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The Magic City


Philip knew how rude it is to whisper, because Helen had often told him
this. He heard one or two words, 'at last,' and 'over now,' and 'this even-
ing, then.'
After that Helen said, 'This is my brother Philip,' and the man shook
hands with himÑacross Helen, another thing which Philip knew was
not manners, and said, 'I hope we shall be the best of friends.' Pip said,
'How do you do?' because that is the polite thing to say. But inside him-
self he said, 'I don't want to be friends with you.'
Then the man took off his hat and walked away, and Philip and his
sister went home. She seemed different, somehow, and he was sent to
bed a little earlier than usual, but he could not go to sleep for a long time,
because he heard the front-door bell ring and afterwards a man's voice
and Helen's going on and on in the little drawing-room under the room
which was his bedroom. He went to sleep at last, and when he woke up
in the morning it was raining, and the sky was grey and miserable. He
lost his collar-stud, he tore one of his stockings as he pulled it on, he
pinched his finger in the door, and he dropped his tooth-mug, with wa-
ter in it too, and the mug was broken and the water went into his boots.
There are mornings, you know, when things happen like that. This was
one of them.
Then he went down to breakfast, which tasted not quite so nice as usu-
al. He was late, of course. The bacon fat was growing grey with waiting
for him, as Helen said, in the cheerful voice that had always said all the
things he liked best to hear. But Philip didn't smile. It did not seem the
sort of morning for smiling, and the grey rain beat against the window.
After breakfast Helen said, 'Tea in the garden is indefinitely post-
poned, and it's too wet for lessons.'
That was one of her charming ideasÑthat wet days should not be
made worse by lessons.
'What shall we do?' she said; 'shall we talk about the island? Shall I
make another map of it? And put in all the gardens and fountains and
swings?'
The island was a favourite play. Somewhere in the warm seas where
palm trees are, and rainbow-coloured sands, the island was said to
beÑtheir own island, beautified by their fancy with everything they
liked and wanted, and Philip was never tired of talking about it. There
were times when he almost believed that the island was real. He was
king of the island and Helen was queen, and no one else was to be al-
lowed on it. Only these two.
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