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CHAPTER 2 THE TOPLESS TOWER
The children had seen the Phoenix-egg hatched in the flames in their own nursery grate, and had heard from it how the carpet on their own nursery floor was really the wishing carpet, which would take them anywhere they chose. The carpet had transported them to bed just at the right moment, and the Phoenix had gone to roost on the cornice supporting the window-curtains of the boys' room.
'Excuse me,' said a gentle voice, and a courteous beak opened, very kindly and delicately, the right eye of Cyril. 'I hear the slaves below preparing food. Awaken! A word of explanation and arrangement ... I do wish you wouldn't - '
The Phoenix stopped speaking and fluttered away crossly to the cornice-pole; for Cyril had hit out, as boys do when they are awakened suddenly, and the Phoenix was not used to boys, and his feelings, if not his wings, were hurt.
'Sorry,' said Cyril, coming awake all in a minute. 'Do come back! What was it you were saying? Something about bacon and rations?'
The Phoenix fluttered back to the brass rail at the foot of the bed.
'I say - you ARE real,' said Cyril. 'How ripping! And the carpet?'
'The carpet is as real as it ever was,' said the Phoenix, rather contemptuously; 'but, of course, a carpet's only a carpet, whereas a Phoenix is superlatively a Phoenix.'
'Yes, indeed,' said Cyril, 'I see it is. Oh, what luck! Wake up, Bobs! There's jolly well something to wake up for today. And it's Saturday, too.'
'I've been reflecting,' said the Phoenix, 'during the silent watches of the night, and I could not avoid the conclusion that you were quite insufficiently astonished at my appearance yesterday. The ancients were always VERY surprised. Did you, by chance, EXPECT my egg to hatch?'
'Not us,' Cyril said.
'And if we had,' said Anthea, who had come in in her nightie when she heard the silvery voice of the Phoenix, 'we could never, never have expected it to hatch anything so splendid as you.'
The bird smiled. Perhaps you've never seen a bird smile?
'You see,' said Anthea, wrapping herself in the boys' counterpane, for the morning was chill, 'we've had things happen to us before;' and she told the story of the Psammead, or sand-fairy.
'Ah yes,' said the Phoenix; 'Psammeads were rare, even in my time. I remember I used to be called the Psammead of the Desert. I was always having compliments paid me; I can't think why.'
'Can YOU give wishes, then?' asked Jane, who had now come in too.
'Oh, dear me, no,' said the Phoenix, contemptuously, 'at least - but I hear footsteps approaching. I hasten to conceal myself.' And it did.
I think I said that this day was Saturday. It was also cook's birthday, and mother had allowed her and Eliza to go to the Crystal Palace with a party of friends, so Jane and Anthea of course had to help to make beds and to wash up the breakfast cups, and little things like that. Robert and Cyril intended to spend the morning in conversation with the Phoenix, but the bird had its own ideas about this.
'I must have an hour or two's quiet,' it said, 'I really must. My nerves will give way unless I can get a little rest. You must remember it's two thousand years since I had any conversation - I'm out of practice, and I must take care of myself. I've often been told that mine is a valuable life.' So it nestled down inside an old hatbox of father's, which had been brought down from the box-room some days before, when a helmet was suddenly needed for a game of tournaments, with its golden head under its golden wing, and went to sleep. So then Robert and Cyril moved the table back and were going to sit on the carpet and wish themselves somewhere else. But before they could decide on the place, Cyril said -
'I don't know. Perhaps it's rather sneakish to begin without the girls.'
'They'll be all the morning,' said Robert, impatiently. And then a thing inside him, which tiresome books sometimes call the 'inward monitor', said, 'Why don't you help them, then?'
Cyril's 'inward monitor' happened to say the same thing at the same moment, so the boys went and helped to wash up the tea-cups, and to dust the drawing-room. Robert was so interested that he proposed to clean the front doorsteps - a thing he had never been allowed to do. Nor was he allowed to do it on this occasion. One reason was that it had already been done by cook.
When all the housework was finished, the girls dressed the happy, wriggling baby in his blue highwayman coat and three-cornered hat, and kept him amused while mother changed her dress and got ready to take him over to granny's. Mother always went to granny's every Saturday, and generally some of the children went with her; but today they were to keep house. And their hearts were full of joyous and delightful feelings every time they remembered that the house they would have to keep had a Phoenix in it, AND a wishing carpet.
You can always keep the Lamb good and happy for quite a long time if you play the Noah's Ark game with him. It is quite simple. He just sits on your lap and tells you what animal he is, and then you say the little poetry piece about whatever animal he chooses to be.
Of course, some of the animals, like the zebra and the tiger, haven't got any poetry, because they are so difficult to rhyme to. The Lamb knows quite well which are the poetry animals.
'I'm a baby bear!' said the Lamb, snugging down; and Anthea began:
'I love my little baby bear,
I love his nose and toes and hair;
I like to hold him in my arm,
And keep him VERY safe and warm.'
And when she said 'very', of course there was a real bear's hug.
Then came the eel, and the Lamb was tickled till he wriggled exactly like a real one:
'I love my little baby eel,
He is so squidglety to feel;
He'll be an eel when he is big -
But now he's just - a - tiny SNIG!'
Perhaps you didn't know that a snig was a baby eel? It is, though, and the Lamb knew it.
'Hedgehog now-!' he said; and Anthea went on:
'My baby hedgehog, how I like ye,
Though your back's so prickly-spiky;
Your front is very soft, I've found,
So I must love you front ways round!'
And then she loved him front ways round, while he squealed with pleasure.
It is a very baby game, and, of course, the rhymes are only meant for very, very small people - not for people who are old enough to read books, so I won't tell you any more of them.
By the time the Lamb had been a baby lion and a baby weazel, and a baby rabbit and a baby rat, mother was ready; and she and the Lamb, having been kissed by everybody and hugged as thoroughly as it is possible to be when you're dressed for out-of-doors, were seen to the tram by the boys. When the boys came back, every one looked at every one else and said -
They locked the front door and they locked the back door, and they fastened all the windows. They moved the table and chairs off the carpet, and Anthea swept it.
'We must show it a LITTLE attention,' she said kindly. 'We'll give it tea-leaves next time. Carpets like tea-leaves.'
Then every one put on its out-door things, because as Cyril said, they didn't know where they might be going, and it makes people stare if you go out of doors in November in pinafores and without hats.
Then Robert gently awoke the Phoenix, who yawned and stretched itself, and allowed Robert to lift it on to the middle of the carpet, where it instantly went to sleep again with its crested head tucked under its golden wing as before. Then every one sat down on the carpet.
'Where shall we go?' was of course the question, and it was warmly discussed. Anthea wanted to go to Japan. Robert and Cyril voted for America, and Jane wished to go to the seaside.
'Because there are donkeys there,' said she.
'Not in November, silly,' said Cyril; and the discussion got warmer and warmer, and still nothing was settled.
'I vote we let the Phoenix decide,' said Robert, at last. So they stroked it till it woke. 'We want to go somewhere abroad,' they said, 'and we can't make up our minds where.'
'Let the carpet make up ITS mind, if it has one,' said the Phoenix.
'Just say you wish to go abroad.'
So they did; and the next moment the world seemed to spin upside down, and when it was right way up again and they were ungiddy enough to look about them, they were out of doors.
Out of doors - this is a feeble way to express where they were. They were out of - out of the earth, or off it. In fact, they were floating steadily, safely, splendidly, in the crisp clear air, with the pale bright blue of the sky above them, and far down below the pale bright sun-diamonded waves of the sea. The carpet had stiffened itself somehow, so that it was square and firm like a raft, and it steered itself so beautifully and kept on its way so flat and fearless that no one was at all afraid of tumbling off. In front of them lay land.
'The coast of France,' said the Phoenix, waking up and pointing with its wing. 'Where do you wish to go? I should always keep one wish, of course - for emergencies - otherwise you may get into an emergency from which you can't emerge at all.'
But the children were far too deeply interested to listen.
'I tell you what,' said Cyril: 'let's let the thing go on and on, and when we see a place we really want to stop at - why, we'll just stop. Isn't this ripping?'
'It's like trains,' said Anthea, as they swept over the low-lying coast-line and held a steady course above orderly fields and straight roads bordered with poplar trees - 'like express trains, only in trains you never can see anything because of grown-ups wanting the windows shut; and then they breathe on them, and it's like ground glass, and nobody can see anything, and then they go to sleep.'
'It's like tobogganing,' said Robert, 'so fast and smooth, only there's no door-mat to stop short on - it goes on and on.'
'You darling Phoenix,' said Jane, 'it's all your doing. Oh, look at that ducky little church and the women with flappy cappy things on their heads.'
'Don't mention it,' said the Phoenix, with sleepy politeness.
'OH!' said Cyril, summing up all the rapture that was in every heart. 'Look at it all - look at it - and think of the Kentish Town Road!'
Every one looked and every one thought. And the glorious, gliding, smooth, steady rush went on, and they looked down on strange and beautiful things, and held their breath and let it go in deep sighs, and said 'Oh!' and 'Ah!' till it was long past dinner-time.
It was Jane who suddenly said, 'I wish we'd brought that jam tart and cold mutton with us. It would have been jolly to have a picnic in the air.'
The jam tart and cold mutton were, however, far away, sitting quietly in the larder of the house in Camden Town which the children were supposed to be keeping. A mouse was at that moment tasting the outside of the raspberry jam part of the tart (she had nibbled a sort of gulf, or bay, through the pastry edge) to see whether it was the sort of dinner she could ask her little mouse-husband to sit down to. She had had a very good dinner herself. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
'We'll stop as soon as we see a nice place,' said Anthea. 'I've got threepence, and you boys have the fourpence each that your trams didn't cost the other day, so we can buy things to eat. I expect the Phoenix can speak French.'
The carpet was sailing along over rocks and rivers and trees and towns and farms and fields. It reminded everybody of a certain time when all of them had had wings, and had flown up to the top of a church tower, and had had a feast there of chicken and tongue and new bread and soda-water. And this again reminded them how hungry they were. And just as they were all being reminded of this very strongly indeed, they saw ahead of them some ruined walls on a hill, and strong and upright, and really, to look at, as good as new - a great square tower.
'The top of that's just the exactly same size as the carpet,' said Jane. '_I_ think it would be good to go to the top of that, because then none of the Abby-what's-its-names - I mean natives - would be able to take the carpet away even if they wanted to. And some of us could go out and get things to eat - buy them honestly, I mean, not take them out of larder windows.'
'I think it would be better if we went - ' Anthea was beginning; but Jane suddenly clenched her hands.
'I don't see why I should never do anything I want, just because I'm the youngest. I wish the carpet would fit itself in at the top of that tower - so there!'
The carpet made a disconcerting bound, and next moment it was hovering above the square top of the tower. Then slowly and carefully it began to sink under them. It was like a lift going down with you at the Army and Navy Stores.
'I don't think we ought to wish things without all agreeing to them first,' said Robert, huffishly. 'Hullo! What on earth?'
For unexpectedly and greyly something was coming up all round the four sides of the carpet. It was as if a wall were being built by magic quickness. It was a foot high - it was two feet high - three, four, five. It was shutting out the light - more and more.
Anthea looked up at the sky and the walls that now rose six feet above them.
'We're dropping into the tower,' she screamed. 'THERE WASN'T ANY TOP TO IT. So the carpet's going to fit itself in at the bottom.'
Robert sprang to his feet.
'We ought to have - Hullo! an owl's nest.' He put his knee on a jutting smooth piece of grey stone, and reached his hand into a deep window slit - broad to the inside of the tower, and narrowing like a funnel to the outside.
'Look sharp!' cried every one, but Robert did not look sharp enough. By the time he had drawn his hand out of the owl's nest - there were no eggs there - the carpet had sunk eight feet below him.
'Jump, you silly cuckoo!' cried Cyril, with brotherly anxiety.
But Robert couldn't turn round all in a minute into a jumping position. He wriggled and twisted and got on to the broad ledge, and by the time he was ready to jump the walls of the tower had risen up thirty feet above the others, who were still sinking with the carpet, and Robert found himself in the embrasure of a window; alone, for even the owls were not at home that day. The wall was smoothish; there was no climbing up, and as for climbing down - Robert hid his face in his hands, and squirmed back and back from the giddy verge, until the back part of him was wedged quite tight in the narrowest part of the window slit.
He was safe now, of course, but the outside part of his window was like a frame to a picture of part of the other side of the tower. It was very pretty, with moss growing between the stones and little shiny gems; but between him and it there was the width of the tower, and nothing in it but empty air. The situation was terrible. Robert saw in a flash that the carpet was likely to bring them into just the same sort of tight places that they used to get into with the wishes the Psammead granted them.
And the others - imagine their feelings as the carpet sank slowly and steadily to the very bottom of the tower, leaving Robert clinging to the wall. Robert did not even try to imagine their feelings - he had quite enough to do with his own; but you can.
As soon as the carpet came to a stop on the ground at the bottom of the inside of the tower it suddenly lost that raft-like stiffness which had been such a comfort during the journey from Camden Town to the topless tower, and spread itself limply over the loose stones and little earthy mounds at the bottom of the tower, just exactly like any ordinary carpet. Also it shrank suddenly, so that it seemed to draw away from under their feet, and they stepped quickly off the edges and stood on the firm ground, while the carpet drew itself in till it was its proper size, and no longer fitted exactly into the inside of the tower, but left quite a big space all round it.
Then across the carpet they looked at each other, and then every chin was tilted up and every eye sought vainly to see where poor Robert had got to. Of course, they couldn't see him.
'I wish we hadn't come,' said Jane.
'You always do,' said Cyril, briefly. 'Look here, we can't leave Robert up there. I wish the carpet would fetch him down.'
The carpet seemed to awake from a dream and pull itself together. It stiffened itself briskly and floated up between the four walls of the tower. The children below craned their heads back, and nearly broke their necks in doing it. The carpet rose and rose. It hung poised darkly above them for an anxious moment or two; then it dropped down again, threw itself on the uneven floor of the tower, and as it did so it tumbled Robert out on the uneven floor of the tower.
'Oh, glory!' said Robert, 'that was a squeak. You don't know how I felt. I say, I've had about enough for a bit. Let's wish ourselves at home again and have a go at that jam tart and mutton. We can go out again afterwards.'
'Righto!' said every one, for the adventure had shaken the nerves of all. So they all got on to the carpet again, and said -
'I wish we were at home.'
And lo and behold, they were no more at home than before. The carpet never moved. The Phoenix had taken the opportunity to go to sleep. Anthea woke it up gently.
'Look here,' she said.
'I'm looking,' said the Phoenix.
'We WISHED to be at home, and we're still here,' complained Jane.
'No,' said the Phoenix, looking about it at the high dark walls of the tower. 'No; I quite see that.'
'But we wished to be at home,' said Cyril.
'No doubt,' said the bird, politely.
'And the carpet hasn't moved an inch,' said Robert.
'No,' said the Phoenix, 'I see it hasn't.'
'But I thought it was a wishing carpet?'
'So it is,' said the Phoenix.
'Then why - ?' asked the children, altogether.
'I did tell you, you know,' said the Phoenix, 'only you are so fond of listening to the music of your own voices. It is, indeed, the most lovely music to each of us, and therefore - '
'You did tell us WHAT?' interrupted an Exasperated.
'Why, that the carpet only gives you three wishes a day and YOU'VE HAD THEM.'
There was a heartfelt silence.
'Then how are we going to get home?' said Cyril, at last.
'I haven't any idea,' replied the Phoenix, kindly. 'Can I fly out and get you any little thing?'
'How could you carry the money to pay for it?'
'It isn't necessary. Birds always take what they want. It is not regarded as stealing, except in the case of magpies.'
The children were glad to find they had been right in supposing this to be the case, on the day when they had wings, and had enjoyed somebody else's ripe plums.
'Yes; let the Phoenix get us something to eat, anyway,' Robert urged - ' ('If it will be so kind you mean,' corrected Anthea, in a whisper); 'if it will be so kind, and we can be thinking while it's gone.'
So the Phoenix fluttered up through the grey space of the tower and vanished at the top, and it was not till it had quite gone that Jane said -
'Suppose it never comes back.'
It was not a pleasant thought, and though Anthea at once said, 'Of course it will come back; I'm certain it's a bird of its word,' a further gloom was cast by the idea. For, curiously enough, there was no door to the tower, and all the windows were far, far too high to be reached by the most adventurous climber. It was cold, too, and Anthea shivered.
'Yes,' said Cyril, 'it's like being at the bottom of a well.'
The children waited in a sad and hungry silence, and got little stiff necks with holding their little heads back to look up the inside of the tall grey tower, to see if the Phoenix were coming.
At last it came. It looked very big as it fluttered down between the walls, and as it neared them the children saw that its bigness was caused by a basket of boiled chestnuts which it carried in one claw. In the other it held a piece of bread. And in its beak was a very large pear. The pear was juicy, and as good as a very small drink. When the meal was over every one felt better, and the question of how to get home was discussed without any disagreeableness. But no one could think of any way out of the difficulty, or even out of the tower; for the Phoenix, though its beak and claws had fortunately been strong enough to carry food for them, was plainly not equal to flying through the air with four well-nourished children.
'We must stay here, I suppose,' said Robert at last, 'and shout out every now and then, and some one will hear us and bring ropes and ladders, and rescue us like out of mines; and they'll get up a subscription to send us home, like castaways.'
'Yes; but we shan't be home before mother is, and then father'll take away the carpet and say it's dangerous or something,' said Cyril.
'I DO wish we hadn't come,' said Jane.
And every one else said 'Shut up,' except Anthea, who suddenly awoke the Phoenix and said -
'Look here, I believe YOU can help us. Oh, I do wish you would!'
'I will help you as far as lies in my power,' said the Phoenix, at once. 'What is it you want now?'
'Why, we want to get home,' said every one.
'Oh,' said the Phoenix. 'Ah, hum! Yes. Home, you said? Meaning?'
'Where we live - where we slept last night - where the altar is that your egg was hatched on.'
'Oh, there!' said the Phoenix. 'Well, I'll do my best.' It fluttered on to the carpet and walked up and down for a few minutes in deep thought. Then it drew itself up proudly.
'I CAN help you,' it said. 'I am almost sure I can help you. Unless I am grossly deceived I can help you. You won't mind my leaving you for an hour or two?' and without waiting for a reply it soared up through the dimness of the tower into the brightness above.
'Now,' said Cyril, firmly, 'it said an hour or two. But I've read about captives and people shut up in dungeons and catacombs and things awaiting release, and I know each moment is an eternity. Those people always do something to pass the desperate moments. It's no use our trying to tame spiders, because we shan't have time.'
'I HOPE not,' said Jane, doubtfully.
'But we ought to scratch our names on the stones or something.'
'I say, talking of stones,' said Robert, 'you see that heap of stones against the wall over in that corner. Well, I'm certain there's a hole in the wall there - and I believe it's a door. Yes, look here - the stones are round like an arch in the wall; and here's the hole - it's all black inside.'
He had walked over to the heap as he spoke and climbed up to it - dislodged the top stone of the heap and uncovered a little dark space.
Next moment every one was helping to pull down the heap of stones, and very soon every one threw off its jacket, for it was warm work.
'It IS a door,' said Cyril, wiping his face, 'and not a bad thing either, if - '
He was going to add 'if anything happens to the Phoenix,' but he didn't for fear of frightening Jane. He was not an unkind boy when he had leisure to think of such things.
The arched hole in the wall grew larger and larger. It was very, very black, even compared with the sort of twilight at the bottom of the tower; it grew larger because the children kept pulling off the stones and throwing them down into another heap. The stones must have been there a very long time, for they were covered with moss, and some of them were stuck together by it. So it was fairly hard work, as Robert pointed out.
When the hole reached to about halfway between the top of the arch and the tower, Robert and Cyril let themselves down cautiously on the inside, and lit matches. How thankful they felt then that they had a sensible father, who did not forbid them to carry matches, as some boys' fathers do. The father of Robert and Cyril only insisted on the matches being of the kind that strike only on the box.
'It's not a door, it's a sort of tunnel,' Robert cried to the girls, after the first match had flared up, flickered, and gone out. 'Stand off - we'll push some more stones down!'
They did, amid deep excitement. And now the stone heap was almost gone - and before them the girls saw the dark archway leading to unknown things. All doubts and fears as to getting home were forgotten in this thrilling moment. It was like Monte Cristo - it was like -
'I say,' cried Anthea, suddenly, 'come out! There's always bad air in places that have been shut up. It makes your torches go out, and then you die. It's called fire-damp, I believe. Come out, I tell you.'
The urgency of her tone actually brought the boys out - and then every one took up its jacket and fanned the dark arch with it, so as to make the air fresh inside. When Anthea thought the air inside 'must be freshened by now,' Cyril led the way into the arch.
The girls followed, and Robert came last, because Jane refused to tail the procession lest 'something' should come in after her, and catch at her from behind. Cyril advanced cautiously, lighting match after match, and peerIng before him.
'It's a vaulting roof,' he said, 'and it's all stone - all right, Panther, don't keep pulling at my jacket! The air must be all right because of the matches, silly, and there are - look out - there are steps down.'
'Oh, don't let's go any farther,' said Jane, in an agony of reluctance (a very painful thing, by the way, to be in). 'I'm sure there are snakes, or dens of lions, or something. Do let's go back, and come some other time, with candles, and bellows for the fire-damp.'
'Let me get in front of you, then,' said the stern voice of Robert, from behind. 'This is exactly the place for buried treasure, and I'm going on, anyway; you can stay behind if you like.'
And then, of course, Jane consented to go on.
So, very slowly and carefully, the children went down the steps - there were seventeen of them - and at the bottom of the steps were more passages branching four ways, and a sort of low arch on the right-hand side made Cyril wonder what it could be, for it was too low to be the beginning of another passage.
So he knelt down and lit a match, and stooping very low he peeped in.
'There's SOMETHING,' he said, and reached out his hand. It touched something that felt more like a damp bag of marbles than anything else that Cyril had ever touched.
'I believe it IS a buried treasure,' he cried.
And it was; for even as Anthea cried, 'Oh, hurry up, Squirrel - fetch it out!' Cyril pulled out a rotting canvas bag - about as big as the paper ones the greengrocer gives you with Barcelona nuts in for sixpence.
'There's more of it, a lot more,' he said.
As he pulled the rotten bag gave way, and the gold coins ran and span and jumped and bumped and chinked and clinked on the floor of the dark passage.
I wonder what you would say if you suddenly came upon a buried treasure? What Cyril said was, 'Oh, bother - I've burnt my fingers!' and as he spoke he dropped the match. 'AND IT WAS THE LAST!' he added.
There was a moment of desperate silence. Then Jane began to cry.
'Don't,' said Anthea, 'don't, Pussy - you'll exhaust the air if you cry. We can get out all right.'
'Yes,' said Jane, through her sobs, 'and find the Phoenix has come back and gone away again - because it thought we'd gone home some other way, and - Oh, I WISH we hadn't come.'
Every one stood quite still - only Anthea cuddled Jane up to her and tried to wipe her eyes in the dark.
'D-DON'T,' said Jane; 'that's my EAR - I'm not crying with my ears.'
'Come, let's get on out,' said Robert; but that was not so easy, for no one could remember exactly which way they had come. It is very difficult to remember things in the dark, unless you have matches with you, and then of course it is quite different, even if you don't strike one.
Every one had come to agree with Jane's constant wish - and despair was making the darkness blacker than ever, when quite suddenly the floor seemed to tip up - and a strong sensation of being in a whirling lift came upon every one. All eyes were closed - one's eyes always are in the dark, don't you think? When the whirling feeling stopped, Cyril said 'Earthquakes!' and they all opened their eyes.
They were in their own dingy breakfast-room at home, and oh, how light and bright and safe and pleasant and altogether delightful it seemed after that dark underground tunnel! The carpet lay on the floor, looking as calm as though it had never been for an excursion in its life. On the mantelpiece stood the Phoenix, waiting with an air of modest yet sterling worth for the thanks of the children.
'But how DID you do it?' they asked, when every one had thanked the Phoenix again and again.
'Oh, I just went and got a wish from your friend the Psammead.'
'But how DID you know where to find it?'
'I found that out from the carpet; these wishing creatures always know all about each other - they're so clannish; like the Scots, you know - all related.'
'But, the carpet can't talk, can it?'
'Then how - '
'How did I get the Psammead's address? I tell you I got it from the carpet.'
'DID it speak then?'
'No,' said the Phoenix, thoughtfully, 'it didn't speak, but I gathered my information from something in its manner. I was always a singularly observant bird.'
it was not till after the cold mutton and the jam tart, as well as the tea and bread-and-butter, that any one found time to regret the golden treasure which had been left scattered on the floor of the underground passage, and which, indeed, no one had thought of till now, since the moment when Cyril burnt his fingers at the flame of the last match.
'What owls and goats we were!' said Robert. 'Look how we've always wanted treasure - and now - '
'Never mind,' said Anthea, trying as usual to make the best of it. 'We'll go back again and get it all, and then we'll give everybody presents.'
More than a quarter of an hour passed most agreeably in arranging what presents should be given to whom, and, when the claims of generosity had been satisfied, the talk ran for fifty minutes on what they would buy for themselves.
It was Cyril who broke in on Robert's almost too technical account of the motor-car on which he meant to go to and from school -
'There!' he said. 'Dry up. It's no good. We can't ever go back. We don't know where it is.'
'Don't YOU know?' Jane asked the Phoenix, wistfully.
'Not in the least,' the Phoenix replied, in a tone of amiable regret.
'Then we've lost the treasure,' said Cyril. And they had.
'But we've got the carpet and the Phoenix,' said Anthea.
'Excuse me,' said the bird, with an air of wounded dignity, 'I do SO HATE to seem to interfere, but surely you MUST mean the Phoenix and the carpet?'
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER 3 THE QUEEN COOK