I love this next story. It gives me a feeling of contented happiness.
Not Much of a Game
It snowed. And it was the last day that the seven would have together before School would begin and Diana will be left alone in the big house with Grandma and the three Aunties.
“What shall we do? It’s a pity it’s snowing!” said Reggie, and he yawned, and all the others yawned in sympathy.
” I read in a book once that it is rather fun to hang an apple on a string and see who can bite a bit out of it,” suggested Diana. ” I got some sweets, and they can do for prizes!”
Nobody seemed able to suggest anything more lively. Diana produced an apple, tied a string through its stalk, and stood on a stool holding it out.
Reggie tried first. All the others sat around laughing and jeering. ” It can’t be done!” said Reggie at last, ” at least, I can’t do it! Somebody else try it!”
A shout of derision greeted this invitation.
” Do you suppose we are going to try that apple after you have licked every side of it?” came in a chorus.
For a moment Reggie felt inclined to be offended. Then he burst out laughing.
“Alright! What fun! I’ll eat the apple myself!” and in a moment he was sitting cross-legged on the floor, munching a juicy apple. That game was over.
At exactly that mean it the door opens and Auntie Lil came in. “What’s the fun?” she inquired.
Everybody told her, except Reggie, whose mouth was fully engaged.
From behind her back Auntie Lil produced a big bag of apples and a Fairy Story Book. The children knew the look of that Book, and sent up a shout as they scuttled into the easiest chairs they could find.
Reggie did not hold out his hand as Auntie Lil handed round the apples, but that was not Auntie Lil’s way. She gave his arm a little pinch and tacked a big apple under it.
It snowed. But nobody cared now.
” I think it is much nicer when there are a lot of children to be amused, if somebody grown up comes to help,” said Diana.
“Especially when it is Auntie Lil!” replied Reggie.
But Auntie Lil pretended not to hear. She began to read, and the Fairy Story grew and grew and interest. The room grew dark, and Reggie poked the fire and the flames lit up the pages, and Auntie Lil sat on the hearthrug and read on and on.
As the story ended the tea bell rang.
“Both of you going to be out? ”
The faces of George, Belle and Kit fell visibly.
“Well, yes! ” admitted Mummie. “You see Grandma is going to the Tea at the Vicarage, and the doctor has offered to take me in his motor. It is a pity it has all come together, but I don’t want to miss the ride. It is such a lovely afternoon! ”
“It is going to rain! ” said Belle. She had a knack of knowing the weather, and was more often right than her family chose to acknowledge.
“You can play in the garden and be Indians and have a wigwam and a picnic tea, ” planned Mummie. I’ve got some feathers upstairs. I unearthed them yesterday. Let us have dinner now, and you will feel as cheerful as crickets and as good as gold after it. I’ve made jam tarts. ”
“Plenty of jam in them, I hope, ” said George. ” We could not feel cheerful if the jam is skimpy! ”
There was enough jam in the tarts to suit everybody, and the three saw Grandma and Mummie off very carefully, and immediately set to work to collect materials for the Indian camp and convey them to the bottom of the garden.
This took some little time, and the wigwam was then set up and the three began on their own toilets.
This also consumed a lot of time, and the door of the wigwam being closed they were prevented from noticing that heavy black clouds had come up. Down came a deluge of rain.
” I told you so!” said Belle; ” We shall be drenched out here! Just as we were going to have tea, too. I’m starving! ”
“Let us go indoors for tea! ” said Kit.
“We can’t go twice! ” decided George, ” so load up carefully and leave nothing behind. ”
Arrived in the kitchen, the first efforts of the three were directed to wiping each other down with three clean towels which Mummie had ironed and hung up to air. Suddenly the three paused with one instinct and stared at one another.
Unmistakable footsteps sounded on the landing above them! And the house was supposed to be empty except for themselves!
“A burglar! ” whispered George. As he spoke a distinct cough came down to them, and a door – catch clicked sharply.
“He’s gone into Grandma’s room,” whispered Belle.
” I’d like to catch him,” said George. ” I know! The key of her room is on the outside. We’ll creep up and lock it, he’ll be caught till somebody comes home.”
“When we’ve locked it, I’d rather call out to him, and say that if he promises not to take anything we will let him out, ” said Belle; ” it must be dreadful to go into prison. ”
They tiptoed upstairs, holding their breath, and hoping the burglar would stay quiet till they could reach the door and lock it.
Yes! the key was outside! George turn it with a trembling hand. A wave of relief passed over the three little faces.
“If you want to let him out you must make the arrangements, ” he said to Belle. Belle had not counted on this. She cleared her throat, and called out, ” I say, Mr. Burglar, we’ve locked you in, but if you promise not to take anything, we’ll let you out! ”
” Alright, children! ” came a voice from within. ” I shall be down to tea directly. I am getting off my wet things. You were quite right about the rain, Belle!! It was not the day for the Vicarage tea after all so I came back. I shan’t be long! ”
It was grandma’s voice!
George, Belle and Kit look at one another bewildered. Then George turned the key back and the three fled downstairs.
” Oh me, oh my! ” said Belle, and they laughed till they heard Grandma coming down.
They told Mummie all about it at bed time.
” You poor old things! ” said Mummie.
My Own! My Own!
Betty leaned out of the bathroom window.
” Ivy! Ivy! ” she called shrilly. Ivy lived next door but one. She was playing with Bobbie in the garden, and she waved ecstatically when she heard her name and saw Betty. Betty had only come to live in the road a fortnight ago, and Ivy thought she was a darling.
“Come in and play! ” called Betty.
Ivy rushed indoors, but came out again slowly. ” No, I can’t. ” She shook her head mournfully, and, taking Bobbie’s hand, led him to the bottom of the garden and began to swing him.
” I’m not going to have this calling across the gardens,” her Mother had said. “Your duty now is to amuse Bobbie. If Betty’s Mother wants you in there, she must send an invitation by the front door. We will have the neighbours complaining!”
Sure enough, at that very minute the lady who lived in the house between Ivy’s and Betty’s was hurrying out of her front gate and ringing at Betty’s front door.
Betty answered it, and was very taken aback at the visitor’s first words.
“Little girl! I can’t have you calling across my garden to Ivy East. Don’t let it happen again if you please! ”
Away she went. ” Who was that, Betty?” asked Mummie.
“The person from next door!” mumbled Betty, very red in the face.
” What did she want ”
“She didn’t like my calling to Ivy.”
The next day Betty and Ivy met in the road. ” Come in and play with me this afternoon, ” said Betty, ” that person next door is a cross old thing. Fancy making a fuss about my calling to you!”
” Did she?” Ivy was very interested. “Mummie thought she would! Come to the front door, and I’ll ask Mummie if I may come.”
Mummie looked doubtful. “Well! ” she said, “You may go for an hour. We don’t know much about Betty yet.”
Betty was pouting when Ivy arrived. “I’ve got this wool wind before we play,” she grumbled. ” You hold it while I wind.”
Ivy was quite ready. She held out her hands, and it might have been done in five minutes, but Betty was full of mischief and play. She let the ball drop every other second, and the kitten came to play with it and that amused Betty, and at the end of half of hour the skein was finished, and the kitten was given the ball of wool to pull and scratch and bite to it’s heart’s content.
” It will spoil your wool,” warned Ivy.
But Betty laughed carelessly. ” It’s my own wool,” she said. ” Mummie bought it for me to make a sports coat. She can buy another skein if that’s all; Mummie is quite rich, and it’s my own, too. I don’t care if it’s spoilt.”
The next day it rained. Ivy and Bobbie had to play in the nursery. There did not seem anything interesting to do till Ivy thought of washing the dolls.
She had never washed her dolls before. She had always understood that it would spoil them unless they had china faces, and she detested a china doll.
” I don’t care!” she said to herself, ” they are my own dolls! If I spoil them, it doesn’t matter to anybody else.”
It was great fun. Bobbie was simply charmed to help. He undressed the dolls, and Ivy began operations with the soap and water. She paused and reflected a little when she had washed two. They looked rather woe – begone. “They will be all right when they dry,” she said to herself, and, being a rather obstinate little person, she would not give up, although she began to see she had been stupid. “They are my own dolls,” she repeated doggedly.
When her mother saw them, she was very much vexed.
” But they are my own dolls,” argued Ivy; “it’s no matter to anybody if I spoil them. ”
“We do not live for ourselves alone, ” said her Mother gravely. “If you cared so little about your pretty dolls, why not have spared them just as they were to the children in the slums who have no toys? You will never play with those dolls again! ”
“Perhaps I shall! ” said Ivy feebly.
“Your Grandma and your three Aunties bought those four pretty dollies to give you pleasure. What do you think they will feel when they see them destroyed just because they are your own dolls, and you say it matters to no one else? ”
“They won’t see them, ” murmured Ivy still more feebly.
Mummie held out a letter. “They are coming to spend the day tomorrow! ” she said.
Ivy looked from the dolls to her Mother. Then she burst out crying.
“Oh, Mummie, Mummie! what shall I do? ” she sobbed.
Mummie gathered her in her arms and was silent a minute while she thought about it. Auntie Lil is sure to understand. She was a foolish little girl herself, and is very tender hearted to foolish little girls. Let us dry the dollies up as much as we can, and make them as pretty again as possible, and in the morning typy can dress them in their nicest clothes.
Ivy went about sadly and silently. She did not feel at all hopeful.
As the thought flashed into her mind, she realised that she had done it just because it sounded grand and independent to say, “The dolls are my own; it does not matter to anybody what I do with them. ”
(To be continued )
” Uncle Henry is always so funny,” said Arthur. The six were walking discreetly behind Uncle Henry and mummie, on their way to the station. The rule was to meet Uncle Henry and see him off when he came to spend the day.
” He has not done anything funny this time,” remarked Phyllis.
” He is not gone yet,” said Tom sagely,” there is still time!”
All the six stared expectantly at Uncle Henry’s stout figure in front of them, but nothing happened. He got into the train, after giving the six each a smacking kiss, which always annoyed the boys, and filled up the whole of the carriage window as he leaned out, still talking to Mummie.
Just as the guard put up his arm and the whistle went, Uncle Henry called out, ” Oh! I say! I have left a two shilling piece in the dining-room, whoever finds it can keep a shilling and divide the rest!”
They went home on the wings of the wind. The excitement was tremendous. Every one of them spent the shilling and the twopence half-penny in their minds before they reached the gate.
“Everybody put away their hats, jackets, gloves and scarves, and wait outside the door until the rest are ready!” decreed Mummie.
She sat on the sofa to watch the fun and to mind her ornaments, as she said, and oh! it was fun!
Everybody looked everywhere! They crawled all over the floor, made Mummie get up six times, in case she was sitting on the precious coin, looked under every chair and footstool and in every corner.
Then there was a pause. They all stood gazing round the room for some other possible hiding place.
Suddenly Jack pounced upon a half-empty matchbox under which they had all looked. He pushed it open and gave a shout.
It held three two-shilling pieces. Uncle Henry had left a shilling for each of the six!
” I said he was funny!” said Arthur.
” Very nice funny!” said Tom
Tea came in at that minute, and after Mummie had supplied them with six separate shillings and plenty to eat, they all began to plan again.
” We must send Uncle a-bout post – card, and all sign our names,” said Phyllis.