Five Children and It
Part 3 out of 4
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
'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,
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
'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,'
'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. 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.
BIGGER THAN THE BAKER'S BOY
'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,
'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
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
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 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
'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:
CLOSED FOR HALF AN HOUR
WHILE THE GIANT GETS HIS TEA
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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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?
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
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
'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
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
'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
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
'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
'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
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