V

“Search and research proving vain,” said Gerald, when every corner of the bedroom had been turned out and the ring had not been found, “the noble detective hero of our tale remarked that he would have other fish to fry in half a jiff, and if the rest of you want to hear about last night⁠—”

“Let’s keep it till we get to Mabel,” said Kathleen heroically.

“The assignation was ten-thirty, wasn’t it? Why shouldn’t Gerald gas as we go along? I don’t suppose anything very much happened, anyhow.” This, of course, was Jimmy.

“That shows,” remarked Gerald sweetly, “how much you know. The melancholy Mabel will await the tryst without success, as far as this one is concerned. ‘Fish, fish, other fish other fish I fry!’ ” he warbled to the tune of “Cherry Ripe,” till Kathleen could have pinched him.

Jimmy turned coldly away, remarking, “When you’ve quite done.”

But Gerald went on singing⁠—

“Where the lips of Johnson smile,
There’s the land of Cherry Isle.
Other fish, other fish,
Fish I fry.
Stately Johnson, come and buy!”

“How can you,” asked Kathleen, “be so aggravating?”

“I don’t know,” said Gerald, returning to prose.

“Want of sleep or intoxication⁠—of success, I mean. Come where no one can hear us.”

“Oh, come to some island where no one can hear,
And beware of the keyhole that’s glued to an ear,”

he whispered, opened the door suddenly, and there, sure enough, was Eliza, stooping without. She flicked feebly at the wainscot with a duster, but concealment was vain.

“You know what listeners never hear,” said Jimmy severely.

“I didn’t, then⁠—so there!” said Eliza, whose listening ears were crimson. So they passed out, and up the High Street, to sit on the churchyard wall and dangle their legs. And all the way Gerald’s lips were shut into a thin, obstinate line.

Now,” said Kathleen. “Oh, Jerry, don’t be a goat! I’m simply dying to hear what happened.”

“That’s better,” said Gerald, and he told his story. As he told it some of the white mystery and magic of the moonlit gardens got into his voice and his words, so that when he told of the statues that came alive, and the great beast that was alive through all its stone, Kathleen thrilled responsive, clutching his arm, and even Jimmy ceased to kick the wall with his boot heels, and listened open-mouthed.

Then came the thrilling tale of the burglars, and the warning letter flung into the peaceful company of Mabel, her aunt, and the bread-and-butter pudding. Gerald told the story with the greatest enjoyment and such fullness of detail that the church clock chimed half-past eleven as he said, “Having done all that human agency could do, and further help being despaired of, our gallant young detective⁠—Hullo, there’s Mabel!”

There was. The tailboard of a cart shed her almost at their feet.

“I couldn’t wait any longer,” she explained, “when you didn’t come. And I got a lift. Has anything more happened? The burglars had gone when Bates got to the strongroom.”

“You don’t mean to say all that wheeze is real?” Jimmy asked.

“Of course it’s real,” said Kathleen. “Go on, Jerry. He’s just got to where he threw the stone into your bread-and-butter pudding, Mabel. Go on.”

Mabel climbed on to the wall. “You’ve got visible again quicker than I did,” she said.

Gerald nodded and resumed:

“Our story must be told in as few words as possible, owing to the fish-frying taking place at twelve, and it’s past the half-hour now. Having left his missive to do its warning work, Gerald de Sherlock Holmes sped back, wrapped in invisibility, to the spot where by the light of their dark-lanterns the burglars were still⁠—still burgling with the utmost punctuality and despatch. I didn’t see any sense in running into danger, so I just waited outside the passage where the steps are⁠—you know?”

Mabel nodded.

“Presently they came out, very cautiously, of course, and looked about them. They didn’t see me so deeming themselves unobserved they passed in silent Indian file along the passage⁠—one of the sacks of silver grazed my front part⁠—and out into the night.”

“But which way?”

“Through the little looking-glass room where you looked at yourself when you were invisible. The hero followed swiftly on his invisible tennis-shoes. The three miscreants instantly sought the shelter of the groves and passed stealthily among the rhododendrons and across the park, and⁠—” his voice dropped and he looked straight before him at the pinky convolvulus netting a heap of stones beyond the white dust of the road⁠—“the stone things that come alive, they kept looking out from between bushes and under trees and I saw them all right, but they didn’t see me. They saw the burglars though, right enough; but the burglars couldn’t see them. Rum, wasn’t it?”

“The stone things?” Mabel had to have them explained to her.

I never saw them come alive,” she said, “and I’ve been in the gardens in the evening as often as often.”

I saw them,” said Gerald stiffly.

“I know, I know,” Mabel hastened to put herself right with him; “what I mean to say is I shouldn’t wonder if they’re only visible when you’re invisible⁠—the liveness of them, I mean, not the stoniness.”

Gerald understood, and I’m sure I hope you do.

“I shouldn’t wonder if you’re right,” he said. “The castle garden’s enchanted right enough; but what I should like to know is how and why. I say, come on, I’ve got to catch Johnson before twelve. We’ll walk as far as the market and then we’ll have to run for it.”

“But go on with the adventure,” said Mabel. “You can talk as we go.”

“Oh, do⁠—it is so awfully thrilling!”

This pleased Gerald, of course.

“Well, I just followed, you know, like in a dream, and they got out the cavy way you know, where we got in and I jolly well thought I’d lost them; I had to wait till they’d moved off down the road so that they shouldn’t hear me rattling the stones, and I had to tear to catch them up. I took my shoes off⁠—I expect my stockings are done for. And I followed and followed and followed and they went through the place where the poor people live, and right down to the river. And⁠—I say, we must run for it.”

So the story stopped and the running began.

They caught Johnson in his own backyard washing at a bench against his own backdoor.

“Look here, Johnson,” Gerald said, “what’ll you give me if I put you up to winning that fifty pounds reward?”

“Halves,” said Johnson promptly, “and a clout ’long-side your head if you was coming any of your nonsense over me.”

“It’s not nonsense,” said Gerald very impressively. “If you’ll let us in I’ll tell you all about it. And when you’ve caught the burglars and got the swag back you just give me a quid for luck. I won’t ask for more.”

“Come along in, then,” said Johnson, “if the young ladies’ll excuse the towel. But I bet you do want something more off of me. Else why not claim the reward yourself?”

“Great is the wisdom of Johnson⁠—he speaks winged words.” The children were all in the cottage now, and the door was shut. “I want you never to let on who told you. Let them think it was your own unaided pluck and farsightedness.”

“Sit you down,” said Johnson, “and if you’re kidding you’d best send the little gells home afore I begin on you.”

“I am not kidding,” replied Gerald loftily, “never less. And anyone but a policeman would see why I don’t want anyone to know it was me. I found it out at dead of night, in a place where I wasn’t supposed to be; and there’d be a beastly row if they found out at home about me being out nearly all night. Now do you see, my bright-eyed daisy?”

Johnson was now too interested, as Jimmy said afterwards, to mind what silly names he was called. He said he did see and asked to see more.

“Well, don’t you ask any questions, then. I’ll tell you all it’s good for you to know. Last night about eleven I was at Yalding Towers. No⁠—it doesn’t matter how I got there or what I got there for⁠—and there was a window open and I got in, and there was a light. And it was in the strongroom, and there were three men, putting silver in a bag.”

“Was it you give the warning, and they sent for the police?” Johnson was leaning eagerly forward, a hand on each knee.

“Yes, that was me. You can let them think it was you, if you like. You were off duty, weren’t you?”

“I was,” said Johnson, “in the arms of Murphy⁠—”

“Well, the police didn’t come quick enough. But I was there⁠—a lonely detective. And I followed them.”

“You did?”

“And I saw them hide the booty and I know the other stuff from Houghton’s Court’s in the same place, and I heard them arrange about when to take it away.”

“Come and show me where,” said Johnson, jumping up so quickly that his Windsor armchair fell over backwards, with a crack, on the redbrick floor.

“Not so,” said Gerald calmly; “if you go near the spot before the appointed time you’ll find the silver, but you’ll never catch the thieves.”

“You’re right there.” The policeman picked up his chair and sat down in it again. “Well?”

“Well, there’s to be a motor to meet them in the lane beyond the boathouse by Sadler’s Rents at one o’clock tonight. They’ll get the things out at half-past twelve and take them along in a boat. So now’s your chance to fill your pockets with chink and cover yourself with honour and glory.”

“So help me!” Johnson was pensive and doubtful still “So help me! you couldn’t have made all this up out of your head.”

“Oh yes, I could. But I didn’t. Now look here. It’s the chance of your lifetime, Johnson! A quid for me, and a still tongue for you, and the job’s done. Do you agree?”

“Oh, I agree right enough,” said Johnson. “I agree. But if you’re coming any of your larks⁠—”

“Can’t you see he isn’t?” Kathleen put in impatiently. “He’s not a liar⁠—we none of us are.”

“If you’re not on, say so,” said Gerald, “and I’ll find another policeman with more sense.”

“I could split about you being out all night,” said Johnson.

“But you wouldn’t be so ungentlemanly,” said Mabel brightly. “Don’t you be so unbelieving, when we’re trying to do you a good turn.”

“If I were you,” Gerald advised, “I’d go to the place where the silver is, with two other men. You could make a nice little ambush in the wood-yard it’s close there. And I’d have two or three more men up trees in the lane to wait for the motorcar.”

“You ought to have been in the force, you ought,” said Johnson admiringly; “but s’pose it was a hoax!”

“Well, then you’d have made an ass of yourself I don’t suppose it ’ud be the first time,” said Jimmy.

“Are you on?” said Gerald in haste. “Hold your jaw, Jimmy, you idiot!”

“Yes,” said Johnson.

“Then when you’re on duty you go down to the wood-yard, and the place where you see me blow my nose is the place. The sacks are tied with string to the posts under the water. You just stalk by in your dignified beauty and make a note of the spot. That’s where glory waits you, and when Fame elates you and you’re a sergeant, please remember me.”

Johnson said he was blessed. He said it more than once, and then remarked that he was on, and added that he must be off that instant minute.

Johnson’s cottage lies just out of the town beyond the blacksmith’s forge and the children had come to it through the wood. They went back the same way, and then down through the town, and through its narrow, unsavoury streets to the towing-path by the timber yard. Here they ran along the trunks of the big trees, peeped into the saw-pit, and⁠—the men were away at dinner and this was a favourite play place of every boy within miles⁠—made themselves a seesaw with a fresh cut, sweet-smelling pine plank and an elm-root.

“What a ripping place!” said Mabel, breathless on the seesaw’s end. “I believe I like this better than pretending games or even magic.”

“So do I,” said Jimmy. “Jerry, don’t keep sniffing so⁠—you’ll have no nose left.”

“I can’t help it,” Gerald answered; “I daren’t use my hankey for fear Johnson’s on the lookout somewhere unseen. I wish I’d thought of some other signal.” Sniff! “No, nor I shouldn’t want to now if I hadn’t got not to. That’s what’s so rum. The moment I got down here and remembered what I’d said about the signal I began to have a cold⁠—and⁠—Thank goodness! here he is.”

The children, with a fine air of unconcern, abandoned the seesaw.

“Follow my leader!” Gerald cried, and ran along a barked oak trunk, the others following. In and out and round about ran the file of children, over heaps of logs, under the jutting ends of piled planks, and just as the policeman’s heavy boots trod the towing-path Gerald halted at the end of a little landing-stage of rotten boards, with a rickety handrail, cried “Pax!” and blew his nose with loud fervour.

“Morning,” he said immediately.

“Morning,” said Johnson. “Got a cold, ain’t you?”

“Ah! I shouldn’t have a cold if I’d got boots like yours,” returned Gerald admiringly. “Look at them. Anyone ’ud know your fairy footstep a mile off. How do you ever get near enough to anyone to arrest them?” He skipped off the landing-stage, whispered as he passed Johnson, “Courage, promptitude, and dispatch. That’s the place,” and was off again, the active leader of an active procession.


“We’ve brought a friend home to dinner,” said Kathleen, when Eliza opened the door. “Where’s Mademoiselle?”

“Gone to see Yalding Towers. Today’s show day, you know. An’ just you hurry over your dinners. It’s my afternoon out, and my gentleman friend don’t like it if he’s kept waiting.”

“All right, we’ll eat like lightning,” Gerald promised. “Set another place, there’s an angel.”

They kept their word. The dinner⁠—it was minced veal and potatoes and rice-pudding, perhaps the dullest food in the world⁠—was over in a quarter of an hour.

“And now,” said Mabel, when Eliza and a jug of hot water had disappeared up the stairs together, “where’s the ring? I ought to put it back.”

“I haven’t had a turn yet,” said Jimmy. “When we find it Cathy and I ought to have turns same as you and Gerald did.”

“When you find it⁠—?” Mabel’s pale face turned paler between her dark locks.

“I’m very sorry⁠—we’re all very sorry,” began Kathleen, and then the story of the losing had to be told.

“You couldn’t have looked properly,” Mabel protested. “It can’t have vanished.”

“You don’t know what it can do no more do we. It’s no use getting your quills up, fair lady. Perhaps vanishing itself is just what it does do. You see, it came off my hand in the bed. We looked everywhere.”

“Would you mind if I looked?” Mabel’s eyes implored her little hostess. “You see, if it’s lost it’s my fault. It’s almost the same as stealing. That Johnson would say it was just the same. I know he would.”

“Let’s all look again,” said Cathy, jumping up. “We were rather in a hurry this morning.”

So they looked, and they looked. In the bed, under the bed, under the carpet, under the furniture. They shook the curtains, they explored the corners, and found dust and flue, but no ring. They looked, and they looked. Everywhere they looked. Jimmy even looked fixedly at the ceiling, as though he thought the ring might have bounced up there and stuck. But it hadn’t.

“Then,” said Mabel at last, “your housemaid must have stolen it. That’s all. I shall tell her I think so.”

And she would have done it too, but at that moment the front door banged and they knew that Eliza had gone forth in all the glory of her best things to meet her “gentleman friend.”

“It’s no use,”⁠—Mabel was almost in tears; “look here⁠—will you leave me alone? Perhaps you others looking distracts me. And I’ll go over every inch of the room by myself.”

“Respecting the emotion of their guest, the kindly charcoal-burners withdrew,” said Gerald. And they closed the door softly from the outside on Mabel and her search.

They waited for her, of course⁠—politeness demanded it, and besides, they had to stay at home to let Mademoiselle in; though it was a dazzling day, and Jimmy had just remembered that Gerald’s pockets were full of the money earned at the fair, and that nothing had yet been bought with that money, except a few buns in which he had had no share. And of course they waited impatiently.

It seemed about an hour, and was really quite ten minutes, before they heard the bedroom door open and Mabel’s feet on the stairs.

“She hasn’t found it,” Gerald said.

“How do you know?” Jimmy asked.

“The way she walks,” said Gerald. You can, in fact, almost always tell whether the thing has been found that people have gone to look for by the sound of their feet as they return. Mabel’s feet said “No go” as plain as they could speak. And her face confirmed the cheerless news.

A sudden and violent knocking at the back door prevented anyone from having to be polite about how sorry they were, or fanciful about being sure the ring would turn up soon.

All the servants except Eliza were away on their holidays, so the children went together to open the door, because, as Gerald said, if it was the baker they could buy a cake from him and eat it for dessert. “That kind of dinner sort of needs dessert,” he said.

But it was not the baker, When they opened the door they saw in the paved court where the pump is, and the dustbin, and the water-butt, a young man, with his hat very much on one side, his mouth open under his fair bristly mustache, and his eyes as nearly round as human eyes can be. He wore a suit of a bright mustard colour, a blue necktie, and a goldish watch-chain across his waistcoat. His body was thrown back and his right arm stretched out towards the door, and his expression was that of a person who is being dragged somewhere against his will. He looked so strange that Kathleen tried to shut the door in his face, murmuring, “Escaped insane.” But the door would not close. There was something in the way.

“Leave go of me!” said the young man.

“Ho yus! I’ll leave go of you!” It was the voice of Eliza⁠—but no Eliza could be seen.

“Who’s got hold of you?” asked Kathleen.

She has, miss,” replied the unhappy stranger.

“Who’s she?” asked Kathleen, to gain time, as she afterwards explained, for she now knew well enough that what was keeping the door open was Eliza’s unseen foot.

“My fyongsay, miss. At least it sounds like her voice, and it feels like her bones, but something’s come over me, miss, an I can’t see her.”

“That’s what he keeps on saying,” said Eliza’s voice. “E’s my gentleman friend; is ’e gone dotty, or is it me?”

“Both, I shouldn’t wonder,” said Jimmy.

“Now,” said Eliza, “you call yourself a man; you look me in the face and say you can’t see me.”

“Well⁠—I can’t,” said the wretched gentleman friend.

“If I’d stolen a ring,” said Gerald, looking at the sky, “I should go indoors and be quiet, not stand at the back door and make an exhibition of myself.”

“Not much exhibition about her,” whispered Jimmy; “good old ring!”

“I haven’t stolen anything,” said the gentleman friend. “Here, you leave me be. It’s my eyes has gone wrong. Leave go of me, d’ye hear?”

Suddenly his hand dropped and he staggered back against the water-butt. Eliza had “left go” of him. She pushed past the children, shoving them aside with her invisible elbows. Gerald caught her by the arm with one hand, felt for her ear with the other, and whispered, “You stand still and don’t say a word. If you do⁠—well, what’s to stop me from sending for the police?”

Eliza did not know what there was to stop him. So she did as she was told, and stood invisible and silent, save for a sort of blowing, snorting noise peculiar to her when she was out of breath.

The mustard-coloured young man had recovered his balance, and stood looking at the children with eyes, if possible, rounder than before.

“What is it?” he gasped feebly. “What’s up? What’s it all about?”

“If you don’t know, I’m afraid we can’t tell you,” said Gerald politely.

“Have I been talking very strange-like?” he asked, taking off his hat and passing his hand over his forehead.

“Very,” said Mabel.

“I hope I haven’t said anything that wasn’t good manners,” he said anxiously.

“Not at all,” said Kathleen. “You only said your fiancée had hold of your hand, and that you couldn’t see her.”

“No more I can.”

“No more can we,” said Mabel.

“But I couldn’t have dreamed it, and then come along here making a penny show of myself like this, could I?”

“You know best,” said Gerald courteously.

“But,” the mustard-coloured victim almost screamed, “do you mean to tell me⁠—”

“I don’t mean to tell you anything,” said Gerald quite truly, “but I’ll give you a bit of advice. You go home and lie down a bit and put a wet rag on your head. You’ll be all right tomorrow.”

“But I haven’t⁠—”

I should,” said Mabel; “the sun’s very hot, you know.”

“I feel all right now,” he said, “but⁠—well, I can only say I’m sorry, that’s all I can say. I’ve never been taken like this before, miss. I’m not subject to it⁠—don’t you think that. But I could have sworn Eliza⁠—Ain’t she gone out to meet me?”

“Eliza’s indoors,” said Mabel. “She can’t come out to meet anybody today.”

“You won’t tell her about me carrying on this way, will you, miss? It might set her against me if she thought I was liable to fits, which I never was from a child.”

“We won’t tell Eliza anything about you.”

“And you’ll overlook the liberty?”

“Of course. We know you couldn’t help it,” said Kathleen. “You go home and lie down. I’m sure you must need it. Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon, I’m sure, miss,” he said dreamily. “All the same I can feel the print of her finger-bones on my hand while I’m saying it. And you won’t let it get round to my boss⁠—my employer I mean? Fits of all sorts are against a man in any trade.”

“No, no, no, it’s all right⁠—goodbye,” said everyone. And a silence fell as he went slowly round the water-butt and the green yard-gate shut behind him. The silence was broken by Eliza.

“Give me up!” she said. “Give me up to break my heart in a prison cell!”

There was a sudden splash, and a round wet drop lay on the doorstep.

“Thunder shower,” said Jimmy; but it was a tear from Eliza.

“Give me up,” she went on, “give me up”⁠—splash⁠—“but don’t let me be took here in the town where I’m known and respected”⁠—splash. “I’ll walk ten miles to be took by a strange police⁠—not Johnson as keeps company with my own cousin”⁠—splash. “But I do thank you for one thing. You didn’t tell Elf as I’d stolen the ring. And I didn’t”⁠—splash⁠—“I only sort of borrowed it, it being my day out, and my gentleman friend such a toff, like you can see for yourselves.”

The children had watched, spellbound, the interesting tears that became visible as they rolled off the invisible nose of the miserable Eliza. Now Gerald roused himself, and spoke.

“It’s no use your talking,” he said. “We can’t see you!”

“That’s what he said,” said Eliza’s voice, “but⁠—”

“You can’t see yourself,” Gerald went on. “Where’s your hand?”

Eliza, no doubt, tried to see it, and of course failed; for instantly, with a shriek that might have brought the police if there had been any about, she went into a violent fit of hysterics. The children did what they could, everything that they had read of in books as suitable to such occasions, but it is extremely difficult to do the right thing with an invisible housemaid in strong hysterics and her best clothes. That was why the best hat was found, later on, to be completely ruined, and why the best blue dress was never quite itself again. And as they were burning bits of the feather dusting-brush as nearly under Eliza’s nose as they could guess, a sudden spurt of flame and a horrible smell, as the flame died between the quick hands of Gerald, showed but too plainly that Eliza’s feather boa had tried to help.

It did help. Eliza “came to” with a deep sob and said, “Don’t burn me real ostrich stole; I’m better now.”

They helped her up and she sat down on the bottom step, and the children explained to her very carefully and quite kindly that she really was invisible, and that if you steal⁠—or even borrow⁠—rings you can never be sure what will happen to you.

“But ’ave I got to go on stopping like this,” she moaned, when they had fetched the little mahogany looking-glass from its nail over the kitchen sink, and convinced her that she was really invisible, “forever and ever? An’ we was to a bin married come Easter. No one won’t marry a gell as ’e can’t see. It ain’t likely.”

“No, not forever and ever,” said Mabel kindly, “but you’ve got to go through with it⁠—like measles. I expect you’ll be all right tomorrow.”

“Tonight, I think,” said Gerald.

“We’ll help you all we can, and not tell anyone,” said Kathleen.

“Not even the police,” said Jimmy.

“Now let’s get Mademoiselle’s tea ready,” said Gerald.

“And ours,” said Jimmy.

“No,” said Gerald, “we’ll have our tea out. We’ll have a picnic and we’ll take Eliza. I’ll go out and get the cakes.”

I shan’t eat no cake, Master Jerry,” said Eliza’s voice, “so don’t you think it. You’d see it going down inside my chest. It wouldn’t be what I should call nice of me to have cake showing through me in the open air. Oh, it’s a dreadful judgment⁠—just for a borrow!”

They reassured her, set the tea, deputed Kathleen to let in Mademoiselle⁠—who came home tired and a little sad, it seemed⁠—waited for her and Gerald and the cakes, and started off for Yalding Towers.

“Picnic parties aren’t allowed,” said Mabel.

“Ours will be,” said Gerald briefly. “Now, Eliza, you catch on to Kathleen’s arm and I’ll walk behind to conceal your shadow. My aunt! take your hat off; it makes your shadow look like I don’t know what. People will think we’re the county lunatic asylum turned loose.”

It was then that the hat, becoming visible in Kathleen’s hand, showed how little of the sprinkled water had gone where it was meant to go⁠—on Eliza’s face.

“Me best ’at,” said Eliza, and there was a silence with sniffs in it.

“Look here,” said Mabel, “you cheer up. Just you think this is all a dream. It’s just the kind of thing you might dream if your conscience bad got pains in it about the ring.”

“But will I wake up again?”

“Oh yes, you’ll wake up again. Now we’re going to bandage your eyes and take you through a very small door, and don’t you resist, or we’ll bring a policeman into the dream like a shot.”

I have not time to describe Eliza’s entrance into the cave. She went head first: the girls propelled and the boys received her. If Gerald had not thought of tying her hands someone would certainly have been scratched. As it was Mabel’s hand was scraped between the cold rock and a passionate boot-heel. Nor will I tell you all that she said as they led her along the fern-bordered gully and through the arch into the wonderland of Italian scenery. She had but little language left when they removed her bandage under a weeping willow where a statue of Diana, bow in hand, stood poised on one toe⁠—a most unsuitable attitude for archery, I have always thought.

“Now,” said Gerald, “it’s all over⁠—nothing but niceness now and cake and things.”

“It’s time we did have our tea,” said Jimmy. And it was.

Eliza, once convinced that her chest, though invisible, was not transparent, and that her companions could not by looking through it count how many buns she had eaten, made an excellent meal. So did the others. If you want really to enjoy your tea, have minced veal and potatoes and rice-pudding for dinner, with several hours of excitement to follow, and take your tea late.

The soft, cool green and grey of the garden were changing⁠—the green grew golden, the shadows black, and the lake where the swans were mirrored upside down, under the Temple of Phoebus, was bathed in rosy light from the little fluffy clouds that lay opposite the Sunset.

“It is pretty,” said Eliza, “just like a picture-postcard, ain’t it?⁠—the tuppenny kind.”

“I ought to be getting home,” said Mabel.

“I can’t go home like this. I’d stay and be a savage and live in that white hut if it had any walls and doors,” said Eliza.

“She means the Temple of Dionysus,” said Mabel, pointing to it.

The sun set suddenly behind the line of black fir-trees on the top of the slope, and the white temple, that had been pink, turned grey.

“It would be a very nice place to live in even as it is,” said Kathleen.

“Draughty,” said Eliza, “and law, what a lot of steps to clean! What they make houses for without no walls to ’em? Who’d live in⁠—” She broke off, stared, and added: “What’s that?”

“What?”

“That white thing coming down the steps. Why, it’s a young man in statooary.”

“The statues do come alive here, after sunset,” said Gerald in very matter-of-fact tones.

“I see they do.” Eliza did not seem at all surprised or alarmed. “There’s another of ’em. Look at them little wings to his feet like pigeons.”

“I expect that’s Mercury,” said Gerald.

“It’s ‘Hermes’ under the statue that’s got wings on its feet,” said Mabel, “but⁠—”

I don’t see any statues,” said Jimmy. “What are you punching me for?”

“Don’t you see?” Gerald whispered; but he need not have been so troubled, for all Eliza’s attention was with her wandering eyes that followed hither and thither the quick movements of unseen statues. “Don’t you see? The statues come alive when the sun goes down⁠—and you can’t see them unless you’re invisible⁠—and I⁠—if you do see them you’re not frightened⁠—unless you touch them.”

“Let’s get her to touch one and see,” said Jimmy.

“E’s lep’ into the water,” said Eliza in a rapt voice. “My, can’t he swim neither! And the one with the pigeons wings is flying all over the lake having larks with ’im. I do call that pretty. It’s like cupids as you see on wedding-cakes. And here’s another of ’em, a little chap with long ears and a baby deer galloping alongside! An look at the lady with the biby, throwing it up and catching it like as if it was a ball. I wonder she ain’t afraid. But it’s pretty to see ’em.”

The broad park lay stretched before the children in growing greyness and a stillness that deepened. Amid the thickening shadows they could see the statues gleam white and motionless. But Eliza saw other things. She watched in silence presently, and they watched silently, and the evening fell like a veil that grew heavier and blacker. And it was night. And the moon came up above the trees.

“Oh,” cried Eliza suddenly, “here’s the dear little boy with the deer he’s coming right for me, bless his heart!”

Next moment she was screaming, and her screams grew fainter and there was the sound of swift boots on gravel.

“Come on!” cried Gerald; “she touched it, and then she was frightened, Just like I was. Run! she’ll send everyone in the town mad if she gets there like that. Just a voice and boots! Run! Run!”

They ran. But Eliza had the start of them. Also when she ran on the grass they could not hear her footsteps and had to wait for the sound of leather on faraway gravel. Also she was driven by fear, and fear drives fast.

She went, it seemed, the nearest way, invisibly through the waxing moonlight, seeing she only knew what amid the glades and groves.

“I’ll stop here; see you tomorrow,” gasped Mabel, as the loud pursuers followed Eliza’s clatter across the terrace. “She’s gone through the stable yard.”

“The back way,” Gerald panted as they turned the corner of their own street, and he and Jimmy swung in past the water-butt.

An unseen but agitated presence seemed to be fumbling with the locked backdoor. The church clock struck the half-hour.

“Half-past nine,” Gerald had just breath to say. “Pull at the ring. Perhaps it’ll come off now.”

He spoke to the bare doorstep. But it was Eliza, dishevelled, breathless, her hair coming down, her collar crooked, her dress twisted and disordered, who suddenly held out a hand⁠—a hand that they could see; and in the hand, plainly visible in the moonlight, the dark circle of the magic ring.


“Alf a mo!” said Eliza’s gentleman friend next morning. He was waiting for her when she opened the door with pail and hearthstone in her hand. “Sorry you couldn’t come out yesterday.”

“So’m I.” Eliza swept the wet flannel along the top step. “What did you do?”

“I ’ad a bit of a headache,” said the gentleman friend. “I laid down most of the afternoon. What were you up to?”

“Oh, nothing pertickler,” said Eliza.


“Then it was all a dream,” she said, when he was gone; “but it’ll be a lesson to me not to meddle with anybody’s old ring again in a hurry.”

“So they didn’t tell ’er about me behaving like I did,” said he as he went⁠—“sun, I suppose⁠—like our Army in India. I hope I ain’t going to be liable to it, that’s all!”