MYSTERY NO. I
SHIN SHIRA APPEARS
It was very remarkable how I first came to make his acquaintance at all. Shin Shira I mean. I had been sitting at my desk, writing, for quite a long time, when suddenly I heard, as I thought, a noise in another part of the room. I turned my head hastily and looked towards the door, but it was fast closed and there was apparently nobody in the room but myself.
“Strange!” I murmured, looking about to try and discover what had caused the sound, and then my eyes lighted, to my great surprise, upon a pair of bright yellow morocco shoes with very long, pointed toes, standing on the floor in front of a favourite little squat chair of mine which I call “the Toad.”
I gazed at the yellow shoes in amazement, for they certainly did not belong to me, and they had decidedly not been there a short time before, for I had been sitting in the chair myself.
I had just got up to examine them, when, to my utter astonishment, I saw a pair of yellow stockings appearing above them; an instant later, a little yellow body; and finally, the quaintest little head that I have ever seen, surmounted by a yellow turban, in the front of which a large jewel sparkled and shone.
It was not the turban, however, but the face beneath it which claimed my greatest attention, for the eyes were nearly starting out of the head with fright, and the expression was one of the greatest anxiety.
It gave way, however, to reassurance and content directly the little man had given a hurried glance round the room, and he sank comfortably down into “the Toad” with a sigh of relief.
“Phew!” he exclaimed, drawing out a little yellow fan from his sleeve and fanning himself vigorously, “that was a narrow squeak! I really don’t think that I’ve been in such a tight corner before for two hundred years at least.” And he tucked his fan away again and beamed upon me complacently.
I was so astounded at the sudden appearance of this remarkable little personage that for the moment I quite lost the use of my tongue; and in the meantime my little visitor was glancing about the room with piercing eyes that seemed to take in everything.
“H’m!—writer, I suppose?” he said, nodding his head towards my desk, which was as usual littered with papers. “What line? You don’t look very clever,” and he glanced at me critically from under his bushy eyebrows.
“I only write books for children,” I answered, “and one doesn’t have to be very clever to do that.”
“Oh, children!” said the little Yellow Dwarf—as I had begun to call him in my own mind. “No, you don’t have to be clever, but you have to be—er—by the way, do you write fairy stories?” he interrupted himself to ask.
“Sometimes,” I answered.
“Ah! then I can put you up to a thing or two. I’m partly a fairy myself.