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and put it in his pocket, drew the thongs together for a moment, and looked inside again.
Sure enough. There lay the third coin. George left it there. This was the Magic Purse that
never stayed empty!
Here? On 69th St.?
But what else? Suddenly he was in a frenzy to know what else. That carpet. Well, of course!
He had no doubt it was the one mat could fly! He got up and began to paw over his strange
loot. He took up the soft black cloak, put h over his shoulders, and vanished.
That is, of course, George remained standing right where he was, but when he looked down
along his body, he couldn't see it! This was the Cloak of Darkness! The very one!
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He shuddered out of the thing. Cold chills were racing in
258 Charlotte Armstrong
his spine. He hung the Cloak in his closet, aimlessly, without thought-
Ah. the thing like a teapot' He recognized it now! He'd seen it drawn, in a hundred
illustrations. It was the Lamp, the only Lamp that could qualify for this collection! Aladdin's!
Must be! Must be! But George wasn't going to rub it. Not now. He didn't want to meet the
Slave of the Lamp! Not this afternoon!
George inched it aside. He was excited and he was scared. He daren't stop and mink. That
ring? Ah, but alt the old tales were full of rings, with one magic property or another. He
slipped it on his finger, where it seemed to fit comfortably. Nothing happened.
His eye lit on the pink stone flask and he picked it up. He was convinced, now, that this, too,
was. magically endowed. Somehow, he had here the strangest of all collections.
(The little old proprietor must have known! How old? How old was that man? A thousand?
Five thousand? He'd said he was tired! George trembled. Never mind. Don't think of it!)
Oh yes, everything here, logic insisted, must be magical.
The pink flask was heavy in his right hand. He rubbed his head. *'l wish," he murmured,
"murmured, "a little bird would tell me what's in here."
In the Ring. forgotten on his left hand, and back of his head, the dull stone brightened. It lit,
like an eye that saw, suddenly.
"Water from the Fountain of Youth." This sentence came into me air. It was like a line of
music, high and full of flats. George turned his head in sharp alarm. Had he heard it? Or
thought it? No sound now, certainly. Only beyond the win- dow sill. the flutter of wings . . .
some sparrow . . .
Water from the Fountain of Youth! George loosened his fingers- He wanted none of that!
Suddenly, he wanted none of any of it. He stripped off the Wishing Ring and threw it down.
He understood that one might wish to get rid of these things.
It wasn't . . . well, it wasn't right! He wanted to crawl back within the safety of the possible,
the steadiness and order of the natural world, the sane and simple world of splitting atoms,
of nebulae, of radar and penicillin.
It is not so easy to believe in magic.
George paced up and down, conquering his fright, assimi- lating his wonder.
There remained the Rose and the Sword. He mistrusted the Rose. He had a shadowy
recollection of the Rose and the tale of the Rose. He picked up the Sword and drew it from
the scabbard.
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It leaped in his hand. What a piece it was! George swung his wrist over and sliced off the
top of the bedpost. The hard brass separated, clean and sharp. The upper six inches fell off
on the floor.
It was impossible not to take another swipe at something. George brought his arm around.
The Sword leaped and flashed down through the back, the seat, the springs of his lough,
hard-cushioned leather chair. Clattering, it fell apart in two perfectly neat sections. Wood,
fabric, metal, anything' Lord, tordy, what a sword! The Sword of Swiftness, or maybe
Excalibur itself! He whirled the blade around his head. Whis- tling sweetly, it descended and
cleaved the washbasin as if it were butter. A chunk of the hard porcelain came clean away
and dropped with a bang on the floor. Lucky he'd missed the plumbing, for heaven's sakes!
George realized he'd better restrain himself. This thing was dangerous! Much, much too
dangerous to play with.
He flicked the Sword at the window sill, cutting a swift notch with the bare tip. He took a neat
triangle delicately out of the mirror. He fought temptation. Sweating, he made himself take
up the crimson scabbard and insert therein the wicked and utterly fascinating blade.
(Outside, in the hall, Mr. Josef stood quivering. His beard was agitated. His eye yearned for
George's keyhole.)
But George sheathed the Sword and put it away from him. He puffed out his breath. What to
do now? Anybody else might have run for a good stiff drink, but to George came the thought
that he'd had no lunch! No wonder he fell queer. Besides, he'd think better on a hill stomach.
Oh, he hadn't forgotten what he was really after- It would take more than a bag of magic to
make George forget what he'd wrapped his whole life around. Now, somehow, he was
Charlotte Armstrong
going to be able to ask for Kathy! All he had to do was calm himself, and think it out!
He shoved all the stuff back into the carpet bag, or thought he did. He hadn't counted the
nine objects. He was too excited to check. He forgot the Mirror, stil! under his pillow, and the
Cloak, in his closet.
The rest he packed and then he shoved the bag under the bed with the instinct to hide it. He
felt of his money. He was whistling a Georgish version of Tonight We Love as he slammed
out of his door, and went downstairs with swift heels beating out the jig time of his tune.
No sooner did George depart, in the very backwash of the sound of his going, Mr. Josef
oozed across the hall. His ears shadowed George out me door far below, checked the
finality of its slam. Then, softly, he put his own key into George's lock. it yielded. Mr. Josef
poured himself around the edge of
the door and inside.
He stared at the empty room as if he would hypnotize this space to remain empty. The
closet door was half-open. Mr. Josef went slinking along the wail towards it, his right hand in [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]