Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE STORY OF THE AMULET
by E. Nesbit
CHAPTER 1. THE PSAMMEAD
There were once four children who spent their summer holidays in a white
house, happily situated between a sandpit and a chalkpit. One day they
had the good fortune to find in the sandpit a strange creature. Its eyes
were on long horns like snail's eyes, and it could move them in and out
like telescopes. It had ears like a bat's ears, and its tubby body was
shaped like a spider's and covered with thick soft fur--and it had hands
and feet like a monkey's. It told the children--whose names were
Cyril, Robert, Anthea, and Jane--that it was a Psammead or sand-fairy.
(Psammead is pronounced Sammy-ad.) It was old, old, old, and its
birthday was almost at the very beginning of everything. And it had
been buried in the sand for thousands of years. But it still kept its
fairylikeness, and part of this fairylikeness was its power to give
people whatever they wished for. You know fairies have always been able
to do this. Cyril, Robert, Anthea, and Jane now found their wishes come
true; but, somehow, they never could think of just the right things to
wish for, and their wishes sometimes turned out very oddly indeed. In
the end their unwise wishings landed them in what Robert called 'a very
tight place indeed', and the Psammead consented to help them out of it
in return for their promise never never to ask it to grant them any more
wishes, and never to tell anyone about it, because it did not want to
be bothered to give wishes to anyone ever any more. At the moment of
parting Jane said politely--
'I wish we were going to see you again some day.'
And the Psammead, touched by this friendly thought, granted the wish.
The book about all this is called Five Children and It, and it ends up
in a most tiresome way by saying--
'The children DID see the Psammead again, but it was not in the sandpit;
it was--but I must say no more--'
The reason that nothing more could be said was that I had not then been
able to find out exactly when and where the children met the Psammead
again. Of course I knew they would meet it, because it was a beast of
its word, and when it said a thing would happen, that thing happened
without fail. How different from the people who tell us about what
weather it is going to be on Thursday next, in London, the South Coast,
The summer holidays during which the Psammead had been found and
the wishes given had been wonderful holidays in the country, and the
children had the highest hopes of just such another holiday for the next
summer. The winter holidays were beguiled by the wonderful happenings
of The Phoenix and the Carpet, and the loss of these two treasures would
have left the children in despair, but for the splendid hope of their
next holiday in the country. The world, they felt, and indeed had some
reason to feel, was full of wonderful things--and they were really the
sort of people that wonderful things happen to. So they looked forward
to the summer holiday; but when it came everything was different, and
very, very horrid. Father had to go out to Manchuria to telegraph news
about the war to the tiresome paper he wrote for--the Daily Bellower,
or something like that, was its name. And Mother, poor dear Mother, was
away in Madeira, because she had been very ill. And The Lamb--I mean the
baby--was with her. And Aunt Emma, who was Mother's sister, had suddenly
married Uncle Reginald, who was Father's brother, and they had gone to
China, which is much too far off for you to expect to be asked to spend
the holidays in, however fond your aunt and uncle may be of you. So
the children were left in the care of old Nurse, who lived in Fitzroy
Street, near the British Museum, and though she was always very kind to
them, and indeed spoiled them far more than would be good for the most
grown-up of us, the four children felt perfectly wretched, and when
the cab had driven off with Father and all his boxes and guns and the
sheepskin, with blankets and the aluminium mess-kit inside it, the
stoutest heart quailed, and the girls broke down altogether, and sobbed
in each other's arms, while the boys each looked out of one of the long
gloomy windows of the parlour, and tried to pretend that no boy would be
such a muff as to cry.
I hope you notice that they were not cowardly enough to cry till their
Father had gone; they knew he had quite enough to upset him without
that. But when he was gone everyone felt as if it had been trying not to
cry all its life, and that it must cry now, if it died for it. So they
Tea--with shrimps and watercress--cheered them a little. The watercress
was arranged in a hedge round a fat glass salt-cellar, a tasteful device
they had never seen before. But it was not a cheerful meal.
After tea Anthea went up to the room that had been Father's, and when
she saw how dreadfully he wasn't there, and remembered how every minute
was taking him further and further from her, and nearer and nearer to
the guns of the Russians, she cried a little more. Then she thought of
Mother, ill and alone, and perhaps at that very moment wanting a little
girl to put eau-de-cologne on her head, and make her sudden cups of tea,
and she cried more than ever. And then she remembered what Mother had
said, the night before she went away, about Anthea being the eldest
girl, and about trying to make the others happy, and things like that.
So she stopped crying, and thought instead. And when she had thought as
long as she could bear she washed her face and combed her hair, and went
down to the others, trying her best to look as though crying were an
exercise she had never even heard of.
She found the parlour in deepest gloom, hardly relieved at all by
the efforts of Robert, who, to make the time pass, was pulling Jane's
hair--not hard, but just enough to tease.
'Look here,' said Anthea. 'Let's have a palaver.' This word dated from
the awful day when Cyril had carelessly wished that there were Red
Indians in England--and there had been. The word brought back memories
of last summer holidays and everyone groaned; they thought of the white
house with the beautiful tangled garden--late roses, asters, marigold,
sweet mignonette, and feathery asparagus--of the wilderness which
someone had once meant to make into an orchard, but which was now,
as Father said, 'five acres of thistles haunted by the ghosts of baby
cherry-trees'. They thought of the view across the valley, where the
lime-kilns looked like Aladdin's palaces in the sunshine, and they
thought of their own sandpit, with its fringe of yellowy grasses and
pale-stringy-stalked wild flowers, and the little holes in the cliff
that were the little sand-martins' little front doors. And they thought
of the free fresh air smelling of thyme and sweetbriar, and the scent of
the wood-smoke from the cottages in the lane--and they looked round old
Nurse's stuffy parlour, and Jane said--
'Oh, how different it all is!'
It was. Old Nurse had been in the habit of letting lodgings, till Father
gave her the children to take care of. And her rooms were furnished 'for
letting'. Now it is a very odd thing that no one ever seems to furnish
a room 'for letting' in a bit the same way as one would furnish it for
living in. This room had heavy dark red stuff curtains--the colour that
blood would not make a stain on--with coarse lace curtains inside. The
carpet was yellow, and violet, with bits of grey and brown oilcloth in
odd places. The fireplace had shavings and tinsel in it. There was
a very varnished mahogany chiffonier, or sideboard, with a lock that
wouldn't act. There were hard chairs--far too many of them--with crochet
antimacassars slipping off their seats, all of which sloped the wrong
way. The table wore a cloth of a cruel green colour with a yellow
chain-stitch pattern round it. Over the fireplace was a looking-glass
that made you look much uglier than you really were, however plain you
might be to begin with. Then there was a mantelboard with maroon plush
and wool fringe that did not match the plush; a dreary clock like a
black marble tomb--it was silent as the grave too, for it had long since
forgotten how to tick. And there were painted glass vases that never had
any flowers in, and a painted tambourine that no one ever played, and
painted brackets with nothing on them.
'And maple-framed engravings of the Queen, the Houses of
Parliament, the Plains of Heaven, and of a blunt-nosed
woodman's flat return.'
There were two books--last December's Bradshaw, and an odd volume of
Plumridge's Commentary on Thessalonians. There were--but I cannot
dwell longer on this painful picture. It was indeed, as Jane said, very
'Let's have a palaver,' said Anthea again.
'What about?' said Cyril, yawning.
'There's nothing to have ANYTHING about,' said Robert kicking the leg of
the table miserably.
'I don't want to play,' said Jane, and her tone was grumpy.
Anthea tried very hard not to be cross. She succeeded.
'Look here,' she said, 'don't think I want to be preachy or a beast in
any way, but I want to what Father calls define the situation. Do you
'Fire ahead,' said Cyril without enthusiasm.
'Well then. We all know the reason we're staying here is because Nurse
couldn't leave her house on account of the poor learned gentleman on the
top-floor. And there was no one else Father could entrust to take care
of us--and you know it's taken a lot of money, Mother's going to Madeira
to be made well.'
Jane sniffed miserably.
'Yes, I know,' said Anthea in a hurry, 'but don't let's think about how
horrid it all is. I mean we can't go to things that cost a lot, but we
must do SOMETHING. And I know there are heaps of things you can see in
London without paying for them, and I thought we'd go and see them. We
are all quite old now, and we haven't got The Lamb--'
Jane sniffed harder than before.
'I mean no one can say "No" because of him, dear pet. And I thought
we MUST get Nurse to see how quite old we are, and let us go out by
ourselves, or else we shall never have any sort of a time at all. And I
vote we see everything there is, and let's begin by asking Nurse to give
us some bits of bread and we'll go to St James's Park. There are ducks
there, I know, we can feed them. Only we must make Nurse let us go by
'Hurrah for liberty!' said Robert, 'but she won't.'
'Yes she will,' said Jane unexpectedly. '"I" thought about that this
morning, and I asked Father, and he said yes; and what's more he told
old Nurse we might, only he said we must always say where we wanted to
go, and if it was right she would let us.'
'Three cheers for thoughtful Jane,' cried Cyril, now roused at last from
his yawning despair. 'I say, let's go now.'
So they went, old Nurse only begging them to be careful of crossings,
and to ask a policeman to assist in the more difficult cases. But they
were used to crossings, for they had lived in Camden Town and knew the
Kentish Town Road where the trams rush up and down like mad at all hours
of the day and night, and seem as though, if anything, they would rather
run over you than not.
They had promised to be home by dark, but it was July, so dark would be
very late indeed, and long past bedtime.
They started to walk to St James's Park, and all their pockets were
stuffed with bits of bread and the crusts of toast, to feed the ducks
with. They started, I repeat, but they never got there.
Between Fitzroy Street and St James's Park there are a great many
streets, and, if you go the right way you will pass a great many shops
that you cannot possibly help stopping to look at. The children stopped
to look at several with gold-lace and beads and pictures and jewellery
and dresses, and hats, and oysters and lobsters in their windows, and
their sorrow did not seem nearly so impossible to bear as it had done in
the best parlour at No. 300, Fitzroy Street.
Presently, by some wonderful chance turn of Robert's (who had been voted
Captain because the girls thought it would be good for him--and indeed
he thought so himself--and of course Cyril couldn't vote against him
because it would have looked like a mean jealousy), they came into the
little interesting criss-crossy streets that held the most interesting
shops of all--the shops where live things were sold. There was one shop
window entirely filled with cages, and all sorts of beautiful birds in
them. The children were delighted till they remembered how they had once
wished for wings themselves, and had had them--and then they felt how
desperately unhappy anything with wings must be if it is shut up in a
cage and not allowed to fly.
'It must be fairly beastly to be a bird in a cage,' said Cyril. 'Come
They went on, and Cyril tried to think out a scheme for making his
fortune as a gold-digger at Klondyke, and then buying all the caged
birds in the world and setting them free. Then they came to a shop that
sold cats, but the cats were in cages, and the children could not help
wishing someone would buy all the cats and put them on hearthrugs, which
are the proper places for cats. And there was the dog-shop, and that was
not a happy thing to look at either, because all the dogs were chained
or caged, and all the dogs, big and little, looked at the four children
with sad wistful eyes and wagged beseeching tails as if they were trying
to say, 'Buy me! buy me! buy me! and let me go for a walk with you; oh,
do buy me, and buy my poor brothers too! Do! do! do!' They almost said,
'Do! do! do!' plain to the ear, as they whined; all but one big Irish
terrier, and he growled when Jane patted him.
'Grrrrr,' he seemed to say, as he looked at them from the back corner
of his eye--'YOU won't buy me. Nobody will--ever--I shall die chained
up--and I don't know that I care how soon it is, either!'
I don't know that the children would have understood all this, only once
they had been in a besieged castle, so they knew how hateful it is to be
kept in when you want to get out.
Of course they could not buy any of the dogs. They did, indeed, ask the
price of the very, very smallest, and it was sixty-five pounds--but that
was because it was a Japanese toy spaniel like the Queen once had her
portrait painted with, when she was only Princess of Wales. But the
children thought, if the smallest was all that money, the biggest would
run into thousands--so they went on.
And they did not stop at any more cat or dog or bird shops, but passed
them by, and at last they came to a shop that seemed as though it only
sold creatures that did not much mind where they were--such as goldfish
and white mice, and sea-anemones and other aquarium beasts, and
lizards and toads, and hedgehogs and tortoises, and tame rabbits
and guinea-pigs. And there they stopped for a long time, and fed the
guinea-pigs with bits of bread through the cage-bars, and wondered
whether it would be possible to keep a sandy-coloured double-lop in the
basement of the house in Fitzroy Street.
'I don't suppose old Nurse would mind VERY much,' said Jane. 'Rabbits
are most awfully tame sometimes. I expect it would know her voice and
follow her all about.'
'She'd tumble over it twenty times a day,' said Cyril; 'now a snake--'
'There aren't any snakes, said Robert hastily, 'and besides, I never
could cotton to snakes somehow--I wonder why.'
'Worms are as bad,' said Anthea, 'and eels and slugs--I think it's
because we don't like things that haven't got legs.'
'Father says snakes have got legs hidden away inside of them,' said
'Yes--and he says WE'VE got tails hidden away inside us--but it doesn't
either of it come to anything REALLY,' said Anthea. 'I hate things that
haven't any legs.'
'It's worse when they have too many,' said Jane with a shudder, 'think
They stood there on the pavement, a cause of some inconvenience to
the passersby, and thus beguiled the time with conversation. Cyril was
leaning his elbow on the top of a hutch that had seemed empty when they
had inspected the whole edifice of hutches one by one, and he was trying
to reawaken the interest of a hedgehog that had curled itself into a
ball earlier in the interview, when a small, soft voice just below his
elbow said, quietly, plainly and quite unmistakably--not in any squeak
or whine that had to be translated--but in downright common English--
'Buy me--do--please buy me!'
Cyril started as though he had been pinched, and jumped a yard away from
'Come back--oh, come back!' said the voice, rather louder but still
softly; 'stoop down and pretend to be tying up your bootlace--I see it's
undone, as usual.'
Cyril mechanically obeyed. He knelt on one knee on the dry, hot dusty
pavement, peered into the darkness of the hutch and found himself face
to face with--the Psammead!
It seemed much thinner than when he had last seen it. It was dusty and
dirty, and its fur was untidy and ragged. It had hunched itself up into
a miserable lump, and its long snail's eyes were drawn in quite tight so
that they hardly showed at all.
'Listen,' said the Psammead, in a voice that sounded as though it would
begin to cry in a minute, 'I don't think the creature who keeps this
shop will ask a very high price for me. I've bitten him more than once,
and I've made myself look as common as I can. He's never had a glance
from my beautiful, beautiful eyes. Tell the others I'm here--but tell
them to look at some of those low, common beasts while I'm talking to
you. The creature inside mustn't think you care much about me, or he'll
put a price upon me far, far beyond your means. I remember in the dear
old days last summer you never had much money. Oh--I never thought I
should be so glad to see you--I never did.' It sniffed, and shot out its
long snail's eyes expressly to drop a tear well away from its fur. 'Tell
the others I'm here, and then I'll tell you exactly what to do about
buying me.' Cyril tied his bootlace into a hard knot, stood up and
addressed the others in firm tones--
'Look here,' he said, 'I'm not kidding--and I appeal to your honour,' an
appeal which in this family was never made in vain. 'Don't look at that
hutch--look at the white rat. Now you are not to look at that hutch
whatever I say.'
He stood in front of it to prevent mistakes.
'Now get yourselves ready for a great surprise. In that hutch there's
an old friend of ours--DON'T look!--Yes; it's the Psammead, the good old
Psammead! it wants us to buy it. It says you're not to look at it. Look
at the white rat and count your money! On your honour don't look!'
The others responded nobly. They looked at the white rat till they quite
stared him out of countenance, so that he went and sat up on his hind
legs in a far corner and hid his eyes with his front paws, and pretended
he was washing his face.
Cyril stooped again, busying himself with the other bootlace and
listened for the Psammead's further instructions.
'Go in,' said the Psammead, 'and ask the price of lots of other things.
Then say, "What do you want for that monkey that's lost its tail--the
mangy old thing in the third hutch from the end." Oh--don't mind MY
feelings--call me a mangy monkey--I've tried hard enough to look like
one! I don't think he'll put a high price on me--I've bitten him eleven
times since I came here the day before yesterday. If he names a bigger
price than you can afford, say you wish you had the money.'
'But you can't give us wishes. I've promised never to have another wish
from you,' said the bewildered Cyril.
'Don't be a silly little idiot,' said the Sand-fairy in trembling but
affectionate tones, 'but find out how much money you've got between you,
and do exactly what I tell you.'
Cyril, pointing a stiff and unmeaning finger at the white rat, so as to
pretend that its charms alone employed his tongue, explained matters to
the others, while the Psammead hunched itself, and bunched itself,
and did its very best to make itself look uninteresting. Then the four
children filed into the shop.
'How much do you want for that white rat?' asked Cyril.
'Eightpence,' was the answer.
'And the guinea-pigs?'
'Eighteenpence to five bob, according to the breed.'
'And the lizards?'
'Fourpence. Now look here,' said the greasy owner of all this caged life
with a sudden ferocity which made the whole party back hurriedly on to
the wainscoting of hutches with which the shop was lined. 'Lookee here.
I ain't agoin' to have you a comin' in here a turnin' the whole place
outer winder, an' prizing every animile in the stock just for your
larks, so don't think it! If you're a buyer, BE a buyer--but I never
had a customer yet as wanted to buy mice, and lizards, and toads, and
guineas all at once. So hout you goes.'
'Oh! wait a minute,' said the wretched Cyril, feeling how foolishly yet
well-meaningly he had carried out the Psammead's instructions. 'Just
tell me one thing. What do you want for the mangy old monkey in the
third hutch from the end?'
The shopman only saw in this a new insult.
'Mangy young monkey yourself,' said he; 'get along with your blooming
cheek. Hout you goes!'
'Oh! don't be so cross,' said Jane, losing her head altogether, 'don't
you see he really DOES want to know THAT!'
'Ho! does 'e indeed,' sneered the merchant. Then he scratched his ear
suspiciously, for he was a sharp business man, and he knew the ring of
truth when he heard it. His hand was bandaged, and three minutes
before he would have been glad to sell the 'mangy old monkey' for ten
shillings. Now--'Ho! 'e does, does 'e,' he said, 'then two pun ten's my
price. He's not got his fellow that monkey ain't, nor yet his match,
not this side of the equator, which he comes from. And the only one ever
seen in London. Ought to be in the Zoo. Two pun ten, down on the nail,
or hout you goes!'
The children looked at each other--twenty-three shillings and fivepence
was all they had in the world, and it would have been merely three and
fivepence, but for the sovereign which Father had given to them 'between
them' at parting. 'We've only twenty-three shillings and fivepence,'
said Cyril, rattling the money in his pocket.
'Twenty-three farthings and somebody's own cheek,' said the dealer, for
he did not believe that Cyril had so much money.
There was a miserable pause. Then Anthea remembered, and said--
'Oh! I WISH I had two pounds ten.'
'So do I, Miss, I'm sure,' said the man with bitter politeness; 'I wish
you 'ad, I'm sure!'
Anthea's hand was on the counter, something seemed to slide under it.
She lifted it. There lay five bright half sovereigns.
'Why, I HAVE got it after all,' she said; 'here's the money, now let's
have the Sammy,... the monkey I mean.'
The dealer looked hard at the money, but he made haste to put it in his
'I only hope you come by it honest,' he said, shrugging his shoulders.
He scratched his ear again.
'Well!' he said, 'I suppose I must let you have it, but it's worth
thribble the money, so it is--'
He slowly led the way out to the hutch--opened the door gingerly,
and made a sudden fierce grab at the Psammead, which the Psammead
acknowledged in one last long lingering bite.
'Here, take the brute,' said the shopman, squeezing the Psammead so
tight that he nearly choked it. 'It's bit me to the marrow, it have.'
The man's eyes opened as Anthea held out her arms.
'Don't blame me if it tears your face off its bones,' he said, and the
Psammead made a leap from his dirty horny hands, and Anthea caught it
in hers, which were not very clean, certainly, but at any rate were soft
and pink, and held it kindly and closely.
'But you can't take it home like that,' Cyril said, 'we shall have a
crowd after us,' and indeed two errand boys and a policeman had already
'I can't give you nothink only a paper-bag, like what we put the
tortoises in,' said the man grudgingly.
So the whole party went into the shop, and the shopman's eyes nearly
came out of his head when, having given Anthea the largest paper-bag he
could find, he saw her hold it open, and the Psammead carefully creep
into it. 'Well!' he said, 'if that there don't beat cockfighting! But
p'raps you've met the brute afore.'
'Yes,' said Cyril affably, 'he's an old friend of ours.'
'If I'd a known that,' the man rejoined, 'you shouldn't a had him under
twice the money. 'Owever,' he added, as the children disappeared, 'I
ain't done so bad, seeing as I only give five bob for the beast. But
then there's the bites to take into account!'
The children trembling in agitation and excitement, carried home the
Psammead, trembling in its paper-bag.
When they got it home, Anthea nursed it, and stroked it, and would have
cried over it, if she hadn't remembered how it hated to be wet.
When it recovered enough to speak, it said--
'Get me sand; silver sand from the oil and colour shop. And get me
They got the sand, and they put it and the Psammead in the round bath
together, and it rubbed itself, and rolled itself, and shook itself and
scraped itself, and scratched itself, and preened itself, till it felt
clean and comfy, and then it scrabbled a hasty hole in the sand, and
went to sleep in it.
The children hid the bath under the girls' bed, and had supper. Old
Nurse had got them a lovely supper of bread and butter and fried onions.
She was full of kind and delicate thoughts.
When Anthea woke the next morning, the Psammead was snuggling down
between her shoulder and Jane's.
'You have saved my life,' it said. 'I know that man would have thrown
cold water on me sooner or later, and then I should have died. I saw him
wash out a guinea-pig's hutch yesterday morning. I'm still frightfully
sleepy, I think I'll go back to sand for another nap. Wake the boys and
this dormouse of a Jane, and when you've had your breakfasts we'll have
'Don't YOU want any breakfast?' asked Anthea.
'I daresay I shall pick a bit presently,' it said; 'but sand is all I
care about--it's meat and drink to me, and coals and fire and wife and
children.' With these words it clambered down by the bedclothes and
scrambled back into the bath, where they heard it scratching itself out
'Well!' said Anthea, 'anyhow our holidays won't be dull NOW. We've found
the Psammead again.'
'No,' said Jane, beginning to put on her stockings. 'We shan't be
dull--but it'll be only like having a pet dog now it can't give us
'Oh, don't be so discontented,' said Anthea. 'If it can't do anything
else it can tell us about Megatheriums and things.'
CHAPTER 2. THE HALF AMULET
Long ago--that is to say last summer--the children, finding themselves
embarrassed by some wish which the Psammead had granted them, and which
the servants had not received in a proper spirit, had wished that the
servants might not notice the gifts which the Psammead gave. And when
they parted from the Psammead their last wish had been that they should
meet it again. Therefore they HAD met it (and it was jolly lucky for
the Psammead, as Robert pointed out). Now, of course, you see that
the Psammead's being where it was, was the consequence of one of their
wishes, and therefore was a Psammead-wish, and as such could not be
noticed by the servants. And it was soon plain that in the Psammead's
opinion old Nurse was still a servant, although she had now a house
of her own, for she never noticed the Psammead at all. And that was as
well, for she would never have consented to allow the girls to keep an
animal and a bath of sand under their bed.
When breakfast had been cleared away--it was a very nice breakfast with
hot rolls to it, a luxury quite out of the common way--Anthea went and
dragged out the bath, and woke the Psammead.
It stretched and shook itself.
'You must have bolted your breakfast most unwholesomely,' it said, 'you
can't have been five minutes over it.'
'We've been nearly an hour,' said Anthea. 'Come--you know you promised.'
'Now look here,' said the Psammead, sitting back on the sand and
shooting out its long eyes suddenly, 'we'd better begin as we mean to
go on. It won't do to have any misunderstanding, so I tell you plainly
'Oh, PLEASE,' Anthea pleaded, 'do wait till we get to the others.
They'll think it most awfully sneakish of me to talk to you without
them; do come down, there's a dear.'
She knelt before the sand-bath and held out her arms. The Psammead must
have remembered how glad it had been to jump into those same little arms
only the day before, for it gave a little grudging grunt, and jumped
Anthea wrapped it in her pinafore and carried it downstairs. It was
welcomed in a thrilling silence. At last Anthea said, 'Now then!'
'What place is this?' asked the Psammead, shooting its eyes out and
turning them slowly round.
'It's a sitting-room, of course,' said Robert.
'Then I don't like it,' said the Psammead.
'Never mind,' said Anthea kindly; 'we'll take you anywhere you like if
you want us to. What was it you were going to say upstairs when I said
the others wouldn't like it if I stayed talking to you without them?'
It looked keenly at her, and she blushed.
'Don't be silly,' it said sharply. 'Of course, it's quite natural that
you should like your brothers and sisters to know exactly how good and
unselfish you were.'
'I wish you wouldn't,' said Jane. 'Anthea was quite right. What was it
you were going to say when she stopped you?'
'I'll tell you,' said the Psammead, 'since you're so anxious to know. I
was going to say this. You've saved my life--and I'm not ungrateful--but
it doesn't change your nature or mine. You're still very ignorant, and
rather silly, and I am worth a thousand of you any day of the week.'
'Of course you are!' Anthea was beginning but it interrupted her.
'It's very rude to interrupt,' it said; 'what I mean is that I'm not
going to stand any nonsense, and if you think what you've done is to
give you the right to pet me or make me demean myself by playing with
you, you'll find out that what you think doesn't matter a single penny.
See? It's what "I" think that matters.'
'I know,' said Cyril, 'it always was, if you remember.'
'Well,' said the Psammead, 'then that's settled. We're to be treated as
we deserve. I with respect, and all of you with--but I don't wish to be
offensive. Do you want me to tell you how I got into that horrible den
you bought me out of? Oh, I'm not ungrateful! I haven't forgotten it and
I shan't forget it.'
'Do tell us,' said Anthea. 'I know you're awfully clever, but even with
all your cleverness, I don't believe you can possibly know how--how
respectfully we do respect you. Don't we?'
The others all said yes--and fidgeted in their chairs. Robert spoke the
wishes of all when he said--
'I do wish you'd go on.' So it sat up on the green-covered table and
'When you'd gone away,' it said, 'I went to sand for a bit, and slept. I
was tired out with all your silly wishes, and I felt as though I hadn't
really been to sand for a year.'
'To sand?' Jane repeated.
'Where I sleep. You go to bed. I go to sand.'
Jane yawned; the mention of bed made her feel sleepy.
'All right,' said the Psammead, in offended tones. 'I'm sure "I" don't
want to tell you a long tale. A man caught me, and I bit him. And he put
me in a bag with a dead hare and a dead rabbit. And he took me to his
house and put me out of the bag into a basket with holes that I could
see through. And I bit him again. And then he brought me to this city,
which I am told is called the Modern Babylon--though it's not a bit like
the old Babylon--and he sold me to the man you bought me from, and then
I bit them both. Now, what's your news?'
'There's not quite so much biting in our story,' said Cyril regretfully;
'in fact, there isn't any. Father's gone to Manchuria, and Mother and
The Lamb have gone to Madeira because Mother was ill, and don't I just
wish that they were both safe home again.'
Merely from habit, the Sand-fairy began to blow itself out, but it
stopped short suddenly.
'I forgot,' it said; 'I can't give you any more wishes.'
'No--but look here,' said Cyril, 'couldn't we call in old Nurse and get
her to say SHE wishes they were safe home. I'm sure she does.'
'No go,' said the Psammead. 'It's just the same as your wishing yourself
if you get some one else to wish for you. It won't act.'
'But it did yesterday--with the man in the shop,' said Robert.
'Ah yes,' said the creature, 'but you didn't ASK him to wish, and you
didn't know what would happen if he did. That can't be done again. It's
'Then you can't help us at all,' said Jane; 'oh--I did think you could
do something; I've been thinking about it ever since we saved your life
yesterday. I thought you'd be certain to be able to fetch back Father,
even if you couldn't manage Mother.'
And Jane began to cry.
'Now DON'T,' said the Psammead hastily; 'you know how it always upsets
me if you cry. I can't feel safe a moment. Look here; you must have some
new kind of charm.'
'That's easier said than done.'
'Not a bit of it,' said the creature; 'there's one of the strongest
charms in the world not a stone's throw from where you bought me
yesterday. The man that I bit so--the first one, I mean--went into
a shop to ask how much something cost--I think he said it was a
concertina--and while he was telling the man in the shop how much too
much he wanted for it, I saw the charm in a sort of tray, with a lot of
other things. If you can only buy THAT, you will be able to have your
The children looked at each other and then at the Psammead. Then Cyril
coughed awkwardly and took sudden courage to say what everyone was
'I do hope you won't be waxy,' he said; 'but it's like this: when you
used to give us our wishes they almost always got us into some row
or other, and we used to think you wouldn't have been pleased if they
hadn't. Now, about this charm--we haven't got over and above too much
tin, and if we blue it all on this charm and it turns out to be not up
to much--well--you see what I'm driving at, don't you?'
'I see that YOU don't see more than the length of your nose, and THAT'S
not far,' said the Psammead crossly. 'Look here, I HAD to give you the
wishes, and of course they turned out badly, in a sort of way, because
you hadn't the sense to wish for what was good for you. But this charm's
quite different. I haven't GOT to do this for you, it's just my own
generous kindness that makes me tell you about it. So it's bound to be
all right. See?'
'Don't be cross,' said Anthea, 'Please, PLEASE don't. You see, it's
all we've got; we shan't have any more pocket-money till Daddy comes
home--unless he sends us some in a letter. But we DO trust you. And I
say all of you,' she went on, 'don't you think it's worth spending ALL
the money, if there's even the chanciest chance of getting Father and
Mother back safe NOW? Just think of it! Oh, do let's!'
'"I" don't care what you do,' said the Psammead; 'I'll go back to sand
again till you've made up your minds.'
'No, don't!' said everybody; and Jane added, 'We are quite mind
made-up--don't you see we are? Let's get our hats. Will you come with
'Of course,' said the Psammead; 'how else would you find the shop?'
So everybody got its hat. The Psammead was put into a flat bass-bag that
had come from Farringdon Market with two pounds of filleted plaice in
it. Now it contained about three pounds and a quarter of solid Psammead,
and the children took it in turns to carry it.
'It's not half the weight of The Lamb,' Robert said, and the girls
The Psammead poked a wary eye out of the top of the basket every now and
then, and told the children which turnings to take.
'How on earth do you know?' asked Robert. 'I can't think how you do it.'
And the Psammead said sharply, 'No--I don't suppose you can.'
At last they came to THE shop. It had all sorts and kinds of things
in the window--concertinas, and silk handkerchiefs, china vases and
tea-cups, blue Japanese jars, pipes, swords, pistols, lace collars,
silver spoons tied up in half-dozens, and wedding-rings in a red
lacquered basin. There were officers' epaulets and doctors' lancets.
There were tea-caddies inlaid with red turtle-shell and brass
curly-wurlies, plates of different kinds of money, and stacks of
different kinds of plates. There was a beautiful picture of a little
girl washing a dog, which Jane liked very much. And in the middle of
the window there was a dirty silver tray full of mother-of-pearl card
counters, old seals, paste buckles, snuff-boxes, and all sorts of little
dingy odds and ends.
The Psammead put its head quite out of the fish-basket to look in the
window, when Cyril said--
'There's a tray there with rubbish in it.'
And then its long snail's eyes saw something that made them stretch out
so much that they were as long and thin as new slate-pencils. Its fur
bristled thickly, and its voice was quite hoarse with excitement as it
'That's it! That's it! There, under that blue and yellow buckle, you can
see a bit sticking out. It's red. Do you see?'
'Is it that thing something like a horse-shoe?' asked Cyril. 'And red,
like the common sealing-wax you do up parcels with?' 'Yes, that's it,'
said the Psammead. 'Now, you do just as you did before. Ask the price of
other things. That blue buckle would do. Then the man will get the tray
out of the window. I think you'd better be the one,' it said to Anthea.
'We'll wait out here.'
So the others flattened their noses against the shop window, and
presently a large, dirty, short-fingered hand with a very big diamond
ring came stretching through the green half-curtains at the back of the
shop window and took away the tray.
They could not see what was happening in the interview between Anthea
and the Diamond Ring, and it seemed to them that she had had time--if
she had had money--to buy everything in the shop before the moment came
when she stood before them, her face wreathed in grins, as Cyril said
later, and in her hand the charm.
It was something like this: [Drawing omitted.] and it was made of a red,
smooth, softly shiny stone.
'I've got it,' Anthea whispered, just opening her hand to give the
others a glimpse of it. 'Do let's get home. We can't stand here like
stuck-pigs looking at it in the street.'
So home they went. The parlour in Fitzroy Street was a very flat
background to magic happenings. Down in the country among the flowers
and green fields anything had seemed--and indeed had been--possible. But
it was hard to believe that anything really wonderful could happen so
near the Tottenham Court Road. But the Psammead was there--and it in
itself was wonderful. And it could talk--and it had shown them where a
charm could be bought that would make the owner of it perfectly happy.
So the four children hurried home, taking very long steps, with their
chins stuck out, and their mouths shut very tight indeed. They went so
fast that the Psammead was quite shaken about in its fish-bag, but it
did not say anything--perhaps for fear of attracting public notice.
They got home at last, very hot indeed, and set the Psammead on the
'Now then!' said Cyril.
But the Psammead had to have a plate of sand fetched for it, for it was
quite faint. When it had refreshed itself a little it said--
'Now then! Let me see the charm,' and Anthea laid it on the green
table-cover. The Psammead shot out his long eyes to look at it, then it
turned them reproachfully on Anthea and said--
'But there's only half of it here!'
This was indeed a blow.
'It was all there was,' said Anthea, with timid firmness. She knew it
was not her fault. 'There should be another piece,' said the Psammead,
'and a sort of pin to fasten the two together.'
'Isn't half any good?'--'Won't it work without the other bit?'--'It cost
seven-and-six.'--'Oh, bother, bother, bother!'--'Don't be silly little
idiots!' said everyone and the Psammead altogether.
Then there was a wretched silence. Cyril broke it--
'What shall we do?'
'Go back to the shop and see if they haven't got the other half,' said
the Psammead. 'I'll go to sand till you come back. Cheer up! Even the
bit you've got is SOME good, but it'll be no end of a bother if you
can't find the other.'
So Cyril went to the shop. And the Psammead to sand. And the other three
went to dinner, which was now ready. And old Nurse was very cross that
Cyril was not ready too.
The three were watching at the windows when Cyril returned, and even
before he was near enough for them to see his face there was something
about the slouch of his shoulders and set of his knickerbockers and
the way he dragged his boots along that showed but too plainly that his
errand had been in vain.
'Well?' they all said, hoping against hope on the front-door step.
'No go,' Cyril answered; 'the man said the thing was perfect. He said
it was a Roman lady's locket, and people shouldn't buy curios if they
didn't know anything about arky--something or other, and that he never
went back on a bargain, because it wasn't business, and he expected his
customers to act the same. He was simply nasty--that's what he was, and
I want my dinner.'
It was plain that Cyril was not pleased.
The unlikeliness of anything really interesting happening in that
parlour lay like a weight of lead on everyone's spirits. Cyril had his
dinner, and just as he was swallowing the last mouthful of apple-pudding
there was a scratch at the door. Anthea opened it and in walked the
'Well,' it said, when it had heard the news, 'things might be worse.
Only you won't be surprised if you have a few adventures before you get
the other half. You want to get it, of course.'
'Rather,' was the general reply. 'And we don't mind adventures.'
'No,' said the Psammead, 'I seem to remember that about you. Well, sit
down and listen with all your ears. Eight, are there? Right--I am glad
you know arithmetic. Now pay attention, because I don't intend to tell
you everything twice over.'
As the children settled themselves on the floor--it was far more
comfortable than the chairs, as well as more polite to the Psammead, who
was stroking its whiskers on the hearth-rug--a sudden cold pain caught
at Anthea's heart. Father--Mother--the darling Lamb--all far away. Then
a warm, comfortable feeling flowed through her. The Psammead was here,
and at least half a charm, and there were to be adventures. (If you
don't know what a cold pain is, I am glad for your sakes, and I hope you
'Now,' said the Psammead cheerily, 'you are not particularly nice, nor
particularly clever, and you're not at all good-looking. Still, you've
saved my life--oh, when I think of that man and his pail of water!--so
I'll tell you all I know. At least, of course I can't do that, because I
know far too much. But I'll tell you all I know about this red thing.'
'Do! Do! Do! Do!' said everyone.
'Well, then,' said the Psammead. 'This thing is half of an Amulet that
can do all sorts of things; it can make the corn grow, and the waters
flow, and the trees bear fruit, and the little new beautiful babies
come. (Not that babies ARE beautiful, of course,' it broke off to say,
'but their mothers think they are--and as long as you think a thing's
true it IS true as far as you're concerned.)'
The Psammead went on.
'The complete Amulet can keep off all the things that make people
unhappy--jealousy, bad temper, pride, disagreeableness, greediness,
selfishness, laziness. Evil spirits, people called them when the Amulet
was made. Don't you think it would be nice to have it?'
'Very,' said the children, quite without enthusiasm.
'And it can give you strength and courage.'
'That's better,' said Cyril.
'I suppose it's nice to have that,' said Jane, but not with much
'And it can give you your heart's desire.'
'Now you're talking,' said Robert.
'Of course I am,' retorted the Psammead tartly, 'so there's no need for
'Heart's desire is good enough for me,' said Cyril.
'Yes, but,' Anthea ventured, 'all that's what the WHOLE charm can do.
There's something that the half we've got can win off its own bat--isn't
there?' She appealed to the Psammead. It nodded.
'Yes,' it said; 'the half has the power to take you anywhere you like to
look for the other half.'
This seemed a brilliant prospect till Robert asked--
'Does it know where to look?'
The Psammead shook its head and answered, 'I don't think it's likely.'
'Then,' said Robert, 'we might as well look for a needle in a bottle of
hay. Yes--it IS bottle, and not bundle, Father said so.'
'Not at all,' said the Psammead briskly-, 'you think you know
everything, but you are quite mistaken. The first thing is to get the
thing to talk.'
'Can it?' Jane questioned. Jane's question did not mean that she thought
it couldn't, for in spite of the parlour furniture the feeling of magic
was growing deeper and thicker, and seemed to fill the room like a dream
of a scented fog.
'Of course it can. I suppose you can read.'
'Oh yes!' Everyone was rather hurt at the question.
'Well, then--all you've got to do is to read the name that's written on
the part of the charm that you've got. And as soon as you say the name
out loud the thing will have power to do--well, several things.'
There was a silence. The red charm was passed from hand to hand.
'There's no name on it,' said Cyril at last.
'Nonsense,' said the Psammead; 'what's that?'
'Oh, THAT!' said Cyril, 'it's not reading. It looks like pictures of
chickens and snakes and things.'
This was what was on the charm: [Hieroglyphics omitted.]
'I've no patience with you,' said the Psammead; 'if you can't read you
must find some one who can. A priest now?'
'We don't know any priests,' said Anthea; 'we know a clergyman--he's
called a priest in the prayer-book, you know--but he only knows Greek
and Latin and Hebrew, and this isn't any of those--I know.'
The Psammead stamped a furry foot angrily.
'I wish I'd never seen you,' it said; 'you aren't any more good than so
many stone images. Not so much, if I'm to tell the truth. Is there no
wise man in your Babylon who can pronounce the names of the Great Ones?'
'There's a poor learned gentleman upstairs,' said Anthea, 'we might try
him. He has a lot of stone images in his room, and iron-looking ones
too--we peeped in once when he was out. Old Nurse says he doesn't eat
enough to keep a canary alive. He spends it all on stones and things.'
'Try him,' said the Psammead, 'only be careful. If he knows a greater
name than this and uses it against you, your charm will be of no use.
Bind him first with the chains of honour and upright dealing. And then
ask his aid--oh, yes, you'd better all go; you can put me to sand as you
go upstairs. I must have a few minutes' peace and quietness.'
So the four children hastily washed their hands and brushed their
hair--this was Anthea's idea--and went up to knock at the door of the
'poor learned gentleman', and to 'bind him with the chains of honour and
CHAPTER 3. THE PAST
The learned gentleman had let his dinner get quite cold. It was mutton
chop, and as it lay on the plate it looked like a brown island in the
middle of a frozen pond, because the grease of the gravy had become
cold, and consequently white. It looked very nasty, and it was the first
thing the children saw when, after knocking three times and receiving
no reply, one of them ventured to turn the handle and softly to open the
door. The chop was on the end of a long table that ran down one side of
the room. The table had images on it and queer-shaped stones, and books.
And there were glass cases fixed against the wall behind, with little
strange things in them. The cases were rather like the ones you see in
The 'poor learned gentleman' was sitting at a table in the window,
looking at something very small which he held in a pair of fine pincers.
He had a round spy-glass sort of thing in one eye--which reminded
the children of watchmakers, and also of the long snail's eyes of the
Psammead. The gentleman was very long and thin, and his long, thin boots
stuck out under the other side of his table. He did not hear the door
open, and the children stood hesitating. At last Robert gave the door a
push, and they all started back, for in the middle of the wall that the
door had hidden was a mummy-case--very, very, very big--painted in red
and yellow and green and black, and the face of it seemed to look at
them quite angrily.
You know what a mummy-case is like, of course? If you don't you had
better go to the British Museum at once and find out. Anyway, it is not
at all the sort of thing that you expect to meet in a top-floor front
in Bloomsbury, looking as though it would like to know what business YOU
So everyone said, 'Oh!' rather loud, and their boots clattered as they
The learned gentleman took the glass out of his eye and said--'I beg
your pardon,' in a very soft, quiet pleasant voice--the voice of a
gentleman who has been to Oxford.
'It's us that beg yours,' said Cyril politely. 'We are sorry to disturb
'Come in,' said the gentleman, rising--with the most distinguished
courtesy, Anthea told herself. 'I am delighted to see you. Won't you sit
down? No, not there; allow me to move that papyrus.'
He cleared a chair, and stood smiling and looking kindly through his
large, round spectacles.
'He treats us like grown-ups,' whispered Robert, 'and he doesn't seem to
know how many of us there are.'
'Hush,' said Anthea, 'it isn't manners to whisper. You say, Cyril--go
'We're very sorry to disturb you,' said Cyril politely, 'but we did
knock three times, and you didn't say "Come in", or "Run away now", or
that you couldn't be bothered just now, or to come when you weren't so
busy, or any of the things people do say when you knock at doors, so we
opened it. We knew you were in because we heard you sneeze while we were
'Not at all,' said the gentleman; 'do sit down.'
'He has found out there are four of us,' said Robert, as the gentleman
cleared three more chairs. He put the things off them carefully on the
floor. The first chair had things like bricks that tiny, tiny birds'
feet have walked over when the bricks were soft, only the marks were in
regular lines. The second chair had round things on it like very large,
fat, long, pale beads. And the last chair had a pile of dusty papers on
it. The children sat down.
'We know you are very, very learned,' said Cyril, 'and we have got a
charm, and we want you to read the name on it, because it isn't in Latin
or Greek, or Hebrew, or any of the languages WE know--'
'A thorough knowledge of even those languages is a very fair foundation
on which to build an education,' said the gentleman politely.
'Oh!' said Cyril blushing, 'but we only know them to look at, except
Latin--and I'm only in Caesar with that.' The gentleman took off his
spectacles and laughed. His laugh sounded rusty, Cyril thought, as
though it wasn't often used.
'Of course!' he said. 'I'm sure I beg your pardon. I think I must have
been in a dream. You are the children who live downstairs, are you not?
Yes. I have seen you as I have passed in and out. And you have found
something that you think to be an antiquity, and you've brought it to
show me? That was very kind. I should like to inspect it.'
'I'm afraid we didn't think about your liking to inspect it,' said the
truthful Anthea. 'It was just for US because we wanted to know the name
'Oh, yes--and, I say,' Robert interjected, 'you won't think it rude
of us if we ask you first, before we show it, to be bound in the
'In the bonds of honour and upright dealing,' said Anthea.
'I'm afraid I don't quite follow you,' said the gentleman, with gentle
'Well, it's this way,' said Cyril. 'We've got part of a charm. And the
Sammy--I mean, something told us it would work, though it's only half a
one; but it won't work unless we can say the name that's on it. But, of
course, if you've got another name that can lick ours, our charm will
be no go; so we want you to give us your word of honour as a
gentleman--though I'm sure, now I've seen you, that it's not necessary;
but still I've promised to ask you, so we must. Will you please give us
your honourable word not to say any name stronger than the name on our
The gentleman had put on his spectacles again and was looking at Cyril
through them. He now said: 'Bless me!' more than once, adding, 'Who told
you all this?'
'I can't tell you,' said Cyril. 'I'm very sorry, but I can't.'
Some faint memory of a far-off childhood must have come to the learned
gentleman just then, for he smiled. 'I see,' he said. 'It is some sort
of game that you are engaged in? Of course! Yes! Well, I will certainly
promise. Yet I wonder how you heard of the names of power?'
'We can't tell you that either,' said Cyril; and Anthea said, 'Here is
our charm,' and held it out.
With politeness, but without interest, the gentleman took it. But after
the first glance all his body suddenly stiffened, as a pointer's does
when he sees a partridge.
'Excuse me,' he said in quite a changed voice, and carried the charm to
the window. He looked at it; he turned it over. He fixed his spy-glass
in his eye and looked again. No one said anything. Only Robert made a
shuffling noise with his feet till Anthea nudged him to shut up. At last
the learned gentleman drew a long breath.
'Where did you find this?' he asked.
'We didn't find it. We bought it at a shop. Jacob Absalom the name
is--not far from Charing Cross,' said Cyril.
'We gave seven-and-sixpence for it,' added Jane.
'It is not for sale, I suppose? You do not wish to part with it?
I ought to tell you that it is extremely valuable--extraordinarily
valuable, I may say.'
'Yes,' said Cyril, 'we know that, so of course we want to keep it.'
'Keep it carefully, then,' said the gentleman impressively; 'and if ever
you should wish to part with it, may I ask you to give me the refusal of
'I mean, do not sell it to anyone else until you have given me the
opportunity of buying it.'
'All right,' said Cyril, 'we won't. But we don't want to sell it. We
want to make it do things.'
'I suppose you can play at that as well as at anything else,' said the
gentleman; 'but I'm afraid the days of magic are over.'
'They aren't REALLY,' said Anthea earnestly. 'You'd see they aren't if I
could tell you about our last summer holidays. Only I mustn't. Thank you
very much. And can you read the name?'
'Yes, I can read it.'
'Will you tell it us?' 'The name,' said the gentleman, 'is Ur Hekau
'Ur Hekau Setcheh,' repeated Cyril. 'Thanks awfully. I do hope we
haven't taken up too much of your time.'
'Not at all,' said the gentleman. 'And do let me entreat you to be very,
very careful of that most valuable specimen.'
They said 'Thank you' in all the different polite ways they could think
of, and filed out of the door and down the stairs. Anthea was last.
Half-way down to the first landing she turned and ran up again.
The door was still open, and the learned gentleman and the mummy-case
were standing opposite to each other, and both looked as though they had
stood like that for years.
The gentleman started when Anthea put her hand on his arm.
'I hope you won't be cross and say it's not my business,' she said,
'but do look at your chop! Don't you think you ought to eat it? Father
forgets his dinner sometimes when he's writing, and Mother always says I
ought to remind him if she's not at home to do it herself, because it's
so bad to miss your regular meals.
So I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind my reminding you, because you
don't seem to have anyone else to do it.'
She glanced at the mummy-case; IT certainly did not look as though it
would ever think of reminding people of their meals.
The learned gentleman looked at her for a moment before he said--
'Thank you, my dear. It was a kindly thought. No, I haven't anyone to
remind me about things like that.'
He sighed, and looked at the chop.
'It looks very nasty,' said Anthea.
'Yes,' he said, 'it does. I'll eat it immediately, before I forget.'
As he ate it he sighed more than once. Perhaps because the chop was
nasty, perhaps because he longed for the charm which the children did
not want to sell, perhaps because it was so long since anyone cared
whether he ate his chops or forgot them.
Anthea caught the others at the stair-foot. They woke the Psammead, and
it taught them exactly how to use the word of power, and to make the
charm speak. I am not going to tell you how this is done, because you
might try to do it. And for you any such trying would be almost sure
to end in disappointment. Because in the first place it is a thousand
million to one against your ever getting hold of the right sort of
charm, and if you did, there would be hardly any chance at all of your
finding a learned gentleman clever enough and kind enough to read the
word for you.
The children and the Psammead crouched in a circle on the floor--in the
girls' bedroom, because in the parlour they might have been interrupted
by old Nurse's coming in to lay the cloth for tea--and the charm was put
in the middle of the circle.
The sun shone splendidly outside, and the room was very light. Through
the open window came the hum and rattle of London, and in the street
below they could hear the voice of the milkman.
When all was ready, the Psammead signed to Anthea to say the word. And
she said it. Instantly the whole light of all the world seemed to go
out. The room was dark. The world outside was dark--darker than the
darkest night that ever was. And all the sounds went out too, so that
there was a silence deeper than any silence you have ever even dreamed
of imagining. It was like being suddenly deaf and blind, only darker and
quieter even than that.
But before the children had got over the sudden shock of it enough to be
frightened, a faint, beautiful light began to show in the middle of the
circle, and at the same moment a faint, beautiful voice began to speak.
The light was too small for one to see anything by, and the voice was
too small for you to hear what it said. You could just see the light and
just hear the voice.
But the light grew stronger. It was greeny, like glow-worms' lamps,
and it grew and grew till it was as though thousands and thousands of
glow-worms were signalling to their winged sweethearts from the middle
of the circle. And the voice grew, not so much in loudness as in
sweetness (though it grew louder, too), till it was so sweet that
you wanted to cry with pleasure just at the sound of it. It was like
nightingales, and the sea, and the fiddle, and the voice of your mother
when you have been a long time away, and she meets you at the door when
you get home.
And the voice said--
'Speak. What is it that you would hear?'
I cannot tell you what language the voice used. I only know that
everyone present understood it perfectly. If you come to think of it,
there must be some language that everyone could understand, if we only
knew what it was. Nor can I tell you how the charm spoke, nor whether
it was the charm that spoke, or some presence in the charm. The children
could not have told you either. Indeed, they could not look at the charm
while it was speaking, because the light was too bright. They looked
instead at the green radiance on the faded Kidderminster carpet at the
edge of the circle. They all felt very quiet, and not inclined to ask
questions or fidget with their feet. For this was not like the things
that had happened in the country when the Psammead had given them their
wishes. That had been funny somehow, and this was not. It was something
like Arabian Nights magic, and something like being in church. No one
cared to speak.
It was Cyril who said at last--
'Please we want to know where the other half of the charm is.'
'The part of the Amulet which is lost,' said the beautiful voice, 'was
broken and ground into the dust of the shrine that held it. It and the
pin that joined the two halves are themselves dust, and the dust is
scattered over many lands and sunk in many seas.'
'Oh, I say!' murmured Robert, and a blank silence fell. 'Then it's all
up?' said Cyril at last; 'it's no use our looking for a thing that's
smashed into dust, and the dust scattered all over the place.'
'If you would find it,' said the voice, 'You must seek it where it still
is, perfect as ever.'
'I don't understand,' said Cyril.
'In the Past you may find it,' said the voice.
'I wish we MAY find it,' said Cyril.
The Psammead whispered crossly, 'Don't you understand? The thing existed
in the Past. If you were in the Past, too, you could find it. It's very
difficult to make you understand things. Time and space are only forms
'I see,' said Cyril.
'No, you don't,' said the Psammead, 'and it doesn't matter if you don't,
either. What I mean is that if you were only made the right way, you
could see everything happening in the same place at the same time. Now
do you see?'
'I'm afraid "I" don't,' said Anthea; 'I'm sorry I'm so stupid.'
'Well, at any rate, you see this. That lost half of the Amulet is in the
Past. Therefore it's in the Past we must look for it. I mustn't speak to
the charm myself. Ask it things! Find out!'
'Where can we find the other part of you?' asked Cyril obediently.
'In the Past,' said the voice.
'What part of the Past?'
'I may not tell you. If you will choose a time, I will take you to the
place that then held it. You yourselves must find it.'
'When did you see it last?' asked Anthea--'I mean, when was it taken
away from you?'
The beautiful voice answered--
'That was thousands of years ago. The Amulet was perfect then, and lay
in a shrine, the last of many shrines, and I worked wonders. Then came
strange men with strange weapons and destroyed my shrine, and the Amulet
they bore away with many captives. But of these, one, my priest, knew
the word of power, and spoke it for me, so that the Amulet became
invisible, and thus returned to my shrine, but the shrine was broken
down, and ere any magic could rebuild it one spoke a word before which
my power bowed down and was still. And the Amulet lay there, still
perfect, but enslaved. Then one coming with stones to rebuild the
shrine, dropped a hewn stone on the Amulet as it lay, and one half was
sundered from the other. I had no power to seek for that which was lost.
And there being none to speak the word of power, I could not rejoin it.
So the Amulet lay in the dust of the desert many thousand years, and at
last came a small man, a conqueror with an army, and after him a crowd
of men who sought to seem wise, and one of these found half the Amulet
and brought it to this land. But none could read the name. So I lay
still. And this man dying and his son after him, the Amulet was sold by
those who came after to a merchant, and from him you bought it, and it
is here, and now, the name of power having been spoken, I also am here.'
This is what the voice said. I think it must have meant Napoleon by the
small man, the conqueror. Because I know I have been told that he took
an army to Egypt, and that afterwards a lot of wise people went grubbing
in the sand, and fished up all sorts of wonderful things, older than
you would think possible. And of these I believe this charm to have been
one, and the most wonderful one of all.
Everyone listened: and everyone tried to think. It is not easy to do
this clearly when you have been listening to the kind of talk I have
told you about.
At last Robert said--
'Can you take us into the Past--to the shrine where you and the other
thing were together. If you could take us there, we might find the other
part still there after all these thousands of years.'
'Still there? silly!' said Cyril. 'Don't you see, if we go back into the
Past it won't be thousands of years ago. It will be NOW for us--won't
it?' He appealed to the Psammead, who said--
'You're not so far off the idea as you usually are!'
'Well,' said Anthea, 'will you take us back to when there was a shrine
and you were safe in it--all of you?'
'Yes,' said the voice. 'You must hold me up, and speak the word of
power, and one by one, beginning with the first-born, you shall pass
through me into the Past. But let the last that passes be the one that
holds me, and let him not lose his hold, lest you lose me, and so remain
in the Past for ever.'
'That's a nasty idea,' said Robert.
'When you desire to return,' the beautiful voice went on, 'hold me up
towards the East, and speak the word. Then, passing through me, you
shall return to this time and it shall be the present to you.'
'But how--' A bell rang loudly.
'Oh crikey!' exclaimed Robert, 'that's tea! Will you please make it
proper daylight again so that we can go down. And thank you so much for
all your kindness.'
'We've enjoyed ourselves very much indeed, thank you!' added Anthea
The beautiful light faded slowly. The great darkness and silence came
and these suddenly changed to the dazzlement of day and the great soft,
rustling sound of London, that is like some vast beast turning over in
The children rubbed their eyes, the Psammead ran quickly to its sandy
bath, and the others went down to tea. And until the cups were actually
filled tea seemed less real than the beautiful voice and the greeny
After tea Anthea persuaded the others to allow her to hang the charm
round her neck with a piece of string.
'It would be so awful if it got lost,' she said: 'it might get lost
anywhere, you know, and it would be rather beastly for us to have to
stay in the Past for ever and ever, wouldn't it?'
CHAPTER 4. EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS AGO
Next morning Anthea got old Nurse to allow her to take up the 'poor
learned gentleman's' breakfast. He did not recognize her at first, but
when he did he was vaguely pleased to see her.
'You see I'm wearing the charm round my neck,' she said; 'I'm taking
care of it--like you told us to.'
'That's right,' said he; 'did you have a good game last night?'
'You will eat your breakfast before it's cold, won't you?' said Anthea.
'Yes, we had a splendid time. The charm made it all dark, and then
greeny light, and then it spoke. Oh! I wish you could have heard it--it
was such a darling voice--and it told us the other half of it was lost
in the Past, so of course we shall have to look for it there!'
The learned gentleman rubbed his hair with both hands and looked
anxiously at Anthea.
'I suppose it's natural--youthful imagination and so forth,' he said.
'Yet someone must have... Who told you that some part of the charm was
'I can't tell you,' she said. 'I know it seems most awfully rude,
especially after being so kind about telling us the name of power, and
all that, but really, I'm not allowed to tell anybody anything about
the--the--the person who told me. You won't forget your breakfast, will
The learned gentleman smiled feebly and then frowned--not a cross-frown,
but a puzzle-frown.
'Thank you,' he said, 'I shall always be pleased if you'll look in--any
time you're passing you know--at least...'
'I will,' she said; 'goodbye. I'll always tell you anything I MAY tell.'
He had not had many adventures with children in them, and he wondered
whether all children were like these. He spent quite five minutes in
wondering before he settled down to the fifty-second chapter of his
great book on 'The Secret Rites of the Priests of Amen Ra'.
It is no use to pretend that the children did not feel a good deal of
agitation at the thought of going through the charm into the Past. That
idea, that perhaps they might stay in the Past and never get back again,
was anything but pleasing. Yet no one would have dared to suggest that
the charm should not be used; and though each was in its heart very
frightened indeed, they would all have joined in jeering at the
cowardice of any one of them who should have uttered the timid but
natural suggestion, 'Don't let's!'
It seemed necessary to make arrangements for being out all day, for
there was no reason to suppose that the sound of the dinner-bell would
be able to reach back into the Past, and it seemed unwise to excite old
Nurse's curiosity when nothing they could say--not even the truth--could
in any way satisfy it. They were all very proud to think how well they
had understood what the charm and the Psammead had said about Time and
Space and things like that, and they were perfectly certain that it
would be quite impossible to make old Nurse understand a single word
of it. So they merely asked her to let them take their dinner out into
Regent's Park--and this, with the implied cold mutton and tomatoes, was
'You can get yourselves some buns or sponge-cakes, or whatever you
fancy-like,' said old Nurse, giving Cyril a shilling. 'Don't go getting
jam-tarts, now--so messy at the best of times, and without forks and
plates ruination to your clothes, besides your not being able to wash
your hands and faces afterwards.'
So Cyril took the shilling, and they all started off. They went round
by the Tottenham Court Road to buy a piece of waterproof sheeting to put
over the Psammead in case it should be raining in the Past when they got
there. For it is almost certain death to a Psammead to get wet.
The sun was shining very brightly, and even London looked pretty. Women
were selling roses from big baskets-full, and Anthea bought four roses,
one each, for herself and the others. They were red roses and smelt
of summer--the kind of roses you always want so desperately at about
Christmas-time when you can only get mistletoe, which is pale right
through to its very scent, and holly which pricks your nose if you try
to smell it. So now everyone had a rose in its buttonhole, and soon
everyone was sitting on the grass in Regent's Park under trees whose
leaves would have been clean, clear green in the country, but here were
dusty and yellowish, and brown at the edges.
'We've got to go on with it,' said Anthea, 'and as the eldest has to go
first, you'll have to be last, Jane. You quite understand about holding
on to the charm as you go through, don't you, Pussy?'
'I wish I hadn't got to be last,' said Jane.
'You shall carry the Psammead if you like,' said Anthea. 'That is,' she
added, remembering the beast's queer temper, 'if it'll let you.'
The Psammead, however, was unexpectedly amiable.
'"I" don't mind,' it said, 'who carries me, so long as it doesn't drop
me. I can't bear being dropped.'
Jane with trembling hands took the Psammead and its fish-basket under
one arm. The charm's long string was hung round her neck. Then they all
stood up. Jane held out the charm at arm's length, and Cyril solemnly
pronounced the word of power.
As he spoke it the charm grew tall and broad, and he saw that Jane was
just holding on to the edge of a great red arch of very curious shape.
The opening of the arch was small, but Cyril saw that he could go
through it. All round and beyond the arch were the faded trees and
trampled grass of Regent's Park, where the little ragged children were
playing Ring-o'-Roses. But through the opening of it shone a blaze of
blue and yellow and red. Cyril drew a long breath and stiffened his
legs so that the others should not see that his knees were trembling and
almost knocking together. 'Here goes!' he said, and, stepping up through
the arch, disappeared. Then followed Anthea. Robert, coming next,
held fast, at Anthea's suggestion, to the sleeve of Jane, who was thus
dragged safely through the arch. And as soon as they were on the other
side of the arch there was no more arch at all and no more Regent's Park
either, only the charm in Jane's hand, and it was its proper size again.
They were now in a light so bright that they winked and blinked and
rubbed their eyes. During this dazzling interval Anthea felt for the
charm and pushed it inside Jane's frock, so that it might be quite safe.
When their eyes got used to the new wonderful light the children looked
around them. The sky was very, very blue, and it sparkled and glittered
and dazzled like the sea at home when the sun shines on it.
They were standing on a little clearing in a thick, low forest; there
were trees and shrubs and a close, thorny, tangly undergrowth. In
front of them stretched a bank of strange black mud, then came the
browny-yellowy shining ribbon of a river. Then more dry, caked mud and
more greeny-browny jungle. The only things that told that human people
had been there were the clearing, a path that led to it, and an odd
arrangement of cut reeds in the river.
They looked at each other.
'Well!' said Robert, 'this IS a change of air!'
It was. The air was hotter than they could have imagined, even in London
'I wish I knew where we were,' said Cyril.
'Here's a river, now--I wonder whether it's the Amazon or the Tiber, or
'It's the Nile,' said the Psammead, looking out of the fish-bag.
'Then this is Egypt,' said Robert, who had once taken a geography prize.
'I don't see any crocodiles,' Cyril objected. His prize had been for
The Psammead reached out a hairy arm from its basket and pointed to a
heap of mud at the edge of the water.
'What do you call that?' it said; and as it spoke the heap of mud slid
into the river just as a slab of damp mixed mortar will slip from a
'Oh!' said everybody.
There was a crashing among the reeds on the other side of the water.
'And there's a river-horse!' said the Psammead, as a great beast like an
enormous slaty-blue slug showed itself against the black bank on the far
side of the stream.
'It's a hippopotamus,' said Cyril; 'it seems much more real somehow than
the one at the Zoo, doesn't it?'
'I'm glad it's being real on the other side of the river,' said Jane.
And now there was a crackling of reeds and twigs behind them. This was
horrible. Of course it might be another hippopotamus, or a crocodile, or
a lion--or, in fact, almost anything.
'Keep your hand on the charm, Jane,' said Robert hastily. 'We ought to
have a means of escape handy. I'm dead certain this is the sort of place
where simply anything might happen to us.'
'I believe a hippopotamus is going to happen to us,' said Jane--'a very,
very big one.'
They had all turned to face the danger.
'Don't be silly little duffers,' said the Psammead in its friendly,
informal way; 'it's not a river-horse. It's a human.'
It was. It was a girl--of about Anthea's age. Her hair was short and
fair, and though her skin was tanned by the sun, you could see that it
would have been fair too if it had had a chance. She had every chance of
being tanned, for she had no clothes to speak of, and the four English
children, carefully dressed in frocks, hats, shoes, stockings, coats,
collars, and all the rest of it, envied her more than any words of
theirs or of mine could possibly say. There was no doubt that here was
the right costume for that climate.
She carried a pot on her head, of red and black earthenware. She did not
see the children, who shrank back against the edge of the jungle, and
she went forward to the brink of the river to fill her pitcher. As she
went she made a strange sort of droning, humming, melancholy noise
all on two notes. Anthea could not help thinking that perhaps the girl
thought this noise was singing.
The girl filled the pitcher and set it down by the river bank. Then
she waded into the water and stooped over the circle of cut reeds. She
pulled half a dozen fine fish out of the water within the reeds, killing
each as she took it out, and threading it on a long osier that she
carried. Then she knotted the osier, hung it on her arm, picked up the
pitcher, and turned to come back. And as she turned she saw the four
children. The white dresses of Jane and Anthea stood out like snow
against the dark forest background. She screamed and the pitcher fell,
and the water was spilled out over the hard mud surface and over the
fish, which had fallen too. Then the water slowly trickled away into the
'Don't be frightened,' Anthea cried, 'we won't hurt you.'
'Who are you?' said the girl.
Now, once for all, I am not going to be bothered to tell you how it was
that the girl could understand Anthea and Anthea could understand the
girl. YOU, at any rate, would not understand ME, if I tried to explain
it, any more than you can understand about time and space being only
forms of thought. You may think what you like. Perhaps the children
had found out the universal language which everyone can understand, and
which wise men so far have not found. You will have noticed long ago
that they were singularly lucky children, and they may have had this
piece of luck as well as others. Or it may have been that... but
why pursue the question further? The fact remains that in all their
adventures the muddle-headed inventions which we call foreign languages
never bothered them in the least. They could always understand and
be understood. If you can explain this, please do. I daresay I could
understand your explanation, though you could never understand mine.
So when the girl said, 'Who are you?' everyone understood at once, and
'We are children--just like you. Don't be frightened. Won't you show us
where you live?'
Jane put her face right into the Psammead's basket, and burrowed her
mouth into its fur to whisper--
'Is it safe? Won't they eat us? Are they cannibals?'
The Psammead shrugged its fur.
'Don't make your voice buzz like that, it tickles my ears,' it said
rather crossly. 'You can always get back to Regent's Park in time if you
keep fast hold of the charm,' it said.
The strange girl was trembling with fright.
Anthea had a bangle on her arm. It was a sevenpenny-halfpenny trumpery
thing that pretended to be silver; it had a glass heart of turquoise
blue hanging from it, and it was the gift of the maid-of-all-work at the
Fitzroy Street house. 'Here,' said Anthea, 'this is for you. That is
to show we will not hurt you. And if you take it I shall know that you
won't hurt us.'
The girl held out her hand. Anthea slid the bangle over it, and the
girl's face lighted up with the joy of possession.
'Come,' she said, looking lovingly at the bangle; 'it is peace between
your house and mine.'
She picked up her fish and pitcher and led the way up the narrow path by
which she had come and the others followed.
'This is something like!' said Cyril, trying to be brave.
'Yes!' said Robert, also assuming a boldness he was far from feeling,
'this really and truly IS an adventure! Its being in the Past makes it
quite different from the Phoenix and Carpet happenings.'
The belt of thick-growing acacia trees and shrubs--mostly prickly and
unpleasant-looking--seemed about half a mile across. The path was narrow
and the wood dark. At last, ahead, daylight shone through the boughs and
The whole party suddenly came out of the wood's shadow into the glare of
the sunlight that shone on a great stretch of yellow sand, dotted with
heaps of grey rocks where spiky cactus plants showed gaudy crimson and
pink flowers among their shabby, sand-peppered leaves. Away to the right
was something that looked like a grey-brown hedge, and from beyond it
blue smoke went up to the bluer sky. And over all the sun shone till you
could hardly bear your clothes.
'That is where I live,' said the girl pointing.
'I won't go,' whispered Jane into the basket, 'unless you say it's all
The Psammead ought to have been touched by this proof of confidence.
Perhaps, however, it looked upon it as a proof of doubt, for it merely
'If you don't go now I'll never help you again.'
'OH,' whispered Anthea, 'dear Jane, don't! Think of Father and Mother
and all of us getting our heart's desire. And we can go back any minute.
'Besides,' said Cyril, in a low voice, 'the Psammead must know there's
no danger or it wouldn't go. It's not so over and above brave itself.
This Jane at last consented to do.
As they got nearer to the browny fence they saw that it was a great
hedge about eight feet high, made of piled-up thorn bushes.
'What's that for?' asked Cyril.
'To keep out foes and wild beasts,' said the girl.
'I should think it ought to, too,' said he. 'Why, some of the thorns are
as long as my foot.'
There was an opening in the hedge, and they followed the girl through
it. A little way further on was another hedge, not so high, also of dry
thorn bushes, very prickly and spiteful-looking, and within this was a
sort of village of huts.
There were no gardens and no roads. Just huts built of wood and twigs
and clay, and roofed with great palm-leaves, dumped down anywhere. The
doors of these houses were very low, like the doors of dog-kennels.
The ground between them was not paths or streets, but just yellow sand
trampled very hard and smooth.
In the middle of the village there was a hedge that enclosed what seemed
to be a piece of ground about as big as their own garden in Camden Town.
No sooner were the children well within the inner thorn hedge than
dozens of men and women and children came crowding round from behind and
inside the huts.
The girl stood protectingly in front of the four children, and said--
'They are wonder-children from beyond the desert. They bring marvellous
gifts, and I have said that it is peace between us and them.'
She held out her arm with the Lowther Arcade bangle on it.
The children from London, where nothing now surprises anyone, had never
before seen so many people look so astonished.
They crowded round the children, touching their clothes, their shoes,
the buttons on the boys' jackets, and the coral of the girls' necklaces.
'Do say something,' whispered Anthea.
'We come,' said Cyril, with some dim remembrance of a dreadful day when
he had had to wait in an outer office while his father interviewed
a solicitor, and there had been nothing to read but the Daily
Telegraph--'we come from the world where the sun never sets. And peace
with honour is what we want. We are the great Anglo-Saxon or conquering
race. Not that we want to conquer YOU,' he added hastily. 'We only want
to look at your houses and your--well, at all you've got here, and then
we shall return to our own place, and tell of all that we have seen so
that your name may be famed.'
Cyril's speech didn't keep the crowd from pressing round and looking as
eagerly as ever at the clothing of the children. Anthea had an idea
that these people had never seen woven stuff before, and she saw how
wonderful and strange it must seem to people who had never had any
clothes but the skins of beasts. The sewing, too, of modern clothes
seemed to astonish them very much. They must have been able to sew
themselves, by the way, for men who seemed to be the chiefs wore
knickerbockers of goat-skin or deer-skin, fastened round the waist
with twisted strips of hide. And the women wore long skimpy skirts of
animals' skins. The people were not very tall, their hair was fair, and
men and women both had it short. Their eyes were blue, and that seemed
odd in Egypt. Most of them were tattooed like sailors, only more
'What is this? What is this?' they kept asking touching the children's
Anthea hastily took off Jane's frilly lace collar and handed it to the
woman who seemed most friendly.
'Take this,' she said, 'and look at it. And leave us alone. We want to
talk among ourselves.'
She spoke in the tone of authority which she had always found successful
when she had not time to coax her baby brother to do as he was told. The
tone was just as successful now. The children were left together and the
crowd retreated. It paused a dozen yards away to look at the lace collar
and to go on talking as hard as it could.
The children will never know what those people said, though they knew
well enough that they, the four strangers, were the subject of the talk.
They tried to comfort themselves by remembering the girl's promise
of friendliness, but of course the thought of the charm was more
comfortable than anything else. They sat down on the sand in the shadow
of the hedged-round place in the middle of the village, and now for the
first time they were able to look about them and to see something more
than a crowd of eager, curious faces.
They here noticed that the women wore necklaces made of beads of
different coloured stone, and from these hung pendants of odd, strange
shapes, and some of them had bracelets of ivory and flint.
'I say,' said Robert, 'what a lot we could teach them if we stayed
'I expect they could teach us something too,' said Cyril. 'Did you
notice that flint bracelet the woman had that Anthea gave the collar to?
That must have taken some making. Look here, they'll get suspicious if
we talk among ourselves, and I do want to know about how they do things.
Let's get the girl to show us round, and we can be thinking about how to
get the Amulet at the same time. Only mind, we must keep together.'
Anthea beckoned to the girl, who was standing a little way off looking
wistfully at them, and she came gladly.
'Tell us how you make the bracelets, the stone ones,' said Cyril.
'With other stones,' said the girl; 'the men make them; we have men of
special skill in such work.'
'Haven't you any iron tools?'
'Iron,' said the girl, 'I don't know what you mean.' It was the first
word she had not understood.
'Are all your tools of flint?' asked Cyril. 'Of course,' said the girl,
opening her eyes wide.
I wish I had time to tell you of that talk. The English children wanted
to hear all about this new place, but they also wanted to tell of their
own country. It was like when you come back from your holidays and you
want to hear and to tell everything at the same time. As the talk went
on there were more and more words that the girl could not understand,
and the children soon gave up the attempt to explain to her what their
own country was like, when they began to see how very few of the things
they had always thought they could not do without were really not at all
necessary to life.
The girl showed them how the huts were made--indeed, as one was being
made that very day she took them to look at it. The way of building was
very different from ours. The men stuck long pieces of wood into a piece
of ground the size of the hut they wanted to make. These were about
eight inches apart; then they put in another row about eight inches away
from the first, and then a third row still further out. Then all the
space between was filled up with small branches and twigs, and then
daubed over with black mud worked with the feet till it was soft and
sticky like putty.
The girl told them how the men went hunting with flint spears and
arrows, and how they made boats with reeds and clay. Then she explained
the reed thing in the river that she had taken the fish out of. It was a
fish-trap--just a ring of reeds set up in the water with only one little
opening in it, and in this opening, just below the water, were stuck
reeds slanting the way of the river's flow, so that the fish, when they
had swum sillily in, sillily couldn't get out again. She showed them the
clay pots and jars and platters, some of them ornamented with black and
red patterns, and the most wonderful things made of flint and different
sorts of stone, beads, and ornaments, and tools and weapons of all sorts
'It is really wonderful,' said Cyril patronizingly, 'when you consider
that it's all eight thousand years ago--'
'I don't understand you,' said the girl.
'It ISN'T eight thousand years ago,' whispered Jane. 'It's NOW--and
that's just what I don't like about it. I say, DO let's get home again
before anything more happens. You can see for yourselves the charm isn't
'What's in that place in the middle?' asked Anthea, struck by a sudden
thought, and pointing to the fence.
'That's the secret sacred place,' said the girl in a whisper. 'No one
knows what is there. There are many walls, and inside the insidest one
IT is, but no one knows what IT is except the headsmen.'
'I believe YOU know,' said Cyril, looking at her very hard.
'I'll give you this if you'll tell me,' said Anthea taking off a
bead-ring which had already been much admired.
'Yes,' said the girl, catching eagerly at the ring. 'My father is one of
the heads, and I know a water charm to make him talk in his sleep. And
he has spoken. I will tell you. But if they know I have told you they
will kill me. In the insidest inside there is a stone box, and in it
there is the Amulet. None knows whence it came. It came from very far
'Have you seen it?' asked Anthea.
The girl nodded.
'Is it anything like this?' asked Jane, rashly producing the charm.
The girl's face turned a sickly greenish-white.
'Hide it, hide it,' she whispered. 'You must put it back. If they see it
they will kill us all. You for taking it, and me for knowing that there
was such a thing. Oh, woe--woe! why did you ever come here?'
'Don't be frightened,' said Cyril. 'They shan't know. Jane, don't you
be such a little jack-ape again--that's all. You see what will happen if
you do. Now, tell me--' He turned to the girl, but before he had time to
speak the question there was a loud shout, and a man bounded in through
the opening in the thorn-hedge.
'Many foes are upon us!' he cried. 'Make ready the defences!'
His breath only served for that, and he lay panting on the ground. 'Oh,
DO let's go home!' said Jane. 'Look here--I don't care--I WILL!'
She held up the charm. Fortunately all the strange, fair people were too
busy to notice HER. She held up the charm. And nothing happened.
'You haven't said the word of power,' said Anthea.
Jane hastily said it--and still nothing happened.
'Hold it up towards the East, you silly!' said Robert.
'Which IS the East?' said Jane, dancing about in her agony of terror.
Nobody knew. So they opened the fish-bag to ask the Psammead.
And the bag had only a waterproof sheet in it.
The Psammead was gone.
'Hide the sacred thing! Hide it! Hide it!' whispered the girl.
Cyril shrugged his shoulders, and tried to look as brave as he knew he
ought to feel.
'Hide it up, Pussy,' he said. 'We are in for it now. We've just got to
stay and see it out.'
CHAPTER 5. THE FIGHT IN THE VILLAGE
Here was a horrible position! Four English children, whose proper date
was A.D. 1905, and whose proper address was London, set down in Egypt in
the year 6000 B.C. with no means whatever of getting back into their own
time and place. They could not find the East, and the sun was of no use
at the moment, because some officious person had once explained to Cyril
that the sun did not really set in the West at all--nor rise in the East
either, for the matter of that.
The Psammead had crept out of the bass-bag when they were not looking
and had basely deserted them.
An enemy was approaching. There would be a fight. People get killed
in fights, and the idea of taking part in a fight was one that did not
appeal to the children.
The man who had brought the news of the enemy still lay panting on the
sand. His tongue was hanging out, long and red, like a dog's. The
people of the village were hurriedly filling the gaps in the fence with
thorn-bushes from the heap that seemed to have been piled there
ready for just such a need. They lifted the cluster-thorns with long
poles--much as men at home, nowadays, lift hay with a fork.
Jane bit her lip and tried to decide not to cry.
Robert felt in his pocket for a toy pistol and loaded it with a pink
paper cap. It was his only weapon.
Cyril tightened his belt two holes.
And Anthea absently took the drooping red roses from the buttonholes of
the others, bit the ends of the stalks, and set them in a pot of water
that stood in the shadow by a hut door. She was always rather silly
'Look here!' she said. 'I think perhaps the Psammead is really arranging
something for us. I don't believe it would go away and leave us all
alone in the Past. I'm certain it wouldn't.'
Jane succeeded in deciding not to cry--at any rate yet.
'But what can we do?' Robert asked.
'Nothing,' Cyril answered promptly, 'except keep our eyes and ears open.
Look! That runner chap's getting his wind. Let's go and hear what he's
got to say.'
The runner had risen to his knees and was sitting back on his heels. Now
he stood up and spoke. He began by some respectful remarks addressed to
the heads of the village. His speech got more interesting when he said--
'I went out in my raft to snare ibises, and I had gone up the stream an
hour's journey. Then I set my snares and waited. And I heard the sound
of many wings, and looking up, saw many herons circling in the air. And
I saw that they were afraid; so I took thought. A beast may scare one
heron, coming upon it suddenly, but no beast will scare a whole flock of
herons. And still they flew and circled, and would not light. So then I
knew that what scared the herons must be men, and men who knew not our
ways of going softly so as to take the birds and beasts unawares. By
this I knew they were not of our race or of our place. So, leaving my
raft, I crept along the river bank, and at last came upon the strangers.
They are many as the sands of the desert, and their spear-heads shine
red like the sun. They are a terrible people, and their march is towards
US. Having seen this, I ran, and did not stay till I was before you.'
'These are YOUR folk,' said the headman, turning suddenly and angrily on
Cyril, 'you came as spies for them.'
'We did NOT,' said Cyril indignantly. 'We wouldn't be spies for
anything. I'm certain these people aren't a bit like us. Are they now?'
he asked the runner.
'No,' was the answer. 'These men's faces were darkened, and their hair
black as night. Yet these strange children, maybe, are their gods, who
have come before to make ready the way for them.'
A murmur ran through the crowd.
'No, NO,' said Cyril again. 'We are on your side. We will help you to
guard your sacred things.'
The headman seemed impressed by the fact that Cyril knew that there WERE
sacred things to be guarded. He stood a moment gazing at the children.
Then he said--
'It is well. And now let all make offering, that we may be strong in
The crowd dispersed, and nine men, wearing antelope-skins, grouped
themselves in front of the opening in the hedge in the middle of
the village. And presently, one by one, the men brought all sorts of
things--hippopotamus flesh, ostrich-feathers, the fruit of the date
palms, red chalk, green chalk, fish from the river, and ibex from the
mountains; and the headman received these gifts. There was another hedge
inside the first, about a yard from it, so that there was a lane inside
between the hedges. And every now and then one of the headmen would
disappear along this lane with full hands and come back with hands
'They're making offerings to their Amulet,' said Anthea. 'We'd better
give something too.'
The pockets of the party, hastily explored, yielded a piece of pink
tape, a bit of sealing-wax, and part of the Waterbury watch that Robert
had not been able to help taking to pieces at Christmas and had never
had time to rearrange. Most boys have a watch in this condition. They
presented their offerings, and Anthea added the red roses.
The headman who took the things looked at them with awe, especially at
the red roses and the Waterbury-watch fragment.
'This is a day of very wondrous happenings,' he said. 'I have no more
room in me to be astonished. Our maiden said there was peace between you
and us. But for this coming of a foe we should have made sure.'
The children shuddered.
'Now speak. Are you upon our side?'
'YES. Don't I keep telling you we are?' Robert said. 'Look here. I will
give you a sign. You see this.' He held out the toy pistol. 'I shall
speak to it, and if it answers me you will know that I and the others
are come to guard your sacred thing--that we've just made the offerings
'Will that god whose image you hold in your hand speak to you alone, or
shall I also hear it?' asked the man cautiously.
'You'll be surprised when you DO hear it,' said Robert. 'Now, then.' He
looked at the pistol and said--
'If we are to guard the sacred treasure within'--he pointed to the
hedged-in space--'speak with thy loud voice, and we shall obey.'
He pulled the trigger, and the cap went off. The noise was loud, for it
was a two-shilling pistol, and the caps were excellent.
Every man, woman, and child in the village fell on its face on the sand.
The headman who had accepted the test rose first.
'The voice has spoken,' he said. 'Lead them into the ante-room of the
So now the four children were led in through the opening of the hedge
and round the lane till they came to an opening in the inner hedge, and
they went through an opening in that, and so passed into another lane.
The thing was built something like this, and all the hedges were of
brushwood and thorns: [Drawing of maze omitted.]
'It's like the maze at Hampton Court,' whispered Anthea.
The lanes were all open to the sky, but the little hut in the middle of
the maze was round-roofed, and a curtain of skins hung over the doorway.
'Here you may wait,' said their guide, 'but do not dare to pass the
curtain.' He himself passed it and disappeared.
'But look here,' whispered Cyril, 'some of us ought to be outside in
case the Psammead turns up.'
'Don't let's get separated from each other, whatever we do,' said
Anthea. 'It's quite bad enough to be separated from the Psammead. We
can't do anything while that man is in there. Let's all go out into
the village again. We can come back later now we know the way in.
That man'll have to fight like the rest, most likely, if it comes to
fighting. If we find the Psammead we'll go straight home.
It must be getting late, and I don't much like this mazy place.'
They went out and told the headman that they would protect the treasure
when the fighting began. And now they looked about them and were able
to see exactly how a first-class worker in flint flakes and notches an
arrow-head or the edge of an axe--an advantage which no other person now
alive has ever enjoyed. The boys found the weapons most interesting.
The arrow-heads were not on arrows such as you shoot from a bow, but
on javelins, for throwing from the hand. The chief weapon was a stone
fastened to a rather short stick something like the things gentlemen
used to carry about and call life-preservers in the days of the
Then there were long things like spears or lances, with flint
knives--horribly sharp--and flint battle-axes.
Everyone in the village was so busy that the place was like an ant-heap
when you have walked into it by accident. The women were busy and even
Quite suddenly all the air seemed to glow and grow red--it was like
the sudden opening of a furnace door, such as you may see at Woolwich
Arsenal if you ever have the luck to be taken there--and then almost as
suddenly it was as though the furnace doors had been shut. For the sun
had set, and it was night.
The sun had that abrupt way of setting in Egypt eight thousand years
ago, and I believe it has never been able to break itself of the habit,
and sets in exactly the same manner to the present day. The girl brought
the skins of wild deer and led the children to a heap of dry sedge.
'My father says they will not attack yet. Sleep!' she said, and it
really seemed a good idea. You may think that in the midst of all these
dangers the children would not have been able to sleep--but somehow,
though they were rather frightened now and then, the feeling was growing
in them--deep down and almost hidden away, but still growing--that the
Psammead was to be trusted, and that they were really and truly safe.
This did not prevent their being quite as much frightened as they could
bear to be without being perfectly miserable.
'I suppose we'd better go to sleep,' said Robert. 'I don't know what on
earth poor old Nurse will do with us out all night; set the police on
our tracks, I expect. I only wish they could find us! A dozen policemen
would be rather welcome just now. But it's no use getting into a stew
over it,' he added soothingly. 'Good night.'
And they all fell asleep.
They were awakened by long, loud, terrible sounds that seemed to come
from everywhere at once--horrible threatening shouts and shrieks
and howls that sounded, as Cyril said later, like the voices of men
thirsting for their enemies' blood.
'It is the voice of the strange men,' said the girl, coming to them
trembling through the dark. 'They have attacked the walls, and the
thorns have driven them back. My father says they will not try again
till daylight. But they are shouting to frighten us. As though we were
savages! Dwellers in the swamps!' she cried indignantly.
All night the terrible noise went on, but when the sun rose, as abruptly
as he had set, the sound suddenly ceased.
The children had hardly time to be glad of this before a shower
of javelins came hurtling over the great thorn-hedge, and everyone
sheltered behind the huts. But next moment another shower of weapons
came from the opposite side, and the crowd rushed to other shelter.
Cyril pulled out a javelin that had stuck in the roof of the hut beside
him. Its head was of brightly burnished copper.
Then the sound of shouting arose again and the crackle of dried thorns.
The enemy was breaking down the hedge. All the villagers swarmed to the
point whence the crackling and the shouting came; they hurled stones
over the hedges, and short arrows with flint heads. The children had
never before seen men with the fighting light in their eyes. It was very
strange and terrible, and gave you a queer thick feeling in your throat;
it was quite different from the pictures of fights in the illustrated
papers at home.
It seemed that the shower of stones had driven back the besiegers. The
besieged drew breath, but at that moment the shouting and the crackling
arose on the opposite side of the village and the crowd hastened
to defend that point, and so the fight swayed to and fro across the
village, for the besieged had not the sense to divide their forces as
their enemies had done.
Cyril noticed that every now and then certain of the fighting-men would
enter the maze, and come out with brighter faces, a braver aspect, and a
more upright carriage.
'I believe they go and touch the Amulet,' he said. 'You know the
Psammead said it could make people brave.'
They crept through the maze, and watching they saw that Cyril was right.
A headman was standing in front of the skin curtain, and as the warriors
came before him he murmured a word they could not hear, and touched
their foreheads with something that they could not see. And this
something he held in his hands. And through his fingers they saw the
gleam of a red stone that they knew.
The fight raged across the thorn-hedge outside. Suddenly there was a
loud and bitter cry.
'They're in! They're in! The hedge is down!'
The headman disappeared behind the deer-skin curtain.
'He's gone to hide it,' said Anthea. 'Oh, Psammead dear, how could you
Suddenly there was a shriek from inside the hut, and the headman
staggered out white with fear and fled out through the maze. The
children were as white as he.
'Oh! What is it? What is it?' moaned Anthea. 'Oh, Psammead, how could
you! How could you!'
And the sound of the fight sank breathlessly, and swelled fiercely all
around. It was like the rising and falling of the waves of the sea.
Anthea shuddered and said again, 'Oh, Psammead, Psammead!'
'Well?' said a brisk voice, and the curtain of skins was lifted at one
corner by a furry hand, and out peeped the bat's ears and snail's eyes
of the Psammead.
Anthea caught it in her arms and a sigh of desperate relief was breathed
by each of the four.
'Oh! which IS the East!' Anthea said, and she spoke hurriedly, for the
noise of wild fighting drew nearer and nearer.
'Don't choke me,' said the Psammead, 'come inside.'
The inside of the hut was pitch dark.
'I've got a match,' said Cyril, and struck it. The floor of the hut was
of soft, loose sand.
'I've been asleep here,' said the Psammead; 'most comfortable it's been,
the best sand I've had for a month. It's all right. Everything's all
right. I knew your only chance would be while the fight was going on.
That man won't come back. I bit him, and he thinks I'm an Evil Spirit.
Now you've only got to take the thing and go.'
The hut was hung with skins. Heaped in the middle were the offerings
that had been given the night before, Anthea's roses fading on the top
of the heap. At one side of the hut stood a large square stone block,
and on it an oblong box of earthenware with strange figures of men and
beasts on it.
'Is the thing in there?' asked Cyril, as the Psammead pointed a skinny
finger at it.
'You must judge of that,' said the Psammead. 'The man was just going to
bury the box in the sand when I jumped out at him and bit him.'
'Light another match, Robert,' said Anthea. 'Now, then quick! which is
'Why, where the sun rises, of course!'
'But someone told us--'
'Oh! they'll tell you anything!' said the Psammead impatiently, getting
into its bass-bag and wrapping itself in its waterproof sheet.
'But we can't see the sun in here, and it isn't rising anyhow,' said
'How you do waste time!' the Psammead said. 'Why, the East's where the
shrine is, of course. THERE!'
It pointed to the great stone.
And still the shouting and the clash of stone on metal sounded nearer
and nearer. The children could hear that the headmen had surrounded the
hut to protect their treasure as long as might be from the enemy. But
none dare to come in after the Psammead's sudden fierce biting of the
'Now, Jane,' said Cyril, very quickly. 'I'll take the Amulet, you stand
ready to hold up the charm, and be sure you don't let it go as you come
He made a step forward, but at that instant a great crackling overhead
ended in a blaze of sunlight. The roof had been broken in at one side,
and great slabs of it were being lifted off by two spears. As the
children trembled and winked in the new light, large dark hands tore
down the wall, and a dark face, with a blobby fat nose, looked over the
gap. Even at that awful moment Anthea had time to think that it was very
like the face of Mr Jacob Absalom, who had sold them the charm in the
shop near Charing Cross.
'Here is their Amulet,' cried a harsh, strange voice; 'it is this that
makes them strong to fight and brave to die. And what else have we
here--gods or demons?'
He glared fiercely at the children, and the whites of his eyes were very
white indeed. He had a wet, red copper knife in his teeth. There was not
a moment to lose.
'Jane, JANE, QUICK!' cried everyone passionately.
Jane with trembling hands held up the charm towards the East, and Cyril
spoke the word of power. The Amulet grew to a great arch. Out beyond
it was the glaring Egyptian sky, the broken wall, the cruel, dark,
big-nosed face with the red, wet knife in its gleaming teeth. Within the
arch was the dull, faint, greeny-brown of London grass and trees.
'Hold tight, Jane!' Cyril cried, and he dashed through the arch,
dragging Anthea and the Psammead after him. Robert followed, clutching
Jane. And in the ears of each, as they passed through the arch of the
charm, the sound and fury of battle died out suddenly and utterly, and
they heard only the low, dull, discontented hum of vast London, and the
peeking and patting of the sparrows on the gravel and the voices of the
ragged baby children playing Ring-o'-Roses on the yellow trampled grass.
And the charm was a little charm again in Jane's hand, and there was the
basket with their dinner and the bathbuns lying just where they had left
'My hat!' said Cyril, drawing a long breath; 'that was something like an
'It was rather like one, certainly,' said the Psammead.
They all lay still, breathing in the safe, quiet air of Regent's Park.
'We'd better go home at once,' said Anthea presently. 'Old Nurse will be
most frightfully anxious. The sun looks about the same as it did when
we started yesterday. We've been away twenty-four hours.' 'The buns are
quite soft still,' said Cyril, feeling one; 'I suppose the dew kept them
They were not hungry, curiously enough.
They picked up the dinner-basket and the Psammead-basket, and went
Old Nurse met them with amazement.
'Well, if ever I did!' she said. 'What's gone wrong? You've soon tired
of your picnic.'
The children took this to be bitter irony, which means saying the exact
opposite of what you mean in order to make yourself disagreeable; as
when you happen to have a dirty face, and someone says, 'How nice and
clean you look!'
'We're very sorry,' began Anthea, but old Nurse said--
'Oh, bless me, child, I don't care! Please yourselves and you'll please
me. Come in and get your dinners comf'table. I've got a potato on
When she had gone to attend to the potatoes the children looked at each
other. Could it be that old Nurse had so changed that she no longer
cared that they should have been away from home for twenty-four
hours--all night in fact--without any explanation whatever?
But the Psammead put its head out of its basket and said--
'What's the matter? Don't you understand? You come back through the
charm-arch at the same time as you go through it. This isn't tomorrow!'
'Is it still yesterday?' asked Jane.
'No, it's today. The same as it's always been. It wouldn't do to go
mixing up the present and the Past, and cutting bits out of one to fit
into the other.'
'Then all that adventure took no time at all?'
'You can call it that if you like,' said the Psammead. 'It took none of
the modern time, anyhow.'
That evening Anthea carried up a steak for the learned gentleman's
dinner. She persuaded Beatrice, the maid-of-all-work, who had given her
the bangle with the blue stone, to let her do it. And she stayed and
talked to him, by special invitation, while he ate the dinner.
She told him the whole adventure, beginning with--
'This afternoon we found ourselves on the bank of the River Nile,' and
ending up with, 'And then we remembered how to get back, and there we
were in Regent's Park, and it hadn't taken any time at all.'
She did not tell anything about the charm or the Psammead, because that
was forbidden, but the story was quite wonderful enough even as it was
to entrance the learned gentleman.
'You are a most unusual little girl,' he said. 'Who tells you all these
'No one,' said Anthea, 'they just happen.'
'Make-believe,' he said slowly, as one who recalls and pronounces a
He sat long after she had left him. At last he roused himself with a
'I really must take a holiday,' he said; 'my nerves must be all out of
order. I actually have a perfectly distinct impression that the little
girl from the rooms below came in and gave me a coherent and graphic
picture of life as I conceive it to have been in pre-dynastic Egypt.
Strange what tricks the mind will play! I shall have to be more
He finished his bread conscientiously, and actually went for a mile walk
before he went back to his work.
CHAPTER 6. THE WAY TO BABYLON
'How many miles to Babylon?
Three score and ten!
Can I get there by candle light?
Yes, and back again!'
Jane was singing to her doll, rocking it to and fro in the house
which she had made for herself and it. The roof of the house was the
dining-table, and the walls were tablecloths and antimacassars hanging
all round, and kept in their places by books laid on their top ends at
the table edge.
The others were tasting the fearful joys of domestic tobogganing. You
know how it is done--with the largest and best tea-tray and the surface
of the stair carpet. It is best to do it on the days when the stair rods
are being cleaned, and the carpet is only held by the nails at the top.
Of course, it is one of the five or six thoroughly tip-top games that
grown-up people are so unjust to--and old Nurse, though a brick in many
respects, was quite enough of a standard grown-up to put her foot down
on the tobogganing long before any of the performers had had half enough
of it. The tea-tray was taken away, and the baffled party entered the
sitting-room, in exactly the mood not to be pleased if they could help
So Cyril said, 'What a beastly mess!'
And Robert added, 'Do shut up, Jane!'
Even Anthea, who was almost always kind, advised Jane to try another
song. 'I'm sick to death of that,' said she.
It was a wet day, so none of the plans for seeing all the sights of
London that can be seen for nothing could be carried out. Everyone had
been thinking all the morning about the wonderful adventures of the day
before, when Jane had held up the charm and it had turned into an arch,
through which they had walked straight out of the present time and
the Regent's Park into the land of Egypt eight thousand years ago.
The memory of yesterday's happenings was still extremely fresh and
frightening, so that everyone hoped that no one would suggest another
excursion into the past, for it seemed to all that yesterday's
adventures were quite enough to last for at least a week. Yet each felt
a little anxious that the others should not think it was afraid, and
presently Cyril, who really was not a coward, began to see that it would
not be at all nice if he should have to think himself one. So he said--
'I say--about that charm--Jane--come out. We ought to talk about it,
'Oh, if that's all,' said Robert.
Jane obediently wriggled to the front of her house and sat there.
She felt for the charm, to make sure that it was still round her neck.
'It ISN'T all,' said Cyril, saying much more than he meant because he
thought Robert's tone had been rude--as indeed it had.
'We ought to go and look for that Amulet. What's the good of having a
first-class charm and keeping it idle, just eating its head off in the
'I'M game for anything, of course,' said Robert; but he added, with
a fine air of chivalry, 'only I don't think the girls are keen today
'Oh, yes; I am,' said Anthea hurriedly. 'If you think I'm afraid, I'm
'I am though,' said Jane heavily; 'I didn't like it, and I won't go
there again--not for anything I won't.'
'We shouldn't go THERE again, silly,' said Cyril; 'it would be some
'I daresay; a place with lions and tigers in it as likely as not.'
Seeing Jane so frightened, made the others feel quite brave. They said
they were certain they ought to go.
'It's so ungrateful to the Psammead not to,' Anthea added, a little
Jane stood up. She was desperate.
'I won't!' she cried; 'I won't, I won't, I won't! If you make me I'll
scream and I'll scream, and I'll tell old Nurse, and I'll get her to
burn the charm in the kitchen fire. So now, then!'
You can imagine how furious everyone was with Jane for feeling what each
of them had felt all the morning. In each breast the same thought arose,
'No one can say it's OUR fault.' And they at once began to show Jane
how angry they all felt that all the fault was hers. This made them feel
'Tell-tale tit, its tongue shall be split,
And all the dogs in our town shall have a little bit,'
'It's always the way if you have girls in anything.' Cyril spoke in a
cold displeasure that was worse than Robert's cruel quotation, and even
Anthea said, 'Well, I'M not afraid if I AM a girl,' which of course, was
the most cutting thing of all.
Jane picked up her doll and faced the others with what is sometimes
called the courage of despair.
'I don't care,' she said; 'I won't, so there! It's just silly going
to places when you don't want to, and when you don't know what they're
going to be like! You can laugh at me as much as you like. You're
beasts--and I hate you all!'
With these awful words she went out and banged the door.
Then the others would not look at each other, and they did not feel so
brave as they had done.
Cyril took up a book, but it was not interesting to read. Robert kicked
a chair-leg absently. His feet were always eloquent in moments of
emotion. Anthea stood pleating the end of the tablecloth into folds--she
seemed earnestly anxious to get all the pleats the same size. The sound
of Jane's sobs had died away.
Suddenly Anthea said, 'Oh! let it be "pax"--poor little Pussy--you know
she's the youngest.'
'She called us beasts,' said Robert, kicking the chair suddenly.
'Well, said Cyril, who was subject to passing fits of justice,
'we began, you know. At least you did.' Cyril's justice was always
'I'm not going to say I'm sorry if you mean that,' said Robert, and the
chair-leg cracked to the kick he gave as he said it.
'Oh, do let's,' said Anthea, 'we're three to one, and Mother does so
hate it if we row. Come on. I'll say I'm sorry first, though I didn't
say anything, hardly.'
'All right, let's get it over,' said Cyril, opening the
Far away up the stairs a voice could be heard singing brokenly, but
'How many miles (sniff) to Babylon?
Three score and ten! (sniff)
Can I get there by candle light?
Yes (sniff), and back again!'
It was trying, for this was plainly meant to annoy. But Anthea would not
give herself time to think this. She led the way up the stairs, taking
three at a time, and bounded to the level of Jane, who sat on the top
step of all, thumping her doll to the tune of the song she was trying to
'I say, Pussy, let it be pax! We're sorry if you are--'
It was enough. The kiss of peace was given by all. Jane being the
youngest was entitled to this ceremonial. Anthea added a special apology
of her own.
'I'm sorry if I was a pig, Pussy dear,' she said--'especially because
in my really and truly inside mind I've been feeling a little as if
I'd rather not go into the Past again either. But then, do think. If we
don't go we shan't get the Amulet, and oh, Pussy, think if we could only
get Father and Mother and The Lamb safe back! We MUST go, but we'll wait
a day or two if you like and then perhaps you'll feel braver.'
'Raw meat makes you brave, however cowardly you are,' said Robert, to
show that there was now no ill-feeling, 'and cranberries--that's
what Tartars eat, and they're so brave it's simply awful. I suppose
cranberries are only for Christmas time, but I'll ask old Nurse to let
you have your chop very raw if you like.'
'I think I could be brave without that,' said Jane hastily; she hated
underdone meat. 'I'll try.'
At this moment the door of the learned gentleman's room opened, and he
'Excuse me,' he said, in that gentle, polite weary voice of his, 'but
was I mistaken in thinking that I caught a familiar word just now? Were
you not singing some old ballad of Babylon?'
'No,' said Robert, 'at least Jane was singing "How many miles," but I
shouldn't have thought you could have heard the words for--'
He would have said, 'for the sniffing,' but Anthea pinched him just in
'I did not hear ALL the words,' said the learned gentleman. 'I wonder
would you recite them to me?'
So they all said together--
'How many miles to Babylon?
Three score and ten!
Can I get there by candle light?
Yes, and back again!'
'I wish one could,' the learned gentleman said with a sigh.
'Can't you?' asked Jane.
'Babylon has fallen,' he answered with a sigh. 'You know it was once a
great and beautiful city, and the centre of learning and Art, and now
it is only ruins, and so covered up with earth that people are not even
agreed as to where it once stood.'
He was leaning on the banisters, and his eyes had a far-away look in
them, as though he could see through the staircase window the splendour
and glory of ancient Babylon.
'I say,' Cyril remarked abruptly. 'You know that charm we showed you,
and you told us how to say the name that's on it?'
'Well, do you think that charm was ever in Babylon?'
'It's quite possible,' the learned gentleman replied. 'Such charms have
been found in very early Egyptian tombs, yet their origin has not been
accurately determined as Egyptian. They may have been brought from Asia.
Or, supposing the charm to have been fashioned in Egypt, it might very
well have been carried to Babylon by some friendly embassy, or brought
back by the Babylonish army from some Egyptian campaign as part of the
spoils of war. The inscription may be much later than the charm. Oh yes!
it is a pleasant fancy, that that splendid specimen of yours was once
used amid Babylonish surroundings.' The others looked at each other, but
it was Jane who spoke.
'Were the Babylon people savages, were they always fighting and throwing
things about?' For she had read the thoughts of the others by the
unerring light of her own fears.
'The Babylonians were certainly more gentle than the Assyrians,' said
the learned gentleman. 'And they were not savages by any means. A very
high level of culture,' he looked doubtfully at his audience and went
on, 'I mean that they made beautiful statues and jewellery, and
built splendid palaces. And they were very learned--they had glorious
libraries and high towers for the purpose of astrological and
'Er?' said Robert.
'I mean for--star-gazing and fortune-telling,' said the learned
gentleman, 'and there were temples and beautiful hanging gardens--'
'I'll go to Babylon if you like,' said Jane abruptly, and the others
hastened to say 'Done!' before she should have time to change her mind.
'Ah,' said the learned gentleman, smiling rather sadly, 'one can go so
far in dreams, when one is young.' He sighed again, and then adding with
a laboured briskness, 'I hope you'll have a--a--jolly game,' he went
into his room and shut the door.
'He said "jolly" as if it was a foreign language,' said Cyril. 'Come
on, let's get the Psammead and go now. I think Babylon seems a most
frightfully jolly place to go to.'
So they woke the Psammead and put it in its bass-bag with the waterproof
sheet, in case of inclement weather in Babylon. It was very cross, but
it said it would as soon go to Babylon as anywhere else. 'The sand is
good thereabouts,' it added.
Then Jane held up the charm, and Cyril said--
'We want to go to Babylon to look for the part of you that was lost.
Will you please let us go there through you?'
'Please put us down just outside,' said Jane hastily; 'and then if we
don't like it we needn't go inside.'
'Don't be all day,' said the Psammead.
So Anthea hastily uttered the word of power, without which the charm
could do nothing.
'Ur--Hekau--Setcheh!' she said softly, and as she spoke the charm grew
into an arch so tall that the top of it was close against the bedroom
ceiling. Outside the arch was the bedroom painted chest-of-drawers
and the Kidderminster carpet, and the washhand-stand with the riveted
willow-pattern jug, and the faded curtains, and the dull light of
indoors on a wet day. Through the arch showed the gleam of soft green
leaves and white blossoms. They stepped forward quite happily. Even Jane
felt that this did not look like lions, and her hand hardly trembled
at all as she held the charm for the others to go through, and last,
slipped through herself, and hung the charm, now grown small again,
round her neck.
The children found themselves under a white-blossomed, green-leafed
fruit-tree, in what seemed to be an orchard of such trees, all
white-flowered and green-foliaged. Among the long green grass under
their feet grew crocuses and lilies, and strange blue flowers. In the
branches overhead thrushes and blackbirds were singing, and the coo of a
pigeon came softly to them in the green quietness of the orchard.
'Oh, how perfectly lovely!' cried Anthea.
'Why, it's like home exactly--I mean England--only everything's bluer,
and whiter, and greener, and the flowers are bigger.'
The boys owned that it certainly was fairly decent, and even Jane
admitted that it was all very pretty.
'I'm certain there's nothing to be frightened of here,' said Anthea.
'I don't know,' said Jane. 'I suppose the fruit-trees go on just the
same even when people are killing each other. I didn't half like what
the learned gentleman said about the hanging gardens. I suppose they
have gardens on purpose to hang people in. I do hope this isn't one.'
'Of course it isn't,' said Cyril. 'The hanging gardens are just gardens
hung up--"I" think on chains between houses, don't you know, like trays.
Come on; let's get somewhere.'
They began to walk through the cool grass. As far as they could see was
nothing but trees, and trees and more trees. At the end of their orchard
was another one, only separated from theirs by a little stream of
clear water. They jumped this, and went on. Cyril, who was fond of
gardening--which meant that he liked to watch the gardener at work--was
able to command the respect of the others by telling them the names of
a good many trees. There were nut-trees and almond-trees, and apricots,
and fig-trees with their big five-fingered leaves. And every now and
then the children had to cross another brook.
'It's like between the squares in Through the Looking-glass,' said
At last they came to an orchard which was quite different from the other
orchards. It had a low building in one corner.
'These are vines,' said Cyril superiorly, 'and I know this is a
vineyard. I shouldn't wonder if there was a wine-press inside that place
At last they got out of the orchards and on to a sort of road, very
rough, and not at all like the roads you are used to. It had cypress
trees and acacia trees along it, and a sort of hedge of tamarisks,
like those you see on the road between Nice and Cannes, or near
Littlehampton, if you've only been as far as that.
And now in front of them they could see a great mass of buildings.
There were scattered houses of wood and stone here and there among green
orchards, and beyond these a great wall that shone red in the early
morning sun. The wall was enormously high--more than half the height of
St Paul's--and in the wall were set enormous gates that shone like gold
as the rising sun beat on them. Each gate had a solid square tower on
each side of it that stood out from the wall and rose above it. Beyond
the wall were more towers and houses, gleaming with gold and bright
colours. Away to the left ran the steel-blue swirl of a great river.
And the children could see, through a gap in the trees, that the river
flowed out from the town under a great arch in the wall.
'Those feathery things along by the water are palms,' said Cyril
'Oh, yes; you know everything,' Robert replied. 'What's all that
grey-green stuff you see away over there, where it's all flat and
'All right,' said Cyril loftily, '"I" don't want to tell you anything. I
only thought you'd like to know a palm-tree when you saw it again.'
'Look!' cried Anthea; 'they're opening the gates.'
And indeed the great gates swung back with a brazen clang, and instantly
a little crowd of a dozen or more people came out and along the road
The children, with one accord, crouched behind the tamarisk hedge.
'I don't like the sound of those gates,' said Jane. 'Fancy being inside
when they shut. You'd never get out.'
'You've got an arch of your own to go out by,' the Psammead put its head
out of the basket to remind her. 'Don't behave so like a girl. If I were
you I should just march right into the town and ask to see the king.'
There was something at once simple and grand about this idea, and it
So when the work-people had passed (they WERE work-people, the children
felt sure, because they were dressed so plainly--just one long blue
shirt thing--of blue or yellow) the four children marched boldly up to
the brazen gate between the towers. The arch above the gate was quite a
tunnel, the walls were so thick.
'Courage,' said Cyril. 'Step out. It's no use trying to sneak past. Be
Robert answered this appeal by unexpectedly bursting into 'The British
Grenadiers', and to its quick-step they approached the gates of Babylon.
'Some talk of Alexander,
And some of Hercules,
Of Hector and Lysander,
And such great names as these.
But of all the gallant heroes...'
This brought them to the threshold of the gate, and two men in bright
armour suddenly barred their way with crossed spears.
'Who goes there?' they said.
(I think I must have explained to you before how it was that the
children were always able to understand the language of any place they
might happen to be in, and to be themselves understood. If not, I have
no time to explain it now.)
'We come from very far,' said Cyril mechanically. 'From the Empire where
the sun never sets, and we want to see your King.'
'If it's quite convenient,' amended Anthea. 'The King (may he live for
ever!),' said the gatekeeper, 'is gone to fetch home his fourteenth
wife. Where on earth have you come from not to know that?'
'The Queen then,' said Anthea hurriedly, and not taking any notice of
the question as to where they had come from.
'The Queen,' said the gatekeeper, '(may she live for ever!) gives
audience today three hours after sunrising.'
'But what are we to do till the end of the three hours?' asked Cyril.
The gatekeeper seemed neither to know nor to care. He appeared less
interested in them than they could have thought possible. But the man
who had crossed spears with him to bar the children's way was more
'Let them go in and look about them,' he said. 'I'll wager my best sword
they've never seen anything to come near our little--village.' He said
it in the tone people use for when they call the Atlantic Ocean the
The gatekeeper hesitated.
'They're only children, after all,' said the other, who had children of
his own. 'Let me off for a few minutes, Captain, and I'll take them
to my place and see if my good woman can't fit them up in something a
little less outlandish than their present rig. Then they can have a look
round without being mobbed. May I go?'
'Oh yes, if you like,' said the Captain, 'but don't be all day.'
The man led them through the dark arch into the town. And it was very
different from London. For one thing, everything in London seems to be
patched up out of odds and ends, but these houses seemed to have been
built by people who liked the same sort of things. Not that they were
all alike, for though all were squarish, they were of different sizes,
and decorated in all sorts of different ways, some with paintings in
bright colours, some with black and silver designs. There were terraces,
and gardens, and balconies, and open spaces with trees. Their guide took
them to a little house in a back street, where a kind-faced woman sat
spinning at the door of a very dark room.
'Here,' he said, 'just lend these children a mantle each, so that they
can go about and see the place till the Queen's audience begins. You
leave that wool for a bit, and show them round if you like. I must be
The woman did as she was told, and the four children, wrapped in fringed
mantles, went with her all about the town, and oh! how I wish I had time
to tell you all that they saw. It was all so wonderfully different
from anything you have ever seen. For one thing, all the houses were
dazzlingly bright, and many of them covered with pictures. Some had
great creatures carved in stone at each side of the door. Then the
people--there were no black frock-coats and tall hats; no dingy coats
and skirts of good, useful, ugly stuffs warranted to wear. Everyone's
clothes were bright and beautiful with blue and scarlet and green and
The market was brighter than you would think anything could be. There
were stalls for everything you could possibly want--and for a great many
things that if you wanted here and now, want would be your master. There
were pineapples and peaches in heaps--and stalls of crockery and glass
things, beautiful shapes and glorious colours, there were stalls for
necklaces, and clasps, and bracelets, and brooches, for woven stuffs,
and furs, and embroidered linen. The children had never seen half so
many beautiful things together, even at Liberty's. It seemed no time at
all before the woman said--
'It's nearly time now. We ought to be getting on towards the palace.
It's as well to be early.' So they went to the palace, and when they got
there it was more splendid than anything they had seen yet.
For it was glowing with colours, and with gold and silver and black and
white--like some magnificent embroidery. Flight after flight of broad
marble steps led up to it, and at the edges of the stairs stood great
images, twenty times as big as a man--images of men with wings like
chain armour, and hawks' heads, and winged men with the heads of dogs.
And there were the statues of great kings.
Between the flights of steps were terraces where fountains played, and
the Queen's Guard in white and scarlet, and armour that shone like gold,
stood by twos lining the way up the stairs; and a great body of them was
massed by the vast door of the palace itself, where it stood glittering
like an impossibly radiant peacock in the noon-day sun.
All sorts of people were passing up the steps to seek audience of the
Queen. Ladies in richly-embroidered dresses with fringy flounces, poor
folks in plain and simple clothes, dandies with beards oiled and curled.
And Cyril, Robert, Anthea and Jane, went with the crowd.
At the gate of the palace the Psammead put one eye cautiously out of the
basket and whispered--
'I can't be bothered with queens. I'll go home with this lady. I'm sure
she'll get me some sand if you ask her to.'
'Oh! don't leave us,' said Jane. The woman was giving some last
instructions in Court etiquette to Anthea, and did not hear Jane.
'Don't be a little muff,' said the Psammead quite fiercely. 'It's not a
bit of good your having a charm. You never use it. If you want me you've
only got to say the name of power and ask the charm to bring me to you.'
'I'd rather go with you,' said Jane. And it was the most surprising
thing she had ever said in her life.
Everyone opened its mouth without thinking of manners, and Anthea, who
was peeping into the Psammead's basket, saw that its mouth opened wider
'You needn't gawp like that,' Jane went on. 'I'm not going to be
bothered with queens any more than IT is. And I know, wherever it is,
it'll take jolly good care that it's safe.'
'She's right there,' said everyone, for they had observed that the
Psammead had a way of knowing which side its bread was buttered.
She turned to the woman and said, 'You'll take me home with you, won't
you? And let me play with your little girls till the others have done
with the Queen.'
'Surely I will, little heart!' said the woman.
And then Anthea hurriedly stroked the Psammead and embraced Jane, who
took the woman's hand, and trotted contentedly away with the Psammead's
bag under the other arm.
The others stood looking after her till she, the woman, and the basket
were lost in the many-coloured crowd. Then Anthea turned once more to
the palace's magnificent doorway and said--
'Let's ask the porter to take care of our Babylonian overcoats.'
So they took off the garments that the woman had lent them and stood
amid the jostling petitioners of the Queen in their own English frocks
and coats and hats and boots.
'We want to see the Queen,' said Cyril; 'we come from the far Empire
where the sun never sets!'
A murmur of surprise and a thrill of excitement ran through the crowd.
The door-porter spoke to a black man, he spoke to someone else. There
was a whispering, waiting pause. Then a big man, with a cleanly-shaven
face, beckoned them from the top of a flight of red marble steps.
They went up; the boots of Robert clattering more than usual because he
was so nervous. A door swung open, a curtain was drawn back. A double
line of bowing forms in gorgeous raiment formed a lane that led to the
steps of the throne, and as the children advanced hurriedly there came
from the throne a voice very sweet and kind.
'Three children from the land where the sun never sets! Let them draw
hither without fear.'
In another minute they were kneeling at the throne's foot, saying,
'O Queen, live for ever!' exactly as the woman had taught them. And a
splendid dream-lady, all gold and silver and jewels and snowy drift of
veils, was raising Anthea, and saying--
'Don't be frightened, I really am SO glad you came! The land where
the sun never sets! I am delighted to see you! I was getting quite too
dreadfully bored for anything!'
And behind Anthea the kneeling Cyril whispered in the ears of the
'Bobs, don't say anything to Panther. It's no use upsetting her, but we
didn't ask for Jane's address, and the Psammead's with her.'
'Well,' whispered Robert, 'the charm can bring them to us at any moment.
IT said so.'
'Oh, yes,' whispered Cyril, in miserable derision, 'WE'RE all right, of
course. So we are! Oh, yes! If we'd only GOT the charm.'
Then Robert saw, and he murmured, 'Crikey!' at the foot of the throne of
Babylon; while Cyril hoarsely whispered the plain English fact--
'Jane's got the charm round her neck, you silly cuckoo.'
'Crikey!' Robert repeated in heart-broken undertones.
CHAPTER 7. 'THE DEEPEST DUNGEON BELOW THE CASTLE MOAT'
The Queen threw three of the red and gold embroidered cushions off the
throne on to the marble steps that led up to it.
'Just make yourselves comfortable there,' she said. 'I'm simply dying
to talk to you, and to hear all about your wonderful country and how you
got here, and everything, but I have to do justice every morning. Such a
bore, isn't it? Do you do justice in your own country?'
'No, said Cyril; 'at least of course we try to, but not in this public
sort of way, only in private.' 'Ah, yes,' said the Queen, 'I should
much prefer a private audience myself--much easier to manage. But public
opinion has to be considered. Doing justice is very hard work, even when
you're brought up to it.'
'We don't do justice, but we have to do scales, Jane and me,' said
Anthea, 'twenty minutes a day. It's simply horrid.'
'What are scales?' asked the Queen, 'and what is Jane?'
'Jane is my little sister. One of the guards-at-the-gate's wife is
taking care of her. And scales are music.'
'I never heard of the instrument,' said the Queen. 'Do you sing?'
'Oh, yes. We can sing in parts,' said Anthea.
'That IS magic,' said the Queen. 'How many parts are you each cut into
before you do it?'
'We aren't cut at all,' said Robert hastily. 'We couldn't sing if we
were. We'll show you afterwards.'
'So you shall, and now sit quiet like dear children and hear me do
justice. The way I do it has always been admired. I oughtn't to say that
ought I? Sounds so conceited. But I don't mind with you, dears. Somehow
I feel as though I'd known you quite a long time already.'
The Queen settled herself on her throne and made a signal to her
attendants. The children, whispering together among the cushions on the
steps of the throne, decided that she was very beautiful and very kind,
but perhaps just the least bit flighty.
The first person who came to ask for justice was a woman whose brother
had taken the money the father had left for her. The brother said it
was the uncle who had the money. There was a good deal of talk and the
children were growing rather bored, when the Queen suddenly clapped her
hands, and said--
'Put both the men in prison till one of them owns up that the other is
'But suppose they both did it?' Cyril could not help interrupting.
'Then prison's the best place for them,' said the Queen.
'But suppose neither did it.'
'That's impossible,' said the Queen; 'a thing's not done unless someone
does it. And you mustn't interrupt.'
Then came a woman, in tears, with a torn veil and real ashes on her
head--at least Anthea thought so, but it may have been only road-dust.
She complained that her husband was in prison.
'What for?' said the Queen.
'They SAID it was for speaking evil of your Majesty,' said the woman,
'but it wasn't. Someone had a spite against him. That was what it was.'
'How do you know he hadn't spoken evil of me?' said the Queen.
'No one could,' said the woman simply, 'when they'd once seen your
'Let the man out,' said the Queen, smiling. 'Next case.'
The next case was that of a boy who had stolen a fox. 'Like the Spartan
boy,' whispered Robert. But the Queen ruled that nobody could have any
possible reason for owning a fox, and still less for stealing one. And
she did not believe that there were any foxes in Babylon; she, at any
rate, had never seen one. So the boy was released.
The people came to the Queen about all sorts of family quarrels and
neighbourly misunderstandings--from a fight between brothers over the
division of an inheritance, to the dishonest and unfriendly conduct of
a woman who had borrowed a cooking-pot at the last New Year's festival,
and not returned it yet.
And the Queen decided everything, very, very decidedly indeed. At last
she clapped her hands quite suddenly and with extreme loudness, and
'The audience is over for today.'
Everyone said, 'May the Queen live for ever!' and went out.
And the children were left alone in the justice-hall with the Queen of
Babylon and her ladies.
'There!' said the Queen, with a long sigh of relief. 'THAT'S over! I
couldn't have done another stitch of justice if you'd offered me the
crown of Egypt! Now come into the garden, and we'll have a nice, long,
She led them through long, narrow corridors whose walls they somehow
felt, were very, very thick, into a sort of garden courtyard. There were
thick shrubs closely planted, and roses were trained over trellises, and
made a pleasant shade--needed, indeed, for already the sun was as hot as
it is in England in August at the seaside.
Slaves spread cushions on a low, marble terrace, and a big man with a
smooth face served cool drink in cups of gold studded with beryls. He
drank a little from the Queen's cup before handing it to her.
'That's rather a nasty trick,' whispered Robert, who had been carefully
taught never to drink out of one of the nice, shiny, metal cups that are
chained to the London drinking fountains without first rinsing it out
The Queen overheard him.
'Not at all,' said she. 'Ritti-Marduk is a very clean man. And one has
to have SOME ONE as taster, you know, because of poison.'
The word made the children feel rather creepy; but Ritti-Marduk
had tasted all the cups, so they felt pretty safe. The drink was
delicious--very cold, and tasting like lemonade and partly like penny
'Leave us,' said the Queen. And all the Court ladies, in their
beautiful, many-folded, many-coloured, fringed dresses, filed out
slowly, and the children were left alone with the Queen.
'Now,' she said, 'tell me all about yourselves.'
They looked at each other.
'You, Bobs,' said Cyril.
'No--Anthea,' said Robert.
'No--you--Cyril,' said Anthea. 'Don't you remember how pleased the Queen
of India was when you told her all about us?'
Cyril muttered that it was all very well, and so it was. For when he had
told the tale of the Phoenix and the Carpet to the Ranee, it had been
only the truth--and all the truth that he had to tell. But now it
was not easy to tell a convincing story without mentioning the
Amulet--which, of course, it wouldn't have done to mention--and without
owning that they were really living in London, about 2,500 years later
than the time they were talking in.
Cyril took refuge in the tale of the Psammead and its wonderful power of
making wishes come true. The children had never been able to tell anyone
before, and Cyril was surprised to find that the spell which kept them
silent in London did not work here. 'Something to do with our being in
the Past, I suppose,' he said to himself.
'This is MOST interesting,' said the Queen. 'We must have this Psammead
for the banquet tonight. Its performance will be one of the most popular
turns in the whole programme. Where is it?'
Anthea explained that they did not know; also why it was that they did
'Oh, THAT'S quite simple,' said the Queen, and everyone breathed a deep
sigh of relief as she said it.
'Ritti-Marduk shall run down to the gates and find out which guard your
sister went home with.'
'Might he'--Anthea's voice was tremulous--'might he--would it interfere
with his meal-times, or anything like that, if he went NOW?'
'Of course he shall go now. He may think himself lucky if he gets his
meals at any time,' said the Queen heartily, and clapped her hands.
'May I send a letter?' asked Cyril, pulling out a red-backed penny
account-book, and feeling in his pockets for a stump of pencil that he
knew was in one of them.
'By all means. I'll call my scribe.'
'Oh, I can scribe right enough, thanks,' said Cyril, finding the pencil
and licking its point. He even had to bite the wood a little, for it was
'Oh, you clever, clever boy!' said the Queen. 'DO let me watch you do
Cyril wrote on a leaf of the book--it was of rough, woolly paper, with
hairs that stuck out and would have got in his pen if he had been using
one, and ruled for accounts.
'Hide IT most carefully before you come here,' he wrote, 'and don't
mention it--and destroy this letter. Everything is going A1. The Queen
is a fair treat. There's nothing to be afraid of.'
'What curious characters, and what a strange flat surface!' said the
Queen. 'What have you inscribed?'
'I've 'scribed,' replied Cyril cautiously, 'that you are fair, and
a--and like a--like a festival; and that she need not be afraid, and
that she is to come at once.'
Ritti-Marduk, who had come in and had stood waiting while Cyril wrote,
his Babylonish eyes nearly starting out of his Babylonish head, now took
the letter, with some reluctance.
'O Queen, live for ever! Is it a charm?' he timidly asked. 'A strong
charm, most great lady?'
'YES,' said Robert, unexpectedly, 'it IS a charm, but it won't hurt
anyone until you've given it to Jane. And then she'll destroy it,
so that it CAN'T hurt anyone. It's most awful strong!--as strong
as--Peppermint!' he ended abruptly.
'I know not the god,' said Ritti-Marduk, bending timorously.
'She'll tear it up directly she gets it,' said Robert, 'That'll end the
charm. You needn't be afraid if you go now.'
Ritti-Marduk went, seeming only partly satisfied; and then the Queen
began to admire the penny account-book and the bit of pencil in so
marked and significant a way that Cyril felt he could not do less than
press them upon her as a gift. She ruffled the leaves delightedly.
'What a wonderful substance!' she said. 'And with this style you make
charms? Make a charm for me! Do you know,' her voice sank to a whisper,
'the names of the great ones of your own far country?'
'Rather!' said Cyril, and hastily wrote the names of Alfred the Great,
Shakespeare, Nelson, Gordon, Lord Beaconsfield, Mr Rudyard Kipling, and
Mr Sherlock Holmes, while the Queen watched him with 'unbaited breath',
as Anthea said afterwards.
She took the book and hid it reverently among the bright folds of her
'You shall teach me later to say the great names,' she said. 'And the
names of their Ministers--perhaps the great Nisroch is one of them?'
'I don't think so,' said Cyril. 'Mr Campbell Bannerman's Prime Minister
and Mr Burns a Minister, and so is the Archbishop of Canterbury, I
think, but I'm not sure--and Dr Parker was one, I know, and--'
'No more,' said the Queen, putting her hands to her ears. 'My head's
going round with all those great names. You shall teach them to me
later--because of course you'll make us a nice long visit now you have
come, won't you? Now tell me--but no, I am quite tired out with your
being so clever. Besides, I'm sure you'd like ME to tell YOU something,
'Yes,' said Anthea. 'I want to know how it is that the King has gone--'
'Excuse me, but you should say "the King may-he-live-for-ever",' said
the Queen gently.
'I beg your pardon,' Anthea hastened to say--'the King
may-he-live-for-ever has gone to fetch home his fourteenth wife? I don't
think even Bluebeard had as many as that. And, besides, he hasn't killed
YOU at any rate.'
The Queen looked bewildered.
'She means,' explained Robert, 'that English kings only have one
wife--at least, Henry the Eighth had seven or eight, but not all at
'In our country,' said the Queen scornfully, 'a king would not reign
a day who had only one wife. No one would respect him, and quite right
'Then are all the other thirteen alive?' asked Anthea.
'Of course they are--poor mean-spirited things! I don't associate with
them, of course, I am the Queen: they're only the wives.'
'I see,' said Anthea, gasping.
'But oh, my dears,' the Queen went on, 'such a to-do as there's been
about this last wife! You never did! It really was TOO funny. We wanted
an Egyptian princess. The King may-he-live-for-ever has got a wife from
most of the important nations, and he had set his heart on an Egyptian
one to complete his collection. Well, of course, to begin with, we
sent a handsome present of gold. The Egyptian king sent back some
horses--quite a few; he's fearfully stingy!--and he said he liked the
gold very much, but what they were really short of was lapis lazuli, so
of course we sent him some. But by that time he'd begun to use the gold
to cover the beams of the roof of the Temple of the Sun-God, and he
hadn't nearly enough to finish the job, so we sent some more. And so it
went on, oh, for years. You see each journey takes at least six months.
And at last we asked the hand of his daughter in marriage.'
'Yes, and then?' said Anthea, who wanted to get to the princess part of
'Well, then,' said the Queen, 'when he'd got everything out of us that
he could, and only given the meanest presents in return, he sent to
say he would esteem the honour of an alliance very highly, only
unfortunately he hadn't any daughter, but he hoped one would be born
soon, and if so, she should certainly be reserved for the King of
'What a trick!' said Cyril.
'Yes, wasn't it? So then we said his sister would do, and then there
were more gifts and more journeys; and now at last the tiresome,
black-haired thing is coming, and the King may-he-live-for-ever has gone
seven days' journey to meet her at Carchemish. And he's gone in his best
chariot, the one inlaid with lapis lazuli and gold, with the gold-plated
wheels and onyx-studded hubs--much too great an honour in my opinion.
She'll be here tonight; there'll be a grand banquet to celebrate her
arrival. SHE won't be present, of course. She'll be having her baths and
her anointings, and all that sort of thing. We always clean our foreign
brides very carefully. It takes two or three weeks. Now it's dinnertime,
and you shall eat with me, for I can see that you are of high rank.'
She led them into a dark, cool hall, with many cushions on the floor. On
these they sat and low tables were brought--beautiful tables of smooth,
blue stone mounted in gold. On these, golden trays were placed; but
there were no knives, or forks, or spoons. The children expected the
Queen to call for them; but no. She just ate with her fingers, and as
the first dish was a great tray of boiled corn, and meat and raisins all
mixed up together, and melted fat poured all over the tray, it was found
difficult to follow her example with anything like what we are used to
think of as good table manners. There were stewed quinces afterwards,
and dates in syrup, and thick yellowy cream. It was the kind of dinner
you hardly ever get in Fitzroy Street.
After dinner everybody went to sleep, even the children.
The Queen awoke with a start.
'Good gracious!' she cried, 'what a time we've slept! I must rush off
and dress for the banquet. I shan't have much more than time.'
'Hasn't Ritti-Marduk got back with our sister and the Psammead yet?'
'I QUITE forgot to ask. I'm sorry,' said the Queen. 'And of course
they wouldn't announce her unless I told them to, except during justice
hours. I expect she's waiting outside. I'll see.'
Ritti-Marduk came in a moment later.
'I regret,' he said, 'that I have been unable to find your sister. The
beast she bears with her in a basket has bitten the child of the guard,
and your sister and the beast set out to come to you. The police say
they have a clue. No doubt we shall have news of her in a few weeks.' He
bowed and withdrew.
The horror of this threefold loss--Jane, the Psammead, and the
Amulet--gave the children something to talk about while the Queen was
dressing. I shall not report their conversation; it was very gloomy.
Everyone repeated himself several times, and the discussion ended in
each of them blaming the other two for having let Jane go. You know the
sort of talk it was, don't you? At last Cyril said--
'After all, she's with the Psammead, so SHE'S all right. The Psammead is
jolly careful of itself too. And it isn't as if we were in any danger.
Let's try to buck up and enjoy the banquet.'
They did enjoy the banquet. They had a beautiful bath, which was
delicious, were heavily oiled all over, including their hair, and that
was most unpleasant. Then, they dressed again and were presented to the
King, who was most affable. The banquet was long; there were all sorts
of nice things to eat, and everybody seemed to eat and drink a good
deal. Everyone lay on cushions and couches, ladies on one side and
gentlemen on the other; and after the eating was done each lady went and
sat by some gentleman, who seemed to be her sweetheart or her husband,
for they were very affectionate to each other. The Court dresses had
gold threads woven in them, very bright and beautiful.
The middle of the room was left clear, and different people came and did
amusing things. There were conjurers and jugglers and snake-charmers,
which last Anthea did not like at all.
When it got dark torches were lighted. Cedar splinters dipped in oil
blazed in copper dishes set high on poles.
Then there was a dancer, who hardly danced at all, only just struck
attitudes. She had hardly any clothes, and was not at all pretty. The
children were rather bored by her, but everyone else was delighted,
including the King.
'By the beard of Nimrod!' he cried, 'ask what you like girl, and you
shall have it!'
'I want nothing,' said the dancer; 'the honour of having pleased the
King may-he-live-for-ever is reward enough for me.'
And the King was so pleased with this modest and sensible reply that he
gave her the gold collar off his own neck.
'I say!' said Cyril, awed by the magnificence of the gift.
'It's all right,' whispered the Queen, 'it's not his best collar by any
means. We always keep a stock of cheap jewellery for these occasions.
And now--you promised to sing us something. Would you like my minstrels
to accompany you?'
'No, thank you,' said Anthea quickly. The minstrels had been playing off
and on all the time, and their music reminded Anthea of the band she and
the others had once had on the fifth of November--with penny horns,
a tin whistle, a tea-tray, the tongs, a policeman's rattle, and a toy
drum. They had enjoyed this band very much at the time. But it was quite
different when someone else was making the same kind of music.
Anthea understood now that Father had not been really heartless and
unreasonable when he had told them to stop that infuriating din.
'What shall we sing?' Cyril was asking.
'Sweet and low?' suggested Anthea.
'Too soft--I vote for "Who will o'er the downs". Now then--one, two,
'Oh, who will o'er the downs so free,
Oh, who will with me ride,
Oh, who will up and follow me,
To win a blooming bride?
Her father he has locked the door,
Her mother keeps the key;
But neither bolt nor bar shall keep
My own true love from me.'
Jane, the alto, was missing, and Robert, unlike the mother of the lady
in the song, never could 'keep the key', but the song, even so, was
sufficiently unlike anything any of them had ever heard to rouse the
Babylonian Court to the wildest enthusiasm.
'More, more,' cried the King; 'by my beard, this savage music is a new
thing. Sing again!'
So they sang:
'I saw her bower at twilight gray,
'Twas guarded safe and sure.
I saw her bower at break of day,
'Twas guarded then no more.
The varlets they were all asleep,
And there was none to see
The greeting fair that passed there
Between my love and me.'
Shouts of applause greeted the ending of the verse, and the King would
not be satisfied till they had sung all their part-songs (they only knew
three) twice over, and ended up with 'Men of Harlech' in unison. Then
the King stood up in his royal robes with his high, narrow crown on his
head and shouted--
'By the beak of Nisroch, ask what you will, strangers from the land
where the sun never sets!'
'We ought to say it's enough honour, like the dancer did,' whispered
'No, let's ask for IT,' said Robert.
'No, no, I'm sure the other's manners,' said Anthea. But Robert, who was
excited by the music, and the flaring torches, and the applause and the
opportunity, spoke up before the others could stop him.
'Give us the half of the Amulet that has on it the name UR HEKAU
SETCHEH,' he said, adding as an afterthought, 'O King, live-for-ever.'
As he spoke the great name those in the pillared hall fell on their
faces, and lay still. All but the Queen who crouched amid her cushions
with her head in her hands, and the King, who stood upright, perfectly
still, like the statue of a king in stone. It was only for a moment
though. Then his great voice thundered out--
'Guard, seize them!'
Instantly, from nowhere as it seemed, sprang eight soldiers in bright
armour inlaid with gold, and tunics of red and white. Very splendid they
were, and very alarming.
'Impious and sacrilegious wretches!' shouted the King. 'To the dungeons
with them! We will find a way, tomorrow, to make them speak. For without
doubt they can tell us where to find the lost half of It.'
A wall of scarlet and white and steel and gold closed up round the
children and hurried them away among the many pillars of the great hall.
As they went they heard the voices of the courtiers loud in horror.
'You've done it this time,' said Cyril with extreme bitterness.
'Oh, it will come right. It MUST. It always does,' said Anthea
They could not see where they were going, because the guard surrounded
them so closely, but the ground under their feet, smooth marble at
first, grew rougher like stone, then it was loose earth and sand, and
they felt the night air. Then there was more stone, and steps down.
'It's my belief we really ARE going to the deepest dungeon below the
castle moat this time,' said Cyril.
And they were. At least it was not below a moat, but below the river
Euphrates, which was just as bad if not worse. In a most unpleasant
place it was. Dark, very, very damp, and with an odd, musty smell rather
like the shells of oysters. There was a torch--that is to say, a copper
basket on a high stick with oiled wood burning in it. By its light the
children saw that the walls were green, and that trickles of water ran
down them and dripped from the roof. There were things on the floor that
looked like newts, and in the dark corners creepy, shiny things moved
sluggishly, uneasily, horribly.
Robert's heart sank right into those really reliable boots of
his. Anthea and Cyril each had a private struggle with that inside
disagreeableness which is part of all of us, and which is sometimes
called the Old Adam--and both were victors. Neither of them said to
Robert (and both tried hard not even to think it), 'This is YOUR doing.'
Anthea had the additional temptation to add, 'I told you so.' And she
resisted it successfully.
'Sacrilege, and impious cheek,' said the captain of the guard to the
gaoler. 'To be kept during the King's pleasure. I expect he means to get
some pleasure out of them tomorrow! He'll tickle them up!'
'Poor little kids,' said the gaoler.
'Oh, yes,' said the captain. 'I've got kids of my own too. But it
doesn't do to let domestic sentiment interfere with one's public duties.
The soldiers tramped heavily off in their white and red and steel and
gold. The gaoler, with a bunch of big keys in his hand, stood looking
pityingly at the children. He shook his head twice and went out.
'Courage!' said Anthea. 'I know it will be all right. It's only a dream
REALLY, you know. It MUST be! I don't believe about time being only a
something or other of thought. It IS a dream, and we're bound to wake up
all right and safe.'
'Humph,' said Cyril bitterly. And Robert suddenly said--
'It's all my doing. If it really IS all up do please not keep a down on
me about it, and tell Father--Oh, I forgot.'
What he had forgotten was that his father was 3,000 miles and 5,000 or
more years away from him.
'All right, Bobs, old man,' said Cyril; and Anthea got hold of Robert's
hand and squeezed it.
Then the gaoler came back with a platter of hard, flat cakes made of
coarse grain, very different from the cream-and-juicy-date feasts of the
palace; also a pitcher of water.
'There,' he said.
'Oh, thank you so very much. You ARE kind,' said Anthea feverishly.
'Go to sleep,' said the gaoler, pointing to a heap of straw in a corner;
'tomorrow comes soon enough.'
'Oh, dear Mr Gaoler,' said Anthea, 'whatever will they do to us
'They'll try to make you tell things,' said the gaoler grimly, 'and my
advice is if you've nothing to tell, make up something. Then perhaps
they'll sell you to the Northern nations. Regular savages THEY are. Good
'Good night,' said three trembling voices, which their owners strove in
vain to render firm. Then he went out, and the three were left alone in
the damp, dim vault.
'I know the light won't last long,' said Cyril, looking at the
'Is it any good, do you think, calling on the name when we haven't got
the charm?' suggested Anthea.
'I shouldn't think so. But we might try.'
So they tried. But the blank silence of the damp dungeon remained
'What was the name the Queen said?' asked Cyril suddenly.
'Nisbeth--Nesbit--something? You know, the slave of the great names?'
'Wait a sec,' said Robert, 'though I don't know why you want it.
Then Anthea pulled herself together. All her muscles tightened, and the
muscles of her mind and soul, if you can call them that, tightened too.
'UR HEKAU SETCHEH,' she cried in a fervent voice. 'Oh, Nisroch, servant
of the Great Ones, come and help us!'
There was a waiting silence. Then a cold, blue light awoke in the corner
where the straw was--and in the light they saw coming towards them a
strange and terrible figure. I won't try to describe it, because the
drawing shows it, exactly as it was, and exactly as the old Babylonians
carved it on their stones, so that you can see it in our own British
Museum at this day. I will just say that it had eagle's wings and an
eagle's head and the body of a man.
It came towards them, strong and unspeakably horrible.
'Oh, go away,' cried Anthea; but Cyril cried, 'No; stay!'
The creature hesitated, then bowed low before them on the damp floor of
'Speak,' it said, in a harsh, grating voice like large rusty keys being
turned in locks. 'The servant of the Great Ones is YOUR servant. What is
your need that you call on the name of Nisroch?'
'We want to go home,' said Robert.
'No, no,' cried Anthea; 'we want to be where Jane is.'
Nisroch raised his great arm and pointed at the wall of the dungeon.
And, as he pointed, the wall disappeared, and instead of the damp,
green, rocky surface, there shone and glowed a room with rich hangings
of red silk embroidered with golden water-lilies, with cushioned couches
and great mirrors of polished steel; and in it was the Queen, and
before her, on a red pillow, sat the Psammead, its fur hunched up in
an irritated, discontented way. On a blue-covered couch lay Jane fast
'Walk forward without fear,' said Nisroch. 'Is there aught else that the
Servant of the great Name can do for those who speak that name?'
'No--oh, no,' said Cyril. 'It's all right now. Thanks ever so.'
'You are a dear,' cried Anthea, not in the least knowing what she was
saying. 'Oh, thank you thank you. But DO go NOW!'
She caught the hand of the creature, and it was cold and hard in hers,
like a hand of stone.
'Go forward,' said Nisroch. And they went.
'Oh, my good gracious,' said the Queen as they stood before her. 'How
did you get here? I KNEW you were magic. I meant to let you out the
first thing in the morning, if I could slip away--but thanks be to
Dagon, you've managed it for yourselves. You must get away. I'll wake
my chief lady and she shall call Ritti-Marduk, and he'll let you out the
back way, and--'
'Don't rouse anybody for goodness' sake,' said Anthea, 'except Jane, and
I'll rouse her.'
She shook Jane with energy, and Jane slowly awoke.
'Ritti-Marduk brought them in hours ago, really,' said the Queen, 'but
I wanted to have the Psammead all to myself for a bit. You'll excuse the
little natural deception?--it's part of the Babylonish character, don't
you know? But I don't want anything to happen to you. Do let me rouse
'No, no, no,' said Anthea with desperate earnestness. She thought she
knew enough of what the Babylonians were like when they were roused.
'We can go by our own magic. And you will tell the King it wasn't the
gaoler's fault. It was Nisroch.'
'Nisroch!' echoed the Queen. 'You are indeed magicians.'
Jane sat up, blinking stupidly.
'Hold It up, and say the word,' cried Cyril, catching up the Psammead,
which mechanically bit him, but only very slightly.
'Which is the East?' asked Jane.
'Behind me,' said the Queen. 'Why?'
'Ur Hekau Setcheh,' said Jane sleepily, and held up the charm.
And there they all were in the dining-room at 300, Fitzroy Street.
'Jane,' cried Cyril with great presence of mind, 'go and get the plate
of sand down for the Psammead.'
'Look here!' he said quickly, as the sound of her boots grew less loud
on the stairs, 'don't let's tell her about the dungeon and all that.
It'll only frighten her so that she'll never want to go anywhere else.'
'Righto!' said Cyril; but Anthea felt that she could not have said a
word to save her life.
'Why did you want to come back in such a hurry?' asked Jane, returning
with the plate of sand. 'It was awfully jolly in Babylon, I think! I
liked it no end.'
'Oh, yes,' said Cyril carelessly. 'It was jolly enough, of course, but I
thought we'd been there long enough. Mother always says you oughtn't to
wear out your welcome!'
CHAPTER 8. THE QUEEN IN LONDON
'Now tell us what happened to you,' said Cyril to Jane, when he and the
others had told her all about the Queen's talk and the banquet, and the
variety entertainment, carefully stopping short before the beginning of
the dungeon part of the story.
'It wasn't much good going,' said Jane, 'if you didn't even try to get
'We found out it was no go,' said Cyril; 'it's not to be got in Babylon.
It was lost before that. We'll go to some other jolly friendly place,
where everyone is kind and pleasant, and look for it there. Now tell us
about your part.'
'Oh,' said Jane, 'the Queen's man with the smooth face--what was his
'Ritti-Marduk,' said Cyril.
'Yes,' said Jane, 'Ritti-Marduk, he came for me just after the Psammead
had bitten the guard-of-the-gate's wife's little boy, and he took me to
the Palace. And we had supper with the new little Queen from Egypt. She
is a dear--not much older than you. She told me heaps about Egypt. And
we played ball after supper. And then the Babylon Queen sent for me. I
like her too. And she talked to the Psammead and I went to sleep. And
then you woke me up. That's all.'
The Psammead, roused from its sound sleep, told the same story.
'But,' it added, 'what possessed you to tell that Queen that I could
give wishes? I sometimes think you were born without even the most
rudimentary imitation of brains.'
The children did not know the meaning of rudimentary, but it sounded a
rude, insulting word.
'I don't see that we did any harm,' said Cyril sulkily.
'Oh, no,' said the Psammead with withering irony, 'not at all! Of course
not! Quite the contrary! Exactly so! Only she happened to wish that she
might soon find herself in your country. And soon may mean any moment.'
'Then it's your fault,' said Robert, 'because you might just as well
have made "soon" mean some moment next year or next century.'
'That's where you, as so often happens, make the mistake,' rejoined the
Sand-fairy. '"I" couldn't mean anything but what SHE meant by "soon". It
wasn't my wish. And what SHE meant was the next time the King happens to
go out lion hunting. So she'll have a whole day, and perhaps two, to
do as she wishes with. SHE doesn't know about time only being a mode of
'Well,' said Cyril, with a sigh of resignation, 'we must do what we can
to give her a good time. She was jolly decent to us. I say, suppose we
were to go to St James's Park after dinner and feed those ducks that we
never did feed. After all that Babylon and all those years ago, I
feel as if I should like to see something REAL, and NOW. You'll come,
'Where's my priceless woven basket of sacred rushes?' asked the Psammead
morosely. 'I can't go out with nothing on. And I won't, what's more.'
And then everybody remembered with pain that the bass bag had, in the
hurry of departure from Babylon, not been remembered.
'But it's not so extra precious,' said Robert hastily. 'You can get them
given to you for nothing if you buy fish in Farringdon Market.'
'Oh,' said the Psammead very crossly indeed, 'so you presume on my
sublime indifference to the things of this disgusting modern world, to
fob me off with a travelling equipage that costs you nothing. Very well,
I shall go to sand. Please don't wake me.'
And it went then and there to sand, which, as you know, meant to bed.
The boys went to St James's Park to feed the ducks, but they went alone.
Anthea and Jane sat sewing all the afternoon. They cut off half a yard
from each of their best green Liberty sashes. A towel cut in two formed
a lining; and they sat and sewed and sewed and sewed. What they were
making was a bag for the Psammead. Each worked at a half of the bag.
jane's half had four-leaved shamrocks embroidered on it. They were the
only things she could do (because she had been taught how at school,
and, fortunately, some of the silk she had been taught with was left
over). And even so, Anthea had to draw the pattern for her. Anthea's
side of the bag had letters on it--worked hastily but affectionately in
chain stitch. They were something like this:
PSAMS TRAVEL CAR
She would have put 'travelling carriage', but she made the letters too
big, so there was no room. The bag was made INTO a bag with old Nurse's
sewing machine, and the strings of it were Anthea's and Jane's best
red hair ribbons. At tea-time, when the boys had come home with a most
unfavourable report of the St james's Park ducks, Anthea ventured to
awaken the Psammead, and to show it its new travelling bag.
'Humph,' it said, sniffing a little contemptuously, yet at the same time
affectionately, 'it's not so dusty.'
The Psammead seemed to pick up very easily the kind of things that
people said nowadays. For a creature that had in its time associated
with Megatheriums and Pterodactyls, its quickness was really wonderful.
'It's more worthy of me,' it said, 'than the kind of bag that's given
away with a pound of plaice. When do you propose to take me out in it?'
'I should like a rest from taking you or us anywhere,' said Cyril. But
'I want to go to Egypt. I did like that Egyptian Princess that came
to marry the King in Babylon. She told me about the larks they have in
Egypt. And the cats. Do let's go there. And I told her what the bird
things on the Amulet were like. And she said it was Egyptian writing.'
The others exchanged looks of silent rejoicing at the thought of their
cleverness in having concealed from Jane the terrors they had suffered
in the dungeon below the Euphrates.
'Egypt's so nice too,' Jane went on, 'because of Doctor Brewer's
Scripture History. I would like to go there when Joseph was dreaming
those curious dreams, or when Moses was doing wonderful things with
snakes and sticks.'
'I don't care about snakes,' said Anthea shuddering.
'Well, we needn't be in at that part, but Babylon was lovely! We had
cream and sweet, sticky stuff. And I expect Egypt's the same.'
There was a good deal of discussion, but it all ended in everybody's
agreeing to Jane's idea. And next morning directly after breakfast
(which was kippers and very nice) the Psammead was invited to get into
his travelling carriage.
The moment after it had done so, with stiff, furry reluctance, like that
of a cat when you want to nurse it, and its ideas are not the same as
yours, old Nurse came in.
'Well, chickies,' she said, 'are you feeling very dull?'
'Oh, no, Nurse dear,' said Anthea; 'we're having a lovely time. We're
just going off to see some old ancient relics.'
'Ah,' said old Nurse, 'the Royal Academy, I suppose? Don't go wasting
your money too reckless, that's all.'
She cleared away the kipper bones and the tea-things, and when she had
swept up the crumbs and removed the cloth, the Amulet was held up and
the order given--just as Duchesses (and other people) give it to their
'To Egypt, please!' said Anthea, when Cyril had uttered the wonderful
Name of Power.
'When Moses was there,' added Jane.
And there, in the dingy Fitzroy Street dining-room, the Amulet grew
big, and it was an arch, and through it they saw a blue, blue sky and a
'No, stop!' said Cyril, and pulled down jane's hand with the Amulet in
'What silly cuckoos we all are,' he said. 'Of course we can't go. We
daren't leave home for a single minute now, for fear that minute should
be THE minute.'
'What minute be WHAT minute?' asked Jane impatiently, trying to get her
hand away from Cyril.
'The minute when the Queen of Babylon comes,' said Cyril. And then
everyone saw it.
For some days life flowed in a very slow, dusty, uneventful stream.
The children could never go out all at once, because they never knew
when the King of Babylon would go out lion hunting and leave his Queen
free to pay them that surprise visit to which she was, without doubt,
eagerly looking forward.
So they took it in turns, two and two, to go out and to stay in.
The stay-at-homes would have been much duller than they were but for the
new interest taken in them by the learned gentleman.
He called Anthea in one day to show her a beautiful necklace of purple
and gold beads.
'I saw one like that,' she said, 'in--'
'In the British Museum, perhaps?'
'I like to call the place where I saw it Babylon,' said Anthea
'A pretty fancy,' said the learned gentleman, 'and quite correct too,
because, as a matter of fact, these beads did come from Babylon.' The
other three were all out that day. The boys had been going to the Zoo,
and Jane had said so plaintively, 'I'm sure I am fonder of rhinoceroses
than either of you are,' that Anthea had told her to run along then.
And she had run, catching the boys before that part of the road where
Fitzroy Street suddenly becomes Fitzroy Square.
'I think Babylon is most frightfully interesting,' said Anthea. 'I do
have such interesting dreams about it--at least, not dreams exactly, but
quite as wonderful.'
'Do sit down and tell me,' said he. So she sat down and told. And he
asked her a lot of questions, and she answered them as well as she
'Wonderful--wonderful!' he said at last. 'One's heard of
thought-transference, but I never thought "I" had any power of that
sort. Yet it must be that, and very bad for YOU, I should think. Doesn't
your head ache very much?'
He suddenly put a cold, thin hand on her forehead.
'No thank you, not at all,' said she.
'I assure you it is not done intentionally,' he went on. 'Of course I
know a good deal about Babylon, and I unconsciously communicate it to
you; you've heard of thought-reading, but some of the things you say,
I don't understand; they never enter my head, and yet they're so
'It's all right,' said Anthea reassuringly. '"I" understand. And don't
worry. It's all quite simple really.'
It was not quite so simple when Anthea, having heard the others come
in, went down, and before she had had time to ask how they had liked the
Zoo, heard a noise outside, compared to which the wild beasts' noises
were gentle as singing birds.
'Good gracious!' cried Anthea, 'what's that?'
The loud hum of many voices came through the open window. Words could be
''Ere's a guy!'
'This ain't November. That ain't no guy. It's a ballet lady, that's what
'Not it--it's a bloomin' looney, I tell you.'
Then came a clear voice that they knew.
'Retire, slaves!' it said.
'What's she a saying of?' cried a dozen voices. 'Some blamed foreign
lingo,' one voice replied.
The children rushed to the door. A crowd was on the road and pavement.
In the middle of the crowd, plainly to be seen from the top of the
steps, were the beautiful face and bright veil of the Babylonian Queen.
'Jimminy!' cried Robert, and ran down the steps, 'here she is!'
'Here!' he cried, 'look out--let the lady pass. She's a friend of ours,
coming to see us.'
'Nice friend for a respectable house,' snorted a fat woman with marrows
on a handcart.
All the same the crowd made way a little. The Queen met Robert on the
pavement, and Cyril joined them, the Psammead bag still on his arm.
'Here,' he whispered; 'here's the Psammead; you can get wishes.'
'"I" wish you'd come in a different dress, if you HAD to come,' said
Robert; 'but it's no use my wishing anything.'
'No,' said the Queen. 'I wish I was dressed--no, I don't--I wish THEY
were dressed properly, then they wouldn't be so silly.'
The Psammead blew itself out till the bag was a very tight fit for it;
and suddenly every man, woman, and child in that crowd felt that it had
not enough clothes on. For, of course, the Queen's idea of proper dress
was the dress that had been proper for the working-classes 3,000 years
ago in Babylon--and there was not much of it.
'Lawky me!' said the marrow-selling woman, 'whatever could a-took me
to come out this figure?' and she wheeled her cart away very quickly
'Someone's made a pretty guy of you--talk of guys,' said a man who sold
'Well, don't you talk,' said the man next to him. 'Look at your own
silly legs; and where's your boots?'
'I never come out like this, I'll take my sacred,' said the
bootlace-seller. 'I wasn't quite myself last night, I'll own, but not to
dress up like a circus.'
The crowd was all talking at once, and getting rather angry. But no one
seemed to think of blaming the Queen.
Anthea bounded down the steps and pulled her up; the others followed,
and the door was shut. 'Blowed if I can make it out!' they heard. 'I'm
off home, I am.'
And the crowd, coming slowly to the same mind, dispersed, followed by
another crowd of persons who were not dressed in what the Queen thought
was the proper way.
'We shall have the police here directly,' said Anthea in the tones of
despair. 'Oh, why did you come dressed like that?'
The Queen leaned against the arm of the horse-hair sofa.
'How else can a queen dress I should like to know?' she questioned.
'Our Queen wears things like other people,' said Cyril.
'Well, I don't. And I must say,' she remarked in an injured tone, 'that
you don't seem very glad to see me now I HAVE come. But perhaps it's the
surprise that makes you behave like this. Yet you ought to be used to
surprises. The way you vanished! I shall never forget it. The best magic
I've ever seen. How did you do it?'
'Oh, never mind about that now,' said Robert. 'You see you've gone and
upset all those people, and I expect they'll fetch the police. And we
don't want to see you collared and put in prison.'
'You can't put queens in prison,' she said loftily. 'Oh, can't you?'
said Cyril. 'We cut off a king's head here once.'
'In this miserable room? How frightfully interesting.'
'No, no, not in this room; in history.'
'Oh, in THAT,' said the Queen disparagingly. 'I thought you'd done it
with your own hands.'
The girls shuddered.
'What a hideous city yours is,' the Queen went on pleasantly, 'and what
horrid, ignorant people. Do you know they actually can't understand a
single word I say.'
'Can you understand them?' asked Jane.
'Of course not; they speak some vulgar, Northern dialect. I can
understand YOU quite well.'
I really am not going to explain AGAIN how it was that the children
could understand other languages than their own so thoroughly, and talk
them, too, so that it felt and sounded (to them) just as though they
were talking English.
'Well,' said Cyril bluntly, 'now you've seen just how horrid it is,
don't you think you might as well go home again?' 'Why, I've seen simply
nothing yet,' said the Queen, arranging her starry veil. 'I wished to be
at your door, and I was. Now I must go and see your King and Queen.'
'Nobody's allowed to,' said Anthea in haste; 'but look here, we'll take
you and show you anything you'd like to see--anything you CAN see,' she
added kindly, because she remembered how nice the Queen had been to them
in Babylon, even if she had been a little deceitful in the matter of
Jane and Psammead.
'There's the Museum,' said Cyril hopefully; 'there are lots of things
from your country there. If only we could disguise you a little.'
'I know,' said Anthea suddenly. 'Mother's old theatre cloak, and there
are a lot of her old hats in the big box.'
The blue silk, lace-trimmed cloak did indeed hide some of the Queen's
startling splendours, but the hat fitted very badly. It had pink roses
in it; and there was something about the coat or the hat or the Queen,
that made her look somehow not very respectable.
'Oh, never mind,' said Anthea, when Cyril whispered this. 'The thing is
to get her out before Nurse has finished her forty winks. I should think
she's about got to the thirty-ninth wink by now.'
'Come on then,' said Robert. 'You know how dangerous it is. Let's make
haste into the Museum. If any of those people you made guys of do fetch
the police, they won't think of looking for you there.'
The blue silk coat and the pink-rosed hat attracted almost as much
attention as the royal costume had done; and the children were
uncommonly glad to get out of the noisy streets into the grey quiet of
'Parcels and umbrellas to be left here,' said a man at the counter.
The party had no umbrellas, and the only parcel was the bag containing
the Psammead, which the Queen had insisted should be brought.
'I'M not going to be left,' said the Psammead softly, 'so don't you
'I'll wait outside with you,' said Anthea hastily, and went to sit on
the seat near the drinking fountain.
'Don't sit so near that nasty fountain,' said the creature crossly; 'I
might get splashed.'
Anthea obediently moved to another seat and waited. Indeed she waited,
and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. The Psammead dropped
into an uneasy slumber. Anthea had long ceased to watch the swing-door
that always let out the wrong person, and she was herself almost asleep,
and still the others did not come back.
It was quite a start when Anthea suddenly realized that they HAD come
back, and that they were not alone. Behind them was quite a crowd of
men in uniform, and several gentlemen were there. Everyone seemed very
'Now go,' said the nicest of the angry gentlemen. 'Take the poor,
demented thing home and tell your parents she ought to be properly
'If you can't get her to go we must send for the police,' said the
'But we don't wish to use harsh measures,' added the nice one, who was
really very nice indeed, and seemed to be over all the others.
'May I speak to my sister a moment first?' asked Robert.
The nicest gentleman nodded, and the officials stood round the Queen,
the others forming a sort of guard while Robert crossed over to Anthea.
'Everything you can think of,' he replied to Anthea's glance of inquiry.
'Kicked up the most frightful shine in there. Said those necklaces and
earrings and things in the glass cases were all hers--would have them
out of the cases. Tried to break the glass--she did break one bit!
Everybody in the place has been at her. No good. I only got her out by
telling her that was the place where they cut queens' heads off.'
'Oh, Bobs, what a whacker!'
'You'd have told a whackinger one to get her out. Besides, it wasn't. I
meant MUMMY queens. How do you know they don't cut off mummies' heads to
see how the embalming is done? What I want to say is, can't you get her
to go with you quietly?'
'I'll try,' said Anthea, and went up to the Queen.
'Do come home,' she said; 'the learned gentleman in our house has a much
nicer necklace than anything they've got here. Come and see it.'
The Queen nodded.
'You see,' said the nastiest gentleman, 'she does understand English.'
'I was talking Babylonian, I think,' said Anthea bashfully.
'My good child,' said the nice gentleman, 'what you're talking is
not Babylonian, but nonsense. You just go home at once, and tell your
parents exactly what has happened.'
Anthea took the Queen's hand and gently pulled her away. The other
children followed, and the black crowd of angry gentlemen stood on the
steps watching them. It was when the little party of disgraced children,
with the Queen who had disgraced them, had reached the middle of the
courtyard that her eyes fell on the bag where the Psammead was. She
'I wish,' she said, very loud and clear, 'that all those Babylonian
things would come out to me here--slowly, so that those dogs and slaves
can see the working of the great Queen's magic.'
'Oh, you ARE a tiresome woman,' said the Psammead in its bag, but it
puffed itself out.
Next moment there was a crash. The glass swing doors and all their
framework were smashed suddenly and completely. The crowd of angry
gentlemen sprang aside when they saw what had done this.
But the nastiest of them was not quick enough, and he was roughly pushed
out of the way by an enormous stone bull that was floating steadily
through the door. It came and stood beside the Queen in the middle of
It was followed by more stone images, by great slabs of carved stone,
bricks, helmets, tools, weapons, fetters, wine-jars, bowls, bottles,
vases, jugs, saucers, seals, and the round long things, something like
rolling pins with marks on them like the print of little bird-feet,
necklaces, collars, rings, armlets, earrings--heaps and heaps and
heaps of things, far more than anyone had time to count, or even to see
All the angry gentlemen had abruptly sat down on the Museum steps except
the nice one. He stood with his hands in his pockets just as though
he was quite used to seeing great stone bulls and all sorts of small
Babylonish objects float out into the Museum yard.
But he sent a man to close the big iron gates.
A journalist, who was just leaving the museum, spoke to Robert as he
'Theosophy, I suppose?' he said. 'Is she Mrs Besant?'
'YES,' said Robert recklessly.
The journalist passed through the gates just before they were shut.
He rushed off to Fleet Street, and his paper got out a new edition
within half an hour.
MRS BESANT AND THEOSOPHY
IMPERTINENT MIRACLE AT THE BRITISH MUSEUM.
People saw it in fat, black letters on the boards carried by the sellers
of newspapers. Some few people who had nothing better to do went down
to the Museum on the tops of omnibuses. But by the time they got there
there was nothing to be seen. For the Babylonian Queen had suddenly seen
the closed gates, had felt the threat of them, and had said--
'I wish we were in your house.'
And, of course, instantly they were.
The Psammead was furious.
'Look here,' it said, 'they'll come after you, and they'll find ME.
There'll be a National Cage built for me at Westminster, and I shall
have to work at politics. Why wouldn't you leave the things in their
'What a temper you have, haven't you?' said the Queen serenely. 'I wish
all the things were back in their places. Will THAT do for you?'
The Psammead swelled and shrank and spoke very angrily.
'I can't refuse to give your wishes,' it said, 'but I can Bite. And I
will if this goes on. Now then.'
'Ah, don't,' whispered Anthea close to its bristling ear; 'it's dreadful
for us too. Don't YOU desert us. Perhaps she'll wish herself at home
'Not she,' said the Psammead a little less crossly.
'Take me to see your City,' said the Queen.
The children looked at each other.
'If we had some money we could take her about in a cab. People wouldn't
notice her so much then. But we haven't.'
'Sell this,' said the Queen, taking a ring from her finger.
'They'd only think we'd stolen it,' said Cyril bitterly, 'and put us in
'All roads lead to prison with you, it seems,' said the Queen.
'The learned gentleman!' said Anthea, and ran up to him with the ring in
'Look here,' she said, 'will you buy this for a pound?'
'Oh!' he said in tones of joy and amazement, and took the ring into his
hand. 'It's my very own,' said Anthea; 'it was given to me to sell.'
'I'll lend you a pound,' said the learned gentleman, 'with pleasure; and
I'll take care of the ring for you. Who did you say gave it to you?'
'We call her,' said Anthea carefully, 'the Queen of Babylon.'
'Is it a game?' he asked hopefully.
'It'll be a pretty game if I don't get the money to pay for cabs for
her,' said Anthea.
'I sometimes think,' he said slowly, 'that I am becoming insane, or
'Or that I am; but I'm not, and you're not, and she's not.'
'Does she SAY that she's the Queen of Babylon?' he uneasily asked.
'Yes,' said Anthea recklessly.
'This thought-transference is more far-reaching than I imagined,' he
said. 'I suppose I have unconsciously influenced HER, too. I never
thought my Babylonish studies would bear fruit like this. Horrible!
There are more things in heaven and earth--'
'Yes,' said Anthea, 'heaps more. And the pound is the thing "I" want
more than anything on earth.'
He ran his fingers through his thin hair.
'This thought-transference!' he said. 'It's undoubtedly a Babylonian
ring--or it seems so to me. But perhaps I have hypnotized myself. I will
see a doctor the moment I have corrected the last proofs of my book.'
'Yes, do!' said Anthea, 'and thank you so very much.'
She took the sovereign and ran down to the others.
And now from the window of a four-wheeled cab the Queen of Babylon
beheld the wonders of London. Buckingham Palace she thought
uninteresting; Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament little
better. But she liked the Tower, and the River, and the ships filled her
with wonder and delight.
'But how badly you keep your slaves. How wretched and poor and neglected
they seem,' she said, as the cab rattled along the Mile End Road.
'They aren't slaves; they're working-people,' said Jane.
'Of course they're working. That's what slaves are. Don't you tell me.
Do you suppose I don't know a slave's face when I see it?
Why don't their masters see that they're better fed and better clothed?
Tell me in three words.'
No one answered. The wage-system of modern England is a little difficult
to explain in three words even if you understand it--which the children
'You'll have a revolt of your slaves if you're not careful,' said the
'Oh, no,' said Cyril; 'you see they have votes--that makes them safe not
to revolt. It makes all the difference. Father told me so.'
'What is this vote?' asked the Queen. 'Is it a charm? What do they do
'I don't know,' said the harassed Cyril; 'it's just a vote, that's all!
They don't do anything particular with it.'
'I see,' said the Queen; 'a sort of plaything. Well, I wish that all
these slaves may have in their hands this moment their fill of their
favourite meat and drink.'
Instantly all the people in the Mile End Road, and in all the other
streets where poor people live, found their hands full of things to eat
and drink. From the cab window could be seen persons carrying every kind
of food, and bottles and cans as well. Roast meat, fowls, red lobsters,
great yellowy crabs, fried fish, boiled pork, beef-steak puddings, baked
onions, mutton pies; most of the young people had oranges and sweets
and cake. It made an enormous change in the look of the Mile End
Road--brightened it up, so to speak, and brightened up, more than you
can possibly imagine, the faces of the people.
'Makes a difference, doesn't it?' said the Queen.
'That's the best wish you've had yet,' said Jane with cordial approval.
just by the Bank the cabman stopped.
'I ain't agoin' to drive you no further,' he said. 'Out you gets.'
They got out rather unwillingly.
'I wants my tea,' he said; and they saw that on the box of the cab was a
mound of cabbage, with pork chops and apple sauce, a duck, and a spotted
currant pudding. Also a large can.
'You pay me my fare,' he said threateningly, and looked down at the
mound, muttering again about his tea.
'We'll take another cab,' said Cyril with dignity. 'Give me change for a
sovereign, if you please.'
But the cabman, as it turned out, was not at all a nice character. He
took the sovereign, whipped up his horse, and disappeared in the stream
of cabs and omnibuses and wagons, without giving them any change at all.
Already a little crowd was collecting round the party.
'Come on,' said Robert, leading the wrong way.
The crowd round them thickened. They were in a narrow street where many
gentlemen in black coats and without hats were standing about on the
pavement talking very loudly.
'How ugly their clothes are,' said the Queen of Babylon. 'They'd be
rather fine men, some of them, if they were dressed decently, especially
the ones with the beautiful long, curved noses. I wish they were dressed
like the Babylonians of my court.'
And of course, it was so.
The moment the almost fainting Psammead had blown itself out every man
in Throgmorton Street appeared abruptly in Babylonian full dress.
All were carefully powdered, their hair and beards were scented and
curled, their garments richly embroidered. They wore rings and armlets,
flat gold collars and swords, and impossible-looking head-dresses.
A stupefied silence fell on them.
'I say,' a youth who had always been fair-haired broke that silence,
'it's only fancy of course--something wrong with my eyes--but you chaps
do look so rum.'
'Rum,' said his friend. 'Look at YOU. You in a sash! My hat! And your
hair's gone black and you've got a beard. It's my belief we've been
poisoned. You do look a jackape.'
'Old Levinstein don't look so bad. But how was it DONE--that's what I
want to know. How was it done? Is it conjuring, or what?'
'I think it is chust a ver' bad tream,' said old Levinstein to his
clerk; 'all along Bishopsgate I haf seen the gommon people have their
hants full of food--GOOT food. Oh yes, without doubt a very bad tream!'
'Then I'm dreaming too, Sir,' said the clerk, looking down at his legs
with an expression of loathing. 'I see my feet in beastly sandals as
plain as plain.'
'All that goot food wasted,' said old Mr Levinstein. A bad tream--a bad
The Members of the Stock Exchange are said to be at all times a noisy
lot. But the noise they made now to express their disgust at the
costumes of ancient Babylon was far louder than their ordinary row. One
had to shout before one could hear oneself speak.
'I only wish,' said the clerk who thought it was conjuring--he was quite
close to the children and they trembled, because they knew that whatever
he wished would come true. 'I only wish we knew who'd done it.'
And, of course, instantly they did know, and they pressed round the
'Scandalous! Shameful! Ought to be put down by law. Give her in charge.
Fetch the police,' two or three voices shouted at once.
The Queen recoiled.
'What is it?' she asked. 'They sound like caged lions--lions by the
thousand. What is it that they say?'
'They say "Police!",' said Cyril briefly. 'I knew they would sooner or
later. And I don't blame them, mind you.'
'I wish my guards were here!' cried the Queen. The exhausted Psammead
was panting and trembling, but the Queen's guards in red and green
garments, and brass and iron gear, choked Throgmorton Street, and bared
weapons flashed round the Queen.
'I'm mad,' said a Mr Rosenbaum; 'dat's what it is--mad!'
'It's a judgement on you, Rosy,' said his partner. 'I always said you
were too hard in that matter of Flowerdew. It's a judgement, and I'm in
The members of the Stock Exchange had edged carefully away from the
gleaming blades, the mailed figures, the hard, cruel Eastern faces.
But Throgmorton Street is narrow, and the crowd was too thick for them
to get away as quickly as they wished.
'Kill them,' cried the Queen. 'Kill the dogs!'
The guards obeyed.
'It IS all a dream,' cried Mr Levinstein, cowering in a doorway behind
'It isn't,' said the clerk. 'It isn't. Oh, my good gracious! those
foreign brutes are killing everybody. Henry Hirsh is down now, and
Prentice is cut in two--oh, Lord! and Huth, and there goes Lionel Cohen
with his head off, and Guy Nickalls has lost his head now. A dream? I
wish to goodness it was all a dream.'
And, of course, instantly it was! The entire Stock Exchange rubbed its
eyes and went back to close, to over, and either side of seven-eights,
and Trunks, and Kaffirs, and Steel Common, and Contangoes, and
Backwardations, Double Options, and all the interesting subjects
concerning which they talk in the Street without ceasing.
No one said a word about it to anyone else. I think I have explained
before that business men do not like it to be known that they have
been dreaming in business hours. Especially mad dreams including such
dreadful things as hungry people getting dinners, and the destruction of
the Stock Exchange.
The children were in the dining-room at 300, Fitzroy Street, pale and
trembling. The Psammead crawled out of the embroidered bag, and lay flat
on the table, its leg stretched out, looking more like a dead hare than
'Thank Goodness that's over,' said Anthea, drawing a deep breath.
'She won't come back, will she?' asked Jane tremulously.
'No,' said Cyril. 'She's thousands of years ago. But we spent a whole
precious pound on her. It'll take all our pocket-money for ages to pay
'Not if it was ALL a dream,' said Robert.
'The wish said ALL a dream, you know, Panther; you cut up and ask if he
lent you anything.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Anthea politely, following the sound of her
knock into the presence of the learned gentleman, 'I'm so sorry to
trouble you, but DID you lend me a pound today?'
'No,' said he, looking kindly at her through his spectacles. 'But it's
extraordinary that you should ask me, for I dozed for a few moments this
afternoon, a thing I very rarely do, and I dreamed quite distinctly that
you brought me a ring that you said belonged to the Queen of Babylon,
and that I lent you a sovereign and that you left one of the Queen's
rings here. The ring was a magnificent specimen.' He sighed. 'I wish it
hadn't been a dream,' he said smiling. He was really learning to smile
Anthea could not be too thankful that the Psammead was not there to
grant his wish.
CHAPTER 9. ATLANTIS
You will understand that the adventure of the Babylonian queen in London
was the only one that had occupied any time at all. But the children's
time was very fully taken up by talking over all the wonderful things
seen and done in the Past, where, by the power of the Amulet, they
seemed to spend hours and hours, only to find when they got back to
London that the whole thing had been briefer than a lightning flash.
They talked of the Past at their meals, in their walks, in the
dining-room, in the first-floor drawing-room, but most of all on the
stairs. It was an old house; it had once been a fashionable one, and was
a fine one still. The banister rails of the stairs were excellent for
sliding down, and in the corners of the landings were big alcoves that
had once held graceful statues, and now quite often held the graceful
forms of Cyril, Robert, Anthea, and Jane.
One day Cyril and Robert in tight white underclothing had spent a
pleasant hour in reproducing the attitudes of statues seen either in the
British Museum, or in Father's big photograph book. But the show ended
abruptly because Robert wanted to be the Venus of Milo, and for this
purpose pulled at the sheet which served for drapery at the very moment
when Cyril, looking really quite like the Discobolos--with a gold and
white saucer for the disc--was standing on one foot, and under that one
foot was the sheet.
Of course the Discobolos and his disc and the would-be Venus came down
together, and everyone was a good deal hurt, especially the saucer,
which would never be the same again, however neatly one might join its
uneven bits with Seccotine or the white of an egg.
'I hope you're satisfied,' said Cyril, holding his head where a large
lump was rising.
'Quite, thanks,' said Robert bitterly. His thumb had caught in the
banisters and bent itself back almost to breaking point.
'I AM so sorry, poor, dear Squirrel,' said Anthea; 'and you were looking
so lovely. I'll get a wet rag. Bobs, go and hold your hand under the
hot-water tap. It's what ballet girls do with their legs when they hurt
them. I saw it in a book.'
'What book?' said Robert disagreeably. But he went.
When he came back Cyril's head had been bandaged by his sisters, and he
had been brought to the state of mind where he was able reluctantly to
admit that he supposed Robert hadn't done it on purpose.
Robert replying with equal suavity, Anthea hastened to lead the talk
away from the accident.
'I suppose you don't feel like going anywhere through the Amulet,' she
'Egypt!' said Jane promptly. 'I want to see the pussy cats.'
'Not me--too hot,' said Cyril. 'It's about as much as I can stand
here--let alone Egypt.' It was indeed, hot, even on the second landing,
which was the coolest place in the house. 'Let's go to the North Pole.'
'I don't suppose the Amulet was ever there--and we might get our fingers
frost-bitten so that we could never hold it up to get home again. No
thanks,' said Robert.
'I say,' said Jane, 'let's get the Psammead and ask its advice. It will
like us asking, even if we don't take it.'
The Psammead was brought up in its green silk embroidered bag, but
before it could be asked anything the door of the learned gentleman's
room opened and the voice of the visitor who had been lunching with him
was heard on the stairs. He seemed to be speaking with the door handle
in his hand.
'You see a doctor, old boy,' he said; 'all that about
thought-transference is just simply twaddle. You've been over-working.
Take a holiday. Go to Dieppe.'
'I'd rather go to Babylon,' said the learned gentleman.
'I wish you'd go to Atlantis some time, while we're about it, so as to
give me some tips for my Nineteenth Century article when you come home.'
'I wish I could,' said the voice of the learned gentleman. 'Goodbye.
Take care of yourself.'
The door was banged, and the visitor came smiling down the stairs--a
stout, prosperous, big man. The children had to get up to let him pass.
'Hullo, Kiddies,' he said, glancing at the bandages on the head of Cyril
and the hand of Robert, 'been in the wars?'
'It's all right,' said Cyril. 'I say, what was that Atlantic place you
wanted him to go to? We couldn't help hearing you talk.'
'You talk so VERY loud, you see,' said Jane soothingly.
'Atlantis,' said the visitor, 'the lost Atlantis, garden of the
Hesperides. Great continent--disappeared in the sea. You can read about
it in Plato.'
'Thank you,' said Cyril doubtfully.
'Were there any Amulets there?' asked Anthea, made anxious by a sudden
'Hundreds, I should think. So HE'S been talking to you?'
'Yes, often. He's very kind to us. We like him awfully.'
'Well, what he wants is a holiday; you persuade him to take one. What
he wants is a change of scene. You see, his head is crusted so thickly
inside with knowledge about Egypt and Assyria and things that you can't
hammer anything into it unless you keep hard at it all day long for days
and days. And I haven't time. But you live in the house. You can hammer
almost incessantly. Just try your hands, will you? Right. So long!'
He went down the stairs three at a time, and Jane remarked that he was a
nice man, and she thought he had little girls of his own.
'I should like to have them to play with,' she added pensively.
The three elder ones exchanged glances. Cyril nodded.
'All right. LET'S go to Atlantis,' he said.
'Let's go to Atlantis and take the learned gentleman with us,' said
Anthea; 'he'll think it's a dream, afterwards, but it'll certainly be a
change of scene.'
'Why not take him to nice Egypt?' asked Jane.
'Too hot,' said Cyril shortly.
'Or Babylon, where he wants to go?'
'I've had enough of Babylon,' said Robert, 'at least for the present.
And so have the others. I don't know why,' he added, forestalling the
question on Jane's lips, 'but somehow we have. Squirrel, let's take
off these beastly bandages and get into flannels. We can't go in our
'He WISHED to go to Atlantis, so he's got to go some time; and he might
as well go with us,' said Anthea.
This was how it was that the learned gentleman, permitting himself a few
moments of relaxation in his chair, after the fatigue of listening to
opinions (about Atlantis and many other things) with which he did not
at all agree, opened his eyes to find his four young friends standing in
front of him in a row.
'Will you come,' said Anthea, 'to Atlantis with us?'
'To know that you are dreaming shows that the dream is nearly at an
end,' he told himself; 'or perhaps it's only a game, like "How many
miles to Babylon?".' So he said aloud: 'Thank you very much, but I have
only a quarter of an hour to spare.'
'It doesn't take any time,' said Cyril; 'time is only a mode of thought,
you know, and you've got to go some time, so why not with us?'
'Very well,' said the learned gentleman, now quite certain that he was
Anthea held out her soft, pink hand. He took it. She pulled him gently
to his feet. Jane held up the Amulet.
'To just outside Atlantis,' said Cyril, and Jane said the Name of Power.
'You owl!' said Robert, 'it's an island. Outside an island's all water.'
'I won't go. I WON'T,' said the Psammead, kicking and struggling in its
But already the Amulet had grown to a great arch. Cyril pushed the
learned gentleman, as undoubtedly the first-born, through the arch--not
into water, but on to a wooden floor, out of doors. The others followed.
The Amulet grew smaller again, and there they all were, standing on the
deck of a ship whose sailors were busy making her fast with chains to
rings on a white quay-side. The rings and the chains were of a metal
that shone red-yellow like gold.
Everyone on the ship seemed too busy at first to notice the group of
newcomers from Fitzroy Street. Those who seemed to be officers were
shouting orders to the men.
They stood and looked across the wide quay to the town that rose beyond
it. What they saw was the most beautiful sight any of them had ever
seen--or ever dreamed of.
The blue sea sparkled in soft sunlight; little white-capped waves broke
softly against the marble breakwaters that guarded the shipping of a
great city from the wilderness of winter winds and seas. The quay was of
marble, white and sparkling with a veining bright as gold. The city
was of marble, red and white. The greater buildings that seemed to be
temples and palaces were roofed with what looked like gold and silver,
but most of the roofs were of copper that glowed golden-red on the
houses on the hills among which the city stood, and shaded into
marvellous tints of green and blue and purple where they had been
touched by the salt sea spray and the fumes of the dyeing and smelting
works of the lower town.
Broad and magnificent flights of marble stairs led up from the quay to a
sort of terrace that seemed to run along for miles, and beyond rose the
town built on a hill.
The learned gentleman drew a long breath. 'Wonderful!' he said,
'I say, Mr--what's your name,' said Robert. 'He means,' said Anthea,
with gentle politeness, 'that we never can remember your name. I know
it's Mr De Something.'
'When I was your age I was called Jimmy,' he said timidly. 'Would you
mind? I should feel more at home in a dream like this if I--Anything
that made me seem more like one of you.'
'Thank you--Jimmy,' said Anthea with an effort. It seemed such a cheek
to be saying Jimmy to a grown-up man. 'Jimmy, DEAR,' she added, with no
effort at all. Jimmy smiled and looked pleased.
But now the ship was made fast, and the Captain had time to notice other
things. He came towards them, and he was dressed in the best of all
possible dresses for the seafaring life.
'What are you doing here?' he asked rather fiercely. 'Do you come to
bless or to curse?'
'To bless, of course,' said Cyril. 'I'm sorry if it annoys you, but
we're here by magic. We come from the land of the sun-rising,' he went
'I see,' said the Captain; no one had expected that he would. 'I didn't
notice at first, but of course I hope you're a good omen. It's needed.
And this,' he pointed to the learned gentleman, 'your slave, I presume?'
'Not at all,' said Anthea; 'he's a very great man. A sage, don't they
call it? And we want to see all your beautiful city, and your temples
and things, and then we shall go back, and he will tell his friend, and
his friend will write a book about it.'
'What,' asked the Captain, fingering a rope, 'is a book?'
'A record--something written, or,' she added hastily, remembering the
Babylonian writing, 'or engraved.'
Some sudden impulse of confidence made Jane pluck the Amulet from the
neck of her frock.
'Like this,' she said.
The Captain looked at it curiously, but, the other three were relieved
to notice, without any of that overwhelming interest which the mere name
of it had roused in Egypt and Babylon.
'The stone is of our country,' he said; 'and that which is engraved on
it, it is like our writing, but I cannot read it. What is the name of
'Ji-jimmy,' said Anthea hesitatingly.
The Captain repeated, 'Ji-jimmy. Will you land?' he added. 'And shall I
lead you to the Kings?'
'Look here,' said Robert, 'does your King hate strangers?'
'Our Kings are ten,' said the Captain, 'and the Royal line, unbroken
from Poseidon, the father of us all, has the noble tradition to do
honour to strangers if they come in peace.'
'Then lead on, please,' said Robert, 'though I SHOULD like to see all
over your beautiful ship, and sail about in her.'
'That shall be later,' said the Captain; 'just now we're afraid of a
storm--do you notice that odd rumbling?'
'That's nothing, master,' said an old sailor who stood near; 'it's the
pilchards coming in, that's all.'
'Too loud,' said the Captain.
There was a rather anxious pause; then the Captain stepped on to the
quay, and the others followed him.
'Do talk to him--Jimmy,' said Anthea as they went; 'you can find out all
sorts of things for your friend's book.'
'Please excuse me,' he said earnestly. 'If I talk I shall wake up; and
besides, I can't understand what he says.'
No one else could think of anything to say, so that it was in complete
silence that they followed the Captain up the marble steps and through
the streets of the town. There were streets and shops and houses and
'It's just like Babylon,' whispered Jane, 'only everything's perfectly
'It's a great comfort the ten Kings have been properly brought up--to be
kind to strangers,' Anthea whispered to Cyril.
'Yes,' he said, 'no deepest dungeons here.'
There were no horses or chariots in the street, but there were handcarts
and low trolleys running on thick log-wheels, and porters carrying
packets on their heads, and a good many of the people were riding on
what looked like elephants, only the great beasts were hairy, and they
had not that mild expression we are accustomed to meet on the faces of
the elephants at the Zoo.
'Mammoths!' murmured the learned gentleman, and stumbled over a loose
The people in the streets kept crowding round them as they went along,
but the Captain always dispersed the crowd before it grew uncomfortably
thick by saying--
'Children of the Sun God and their High Priest--come to bless the City.'
And then the people would draw back with a low murmur that sounded like
a suppressed cheer.
Many of the buildings were covered with gold, but the gold on the bigger
buildings was of a different colour, and they had sorts of steeples of
burnished silver rising above them.
'Are all these houses real gold?' asked Jane.
'The temples are covered with gold, of course,' answered the Captain,
'but the houses are only oricalchum. It's not quite so expensive.'
The learned gentleman, now very pale, stumbled along in a dazed way,
'Don't be frightened,' said Anthea; 'we can get home in a minute, just
by holding up the charm. Would you rather go back now? We could easily
come some other day without you.'
'Oh, no, no,' he pleaded fervently; 'let the dream go on. Please, please
'The High Ji-jimmy is perhaps weary with his magic journey,' said the
Captain, noticing the blundering walk of the learned gentleman; 'and
we are yet very far from the Great Temple, where today the Kings make
He stopped at the gate of a great enclosure. It seemed to be a sort of
park, for trees showed high above its brazen wall.
The party waited, and almost at once the Captain came back with one of
the hairy elephants and begged them to mount.
This they did.
It was a glorious ride. The elephant at the Zoo--to ride on him is also
glorious, but he goes such a very little way, and then he goes back
again, which is always dull. But this great hairy beast went on and on
and on along streets and through squares and gardens. It was a glorious
city; almost everything was built of marble, red, or white, or black.
Every now and then the party crossed a bridge.
It was not till they had climbed to the hill which is the centre of the
town that they saw that the whole city was divided into twenty circles,
alternately land and water, and over each of the water circles were the
bridges by which they had come.
And now they were in a great square. A vast building filled up one side
of it; it was overlaid with gold, and had a dome of silver. The rest of
the buildings round the square were of oricalchum. And it looked more
splendid than you can possibly imagine, standing up bold and shining in
'You would like a bath,' said the Captain, as the hairy elephant went
clumsily down on his knees. 'It's customary, you know, before entering
the Presence. We have baths for men, women, horses, and cattle. The High
Class Baths are here. Our Father Poseidon gave us a spring of hot water
and one of cold.'
The children had never before bathed in baths of gold.
'It feels very splendid,' said Cyril, splashing.
'At least, of course, it's not gold; it's or--what's its name,' said
Robert. 'Hand over that towel.'
The bathing hall had several great pools sunk below the level of the
floor; one went down to them by steps.
'Jimmy,' said Anthea timidly, when, very clean and boiled-looking, they
all met in the flowery courtyard of the Public, 'don't you think all
this seems much more like NOW than Babylon or Egypt--? Oh, I forgot,
you've never been there.'
'I know a little of those nations, however,' said he, 'and I quite agree
with you. A most discerning remark--my dear,' he added awkwardly; 'this
city certainly seems to indicate a far higher level of civilization than
the Egyptian or Babylonish, and--'
'Follow me,' said the Captain. 'Now, boys, get out of the way.' He
pushed through a little crowd of boys who were playing with dried
chestnuts fastened to a string.
'Ginger!' remarked Robert, 'they're playing conkers, just like the kids
in Kentish Town Road!'
They could see now that three walls surrounded the island on which they
were. The outermost wall was of brass, the Captain told them; the next,
which looked like silver, was covered with tin; and the innermost one
was of oricalchum.
And right in the middle was a wall of gold, with golden towers and
'Behold the Temples of Poseidon,' said the Captain. 'It is not lawful
for me to enter. I will await your return here.'
He told them what they ought to say, and the five people from Fitzroy
Street took hands and went forward. The golden gates slowly opened.
'We are the children of the Sun,' said Cyril, as he had been told, 'and
our High Priest, at least that's what the Captain calls him. We have a
different name for him at home.' 'What is his name?' asked a white-robed
man who stood in the doorway with his arms extended.
'Ji-jimmy,' replied Cyril, and he hesitated as Anthea had done.
It really did seem to be taking a great liberty with so learned a
gentleman. 'And we have come to speak with your Kings in the Temple of
Poseidon--does that word sound right?' he whispered anxiously.
'Quite,' said the learned gentleman. 'It's very odd I can understand
what you say to them, but not what they say to you.'
'The Queen of Babylon found that too,' said Cyril; 'it's part of the
'Oh, what a dream!' said the learned gentleman.
The white-robed priest had been joined by others, and all were bowing
'Enter,' he said, 'enter, Children of the Sun, with your High Ji-jimmy.'
In an inner courtyard stood the Temple--all of silver, with gold
pinnacles and doors, and twenty enormous statues in bright gold of men
and women. Also an immense pillar of the other precious yellow metal.
They went through the doors, and the priest led them up a stair into a
gallery from which they could look down on to the glorious place.
'The ten Kings are even now choosing the bull. It is not lawful for me
to behold,' said the priest, and fell face downward on the floor outside
the gallery. The children looked down.
The roof was of ivory adorned with the three precious metals, and the
walls were lined with the favourite oricalchum.
At the far end of the Temple was a statue group, the like of which no
one living has ever seen.
It was of gold, and the head of the chief figure reached to the roof.
That figure was Poseidon, the Father of the City. He stood in a great
chariot drawn by six enormous horses, and round about it were a hundred
mermaids riding on dolphins.
Ten men, splendidly dressed and armed only with sticks and ropes, were
trying to capture one of some fifteen bulls who ran this way and that
about the floor of the Temple. The children held their breath, for the
bulls looked dangerous, and the great horned heads were swinging more
and more wildly.
Anthea did not like looking at the bulls. She looked about the gallery,
and noticed that another staircase led up from it to a still higher
storey; also that a door led out into the open air, where there seemed
to be a balcony.
So that when a shout went up and Robert whispered, 'Got him,' and she
looked down and saw the herd of bulls being driven out of the Temple by
whips, and the ten Kings following, one of them spurring with his
stick a black bull that writhed and fought in the grip of a lasso, she
answered the boy's agitated, 'Now we shan't see anything more,' with--
'Yes we can, there's an outside balcony.'
So they crowded out.
But very soon the girls crept back.
'I don't like sacrifices,' Jane said. So she and Anthea went and talked
to the priest, who was no longer lying on his face, but sitting on the
top step mopping his forehead with his robe, for it was a hot day.
'It's a special sacrifice,' he said; 'usually it's only done on the
justice days every five years and six years alternately. And then they
drink the cup of wine with some of the bull's blood in it, and swear
to judge truly. And they wear the sacred blue robe, and put out all the
Temple fires. But this today is because the City's so upset by the odd
noises from the sea, and the god inside the big mountain speaking with
his thunder-voice. But all that's happened so often before. If anything
could make ME uneasy it wouldn't be THAT.'
'What would it be?' asked Jane kindly.
'It would be the Lemmings.'
'Who are they--enemies?'
'They're a sort of rat; and every year they come swimming over from the
country that no man knows, and stay here awhile, and then swim away.
This year they haven't come. You know rats won't stay on a ship that's
going to be wrecked. If anything horrible were going to happen to us,
it's my belief those Lemmings would know; and that may be why they've
fought shy of us.'
'What do you call this country?' asked the Psammead, suddenly putting
its head out of its bag.
'Atlantis,' said the priest.
'Then I advise you to get on to the highest ground you can find. I
remember hearing something about a flood here. Look here, you'--it
turned to Anthea; 'let's get home. The prospect's too wet for my
whiskers.' The girls obediently went to find their brothers, who were
leaning on the balcony railings.
'Where's the learned gentleman?' asked Anthea.
'There he is--below,' said the priest, who had come with them. 'Your
High Ji-jimmy is with the Kings.'
The ten Kings were no longer alone. The learned gentleman--no one had
noticed how he got there--stood with them on the steps of an altar, on
which lay the dead body of the black bull. All the rest of the courtyard
was thick with people, seemingly of all classes, and all were shouting,
'The sea--the sea!'
'Be calm,' said the most kingly of the Kings, he who had lassoed the
bull. 'Our town is strong against the thunders of the sea and of the
'I want to go home,' whined the Psammead.
'We can't go without HIM,' said Anthea firmly.
'Jimmy,' she called, 'Jimmy!' and waved to him. He heard her, and began
to come towards her through the crowd. They could see from the balcony
the sea-captain edging his way out from among the people. And his face
was dead white, like paper.
'To the hills!' he cried in a loud and terrible voice. And above his
voice came another voice, louder, more terrible--the voice of the sea.
The girls looked seaward.
Across the smooth distance of the sea something huge and black rolled
towards the town. It was a wave, but a wave a hundred feet in height, a
wave that looked like a mountain--a wave rising higher and higher till
suddenly it seemed to break in two--one half of it rushed out to sea
again; the other--
'Oh!' cried Anthea, 'the town--the poor people!'
'It's all thousands of years ago, really,' said Robert but his voice
trembled. They hid their eyes for a moment. They could not bear to look
down, for the wave had broken on the face of the town, sweeping over
the quays and docks, overwhelming the great storehouses and factories,
tearing gigantic stones from forts and bridges, and using them as
battering rams against the temples. Great ships were swept over the
roofs of the houses and dashed down halfway up the hill among ruined
gardens and broken buildings. The water ground brown fishing-boats to
powder on the golden roofs of Palaces.
Then the wave swept back towards the sea.
'I want to go home,' cried the Psammead fiercely.
'Oh, yes, yes!' said Jane, and the boys were ready--but the learned
gentleman had not come.
Then suddenly they heard him dash up to the inner gallery, crying--
'I MUST see the end of the dream.' He rushed up the higher flight.
The others followed him. They found themselves in a sort of
turret--roofed, but open to the air at the sides.
The learned gentleman was leaning on the parapet, and as they
rejoined him the vast wave rushed back on the town. This time it rose
'Come home,' cried the Psammead; 'THAT'S the LAST, I know it is! That's
the last--over there.' It pointed with a claw that trembled.
'Oh, come!' cried Jane, holding up the Amulet.
'I WILL SEE the end of the dream,' cried the learned gentleman.
'You'll never see anything else if you do,' said Cyril. 'Oh, JIMMY!'
appealed Anthea. 'I'll NEVER bring you out again!'
'You'll never have the chance if you don't go soon,' said the Psammead.
'I WILL see the end of the dream,' said the learned gentleman
The hills around were black with people fleeing from the villages to the
mountains. And even as they fled thin smoke broke from the great white
peak, and then a faint flash of flame. Then the volcano began to throw
up its mysterious fiery inside parts. The earth trembled; ashes and
sulphur showered down; a rain of fine pumice-stone fell like snow on all
the dry land. The elephants from the forest rushed up towards the peaks;
great lizards thirty yards long broke from the mountain pools and
rushed down towards the sea. The snows melted and rushed down, first in
avalanches, then in roaring torrents. Great rocks cast up by the volcano
fell splashing in the sea miles away.
'Oh, this is horrible!' cried Anthea. 'Come home, come home!'
'The end of the dream,' gasped the learned gentleman.
'Hold up the Amulet,' cried the Psammead suddenly. The place where they
stood was now crowded with men and women, and the children were strained
tight against the parapet. The turret rocked and swayed; the wave had
reached the golden wall.
Jane held up the Amulet.
'Now,' cried the Psammead, 'say the word!'
And as Jane said it the Psammead leaped from its bag and bit the hand of
the learned gentleman.
At the same moment the boys pushed him through the arch and all followed
He turned to look back, and through the arch he saw nothing but a waste
of waters, with above it the peak of the terrible mountain with fire
raging from it.
He staggered back to his chair.
'What a ghastly dream!' he gasped. 'Oh, you're here, my--er--dears. Can
I do anything for you?'
'You've hurt your hand,' said Anthea gently; 'let me bind it up.'
The hand was indeed bleeding rather badly.
The Psammead had crept back to its bag. All the children were very
'Never again,' said the Psammead later on, 'will I go into the Past with
a grown-up person! I will say for you four, you do do as you're told.'
'We didn't even find the Amulet,' said Anthea later still.
'Of course you didn't; it wasn't there. Only the stone it was made of
was there. It fell on to a ship miles away that managed to escape and
got to Egypt. "I" could have told you that.'
'I wish you had,' said Anthea, and her voice was still rather shaky.
'Why didn't you?'
'You never asked me,' said the Psammead very sulkily. 'I'm not the sort
of chap to go shoving my oar in where it's not wanted.'
'Mr Ji-jimmy's friend will have something worth having to put in his
article now,' said Cyril very much later indeed.
'Not he,' said Robert sleepily. 'The learned Ji-jimmy will think it's a
dream, and it's ten to one he never tells the other chap a word about it
Robert was quite right on both points. The learned gentleman did. And he
CHAPTER 10. THE LITTLE BLACK GIRL AND JULIUS CAESAR
A great city swept away by the sea, a beautiful country devastated by
an active volcano--these are not the sort of things you see every day of
the week. And when you do see them, no matter how many other wonders
you may have seen in your time, such sights are rather apt to take your
breath away. Atlantis had certainly this effect on the breaths of Cyril,
Robert, Anthea, and Jane.
They remained in a breathless state for some days. The learned gentleman
seemed as breathless as anyone; he spent a good deal of what little
breath he had in telling Anthea about a wonderful dream he had. 'You
would hardly believe,' he said, 'that anyone COULD have such a detailed
But Anthea could believe it, she said, quite easily.
He had ceased to talk about thought-transference. He had now seen too
many wonders to believe that.
In consequence of their breathless condition none of the children
suggested any new excursions through the Amulet. Robert voiced the mood
of the others when he said that they were 'fed up' with Amulet for a
bit. They undoubtedly were.
As for the Psammead, it went to sand and stayed there, worn out by
the terror of the flood and the violent exercise it had had to take in
obedience to the inconsiderate wishes of the learned gentleman and the
The children let it sleep. The danger of taking it about among strange
people who might at any moment utter undesirable wishes was becoming
more and more plain.
And there are pleasant things to be done in London without any aid from
Amulets or Psammeads. You can, for instance visit the Tower of London,
the Houses of Parliament, the National Gallery, the Zoological Gardens,
the various Parks, the Museums at South Kensington, Madame Tussaud's
Exhibition of Waxworks, or the Botanical Gardens at Kew. You can go to
Kew by river steamer--and this is the way that the children would have
gone if they had gone at all. Only they never did, because it was when
they were discussing the arrangements for the journey, and what they
should take with them to eat and how much of it, and what the whole
thing would cost, that the adventure of the Little Black Girl began to
The children were sitting on a seat in St James's Park. They had been
watching the pelican repulsing with careful dignity the advances of the
seagulls who are always so anxious to play games with it. The pelican
thinks, very properly, that it hasn't the figure for games, so it spends
most of its time pretending that that is not the reason why it won't
The breathlessness caused by Atlantis was wearing off a little. Cyril,
who always wanted to understand all about everything, was turning things
over in his mind.
'I'm not; I'm only thinking,' he answered when Robert asked him what he
was so grumpy about. 'I'll tell you when I've thought it all out.'
'If it's about the Amulet I don't want to hear it,' said Jane.
'Nobody asked you to,' retorted Cyril mildly, 'and I haven't finished my
inside thinking about it yet. Let's go to Kew in the meantime.'
'I'd rather go in a steamer,' said Robert; and the girls laughed.
'That's right,' said Cyril, 'BE funny. I would.'
'Well, he was, rather,' said Anthea.
'I wouldn't think, Squirrel, if it hurts you so,' said Robert kindly.
'Oh, shut up,' said Cyril, 'or else talk about Kew.'
'I want to see the palms there,' said Anthea hastily, 'to see if they're
anything like the ones on the island where we united the Cook and the
Burglar by the Reverend Half-Curate.'
All disagreeableness was swept away in a pleasant tide of recollections,
and 'Do you remember...?' they said. 'Have you forgotten...?'
'My hat!' remarked Cyril pensively, as the flood of reminiscence ebbed a
little; 'we have had some times.'
'We have that,' said Robert.
'Don't let's have any more,' said Jane anxiously.
'That's what I was thinking about,' Cyril replied; and just then they
heard the Little Black Girl sniff. She was quite close to them.
She was not really a little black girl. She was shabby and not very
clean, and she had been crying so much that you could hardly see,
through the narrow chink between her swollen lids, how very blue her
eyes were. It was her dress that was black, and it was too big and too
long for her, and she wore a speckled black-ribboned sailor hat that
would have fitted a much bigger head than her little flaxen one. And she
stood looking at the children and sniffing.
'Oh, dear!' said Anthea, jumping up. 'Whatever is the matter?'
She put her hand on the little girl's arm. It was rudely shaken off.
'You leave me be,' said the little girl. 'I ain't doing nothing to you.'
'But what is it?' Anthea asked. 'Has someone been hurting you?'
'What's that to you?' said the little girl fiercely. 'YOU'RE all right.'
'Come away,' said Robert, pulling at Anthea's sleeve. 'She's a nasty,
rude little kid.'
'Oh, no,' said Anthea. 'She's only dreadfully unhappy. What is it?' she
'Oh, YOU'RE all right,' the child repeated; 'YOU ain't agoin' to the
'Can't we take you home?' said Anthea; and Jane added, 'Where does your
'She don't live nowheres--she's dead--so now!' said the little girl
fiercely, in tones of miserable triumph. Then she opened her swollen
eyes widely, stamped her foot in fury, and ran away. She ran no further
than to the next bench, flung herself down there and began to cry
without even trying not to.
Anthea, quite at once, went to the little girl and put her arms as tight
as she could round the hunched-up black figure.
'Oh, don't cry so, dear, don't, don't!' she whispered under the brim of
the large sailor hat, now very crooked indeed. 'Tell Anthea all about
it; Anthea'll help you. There, there, dear, don't cry.'
The others stood at a distance. One or two passers-by stared curiously.
The child was now only crying part of the time; the rest of the time she
seemed to be talking to Anthea.
Presently Anthea beckoned Cyril.
'It's horrible!' she said in a furious whisper, 'her father was a
carpenter and he was a steady man, and never touched a drop except on a
Saturday, and he came up to London for work, and there wasn't any, and
then he died; and her name is Imogen, and she's nine come next
November. And now her mother's dead, and she's to stay tonight with
Mrs Shrobsall--that's a landlady that's been kind--and tomorrow the
Relieving Officer is coming for her, and she's going into the Union;
that means the Workhouse. It's too terrible. What can we do?'
'Let's ask the learned gentleman,' said Jane brightly.
And as no one else could think of anything better the whole party walked
back to Fitzroy Street as fast as it could, the little girl holding
tight to Anthea's hand and now not crying any more, only sniffing
The learned gentleman looked up from his writing with the smile that had
grown much easier to him than it used to be. They were quite at home
in his room now; it really seemed to welcome them. Even the mummy-case
appeared to smile as if in its distant superior ancient Egyptian way it
were rather pleased to see them than not.
Anthea sat on the stairs with Imogen, who was nine come next November,
while the others went in and explained the difficulty.
The learned gentleman listened with grave attention.
'It really does seem rather rough luck,' Cyril concluded, 'because I've
often heard about rich people who wanted children most awfully--though I
know "I" never should--but they do. There must be somebody who'd be glad
to have her.'
'Gipsies are awfully fond of children,' Robert hopefully said. 'They're
always stealing them. Perhaps they'd have her.'
'She's quite a nice little girl really,' Jane added; 'she was only
rude at first because we looked jolly and happy, and she wasn't. You
understand that, don't you?'
'Yes,' said he, absently fingering a little blue image from Egypt. 'I
understand that very well. As you say, there must be some home where she
would be welcome.' He scowled thoughtfully at the little blue image.
Anthea outside thought the explanation was taking a very long time.
She was so busy trying to cheer and comfort the little black girl that
she never noticed the Psammead who, roused from sleep by her voice, had
shaken itself free of sand, and was coming crookedly up the stairs. It
was close to her before she saw it. She picked it up and settled it in
'What is it?' asked the black child. 'Is it a cat or a organ-monkey, or
And then Anthea heard the learned gentleman say--
'Yes, I wish we could find a home where they would be glad to have her,'
and instantly she felt the Psammead begin to blow itself out as it sat
on her lap.
She jumped up lifting the Psammead in her skirt, and holding Imogen by
the hand, rushed into the learned gentleman's room.
'At least let's keep together,' she cried. 'All hold hands--quick!'
The circle was like that formed for the Mulberry Bush or Ring-o'-Roses.
And Anthea was only able to take part in it by holding in her teeth
the hem of her frock which, thus supported, formed a bag to hold the
'Is it a game?' asked the learned gentleman feebly. No one answered.
There was a moment of suspense; then came that curious upside-down,
inside-out sensation which one almost always feels when transported
from one place to another by magic. Also there was that dizzy dimness of
sight which comes on these occasions.
The mist cleared, the upside-down, inside-out sensation subsided,
and there stood the six in a ring, as before, only their twelve feet,
instead of standing on the carpet of the learned gentleman's room, stood
on green grass. Above them, instead of the dusky ceiling of the Fitzroy
Street floor, was a pale blue sky. And where the walls had been and the
painted mummy-case, were tall dark green trees, oaks and ashes, and in
between the trees and under them tangled bushes and creeping ivy. There
were beech-trees too, but there was nothing under them but their own
dead red drifted leaves, and here and there a delicate green fern-frond.
And there they stood in a circle still holding hands, as though they
were playing Ring-o'-Roses or the Mulberry Bush. Just six people hand in
hand in a wood. That sounds simple, but then you must remember that they
did not know WHERE the wood was, and what's more, they didn't know WHEN
then wood was. There was a curious sort of feeling that made the learned
'Another dream, dear me!' and made the children almost certain that they
were in a time a very long while ago. As for little Imogen, she said,
'Oh, my!' and kept her mouth very much open indeed.
'Where are we?' Cyril asked the Psammead.
'In Britain,' said the Psammead.
'But when?' asked Anthea anxiously.
'About the year fifty-five before the year you reckon time from,' said
the Psammead crossly. 'Is there anything else you want to know?' it
added, sticking its head out of the bag formed by Anthea's blue linen
frock, and turning its snail's eyes to right and left. 'I've been here
before--it's very little changed.' 'Yes, but why here?' asked Anthea.
'Your inconsiderate friend,' the Psammead replied, 'wished to find some
home where they would be glad to have that unattractive and immature
female human being whom you have picked up--gracious knows how. In
Megatherium days properly brought-up children didn't talk to shabby
strangers in parks. Your thoughtless friend wanted a place where someone
would be glad to have this undesirable stranger. And now here you are!'
'I see we are,' said Anthea patiently, looking round on the tall gloom
of the forest. 'But why HERE? Why NOW?'
'You don't suppose anyone would want a child like that in YOUR times--in
YOUR towns?' said the Psammead in irritated tones. 'You've got
your country into such a mess that there's no room for half your
children--and no one to want them.'
'That's not our doing, you know,' said Anthea gently.
'And bringing me here without any waterproof or anything,' said the
Psammead still more crossly, 'when everyone knows how damp and foggy
Ancient Britain was.'
'Here, take my coat,' said Robert, taking it off. Anthea spread the coat
on the ground and, putting the Psammead on it, folded it round so that
only the eyes and furry ears showed.
'There,' she said comfortingly. 'Now if it does begin to look like rain,
I can cover you up in a minute. Now what are we to do?'
The others who had stopped holding hands crowded round to hear the
answer to this question. Imogen whispered in an awed tone--
'Can't the organ monkey talk neither! I thought it was only parrots!'
'Do?' replied the Psammead. 'I don't care what you do!' And it drew head
and ears into the tweed covering of Robert's coat.
The others looked at each other.
'It's only a dream,' said the learned gentleman hopefully; 'something is
sure to happen if we can prevent ourselves from waking up.'
And sure enough, something did.
The brooding silence of the dark forest was broken by the laughter of
children and the sound of voices.
'Let's go and see,' said Cyril.
'It's only a dream,' said the learned gentleman to Jane, who hung back;
'if you don't go with the tide of a dream--if you resist--you wake up,
There was a sort of break in the undergrowth that was like a silly
person's idea of a path. They went along this in Indian file, the
learned gentleman leading.
Quite soon they came to a large clearing in the forest. There were a
number of houses--huts perhaps you would have called them--with a sort
of mud and wood fence.
'It's like the old Egyptian town,' whispered Anthea.
And it was, rather.
Some children, with no clothes on at all, were playing what looked like
Ring-o'-Roses or Mulberry Bush. That is to say, they were dancing round
in a ring, holding hands. On a grassy bank several women, dressed in
blue and white robes and tunics of beast-skins sat watching the playing
The children from Fitzroy Street stood on the fringe of the forest
looking at the games. One woman with long, fair braided hair sat a
little apart from the others, and there was a look in her eyes as she
followed the play of the children that made Anthea feel sad and sorry.
'None of those little girls is her own little girl,' thought Anthea.
The little black-clad London child pulled at Anthea's sleeve.
'Look,' she said, 'that one there--she's precious like mother; mother's
'air was somethink lovely, when she 'ad time to comb it out. Mother
wouldn't never a-beat me if she'd lived 'ere--I don't suppose there's
e'er a public nearer than Epping, do you, Miss?'
In her eagerness the child had stepped out of the shelter of the forest.
The sad-eyed woman saw her. She stood up, her thin face lighted up
with a radiance like sunrise, her long, lean arms stretched towards the
'Imogen!' she cried--at least the word was more like that than any other
There was a moment of great silence; the naked children paused in their
play, the women on the bank stared anxiously.
'Oh, it IS mother--it IS!' cried Imogen-from-London, and rushed across
the cleared space. She and her mother clung together--so closely, so
strongly that they stood an instant like a statue carved in stone.
Then the women crowded round. 'It IS my Imogen!' cried the woman.
'Oh it is! And she wasn't eaten by wolves. She's come back to me. Tell
me, my darling, how did you escape? Where have you been? Who has fed and
'I don't know nothink,' said Imogen.
'Poor child!' whispered the women who crowded round, 'the terror of the
wolves has turned her brain.'
'But you know ME?' said the fair-haired woman.
And Imogen, clinging with black-clothed arms to the bare neck,
'Oh, yes, mother, I know YOU right 'nough.'
'What is it? What do they say?' the learned gentleman asked anxiously.
'You wished to come where someone wanted the child,' said the Psammead.
'The child says this is her mother.'
'And the mother?'
'You can see,' said the Psammead.
'But is she really? Her child, I mean?'
'Who knows?' said the Psammead; 'but each one fills the empty place in
the other's heart. It is enough.'
'Oh,' said the learned gentleman, 'this is a good dream. I wish the
child might stay in the dream.'
The Psammead blew itself out and granted the wish. So Imogen's future
was assured. She had found someone to want her.
'If only all the children that no one wants,' began the learned
gentleman--but the woman interrupted. She came towards them.
'Welcome, all!' she cried. 'I am the Queen, and my child tells me that
you have befriended her; and this I well believe, looking on your faces.
Your garb is strange, but faces I can read. The child is bewitched, I
see that well, but in this she speaks truth. Is it not so?'
The children said it wasn't worth mentioning.
I wish you could have seen all the honours and kindnesses lavished on
the children and the learned gentleman by those ancient Britons.
You would have thought, to see them, that a child was something to make
a fuss about, not a bit of rubbish to be hustled about the streets and
hidden away in the Workhouse. It wasn't as grand as the entertainment at
Babylon, but somehow it was more satisfying.
'I think you children have some wonderful influence on me,' said the
learned gentleman. 'I never dreamed such dreams before I knew you.'
It was when they were alone that night under the stars where the Britons
had spread a heap Of dried fern for them to sleep on, that Cyril spoke.
'Well,' he said, 'we've made it all right for Imogen, and had a jolly
good time. I vote we get home again before the fighting begins.'
'What fighting?' asked Jane sleepily.
'Why, Julius Caesar, you little goat,' replied her kind brother. 'Don't
you see that if this is the year fifty-five, Julius Caesar may happen at
'I thought you liked Caesar,' said Robert.
'So I do--in the history. But that's different from being killed by his
'If we saw Caesar we might persuade him not to,' said Anthea.
'YOU persuade CAESAR,' Robert laughed.
The learned gentleman, before anyone could stop him, said, 'I only wish
we could see Caesar some time.'
And, of course, in just the little time the Psammead took to blow itself
out for wish-giving, the five, or six counting the Psammead, found
themselves in Caesar's camp, just outside Caesar's tent. And they saw
Caesar. The Psammead must have taken advantage of the loose wording of
the learned gentleman's wish, for it was not the same time of day as
that on which the wish had been uttered among the dried ferns. It was
sunset, and the great man sat on a chair outside his tent gazing over
the sea towards Britain--everyone knew without being told that it was
towards Britain. Two golden eagles on the top of posts stood on each
side of the tent, and on the flaps of the tent which was very gorgeous
to look at were the letters S.P.Q.R.
The great man turned unchanged on the newcomers the august glance that
he had turned on the violet waters of the Channel. Though they had
suddenly appeared out of nothing, Caesar never showed by the faintest
movement of an eyelid, by the least tightening of that firm mouth, that
they were not some long expected embassy. He waved a calm hand towards
the sentinels, who sprang weapons in hand towards the newcomers.
'Back!' he said in a voice that thrilled like music. 'Since when has
Caesar feared children and students?'
To the children he seemed to speak in the only language they knew;
but the learned gentleman heard--in rather a strange accent, but quite
intelligibly--the lips of Caesar speaking in the Latin tongue, and in
that tongue, a little stiffly, he answered--
'It is a dream, O Caesar.'
'A dream?' repeated Caesar. 'What is a dream?'
'This,' said the learned gentleman.
'Not it,' said Cyril, 'it's a sort of magic. We come out of another time
and another place.'
'And we want to ask you not to trouble about conquering Britain,' said
Anthea; 'it's a poor little place, not worth bothering about.'
'Are you from Britain?' the General asked. 'Your clothes are uncouth,
but well woven, and your hair is short as the hair of Roman citizens,
not long like the hair of barbarians, yet such I deem you to be.' 'We're
not,' said Jane with angry eagerness; 'we're not barbarians at all. We
come from the country where the sun never sets, and we've read about
you in books; and our country's full of fine things--St Paul's, and the
Tower of London, and Madame Tussaud's Exhibition, and--' Then the others
'Don't talk nonsense,' said Robert in a bitter undertone.
Caesar looked at the children a moment in silence. Then he called a
soldier and spoke with him apart. Then he said aloud--
'You three elder children may go where you will within the camp. Few
children are privileged to see the camp of Caesar. The student and the
smaller girl-child will remain here with me.'
Nobody liked this; but when Caesar said a thing that thing was so, and
there was an end to it. So the three went.
Left alone with Jane and the learned gentleman, the great Roman found it
easy enough to turn them inside out. But it was not easy, even for him,
to make head or tail of the insides of their minds when he had got at
The learned gentleman insisted that the whole thing was a dream, and
refused to talk much, on the ground that if he did he would wake up.
Jane, closely questioned, was full of information about railways,
electric lights, balloons, men-of-war, cannons, and dynamite.
'And do they fight with swords?' asked the General.
'Yes, swords and guns and cannons.'
Caesar wanted to know what guns were.
'You fire them,' said Jane, 'and they go bang, and people fall down
'But what are guns like?'
Jane found them hard to describe.
'But Robert has a toy one in his pocket,' she said. So the others were
The boys explained the pistol to Caesar very fully, and he looked at it
with the greatest interest. It was a two-shilling pistol, the one that
had done such good service in the old Egyptian village.
'I shall cause guns to be made,' said Caesar, 'and you will be detained
till I know whether you have spoken the truth. I had just decided that
Britain was not worth the bother of invading. But what you tell me
decides me that it is very much worth while.'
'But it's all nonsense,' said Anthea. 'Britain is just a savage sort of
island--all fogs and trees and big rivers. But the people are kind. We
know a little girl there named Imogen. And it's no use your making
guns because you can't fire them without gunpowder, and that won't be
invented for hundreds of years, and we don't know how to make it, and
we can't tell you. Do go straight home, dear Caesar, and let poor little
'But this other girl-child says--' said Caesar.
'All Jane's been telling you is what it's going to be,' Anthea
interrupted, 'hundreds and hundreds of years from now.'
'The little one is a prophetess, eh?' said Caesar, with a whimsical
look. 'Rather young for the business, isn't she?'
'You can call her a prophetess if you like,' said Cyril, 'but what
Anthea says is true.'
'Anthea?' said Caesar. 'That's a Greek name.'
'Very likely,' said Cyril, worriedly. 'I say, I do wish you'd give up
this idea of conquering Britain. It's not worth while, really it isn't!'
'On the contrary,' said Caesar, 'what you've told me has decided me to
go, if it's only to find out what Britain is really like. Guards, detain
'Quick,' said Robert, 'before the guards begin detaining. We had enough
of that in Babylon.'
Jane held up the Amulet away from the sunset, and said the word. The
learned gentleman was pushed through and the others more quickly than
ever before passed through the arch back into their own times and the
quiet dusty sitting-room of the learned gentleman.
It is a curious fact that when Caesar was encamped on the coast of
Gaul--somewhere near Boulogne it was, I believe--he was sitting before
his tent in the glow of the sunset, looking out over the violet waters
of the English Channel. Suddenly he started, rubbed his eyes, and called
his secretary. The young man came quickly from within the tent.
'Marcus,' said Caesar. 'I have dreamed a very wonderful dream. Some
of it I forget, but I remember enough to decide what was not before
determined. Tomorrow the ships that have been brought round from the
Ligeris shall be provisioned. We shall sail for this three-cornered
island. First, we will take but two legions.
This, if what we have heard be true, should suffice. But if my dream be
true, then a hundred legions will not suffice. For the dream I dreamed
was the most wonderful that ever tormented the brain even of Caesar. And
Caesar has dreamed some strange things in his time.'
'And if you hadn't told Caesar all that about how things are now, he'd
never have invaded Britain,' said Robert to Jane as they sat down to
'Oh, nonsense,' said Anthea, pouring out; 'it was all settled hundreds
of years ago.'
'I don't know,' said Cyril. 'Jam, please. This about time being only
a thingummy of thought is very confusing. If everything happens at the
'It CAN'T!' said Anthea stoutly, 'the present's the present and the
past's the past.'
'Not always,' said Cyril.
'When we were in the Past the present was the future. Now then!' he
And Anthea could not deny it.
'I should have liked to see more of the camp,' said Robert.
'Yes, we didn't get much for our money--but Imogen is happy, that's one
thing,' said Anthea. 'We left her happy in the Past. I've often seen
about people being happy in the Past, in poetry books. I see what it
'It's not a bad idea,' said the Psammead sleepily, putting its head out
of its bag and taking it in again suddenly, 'being left in the Past.'
Everyone remembered this afterwards, when--
CHAPTER 11. BEFORE PHARAOH
It was the day after the adventure of Julius Caesar and the Little Black
Girl that Cyril, bursting into the bathroom to wash his hands for
dinner (you have no idea how dirty they were, for he had been playing
shipwrecked mariners all the morning on the leads at the back of the
house, where the water-cistern is), found Anthea leaning her elbows on
the edge of the bath, and crying steadily into it.
'Hullo!' he said, with brotherly concern, 'what's up now? Dinner'll be
cold before you've got enough salt-water for a bath.'
'Go away,' said Anthea fiercely. 'I hate you! I hate everybody!'
There was a stricken pause.
'"I" didn't know,' said Cyril tamely.
'Nobody ever does know anything,' sobbed Anthea.
'I didn't know you were waxy. I thought you'd just hurt your fingers
with the tap again like you did last week,' Cyril carefully explained.
'Oh--fingers!' sneered Anthea through her sniffs.
'Here, drop it, Panther,' he said uncomfortably. 'You haven't been
having a row or anything?'
'No,' she said. 'Wash your horrid hands, for goodness' sake, if that's
what you came for, or go.'
Anthea was so seldom cross that when she was cross the others were
always more surprised than angry.
Cyril edged along the side of the bath and stood beside her. He put his
hand on her arm.
'Dry up, do,' he said, rather tenderly for him. And, finding that though
she did not at once take his advice she did not seem to resent it, he
put his arm awkwardly across her shoulders and rubbed his head against
'There!' he said, in the tone of one administering a priceless cure for
all possible sorrows. 'Now, what's up?'
'Promise you won't laugh?'
'I don't feel laughish myself,' said Cyril, dismally.
'Well, then,' said Anthea, leaning her ear against his head, 'it's
'What's the matter with Mother?' asked Cyril, with apparent want of
sympathy. 'She was all right in her letter this morning.'
'Yes; but I want her so.'
'You're not the only one,' said Cyril briefly, and the brevity of his
tone admitted a good deal.
'Oh, yes,' said Anthea, 'I know. We all want her all the time. But I
want her now most dreadfully, awfully much. I never wanted anything so
much. That Imogen child--the way the ancient British Queen cuddled her
up! And Imogen wasn't me, and the Queen was Mother. And then her letter
this morning! And about The Lamb liking the salt bathing! And she bathed
him in this very bath the night before she went away--oh, oh, oh!'
Cyril thumped her on the back.
'Cheer up,' he said. 'You know my inside thinking that I was doing?
Well, that was partly about Mother. We'll soon get her back. If you'll
chuck it, like a sensible kid, and wash your face, I'll tell you about
it. That's right. You let me get to the tap. Can't you stop crying?
Shall I put the door-key down your back?'
'That's for noses,' said Anthea, 'and I'm not a kid any more than you
are,' but she laughed a little, and her mouth began to get back into its
proper shape. You know what an odd shape your mouth gets into when you
cry in earnest.
'Look here,' said Cyril, working the soap round and round between his
hands in a thick slime of grey soapsuds. 'I've been thinking. We've only
just PLAYED with the Amulet so far. We've got to work it now--WORK it
for all it's worth. And it isn't only Mother either. There's Father out
there all among the fighting. I don't howl about it, but I THINK--Oh,
bother the soap!' The grey-lined soap had squirted out under the
pressure of his fingers, and had hit Anthea's chin with as much force as
though it had been shot from a catapult.
'There now,' she said regretfully, 'now I shall have to wash my face.'
'You'd have had to do that anyway,' said Cyril with conviction. 'Now, my
idea's this. You know missionaries?'
'Yes,' said Anthea, who did not know a single one.
'Well, they always take the savages beads and brandy, and stays, and
hats, and braces, and really useful things--things the savages haven't
got, and never heard about. And the savages love them for their
kind generousness, and give them pearls, and shells, and ivory, and
cassowaries. And that's the way--'
'Wait a sec,' said Anthea, splashing. 'I can't hear what you're saying.
'Shells, and things like that. The great thing is to get people to love
you by being generous. And that's what we've got to do. Next time we go
into the Past we'll regularly fit out the expedition. You remember how
the Babylonian Queen froze on to that pocket-book? Well, we'll take
things like that. And offer them in exchange for a sight of the Amulet.'
'A sight of it is not much good.'
'No, silly. But, don't you see, when we've seen it we shall know where
it is, and we can go and take it in the night when everybody is asleep.'
'It wouldn't be stealing, would it?' said Anthea thoughtfully, 'because
it will be such an awfully long time ago when we do it. Oh, there's that
As soon as dinner was eaten (it was tinned salmon and lettuce, and a jam
tart), and the cloth cleared away, the idea was explained to the others,
and the Psammead was aroused from sand, and asked what it thought would
be good merchandise with which to buy the affection of say, the Ancient
Egyptians, and whether it thought the Amulet was likely to be found in
the Court of Pharaoh.
But it shook its head, and shot out its snail's eyes hopelessly.
'I'm not allowed to play in this game,' it said. 'Of course I COULD find
out in a minute where the thing was, only I mayn't. But I may go so far
as to own that your idea of taking things with you isn't a bad one. And
I shouldn't show them all at once. Take small things and conceal them
craftily about your persons.'
This advice seemed good. Soon the table was littered over with things
which the children thought likely to interest the Ancient Egyptians.
Anthea brought dolls, puzzle blocks, a wooden tea-service, a green
leather case with Necessaire written on it in gold letters. Aunt
Emma had once given it to Anthea, and it had then contained scissors,
penknife, bodkin, stiletto, thimble, corkscrew, and glove-buttoner. The
scissors, knife, and thimble, and penknife were, of course, lost, but
the other things were there and as good as new. Cyril contributed lead
soldiers, a cannon, a catapult, a tin-opener, a tie-clip, and a tennis
ball, and a padlock--no key. Robert collected a candle ('I don't suppose
they ever saw a self-fitting paraffin one,' he said), a penny Japanese
pin-tray, a rubber stamp with his father's name and address on it, and a
piece of putty.
Jane added a key-ring, the brass handle of a poker, a pot that had held
cold-cream, a smoked pearl button off her winter coat, and a key--no
'We can't take all this rubbish,' said Robert, with some scorn. 'We must
just each choose one thing.'
The afternoon passed very agreeably in the attempt to choose from the
table the four most suitable objects. But the four children could not
agree what was suitable, and at last Cyril said--
'Look here, let's each be blindfolded and reach out, and the first thing
you touch you stick to.'
This was done.
Cyril touched the padlock.
Anthea got the Necessaire.
Robert clutched the candle.
Jane picked up the tie-clip.
'It's not much,' she said. 'I don't believe Ancient Egyptians wore
'Never mind,' said Anthea. 'I believe it's luckier not to really choose.
In the stories it's always the thing the wood-cutter's son picks up in
the forest, and almost throws away because he thinks it's no good, that
turns out to be the magic thing in the end; or else someone's lost it,
and he is rewarded with the hand of the King's daughter in marriage.'
'I don't want any hands in marriage, thank you.' said Cyril firmly.
'Nor yet me,' said Robert. 'It's always the end of the adventures when
it comes to the marriage hands.'
'ARE we ready?' said Anthea.
'It IS Egypt we're going to, isn't it?--nice Egypt?' said Jane. 'I
won't go anywhere I don't know about--like that dreadful big-wavy
burning-mountain city,' she insisted.
Then the Psammead was coaxed into its bag. 'I say,' said Cyril suddenly,
'I'm rather sick of kings. And people notice you so in palaces. Besides
the Amulet's sure to be in a Temple. Let's just go among the common
people, and try to work ourselves up by degrees. We might get taken on
as Temple assistants.'
'Like beadles,' said Anthea, 'or vergers. They must have splendid
chances of stealing the Temple treasures.'
'Righto!' was the general rejoinder. The charm was held up. It grew big
once again, and once again the warm golden Eastern light glowed softly
As the children stepped through it loud and furious voices rang in their
ears. They went suddenly from the quiet of Fitzroy Street dining-room
into a very angry Eastern crowd, a crowd much too angry to notice them.
They edged through it to the wall of a house and stood there. The crowd
was of men, women, and children. They were of all sorts of complexions,
and pictures of them might have been coloured by any child with
a shilling paint-box. The colours that child would have used for
complexions would have been yellow ochre, red ochre, light red, sepia,
and indian ink. But their faces were painted already--black eyebrows
and lashes, and some red lips. The women wore a sort of pinafore with
shoulder straps, and loose things wound round their heads and shoulders.
The men wore very little clothing--for they were the working people--and
the Egyptian boys and girls wore nothing at all, unless you count
the little ornaments hung on chains round their necks and waists. The
children saw all this before they could hear anything distinctly.
Everyone was shouting so.
But a voice sounded above the other voices, and presently it was
speaking in a silence.
'Comrades and fellow workers,' it said, and it was the voice of a
tall, coppery-coloured man who had climbed into a chariot that had been
stopped by the crowd. Its owner had bolted, muttering something about
calling the Guards, and now the man spoke from it. 'Comrades and fellow
workers, how long are we to endure the tyranny of our masters, who live
in idleness and luxury on the fruit of our toil? They only give us a
bare subsistence wage, and they live on the fat of the land. We labour
all our lives to keep them in wanton luxury. Let us make an end of it!'
A roar of applause answered him.
'How are you going to do it?' cried a voice.
'You look out,' cried another, 'or you'll get yourself into trouble.'
'I've heard almost every single word of that,' whispered Robert, 'in
Hyde Park last Sunday!'
'Let us strike for more bread and onions and beer, and a longer mid-day
rest,' the speaker went on. 'You are tired, you are hungry, you are
thirsty. You are poor, your wives and children are pining for food. The
barns of the rich are full to bursting with the corn we want, the corn
our labour has grown. To the granaries!'
'To the granaries!' cried half the crowd; but another voice shouted
clear above the tumult, 'To Pharaoh! To the King! Let's present a
petition to the King! He will listen to the voice of the oppressed!'
For a moment the crowd swayed one way and another--first towards the
granaries and then towards the palace. Then, with a rush like that of an
imprisoned torrent suddenly set free, it surged along the street towards
the palace, and the children were carried with it. Anthea found it
difficult to keep the Psammead from being squeezed very uncomfortably.
The crowd swept through the streets of dull-looking houses with few
windows, very high up, across the market where people were not buying
but exchanging goods. In a momentary pause Robert saw a basket of onions
exchanged for a hair comb and five fish for a string of beads. The
people in the market seemed better off than those in the crowd; they
had finer clothes, and more of them. They were the kind of people who,
nowadays, would have lived at Brixton or Brockley.
'What's the trouble now?' a languid, large-eyed lady in a crimped,
half-transparent linen dress, with her black hair very much braided and
puffed out, asked of a date-seller.
'Oh, the working-men--discontented as usual,' the man answered. 'Listen
to them. Anyone would think it mattered whether they had a little more
or less to eat. Dregs of society!' said the date-seller.
'Scum!' said the lady.
'And I've heard THAT before, too,' said Robert.
At that moment the voice of the crowd changed, from anger to doubt, from
doubt to fear. There were other voices shouting; they shouted defiance
and menace, and they came nearer very quickly. There was the rattle of
wheels and the pounding of hoofs. A voice shouted, 'Guards!'
'The Guards! The Guards!' shouted another voice, and the crowd of
workmen took up the cry. 'The Guards! Pharaoh's Guards!' And swaying a
little once more, the crowd hung for a moment as it were balanced. Then
as the trampling hoofs came nearer the workmen fled dispersed, up alleys
and into the courts of houses, and the Guards in their embossed leather
chariots swept down the street at the gallop, their wheels clattering
over the stones, and their dark-coloured, blue tunics blown open and
back with the wind of their going.
'So THAT riot's over,' said the crimped-linen-dressed lady; 'that's
a blessing! And did you notice the Captain of the Guard? What a very
handsome man he was, to be sure!'
The four children had taken advantage of the moment's pause before the
crowd turned to fly, to edge themselves and drag each other into an
Now they each drew a long breath and looked at the others.
'We're well out of THAT,' said Cyril.
'Yes,' said Anthea, 'but I do wish the poor men hadn't been driven back
before they could get to the King. He might have done something for
'Not if he was the one in the Bible he wouldn't,' said Jane. 'He had a
hard heart.' 'Ah, that was the Moses one,' Anthea explained. 'The Joseph
one was quite different. I should like to see Pharaoh's house. I wonder
whether it's like the Egyptian Court in the Crystal Palace.'
'I thought we decided to try to get taken on in a Temple,' said Cyril in
'Yes, but we've got to know someone first. Couldn't we make friends
with a Temple doorkeeper--we might give him the padlock or something. I
wonder which are temples and which are palaces,' Robert added, glancing
across the market-place to where an enormous gateway with huge side
buildings towered towards the sky. To right and left of it were other
buildings only a little less magnificent.
'Did you wish to seek out the Temple of Amen Ra?' asked a soft voice
behind them, 'or the Temple of Mut, or the Temple of Khonsu?'
They turned to find beside them a young man. He was shaved clean from
head to foot, and on his feet were light papyrus sandals. He was clothed
in a linen tunic of white, embroidered heavily in colours. He was gay
with anklets, bracelets, and armlets of gold, richly inlaid. He wore
a ring on his finger, and he had a short jacket of gold embroidery
something like the Zouave soldiers wear, and on his neck was a gold
collar with many amulets hanging from it. But among the amulets the
children could see none like theirs.
'It doesn't matter which Temple,' said Cyril frankly.
'Tell me your mission,' said the young man. 'I am a divine father of the
Temple of Amen Ra and perhaps I can help you.'
'Well,' said Cyril, 'we've come from the great Empire on which the sun
'I thought somehow that you'd come from some odd, out-of-the-way spot,'
said the priest with courtesy.
'And we've seen a good many palaces. We thought we should like to see a
Temple, for a change,' said Robert.
The Psammead stirred uneasily in its embroidered bag.
'Have you brought gifts to the Temple?' asked the priest cautiously.
'We HAVE got some gifts,' said Cyril with equal caution. 'You see
there's magic mixed up in it. So we can't tell you everything. But we
don't want to give our gifts for nothing.'
'Beware how you insult the god,' said the priest sternly. 'I also can
do magic. I can make a waxen image of you, and I can say words which, as
the wax image melts before the fire, will make you dwindle away and at
last perish miserably.'
'Pooh!' said Cyril stoutly, 'that's nothing. "I" can make FIRE itself!'
'I should jolly well like to see you do it,' said the priest
'Well, you shall,' said Cyril, 'nothing easier. Just stand close round
'Do you need no preparation--no fasting, no incantations?' The priest's
tone was incredulous.
'The incantation's quite short,' said Cyril, taking the hint; 'and as
for fasting, it's not needed in MY sort of magic. Union Jack, Printing
Press, Gunpowder, Rule Britannia! Come, Fire, at the end of this little
He had pulled a match from his pocket, and as he ended the incantation
which contained no words that it seemed likely the Egyptian had ever
heard he stooped in the little crowd of his relations and the priest and
struck the match on his boot. He stood up, shielding the flame with one
'See?' he said, with modest pride. 'Here, take it into your hand.'
'No, thank you,' said the priest, swiftly backing. 'Can you do that
'Then come with me to the great double house of Pharaoh. He loves good
magic, and he will raise you to honour and glory. There's no need of
secrets between initiates,' he went on confidentially. 'The fact is,
I am out of favour at present owing to a little matter of failure of
prophecy. I told him a beautiful princess would be sent to him from
Syria, and, lo! a woman thirty years old arrived. But she WAS a
beautiful woman not so long ago. Time is only a mode of thought, you
The children thrilled to the familiar words.
'So you know that too, do you?' said Cyril.
'It is part of the mystery of all magic, is it not?' said the priest.
'Now if I bring you to Pharaoh the little unpleasantness I spoke of will
be forgotten. And I will ask Pharaoh, the Great House, Son of the Sun,
and Lord of the South and North, to decree that you shall lodge in the
Temple. Then you can have a good look round, and teach me your magic.
And I will teach you mine.'
This idea seemed good--at least it was better than any other which at
that moment occurred to anybody, so they followed the priest through the
The streets were very narrow and dirty. The best houses, the priest
explained, were built within walls twenty to twenty-five feet high,
and such windows as showed in the walls were very high up. The tops of
palm-trees showed above the walls. The poor people's houses were little
square huts with a door and two windows, and smoke coming out of a hole
in the back.
'The poor Egyptians haven't improved so very much in their building
since the first time we came to Egypt,' whispered Cyril to Anthea.
The huts were roofed with palm branches, and everywhere there were
chickens, and goats, and little naked children kicking about in the
yellow dust. On one roof was a goat, who had climbed up and was eating
the dry palm-leaves with snorts and head-tossings of delight. Over every
house door was some sort of figure or shape.
'Amulets,' the priest explained, 'to keep off the evil eye.'
'I don't think much of your "nice Egypt",' Robert whispered to Jane;
'it's simply not a patch on Babylon.'
'Ah, you wait till you see the palace,' Jane whispered back.
The palace was indeed much more magnificent than anything they had yet
seen that day, though it would have made but a poor show beside that
of the Babylonian King. They came to it through a great square pillared
doorway of sandstone that stood in a high brick wall. The shut doors
were of massive cedar, with bronze hinges, and were studded with bronze
nails. At the side was a little door and a wicket gate, and through
this the priest led the children. He seemed to know a word that made the
sentries make way for him.
Inside was a garden, planted with hundreds of different kinds of trees
and flowering shrubs, a lake full of fish, with blue lotus flowers at
the margin, and ducks swimming about cheerfully, and looking, as Jane
said, quite modern.
'The guard-chamber, the store-houses, the queen's house,' said the
priest, pointing them out.
They passed through open courtyards, paved with flat stones, and the
priest whispered to a guard at a great inner gate.
'We are fortunate,' he said to the children, 'Pharaoh is even now in
the Court of Honour. Now, don't forget to be overcome with respect and
admiration. It won't do any harm if you fall flat on your faces. And
whatever you do, don't speak until you're spoken to.'
'There used to be that rule in our country,' said Robert, 'when my
father was a little boy.'
At the outer end of the great hall a crowd of people were arguing with
and even shoving the Guards, who seemed to make it a rule not to let
anyone through unless they were bribed to do it. The children heard
several promises of the utmost richness, and wondered whether they would
ever be kept.
All round the hall were pillars of painted wood. The roof was of cedar,
gorgeously inlaid. About half-way up the hall was a wide, shallow step
that went right across the hall; then a little farther on another; and
then a steep flight of narrower steps, leading right up to the throne on
which Pharaoh sat. He sat there very splendid, his red and white double
crown on his head, and his sceptre in his hand. The throne had a canopy
of wood and wooden pillars painted in bright colours. On a low, broad
bench that ran all round the hall sat the friends, relatives, and
courtiers of the King, leaning on richly-covered cushions.
The priest led the children up the steps till they all stood before the
throne; and then, suddenly, he fell on his face with hands outstretched.
The others did the same, Anthea falling very carefully because of the
'Raise them,' said the voice of Pharaoh, 'that they may speak to me.'
The officers of the King's household raised them.
'Who are these strangers?' Pharaoh asked, and added very crossly, 'And
what do you mean, Rekh-mara, by daring to come into my presence while
your innocence is not established?'
'Oh, great King,' said the young priest, 'you are the very image of
Ra, and the likeness of his son Horus in every respect. You know the
thoughts of the hearts of the gods and of men, and you have divined
that these strangers are the children of the children of the vile and
conquered Kings of the Empire where the sun never sets. They know a
magic not known to the Egyptians. And they come with gifts in their
hands as tribute to Pharaoh, in whose heart is the wisdom of the gods,
and on his lips their truth.'
'That is all very well,' said Pharaoh, 'but where are the gifts?'
The children, bowing as well as they could in their embarrassment at
finding themselves the centre of interest in a circle more grand, more
golden and more highly coloured than they could have imagined possible,
pulled out the padlock, the Necessaire, and the tie-clip. 'But it's not
tribute all the same,' Cyril muttered. 'England doesn't pay tribute!'
Pharaoh examined all the things with great interest when the chief of
the household had taken them up to him. 'Deliver them to the Keeper of
the Treasury,' he said to one near him. And to the children he said--
'A small tribute, truly, but strange, and not without worth. And the
magic, O Rekh-mara?'
'These unworthy sons of a conquered nation...' began Rekh-mara.
'Nothing of the kind!' Cyril whispered angrily.
'... of a vile and conquered nation, can make fire to spring from dry
wood--in the sight of all.'
'I should jolly well like to see them do it,' said Pharaoh, just as the
priest had done.
So Cyril, without more ado, did it.
'Do more magic,' said the King, with simple appreciation.
'He cannot do any more magic,' said Anthea suddenly, and all eyes were
turned on her, 'because of the voice of the free people who are shouting
for bread and onions and beer and a long mid-day rest. If the people had
what they wanted, he could do more.'
'A rude-spoken girl,' said Pharaoh. 'But give the dogs what they want,'
he said, without turning his head. 'Let them have their rest and their
extra rations. There are plenty of slaves to work.'
A richly-dressed official hurried out.
'You will be the idol of the people,' Rekh-mara whispered joyously; 'the
Temple of Amen will not contain their offerings.'
Cyril struck another match, and all the court was overwhelmed with
delight and wonder. And when Cyril took the candle from his pocket and
lighted it with the match, and then held the burning candle up before
the King the enthusiasm knew no bounds.
'Oh, greatest of all, before whom sun and moon and stars bow down,' said
Rekh-mara insinuatingly, 'am I pardoned? Is my innocence made plain?'
'As plain as it ever will be, I daresay,' said Pharaoh shortly. 'Get
along with you. You are pardoned. Go in peace.' The priest went with
'And what,' said the King suddenly, 'is it that moves in that sack?
Show me, oh strangers.'
There was nothing for it but to show the Psammead.
'Seize it,' said Pharaoh carelessly. 'A very curious monkey. It will be
a nice little novelty for my wild beast collection.'
And instantly, the entreaties of the children availing as little as the
bites of the Psammead, though both bites and entreaties were fervent, it
was carried away from before their eyes.
'Oh, DO be careful!' cried Anthea. 'At least keep it dry! Keep it in its
She held up the embroidered bag.
'It's a magic creature,' cried Robert; 'it's simply priceless!'
'You've no right to take it away,' cried Jane incautiously. 'It's a
shame, a barefaced robbery, that's what it is!'
There was an awful silence. Then Pharaoh spoke.
'Take the sacred house of the beast from them,' he said, 'and imprison
all. Tonight after supper it may be our pleasure to see more magic.
Guard them well, and do not torture them--yet!'
'Oh, dear!' sobbed Jane, as they were led away. 'I knew exactly what it
would be! Oh, I wish you hadn't!'
'Shut up, silly,' said Cyril. 'You know you WOULD come to Egypt. It was
your own idea entirely. Shut up. It'll be all right.'
'I thought we should play ball with queens,' sobbed Jane, 'and have no
end of larks! And now everything's going to be perfectly horrid!'
The room they were shut up in WAS a room, and not a dungeon, as the
elder ones had feared. That, as Anthea said, was one comfort. There
were paintings on the wall that at any other time would have been most
interesting. And a sort of low couch, and chairs. When they were alone
Jane breathed a sigh of relief. 'Now we can get home all right,' she
'And leave the Psammead?' said Anthea reproachfully.
'Wait a sec. I've got an idea,' said Cyril. He pondered for a few
moments. Then he began hammering on the heavy cedar door. It opened, and
a guard put in his head.
'Stop that row,' he said sternly, 'or--'
'Look here,' Cyril interrupted, 'it's very dull for you isn't it? Just
doing nothing but guard us. Wouldn't you like to see some magic? We're
not too proud to do it for you. Wouldn't you like to see it?'
'I don't mind if I do,' said the guard.
'Well then, you get us that monkey of ours that was taken away, and
we'll show you.'
'How do I know you're not making game of me?' asked the soldier.
'Shouldn't wonder if you only wanted to get the creature so as to set it
on me. I daresay its teeth and claws are poisonous.' 'Well, look here,'
said Robert. 'You see we've got nothing with us? You just shut the door,
and open it again in five minutes, and we'll have got a magic--oh, I
don't know--a magic flower in a pot for you.'
'If you can do that you can do anything,' said the soldier, and he went
out and barred the door.
Then, of course, they held up the Amulet. They found the East by holding
it up, and turning slowly till the Amulet began to grow big, walked home
through it, and came back with a geranium in full scarlet flower from
the staircase window of the Fitzroy Street house.
'Well!' said the soldier when he came in. 'I really am--!'
'We can do much more wonderful things than that--oh, ever so much,' said
Anthea persuasively, 'if we only have our monkey. And here's twopence
The soldier looked at the twopence.
'What's this?' he said.
Robert explained how much simpler it was to pay money for things than
to exchange them as the people were doing in the market. Later on the
soldier gave the coins to his captain, who, later still, showed them to
Pharaoh, who of course kept them and was much struck with the idea.
That was really how coins first came to be used in Egypt. You will not
believe this, I daresay, but really, if you believe the rest of the
story, I don't see why you shouldn't believe this as well.
'I say,' said Anthea, struck by a sudden thought, 'I suppose it'll be
all right about those workmen? The King won't go back on what he said
about them just because he's angry with us?'
'Oh, no,' said the soldier, 'you see, he's rather afraid of magic. He'll
keep to his word right enough.'
'Then THAT'S all right,' said Robert; and Anthea said softly and
'Ah, DO get us the monkey, and then you'll see some lovely magic.
Do--there's a nice, kind soldier.'
'I don't know where they've put your precious monkey, but if I can get
another chap to take on my duty here I'll see what I can do,' he said
grudgingly, and went out.
'Do you mean,' said Robert, 'that we're going off without even TRYING
for the other half of the Amulet?'
'I really think we'd better,' said Anthea tremulously. 'Of course the
other half of the Amulet's here somewhere or our half wouldn't have
brought us here. I do wish we could find it. It is a pity we don't
know any REAL magic. Then we could find out. I do wonder where it
If they had only known it, something very like the other half of the
Amulet was very near them. It hung round the neck of someone, and
that someone was watching them through a chink, high up in the wall,
specially devised for watching people who were imprisoned. But they did
There was nearly an hour of anxious waiting. They tried to take an
interest in the picture on the wall, a picture of harpers playing
very odd harps and women dancing at a feast. They examined the painted
plaster floor, and the chairs were of white painted wood with coloured
stripes at intervals.
But the time went slowly, and everyone had time to think of how Pharaoh
had said, 'Don't torture them--YET.'
'If the worst comes to the worst,' said Cyril, 'we must just bunk, and
leave the Psammead. I believe it can take care of itself well enough.
They won't kill it or hurt it when they find it can speak and give
wishes. They'll build it a temple, I shouldn't wonder.'
'I couldn't bear to go without it,' said Anthea, 'and Pharaoh said
"After supper", that won't be just yet. And the soldier WAS curious. I'm
sure we're all right for the present.'
All the same, the sounds of the door being unbarred seemed one of the
prettiest sounds possible.
'Suppose he hasn't got the Psammead?' whispered Jane.
But that doubt was set at rest by the Psammead itself; for almost before
the door was open it sprang through the chink of it into Anthea's arms,
shivering and hunching up its fur.
'Here's its fancy overcoat,' said the soldier, holding out the bag, into
which the Psammead immediately crept.
'Now,' said Cyril, 'what would you like us to do? Anything you'd like us
to get for you?'
'Any little trick you like,' said the soldier. 'If you can get a strange
flower blooming in an earthenware vase you can get anything, I suppose,'
he said. 'I just wish I'd got two men's loads of jewels from the King's
treasury. That's what I've always wished for.'
At the word 'WISH' the children knew that the Psammead would attend to
THAT bit of magic. It did, and the floor was littered with a spreading
heap of gold and precious stones.
'Any other little trick?' asked Cyril loftily. 'Shall we become
'Yes, if you like,' said the soldier; 'but not through the door, you
He closed it carefully and set his broad Egyptian back against it.
'No! no!' cried a voice high up among the tops of the tall wooden
pillars that stood against the wall. There was a sound of someone moving
The soldier was as much surprised as anybody.
'That's magic, if you like,' he said.
And then Jane held up the Amulet, uttering the word of Power. At the
sound of it and at the sight of the Amulet growing into the great arch
the soldier fell flat on his face among the jewels with a cry of awe and
The children went through the arch with a quickness born of long
practice. But Jane stayed in the middle of the arch and looked back.
The others, standing on the dining-room carpet in Fitzroy Street, turned
and saw her still in the arch. 'Someone's holding her,' cried Cyril. 'We
must go back.'
But they pulled at Jane's hands just to see if she would come, and, of
course, she did come.
Then, as usual, the arch was little again and there they all were.
'Oh, I do wish you hadn't!' Jane said crossly. 'It WAS so interesting.
The priest had come in and he was kicking the soldier, and telling
him he'd done it now, and they must take the jewels and flee for their
'And did they?'
'I don't know. You interfered,' said Jane ungratefully. 'I SHOULD have
liked to see the last of it.'
As a matter of fact, none of them had seen the last of it--if by 'it'
Jane meant the adventure of the Priest and the Soldier.
CHAPTER 12. THE SORRY-PRESENT AND THE EXPELLED LITTLE BOY
'Look here, said Cyril, sitting on the dining-table and swinging his
legs; 'I really have got it.'
'Got what?' was the not unnatural rejoinder of the others.
Cyril was making a boat with a penknife and a piece of wood, and the
girls were making warm frocks for their dolls, for the weather was
'Why, don't you see? It's really not any good our going into the Past
looking for that Amulet. The Past's as full of different times as--as
the sea is of sand. We're simply bound to hit upon the wrong time. We
might spend our lives looking for the Amulet and never see a sight of
it. Why, it's the end of September already. It's like looking for a
'A bottle of hay--I know,' interrupted Robert; 'but if we don't go on
doing that, what ARE we to do?'
'That's just it,' said Cyril in mysterious accents. 'Oh, BOTHER!'
Old Nurse had come in with the tray of knives, forks, and glasses,
and was getting the tablecloth and table-napkins out of the chiffonier
'It's always meal-times just when you come to anything interesting.'
'And a nice interesting handful YOU'D be, Master Cyril,' said old Nurse,
'if I wasn't to bring your meals up to time. Don't you begin grumbling
now, fear you get something to grumble AT.'
'I wasn't grumbling,' said Cyril quite untruly; 'but it does always
happen like that.'
'You deserve to HAVE something happen,' said old Nurse. 'Slave, slave,
slave for you day and night, and never a word of thanks. ...'
'Why, you do everything beautifully,' said Anthea.
'It's the first time any of you's troubled to say so, anyhow,' said
'What's the use of SAYING?' inquired Robert. 'We EAT our meals fast
enough, and almost always two helps. THAT ought to show you!'
'Ah!' said old Nurse, going round the table and putting the knives and
forks in their places; 'you're a man all over, Master Robert. There was
my poor Green, all the years he lived with me I never could get more
out of him than "It's all right!" when I asked him if he'd fancied his
dinner. And yet, when he lay a-dying, his last words to me was, "Maria,
you was always a good cook!"' She ended with a trembling voice.
'And so you are,' cried Anthea, and she and Jane instantly hugged her.
When she had gone out of the room Anthea said--
'I know exactly how she feels. Now, look here! Let's do a penance to
show we're sorry we didn't think about telling her before what nice
cooking she does, and what a dear she is.'
'Penances are silly,' said Robert.
'Not if the penance is something to please someone else. I didn't mean
old peas and hair shirts and sleeping on the stones. I mean we'll make
her a sorry-present,' explained Anthea. 'Look here! I vote Cyril doesn't
tell us his idea until we've done something for old Nurse. It's worse
for us than him,' she added hastily, 'because he knows what it is and we
don't. Do you all agree?'
The others would have been ashamed not to agree, so they did. It was not
till quite near the end of dinner--mutton fritters and blackberry and
apple pie--that out of the earnest talk of the four came an idea that
pleased everybody and would, they hoped, please Nurse.
Cyril and Robert went out with the taste of apple still in their mouths
and the purple of blackberries on their lips--and, in the case of
Robert, on the wristband as well--and bought a big sheet of cardboard at
the stationers. Then at the plumber's shop, that has tubes and pipes
and taps and gas-fittings in the window, they bought a pane of glass the
same size as the cardboard. The man cut it with a very interesting tool
that had a bit of diamond at the end, and he gave them, out of his own
free generousness, a large piece of putty and a small piece of glue.
While they were out the girls had floated four photographs of the four
children off their cards in hot water. These were now stuck in a row
along the top of the cardboard. Cyril put the glue to melt in a jampot,
and put the jampot in a saucepan and saucepan on the fire, while Robert
painted a wreath of poppies round the photographs. He painted rather
well and very quickly, and poppies are easy to do if you've once been
shown how. Then Anthea drew some printed letters and Jane coloured them.
The words were:
'With all our loves to shew
We like the thigs to eat.'
And when the painting was dry they all signed their names at the bottom
and put the glass on, and glued brown paper round the edge and over the
back, and put two loops of tape to hang it up by.
Of course everyone saw when too late that there were not enough letters
in 'things', so the missing 'n' was put in. It was impossible, of
course, to do the whole thing over again for just one letter.
'There!' said Anthea, placing it carefully, face up, under the sofa.
'It'll be hours before the glue's dry. Now, Squirrel, fire ahead!'
'Well, then,' said Cyril in a great hurry, rubbing at his gluey hands
with his pocket handkerchief. 'What I mean to say is this.'
There was a long pause.
'Well,' said Robert at last, 'WHAT is it that you mean to say?'
'It's like this,' said Cyril, and again stopped short.
'Like WHAT?' asked Jane.
'How can I tell you if you will all keep on interrupting?' said Cyril
So no one said any more, and with wrinkled frowns he arranged his ideas.
'Look here,' he said, 'what I really mean is--we can remember now what
we did when we went to look for the Amulet. And if we'd found it we
should remember that too.'
'Rather!' said Robert. 'Only, you see we haven't.'
'But in the future we shall have.'
'Shall we, though?' said Jane.
'Yes--unless we've been made fools of by the Psammead. So then, where we
want to go to is where we shall remember about where we did find it.'
'I see,' said Robert, but he didn't.
'"I" don't,' said Anthea, who did, very nearly. 'Say it again, Squirrel,
and very slowly.'
'If,' said Cyril, very slowly indeed, 'we go into the future--after
we've found the Amulet--'
'But we've got to find it first,' said Jane.
'Hush!' said Anthea.
'There will be a future,' said Cyril, driven to greater clearness by the
blank faces of the other three, 'there will be a time AFTER we've found
it. Let's go into THAT time--and then we shall remember HOW we found it.
And then we can go back and do the finding really.'
'I see,' said Robert, and this time he did, and I hope YOU do.
'Yes,' said Anthea. 'Oh, Squirrel, how clever of you!'
'But will the Amulet work both ways?' inquired Robert.
'It ought to,' said Cyril, 'if time's only a thingummy of whatsitsname.
Anyway we might try.'
'Let's put on our best things, then,' urged Jane. 'You know what people
say about progress and the world growing better and brighter. I expect
people will be awfully smart in the future.'
'All right,' said Anthea, 'we should have to wash anyway, I'm all thick
When everyone was clean and dressed, the charm was held up.
'We want to go into the future and see the Amulet after we've found it,'
said Cyril, and Jane said the word of Power. They walked through the big
arch of the charm straight into the British Museum.
They knew it at once, and there, right in front of them, under a glass
case, was the Amulet--their own half of it, as well as the other half
they had never been able to find--and the two were joined by a pin of
red stone that formed a hinge.
'Oh, glorious!' cried Robert. 'Here it is!'
'Yes,' said Cyril, very gloomily, 'here it is. But we can't get it out.'
'No,' said Robert, remembering how impossible the Queen of Babylon had
found it to get anything out of the glass cases in the Museum--except by
Psammead magic, and then she hadn't been able to take anything away with
her; 'no--but we remember where we got it, and we can--'
'Oh, DO we?' interrupted Cyril bitterly, 'do YOU remember where we got
'No,' said Robert, 'I don't exactly, now I come to think of it.'
Nor did any of the others!
'But WHY can't we?' said Jane.
'Oh, "I" don't know,' Cyril's tone was impatient, 'some silly old
enchanted rule I suppose. I wish people would teach you magic at school
like they do sums--or instead of. It would be some use having an Amulet
'I wonder how far we are in the future,' said Anthea; the Museum looks
just the same, only lighter and brighter, somehow.'
'Let's go back and try the Past again,' said Robert.
'Perhaps the Museum people could tell us how we got it,' said Anthea
with sudden hope. There was no one in the room, but in the next gallery,
where the Assyrian things are and still were, they found a kind, stout
man in a loose, blue gown, and stockinged legs.
'Oh, they've got a new uniform, how pretty!' said Jane.
When they asked him their question he showed them a label on the case.
It said, 'From the collection of--.' A name followed, and it was the
name of the learned gentleman who, among themselves, and to his face
when he had been with them at the other side of the Amulet, they had
'THAT'S not much good,' said Cyril, 'thank you.'
'How is it you're not at school?' asked the kind man in blue. 'Not
expelled for long I hope?'
'We're not expelled at all,' said Cyril rather warmly.
'Well, I shouldn't do it again, if I were you,' said the man, and
they could see he did not believe them. There is no company so little
pleasing as that of people who do not believe you.
'Thank you for showing us the label,' said Cyril. And they came away.
As they came through the doors of the Museum they blinked at the sudden
glory of sunlight and blue sky. The houses opposite the Museum were
gone. Instead there was a big garden, with trees and flowers and smooth
green lawns, and not a single notice to tell you not to walk on the
grass and not to destroy the trees and shrubs and not to pick the
flowers. There were comfortable seats all about, and arbours covered
with roses, and long, trellised walks, also rose-covered. Whispering,
splashing fountains fell into full white marble basins, white statues
gleamed among the leaves, and the pigeons that swept about among the
branches or pecked on the smooth, soft gravel were not black and tumbled
like the Museum pigeons are now, but bright and clean and sleek as birds
of new silver. A good many people were sitting on the seats, and on the
grass babies were rolling and kicking and playing--with very little on
indeed. Men, as well as women, seemed to be in charge of the babies and
were playing with them.
'It's like a lovely picture,' said Anthea, and it was. For the people's
clothes were of bright, soft colours and all beautifully and very simply
made. No one seemed to have any hats or bonnets, but there were a great
many Japanese-looking sunshades. And among the trees were hung lamps of
'I expect they light those in the evening,' said Jane. 'I do wish we
lived in the future!'
They walked down the path, and as they went the people on the benches
looked at the four children very curiously, but not rudely or unkindly.
The children, in their turn, looked--I hope they did not stare--at the
faces of these people in the beautiful soft clothes. Those faces were
worth looking at. Not that they were all handsome, though even in the
matter of handsomeness they had the advantage of any set of people the
children had ever seen. But it was the expression of their faces that
made them worth looking at. The children could not tell at first what it
'I know,' said Anthea suddenly. 'They're not worried; that's what it
And it was. Everybody looked calm, no one seemed to be in a hurry, no
one seemed to be anxious, or fretted, and though some did seem to be
sad, not a single one looked worried.
But though the people looked kind everyone looked so interested in the
children that they began to feel a little shy and turned out of the big
main path into a narrow little one that wound among trees and shrubs and
mossy, dripping springs.
It was here, in a deep, shadowed cleft between tall cypresses, that they
found the expelled little boy. He was lying face downward on the mossy
turf, and the peculiar shaking of his shoulders was a thing they had
seen, more than once, in each other. So Anthea kneeled down by him and
'What's the matter?'
'I'm expelled from school,' said the boy between his sobs.
This was serious. People are not expelled for light offences.
'Do you mind telling us what you'd done?'
'I--I tore up a sheet of paper and threw it about in the playground,'
said the child, in the tone of one confessing an unutterable baseness.
'You won't talk to me any more now you know that,' he added without
'Was that all?' asked Anthea.
'It's about enough,' said the child; 'and I'm expelled for the whole
'I don't quite understand,' said Anthea, gently. The boy lifted his
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