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The Magic City


But this morning even the thought of the island failed to charm. Philip
straggled away to the window and looked out dismally at the soaked
lawn and the dripping laburnum trees, and the row of raindrops
hanging fat and full on the iron gate.
'What is it, Pippin?' Helen asked. 'Don't tell me you're going to have
horrid measles, or red-hot scarlet fever, or noisy whooping-cough.'
She came across and laid her hand on his forehead.
'Why, you're quite hot, boy of my heart. Tell sister, what is it?'
'You tell me,' said Philip slowly.
'Tell you what, Pip?'
'You think you ought to bear it alone, like in books, and be noble and
all that. But you must tell me; you promised you'd never have any secrets
from me, Helen, you know you did.'
Helen put her arm round him and said nothing. And from her silence
Pip drew the most desperate and harrowing conclusions. The silence las-
ted. The rain gurgled in the water-pipe and dripped on the ivy. The ca-
nary in the green cage that hung in the window put its head on one side
and tweaked a seed husk out into Philip's face, then twittered defiantly.
But his sister said nothing.
'Don't,' said Philip suddenly, 'don't break it to me; tell me straight out.'
'Tell you what?' she said again.
'What is it?' he said. 'I know how these unforetold misfortunes happen.
Some one always comesÑand then it's broken to the family.'
'What is?' she asked.
'The misfortune,' said Philip breathlessly. 'Oh, Helen, I'm not a baby.
Do tell me! Have we lost our money in a burst bank? Or is the landlord
going to put bailiffs into our furniture? Or are we going to be falsely ac-
cused about forgery, or being burglars?'
All the books Philip had ever read worked together in his mind to pro-
duce these melancholy suggestions. Helen laughed, and instantly felt a
stiffening withdrawal of her brother from her arm.
'No, no, my Pippin, dear,' she made haste to say. 'Nothing horrid like
that has happened.'
'Then what is it?' he asked, with a growing impatience that felt like a
wolf gnawing inside him.
'I didn't want to tell you all in a hurry like this,' she said anxiously; 'but
don't you worry, my boy of boys. It's something that makes me very
happy. I hope it will you, too.'
He swung round in the circling of her arm and looked at her with sud-
den ecstasy.
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