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The Magic City by Edith Nesbit Chapter 2 Deliverer or Destroyer

Philip stood in the shadow of the dark arch and looked out. He saw before him a great square surrounded by tall irregular buildings. In the middle was a fountain whose waters, silver in the moonlight, rose and fell with gentle plashing sound. A tall tree, close to the archway, cast the shadow of its trunk across the path--a broad black bar. He listened, listened, listened, but there was nothing to listen to, except the deep night silence and the changing soft sound the fountain made.

His eyes, growing accustomed to the dimness, showed him that he was under a heavy domed roof supported on large square pillars--to the right and left stood dark doors, shut fast.

'I will explore these doors by daylight,' he said. He did not feel exactly frightened. But he did not feel exactly brave either. But he wished and intended to be brave, so he said, 'I will explore these doors. At least I think I will,' he added, for one must not only be brave but truthful.

And then suddenly he felt very sleepy. He leaned against the wall, and presently it seemed that sitting down would be less trouble, and then that lying down would be more truly comfortable. A bell from very very far away sounded the hour, twelve. Philip counted up to nine, but he missed the tenth bell-beat, and the eleventh and the twelfth as well, because he was fast asleep cuddled up warmly in the thick quilted dressing-gown that Helen had made him last winter. He dreamed that everything was as it used to be before That Man came and changed everything and took Helen away. He was in his own little bed in his own little room in their own little house, and Helen had come to call him. He could see the sunlight through his closed eyelids--he was keeping them closed just for the fun of hearing her try to wake him, and presently he would tell her he had been awake all the time, and they would laugh together about it. And then he awoke, and he was not in his soft bed at home but on the hard floor of a big, strange gate-house, and it was not Helen who was shaking him and saying, 'Here--I say, wake up, can't you,' but a tall man in a red coat; and the light that dazzled his eyes was not from the sun at all, but from a horn lantern which the man was holding close to his face.

'What's the matter?' said Philip sleepily.

'That's the question,' said the man in red. 'Come along to the guard-room and give an account of yourself, you young shaver.'

He took Philip's ear gently but firmly between a very hard finger and thumb.

'Leave go,' said Philip, 'I'm not going to run away.' And he stood up feeling very brave.

The man shifted his hold from ear to shoulder and led Philip through one of those doors which he had thought of exploring by daylight. It was not daylight yet, and the room, large and bare, with an arch at each end and narrow little windows at the sides, was lighted by horn lanterns and tall tapers in pewter candlesticks. It seemed to Philip that the room was full of soldiers.

Their captain, with a good deal of gold about him and a very smart black moustache, got up from a bench.

'Look what I've caught, sir,' said the man who owned the hand on Philip's shoulder.

'Humph,' said the captain, 'so it's really happened at last.'

'What has?' said Philip.

'Why, you have,' said the captain. 'Don't be frightened, little man.'

'I'm not frightened,' said Philip, and added politely, 'I should be so much obliged if you'd tell me what you mean.' He added something which he had heard people say when they asked the way to the market or the public gardens, 'I'm quite a stranger here,' he said.

A jolly roar of laughter went up from the red-coats.

'It isn't manners to laugh at strangers,' said Philip.

'Mind your own manners,' said the captain sharply; 'in this country little boys speak when they're spoken to. Stranger, eh? Well, we knew that, you know!'

Philip, though he felt snubbed, yet felt grand too. Here he was in the middle of an adventure with grown-up soldiers. He threw out his chest and tried to look manly.

The captain sat down in a chair at the end of a long table, drew a black book to him--a black book covered with dust--and began to rub a rusty pen-nib on his sword, which was not rusty.

'Come now,' he said, opening the book, 'tell me how you came here. And mind you speak the truth.'

'I always speak the truth,' said Philip proudly.

All the soldiers rose and saluted him with looks of deep surprise and respect.

'Well, nearly always,' said Philip, hot to the ears, and the soldiers clattered stiffly down again on to the benches, laughing once more. Philip had imagined there to be more discipline in the army.

'How did you come here?' said the captain.

'Up the great bridge staircase,' said Philip.

The captain wrote busily in the book.

'What did you come for?'

'I didn't know what else to do. There was nothing but illimitable prairie--and so I came up.'

'You are a very bold boy,' said the captain.

'Thank you,' said Philip. 'I do want to be.'

'What was your purpose in coming?'

'I didn't do it on purpose--I just happened to come.'

The captain wrote that down too. And then he and Philip and the soldiers looked at each other in silence.

'Well?' said the boy.

'Well?' said the captain.

'I do wish,' said the boy, 'you'd tell me what you meant by my really happening after all. And then I wish you'd tell me the way home.'

'Where do you want to get to?' asked the captain.

'The address,' said Philip, 'is The Grange, Ravelsham, Sussex.'

'Don't know it,' said the captain briefly, 'and anyhow you can't go back there now. Didn't you read the notice at the top of the ladder? Trespassers will be prosecuted. You've got to be prosecuted before you can go back anywhere.'

'I'd rather be persecuted than go down that ladder again,' he said. 'I suppose it won't be very bad--being persecuted, I mean?'

His idea of persecution was derived from books. He thought it to be something vaguely unpleasant from which one escaped in disguise--adventurous and always successful.

'That's for the judges to decide,' said the captain, 'it's a serious thing trespassing in our city. This guard is put here expressly to prevent it.'

'Do you have many trespassers?' Philip asked. The captain seemed kind, and Philip had a great-uncle who was a judge, so the word judges made him think of tips and good advice, rather than of justice and punishment.

'Many trespassers indeed!' the captain almost snorted his answer. 'That's just it. There's never been one before. You're the first. For years and years and years there's been a guard here, because when the town was first built the astrologers foretold that some day there would be a trespasser who would do untold mischief. So it's our privilege--we're the Polistopolitan guards--to keep watch over the only way by which a trespasser could come in.'

'May I sit down?' said Philip suddenly, and the soldiers made room for him on the bench.

'My father and my grandfather and all my ancestors were in the guards,' said the captain proudly. 'It's a very great honour.'

'I wonder,' said Philip, 'why you don't cut off the end of your ladder--the top end I mean; then nobody could come up.'

'That would never do,' said the captain, 'because, you see, there's another prophecy. The great deliverer is to come that way.'

'Couldn't I,' suggested Philip shyly, 'couldn't I be the deliverer instead of the trespasser? I'd much rather, you know.'

'I daresay you would,' said the captain; 'but people can't be deliverers just because they'd much rather, you know.'

'And isn't any one to come up the ladder bridge except just those two?'

'We don't know; that's just it. You know what prophecies are.'

'I'm afraid I don't--exactly.'

'So vague and mixed up, I mean. The one I'm telling you about goes something like this.

Who comes up the ladder stair? Beware, beware, Steely eyes and copper hair Strife and grief and pain to bear All come up the ladder stair.

You see we can't tell whether that means one person or a lot of people with steely eyes and copper hair.'

'My hair's just plain boy-colour,' said Philip; 'my sister says so, and my eyes are blue, I believe.'

'I can't see in this light;' the captain leaned his elbows on the table and looked earnestly in the boy's eyes. 'No, I can't see. The other prophecy goes:

From down and down and very far down The king shall come to take his own; He shall deliver the Magic town, And all that he made shall be his own. Beware, take care. Beware, prepare, The king shall come by the ladder stair.

'How jolly,' said Philip; 'I love poetry. Do you know any more?'

'There are heaps of prophecies of course,' said the captain; 'the astrologers must do something to earn their pay. There's rather a nice one:

Every night when the bright stars blink The guards shall turn out, and have a drink As the clock strikes two. And every night when no stars are seen The guards shall drink in their own canteen When the clock strikes two.

To-night there aren't any stars, so we have the drinks served here. It's less trouble than going across the square to the canteen, and the principle's the same. Principle is the great thing with a prophecy, my boy.'

'Yes,' said Philip. And then the far-away bell beat again. One, two. And outside was a light patter of feet.

A soldier rose--saluted his officer and threw open the door. There was a moment's pause; Philip expected some one to come in with a tray and glasses, as they did at his great-uncle's when gentlemen were suddenly thirsty at times that were not meal-times.

But instead, after a moment's pause, a dozen greyhounds stepped daintily in on their padded cat-like feet; and round the neck of each dog was slung a roundish thing that looked like one of the little barrels which St. Bernard dogs wear round their necks in the pictures. And when these were loosened and laid on the table Philip was charmed to see that the roundish things were not barrels but cocoa-nuts.

The soldiers reached down some pewter pots from a high shelf--pierced the cocoa-nuts with their bayonets and poured out the cocoa-nut milk. They all had drinks, so the prophecy came true, and what is more they gave Philip a drink as well. It was delicious, and there was as much of it as he wanted. I have never had as much cocoa-nut milk as I wanted. Have you?

Then the hollow cocoa-nuts were tied on to the dogs' necks again and out they went, slim and beautiful, two by two, wagging their slender tails, in the most amiable and orderly way.

'They take the cocoa-nuts to the town kitchen,' said the captain, 'to be made into cocoa-nut ice for the army breakfast; waste not want not, you know. We don't waste anything here, my boy.' Philip had quite got over his snubbing. He now felt that the captain was talking with him as man to man. Helen had gone away and left him; well, he was learning to do without Helen. And he had got away from the Grange, and Lucy, and that nurse. He was a man among men. And then, just as he was feeling most manly and important, and quite equal to facing any number of judges, there came a little tap at the door of the guard-room, and a very little voice said:

'Oh, do please let me come in.'

Then the door opened slowly.

'Well, come in, whoever you are,' said the captain. And the person who came in was--Lucy. Lucy, whom Philip thought he had got rid of--Lucy, who stood for the new hateful life to which Helen had left him. Lucy, in her serge skirt and jersey, with her little sleek fair pig-tails, and that anxious 'I-wish-we-could-be-friends' smile of hers. Philip was furious. It was too bad.

'And who is this?' the captain was saying kindly.

'It's me--it's Lucy,' she said. 'I came up with him.'

She pointed to Philip. 'No manners,' thought Philip in bitterness.

'No, you didn't,' he said shortly.

'I did--I was close behind you when you were climbing the ladder bridge. And I've been waiting alone ever since, when you were asleep and all. I knew he'd be cross when he knew I'd come,' she explained to the soldiers.

'I'm not cross,' said Philip very crossly indeed, but the captain signed to him to be silent. Then Lucy was questioned and her answers written in the book, and when that was done the captain said:

'So this little girl is a friend of yours?'

'No, she isn't,' said Philip violently; 'she's not my friend, and she never will be. I've seen her, that's all, and I don't want to see her again.'

'You are unkind,' said Lucy.

And then there was a grave silence, most unpleasant to Philip. The soldiers, he perceived, now looked coldly at him. It was all Lucy's fault. What did she want to come shoving in for, spoiling everything? Any one but a girl would have known that a guard-room wasn't the right place for a girl. He frowned and said nothing. Lucy had smuggled up against the captain's knee, and he was stroking her hair.

'Poor little woman,' he said. 'You must go to sleep now, so as to be rested before you go to the Hall of Justice in the morning.'

They made Lucy a bed of soldiers' cloaks laid on a bench; and bearskins are the best of pillows. Philip had a soldier's cloak and a bench, and a bearskin too--but what was the good? Everything was spoiled. If Lucy had not come the guard-room as a sleeping-place would have been almost as good as the tented field. But she had come, and the guard-room was no better now than any old night-nursery. And how had she known? How had she come? How had she made her way to that illimitable prairie where he had found the mysterious beginning of the ladder bridge? He went to sleep a bunched-up lump of prickly discontent and suppressed fury.

When he woke it was bright daylight, and a soldier was saying, 'Wake up, Trespassers. Breakfast----'

'How jolly,' thought Philip, 'to be having military breakfast.' Then he remembered Lucy, and hated her being there, and felt once more that she had spoiled everything.

I should not, myself, care for a breakfast of cocoa-nut ice, peppermint creams, apples, bread and butter and sweet milk. But the soldiers seemed to enjoy it. And it would have exactly suited Philip if he had not seen that Lucy was enjoying it too.

'I do hate greedy girls,' he told himself, for he was now in that state of black rage when you hate everything the person you are angry with does or says or is.

And now it was time to start for the Hall of Justice. The guard formed outside, and Philip noticed that each soldier stood on a sort of green mat. When the order to march was given, each soldier quickly and expertly rolled up his green mat and put it under his arm. And whenever they stopped, because of the crowd, each soldier unrolled his green mat, and stood on it till it was time to go on again. And they had to stop several times, for the crowd was very thick in the great squares and in the narrow streets of the city. It was a wonderful crowd. There were men and women and children in every sort of dress. Italian, Spanish, Russian; French peasants in blue blouses and wooden shoes, workmen in the dress English working people wore a hundred years ago. Norwegians, Swedes, Swiss, Turks, Greeks, Indians, Arabians, Chinese, Japanese, besides Red Indians in dresses of skins, and Scots in kilts and sporrans. Philip did not know what nation most of the dresses belonged to--to him it was a brilliant patchwork of gold and gay colours. It reminded him of the fancy-dress party he had once been to with Helen, when he wore a Pierrot's dress and felt very silly in it. He noticed that not a single boy in all that crowd was dressed as he was--in what he thought was the only correct dress for boys. Lucy walked beside him. Once, just after they started, she said, 'Aren't you frightened, Philip?' and he would not answer, though he longed to say, 'Of course not. It's only girls who are afraid.' But he thought it would be more disagreeable to say nothing, so he said it.

When they got to the Hall of Justice, she caught hold of his hand, and said:

'Oh!' very loud and sudden, 'doesn't it remind you of anything?' she asked.

Philip pulled his hand away and said 'No' before he remembered that he had decided not to speak to her. And the 'No' was quite untrue, for the building did remind him of something, though he couldn't have told you what.

The prisoners and their guard passed through a great arch between magnificent silver pillars, and along a vast corridor, lined with soldiers who all saluted.

'Do all sorts of soldiers salute you?' he asked the captain, 'or only just your own ones?'

'It's you they're saluting,' the captain said; 'our laws tell us to salute all prisoners out of respect for their misfortunes.'

The judge sat on a high bronze throne with colossal bronze dragons on each side of it, and wide shallow steps of ivory, black and white.

Two attendants spread a round mat on the top of the steps in front of the judge--a yellow mat it was, and very thick, and he stood up and saluted the prisoners. ('Because of your misfortunes,' the captain whispered.)

The judge wore a bright yellow robe with a green girdle, and he had no wig, but a very odd-shaped hat, which he kept on all the time.

The trial did not last long, and the captain said very little, and the judge still less, while the prisoners were not allowed to speak at all. The judge looked up something in a book, and consulted in a low voice with the crown lawyer and a sour-faced person in black. Then he put on his spectacles and said:

'Prisoners at the bar, you are found guilty of trespass. The punishment is Death--if the judge does not like the prisoners. If he does not dislike them it is imprisonment for life, or until the judge has had time to think it over. Remove the prisoners.'

'Oh, don't!' cried Philip, almost weeping.

'I thought you weren't afraid,' whispered Lucy.

'Silence in court,' said the judge.

Then Philip and Lucy were removed.

They were marched by streets quite different from those they had come by, and at last in the corner of a square they came to a large house that was quite black.

'Here we are,' said the captain kindly. 'Good-bye. Better luck next time.'

The gaoler, a gentleman in black velvet, with a ruff and a pointed beard, came out and welcomed them cordially.

'How do you do, my dears?' he said. 'I hope you'll be comfortable here. First-class misdemeanants, I suppose?' he asked.

'Of course,' said the captain.

'Top floor, if you please,' said the gaoler politely, and stood back to let the children pass. 'Turn to the left and up the stairs.'

The stairs were dark and went on and on, and round and round, and up and up. At the very top was a big room, simply furnished with a table, chairs, and a rocking-horse. Who wants more furniture than that?

'You've got the best view in the whole city,' said the gaoler, 'and you'll be company for me. What? They gave me the post of gaoler because it's nice, light, gentlemanly work, and leaves me time for my writing. I'm a literary man, you know. But I've sometimes found it a trifle lonely. You're the first prisoners I've ever had, you see. If you'll excuse me I'll go and order some dinner for you. You'll be contented with the feast of reason and the flow of soul, I feel certain.'

The moment the door had closed on the gaoler's black back Philip turned on Lucy.

'I hope you're satisfied,' he said bitterly. 'This is all your doing. They'd have let me off if you hadn't been here. What on earth did you want to come here for? Why did you come running after me like that? You know I don't like you?'

'You're the hatefullest, disagreeablest, horridest boy in all the world,' said Lucy firmly--'there!'

Philip had not expected this. He met it as well as he could.

'I'm not a little sneak of a white mouse squeezing in where I'm not wanted, anyhow,' he said.

And then they stood looking at each other, breathing quickly, both of them.

'I'd rather be a white mouse than a cruel bully,' said Lucy at last.

'I'm not a bully,' said Philip.

Then there was another silence. Lucy sniffed. Philip looked round the bare room, and suddenly it came to him that he and Lucy were companions in misfortune, no matter whose fault it was that they were imprisoned. So he said:

'Look here, I don't like you and I shan't pretend I do. But I'll call it Pax for the present if you like. We've got to escape from this place somehow, and I'll help you if you like, and you may help me if you can.'

'Thank you,' said Lucy, in a tone which might have meant anything.

'So we'll call it Pax and see if we can escape by the window. There might be ivy--or a faithful page with a rope ladder. Have you a page at the Grange?'

'There's two stable-boys,' said Lucy, 'but I don't think they're faithful, and I say, I think all this is much more magic than you think.'

'Of course I know it's magic,' said he impatiently; 'but it's quite real too.'

'Oh, it's real enough,' said she.

They leaned out of the window. Alas, there was no ivy. Their window was very high up, and the wall outside, when they touched it with their hand, felt smooth as glass.

'That's no go,' said he, and the two leaned still farther out of the window looking down on the town. There were strong towers and fine minarets and palaces, the palm trees and fountains and gardens. A white building across the square looked strangely familiar. Could it be like St. Paul's which Philip had been taken to see when he was very little, and which he had never been able to remember? No, he could not remember it even now. The two prisoners looked out in a long silence. Far below lay the city, its trees softly waving in the breeze, flowers shining in a bright many-coloured patchwork, the canals that intersected the big squares gleamed in the sunlight, and crossing and recrossing the squares and streets were the people of the town, coming and going about their business.

'Look here!' said Lucy suddenly, 'do you mean to say you don't know?'

'Know what?' he asked impatiently.

'Where we are. What it is. Don't you?'

'No. No more do you.'

'Haven't you seen it all before?'

'No, of course I haven't. No more have you.'

'All right. I have seen it before though,' said Lucy, 'and so have you. But I shan't tell you what it is unless you'll be nice to me.' Her tone was a little sad, but quite firm.

'I am nice to you. I told you it was Pax,' said Philip. 'Tell me what you think it is.'

'I don't mean that sort of grandish standoffish Pax, but real Pax. Oh, don't be so horrid, Philip. I'm dying to tell you--but I won't if you go on being like you are.'

'I'm all right,' said Philip; 'out with it.'

'No. You've got to say it's Pax, and I will stand by you till we get out of this, and I'll always act like a noble friend to you, and I'll try my best to like you. Of course if you can't like me you can't, but you ought to try. Say it after me, won't you?'

Her tone was so kind and persuading that he found himself saying after her, 'I, Philip, agree to try and like you, Lucy, and to stand by you till we're out of this, and always to act the part of a noble friend to you. And it's real Pax. Shake hands.'

'Now then,' said he when they had shaken hands, and Lucy uttered these words:

'Don't you see? It's your own city that we're in, your own city that you built on the tables in the drawing-room? It's all got big by magic, so that we could get in. Look,' she pointed out of the window, 'see that great golden dome, that's one of the brass finger-bowls, and that white building's my old model of St. Paul's. And there's Buckingham Palace over there, with the carved squirrel on the top, and the chessmen, and the blue and white china pepper-pots; and the building we're in is the black Japanese cabinet.'

Philip looked and he saw that what she said was true. It was his city.

'But I didn't build insides to my buildings,' said he; 'and when did you see what I built anyway?'

'The insides are part of the magic, I suppose,' Lucy said; 'and I saw the cities you built when Auntie brought me home last night, after you'd been sent to bed. And I did love them. And oh, Philip, I'm so glad it's Pax because I do think you're so frightfully clever, and Auntie thought so too, building those beautiful things. And I knew nurse was going to pull it all down. I begged her not to, but she was addymant, and so I got up and dressed and came down to have another look by moonlight. And one or two of the bricks and chessmen had fallen down. I expect nurse knocked them down. So I built them up again as well as I could--and I was loving it all like anything; and then the door opened and I hid under the table, and you came in.'

'Then you were there--did you notice how the magic began?'

'No, but it all changed to grass; and then I saw you a long way off, going up a ladder. And so I went after you. But I didn't let you see me. I knew you'd be so cross. And then I looked in at the guard-room door, and I did so want some of the cocoa-nut milk.'

'When did you find out it was my city?'

'I thought the soldiers looked like my lead ones somehow. But I wasn't sure till I saw the judge. Why he's just old Noah, out of the Ark.'

'So he is,' cried Philip; 'how wonderful! How perfectly wonderful! I wish we weren't prisoners. Wouldn't it be jolly to go all over it--into all the buildings, to see what the insides of them have turned into? And all the other people. I didn't put them in.'

'That's more magic, I expect. But--Oh, we shall find it all out in time.'

She clapped her hands. And on the instant the door opened and the gaoler appeared.

'A visitor for you,' he said, and stood aside to let some one else come in, some one tall and thin, with a black hooded cloak and a black half-mask, such as people wear at carnival time.

When the gaoler had shut the door and gone away the tall figure took off its mask and let fall its cloak, showing to the surprised but recognising eyes of the children the well-known shape of Mr. Noah--the judge.

'How do you do?' he said. 'This is a little unofficial visit. I hope I haven't come at an inconvenient time.'

'We're very glad,' said Lucy, 'because you can tell us----'

'I won't answer questions,' said Mr. Noah, sitting down stiffly on his yellow mat, 'but I will tell you something. We don't know who you are. But I myself think that you may be the Deliverer.'

'Both of us,' said Philip jealously.

'One or both. You see the prophecy says that the Destroyer's hair is red. And your hair is not red. But before I could get the populace to feel sure of, that my own hair would be grey with thought and argument. Some people are so wooden-headed. And I am not used to thinking. I don't often have to do it. It distresses me.'

The children said they were sorry. Philip added:

'Do tell us a little about your city. It isn't a question. We want to know if it's magic. That isn't a question either.'

'I was about to tell you,' said Mr. Noah, 'and I will not answer questions. Of course it is magic. Everything in the world is magic, until you understand it.

'And as to the city. I will just tell you a little of our history. Many thousand years ago all the cities of our country were built by a great and powerful giant, who brought the materials from far and wide. The place was peopled partly by persons of his choice, and partly by a sort of self-acting magic rather difficult to explain. As soon as the cities were built and the inhabitants placed here the life of the city began, and it was, to those who lived it, as though it had always been. The artisans toiled, the musicians played, and the poets sang. The astrologers, finding themselves in a tall tower evidently designed for such a purpose, began to observe the stars and to prophesy.'

'I know that part,' said Philip.

'Very well,' said the judge. 'Then you know quite enough. Now I want to ask a little favour of you both. Would you mind escaping?'

'If we only could,' Lucy sighed.

'The strain on my nerves is too much,' said Mr. Noah feelingly. 'Escape, my dear children, to please me, a very old man in indifferent health and poor spirits.'

'But how----'

'Oh, you just walk out. You, my boy, can disguise yourself in your dressing-gown which I see has been placed on yonder chair, and I will leave my cloak for you, little girl.'

They both said 'Thank you,' and Lucy added: 'But how?'

'Through the door,' said the judge. 'There is a rule about putting prisoners on their honour not to escape, but there have not been any prisoners for so long that I don't suppose they put you on honour. No? You can just walk out of the door. There are many charitable persons in the city who will help to conceal you. The front-door key turns easily, and I myself will oil it as I go out. Good-bye--thank you so much for falling in with my little idea. Accept an old man's blessing. Only don't tell the gaoler. He would never forgive me.'

He got off his mat, rolled it up and went.

'Well!' said Lucy.

'Well!' said Philip.

'I suppose we go?' he said. But Lucy said, 'What about the gaoler? Won't he catch it if we bolt?'

Philip felt this might be true. It was annoying, and as bad as being put on one's honour.

'Bother!' was what he said.

And then the gaoler came in. He looked pale and worried.

'I am so awfully sorry,' he began. 'I thought I should enjoy having you here, but my nerves are all anyhow. The very sound of your voices. I can't write a line. My brain reels. I wonder whether you'd be good enough to do a little thing for me? Would you mind escaping?'

'But won't you get into trouble?'

'Nothing could be worse than this,' said the gaoler, with feeling. 'I had no idea that children's voices were so penetrating. Go, go. I implore you to escape. Only don't tell the judge. I am sure he would never forgive me.'

After that, what prisoner would not immediately have escaped?

The two children only waited till the sound of the gaoler's keys had died away on the stairs, to open their door, run down the many steps and slip out of the prison gate. They walked a little way in silence. There were plenty of people about, but no one seemed to notice them.

'Which way shall we go?' Lucy asked. 'I wish we'd asked him where the Charitables live.'

'I think,' Philip began; but Lucy was not destined to know what he thought.

There was a sudden shout, a clattering of horses' hoofs, and all the faces in the square turned their way.

'They've seen us,' cried Philip. 'Run, run, run!'

He himself ran, and he ran toward the gate-house that stood at the top of the ladder stairs by which they had come up, and behind him came the shouting and clatter of hot pursuit. The captain stood in the gateway alone, and just as Philip reached the gate the captain turned into the guard-room and pretended not to see anything. Philip had never run so far or so fast. His breath came in deep sobs; but he reached the ladder and began quickly to go down. It was easier than going up.

He was nearly at the bottom when the whole ladder bridge leapt wildly into the air, and he fell from it and rolled in the thick grass of that illimitable prairie.

All about him the air was filled with great sounds, like the noise of the earthquakes that destroy beautiful big palaces, and factories which are big but not beautiful. It was deafening, it was endless, it was unbearable.

Yet he had to bear that, and more. And now he felt a curious swelling sensation in his hands, then in his head--then all over. It was extremely painful. He rolled over in his agony, and saw the foot of an enormous giant quite close to him. The foot had a large, flat, ugly shoe, and seemed to come out of grey, low-hanging, swaying curtains. There was a gigantic column too, black against the grey. The ladder bridge, cast down, lay on the ground not far from him.

Pain and fear overcame Philip, and he ceased to hear or feel or know anything.

When he recovered consciousness he found himself under the table in the drawing-room. The swelling feeling was over, and he did not seem to be more than his proper size.

He could see the flat feet of the nurse and the lower part of her grey skirt, and a rattling and rumbling on the table above told him that she was doing as she had said she would, and destroying his city. He saw also a black column which was the leg of the table. Every now and then the nurse walked away to put back into its proper place something he had used in the building. And once she stood on a chair, and he heard the tinkling of the lustre-drops as she hooked them into their places on the chandelier.

'If I lie very still,' said he, 'perhaps she won't see me. But I do wonder how I got here. And what a dream to tell Helen about!'

He lay very still. The nurse did not see him. And when she had gone to her breakfast Philip crawled out.

Yes, the city was gone. Not a trace of it. The very tables were back in their proper places.

Philip went back to his proper place, which, of course, was bed.

'What a splendid dream,' he said, as he cuddled down between the sheets, 'and now it's all over!'

Of course he was quite wrong.

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