my nightgowns.”

“I’ll get my own tomorrow,” said Mabel cheerfully.

“You’ll go back to get things?”

“Why not? Nobody can see me. I think I begin to see all sorts of amusing things coming along. It’s not half bad being invisible.”

It was extremely odd, Kathleen thought, to see the Princess’s clothes coming out of nothing. First the gauzy veil appeared hanging in the air. Then the sparkling coronet suddenly showed on the top of the chest of drawers. Then a sleeve of the pinky gown showed, then another, and then the whole gown lay on the floor in a glistening ring as the unseen legs of Mabel stepped out of it. For each article of clothing became visible as Mabel took it off. The nightgown, lifted from the bed, disappeared a bit at a time.

“Get into bed,” said Kathleen, rather nervously.

The bed creaked and a hollow appeared in the pillow. Kathleen put out the gas and got into bed; all this magic had been rather upsetting, and she was just the least bit frightened, but in the dark she found it was not so bad. Mabel’s arms went round her neck the moment she got into bed, and the two little girls kissed in the kind darkness, where the visible and the invisible could meet on equal terms.

“Good night,” said Mabel. “You’re a darling, Cathy; you’ve been most awfully good to me, and I shan’t forget it. I didn’t like to say so before the boys, because I know boys think you’re a muff if you’re grateful. But I am. Good night.”

Kathleen lay awake for some time. She was just getting sleepy when she remembered that the maid who would call them in the morning would see those wonderful Princess clothes.

“I’ll have to get up and hide them,” she said. “What a bother!”

And as she lay thinking what a bother it was she happened to fall asleep, and when she woke again it was bright morning, and Eliza was standing in front of the chair where Mabel’s clothes lay, gazing at the pink Princess-frock that lay on the top of her heap and saying, “Law!”

“Oh, don’t touch, please!” Kathleen leaped out of bed as Eliza was reaching out her hand.

“Where on earth did you get hold of that?”

“We’re going to use it for acting,” said Kathleen, on the desperate inspiration of the moment. “It’s lent me for that.”

“You might show me, miss,” suggested Eliza.

“Oh, please not!” said Kathleen, standing in front of the chair in her nightgown. “You shall see us act when we are dressed up. There! And you won’t tell anyone, will you?”

“Not if you’re a good little girl,” said Eliza. “But you be sure to let me see when you do dress up. But where⁠—”

Here a bell rang and Eliza had to go, for it was the postman, and she particularly wanted to see him.

“And now,” said Kathleen, pulling on her first stocking, “we shall have to do the acting. Everything seems very difficult.”

“Acting isn’t,” said Mabel; and an unsupported stocking waved in the air and quickly vanished. “I shall love it.”

“You forget,” said Kathleen gently, “invisible actresses can’t take part in plays unless they’re magic ones.”

“Oh,” cried a voice from under a petticoat that hung in the air, “I’ve got such an idea!”

“Tell it us after breakfast,” said Kathleen, as the water in the basin began to splash about and to drip from nowhere back into itself. “And oh! I do wish you hadn’t written such whoppers to your aunt. I’m sure we oughtn’t to tell lies for anything.”

“What’s the use of telling the truth if nobody believes you?” came from among the splashes.

“I don’t know,” said Kathleen, “but I’m sure we ought to tell the truth.”

You can, if you like,” said a voice from the folds of a towel that waved lonely in front of the wash-hand stand.

“All right. We will, then, first thing after brek⁠—your brek, I mean. You’ll have to wait up here till we can collar something and bring it up to you. Mind you dodge Eliza when she comes to make the bed.”

The invisible Mabel found this a fairly amusing game; she further enlivened it by twitching out the corners of tucked-up sheets and blankets when Eliza wasn’t looking.

“Drat the clothes!” said Eliza; “anyone ’ud think the things was bewitched.”

She looked about for the wonderful Princess clothes she had glimpsed earlier in the morning. But Kathleen had hidden them in a perfectly safe place under the mattress, which she knew Eliza never turned.

Eliza hastily brushed up from the floor those bits of fluff which come from goodness knows where in the best regulated houses. Mabel, very hungry and exasperated at the long absence of the others at their breakfast, could not forbear to whisper suddenly in Eliza’s ear:⁠—

“Always sweep under the mats.”

The maid started and turned pale. “I must be going silly,” she murmured; “though it’s just what mother always used to say. Hope I ain’t going dotty, like Aunt Emily. Wonderful what you can fancy, ain’t it?”

She took up the hearthrug all the same, swept under it, and under the fender. So thorough was she, and so pale, that Kathleen, entering with a chunk of bread raided by Gerald from the pantry window, exclaimed:⁠—

“Not done yet. I say, Eliza, you do look ill! What’s the matter?”

“I thought I’d give the room a good turnout,” said Eliza, still very pale.

“Nothing’s happened to upset you?” Kathleen asked. She had her own private fears.

“Nothing only my fancy, miss,” said Eliza. “I always was fanciful from a child⁠—dreaming of the pearly gates and them little angels with nothing on only their heads and wings⁠—so cheap to dress, I always think, compared with children.”

When she was got rid of, Mabel ate the bread and drank water from the tooth-mug.

“I’m afraid it tastes of cherry toothpaste rather,” said Kathleen apologetically.

“It doesn’t matter,” a voice replied from the tilted mug; “it’s more interesting than water. I should think red wine in ballads was rather like this.”

“We’ve got leave for the day again,” said Kathleen, when the last bit of bread had vanished, “and Gerald feels like I do about lies, So we’re going to tell your aunt where you really are.”

“She won’t believe you.”

“That doesn’t matter, if we speak the truth,” said Kathleen primly.

“I expect you’ll be sorry for it,” said Mabel; “but come on and, I say, do be careful not to shut me in the door as you go out. You nearly did just now.”

In the blazing sunlight that flooded the High Street four shadows to three children seemed dangerously noticeable. A butcher’s boy looked far too earnestly at the extra shadow, and his big, liver-coloured lurcher snuffed at the legs of that shadow’s mistress and whined uncomfortably.

“Get behind me,” said Kathleen; “then our two shadows will look like one.”

But Mabel’s shadow, very visible, fell on Kathleen’s back, and the ostler of the Davenant Arms looked up to see what big bird had cast that big shadow.

A woman driving a cart with chickens and ducks in it called out: “Halloa, missy, ain’t you blacked yer back, neither! What you been leaning up against?”

Everyone was glad when they got out of the town.

Speaking the truth to Mabel’s aunt did not turn out at all as anyone⁠—even Mabel⁠—expected. The aunt was discovered reading a pink novelette at the window of the housekeeper’s room, which, framed in clematis and green creepers, looked out on a nice little courtyard to which Mabel led the party.

“Excuse me,” said Gerald, “but I believe you’ve lost your niece?”

“Not lost, my boy,” said the aunt, who was spare and tall, with a drab fringe and a very genteel voice.

“We could tell you something about her,” said Gerald.

“Now,” replied the aunt, in a warning voice, “no complaints, please. My niece has gone, and I am sure no one thinks less than I do of her little pranks. If she’s played any tricks on you it’s only her lighthearted way. Go away, children, I’m busy.”

“Did you get her note?” asked Kathleen.

The aunt showed rather more interest than before, but she still kept her finger in the novelette.

“Oh,” she said, “so you witnessed her departure? Did she seem glad to go?”

“Quite,” said Gerald truthfully.

“Then I can only be glad that she is provided for,” said the aunt. “I dare say you were surprised. These romantic adventures do occur in our family. Lord Yalding selected me out of eleven applicants for the post of housekeeper here. I’ve not the slightest doubt the child was changed at birth and her rich relatives have claimed her.”

“But aren’t you going to do anything⁠—tell the police, or⁠—”

“Shish!” said Mabel.

“I won’t shish,” said Jimmy. “Your Mabel’s invisible⁠—that’s all it is. She’s just beside me now.”

“I detest untruthfulness,” said the aunt severely, “in all its forms. Will you kindly take that little boy away? I am quite satisfied about Mabel.”

Well,” said Gerald, “you are an aunt and no mistake! But what will Mabel’s father and mother say?”

“Mabel’s father and mother are dead,” said the aunt calmly, and a little sob sounded close to Gerald’s ear.

“All right,” he said, “we’ll be off. But don’t you go saying we didn’t tell you the truth, that’s all.”

“You have told me nothing,” said the aunt, “none of you, except that little boy, who has told me a silly falsehood.”

“We meant well,” said Gerald gently. “You don’t mind our having come through the grounds, do you? we’re very careful not to touch anything.”

“No visitors are allowed,” said the aunt, glancing down at her novel rather impatiently.

“Ah! but you wouldn’t count us visitors,” said Gerald in his best manner. “We’re friends of Mabel’s. Our father’s Colonel of the ⸺⁠th.”

“Indeed!” said the aunt.

“And our aunt’s Lady Sandling, so you can be sure we wouldn’t hurt anything on the estate.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t hurt a fly,” said the aunt absently. “Goodbye. Be good children.”

And on this they got away quickly.

“Why,” said Gerald, when they were outside the little court, “your aunt’s as mad as a hatter. Fancy not caring what becomes of you, and fancy believing that rot about the motor lady!”

“I knew she’d believe it when I wrote it,” said Mabel modestly. “She’s not mad, only she’s always reading novelettes, I read the books in the big library. Oh, it’s such a jolly room⁠—such a queer smell, like boots, and old leather books sort of powdery at the edges. I’ll take you there some day. Now your consciences are all right about my aunt, I’ll tell you my great idea. Let’s get down to the Temple of Flora. I’m glad you got aunt’s permission for the grounds. It would be so awkward for you to have to be always dodging behind bushes when one of the gardeners came along.”

“Yes,” said Gerald modestly, “I thought of that.”

The day was as bright as yesterday had been, and from the white marble temple the Italian-looking landscape looked more than ever like a steel engraving coloured by hand, or an oleographic imitation of one of Turner’s pictures.

When the three children were comfortably settled on the steps that led up to the white statue, the voice of the fourth child said sadly: “I’m not ungrateful, but I’m rather hungry. And you can’t be always taking things for me through your larder window. If you like, I’ll go back and live in the castle. It’s supposed to be haunted. I suppose I could haunt it as well as anyone else. I am a sort of ghost now, you know. I will if you like.”

“Oh no,” said Kathleen kindly; “you must stay with us.”

“But about food. I’m not ungrateful, really I’m not, but breakfast is breakfast, and bread’s only bread.”

“If you could get the ring off, you could go back.”

“Yes,” said Mabel’s voice, “but you see, I can’t. I tried again last night in bed, and again this morning. And it’s like stealing, taking things out of your larder⁠—even if it’s only bread.”

“Yes, it is,” said Gerald, who had carried out this bold enterprise.

“Well, now, what we must do is to earn some money.”

Jimmy remarked that this was all very well. But Gerald and Kathleen listened attentively.

“What I mean to say,” the voice went on, “I’m really sure is all for the best, me being invisible. We shall have adventures⁠—you see if we don’t.”

“Adventures,” said the bold buccaneer, “are not always profitable.” It was Gerald who murmured this.

“This one will be, anyhow, you see. Only you mustn’t all go. Look here, if Jerry could make himself look common⁠—”

“That ought to be easy,” said Jimmy. And Kathleen told him not to be so jolly disagreeable.

“I’m not,” said Jimmy, “only⁠—”

“Only he has an inside feeling that this Mabel of yours is going to get us into trouble,” put in Gerald. “Like La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and he does not want to be found in future ages alone and palely loitering in the middle of sedge and things.”

“I won’t get you into trouble, indeed I won t,” said the voice. “Why, we’re a band of brothers for life, after the way you stood by me yesterday. What I mean is⁠—Gerald can go to the fair and do conjuring.”

“He doesn’t know any,” said Kathleen.

I should do it really,” said Mabel, “but Jerry could look like doing it. Move things without touching them and all that. But it wouldn’t do for all three of you to go. The more there are of children the younger they look, I think, and the more people wonder what they’re doing all alone by themselves.”

“The accomplished conjurer deemed these the words of wisdom,” said Gerald; and answered the dismal “Well, but what about us?” of his brother and sister by suggesting that they should mingle unsuspected with the crowd. “But don’t let on that you know me,” he said; “and try to look as if you belonged to some of the grownups at the fair. If you don’t, as likely as not you’ll have the kind policemen taking the little lost children by the hand and leading them home to their stricken relations⁠—French governess, I mean.”

“Let’s go now,” said the voice that they never could get quite used to hearing, coming out of different parts of the air as Mabel moved from one place to another. So they went.

The fair was held on a waste bit of land, about half a mile from the castle gates. When they got near enough to hear the steam-organ of the merry-go-round, Gerald suggested that as he had ninepence he should go ahead and get something to eat, the amount spent to be paid back out of any money they might make by conjuring. The others waited in the shadows of a deep-banked lane, and he came back, quite soon, though long after they had begun to say what a long time he had been gone. He brought some Barcelona nuts, red-streaked apples, small sweet yellow pears, pale pasty gingerbread, a whole quarter of a pound of peppermint bulls-eyes, and two bottles of ginger-beer.

“It’s what they call an investment,” he said, when Kathleen said something about extravagance. “We shall all need special nourishing to keep our strength up, especially the bold conjurer.”

They ate and drank. It was a very beautiful meal, and the far-off music of the steam-organ added the last touch of festivity to the scene. The boys were never tired of seeing Mabel eat, or rather of seeing the strange, magic-looking vanishment of food which was all that showed of Mabel’s eating. They were entranced by the spectacle, and pressed on her more than her just share of the feast, just for the pleasure of seeing it disappear.

“My aunt!” said Gerald, again and again; “that ought to knock ’em!”

It did.

Jimmy and Kathleen had the start of the others, and when they got to the fair they mingled with the crowd, and were as unsuspected as possible.

They stood near a large lady who was watching the Coconut shies, and presently saw a strange figure with its hands in its pockets strolling across the trampled yellowy grass among the bits of drifting paper and the sticks and straws that always litter the ground of an English fair. It was Gerald, but at first they hardly knew him. He had taken off his tie, and round his head, arranged like a turban, was the crimson school-scarf that had supported his white flannels. The tie, one supposed, had taken on the duties of the handkerchief. And his face and hands were a bright black, like very nicely polished stoves!

Everyone turned to look at him.

“He’s just like a conjurer!” whispered Jimmy. “I don’t suppose it’ll ever come off, do you?”

They followed him at a distance, and when he went close to the door of a small tent, against whose doorpost a long-faced melancholy woman was lounging, they stopped and tried to look as though they belonged to a farmer who strove to send up a number by banging with a big mallet on a wooden block.

Gerald went up to the woman.

“Taken much?” he asked, and was told, but not harshly, to go away with his impudence.

“I’m in business myself,” said Gerald, “I’m a conjurer, from India.”

“Not you!” said the woman; “you ain’t no conjurer. Why, the backs of yer ears is all white.”

“Are they?” said Gerald. “How clever of you to see that!” He rubbed them with his hands. “That better?”

“That’s all right. What’s your little game?”

“Conjuring, really and truly,” said Gerald. “There’s smaller boys than me put on to it in India. Look here, I owe you one for telling me about my ears. If you like to run the show for me I’ll go shares. Let me have your tent to perform in, and you do the patter at the door.”

“Lor love you! I can’t do no patter. And you’re getting at me. Let’s see you do a bit of conjuring, since you’re so clever an all.”

“Right you are,” said Gerald firmly. “You see this apple? Well, I’ll make it move slowly through the air, and then when I say ‘Go!’ it’ll vanish.”

“Yes⁠—into your mouth! Get away with your nonsense.”

“You’re too clever to be so unbelieving,” said Gerald. “Look here!”

He held out one of the little apples, and the woman saw it move slowly and unsupported along the air.

“Now go!” cried Gerald, to the apple, and it went. “How’s that?” he asked, in tones of triumph.

The woman was glowing with excitement, and her eyes shone. “The best I ever see!” she whispered. “I’m on, mate, if you know any more tricks like that.”

“Heaps,” said Gerald confidently; “hold out your hand.” The woman held it out; and from nowhere, as it seemed, the apple appeared and was laid on her hand. The apple was rather damp.

She looked at it a moment, and then whispered:

“Come on! there’s to be no one in it but just us two. But not in the tent. You take a pitch here, ’longside the tent. It’s worth twice the money in the open air.”

“But people won’t pay if they can see it all for nothing.”

“Not for the first turn, but they will after⁠—you see. And you’ll have to do the patter.”

“Will you lend me your shawl?” Gerald asked. She unpinned it⁠—it was a red and black plaid⁠—and he spread it on the ground as he had seen Indian conjurers do, and seated himself cross-legged behind it.

“I mustn’t have anyone behind me, that’s all,” he said; and the woman hastily screened off a little enclosure for him by hanging old sacks to two of the guy-ropes of the tent. “Now I’m ready,” he said. The woman got a drum from the inside of the tent and beat it. Quite soon a little crowd had collected.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Gerald, “I come from India, and I can do a conjuring entertainment the like of which you’ve never seen. When I see two shillings on the shawl I’ll begin.”

“I dare say you will!” said a bystander; and there were several short, disagreeable laughs.

“Of course,” said Gerald, “if you can’t afford two shillings between you”⁠—there were about thirty people in the crowd by now⁠—“I say no more.”

Two or three pennies fell on the shawl, then a few more then the fall of copper ceased.

“Ninepence,” said Gerald. “Well, I’ve got a generous nature. You’ll get such a ninepennyworth as you’ve never had before. I don’t wish to deceive you⁠—I have an accomplice, but my accomplice is invisible.”

The crowd snorted.

“By the aid of that accomplice,” Gerald went on, “I will read any letter that any of you may have in your pocket. If one of you will just step over the rope and stand beside me, my invisible accomplice will read that letter over his shoulder.”

A man stepped forward, a ruddy-faced, horsy-looking person. He pulled a letter from his pocket and stood plain in the sight of all, in a place where everyone saw that no one could see over his shoulder.

“Now!” said Gerald. There was a moment’s pause. Then from quite the other side of the enclosure came a faint, faraway, singsong voice. It said:


Yours of the fifteenth duly to hand. With regard to the mortgage on your land, we regret our inability⁠—

“Stow it!” cried the man, turning threateningly on Gerald.

He stepped out of the enclosure explaining that there was nothing of that sort in his letter; but nobody believed him, and a buzz of interested chatter began in the crowd, ceasing abruptly when Gerald began to speak.

“Now,” said he, laying the nine pennies down on the shawl, “you keep your eyes on those pennies, and one by one you’ll see them disappear.”

And of course they did. Then one by one they were laid down again by the invisible hand of Mabel. The crowd clapped loudly. “Bravo!”

“That’s something like!”

“Show us another!” cried the people in the front rank. And those behind pushed forward.

“Now,” said Gerald, “you’ve seen what I can do, but I don’t do any more till I see five shillings on this carpet.”

And in two minutes seven-and-threepence lay there and Gerald did a little more conjuring.

When the people in front didn’t want to give any more money, Gerald asked them to stand back and let the others have a look in. I wish I had time to tell you of all the tricks he did the grass round his enclosure was absolutely trampled off by the feet of the people who thronged to look at him. There is really hardly any limit to the wonders you can do if you have an invisible accomplice. All sorts of things were made to move about, apparently by themselves, and even to vanish⁠—into the folds of Mabel’s clothing. The woman stood by, looking more and more pleasant as she saw the money come tumbling in, and beating her shabby drum every time Gerald stopped conjuring.

The news of the conjurer had spread all over the fair. The crowd was frantic with admiration. The man who ran the coconut shies begged Gerald to throw in his lot with him; the owner of the rifle gallery offered him free board and lodging and go shares; and a brisk, broad lady, in stiff black silk and a violet bonnet, tried to engage him for the forthcoming Bazaar for Reformed Bandsmen.

And all this time the others mingled with the crowd quite unobserved, for who could have eyes for anyone but Gerald? It was getting quite late, long past teatime, and Gerald, who was getting very tired indeed, and was quite satisfied with his share of the money, was racking his brains for a way to get out of it.

“How are we to hook it?” he murmured, as Mabel made his cap disappear from his head by the simple process of taking it off and putting it in her pocket.

“They’ll never let us get away. I didn’t think of that before.”

“Let me think!” whispered Mabel; and next moment she said, close to his ear: “Divide the money, and give her something for the shawl. Put the money on it and say⁠ ⁠…” She told him what to say.

Gerald’s pitch was in the shade of the tent; otherwise, of course, everyone would have seen the shadow of the invisible Mabel as she moved about making things vanish.

Gerald told the woman to divide the money, which she did honestly enough.

“Now,” he said, while the impatient crowd pressed closer and closer, “I’ll give you five bob for your shawl.”

“Seven-and-six,” said the woman mechanically.

“Righto!” said Gerald, putting his heavy share of the money in his trouser pocket.

“This shawl will now disappear,” he said, picking it up. He handed it to Mabel, who put it on; and, of course, it disappeared. A roar of applause went up from the audience.

“Now,” he said, “I come to the last trick of all. I shall take three steps backwards and vanish.” He took three steps backwards, Mabel wrapped the invisible shawl round him, and he did not vanish. The shawl, being invisible, did not conceal him in the least.

“Yah!” cried a boy’s voice in the crowd. “Look at ’im! ’E knows ’e can’t do it.”

“I wish I could put you in my pocket,” said Mabel. The crowd was crowding closer. At any moment they might touch Mabel, and then anything might happen⁠—simply anything. Gerald took hold of his hair with both hands, as his way was when he was anxious or discouraged. Mabel, in invisibility, wrung her hands, as people are said to do in books that is, she clasped them and squeezed very tight.

“Oh!” she whispered suddenly, “it’s loose. I can get it off.”


“Yes⁠—the ring.”

“Come on, young master. Give us summat for our money,” a farm labourer shouted.

“I will,” said Gerald. “This time I really will vanish. Slip round into the tent,” he whispered to Mabel. “Push the ring under the canvas. Then slip out at the back and join the others. When I see you with them I’ll disappear. Go slow, and I’ll catch you up.”

“It’s me,” said a pale and obvious Mabel in the ear of Kathleen. “He’s got the ring; come on, before the crowd begins to scatter.”

As they went out of the gate they heard a roar of surprise and annoyance rise from the crowd, and knew that this time Gerald really had disappeared.

They had gone a mile before they heard footsteps on the road, and looked back. No one was to be seen.

Next moment Gerald’s voice spoke out of clear, empty-looking space.

“Halloa!” it said gloomily.

“How horrid!” cried Mabel; “you did make me jump! Take the ring off; it makes me feel quite creepy, you being nothing but a voice.”

“So did you us,” said Jimmy.

“Don’t take it off yet,” said Kathleen, who was really rather thoughtful for her age, “because you’re still blackleaded, I suppose, and you might be recognized, and eloped with by gypsies, so that you should go on doing conjuring forever and ever.”

“I should take it off,” said Jimmy; “it’s no use going about invisible, and people seeing us with Mabel and saying we’ve eloped with her.”

“Yes,” said Mabel impatiently, “that would be simply silly. And, besides, I want my ring.”

“It’s not yours any more than ours, anyhow,” said Jimmy.

“Yes, it is,” said Mabel.

“Oh, stow it!” said the weary voice of Gerald beside her. “What’s the use of jawing?”

“I want the ring,” said Mabel, rather mulishly.

“Want,”⁠—the words came out of the still evening air⁠—“want must be your master. You can’t have the ring. I can’t get it off!