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Authors: Edward Eager

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BOOK: Seven-Day Magic
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The others looked.

Instead of short, friendly Cherry Street, with its white houses and big trees, blocks of drab apartment houses stretched far into the distance ahead.

"It's like a city," said John.

"We're somewhere else. It's the magic. It's beginning," said Susan, shivering delightedly. "I like it like this when it sneaks up on you!"

"Where do you suppose we are?" said Fredericka.

"I saw a sign last week that said, 'Watch Our Town Grow,'" said Abbie. "Do you suppose it
did?
Do you suppose this is the
future?
"

A high, gawky-looking windowless car drove past, honking a horn that said "Ah-oo-ga."

John shook his head. "It's the other way round. That's a 1924 Hupmobile," for he was one who knew about such things. "I don't know where we are, but it's in olden times. We're in the past somewhere."

"It's familiar. I've seen this street before. In a book, I think," said Susan. "Only what one?" Then she stopped short and clutched whoever was handy, pointing up ahead.

On the nearest corner stood a little girl. She was rather a poor-looking little girl, but neat. She wore an old-fashioned apron over her dress, and her dark hair hung straightly down her back in a ponytail. She was looking at something in her hand, something that gave a metallic glint. On the sidewalk nearby sat a fat baby with its thumb in its mouth.

"I
knew
it was a book!" whispered Susan excitedly. "It's the girl in the
Half Magic
picture! It's the little girl in the last chapter who finds the charm after Jane and Mark and Katharine and Martha pass it on!"

"I always wanted to know what happened next!" said Abbie.

"In Oz we got there before the beginning," marveled Fredericka. "This time we're coming in after the end!"

"Shush," said Susan. "Be careful. Don't scare her."

But Fredericka was pushing forward. "Hello," she said. "Do you know what you just found? You just found a magic charm!"

The little girl looked up with a smile. "Hello," she said. "I
thought
it might be that."

"Well, it is," said Fredericka.

"Only it works by halves," said Barnaby.

The little girl shook her head. "It doesn't work at all. I wished I could go into future times and meet some children there, but I'm still right where I started."

"But we
come
from future times!" said Abbie.

"You
do?
Did my wish bring you?" said the little girl.

"I'm not sure," said Barnaby, scratching his head in a puzzled way. The problem of whose wish had brought whom where was too much even for his giant brain.

"You see, we've got a magic of our own," explained Susan, "and we wished at the same time."

"How
interesting
," said the little girl. "Maybe we sort of met in the middle."

"Anyway, we're here," said Fredericka, "and that's the better half of
any
wish."

"Tell me about what it's like," said the little girl. "The future, I mean. Are there no more wars or poor people? Is everything perfect?"

The five children looked at each other.

"Not quite," said Barnaby. "Not just yet. But we're working on it."

"Could I go there and see?" said the little girl. "May I come and call on you?"

"I'm not sure," said Barnaby again.

"Of course we'd be glad to have you, any time," said Susan quickly.

"It's just that in the book Merlin fixed the charm

 

so it only worked in the present time," said Barnaby.

"Still, that was when the other children had it," said Susan. "Maybe with a new person it'd start all over fresh."

"Who's Merlin?" said the little girl. "What other children?"

"It's a long story," said Barnaby. And he proceeded to tell it to her.

If you have read the book called
Half Magic,
you will know the story Barnaby told. If not, suffice it to say that the charm was an old, ancient talisman that was found lying on the sidewalk by four children in the year 1924 in a town called Toledo, Ohio. And it thwarted them and had its way with them until they learned its ways and tamed it and had
their
way with
it,
traveling through time and space to the court of King Arthur and other interesting places. And in the end six lives were changed. After that the four children left the charm lying on the sidewalk again for someone else to find.

"And you came along and found it," finished Barnaby.

"And we came along and found you," said Ab- bie.

"Oh," said the little girl. She thought for a minute. "How does it work?"

"That's where the catch comes in," said Fredericka.

"It's a wishing charm," said Susan, "only it cuts wishes in two and only grants half of them."

"Like if you wished you were in the middle of London Bridge," said Barnaby, "you might end up just in London somewhere, or you might end up on some other bridge
anywhere.
"

"Or the bridge of a ship," said John.

"Or in some dumb old bridge game," said Fredericka.

"Or," finished Barnaby, "you might end up in the middle of the ocean,
halfway
there. So if you want something, you have to wish for twice whatever it is."

"Or twice as much," said Susan.

"Or twice as far," said Abbie.

"Oh," said the little girl again. There was a pause, as all this sank in.

"Do you want any help?" was the eager offer of Fredericka. "Shall I wish for you?"

The little girl looked at her. "No, thank you," she said. "I think I can do it. I've had the two times table." She held the charm before her and addressed it firmly. "I want to go into the future," she said, "twice as far as to the time and place these children come from, and I want them to come there with me. Twice," she added.

"That's very
good,
" said Fredericka kindly.

But Susan held their own magic book tight in her hands and wished, too.

The next moment the five children and the little girl were sitting on John and Susan's front porch. I hope it is not necessary to remind you of a seventh person who had been left behind.

"Is this the future?" said the little girl, looking around at white houses, green trees, grass, and a picket fence. "It doesn't seem any different."

"That's cause we're in the country," said Barnaby. "Nature stays pretty much the same. There've been lots of improvements in the world, though. Well, changes anyway."

"Cities are bigger," said Susan.

"Cars go faster," said Abbie. A Thunderbird sped by on the road before them, just to prove it.

"Planes fly higher," said John. "We're exploring outer space now. Of course, you can't see from here," he added, as the little girl looked at the sky expectantly.

"What's that?" said the little girl, pointing upward.

Everyone looked where she pointed, and Susan uttered a cry of alarm.

What "that" was was Grannie, sitting perilously poised on the window sill of John's gable room and washing the window from outside, a thing Susan and John had strictly forbidden her to do.

"Hello," she greeted them. "That puzzle wasn't any good. It wouldn't come out."

"Stay right there," called John, in a voice he hoped was calm. "Don't move."

He ran inside, and Susan and Barnaby and Abbie and Fredericka followed.

If you have never had a grandmother like Grannie (and many have not), you may be wondering about her, and how so active and unexpected an old lady happened to have such calm, sensible grandchildren as Susan and John. In a way, that may be part of the reason. They had learned to remain calm, no matter what.

But if you are thinking of Grannie as just a dotty old lady, you are wrong. She was far more. As to exactly
what
she was, this is not the time or the place to say. That time will come.

For now, it is enough to know that it took five minutes and the combined arguments of all five children to persuade Grannie off the window sill and into the house and downstairs, and establish her in the parlor rocker with some suitable tatting.

"There," said Susan, coming out on the porch again with the others. "Excuse us for leaving you alone." Then she broke off.

The little girl wasn't alone. A man was standing on the front lawn, and the little girl was staring at him in pale surprise.

"Something terrible happened," she cried. "I suddenly remembered I left Baby sitting there on the sidewalk, back home in Toledo, Ohio! So I wished on the charm, but it's all gone wrong. Baby didn't come.
He
came instead!" And she pointed a finger of horror at the man.

"You must have forgotten the half part of the magic," said Susan. "You must have forgotten to say two times everything. You must have brought him
half
here."

"I couldn't have. Does he look like half a baby?"

The five children looked at the man and had to agree that he did not. The man was big, and he wore a suit and a shirt and a tie and a hat. He looked, in short, like a man. But that was at first glance.

As the five children went on looking, the man put his thumb in his mouth. And the little girl gave a cry.

"It
is
Baby! I'd recognize him anywhere! He
always
does that! But what's happened to him?"

"I think I see," said Barnaby. "It could be worse. Just his bottom half might have turned up, or just his top. Or the charm might have brought him all half there and transparent, like the ghost of a baby. It did something like that once before. But it likes to thwart people in a different way each time. So it brought him here half
grown up
!"

"About thirty-seven years old, I'd say," said John.

"Sure! Prob'ly just the age he'd be if he'd really been growing all these years," said Barnaby, "but the half of him that's inside is still just a baby!"

"This is awful!" said the little girl, looking at the babyish man. "I can't take him home again like that! Mother wouldn't
want
him like that!"

"It's very simple," said Fredericka. "All you do is, you make another wish. And get the 'rithmetic part right this time."

"I can't" said the little girl. "When I saw
him,
I was so surprised I dropped the charm, and it rolled down the walk and he picked it up and put it in his pocket. And it's no use asking for it back. Baby'll never give
anything
back!"

She looked at the man, who was now sitting on the grass making a mud pie. Then she burst into tears.

"Don't cry," said John. "We'll get it for you."

"Let me," said Susan. After all, it was supposed to be her turn at the magic. And she had always been good with babies.

She went up to the manly form. "Naughty, naughty," she said. "Baby mustn't touch.
Nasty
magic charm. Burney burn. What did Baby do with it?
Tell
Susan."

"How can I?" said the baby (or man). "I can't talk."

Then it looked surprised. "Who said that? Did / say that? Why, I can
too
talk!" it said. "Can I walk, too?" It got up and staggered a few steps. "I can walk!" it cried. "Look at me; I'm walking!"

"
Clever
baby!" said Susan. But the man (or baby) paid no heed.

"This is wonderful! I can go anywhere I like!" it boasted. "No more big people carrying me around and telling me what to do! No more everlasting baby carriage! I'm free!" And it started for the gate. Now that it was getting used to walking, it hardly staggered at all.

But the little girl barred the way. "Wait! Stop!" she cried. "Don't you know me?"

The baby looked down at her from its vast height. "Yes, I do," it said. "I know you now. You're that big one that keeps picking me up and carrying me away just when it's getting interesting and putting me to bed. But never again any more of that from now on! From now on I'm bigger than
you
are. I can pick
you
up and carry
you
away!"

And it did.

"Put me down!" cried the little girl, jogging along the road in its overgrown clutch.

"Come back!" called the five children, running to the gate and peering after them.

The man (or baby) was heading down the road in the opposite direction from town, toward the little country railroad station that is called Talmadge Hill.

"Reach in its pocket! Find the charm!" Barnaby shouted after the little girl.

"I can't! He's got me all scrooched!" the little girl called. And after that any further words died away in the distance.

The five children looked at each other.

"Shall we just let them go?" said Susan. "I suppose what happens now is really her adventure, in a way."

"But it's part ours, too," said John. "We helped get them here. Besides, the railway crossing's straight ahead of them. That baby wouldn't know any better than to sit down on the tracks and play dandelion clocks!"

Luckily at this moment the mailman happened along in his truck, and the five children all knew him, so it was all right for them to accept a lift, though aggravating when he stopped at every passing mailbox. At the foot of the hill that led to the station, he turned into a driveway with a special delivery package; so the five children got out and started up the steep hill on foot.

BOOK: Seven-Day Magic
12.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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