It was useless, however, to cry over spilt milk, and all my thought now was to get back to the hotel in safety.
This we eventually did, and my ballooning friends accepted my invitation to take dinner at the hotel with me, so that after my adventure of the day I had a very pleasant evening. It was not till the next morning that I discovered that Aladdin’s Lamp had vanished—had, in fact, probably been stolen.
There was nothing left to do now but to set out for England, which I eventually reached; and on arriving in London, and having the stones which I had brought back in my pockets valued, I found that there were many worthless ones among them, and that the few good ones, when sold, only realised sufficient to pay the rather heavy expenses of my journey to and from Baghdad, with a very little over for myself to repay me for the loss of my time.
MYSTERY NO. VIII
SHIN SHIRA AND THE MAD BULL
The Verrinder children were in a state of great excitement and glee, for we were going to spend the day at Burnham Beeches.
The plan was to drive over in a wagonette and have a picnic under the trees in the middle of the day.
Lionel was amongst the party, and Lady Betty, a young friend of the Verrinders, so that we were a merry crowd as we scrambled into the wagonette.
“It doesn’t matter about your being old,” said Fidge, snuggling up to me and catching hold of my arm; “you’re not like most grown-ups, and don’t mind us larking about a bit.”
“I hope not,” I said smilingly.
“Besides, he isn’t old,” chimed in Lady Betty, “at least not very,” she qualified. “He hasn’t even got a beard, and if he wasn’t a little bit grown-up he couldn’t afford to take us about,” she added practically.
“I expect we’ll have some jolly decent grub,” I heard Dick whisper to Lionel. “Mrs. Putchy makes ripping pastry. I know, because we used to stay at his place sometimes before you came.”
Marjorie looked up from her book and smiled and nodded across at me. “It’s lovely,” she said, as we drove along. “We’re going to have a perfectly splendid day.”
We were sitting three aside, and there was just comfortable room for us; and when we had got well into the country I began to tell the younger ones, Fidge and Lady Betty, a story. Marjorie closed her book too and leaned forward to listen, but the two big boys, evidently considering it infra dig. to listen to anything so childish, were eagerly comparing school experiences. Dick was at Harrow and Lionel at Marlborough, so they had a lot to talk about.
Presently, in the middle of my story, Marjorie called out, without looking up, “Move further along, Dick, don’t crowd so.”
“I’m not!” retorted Dick, “it’s you. I can’t move any further without crowding Lionel out of the trap.”
“Oh, it’s this cushion,” cried Marjorie, turning about and trying to remove what looked at first like a yellow silk cushion beside her.