JBS Haldane

My Friend Mr Leakey


Published: 1937;
Transcribed: http://209.196.185.114/stories/haldane/ my%20friend%20my%20leakey.pdf (see the .pdf version for the charming illustrations);
HTML: for marxists.org in May, 2002.


I told you before about a dinner I had one evening with my friend Mr Leakey, a magician who lives in London. Before I left him I promised to spend a day with him some time, and now I am going to tell you about that day.

Years ago I gave up hanging up a stocking on Christmas Eve. One reason is that I have no stockings to hang, because I almost always wear trousers, and even when I wear shorts I wear socks with them so as to make my calves brown. And I don’t think Father Christmas would find room in a sock for all the things I want. So when I woke up on Christmas morning I was rather surprised to see one of my socks hanging on the bottom of the bed, and much more so when it got up and walked along the counterpane towards me. When it was over my chest it bowed deeply, and emptied out a letter sealed with sealing wax, a turkey's egg, a tie pin with an emerald in it, a fruit which I afterwards found out was a custard apple, and a pocket diary. I guessed at once that the presents were from Mr Leakey, because none of my other friends would have been able to send me things in that way. And when I opened the letter I found that it was an invitation to spend the day after Boxing Day with him. Besides this he told me what the egg and fruit were, and that the tie pin and diary had been bewitched so that I could not lose them, which is what I generally do with pins and diaries.

The day after Boxing Day I went round to Mr Leakey's flat after breakfast. This time the door was opened by Abdu'l Makkar, Mr Leakey's jinn. He was dressed as a footman, with brass buttons, and took my coat and hat to hang them up. The only odd thing about it was that he stood about two feet away and never touched my coat when he was taking it off. It felt rather queer, but I was accustomed to queer feelings in that house.

Mr Leakey greeted me warmly when I went into his room. So did Pompey the dragon, who was sitting on the fire. He started flapping his wings when I came in, which made the fire smoke, but Mr Leakey had only to pick up a magic wand which was lying on the table, and Pompey at once lay down quietly with his head between his paws.

'I thought we might go over to Java for lunch,' said my host, 'but there are a couple of things I want to do this morning. Would you like to come around with me? If not stay here and smoke a pipe, and I'll arrange an entertainment for you.'

'I'll come out with you, if you're sure I shan't be in the way,' I answered.

'Oh no, I shall be delighted to have you with me, but you may have to become invisible, so you'd better practise here, because it feels rather funny the first time. Put this cap of darkness on, and walk round the room once or twice. If you look down you may feel giddy. So if you find you're losing your balance look straight in front of you.

He handed me a black cap with a peak to it, about the shape of the paper hats you get out of a Christmas cracker. It was the blackest thing I have ever seen, not a bit the colour of ordinary black cloth or paper, but like the colour of a black hole. You could not see what it was made of, or whether it was smooth or rough. It didn't feel like cloth or anything ordinary, but like very soft warm india-rubber. I put it on, and at once my arm disappeared. Everything looked slightly odd, and at first I couldn't think why. Then I saw that the two ghostly noses which I always see without noticing them were gone. I shut one of my eyes, as one does if one wants to see one's nose more clearly. I felt my eye shut, but it made no difference. Of course now that I was invisible my eye- lids and nose were quite transparent! Then I looked to where my body and legs ought to have been, but of course I saw nothing. I got a horrid giddy feeling and had to catch hold of the table with an in- visible hand. However I steadied myself and looked straight in front of me, and quite soon I was able to walk round the room easily enough.

'Put the cap in your pocket when we go out,' said my host. 'Then when you want to be invisible, put it on under your hat. It will make that invisible all right, just like it does your clothes.'

We went out into the street. This time no one was there in the hall, but my hat and coat just flew off their pegs and put themselves on to me.

'First,' said Mr Leakey as we got into a taxi, 'I'm going to deal with a dog who is making a nuisance of himself. He bites people, and unless I do something about it the police will have him killed. But I'm going to do something about it. Them I'm going to make a cheque invisible, and perhaps one or two other little things. Of course one can't do magic on a big scale in London. It would attract no- tice, and people would start worrying me, which I don't like. But I like to be useful in a small way. For example I think our taxi-driver would look better without all those spots. Don't you?

Certainly the driver had pimples enough on his face to make an advertisement for one of those wonderful medicines you read about in the newspapers. Mr Leakey took up his umbrella, which had such a queer handle that I guessed at once that it must really be a magic wand, and started twirling it about. Through the front window of the taxi I could see two large pimples on the driver's neck suddenly fading away, and by the time we got to the address he had been given, his face was as smooth as a tomato, though he never seemed to notice anything happening.

Mr Leakey gave him coin, 'Ere, guvnor, you've given me a farthing,' said the driver.

'Look again.'

'Well, I'm-,' aven't seen one of them since 1914.'

'Of course,' said Mr Leakey to me, as we walked away,'I've got a magic purse, but you can only get gold out of it, not notes, because magic purses were invented long before printing. It's a nuisance. Before the first world war one could sometimes pay in gold, and no one was surprised, but now most people have never seen a real golden sovereign, or half a sovereign, which is what I gave the driver. Well, there aren't many people about; I think you might put your cap on. Of course it doesn't do to be invisible in a crowd. People bump into you, and get terribly frightened.'

I put my cap on and vanished. Mr Leakey pointed his magic umbrella at himself, and suddenly both he and the umbrella disappeared, except of the very tip of the umbrella, which seemed to go on walking along the street in a series of hops like a bird.

'Now,' he said, 'come after me into this garden, and see me deal with the dog. Shut the gate behind you. Don't stop him if he tries to bite either of us. He won't.

As I shut the gate a large mongrel dog ran towards us growling. He had an angry but puzzled look, and soon stopped growling to sniff. Suddenly he seemed to make up his mind. I think most dogs except greyhounds pay more attention to smells than to what they see. Anyway this dog suddenly ran towards Mr Leakey. I could see where he was, because the end of his magic umbrella was visible. As the dog ran towards him the end was lifted up, and a tiny puff of purplish smoke came out of it. The dog did not stop, but suddenly looked even more puzzled than before. Then Mr Leakey's left leg became visible from the knee downwards, and very odd it looked. The dog at last saw something to bite, and rushed at the leg snarling. Mr Leakey, or at least his left leg, stood quite still, and before I could stop him, the dog bit it. You know how a dog pulls his lips back when he is angry, so that you can see all his teeth. I could see that this dog had a very fine set. But when he bit Mr Leakey's trouser the teeth didn't go through it. They just bent. 'I've turned them into white india-rubber,' he said,' all except four molars at the back. They'll be all right for grinding up dog biscuits. Ah, here's his master. I think I'll hide my leg again.' As the dog's owner, a very grumpy-looking man, came out, the leg vanished, but clearly Mr Leakey lifted it up, for he swung the dog up into the air, where he stayed for a time. I never saw a dog looking so funny. He hung in the air with his mouth wide open and all his teeth bent sideways. Then suddenly he dropped off, and went away with his tail between his legs.

The grumpy man stood stock still with his legs wide apart and his mouth opened in amazement. he hardly opened it any wider when he saw the handle of his garden gate turn, and the gate open and shut again behind us as we went out. When we went round the street corner we became visible again, which was rather a relief to me, because it is certainly odd to feel bits of oneself without seeing them. As we got into another taxi Mr Leakey said, 'If that man had any sense, which he hasn't, he'd make a fortune by showing Fideo at fairs as the Rubber-toothed Dog, and charging people six pence to let him bite them.' By the way, if anyone who reads this does see a Rubber-toothed Dog at a fair, I wish they'd write to me, because I should like to meet Fideo again, and see if he's got accustomed to his rubber teeth, like people get accustomed to false ones.

'I expect you wonder how I can turn things into rubber by magic, because it's rather a new sort of stuff in Europe, and we haven't got spells that will work on new sorts of stuff like aluminium or stainless steel, or aspirin or artificial silk. I learned the trick from a Brazilian magician who was at the International Con- gress of Sorcerers on the Brocken in Germany in 1912. I taught him some magic about iron and steel, and he showed me how to turn teeth into rubber. They find it very useful there with jaguars and crocodiles and anacondas. Of course rubber trees grow there naturally, so the magicians know all about rubber. Now we're going to visit a moneylender who calls himself Mr Macstewart. Of course that isn't his real name. His real name's quite horrid, full of Z's. You can't touch people with some sorts of magic unless you know their real names. That's why moneylenders have false names, to protect themselves against good magicians who would like to turn them into sausages or door handles or foot-scrapers or armchairs or something useful. It's very important to hide your real name if you have anything to do with magic, and of course compound interest is one of the very blackest sorts of magic. No one knows my real name, any more than they know the real name of London. It has a secret name which only the Lord Mayor knows, and he tells it to the new Lort Mayor each year. If a bad magician found out its real name he would be able to turn it into Stow-on-the-Wold or Ballybunnion or Timbuctoo or Omborombonga, which would be very awkward.

'Princes and kings have such a lot of names because it makes it harder to bewitch them. Of course if you enchant anyone you generally have to say their full name, pronouncing all the bits of it properly, and you have to get that and the spell into one breath. That's why kings and emperors have names like Augustus Benhadad Charlemagne Dagobert Ethelwulf Frederick Genseric Hardicanute Ixtlilcochitl Jehoiakim Kamehameha Leonidas Maximilian Na- poleon Obadiah Polycrates Quirinus Rehoboam Subiluliuma Tarassicodissa Umsilikazi Valentinian Wenceslaus Xerxes Yoshihito Zedekiah the hundred and seventeenth (By the way, you mayn't know some of these kings' names. Dagobert was king of France. He was a good king, but he wore his trousers back to front. Ixtlilcochitl was king of Texcuca in Mexico, and an ally of Cortez. Several Kamehamehas were kings of Hawaii. Subiluliuma was king of the Hittites. Tarassicodissa became emperor of Constantinople, but they made him change his name, which was Isaurian, so he called himself Zeno. Umsilikazi was king of the Matabeles in South Africa. Some people called him Moselikatze, and others Silkaats. All the rest come in history books or the Bible). You haven't much breath left for a spell when you've said that, especially if you pronounce Ixtlilcochitl and the First X in Xerxes properly.

'Well, here we are. Mr Macstewart is being rather a nuisance to all sorts of poor people, and some of them have promised to pay him back two or three times what he lent them first. I've warned him about it, and he's rather annoyed with me, so I am going to be invisible. But really it looks so funny when an invisible man opens several doors that I think it would be best if you stayed visible and I kept close behind you. I'm not going to turn him into a sausage this time, only to make a few signatures invisible, so that he won't be able to make people pay him money.' We got out at a rather grand office with glass doors. Mr Leakey became invisible half-way upstairs. I said I wanted to borrow 1000, and I was shown in to Mr Macstewart. I went very slowly through the doors so that Mr Leakey could follow me easily. I didn't really like Mr Macstewart. He wasn't the sort of man I would borrow money from even if there was no hurry about paying back, and no compound, or even simple, interest. When I want to borrow money I always go to a friend called Dr Barnet Woolf, who thinks it is wicked to pay interest for it, I owe him two pence halfpenny at present.

While I was talking to Mr Macstewart about borrowing $1000, I noticed the end of the umbrella moving about in the air. Mr Leakey was pointing it all sorts of bits of paper to make the ink on them invisible. I saw Mr Macstewart looking at it out of the corner of his eye, but he didn't say anything. I except he thought that if he talked about it I should say he was mad. After about three minutes the end of the umbrella went down on to the floor, and I told Mr Macstewart that he wanted more interest than I could pay on the $1000. So out I went, and the end of the umbrella close behind me. Just as I was opening the door it went up into the air and wiggled quickly. It left behind it a track of pink light like the neon tubes in advertisements. This was a bit of writing, which I read from behind, because the front of it was towards Mr Macstewart. But I could read it all right, like one can read the writing on shop windows from inside. What I read was:

Mr Macstewart went all goggle- eyed and although his hair was very greasy in stood up on end like a clothes brush, and he began to perspire all over his face.

'I hope there won't have to be a next time,' said Mr Leakey, as we got into a third taxi; 'people like that are gener- ally easy to frighten, and I'm not asking him to give up his job, only to be a bit less unkind about it. Well, that's all the work I'm going to do today. Where shall we go for lunch? I think Java would be nice. Oh no, it's too late, the sun's setting there now, and it will be dark before we get there. Let's go somewhere in India. Mandu would be all right at this time of year. We'll go by carpet. You'll want a parachut in case you fall off on the way, amulets to protect you against jinns and Rakshasas, and pyrethrum oil to keep off mosquitoes. Also some cool clothes. You won't need a sunhelmet, it's three o'clock in the afternoon there, but it will be fairly warm after London.'

There was a great bustle in the house when we got back there about eleven o'clock. All sorts of magic things were happening. Cupboard doors were opening, and clothes, amulets, magic wands, books of spells, and what not, were jumping out and packing themselves into a hamper. When the hamper was full it shut itself, and a snake came out of an- other basket and wriggled its head under- neath. It did this twice altogether, so that the hamper was done up like a parcel with string, and finally it tied its head and tail together on he top into a nice loop. 'Clementina saves me a lot of money for string,' said Mr Leakey, 'and she sees the world like this, besides protecting my hamper in case anyone wanted to steal it. We shall be flying fairly high, so I shall have to do some magic on you. When we get about five miles up the air gets very thin, and you'll want more blood, and several other things too, to live up there. I might give you an oxygen breathing apparatus like an airman but I shouldn't know what to do if went wrong. I don't care for all this machinery; there's nothing like good old-fashioned magic. If I give you a potion it will take about half an hour to work, so the easiest thing will be to unscrew a bit of you and put the stuff straight in. Sit down here and put your left leg on this stool, and I'll unscrew your foot. Volume three of Hermes Trismegistus, Please, Oliver.'

Oliver the octopus, who had been sitting quietly in his copper cauldron all this time, suddenly shot out two arms, took his towel in one, dried the end of the other, and handed down a perfectly enormous book about two feet long and one across, from the bookshelf. Mr Leakey turned over the pages and read out a spell. Then he took my left foot, shoe and all, and unscrewed it. It didn't hurt a bit, though it felt funny. It unscrewed just above the ankle. It didn't bleed at all, and I could see the two bones as he took the foot off. He took a golden thing like a motor tyre pump and squirted something out of it into the stump of my leg. I felt a nice warm feeling going up my leg into me. Then he screwed my foot on again. I could still see the joint, but he said another spell, and my leg looked just as it had done before.

Abdu'l Makkar now came in. This time he was dressed like a jinn in a turban and green silk robes, and you could see his wings, which had been in his coat tails before.

'He looks better like that, but when he's opening the door to ordinary people I like him to put his wings inside the tails of his coat so as not to frighten them. Of course tail coats come from Persia. People only began to wear them here in King Charles II's time. They were invented by king Nushirvan of Persia, who had a lot of jinns at his court, mostly with wings. He was a very just man, and believed in equality for every one but himself. He didn't want to make distinctions between jinns and men, so he had to invent a costume that would suit both. Later on the jinns went off, because his magic ring was stolen, but the men in Persia went on wearing tail coats.'

'O sovereign of sorcerers,' said Abdu'l Makkar, bowing deeply, 'thine unworthy and abject slave Pompey craveth a boon.'

'What boon, O swifter than the swallows?

'He desireth to accompany us on our journey, and promiseth that his conduct shall be as blameless as the conduct of the camel of the Prophet, on whom be peace.'

'Verilly since Saturday the feast of St. Lucy, when he burned my sausages, his conduct hath been blameless. His request is granted, and his desire shall be satisfied. Bring therefore a brazier wheron he may sit, and place it upon the carpet, with a mat of asbestos beneath. Equip my guest with a parachute and a lifebelt, the first lest he fall from the carpet through the air, the second lest he descent thence into the ocean.'

I put on the parachute and the lifebelt, and also took a magic wand which was handed to me. I felt like one of the soldiers in the battle of the Canal du Nord in September 1918, when two British divisions attacked the Germans in lifebelts, because they had to get across the canal. Abdu'l Makkar came in with a large carpet rolled up, and unrolled about half ot it. It was covered with very odd patterns, and had some Arabic words on it. There was no room to unroll the rest. We got on to it, and Abdu'l Makkar lifted up the hamper by the loop in Clementina, and put it down beside us, along with a number of cushions. Then he brought in from another room a brazier full of red-hot coke like night watch-men have to keep them warm. I noticed that he took hold of the red-hot iron with his bare hands, but of course everyone knows that is one of the things jinns can do without being hurt. Pompey flew out of the fireplace and coiled himself up comfortably on top of the coke. The rest of us sat down on the cushions.

'Shut your eyes or you may be giddy when we start' said Mr Leakey. I did. then I heard him flap his ears, and felt the carpet rise. I don't know how we got through the ceiling, but it felt rather nasty. I felt us rising very quickly. Then we seemed to be falling, but I clenched my teeth and hoped for the best. When I was told to open my eyes again the sun was shining brightly, though it had been cloudy in London. I crawled to the edge of the carpet, which had now unrolled, and looked over, but saw nothing but a sea of clouds below me. We were moving over them south-eastwards at an enormous rate, but I felt no wind.

'Of course the air round a magic carpet moves with it or we'd blown off, and I've got a special charm to keep it warm,' explained my host. Through a gap in the clouds I saw the English Channel for a few seconds, and then we were over France. We passed Paris on our left. I could just see the Eiffel tower and the Sacre Coeur church. Then we came over some more clouds, and the next thing I noticed were the Alps ahead of us and mostly rather to the left. We crossed them without trouble, for we were more than two miles above Mont Blanc, and flew over north Italy and then down the Adriatic sea. About ten minutes after starting we were crossing southern Greece, where there were some fairly big mountains. The sun was already much higher in the sky. As we were crossing the Mediterranean, which was a beautiful blue compared with the English Channel, Mr Leakey put an amulet round my neck.

'By the way,' he said, 'we may possibly have a little touble in the next ten minutes. You remember King Solomon shut up a lot of wicked jinns in bottles, and threw them into the sea. Well, now they're making a big new harbour at Haifa, on the coast of Palestine, and they keep on dredging up these bottles. Every now and then some idiot opens one and the jinn gets out. Well, of course they're very angry. So would you be if you'd been shut up without room to turn round for nearly three thousand years. I think Solomon might have put them in larger bottles. They get out and fly about in the air. But the air isn't what it was for jinns. The radio waves go right through them and give them pains in the stomach, which makes them still angrier. Poor Abdu'l Makkar used to have an awful time of it when they first started broadcasting. So I went round to a friend of mine who's a physicist, and he made him a little gadget which protects him all right. But I believe when he's flying very quick he interferes with the receiving sets underneath, and people say it's an atmospheric disturbance.

'Well, as I was saying, these jinns get very grumpy and sometimes attack harmless travellers like me. Of course they daren't come near Europe. Too much radio. This amulet will protect you, though. It's got the Sura't al Muwidhettani, the last two chapters of the Koran, on it. If you see a jinn, point your wand at him and recite them. Dear me, don't you know them, where were you at school? In my trade you have to belong to at least eight religions, so as to know how to deal with different sorts of spirits, but lots of people seem only to belong to one, or even none at all. I should be quite afraid of Rakshasas if I weren't a good Hindu, and when I go to China the Great Green Jade Toad might stamp on my chest if I weren't a Taoist. As for Tibet, well I ask you. Would you like to go there if you weren't a Mahayana Buddhist? It's crawling with demons as black as your hat, with teeth like sharks and claws like eagles. Well, you'd better recite the dates of the Kings of England, that will be nearly as good. Don't worry about Egbert, you can begin with William the Conqueror.'

By this time we were over the right-hand bottom corner of the Mediterranean on the map. We could see a lot of ships going into and out of the Suez Canal, which we left on our right, and went on over Mount Sinai, which looked very barren, but not as high as I expected. The sun was now quite hot. I couldn't take off my coat, because of the amulet, lifebelt, and parachute, but Mr Leakey kindly turned my woollen vest and pants into silk with a single twist of his wand, which helped things. Soon we were flying over Arabia. At first there were a lot of green patches, but afterwards we saw nothing below us but great waves of red sand, with very occasionally a few palm trees round a well.

Then in front of us appeared a dull brown patch, hiding the desert beneath it. 'Sandstorm,' said Mr Leakey. 'Ware jinn.' As we came over the sandstorm something like a thundercloud suddenly rose ahead of us. As we looked it shaped into a huge face with a mouth about half a mile across. Mr Leakey simply pointed his wand at it, and it bobbed down.

'Look out astern,' said he, as we passed over the jinn. Sure enough, as soon as we had passed he bobbed up again. 'I'm busy,' said Mr Leakey. I dared not turn round to look at what was happening, though I felt the carpet swerve out of its course. The jinn was now rushing at us like an enormous black cloud. I could see into his mouth, which was all fiery inside. He was nearly, but not quite, as alarming as a creeping barrage. That came at one like a black cloud full of flashes of fire, but it was nastier because of the awful noise it made. The jinn was probably making quite a horrid noise, but of course we couldn't hear it, because the carpet was travelling much faster than sound.

I pointed my wand at him, and started on William the conqueror. The jinn immediately looked uncomfortable, and his face got much smaller, only about as big as a house. I could see his body too. It was a nasty greyish-green colour. Still he came on after us. I had an awkward moment when I hesitated over the date of Henry III, and saw his face swelling again, but I got it right and he became smaller once more. Clearly he didn't dare to come nearer than about a hundred yards from us. He made some very nasty grimaces, and breathed out fire, but this blew back in his face because he was flying so fast; about three miles a second, I should judge. When I had got to William and Mary, and was beginning to wonder whether one began again after George V, 1910, Mr Leakey turned round with a wand in each hand. 'I've dealt with the others in front. Abdu'l Makkar can keep a look out.' As he said this something like a lasso of violet flame flew out of one of the wands and caught the jinn round the neck. I felt the lurch as Mr Leakey braced his feet against two loops in the carpet and started hauling the jinn in like a fisherman with a salmon. He pointed the other wand at the jinn, who wriggled horribly and got quite small. When his whole body was only about twenty feet long Mr Leakey said, 'Bite his nose off, Pompey.' Pompey flew off his nest, landed with all four feet on the jinn's face, and bit his nose off. He flew back licking his lips and wagging his tail, and sat down again on the fire.

Mr Leakey let go the jinn, who stopped flying, and vanished in the distance behind us in an instant. 'That'll' teach him to interfere with traffic,' said he. 'I dealt with two others in front all right. Ah, here's a fourth.' I saw a monstrous purple face with huge tusks on our left, but suddenly it was screwed up as if with pain, and vanished. 'Ah ha! we shan't be worried by those chaps any more on this trip. That was the beam wireless from Rugby to Australia with a message about the prices of Portland cement and spelter (whatever that is). It got our purple faced friend fair and square in the stomach and knocked all the wind out of him. We're off the main force of the beam. It goes over Persia, and keeps it pretty clear of jinns. But even here it's nasty for them. I think you can put your wand down. I hope you didn't mind our little adventure. I should find life very dull without something of that kind at least once a month.'

'Well, I was rather frightened, I must admit. You see, I'd never seen any jinns before except our friend here.' 'The testimony of thy friendship is as precious to my soul as was the manna in the wilderness to the children of Isreal,' said Abdu'l Makkar.

'The friendship of so gifted an Ifreet is more valuable to me than was the gold of Ophir unto King Solomon, on whom be peace,' I answered. It is not so hard as it sounds to talk like that. 'I'm glad you're learning the art of polite conversation with supernatural beings,' said Mr Leakey. 'Of course we weren't in any danger, but those jinns might have been rather awkward for a beginner. I'm afraid we've got a bit out of our course, though, in manoeuvring for position. That's the Persian Gulf below you. I think we'll go somewhere in northern India instead of Mandu. What about Delhi?'

We flew along for a minute or two over the south coast of Persia and Baluchistan. I saw a few ships, and two aeroplanes on the route between India and Baghdad. Of course they were far below us, and we were going so quick that they seemed to be standing quite still. We passed the mouth of the Indus and Karachi, and then went inland over another desert. Soon after we cam to the end of the desert I felt the carpet slowing down and saw a great river in front of us which I guessed was the Yamuna, and a city with a huge red dome and four white towers round it. Beyond the city lay more big red and white buildings in gardens and farther still an enormous stone tower and a wonderful blue dome. The carpet now dropped, which gave me a horrid feeling. You may think you know it from going down in a lift, but you don't unless you have been down a fairly deep mine. One feels that one has left all one's inside behind. The feeling only lasts a second or so in a mine, but this time it went on longer. Then I felt as if we were rising again, which of course only means that the fall is slowing down. I looked over the edge, and saw a lot of people in the streets, but none of them were looking up. They didn't seem to notice us. 'They can't see us,' said Mr Leakey. 'Magic carpet are invisible from below when they're flying. Otherwise those jinns would have attacked us from underneath. Of course a lot of animals try to be invisible by having white bellies. Most fish, for example. But you can't really be invisible except by magic. Now we're going to call on my friend Mr Chandrajotish, who is a sorcerer, and a very good one too.'

The carpet came down in a beautiful little garden with fountains and orange trees, with a white marble colonnade round it. We got off the carpet, and Abdu'l Makkar lifted Pompey and the hamper off it. The carpet then rolled itself up, and stood in a corner. Two most lovely ladies came out, one with an oval brown face, the other rather yellower, with slightly slanting eyes, and a golden filigree pen- dant set with rubies hanging from her nose.

'Mrs Sitabai Chandrajotish and Mrs Radhika Chandrajotish,' said Mr Leakey, and started talking to them in Urdu, too quickly for me to follow, though I gathered that Mr Chandrajotish now appeared, for of course Indians are allowed to marry quite a lot of wives if they want to. She had a rather paler face and from her long pointed ears I gueesed she was a jinniyah, in fact the first lady jinn I had ever seen. She picked Pompey up, although he was red-hot, and put him in her lap. Then she made him sit up and beg for little lumps of sulphur and red hot bits of some stuff or other. I don't know enough about dragons to say what it was. Mr Leakey had to ask her to stop. 'I don't like to see dragons too fat,' he said to me. 'A dragon ought to be thin like a dachshund. Of course different breeds differ. European dragons aren't so very slim, but you ought to be able to tie four knots in a good specimen of a Chinese dragon, just as you can tie one in a well-bred giraffe's neck. If ever you think of breeding giraffes for amusement remember it's no good entering one for a show unless you can tie a knot in its neck.

'Though of course the only giraffe I ever knew that was really any use had quite a thick neck. It belonged to a man called Tomkins of Oswaldtwistle, who was so afraid of burglars that he lived in a house with no stairs, and got up to the first floor and down again by a pet giraffe which would only answer his voice. And in case the burglars put up ladders he taught it to knock ladders down. But it was no good. A burglar made a tape recording of his voice which deceived the giraffe so that it let him climb up it, and he stole Mr Tomkins' evening dress studs and his grandfather clock while he was at the cinema looking at Marlene Dietrich. Believe me, there's nothing to match magic for dealing with burglars. I shall laugh if anyone's tried to burgle my flat today. But he won't.

Mr Chandrajotish is over in Dzungaria, but he'll be back in three quarters of an hour for his dinner and our lunch. Let's go and look at the town. O Abdu'l Makkar, thou hast my leave to depart to thy native home in Ruba'al Khali for the space of two hours, to visit thine aged aunt, on whom be peace. But be not amiss in returning. It is written that the early eagle catcheth the serpent, but the tardy guest findeth the flagon empty. Good afternoon, ladies, don't overfeed Pompey. Aren't Mr Chandrajotish's wives charming?' he added, as he went out into a very narrow lane. 'But he has to spend two or three hours a day on incantations to give them perpetual youth and good temper. He says it's worth it, byt it's hard work. Of course Solomon couldn't keep it up,though he was a great magician, but then he had three hundred wives, which I think is too many.'

I'm not going to tell you about Delhi, because you can find out about it in books about India. But I certainly did think the great mosque and the Purana Kila very beautiful, and here is something you won't find in the guide books, though Mr Leakey knew it. You get the world's best sweets very cheap indeed in a little shop on the north side of the Kinara Bazaar. While we were buying them I saw a lovely great pink-eyed mongoose hunting rats in a drain just next door.

We came back to lunch, which was very good. Mr Chandrajotish had come back. He was a jolly, fat man with an immense ruby in his turban, and talked English very well, except that he talked about the railway station, and said bockus for box. 'I could enchant myself to speak English like a beroadcast announcer,'he said,'but I think it is more funny to speak like this. When Englishmen first speak Urdu they say “saddle the European” when they want to say “saddle the horse”, so why should not I too make mistake?' We had fish, spiced chicken and rice off gold plates, wine out of cups of solid emerald, and then sweets and mangoes, though they were out of season. But one of Mr Chandrajotish's servants planted a mango stone in the ground under a basket, and lifted the basket four times so that we first saw it growing into a seedling then into a bush, later flowering and finally bearing fruit. I didn't think that as good as Mr Leakey's way of getting mangoes, where I saw the tree growing. But I was pleased when the servant threw one end of a rope into the air, climbed up it, and vanished, pulling the rope after him.

'I'm not very good at that, ' said Mr Leakey. 'I think you do not pronounce the mantra right,' said Mr Chandrajotish. 'In the word smrita you must bend your tongue back and put it against the roof of your mouth when you pronounce the R. That is where most European sorcerers make a mistake.' Mr Leakey tried it sev- eral times, and finally got it right. 'Thank you so much,' he said. 'By the way, I've got some magic books in my hamper that you might like to see.'

We went out into the garden, and for the first time I saw Mr Leakey look really worried. 'Tut tut,' he said, 'this is truly annoying.' The hamper was wide open, and the things out of it lying about. Clementina, who ought to have been tied round it, was on the grass with about half her body in coils and the other half standing up and swaying to and fro as if she were drunk. 'Serpents aren't what they were in my young days,' remarked Mr Leakey. 'I think my servant Piyari Lal has been charming her,' said Mr Chandrajotish, 'call him here.' We called, but nobody came. One of the books, writ- ten in some queer writing I didn't know, was open. 'Can he read Devanagri?' Asked Mr Leakey. 'Oh yes, but he is not very good at magic,' said Mr Chandrajotish. 'A good thing too, the book's open at a mantra for turning people into grasshoppers. He might have made us into grasshoppers, and I'm sure I shouldn't be good at chirping. But of course the joke's one him. If he didn't say the spell on page 17 first, he's turned himself into a grasshopper.'

'Well, he is quite a good servant, and we shall have to turn him into a man again. Fortunately I know a spell that will bring all the grasshoppers within a mile here. It is really black magic, the sort of thing that silly young sorcerers use to spoil their neighbours' crops. Fetch my calico drum, darling. That was a great invention of Mr Lear's, one of the best new bits of magic we got from England in the last hundred years. Mr Leakey, will you please wave a circle round my orange trees thrice, I don't want them eaten by grasshoppers. And then protect the grass.' Mrs Nur-i-dunya Chandrajotish (for that was the name of the jinn wife) came out with an enormous calico drum, and he began dancing round it, quicker than I should have thought so fat a man could. As he went round he beat it with a large purple umbrella, and sang the spell, which Mr Leakey says I may tell you, because it is in a book already anyway, and it doesn't work unless you know the right dance steps.


Calico drum, the grasshoppers come
The butterfly, beetle, and bee.
Over the ground
Around and around
With a hop and a bound
But they never came back
They never came back
They never came back
They never came back to me.'

Meanwhile Nur-i-dunya was flying about over our heads doing something magic. 'To keep out the butterflies, beetles and bees,' said Mr Leakey, in the between two circles. There was a tremendous buzzing in the air, and the insects began to arrive. A few butterflies and a huge beetle with a horn like a rhinoceros arrived before the spell to keep them out was finished. After that only grasshoppers came down into the garden. The other stayed flying about over the house. In a minute the air above us was getting dark, and some birds arrived and started catching them. 'We cannot have that,' said Mr Chandrajotish. I will not have my guests eaten. Besides, they might eat Piyari Lal. Scare them off please, my lover.' Nur-i- dunya flew up through the cloud of insects, and the birds scattered in all directions. When I looked down the whole ground was covered with grasshoppers of all sorts and sizes, from tiny ones like you see in England up to great locusts and big as prawns, and every moment more were coming.

So many butterflies, beetles, and bees were flying over us that it got quite dark, and the servants had to fetch lamps, and also an immense diamond, which shone from inside. By their light we saw a huge crowd of grasshoopers crawling over one another and covering the entire ground and the walls. They made a noise like hundreds of electric bells. We had to shout at the top of our voices to be heard, but Mr Leakey soon shut them up with a spell out of one of the books.

'Can you spot which is Piyari Lal? he asked.

'No, I cannot. I will try my spell on some of the funnier ones, but it will only work on seven at a time and there are about a crore, that is to say ten million, here.'

'Don't worry, Abdu'l Makkar ought to be here by now, and he can always pick out an animal that is really an enchanted man or woman. He says they look like Mickey Mouse. Dear Dear, he's five minutes late. I shall have to rub my magic ring, after all. I hate to do it, because it gives him a horrid feeling like scraping a knife on a plate, but if he's late that's his look-out. Here goes! These rings are very useful, but it's cruel to rub them whenever you want the jinn, like they used to in Aladdin's time. His lamp belongs to a lady in Vienna now, but her jinn has regular hours of work, and she doesn't have to rub it once a month.'

Abdu'l Makkar suddenly appeared out of the ground, scattering a little cloud of grasshoppers as he came up through them. He looked very unhappy, and started apologizing with all sorts of long words, but Mr Leakey cut him short, and told him to find Piyari Lal. he spotted him almost at once, and caught him quite easily. Then Mr. Chandrajotish said a spell over him, and he began to change back into a man. I was most interesting to watch. First he began to swell, and his skin burst, like it always does when a grasshopper moults. The thing that came out was rather like a maggot, and grew very quickly into a pinkish worm; then little knobs came out of the worm at four places, and grew into arms and legs. Then the front part of the worm folded backwards and turned into a head, while fingers and toes sprouted out of the four knobs. All the time it was getting bigger and bigger. In about two minutes there was a man on the grass in front of us, about as frightened as I've ever seen anyone. One thing I thought very odd was that the back of the grasshopper had turned into the front of Mr Piyari Lal. But I told a friend of mine who is a zoologist about it, and he said it was all right, because a grasshopper's heart is at the back, then come his guts, and his nervous system is underneath. So either a grasshopper's back is really his front, or a man's front is really his back.

Piyari Lal turned over on to his front and lay down howling with fright. Mr Chandrahjotish said another spell, and he got up, but one side of his face was red and the other green, while his hair was bright purple. 'He will stay like that for a week, and I do not think he will take his evening out tomorrow.' Then we cleared the grasshoppers off a bit of grass round the drum, and Mr Chandrajotish danced round it backwards, saying the 'never came back' part of the spell. All the grasshoppers and the other insects flew away, with a tremendus noise, but it was still dark because the sun had set.

The hamper packed itself again, and Clementina, who was all right by now, tied herself round it. Pompey's brazier was filled up with charocoal, and the carpet spread out. 'I think we might go on round the world,' said Mr Leakey; of course it is night to the east of us, but magic carpets travel much better by night, like radio messages. Where would you like to go in America?' I said I would like to try South or Central America, because I was quite likely to go to North America in a un-magic way, and I had seen a lot of it at the cinema, anyway.

We said good-bye to Mr Chandrajotish and his charming wives, except Nur-i-dunya, who asked if we would give her a lift as far as the islands of Wak-wak, as she wanted to call on a sister who lived there, and fly back by bedtime, but was feeling too lazy to fly both ways. Then we set off south-eastwards. There was a young moon, but from five miles up the stars were so bright that we could see more than I have ever seen before. As we went south all sorts of constellations came up which were new to me. I saw a great river of small stars running down the sky in front of Orion, ending in a very bright one called Achernar, and as Orion and his Big Dog rose in the sky I saw Canopus rising behind the Dog's Tail. In a minute or two we were over the Indian Ocean, which shone like silver in the moonlight. We crossed the Nicobar Islands and the bottom of the Malay Peninsula. I saw the pole star disappear below the horizon. Nur-i-dunya and Abdu'l Makkar were talking like anything in one of the jinn languages. Even Mr Leakey admitted he couldn't follow it very well. But I gathered that Abdu'l Makkar's aunt was troubled because she was growing a lot of extra teeth. And her sight was getting so keen that unless she wore smoked glasses she saw right through things and people, like a surgeon with X-rays, and so she was always running into them. Of course there are some of the things that generally happen to old jinns, just as old people lose their teeth and their eyesight.

After some more sea we saw a great red glow on our right. 'That's one of the volcanoes in Java,'said Mr Leakey, 'we're a little out of our course.' We turned slightly to the left, and in a minute or two were over the Molucca Islands. Of course I knew they were called the island of Wakwak, because I had read the story of Hassan of Basra in the Arabian Nights. Nur-i-dunya said good-bye, gave Mr Leakey a kiss, and took a beautiful header off the carpet. 'Now,' said Mr Leakey, 'I think we'll go to Central America. It doesn't matter much which way we go. We're nearly opposite British Guiana on the earth, so it's just 20,000 kilometres anyway.' 'Well, let's go south,' I said, 'over the Pole. It'll be day there. 'Right you are,' he answered, and south we went. We crossed to Australia nearly by the same route as the air mails go, only about two hundred times as quickly, and went on southwards over the great desert. We saw a lake shining in the moonlight, but no lights of towns. But lots of stars that I did not know rose. First I saw two very odd patches of light like bits of the Milky Way, which Mr Leakey said were called Magellan's clouds. Soon after, as we were flying over the sea south of Australia, we saw the Southern Cross and the Centaur. Later on the sun rose in the south-west, rather to my surprise, though now I think of it was natural enough. There were clouds below us, but through them I sometimes saw a grey cold-looking sea with icebergs.

'Can we stop when we get to the coast?' I asked. 'I should like to visit some penguins.' Certainly,' said Mr Leakey, 'but we shall want some warm clothes. Even when it's sunny in the Antarctic, it's generally windy. Undo, please, Clementina.' He took out of the hamper two fur coats, some huge boots, thick socks, and other warm clothes which had certainly not been there at Delhi, and a thing like a bit of fire-hose with a woollen lining, into which Clementina crept before she tied herself up again. We came down to a height of only a mile or so, and soon reached a desolate coast with cliffs of ice, and mountains behind. We cruised along for a minute or two till we came to a bay that sloped more gently into the sea. 'This is quite a nice little place,' said Mr Leakey, 'there's a penguin town of about half a million here. About as big as Leeds or Bristol.

'They don't have a bad time. Of course you're going to ask how I know. Well, I do. You probably don't know that I was a penguin myself for about three years. Another magician who was jealous of me turned me into one when I had taken my magic ring off in my bath. And the next thing I knew I was swimming about in the Antarctic Ocean catching pink prawns (Euphausia superba. They are pink even before thare cooked). I made quite a good penguin. I thought I should have to spend the rest of my life as one, so I settled down and married. We had two children, but then my poor wife was eaten by a seal, and I found time to make a pentacle of stones, and though of course I couldn't speak a spell, I did a magic dance in it for two days, and became a man again.' 'What happened to the chap who turned you into a penguin?' 'Oh well, I had to deal with him; he's imprisoned inside the statue of the Prince Consort on the Albert Memorial. He sees quite a lot, but he can't do anything except look solemn. And it's cold at nights. But better than being in a bottle at the bottom of the sea, or head downwards in a well like Harud and Marud.'

We landed on some smooth snow, and had a look at the penguins. Each couple had a round nest of stones, and one of them stayed behind to look after the chick, while the other went to sea to get shrimps. Thousands and thousands were waddling about, looking like rather fat men in evening dress. Other were standing on the edge of the sea on a low cliff of ice which they used as a diving board, and were ragging about, trying to push one another off. But you've probably seen all that in a film, and the Antarctic continent when we went on over it looked very like Admiral Byrd's film of it. It was just a jumble of huge mountains and glaciers with no sign of life. We went on over the south pole and then north wards about Graham Land till we came to the sea again. We passed over a few ships on their way round Cape Horn and went on over Tierra del Fuego and South America. It was nice to see grass again. Over Argentina we came down low enough to see some of the great herds of cattle that are put into tins there, and then on we went across Brazil. It was getting fairly hot, so I got a sun helmet and a silk shirt and shorts out of the hamper, and put them on. When I looked down again I could see nothing but a solid green sheet, and it was only when Mr Leakey told me that I realized that it was not grass, but the tops of trees. We came down for a minute over the Amazon river, which was nearly as broad as the English Channel, and yet flowing quite quickly, carrying down huge trees. After some more mountains we came to the sea again at about half-past three by my watch.

'Let's go and look at a volcano,' said Mr Leakey. 'It's quite safe if you put on this amulet, but mind you keep it on when you take off the parachute and lifebelt.' We stopped over an island, which I think was Martinique, where there was a volcano blowing out great clouds of smoke, and making a tremendous noise. I put on the amulet and a pair of asbestos overshoes out of the hamper, and we came down on a black rock just by the edge of the crater, and looked over the cliff into it. I didn't like it a bit. Great blasts of steam and red-hot rocks as big as houses came shooting up past us. I knew I was all right with my amulet, but I couldn't help ducking my head and trying to dodge the rocks. After a minute or two I had had enough of it, and walked down the outside slope of the volcano to see a lava stream that was coming out lower down. It was an ugly, desolate sort of place, more like a slagheap than an ordinary mountain. The ground was all crumbling, and there were no plants. But Pompey thought it was lovely. He jumped off his fire, and flew down after me. I thought he was going to run into me, and I didn't know if my amulet worked against red-hot dragons, even though they were only a foot long. So I jumped to dodge him, and twisted my ankle, because I was on a slope of ashes. Pompey wend on down the hill, and started grubbing about in a place where hot steam was coming out. I called up to Mr Leakey, who ran down and had my ankle right in a twinkling with quite a short spell. 'I'm sorry,' he said, I was collecting sulphur. Of course, for magic, one wants sulphur from a volcano, not a chemical factory. And a lot of the volca- noes here are no good. When the Span- iards came over they christened a lot of the volcanoes, because they hoped it would make them better behaved. It didn't stop them erupting, but it did make them quite useless for magic. But no Spaniard ever got near enough to christen this one, because it's rather a fierce volcano. Come back, Pompey, you naughty dragon!' Pompey was paddling about in a lava stream that flowed out just below us, and scratching the slag off the top to get at the red-hot liquid underneath. He drank some, and splashed a great deal more about. I think he heard Mr Leakey all right, though perhaps he didn't, because there was a fearful noise going on. But he certainly paid no attention. First he rolled over on his back and started kicking his legs in the air. When he got up agin his wings were all sticky with lava, like a wasp's when she has been in the teacle. But he scuttled off over the ashes, and took a header into a hole with steam blowing out of it.

Mr Leakey had only to give his ring the tiniest flick to bring Abdu'l Makkar down to us. 'O Abdu'l Makkar,' he said, 'at thy request hath this inmate of the flames and breather of fire accompained us. It is written that the giver of good advice shall be crowned with garlands, but the evil counsellor shall be cast into a dungeon. Far be it from me to inflict so unfortunate a doom upon thee, but thou must plunge straight away into yonder fiery abyss and retrieve my erring servant. Bind him in chains of brass, or better of tungsten, which hath a higher melting point, and bring him to me. But chastise him not, for he hath been valiant in battle. We precede thee to the isle of Andros.' Abdu'l Makkar bowed deeply, and went down the hole after Pompey. We calimbed up the slope again, and went off on the carpet westwards over the sea to Andros, where we landed on a sandy beach behind a coral reef, and swam out to it. It was about two hundred yards out, and the sea inside it was beautifully calm and warm, though there were big waves outside. The pools on the reef were full of lovely green fish like little parrots, and bright red starfish and sea urchins. I spent a happy half hour there, thanks to a pot of magic ointment which protected me from the sun. When we swam back again Abdu'l Makkar was theere with Pompey, who was now chained to the brazier, and looked very sorry for himself. We had tea on the beach, and then went home to England on the carpet. The sun set as we were over the Bay of Biscay. I put on my warm clothes again, and a moment later we were dropping through the clouds towards London.

We came into Mr Leakey's room throuth the wall, without leaving a hole in it, which felt horrid, because though I knew nothing would happen. I must admit I don't like running into a brick wall at about ninety miles an hour. So if ever you are taken for a journey on a magic carpet I strongly advise you to shut your eyes at the beginning and end. The room was undisturbed, but there was a shuffling noise from outside. We opened the door, and a most miserable looking man came into the room. His nose was pulled out into a great pink cord about three feet long. And the end of it was stuck to the door handle. He tried to edge back when he saw Abdu'l Makkar, and the nose streched out like a piece of rubber. But he couldn't get very far, because the nose was elastic.

'Shall I flay this thief alive, O wisest of the wizards, or shall I disembowel him and fry his liver before his eyes?' asked the jinn. 'Such punishments, O Abdu'l Makkar, are fortunately obsolete in London,' replied Mr Leakey. 'I will not dispute their justice, but they are indubitably messy. You may think yourself lucky,' he said to the thief, 'that we weren't away for the week-end, because I'm the only person who can unstick your nose from that handle except with a hatchet. So if I had died you might never have got away, like Theseus and Pirithous, who sat down in some magic glue three thousand year ago, and are sitting there still. Well, I'm going to let you go because I don't like your face. If you looked prettier I might keep you as an ornament. You are mug, aren't you? I'm not goint to tell you you're a bad man, but you must be a fool to go in for a job as badly paid as burglary. Any- way you aren't going to be a burglar anmore. I'm going to let your nose go, but the next time you burgle a house, even if it isn't a magic one like mine, your nose will stick to it, and they'll have to get it off with an axe. D'you see this fiery dragon? When I let you go I will set him at you unless you run at once, so you needn't stop to thank me.' Pompey was straining at his tungsten leash, so when the nose was let go that burglar got off the mark before it had quite shortened to its usual length, and was off down the stairs so quickly that I thought he would break his neck.

'I'm almost sorry I let him go,' said Mr Leakey, 'he's got the makings of a hundred yards champion. If I'd only thought of it I might have made him practise with Pompey after him. And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to conjure up a devil before dinner, because tomorrow I've got to deal with a sasabonsum who's being a nuisance in Ashanti, and I may want some help. Oh, don't you know what a sasabonsum is? I wish people learned unnatural history like they used to. A sasabonsum is a nasty sort of demon who hangs on to branches over forest paths by his hands, and catches Negroes round the neck with his toes. He can use his big toe for a thumb, like a monkey. Of course he doesn't hurt white men, because they don't believe in him. But Negroes do, and that's that. My devil friend's quite a decent devil, as they go, but you might find him rather alarming. So if you don't mind I'll say good-night. Thanks so much for your help with that jinn. Can I take you anywhere by carpet?' 'No, thank you very much,' I said. 'After today I shall feel it quite an adventure to go by bus. I've had a wonderful time and feel as if I'd had a month's holiday. I shall be able to go back to work again on Monday as fit as a fiddle.' So on Monday I started doing sums about how to make new kinds of primroses and cats; for that is one of my jobs, and I think it is nearly as odd as Mr Leakey's.