“The Magic Shop” is a short story by H. G. Wells, first published in The Strand Magazine in 1903; it was subsequently reprinted in Twelve Stories and a Dream (1903) and The Country of the Blind and Other Stories (1911). The story is narrated by the father of a young boy named Gip, and tells of their visit to a shop selling disturbingly realistic magical illusions.
While walking down Regent Street in London with his father, Gip is drawn to the window of a magic shop. The boy’s fascination with the tricks on display leads the father and son to enter the shop, where they are met by a strange-looking assistant with one ear larger than the other. The narrator says that he wants to buy some simple tricks for his son. After a moment’s reflection the assistant draws a glass ball from his head, asking if that is the type of thing they are looking for. Gip goes to take the ball from the assistant’s hand, only to be told that it is already in his pocket. On being asked for the price of the trick, the assistant replies “We make no charge for glass balls. We get them free.”
The assistant stresses that this is a “Genuine Magic shop … absolutely no deception”, and that only the “Right Sort of Boy” is allowed to enter. The assistant then takes Gip and his father into the showroom, when the narrator discovers a wriggling little red demon clinging to his coat sleeve. The assistant deftly disposes of it, commenting “None of ours! Probably brought it with you”. Gip is shown many other wonders, including a Magic Toy Sword that renders the bearer invincible in battle against anyone under the age of eighteen, magic trains that run without steam or clockwork, and boxes of toy soldiers that come to life when a magic word is said. Gip’s father repeatedly asks the price of these wonders, but the assistant always ignores the question.
Gip’s father decides to buy the box of toy soldiers, at which point the assistant waves the box in the air and gives it to him wrapped in brown paper with Gip’s full name and address written on the paper. After being distracted by another shop assistant who is idly changing the shape and size of his nose, apparently for his own amusement, the narrator catches up with Gip and the first assistant, who is about to perform a final trick. Gip is standing on a small stool, and the assistant covers him with a big drum; when the drum is removed, Gip has vanished. The narrator advances on the assistant demanding to know where his son is, but the assistant evades him by pushing through an open door. On trying to follow, the narrator leaps into utter darkness, and finds himself back on Regent Street; Gip is standing close by, with four parcels in his arms. Three of the parcels contain boxes of toy soldiers, and the fourth a little white kitten.
The narrator reveals that the events he has recounted happened six months ago, and that to his relief “the kitten had only the magic natural to all kittens”. Tentatively he asks Gip if he would like it if his soldiers could come to life and march about. “Mine do,” says Gip. “I just have to say a word I know before I open the lid.” The narrator further reveals that he had since visited Regent Street looking for the magic shop, but it was nowhere to be found.