“Oh, for the Dear Sake, be silent!” said Miss Ford, writing down “Thelma Bennett Watkins,” in self-defence. “This, I take it, is the name you gave at the time of the National Registration.”
“I forget,” said the Stranger. “I remember that I put down my trade as Magic, and they registered it on my card as ‘Machinist.’ Yet Magic, I believe, is a starred profession.”
“What is your trade really?” asked Miss Ford.
“I’ll show you,” replied the Stranger, unbuttoning once more the flap of her pocket.
* * * * *
She wrote a word upon the air with her finger, and made a flourish under the word. So flowery was the flourish that it span her round, right round upon her toes, and she faced her watchers again. The committee jumped, for the blind ran up, and outside the window, at the end of a strange perspective of street, the trees of some far square were as soft as thistledown against a lemon-coloured sky. A sound came up the street....
The forgotten April and the voices of lambs pealed like bells into the room....
Oh, let us flee from April! We are but swimmers in seas of words, we members of committees, and to the song of April there are no words. What do we know, and what does London know, after all these years of learning?
Old Mother London crouches, with her face buried in her hands; and she is walled in with her fogs and her loud noises, and over her head are the heavy beams of her dark roof, and she has the barred sun for a skylight, and winds that are but hideous draughts rush under her door. London knows much, and every moment she learns a new thing, but this she shall never learn—that the sun shines all day and the moon all night on the silver tiles of her dark house, and that the young months climb her walls, and run singing in and out between her chimneys....
* * * * *
Nothing else happened in that room. At least nothing more important than the ordinary manifestations attendant upon magic. The lamp had tremulously gone out. Coloured flames danced about the Stranger’s head. One felt the thrill of a purring cat against one’s ankles, one saw its green eyes glare. But these things hardly counted.
It was all over. The Mayor was heard cracking his fingers, and whispering “Puss, Puss.” The lamp relighted itself. Nobody had known that it was so gifted.
The Mayor said: “Splendid, miss, quite splendid. You’d make a fortune on the stage.” His tongue, however, seemed to be talking by itself, without the assistance of the Mayor himself. One could see that he was shaken out of his usual grocerly calm, for his feverish hand was stroking a cat where no cat was.
Black cats are only the showy properties of magic, easily materialised, even by beginners, at will. It must be confusing for such an orderly animal as the cat to exist in this intermittent way, never knowing, so to speak, whether it is there or not there, from one moment to another.