CHAPTER 1. THE PSAMMEAD
CHAPTER 2. THE HALF AMULET
CHAPTER 3. THE PAST
CHAPTER 4. EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS AGO
CHAPTER 5. THE FIGHT IN THE VILLAGE
CHAPTER 6. THE WAY TO BABYLON
CHAPTER 7. 'THE DEEPEST DUNGEON BELOW THE CASTLE MOAT'
CHAPTER 8. THE QUEEN IN LONDON
CHAPTER 9. ATLANTIS
CHAPTER 10. THE LITTLE BLACK GIRL AND JULIUS CAESAR
CHAPTER 11. BEFORE PHARAOH
CHAPTER 12. THE SORRY-PRESENT AND THE EXPELLED LITTLE BOY
CHAPTER 13. THE SHIPWRECK ON THE TIN ISLANDS
CHAPTER 14. THE HEART'S DESIRE
CHAPTER 1. THE PSAMMEAD
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, and Channel!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
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
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,
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
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
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
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 ourselves.''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
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
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
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 Robert.'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 of
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
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
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
to five bob, according to the breed.''And
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
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
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
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 a talk.''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 of sight.'Well!'
said Anthea, 'anyhow our holidays won't be dull NOW. We've found the
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 wishes.''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
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.
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.
stretched and shook itself.
must have bolted your breakfast most unwholesomely,' it said, 'you
can't have been five minutes over it.'
been nearly an hour,' said Anthea. 'Come—you know you promised.'
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
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.'
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 once more.
wrapped it in her pinafore and carried it downstairs. It was welcomed
in a thrilling silence. At last Anthea said, 'Now then!'
place is this?' asked the Psammead, shooting its eyes out and turning
them slowly round.
a sitting-room, of course,' said Robert.
I don't like it,' said the Psammead.
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?'
looked keenly at her, and she blushed.
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.'
wish you wouldn't,' said Jane. 'Anthea was quite right. What was it
you were going to say when she stopped you?'
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
course you are!' Anthea was beginning but it interrupted her.
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.'
know,' said Cyril, 'it always was, if you remember.'
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.'
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?'
others all said yes—and fidgeted in their chairs. Robert spoke the
wishes of all when he said—
do wish you'd go on.' So it sat up on the green-covered table and
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.'
sand?' Jane repeated.
I sleep. You go to bed. I go to sand.'
yawned; the mention of bed made her feel sleepy.
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?'
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.'
from habit, the Sand-fairy began to blow itself out, but it stopped
forgot,' it said; 'I can't give you any more wishes.'
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.'
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.'
it did yesterday—with the man in the shop,' said Robert.
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 played out.'
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.'
Jane began to cry.
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.'
easier said than done.'
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
children looked at each other and then at the Psammead. Then Cyril
coughed awkwardly and took sudden courage to say what everyone was
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?'
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?'
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!'
don't care what you do,' said the Psammead; 'I'll go back to sand
again till you've made up your minds.'
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
course,' said the Psammead; 'how else would you find the shop?'
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.
not half the weight of The Lamb,' Robert said, and the girls sighed.
Psammead poked a wary eye out of the top of the basket every now and
then, and told the children which turnings to take.
on earth do you know?' asked Robert. 'I can't think how you do it.'
the Psammead said sharply, 'No—I don't suppose you can.'
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.
Psammead put its head quite out of the fish-basket to look in the
window, when Cyril said—
a tray there with rubbish in it.'